So you might have noticed that Shared Darkness has been down for a bit. All bills were paid! But my hosting site switched over to WordPress, and without grinding through all the boring details, I hadn’t saved a full archived RSS feed, so a lot of things had to be imported manually before a re-boot, and I was additionally caught up with some travel and deadlines. Things got complicated and, naturally, are now a bit wonky. Most content seems to have made the trip, but some stuff appears lost — and pictures and formatting in certain posts are screwy, too. I hope to resolve in rolling fashion, but it’s time to flip the switch. If/when you come across dead links and other irritants feel free to sling me a message. It’s a process, you know?
It’s hard to fathom how anyone could really muster the energy to have a sincere and protracted argument about the ending of 300: Rise of an Empire, and harder still to wrap one’s head around any disagreement on that subject resulting in running someone over with a truck in a movie theater parking lot, but that has happened in Houston, Texas. Just stupid, senseless, and further proof that little good can come of talking to strangers in a men’s restroom.
With both a look at the new Blu-ray set and the theatrical release of the fifth Die Hard installment, A Good Day to Die Hard, on deck for later this/next week, it’s time to take a glance back at the ratings controversy that engulfed Live Free and Die Hard back in 2007. No such kerfuffle this time around, which speaks to Fox getting some things ironed out in advance. Still a strange one, though, that very public fight, especially given all of the terrible dubbing on display in the movie.
In surprising news, well regarded film reporter Jeff Sneider has
ankled been fired from Variety, it seems, but in characteristic fashion the reportage on the split from the Wrap makes things cloudier rather than clearer. Getting fired over an innocuous joke tweet after getting beat on a scoop? The definition of bullshit — I’m not buying it. The real question, then, is why is this story even out there?
Author and filmmaker Charles Ferguson, the director of No End in Sight and Inside Job, makes a compelling case, via the Huffington Post, that the refusal of Glenn Hubbard, Mitt Romney’s chief economic advisor and chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under George W. Bush, to disclose critical information about his income, conflicts of interest and paid advocacy activities — just like Romney’s refusal to release years of tax returns he previously made available to John McCain’s campaign during 2008 — is something that matters, deeply. Again, for the full read, click here.
This, all over again. Where are the worker bots to help with tasks and all of life’s other errands? I was promised worker bots…
I wouldn’t say this issue is nearest and dearest to my heart, exactly — business reportage and boardroom shuffle talk interests me far, far less than the artistic elements of filmmaking — but news from The Wrap noting that summer movie ticket sales are down 100 million from a decade ago is both saddening and not wildly surprising.
That’s individual admission ticket sales, again, not gross dollars or anything like that. This year’s summer slate grossed $4.27 billion combined, down a little over 2.8 percent from last year’s $4.4 billion haul. Admissions, however, were at 526 million, down from 629 million admissions in the summer of 2002. Yes, there were the Olympics at summer’s end this year, but this box office gate information again highlights that grosses are being propped up by inflated ticket prices (cough, cough, 3-D) and, less discussed, a handful of sequels and the like.
Franchises always have their (top-shelf) place in Hollywood, especially during the summer, but with few exceptions the industry is into risk management and brokered financial returns far more than any creative endeavors. They’ve done an extraordinarily crummy job of growing and conditioning a new generation of film fans, instead using the wares of videogames and comic books as the equivalent of fishing lures. At a certain point, this tack becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because you have less and less people excited by the idea of sitting in a darkened room with a lot of strangers and experiencing something new together.
So Murphy’s Law has a way of reaching over and slapping you down, as I (re-)learned last night, after mentioning on Twitter that I was (finally) headed to a screening of The Avengers. An incident at the ArcLight Hollywood prevented that, however. The 3-D presentation was screwed up. After the movie started, several dozen people started streaming down the aisles, searching for replacements for their 3-D glasses. My friend was among them; I waited two or three minutes, but the blurriness around the edges became too much. I retrieved another pair, which was worse, actually — a massive green tint (Hulk Vision?), and a significant blacking out of image in left lens. After more than 10 minutes of this, coming and going and trying another seven pairs or so, I quit and gave up. Some folks just lumped it and stuck in out, I guess, but this was a widespread issue, and quite disorienting. Was this part of some elaborate episode of Punk’d, like where Ryan Reynolds gets revenge on critics for their dismissal of his superhero turn in The Green Lantern?
