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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Seeing Red: My Clearer, Digitally Enhanced Thoughts on Blu-Ray

Sometimes, when I'm sitting at home watching a movie I think about how lucky I am. There was once a time not to gratefully long ago when if you wanted to see a movie you could only see it in a theater. If you went to the theater and loved the movie you saw and wanted to see it again and again and again, you didn't wait for it to come to DVD, you didn't even wait for it to come to VHS. If you wanted to see your favorite movie again, you had to go to the theater again. There was a time when movie theaters were the only place you could see a movie. In those days movies stayed in theaters triple the time they do now. Then the film would show at cheaper "dollar" theaters for a long time. When newer films came through, the older films were pushed down a ladder so to speak, and your favorite movie could sit in a storage room for a long time before it was to be shown again. This is how it was since the birth of the motion picture.

Until the birth of VHS. We learned how to transfer film onto video tape and the rest was history. Then movies were still shown in a theater, then the dollar theater, then it would be put on a small convenient VHS that you could buy and watch in the luxury of your own home over and over again. It was truly something. 
Like anything else, VHS had it's problems. You had to rewind and fast-forward to get to your favorite scene. After all the use the tape would wear and weaken the picture and quality severely. The tape would break and sometimes fall off track, ruining the whole movie. That's how it was since the birth of VHS.

Until the birth of DVD. We learned how to transfer film onto a disc that could be read by a laser and the rest was history. You could watch a movie with a clearer and better picture than ever before. Easily navigate and skip around to any scene you like. Oh yea, and you could now go beyond just the movie itself and watch bonus features, outtakes, and commentaries. Needless to say, VHS disappeared.

VHS  R.I.P   198o-2001

As people, we struggle with change. Good or bad change, it doesn't matter. We grow attached to things. Though eventually for the sake of progress we accept the new standard and move on with it. I understand the change from VHS to DVD. It was necessary and it was a vast improvement from the former. It was a pain in the ass to re-buy all our movies, but we did it because they we're replacing the old product with a better one.

What I don't understand is Blu-Ray. 

Do they think we're that stupid? Do they take us for fools? I get the VHS to DVD transfer because it was a switch of a complete format. Blu-Ray is a petty difference. They seriously expect us to run to a store with our hard earned money in a time of economic turmoil and crisis and buy a $400-$500 Blu-Ray player and then buy $30-$40 movies in the name of a clearer picture. That's it... It's a disc that plays in a disc player. Huge breakthrough Huh? Except this version gives you a picture so crisp and clear that you can see a bead of sweat on Harrison Ford's forehead. Or a stray hair George Clooney's cheek. Big Deal! Oh, and I hope you have an HD or Plasma screen TV. If not, you don't even get the benefits your being overcharged for. 

Supporters of the latest money scheme tell me "Relax Rob, Blu-Ray will play DVD's as well". Oh well that's good. What am I worried about then? Why am I bitching? I'm worried because I might want to watch and own movies made after 2009. I'm bitching because no one else seems to be. 

The movie companies are saying that after this year, they will only be releasing new movies on Blu-Ray. Even though it hasn't been out that long, less than half the public is in favor of it, and statistics show that Blu-Ray is not selling nearly as well as they thought it would. Sony decided that you'll take it anyway.

In conclusion, I am not against the progress of technology and electronics. I support it. The key word here is "Progress". Progress is not phasing out an entire product for the sake of a sharper picture. That's just a way to make more money. Make a disc that doesn't skip. Make a disc that holds more data, increasing the possibilities of what can be put on it. Create a better format all together. I'll jump aboard that train. Just don't insult my intelligence and try to sell me the same thing twice. But what did I expect from the same people who are currently re-making any movie that ever made a dollar? There are people who love Blu-ray, and that's fine. Just don't force it on me! It's that good ol' "eat it or starve" mentality. I don't like corn. I have nothing against it being available and eaten by many people. Just don't shove it down my throat.  I don't like country music. Many people do and that's great. Just don't force me to listen to it. That's all I'm saying. 

