Posts Tagged 'the hunger games'

The Early October Update

Helluuuur! Yeah yeah, it’s been awhile, I know. I haven’t had much to say over the past couple months, so by extension I haven’t had much to share. But I have seen a buttload of good movies of late, and figured it was time for a review dump. I’ve got some recommendations for yo ass, so pay attention.

GONE GIRL

Gone Girl poster

The 3-year wait between David Fincher films (his last was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in 2011) has been excruciating, even if we did get two Fincher-directed House of Cards episodes last year on Netflix. But he’s finally back, all is right in the cinematic universe, and of course he has not disappointed with one of the mostly hotly anticipated films of 2014. Why do people like me worship this man’s work so much? It’s not too complicated. When people say the first job of a director is to know what he or she wants, David Fincher is the embodiment of that. If you’ve watched the A+ special features on any of Fincher’s movies, you know what I’m talking about. I have learned so much about the filmmaking process just by watching this man work, and I’m grateful to him for having been so open with his audience. I can’t wait to get Gone Girl on Blu-ray and spend hours poring through the bonus content. He also does some of the best, most informative commentaries you’ll ever listen to. He’s one of the most consistent and talented filmmakers alive, and he hasn’t made a bad movie since his first movie, which was 22 years ago. That’s something worth admiring, methinks.

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Review: THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE

Catching Fire poster

Hunger Games Yay

The Hungers Games: Catching Fire has arrived in theaters as the most anticipated studio film probably since The Avengers last year, and with Christopher Nolan‘s Batman series wrapped up, The Hunger Games may now be the most popular active movie franchise in America. In the U.S. at least, it’s bigger than any of Marvel’s individual franchises (including Iron Man). It’s bigger than Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s bigger than The Hobbit. It’s bigger than Transformers. It’s bigger than Bond or Star Trek or X-Men or Spider-Man or anything from Pixar. In fact, the first Hunger Games grossed more in the U.S. than any of the Harry Potter movies. And it’s outgrossed these movies without the use of 3D surcharges. Remarkable. I don’t pretend to know why any of this is true, but as Bill Belichick would say, it is what it is.

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STOP SPLITTING UP THE FINAL MOVIES OF EVERY FRANCHISE, YOU GREEDY WHORES!!!

When I saw this news story, I wanted to smash my laptop over a newborn child’s head. This has been a growing trend in Hollywood, and it’s becoming increasingly irritating because it’s so blatantly a greedy money grab, giving audiences little choice but to pay to see the split version of one movie to get the whole experience. I fucking hate it. It’s greedy. It’s arrogant. It’s disrespectful. It’s in bad faith. Most importantly, it turns the experience of the all-important final chapter of a series into a disjointed, ultimately dissatisfying one.

Unless I’m mistaken, this all started just two years ago with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows being split into two films by Warner Bros., when in hindsight it really should’ve been just one 3 hour, 15 minute film. They could do the split because they knew audiences would show up for the finale of the Potter franchise. As a result, instead of one Deathly Hallows movie grossing $1.5 billion worldwide, they got Part I ($956.4M) and Part II ($1.328B, with 3D surcharges) grossing a combined $2.3 billion worldwide. That’s a lot more than one Deathly Hallows movie would gross. It makes financial sense, and I understand that. It’s an easy decision for a soulless corporate boardroom to make. However, because money is the ONLY logical reason to do it is precisely why it’s such a slap in the face to the paying customer. There isn’t a single reason you can give me from a creative or story standpoint that these movies should be split up. Audiences have proven they’ll show up to really long movies (Titanic, Avatar, all 3 Lord of the Rings, the middle two Pirates of the Caribbean flicks, etc. etc.), so that can’t be an issue. Instead, the movies are forced to suffer creatively as the writers stretch out one movie into two, inserting scenes that would normally be left to the deleted scenes section of the DVD release (for good reason). No, this is only done for money, because they know we’ll show up regardless. This is unprecedented. Imagine if a popular company like Apple deliberately overpriced their products because they knew their slavishly loyal customers would gladly pay up no matter what. Oh, yeah. Shit.

So, because of how successful the Harry Potter model was, now we have Twilight: Breaking Dawn being split into two atrocious movies instead of one to drag out the end of that tedious franchise. And now, Lionsgate just announces that the final book in its mega-grossing Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay, will be released as two movies, one in November 2014, with the finale coming in November 2015. Because that’s fucking fair. People should have to wait a fucking year to see the second half of the ending of the series. What’s gonna be the tagline for Part 1, “The final chapter begins…”? Fuck you! Just show us the whole fucking finale, you pricks.

To further illustrate my point regarding the lack of creative reasoning to split this movie up, according to Amazon (shocker, I haven’t read the books, so I had to check), Mockingjay is 9 pages longer than Catching Fire, which will merely be one movie in 2013. 9 pages?! So Catching Fire can be condensed into one 120-140 minute film, but there’s SO MUCH STUFF to cover in Mockingjay that it should be 2 movies at a combined 4-4½ hours? That’s 13.3 extra minutes per page if both Mockingjay movies average 2 hours. We’ve already seen how stretching out one bad movie (Breaking Dawn) into two only resulted in making the first part worse (i.e. Part I of the Twilight finale is essentially an elongated, 2-hour episode of Vampire Teen Mom that could’ve easily been cut in half).

What’s next? Should we make trilogies out of each individual book in a series? Turn 3 books into 9 movies? With as much money as The Avengers has made, why not make The Avengers 2 its own trilogy? The Avengers 2: Part 1- Loki Again, The Avengers 2: Episode II- Coulson’s Revenge, and The Avengers 2-C: Once More into Your Wallet.

