Saturday, June 25, 2011

Flavorwire Archive, Part 1

As I've mentioned, I'm working this summer as Film Editor for Flavorwire (where I interned in the spring), doing a post a day--usually on film matters, but with overlap into TV, music, books, and comedy. I've been filing daily for over a month now, and keep forgetting to post the links, so here they are.

The 10 Worst Dads in Film History

Well kids, Father’s Day is Sunday, so we hope you’ve bought your tie or drill or whatever. Dads always get the shaft in the holiday sweepstakes; mothers get flowers, candy, elaborate gifts, songs written for them, shout-outs on television, and, let’s face it, fathers sorta get taken for granted. But if the movies have taught us one thing, it’s that the potential being a terrible father is limitless. We’ve compiled a list of the worst fathers in movie history; check it out after the jump, and maybe give Dad an extra hug on Sunday.

10 Long-Awaited Movie Sequels

When Disney spent big bucks on the making and marketing of Warren Beatty’s adaptation of the comic strip Dick Tracy back in 1990, they were hoping that it would launch a tentpole franchise along the lines of the previous summer’s Batman. And they might finally get their wish—over 20 years later. In a lengthy Q&A following a screening of Dick Tracy last Thursday (as part of the Los Angeles Times “Hero Complex Film Festival”), the famously hard-to-pin-down Beatty said, firmly, “I’m gonna make another one.”

The 10 Most Memorable ’80s TV Theme Songs

Sad news this week: Singer/songwriter Andrew Gold died of a heart attack at 59. Film fans will most likely recognize his biggest (and, frankly, kinda only) hit “Lonely Boy” from its use in Boogie Nights. Okay, and in The Waterboy. But that pop epic was not Mr. Gold’s pop culture legacy; it seems that back in 1978 he wrote and recorded a little number called “Thank You For Being a Friend,” which was re-recorded by Cynthia Fee and used as the theme song to The Golden Girls. And if I threw a party, etc.

The 10 Most Memorable ’90s TV Theme Songs

Last week, prompted by the death of Andrew Gold (composer of “Thank You For Being a Friend”, aka the theme to The Golden Girls), we put together a list of the most memorable TV theme songs of the ‘80s. Some folks got worked up about it! (Fine, yes, the exclusion of Knight Rider was a gross oversight.) So, in true ‘80s sprit, we took something that did pretty well, and made a sequel—this time selecting from the television shows of the ‘90s, a decade that became the last gasp of the opening theme song. As we moved into the 2000s, shows started forgoing the opening credit sequence (lest viewers have the opportunity to switch away), instead crashing right into the show and running credits under the opening scenes.

10 Remakes That Were Better Than the Original

Good news for Coen Brothers fans (and really, if you’re not one, we’re not quite sure what to do with you): their long-circulating script for Gambit, a remake of the 1966 British caper, goes before the cameras this May, with freshly Oscared Colin Firth in the leading role, Cameron Diaz as his leading lady, and Soapdish director Michael Hoffman at the helm. While we’d be a tiny bit more excited if the Coens were directing it themselves, this is still good news—especially because their True Grit was that rarest of beasts, a remake that respected (and, in our eyes anyway, topped) the original.

Friday Afternoon Time-Killers for Film Fans

Happy Friday afternoon, everybody! How’s your summer? Big plans for the weekend? More importantly — shouldn’t you be working? Our crack Flavorpill research teams inform us that over 93%* of our daytime traffic consists of people reading the site from work, where their browser window is open behind whatever Excel spreadsheet or TPS Report they’re supposed to be working on, along with Solitaire and Angry Birds and Gawker and the Blake Lively naked pictures (we’re not judging) and that vintage lunchbox that’s been on your eBay watch list for like three days (just buy the damn thing already).

Hit Movies That Became Broadway Flops

With costs (and ticket prices) ballooning, Broadway producers seem only interested in sure things: revivals, big stars, so-called “jukebox musicals.” The theory is that the tourists who keep the New York stage solvent will only part with Broadway dollars if they’re spending them on a brand they’re familiar with; hence the Spider-Man musical, say, or The Million Dollar Quartet. And then, of course, there is the movie-to-stage adaptation—why not come see a live production of something you’ve already seen on film? Movie-to-musical shows have popped up sporadically for decades, but after the smash success of The Producers a decade ago, we’ve seen an onslaught; this season saw the debuts of Catch Me If You Can, Sister Act, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, in addition to long-running hits like The Lion King and Billy Elliot. But successfully staging a beloved movie is harder than it looks; it’s important to remember that for every Hairspray or Little Shop of Horrors, there’s an Urban Cowboy or High Fideltity. After the jump, we’ll take a look at ten popular movies that tanked on the boards.

