Wednesday, August 31, 2011

THE FIRST PERSON TO MENTION WHITNEY HOUSTON SHALL BE DISHOOMED TO DEATH BY SALMAN KHAN: BODYGUARD


I had the great pleasure of getting to see Salman Khan's latest, Bodyguard, for free last night. Things like getting to see movies before their release, and not having to pay, are things that no one should ever get jaded about. And neither is Salman Khan, the guy's just fucking wonderful, one of the greatest movie stars in the world in all the right ways. If one were to break down the Three Khans really simplistically from an outsider's perspective (Ed. Note: What? Why are you giving me that look?): Shahrukh is the ambitious, Hollywood-y one who makes shitloads of money, Aamir is the one everyone can look at and be like “okay, that guy is a really fucking good actor” (but who also, it must be noted, makes shitloads of money), and Salman is the one who does stuff like “Every year, I'm going to time my big movie so it comes out right at the end of Ramadan when everyone's in a good mood.” And thus Salman is the one everyone thinks of as their homie, Sallu-bhai, standup guy, the kinda dude who's always got your back in a fight—and who will own the holy fuck out of anyone who steps to you—but who when you get right down to it is a total sweetheart.

In that regard, Bodyguard is very much a Salman Khan picture. In it, he plays ace bodyguard Lovely Singh, “the one man who can make the opposition pee its pants” (an apt descriptor of Salman Khan in ownage mode if there ever was one) who is hired by rich guy Raj Babbar to keep his daughter (Kareena Kapoor) safe from some baddies in the white slavery trade who wish her harm. Only problem is, Kareena and her equally lovely friend Hazel Keech—

Hazel (Left), Kareena (Right)

—are self-conscious about the other kids at their high school (Ed. Note: yes, Kareena's 30 and Hazel's 24 and they both look 24, just shush) making fun of them for having this square-ass dude in a suit following them around. So Kareena starts prank-calling him and lo and behold after a while she falls in love with him, only he's in love with who he thinks is someone else.

The romantic plot of Bodyguard, which at first appears to be the subplot but then becomes the main plot—forget it, Jake, it's Bollywood—is a little frustrating, not because it's based on cultural assumption that don't translate (those I can roll with a little easier, actually) but because it's based on my least favorite rom-com trope ever: the plot that hinges entirely on the lovers lying to each other. That shit drives me up the fuckin wall. Fortunately the annoying part of the whole business—when Kareena and Hazel are making Salman look ridiculous—is mainly confined to the first half of the picture. After the interval, the tone shifts more from stupid rom-com screwball bullshit to a more sighing romantic tragedy thing where Kareena starts to see the consequences of lying to her one true love, which is easier to take, though still it's more of a relief when the romantic plot resolves in the way it should (Spoiler alert for anyone who just had a lobotomy: Salman and Kareena get together at the end of the picture) than it is a big romantic tear-jerker thing, which it easily could have been with their individual and combined star power.

By far the most entertaining parts of Bodyguard are the (sadly few and far between) action sequences. Herein we see one of the world's foremost purveyors of ownage kicking ass on a mind-bending, ripping up speeding tickets from the cops enforcing the laws of physics, thoroughly fucking rad fashion. The first one (and the first of ten trillion times we hear Salman's goofy-ass ringtone, a joke that somehow never gets old), when his boss calls him up and sends him to go own some bad guys in a warehouse who are holding some girls hostage in a cargo container, Salman swoops out of the train he's riding on and jumps on top of one going the opposite direction and rides to the scene of the crime on top of the train, just because there isn't enough room inside the train for his balls, I suppose (kinda reminds me of the climax of Wanted when Salman jumped out of the car and did an acrobatic 180 degree mid-air kick before walking up a staircase just because). Once at the fight, Salman proceeds to unleash ownage on a scale rarely glimpsed by mortals; director Siddique does a nice job of capturing the near supernatural badassery with just the right degree of perspective of “okay, this shit isn't possible, but yo, this is a Salman Khan movie, this is how he do.”
(Ed. Note: translation approximate)

The other major ownage sequence in Bodyguard comes right before the lengthy denouement, when Salman has to rescue Kareena from the baddies. This one is really something else:

1—The baddies chase Kareena with a fucking remote-control helicopter that despite moving very quickly never catches up with her even though she does not, to be kind, run terribly fast.

2—Salman makes said helicopter explode into a cute little fireball by throwing something at it; save your “but RC helicopters are electric and don't have any gasoline to turn into a fireball” protestations, this isn't the movie for them.

3—I'm probably missing some intervening step, but the rest of the fight takes place in some ancient ruin filled shin-deep with water, and Salman has to fight the baddies blind.

4—That entire sequence is fucking dope.

5—The way Salman's shirt comes off in this one is the funniest/most awesome thing I've ever seen. To put this moment into perspective, it was so awesome that a 50ish Indian woman in traditional formal garb high-fived me.

