Friday, December 31, 2010

Jumpcut Junkies Ep. 23: The Illusionist

To cap off 2010, Gabe and I discuss Sylvain Chomet's l'Illusioniste, based on a decades-old Jacques Tati script, and make our suicide note in video form.

Way to ring in the new year.

Jumpcut Junkies Ep. 23 from Nick Rumaczyk on Vimeo.

Thanks for the wonderful year everybody, and keep coming on back for a look at the cinematic year that was, as well as a look ahead to the films to come out of 2011.

If you're out partying, don't drive home, and if you're in a bar/restaurant/catering hall remember to, as always, tip your bartenders and tip them well.

See you next year, folks!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Jumpcut Junkies Ep. 22 & Extra Special Feature

This week we bring you a discussion of the Coen Bros.' True Grit, in glorious SPOILERVISION!

Jumpcut Junkies Ep. 22 from Nick Rumaczyk on Vimeo.

And what's pissing Gabe off this week in our minisode? Why it's the Golden Globe nominees for Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical, and of course, as always, Tim Burton.

Jumpcut Junkies Extra: Golden Globe Nominees from Nick Rumaczyk on Vimeo.

We have another episode or two we hope to get up before the New Year, including Sylvain Chomet's Jacques Tati's The Illusionist. Until then, Merry Christmas everyone!

I'll be celebrating with one of my favorite Christmas movies of all time (I couldn't find a decent trailer for this movie that played Nina's "Do You Know How Christmas Trees are Grown?")

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Jumpcut Junkies Ep. 21 HORRORTHON!!!!!

Well, it's a little late, but here's our coverage of the Exhumed Films 24 Hour Horrorthon. We had a lot of ground to cover, so it's a long one. Consequently, it's a two-parter. We have some footage of the event, we give our guesses for their film picks and compare those to what they actually showed (there is no playlist beforehand, only hints), we have an interview, we give creative interpretations of the movies, and there's even a contest.

No one has been this cruel to eyes since Lucio Fulci:

Part I

Jumpcut Junkies Ep. 21a 24 Hour HORRORTHON Pt. I from Nick Rumaczyk on Vimeo.

Part II

Jumpcut Junkies Ep. 21b 24 Hour HORROTHON Pt. II from Nick Rumaczyk on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

If you're making a trek out to see your parents, or other relatives, or just some family friends, and find yourself showing up empty-handed at the dinner table, feel free to pass this on

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Jumpcut Junkies Ep. 20: Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Here we go, ladies and gents, another installment of our movie reviews. This one's a milestone of sorts, as it's episode 20. That might've looked like an accomplishment if it came along six months ago. Still, I can't think of any other movie review vlog that's hit 20 episodes (to be fair, though, I haven't bothered to look).

We review Herzog's first (and, so he says, only) 3D feature film documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams. It's not out in general release yet, but should hit theaters early next year.

Jumpcut Junkies Ep. 20 from Nick Rumaczyk on Vimeo.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Jumpcut Junkies Ep. 19: The Social Network & other news

Hey folks. After a months-long absence, we're back with a Social Network review. Hope you enjoy!

Jumpcut Junkies Ep. 19 from Nick Rumaczyk on Vimeo.

According to Vimeo, you can now watch embeds on your iPhone, iPad, etc., so if you try that, please let us know how it works out for ya.

We recorded a few of these recently, so look for a bunch of new ones in the weeks ahead. Due to various scheduling issues, we stuck mostly to stuff that came out months ago, but are still fresh to DVD/Blu-ray, so they're not totally irrelevant. We did, however, get to see a film that won't have a wide release until next year, so be sure to check out that review as well.

This coming weekend Gabe and I will be out of town at a pretty awesome Halloween-related event, trick or treating for audiovisual candy sure to give your eyes cavities (I'm not very good at extended metaphors, but nevertheless, be sure to brush your peepers). Speaking of milking things, as I write this I'm listening to Bobby "Boris" Pickett's Monster Swim, his follow-up to Monster Mash.

That guy knew a good thing when he saw it. While Gabe is more the themed music mix guy, I'd say if you're looking for some good Halloween music, get any soundtrack performed by Goblin. I especially recommend Zombi (Dawn of the Dead) and Suspiria.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mini-Review: 'Centurion'

The old breed of action director is dead, crow the naysayers. The George Millers and Walter Hills, while still working, have taken a backseat to the Len Wisemans and the McG’s, empty stylists more in love with color palettes and commercial editing than telling a story. The great action filmmakers, and even the middling ones in the vein of Richard Donner, understood that an action sequence is only as strong as the characters and story behind them. It’s something Neil Marshall gets, however, and he gets it in spades.

