April 03, 2007

Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go

Hey folks--it's been a while since my last blog entry, so I thought I might throw out a few things that have been on my mind lately.

First off, I'd like to offer Bill a hearty welcome back as he gives us his first piece (DVD specs on Bielinsky's The Aura) since his fateful surgery. I also hope you caught his epic update on the mothersite last Friday, which included Blades of Glory, Shooter, and The Lookout from Walter and Saw III from Travis. That Bill Chambers, he's one tough bastard--and he wasn't about to let some pissant hernia interfere with his incredible dedication to this site. I'm really proud to call him my editor and my friend.

Also today: my review of "Extras: The Complete First Season". Are you 'avin' a laugh?

FYI: I'll be attending the Philadelphia Film Festival from April 5th to the 18th, logging (and maybe blogging) capsules for FFC; promises to be an exciting two weeks.

Proving that I'm a bit behind everyone else, I'm currently on the second season of "Six Feet Under" (wherein Ruth discovers The Secret The Plan) via Netflix. In a bit of bad luck, several of the series' final whammies were ruined for me by an episode of "Jeopardy!" and later by my barber--but it's so damned good that it hardly matters. Kind of leads to a simplistic question, but one I'd like you to weigh in on: What's your opinion on the importance of remaining spoiler-free? Do you avoid/go looking for spoilers on a case-by-case basis, or do you have concrete rules?

Also from Netflix: Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator, which will have to keep me sustained until I can get my hands on the brand new two-disc'er from Anchor Bay (complete with syringe-shaped highlighter in reagent green). It stands alongside Raimi's first two Evil Dead films in the realm of horror/comedy, I think, in the sense that it can't be carelessly picked apart. Sure, I love the last fifteen minutes of Re-Animator--as much as I love Evil Dead II's shotgun-chainsaw finale. But while those scenes can be (and probably already have been) described to you--maybe even shown to you, outside of context--you'll never really get them until you see the films in their entirety.

Compare that to Peter Jackson's Dead Alive. It's pretty gross, all right, and it's agreeably silly, but it's more or less a collection of sketched-out concepts, designed with a certain isolation in mind so that you could describe them to your friends later; Army of Darkness suffers from the same pitfalls as well. (Perhaps both films suffer from fanboy expectation imposed by earlier efforts--Bad Taste and Evil Dead II, respectively.) The lawnmower, the kung-fu priest, the medieval mechanical hand, blowing away your evil twin--how many times did you actually hear about them before you saw the movies, and were you slightly disappointed when you found out that they existed exactly as they were described to you? Maybe this is the litmus test by which we'll eventually judge Grindhouse.

In the end, it's a reflection of Ebert's old "it's about what it's about" credo. No fewer than three different heads (from all walks of life and undeath) go smashing against walls throughout Re-Animator, leaving gooey blood stains in their wake--pretty amusing on their own, but the real hilarity of the film lies in realizing how fragile we all are. But then, you'll just have to see it. Onward to Bride of Re-Animator.

Speaking of rejuvenating green liquid, some friends and I rented Michael Pressman's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze in preparation for TMNT, which apparently takes place after Ooze, a la Superman Returns. Yeah, it's film rife with embarrassment, the unsurprising peak of which is Vanilla Ice's "Ninja Rap." If the modern CGI film has an equivalent to that scene, it's probably a slapstick chase sequence set to a particularly obnoxious rendering of "Black Betty," a cover of Ram Jam's arrangement of the song. Since the Turtles franchise has always been more about being hip and accessible instead of viable and entertaining, it makes me ponder modern adolescent cinema and its propensity to use cover songs from its target audience's parents' generation--which in turn makes me wonder what it is, exactly, that constitutes as "hip" anymore.

And speaking of Superman, Tom Welling possibly signs up for Teen Wolf III, or maybe Ginger Snaps IV.

Even with nukes, coup d'etats, and dying presidents flying all over the place, "24" (aka "The Jack Bauer Power Hour") has been a bit sedate lately. (You have to admit that the artificial drama surrounding the recent cabinet vote on presidential competence was more than a little silly.) Have we reached a point where "real" excitement can only come in the expectation for self-parody? Regardless, I can't stop watching. Maybe it's how the series effortlessly co-opts moments in cinema that everyone has seen, then brings them into its own crazed realm. The James Bond slant that this season seems to take whenever Jack disarms/disables a nuke, for instance--or this week's shootout, which transformed the climax of Touch of Evil into the climax of Sudden Impact.

Anyway, on to Philly--next time I see you folks, it'll probably be after I've seen the Festival opener, David Wain's very own decalogue, The Ten.


Anonymous said...

Enjoyed reading your review of "Extras", Ian - I was looking forward to reading it after Travis's rather controversial take on The Office Special.

Indeed, while both his comedies have been good (and at times great), his stand-up appearances and interviews show that Ricky Gervais is NOT beyond criticism...

Anonymous said...

“Spoiler Alerts” are an unfortunate byproduct of the fan boy film “journalism” clogging up the net; wherein film criticism is seen as synonymous as comprehensive plot description. Overuse of the term is an evocation of the cheap egotism of those minor scribes who got to see “Fantastic Four” at a test market screening well in advance of us lesser mortals. We also must blame Ebert who’s perfected his print-review formula over decades of banality: a slightly reversioned press-kit, followed by a couple bon-mots and we’re done. In personal conversations and blog posts, I’d hope my pals would tread lightly when discussing key plot moments of any film—as for the crits, I’d hope that their inherent love of the medium would preclude them from being anything but judicious in unfurling the narrative twists of the film. This is where it gets trickier. I read several reviews of “Cache” for instance, which implored viewers to pay close attention to the final shot. Sound advice of course, but is that a spoiler? If I was looking for that moment, my own first look at “Cache” would have lacked that moment of electricity that only happens when you’re discovering something for yourself. Though I read about far more films than I actually see my preference is to read the review immediately following my own viewing, which in the best instances, genuinely enhances the experience. Or, in consideration of films I have no intention of seeing—a good review of “Blades of Glory” is far less painful and a sight more enlightening than sitting through it.