6—Salman owns the final baddie by punching him about ten feet through the air and impaling him on the wall, a fitting climax to an excellent sequence.

Once the ownage subplot is done with (not gonna lie, the ownage plot ending up being the subplot was a bit of a buzzkill) we're back to the denouement, in which an entire movie's worth of romantic plot is related in about twenty minutes that's way more interesting than anything that's come before; it's unfortunate that it has to be rushed, as I would far rather have watched a whole movie that was a love triangle between Salman, Kareena, and Hazell than just the last twenty minutes' worth.

Still, griping about tonal inconsistency is retarded with Bollywood movies, as that's what the entire structural model is built on over there, and even griping about plot lumpiness within that model is kind of beside the point here because there's a lot to like in Bodyguard. Salman carries this joint through a whoooooooole lotta slow parts just by being awesome, and Kareena is delightful when the script doesn't insist that she be an annoying, bratty teenager (it's not the cognitive dissonance involved with her so clearly not being a teenager, either, it's the script making her look bad). And yes, I am totally under the spell of Hazel Keech and her enchanting glasses, even though it's impossible to tell whether she can actually act, stuck in the “friend” role and given nothing to do until that one scene right at the end when the love triangle is established, though she does a perfectly fine job at that.

And the music is terrific. The theme song is in Jalwa territory in terms of catchiness, with a whistled hook that's just fuckin sick. Also, in a cameo as herself, the luminously lovely Katrina Kaif shows up during said song, leading into a funny bit where Salman, as her bodyguard, kicks a bunch of dude's asses who get too close to her, leading to the revelation that Salman's boss, as a man of taste, has a bit of a crush on her. As one does.

Overall, Bodyguard is recommended primarily for audiences for whom the mere presence of Salman Khan counterbalances any weaknesses a movie might have. I fall squarely within that demographic, and so need to clarify that all my bitching about the way the romantic plot is structured should not in any way be interpreted as my not having enjoyed the movie. Like all Salman Khan movies, and like the man himself, Bodyguard totally fucking means it. Would I prefer a little more action in his next outing? Sure, but the action in Bodyguard is sufficiently dope that quality makes up for quantity. It's not Bollywood for beginners, but it's a deeply satisfying intermediate course. Goddamn Salman Khan is awesome.



Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"IT'S LIKE A SLEEPOVER....EXCEPT I'M NAKED AND BEING PAINTED."



Nothing earth-shattering here, just a fun look behind the scenes of the big-budget filmmaking process. Also, it's nice to see that Jennifer Lawrence still seems just as down-to-earth as always. Still doesn't fill me with an existential void from not having seen X-Men, though. Some day.

Oh, by the way, that clip is mildly NSFW as you can probably tell from the sensationalist title. (h/t movies.com)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

SUMMER'S ALMOST GONE: SUBVERSION, GORILLAS, & WOLF-GORILLAS


In a summer movie season mostly characterized by the phrase “well, that didn't suck,” two pictures really stood out. It wasn't the surreal box-office tallies generated by Pirates of the Caribbean 4 or Harry Potter, or any of the seemingly nine billion fucking Marvel comics movies—I mean, Thor was okay, but I didn't see Captain America or Matthew Vaughn's X-Men/Mad Men slashfic thing with January Jones running around in her underwear and am not exactly sweating blood waiting to Netflix them—or even the mighty juggernaut The Help, the picture that made it safe to not feel like a racist again.

(Actually, before going any further, I do need to address the fact that I still haven't seen The Help. I am not calling it racist, or that it proactively supports a racist view of the world. Some lady got so pissed off at the thing I wrote about not wanting to see The Help that now she won't let my buddy Hudak see a movie in Tampa ever again or something, and even though Hudak was just happy to be notorious and didn't really give a fuck, I just want to be clear, when I bitch about The Help, I'm bitching less about the movie itself—which I haven't seen—than I am the bullshit detente in the discussion about race it provoked. I know the people who like the movie because it was well-crafted and had good performances and all that stuff are defensive at all the people saying it's morally lazy about the issue of racism and liberal auto-fellatio and so forth, but them getting defensive about it is kind of stupid because the movie's making a shitload of money and will probably be nominated for a bunch of Oscars. It's like Christians complaining about being persecuted by the tiny minority of atheists in this country when no one can be elected president without yapping constantly about Jesus. That's the one thing that slightly annoys me about Barack Obama; much as I love the guy and his valiant B-minus first term, I really wish he'd shut the fuck up about Jesus. On the other hand, I like it when Kanye West talks about Jesus because it's funny. But the digression train jumped the track a couple sentences ago, so let's get back on topic.)

The thing about the way The Help completely hijacked seemingly the entire bandwidth of this summer's cinematic discourse is that it, much to my dismay, completely overshadowed two really great movies that had just started generating lots of interest. This wasn't terribly surprising, in that both of the pictures I'm championing here are quite subversive in their own ways, something neither The Help's critics nor its defenders would say of it. The fact that one of them actually was #1 at the box office is a slightly encouraging sign, and the fact that the other has yet to see wide release in the US means we still gotta see about it. So I'm gonna use what influence I have to make sure motherfuckers NEVAR 4GET these two pictures.


