Archive for October, 2010

31 Oct 2010

BLOG: Hollywood Briss – Do You Like Scary Movies?

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Ghostface: Do you like scary movies?
Sidney:
What’s the point? They’re all the same. Some stupid killer stalking some big-breasted girl, who can’t act, who is always running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door. It’s insulting.

What Sidney (Neve Campbell, “Scream”) describes is the definitive example of what to expect in scary ‘slasher’ flicks, in the vein of the “Halloween,” “Friday the 13th,” and “Scream” series. Thankfully for everyone who enjoys a good scare over long chase sequences and mind numbing gore, there are plenty of other sub-categories within the horror genre. Supernatural thrillers, creature-features, torture porn, creepy-Asian-kid, etc.; they are all clichéd these days, but live on due to entertaining kill sequences.

While clever mutilations are always a plus for me, solid character pieces and a lurking sense of the unknown and/or uncontrollable are what define great horror movies. To help clarify this statement, I now present my Top 5 horror flicks of all time:

5) Final Destination 2

- After establishing the unique premise of malicious/unseen “Death” in the first “Final Destination,” the sequel stuck with the same concept, but got even more creative with the kill sequences. Similar to how slasher flicks capitalize on the reality that serial killers do exist, the FD series capitalizes on the unpredictable nature of freak accidents that can occur in our everyday lives. From a logging truck turning a freeway into Frogger’s worst nightmare to a falling glass window turning some helpless guy into instant Sloppy Joe mix, there is always a perfect balance of suspense and the “OH SHIT!” moments.

4) Event Horizon

- Even though “Alien” (which would be mentioned here, but it is more of an action/thriller than straight up horror) best captured the horrifying solitude of space, “Event Horizon” took it to new extremes by throwing Hell into the equation. While it does rely heavily on the typical jump moments, the imagery, as seen in the crew members’ hallucinations, is what makes this film stand apart from others. Also, Sam Neil (“Daybreakers”) is fantastic as a possessed a-hole. “Where we’re going… we don’t need eyes to see!”

3) The Shining

- The first of two Stephen King adaptations on this list, “The Shining” is what I consider both Kubrick’s (who I’ve never been a fan of in general) and Nicholson’s best work. Again, capitalizing on the idea of being isolated, mixed with quick shots of terrifying images and Nicholson’s berserk performance is what makes this an instant classic. Technically the best film on this list, it isn’t first because it tends to be more entertaining than truly terrifying. BTW, it took three days of shooting and 60 doors to get Nicholson’s famous “Here’s Johnny!” scene to Kubrick’s liking.

2) Paranormal Activity

- Hands down, the scariest film I have ever seen. The notion that we are completely helpless while sleeping is freaky enough without adding a supernatural element that is something we currently can not prove or disprove.  While many found the first hour boring, it worked amazingly as a tension builder to the truly horrifying moments in the film’s final half hour. Katie Featherston’s tortured performance is also one of the strongest in a horror film since Kathie Bates in “Misery.” Not going to lie, when I got back from my midnight screening, I “slept” with the lights on.

1) The Mist

- A horror masterpiece. “The Mist” is frightening, insightful, engaging, and purposefully cheesy. It is a smart B-flick that not only brings the terror with foreign monsters, but also examines the human psych through how different people act to the same threatening event. Tom Jane ( TV’s “Hung”), the most underrated actor working today, grounds the story through his competence and logical actions, while supporting actors such as Marcia Gay Harden (“Whip It”), the religious crazed bitch, complicates the already f’ed up scenario of being trapped in a grocery store surrounded by the unknown.

The main reasons why this is my favorite horror movie are the monsters and the ending. First, the creatures are larger and creepier versions of some of the most disgusting insects. Insects in general put me in a state of unease. When the scene in which a brood of thousands of spider-like creatures explode from a guy’s chest, I seriously had a terror seizure. The second reason is the film’s heart-wrenching and polarizing conclusion. Easily one of the most screwed up Hollywood endings of all time, it is the main reason for people loving or hating the film. I think it’s brilliant and wish more movies would be as bold.