Which Weekend Movie Is Right For You?

Now that summer movie season is in full swing, we at Flavorwire feel it is our obligation to help you navigate the week’s new theatrical releases. Going to the movies is an expensive proposition, what with the inflated ticket costs, extra charge for 3-D, extra charge for IMAX, extra charge for RPX (anyone know what RPX actually is?), and gourmet restaurant-priced concessions. Nobody likes blowing that kind of change on a turkey, so we’ve worked up a simple, three-question quiz to help you determine which of the weekend’s films best fits your personality type. It’ll be fun! Take the quiz after the jump, and then peruse this week’s new picture shows with us.

Flavorpill’s 12 Most Anticipated Summer Movies

If you really love movies, if you truly cherish them as an art form, then holy cow is the summer movie season depressing. For three months—or four, or six (Fast Five’s ad line was “Summer Begins April 29,” which goes to show that posters for Vin Diesel movies are no subsititute for calendars)—we’re fed a steady diet of sequels, remakes, “reboots,” comic book adaptations, gross-out comedies, mindless blow-shit-up movies, sequels to remakes, sequels to reboots, sequels to comic book adaptations, sequels to gross-out comedies, and sequels to mindless blow-shit-up movies.

10 Modern Movies That Are Better in Black and White

A few weeks back, we mentioned that list of Steven Soderbergh’s “cultural diet” (films viewed and books read and TV watched over the course of one year), noting that, in one week, he took in Raiders of the Lost Ark no less than three times — and that he carefully pointed out that each viewing was in black and white. In writing about that list, I said that this was something "we're totally going to do now," and last week, I did. Guess what? Soderbergh’s right. Raiders is way better in black and white. That little experiment got me thinking about other modern movies that might play better in this decidedly less-than-modern format.

A Lot Can Happen in One Day: 10 Great “24 Hour” Movies

We love our commenters, who are smart and sweet and supportive, always. (Almost.) So big ups to “Jax” for making this writer’s life a little easier by writing, in response to the inclusion of American Grafitti and Dazed and Confused on our “10 Great Summer Nostalgia” movies list: “Speaking of 24-hour movies, has Flavorwire done post on best 24-hour movies? Or movies set within specific time limits?” We hadn’t, Jax. But we have now.

10 Great Summer Nostalgia Movies

Finals, graduations, barbeques, baseball, summer jobs, summer camp, vacations… yes, friends, summer is upon us. What’s more, summer movies are upon us—more giant robots and superheroes and pirates and Vin Diesels than you can shake a stick at. It’s all pretty depressing, frankly. So instead of looking at those summer movies, let’s take a look at some of our favorite films that are set in the summer. Summertime nostalgia is a powerful thing, and few screenwriters worth their salt can resist the opportunity to pen an introspective voice-over about the summer that changed their lives (“Nothing was really the same after that summer of 1963…”). After the jump, a brief survey of some of our favorite slices of summer nostalgia.

10 Important Movies You Don’t Really Have to See

The tragedy of the British list was that there were so many genuinely great movies on it, and those would-be viewers were really missing something by skipping them. On the other hand, there are plenty of movies that it’s perfectly fine to lie about—pictures that, as Kois points out, are more of an obligation and a chore to get through, because they are iconic or important or influential. We’ve compiled our own list of those films after the jump.

Friday, June 24, 2011

This Week's Flavorwires

As I've mentioned, I'm working this summer as Film Editor for Flavorwire (where I interned in the spring), doing a post a day--usually on film matters, but with overlap into TV, music, books, and comedy. I've been filing daily for over a month now, and keep forgetting to post the links; I'm gonna catch up over the weekend, but for now, here's this week's stories.

