Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ramin Bahrani cover story.


Movie set in Winston-Salem winning rave reviews.
By Joe Scott

The first time I interviewed filmmaker Ramin Bahrani in 2007, I asked him what I refer to as the “$100 million question."

If someone gave you a $100 million budget, what kind of movie would you make?

Without hesitation, the Winston-Salem native said he would never make a $100 million film. Instead, he would make 100 smaller films for $1 million each.

Two years later, his response has changed, but only slightly.

“I have three projects I want to do,” Bahrani says by phone from his New York home. “One of them I can make again for $1 million, but two of them are period films so they might cost between $5 million and $10 million.

“So now, I would probably say I would divide it up and make anywhere between 10 and 20 films.”

These last two years have been kind to Bahrani. His debut film, Man Push Cart, a low-budget drama about a Pakistani rock star turned push-cart vendor scraping to get by in New York, earned praise from major critics around the world.

And although most indie filmmakers strike out with their sophomore efforts, Bahrani did the opposite with Chop Shop. It won an Independent Spirit Award and a spot on many top 10 lists for 2007.

Chop Shop also solidified Bahrani’s place at the heart of a national filmmaking movement dedicated to portraying the lives of low-income Americans enduring financial crises. Other examples include Kelly Reichardt’s Wendy and Lucy and Courtney Hunt’s Frozen River, which, like Man Push Cart and Chop Shop, are character studies about people living paycheck to paycheck.

With Goodbye Solo, Bahrani’s third American feature, he takes the plight of the working class and sets it in his hometown. The film was shot and set in Winston-Salem, cast locally and presents a depiction of the urban South that challenges outsiders’ views of the region.

North Carolina audiences will get their first chance to see Goodbye Solo Saturday and Sunday at the RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem.

Early response to Goodbye Solo has been positive. Roger Ebert even called Bahrani the new great American director and declared to filmgoers, “Wherever you live, when this film opens, it will be the best film in town.”

(Click here to read the rest.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

UNCG Theatre gets 'Grooovy' with 'Evil Dead: The Musical.'


Want to know where I'll be on October 31?

All hail to the king, baby!

Funny how the listing says "broomstick" instead of boomstick. Guess the latter word doesn't come up in conversations too often.

Tickets go on sale July 1.

One day, your movie wins the Oscar - the next, your father tries to sell you to a guy pretending to be a sheik.


Father of girl in 'Slumdog' denies trying to sell her.

It's times like these where the only response is, Holy Hell.

Sad thing is, stuff like this happens all the time in India to little girls who will never have the benefit of a media outrage to save them.

Why didn't someone do this to the casts from Crash and Titanic?

[PODCAST] Old people don't like movies?


Old people don’t like movies? That’s what Hollywood is saying this week.

Also, Joe and Mike discuss a couple of real-life behind the scenes brawlers who’ve decided to work on the same movie together, Sophia Coppola’s long awaited follow-up to Marie Antoinette, and yet another sequel to The DaVinci Code. Mike reviews State of Play and Joe shares what he learned from The Class.

Soundtrack Selections:
“Help Is On It’s Way” by Little River Band from Observe and Report;
“In Dreams” by Roy Orbison from Blue Velvet;
“Plainsong” by The Cure from Marie Antoinette;
“Knock Yourself Out” by Jon Brion from I Heart Huckabees.

Stream it here or subscribe

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The worst trailer of 2009.

See for yourself.

Based on the trailer, here's the pitch for the film:

A biologically engineered kid sues her parents in order to donate vital organs to her cancer-stricken sister. How they got anyone beyond the stable of Lifetime Movie of the Week performers is beyond me. And the cancer jokes were a laugh riot.

If that movie does well, the studio heads are right. American audiences do need 'escape' - escape from higher brain function and films that do not insult the grief of the misfortunate.

Article: Jody Hill interview


'Observe and Report': 'Blart' with violence

By Joe Scott
Special to Go Triad

When N.C. filmmaker Jody Hill premiered his feature debut "Foot Fist Way" at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, it didn't win any awards.

But the low-budget comedy about a tormented redneck martial-arts instructor got a prize far more coveted than any award: a distribution deal from Paramount Vantage.

Then the flick languished on the studio's shelf, unreleased for two years.

"I don't know what the studio was trying to feel for, but I am sure they were waiting for some sign that this would be a hit," says Hill, a native of Concord and a graduate of UNC School of the Arts. "But I don't think anything was achieved by waiting."

That sign came in the form of Hollywood's comedy elite. DVD screeners of "Foot Fist Way" found their way into the hands of several A-list laugh-makers, including Will Ferrell, uber-producer Judd Apatow, and then-budding star Seth Rogen. Their interest jump-started "Foot Fist Way," landing the film in a few theaters.

The movie became more of a cult hit than a box-office smash, but it helped launch the career of Danny McBride, a friend and fellow School of the Arts filmmaking graduate, who went on to play parts in "Tropic Thunder" and the upcoming Will Ferrell comedy "Land of the Lost."