Rick said...

Ninja turtle bass

Cap'n Bauer said...

Most recent episode of 24 = totally indefensible. What were they thinking? Sedate is the perfect term. Other possible terms - completely ridiculous? Batshit insane? Bring on the vampire attack, I say.

Re: Keifer as Bond, when he was defusing that nuke, I half expected it to go off, cutting to a few minutes later as he furiously walks out of the mushroom cloud yelling "Damnit!"

Jared said...

Good lord! How did Walter get through The Sentinel? One of the worst films I have ever had the displeasure of being dragged to by my friends. They were all huge 24 fans and they were CONVINCED it would be just like that show. Two of us fell asleep in the theater.

Rick said...

One of the worst films I have ever had the displeasure of being dragged to by my friends.

Yikes. If my friends did that to me, I do not think I could ever forgive them.

And has anyone seen the documentary Maxed Out? My biggest pet peeve has to be when people divert personal responsibility. It sounds like a self-pity fest, and all because people are too short-sighted to fully understand actions and consequences. Blame the Credit Card "Predators", (and also Tobacco companies, etc.) and do not own up to anything. And why is this being released, couldn't it have been a Dateline special?

For anyone who cares, Life During Wartime is going to start shooting in May. (the follow up to my all-time favorite film! Woo-hoo!)

Anonymous said...

You have GOT to be kidding me with your little analysis on "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles". I mean, honestly. The fact that you proceed the movie's title with the director's name as if it's some auteur piece is absolutely ridiculous.

Seattle Jeff said...

I think that guy is wound a little tight.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Si -- I was a little late to the Gervais train, so I'm still catching up on his peripheral work.

Cap'n Bauer: like I said before, I think that the writers have been reading those Chuck Norris-style Jack Bauer factoids on the internet. Now tell him where the bombs are!

And by the way, they threw out the auteur card first, Anon: "A Michael Pressman Film" is right there in big blue letters during the pizza-filled pre-title credits sequence. Turtle power!

Rick said...

I mean, honestly. The fact that you proceed the movie's title with the director's name as if it's some auteur piece is absolutely ridiculous.

Irony does not translate well sometimes?

Chad Evan said...

RIP Bob Clark. Damn.

Bill C said...

Goddamnit, that sucks.

The other day I watched the beyond-abysmal, so-called remake of Black Christmas, which only serves to fortify the brilliance of the original. Throughout, I kept saying to myself, "Bob Clark wouldn't do that." It's a shame he didn't make anything great after A Christmas Story, but Jesus, what a career in the rearview.

Alex Jackson said...

You have GOT to be kidding me with your little analysis on "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles". I mean, honestly. The fact that you proceed the movie's title with the director's name as if it's some auteur piece is absolutely ridiculous.

Okay Anon. What is your criteria for auteurship?

Richard said...

Not much Grindhouse talk here - am I the only one who has been nerding over it for like 6 months? The Slant.com review hurt my spirits a little but I still have faith.

Jared said...

Director Bob Clark, who helmed the modern holiday classic A Christmas Story and was the writer-director-producer of the Porky's films, died in a car crash with his son on the Pacific Coast Highway early Wednesday morning; he was 67. According to police reports, Clark's car was hit head-on around 2:30am by an SUV that swerved into Clark's southbound lane; Clark and his 22 year-old son, Ariel, were pronounced dead at the scene. The SUV driver, who was driving without a license, was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and is to be booked for gross vehicular manslaughter.

Well that's just awful. RIP to a unique auteur; I never would've got through early adolescence without that VHS tape of Porky's.

I'm more geeked about Grindhouse than anyone, well, at least Death Proof. I just have had so much going on in my personal life lately that I almost forgot it was coming out so soon.

Jefferson said...

The Pacific Coast Highway is a scenic deathtrap. I'm surprised we don't hear about a lot more celeb deaths on that particular stretch of heaven.

Re:Grindhouse, I can't get excited, no matter how much I might like to. If Tarantino and Rodriguez want to indulge their worst fanboy tendencies, fine, but I'm not sure they should paid millions for it, or that I should help write the check. If they continue on this arc, it just means we'll never get another Jackie Brown.

Walter_Chaw said...

If they continue on this arc, it just means we'll never get another Jackie Brown.

That's an interesting point.

Thing is that there are moments of Death Proof that hit me pretty hard in a non-action kind of way. I still feel sad about one scene in particular.

Rodriguez, though, man. . . not a fan.

Walter_Chaw said...

And about Bob Clark. . . ouch. Sure we're spared his Baby Geniuses 3, but I would've liked to have picked his brain about Deathdream and Black Christmas.

Seems unreal, doesn't it, that all those stories - all that insight - can be sucked out like a matchlight by some drunk asshole on the PCH. Life, to coin a phrase, can be a motherfucker.

theoldboy said...

The problem with Planet Terror is that it isn't a real movie, which basically goes for most of Rodriguez's movies. He's only able to really make something worthwhile when he's collaborating with someone who knows how to tell a story. Not that I didn't enjoy it, but it's completely disposable while Death Proof is sticky.

Anonymous said...

What about the lack of skin or sex? That was disappointing, and a sort of exploitation staple and Walter didn't touch on.