Friday, July 1, 2011

This Week's Flavorwires, Plus a Service Interruption Notice

I'm going on vacation for the next week and half, to Europe. It'll probably look a little something like this:


At any rate, the blog will pretty much go dark for that time, and if I'm Tweeting, it'll probably be vacation-related. I'll try not to abuse the privilege.

In the meantime, here's some stuff I did for Flavorwire this week:

10 Summer Popcorn Movies That Don’t Suck

Although we’re pretty sure it’s playing on every single screen in the country and its Fourth-of-July weekend release is timed to make its ingestion some sort of a patriotic duty, we here at Flavorwire would like to officially discourage you from seeing Transformers: Dark of the Moon, because it is soulless and empty and loud and stupid and basically the personification of all that is derivative and evil in contemporary Hollywood (it is the second sequel to a film based on an ‘80s cartoon based on a toy line—in 3-D!).

But the thing is, we’re not art movie snobs around here. We like big, brash summer blockbusters, and Hollywood does them better than anyone; we have the resources to make them well, which is why it’s so depressing that the summer movie season has become a glut of Fast Fives and Pirates 4s and Transformers 3s. The problem is the fundamental misunderstanding that making a film for the widest audience does not have to mean making a film for the lowest common denominator. It is possible to make a big-budget summer movie that blows stuff up real good without insulting the intelligence of the moviegoing public. Don’t believe us? Do yourself a favor this weekend: save the inflated Transformers ticket price, and return to one of the truly great popcorn movies we’ve listed after the jump.

The Most Memorable ’70s TV Theme Songs

Having come to the end of an era last week, with the slow crumbling of the TV theme song in the 2000s, we felt the obligation to end this mini-series with a bang by going back to what was surely the golden age of the form—before the ‘90s, before the ‘80s, all the way back to the 1970s. Back then they knew how to make a theme song, for goodness’ sake—those songs told stories, set a mood, and were often downright funky (and the best ones did all three).

Trailer Park: Bringing Out the Big Guns

Welcome to “Trailer Park,” our regular 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 eight new trailers, from filmmakers as distinguished as Brad Bird and Steven Spielberg to, um, the guy who did the Resident Evil movies. Check ‘em out after the jump.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

In Theaters: "Terri"

Our first real indication that all is not right with Terri (Jacob Wysocki) is when we see him trudging off to school in his pajamas. It’s not a one-time thing; he does it every day. They’re just comfortable, you see. It’s not a decision that’s going to enrich his already unfortunate high school existence; the overweight teen is a frequent target of harassment and bullying, called “Grimace” or “Trash Heap” or worse.

Azazel Jacobs’s Terri captures, more than any film in recent memory, the sheer depression of dragging yourself through the day at a school where you do not feel that you belong. Patrick Dewitt (who wrote the screenplay) remembers the soul-crushing heartlessness and despair of those daily interactions, of being the outcast, the oddball, the misfit.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

On DVD: "Duke Ellington: Reminiscing in Tempo"

You know what Duke Ellington: Reminiscing in Tempo could use? A good editor. This free-form documentary portrait is basically two different films fighting for screen time: one good, a compilation of performance clips and home movies from Ellington’s 1968 tour of Mexico, and one bad, a recent gathering of friends, family, and admirers in celebration of the late jazzman’s birthday. The first film is fascinating, handsome, and enjoyable; the second amounts to a home movie, with both the production value and outside interest that such a phrase brings to mind.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

On DVD: "Sucker Punch"

It would be all but impossible to review Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch without simply writing a list of all of the film genres and forms it steals from, so why even bother? I marked down silent German Expressionism, women in prison films, Nazi-sploitation, late ‘80s music videos, ‘30s backstage melodramas, kung fu movies (and the television show of the same name), WWII “gang on a mission” flicks, medieval epics, science fiction, and video games. I probably missed a few. What is remarkable about the film is how thoroughly it replicates the imagery and iconography of those genres without capturing the excitement or energy of any of them. Watching Sucker Punch is like channel-surfing when there’s nothing on.

Monday, June 27, 2011

On DVD: "Barney's Version"

Barney’s Version is a movie that spends a good chunk of its running time getting everything just right, and then fumbles through an ending that does everything absolutely wrong. The picture is downright schizophrenic—and that’s a shame, because in those early passages, it appears to be doing something genuinely unique and daring, forging a tone that is odd but engaging, quiet yet epic, and doing so with tremendous confidence and chutzpah. And then it all goes right down the toilet.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Flavorwire Archive, Part 2

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 Best Movie Theaters in America

Last week, in singing the praises of the cool original posters for the Alamo Drafthouse’s “Rolling Roadshow” series, your author offhandedly noted that the Alamo is “arguably the greatest movie theater in the country.” (And keep in mind, this proclamation was made before the anti-texting PSA heard ‘round the world). Our editor, being a good editor and all, posed the reasonable question, “Well, is it?” And so we started asking around.

Readers’ Choice: More of the Best Movie Theaters in America

As much as we would’ve welcomed it, we unfortunately had neither the time nor budget to visit every theatre in America to fully research our post last week on the best movie theatres in the country; instead, we relied on our own experience and the testimonials of friends and colleagues. “If we left off your favorite,” went the conclusion of the introduction, “we're certain you'll let us know in the comments.”