“Centurion,” the British helmer’s fourth film, features a threadbare storyline weaved in and out of a serious of chase and fight sequences. There’s nothing wrong with a skimpy movie, with a story that has no timeliness to modern day issues, but once upon a time, filmmakers used to shoot and edit them to so you didn’t wonder where the thematic thread went. Marshall has made a film that is both superficially apolitical and at the same time universal in its embrace of the hunt and the chase. With that comes measured expectations, of course: without this substance, a work of art isn’t usually going to survive as a classic.

Marshall knows there’s no crime in creating such a work so he focuses on pacing and action. The story involves a botched siege of the minority Picts by Roman soldiers, though Marshall prefers the conflict between an overconfident whole, now fractured, and the fear of a society with their backs against the walls. Some recorded history, and some filmmakers, would favor the tragic story of the Picts, but in this story, the mighty many become the unlikely few, the Romans stripped down to a skeleton crew desperate to make it back to their own territory.

Michael Fassbender is the steely, resourceful leader of a Roman troupe taken apart by the marauding Picts, forced to fend for himself in a performance that’s more physical than anything else. Fassbender, a handsome, square-jawed sort, makes a fitting modern update to Cornel Wilde in “The Naked Prey,” all sinewy limbs and taut chest. As the leader of a near-supernatural cult on his trail, Olga Kurylenko is the latest in an already-impressive lineup of terrifying, vengeful females in Marshall films, her thousand-mile stare equipped with a few handy skills with weaponry.

“Centurion” slows down for a romance with an off-the-grid witch (Imogen Poots), but the strength of the picture lies in the pursuit. When swords do clash, its bloody and ruthless, and Marshall spares not a single pint of blood. More gruesome than any horror film, Marshall still keeps the action tight, and even when there’s a mass battle sequence, we follow a distinct few battles with clarity and precision. Compared to Marshall’s last film “Doomsday,” which seemed like something he needed to get out of his system, “Centurion” is a pure, un-distilled blast of genuine action-adventure.

"Centurion" is currently available On-Demand, I believe, and it's in theaters tomorrow. Select ones!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Who are the monsters?

I recently saw a festival hit called “Monsters” that Magnet will be distributing in October. It’s a semi-real aliens-attack film comparable to “Cloverfield” (in that the monsters are convincing low-fi effects both practical and CGI) and “District 9” (aliens have come to an impoverished world). You come for the “Cloverfield” I suppose, and stay for, or leave with, the political “District 9” dimension. I had to have pause in this case: with the glut of science fiction over the past couple of years, has some of it tried to hew too close to real life and made itself irrelevant? Is my sudden unease with these films a reflection of their proliferation into the mainstream, or a newfound cinematic social awareness?

To backtrack, “Monsters” is the story of a photojournalist who is assigned to head into Central America to procure his boss’s lovely young daughter. However, the last six years in Mexico have been fraught with violence committed by tentacled alien beasts who arrived via space probe and have caused the deaths of thousands, and as such is considered an “infected zone.” The photographer and his companion, who he’s become quite smitten with, have to journey through the infected zone in order to reach safety at the US border. Yes, they are both white people.

What I found most troubling about the movie was the low-fi aesthetic. This was apparently a very low-budget film shot with a skeleton crew, but it looks more than professional, as the director , Gareth Edwards, is also apparently a talented visual effects man. But to keep the budget down, he eschewed the Roland Emmerich approach of giant CGI’d destruction sites and instead had his characters pass through a number of actually-destroyed locations. Though there were a few nip-tuck CGI enhancements, these locations were unmistakably actual scenes of horrific tragedy. One ghost town, clearly the place where a terrible natural disaster (a hurricane?) had demolished and hollowed-out all the homes, was now repurposed to be victims of a monster invasion.

I’m still unpacking the film in my head, though it doesn’t seem to be as loaded as “District 9.” Though I use that comparison because of the focus on damaged lower-class lifestyle, vaguely similar alien attack story, and low budget, but both seem to be very different. When the still-troubling “District 9” takes time out for unabashed violent spectacle, “Monsters” is actually a somber affair. While we worry about the fate of our protagonists, the idea is that the creatures have already committed their worst atrocities. The action is centered around these two young, photogenic would-be lovers, but the locations they pass through might as well be an extended wake. With the how’s and why’s of the alien invasion kept in the dark, and the backstories of our characters sparsely dispensed with (she keeps itching at a bandaged wound that never becomes a plot point, he has a kid back at home we never see or hear), it’s impossible to ignore your own immediate emotions at the funeral dirge that represents half of the film.

The argument to be made here is that one has a remarkable assemblage of potential shooting locations in Mexico and Central America (and, according to the credits, Texas). Now, what are your reasons to use them? Terrifying, real, immediate locations without the need for art direction that suit the story. And your reasons not to use them? I couldn’t divorce myself from what was not only an intentional mirroring of real-life tragedies (a realistic, or possibly real, mass grave of unidentified skulls certainly gives pause), but also that some of these places were left as such to remember those lost, and not to service a skimpy sci-fi picture with a questionable allegory.

