Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Harry Potter on The Deathly Hallows

Looks like Daniel Radcliffe has given thumbs up to the way J.K. Rowling ended the Harry Potter series - not that it really matters. I'm sure that Radcliffe would say he was happy with an outline somebody jotted down on a napkin with the money he's making on these films. Anyway, what I enjoyed most about the Q&A is the fact that Harry Potter (or at least the guy playing Harry Potter) likes Sigur Rós:

What did you do when you finished reading Deathly Hallows?

I was in a car at the time. I had my iPod in, and I was listening to Sigur Rós. I don't know if you know them. They're a band who do sort of instrumental music, but it's just amazing. I think they're from Scandinavia somewhere. They've got an album called Takk...I was listening to, and it's very, very appropriate [for the end of Deathly Hallows]. I was listening to it and I remember I was sort of turned away from everybody else in the car, just so I could be in my own little world when I read it. What did I do when I finished? I think I just put the book down and carried on listening to the music. Just looked out of the car window, 'cause I couldn't think of what else to do. I'm still struggling to really take it in. It doesn't leave you in a hurry.

A pretty decent interview, I must say.

Some people wonder if Radcliffe will have some difficulty overcoming the typecasting from playing Harry Potter all his life, but I think his real challenge will be to overcome his height. The dude's 5' 6", if that, since Actors and Actresses constantly lie about their age and height. What this will mean is that every time Radcliffe signs on to a movie, it will be up to the casting director to hire a bunch of actors who roughly share the same height, or else have Radcliffe constantly walk on a series of risers anytime he shares the screen with a taller actor. As Orson Scott Card pointed out in his Rhino review, they might even have to recast Bonnie Wright a.k.a. Ginny Weasely, because she is dangerously close to becoming much taller than Radcliffe, a fact which could impede Harry's snogging abilities in the future. This will be a shame if it happens, but it is still a possibility. Still need more proof? Well look no further than The Lord of the Rings' Elijah Wood, who is also 5'6" -- have you seen him in very many movies lately?

Anyway, I just saw The Order of the Phoenix for the second time last Saturday, and while the experience helped me enjoy the film more for what it was instead of what it wasn't, I still believe it could have been 15 minutes longer - with five of those minutes going to Snape and his occulemency lessons; five more going to Kreacher, house elf who lives with, and ultimately betrayed, Sirius Black; and the final five going to Dumbledore whose job in the book was to explain all of the above. By the time they come barrelling in with the film based on Book Seven, the writers are going to have a whole lot to go back and explain, since they were in such a hurry with this film in particular, and didn't do it when they were supposed to.

And since no one is asking, I thought I would go ahead and share my thoughts on The Deathly Hallows. I liked the book, I liked it a lot. Thought it was a satisfying way to conclude the series, and I'll be honest, my main reason for reading each book in the series, has always been to find out how they would turn out as films. For instance, when I read the character of Delores Umbridge in Book Five, I knew Imelda Stanton from Vera Drake would be perfect for the part. Then she was cast for the part, and played the role perfectly.

Guess my ultimate concern for the last book, since no new characters will be introduced to inspire casting fantasies, is the question of who will direct it? Phoenix director David Yates is already on-board to direct the sixth film, so he will probably be burned out by then. Alfonso Cuaron expressed some interest in directing another one, but I hope he sticks to making his own films since I like those more than his Harry Potter movie. Mike Newell directed my favorite HP movie by far with The Goblet of Fire, but I get the impression that he wasn't satisfied with the whole experience and has no desire to come back. They may bring in new blood, and while Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, and Guillermo Del Toro's names get tossed around a lot, I think Casino Royale's Martin Campbell would be the man for the job. He's from the U.K., for starters, and since the final book is dedicated almost entirely to action, intrigue, deception, and adventure (as opposed to quiddich and wiccan academics), it's pretty much right up his alley. What to do you guys think?

But no matter what, they better not hire Chris 'I directed Home Alone' Columbus to finish what he started (poorly), and the movie had better be at least two hours and forty minutes long.