As for Hill, who played a small role in "Foot Fist Way," he managed to nab a cameo in the Rogen-scripted comedy "Superbad." After that, the two decided to collaborate again on "Observe and Report," which opens in theaters Friday.

(Click here to read the rest.)

The Movie Show: The Animated Series

People are always telling me, "We know what it's like to hear the movie show, but what's it like to see it?

Okay, so no one's ever told me that before.

But in case you want to know anyway, I've made the following computer animated short via XtraNormal. Pixar it ain't, but perhaps it's the beginning of an ongoing animated series?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Trailer Park: 'Away We Go'

Not exactly sure how he did it, but American Beauty director Sam Mendes will be releasing Away We Go only six months after Revolutionary Road. Based on Revolutionary's box-office, I'm sure a lot of audiences will be relieved to find out it looks nowhere near as depressing.

You can see the John Krazinski and Jim Gaffigan indie rock goodness below:

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

[PODCAST] Leaky Wolverines and Cars vs. Women

Fox’s control on the workprint for Wolverine might be leaky, but this week’s episode of The Movie Show is anything but. Mike ventures to Adventureland where things are a bit slower than expected, while Joe gets Fast and Furious on Vin Diesel’s newest film. They also discuss the woes of film critic David Friedman vs. the cult of copyright, the identity of Michael Bay’s brand new Freddy Kruger, and the next comedy to feature a broken-hearted Steve Carell.

This week’s soundtrack selections:
“Satellite of Love” by Lou Reed from Adventureland;
“People Are Strange” by The Doors from The Lost Boys;
“Ninja” by Europe from Hot Rod.

Click here to stream it, or here to check out our page at the Itune's store.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Essay: 'Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky'



By Craig D. Lindsey

As always, it starts with a story. A personal story.

I was driving one Saturday night in Houston, my former place of residence, to interview a budding rapper or musician or producer or whatever at the recording studio he uses. I don’t remember anything about this guy’s music. I don’t remember if I wrote an article on him. Hell, I don’t even remember his name — both stage and government. But, I do remember one thing quite clearly: he had a box full of VHS tapes next to the couch where he was sitting. And The Story of Ricky was sitting right on top of them.

I asked him if I could borrow the film. “That’s cool, man,” he said — I think.

Later that night, as I popped the tape into my VCR, I didn’t so much as watch it as I skimmed through it. I was well aware of the movie’s extremely violent nature. Its most outrageously graphic scene, a hulky man smashing a guy’s head with his bare hands, was used on “The Daily Show” as the title sequence for then-host Craig Kilborn’s “5 Questions” segment. (Incidentally, that came to be because the authors of the book “Baked Potatoes: A Pot Smoker's Guide to Film & Video” appeared as guests on the show and showed that clip, declaring Ricky to be an ideal movie to watch while you’re getting blunted. It’s also great to watch when you’re wasted, too.) And much like when guys used to peruse through porn videos, I fast-forwarded through all the talking to get to the really nasty stuff.

In some ways, I skipped to all the graphic parts so I wouldn’t be caught off-guard when I eventually viewed the film in its entirety. As I learned, the head-smashing scene is not the most insane thing Ricky serves up. Based on the Japanese manga Riki-Oh (which also became a couple of straight-to-video animes), the movie version of Ricky lives up to its comic-book counterpart by presenting violence that’s just as cartoonish, over-the-top and gruesomely absurd as you would see in any R-rated funny pages. (When it was released in 1991, the movie itself earned a Category III rating, the Hong Kong equivalent of an NC-17, making it one of the first non-erotic films to earn such a rating.)

Set in the dark, distant future of 2001 (you can tell it’s the future by the quasi-John Carpenter/Escape From New York music), Ricky virtually trumpets the graphic, brutal unpredictability that will soon come by taking place in a prison. (Any “Oz” fan will tell you the most creative ways to maim or kill a person usually happen in the big house.) As the title implies, it’s the story of a man named Riki-Oh (Terry Fan Siu Wong), who does a ten-year manslaughter stint for literally punching a hole in the head of a drug-dealing gangster who caused his beloved girlfriend to jump off a building and commit suicide. While he’s supposedly a quiet man who just wants to do his time in peace, this dirty, stinking, corrupt jail won’t let him be.

The people who run this place are bigger thugs and criminals than the actual inmates. (I’ve never seen a movie with such a sorry bunch of jailbirds — are they all doing time for jaywalking or something?) The assistant warden is a one-armed, gluttonous sadist who wears a glass eye filled with mints (huh?). The wings of the prison are ran by the “Gang of Four,” a quartet of lethal henchmen who also guard the prison’s illegal opium stock. (It’s worth noting that famed Japanese actress/martial artist Yukari Oshima took a “trouser role” as the gang’s most dangerous — and male — member.) And let’s not forget the actual warden, who shows up halfway through the movie, complete with a mean, tyrannical streak and a portly, spoiled brat for a son.

With all these psychopaths around, it’s obvious that Riki-Oh won’t be doing his time peacefully. It’s a good thing he spent his youth getting trained by his cackling uncle, who taught him to control his temperament and work on his strengths by having him smash tombstones his unc threw at him in cemeteries. Eventually, Riki-Oh becomes a reluctant hero to the inmates, as he stands up to these mercilessly evil superiors and fights his way toward freedom. So, it’s basically like “Cool Hand Luke” — if Paul Newman knew how to hit people so hard, their eyes would pop out of their sockets.

