Thursday, November 09, 2006

SPIDEY Watch: Unwebbing The New Trailer.

Holy doodle! I never expected to have to do so many Spider-Man 3 posts over such a short amount of time! That said, today was something I really couldn't ignore. At 10pm EST tonight, the new trailer for the third chapter in the amazing/ spectacular/ sensational film series hit the web and American television in a blitzkrieg of promotion. You were going to see this trailer NO MATTER WHAT, DAMMIT! And if you didn't, well, I'm gonna post a link to it and praise it (with a few exceptions) here tonight. I've now watched it a half dozen times and made a few mental notes. Basically just enough material to waste precious moments of your time with. Yee-haw!

After that, I'm going to do a new thing and answer an email question (I wasn't aware I was accepting submissions!) that I received. I'm actually really excited about this and would like this to become an ongoing part of the blog. I'll post an email address at the bottom. But first:

Wow, that was a really cool trailer! It wasn't as spectacular as the Spider-Man 2 trailer, or as powerful as the Spider-Man 3 teaser, but still, it was damn cool!

For those of you who somehow avoided it (Sony will probably show up at your door and forcibly make you view it!), here's a link to it:

Now, much speculation surrounded the release of this thing. Venom-fever was hitting a disturbingly high rate and people were frothing at the mouths for his appearance in this thing. Well, let the speculation continue because he doesn't show up here. Heck, his alter ego Eddie Brock (Topher Grace - pictured here from the teaser trailer) only shows up in three super-fast snippets. So, while I'm disappointed, I'm now even more excited for the 2nd trailer that will be airing before Ghost Rider starting on Feb. 9th.

Come on people, there's still 5 months till this thing gets released; you really expected them to give EVERYTHING away! I say good on them! Let the suspense build! I'm tired of everything being given away in trailers far ahead of the films release. I can wait to see Venom in action (Though I'll still continue with my obsessive theorizing and posting production photos).

So, now that I've wasted time blithering on about what isn't in the trailer, what is? Well, a whole lotta Sandman! Everyone's gotten so wrapped up in Venom talk that they've forgotten the seriously cool main villain of the film. This clip is the first time we've really seen Sandman in action and it looks awesome. I was concerned it'd be like The Mummy/Mummy Returns type stuff, but now my concerns are laid to rest. Sandman looks like a brutal competitor and the fights between the two look intense. Thomas Haden Church had the potential to be as memorable as Alfred Molina's Doc Ock. I am a bit annoyed by the plot twist revealed though (Spoiler warning!)

We learn in the trailer that it was actually Sandman (aka Flint Marko) who was the REAL culprit behind Peter Parker's Uncle Ben's death. Now, this is nothing short of sacrilege in the comics' community (Go search up a topic on it at a comic book web board. It's ugly!), but I'm going to sidestep that argument. I don't like it because it feels too convoluted. Like, oh, by the way, another super-powered villain is personally connected to Spidey! I mean, can't at least one of these films feature a villain who has no role in Peter Parker's life? Apparently not. This is an addition that just doesn't work for me... It seems like they're trying too hard to give a less fleshed out character a reason for existing. I still am optimistic, however, that the film will deal with the change in a proper manner. Sam Raimi thus far has a flawless track-record and I don't want to doubt him too much.

So, what else do we have going on? Well, we get a little more footage of the alien symbiote suit, and its hold over Peter. I'm positive the next trailer will go more in depth with this, but what we get here is very nifty. I love the voice-overs by Aunt May and Peter that hint at Spider-Man's temptation towards the dark side. I like that they're showing us the suit's effect on Peter, and the power he feels wearing it. In the voice-over when he mentions the power he feels and how he likes it, it's like a druggie talking about a narcotic high. It's the right tone for the situation and should dovetail wonderfully into the Venom stuff. The shot of Peter tearing the suit off is a powerful image that proves that this film will undoubtedly be the darkest of the series. It may scare the wee-ones...