I'm hoping Blu-Ray will be the 8-Track of movies. A short lived fad. I'm hoping people aren't dumb enough to be suckered into this marketing scheme. I'm hoping I'm just being a big movie geek and overreacting. I guess we'll find out...

Worse case scenario, they'll always be bootlegs.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Under the Radar: Chungking Express

This early nineties film by Wong Kar-Wai is a brilliant Movie that not alot of people have seen. The film has been in obscurity for about a decade everywhere accept Asia. Though it is now widely available after being re released by Quentin Tarantino's Rolling Thunder Pictures. 
The movie takes place in a Hong Kong Take out joint where we meet an assortment of interesting heartbroken and lovestruck characters. It's in the same style as Clerks, Dazed & Confused, and Grandma's Boy in the fact that there really is no plot. There is no driving story, we are just kind of hanging out with these characters. The entertainment comes from the characters and dialogue more than a plot. I believe this style is harder to write and involves much more skill in character development, style, and conversation. But when it's done well it makes for a great movie like Chungking Express. 
This movie is about relationships and love but covers it in a much different non-conventional way. A heartbroken man won't eat anything that expires after the date that his girlfriend left him, in hopes that she'll return before then. A girl who works at the take-out develops a crush on a older policeman and sneaks into his house on a daily basis to clean and rummage through his belongings. This movie isn't about boy meets girl, this movie is about how you want to get to know someone, the feelings that make you like them to begin with.
The whole film feels very natural and authentic. You feel more like your dropping in on random lives than you do watching a scripted production. It IS subtitled. You tell some people a movie has subtitles and they run for the hills. For me, it didn't take anything away from it. 
This movie isn't for everyone. It's not a comedy but it's not heavily dramatic. If you need fast paced excitement or constant punch-lines, then this may not be your movie. This movie is about life and plays out like life, some moments are exciting and some are slow and dull, but if you look hard enough and see between the lines. You can find beauty in all of it.
And good luck getting "California Dreaming" out of your head afterwards. 

See No Evil: Banned Films Throughout the World

After my last post about Cannibal Holocaust, I was curious as to how many movies have actually been banned. After countless hours of hard-focused research ( I have found records of movies banned from all countries. So I thought I would share some that I found interesting! 

We'll start here in the United States.

1908: "The James Boys in Missouri" and "Night Riders" are banned in Chicago
1915: "The Birth of a Nation" banned in Chicago, Cleveland,Pittsburgh, and St. Louis
1917: "Birth Control"
1919 -1920: "Within Our Gates" banned in Chicago, New Orleans, and Omaha for depliction of interracial rape, lynching, and racial discrimination
1926: "The Red Kimono" banned in Chicago
1928: "The Racket" banned in Chicago
1931: "Frankenstein" banned in Kansas for cruelty
1932: "Scarface" a gangster movie set in Chicago, banned in Chicago
1936-1966: "The Maltese Falcon" 1931 Version
1945: "Scarlet Street" banned in New York
1949: "Pinky" banned in Marshall, Texas for portrayal of an interracial couple
1953: "The Moon is Blue" banned in Jersey City, New Jersey as indecent and obsene
1961: "Victim" banned in many cities due to language
1968-1991: "Titicut Follies" is banned for violation of privacy of prison inmates it filmed
1969: "I Am Curious(Yellow)" is banned as pornography
1984: "Silent Night, Deadly Night" banned after protest from the Parent-Teacher Association
1987: "Superstar:The Karen Carpenter Story" is banned for copyright infringement
1988:"The last Temptation of Christ" is banned in Savannah
1997: "The Tin Drum" banned in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma as Child Pornography
2002: "The Profit" banned involving legal matters


Any film depicting Homosexuality, Gay Rights, or anti-islamic attitudes is banned outright in Iran

