Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Performed by Bela Lugosi, Edited by S. Michael Wilson

Some of my favorite news updates involve my own work. Yes, it is quite selfish. But there's nothing I love more than sharing my latest projects with people who might enjoy them.

In this case, I wanted to share the cover of my next book, Performed by Lugosi (due out in December), which is going through the final stages with my publishers, Idea Men Productions. This is looking to be the final version. What do you think?

Performed by Lugosi takes a closer look at several of Bela Lugosi's films that were adapted from or inspired by classic works of literature by some of the greatest authors of our time, such as Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Not only are the similarities between the stories and films examined, but Lugosi's performances, career, and personal life at the time of the productions is also discussed. This is going to be a great cross over book for people who enjoy classic genre fiction as well as classic cinema.

I'm not going to promote too much more about the book until the release date firms up, but I thought this would be a fun sneak peak. Be sure to let me know what you think.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

My Bloody Valentine in 3D: Questionable Plot Point

Cover of "My Bloody Valentine"Cover of My Bloody Valentine

I just had to express one (of many) of the problems I had with My Bloody Valentine in 3D, not because it makes no sense, but because it almost makes sense.

The initial idea on a bunch of miners being trapped in a tunnel collapse, and then one of them killing all of the others to conserve all of the oxygen for himself, is not wholly far fetched or fantastic. Taking it one step further and having the homicidal survivor mentally snap and run around in full miner's gear killing everyone he comes across with a pick axe is also quite credible. You could even stretch the psychosis of the killer to his fear that every living soul he comes across is yet another threat to his life as long as they are still breathing.

But, just because this traumatic event occurred on Valentin's Day, our demented killer is somehow motivated to cut the hearts out of his victims, place them in heart-shaped candy boxes, and leave behind notes that read "Be Mine 4 Ever?" There's not even any back story involving a bitter love affair or an unfaithful wife leaving him the day of the accident to make this drastic connection between the two events even somewhat plausible.

And just to add frustration to the confusion, why go through the trouble of having him leave notes behind with the clever word play involving Mine, bother to show him using the number 4 instead of spelling it out, then having the tragic event happen in Mine Shaft 5, and not Mine Shaft 4?

It is little things like this that add insult to the injuries left behind by bad movies such as this.

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Inglorious Basterds Review - Stephen Whitty: Film Critic or Nazi Sympathizer?

The following blog entry is a rebuttal to Stephen Whitty's critical review of Quentin Tarantino's latest film, Inglorious Basterds, which can be read here in its entirety.

Once again, Mr. Whitty, you deliver a review that is obviously a thinly-veiled attempt to justify your personal dislike of a film, for whatever reasons that may be.

While your review isn't studded with the several inaccuracies that sometimes grace them, it does feature one: you state "if [Quentin Tarintino] wanted a Morricone score, he could have actually hired the man to write a new one, rather than using old excerpts from other films." Of course, he did try to hire him to do the score, but a conflict in business schedules forced Morricone to decline.

Beyond that misinformation meant to slander the film maker's intentions, your review simply makes some pretty outlandish accusations. Like insisting that Brad Pitt is allowed to hog the film, when his character is not present for at least half of the movie. Why you would imply that using a big-name actor that manages to turn out a great performance is some kind of tragic mistake on the filmmaker's part is beyond me.

Your argument that Tarintino should have bypassed Pitt for "an actor who might have added just a dash of something -- regret, pain, doubt, madness -- to the sadism" defeats the point of the character. The character of Aldo Raine is indeed sadistic and bloodthirsty. In fact, heroes and villains alike in this film are cold and dispassionate in their violent acts and intentions. Aldo Raine is sadistic, yes. That is we he and his Basterds are the perfect foil to the Nazi Commanders and Soldiers whom we watch dispassionately and even casual discuss the inferiority of Jews and "Negroes". The power of the Basterds is that they are more bloodthirsty than the monsters they hunt. Considering that one of the theme's of the film is both the symbolic and literal act of Fighting Fire with Fire, I would think this would have been more apparent.

You also complain that the movie "is simply an action film" and "is almost insultingly

Cover of Cover via Amazon

unconcerned with the real war." Not being able to look past the entertainment value of Tarantino's work is no excuse for ignoring the thematic structure, and dismissing the film as not having any serious themes because of the historical revisionist ending (because everything in Saving Private Ryan was 100% fact, right?) is rather a simple and dishonest way of deconstructing the film into segments to bash and trivialize, instead of considering the work as a whole and praising it.