First, Rise of the Planet of the Apes


Yes, the title is fucking retarded. I cracked on it in my Tor review, saying I wanted each sequel to add another “[verb starting in R] of the” to the beginning of the title, acknowledging how unwieldy it is. And yes, it has James Franco as the top-billed actor, and I admit, even though I defended the cat for as long as I could, his “I'm a performance art philosophy grad student butterfly” act started wearing thin the second it became clear he wasn't going to bother to wake up to host the Oscars. And the Tim Burton movie blew gorillas for quarters and gave back change, no question. I mean, seriously, there are a whole long list of really compelling reasons why this movie should have sucked.

But ho boy lemme tell ya. It doesn't suck at. Fucking. All. It's one of the most exhilarating pieces of studio filmmaking that I've seen in years, bursting at the seams with love for and mastery of cinematic technique, and not in some jerkoff flashy “HEYYYYY LOOK @ ME GUISE I'M AN AUTEURRRRRRR [fart]” kind of way, where the director's all performing for the audience and shit (seriously, only a handful of directors in the history of the medium can get away with that shit and even Jean-Luc H. Christ Godard can be annoying sometimes). Apes director Rupert Wyatt teamed up with Peter Jackson's crew and FX people from the Lord of the Rings (who also were responsible for the only parts of Avatar that didn't suck) to do something people thought wasn't going to be possible until the Singularity (when human consciousness merges with artificial intelligence and Phase 2 begins): abolish the uncanny valley, the ineffable ability the human mind has to determine which is human and which is created.

Actually, I don't know whether Apes so much abolishes the uncanny valley as it does convince the audience to not give a fuck. Protagonist Caesar—played by actor Andy Serkis and chimped out by the FX nerds—doesn't look like a “real” chimp. But whatever he is, you can see him thinking, you can see him feeling, you can see him developing the sense that Western civilization has no place for him, you can see him establishing and developing comradeship with his fellow primates, and you can see him leading La Resistance into motherfucking battle. Seriously, if I ever see anything in a movie as dope as when Caesar charges out of the fucking fog on the Golden Gate Bridge ON FUCKING HORSEBACK, shrieking “down with the pigs” or whatever in chimpspeak, I may faint. The whole climactic battle sequence features something that's literally never been seen before on screen: computer generated characters showing genuine, genuinely massive, organic, balls. It wasn't just special effects, either; we've all seen some fancy special effects these last couple decades. What made the apes so special was that the director and writer(s) had developed them as characters, so that when they went about special effecting it up, the audience actually gave a shit. Friend of the blog RVCBard and I were barely forming words when the movie was over, and after about twenty minutes when we could talk again we both said something like “damn I wish the American Left had Caesar on its side” simultaneously.

Therein lies the reason why it vanished from popular discourse the second critics and entertainment media had something else to talk about. Engaging with Rise of the Planet of the Apes on its own terms, independent of the baggage of previous Planet of the Apes movies, independent of the James Franco narrative, means engaging with a movie whose protagonists are in direct opposition to Western culture. For good reason. And win. And it's totally a happy ending. The epidemic that wipes out humanity is relegated to one of what the Marvel movies have immortalized as the “Nick Fury shows up” scene in the middle or at the end of the credits, but in Apes instead of Samuel L. Jackson showing up in an eyepatch to recruit Caesar for the Avengers, we see an airline pilot with a nosebleed and then a not-entirely-mournful graphic showing the spread of the epidemic all over the fucking planet. Night guys! Drive home safe! We're all gonna die!

Where Apes, though its action takes place all in the San Francisco area, takes a global view on the question of whether the existing order should, ya know, fuck off, the other picture on my mind takes a more local one. Extremely local.


Second, Attack The Block



Made for a seventh of Apes' budget, this focuses entirely on one housing project. There's more linking the two pictures beyond Apes featuring an impressive gorilla and Attack The Block featuring “wolf-gorilla motherfuckers” (as Pest calls them) that come from outer space and fuck people up. Both feature protagonists held down by society, straining against the roles they've been assigned by the existing power structure.

But Attack The Block has the balls to present its heroes first as villains, as Pest, Dennis, Biggz, Jerome, and Moses set upon and mug a nurse. The mugging is interrupted by an alien landing in the middle of a nearby car, and Sam the nurse escapes while the gang confront and kill the alien, which then leads to a shitload of wolf-gorilla motherfuckers coming down from space to fuck shit up. I covered this one for Tor as well.

