Posted by: playingthedevil | June 16, 2012

macgruber

release date: may 21st, 2010
production budget: $10 million
u.s. gross: $8.5 million
foreign: $0.79 million

 
the first film to be based on a saturday night live sketch in ten years, macgruber came with a certain amount of hope. the original sketches, 2-3 minutes in length, are macgyver parodies that never became repetitive, unlike most recurring snl sketches. macgruber: the motion picture is directed by jorma taccone, one third of the lonely island, whose digital shorts are often the best part of the show. read more

Posted by: playingthedevil | June 6, 2012

book review: a horrible experience of unbearable length

named after a line from his review of transform2rs 2: r2v2ng2 of th2 fall2n, a horrible experience of unbearable length is roger ebert’s third collection of his reviews of bad movies. the first one, titled i hated, hated, hated this movie, published in the spring of 2000, was inspired by the rob “meathead” reiner movie north, in which BRUCE willis plays a bunny and frodo interviews new potential parents.

the second, your movie sucks, came out seven years later in 2007, inspired by the rob schneider sequel deuce bigalow: european gigolo. the interesting tidbit about the second volume is that schneider himself wrote a rebuttal to l.a. times’ patrick goldstein, who panned deuce bigalow 2 like everyone else. the open letter in daily variety unfortunately mentioned goldstein’s lack of pulitzer. thankfully, ebert jumped on the opportunity as a pulitzer winner. there’s additional coverage as ebert panned the vincent gallo movie the brown bunny at cannes, which resulted in gallo putting a curse on ebert’s colon. read more

Posted by: playingthedevil | May 29, 2012

wild wild west

release date: june 30th, 1999
production budget: $150-180 million
u.s. gross: $113.8 million
foreign: $108.3 million

 
in peter bart’s resourceful and entertaining book the gross, which chronicles hollywood’s disastrous summer of 1998–the summer that brought us armageddon, deep impact, and godzilla, all the major studios claimed to have learnt valuable lessons (as they do every summer). the book ends with the realizations that by throwing money at big budget movies does not necessarily guarantee profits, and that a decent screenplay is the spine that will hold up a tentpole movie. of course, big budget and summer blockbusters are like riggs and murtaugh. a year after the hastily put together lethal weapon 4 and the expensive flop the avengers (1998), warner bros.’ big summer movie is the even more expensive wild wild west.

based on the 60s tv western, it’s easy to see why the movie adaptation looked appetizing to a major studio in need of a hit. director barry sonnenfeld had just directed men in black, which stars will smith. smith also seemed to own the independence day weekend after both men in black and independence day became huge hits. while i have never seen the original tv show, it’s described as a mixture of scifi, spy, and comedy, elements that seemed perfect for a summer blockbuster. there is the partnership of smith’s jim west and kevin kline’s artemus gordon that’s reminiscent of riggs and murtaugh from the lethal weapon series, which, outside of the dc comics licenses, made a fortune for warner bros. on paper, it almost looks like a sure bet, even if a few things go wrong. read more

Posted by: playingthedevil | May 24, 2012

the people vs. george lucas

i don’t know if you know but apparently the star wars trilogy means a lot to a lot of people. the original trilogy that is, episode iv, v, and vi.

i don’t know if you know but apparently the new star wars trilogy is hated by a lot of people, especially fans of the original trilogy. these are episode i, ii, and iii.

the 2011 documentary the people vs. george lucas spends 90 minutes or so to describe such phenomenon. phenomenon may not be the right word since i am not a star wars fan and i already know about the reactions to the two trilogies before watching this documentary. in fact, we had our own divorce letter to george lucas (not written by me, i don’t really care enough to be disappointed), and if you are into popularity, there is the onion av club’s keith phipps on letting go of star wars, written fourteen months after ours. use the force

Posted by: playingthedevil | May 17, 2012

drive (2011)

before the free hype machine known as social media (blogosphere, twit-ter, tumbler without the e, peeinterest…etc, at least instagram was not involved) decided joss whedon is the new orson welles and embraced everything he produced or directed, nicolas winding refn’s drive was the cause celebre. there were even ires that it wasn’t nominated for more oscars. having finally seen the movie, i have no idea why anyone would think that it deserves to be on any year end top ten list, let alone oscar nominations (it was nominated for sound editing, along with michael bay’s transformers 3: the pink floyd years but lost to hugo). it was nominated for best picture, director, actor, and supporting actor at the independent spirit awards, and albert brooks was also nominated for a golden globe for best supporting actor, but lost to christopher plummer.

