Butt Numb-A-Thon 13 Wolf
Would you like to go on an adventure?
Once again, Harry Knowles had a birthday bash that all geeks want to have, inviting 220 of his closest friends to watch 24-ish hours of movies that he wants to share with them. Once again, against all odds, I was one of those people.
This year kicked of with a video sent from Harry’s buddy, Quint, over in New Zealand. Quint’s been on the set of The Hobbit for the last few months and has been reporting on the filming of the future masterpieces. He did some behind the scene intros for the video and it was all a lot of fun. Then Peter Jackson called Gandalf (Ian McKellen) over because Quint was feeling pretty awful for not being at his best friend’s birthday party. Gandalf did a little hocus pocus and, after some in theatre explosions, Quint was in the audience! Gandalf leaned in to the camera and told us that he had secretly stashed a copy of the trailer in Quint’s bag just before he sent him.
WE GET TO SEE A TRAILER!?!?!
Well, first, Quint had to find a trailer bearer. You see, you don’t just walk into the Alamo projection room. A few people stood up, but it was Elijah Wood who stood up and yelled, “I will take it!” and ran up to Quint.
Wow. We’re all such freakin’ geeks, because this was awesome.
Well, they couldn’t get the trailer to work, so we had to go into the first film, but we did eventually see the trailer…three times in a row. I can’t tell you anything specific about it, but godDAMN, it looks amazing. I am hardly going to be able to wait until next December to see this movie.
The first movie that we saw was one that Harry introduced by saying that we had all probably just paid to see it very recently. He didn’t care, though, because it’s his birthday and he doesn’t care if it was just released a couple of weeks ago. The movie was pretty much about him and, as soon as he programmed it, all the rest of the programming just fell into place. Luckily, Hugo is probably my favorite movie this year.
Watching it a second time, I really noticed all of the more subtle film images throughout the entire movie. All of the clock faces and gears look like film reels and many of them make the noise of a film projector. Hugo runs around the clockworks, looking out of all of the windows as if he’s watching movies about all of the people who work at the train station. He’s a voyeur just like we all are when we watch movies.
I love this movie and it’s at least as good on a second viewing. It also helped to introduce what ended up being an underlying theme of the festival and, really, all movies: unexpected adventure.
Directed by: Georges Méliès
Written by: Georges Méliès
Georges Melies was THE early visionary of film. Before Melies, film was a sideshow technology. Even the Lumiere Brothers had no idea that film would be a truly big deal. Melies figured out that you could actually tell a story with film.
A Trip To The Moon is Melies’ most famous film and deservedly so. It tells a simple story of a group of scientists (or wizards, depending on how you take the long beards and hats that they wear) who figure out how to go to the moon. They all climb aboard their rocket, hit the man in the moon in the eye, fight some mooninites, bring one back to Earth and are heroes. End story.
While the story was huge for its time, the sets are what amazes now. It’s all stage sets, but they still look better than a lot of CGI sets made today. Because of his background as a magician, he was the first filmmakers to use special effects on screen. His use of jump cuts to make people and objects appear, disappear and change instantly was an accidental invention, but he used it all the time to amaze his audiences.
If you have any interest in film history, A Trip To The Moon is absolutely essential to your film viewing. If you like sci-fi films, this was the first. It’s beautiful to see on the big screen. I wish it had been a tinted version (hand-tinted, of course), but it’s still a great film that should be seen by anyone with the slightest interest in film.
Directed by: David Butler
Written by: Buddy G. DeSylva/Lew Brown/Ray Henderson
In 1930, Hollywood was looking for something new to put on the screen. Movies had just started talking fairly recently, so what could they do with this new version of the media?
Well, a sci-fi musical, of course!
That’s right, kids. This is not only Hollywood’s first sci-fi film, but it’s the first sci-fi musical!
Let’s not take that as a great thing just yet.
Basically a remake of A Trip To The Moon, Just Imagine takes place in 1980, a time far too distant for citizens of 1930 to even dream about. Cars have been replaced by airplanes, marriages have to be approved by the state (weird…we’re pretty much just starting that now), everyone has a number instead of a name and there are no people with pigment in their skin.
In other words, it’s a Republican dream!
LN-18 (a pre-Tarzan Maureen O’Sullivan) and J-21 (John Garrick) are in love. Unfortunately, another man has asked for permission to marry LN-18 and he is above J-21 on the pecking order. This, of course, means that he gets first priority. Unless, of course, J-21 can distinguish himself in the his field: aviation.
What’s a boy to do when everything’s already been done in aviation?