Imagine if George Lucas had thought of this concept 20 years ago. Jesus Christ. Try this title on for size: Star Wars: Episode VI- Return of the Jedi; Part I. You run out of separating punctuation marks. And don’t for a second think he wouldn’t have done this if it had been in vogue back then. Ya know who wouldn’t fuck over his audience like this? Christopher Nolan. The Dark Knight Rises is one 2 hour, 45 minute movie. It isn’t two 2-hour movies released a year apart. Nolan wouldn’t dare cheat us like that. We’ve already waited 4 long years between The Dark Knight and TDKR. We shouldn’t have to wait an additional year between The Dark Knight Rises: Part I and The Dark Knight Rises: Part II. Cuz that’d be fucking dumb, and Nolan understands that.

Can we establish a President of Hollywood? I think this is a fantastic idea. If we could do this, I’d probably vote for Nolan as the inaugural President. In this role, not only would he continue making his own awesome movies, but he would also have broad decision-making powers over the entire movie industry, so he could end moronic trends like this. There would be a cinematic Bill of Rights, and The First Amendment is the studios don’t get to treat their paying customers with blatant disrespect. The Second Amendment would be no charging extra for 3D on live action movies that were converted to 3D in post. (Second Amendment sub-amendment: no charging extra for 3D re-releases of movies we’ve already seen, i.e. you don’t get to charge extra for Titanic 3D. Ticket prices are already double what they were in 1997. We’re paying extra enough by way of inflation, Mr. Cameron.) The Third Amendment would forbid remaking a popular movie less than 50 years after the original came out (i.e. one generation should not have two Total Recalls). The Fourth Amendment: at least 10 years between reboots of existing franchises. The Fifth Amendment: Michael Bay is barred from making additional Transformers movies. And we could go on and on (actually this is now a fantastic idea for a separate blog post…).

It was annoying enough in recent years that Hollywood wanted every movie to potentially be a franchise. Now, they want every existing franchise to be Movie 1, Movie 2, then Movie 3-A and Movie 3-B and having you believe you got 4 movies instead of 3. For shame.

Also…

Peter O’Toole announced his retirement from acting this week, after nearly 60 years as a professional actor. He won nearly every acting award there was to win, but never an Oscar. He was given an Honorary Oscar in 2003 for his body of work, but never won one for an individual performance. He was nominated 8 times (all for Best Actor in a Leading Role), most recently in 2007 for his amazing work in Venus, which you really should see. Of course, he is best known for his performance as T.E. Lawrence in David Lean‘s 1962 masterpiece, Lawrence of Arabia (currently #19 on my all-time favorite movies list). Actually, now that I look at his list of credits, I really need to see more of this man’s work.

I love his brief, yet eloquent statement:

Dear All,


It is time for me to chuck in the sponge. To retire from films and stage. The heart for it has gone out of me: it won’t come back.

My professional acting life, stage and screen, has brought me public support, emotional fulfillment and material comfort. It has brought me together with fine people, good companions with whom I’ve shared the inevitable lot of all actors: flops and hits.

However, it’s my belief that one should decide for oneself when it is time to end one’s stay. So I bid the profession a dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell.

Ever,
Peter O’Toole

You will be missed like few others, sir. Thank you for your inspiring contributions to the world.

-I’m glad the New York Times did this piece on Matthew McConaughey‘s resurgence as a real actor. Very interesting stuff about the introspection that led him to make better career decisions (creatively, if not financially) over the last couple years. I’ve been hoping (and screaming publicly) for at least 5 years that this day would come, where he left behind the droning romantic comedies for more interesting projects and characters worthy of his talent. I can’t wait to see Killer Joe;

Review: THE HUNGER GAMES

The Hunger Games finally hits theaters this weekend as the first true Event Movie of 2012, riding a wave of hype typically reserved for the Harry Potters, Twilights and Batmans of the movie world. I find that very odd still, because prior to the movie being announced last spring, I’d never heard of these books. I don’t pay much attention to the literary world, but usually when something is this big, I’d have at least heard about it from a secondary source or a random mention online or something. Nope. Suzanne Collins‘ trilogy was completely unknown to me, but the concept sounded cool, and I was definitely interested in seeing what the hype was about on this first big screen adaptation. As such, I decided to go to a midnight show at the most popular theater in this area, which was showing the film on at least 5 screens at midnight (a common occurrence around the country, and several theaters will be showing the film around the clock this weekend).

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Retroactive 2011 MTV VMAs Live blog

Hello there! I didn’t expect to be doing this, but as happens with most of my entries on this site, the inspiration came from out of the blue. In this case, the blue channel guide on my cable box.

I was flipping through the guide the other night, and when I got to MTV, I saw that the Video Music Awards were about to start. I had no idea until that moment when they were, because I haven’t cared about the VMAs in 9 or 10 years, and haven’t watched an entire VMA show in probably that same time frame. As I sat there, staring at my channel guide, I started thinking about just how out of touch I’ve become with modern music. 10 years ago I watched MTV all the time, read Rolling Stone and followed music news online. Nowadays, the only music I’m really on top of is electronic music (via the many podcasts I listen to) and film scores. I haven’t been inspired by any pop music in years enough to get back into following it, and I don’t EVER listen to the radio, so even songs that are huge hits right now often go unnoticed in my little world.

