Monday, June 29, 2009

New kid in the Goon Docks

Hello, reader. I'm Glen.

A while back, Joe -- somewhat unwisely, I'd argue -- extended an invitation to me to become a blogger here at After more than a year of hemming, hawing, wishing and washing, here I am.

You might know me from my film reviews, which are read and enjoyed by literally tens of people across the Triad, many of them directly related to me. For those of you who don't know, I've written the Flicks column in Yes! Weekly for a few years now, and I have loved most of it.

Joe and I have been friends since sometime in '06, and I can honestly say I'm honored that he'd ask me to share his little corner of the Internet. I cannot tell you what to expect as far as post frequency and content, but I get space in Yes to write about one movie per week. If absolutely nothing else, this will be a good place to prattle on about my Netflix queue, my burgeoning dislike of Ryan Reynolds and my seasoned-to-perfection hatred of Michael Bay. I hear at least the latter is a welcome sentiment around here.

Anyway, good to be with you. Back with some actual content soon.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Triad's Two to watch instead of 'Transformers 2'

This weekend, Michael Bay has squeezed out a racist, metallic turd into theaters across the country.

And while most Americans wanting to see a brand new movie have few choices beyond the 'Fallen' Transformers sequel or the no less horrible-looking My Sister's Keeper, we Greensboro residents are actually quite lucky.

We got two new movies coming out today, and not only are they much better than Bay-formers 2, but they were both made by filmmakers from the Triad.

First up, we got Goodbye Solo.


Directed and co-written by Winston-Salem native Ramin Bahrani, the film was not only shot in and around his hometown, but unlike many of the films made in the Piedmont Triad area, the movie also takes place there as well.

Unlike most films set in the South, "Goodbye Solo" is one of the very few to acknowledge that our region has changed quite a lot since the days of Andy Griffith. Bahrani tells the story of Solo, a Senegalese cab driver and member of our thriving immigrant population who befriends a grizzled, older man named William. William might have been born in North Carolina, but it's clear he is more of an outsider than his immigrant friend.

The movie is centered around William's desire to end his life and Solo's attempt to change his mind. You could guess how this movie will end, but I promise you will be wrong. This is a subtle, touching drama that is neither cloying or patronizing, and anyone who wants to learn a thing or two about effective, low-budget filmmaking should look at Bahrani's film as the Bible.

As a bonus, there's probably a chance that most people will recognize at least one person in the film. For instance, the fellow selling bootleg DVD's to Solo and his stepdaughter actually worked the security desk with me during my summer break from college.

Many are calling Goodbye Solo one of the year's best films and I am certain that few films - if any - will unseat it from my top 5 list of 2009.

But in case you're in the mood for an action movie instead of a drama, another group of Triad filmmakers have you covered as well in Dogs of Chinatown.


Greensboro filmmakers Blake Faucette and Micah Moore had a smaller budget than Bahrani - and to be fair, smaller ambitions - but with a shoestring budget, they completed a far superior action film than Michael Bay did with Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen. Slight praise, yes, so allow me to go a bit farther. In terms of films that were both locally made - and funded - I haven't seen a completed feature from Greensboro that tops Dogs of Chinatown.

Moore is a whiz at low-fi scene compositions, and the scenes enhanced by digital and coloration effects are top notch.

And not only will Dogs of Chinatown give you the chance to see local actors and actresses get punched, kicked and shot at, but the movie is a time capsule for our city with cameos by local buildings from two years ago that have been either renovated or completely demolished. The best part is, that if you see this film at the Carousel this week, you will be supporting the people who made it directly.

The choice is a simple one. You can either watch a boring, 2.5-hour exercise in racist android porn from a man who doesn't seem to care about humanity, let alone the Triad. Or you can watch the locally made Goodbye Solo or Dogs of Chinatown, both of which are superior films for different reasons.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Review: 'Transformers 2'


To commemorate the tenth anniversary of his classic film Do The Right Thing, Spike Lee did an interview with Entertainment Weekly where the filmmaker denied the existence of our so-called post-racial America that many feel was minted on the day Barack Obama became president. And after watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, I am inclined to agree.

The movie keeps nearly all of the characters from the first movie - even though none of them really mattered all that much - then offers us two new protagonist robots named Mudflap and Skids. These characters, also billed as "the twins," are a pair of jive-talking androids with ridiculously huge lips, despite the fact that very few of the movie's robotic characters have mouths. They also have wide eyes and pull an Amos and Andy, firing off such brilliant nuggets of comedy like "I'm gonna get up in that ass!" and "I hate readin!'"

How many people did it take to tell such a racist joke? It at least required the efforts of director Michael Bay; writers Ehren Kruger, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman; a whole fleet of producers which includes Steven Spielberg; and gobs of CGI and special effects artists. Then to top it off, you have Caucasian voice actor and former Mr. Show alum Tom Kenny (a.k.a. Spongebob Squarepants) who provided the voice-work for both of these characters.

I wonder if there was a point in production where at least one of the white folks involved with the production had the good sense or consideration to ask, 'Isn't this a bit irresponsible?'