Luckily, esteemed scientist X-10 (Wilfred Lucas) wants to send J-21 to Mars. If he succeeds, he’ll be able to marry LN-18 and everything will be hunky dory. This can only happen, though, if he survives the trip.
Along for the fun are his best friend RT-42 (Frank Albertson) and Single-0 (El Brendel). Single-0 is a man who was somehow frozen in 1930 and is thawed out. He’s all about comic relief and has almost no bearing on the story. He just runs around with a Swedish accent (“What about yustice?!”) and does some vaguely funny Harpo Marx routines. El was a comedian at the time and this was his schtick on vaudeville. He’s kinda funny, but nothing to write home about.
Really, there’s not much to write home about for any of this movie. The sets are pretty amazing and the effects are nice. (A couple of the uncredited effects guys would go on to break down barriers with King Kong a few years later.) But that’s really it. The story is silly, the acting is stiff and the songs are kind of awful.
This isn’t an easy film to see. Amazon is out of stock and the ones that are for sale by other sellers are $999.99. Trust me. It’s not worth all that. If you really want to see the sets, check out a serial from the same time period. A lot of them were reused for…well, I can’t actually remember the serial. Apparently, it’s awesome, though. Too bad.
If you do see it, check out the strangest song of the entire movie where RT-42 and his wife sing about how they no longer kill flies because that fly might be in love with another fly. Then they save a pair of flies just so they can force them upon each other.
Also, there’s a jab at Henry Ford’s antisemitism. THAT is some funny stuff.
Directed by: Tomas Alfredson
Written by: Bridget O’Connor/Peter Straughan
Based on book by: John le Carre
John le Carre is one of the preeminent Cold War spy novels. With books like The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (1962) and The Looking Glass War (1965), he basically invented the cerebral, inward-looking spy novel. His books aren’t about globe hopping and lady laying. His are about the inner struggles of being a spy and the inner workings of MI6 and the Circus, the upper echelon of British spies.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1974) is one of his best loved novels with his most well known creation, George Smiley. Smiley is a man whose entire life revolves around the Circus. Although he’s married, his wife is barely a character in the story…or his life, for that matter.
In the beginning of the film, Smiley (Gary Oldman) is in the middle of a forced retirement. His former boss, Control (John Hurt), calls him back into duty to find out who the mole is among his co-workers. They all seem to have different views from Control, but one of them is feeding information back to the Soviets. Who could it be? When Control dies, Smiley is basically on his own to save his country.
There’s the entire plot. Just a few lines. But, while the movie is VERY good, it’s also incredibly hard to follow at times. In fact, in my already tired state at this point in the day, I was pretty much lost by the time I got my burger. (In fact, that might have been what totally distracted me from what was truly going on. Don’t eat while watching this movie. You’ll get lost and never find your way again.) With all of the names, double-crosses and characters, it was nearly impossible to truly figure out.
This, of course, does not make this a bad film. The plot is kind of a McGuffin. We don’t necessarily care who the mole is. What we care about is seeing Smiley go through the motions of finding the mole. We care about the toll that it takes on Smiley. We care about seeing all of these characters interact together.
It also helps that Gary Oldman is at the top of his game here. Smiley is a very “normal” character and Oldman manages to make him real. There were definitely times that I forgot that this was Sid Viscous/Beethoven/Sirius Black that I was watching. His voice has a British aristocracy lilt to it that I’ve never heard from him before. His face, although not really made up, was older than ever before. And he was perfectly amazing.
The rest of the cast was just as good. Toby Jones, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch (it was nice to see Sherlock play Holmes), Ciaran Hines…all were great. Alfredon’s (Let The Right One In) direction caught all of these performances perfectly, often from a distance away…much like a spy would have.
After sitting through the two hour film, just about everyone had the same look on their face: “That was great! What happened?” Luckily, the studio knew that they had made possibly the most cerebral and complex spy film in decades, so the Alamo staff was provided with dossiers for every audience member, complete with plot points, character sketches and basically a flow chart explaining what the fuck happened.
I kind of love them for it.
This is definitely a film that warrants multiple viewings. I can’t wait to give it another shot and see if I can follow more of it. I’ll have one up on the rest of the audience with the dossier in my hand.
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Written by: Michele Mulroney/Kieran Mulroney
Based on characters created by: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Sherlock Holmes has come back in a big way lately. In 2009, Guy Ritchie directed the amped up version of the world’s greatest detective to accolades and dollars. Then there was the BBC update of the original stories perfectly cast with Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Watson. There will also be an American version of the Holmes legend on television soon.