The thing about the kids in Attack The Block is . . . they're kids. The media loves portraying project kids who turn to crime as predatory animals who need to be locked up and have the key thrown away. In reality, kids are kids, and if society smiles upon one group of kids, they smoke weed and obsess about girls they're too dorky to talk to at Daddy's beach house. If society doesn't smile on that group of kids, they'll smoke weed and obsess about girls they're too dorky to talk to in some fucked up publicly-funded ugly-ass apartment block. Far as I'm concerned, nature vs. nurture isn't an argument at all. Give a project kid the resources rich kids have and an environment where he isn't made to feel self-conscious, and there will be no discernible difference whatsoever.

My favorite thing about Attack The Block is that it makes the above point in a far less didactic and far more entertaining way. Its mugger protagonists and their victim, Sam, team up and develop a plausible mutual respect through their struggle against a common opponent, the wolf-gorilla motherfuckers. By the end of the picture, Moses is a legit hero and Sam tells the cops so. And I was wiping a tear away, cuz hey. Sometimes you cry tears of triumph.

But back to those wolf-gorilla motherfuckers for a second. Another link between Attack The Block is that they both utilize their resources perfectly, and integrate their special effects into the movie seamlessly. It's a considerably more impressive feat in Attack The Block, considering that it was made for $13 mil US instead of 90. But the wolf-gorilla motherfuckers never look cheap or stupid, a really impressive feat for low(ish)-budget horror or SF. Part of this is because the creature design is very simple: they're balls of black fuzz with glow-in-the-dark teeth their only visible feature. The other, more crucial part is that director Joe Cornish and DP Thomas Townend light the fuckers amazingly well, so that the black of their fuzz is seemingly blacker than any black that exists on earth; it's the black of outer fucking space, my friend.

And, ya know, the kids are all terrific and Jodie Whittaker's great as Sam and Nick Frost plays a weed dealer (“What's Ron's weed room?” “It's a room, filled with weed, and it belongs to Ron.”) And the script is in love with language and pop culture references (but not in the old-fashioned stupid 90s way where it's a dick measuring contest to see who can unsheath the most cringingly fucking kitschy bit of “ironic” pop trivia from the 70s, in this it's a way that actually has a connection to the way actual people actually talk) and a couple of the bangin'-est catchphrases this side of “May the Force be with you.” The way Moses says “allow it” fucking owns. And all the people saying John Boyega is like a young English Denzel are totally on point; if the entertainment business is in any way a meritocracy we're all gonna be working for that kid within the decade.

This brings us to one of the reasons Attack The Block has only grossed about $5 mil worldwide to date, aside from a marketing campaign based more on word of mouth than actual marketing: the hero who saves the day is black, and the white people are either support staff, comic relief, or cops. This isn't the only reason—a bigger P&A budget could have turned Attack The Block into a massive hit and, actually, may still—but it's a big one. A lot of people just can't process a black hero who mugs a white woman and yet is the hero who saves the planet, and not all of those people are overtly racist, they just need to open their minds a bit and be ready to entertain the idea that reality is more complex than initial, stereotype-assisted, impressions. Oh wait, fuck there we go right there, there's your reason why Attack The Block hasn't made back negative costs yet. I forgot, thinking makes people's heads hurt.

So that's your dispatch from the Department of Silver Linings. The summer may have had a bunch of sequels, comic book movies, and remakes I didn't give a fuck about, and the gigantic atomic turd that was Cowboys & Aliens, and it may have culminated in a big ugly argument about whether The Help was racist or whether the people who like it are racist, or whether the people who don't like it are sexists who are only criticizing it because it's not the movie they wanted it to be and blah blah blah boy I really can't wait for the Next Big Thing we're all talkin about to come along because if I never have to read another fucking word about The Help I'll be very happy. But in spite of all that shit, there were two bonafide fucking awesome movies this summer. And one of them was even a remake! Wonders never cease. Long live Caesar and Moses.

Friday, August 19, 2011

BROTHER WILL FIGHT BROTHER



I don't know a whole lot about this movie, but it's got Tom Hardy (who owns), Joel Edgerton (ibid), and Cameron from House (well . . . she rents, she doesn't own). But this picture offers us the spectacle of the second-coolest cat in Inception (silvering to Joseph Gordon-Levitt in that is not an embarrassment) and the guy who was so cool in Animal Kingdom we thought he was the lead until he got killed (WHOOPS SPOILER ALERT LOLZIES) beating the shit out of each other in MMA fights. So there's that.

Warrior releases Sept. 9th.

Friday, August 12, 2011

COMING ATTRACTIONS (HAHAHAHAHAHA HE SAID "COMING....")



Oh man I cannot fucking WAIT. Joyeux Noel, motherfuckers!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

IN WHICH I DISCUSS THE DUMBEST CASTING CHOICE IN THE HISTORY OF HOLLYWOOD, AND TRY NOT TO BLAME IT ON TOM CRUISE


One of the hardest things in life is not succumbing to all-encompassing cynicism. All too often people fucking suck, and make horribly short-sighted decisions, and basically make you want to grab them by the shoulders and shake them, screaming “ARE YOU FUCKING RETARDED?” Naturally, because the arts present an idealized and heightened version of reality, this bullshit is the most exasperating in that arena; the simultaneous lack of any real consequence and utter stupidity of the behavior of people in the arts—and particularly show biz—is perhaps the dumbest dumb known to man. And (totally blame this grandiose buildup on the fact that I've been bumping Watch The Throne on repeat the last couple days) even within showbiz, even compared to the legendarily stupid music industry, no one goes full retard like a movie executive.