Monday, July 30, 2007

R.I.P. Ingmar Bergman

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1918 - 2007

I won't pretend to have seen even one of this guy's films, since they aren't exactly lining the shelves of many Blockbuster Video stores. However, along with John Cassavettes, Ingmar Bergman has been on my 'Netflix-to-do-list' for quite some time.

Here is a great obit by the New York Times' Adam Bernstien. If I tried to see at least one of this guy's films by showtime on Thursday, which one should I make it a point to watch?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Reviews from the 'Boro (Volume 1)

Every Sunday, I am going to try and post a gathering of the most recent reviews to emerge from Greensboro, NC. I made a similar pledge almost a year ago, but this time I mean it.

Here we go:

From Yes!Weekly, we got Movie Show friend Glen Baity totally eviscerating Adam Sandler's newest I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, a movie I feel is the worst of the year. Glen actually one-up's me, declaring Chuck and Larry the 'worst movie of all time':

Since this week I'll be talking about a movie called I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, let me disabuse you of this notion right off. When I know I have to spend two hours on a Friday seeing a gay panic movie starring Adam Sandler and the unfunny one from "The King of Queens" - and I don't think I can emphasize this enough - my expectations are low. Very, very low.

As it turns out, not low enough.

Apparently, Glen's review has done nothing to prevent more audiences from viewing the cinematic turd. According to Box-Office Mojo, while knocked down a peg by The Simpson's Movie, Chuck and Larry will most likely cling to the number two spot, with a slim margin above John Travolta's Hairspray, which was positively reviewed by The Rhino's Orson Scott Card:

But I had no interest in the [original 1988] movie, or in the Broadway musical made from it, or in the movie musical made from the Broadway musical. I only went to see it because Zac Efron has become the teen idol-du-jour, meaning I am not cool unless I've seen his movies, and because Queen Latifah is in it.

I went, I saw, I was conquered.

Hmmm. I, too, had extremely low expectations for the musical Hairspray remake when I first heard about it, but I was pleasantly surprised. With high energy and a break-neck fast pace, there wasn't a moment throughout this film when I wasn't smiling or laughing. Co-host Mike compared its non-stop-joy-from-beginning-to-end with Die Hard 4, and I agree. Funny how the two best 'entertainments' of this summer were a musical remake and an action sequel that no one really wanted.

Jim Hensen (1936-1990)

Aside from a well-stocked comic book shop on Baltimore Ave., the only reason to visit the unremarkable town of College Park, MA, is to catch a glimpse of the bronze Jim Henson statue on the campus of The University of Maryland.

Located in front of the Stamp Student Union, the statue depicts a friendly conversation between the university's most distinguished alum with his most widely-recognized creation, Kermit the Frog.

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Here's a closer view. I love how this statue makes Jim and Kermit out to be the most intimate of good friends (note the way in which Kermit's hand rests on Jim's arm).

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A look from Jim's point-of-view. I love the fabric like details etched onto Kermit's skin. Kermit's eye-slits are also burrowed into the bronze, rather than outlined, in order to give them depth.

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And now a look from Kermit's point of view.

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Lastly, this is yet another interesting detail from the sculpture - Henson's belt buckle has yet another Frog on it. Too cool.

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I find Jim Hensen to be one of the most fascinating people who ever lived. He's easily in the top 10 of all time, world-wide. The guy lived his life making a living by doing what he loved, and in the process, made so many children -and adults- very happy. One also has to wonder how many children learned at least part of their numbers or ABC's as a direct result of watching Sesame Street?

But despite his fame and immense recognition as one of the greatest American artists who ever lived, little is known about the life of Jim Henson beyond what someone could gleam from a handful of made-for-children biographies and his entry on Wikipedia.