even though the novel this is based on (by james sallis) has a sequel called driven, it’s not a prequel to the renny harlin/stallone movie driven. it also has nothing to do with mark dacascos’s 1998 drive, or drive angry. read more

Posted by: playingthedevil | May 12, 2012

rise: blood hunter

release date: june 1st, 2007
production budget: ?
u.s. gross: $114,306
foreign: $2.7 million

 
produced by sam raimi’s ghost house pictures, a company that releases mostly direct-to-video horror movies unless they are directed by sam raimi, rise: blood hunter somehow got a theatrical release during the summer of 2007. despite its ceremonial, and probably contractual limited (it was in theatres for two to three weeks in less than 65 screens) theatrical release and miniscule box office, it’s a surprisingly effective vampire thriller.

the fact that it can be categorized as a thriller (there is no i.o.a.s.) is precisely why the film works as well as it does. unlike most vampire movies, and perhaps without the constriction of a major studio or a big budget, the vampires here are not simply one dimensional villains, gothic love fest, nor poetically beautiful statues. it’s neither a gorefest nor cgi digitalized action spectacle. though there are short bursts of action scenes, it’s more interested in the physical and psychological aspect of someone being turned into a vampire. it’s more in the vein of the great vampire’s kiss, or the more pretentious nadja or the addiction. read more

Posted by: playingthedevil | May 7, 2012

the avengers (1998)

release date: august 14th, 1998
production budget: $60 million
u.s. gross: $23.3 million
foreign: $25 million

 
i don’t know if you noticed but every literate person with an internet connection is talking about this avengers movie. it’s quite unusual since the movie is almost fourteen years old, and it’s a rather notorious flop. but it’s a trend i can get behind, way more interesting than everyone writing about the same box office sweepstake candidate during its opening weekend. hollywood has enough resource to spend on marketing to shove things down our collective throat without additional promotions from the blogosphere.

the avengers ’98 is based on a british spy tv series from the 60’s, without any picture books or origin movies to hype itself up. ralph fiennes and uma thurman play the secret agents john steed and emma peel, originally played by patrick macnee (waxwork 1 & 2, a view to kill) and diana rigg (the great muppet caper, on her majesty’s secret service). macnee has a cameo in the movie as an invisible man. steed has the bowler hat and umbrellas, mrs. peel has the red hair and skintight black leather cat suit, later reused by black widow. it has nothing to do with the quality of the movies but i think said catsuit works best and classiest here. maybe a little because of the britishness, but mostly because as far as i know, uma has never taken any mirrored naked pictures of herself with her skankPHONE. read more

Posted by: s. night screening | May 1, 2012

programming note: you know what i’ll do this summer

well, it’s that time of the year again. some movie based on picture books just came out and made a lot of money. remember when the summer movie season starts during memorial day weekend? well not anymore. now they have four whole months to bombard you with 3d digital imax experiences and charge you more for it.

it’s also the season when you’re supposed to leave your brain at the door to see shit get blown up real good, and not having to feel guilty about it. cause afterall, it’s not supposed to be shakespeare. though i don’t think people had to keep that in mind when die hard, die hard 2, jaws, terminator 2, and the dark knight, or even the rock and con air came out. and according to the mayans, this may be the last summer ever, of all time.

in short, welcome to michael bay season (all of his movies are released in the summer, except for bad boys i; and all his movies made money, except for the island, which came out in the summer of 2005). though we are not really about the popular movies (unless they suck), we are more than happy to pick on blockbusters (hello iron man 2), and with a tiny bit of schadenfreude, we will be looking at some notorious summer flops. this will be our mission from may til the end of august. the focus will be commercial flops, especially the ones that came out 5-10-15-20 years ago. but there will be the occasional critical flops as well as the non-anniversary flops. there will be more far and away’s than eyes wide shut, more color of night than hudson hawk. there are plenty of jonah hex, i know who killed me, 1941, and jaws 4: the revenge to go around. just pay attention to a smaller version of that picture up there.

so that’s our summer curriculum, from may to august, except for july, when we will die harder-er-ish than last summer.

it’s your fault if you don’t like battleship: the movie

vern has a chapter titled “it’s not supposed to be shakespeare” in his book yippyee ki-yay moviegoer! it doesn’t seem to be online. here’s something related, and the transformers review that inspired the topic.

