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I’m writing everywhere but here.

| 0 Comments | 1036 Views | Back to top | Posted on 09/22/2013 at 05:17 AM

I’ve neglected my blog, as I tend to do, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been typing up thoughts about things. My football column with Tom Suitt has returned to, and I am still writing about Netflix Instant, Hulu and Nashville classic cinema for Examiner. Check those out, and I promise I’ll be writing more things here soon. For serious!

Recent Examiner Columns

| 0 Comments | 1047 Views | Back to top | Posted on 07/05/2013 at 05:17 AM

You wouldn’t believe it from this blog, but I’ve been writing a lot lately. I’ve been writing columns for Examiner, with topics including Netflix, Hulu and Classic Cinema playing here in Nashville. I’m not going to link to every little news item I regurgitated, but here are a few that are worth reading when you have the time:


Netflix Instant Review: ‘Miami Connection’

The Top 10 ‘Breaking Bad’ episodes currently on Netflix


The Criterion Collection on Hulu: 5 great documentaries

The Criterion Collection on Hulu: 5 great comedies


Ray Harryhausen tribute begins at the Belcourt

I’m hoping to do more Criterion lists and Netflix reviews soon, and I also plan on publishing an interview with the folks who run East Nashville’s Grassy Knoll Movie Nights. How pleasing!

There’s a subscribe button on those things if you want to subscribe. If you don’t, just know that you’re breaking my heart. Thanks!

Man of Steel / World War Z

| 0 Comments | 1035 Views | Back to top | Posted on 06/29/2013 at 05:17 AM


man of steel

It’s been a disappointing year for movies, according to noted film authority Me. Star Trek Into Darkness filled me with shrugs, Iron Man 3 was shiny but who cares, and the two movies I saw recently were epic, expensive and not very good. At this point, the best movie released this year that I’ve seen has been, no kidding, Behind the Candelabra.

Speaking of gay haircuts, Brad Pitt co-produced and stars in World War Z, based on a book by Max Brooks, son of Mel Brooks. Disappointingly, World War Z didn’t feature an epic campfire farting scene like Blazing Saddles, but it really could have used one. WWZ is one of those movies where nobody is really a character. Everybody just kinda talks, but you don’t give a damn about any of it. We follow Brad Pitt across the globe as he tries to find a zombie cure, and the only reason to give a crap  about Brad Pitt’s character is because he’s Brad Pitt and he’s the star of the movie.

WWZ had a rather troubled production history, but unlike true fiascoes like Gigli or Baby Geniuses, the reshoots managed to widdle the film down to a bland nub. (“Bland Nub” is also one of the nicknames of the film’s director, Marc “How Am I Still Getting Work?” Forster.) It plays exactly like a video game, with Pitt going from level to level country to country, facing challenges, defeating the Big Boss and moving on to the next lev–er, country. In fact, the ending, where Pitt has to sneak around quietly in a lab in Wales, plays out exactly like a level in Metal Gear Solid.

I concede that part of me is sick of zombies. I’m already looking forward to NOT watching this season of The Walking Dead, and the genre needs to take a break for a while. Of course, I watched my Blu of Shaun of the Dead just last night, so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about. Correction: I definitely don’t know what I’m talking about.

Back to the movie, the ending does feature a very funny moment: The final battle culminates in a long hallway, with Pitt on one end and a bunch of zombies on the other. Pitt stops to compose himself, and he’s standing in front of a Pepsi machine. (We know this because the word Pepsi is on all the cans, and facing the camera perfectly.) Pitt then grabs a soda and takes a big swig. This may be the first movie to feature a Pepsi commercial as part of its climax. I half-expected Pitt to turn to the camera and wink. It was hilarious.

Two other things about WWZ: Mireille Enos plays Pitt’s wife, continuing Hollywood’s streak of useless wife characters. Apparently, even during a zombie apocalypse, a woman’s main role is to look concerned a whole lot, and that’s it. The camera closes in on her concerned face a lot, but somehow, this move still doesn’t turn her into an actual character worth caring about. Also, the 3D in this movie nearly made my wife throw up.

World War Z and Man of Steel both play the same way: Massive setpieces linked with connective tissue that’s impossible to care about. It’s doubly frustrating for Man of Steel, because it’s playing with characters and archetypes that have been established for decades, yet it decides to remove a lot of that and make everyone involved a bland cipher.

One big issue I have with Man of Steel is its bland color scheme. It was blue-tinted and flat, not the big bold primary colors that denote FUN and, you know, FREAKING SUPERMAN. I really liked James Cavill as the Son of Krypton, and would have been interested to see him work with a better script. Man of Steel, more than any recent film, that this whole idea that all superhero movies need to be grim and gritty is stupid, ESPECIALLY for Superman.

In fact, I can say that for the whole movie. The cast is superb, some of the action is mind-blowing and every dime spent on the movie shows on the screen. I wish all of these elements could have been transferred to a different script, which is weirdly schizophrenic: The first half is q re-jiggering of the Superman origin, and the second half is pretty much straight-up Transformers 2, with seemingly the entire U.S. destroyed by its supposed protector. And just like Michael Bay’s movies, it just keeps pummeling the viewer over and over and OVER until you don’t care about anything and just want some aspirin.