UPDATE, 5/3: Over at Movieline, Jen Yamato has a piece re-capping the experience, and the culpability of the XpanD active-shutter 3-D glasses. Click here for the read.
Over at The Wrap, Joshua Weinstein has up a piece on movie aggregators, and whether they “matter,” looking at Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic and Movie Review Intelligence. It’s a nice but not particularly deep or instructive thumbnail-type read, mainly because it doesn’t get into the substantive failings — or shortcomings, at least — of each aforementioned site.
Aggregators are enormously important, of course, because they can both help connect readers to new writers and allow them to more easily follow their favorites. The oldest, biggest and unarguably most populist is Rotten Tomatoes, of course, in which all critics (500-plus, they say) are created equal. Metacritic (which is owned by CBS Interactive) assigns scores to its 44 polled critics, as well as to their reviews; the greater a critic’s stature, the more influential that critic’s opinion is on the overall Metacritic score. Movie Review Intelligence, meanwhile, rates and weighs its supposed 51 polled publications (though there seem to be a lot more on its site) by readership.
While providing some modicum of sifted elitism that places it above the riff-raff of bloggerdom (one assumes no honest Tea Partier could check either of these sites), neither of the latter two sites seems to have hit upon quite the right formula. While the more manageable numbers allow for greater shades of grey in their filmic rankings (as opposed to Rotten Tomatoes’ yea-nay system), they hardly seem inclusive or representative enough, geographically or culturally, for a true, digital-age canvassing.
And what of their measurements — for MRI, how frequently are readerships audited, and by what means? Is a print subscription base the same as readership, and/or how is that stacked up and weighed against more discretely measured web traffic? (Their critics roster, meanwhile, is littered with infrequent contributors to name-brand publications.) Even more elusive is Metacritic’s somewhat dodgy notion of “stature.” Is it a zero-sum game? As one critic’s stature or star rises, does another’s have to necessarily wane? Who watches the watchmen, in other words — sitting astride the cultural world as arbiters of approved opinion?
The best formula, as yet untapped, seems somewhere in the middle. Like it or not, as full-time single outlet perches further dwindle, film critics and those otherwise professionally assaying culture will become de facto free agents, employed full-time by a small(er) number of outlets but also free (and wise) to write on their own, and/or pitch out special pieces. Rotten Tomatoes might do well to bring in a nominal multiplier to its formula, to apply to heavy-volume reviewers who see and write about more films annually. But its system (even with more rigorous application standards than it first had in its heyday) is still the most egalitarian and useful, and ergo not by accident the most popular with consumers. It astounds me that, given all the hyper-generational advances in SEO and other arenas on the web, movie aggregator sites have not done a better job in tweaking their formulas and managing their own growth. Hopefully they turn an eye toward that in the short-term future, because social media massage is not a skill set with which all writers are naturally equipped. For The Wrap’s full read, click here.
I got an email from a friend that pointed out first we had President Obama’s half-eaten pancakes and eggs up put for Internet auction. Then we had Shia LaBeouf‘s tracked-up and sweat-grungy bikini briefs from a studio’s wardrobe department, followed by Scarlett Johansson‘s used Kleenex from The Tonight Show. And now bids will be taken on Michael Jackson’s queen-size, hospital-adjustable death bed from his Bel-Air compound. Asked what this says about civilization, I have but one reply: clearly I should start selling “bottled air” from junkets and other interview opportunities.