Now, Ritchie is back with the sequel to the film that restarted it all. This time out, Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr) and Watson (Jude Law) are on the run from Holmes’ greatest enemy, Professor James Moriarty (creepily played by Jared Harris). The two men are perfectly matched in just about every way with one exception: Moriarty is willing to kill anyone who gets in his way. Even the innocent.
Watson, of course, is about to get married when he and Holmes reconnect, so he is none too excited to get caught up in this latest adventure. The bromance is palpable and the near homosexuality of the two leads is played up even more than it is in the BBC show. “Lay with me, Watson.”
It’s been a couple of years since I’ve seen the original, so it’s hard for me to compare the two. From what I remember of it, though, I think this one is just as much fun and just as good. Yes, there are plenty of explosions and the direction is kinetic, as always. This is no sedate, Basil Rathbone film, but I think you all knew that. To say that it has a Michael Bay style is to insult the movie. It’s not dumb like a Bay movie. It’s not shit like a Bay movie. This is a Guy Ritchie film and he is getting back in our good graces by using other peoples’ characters. (His next project is The Man From U.N.C.L.E.)
Of course, this movie really has almost nothing to do with the original stories. There are things that fans will recognize, but there’s no story that I know of that follows this kind of path. (Somehow I doubt that Conan Doyle teamed the boys up with a sexy gypsy woman (Noomi Rapace) who kicks just as much ass as the two men. And I don’t think that Mycroft (Stephen Frye) was as…strange…as this version of him.)
Directed by: Robert Florey
Written by: William Fryer Harvey/Curt Siodmak/Harold Goldman (uncredited)
At one time, a man like Peter Lorre could be a huge star. With his bugged out eyes and crazy voice, you would think that he would be a hard sell. But Lorre was a movie star pretty much from the first time he stepped onto the screen in M in 1931. He has never stopped being an icon.
That’s why it was a bit surprising when Harry said that he had never played a Lorre film at BNAT. The fuck you say?
The Beast With Five Fingers was a pretty good way to start.
Lorre plays an astronomer who lives with an eccentric old pianist (Victor Francen) who has lost the use of his right side. His music has been rewritten by a cynical young man named Bruce Conrad (Robert Alda). When the old man dies leaving all of his money to his nurse (Andrea King), his descendants descend upon his house to try to make it seem like the old man was a blundering fool and that the money should come to him. Of course, Bruce and the nurse are in love.
Oh yeah…Peter Lorre. He actually plays a big role in this, although the description makes it seem like he doesn’t. He is pretty much the catalyst for the whole thing to happen. He’s incredibly protective of his books and his research and wants everyone out of the house…except for the nurse, of course. She can stay.
As time goes on, Lorre goes crazier and crazier and starts to see a disembodied hand crawling around the house and occasionally playing music. Sometimes it even kills people.
This is a great little film that, unfortunately, is hard to find outside of this sort of festival. It’s never been released on DVD and Warner has no plans of releasing it. That’s really too bad because I think the movie could find a niche audience now.
If you ever get a chance to see it, check it out.
G.I. JOE 2: RETALIATION TRAILER
Well, they got rid of Stephen Sommers, so I guess that’s a step in the right direction. But they replaced him with Jon M Chu, director of such classics as Step Up 2, Step Up 3D and Justin Beiber: Never Say Never.
First off, was anyone really clamoring for this sequel? Second…shit. I don’t even know. I don’t remember anything about this trailer. Whatever. Do what you want, Hollywood. Enough stupid people will be into it.
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Steven Moffat/Edgar Wright/Joe Cornish
Based on comics by: Herge
Tintin is one of the most popular characters in the world. Created by Georges Prosper Remi (aka Herge) in Belgium in 1929, he has become like Mickey Mouse to about 85% of the world.
So, you ask, why have you not heard of him? That’s because people in America don’t really care about what happens in any other country. Most Americans had never heard of Jackie Chan until Rumble In The Bronx in 1995. He had only been making movies for about 25 years before that, becoming the most famous man in the world. Why would we have heard of him?
I’m not saying that Americans are stupid. We’re just very insular. Many people see something foreign and they suddenly become uninterested. That really is a shame, though, because other countries make some amazing stuff.
Anyway, enough PSAs. Tintin is like a Belgian Mickey Mouse. He’s a boy reporter who was able to have 23 and a half adventures before Herge died in 1983 while writing the 24th. Sometime in the early 80s, a young director named Steven Spielberg became interested in Tintin because someone compared Raiders Of The Lost Ark to his adventures. Herge then became a fan of Spielberg saying that he was the only man who could possibly bring Tintin to life. Spielberg bought the rights in 1983 and has never let them go.