But no, and I'm not too sure that anyone involved with the production asked other important questions either, like, 'Is it okay that Megan Fox can't act?' or 'Does a movie about giant robots really need to be two hours and 40 minutes long?"

Speaking of the movie's running time, you'll really feel the seconds crawl as the movie ekes from one poorly executed set piece to the next. Michael Bay shoves his camera in a ridiculous number of angles and the worst part is that none of them are beautiful or effective. Long outed as a director who lacks both confidence in his work and competence Bay's films have been getting increasingly worse since Armageddon. Sadly, it's starting to look like he's never going to pull up from his steep, downward trajectory.

The movie's only saving graces are two scenes where beloved Autobot leader Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) fights off a horde of evil Decepticons near the beginning and ending of the film. Between these two thrilling moments, there's a 'plot' wherein the evil robots are planning to destroy our sun for some reason or another. Sadly, the story is so flimsy and pieced together that John Turturro was asked to recount what was happening just before his character found himself staring directly at a robot's testicles.

So yeah, you've got those two cool Optimus scenes for old Transformers fans like myself, but they are only slight bookends in a long and joyless cinematic library of crap. I recommend that you keep your fingers crossed that someone will upload both of these scenes onto YouTube very soon so you won't have trouble yourself the way that I did.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

'Transformers 2': The Facts


Because of the show, I get a lot of e-mails from studio reps letting me know about release dates, trivia for new movies, and the occasional screening. And while my usual response is to hit the delete button and go about my day, when I got the following list of 'facts' surround Transformers: The Revenge of the Fallen, some of them were too strange or cool not to share.


14 robots last time, 46 robots this time.

If you had all the gold ever mined in the history of man, you could build a little more than half of Devastator.
Optimus Prime will be life size on IMAX screens in many forest fight shots.

Devastator's hand is traveling 390 miles per hour when he punches the pyramid. (Note: What did they do, clock Devastator's fist with a policeman's radar gun?)

The pyramid destruction simulation was 8 times bigger than the old rigid simulation all-time record holder at ILM.

All robot parts laid out end to end would stretch from one side of California to the other, about 180 miles.

Devastator's parts stacked tip to tip would be as tall as 58 empire state buildings.

If all the texture maps on the show were printed on 1 square yard sheets, they would cover 13 football fields.


Trans1 took 20 Terabytes of disk space. Trans2 took 145 Terabytes. Seven times bigger!

145 terabytes would fill 35,000 DVDs. Stacked one on top of the other without storage cases, they would be 145 feet tall.


If you rendered the entire movie on a modern home PC, you would have had to start the renders 16,000 years ago (when cave paintings like the Hall of Bulls were being made) to finish for this year's premiere!

A single imax shot in the movie (df250) would have taken almost 3 years to render on a top of the line home PC running nonstop.

IMAX frame render times: As high as 72 hours per frame!


Optimus Prime will be life size on IMAX screens in many forest fight shots.

Imax frames take about 6 times longer than anamorphic to render.

IMAX frame render times: As high as 72 hours per frame!


ILM Screen Time is about 51 minutes.


Devastator is as tall as a 10 story building.

Devastator has more than 10 times the number of individual parts found in an average car.

Laid out end to end, Devastator's parts would be almost 14 miles long.


Number of geom pieces: 52632

The total number of polygons: 11,716,127

The total length of all pieces: 73090 feet

The total length of all pieces: 13.84 miles


A lot of these tidbits seem to belong to a video game instead of a movie, which might be the point. I hated Transformers, and while I don't think Michael Bay has too good of a chance to pull it off with his second attempt in the franchise, the rest of this summer's movie slate appears bone dry.

Kinda sad that they condensed the release of so many potential tentpole flicks in May and early June.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

[PODCAST] Paramount's 'G.I.' woes and the remaking of 'Pelham.'

Is the seemingly lackluster G.I. Joe movie the result of a Cobra plot? And who - if anyone - should direct the remakes/reboots of Conan the Barbarian, Alien, and Predator? Joe and Mike contemplate these questions and more on this week’s episode of The Movie Show.

They also review The Brothers Bloom and The [Rem]aking of Pelham 123 and dish the latest Darren Aronofsky news.

Soundtrack Selections include:
"Put to the Test" by Pyramid from Foot Fist Way;
“Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” by Bob Dylan from The Brothers Bloom;
“Let’s Dance” (Bowie cover) by M. Ward from Eagle Vs. Shark;
“Thirteen” by Danzig from The Hangover.

Stream it!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

[PODCAST] The Waldo Supremacy

Where\'s Wally?

On this week’s episode of The Movie Show, Joe and Mike help Universal plot their upcoming “Where’s Waldo” movie. They also review The Hangover and find it to be less of a headache than Land of the Lost.

This week’s soundtrack selections:
“Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” by Nancy Sinatra from Kill Bill Vol 1;
“In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins from The Hangover;
“Bad Days” by the Flaming Lips from Batman Forever.

Stream it!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

"Attack of the B-Movies!"