I don’t have a picture of a monkey in the control room, but it seems as if a simple monthly switch-over into September capsized/dumped a punch of recently updated SD posts, from the past week-plus. We’ll aim to resolve issue, and/or get those re-posted as soon as possible. And then… revenge!
So I’m late to the party on this whole Blake Lively hacked nude iPhone pictures story, the absolute tamest of which appears above. Apparently after the first set of photos surfaced (some — smartly? artfully? — with her eyes obscured), the enterprising “hacker” who released these floated a second batch of T&A shots, and a couple fairly indisputable posed, fully-clothed pictures with the same backgrounds. So while a Congressman teeters on the brink of likely resignation for some nude cell-camera snaps (and admittedly idiotic behavior), a starlet with a big summer movie on the horizon watches her Google quotient spike, and probably moves up a couple dozen spots on whatever new hot-chicks-young-guys-wanna-bang list Maxim is currently composing.
Pointing out what probably a handful of others already have, does the timing of all this not seem suspicious to anyone? With Warner Bros.’ mega-budget The Green Lantern about to alight this week, this is certainly one way to
share steal the spotlight from Ryan Reynolds. Lively, who gave quite nice supporting turns in both The Private Lives of Pippa Lee and last year’s The Town, isn’t getting much juice in her new movie’s trailers, but complementary tabloid campaigns can most assuredly serve as propellant and boost a career that already has its own loaded fuel tanks of ambition. So… does this really pass the smell test as an innocent accident?
Look, I’m not saying this is some shadow studio promotional gambit. I’m just sure that the PR folks saw them and did some high-fives in the office, because it probably meant they instantly got all the Lively “juice” (stories) they could reasonably expect to attach to the movie and then some, all without her having to submit to a litany of questions about what it was like to (presumably) smooch Reynolds and work in front of a green-screen. I’ve said before that probably the worst thing in the world to be is an 18- to
26-year-old girl with designs on leading actress Hollywood studio parts, because every single day of the week, 365 days a
year, about a dozen new scorching hot aspirant starlets get off the
Greyhound bus or disembark at LAX from their one-way fare from Podunk, Idaho, chomping at the bit to unseat you. So when actresses of a certain breed — those who’ve experienced some success, let’s say, and are eager to still get passed to the Sundance gift suites — see Khloe Kardashian trip her way into demi-celebrity (“Thank goodness my sister made a sex tape with Brandy’s brother!”), well… they’re more apt to take matters into their own hands. And sometimes those matters might be their breasts, that’s all I’m sayin’.
I refer spammers to this information, in case they’ve forgotten.
I was going over first trimester releases with an editor recently, hashing out some details on a compendium of film reviews, and Just Go With It came up. I stared at the text. Nothing. Was this a direct-to-video flick starring Hilary Duff? No, even those have more memorable titles these days, it turns out. I bore down, since the title clearly prescribed the film’s genre. Still nothing. Only two months removed, and I could absolutely not place it as the movie starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston. (Or featuring Dave Matthews awkwardly squeezing a coconut between his legs, if you will.)
This is the curse of blandly innocuous movie-phrase titling — films that bear no particular or special relationship to their rah-rah moniker, which could be interchangeably used to describe a dozen or more other movies. Studios, which thrive on gimme-putt decision making, think they’re giving the masses what they want and making it easy for them when they tab pabulum as such, but in actuality they’re just making it more difficult for audiences to seek out their product in ancillary markets, removed from the blitz of opening weekend marketing. (Of course, sometimes, certain writer-directors also don’t help matters. I’m looking at you, James Brooks). Specificity and distinctiveness matters in a title, even when you’re just looking to lazily tap a demographic vein.
It’s no great whoop to make a blog crush confession — there’s not really as much to get into when praising someone’s talents, charm and looks. What about the inverse, though? An almost irrational dislike of an established or up-and-coming performer, a hate-on unattached to any single particular film (and thus its hype)? For me, one such anti-crush is Lucy Punch, an English actress most people would still recognize by face rather than name, if at all.
