Here’s Looking at Film, Kid

Cloverfield confirmed with new trailer! by Matt
November 19, 2007, 11:37 am
Filed under: Trailers

Good ol’ Empire … seems the Brit entertainment mag got the exclusive on the brand spankin’ new 1-18-08 trailer, which screened before Beowulf this past weekend. The title is confirmed as Cloverfield and we get a peek at both the giant monster (we see … a tail, maybe? … slither through some skyscrapers) and a couple of smaller monsters. I am psyched!

So, check out the trailer pronto.

UPDATE: It has been brought to my attention that what I at first believed to be creatures are actually the silhouettes of a couple of guy in HAZMAT suits restraining an “infected” woman. If you watch closely, you can see the the figure of the woman expand and nearly explode — ew …


Searching for the truth behind 1-18-08 by Matt
November 14, 2007, 11:31 pm
Filed under: Entertainment Commentary

As the credits rolled for Michael Bay’s Transformers this past July, I left the theater pondering gigantic robots beating the ever-loving slag out of other gigantic robots. But in the darkest recesses of my mind lurked something else, something a bit more … monstrous. You see, one of the trailers screened prior to Transformers caught my immediate attention and I couldn’t seem to get it out of my mind.

The teaser trailer was ambiguous and maddeningly unclear. A surprise party for some guy called Rob is crashed—literally—by a gargantuan creature. A deafening roar echoes in the distance. An explosion blossoms against the New York skyline, sending hunks of flaming debris whistling through the air. The party-goers make for the street just as Lady Liberty’s disembodied head is hurled down Broadway. The screen goes black.

No title. Just a release date, Jan. 18, 2008, and a name, J.J. Abrams.

This is viral marketing the likes of which we have not seen since Hitchcock and his infamous “no admittance after the house lights go down” policy with Psycho. Abrams is pushing the envelope here in terms of hype—and it’s working like a charm. Film fans the world over are scrambling, bickering, frantically searching for something, anything, that will shed some light on this mysterious monster movie known as 1-18-08.

Is it Gozilla? Lovecraft’s Cthulhu? Something else entirely? A spin-off of Lost, a sequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing, the long rumored Voltron adaptation? Nobody knows. No leaks, no leads—nothing. Even Harry Knowles of Ain’t It Cool News is at a loss. And Abrams, I think, fully intends on keeping it that way. As the weeks progress, so does the hype for this flick.

Several Web sites have been launched in preparation for the film’s release. A mysterious flash site with moveable photos appeared on the web a few months ago, followed by the corporate Web site for a Japanese drink called Slusho (speculators believe an ingredient in the fictional beverage will lead to the monster’s creation). Soon after, MySpace pages for the characters featured in the trailer popped up. It’s like a fanboy feeding frenzy and Abrams is tossing chum over the side of the boat by the bucketfuls.

But Abrams isn’t the only filmmaker utilizing the Internet as a marketing tool. We’ve got Christopher Nolan pulling the same stunt with the eagerly anticipated Batman Begins sequel, The Dark Knight. Aside from the film’s official site, there are several viral sites dotting cyberspace as well.

So what is viral marketing? Well, trusty Wikipedia defines it as “marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness. It can be word-of-mouth delivered or enhanced by the network effects of the Internet. Viral marketing is a marketing phenomenon that facilitates and encourages people to pass along a marketing message voluntarily.”

But does this online viral marketing really work? Is the Internet a proper venue for advertisement? Think back to the summer of 1999 when The Blair Witch Project, an independent horror flick shot for peanuts, went on to dominate the box office with a whopping $140 million domestic gross. Now let’s jump forward to the summer of 2006, when the ultra-hyped Snakes on a Plane flopped with a measly $34 million.

I don’t think that 1-18-08 is doomed to cult-status with Snakes on a Plane. But I do think that the production is walking a very fine line—one that, if crossed, can lead to overexposure and disinterest. But I’m enjoying the mystery and intrigue surrounding 1-18-08. I like getting excited when a new snippet of info is released or when a new rumor arises. It harkens back to the days when filmmakers felt they had to entice their audience. At the very least, I’m enjoying it more than the “show a television spot every two minutes” mentality that seems to be plaguing the marketing of Hitman. Seriously, if I see one more ad for that stupid thing

Pencils down: writers’ strike a grim reality by Matt
November 6, 2007, 7:03 pm
Filed under: Entertainment Commentary, Entertainment News

Everyone better hunker down for some reruns, because the looming Hollywood writers’ strike—the first of its kind in over 20 years—is officially underway. Last-ditch negotiations between Hollywood’s 12,000-strong writers union and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP) proved unsuccessful and picketing commenced Nov. 5.

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) has been threatening to strike for months now, citing new methods of distribution as their primary concern for the livelihoods of Hollywood’s writers. Recently, television episodes and even movies have become available online for use with portable media devices. Writers don’t see a cent of this money and, frankly, they’re pissed.

But this animosity isn’t recent. In fact, the trouble dates back to a dark, primitive time before iPods or Lost. As DVD became America’s format of choice for movies, writers were stiffed with a measly $0.04 a pop for sales. Frankly, this strike has been a long time coming.