Nothing like a can of peas to the head to silence a “miserable buzzard!”

Honorable Mentions: “Drag Me to Hell,” “Jaws,” “Misery” and “Saw”

So what are your Top 5?

Trailer I’m Digging This Week:

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (“Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”) re-team for a movie that looks as fun as it does stupid in “Paul.”

I am getting sick of Seth Rogen’s voice though…

Quote of the Week:

Sidney: You sick f*cks! You’ve seen one too many movies!
Billy: Now Sid, don’t you blame the movies, movies don’t create psychos, movies make psychos more creative!

“Scream”

Feature image courtesy of Weinstein Company and all poster artwork courtesy of impawards.com.

23 Oct 2010

BLOG: Hollywood Briss – A Woody and Vice President Biden

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I’m not going to lie; “Paranormal Activity” seriously freaked me out. Between its imagery and the idea that something could screw with me in my sleep- without me even knowing about it – really creeps me out.  I can’t even watch “Paranormal Activity 2’s” trailer without getting some serious goose bumps. Call me chicken sh*t, because I am, but I just couldn’t bring myself to see the sequel this weekend and probably won’t until I can watch it at home in a well lit room.

That being said, I instead chose to see the anti-PA2, Woody Allen’s latest rom-com “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.”

On the Big Screen:

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (R)

"You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" marks low points in both Allen's and Hopkin's now fading careers. Photo courtesy of Sony Classics.

Summary: Woody Allen’s latest revolves around the disintegrating relationships of a group of individuals who are all connected to each other in some “cleverly” scripted way. Helena (Gemma Jones) was just dumped by her husband, Alfie, of 40 years (Anthony Hopkins) for a second chance at a youthful living. Feeling the burden of Helena’s sorrow is Sally (Naomi Watts), who is also struggling in her marriage with Roy (Josh Brolin), a failing writer. To get away from it all, Sally gets a job as an assistant to an art director, Greg (Antonio Banderas), whom she sees the possibility of a new future with. Roy also finds a new muse in Dia (Frida Pinto), the sexy new girl he stares at everyday in the building next to his. And that’s just what is introduced in the first 30 minutes.

Review: Allen is easily one of strangest and most inconsistent writer/directors ever to exist.  Delivering a movie-a-year for the past 17 years, his resume, of the past 10 years in particular, is filled with moments of brilliance (2005’s “Match Point” and 2008’s “Vicky Christina Barcelona”) and complete works of quirky crap (2001’s “Curse of the Jade Scorpion” and 2004’s “Melinda and Melinda”). “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” falls under the crap category, minus the quirky.

His latest effort is hardly an effort at all, but a lame attempt to turn “Crash” into a romantic comedy with a message that life and love is futile.  The entire movie is comprised of people realizing they aren’t happy in their current relationship and their mostly failed attempts to find happiness elsewhere. While the all-star cast does a fine job of bringing their unique characters to life, the witless and bland script gives them no direction. “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” isn’t just bad for a Woody Allen film, it’s bad in general.
Judgment:
One Limpy Woody (D)

On DVD/Blu-ray This Tuesday:

Lawerence's performance in "Winter's Bone" is worthy of an Oscar nomination, but not an Oscar. Photo courtesy of Sebastian Mlynarski.

Winter’s Bone (R)

A favorite at Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, “Winter’s Bone” tells the story of 17-year-old Ree’s (Jennifer Lawrence) attempt to find her missing crack-dealing father, while also tending to her sick mother and two younger siblings. If she doesn’t find her father before his court date, the bail-bonds company the father made a deal with will repossess her family home.

While not the gritty thrill ride I was hoping for, “Winter’s Bone” is a solid drama that creates a depressing portrayal of a harsh, poverty-stricken farm life. Lawrence’s turn as Ree, a bright and confident young girl forced into an unimaginable situation, truly deserves recognition. Holding her own against the rest of the cast, which is a truly terrifying bunch of rednecks, she easily earns sympathy from viewers. Even if the ending, while twisted, doesn’t pack the punch I was hoping for, the movie overall, like Affleck’s “The Town,” is a prime example of good filmmaking.
Judgment:
Makes the Cut (B)

Getting a Part of the Cut… NOT!

