Friday, November 7, 2008
Ok, so here’s the deal. We haven’t posted since late July and I sincerely doubt we will be posting anything new ever again. Of course, there’s always the slight possibility that that will change, but it’s looking pretty bleak at the moment.
But have no fear, this site may be dead, but another is just beginning. I’ve decided to open things up a bit and start a site of my own where the topics won’t be confined elusively to cinema. It’s called Boxing Uwe Boll and it’s still in the early stages of development. I’ll likely be tinkering with it extensively over the next few weeks, so bear with me if it appears a little rough around the edges. So I urge you to check it out if you have the time. Chances are, if you’re stopping here anyway, you really have no reason not to head on over there. Unless you’re for some reason compelled to look back over the old, outdated entries here on COMACC over and over again. Do whatever you please.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Ben Kingsley has decided to become an actor again.
Kingsley’s most recent mention in this blog is here, which sadly may not even be his most demeaning film role. At the turn of the century, the Oscar-winning British knight had critical gravitas to spare for the range he demonstrated playing serious roles in big-ticket message movies like Gandhi and Schindler’s List as well as edgy indie films like Sexy Beast. Sure, he took occasional pay-the-bills supporting roles in the odd passable comedy (1993’s Dave) or pulpy sci-fi film (1995’s Species), but these didn’t significantly alter his image as an actor capable of incredible focus on weighty parts.
But in 2005 something went horribly wrong. Kingsley appeared in A Sound of Thunder and Bloodrayne, two films that were near-locks for worst-of-the-year lists. In separate years, they might not have looked so bad on his résumé, but Thunder’s delayed release made it an ugly one-two punch. Amnesia, insanity, or replacement by an evil doppelganger are among the few plausible explanations for Kingsley’s participation in these hideously unprofitable and critically embarrassing films.
That may be changing. The Wackness (out now), reportedly features Kingsley in an energized (and apparently energizing) role as a pot-smoking therapist connecting with a teenager. Transsiberian and Elegy (both later this year) feature him in a Sundance-screened mystery-on-a-train and a cultural critic in a Philip Roth story, respectively. All have the potential to be good solid impressive chances for Kingsley to, well, act.
One still needs to probably flat-out forgive him for The Love Guru and assume that John Cusack’s regime change parody War, Inc. and narration for the animated Noah’s Ark: The New Beginning are a wash. These are nonetheless encouraging signs that an unquestionably talented actor is coming back into his own in 2008.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
It’s hard to talk about film, especially when you’re in the business of film criticism, without acknowledging the demise of Roger Ebert’s long-running television show “Siskel and Ebert & the Movies,” known as “At the Movies with Ebert and Roeper” after the tragic passing of Gene Siskel in 1999. The untimely death of Siskel took a toll on the show that would leave a permanent void. While I commend Richard Roeper for doing what he could to fill Siskel’s shoes after his passing, the dynamic relationship between the two original critics was lost forever — a relationship, mind you, that was captured most wonderfully in their cameo appearances on the short-lived animated show, The Critic (and yes, Ebert really did like Benji the Hunted and Siskel, sadly, liked Carnosaur).*
Despite the absence of Siskel the show could, and did, go on with Ebert. But now, it’s hard to argue that with the complications following Roger Ebert’s battle with cancer that, among other things, resulted in the loss of his voice, the show has reached the end of its 33-year run. There remain some positives to pull out of this. For one, the mere fact that the show lasted 33 years is a testament to the success of what Roger Ebert refers to as a formula based on simplicity. It was a show lacking in unnecessary adornments or photogenic stars (Ebert and Siskel could be best described as humble in appearance); their one novel design being the implementation of the patented “Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down” system of analysis, a system so deviously simple that its ubiquity in film criticism seemed almost inevitable.
Beyond that, it’s good to see that despite his hardships, Ebert continues to do what he loves after an extended hiatus. I grew up listening to and reading Roger Ebert’s analysis. Some disparaged him for being too commercial, but for a critic playing to a mainstream audience, his insights were never watered-down. Even when he made judgments that I did not share in, he still managed to find some semblance of sanity and logic in his opinions that made even the most outrageous claims seem perfectly valid. Here’s hoping that even if his television show passes on, his voice remains prominent in the world of film.
*In the interest of full disclosure, I feel it necessary to point out that their tumultous relationship did also produce moments such as this. We all have our bad days, right?
Monday, July 21, 2008
Hauk: “You going to kill me now, Snake?”
Snake: “I’m too tired. Maybe later.”
Escape From New York‘s Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is a character that is essentially nonplussed by everything that happens to him. Shanghaied into service by the autocratic U.S. government? Whatever. Attacked by a mob of subterranean crazies? Big deal. Forced to fight a giant with spiked clubs? Meh.
Russell’s stoic annoyance works because he’s given such great larger-than-life foils. Legendary spaghetti western actor Lee Van Cleef and Bond villain Donald Pleasence both chew scenery like there’s no tomorrow. Adrienne Barbeau and Ernest Borgnine aren’t exactly understated supporting actors either. The Duke of New York (Isaac Hayes) is the only one who can stay as cool as Snake.