Just because most college students left town for the summer doesn't mean the year-round Greensboroites have to wait until the fall to have fun at the movies.

That's why the folks who programmed the Mixed Tape Film Series and Midnight Madness have teamed up with NC film archivist Matt Pennachi to present "Attack of the B-Movies!"

This special series of midnight movies is four weeks of white-knuckled, unrelenting B-Movie greatness in 35 mm!

Audiences will laugh, scream, and cheer as vintage reels from cinema's yesteryear unspool tales of cyborgs, zombies, bad-ass valley girls, and monstrous beings from hell. And if that wasn't great enough, we're also playing no less than 15 minutes of zany retro trailers with each film!

Tickets are $4 each, with beer, pizza, soda, and popcorn on sale for $1.

NOTE: Because so many people have asked for it, the Carousel will now offer beer via a cash bar until 2 a.m. Now audiences can drink until Blue Laws force them to sober up.

Below are dates, titles, and film descriptions:

Midnight Friday, July 10 - Death Race 2000
Best described as "Gladiator" meets "The French Connection," David Carradine (R.I.P.) races Sylvester Stallone for a chance to destroy a corrupt U.S. President in this Roger Corman exploitation classic.

Midnight Friday, July 17 - Zombie
Zombies! Released stateside in 1980, this is Lucio Fulci's classic zombie movie. Banned in Germany, Norway, and the UK, this film is one of the hallmarks of the genre.

Midnight Friday, July 24 - Night of the Comet
Two valley girls survive Earth's annihilation and must battle hordes of the the walking undead and evil government scientists.

Midnight Friday, July 31 - Demons
A brand-new movie theater transforms the audience into murderous demons as the remaining human guests battle for their lives! Directed by Lamberto Bava and produced by horror legend Dario Argento, this is one of the greatest unsung horror films ever made.

Oh, and here are some trailers:
Death Race 2000


Night of the Comet


Thursday, June 04, 2009


More Than Meets The Eye
By Robert V Aldrich

Looking back, the mid-80s was a great time for cartoons; a veritable golden age. There were so many zany ideas that made it to air. It turned Saturday morning into a sheer smorgasbord of awesome. You had dinosaurs, you had video game characters, you had elite military units. And you had robots. You had robots that looked alien and you had robots that looked like humans. You had robots who were actually holograms and you had robots that looked like tiny, cartoon knights. And then you had robots in disguise.

When Transformers came on the air, it was like nothing we had ever seen before. It was a noticeably more complex and intense show than much of the animated fare around it. It had more unique and interesting characters, it had more action, it had a more developed premise. It was everything a person, child or adult, could want in a show.

In the twenty-five years since Transformers first appeared, its popularity and fandom have only grown. Countless websites are devoted to Transformers. Multiple conventions exist solely around Transformers. Parodied and mocked, celebrated and admired, Transformers has endured and it’s endured because of its fans.

For a show that started out as little more than a thirty-minute commercial for a toy line, it’s earned a loyal fanbase. New fans are discovering it, and old fans are coming together to rediscover it. It’s a part of our childhood and a part of our lives. Whether your a diehard geek with your own Transformers collection at home and a raging debate over G1 Optimus Prime versus the live-action movie Optimus Prime, or just a casual fan who, with a smile, remembers watching the show after school, Transformers has a place in all our hearts. So sit back, know you are amongst friends, and smile as you reconnect with the show that transformed your life.

And don’t feel bad if you get a little weepy when Optimus dies. He comes back in season three.


NOTE: Robert Aldrich s a published novelist, but more importantly, he's an old friend who could very well be the nation's leading scholar in all things Transformers. I'm hosting a round of trivia at tonight's screening of Transformers: The Movie, and some of the questions that were prepared for me are very, very hard. That said, I guarantee that Robert could answer every single question.

My Adam Ross article.


Producer took chance on new filmmakers


Special to Go Triad

The first time I interviewed Greensboro film producer Adam Ross, my assignment was to write a story on his low-budget sci-fi action film "Children of the Hunt."

Sitting in a lawn chair a quarter-mile from the set his family owned in the woods, Ross was this scruffy, wild-eyed scarecrow of a man. My assignment was to write 600 words, but our recorded interview lasted nearly two hours as Ross talked about 3-D filmmaking, transcendental meditation, Richard Donner's original Superman movie and the realistic potential of human time travel. I asked maybe two questions.

And although there was no way that even a fraction of what Ross said could fit into a 600-word feature on his film, I didn't regret a single moment of our conversation.

On May 24, Ross died of a heart-attack after contracting spinal meningitis. He was 37.

That Ross would die as the result of a rare bacterial infection was cruelly ironic, for he was a severe germaphobe.

He didn't share food, would only buy shoes straight off of delivery trucks to ensure other people had not worn them and removed the laces from all of his sneakers and boots so he would never have to touch them for fear of contamination.

"I can almost see him now saying, 'I told you so!' " says Matt Pennachi, a friend of Ross' who lives in Durham.

Click here for the rest of the article.