We also get a little more of Harry Osborn and his anger at Peter for his father, Norman Osborn aka Green Goblin's death. There's not a lot new here, but I'm curious to see how James Franco handles the chore. His character is one of the most tragic in the comic-book series and I hope it translates to the film well. I'll happily forgive the Snowboard Boy suit if the emotion rings true.

On the happier side, the trailer hints that there may be an engagement for Peter and Mary Jane this time around. Since the two characters have been married for almost 20 years in the comics, this is hardly an unexpected event.
From what we see here, Kirsten Dunst seems to have really stepped it up and is showing Mary Jane's mature side. Many felt she was sub-par in Spider-Man 2, but the trailer really gives her character more gravity and authority. Hopefully, she'll be closer to the strong, independent character from the comics. It'll be interesting to see how the love triangle between her, Peter, and Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard - only glimpsed once in the trailer) is presented. I hope it's not too soapy.

So, Sam Raimi, pat yourself on the back! This trailer left me satisfied and yet still wanting more. My mind is reeling at the possibilities and I can't wait to see what's going to happen. If this is the final Spidey (well, from this creative team), it looks like you may just go out on top (like how the producers of The X-Men series wish they did!). This True Believer is giddy with anticipation for May 4th. Good show, old bean!
Okay, and now for something completely different! A letter!

Kim writes: The Big Lebowski [is] a movie that [my husband] thought was really funny, [yet] I couldn't sit through. Any thoughts on that one?"

Hmmm.... This isn't the first time I've heard divided opinions on this one. My friend Gabe swears by the movie. He's seen it umpteen times, and can accurately quote the majority of it. My friend, Mark, on the other hand, thought it was boring. Heck, the critics couldn't even make up their mind on this one. Now, me? Well I love it. But I'll explain myself.

The Big Lebowski is a masterpiece of randomness. The whole movie essentially plays out to the same pace as the lead character's mental state. The plot is all over the place, bizarre characters pop in and out, and there is no real closure at the end of the film. Heck, even the narrator seems to be narrating a whole other movie.

Now, the film's creative team, the Coen Brothers, are definitely an acquired taste... I personally thought Fargo (1995) was brilliant, and quite enjoyed O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000). Now, with that said, I thought Intolerable Cruelty (2003) was quirky to the point of being tiresome, and 1987's Raising Arizona was almost unwatchable. There isn't really a middle ground with these guys and I'd say your husband and you just happened to fall on opposite sides. There is still hope though.

I'd say give Lebowski another chance. Settle down and don't anxiously try to follow it scene for scene. Rather, sit back and just witness the film unfold. It's a film that rewards a relaxed state of mind. Don't try to connect-the-dots or anticipate the mystery plot, as it's simply a clothes-line for the characters to hang from. Enjoy the film for its moments, rather than as a whole picture. It's a comedy of the absurd. The jokes are sly and weird, and aimed at a certain sensibility.

I often fondly think of the bizarre Busby Berkeley-style dance numbers, John Goodman's intense performance, and that great scene where the narrator meets The Dude and the two have an aimless conversation that goes nowhere. Because that's what the film is meant to be, aimless. Plus, take greater notice of Jeff Bridges. His performance is brilliant, as he completely disappears into the character. It's a great comic performance.

Besides, I dare you not to laugh at the final scene where The Dude and Walter toss Donny's ashes out to sea.

I don't know if this is any help. Not all people like the same films. I personally thought Scarface was garbage! I also strongly disliked Jerry Maguire! So, don't feel you're missing out if this one just isn't your style. There will be undoubtedly a film in the future that you will love and he will find pointless. It's the nature of the beast!

Take Care!

Okay folks that does it for me!
If you have questions, feel free to email me at! I may even give you some space on the blog like today's letter! A great honor, if I can say so myself!

Later y'all!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Film Review: BORAT! Lives Up To The (Excessive) Hype!