Ricky is a movie that certainly takes advantage of the whole superhuman-strength concept. Hey, if you have the strength of a hundred men, which our main protagonist inexplicably has, wouldn’t you put it to good use and really destroy some bad guys? Riki-Oh has enough power in his fists to obliterate men’s midsections, knock the top of a guy’s head off and uppercut a dude’s jaw out of his mouth. Director Ngai Kai Lam takes almost nutty glee filming close-ups where Riki-Oh’s fists of steel destroy the fake, stage blood-filled heads and torsos and limbs that come one after the other. Ricky is a movie that practically never lets up on its extreme nature. Just when you think it’s ran out of body parts to decimate, it finds yet more ingenious ways to awesomely make your stomach turn.

Ricky introduced me to a form of Hong Kong cinema I was not yet familiar with. It’s not like the acrobatic popcorn flicks of Jackie Chan, the slo-mo, crime-noir shoot-em-ups of John Woo or even the stylish, beautiful, art-house films of Wong Kar-Wai — Hong Kong movie auteurs I already knew and admired. No, this is Hong Kong exploitation at its most low-low-lowdown. The kind of movie Quentin Tarantino saluted in the first Kill Bill volume. The kind of movie where the blood gushes like water fountains, a man’s intestines can serve as his secret weapon during a fight and even dogs can get the stuffing kicked out of them.

These days, I have seen enough Hong Kong action flicks to be mostly desensitized by whatever viscera-hurling action comes my way. (Although, once in a while, a movie does come along and surprises me, like the recently-released Tokyo Gore Police — Jesus, that was a messed-up movie!) I even find the violence in “Ricky” quite meh these days. If anything, with its gory ludicrousness and high levels of camp, watching it now reminds me just how laughable and redonkulous this movie truly is. Even if it didn’t have the bad English dubbing — the movie’s most hilarious asset — the lazy performances and tacky special effects would guarantee that this is still one cheesy movie. One bloody, shocking, bugnuts crazy, cheesy movie.

However, The Story of Ricky will always be the first to show me how outrageous — and even fearless — Hong Kong cinema can get. I always knew Asian cinema had us beat in several areas. But, they can even make better exploitation flicks than us.

I feel sorry for all you poor bastards who will be watching this for the first time this evening. You have no idea what you are in for. (I’m sure people who’ve seen it will have the extra kick of watching who stays and who flees the auditorium in horror.) As for me, I’ll probably be at the house, watching it once again, on the VHS tape I never gave back to that rapper/producer/musician/whatever dude.

Craig D. Lindsey is the film critic and reporter for the News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina. You can read his reviews here and his not so recently updated blog here.

Karma's a bitch: 'Wolverine' leaked to the nets a month before release.


NOTE: This is not an April Fool's joke

There's a lesson in all of this.

After the way Fox yanked a significant amount of funding away from Bryan Singer's first X-Men film, due to a lack of faith in the property...

After the way they completely botched Fantastic Four...

After the way Fox caused Singer to leave X-3 despite the fact he built a hugely successful franchise for them...

After they turned Galactus in FF-2 into a friggin' cloud...

After the way they treated Wolverine director Gavin Hood like a dog, repainting his sets behind his back and making his life a general hell...

After the way they legally muscled their way back into the Watchmen franchise when it looked as if the film might make a little bit of money...

After they developed a reputation for being the most unfriendly company towards writers and directors...

And after Fox studio head Tom Rothman said of comic book fans: 'Who cares about them? We already got their money!'...

...Someone has uploaded a pristine workprint of X-Men Origins: Wolverine onto the Internet.

Rothman might not care about fanboys, but I've got news for him: With few exceptions, pretty much everyone who has opened a comic book knows how to work a computer. Most of these guys are probably finding a way to see this film right now as I type this post. These people are not going to buy a ticket to see this movie.

By Friday, Wolverine will be on sale at flea markets and barbershops across the country, essentially being sold to the other half of the audience that would have made Wolverine a box-office hit. These people are not going to buy a ticket to see the movie.

As for the rest of the people, the ones who don't shop at flea markets or comic book stores? Well, when they hear about how much the movie sucks - and let's face it, folks, we know that it will - their interest in seeing a film about a guy who has claws that pop out of his hands will greatly diminish. Needless to say, these people are not going to buy a ticket to see the movie.

Is Karma a bitch? Yup.

Can Fox recoup the funds they lost via their upcoming slate of 'quality' titles: Night at the Museum 2, They Came From Upstairs, All About Steve and Tooth Fairy? Nope.

Hopefully Rothman and the rest of the stooges at Fox can blow their noses on the money they skimmed from the Watchmen grosses.

The bad news for fans is that they can probably kiss any future X-Men, Wolverine, Fantastic Four, or Daredevil movies goodbye. Then again, if they are being made by Fox, that's probably a good thing.