I’m still trying to figure out exactly what the point was of “Monsters,” which depicts an invisible/indifferent government watching these beasts tear apart Mexico. Are these aliens representative of the problems tearing through Mexico causing recent mass exoduses, with the border quarantining the country meant to be the US’s diffident response to any non-centralized disaster? Is it really the story of two beautiful white people trying to escape horrible disasters without any politics or social awareness? When the characters have to salvage goods from a migrant family they just watched die at the tendrils of the beast, should I not feel more unease than I already do?

It’s hard to ignore that, in the spirit of yesteryear’s exploitation films, Edwards wanted to tell this story and merely knew of a few great locations in Mexico and Texas, ignoring the sociological weight of the matter. But in another way, it’s possible he considers himself not unlike the lead character, a photojournalist amongst the ruins preserving these moments for posterity. And I can’t be entirely negative about the film, and these are powerful images that most of us should see, but isn’t the more compelling story what actually happened, where we don’t have to rely on an unstoppable plot device to cause further devastation? I found myself drawn more to these ghostly empty hotels and houses than I did to the people on-screen.

Another recent example, albeit in a different vein, can be seen in the trailer for a new sci-fi picture called “Skyline.” It’s another alien invasion flick, one where there is definitely an attack happening on a global scale, though for budgetary purposes the focus is appropriately intimate. It’s another film made independently by effects wizards, in this case the Strouse brothers who previously directed “Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem,” and it learns heavily on the it-could-happen-to-you conceit of many of these films, though like “Cloverfield” is centralized in a large city.

The teaser that’s been released is more of the money shot variety, the kind of quick-tease with footage that probably won’t make it into the final film, but it does it’s shock-job admirably. The footage begins by piggybacking off quotes from none other than Stephen Hawking, who recently spoke of what some consider the serious possibility that one day we would encounter beings from another planet. Dan Rather’s baritone delivers a line from Hawking about how aliens would treat us the way Columbus and his fellow travelers treated the Native Americans, that it “did not go well for the Native Americans.”

A cut to black follows, before we see a number of spaceships poised above a big city, beginning to suck humans out of building And maybe there’s something off about this, but I’m wondering, ok, marauding aliens are horrifying, but why don’t we talk about what Columbus did to the Native Americans? It’s funny that this is something a large portion of schools don’t teach, and here it’s being used as accepted fact to lead into a “now we’re the minority!” scare tactic to sell a sci-fi thriller. While the image of human detritus being sucked into a spaceship is an arresting image, the preceding discussion makes me wish I were seeing something about the questionable relations between the English and the Native Americans during colonization? Why does that immediately seem as not only a more responsible and mature subject matter, but one that’s also more dramatically compelling and therefore entertaining?

I take all this back if the Native Americans turn out to be piloting the spaceships.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A bit of seriousness

I found this posting a little while ago, and I wanted to share it with the readers here. I don't ever want to turn this site into a link depository, but I found it hard to keep it together during this semi-review of "Toy Story 3." Click here.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bruce La Bruce

I'm Bruce Willis from wreckandsalvage on Vimeo.
After a brief hiatus, we're coming back with a few new reviews, so please stay tuned. Tell your friends. No, not the guy with the bad combover. Maybe the other friend.

Taking this occasion to weigh in on the movie star enigma that is Bruce Willis (and to post that fun video above). Never too interesting, but never too boring, Willis has had an exciting career working in all genres, and while he'll be remembered as an action star, he showed a willingness, if not always a talent, for out-of-the-box experimentation. He still hasn't taken the dive into "Cold Souls" or Charlie Kaufman territory (as in "Ocean's Twelve," he remains ill-equipped to laugh at himself), but the body of work he leaves behind once he ceases to be relevant is more than impressive.

Favorite Bruce Performances:

"Die Hard" - Who can forget the image of the harried everyman pulling shards of glass from his bare feet while chastising oblivious cops through a lackluster walkie-talkie? An indelible image that makes you forget stardom made Willis re-invent himself as a bulletproof moviestar - he would never be forced to confront his mortality in quite the same way again.

"Mortal Thoughts" - A legit acting performance from a guy who often coasted on his own charisma or steely machismo. Willis takes a supporting role in this adequate potboiler as an abusive husband who is murdered, only to turn up again in a series of flashbacks that, for me, rank as one of the more human portrayals of an abusive spouse as I've seen onscreen. There are certain easy ways to get the audience's sympathies, and showing a good woman take a beating from her lover sure ranks up there, but while Willis' character never comes across as short of loathsome, it's very thoughtful, nuanced work.

"The Last Boy Scout" - Probably the best of Willis' laconic movie star roles, this actioner, an underrated highlight of the 90's, pits Willis against comedian Damon Wayans for screentime, and Shane Black's script allows them to match quip for quip, but it's Willis' comic timing that shines in the matchup between, ostensibly, the straight-man and the goofball. Also noteworthy for being Willis' angriest mainstream role to date, as he endures and doles out a serious amount of punishment, never forgetting to give his character a dark satisfaction for the misery of others.