Skip ahead nearly 30 years when Spielberg goes to fellow Tintin fanatic Peter Jackson to see about using WETA to do special effects for a live action Tintin movie. Jackson says, “No! The only way to do it is motion capture and CGI!”
I’ve never read a Tintin book, but I feel like I need to now that I’ve seen this movie. It follows Tintin (Jamie Bell) as he and his dog, Snowy, run amok all over the world. They meet Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), rescue him from smugglers led by Mr. Sakharine (Daniel Craig) and then search for treasure. There’s also the Inspectors Thompson (Nick Frost and Simon Pegg), two identical policemen who bumble their way through helping Tintin catch the bad guys.
And it all starts with a model ship.
This is a really fun movie with amazing animation. For just about the first time, motion capture isn’t totally creepy. I think it’s probably because they don’t try to make these characters look realistic. They look like slightly more realistic versions of the real comic book characters. (Watch for the analog drawings at the beginning of the film.) The 3D works beautifully, too. Not as essential as Hugo, but still a good addition to the film.
I think, though, that even if the animation was as creepy as Polar Express the movie would still be a lot of fun. Story and action go a long way and this one has both to spare. The action is basically non-stop, just like it would be in a comic book.
My only complaint is that maybe the story moves a bit TOO fast. I felt like we got caught up right from the start and there wasn’t enough time to really figure out what was going on who who these people really were. Then again, maybe that’s how it would be in real life. Just go, go, go and don’t stop to think.
I think I’ll have to see it one more time to really get a good feel for it. I had a lot of fun with it, but I think it may be a movie that a second viewing would give it another half star…maybe even a full one.
THE DEVIL INSIDE TRAILER
From the producer of the Paranormal Activity movies and (sigh) Insidious, this looks like Paranormal Exorcist. Lots of people (same person? not sure) getting possessed and then breaking their own backs. Oh, and found footage. Of course. We can’t make a horror movie anymore without found footage.
I dunno. Maybe I’ll check it out on video. I just don’t really want to give this guy THAT much more money.
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki
Hayao Miyazaki is one of the best directors alive today, live action or animation. The man is amazing. All of his films are at least entertaining on some level. There are some that I don’t like as much as others (don’t shoot me, but I’m just not that into Totoro), but they’re all great.
Porco Rosso is one that has always been on my list, but I’ve just never gotten around to checking it out. I mean, it’s about a pig who flies airplanes. Why does that sound good? Well, it has the name Miyazaki attached to it. That’s why.
Porco is the best pilot in the air just before World War II breaks out. He makes his living as a bounty hunter and rescues people from air pirates. He also happens to have had a spell put on him that turned him into a pig. This, of course, does not stop him from romancin’ the ladies. There’s one lady in particular that he’s had his eye on, but he’s constantly thwarted by Curtis, a fellow flying ace.
This was definitely a movie that I could not stay awake through just from sheer fatigue. It had nothing to do with the quality of the film because, you know, it’s Miyazaki.
Here’s the deal, though. This is Harry’s favorite Miyazaki film. He dressed as Porco for Halloween this year and just loves the shit out of this movie.
I don’t think it’s going to be one of my favorites. I just couldn’t quite connect with it like I did something like Princess Mononoke or Castle In The Sky. It’s a good film (note the four stars), but I don’t think it’s Miyazaki’s best. I will, however, give it another shot sometime.
Directed by: Drew Goddard
Written by: Joss Whedon/Drew Goddard
Joss Whedon did a LOT for the horror genre when he created Buffy The Vampire Slayer. It’s a real turning point for horror if only for the girl-centric plot of the whole thing.
Unfortunately, he’s also inspired a lot of rather uninspired clones over the years.
Cabin In The Woods is his way of knocking all of them down a peg or two…even if that’s not what he says it is.
I’m not allowed to do a detailed review here, but I can tell you that this movie kicked my ass. It’s so freakin’ smart, funny and full of turns that you don’t quite expect that it’s hard not to fall in love with it. It takes every trope of horror movies and turns them on their inverted ears in a way the Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson couldn’t quite bring themselves to do with Scream.
Directed by: Mark Neveldine/Brian Taylor
Written by: Scott M. Gimple/Seth Hoffman/David S. Goyer
Based on comics by: Roy Thomas/Gary Friedrich/Mike Ploog
When Harry announced this one, I think most of the audience groaned a little bit. Seriously? Ghost Rider 2? Why would we want to see a sequel to that shitty movie?
Actually, he had the same reaction when Columbia asked if he wanted to screen it at BNAT. He said, “I need to see it.” He did and he thought it was completely different from the first one and kinda loved it.