I decided right then and there I wanted to see just how out of touch I am with pop music in 2011. I didn’t care enough to watch the show live, but I did DVR it, and I was going to force myself to watch the whole thing later. I was even able to avoid almost all spoilers for the show in my internet travels the past couple days (an extremely difficult task these days). I didn’t really want to watch it, but then I came up with the idea of watching it with my laptop open and turning the whole experience into a blog post, taking notes and commenting on things along the way. Because what good is watching something like that if you can’t share your opinions of it with the whole wide world? Today, I sat down and watched all 2 and a half hours of the show, INCLUDING most of the commercials (I’ll explain why as we go), and here is what I thought.

In case you’re a complete idiot, the numbers before each comment are time stamps, i.e. how far into the show each thing occurred. 08:00 means 8 minutes in, 1:24:00 means an hour and 24 minutes in, etc. Did I really just have to spell that out?

My love can do no wrong.

00:00-8:00: The show starts with Lady GaGa in drag as her “alter ego” Joe Calderone, who gives this stupid, strange performance art monologue that makes no sense whatsoever. Then she/he/it performs a song I can’t identify. But at least she sings live, and does it well. So kudos for that. Various cuts to other artists in the crowd and HOLY SHIT when did androgyny become so popular? Between GaGa and cutaways to Bruno Mars and Justin Bieber, I don’t know who is male, who is female, and who is neither or both. Why is it so hard for these people to appear distinctly masculine or feminine? Weezer guitarist Brian Bell makes a cameo appearance, and of course most of the 20-somethings in the fan section next to the stage have no clue who he is. Cut to Taylor Lautner, who also appears clueless. But at least I can tell he’s a guy! Despite being named “Taylor Lautner.”

9:00-13:00: They cut to a wide shot of the venue and stage, which looks like the head of one of the alien machines in the 1953 War of the Worlds. Some guy named Kevin Hart (who, of course, has a movie to plug) is apparently the host. Or not. He declares he’s not the host and is just there to deliver an opening monologue. If that was his sole task, he probably should’ve made a better effort at making it funny. He curses a bunch of times, all of which are bleeped. Attention MTV: It’s cable. Either let people curse openly or insist that they don’t curse at all. The bleeping (it’s really temporary muting) is distracting. Cue obligatory Jersey Shore cast STD joke. Hardy-har-har!

13:00: Nicki Minaj (dressed like a complete idiot) and the newly emaciated Jonah Hill present Best Pop Video. It really is alarming seeing Hill, who seems to have literally dropped half of his weight. I don’t see how he could have possibly done that so fast without surgery. Good on him, though. He jokes about the people who have been saying that now that he’s not fat he won’t be funny anymore. I like that self-awareness. He then drops a quick plug for Moneyball (September 23!). I’m guessing no more than 14 people in that room have any idea what Moneyball is. Old Lady Spears beats out Katy Perry, Adele and…other people. Good to see Britney looking presentable again.

OH, HAI! WHERE U BEEN?

-This girl Jessie J is the house band playing during commercial breaks. It looks like she broke her ankle or something, so she’s performing in a chair with a boot on her foot. I’ve heard of Jessie J, but if you asked me to pick her music out of a lineup, I’d fail.

-I decided to watch the first commercial break, because I want to see what’s being advertised to teenagers these days. Nothing out of the ordinary during the first break. Wait, a commercial for A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas. And now I want to cut my wrists. Why are they advertising a B-movie that comes out at the end of November now? Stupid. Needless to say, since I haven’t yet seen a Harold & Kumar movie, I’m probably not gonna start with the one that’s in 3D.

23:00: Jay-Z & Kanye West perform “Otis” off their new collaboration album Watch the Throne. More bleeped out cursing. Kanye is wearing skinny jeans and a denim shirt. Another cutaway to Justin Bieber, who can’t be bothered to even clap once the song is over. The song is pretty cool, but it’s not close to the best work from either of them. I’ve only listened to the whole album once, but it’s solid.

Which gives me an idea for our Recommended Listening today. This is my favorite track off Watch the Throne, track #1, “No Church in the Wild”:

26:00: Miley Cyrus and Shaun White present Best Rock Video. I don’t know anything about 3 of the nominees (Foster the People, Mumford & Sons, Cage the Elephant), but a band I have heard of (Foo Fighters) end up winning. Goodie for them. Dave Grohl gives a shoutout to Joel Schumacher and Falling Down, which apparently inspired the video for whatever song they won for.

-They show a commercial for Moneyball during the second break, in which Jonah Hill is still pudgy. It’s gonna be weird seeing him in red carpet pictures for Moneyball and The Sitter (the two movies he’s in this fall), where in the posters and clips you’re gonna see him where he’s twice as big as he is now. He literally doesn’t look like the same guy anymore. Freaky. Anyway, I enjoyed the Moneyball spot, but wow is this the wrong crowd to be advertising that film to. Way to waste that marketing money, Columbia. That was probably $75,000 down the toilet. Next time you guys wanna throw away that much money, give it to me instead. How’s that sound? It’s a shame nobody is going to see this movie. I just don’t see any way this is a hit at the box office, though with the pedigree involved (Capote director Bennett Miller, a script by Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian, producer Scott Rudin, stars Brad Pitt and Philip Seymour Hoffman), it’s already being touted as one of the early Oscar contenders.

30:00: They cut to some stupid thing called the Twitter Tracker, showing how many VMA-related tweets have gone out since the start of the show and which artists are being talked about the most. I suppose this is interesting to…who the fuck does find this interesting anyway? Social media OMG!!!