1956: "The king & I"
1968: "Oliver!"
1971: "A Clockwork Orange"
1973: "The Exorcist"
1977:"Saturday Night Fever"  ??????
1980: "Cannibal Holocaust"
1982: "The Dark Crystal"
1983: "Scarface"
1989: "Pet Sematary", "Glory", and "Back to the Future 2"
1990: "Henry & June"
1993: "Schindler's List"
1994: "The Naked Gun"
1995: "Showgirls"
1997: "Boogie Nights" and "Liar, Liar" for portraying adultery as being legal
1999: "South Park:The Movie", "Three Kings", and "Anna and the King"
2001: "Zoolander" seen as provoking Gay Rights
2002: "Pinocchio" ??? and "Cowboy Bebop:Knocking on Heaven's Door" 
2003: "Bruce Almighty" and "Matrix Revolutions"
2004: "Fahrenheit 9/11", "Catwoman", "Passion of the Christ", and "Harold & Kumar go to White Castle"
2005: "The 40 year old Virgin", "Sin City" and "Brokeback Mountain"
2006: "The Da Vinci Code", "Alexander", "Talladega Nights", "Borat", and "300"
2007: "The Kingdom"
2008: "Meet the Spartans", "You don't mess with the Zohan"


1922-1972 : "Nosferatu" 
1981: "Mad Max"
1984-1999: "Cannibal Holocaust"
1997: "Texas Chainsaw Massacre:The Next Generation"


1960: "Ben-Hur"
1994: "To Live"
1997: "Kundun" regarded as Tibetan nationalism is banned outright along with director Martin Scorsese
1997: "Seven Years in Tibet" banned outright along with actors Brad Pitt and David Thewlis for life
2000: "Devils on the Doorstep"
2005: "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life"
2006: "Memoirs of a Geisha" over concerns it could rouse anti-Japanese sentiment
2006: "Brokeback Mountain" for Homosexuality
2006: "The Departed"
2006: "Over the Hedge"
2007: "Pirates of the caribbean: At World's End

Malaysia has banned more films than any other country. While Afghanistan, Argentina, Brazil, Denmark, Hellas, Portugal, Romania, Samoa, Switzerland, and Zimbabwe have only banned one film each in their history. 

Cannibal Holocaust has been banned in more countries than any other film.

Check for a full complete list of banned movies.