Most outrageous, however, is your distaste for Tarantino's "...arrogant -- perhaps even dangerous -- lack of concern with the story's moral dimensions." This honestly leads me to believe that you were not paying attention to the film during your screening, but merely jotting down notes for your pending critical review. Lack of concern for the story's moral dimensions? I hesitate to list scenes that debunk this assertion, as I am afraid there are too many to tackle without the risk of spoiling the film for those who have not yet seen it. I will try one, however; how you could view a scene featuring a Nazi audience joyously watching a war propaganda film glorifying the slaughter of enemy soldiers for national pride, displayed in a film that the real audience has been joylessly cheering similar acts of violence during, and not see the statement the film maker is making about the subjective nature of human morality and how easily the lines can be blurred? Every other scene in this film is layered in revealing displays of morality and how easily the thin veil of humanity can be pulled aside to reveal the true nature of the beast that is man (most probably better than Peckinpah ever managed to do), yet you dismiss the existence of such complexity because Tarantino enjoys mixing scenes of dark humor and stylized violence into the mix.

You claim that Tarantino's stylish touches (like David Bowie appearing in the soundtrack, for

Quentin TarantinoQuentin Tarantino via

heavens sake!) and layered, non-linear style was in danger of being confusing and disorienting. I sat in a packed theater full of moviegoers, and no one looked confused or disoriented. They looked happy and entertained. Yeah, I hate it when that happens, too.

And as for your complaint that "the illiterate spelling [of Basterds] is never really justified..." Do you really need everything explained for you?

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Friday, August 21, 2009

A-List Stars Flailing at the Box Office? Try Again.

It's the bold new declaration being screamed across the Entertainment pages and segments of
LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 29:  Actors Denzel Washi...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
the news media today: Highly respected movie stars, usually considered huge box-office draws, are suddenly failing to bring in the big bucks when their highly anticipated films hit the big screen. With films like Funny People, Land of the Lost, Angels and Demons, Public Enemies, and The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 not performing as well as expected, the powers that be behind the scene are blaming their current understanding of who the top box-office performers are.

The only problem with this allegation? It is complete and utter crap.

Scapegoating might not be new or unusual in Hollywood, but this is the kind that insults everybody. Did these movies do poorly because of their stars? No, of course not. They did poorly because they were either uninspired remakes or sequels hoping to cash in on a previously existing successful franchise (brace yourself, because that is all you are going to see in theaters come the summer of 2010), or simply didn't inspire people with the subject matter at hand. But this would be admitting that Hollywood was wrong. No, it can't be the fault of the heavy hand of the studios
Mission: Impossible IIIImage via Wikipedia
bankrolling these films. It must be because American audiences have soured on a particular actor or actress, and are now avoiding that star like a former boyfriend at a New Year's Eve party.

This same argument was used against Tom Cruise during the late part of his past slew of releases, and despite how much you don't like Mr. Scientology, it isn't a sound argument. Did audiences really hold back on investing their box-office dollars on Mr. Risky Business because of his unorthodox antics? Of course not! People didn't shun Mission Impossible 3 because the leading star flipped on Oprah Winfrey's couch and reads Dianetics religiously. They shunned it because they were already sick to death of the franchise and listened to the horrible critical response.

You want an example of how much American movie-goers don't actually care about tabloid scandals? Mel Gibson. The Passion of the Christ makes more money than God, but just as Mel's the new favorite golden boy, he gets caught up in a huge antisemitic drunk-driving scandal. In fact, I think it was the first ever combination DUI/Antisemitism
incident ever. That's Mel, always ahead of the curve.

So, Mel not only cruises around under the influence, but he hates the Jews as well. This would be the perfect excuse for audiences to avoid paying to see his upcoming Apocalypto, beyond the fact that it is all subtitles and brown people. But the movie did extremely well, with no apparent boycott of the personality behind the film. Why? Because it was a good movie.

This is the blame game that constantly kills our chances of getting decent films made and delivered by the Hollywood Dream Machine. The latest star-studded blockbuster release had a more than lackluster opening weekend? It couldn't be because the script was drab, boring, or intellectually insulting to a five-year-old with ADD, or that the direction and set design was either over-the-top or uninspired. No, it must be because the lead actress is losing her "Box Office Appeal."

I just caught the trailer for Sandra Bullock's new upcoming romantic comedy, All About Steve:

I would like to make a prediction on this one. This movie will not do well, and when the "lackluster" opening weekend numbers are release, studio heads and those in control of green lighting this kind of crap will not admit that it didn't do well because it is obviously an unsuccessful attempt at some kind of half-ass American stab at a Bridget Jones romantic comedy with a weak premise, recycled jokes (one in the trailer is actually lifted straight from Bridget Jones' Diary), and no real narrative hook.

No they'll blame Sandra Bullock. And they won't even take partially responsibility for attempting to continually shove the aging actress (who seems to have chosen Plastic Surgery over the Aging Gracefully route) into younger and younger roles instead of trying out some fresh new talent.