-A promo for the upcoming Real World: San Diego. I love how they’re just redoing all the previous Real World cities. This cast doesn’t look all that interesting. It looks like they have a gay guy AND a genderbender. Whatever, I’ll probably give it a chance. The Real World has long been one of my guilty pleasures, and this last season (where they revisited Las Vegas) was pretty damn entertaining, which makes them 2-for-2 in Sin City. Maybe they should just do Vegas every season. But are we really out of cities we can visit? Come on. You wouldn’t watch The Real World: Worcester? Real World: Compton? I’m betting you would.

-Oh look, they found a way to incorporate Rebecca Black into the VMAs! Yay!!! Moving on…

35:00: Jack Black, Seth Rogen and Will Ferrell come out as “The Beastie Boys of the Future”, which is utterly dumb and unfunny and pointless, but leads to the introduction of Best Hip Hop Video. Nicki Minaj wins, and she still hasn’t changed out of that stupid outfit. Nicki, you’re fucking gorgeous. Dress like it.

Is there a category this year for Best Hip Hop Song with a Subpar Trendy Electronic Dance Beat?

45:00: Best Collaboration goes to my baby Katy Perry & Kanye West for “E.T.” It’s sad that Kanye West seems to be done interrupting people on stage and going on douchey, selfish tirades.

SIDE BAR RANT: Chris Brown was one of the collaboration nominees. I love how this complete piece of shit has no problem finding people to work with him. Is there NO ONE in the industry who looks at him and says, “Nope. Can’t do it. Don’t want to be associated with him.” No one has those moral principles, I guess. At least not publicly. How quickly we forget and dismiss. It’s like all his fans and the media and other musicians wanted the whole thing to go away without the guy suffering any real consequences. It’s pathetic, really. “Forget Rihanna! She’ll live! We need Chris Brown to get back to making misogynistic music we can shake our asses to!” This is basically what his female fans are saying. This dude can beat the shit out of an equally popular female celebrity and be back to work almost immediately, but we still have people whining about Michael Vick and dog abuse, even though Vick went to prison. No no, we can’t let go of THAT! Meanwhile, Chris Brown merely has a restraining order against him, which may or may not even still be in effect. For shame.

47:00: Paul Rudd & Rick Ross do the “We’re presenting together but we’re so different!” routine and introduce this Pitbull/Ne-Yo performance. Where did this Pitbull guy come from, anyway? He sounds like Sean Paul but looks like a Latino Vin Diesel without the muscles. A weird looking fellow, whose sole purpose in the industry seems to be to perform backup vocals and hooks for party songs. I guess that’s one way to make a living. Actually, this song should win “Best Hip Hop Song with a Subpar Trendy Electronic Dance Beat”. I do genuinely like Ne-Yo, though. He’s a damn good singer with several really good songs, and he was pretty good earlier this year on the big screen in Battle: Los Angeles.

-They just showed a promo for a new MTV series called I Just Want My Pants Back. WHAT?!

57:00: Katy Perry introduces the Adele performance. It’s nice when an artist is known only for their talents as a musician. I admit I’m late to the Adele bandwagon. Actually I’m not even on it. I’ve yet to listen to her album. But I know who she is, and that she’s known for being a damned good singer, not for what she wears, who she’s dating, or for any kind of outrageous behavior or other controversy. That’s always refreshing. And she’s British, which is cool. As expected, she gives a great performance.

-MTV shows an alarming amount of birth control/pregnancy test commercials. I suppose they have to after making a bunch of pregnant 16 year olds famous because of that stupid reality show, Teen Mom, which may be the most exploitative show in television history.

-It’s always interesting to see a commercial for a movie you didn’t even know existed. I just saw a spot for Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star, which is the latest attempt by Adam Sandler to produce a movie starring only his buddies. See for yourself. Further reminder that mid-August thru mid-September is the absolute worst time of year for movies.

1:10:00: Kim Kardashian (who, again, is famous because of a SEX TAPE, having a HUGE ASS, dating mid-level celebrities and being the daughter of one of the guys who got O.J. Simpson off) presents Best Male Video. And the winner is Justin Bieber, who can only barely be described as a male, and is only famous himself because of YouTube. These are America’s stars. Aye vai!

1:13:00: Chris Brown performs a dance routine, surrounded by fawning women, all of whom have conveniently forgotten what this asshole is capable of. They carry him above the stage on wires a few times, and I openly wish for the wires to snap. Kanye West gives him a standing ovation, as does Justin Bieber. Bravo. Is it clear yet how much I despise Chris Brown?

-Oh yay! Another Twitter Tracker update! #YOUCOULDNTPAYMETOGIVEAFUCK

1:24:00: Lady Gaga comes out, again dressed like a man, and presents the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award to Britney Spears. Shouldn’t GaGa be wearing a bear suit or a dress made of tampons by now? It’s sad looking at these video clips, remembering just how hot Spears was 7 years ago. GaGa can’t force her ego down long enough to stand back and allow Spears to say anything. And then Spears’ acceptance speech turns into another introduction, this time for a Beyoncé performance. As it turns out, Beyoncé announced on the VMA red carpet that she’s pregnant, which instantly detonated the internet. Beyoncé pregnant! 40-somethin people just died because of Hurricane Irene, but who gives a fuck! Beyoncé is pregnant!!! The 10th anniversary of September 11 is coming up. Who gives a fuck! Show me pictures of Beyoncé’s belly!!!

Kanye West shoves Jay-Z around in the audience, as if it was a surprise to him that Jay-Z is the father.