Some interesting events unfolded in the casting of a “Hangover 2” cameo this past week. Early last Tuesday it was announced that the man who knows what women like and what PR agents hate, Mel Gibson, would make an appearance as a tattoo artist in the sequel- which is now shooting in Thailand. Like any other celebrity who has f’ed up his personal image, turning to a small, over-the-top role in a potential comedic blockbuster is the best career move one can make (Yeah, I’m looking at you Tom Cruise).

On Wednesday, rumors arose that the main cast (Zach Galifianakis in particular) was not happy about working with Gibson. On Thursday, it was announced that Gibson was no longer part of the cast. On Friday, Liam “I will find you, I will kill you” Neeson was hired to fill-in as the new tattoo artist.

I’ve got no beef with Gibson, so I was kind of looking forward to see him most likely mock himself in “Hangover 2.” But, I’m sure Neeson will be great as well. The problem I have, though, is that all of this seemed like one huge set-up publicity stunt to promote the sequel. Also, cameos are almost always best when they are a surprise .

Does Biden Dance With the Devil in the Pale Moonlight?

Below is a picture Insight’s very own Lucas Combos snapped of Vice President Biden during his visit on campus this past Wednesday.

Photo courtesy of Lucas Combos.

That smile seems eerily familiar…

Jack Nicholson's famous Joker grin seems much more sincere than Biden's...

The only thing that would help Harry Reid more right now is if Nicholson himself joined the campaign trail.

Trailer I’m Digging This Week:

I know these past weeks I have only promoted independent movie trailers, but really, all of the bigger blockbuster trailers just tend to make me hate Hollywood more often than not. This week, I’ll stick to what looks good and that is “The King’s Speech.”

Quote of the Week:

Keeping with the recent political tone of this week’s “Hollywood Briss”, here is a brilliant quote from one of the better graphic novel adaptations of the past decade.

“…A building is a symbol, as is the act of destroying it. Symbols are given power by people. A symbol, in and of itself is powerless, but with enough people behind it, blowing up a building can change the world.”
V (Hugo Weaving), “V For Vendetta”



20 Oct 2010

PHOTO GALLERY: Street Vibrations 2010

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18 Oct 2010

BLOG: Hollywood Briss – Certifiably Fresh Rottenness

No Comments Hollywood Briss, Published Work

This week in “Hollywood Briss,” I’m taking a mini-vacation from reviewing to let my movie geek-flag fly.

As if it wasn’t pretty obvious, my obsession with modern cinema knows no boundaries. Each year I watch anywhere between 130-150 new releases, which does not include movies that were not released during the current year – so let’s say around 180/year total (I am at 90 for 2010, thus far). Beyond actually watching movies, I love tracking box-office statistics and am constantly absorbing basically useless and random film trivia.

What I’m getting at here is if my journalism degree doesn’t get me a decent job writing about the movie industry, I will be stuck at Blockbuster for the rest of my life.

Basically, I would be a less enthusiastic version of Brad Pitt's character in "Burn After Reading," granted he worked in a video store and not a fitness club... Photo courtesy of Focus Features.

But as a student journalist now, it is my duty to inform my readers of certain aspects of the world they may not be familiar with. In this case, it will be on what exactly a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer grade means.

A Slice of Tomato

As the ultimate review aggregator, rottentomatoes.com has re-defined how movie viewers determine whether or not to see a movie. With well over 200 contributing critics, every major and independent release is given a general consensus on whether it is “certified fresh,” “fresh” or “rotten.” This consensus is followed by a percentage, with everything 59% and below considered rotten, 60%-74% considered fresh and anything 75% and above being certified fresh.

Pretty simple, right? Indeed it is simple, but what many aren’t aware of is the mathematics behind how these percentages are calculated.

