James Knows…Movies

This Just In: I Haven’t Seen Every Movie Ever

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I know it comes as a surprise to some people, but despite my love of movies and TV shows and my ever-growing DVD collection, I haven’t seen every movie that’s ever been made. Every few weeks I end up in a conversation with someone and they mention a movie that I haven’t seen. The reaction is always the same: “What do you mean you haven’t seen MOVIE THAT I LOVE SO MUCH AND IS SO AWESOME?! How could you not have seen it?!”

The answer is easy: I’m only one man. I work full time and I try to watch as much as I can but it just isn’t possible. Plus, movies were being released for over 60 years before I was born. That’s a lot to catch up on. I’ll get to your precious movie sooner or later. Relax.

All that brings me to my recent trip down movie memory lane with Tron. I had heard about Tron, seen it parodied and referenced tons of times, but I had never seen it. Fortunately, Amazon had the 5 disc Tron / Tron: Legacy Blu Ray set on sale during Black Friday so I was able to pick that up on the cheap and finally see the movie. I’m not going to go way into it, but I really dug this flick. By all means, I should have. It’s got everything that I love in a movie. Yes, it looks cheesy as hell, but it was fun. I had heard a rumor that Disney didn’t want to release it on Blu Ray when the sequel was hitting theaters because the effects didn’t hold up. That’s believable as they don’t look all that great, even in HD. I can let the dated CGI graphics slide for the story.

The next day I popped in Tron: Legacy and was blown away. This was an awesome movie. It looked and sounded great. The story was amazing. They used magic to de-age Jeff Bridges 20 years. They took everything that was cool about Tron and ditched all the lame stuff to make an epic film. Very cool. The part that’s stuck with me the most is the soundtrack by Daft Punk. I can not stop listening to it now. I must have played through both the original soundtrack and the remixed version at least 3 or 4 times by now. I’m actually listening to the remix as I type this. After watching both movies and listening to the soundtracks, I’ve started playing DJ Hero 2 to get my techno fix. I’m also really jonesing to re-watching Tron: Legacy already.

I’ve definitely missed my window of appreciation for some movies. Case in point, I don’t really give a shit about The Goonies because I saw it for the first time in college. Had I seen the film when I was younger, I would probably think more highly of it, but since I saw it when I did, I think it’s just OK. I was able to enjoy Tron though because it hit me in my inner nerd. Now we can all fight for the user.

Let Hollywood Remake the World and Then Make a Sequel To It

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I got into an argument of sorts on Twitter with a friend from college. The topic of the debate was remakes, specifically the announcement that Hollywood is planning a remake of Gremlins. I am of the opinion that it doesn’t matter what movies get remade or what sequels to classics get pushed out of the studios. Hollywood is going to keep making these movies because they make money. It’s a fact. What I don’t understand are the reactions from people that seem personally offended that one of their favorite films is being remade. Why is this? Why do you care?

The fact of the matter is that despite a film being remade, it won’t in any way shape or form change your opinion of the original. It’s not as if when a remake comes out they destroy all copies of the original and erase the memories of the original from the minds of everyone that’s seen it. It still exists as its own movie just as the remake will exist. That doesn’t change the slew of anger-filled tweets and Facebook statuses that pop up whenever a new remake is announced though. Let’s remake everything. If it ever turned a profit, it should be remade now. Let’s remake Casablanca starring Zac Efron and Miley Cyrus directed by Brett Ratner. Make a sequel to Citizen Kane featuring his long lost son played by Andy Samberg. Who cares? The originals will still be held in such high regard. Plus when people find out it’s a remake or a sequel, they might be interested in seeing the original, thus opening them up to these classics that you love.

While on the topic of remakes, I’ve also heard people spout off about how there’s never been a good remake. That’s bullshit. John Carpenter’s The Thing? Remake. The Maltese Falcon starring Humphrey Bogart? That was the 4th time they made that movie. Ocean’s Eleven? The original starred Frank Sinatra!

Bottom line is, does anyone really care? Hollywood is going to keep pumping these movies out because they make money. The moment a remake doesn’t make money, they’ll rethink their current strategy. If it’s a remake of a film that you cherish and you’re offended at the very idea that Hollywood would reimagine it, then don’t see it. You have that power. Use it.

Batman’s Past is Filled with Flimsy Rubber

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While shopping for groceries at BJ’s tonight I spotted a deal on a DVD box set I’ve had my eye on for a bit: The Batman Motion Picture Anthology. I thought the set had gone out of print and I was waiting for the inevitable re-release when I saw this for just $14.99. I snagged one immediately.