Perhaps the best story from Jim Henson's life that I have read was about his funeral:

Two separate memorial services were held for Henson, one in New York City at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and in London, England at St. Paul's Cathedral. As per Henson's wishes, no one in attendance wore black, and a Dixieland jazz band finished the service by performing "When The Saints Go Marching In". Harry Belafonte sang "Turn the World Around," a song he had debuted on The Muppet Show, as each member of the audience waved, with a puppeteer's rod, an individual, brightly-colored foam butterfly.[27] Later, in what was one of the most touching moments of the service, Big Bird (performed by Carroll Spinney) walked out onto the stage and sang a quavering rendition of Kermit the Frog's signature song, "Bein' Green".[28]

In the final minutes of the two-and-a-half hour service, six of the core Muppet performers sang, in their characters' voices, a medley of Jim Henson's favorite songs, culminating in a performance of "Just One Person" that began with Richard Hunt singing alone, as Scooter. "As each verse progressed," Henson employee Chris Barry recalled, "each Muppeteer joined in with their own Muppets until the stage was filled with all the Muppet performers and their beloved characters."[28] The funeral was later described by LIFE as "an epic and almost unbearably moving event." The image of a growing number of performers singing "Just One Person" was especially powerful; it was recreated for the 1990 television special The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson and inspired screenwriter Richard Curtis, who attended the London service, to write the growing-orchestra wedding scene of his 2003 film Love Actually.[29]

Every time I hear this story, I always come very close to crying. Anyway, I would love to learn more about this man's life. The Henson family did hire a writer to author an 'approved' biography, but apparently, they were many disputes regarding the final draft. Hmmmm.....

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(This is 'Kertle' a Muppet-ized revision of the U of M Terrapin mascot)

A quickie review of The Simpson's Movie

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All right, let's make this quick. Why, you ask? Because there really isn't a whole lot one can say on The Simpson's Movie. Even the most casual of Simpsons viewers should know whether they would like The Simpson's Movie. It's not really better than the show, only longer - kinda like the two-part Who Shot Monty Burns? episodes, sans the wait between two seasons.

I guess I am thankful that The Simpson's Movie wasn't worse than the show, but in the beginning of the episo- er, film, Homer watches The Itchy and Scratchy Movie (was it the one that Bart was never allowed to see? - they never say), and complains about paying to watch something they could see for free on television. This is a good point, a point that the movie never really counters, except with the flash of Bart's genitalia, and Homer finally jumping Springfield Gorge.

Perhaps the biggest problem I have with The Simpson's Movie is that it was made long after it should have been, and that it offers fewer reveals than even the X-Files film did. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut at least had the balls to show what Kenny looked like outside of his parka (we also got to hear his voice, which was provided by Beavis and Butt-Head's Mike Judge). At the very least, the movie could have allowed Smithers to reveal his feelings for Mr. Burns, or something.

Anyway, as far as film adaptations based on TV shows go, I guess The Simpson's Movie could have been much, much worse - a fact which the following trailer reminded me of:

At least the guys behind this new Alvin and the Chipmunks Movie got one thing right -- when Alvin swallowed an entire hunk of Theodore's shit. Such a hilarious reminder of my favorite part from the old Saturday morning cartoon! ....Hey, wait a minute!

Seriously though, Jason Lee needs to fire his agent. That Dave Seville role had David Schwimmer's name written all over it.

(Did You Know: The Simpson's Nancy Cartwright (the voice of Bart) also did voice work for The Chipmunk's Adventure)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What groups should feel insulted by Chuck and Larry?

The following groups were insulted by last weekend's number one movie:

Asians, again,
Religious People,
Hell, even just plain old regular men,

-and most importantly-

People who believe comedies are supposed to be funny.

The sheer unfunniness I Pronounce You Chuck and Larry is so great, that I almost wonder if all the really great comedy script writers have decided to work for Judd Aptow.

The movie makes the horrendous mistake of thinking that a homosexual man is, by nature, a woman. Female. For instance, the movie frequently plays the Whitney Houston song, I'm Every Woman - a song which gay impersonators Sandler, Kevin James, and an actual gay fireman played by Ving Rhames sing in order to make their hetero co-workers feel uncomfortable. But the worst part happens, when, in an attempt to dupe a civil servant, Sandler and James visit a grocery store in order to buy items that will make them look gay. This lame sit-com premise alone is enough to enduce an aneurysm, but when James suggests to Sandler that they buy a box of tampons, I was almost ready to jam Pilot V-Ball ink-pen through my eyes.

$34.2 million dollars. If a plumber tried to sell raw sewage for millions of dollars, he would be laughed out of town, but Hollywood manages to do just that waaay to often.