"Death Becomes Her" - Bruce goes broad as a second banana to warring vixens Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn, and he plays his bumbling husband as both grandly comedic and slyly low-key. It clearly was not his movie, but as a colorful supporting member, Willis took great pains to create a three-dimensional clown that still realistically had chemistry with both performers.

"Last Man Standing"/"Sin City" - Cheating, I think, because these aren't BRILLIANT performances in either movie, but both films do benefit greatly from his presence. "Standing" is a Western take on "Yojimbo" from Walter Hill and it bristles and bustles with a jittery, loose energy, a lot of that coming from villain Christopher Walken at his Walken-est. Willis is stolid and mostly humorless, but he's a good a modern day anchor as any for this vehicle, as he keeps his poker face consistent through his dealings with multiple mob bosses. "City," meanwhile, works as a noir pastiche and little else, but it would be DOA without the grizzled line readings of Willis and co-star Mickey Rourke, the only two performers capable of realizing the level of pulp and seriousness needed for the material. For Willis, it's an actual performance, free of movie star mimicry or weepy theatrics, and as such the film works because Willis is the chilly heart at the center, a figure of empathy even after he leaves a regretful trail of bodies in his wake. The memorable ads for "Sin City" painted Willis as just another posturing badass, but the depth and meaning he gives to his few scenes with his silences fills the otherwise artificial air of the Frank Miller adaptation with life.

And the worst...
"Hudson Hawk" - I can't believe this movie exists. Terrible in every way, "Hawk" is one of the few worst movies of all time that truly deserves to be an all-time turkey, with nonsensical puns, arbitrarily colorful side characters, and a wincingly obnoxious turn by Willis, pushing his movie star smirk to the limit of toleration. He was not nearly ready to mock his persona, so as a result, "Hawk" is a tone-deaf satire of action and spy pictures without the benefit of a lead character who's in on the joke. It's pop art, in a way, and there's certainly a surprise in every scene, but it will be a cold day in hell before I sit through "Hudson Hawk" again anytime soon.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Finale Series

If you are interested in the next four parts of this excellent video essay, click here.

"24" came to television at a curious time. I do recall it's initial ambitions, as a throwaway action suspense series, one that hinted at an anthology approach should there be a last-minute renewal. The first season centered on Jack Bauer, not yet a superhero but actually a clock-punching soldier of a counter-terrorism unit. He was just another face in a sea of soldiers, one with a troubled family life (his wife is not pleased he continues to work with a woman he's slept with) and an approach that was less justice around-the-clock and more "we do what we can do." Kiefer Sutherland, an actor of conviction if not much range, hadn't adapted the jowly grunt that would become the character's trademark, playing Bauer as more of a Dad with Gun. His responses to the violent outbursts behind the season one schemes was half man-of-action, and half terrified of further casualties. In one key moment, during a critical juncture he tips his head back and catches himself nearly falling asleep, shocked at his own vulnerability.

Of course, "24" became something else entirely, known to fans as the Jack Bauer Power Hour. The show's writers found themselves incapable of writing more than eight or nine different stories, and so each season was a rush towards the greatest hits: Who will the mole be? Who will be tortured this episode? What sort of improbable, largely irrelevant troubles could daughter Kim find herself involved in? "24," for all it's achievements, which included Emmys and Golden Globes, was the world's biggest drinking game.

But we forget that, in 2001 upon the show's launch, few were willing to delve into multi-part plot structures, complex character interactions and heavily serialized storytelling. The show's real-time aspect was a thrill compared to the generic procedurals and laugh-track sitcoms of the era, which have somehow proven they can co-exist with more progressive narrative-driven programs. As seasons went on, the connective tissue between them only intensified - there would be no relaunch or reboot. While the show's real-time aspect wavered on an episodic level, the overarching tale of Jack Bauer, afflicted superagent, intensified, with most of the momentum being given Jack's greater losses in the battlefield.

A show like "24" (and the similar shows afterwards - the post-"24" spike in even lightly serialized storytelling is impossible to ignore) tested the overall objective of a television show. If you're willing to present a semi-realistic world where you take your characters seriously, then has your show become one singular story? Even with the show consistently jumping forward an improbable amount of time between seasons (the final season has to be somewhere between 15-20 years after the first), continuity suggested that there was an end to this particular story, one that began as the tale of a semi-realistic "Mission: Impossible" task force and ended as the singular journeys of Bauer, a man impossibly dogged by the violence he's inflicted on others to preserve a fragile world peace. With "24," there was always the uneasy revelation that whenever the major threat behind a certain plot (usually involving a bomb, natch) was vanquished, there was always a puppet master pulling the strings. As the years went on, "24" mirrored the real world conundrum current governments were faced with, that there was a certain futility in consistently asking "Who do you work for?" and then literally climbing the chain of command. In the end, Jack Bauer's politics went from "save my family" to "save the world" and, through his failures at both, "save myself." We never know if he accomplishes that mission.