When I got home, Monica asked if I wanted to watch one of them. I suggested Batman Returns as it takes place during Christmas. We sat down to watch it which was the first time I’ve done so in I can’t remember how long. The movie came out in 1992 when I was 8 years old. I have a soft spot for comic book movies of all kinds and this one was extra special because it came out when I was all about comics as a kid. (Yes Mom, I know that I still have a bunch that are sitting over the garage that I have to get rid of.)

About halfway through the film, it struck me how this particular story of the Caped Crusader hasn’t aged well…at all. The suit is bulky and far too rubbery, Batman doesn’t seem to have many gadgets at his disposal and what he does use seems pretty unnecessary (elaborate bat signal signal in Wayne Manor?) and please don’t get me started on the Batmobile. At one point in time, this was held as not only a fantastic Batman and super hero film, but perhaps the best Batman film. The sequels certainly helped cement that status.

Maybe my tastes have changed over the years, but I think that now that we live in a world where things like The Dark Knight, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and numerous fantastic Batman comics that have come out in the last 10 years alone, there is barely a place for something like Batman Returns. I’m sure there is in the history books and stuff, but when compared to something like Batman Begins it’s almost no contest.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still several aspects of Returns that I love. The top of the list is Danny De Vito’s performance as The Penguin. While it wasn’t my favorite portrayal of the character (I’ve always been partial to the more recent misunderstood businessman and night club owner), De Vito was definitely the best part of the film. He was somehow despicable, charming, and pathetic all at the same time. I wanted to hate him, shake his hand and then wash it right away.

I’m sure that I’ll check out all of the features on this new 2 disc DVD as well as the commentary by director Tim Burton, but I guess Batman Returns is one of those movies that just can’t live up to the mantel I placed it on when I was a kid. Fortunately this is not the case for films like Ghostbusters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Those will always be awesome. Cowabunga.

And another thing, are all of the scores to Tim Burton movies exactly the same or is it just me?

James Knows…Movies: Inglourious Basterds (2009)

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I’m a fan of Quentin Tarantino’s work. Say what you will about the guy, but he can make one entertaining flick. Needless to say, when I first heard about Inglourious Basterds I was pretty damn excited. This was a movie that Tarantino has been talking about for years and now it finally arrived in all its Nazi killing glory. What I wasn’t expecting was a 2.5 hour long ADD-fueled pile of nonsense with no character development and lots of boring talking. It’s like Tarantino’s gigantic head exploded and what was left was an out-of-control 14 year old who loved him some Michael Bay.

According to the trailer, Basterds is about a band of elite American soldiers led by Brad Pitt to kill some Nazis with no mercy. That’s actually all I can really tell about the movie from the trailer, but hey, it’s directed by Tarantino and it looks like Pitt’s crew has really gotten Hitler’s panties in a bunch, so let’s see what kind of crazy antics and hilarious pop culture filled conversations they have along the way. Oh…You mean that’s only like 20 minutes of this whole thing? It’s how long? Two and a half hours?! What the hell fills up the rest of it? Oh, boring talking…OK. But is the talking at least about something cool like that scene in Reservoir Dogs about tipping? No? Then what happens?
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Let’s Talk About Sidney Lumet

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sidney_lumetSo a few weeks ago I red Sidney Lumet’s book Making Movies. I had seen a few movies by him (Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico and most recently, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead), but that was it. I was really impressed by his book and ended up ordering a bunch of his movies as I was finishing it up. I figured that I should at least see some of the stuff he was mentioning in its pages. I plowed through Murder on the Orient Express and then the past two weekends I finished up six more of his films. I still haven’t seen his first (and arguably best) film, 12 Angry Men, but it’s on the list.

After going through these films, Lumet definitely has a style and a type of film he’s good at. That being the melodrama. Now, I had no idea what melodrama meant before reading this guy’s book. I had heard the term, but I always thought it was what it sounded like: Mellow Drama. It’s not. In just about all of Lumet’s films, the characters take center stage and the plot is secondary. That sounds like it could be a bad thing, but he works wonders with it. The characters in his films are placed in situations that are dire and life-changing. They’re faced with decisions that can alter their entire life in a blink of an eye. These situations make the film one of those edge-of-your-seat types where you can’t take your eyes off of it all the while you’re thinking “Shit. I don’t know what I’d do if I were that guy.” (more…)

I’ve Gone Mac…But Will I Go Back?

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I was home sick on Friday and while I was in bed resting, my recently ordered MacBook arrived. It didn’t take long to ship and get here at all. Well done, Apple. I wasn’t feeling up to taking a look at it right away though, so it waited in its box for a bit. Plus I was in the process of reformatting Monica’s laptop so I wanted to make sure I finished up her computer before moving on to play with my own. It’s only fair, after all.