-A TV spot for Abduction, in which Hollywood tries to turn a 19-year old kid into an action star. God help us. And god help John Singleton, who used to be a real director. How did it come to this, brotha?

1:40:00: Selena Gomez and the aforementioned Taylor Lautner out to present Best New Artist. U Mad, Bieber? The winner is some guy named Tyler, the Creator. I haven’t heard a single thing this guy has done, but I’ve actually heard his album is decent. He comes on stage and bleep-curses up a storm. Stay classy, Tyler.

1:43:00: Jared Leto and Zoe Saldana introduce a performance by another band I’ve never heard of. The lead singer of this band is holding two microphones and alternating between them. Whatever, bro. I stopped listening to their performance to preview some Tyler, the Creator songs on iTunes.

1:53:00: Obligatory presentation by Jersey Shore cast for Best Female Video. God that was fucking awkward. Please don’t put any of these people in scripted television or films. GaGa wins, and completely ignores the Jersey Shore cast once she gets to the stage. This amuses me.

2:03:00: Russell Brand comes out to do a dedication to Amy Winehouse, who was apparently his friend. He does a nice job, though calling her a genius is probably a stretch. Tony Bennett comes out and introduces a clip of a duet he’d just recorded with her, and Bruno Mars covers one of her songs. Mr. Mars, love ya, but that haircut has got to go. He looks like Lady GaGa’s lesbian girlfiend. Anyway, he does a very nice job.

What the hell is on your head?

2:17:00: For some reason, Lionsgate decides to show the first footage from The Hunger Games on the VMAs. Jennifer Lawrence introduces the clip via a video recorded on set. And they may as well have not shown anything. It’s less than a minute, and pretty much just Lawrence running through the woods, then she shoots an arrow at the screen that becomes the film’s logo. Totally pointless. I’m still dumbfounded by the hype around this Hunger Games shit. If it was such a huge series of books, why did I not know anything about it until the movie was announced?

2:20:00: Katie Holmes, of all people, presents Video of the Year to Katy Perry. And Perry has placed a giant yellow block on her head.

I’ll tolerate it because I love you!

2:25:00: Featuring Drake (this is his new name, says me) presents the final performance from Lil Wayne, who has Auto Tune preset in his mic for “How to Love.” Umm, I don’t go to a lot of concerts, but just from watching this, I declare that Auto Tuning does not work live. In fact, it sounds so bad that I’m fast forwarding. He performs another song, but I have no clue what it is because he’s swearing so much that 70% of it is bleeped out. Brilliant planning. “Hey, Wayne, why don’t you perform a song that we can’t air?” “Great idea!” Somehow, I don’t think the skinny jeans look is gonna catch on with his black fans.

And that’s it! Yippee! It wasn’t as painful as I thought it might be. I recognized more of the artists than I thought I would, and almost all of the live performances were pretty good. That said, it was nothing special. I didn’t see any new artists that scream to be listened to, and I didn’t see any bands that look like they’ve got any staying power, either. Nor were there any truly classic songs performed or nominated in any category. There also weren’t any true superstars. If Justin Bieber is what counts as insanely popular these days, than the music industry truly is hurting. And yes, I realize the VMAs are not an ideal place to discover new music, but if I haven’t really been following new music for a few years, it should be a place where I see something new that I might like. Right?

It’s clichéd to sit back and say that the music of “today’s generation” is terrible, and that music was much better when I was 21. It seems every adult has said that for the last 50 years. So I won’t go there, mainly because I don’t want to sound like one of the people I despised when I was younger, when old, out of touch farts would complain about Eminem‘s lyrics. Sure, 10 years ago we had the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC and other such sugar pop, but we also had Green Album Weezer, OutKast, Dr. Dre, the emergence of people like Alicia Keys, The Strokes and Coldplay (back when hipsters liked them), to name a few. U2 (All That You Can’t Leave Behind) and Bruce Springsteen (The Rising) put out some of their best work 10 years ago. We still have guys like Jay-Z today, but he doesn’t belong to this generation. He belongs to my generation, who have been fans of his since the 90’s. Same thing for Eminem. He may have put out a great album last year that these kids are into, but he broke through in 1999 and put out his true masterpiece (The Marshal Mathers LP) in 2000. I see a lack of true greatness in modern music. Is there any album in the past 3 or 4 years you’d call a masterpiece? There are a lot of good artists who have come up in the past few years, but where are the legends? Where are the legendary songs? Where are the people who actually have something to say? Something other than, “Fuck you!” or “Let’s party!” Where is the substance in today’s music? Is there any? Is there anyone in rap/hip-hop interested in anything other than party songs that will sell a bunch of copies on iTunes that white people can grind to in the club? Sure doesn’t seem like it.

And if you can answer any of the questions I just posed about the artists of 2011, please point me to them. I’m desperate to discover new music, but it seems to be very difficult to find anything worth a damn right now. Shit, I just went there, didn’t I? Well, I am 79 years old. Fuck’em.

Movie Extravaganza #2: The Semi Summer Movie Preview

As summer movie season kicks into full gear this weekend with the release of  Thor, I thought this was a great time for another big all-movie post. There’s been some stuff I’ve been wanting to talk about and some recent news worthy of your attention, analyzed for you by two thumbs pointing at this guy. First things first, some very cool new trailers debuted last week. The second (and likely final) full-length trailer for Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the second (and much improved) trailer for X-Men: First Class, and the first official trailer for The Deathly Hallows: Part 2. In case you haven’t seen any of them, take a look. I strongly recommend changing the video quality (in the bottom middle of each) to at least 720p to watch them in HD.