While the history of stupid decisions in Hollywood is long enough and brimming with such robust idiocy that Ken Burns could do one of his zillion-part documentaries and not even get to any of the deep cuts, I would submit that we have recently borne witness to the high (low?) water mark of the art form. I speak of course of the recent announcement that Tom Cruise is set to play the lead in the screen adaptation of Lee Child's novel One Shot.


A bit of background is necessary here, so for the uninitiated, a brief history of Lee Child. Born Jim Grant, he was a television producer for many years in England (where he's from) before being laid off and deciding, “I'm going to write novels.” His first, Killing Floor, was released in 1997, a tale of a very-recently-ex-military policeman named Jack Reacher who decides, after leaving the military, to travel the United States, which country he's seen very little of, despite spending his entire life to date first as a son of a US military man and then as one himself. In short order, Reacher finds himself neck-deep in intrigue and in the schemes of bad men doing bad things (and, being a very tall man, being neck-deep in shit means there's a lot of it; note Reacher's height, he's described in every single book as being six-foot-five) and he has to kick fucking ass.

Since then, Child has written more than a dozen other novels, each featuring Reacher, a black-coffee-drinking Yankee fan in the fashion of yours truly, except that's where the similarities end. Reacher is the alpha badass of modern fiction. He's not a terribly naturalistic character, but that's the whole point of Reacher: he's smarter than everybody else, a better fighter, a better shot, blows shit up cooler than anyone else, and he gets laid just about every book because that's just the way things go (and lest one roll one's eyes and go “oh, more macho dude fantasy,” well over half of Child's regular readers are women, nearly all of whom would fuck Reacher in a heartbeat). He's a terrific character, abetted perfectly by Child's economical prose, brilliantly calibrated pacing, and meticulously researched, completely credible world-building. After Killing Floor, there were a handful of kind of shaky outings where Child found his footing and discovered what worked and didn't about Reacher, but around book six or seven he totally hit his stride and now, the publication of a new Reacher fills me with an excitement usually reserved for a new Radiohead album, fantasy football draft, or Steven Soderbergh picture. And Reacher lets me down way less than the last two.

I'd be lying out my ass if I tried to claim that I was objective about Reacher. I'm not remotely objective. When I heard that the movie rights to a number of Reacher books had been optioned, I immediately went, “Cool,” and then “Who in the sweet name of Jesus H. Fuck is going to play Reacher?” Since I enjoy the intellectual exercise casting movie versions of favorite books, and I like a good challenge, I started thinking. Several nosebleeds and sobbing fits later, I remembered that Google exists, and I came up with this.

While containing a couple bonafide “what the fuck”s—Bob Saget is 6'4”? Holy shit—that list ultimately isn't all that helpful, as there isn't a single dude on that list who could play Reacher. After a bit more cogitation I came up with the perfect plan: build a time machine, go back to about 1985, track down the very tall and very awesome Clancy Brown—


—then convince the head of Paramount to cast him with the old “Dude, trust me, this guy's gonna be a fuckin huge star, oh and by the way if you ever want to see your family alive you'll do as I ask, yuppie plankton” gambit. Realizing the R&D necessary to build the time machine was a bit out of my grasp (Paramount's, too; Universal charges an arm and a leg in rental fees to use Doc Brown's DeLorean, greedy fucks) I went back to square one. Who the fuck was big enough, scary enough, between the ages of 35-45, and sufficiently bankable or the kind of guy a studio marketing department can convince the media is an up-and-coming star? Eventually, I resigned myself to it being a Kobayashi Maru and figured Paramount was just buying the options to have them, and figured well shit, at least Lee got paid.

Then, the (unfortunately not-so) surprising announcement that Tom Cruise had been cast in One Shot. I got pissed and used curse words and e-mailed my mom and we both used lots of curse words and said mean things about Tom Cruise, an essential part of any grieving process (many therapists say saying mean things about Tom Cruise helps any grieving process, not just one involving him being miscast). But after the initial venting, I decided to put my anger aside and objectively evaluate the situation. Since there's nothing I can do to prevent the movie from being made, eventually I'm going to have to come to grips with the fact that it exists. And because if anyone accuses me of being “that guy” who can't handle his sacred, untouchable book being besmirched by Hollywood I'm going to murder them with a sword, I figured the safest bet would be to achieve some kind of state of grace with Tom Cruise's casting, and come to the same way of thinking I eventually adopted—quite successfully—with the Harry Potter books: book canon is book canon, movie canon is movie canon, and if they overlap great, and if they don't, oh well. So I decided to re-read One Shot.