A similar end met "Lost," the quasi-sci-fi program that began around a similar time period. "Lost" was also dogged by the problem of it's own existence: it is a weekly television program, and it's necessary to not only pull in new viewers week after week, but also to never lose them during the commercial break. "Lost" tested the normally Pavlovian responses of many viewers by presenting a central tangled mystery - how do we get off this island? - and then tangling it further by involving science, magic, suspense and emotion. Unlike "24," which had solid but unspectacular production values usually revolving around busy gunfights, "Lost" had a strong, nearly cinematic focus. It's vast multi-culti cast, sweeping island vistas and stirring Michael Giacchino music distinctly separated the show from anything on the air, then and now.

But was "Lost" a closed narrative? The BBC notably only keeps shows on the air for two or three shortened seasons at a time, but it's America that insists on 22 half-or-full hours per fall, lasting as long as the public will accept. If "Lost," with a pretty close-ended story, were to maintain it's popularity over twenty seasons, would the creators not be tasked with keeping up the story threads and denying closure for those viewing the week-by-week incidents as part of a bigger whole?

"Lost" took a curious approach to this dilemma, eventually developing several realities and multiple narratives to maintain what ended up being six seasons. Each revelation drove "Lost" deeper into hard science fiction, and as a result, the show unquestionably lost more than a few followers, a dedicated cult remaining for the convoluted, excessively busy final season. What started out a narrative became a weekly adventure, and then a deep mythology. It was not satisfying in a conventional sense, but it was certainly never less than fascinating.

Each revelation changed the scope of the entire program, to the point where a casual viewer would have a different synopsis of the show's purpose each season. In the first episode, it was an unseen monster causing havoc. By the end of the first year, it was the castaways facing off against creepy mirror versions of themselves, a group called The Others determined to mess with our heroes. Later it became a mystery involving a secret organization that calls the island home, and eventually a temporal procedural, as characters were followed through different points in their existence. The one constant in the series was that it was an Adventure, through and through. Each answer led to more questions, and each question remained vague and potentially-exciting enough that you clung to hope that the answers wouldn't destroy our beloved castaways.

Indeed, the writing was never approaching the level of "sharp," but it was a strong cast and intriguing backgrounds that made the cast of "Lost" easy to watch and follow. Each character had their own secrets, their own insecurities, and, as we often saw in the show's consistent flashbacks, their own crushing failures. The performances from this cast provided the necessary depth to allow for this sort of narrative dicking-around, with the hope that, whatever was happening, it would lead to them freeing themselves from this rotten island.

In the end, the "Lost" creators merely opened too many doors they didn't know how to close, raising a number of questions too vague to ever contradict, yet too plentiful for any six season series, let alone one with such a massive cast. When the mysteries bogged us down, it would take another cast member, or another plot twist, or an action sequence, all executed with a level of panache not seen on broadcast television. The creators knew how to set up a beautiful framework, but they couldn't stop indulging their love of red herrings, even with chance to end the series of their own volition, a generous gesture not normally reserved for faded six year old shows. What was "Lost"? What we learned in the end was that it was the story of a group of people who experienced something very powerful together, enough to bring them back together in the afterlife, a focus on faith instead of the hard facts and science of the show. It didn't answer anything about polar bears or four-toed statues, leading many fans to gripe, some with very respectable points. But that would be something left to a normal, pedestrian series, wouldn't it be?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

To Piggyback Off My Colleague's Thoughts

We lost a titan today.

Dennis Hopper was one of our last cinematic renaissance men. These days, there's so much marketing and PR people pushing their energies into actors as a brand, with even our greatest on-screen performers pigeon-holed into a certain type of filmmaking, but Hopper, writer, director, actor, artists, counterculturalist, represented the apex of what we could achieve. Those focusing on the years of Hopper we lost when he was in the wilds post-"The Last Movie" ignored the fact that, like Orson Welles, his accomplishments spoke for themselves. He didn't need a body of work with a masterpiece every four years. With both "Easy Rider" and, to an (unfortunately) lesser extent "The Last Movie," Hopper had his message, and he sent it loud and clear over the loudspeakers of Hollywood. The fact that they rejected the thoughtfulness of the latter movie, and every day neglect the lessons of the former more and more, speaks not to his lack of artistry but of the stubborn contrarian approach that usually greets titans.

A PBR in your honor, Mr. Hopper. You were gargantuan.