Snake’s incredibly narrow expressive vocal range tops out at a threatening hiss and bottoms in a reticent grunt of pain. It feels as if he is even playing to the lack of sound in his environment and even the film itself; most of the movie’s action eschews words for environmental sounds and the excellent dark disco soundtrack. Vangelis is often lauded as the ambient king of early ‘80s film music, but director John Carpenter, who composed most of his own scores, did more with less. This emphasis is even more evident in Assault on Precinct 13 and Halloween, Carpenter’s best films.
Snake is just a guy forced to do a terrible job, who is so disgusted by the situation that he can’t be bothered to even become outwardly angry. He is extraordinarily cool, but not in a heroic or enviable way. This is appropriate because under most moral systems, action heroes who are likeable or relatable are ethically disgusting. Rarely should a character that excels in violence be likeable or relatable.
Plissken’s sole true heroic action comes at the end of the film, and even it is arguably as much an act of spite as it is of justice. His attitude in this final gesture as he walks into the fadeout — not even bothering to run from the pandemonium he has probably caused — is as noncommittal as anything the dislikeable, non-relatable man has done before. Which is how it should be.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Last week, Lucasfilm announced it will premiere the long-awaited theatrical release of the most recent addition to the Star Wars universe, the animated Clone Wars series, on August 15. This marks Mr. Lucas’ most recent attempt to rekindle a relationship among his increasingly alienated fanbase, which has long been severed.
Lucas, who is known for relying heavily on CGI technology in his films, will finally seal the Star Wars series’ fate in animation. Where fans once marveled at the special effects mogul’s capability to effectively create space-centered set design, now they are increasingly turning against the director who’s overuse of CGI technology aided in the creation of three critically-panned Star Wars prequels.
While some fans attribute the onset of Lucas’ downward spiral to the creation of the Ewoks in 1983’s The Return of the Jedi, I believe his directorial inferiority was solidified in 1999’s The Phantom Menace. Yes, I am talking about the introduction of one Jar Jar Binks, arguably the most annoying character in the entire Star Wars universe.
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Wednesday, July 16, 2008
The Dark Knight comes out this week and you’re probably thinking, what the hell am I going to do the rest of this summer? Well, if this latest batch of movie trailers is any indication, not much. For this week’s “Best Case, Worst Case” I’ve decided to gather together the more questionable releases of the late summer, films I’ve deemed “summer afterthoughts.”
Poorly-timed big-budget flicks, nausea-inducing romantic comedies and morally objectionable children’s films, these are the sad selection of films that attempt to fill the gap between the summer blockbusters and the Oscar-baiting arthouse film season. These films simply can’t compete against the bigger fish in the cinematic summer pool, so a late July/early August release date seems appropriate. By the end of this tour through the dregs of Hollywood, it will feel less like an adventure and more like a Bataan Death March. Well, here goes nothing:
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Friday, July 11, 2008
Oh the summer nights, right? Exactly—not the greatest time to see movies. And with Wall•E already a distant memory and The Dark Knight just around the corner, we’re all looking at a dearth of cinematic treasures this weekend. Time for the first of an indeterminate numbered series.
- Ladies, be prepared to swoon: Will Ferrell and Sacha Baron Cohen will team up in a yet-to-be-titled Sherlock Holmes and Watson (respectively) film. It’ll be directed by Etan Cohen, a man perpetually an H away from an Academy Award, and Judd Apatow has signed on to produce. I can’t decide whether this is terrible news for Ferrell’s career, or terrible news for Ferrell’s and Cohen’s careers.
- Speaking of curly hair, the theme song of Pineapple Express is up on Lakeshore Records’ MySpace page. It’s sung by Huey Lewis, and is, without a doubt, incredible. More than Rogen deserves.
- Speaking of shameless marketing, remember Hellboy? Well, he’s apparently a real person, as he appeared on Inside the Actor’s Studio. But he also spent some time with Chuck, who is a fictional character in an TV show that’s not currently on the air. Hmm…
- Speaking of leaps in logic, the trailer for a new movie called Fly Me to the Moon is in theaters now. See, these flies, they go to the moon. Read the title again. Then the last sentence. Get it? It’s in 3-D.
- Speaking of sensory overload, Guy Ritchie is going to be directing Sherlock Holmes in 2010, starring Robert Downey Jr. Wow, Sherlock Holmes…deja vú. (See what I did there?)
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Watching a Guy Maddin film is sort of like sifting through a stranger’s record collection. You get a feel for their tastes, recognize their deepest influences and soak an entire history without really knowing them. For Maddin, the silent era of filmmaking serves as a road map through his soul that we read in place of conventional dialogue or narrative. The films of Lang, Murnau, and Griffith, they emanate from every frame, telling his personal story through each vintage iris shot, every oddly-placed intertitle and even from the grainy black and white that appears aged and dated in its newness. His films certainly alienate a large number of audience members — they stand as far as one can get from commercial filmmaking without crossing the threshold into experimental cinema — but in terms of his passion for cinema, his film’s exhibit an undeniable charm.
Guy Maddin’s latest film, My Winnipeg, takes a slightly different approach than we’re used to from this maverick Canadian. Following a pseudo-documentary framework, it still adheres to that same silent era theme prevalent in his past work, but with a more introspective tinge. The film is literally about itself, about the way in which Maddin is attempting to disentangle his past from the checkered history of his city of origin. It resembles Micheal Moore without all the trumped-up drama, or This American Life without the linear narration.
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