I don't know about the majority of you, but I don't find most comedy films to be particularly funny. In fact, I sit through the majority of them in silence with perhaps an occasional smirk at best. I think the main problem is that mainstream comedy is bland. Films like Nacho Libre, Guess Who or Anchorman are, frankly, (often very) mildly amusing at best. That's why I gravitate to more quirky fare like Kevin Smith's films (Clerks 2 was the last great comedy I saw), and shows like Arrested Development and Curb Your Enthusiasm. It's a sad testament that I laugh more hysterically watching Shark Attack III: Megalodon, than the last 10 big studio comedies combined. So, it was with great surprise that I responded so strongly to Borat!, a film that has been thrown in my face by every mainstream entertainment media group possible for the last few months.

To be honest, I wasn't prepared to be as entertained as I was. I had been well aware Borat!: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan's (This is the only time I'm using its full title!) arrival for a long time, but I really was not interested. This is tied to the fact that my only exposure to Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat, himself) was through his appearances as Ali G in Madonna's Music music video and hosting the European Music Awards one year. To say I found these bits unfunny would be a massive understatement. I thought he was stupid and painfully unfunny. Cringe-inducing, even. So, believe you me, I was not someone eager to slap down $10 to see the man projected in front of me for 90mins.

But then a strange thing happened. I kept hearing how hilarious the movie was. How brilliant and unforgettable a film, to be seen at all costs. Despite my attempts at ignoring the hype, I became curious. Was this a movie I would personally enjoy? Would it ACTUALLY make me laugh? Could it potentially be better than Shark Attack III? Well, I had to find out dammit! As a film enthusiast I make it a point to see pretty much every film that makes any sort of noise (Hence why I see so many bad movies...) and Borat! was making a lot of noise. So, last night I went to the 9:40 show at my local theatre and was stunned!

Now for those not bombarded by the hype, Borat! follows Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen), a famous reporter from the country Kazakhstan. He's travelled to America, with his producer Azamat Bagatov (Ken Davitian), to make a documentary about American customs and behavior to show the people of Kazakhstan. The film follows his adventures as he interviews regular folks, hopelessly mangles North American conduct, and aims to marry Pamela Anderson. The majority of the film is "real". Cohen, as Borat, wanders around real situations with normal citizens, uncovering bizarre beliefs, truths and realities. So, in essence, we get a bizzaro version of Candid Camera featuring a fictional host, similar to, but darker than, the Jamie Kennedy Experiment TV show.

The majority of the entertainment comes from Borat himself. He is wonderfully unpolished. Whether spouting racist/sexist/ homophobic remarks, or gleefully making strange sexually profane announcements, he never becomes a hateful caricature. There is a strange innocence to him that allows him to transcend his politics. He becomes a figure of fun, making us his willing accomplices. When he interviews a women's liberation group and announces that women have brains the size of squirrels, we feel more sympathy towards him than the horrified women. The character has hateful beliefs, but he never comes across as vindictive. He's like a young child repeating naughty words he's just heard. It becomes infectious, waiting to see how people will react to him. It's interesting that a great deal of the people he interviews reveal their own prejudices in a far uglier way.

The majority of the credit for the films success has to go to Cohen. He's fearless at walking a tight-rope between the hilarious and the unforgivably detestable. When he finds himself at a bed and breakfast run by two kind elderly Jewish people, his skills as a satirist are razor-sharp. Convinced that they have transformed into two cockroaches, aiming to kill him, he throws money at them and flees panic-stricken from the house. By illustrating the irrationality of Borat's racism he highlights the ignorance behind all prejudices. Cohen, who is Jewish, is so successful at this that the film has perhaps more impact than a "serious" film on the subject. Its brilliant work, and I hope the Academy is paying attention.

I've also got to give credit to Ken Davitian (pictured with Cohen), as Borat's producer. Like Cohen, this man is fearless. During the film's climactic naked wrestling match between Borat and Azamat we are shocked how far these actors will go for a laugh. Davitian strips away any sense of dignity and gets real laughs, and fully inhabits the character. I was extremely surprised to see that Davitian has quite an extensive filmography ( He's so believable in the film; I almost bought his character as a real person.