Trailer Park: Potter, Aliens, Muppets, and ‘Moneyball’

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 seven new trailers, ranging from killers (Lucky) to things you want to kill (Alvin and the Chipmunks 3: Chipwrecked!)—check ‘em out after the jump.

Trailer Park: Vampires, Crazy People, Don Cheadle, and More Vampires

Welcome to “Trailer Park,” a new Friday feature wherein we’ll collect the week’s new trailers 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 (for better or worse). For our inaugural week, we’ve got quite the grab bag—six new trailers of wildly varying quality. Check ‘em out after the jump.

Open Thread: Let’s Talk About the Ending of ‘Bridesmaids’

Last weekend, we (and many of you, it seems) plunked down our hard-earned cash to see Bridesmaids—and it’s funny! It’s not a perfect movie—the pace is a little draggy in spots, and this viewer frankly wouldn’t have minded a little more of the collective bridesmaids (the film’s best comic set pieces are those big group scenes, and a couple more of those wouldn’t have hurt—as it is, we don’t get near enough of Ellie Kemper or Wendi McLendon-Covey). But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to talk about the ending, and if it disappointed you the way it did me. And just to be safe and spoiler-free, we’re not going to talk about it until after the jump.

In Praise of “Boring” Films

Few moments, as a film fan, are more heartbreaking than talking movies with a friend or acquaintance and hearing that one of your most beloved favorites is “boring,” or “dull,” or “slow,” or some combination of all, occasionally with the descriptor “soul-crushingly” attached. Different strokes for different folks, of course, and everyone’s sense of monotony varies (or, as a friend of mine said over the weekend, “I don’t find slow movies boring. I find action movies boring”). We’ve collected a few of our favorite movies that tend to be described in those terms; check them out after the jump, and add your own in the comments.

Alamo Drafthouse’s Cool New “Rolling Roadshow” Posters

Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse, arguably the greatest movie theater in the country, has spent the last couple of summers taking their show on the road, as it were, with the “Rolling Roadshow” series—classic movies shown for free in relevant settings, like last summer’s screenings of The Blues Brothers in Joliet, Illinois and Dirty Harry in San Francisco’s Washington Square Park. This year, they’re staying in Texas (though still taking their films out to their shooting locations). How, then, are those of us in the other 49 expected to enjoy the series? Well, we can enjoy the very cool custom posters designed for the series by artist Jason Munn. Check out all ten after the jump.

10 TV-Actors-Turned-TV-Directors-Turned-Filmmakers

Hamm will follow in the footsteps of co-star John Slattery, who helmed two episodes last season (“I watched Slattery do it, and he handled it with such grace and ability and ease,” Hamm told TV Line, adding, “I figured if he can do it, shit, I can do it too”). But if he warms to the experience, he could very well be the next in a long line of television stars who used their own shows as a film school, learning the directorial ropes before tackling feature film projects. (Some who you’d think would make this list, by the way, actually directed for their shows after directing films; Zach Braff and John Krasinski, for example). Few have yielded cinematic masterpieces, but some have made some interesting pictures; after the jump, take a look at our ten TV-actors-turned-TV-directors-turned-filmmakers.

10 Unconventional Movie Sequels

The Hangover Part II opens today, part of this summer’s endless parade of sequels—though, as we mentioned yesterday, this one is less a sequel than a scene-by-scene remake, following the structural format of the original Hangover as closely as possible without literally re-enacting it in Bangkok. Presumably, director Todd Phillips was just playing it safe. Not all filmmakers make that choice—and many don’t really have that choice, due to actors and other creative personnel who aren’t contractually obligated (as the Hangover boys were) to return. After the jump, we’ll take a look at ten movie sequels that were consequently a little bit less conventional.

10 Movies That Make You Want to Smoke

I should pause a moment to point out that I am not a smoker—never have been, never will be. I recognize the indisputable health dangers, and the addictive nature of the product, and I’m not making light of them. But here’s the thing: I’m also a movie nut, so my feelings about smoking are, well, complicated. The classic teen impetus for smoking is that it “looks cool,” and countless anti-smoking advocates have done their best to debunk that notion (“Y’know what doesn’t look cool? A voice box,” etc.), but you know what? We’re all adults. We can say it. Smoking does look cool. At least, it often looks cool in movies, when it’s properly lit and framed and done by a movie star. So, in memory of the smoker, that most endangered species, join us after the jump for ten movies that make you feel like lighting one up (plus one that does quite the opposite).

A Movie A Month, Redesigned, at Silver Screen Society

As you've perhaps noticed, we love to showcase the clever graphic artists who are revisiting classic films (from the distant and more recent past) and creating new posters with a more inventive bent than your typical studio one-sheet. The folks at Silver Screen Society have taken what they call a "book club" approach, selecting a film each month for their collective of designers and friends to take a crack at. The results are inventive, stimulating, and fun. It's a fairly new site; they began in February, tackling 28 Days Later, followed by I Heart Huckabees in March, The Third Man in April, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? this month. We've selected some of our favorites after the jump; you can check out the growing collection on their Tumblr.

(Sunday) Night at the Movies: "Stonewall Uprising"

I usually try to put up streaming movies on Saturdays, but wanted to make an exception this week, what with the simultaneous upcoming anniversary of the Stonewall riots and the incredible experience of being down at the Stonewall Inn Friday night, after the passage of New York's state gay marriage law. So here's the PBS/American Experience doc "Stonewall Uprising," which is streaming on their site and is available on DVD.