Set in a nameless small city a couple hours' drive from Indianapolis, One Shot opens with a man making careful preparations to murder several people coming out of the city's main office building with a scoped rifle from a parking garage. His plan goes off without a hitch, and the cops begin an urgent investigation, finding a perfect trail of evidence leading to an ex-Army sniper named James Barr, whom they arrest in a drugged stupor at his house. When he's able to speak, he tells his lawyer (hired by his sister) that the cops have the wrong man, and he asks for Jack Reacher. No one there knows who the hell Jack Reacher is, but they're about to find out, as Reacher's on his way there without their needing to summon him.

There's history between Reacher and Barr: when Reacher, about to get fucked silly in Miami by a Norwegian dancer, sees a report about Barr's sniper act, he drops her ass on the spot and hops a bus to Indiana. So right there we know something's up, because no sane man kicks Norwegian dancer chicks to the curb unless there's a really, really good reason. Reacher arrives on the scene only to find Barr in a coma because he looked at another inmate in the city jail wrong and got his ass handed to him, and informs Barr's sister—who's thoroughly convinced of her brother's innocence, of course—that he's not there to help Barr. Still, why the fuck would Barr ask for him, then?

Clearly, since this all happens in like the first thirty pages of the book, Something Is Up. I'll stop before spoiling stuff, but you can probably venture an educated guess or two about what happens from there. Suffice to say, a major plot point that complicates Reacher's ability to investigate What The Fuck Is Going On involves him being six-foot-five. The entire climax revolves around Reacher being strong enough to crush a guy to death with his bare hands. And, completely above and beyond the physical stuff, watching Reacher think is one of the coolest games in town, because he's really smart and sees things from unconventional perspectives. And he flirts with one of the heroines by swapping George Orwell quotes with her; they each get a little playfully aroused at the other's erudition and wit.

As currently written, One Shot is not filmable, because the role of Reacher is impossible to cast. Lee Child himself acknowledged this, talking about Tom Cruise being cast in the role, following that by hoping for the best, because really, what the hell can the guy say? No one wants to go all Clive Cussler on a motherfucker and whine about his authorial vision being violated by hack filmmakers, because then you sound like an asshole.

The thing is, if One Shot turns out to be a good movie—something Tom Cruise has made quite a few of over the years—it will do so by being a very, very loose adaptation of the book. Director Christopher McQuarrie is working from an adaptation by Josh Olson (who wrote A History of Violence, which was a good fuckin movie). McQuarrie has done some good writing—The Usual Suspects was fucking tight, revisionist dickheads whining about the final twist rendering the whole rest of the movie moot be damned, and The Way of the Gun may not have gone anywhere, but it has the line “Shut that cunt's mouth or I'll come over there and fuckstart her head,” which is one of the five greatest lines of dialogue ever written, fo realz, it's just so crazy and wrong and meaningless it's fucking brilliant—but as for directing, well . . . everything after “Shut that cunt's mouth or I'll come over there and fuckstart her head” goes downhill in The Way of the Gun. And, lest we forget, McQuarrie and Tom Cruise worked together on that horseshit Nazi picture, which was, in case my choice of adjectives is ambiguous, a bunch of horseshit. So we'll see.

I'm still not happy about the Tom Cruise thing, though. The way I see it, if he wanted to be in a thriller playing an ex-military drifter who investigates a crime, he could have his agent pick up the phone and say to just about any writer in the known universe, “Hey, Tom Cruise wants you to write him a script,” and bam, there you go. Or, if it was Chris McQuarrie going, “I have a relationship with Tom Cruise” and the studio got all fluttery, first, nut up Chris. You know actors who are at least fucking five foot ten. Fuck, give Ryan Phillippe some steroids and bone up on your low-angle shots and you're at least doing better than fucking Tom Cruise. Second, if the studio had McQuarrie over the barrel and it wasn't really his fault and the only way they were going to make the movie was “you know, maybe with a . . . I don't know, like a . . .” in that “Unless you say the words 'Tom Cruise,' McQuarrie, you're gonna be shoveling dog shit in Kamchatka for your crimes against the Soviet state” passive-aggressive way, then fuck Hollywood, right in the ear.

Because really, this isn't Tom Cruise's fault, or Chris McQuarrie's, really. They didn't break the movie business, it was this way when they found it. The fault is with whichever coked-up, solipsistic, Entourage-watching, no-ironic-perspective-on-it-having, yuppie fuckface sat behind his desk, not having read the book, having the cognitive function of a fucking fossilized wooly mammoth turd, jerking off to himself in the mirror because he got to use the phrase “I'll greenlight this with a, like, Tom Cruise in the lead” for the first time. Whoever you are, I hope I never meet you, because I'm going to put my fucking fist through the back of your skull, you motherfucker. Reacher-style.

(drops the mic)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

OH NO HE DI-IN'T!


Filmmakers can be assholes, and they can be competitive. For a fun read, check out this thing on Flavorpill about the bitchiest things one filmmaker ever said about another. Bathe in the schadenfreude.