I've also got to say that director Larry Charles is brilliant in the staging of the film. Those familiar with Charles previous work on Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm know that this guy has the goods when it comes to brilliant dark comedy. His participation in this film is invaluable, and I look forward to seeing more films from him.

I feel confident in recommending this film to all of you. It may shock you. You may find it very offensive. But it deserves to be seen as much as the typical "important" Oscar-bait films being released in the winter. It's an oddly powerful film that flouts conventions and is unique and a breath of fresh air. Do yourself a favor and go to the theatre. Seeing it with an audience will be far superior to sitting in your quiet TV room watching it on DVD. Either way, you won't forget Borat! any time soon. High five!

Rating: 4.5/5

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

My Spidey Sense Is Tingling... VENOM! SANDMAN! SNOWBOARD BOY???

Okay, I'm not really doing a big news essay today. Nothing much exciting to report. I'll do a big review of Borat! on Wednesday to make up for today's slim pickings. Now, that isn't to say today's stuff ain't nifty. In fact, if you're into comic-book movies (Hark! The sound of multiple users exiting the browser...) there are goodies galore! I'm going to start with a big Spider-Man 3 leak and then move on to some other news bits.

Now, what's the Spidey story, you demand to know? Well, I can't supply a link cuz this one's been pulled off the net really quickly. It seems that photos leaked out today which were concept art for the Spidey 3 video-game which will be tied into the movie. Now, this time we get a clear, detailed look at Venom (as opposed to the vague one a week or so back), but we also get a great Sandman photo and a groovy lil' photo of Harry Osborn in his Green Goblin gear. Plus, since they are for the game, this would mean they are based of the finalized movie designs, so these are pretty dead on to what we'll be seeing in May! I know, I know! Shut up already and make the photos! Okay, here they are:

First up, to your glorious left is the new Sandman pic. It's a little blurry here, so I recommend clicking on it for a clearer, larger display.

Getting to the point, however, it's consistent with the previously released Sandman photos. I gotta say that the resemblance between Thomas Haden Church & his digital counterpart to the classic comic character is staggering. This is a role Church was born to play and I eagerly await a deeper take on the often one-note character. I'm really lovin' the sand-hammer pictured here and hope there's lots of variety to Sandman's shape-shifting abilities in the film. Hopefully they'll leave the Hydroman/Sandman beast out though. That was just lame.

Next here, we have the Harry Osborn in Green Goblin gear. I'm pretty confident that unlike the comics, Harry won't actually become the Green Goblin. It looks like he'll just flirt with the gear and powers a bit without fully taking over the mantle.

This one I'm not so crazy about. It looks like a snowboarding paintballer (Or would that be a paintballing snowboarder...). The mask is a cheap paintball mask, and the armor is a little too Mortal Kombat-like (What's with the short sword on his back?). I know that there was huge fan outcry over the Goblin costume in the first film, but is this the answer? He looks disturbingly like a modernized version of the cheesy 70's villain Rocket Racer! Sadly, there's no chance of this one improving either, as it appeared exactly like this in the first trailer. I dunno, was it really necessary to turn the glider from the first film into a snowboard? It's like their trying to make him "cool" for the teenage crowd or something... Ugh.

But who cares, right? None of you do! You want the big enchilada! The hot tamale! The... Well, I can't think of any more Mexican food metaphors... The long and short is, you want Venom! Well, here he is! Bask in his effervescence!

Now, I had a feeling Venom would come out all right. Once I saw that sculpt I was confident that he'd come out at least as good as Sandman. But I never realized he would look as good as this! I mean, damn!

Now to most of you this is slobbering geek-talk. I'm not going to disagree. But if you were a young male in the early-mid 90's, this is huge! This is an icon made flesh. I know this photo is going to make my friend Gabe giggle like a schoolgirl on the first day of horse camp!

This, my friends, is what will unite us all when Spider-Man 3 hits theatres in May. I just have to say thank you Sam Raimi! You can't make a Green Goblin to save your life, but you've created the best Venom possible! Now, let's see him tear sh*t up!!! ...Starting with the Snowboarding bandit!