When a critic submits a review, they don’t just give a movie a fresh or rotten mark; they give a rating, based off the 1-10 scale. Usually 6 or above is considered fresh and given a 100%, with anything below a 6 being rotten and given a 0%. So basically it extremely simplifies a specific grade into liking and not liking, which in turn means that this percentage gives little insight into how good or bad a specific movie is.

To understand how loved or hated a movie actually is by critics, one must look at the “Average Rating,” which is located (in very small lettering) right below the percentage grade. This is the 1-10 grade the critic originally gave the film.

To put this into perspective, “The Social Network” is officially the best-reviewed movie since “Chinatown” in 1974, but why is it the best-reviewed movie with a 97% when “Toy Story 3” is at 99%? Even though it has more negative reviews (four to be exact), its average rating is a 9.1/10 whereas “Toy Story’s” is 8.8/10. Even “How to Train Your Dragon” received a higher percentage than “Network” with a 98%, but again, its average rating is only 7.8/10.

Image courtesy of rottentomatoes.com.

Tomato Stomper

It is also worth nothing that in today’s movie criticism world, it is impossible to get a 100% because of the infamous Armond White. As one of the most hated film critics in the country, this New York Press writer consistently hates any movie that the majority of the other critics like. The best part is that it seems he does it just to play devil’s advocate, because his reasons for the negative reviews are rarely justifiable.

Recent movies that he has given negative reviews to:

  • Inception
  • Toy Story 3
  • The Social Network
  • The Dark Knight
  • Slumdog Millionaire

Recent movies he found good/great:

  • Resident Evil: Afterlife
  • Grown Ups
  • Jonah Hex
  • Dance Flick
  • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

White's face says it all. Photo courtesy of Michael Lavine. ST, 2003.

Now I understand, better than most even, that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. If there was ever one exception, though, it would and should be Mr. White.

Trailer I’m Digging This Week

Visceral storyteller and recent Oscar winner Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”) brings his latest tale of survival in rough conditions, “127 Hours,” to theaters this November. You can count on me being at the opening midnight showing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0GycqTaXwQ

Quote of the Week

Speaking of people who don’t understand good from bad…

“This story’s gonna grab people. It’s about this guy, he’s crazy about this girl, but he likes to wear dresses. Should he tell her? Should he not tell her? He’s torn, Georgie. This is drama.”
Edward D. Wood Jr. (Johnny Depp), “Ed Wood”

09 Oct 2010

BLOG: Hollywood Briss – It's Funny, Kind of…

No Comments Hollywood Briss, Published Work

Isn’t if funny how after we were given the gift of “The Social Network,” in all its dialogue greatness last week, three movies that are clichés of their clichéd genres are released? I’m of course referencing, “Secretariat,” this year’s “Blind Side” wannabe, “Life as We Know,” yet another formulaic rom-com and finally “My Soul to Take,” We Craven’s uninspiring return to the slasher genre he redefined 15 years ago. On the bright side, Focus Features was kind enough to grace us with a semi-wide release of the semi-indie flick, “It’s Kind of a Funny Story.”

So, this week I will review Zach Galifianakis’ “Funny Story” as well as uncover a movie, hidden far away from my conscious thought, which I was unfortunate enough to see this summer – “Jonah Hex.”

On the Big Screen:

It’s Kind of a Funny Story (PG-13)

Only the wise follow a funny man with ice cream. Photo courtesy of Focus Features.

Summary: Overwhelmed with the pressures of life, Craig (Keir Gilchrist, TV’s “United States of Tara”) is seriously considering suicide. Instead of acting hastily on the idea, he convinces an ER doctor to check him into the psychiatric ward. It only takes the 16-year-old a few minutes inside the ward to realize how out-of-place he is, but once admitted, he is forced to stay at least five days. With the help of fellow patients Bobby (Zach Galifianakis, “Dinner for Schmucks”) and Noelle (Emma Roberts, “Valentine’s Day”), Craig goes on a journey of self-discovery, filled with important life lessons and shouting schizophrenics.