I’ve got my fingers crossed so tight on this that my index finger is about to snap, but Shockwave looks great, and there’s a lot of interesting and big stuff going on here, like that cool beacon thingy. And you can’t tell for sure, but I think Optimus Prime‘s trailer (which FINALLY makes an appearance) turns into that jetpack he wears. Just a guess, but remember who called it. On the other hand, I’m a little bothered by the fact that this trailer shows a clip from what looks to be the very last scene in the movie (Prime talking to Sam on a pier or boardwalk, with John Turturro in the wheelchair behind him). A great trailer from a visuals standpoint, but it looks like it gives way too much away. Perhaps more than anything, I can’t wait to find out how Shia LeBeouf ends up with a British supermodel girlfriend who’s even hotter than Megan Fox. I think if the director’s name wasn’t “Michael Bay“, this mightn’t have happened. Just a guess.


OH, HAI. NICE LIPZ.
P.S. I totally buy that you’d fall for Shia LaBeouf.

I’ve been very hesitant on this since day 1 (I’m still not over how bad X-Men : Last Stand was), and the first trailer wasn’t too inspiring, but this second one is a marked improvement. You get to hear more dialogue, and it looks like they’ve properly captured that X-Men us-against-the-world tone. I’m really digging Michael Fassbender as Magneto, too. His delivery of of that line “We already are” is pitch perfect and 100% Magneto. I’m really rooting for this to be very good. If all else fails, I get to look at January Jones and Jennifer Lawrence, which is always satisfying.

Deathly Hallows: Part 1 was the first movie in the entire series that I didn’t like. I won’t say I disliked it, but I definitely didn’t like it. It sits in this kind of opinion limbo. At the time, I couldn’t even write a review of it, it baffled me so much. I still need to watch it again, but I don’t expect my overall opinion to change. That said, even while I complained about the first part, I said back in November that I expected Part 2 to be amazing despite the problems I had with Part 1. I still hold that expectation. In my dream of dreams, this last one will be so good and so emotionally powerful that it’ll be worthy of Best Picture consideration and perhaps some acting nominations, but none of the others have been serious contenders in those categories, and they’ve been very consistent in quality (one of the series’ biggest strengths), so I doubt this will transcend the others even if it is the best of the decade-long series.

How Green is My Lantern?

Now we move to a brand new trailer that has me going, “Uh oh.” That trailer belongs to Green Lantern, which I am predicting will be this summer’s biggest box office bomb. I’ve been trying, really trying, to get excited for this, but I’m about to give up after this latest trailer. It just looks fuckin silly, doesn’t it? Like all these superhero movies, I don’t know shit about the comics, but surely the Green Lantern comic isn’t this silly looking. Is it? I know this is obvious, but it’s just so…GREEN. Like, really green. Too green. Then you’ve got all these incredibly goofy looking aliens and creatures. And all these goofy looking aliens speak English, and look incredibly goofy doing so. Maybe some super Lantern nerd can explain to me what I’m supposed to find cool about that. Then you’ve got Peter Sarsgaard as the main villain, and he ends up going from a normal-looking scientist to this maniac with a giant (goofy looking) ballooned forehead. It looks like we’re going to see a literal mad scientist in this movie. And that’s supposed to be scary and intimidating? Good grief. I can’t pick out one thing about this movie (other than the chance to see Blake Lively again) that has me excited. And that’s a damn shame, because it’s directed by Martin Campbell, who, granted, is hit and miss, but who just 5 years ago he gave us one of the best action movies ever in Casino Royale. Why he took this project on I’ll never know, but it looks like a massive pile of computer-generated [GREEN] dog doo. Don’t believe me? See for yourself, brah…

I guess the fact that Ryan Reynolds is in it should be a giveaway. This will be his third comic book movie, after the mediocre Blade: Trinity and the mediocre X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I normally like this guy (he gave one of the best performances in one of the best movies of 2010 in Buried), but he needs to stop it with the comic book movies. The fact that Marvel might give him another movie with the potential Deadpool spinoff is truly terrifying. ENOUGH!

-Can I say that I’m more than a little concerned about the Hangover sequel? In a way, I wish I hadn’t seen that second trailer. Of course it’s funny as hell, and the movie looks funny as hell, but it also displays such an apparent lack of creativity that my confidence in the film is a bit rattled. To start, the fact that they couldn’t come up with a cool subtitle and are just calling it the Hangover: Part II is a bad sign. It just is. You’re telling me Todd Phillips couldn’t come up with a good subtitle to the sequel of one of the most successful comedies of all time? NOBODY in the Warner Bros. marketing department had any good ideas? It’s not a huge deal in the bigger picture, but it’s indicative. When they first announced this sequel was actually happening, I’m on record (somewhere on my MySpace blog) as saying it was a bad idea. For one simple reason: how could anything even remotely that epic ever happen to the same people again? It would just come across as stupid if it did, wouldn’t it? Well, apparently the answer to that question is…easy, just have it happen in a different country. That appears to be the only difference from a narrative standpoint. In this new trailer, one of them is getting married (again), we see that they wake up after another crazy night (again), having no idea what happened the night before (again), and they’ve lost one or more of the people who started the night with them (again). The lack of creativity in that is stunning. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw the trailer. Usually, comedy sequels change up the plot a little bit, but this kind of repitition of ideas is normally reserved for bad horror sequels. Is The Hangover: Part II a bad horror sequel? My god I hope not. But right now, the only changes I see are the new location (Thailand) and a different cast member getting married this time. And a monkey. Let’s not forget the monkey.