RIP Dennis Hopper

Well, not this was unforeseeable, but still a terrible loss.
Not the most prestigious or best-remembered role of his career, but I think I first saw Hopper in Super Mario Bros., at a birthday party in the third grade. I was more than a little bugged that the filmmakers chose to do away with King Koopa as a walking, talking, fire-breathing dinosaur, but, in the end I think Dennis Hopper as a cold-blooded tyrant with Lisa Simpson hair was probably the better decision.
Before I really knew what good film acting was (or good film, for that matter. I defended Super Mario Bros to several friends over the course of the next few months), I was struck by how he accomplished so much with single-word lines of dialogue, such as "Monkey!" or Plumbers!" Now that I think about it, "plumbers" probably came at the end of or in the middle of a sentence, but it's that one word that sticks with me: in those two syllables he really sells the contempt that a different actor could easily gloss over, not according any serious effort to such a silly concept, and that's why we loved Dennis. We always felt he was a dangerous presence and that's because he always bought in to the paranoia and psychopathy of the characters he portrayed in such a tangible way.
At the risk of sounding dismissive or reductive, he was one of the last truly nutball actors. Like Klaus Kinski, when he stalked onscreen he displaced any sense of normalcy the film may have established up until that point. Using Hopper was a way for a director to show that everything had become unhinged and where ever you thought the movie was going, Hopper was sure as hell going to frustrate any expectations of complacency and bring you into his nightmare. Up until the last thirty minutes of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, I was bored by what seemed to be a pale attempt at recapturing the danger of a cultural phenomenon that had passed more than a decade previously. And then, in the climax, "Oh shit. Dennis Hopper has chainsaws." And he did.

2 of 'em.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Episode 7: Crazy Heart/The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

Podcast Version.
Works well as such, considering the audio configuration.

Episode 6: The White Ribbon

Podcast version, and still my favorite episode.

Episode 5: Daybreakers

Podcast version again.

Episode 4: Avatar

Podcast version.
Again, thanks for bearing with us. And now's your chance to catch up on all our back episodes, in crappy-quality Vodcast form!

Episode 3: My Son My Son, What Have Ye Done

We've had problems with posting these eps as podcasts. I've toyed around a bunch with this, and there's only one way I can figure out how to do this, and it ain't pretty. Please stick with us until we find a more elegant way to do vodcast.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Birdemic, and other romantic moments

Odds and ends...

-We hope you're still reading the site, and thanks to everybody who's provided feedback. We plan on stepping up the content on the site in a big way soon. Next week, we'll be shooting a couple more installments, if anyone has any requests as to what they want to see, let us know.

-Matt Zoller Seitz of L Magazine has authored a number of really wonderful video essays detailing academic film issues, most recently eye-opening looks into the body of work from Dennis Hopper and Clint Eastwood. His latest is far more tongue-in-cheek, a peek at the many ties that went into making "Zodiac."

-Movie website of the week/month/whatever: Wonderfully funny and incisive reviews from a cranky young Canuck.

-Finally, the eleven best bits of "Birdemic: Shock And Terror"...

1. The opening consists of a faint, computer-aided Hitchcock score riff of three notes looped over and over again, accompanying the longest, most inessential driving montage in the world. Our lead, a software salesman, slowly moves in and out of traffic for what seems like roughly seven screen minutes. Somehow, despite the extended driving montages, there is less than zero sense of geography in the entire film.

2. All money values in this film are precise to the dollar. When asked about the deal he's just closed, our hero replies, "One million dollars!" When he attends a meeting announcing the sale of a company he's working on, they reveal the value is "A billion dollars! (A billion!)" When he needs a contribution for a side project, a company pledges "Twelve million dollars."

3. Our hero's first conversation with his love interest. It's the first bit of dialogue in the movie, and the audio cuts out from shot to shot like the rough cut of a college film project. He pretends to not remember her from high school but when they stand face to face, he looks at her the way poor actors shoot their eyes all over in special effects movies because they are really responding to nothing but green screen. At the end of their scene, she hands him her card in a medium two-shot, and out of the camera's view, he turns the card over and hands it back to her, claiming he's now handing her his card.

4. She's a "highly-paid model" who apparently has her photos taken at a local "One Hour Photo."

5. She tells her mother about her new boyfriend, and her enthusiasm suggests she's someone's mom, but not this woman's. Half of this scene is impossible to hear because of the clanging of our female lead's heels against the floor. At the end, the mother says something like "Hooray!" and then goes silent for about ten seconds, unaware they are still rolling.

6. During one group applause scene, it turns out that the filmmaker must have reshot the sequence four times, or he recorded the same moment with four separate cameras. In the finished film, each angle plays right after each other, not even edited together, so that the first shot features a group clapping, then stopping, followed by another ten second shot of people beginning to clap and then finishing, followed by the same sequence two more times.

7. The two lovers visit amazing restaurants. The first is a Korean joint, and when we enter this fairly chintzy dining room, a pre-programmed far-east software melody plays over a dolly shot capturing the building's Asian wall mural. This lasts a good two minutes. Later, they go to a swinging bar where they're the only people present, dancing to a singer onstage crooning about having a barbecue with the family. The scene becomes an extended music video where the couple bump and grind sensually while this guy sings about grandma cooking something in the kitchen while Uncle Ned prances around looking for the beer, and the female lead begins to do the robot poorly over a good minute of footage, sans any real audio.