Review: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” gets a subtle and sweet modernization in “It’s Kind of a Funny Story.” But instead of having a big star (Jack Nicholson) surrounded by a cast of mostly unknowns, “Funny Story” switches it up by having Gilchrist, a relatively unknown actor, guide us through his journey. The telling of his story is then highlighted by his encounters with more famous actors, such as the insanely comedically gifted Galifianakis.  Actors we are not familiar with are usually easier to connect with in that we have no preconceived notions of what they should be like. Gilchrist uses this to his advantage in creating Craig, a quirky and sympathetic kid who doesn’t realize how hard life can truly be until he meets his ward mates.

Though the story is pretty heavy (it’s about a group of people who have tried or want to commit suicide), the mood shifts between the light and dark moments gracefully. Filled with outbursts of creativity through childhood flashbacks and dazzling dream-like sequences, the movie pulls you in without ever blowing your mind (this last phrase being an example of some of the film’s dark humor). “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” may not be as impactful as its Oscar winning psychiatric predecessor, but it’s a film that most of us will be able to relate to and enjoy.
Judgement:
A Cut Slightly Above the Rest (B+)

On DVD/Blu-ray This Tuesday:

Jonah Hex (PG-13)

Be branded or watch "Jonah Hex" again? Definitely branded... Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers Pictures.

And I thought “Ghost Rider” was as low as B-rate comic book character movies could go. Josh Brolin’s (“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”) headlining turn as DC Comic’s Jonah Hex, a cursed bounty hunter seeking revenge after the no-good SOB Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich, “Secretariat”) killed his family, is a laughable disaster. The screenplay, written by the “Crank” series creators Mark Neveldine and Bryan Taylor, is so riddled with inexcusably poor dialogue and incomprehensible plot developments; it hurts just to think about it.  Sure Meghan Fox is hot and Malkovich gives yet another entertaining over-the-top performance, but sadly, those two instances are just not enough to carry a movie that should have never been made.
Judgement:
A Worthless Cut (D-)

Cut From the Headlines:

There were some pretty big announcements in Hollywood this past week that are worth taking a look at:

The first worth noting is the second reboot of the Superman franchise. That’s right, if it isn’t done right the first time, there is always more money to try again.

But there is hope. The comic book reboot maestro, Christopher Nolan (“Batman Begins”), has got his producing hands all over the “super” man in blue in red spandex (which is officially and lazily titled, “Superman: Man of Steel”). To shake things up even more, Nolan and company hired “300” and “Watchmen” director Zack Snyder to helm the new film.

The only thing these wizards can't conjure up is a third dimension. Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers Pictures.

An interesting choice to say the least, it appears that Snyder’s traditional style over substance approach could define Superman 3.0. While I think Snyder is one of the more visually talented director’s working today, I believe Darren Aronofky (“The Wrestler”), a rumored candidate who didn’t get the job, could have potentially delivered a more grounded, yet still visually enticing film.

The other big news, just announced this past Friday, is that Warner Brothers has opted to not release “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I” in 3-D.

Hallelujah, praise Ricky Bobby’s dear lord baby Jesus, a studio finally realizes it is not necessary to release a big, special-effects filled blockbuster in post-produced 3-D! In their press release, WB stated the reason was they “were unable to convert the film in its entirety and meet the highest standards of quality,” before its November 19 release.

With that being said, they are still planning on converting Part II, which comes out July 15, 2011, into 3-D. We can only hope that will be enough time to create a non-headache inducing conversion.

Trailer I’m Digging This Week:

Though never a fan of Sofia Coppola’s work (“Marie Antoinette” is easily one of the most boring movies ever made), her new flick, “Somewhere” looks to have some potential.

Quote of the Week:

You know what I find kind of funny? Milkshake drainage.

“If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and I have a straw. There it is, that’s a straw, you see. You watching? And my straw reaches acroooooooss the room, and starts to drink your milkshake… I… drink… your… milkshake! [sucking sound] I drink it up!”
Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day Lewis), “There Will Be Blood”