 

Posted by: playingthedevil | April 30, 2012

the five-year engagement

in an attempt to do a more mature movie, jason segel (along with his writing partner nicholas stoller and producer judd apatow) gave us the five-year engagement. it’s more grown up in that unlike most romcom, the couple in question are in a relationship already when the movie begins. the conceit is that it’s a movie about the period when most romcoms ends and before the marriage begins. it’s an admirable premise, but the movie ultimately lets everyone down. read more

Posted by: playingthedevil | April 21, 2012

home room (2003)

instead of dealing with an actual school shooting or the shooters like elephant, bang bang you’re dead, and zero day, home room focuses on the aftermath of a school shooting. it’s a refreshing change of pace that the two lead characters are two high school girls who survive a school shooting. it’s not that girls are less vicious than boys at that age but it does make you wonder why most shooters are male rather than female. read more

Posted by: playingthedevil | April 18, 2012

zero day

one of my fears while watching bang bang you’re dead came true in zero day. while bang bang you’re dead wisely abandons the camcorder footage angle early on, zero day is composed of nothing but found footage and security camera footage.

unlike bang bang you’re dead, zero day is inspired by the columbine massacre. it was originally scheduled to be released in the fall of 2001, it probably wasn’t the best time for a mockumentary on school violence. it was finally released in september 2003 on one screen earning about $7,000 in two weeks. read more

Posted by: playingthedevil | April 16, 2012

bang bang you’re dead

released in 2002, bang bang you’re dead is the first fictional feature length movie about school shooting post-columbine. the fact that it premiered on showtime and nickelodeon movies is credited as the production studio leads one to think that it’s just another made-for-tv based-on-real-tragedy movie of the week, or a message heavy after school special, two categories that no one should feel bad ignoring. the movie thankfully belongs in neither of those categories.

it’s also not a sensational exploitation of real life event to cash in on columbine. it’s actually based on a play of the same name. written by william mastrosimone (who also adapted his play for the movie), the original play is actually inspired by the school shootings before columbine, mostly the 1998 thurston high school shooting in springfield, oregon (where the simpsons takes place, as we learn recently). mastrosimone also wrote tv’s into the west, with honors, the tv movie sinatra, and most interestingly, the revenge movie extremities in which farrah fawcett turns the table on an attempt rapist. the play premiered on stage on april 2nd, 1999, eighteen days before the columbine massacre.

it’s directed by guy ferland, who also directed plenty of tv shows, the dirty dancing sequel, and 1995’s the babysitter, which is about men wanting to have sex with alicia stone. kind of a die hard with alicia stone instead of the nakotomi plaza. read more

Posted by: playingthedevil | April 12, 2012

driven to kill (ruslan)

my luck with steven seagal movies is surprisingly similar to the asylum movies. i would watch one and kind of enjoy it but when i try to go for seconds, they always disappoint. i am slowly realizing that it’s best to watch a seagal or an asylum movie once every few months. it’s never good to binge on anything, especially when it comes to the cinematic arts of seagal or the asylum.

after the somewhat enjoyable belly of the beast, i thought i should follow it up with another seagal movie, driven to kill from 2009. it’s not an entirely random pick though. on the dvd cover, there is a little tag on the bottom right corner: “they took his daughter, so he’s taking them down.” they could have used the same line for belly of the beast, which came out five years before taken. driven to kill was shot before taken was released in the u.s., so it’s hard to say if it’s a direct rip-off. it was released in the u.s. a few months after taken became a huge hit, so there is no doubt that driven to kill tried to cash in on it, especially since they are both released by fox. in some posters, taken has the tag “they’ve taken his daughter. now, he’s taking them down.” rip-off maybe over-dramatizing it since the premise of a father rescuing a kidnapped (estranged) daughter has been around since the golden age of western. there’s also the fact that the similarity ends with that premise. read more

