Mr. Bill George Presents

Archive for October, 2009|Monthly archive page

Where The Wild Hype Is

In Film on October 28, 2009 at 7:55 PM

I hated this movie.

Sorry to be so forward but I figured I’d get the ugly truth out of the way up front. Also, early on I’d like to acknowledge the things that weren’t terrible about the movie, so as to have a clear conscience when I proceed to ridicule it.

Spike Jonze is a visionary director, there’s no doubt about that. I consider Adaptation a masterpiece and he maintains his visual flair here too. The CGI animated faces on the real bodies of the wild things works extremely well. His casting choices, such as James Gandolfini as Carol, are also impressive.

But none of that changes the fact that this movie is nothing but noise.

Our protagonist, an insufferable brat named Max, runs around screaming in the opening of the film (foreshadowing!). As soon as he runs away from home and into the world of his imagination, where the wild things preside, he continues to run and scream. And after he and the wild things run around and scream, they proceed to run around and scream some more, whilst throwing things at each other. And finally he runs home.

The end.

If you’re thinking to yourself that in that synopsis I didn’t mention anything that remotely sounded like a plot, you’re exactly right. Nothing happens in this film.

The vast majority of the film is either, as mentioned, Max and the wild things running around, screaming and having a good time, or bickering with one another. Each wild thing has a distinct personality and each one could be viewed as a reflection of a different aspect of the psyche of a child. Meaning the wild things themselves act like children.

Newsflash: Children are annoying.

Hence, I was cringing throughout the duration of the film. In no way was this immature nonsense something I wanted to (or for that matter would willingly pay to) sit through.

Are there more layers to it? Is there depth and symbolism to be had here?

Perhaps. I didn’t read much into it right off the bat but if you have the patience to withstand the onslaught of noise that it is embedded in, maybe you’ll find something to appreciate that I simply could not.

And to answer the question you may be pondering: no, I haven’t read the book. I remember it from my childhood, the cover at least, but I don’t recall its content. But that is neither here nor there. The film must be able to stand on its own as an individual product. If I read the book it may have set my expectations differently but I still would have had a headache leaving the theater.

(For the record, I expected the kid to go through some actual tragedy and escape to where the wild things are. Then move back and forth between real and fake. The trailer sure made it look that way at least.)

What this movie needs is, well, a storyline. But even more importantly: profanity.

If this movie had some harsh language in it, then I’d be a little more interested in some of these fiery exchanges. Towards the tail end of the film, when I’ve already sat through an hour of pointless fighting and KW steps on Carol’s face and they bicker again I really needed to hear someone say, “Oh yea? Well Fuck you Carol! What have you done for me lately you prick?!”

I have to admit, I became so disinterested in the film toward the end that in between my constant thoughts of “Why am I watching this?” I began to fantasize about the American Military swooping in and carpet bombing the damn island and running a block-ops extraction mission to get the kid out safe. Seeing a laser-sight dot appear on Judith’s head would have made my night.

Okay, I’m exhausted from typing with such vitriol. I’ll sum up the movie by saying the execution was there but I found the content to be unwatchable. Unless of course you don’t mind being audibly assaulted for 1.5 hours.

Advertisements

Revisiting The Matrix

In Film on October 19, 2009 at 12:15 AM

In my mind no movie has been more marred by the sequels it spawned than The Matrix. While I do believe Reloaded has some merit in terms of worthwhile action sequences, Revolutions is a laughable mess.

Sadly, in the wake of the sequels, their hype and the endless parodies that have followed, the quality of the original Matrix and its status as a landmark action film have been lost. I am here to right this wrong.

Believe it or not, I remember March 31st, 1999 like it was yesterday. Those who know me know my memory (or lack thereof) is borderline clinical, but I’ll never forget the excitement I felt in the theater the opening day of The Matrix.

All I had seen going into the film was the teaser trailer, predominately featuring Keanu Reeves dodging bullets on the rooftop (using a filmmaking technique that would latter be dubbed ‘bullet time’). Not only that, but it featured a voice over of Laurence Fishburne saying that “no one can be told what the matrix is… you have to see it for yourself.” Not to mention using the web address http://www.whatisthematrix.com. If that doesn’t get you into the theater, I don’t know what will.

As you know, most films open on a Friday and this one was no exception. Yes, it was a school day, but being the student I was and having the parents I have, I was dismissed at lunch time for this particular occasion. Keep in mind that I was a 13 year old American male… A.K.A. one of the exact demographics I’m sure this film was aimed at. And by God did it deliver.

Until this time I had never seen an action movie with a legitimate, thought-provoking storyline. (With the exception of the Terminator series.) I was in total awe throughout the experience. Starting with the badassery of Agent Smith showing up to apprehend Trinity and informing the officer in charge that the men he sent up to do the job were ‘already dead.’ Her escape in that scene is as riveting as it comes for an opening set piece.

Looking back on it and adding it all up you realize just how iconic every scene in that film is and how much it has become a part of pop culture. Red pill vs. blue pill. The dojo. The rooftop. The subway. The construct. And of course: the lobby.