So fear not, movie-goers. You might get the same recycled crap shoved down your throat at the theater next year, but you can rest assured that there will be new shiny happy faces in those lead roles to make the bitter pill a tad easier to swallow.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Classic Bad Cinema: Dr. Caligari

Café FleshImage via Wikipedia

I still remember this gem from when it hit the video stores while I was still in high school. Written and directed by Stephen Sayadian, who was also responsible for the classic adult features Cafe Flesh and Nightdreams (both under the pseudonym Rinse Dream), this is an ultra-surreal pop sequel (supposedly) to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

In this new wave followup, the descendant of the original Dr. Caligari (Madeleine Reynal in her only starring role) is a sex-obsessed psychiatrist whose controversial experiments invloving electroshock treatment and hypothalamus injections is concerning her fellow physicians. There really isn't much else to say about the film; most of it is intentionally and blissfully inexplicable. A bizarre cross betwen Pee-Wee's Playhouse and Behind the Green Door, it's hard to attempt calling this a bad film. On the contrary, it is more possible that this film does exactly what Sayadian intended it to. And if you figure out what that is, be sure to let me know.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bad Movie Night Video Review of Tron and Tron Legacy

Tron (film)Image via Wikipedia

For those faithful readers of This Movie Sucks, you'll be glad to know that we are currently undertaking some major changes that will hopefully expand our constantly growing audience by at least seventeen people! While it would be a shame to tip our hand too soon, we'd like to share one of our latest media tests, as it were.

Some of you might remember S. Michael Wilson's past stab at video blog entries. With that past experiment in mind, please take a look at our latest attempt at breaking the fourth wall by filming a video introduction for our outdoor screening of Tron at last weeks Bad Movie Night. Production values might still seem a tad rough, but just think of any substabdard filming as a tribute to Roger Corman. Squinting never hurts, either.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bad Movie DVD Releases for August 4

Brace yourself, folks! New DVDs are on the way! If you thought that bad movies were restricted to '60s science fiction, '70s martial arts, and '80s teen comedies, then get ready for the awful reality, that there is always a new bad movie just around the corner! Check out what cinematic atrocities are hitting the shelves this week:

Race to Witch Mountain - Starring Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, AnnaSophia Robb, and Alexander Ludwig.

Every six months, a Disney executive wonders aloud "I wonder what classic slice of cinema in our film vaults we haven't bent over a table and anally raped with a huge CGI budget yet?" This past summer, the answer came back Escape to Witch Mountain, which they changed to Race, I'm assuming because Escape didn't test well. The lesson learned? The Rock is not a suitable

Cover of "Big Trouble in Little China (Sp...Cover via Amazon

replacement for Jason O'Day, no matter what the predicament.

Obsessed - starring Beyoncé Knowles, Idris Elba, Ali Larter, and Jerry O'Connell.

In 1987, Michael Douglas lived every Professional White Male's ultimate fear; a business-trip one-night-stand coming back to haunt him. Now, twenty years later, Beyonce (which I am assuming is simply French for Bouncy) lives the fear of every Professional Black Male's Wife; white women. If Spike Lee had directed Disclosure, it might have looked something like this.

Big Trouble in Little China - starring Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, and James Hong.

The ultimate guilty pleasure of every schlock movie fanatic, and arguably the Kim Cattrall's only decent contribution to cinema, finally hits Blu-ray! As Jack Burton would say, "Son of a bitch must pay."

Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Season Three

The fact that these two untalented tools somehow managed to not only get their own television show, but now have DVD box sets of that show, is further proof to me that we live in a godless void of a universe, devoid of justice or goodness on any spiritual level.

Cover of Cover of Mimic

Mutant Chronicles - starring Thomas Jane, Ron Perlman, and John Malkovich

Now available on DVD and Blu-ray. This film had its theatrical release bumped, and premiered on the SyFy channel. 'Nuff said.

Blade II - starring Danny John-Jules, Thomas Kretschmann, Ron Perlman, and Wesley Snipes.

Crappy sequel #6,723 gets the Blu-ray treatment. Utilizing several crappy sequel cliches, including Kriss Kristofferson in the ever popular role of "Hey, didn't you die in the first film?"

Mimic - starring F. Murray Abraham, Josh Brolin, Charles S. Dutton, and Alix Koromzay.

More often than not, Josh Brolin's name in the cast role is not a good sign for movie-viewers. Combine a Josh Brolin role with giant killer cockroaches that disguise themselves as trench coat-wearing subway commuters? You're gonna lose. Guillermo del Toro's direction (his ever-present generation gap duo) make this film watchable, but that's as far as I'll go.

There's more, but we should probably stop there. Don't worry, there will be plenty more next week.

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