Ken Jeong, you slay me.

Did Todd Phillips and the cast really do this only for the money? Given what I know of him and the various opinions he’s had recently, I thought Phillips was above that, but perhaps not. Phillips himself (who made more than $50 million on the first movie because of a brilliant contract stipulation) is making $10 million plus 10% of the first-dollar gross on the sequel, meanwhile Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zack Galifianakis each got $5 million upfront plus 4% of the first-dollar gross. Those will end up being huge paydays for all 4 of them. That also means a big increase in the budget, because with those salaries, the movie costs $25 million before you even start shooting (the original was made for under $40 million), and once it’s released, Warner Bros. has already forfeited 22% of the grosses. I guess it would be incredibly difficult to say no to such a huge guaranteed payday like that, but I’m hoping there was more effort put into the script than we’ve been shown thus far. If it is just a carbon copy of the original, I will be sorely disappointed. The original Hangover isn’t just one of my favorite comedies, it’s one my favorite movies overall (if you MUST know, it currently sits at #164 on the newly updated Biggie 200 list), and I’ve never been so amped up for a comedy sequel, despite my reservations.

If he exhales, that shirt will explode.

-So I’ve now seen Fast Five in theaters twice (I rarely have the time to see anything twice nowadays), and my love for this movie got me to thinking about how The Fast and the Furious is just about the most unlikely franchise in movie history. I’m fascinated by the trajectory this series has taken since the original came out a decade ago now. No action franchise (or franchise of ANY kind) has unfolded quite like this. Let’s trace the steps, and try to keep up.

You have the original film, The Fast and the Furious (which is loosely based on a Vibe magazine article called “Racer X”), which became a surprise hit in 2001 (grossing $40 million on its opening weekend on a $38 million budget on its way to a $144.5 million haul) and put Paul Walker & Vin Diesel on the map as potential leading men. Then you have a terrible sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious, that lost one of those leading men (and the original director, Rob Cohen) because he wanted too much money and basically thought he was above it, and that sequel still manages to perform well ($50 million opening, $127 million total). Diesel and Rob Cohen try to start a new franchise in xXx around the same time to middling results. So a better director on 2 Fast (John Singleton) makes the worst film of his career, but his career gets a bump anyway because that shitty movie is a hit. Singleton, having just made a very good low-budget movie (the greatly underrated Baby Boy) with up & coming singer Tyrese, gives him his first big mainstream starring role opposite the lonely Paul Walker, who badly needs a new street smart, non-Caucasian buddy.

Next, a couple years pass, because they still can’t get Diesel to star in part 3, and they can’t get Walker back either because he, too, is attempting to branch out. But not to be deterred, Universal puts the third movie in motion anyway, hires a new director (Justin Lin, who has directed each movie since) and tries to reinvent the franchise by giving it a new star (Lucas Black) and a new location for The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Apparently, hiring an Asian director for the Tokyo-set movie made it more authentic? I dunno. Also, we’re supposed to buy into the fact that because these cars drift around corners, it gives it a cool new twist, as opposed to Americans racing cars in straight lines. So yes, the franchise is now making sequels based on subgenres of street racing. Still with me? More characters are introduced (most notably Sung Kane as Han). Though that movie is just okay, it’s the goddamn Godfather Part II compared to 2 Fast. BUT, without Walker or Diesel’s involvement and the stench still lingering from part 2, the franchise loses some brand recognition, and it opens to a relatively paltry $23.9 million on its way to a franchise-low $62.5 million domestic total. [Also, strangely, we’re now (right now, in 2011) supposed to believe that the events of Tokyo Drift take place AFTER Fast Five. Wrap your head around that.] However, because Vin Diesel has now failed TWICE at starting new franchises (xXx and the Pitch Black sequel The Chronicles of Riddick), he makes a cameo in the final scene of Tokyo Drift, essentially telling us all, “Fine, I admit I don’t have any other other options. See you in part 4.”

SO, Tokyo Drift underperforms, but big studios don’t just give up on sequel-spewing franchises, and LUCKY FOR THEM, after a couple more years, both Paul Walker & Vin Diesel are no longer being allowed to topline movies (Walker because he struggles with that whole ‘acting’ thing, and Diesel because of his ego), and both need big paydays and starring roles to reinvigorate their careers. Fast & Furious is born, with the gimmick being that the entire original cast is back (the other two obviously being Michelle Rodriguez & Jordana Brewster). Brewster probably doesn’t want to do any more of these movies, but she too has not capitalized off the success of the original and has few other options.

By the way, when was the last time a sequel was made where all they did was remove the The‘s from the title of the original?! Again, we’ve never seen this before.

There’s more racing (and some terrible use of CGI cars in that dumbass sequence where they have to drive across the Mexican border and UNDER a mountain), but the focus shifts to more of a crime movie then a fast cars/racing movie. More new characters, most notable among them the superthin, superhot Gal Gadot. Paul Walker’s character (I had to look up his character name, that’s how memorable he is) Brian O’Conner goes from cop to criminal, and in doing allies himself with his bitter rival Dominic Toretto. Sad face, as Michelle Rodriguez supposedly dies and says goodbye to the franchise. Fast & Furious returns the series to box office glory (as audiences hunger for more of what they got in the first movie), opening to a massive $71 million on its way to $155 million total. Michelle Rodriguez ironically gets the last laugh, as she co-stars later that same year in the biggest movie of all-time, something called Avatar.