Again, I’m not allowed to write a detailed review…but I’m not really sure that I could even if I wanted to. I not only couldn’t stay awake through it, I wasn’t interested enough to stay awake. Sure, Nicolas Cage is in Bad Lieutenant mode here, so he’s a lot of fun to watch while he goes through his weird faces and crazy voices. That, unfortunately, doesn’t make the movie particularly good. It’s good enough to be better than the first, but that’s not saying much. Really, only the kinetic direction (from the guys who brought us the Crank saga…they do know how to get into the middle of the action) and Nic’s craziness keeps it from being the worst movie at BNAT this year.
Directed by: Joe Carnahan
Written by: Joe Carnahan/Ian Mackenzie Jeffers
Based on short story by: Ian Mackenzie Jeffers
Joe Carnahan is one of those directors that everyone just kind of lost faith in. When Narc came out in 2002, everyone thought that the 70s cop drama was coming back. It was a great story of dirty cops in a dirty world.
Then things started going slightly awry. Smokin’ Aces came out and no one but me liked it at all. No, I didn’t think that it was a great film, but I thought that it was fun. I was all alone. Then came The A-Team.
Done with that.
I really hope that The Grey changes peoples’ minds again. It’s the story of Liam Neeson vs. very large wolves.
Ok, it’s more than that. Liam and his co-workers go down in a plane crash in the snows of Alaska. Only seven of them survive. He is the wolf expert, so he becomes the de-facto leader, even if some of them aren’t so happy with that “decision.” The wolves pick the men off one by one as Liam becomes more and more of a badass and, actually, more full of regret and pathos. His mind is constantly on his wife back home. What happened to make him put his shotgun in his mouth just before he got on the plane?
No action movie is this, though. This is a dark action drama where the men are worse enemies to themselves than the wolves are. The infighting is believable and sometimes hard to watch. Even without the infighting, though, nature is stronger than man. This film never lets us forget that. Never…
This is a great film and I really hope that it brings Joe back in favor. He has pulled a performance out of Neeson that very well could be award caliber. Liam is one of my favorite actors currently working and I love that he’s become a thinking man of action. This is one of his best performances.
Directed by: Brad Bird
Written by: Josh Appelbaum/André Nemec
Based on television show created by: Bruce Geller
Why the fuck can’t I dislike Tom Cruise movies anymore? Why the fuck does he keep making good movies while he, personally, still sucks?
Sigh. Whatever. The Mission: Impossible franchise has become his goto to make more money and, actually…they’ve become pretty goddamn great. After the mediocrity of the first and outright badness of the second, the third was awesome and the fourth is at least its equal. This has become the director’s franchise that Tarantino has always wanted the Bond series to become.
This time out, the IMF have been disbanded because the American government think that they have gone rogue. They were framed by a mysterious man (Michael Nyqvist, the original Mikael Blomkvist in the Swedish Girl Who… trilogy) who wants to start a nuclear war between Russia and the US. In fact, he has made tension run higher than it has since the Cuban Missile Crisis.
After the Secretary (Tom Wilkinson) is killed, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is forced to go underground with his crew (Paula Patton and Simon Pegg) and the Secretary’s adviser (Jeremy Renner). The four of them become a well-oiled machine…even if their machines aren’t so well-oiled. In fact, that’s kind of a running joke in the film. None of their equipment seems to work quite right.
Funnier than the last film which, if I remember correctly, was a bit dour, Ghost Protocol is non-stop action and a LOT of fun. I’m not sure what made JJ Abrams and Tom Cruise entrust animation/Pixar director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille) with their baby, allowing him to cut his live-action teeth on the fourth installment, but it looks like their gamble paid off in spades. He handles the job like a pro and I hope it leads to more action flicks like this: fun, thoughtful and full of actual story.
A lot has been said about Jeremy Renner being a possible replacement for Tom if he ever decides to leave the series. They’ve been denying it, but I would be up for it. Sure, I don’t think Tom is going to leave his cash cow anytime soon. But if he does, they could do worse than Renner. He’s a really good actor and handles the action very well. Honestly, if this was Cruise’s last M:I film, I wouldn’t be sad. Brandt is a good character and could totally hold the franchise up.
By the way, I would totally buy this Saul Bass inspired poster. Why have I never seen it before? One of the best posters I’ve seen in a while.
So, that was it. One of the better lineups for BNAT, I think. Only two movies that really weren’t up to par, but they even had their place in keeping the flow. (Without Ghost Rider 2, when would I have slept?!)
Another Butt Numb-A-Thon down. I’m already ready for next year.