8. Terrible terrible sex. One girl spends the entire movie wearing a t-shirt advertising as a brief half-sample of a muzak "Imagine" plays over the soundtrack while she and her man paw and rub against each other like they were born without hands. Later, director James Nguyen pans down the lead couple making out in bed to observe their heavily ungroomed feet rubbing against each other. They wake up the next morning fully clothed, and he's even wearing a belt and shoes.

9. There are about six 30-second establishing dolly shots with complete silence on the soundtrack to establish a quiet day before a loud random screech fills the air, and previously-unexplained clip-art animated bird gif's attack the town. Many of them simply hover over the ground, but the rest dive bomb into houses, trees, gas stations, and all create the same fiery explosion. This is about 50 minutes into the movie.

10. "Hey, look! There's an old guy on that bridge!"

11. During the twentieth completely random bird attack, they simply start to mingle with other, whiter birds before flying away. The surviving castmembers look up as the waves crash at their feet, and the animated gif's are positioned to look like they are flying away. Our female lead asks, "Why did they decide to stop attacking us?" After two minutes, the credits roll on a shot of these characters silently and motionlessly looking out towards these birds.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Odds and Ends

Welcome to Jumpcut Junkies. This is my first entry as Gabe, one half of the Nick/Gabe duo, and we hope you've given us the first of many hits. We have a few Jumpcut Junkies entries planned for the future, and would be happy to take any future requests (I do believe we heard one this weekend for the upcoming "Red Dawn" remake). We're also planning a few podcasts so you can save our audio to your computer and spare you the need to actually look at us. You're welcome.

As such, my computer is out of commision, and so I'll probably purchase a new one in the near future, meaning more frequent updates like this one, with a few bullet pointed discussions and points to be made. We hope you'll contribute your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below. I know Nick has been trying to consider something worth writing about "Alice In Wonderland," but his own general apathy about the film has kept him from putting forth the effort (can't blame him - I don't see myself ever sitting through another Tim Burton film again).
-Speaking of which, I long ago figured you had to reach a breaking point with filmmakers, in that you had to stop seeing, or spending money on their future endeavors after a certain point. Lately, I've only gotten to that with the first and second films of certain directors, but some of you have to be there with Tim Burton, no? As is, I don't ever see myself cozying up with another adventure in Tim Burton's wonderland of arrested development, especially after witnessing that "futterwacking" monstrosity on You Tube. I'd like to think I reached that level with Michael Bay, though he seems to be reaching new lows with each effort he makes, and if I can get in free, it's worth observing his methods.

There are others, of course, who are automatic red lights. When "The Bounty Hunter" announces itself as "from the director of HITCH" it's very easy to write off a guy who has no real ambition to tell a real story with compelling human characters. Andy Tennant would have to go to great lengths to get me to see a film with his name on it, as Hollywood is filled with ambition-less slags like him, who seem primarily concerned with putting food (and college tuition) on the table for their families (good) at the expense of contributing anything to society (great!). As is, the only thing that could get me into the theater for another Tim Burton escapade is if he remade "Batman" in a "Five Obstructions" manner, a new limitation every time. Are there any other directors you've closed the book on?

-So, our national geek nightmare is over, and Chris Evans has signed to be Captain America. Not exactly the "unknown" director Joe Johnston was looking for but Marvel isn't taking any risks, are they? Cap's an avatar for a lot of ideas and beliefs, but it's hard to say the risky WWII-in-tights angle of "Captain America" is going to embrace, or even show an understanding of all of them, so Chris Evans' involvement doesn't mean much - as an actor, he's usually as good as his material. That being said, considering Marvel's nine-picture contract and $300k first-film offer (do the math - really not that much for this type of work), who could/should they have gotten? Considering Johnston is a filmmaker without an interesting thought in his head (fucker made "Jumanji," people), I would have been more than happy with an empty vessel like Channing Tatum at the helm, since he really has the look and physique. If we weren't thinking about acting at all, that Ryan McPartlin of "Chuck" sure had the look, though I only watch that show on mute when I'm doing something more interesting.

All things considered, when you're fantasy casting every role in Hollywood, I think you inevitably end up picking from a small pool of actors, so my be-all, end-all choice was Ben Foster, an actor who could play wiry, pre-Serum Cap as well as bulked-up, intense American Symbol Cap. I'll wave the flag for Foster playing anyone really, and I'm sure I'm not the only one - five bucks says Foster got the Cap offer, snorted and said, "I only do real movies." John Malkovich said that about "Spider-Man" nine years ago, before eventually signing onto the defunct "Spider-Man 4" and now "Transformers 3" so it's really only a matter of time, Ben Foster. A matter of time. Also, apropos of nothing, I also liked Lee Pace for Cap, an actor I didn't see mentioned anywhere due to his limited CV, his likely accelerated age and maybe a coke habit or something. Also apropos of nothing, Will Forte for Hawkeye, please.