Monday, August 8, 2011

ROLLIN WITH RICK



No, I'm not just Rickrolling you to get all misty and nostalgic about 2007 (or 1987 for that matter). This video is two things: 1) a coded message about what I was up to this afternoon, and 2) awesome. It didn't hurt that I'm replaying GTA IV for the zillionth time at the moment; that game is very special to me. But dig the choreography and editing in that joint, it'd be tight even if it wasn't machinima.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

100 YEARS OF NICHOLAS RAY, AND HERE'S TO 100 MORE


Today is the 100th anniversary of Nicholas Ray's birth. You could make the argument that he was the best American film director of the 1950s, but rather than do that I'll just call him my favorite (the argument gets simpler when you consider Douglas Sirk was German and Hitchcock was English). I love the way his movies look, he got great performances out of his actors, and his eye for Otherness was unmatched in his time and rivaled only intermittently ever.

I've liked every Nicholas Ray picture I've ever seen—even his Jesus picture was pretty good—but three stand out as particular favorites:


1—In A Lonely Place (1950)


A noir picture that departs, per its director's habit, from a lot of the usual noir norms. Humphrey Bogart stars as a screenwriter with serious anger issues. He might have killed a guy, we're kept guessing about whether or not he did it until the end, but we're still totally compelled by him. I'd go as far as to call it Bogart's best performance ever. You feel the anger and danger, but also totally understand what Gloria Grahame sees in him (and her performance is top-notch). Their relationship is vivid, harrowing, all too real, leading to Gloria Grahame being both madly in love with and abjectly terrified of Bogart.

The ending is one of the greatest ever, even if it's pretty damn far from happy. It turns out that Bogart didn't actually kill the guy . . . but he still totally fucked up his relationship with Gloria Grahame, and the last absolutely stunning shot is Bogart walking away, tiny and alone, into the darkness. It's an ending where you exhale for the first time in like half an hour, saying “wow.”

In A Lonely Place is just a really good fucking movie. There's no way you can watch it and not go “That was a really good fucking movie.” You all gotta realize, me saying it's Bogart's best performance, I really like Humphrey Bogart. I think he's the greatest movie star in the history of America, and I give him more credit than most as an actor, too. The fact that this was Nicholas Ray's second feature—his first, They Live By Night, is pretty great too—is unreal. It's a completely assured, confident movie that goes nowhere you expect it to. I mean . . . it's just a really fucking good movie.


2—Johnny Guitar (1954)


Okay, Joan Crawford in a Western is a high concept that I'd greenlight with my zipper down. That alone is the greatest fucking idea of all time (I'll sacrifice all that stupid verisimilitude shit to have Joan Crawford in a Western, fuck y'all) but the fact that we got Mercedes McCambridge up in this too, as the villain, that's just icing on the cake.

Also, Sergio Leone copped the plot and everything else about this he could carry for Once Upon A Time In The West and that's very, very important. Like Keith Richards appropriating a Chuck Berry riff. But even more than that, a Western in the 50s (before John Ford ended the era with The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, because there ain't really shit new to say about the genre after a picture that good) where both protagonist and antagonist are women is notable. A movie that isn't romance-based where the hero and villain are both women and the guy is the love interest (even if he does get the movie named after him) today would be an outlier, but back then? Revolutionary. Again, there's that eye for Otherness.

This one doesn't quite hold up to the scrutiny of In A Lonely Place, but there's a wide expanse of gray area between “not as good as In A Lonely Place” and “not good.” Johnny Guitar is more for those moods when you're like “I want to see Joan Crawford in a Western, and I want to see some hawt 50s color cinematography.” Those moods are valid, make no mistake, and luckily for them there's Johnny Guitar.


3—Rebel Without A Cause (1955)


The first time I saw this was on TV when I was about 10 or 11 or something and my mom said “You need to learn about James Dean” or something along those lines. I watched it and learned all about James Dean (and, it must be said, all about Natalie Wood, too . . . meowwww; yes, I was a little precocious in that regard).

The second time I saw this was in a film appreciation class in high school that was a bit of a misnomer, as we watched everything on VHS and the class was only an hour long so we had to break every movie up over at least two classes and if too many of the hair-gelled “ey, fuck you, arright” guys and equally hair-gelled “ewwww, that's retaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarded” girls evinced any degree of boredom we'd abandon the picture at the hour mark and watch something else next class. The fact that we finished Rebel Without a Cause and then spent a third hour talking about it is a testament to the power of that movie, even if the discussion was peppered with “I didn't get it” or “that was old, that doesn't got nothin to do with nothin, people don't tawwk that way.”