Posted by: playingthedevil | April 10, 2012

royal deceit (prince of jutland)

having finally finished in treatment season 3, and with the uncertainty of there being a season 4, i was craving for more of the greatness that is gabriel byrne. turns out it’s not that easy to find a movie in which he has a starring role. and with my self-imposed rule of only writing about movies that i haven’t seen before, and movies that are not wildly popular, the keep, siesta, miller’s crossing, the usual suspects, the end of violence, enemy of the state, and end of days are out. of all the available potentials, royal deceit looks the most interesting to me.

by the way, there’s a tv branch of our blog on tumblr, there is a link to it on the right. just click on the picture with the matrix tv screens. read more

Posted by: playingthedevil | April 6, 2012

belly of the beast

though they are portrayed as heavily influenced by the east, there is something about steven seagal that seems more genuine than his contemporary jean claude van damme. while seagal imbues his movies with asian martial arts, philosophy, and religion, it always feels more like a career/marketing move when jcvd does it. it’s no surprise that seagalogy is a word and a book before there is such a thing as van damme-matology. unlike jcvd, who became famous from corey yuen‘s no retreat, no surrender, and worked with (and in turn dragged down to his level) directors like john woo (hard target), ringo lam (maximum risk, replicant, in hell), and tsui hark (double team, knock off), seagal never worked with an asian director until late into his career, during his direct to video era. 2003’s belly of the beast is the first of two seagal movies directed by a hong kong film veteran (the second is out of reach by leong po-chih) unless you count albert pyun, who directed seagal in ticker in 2001, or clementine directed by south korean filmmaker du-yeong kim. but seagal has only a small part in that movie.

this is directed by tony ching siu-tung, not a household name in the u.s. like woo, lam, tsui hark, or yuen woo ping. he’s the action choreographer for john woo’s a better tomorrow ii and the killer, stephen chow’s shaolin soccer, zhang yimou‘s hero, house of flying daggers and curse of the golden flower. more importantly, he’s the director (or at least a co-director, dependent on where you look) of the seminal chinese ghost story trilogy and the swordsman trilogy. read more

Posted by: playingthedevil | April 3, 2012

freerunner

just the other day i was thinking to myself “hey playingthedevil (which is what i call myself), you haven’t watch any asylum movies in a while, almost a year  since battle: los angeles, fast five, and thor came out and you watched battle OF los angeles, 200 mph and almighty thor. i kept that in mind and reasoned that though i didn’t hate those movies, it’s getting harder and harder for me to sit through asylum movies by myself. so i went and looked up some new asylum movies and added 2 headed shark attack to my netflix instant queue. serendipitously, when i checked my netflix instant queue, freerunner was automatically added at the end of the queue. i seem to remember the movie coming out late 2011, it was a limited release at best, and probably with vod around the same time and then dumped onto dvd a month later, which is what they are doing now with low budget b movies. sometimes they even have big names like nicolas cage (trespass 2011) or BRUCE willis (set up/setup, catch .44).

all i remembered about freerunner is that it received a couple negative reviews [1] [2], and a trailer that, as pro-parkour as i am, indicated that i should stay away. but it is nevertheless a 2011 movie involving parkour and so here we are. freerunner is an amateur low budget movie utilizing parkour, or free running to be precise. it’s what happens if the asylum decided to make a parkour action movie, or if a bunch of kids just found out about parkour and decided to make a movie about it. it feels almost like that episode of the office where michael, dwight, and andy found out about parkour on youtube and decided to film themselves doing it. the movie also turned into something similar to gamer, or the running man, or battle royale…etc. i am in the minority in regards to gamer, and even if i didn’t like gamer, i would still say that freerunner makes gamer (and the crank movies) look like well thought out popcorn entertainment. read more

Posted by: playingthedevil | April 1, 2012

perception: you say deckard, i say dick art

i ignored the total recall 2012 trailer as i do with all trailers that set the internet abuzzed. it seems pointless to me that various teasers, trailers, new pictures, teasers to the trailers, trailers to the teasers actually get people excited. some even paste, repost, and masquerade such “event” as news. but hey, more power to them, since these useless posts give them more clicks and visitors. for those of us who are not in the popularity contest, there’s really no need to look at the trailer. they may be coy now, but come friday august 3rd, or midnight august 2nd, and the week before, the hollywood machine will happily jam it down your throat and eyes clockwork orange style to make sure that you know the movie is opening.