But, a few hours later after Monica got home and I finished up the last update her laptop needed, it was time to crack open that box.

macbox (more…)

Who Watches The Watchmen? I Guess It’s Me…and a 5 Year Old

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OK. Here we go. I haven’t looked forward to a film so much since last summer with Iron Man and The Dark Knight. Now it’s here. Watchmen. Arguably the most influential graphic novel of all time has been turned into a film by Zack Snyder who seems to be an up-and-coming director with a hardcore geek sense. Everything seems to be put into place so that I will love this film unconditionally. I re-read the graphic novel to prepare myself for the film and I went out to see it on the day after it was released. What did I think? Let’s talk about that for a second.

I knew going into it that things would have to be changed. Watchmen has been called an “unfilmmable graphic novel” for some time and there’s a reason for that. I’m not a crazy fanboy though. I understand that some things just don’t translate well into film and they’d have to be changed to fit there. I’m OK with that. (more…)

James Knows…Movies: Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008)

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It’s my opinion that Michael Cera can do no wrong. He caught my attention with Arrested Development and since then has just been a consistent awkward ball of hilarity through every appearance he’s made. Unfortunately even his penchant for uncomfortable moments couldn’t save Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Based on the book of the same name by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, the film takes a look at one night in the lives of Nick and Norah as they’re thrown together and they obviously are meant to be. But will they or won’t they?

Nick (Cera) is a soft-spoken guitarist in a band with a couple of gay kids. Norah (Kat Dennings) is the cynical daughter of a major recording studio owner. They run into each other at a gig for Nick’s band, but Nick is still hung up on ex-girlfriend Triss (Alexis Dziena) who is with new guy Gary (Zachary Booth) and Norah is concerned about her drunk friend Caroline (Ari Graynor) and gets in touch with on-again / off-again boyfriend Tal (Jay Baruchel) and who’s that guy that’s following the band around? Throw all these characters together in the night life of New York City and a mediocre soundtrack and you’ll have a movie that teens will flock to…right? (more…)

Movie Review: Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008)

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Last night I had the pleasure of seeing an advance screening of Kevin Smith’s latest film, Zack and Miri Make a Porno. The film, due out for theatrical release on Halloween, stars Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks in the title roles. They’re lifelong friends and current roommates who are flat broke and do what any sane people would do when faced with no other options: Make an adult film. Seems simple enough, right? Throughout the film, we’re shown how Zack and Miri, who have been friends since the 1st grade just belong together. It’s this little bit of romance that gives the film so much heart which somehow shines through all of the dick jokes.

Oh yeah. There are dick jokes. And quite a lot of them actually. I mean, the title of the film has the word “Porno” in it. What were you expecting? There’s a ton of raunchy humor in this movie, but it’s not done in a tasteless or unfunny manner that you’d expect from some of the current low-brow films that are out there (*cough*Epic Movie*cough*). I’d put this on about the same level as Knocked Up or Superbad on the language front. (more…)

Movie Review: Burn After Reading (2008)

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Burn After Reading is the third and final installment of the Coen Brothers’ “Idiot Trilogy” with actor George Clooney (the first two being O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Intolerable Cruelty). The film certainly lives up to that. It’s filled with idiots. Amazingly hilarious idiots.

The film takes a group of seemingly random adults living relatively boring, normal lives and spins them completely out of control. This is one of those movies where everyone starts out separate or with very minor connections and then by the end their paths are crossing over and over again and those that would normally never interact are suddenly forced together. I wish I could describe the film in more detail, but I’d seriously be here forever because things just grow and grow here. There’s a lost CD with “really secret important shit” on it that’s recovered by a complete moron of a personal trainer (Brad Pitt) and used in an attempt to blackmail an ex-CIA analyst (John Malkovich) who’s wife (Tilda Swinton) is considering divorce and cheating on him with a man from the treasury (George Clooney) who’s a womanizing charmer who’s also seeing a gym manager (Frances McDormand) who works with the moron! Phew! Still with me?

With this amazing cast coupled with the Coens’ signature wit, it’s tough to go wrong. I felt that each actor really hit their mark and they’re all pretty good on their own. When you throw two or more of them together, they really work well bouncing things off of one another. Between Pitt’s ridiculous antics, Clooney’s surprised expression, and Malkovich’s mouth that would make a sailor blush, I was cracking up in the theater.

The “out of control” part started to lose me a little bit towards the end, but managed to reel me back in. There’s a point where things just seem like they’re almost too far out there, but an appearance by J.K. Simmons brings in back home. I really wish that guy did more comedic work because he’s just great.

Burn After Reading can best be described as “quirky” like all of the other comedies by this pair of brothers. There are moments that come out you out of nowhere that will shock you and that’s typical of a Coen film too. It just works. Don’t believe everything that you read about the film. (I’m looking at you, Lisa Schwarzbaum) If you’re a fan of the other Coen comedies, you’ll enjoy this one too.

Rating: ★★★★½

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