Look, that's just the way teenagers are. Jesus Christ could do the Dougie across a swimming pool and turn tax forms into tits and at least one teenager would go, “Pssh, that's lame, the Dougie was so 2010.” And it's not because teenagers are shitheads, even though they are. The reason teenagers are shitheads is simple. You may remember how it went: there you were, little kid, short, squeaky voice, less than optimal cognitive abilities, when all of a sudden BOOM! Some mad scientist shot you in the ass with something that was part Viagra (which must have been doubly frustrating if you were a girl), part HGH, part evil mad scientist serum that caused bipolar disorder and whose side effects included horrible things happening to your skin. That shit would turn Gandhi into a shithead (and it probably did, too). Being a teenager sucks. It's no wonder they all turn into shitheads.

But even the shithead deserves empathy, up to a certain point, and that brings us to Rebel Without A Cause. The aftermath of World War II, which found America frantically trying to build a utopia as a means of dealing with how fucking horrible the war was (make no mistake, we got off easy, but that didn't mean the war didn't abjectly fucking suck), but not succeeding all the time. The kids were the ones who bore the brunt of their parents' freaking out, and so some movies were starting to be made about the troubled youth. Nicholas Ray sensed this trend, and was like “*sniffsniff* . . . I smell existential alienation . . . Otherness . . . there's only one man for the job! Get me a script, a camera, and some really pretty, emotionally damaged young people, and get me that shit five fucking minutes ago!”

The title Rebel Without A Cause sums the movie up perfectly. Outwardly, one can be excused for looking at James Dean and going “Fuck's his problem? He's growing up prosperous, in Los Angeles so we can't even write his gloominess off to the weather. Nut up, fucko.” But that's the thing. Being a teenager sucks sufficiently that even under relatively ideal circumstances like this one—like, seriously, his biggest problem is that his dad's henpecked, and that shit happens when you get in relationships with strong women, it doesn't mean strong women are bad and shouldn't be that way, it's just one of those things—the mere fact of being a teenager sucks balls.

Even though things turn out all right for James Dean (if a night or two with Natalie Wood doesn't take the edge off, you're beyond being worth saving), they end tragically for Sal Mineo. This is Nicholas Ray (widely said to be bisexual), clearing his throat pointedly and being as obvious as he was allowed to by the censors that sure, being a teenager is a headache, but being a gay teenager is a migraine.

Of course, Rebel Without A Cause is primarily remembered today for the whole James Dean thing. He died a month before the movie premiered, and it's been hard if not impossible to separate Rebel Without A Cause (or Giant or East of Eden for that matter) from the James Dean cult. (Eerie coincidence: I typed “James Dead” and had to correct it like 90 kajillion fucking times writing this.) I maintain that if he hadn't died, James Dean would have ended up being competition for Marlon Brando in the weird, annoying genius Method actor sweepstakes, flaming out in the mid 60s in some hushed-up scandal Kenneth Anger wrote about in Hollywood Babylon II before showing up in a few Paul Morrissey movies in the early 70s with his dick out fucking Joe D'Allessandro in the ass, then ending up bombed out of his goddamn mind on Hollywood Squares for a few years before croaking in 1981 or so with prostitutes of both genders trying in vain to flush the rest of the coke down the toilet before the cops arrive.

Had that seedy if highly lulzy series of events transpired, Rebel Without A Cause would probably be remembered today in much the same way as Nicholas Ray's earlier pictures were: as a really well-directed, well-acted tale of the Other, and maybe even his most multi-faceted look at the Other, because you've got James Dean, the handsome heteronormative (hahahahahahahaha oh that's funny because it's James Dean) white dude who's an Other because he's a teenager in the 50s, then Natalie Wood, who's the Other because she's a girl, with that subtle edge that she's olive-skinned (shit, people in the 50s were so racist Irish people were still barely white), and Sal Mineo is an Other because he puts the boldface and italics in the word “gay.” The pacing is much like it is in In A Lonely Place, not fast, but steady enough that it enchants, bringing the audience along with it into a world they probably wouldn't think to explore. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Nicholas Ray is fucking awesome.

So, happy 100th to the man, and may his contributions to cinema not be forgotten. I may have only talked about three of his movies here, but if you look up anything that says “directed by Nicholas Ray,” watch the shit out of it. Nicholas Ray is the truth.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, OWNAGE

<a href='http://video.msn.com?vid=4eb189e9-5402-4080-be75-df5d3ed96b68&mkt=en-gb&src=FLPl:embed::uuids' target='_new' title='Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Exclusive Movie Trailer' >Video: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Exclusive Movie Trailer</a>

Oh, HELL yes. Everybody British is in this, espionage (from a novel by John le Carre, the best of the best at that), and cool 70s clothes? Sign me up. In my own blood.

By the way, while we're at it, the fact that Gary Oldman is starting to look like Bill Nighy is fun and everything, but give him a fucking Oscar already. You hear me, Academy? Gary Oldman not having an Oscar is proof that something is dreadfully, horribly wrong. You shall taste the wrath of the righteous should this apostate heathenry go on any longer.

Monday, August 1, 2011

PLOT DEVICE

Plot Device from Red Giant on Vimeo.


Just watch it. This thing is awesome.