Movie Archives: Cannibal Holocaust

No film in recent times have caused more outrage, has been more shocking, and has lived up to every bit of it's hype more so than Ruggero Deodato's 1979 film "Cannibal Holocaust". This film landed the director in court for murder and was banned in this and many countries for some time. For some, this film marks the end of an era for the grindhouse, explotation, B-movie genre of the late sixties and seventies. And if that's true, at least the genre went out with a bang, or better yet, a blood-curdling scream. 
We have not seen a film so controversial since 1915 with the silent film "Birth of a Nation". A film that shows the rise of the klu klux klan and is very much in favor of the klan. But this article is not just a bragging post of how controversial Cannibal Holocaust is, I want to examine why this film was so shocking and why we saw it as a threat to our well being.
First off, this film was the first to use the now famous gonzo amature shaking camera. The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, and Quarantine all owe it to this film for influencing a style that would be mainstream twenty years later. 
As I said earlier the director was in court for murder over this film. Of course, no one was murdered but people thought they were viewing a snuff film. (Deodato brought every actor that was killed in the film into the court room and all charges were dropped) The special effects and death scenes were so well done and so authentic and seamless that it looks real. I'm sure this means nothing to some, but in the days before computer effects and CGI, you have to give hats off to the make-up and effects departments on this film. If it looks real enough for people to think that it IS real... obviously the special effects Dept. did a brilliant job! Brian De Palma once said "If people get upset or offended by the violence in a film, then that means the director did it well"
The thing that upset audiences the most, and what is probably my least favorite aspect of the film is the REAL killing of several wild animals. This was a time before PETA and the film was shot on location deep in the amazon, so animal cruelty laws meant nothing in that time or place. In it's defense, any animals that were killed were given as food to the REAL tribes People used in the film. The natives would have killed and eaten these animals anyway, movie or no movie. 
With the controversies out of the way, I'll talk about the film itself. This movie is as brutal as it gets. This movie goes all the way and this one lives up to all it's hype. I'm sure you've taken someone's advise on a film saying it was the goriest, scariest, best ect. And you watched it and were disappointed. There is no BS here, everything you've heard about this movie is true. While it is very ruthless in it's depiction of violence, it has a better story and/or plot than I've seen in many mainstream and recent horror films. 
This movie is about an investigator who is sent to the jungles of the Amazon with a knowledgeable guide to find a group of documentary film makers who turned up missing while shooting their film in the cannibal populated jungle. I won't tell you anymore because I don't want to spoil anything, but this film has a twist worthy of a M. Night Shyamalan movie. 
I highly recommend this movie. If you are a horror fan it is worth at least one viewing just to say you saw the Godfather of them all. I am not a gorehound. I hate violence but I love film. I would rather see a million people killed in the worst possible way in a movie than see one person get punched in real life. Because the movie is fake and life is real. To me, real life is much more horrifing and scary than any horror movie. The monsters on screen are fake, the monsters in real life walk among us and look just like us. I feel the violence in Cannibal Holocaust is justified because nature is violent. Like I said, I am not excited to see animal killings on film, but in a nation where we hunt for sport.... do we really have room to get self righteous? 
This was the last big film of Grindhouse cinema. After it's release, the critics revolted, people protested. A genre that has always been known for the most dirty, sleazy, violent pictures, was now seen as unholy and morally wrong. People felt it was now taken too far. The eighties brought VHS and the Reagan era of conservatism and moral outlook, which was too much for the genre to live through. The theaters eventually dried up and most of the films stored away and forgotten. It was a interesting time in cinema where low budget movie makers found an outlet in people who wanted more than what mainstream cinema was offering and teenagers who would pay money and sit through any movie just to see some boobs or some good gory deaths. The genre is now finally getting the respect and exposer it deserves, but it was a time and place and will never be the same. In my mind, these brave film makers were pioneers. They showed that you don't need a big budget or a big star to make a good movie. They showed that when you don't have millions to throw at a movie you are forced to use your head, find more creative ways to make something happen than simply throw a pile of money at a special effect company. In these days of CGI, huge budget movies, commercialism, it makes you wonder if we've learned anything from them. These movies showed that if you have heart and truly love cinema, you can't make a bad movie. And if you did make a bad movie, at least you tried. 

The Coen Brothers to Remake True Grit!

For the new Coen Brothers movie, they are remaking the 1969 John Wayne western "True Grit". They are supposedly teaming up with Scott Rudin and others who helped them with "No Country for Old Men" to adapt this western classic that won John Wayne an Oscar. 
Though it is a remake, the Coen Brothers say it will be more focused and inspired by the novel of the same name by Charles Portis, which inspired the 1969 film. 
The novel is from the point of view of a young girl and the 1969 movie is from the point of view of the lawman(John Wayne). 
I think this should be interesting. While I'm not a huge fan of the remake machine hollywood has turned into, some serve purpose and do justice. We already know that the coen's are more than capable of shooting a good western (No Country for Old Men). 
They just finished a script called "A Serious Man" and they are currently working on "A Yiddish Policeman's Union" which could be out later this year.

Monday, March 23, 2009

10 Best Comedies

Here I've compiled a list of what I feel are the ten best comedies of the past three years or so.In these tough times we all need to laugh more and lighten up, and I've got some recommendations that will hopefully do just that. To me, comedy is the genre that is doing the best right now on many levels. It is doing good in the box office, it has spawned some great original talent such as Seth Rogen, Judd Apatow, Steve Carrell, Jonah Hill,among others, and it is one genre that is not re-making itself like crazy! Cough,Horror,Cough! Excuse me.

So we'll start from 10 to 1. 1 being my favorite. 

10. Wedding Crashers

This movie made #10 party because I've seen it so much. But other than that I recommend this one. Vince Vaughn And Owen Wilson are very funny and Christopher Walkin has proved time and time again that he can be dramatic but he still has a funny bone. This is a good date comedy. It's not too heavy into the sexual or perverse like so many modern comedies are, but it's not for the kids either. 