The depth of her lack of appeal to me came rushing to the fore courtesy of a bit role in the recent Elektra Luxx, but Punch — courtesy of her turn on ITV’s Doc Martin and then a role in Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s buzz-heavy Shaun of the Dead follow-up, Hot Fuzz — has for a while now been a go-to scene-player for portraying boozy ditzes, stinking up scenes in movies like Dinner for Schmucks, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger and Take Me Home Tonight. OK, granted… part of the problem is that she so frequently plays shrill and/or dislikeable characters, but Punch also has a look that’s… what, horse-ish, right? Just a bit. Broad face, big features, those too-light eyebrows. If Marilyn Manson were cross-bred with one of the chicks from American Gladiators, Lucy Punch would be close to the result, I think. She puts off a vibe is what I’m saying. It’s almost like an alarm/aversion pheromone.
This unfortunate fact, combined with her general overdemonstrativeness, has put her in the performer’s penalty box with me. Whenever I see her, I think, “Oh, here comes some vampy and/or obvious, grating choices,” and Punch has yet to disappoint. It’s not like she’s a lead or has any box office juice, either, so why does she keep getting cast? Are filmmakers really that hard up for comediennes?
Hey, serial spammers possessing of a dubious grasp of the English language — do you see any of your solicitations and/or weird, tangential, template flattery? No, no you don’t. Your hyperlink-saturated comments aren’t getting posted. So go bomb someone else, please. Or, by all means, continue to do your worst in idiotic fashion, and for no gain. But this is a battle you will lose, because I can control the board.
So the big news today, and late yesterday too, I guess, was of course the arraignment on felony grand theft charges of Lindsay Lohan, who was charged in the alleged pinching of a $2,500 necklace from a Venice, CA store. Is that crime worth three years in jail, to which she could theoretically be sentenced? No, of course not. The judge in her previous drug case did promise six months in jail if she violated probation, however. So there will be time behind bars. One wonders if this is really yet the bottom, though, given Lohan’s seeming lack of self-seriousness about some of her problems.
I weigh in as part of Vulture’s 50-critic sampling of the worst of film in 2010, disregarding the advice of Oasis and looking back in anger on the execrable Furry Vengeance, costarring Brendan Fraser and Brooke Shields. And hey, I even make the pull-quote chart of their slideshow for the top 10 worst vote-getters, though not explicitly for marveling at the movie’s acid-trip end-credit montage, and (yes, seriously) Blue Lagoon reference.
Just glimpsed the Rotten Tomatoes pull quote for Armond White’s review of Jackass 3-D, in which he notes that Steve-O’s port-a-john routine “utilizes distance and trajectory in a way that recalls the great waterslide joke in Norbit (and should help rehabilitate that wonderful film’s unfair reputation).”
Goddamn, that guy just does not quit. His stunt façade is impenetrable. I didn’t click through to read the whole thing, by the way. That’s the only power I have.
One of the most incisive and telling jokes in the misunderstood, under-appreciated, highbrow-masquerading-as-lowbrow Idiocracy, from writer-director Mike Judge, is that in a dumbed-down dystopian future the reigning Best Picture Oscar winner is called Ass: The Movie, with all the attendant creativity that title suggests. Which brings us to Fart: The Movie, a flick apparently from 1991 but only now receiving its DVD debut.
Not to be confused with this Fart: The Movie (sigh…), a newer flick from the year 2000 costarring two of Chris Farley’s brothers, Fart (or F.A.R.T., as it’s being billed in some circles, despite its cover art to the contrary) centers on Russell (Joel Weiss), who has but two passions in life: passing gas and watching television. His girlfriend Heather (Shannandoah Sorin) hates his flatulence, but still kind of tolerates him. When Russell falls asleep in front of the TV one night, he dreams a little dream in which all the programming seems to be fart-centric, from infomercials and newscasts to scripted dramas and comedies.