Finally, we get Fast Five, at worst a tie for best movie in the series, featuring an orgy of characters from all 4 previous films, and some new ones to take the franchise forward (Dwayne Johnson as The Terminator DEA Agent Hobbs). It reinvigorates the series again, with the best, most inventive action scenes in the franchise and cool new locations shot in Brazil and Puerto Rico. So even while the cast is familiar, the setting and the action is fresh. That’s smart. At the end of Five, we get bludgeoned over the head with a bonus scene (which brings back a character from way back in part 2!) that clearly indicates part 6 is on the way. This is further guaranteed when Five opens to $86.2 million in its first weekend on its way to becoming the highest grosser of the series.

Hopefully, that didn’t make you go cross-eyed, but it shows just how strange a road this has been for everyone involved. So many things had to happen for the franchise to end up like this or for it to even have extended this long. Other than Saw (which is supposedly done), there aren’t any currently active franchises at movie 5 or beyond, which is incredible given that Hollywood is more sequel-crazy than ever. And like I said in my Fast Five review, I doubt there’s ever been an instance where a part 5 is considered the best of the series. Though none of them have been great (and only the original and Five can be considered “good” in my view), I’m still interested in these movies. I also respect the series in one big sense…it’s 2011, and in an era where most mainstream movies are still almost completely whitewashed, this is the most ethnically diverse franchise perhaps in the history of cinema. And yes, I realize it depicts almost all of its minority characters as criminals and sex objects, but still, I’m glad to see a wide mix of races headlining movies this popular. That in and of itself is a good thing, and perhaps the most fundamental reason I’m into these flicks in the broader sense.

Finally, the new head of Universal Pictures has come out and said that they want to change the tone of the series again for the sixth movie, and they’ll probably be removing the racing elements altogether and making it a pure heist movie. I can get into that, and from what I’ve seen in two viewings of Five, audiences aren’t even close to being weary of these movies. At least this series TRIES to reinvent itself by mixing up the cast and switching scenery, which is the second big reason I give it props. It entertains the shit out of you without trying to be anything more than it knows it is. It’s an honest franchise that doesn’t bullshit its audience, and I think the masses appreciate that. I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but I am very much looking forward to 6 Fast Six or Furious 666 (or whatever the fuck it’ll be called). And no, there’s no confirmation yet on which cast members are in for part 6, though Dwayne Johnson has come out and said he wants to be part of it. Whether Diesel, Walker or Brewster want to continue remains to be seen, though I don’t see any of them doing much else in the next couple years. I wonder now if any of them even want to.

Apparently, this car fits into Dom’s wallet, because no matter where in the world he goes, the 1970 Charger shows up with him.

-Speaking of Fast/Furious-related items, I’m a little perturbed by director Justin Lin’s choice to follow up Fast Five with the proposed 5th Terminator movie. For some reason, people think this is a good idea, despite the last two sequels both underperforming at the box office (hint hint: we’re not interested unless it’s made by Cameron, a-holes!). And they think it’s also a good idea to bring 64-year old Arnold Schwarzenegger back to play, I dunno, the Terminator sent back through time to kill John Connor‘s grandfather at the nursing home? So, obviously T5 is a terrible idea, but I’m more concerned with Lin’s awful decision-making. Dude needs to fire his agents. He will never have more clout than he does right now, with Fast Five a monster box office hit around the world. He can do almost anything he wants as a follow-up, and he wants to continue making sequels? And not just a normal sequel, he only wants franchises that are at part 5 or beyond, apparently. Come on, man! Have you no creative ambition? No dream projects? No desire to work off a real script? No desire to work with actors who aren’t sleepwalking through the shoot, simply looking for a payday? I don’t know why this pisses me off, but it does. Not only that, but he’s also said he’s open to doing the sixth Fast/Furious movie. COME ON!!! Cuz I guess directing 3 of them isn’t enough. There’s so much more to explore in this multi-layered, richly characterized world. Oh wait, no, there isn’t. It’s time to move on, Justin Lin. You’re that rarest of things in Hollywood…a minority filmmaker with clout! USE IT. This would be like LeBron James coming off his MVP season last year and then, as a free agent, choosing to sign with the Minnesota Timberwolves. In other words, it’s a giant fucking step backwards!

Director Justin Lin with Vin Diesel.
“Hey Vin, wanna just do these Fast/Furious movies together for the rest of our lives?”
“Justin…I LIVE FOR THIS SHIT!”

Since most of you won’t get that last reference…

-I admit that prior to the movie version coming together, I’d never even heard of The Hunger Games. But now this is apparently one of the most anticipated movies of 2012 (it’s pretty far down my list). What I find curious is that it’s currently May, 2011 and they haven’t shot a single frame (in fact, the movie is still casting), yet they already have a release date of next March. Unless I’m mistaken, this is going to an effects-heavy project. Going from pre-production to release in 10 months on a large scale movie like this is generally not recommended. This trend of the studios stubbornly sticking to predetermined release dates is harming the quality and potential of a lot of movies. I for one don’t particularly care about Hunger Games (other than my love of Jennifer Lawrence and the fact that I like director Gary Ross), but for such a high-profile project that Lionsgate would like to turn into a trilogy, they seem to be rushing things a bit. Also, the fact that the male lead’s name is Peeta is bit off-putting.

RANDOM AWESOME MOVIE SCENE TIME!

RANDOM AWESOME MOVIE COMPILATION TIME!

“Get out of there!”

For today’s Recommended Listening, here’s my favorite track off the Chemical Brothers‘ fantastic score to Hanna. This little diddy’s called “Container Park”:  


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