‘Louie’ and the Best Stand-Ups-Turned-Sitcom-Stars

The first season of Louie, the FX sitcom written and directed by star Louis C.K., hits DVD and Blu-ray today; this innovative, somewhat subversive, and reliably uproarious series takes the notion of the tightly-constructed stand-up sit-com and turns it on its head, with a stream-of-consciousness narrative style and surrealist streak that brands it a true original. Of course, the stages of comedy clubs (and, before that, coffee houses and vaudeville stages) have been television’s most reliable source of comedy stars; Louie is the latest in a very long line of television series created for (and sometimes by) stand-up comedians.

Open Thread: Have Superhero Movies Gone Cold?

The Green Lantern, the third of this summer’s four huge potential-tentpole superhero comic book adaptations, opened over the weekend with a total box office take of $52.6 million—a sum that pretty much every movie site that comments on such things has deemed “disappointing.” Of course, only in 2011 Hollywood can generating over $50 million in three days be deemed a downer, but there ya go. However, hard on the heels of X-Men: First Class’s similarly “disappointing” $55 million opening two weeks back, it begs the question: are moviegoers, at long last, growing tired of superhero movies?

The 10 Most Memorable ’00s TV Theme Songs

Now that we’ve gone to the trouble of compiling our lists of the most memorable TV themes of the ‘80s and ‘90s, it would seem irresponsible (not to mention totally at odds with our obsessive-compulsive nature) not to carry on into the 2000s—in spite of the fact that TV theme songs all but disappeared in the decade, replaced on most shows by a quick title hit (though sometimes an ingenious and musical one) and credits rolling under the opening scenes.

Required Viewing: Great Documentaries About Comedians

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, Rodman Flender’s intimate documentary account of the comedian’s 30-city “Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour,” goes into limited release tomorrow. Aside from being uproariously funny (with O’Brien at his spontaneous, reactive best), it is also a fascinating account of a superstar comedian’s life on the road: the rehearsals, the travel, the meet-and-greets, the stress. Of course, Flender isn’t the first documentarian to take a close look at the business of stand-up, or the complex psychology of the working comedian; we’ve assembled just a few of the best documentaries about comics after the jump.

Trailer Park: Barbarians, Banderas, and Remakes Galore

Welcome to “Trailer Park,” the Friday feature where we collect the week’s new trailers all in one place and do a little “judging a book by its cover,” ranking them from worst to best and taking our best guess at what they may be hiding. This week, we’ve got a whopping nine new trailers, featuring everyone from Jason Statham to Miss Piggy to Antonio Banderas (twice). Check ‘em out after the jump.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

In Theaters: "Conan O'Brien Can't Stop"

In explaining the concert tour that is the subject of the new documentary Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, the comic muses, “Really, my main goal for this is to have fun.” Behind the camera, director Rodman Flender asks, “Do you think you could have fun without an audience in front of you?” O’Brien does not answer. He doesn’t have to.

The tour came about when O’Brien walked away from The Tonight Show after only seven months, following NBC’s protracted attempt to reinstate his predecessor, Jay Leno. (Perhaps you heard about it). Forbidden from appearing on television, radio, or the web for six months as part of his contract buy-out, O’Briend decided to take his show on the road, embarking on the 30-city “Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour.”

In Theaters: "Bad Teacher"

For the past several years, word has been that when Ghostbusters III is finally made (i.e., when they pin Bill Murray down, since no one else involved is doing much of anything), they’ll be shooting a supposedly wonderful screenplay by Gene Stupinsky and Lee Eisenberg, best known for their work on The Office. As the years pass and we see more of the duo’s work, this news becomes more and more distressing. First came the fitfully amusing but mostly uninspired Year One; now we have Bad Teacher, which (like their earlier screenplay) basically comes up with one interesting idea, and expects it to carry the entire film. I am not filled with high hopes for their Ghostbusters script.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

On DVD: "Cedar Rapids"

Viewers may very well spend much of Cedar Rapids trying to figure out exactly what the filmmakers were going for. It’s marketed as a comedy, and often played as one, but it’s not laugh-out-loud funny; it’s more odd and quirky, off-balance with flashes of tragedy and darkness. Its aim becomes clearer when the end credits reveal the names of the producers: Jim Burke, Jim Taylor, and Alexander Payne. Payne and Taylor, of course, are the filmmaking team (they co-write, Payne directs) responsible for Election, About Schmidt, and Sideways. Director Miguel Arteta was trying to make an Alexander Payne movie. Trouble is, only Alexander Payne can make an Alexander Payne movie; that’s the definition of a unique filmmaker. Arteta is an interesting director himself—his credits include Chuck and Buck, Youth in Revolt, and the wonderful The Good Girl—so it’s unfortunate that he’s ended up making someone else’s film.