9. Knocked Up

This was the first leading role for the now well known and prolific Seth Rogen. (The guy was involved with like 6 projects last year and even more this year) This movie is about a stoner-slacker who has a one night stand and gets the girl pregnant and is thrusted into adulthood and fatherhood pretty much overnight. While it is very funny, it also handles the situation very realistically and seriously. Like most movies that Seth Rogen has co-written, it is decorated with good dialogue and behind the pot, sex and poop jokes.... a message!

8. Burn After Reading

Some of you may feel this is the odd man out on my list. I very much see this movie as a comedy. I think you have too. Many people didn't like Burn After Reading and I think that's because they viewed it as a serious movie. It's not a balls out in your face slapstick comedy at all, but the characters and even the situation is comedic. I did feel that the Coen Brother's "The Big Lebowski" was a funnier movie but maybe that's because the comedy is dryer in "Burn After Reading". I guess it's one of those movie you either like or you don't. I liked this one.

7. Pineapple Express

I don't know about you but I love a good stoner comedy. Pineapple Express seems like if you took a 80's Chuck Norris or Arnold Schwarzenegger action film and Cheech and Chong's Up in Smoke and made then have sex. Pineapple Express would be it's love child. Well written dialogue, stoner logic, and hilarious gangsters in this Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen Comedy. James Franco does a great job as a stoned drug dealer as Seth Rogen plays the straight man. This movie is in love with weed and being stoned but is clever enough to make it an important and integral part of the overall plot. 

6. Step Brothers

I know. You either love or hate Will Ferrel. I like him. I think he is what he is and he knows what he is. If you are looking for a message or something touching or logical even... look the other way. This movie is silly and over the top at times and just like Ferrel, it's well aware of that. With that said, I think this is Will Ferrel's best! He and John C. Reilly together are comedic gold. Just put a camera on those two and I promise you'll have something. If you are willing to throw everything else aside and just be up for a good laugh, I think you'll like this one.

5. Zack & Miri Make A Porno

This is not my favorite Kevin Smith movie, but it is one of my favorite this year. Kevin Smith has always been a brilliant writer and this movie is no exception. It is ruthlessly dirty and filthy but also tells a love story in a way no one but Smith could. There is no Jay and Silent Bob but Jason Mewes (Jay) is in this movie and he is as hilarious as ever. If you like Kevin Smith, don't miss this one!

4. Superbad

I LOVE this movie! This is my favorite teen, coming of age, film. The briliantlly written dialogue is filled with sex and the perverse, just like any teenager who just wants to score. Now don't lump this movie in a pile with the American Pie or John Hughes films. This movie is dirtier and more realistic than those films ever tried to be. Written by Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow based on real situations that happened to them when they were teenagers, it makes you miss the days when sex was the only concern we had and reminds us of the trouble we were willing to go through just to get a piece. I'll end this as I started it...I LOVE this Movie!

3. Role Models

We haven't seen Sean William Scott in a while. But he's back in Role Models and he reminds us why we liked him in the first place. Alongside Paul Rudd, whom I've always been a fan of. No one plays a sarcastic A-hole quite as good as Paul Rudd. After they break the law, these two are forced to participate in a big brother program or they go to jail. So they become Role Models. The kids they are matched up with are great as well! The whole cast is funny and this movie is fun all the way around. I didn't expect this movie to be as good and as funny as it was!

2. Forgetting Sarah Marshall

This is that classic and universal story of heartache and moving on. The title says it all! This movie was marketed and appears to be like one of those movies we've seen a million times. But when you see it you find that it is much more. Every character is great in this movie! Comedian Russel Brand shines as a arrogant rock star who just kind of lives around this whole situation that is taking place around him. This movie is simple. Girl dumps guy. Guy wants Girl back. Girl says no. Guy meets another girl. Old girl wants guy back. Girl too late and guy moves on. While the plot is simple, what's between the lines here is great. This movie is not trying to be complicated. It's meant to tell a simple story about being dumped and moving on. It makes us laugh at someone else's expense but then makes us root for that guy. Possibly because at one time or another, we have all been that guy.