So what does this mean for us? Well, try watching Leno, Letterman or, hell, even Colbert sometime this week. The affects of the strike should be fairly evident. Film productions have come to screeching halts. In the coming weeks, television programming will opt for reruns. The industry will literally lose millions.

And this isn’t going to blow over in a few days. The 1988 writers’ strike dragged on an unbearable 22 weeks, with a reported $500 million in losses. Nick Counter, chief negotiator for the AMPTP, says he expects a long standoff. “We’re hunkered down for a long one,” he said. “From our standpoint, we made every good faith effort to negotiate a deal and they went on strike. At some point, conversations will take place. But not now.”

Entertainment critics are weighing in on all sides. Some are accusing the WGA of taking advantage of new technology for higher wages. Others are staunchly supporting them in their efforts to “fight the Man.” Most people are just pissed off about missing Heroes.

Here’s the thing, though. It’s not a matter of supporting the underdog or rooting for the little guy. It’s the principle of the thing. If you’re a writer, you should get paid for your work, no matter how it’s distributed.

Digital media is fresh, yeah. But the AMPTP claims that streaming and downloadable video is “still too new to structure a model for compensation.” Distribution of art and entertainment, no matter how new the method, should warrant compensation for the artist responsible.

All we can do now is sit, wait and enjoy our Letterman reruns.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Resurrection by Matt
November 1, 2007, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Entertainment News

Hey folks! Matt here with some fantastic news. Fans of legendary cult favorite TV show MST3k should read on with reckless abandon.

If you’ve never seen an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, then fix that. Now. Seriously, go to YouTube or Google Video right now and watch an episode. I’m not joking. I can totally wait.

OK. Are we good? Awesome. It’s funny, right? Hilarious? Genius? BRILLIANT? All these things and more, I know. MST3k is simply the greatest television show of all time. But I’m not here to promote MST3k (although … that’s kinda what I just did, but, whatever). I’m here to tell you that it’s back. In several forms.

RiffTrax has been around for a number of months now. Headed by MST alumni Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy, these downloadable film commentaries are simply hysterical. They make terrible movies almost bearable. Also in the works from Mike, Kevin and Bill: The Film Crew. And now, the original cast of the show (Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, J. Elvis Weinstein, Frank Conniff and Mary Jo Pehl) has announced Cinematic Titanic!

From what I can glean from Joel’s announcement, Cinematic Titanic will be a series of DVDs with commentaries from Joel, Trace and Weinstein with special guests Frank and Mary. I am psyched. After years of MST3k withdrawals … well, I’m a happy camper. Rejoice MSTies!

At last! A post! by phoqueoff
November 1, 2007, 4:57 pm
Filed under: Film Reviews

Disclaimer: I apologize if the movies I write about have been out in the States for ages. As I am currently in France, and most American films experience a delayed release in Europe, I may often be writing about films that came out months ago.

Also, I share Matt’s distaste regarding the release of another Saw sequel. I have yet to see any of them, and the fact that a new one is shat out by Lionsgate every year does nothing in the way of making me want to change that.

Anyways, on to the review!


Film Review:
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Directed by Andrew Dominik
Starring Casey Affleck, Brad Pitt
Rated R, 160 mins.

*** out of *****

The above header will be the first and last time I write out the ungodly long title of this movie. From here on out, I will use the simple acronym TAOJJBTCRR. As it turns out, my simple acronym is not simple and is extremely awkward to type. Therefore, I will simply refer to the film as The Assassination. Everybody good to go? Fabulous.

Part moody period piece, part gun-slinging western, The Assassination is a film with an identity crisis. The effects of publicized arguments between novice director, Andrew Dominik, and studio executives are apparent: the resultant film is not allowed to delve into its characters the way it wants to, and has no grand action set-pieces to help pass the time. What the viewer is left with is an inundation of mind-numbing narration that breaks the cardinal rule of cinema: show, not tell. Every action, every glance, every gesture and possible thought that the film’s characters produce is explained by the cumbersome narrator. This does a great disservice to the film’s stellar cast. Casey Affleck is more than capable of letting the audience know what he is thinking, as is Brad Pitt. The narration hurries the story along to such a point that dialogue is nearly eradicated. Excellent supporting cast members like Zooey Deschanel and Mary-Louise Parker have almost nothing to do, save stand prettily in the background while their daily activities are explained overhead in painful detail. This split personality can be attributed, not only to studio woes, but also to the fact that The Assassination is only the second film from director Andrew Dominik. His inexperience shows in his inability to balance the inner workings of James and Ford and the thrust of the story.

What is perhaps most disappointing about The Assassination is that I truly believe there is an excellent film in there somewhere. The dynamic between Pitt and Affleck is intriguing, and the casting choices for both titular characters, as well as for the rest of the film’s roles, were quite well done. Affleck in particular was especially moving in his performance. The film, in appearance, is beautiful and grand; it simply lacks the foundations to support its grandiose settings. I honestly cannot say whether the film’s mediocrity is a result of studio interference or simply a mistake on the part of co-writer/director Dominik. What I do know is that the excess of narration kills the film’s momentum, and reduces the audience to children sitting cross-legged before an adult with a storybook. Personally, I feel old enough to read for myself.