Now, if you think I've expelled all my Spidey enthusiasm here, you're sadly mistaken: on Thursday Sony will be releasing the brand new Spider-Man 3 trailer online and I'll have a full write-up on it, with a link and an assortment of pointless speculation and gushing praise.

And if you don't care about Spider-Man 3, just wait till more stuff is released regarding the next Batman film The Dark Knight! Oh, there will be plenty on that one too! MUHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHHAHAHAAAAAAAAAA!
Okay, moving on to another comic-book franchise with big news today, it's The Incredible Hulk! It was officially announced that the next chapter in the series no-one wanted to see continue will be released on June 27th, 2008.

Hands up, everyone who loved that mopey 2003 Ang Lee directed Hulk movie? The one with the overwrought drama and grating performance by Nick Nolte? The one that drained any potential fun out of the character? Huh, nobody, huh? Well, Marvel is aiming to fix that!

They've canned everyone involved with the 2003 film and are calling Incredible a "restart". It'll have a new cast (None announced thus far) and it'll be more action-oriented with bigger villains (The Abomination, apparently - pictured), and less of the dense drama to drag it down!

Now, how does one make sure the same thing doesn't happen again? Well, for starters, you hire the director of The Transporter 2! That's right ya'll, technically proficient hack, Louis Leterrier (Transporter 1 et 2, Unleashed) is on Hulk-duty and he wants to smash stuff up! Leterrier has said he wants to get away from the tragedy of the character and just go nuts.

While I was no fan of the dull 2003 film, this one seems like it may suck for the exact opposite reason! So far, all I've heard about is how much "HULK SMASH!" I'm going to be seeing. Now, I'm all for a little more action (God, you know it's sad when half the action of the first Hulk was in that stupid mutant dog fight!), but not at the expense of character. Raimi and Nolan have had no problem balancing the action and drama with the Spider-Man and Batman franchises! The X-Men films too! Is it too much to hope for a balanced Hulk film?

Yeah, Abomination may be cool, I just don't want to see a pointless CG monster battle. Van Helsing cured me of that need for a lifetime! So, let's pray for a little more subtlety than what was on display in The Transporter! We don't need another Elektra, Mr. Leterrier!
_____________________________________________________________________________________ Finally, a small news item that puts to rest any chance of Ben Affleck reprising his Daredevil role for a sequel.

According to IGN movies (read the story at Rotten Tomatoes: Affleck said "By playing a superhero in Daredevil, I have inoculated myself from ever playing another superhero. ... Wearing a costume was a source of humiliation for me and something I wouldn't want to do again soon."

A source of humiliation? Come on Ben! What about Reindeer Games? Paycheck? Armageddon? Pearl Harbor? (I'm not gonna go the Gigli/Surviving Christmas route since I haven't seen them.) Frankly, Daredevil was your best movie of the last few years, along with the underrated Jersey Girl. I can understand not wanting to do a sequel, but to call it a source of humiliation? Pretty harsh, man, pretty harsh!

For those of you who want to take me to task for saying Daredevil was good, go rent the director's cut. It far exceeds the theatrical cut, restoring an entire sub-plot and injecting a little more drama and character development. I was kinda bummed by this news, as I thought Affleck did a really good job at portraying Matt Murdock. Ah well, c'est la vie.

That's it for me today! I'll be back on Wednesday with a Borat! bonanza!

In the meantime, I'm gonna get started on my letter campaign for a director's cut of the 1990 masterpiece, Captain America, starring Matt Salinger and Ronny Cox! You'll all support me, right? Guys?

EDIT: Wow, this was my longest post yet! Huh, talk about spinning gold from hay, huh?

EDIT 2: I don't know why, but has erased my Kung Fu: The Movie piece. It's been wiped from my records. Sorry to anyone who hadn't read it. Leave a comment if you missed it and want to know more and maybe I'll replace the lost info. Damn you Blogger, damn you to hell!