On DVD: "Unknown"

When the Liam Neeson vehicle Unknown opened last spring, it was pitched (probably wisely) as a kind of de facto sequel to the unexpected 2009 hit Taken, which found the distinguished, fiftysomething thesp playing—with brutal effectiveness—the role of action hero. However, Unknown is quite a different beast, an involving mystery with Hitchcockian overtones that are well-executed enough to render the occasional doses of corn forgivable.

Monday, June 20, 2011

On DVD: "The Adjustment Bureau"

Hollywood clearly can make movies like The Adjustment Bureau, and that’s why it’s so depressing that they so seldom do. For here is a film that is clever, thoughtful, and intelligent—in addition to being snazzy, sparkly, funny, exciting, and romantic. It is a good old-fashioned entertainment, yet is simultaneously provocative and challenging. We can do this kind of movie. We do it better than anyone in the world. Yet, more often than not, we decide to do Fast Five or Transformers 3-D instead, and that is our loss.

On DVD: "Happythankyoumoreplease"

When Josh Radnor’s Happythankyoumoreplease starting making the festival rounds last year, the comparisons to Garden State were inescapable—sitcom leading man goes the indie-flick route, writing and directing said flick to boot (Radnor’s inescapable physical resemblance to Zach Braff did little to squelch the comparisons). The results will presumably irritate most of those who found Garden State hateable, for many of the same reasons. However, I am not part of that camp; my cool card may get swiped, but I stand by my initial impression of Braff’s film as a smoothly-made, enjoyably twee picture with a healthy does of legitimate pathos. Happythankyoumoreplease, a kind of a hipster riff on Chaplin’s The Kid, isn’t quite as consistently successful. But it has its moments.

On DVD: "Louie: The Complete First Season"

In July of 2009, comic Louis C.K. summoned a handful of Twitter followers to the Comedy Cellar in Greenwich Village to act as extras in a pilot for FX. While his crew set up, he explained that the show would intercut stand-up scenes—like the ones they were shooting that day—with vignettes of a character based on himself. A fan asked what the title of the show would be. Across the room, another one shouted, “Seinfeld!”

There were scattered, nervous laughs. C.K. bristled a bit, then smiled. “Hey, I should be so lucky,” he said, and the shoot continued.

When the show premiered just under a year later, it soon became clear that the fan’s comment—which seemed a good guess based on the information at hand—was wildly off the mark. Unlike Seinfeld, a traditional three-camera comedy (complete with big-laughing studio audience) that tied its stand-up segments and multiple plotlines together into tight, sometimes credibility-stretching packages, Louie is a foul-mouthed single-camera slice-of-life that seems patently disinterested in narrative precision. But beneath its shambling, loose exterior lurks trenchant, often piercing social commentary. Quietly, on basic cable, Louis C.K. is mounting what may very well be the most subversive comedy on television.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

New on Blu: "30 for 30: The Complete Series"

Now that ESPN’s year-and-half-long 30 for 30 series has come to a close, the network deserves credit and respect for taking a giant risk on what could have been a self-serving (and expensive) disaster. Yet it wasn’t; instead, this series of 30 documentary projects represents not just some of the most impressive sports journalism of recent years, but some of the very best in documentary filmmaking. Not every film is a masterpiece, no. But an astonishingly high number of them are, and most of the rest are, at the very least, compelling and nunaced accounts of fascinating, complicated stories.

On DVD: "Shadows & Lies"

I’m not sure how director Jay Anania and cinematographer Daniel Vecchione achieved the specific look of their film Shadows & Lies, but whatever they did, it worked. There’s a remarkable density to the images; the blacks seem deeper, richer than in other films, thicker and more detailed, adding a uniquely vibrant feel to its New York locations. What’s more, they appear, in the camerawork, to be going for (and pulling off) the sleekly intimate New-York-Wave look of Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience. The film is never less than handsome; every frame is lovingly composed. The trouble is that, as much as Anania appears to know exactly how to achieve a look, he has no idea how to tell a story. Through the first half-hour or so, you can’t decide if he’s building up to something really interesting, or boring us with general pretentiousness. Unfortunately, it’s the latter.