1. Tropic Thunder

Here we are at #1! Tropic Thunder is the best comedy that I have seen in the past few years! Ben Stiller is not a new face on the scene, he has been around for a while. In Tropic Thunder, he lets us know that he is not going anywhere anytime soon! Written by Stiller, tropic Thunder is about actors who are shooting a war movie but through events, are placed in real enemy territory but they still think they are just shooting a movie. The most memorable performances in this movie may belong to Robert Downey Jr., who plays a black man. And Tom Cruise who gives a terrific performance with a character far different from anything he has ever done before. This movie is extremely well written with well rounded characters. Like it was written to bring the most out of every actor who was playing the character. It seems to me like the script was written with care and detail. Then once you add the improve talent of Stiller, Downey Jr., and Jack Black ; Then you have something special. It has Ben Stiller's style all over it and I feel he is evolving as a writer. I just hope he never goes soft on us and matures! But after Tropic Thunder, I don't think I have to worry about that!

Must See Movie: Gran Torino

Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino" is by far the best movie I have seen this year. This is one of those movies you know will be good, but this film gave me goosebumps throughout and left me inspired after. Eastwood wrote, directed and stars(he is in just about every shot) in what could be his best film. We all remember Clint from the days of the tough and rugged westerns of the sixties and seventies and the "Dirty Harry" "Tightrope" hard-ass cop films of the eighties. My friends, let me be the first to tell you, this man has not lost one strand of his edge and toughness. I am in my late twenties and I believe Eastwood is in his mid-seventies, but I would put my tail between my legs before I messed with this guy. 

In "Gran Torino" we follow a widowed Korean war vet named Walt Kawalski. Kawalski has lived in the same neighborhood almost all his life, except these days, the town is totally populated by Hmongs and Walt is the only white man left in the neighborhood. Since his wife passed away, he spends his days caring for his house and garden, talking to his dog and keeping a watchful eye on his prize possession, a 1970 Gran Torino. One day the young Hmong boy next door attempts to steal Walt's car but then is greeted by Walt and his rifle. The boy, being pressured by his cousin and his friend's into the gang life that seems to be taking over the town, is really a good kid who is at a fork in the road in his young life. Walt eventually sees this and is determined to steer the boy in the right direction, in his own way. With this he becomes somewhat of a protector of the boy and his sister. He becomes a man who will fight against the scum and riff-raff on the streets where he spent his life. And in the process he teaches a young boy what it takes to be a man. 

Walt Kawalski is a bitter, angry racist who you cant help but love and empathize with because he is not a real racist, you don't get the feeling that he hates people based on their race. He just has a habit of calling it as he sees it. And if you don't like it he would probably tell you to go %^& yourself. He is like a stern father or a drill sergent in the fact that this man does not believe in handouts or that he owes you anything. If you want something from Walt, you have to earn it, including his respect. 

In conclusion, this movie helped calm a fear of mine. I have always had a fear of getting old, a fear most of us have. This film showed he that having a pair of nuts is ageless and that you are never too old to be a hero. And my friends, in my opinion this movie is just that, a super hero movie. Walt Kawalski was never a Marvel or DC comic, he does not wear a cape or costume, he does not have a tag line and he does not have any superhuman powers. He is just a man who will not take it anymore. A man who decided to do something. A man who saw people in a bad situation and decided to lend a hand. If thats not a hero, I don't know what is!

Eastwood shines throughout this film. He is our great American tough guy and this film does not let you forget that! I feel many actors would not have the balls to play this character. Eastwood wrote him and plays him beautifully! Some rumor that this will be Eastwood's last picture. I would be deeply sad if this news was true. In an era of fluff and remakes, we need him now more than ever!

This is a super hero movie! Not in the fashion that you're use to, but if a hero lived right next door here in the REAL world. This movie is a cattle call to senior citizens that they are not useless or helpless, that you are never too old to stand up to the scum in this world, even if they are one-fourth your age. This movie is real, this movie is inspiring, this movie is brutal, this movie is GREAT! 

If you read this review and don't agree with me that it is one of the best of the decade... Then i will give you any money back that you spent to watch it. I'm that confident on this one! But before I pay you I will have to check your pulse. To make sure you have a heart!