The lobby shootout scene was a watershed moment in my life. (Again, I was 13.) I had never seen anything like it before… ever. Think about it: almost every action movie released since has used slow motion, techno music and/or bullet time. The Matrix changed the way action sequences are filmed. Period.

The other thing about the film that makes it stand out in my mind on a personal level is the fact that I saw it in theaters. Granted, seeing something in theaters versus at home doesn’t have much of an affect on how much you’ll like it. A number of what I’d consider my favorite movies I didn’t discover until they were released on DVD. But still… there’s something special about seeing it in theaters, especially considering the fact that the majority of my peers did not have the pleasure. I’m guessing most of them were not as hip to the movie watching scene at age 13 as I was and they missed out. But now I talk to people who love it and hold it just as dear as I do… but I saw it in theaters. And frankly, that makes me feel special (regardless of whether it should).

So, now that I’ve revisited it in my mind, I’m going to revisit it on disc. I probably should have watched it prior to writing this (that would make this column make sense). But I just had it on my mind and wanted to let it out. Now that I’ve done that, I’m dying to watch it again. By the way, before I let you leave thinking that I think it’s a perfect movie, I readily admit it isn’t. The end is schmaltzy, some of the performances could be better and it could be a bit tighter lengthwise. But there is no doubt that it is a thinking man’s action flick and a landmark film for the genre.

Great Music I’ve Discovered Through Commercials

In Music on October 16, 2009 at 9:57 PM

Artist – Song Title (Product advertised)

Shiny Toy Guns – Burning For You (Lincoln)

Tom Hedden – Finale (Cambell’s Soup)

Morphine – Buena (Nissan)

Feist – 1234 (iPod Nano 3rd Gen)

Miss Li – Bourgeois Shangri-La (iPod Nano 5th Gen)

The Caesars – Jerk It Out (iPod Shuffle 1st Gen)

Chairlift – Bruises (iPod Nano 4th Gen)

Judy Garland – Get Happy (Gap)

Tammany Hall – Always On Sunday / Wait For You (HBO)

Charles Trenet – Boum (I Forget)

Royksopp – Remind Me (Geico)

The Cure – Pictures Of You (HP)

Cat Stevens – If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out (MyTouch3G)

What other tunes have people gleaned from the tube?

Fall TV Status Update

In Television on October 10, 2009 at 5:59 PM

Alright folks, I know we are all watching a lot of TV now that the fall season is upon us. There are a bunch of shows I’m watching religiously and I figured I’d toss out my thoughts on them so far this season.

Shark Tank [ABC, Tues. 8pm] – My favorite show right now by far. Five self-made millionaires are pitched ideas by small business owners, upstarts, inventors et al in the hopes that the sharks will invest some money in their idea. What makes the show are the sharks. They are always engaging to watch, especially when they interact with each other and fight over deals. Plus, I love hearing people’s ideas for products and services and businesses. The only pitfall of the show is the fact that one or two contestants per episode are throwaways. They have a terrible idea that is only on the air because it’s funny to watch the sharks rip them apart. Sort of like American Idol auditions. Other than that, it can’t miss.

Glee [FOX, Weds. 9pm] – After waiting ages for this show to start after its phenomenal pilot air months ago, we are finally in full swing. More than a handful of episodes in and it still has me looking forward to it every week. There were a few rough patches and one or two stinkers but overall the season has been solid and it’s worth watching every week for the music numbers alone.

Mad Men [AMC, Sun. 10pm] – Not gonna lie, a few episodes into this season I thought I was getting a bit tired of the show. But boy have things ramped up. I am enthralled now. I know everyone talks about this show constantly, but it’s for a reason. The acting, character development and directorial style are all top notch. The production values are just through the roof.

Curb Your Enthusiasm [HBO, Sun. 9pm] – I watched the first four seasons of this show but missed out on five and six. We just started seven and I’m glad I’m back on board. The hype surrounding this season has to do with the Seinfeld cast reunion that is taking place on the show. The genius of it is the fact that in this show they are putting together an actual reunion show for NBC, so in the process they are reuniting but for Curb.  There should be a couple more episodes as part of this story arc and if they are anywhere near the level of the first we are in for quite a treat.

FlashForward [ABC, Thurs. 8pm] – I’m only two episodes in on this one (the third is waiting on my DVR for when I finish this post) but I’m enjoying it so far. I’m not hooked in the sense I must see it immediately every week but I’m definitely following it. I find myself much more interested in the event itself and how it happened and what its effects were etc, more so than each person fulfilling or not fulfilling their destiny.

Entourage [HBO, Off] – This season just wrapped up a few weeks ago and I somewhat enjoyed it. The second half certainly had more meat to it than the first. In fact, the finale was by far the best episode of the year and it actually made me want more. Which is something no previous episode this season accomplished. I just kept watching because I felt an obligation to.

Bored To Death [HBO, Sun. 9:30pm] – More like Boring To Death. I gave up on this one. Got through 2.5 episodes and starting questioning why I was wasting my time. No thanks.

What is everyone else watching?