Maybe the issue is with Zack Snyder, who has always been able to make great moments in a vacuum, but they never seem to cohere into a great movie. Along with Michael Bay, he’s one of our current great second unit directors, with camera moves and shots and techniques that few others can pull off, yet it’s hard to give a damn about any of it.

Man of Steel may be the most mind-blowing film of the year. Somehow, it’s still not very good.

World War Z – **
Man of Steel – ** 1/2


My Examiner Articles

| 0 Comments | 1044 Views | Back to top | Posted on 06/25/2013 at 05:17 AM

I’ve decided to start writing articles again for Examiner in a desperate attempt to exercise my brain muscles. I’m writing about classic cinema showing in Nashville, as well as Netflix and Hulu national news and reviews. Look for the Hulu articles to start shortly, but in the meantime, you can subscribe to my other columns:

National Netflix News & Reviews: Click here to subscribe

Nashville Classic Cinema: Click here to subscribe

If you could subscribe to this stuff, that will greatly reduce my constant shilling. Thanks!

I’m also writing a long thing about the films of last year. Will it go up? WHO KNOWS!



“Arrested Development” and the Joy of Ambition

| 0 Comments | 1014 Views | Back to top | Posted on 05/30/2013 at 05:17 AM

Arrested Development Star Warsall those balls in the air! 
how hard can it be? 
so hard you’re gettin’ dizzy 
with those balls in the air! 
keep those balls in the air! 

- “Balls In The Air” by David Schwartz


One time, I was online discussing The Master, and a commenter said he found the movie to be “pretty good.” This milquetoast response really irritated me. How could a film that strange inspire such a tepid reaction? I get why someone might love The Master, and I definitely understand why someone would hate it. But to sit through those two hours and come out the other side with your only reaction being “it was pretty good”?  It drove me nuts. How can someone come out of The Master and shrug like they’d just seen Grown Ups 2?

Everyone wants something different out of art, but personally I’m a big admirer of ambition. I’ll take ambitious failure over generic success any day. It’s why I’m thinking of buying Cloud Atlas on Blu-Ray*, and have tried to get through Infinite Jest more than once (I haven’t succeeded yet.) Something like The Master may not be perfect (I’m still trying to grasp much of the second half), but dammit, Paul Thomas Anderson is clearly striving for something more. Doesn’t that deserve more respect than shrugging and saying “Eh, not bad”? I think so. Some people resent difficult entertainment. Those people are art-hating dullards.

Arrested Development returned to Netflix, and critic complaints have been fairly consistent: Too slow-paced, too dark, not as funny, etc. I’ve found this to be a bit surprising. For months, Mitch Hurwitz and the cast have said that this will be a different beast, with David Cross comparing the intricacy of the season to Lost, and they were exactly right: This is risky, epic, completely insane television that would be impossible to do anywhere else but Netflix. At the very least, it’s the first time a show has been developed for the Netflix format, and not just a substandard cable show that premiered there.**

Like many people critical of the season, I did find the first couple of eps to be slow going, and I also agree that the George Sr. episodes are probably the worst. Still, even during those expositionary lulls, I knew that everything being said probably had more than one meaning, and that rewatching this in its entirety would be rewarding. How did I know this? BECAUSE I KNEW I WAS WATCHING ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. This has been the show’s M.O. forever. Anyone that’s enjoyed the show knows that rewatching the show brings so many rewards. Hurwitz knew that this would be consumed over and over, and he built a season of television so intricate that it makes Lost look like one of those Christmas videos of a log burning in a campfire.

People have said it’s not as funny, but I don’t know. This season made me laugh harder than I have in years, over and over and over, and halfway through rewatch, I’m laughing even more as I see connections and allusions to things that I’d missed before. You know, LIKE A SEASON OF ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. I get that I’m using all-caps too much here, but COME ON!  The sheer logistics of the season alone are astonishing, but the fact these logistics also include embedded setups for jokes makes my brain ache. Each character has a story and a sub-plot that’s connected to the overall uber-story and there are guest stars and callbacks and nested callbacks within callbacks. This is the work of genius.

Granted, genius isn’t perfect. There are times where I do miss the full cast being together, where the expositional narration becomes a bit too much, and I especially wish there had been a bit more closure to the story. Instead of a complete season of television, Hurwitz created The Most Complicated Movie Pitch of All Time, and hopes to answer some of the loose threads in an AD movie. I’m not crazy about that. However, I think we have to give Hurwitz credit for taking these characters and creating something new that’s also hilarious. Even the callbacks to earlier seasons are either expanded upon or are setups for new jokes. It’s bonkers, and I’m thrilled that Hurwitz got the chance to do it.  Whether you think the show’s return is great or terrible, you have to respect the ambition, or if you’re like me, you’re delighted by it.

Just don’t call it “pretty good”, or I’ll bitch about you in my next blog, which should be up in mid-2015.

* Speaking of Cloud Atlas, I’m thinking about doing a quick writeup on the films of 2012. Would you read it?

** Remind me to complain about House of Cards sometime, too.

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