Interestingly, Fart: The Movie is actually co-written by film critic and entertainment journalist Drew McWeeny, of Ain’t It Cool News and now Hitfix, though to be fair it’s hard to cast blame with much of a high-and-hard fastball, since there are eight credited screenwriters, including director Ray Etheridge. (A much better snapshot representation of McWeeny’s work and talents is available here, in the form of his “Masters of Horror” entry Pro-Life, directed by John Carpenter.) The set-up, of course, allows for an endless, sketch-style cycling of flatulence humor, loosely in the vein of something like The Kentucky Fried Movie. Absolutely terrible production value hampers this effort from the start, however, and the jokes are largely stale and predictable as well, never really trying to mine any deeper sense of discomfort about something so, well, universal. Even adolescent boys — the target demographic for this, one presumes — won’t be guffawing much, given the lack of imagination in set-ups and what not.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case, Fart: The Movie is not presented in smell-o-vision, thankfully, but instead in a fairly (appropriately?) cruddy 1.33:1 full frame transfer, alongside a PCM 1.0 mono audio track. DVD bonus features include only a handful of trailers. If you really must give this a spin, I suppose search on Amazon, or click here to purchase via Half. It will quickly, however, end up back in your unwanted garage sale box of Don “The Dragon” Wilson DVDs and old Doctor Who VHS cassettes, I can assure you. F (Movie) D- (Disc)
Confirmation today that Paramount, despite junketing the former movie this past weekend, will be screening neither Jackass 3-D nor Paranormal Activity 2 for critics. Weak sauce, especially when you could pick up a few “friendlies” on the Jackass flick. If I’d known this, I would have arranged to just crash one of the junket screenings.
Really? This is what we’ve come to? Using the advance awards buzz for The Fighter (Paramount, December 10) as a pole vault, David O. Russell has signed on for his next writing and directing project, in the form of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, “based on the bestselling PlayStation 3 videogame.” That’s the depressing news from The Wrap. Look, I understand everyone’s gotta eat, but I hate to see interesting, idiosyncratic directors dive into virtually indistinguishable videogame franchises. So I ask: is there anyone that thinks they can, with a straight face, make a case regarding Russell’s deep and abiding passion for the source material? Because if so, folks at Columbia Pictures will eventually be needing you to work up some press notes for the movie.
I’ve had this conversation a couple different times now with a couple different sets of old-guard journalists, and it rarely gets any less exhausting or more productive. Here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter what Philip Roth thinks the iPad says about the future of reading, or whether you can comprehend why your neighbor would cancel their newspaper subscription, or whether one individually believes the more conversational nature of blogging and/or online film criticism and (gasp) actual interaction with readers is not “real” or “legitimate” journalism, and its practitioners are ergo wholesale frauds and idiots. The dominant mechanism for 21st century news and entertainment conveyance has been decided, and it is not print. It will continue to exist, but that train has left the station. So, professionally speaking, you’ve either got a ticket and are on board or you will not make it to the next town.
I didn’t really get into this during its wide release a couple weeks back, because it was readily apparent from the outset that You Again was an inconsequential thing that was going to sink like a stone (especially once people figured out that Betty White’s screen time was minimal), but the movie exhibited one of those big, stupid, boneheaded lapses happens every once in a while in a Hollywood film, and makes you realize that even when (maybe especially because) unions put a couple hundred people on a set, no one wants to take ownership of what they sense is a turd.
Passably bad movies — those that elicit sighs of exasperation at their mediocrity and lack of imagination — chart into choppier waters when they start getting even little details wrong. Because those are actually a big deal. It’s a sign that the creative team quit on the project, really — the cinematic equivalent of loafing it up the first baseline on a grounder to third. You Again notably fails in this regard when it has Kristen Bell’s character dig up an unearthed high school time capsule with interviews from 2002 — crucial to the plot, in that it helps her humiliate her rival — and reveals it to be stored on… a VHS tape. In 2002? No. Wrong. Idiots!