what caught my eyes though, is total recall 2012‘s poster. i know it’s a remake and based on a philip k dick short story but there is something very familiar about the poster. read more

Posted by: playingthedevil | March 27, 2012

merantau

before there is the raid: redemption or even the raid, welsh filmmaker gareth evans wrote and directed merantau, an indonesian martial arts movie. evans, an action movie fan, discovered the indonesian martial arts called silat and a teacher of said art, iko uwais, while working on a documentary of indonesia and decided to write a movie about it.

the title refers to the minangkabau rite-of-passage tradition. yuda (uwais) leaves his farming hometown to the big city. of couse, things don’t go as planned once yuda gets to the scary big city. an encounter with a kid pickpocket leads yuda to astri (sisca jessica) the exotic dancer, which in turn leads to the pimp-like character and eventually to the real bad guys: european human traffiker. as liam neeson and ashton kutcher illustrate (via twitter), it’s a real world problem, bro. read more

Posted by: playingthedevil | March 23, 2012

surviving the game

in yet another interpretation of richard connell’s 1924 short story the most dangerous game, surviving the game stars ice t as the hunted. it came out in 1994, eight months after john woo’s hard target, which is also based on the connell story though neither movie gave connell credit. read more

Posted by: playingthedevil | March 20, 2012

3 (2011)

tom tykwer returns to his native germany with 3 (2010), his first non-english movie in more than a decade. it’s also his first original screenplay since 2000’s the princess and the warrior. his output since then have been hit-or-miss. there’s heaven based on a kieslowski story, perfume: the story of a murderer is based on a novel, and the international by someone who wrote an episode of tv’s aeon flux. read more

Posted by: playingthedevil | March 17, 2012

green hornet / lantern

it’s st. patrick’s day 2012 edition. i’m still trying to catch up on 2011 movies, and luckily there are two 2011 movies with the word green in the title. two green superhero movies not about bruce banner, al gore, or ed begley jr. the greens in this case are hornet and lantern (not related).

and they have in common more than mere namesake and year released. both movies received bad buzz and negative reviews. both are considered failures/flops even though they more or less make out okay at the box office. both have the exact same metacritic score of 39 (that’s out of 100). they are also born again 3D, movies shot in 2D but retrofitted into 3D during post-production/marketing meeting. there is also kind of a self-referential element in both movies. i also went in to the movies with pretty low expectations. i should also mention that i got both movies cheap from dvd rental machines. read more

Posted by: playingthedevil | March 11, 2012

paycheck

i originally wanted to bring dick week to a climax with screamers or a scanner darkly, two lesser known dickaptations that i haven’t seen before. but since i couldn’t get my hand(s) on them in time, i had to settle for paycheck through netflix instant, which i saw in theatre and is more publicized. though i did break my own rules, i do not remember anything about the movie. turns out i have no memory of it not because my memory was wiped but it’s an entirely forgettable affair. and that’s saying something consider it’s source material and the people involved. read more

Posted by: playingthedevil | March 7, 2012

impostor (2002)

like the adjustment bureau, total recall, paycheck, next, and screamers, impostor (2002) is also based on a philip k dick short story. though unlike the adjustment bureau, which creates and expands on its source material, impostor does the opposite, a negative example of how to adapt a short story into a full length feature. read more

Posted by: playingthedevil | March 4, 2012

the adjustment bureau

is it free will or predestination that most hollywood studio movies we get fit neatly into their respective boxes? it’s more or less understandable that with more money involved, one is less likely to take risks; at the same time, the climate of o.c.d. analysis of each trailer and screen shot released masquerading as news, of every single major motion picture, it has become increasingly hard to surprise audience by the time the movie finally reaches theatres.

i asked because the adjustment bureau is inspired or based on the short story the adjustment team by philip k dick, who explores the free will vs. predestination theme frequently, but also because the adjustment bureau somehow manages to avoid being the expected big budget dickaptation scifi technobabble. read more

Posted by: playingthedevil | February 29, 2012

more than a month

african american filmmaker shukree hassan tilghman tries to cancel black history month in more than a month, a documentary that follows his campaign.  it’s a bit of a misleading premise since in the beginning it’s not entirely convincing that tilghman is headstrong on the cause and throughout the film he learns things that i, and hopefully most people, already know. read more

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