-Considering the limited shelf life for today's films, "Remember Me" came and went, with the DVD release likely being a muted affair. Mostly a good thing - the movie isn't very good at all, and that's not taking into account that astounding finale, which I will discuss here, so spoiler hounds beware/get fucked. The narrative ends with everyone in a better place, friendships strengthened, romances solidified, and family ties refastened. Then we learn Robert Pattinson (who isn't bad when he gets to smile and crack wise - it's the dramatic stuff that needs reworking. Think James Franco) has been waiting in a building all along that ends up being one of the Twin Towers. Oh, did you guess the exact date?
What's interesting is that nine years later, we still don't have a good handle on what 9/11 is, what it means, how it defined our generation. Should we care? The perpetrator does seem to be alive, on a dialysis machine in a cave somewhere, and yet many don't seem all that fazed by this. As such, without accountability, and with the event followed by political fuckery one could charitably call unforseen, our films must de-politicize, and turn 9/11 into "something that happened." I regrettably went into "Remember Me" knowing the timeframe the film takes place in, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Would Pattinson's unbearable roommate turn out to be a jihadist? Would Pattinson become one of the people falling to their deaths on national television after the planes hit? My disappointment when 9/11 had been reduced to "hurricane" or "terrible accident" was palpable. "Remember Me" wouldn't be remembered for anything else, so why not actually either delve into the events leading up to that day, or even make crazy conspiracy theories up to deepen the shallow universe of the movie? Instead, this tragedy becomes "something that happened" to increase the pathos of a relatively normal courtship and family struggle at the heart of the film. The emptiness of the film forces us to consider, "Oh, 9/11. Who cares?" Does anyone think this is a good thing? Or like me, does it creep you out a fair amount?

-If I must pick the worst film I've seen this year, it has to be Danish thriller "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo." If every generation gets their "Silence of the Lambs," then the progression must have been "Seven," then "Kiss the Girls," then "Saw"... get my point? The movie uses some codes and symbology and potentious dread to gussy up an unremarkable serial killer set-up, with a superjournalist and a rape-victim bisexual computer hacker at it's heart, both grotesque fantasies of their morally bankrupt creators. The former is just that kind of alpha male asshole who has no traits aside from being bulletproof, idealistically and literally. The latter is a forever-punished sex toy to the audience who only achieves justice and/or revenge when the audience's lust is sated with her body and her unrealistic computer skills. The rape scenes are many, and endless, and sick, mostly due to their irrelevance to the main plot. It made me want to leave, the only thing keeping me in the theater the threat of a vicious snowstorm outside.

The best, however, is a release coming to you in April, though you might want to double-check, is "Leaves of Grass." I won't say much about it, because I hope Nick is able to see it soon as well and we can maybe do an installment on it, but it involves Edward Norton in dual roles as a philosophy professor and a pot-growing genius who have to team up to outwit a Jewish drug lord played by Richard Dreyfuss. It's fast and funny, but also philosophically intrigued by each character and their belief systems, from the down-home Southern poet played by Keri Russell to the desperate family man personified by the jittery Josh Pais. Shades of Coens, you can guess, but also kind of its own beast. It's from director Tim Blake Nelson (who also co-stars - I believe he conceived this with Norton on the set of "The Incredible Hulk") and it definitely makes me eager to see his other films - I recall bits and pieces of his high school adaptation of "Othello," but that's due for a re-watch.
-Oscar picks for next year? I think it's the Coens' to lose with their "True Grit" remake. I was bummed Jeff Bridges won Best Actor this year for several reasons. One, because "Crazy Heart" was a pre-fab country song from the Wal-Mart era turned into an interminable, obvious movie-of-the-week, the Garth Brooks to "Payday"'s Waylon Jennings. Two, because I root for someone to have an Oscar when it can help their reputation and paychecks, and Bridges is already well-respected and compensated (and rightfully so). And three, because he'll no doubt be better in "Grit," which will probably be a better movie - and, I'll wager, a better remake, since the original hasn't much going for it, save for a jocular, likable John Wayne performance that Bridges is sure to eclipse.
Hope to see you in the comments section below.

Monday, March 15, 2010

RIP Peter Graves

And, yeah, I kinda like movies with gladiators in them.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Episode 2: A Serious Man

And here are our back episodes, The Lovely Bones, A Serious Man, My Son My Son, What Have Ye Done?, Avatar, Daybreakers, The White Ribbon and Crazy Heart/The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

Episode 8: Oscar Predictions & Finally got a website.

Well, we got some videos for ya, some film criticism, look for some blogs, some audio content and other fun stuff in the near future.
In the next couple of days we've got Shutter Island and next week a movie that hasn't even been released yet (if you can believe it)!
In the meantime, here's our newest (yet outdated) Oscar predictions episode: