Archive for movies

2002: A TIME ODYSSEY

Posted in The Popular with tags , , on November 17, 2008 by Adam Sapiro

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I LOVE how movies can take you back to another time and place, I bygone era you might have lived through — or only ever posterheard about.

I just watched one such film and was transported all the way back in time — to the early 2000s. It was “Spider-Man,” a movie that has aged worse than guacamole at a summer picnic.

How can it be? The thing is only six years old — they’re still making sequels — yet it already feels like a relic from another time.

Where do I begin? How ’bout the wrestling scene, Peter Parker’s coming-out party as Spider-Man. It’s the first time we really get to see him in action, and he’s wrestling? With Randy “Macho Man” Savage?? Somewhere offscreen, did Superman spin the world back to the 1980s?

macyThen there’s the scene in Times Square, where folks are celebrating “World Unity Day” or something. Who’s entertaining the crowd? None other than recording artist Macy Gray! No, she’s not singing that one song you kinda remember by her from when she was popular for a few months. It’s some tuneless crap called “My Nutmeg Phantasy” (worst song title ever?). Don’t worry if you forgot that she was in the movie — even she doesn’t remember being in it.

It doesn’t help matters that during the drawn-out Times Square scene, cingular2we see a ginormous, conspicuously product-placed billboard for some old-timey company called Cingular (kids, ask your parents), or that the Green Goblin shows up and wreaks havoc on New Yorkers. (Crime in Times Square? How retro!)

And what’s with all this newspaper stuff throughout this flick. Like, Peter is a photographer for the school paper. Do schools even have school papers anymore? And he’s using a film camera! Dork. Later, he goes to work for the Daily Bugle, a newspaper that’s actually hiring people! Talk about bygone days …

paperAnd I swear, this has to be the last movie to use the spinning-front-page newspaper montage for exposition. Seriously? Newspapers aren’t even how moviegoers get their news anymore.

Another way this superhero flick shows its age? There’s only one villain! You can’t get away with that today: “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” have roughly 35 villains between them. Even last year’s “Spider-Man 3” upped the enemy count. A superhero movie with only one bad guy won’t fly with today’s ADHD audiences.

Right to the end, “Spider-Man” dates itself. The crappy closing credit songs sound even worse than they did in 2002, which is saying something. Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger “sings” “Hero” in that croaking, ’90s Pearl Jammy way, and Sum 41 (that’s the number of minutes they were popular) sound like warmed-over Beastie Boys. Great stuff if you want to clear a theater quickly but don’t want to yell “Fire.”

What about the oft-repeated mantra of the movie, its theme, if you will? “With great power comes great responsibility.” After two terms of George W. Bush, we now know that’s bullshit.

It’s funny — an early trailer for the film prominently (and unfortunately) featured the World Trade Center. Supposedly, the WTC scene was never intended for the final film. But it might as well have been included. “Spider-Man” feels so last century already.

THE OVER/UNDER

Posted in The Popular with tags , , , on October 14, 2008 by Adam Sapiro

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Overrated: J.J. Abrams Underrated: Jimmie “JJ” Walker

Overrated: the Dow Underrated: the now

Overrated: “Tropic Thunder” Underrated: the Lightning Seeds

Overrated: gravitas Underrated: gravy fries

Overrated: “House” Underrated: “Hoss”

Overrated: “unrated extended” Underrated: 90-minute runtime

Overrated: “Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead” Underrated: the devil you don’t know

Overrated: Robert Downey Jr. Underrated: Junior Brown

IRON MAN, MARBLE MOUTH

Posted in The Popular with tags , , , , , , , on October 1, 2008 by Adam Sapiro

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HE WAS the biggest movie star of the summer, the one who had everybody talking. So how come I couldn’t understand a word Robert Downey Jr. said?

First, I saw “Tropic Thunder,” in which Downey plays an Australian actor portraying a black American character in a war movie. His performance won rave reviews, but I found at least half of what he said unintelligible. Maybe it was the theater’s sound system or the accents he used, but I really had trouble making out his lines throughout the film.

So I finally got to see “Iron Man” yesterday, and wouldn’t you know it, Downey kinda mumbles his way through this one too. I swear to God, about half of his lines are delivered as whispers or as tossed-off, smart-alecky asides. I was so distracted by his low-key yet rushed line readings that they were all I could focus on. It doesn’t help that director Jon Favreau decided to go a little Altmanesque and have his actors talk simultaneously in several scenes, to mirror natural dialogue. That would be fine in a lot of movies. But c’mon, Downey, you’re playing a superhero, for chrissakes … E-nun-ci-ate.

In other “entertainment” news:

Natalie Cole has basically made a career out of being her father’s daughter and singing the old man’s tunes — one of “her” biggest hits was “Unforgettable,” a “duet” with the dead guy, for crying out loud. Seventeen years later, she’s grave-robbin’ again — with a new album and another duet with the crooning cadaver. The name of the album? “Still Unforgettable.” Umm, Natalie, if you have to remind us you’re unforgettable…

So I was reading an article in Entertainment Weekly about Disney’s hottest new product, Demi Lovato, and how she’s poised to take over Miley’s teen-pop throne (no, I don’t know why I was reading it) and the story quoted “an equities analyst at Schaeffer’s Investment Research who follows the teen-entertainment market.” For real? Maybe we should just let our economy collapse and start over…

NO MORE GAMES (Some More)

Posted in The Popular with tags , on August 14, 2008 by Adam Sapiro

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THANKS for the feedback on the I-hate-the-Olympics movie marathon post below. I used a list of Summer Olympics games to come up with the films and, being American and all, I interpreted Football as Football, and not Soccer. I thought about it later and realized I screwed up, so I’ve adjusted the post.

And here are the other Summer Olympics sports I couldn’t come up with movies for. Anyone have any ideas?

  • Field events (like the long jump, pole vault and javelin)
  • Badminton
  • Gymnastics (“Gymkata,” anyone?)
  • Handball
  • Judo (Maybe “Goldfinger”? Didn’t Pussy Galore practice it, among other things?)
  • Pentathlon/Triathlon
  • Rowing (“Dead Poets Society”?)
  • Taekwondo (how ’bout Rex Kwon Do in “Napoleon Dynamite”?)
  • Weighlifting

A gold medal to anyone who can help fill in the gaps…

NO MORE GAMES (A Movie-Marathon Alternative To The Olympics)

Posted in The Popular with tags , , , , , , , on August 12, 2008 by Adam Sapiro

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I CAN’T believe it’s been four years since I completely ignored the last Summer Olympics. If you, like me, couldn’t give a shit about the ’08 Games, then I offer you this list of counter-programming.

Just turn off NBC and enjoy a marathon of these movies instead — you’ll get the games (kinda) without all the garbage.

I had only a few rules for the list — the sport had to be present in the film somehow, the athletes had to be amateurs, and the films had to be great … or at least pretty good.

So let the games be gone and let the marathon begin:

(And for more info on the films, click on the titles to go to their imdb.com pages.)

Archery: “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1938) It hits the bullseye of fun. (How’s that for a tag line?)

Baseball: “The Sand Lot” (1993) Kinda like “Stand By Me,” but with baseball instead of a body.

Basketball: “Hoop Dreams” (1994) Great doc. (Runner-up: “Deadly Friend,” but only for the decapitation-by-basketball scene)

Boxing: “Twenty Four Seven” (1997) Black and white, British, and Bob Hoskins runs a boxing club.

Canoeing: Without A Paddle” (2004) OK, it’s not that good, but I’ve never seen the obvious pick — “Deliverance” (and I’d rather watch the Olympics than see Ned Beatty squeal).

Cycling: “Breaking Away” (1979) Obviously.

Diving: “Back To School” (1986) Dangerfield doing “the Triple Lindy.” That’s comedy (well, it was in 1986).

Equestrian: “The Godfather” (1972) Yeah, this one’s a stretch, but has a horse ever had greater impact in a movie?

Fencing: “The Princess Bride” (1987) “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

Field Hockey: “Ginger Snaps” (2000) A cool Canadian horror flick about teenage girls and “the curse.”

Gymnastics: OK, I’m stumped here. Does that awesome chase through the construction site in “Casino Royale” count as gymnastics?

Sailing: “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975) There’s really only one scene in the whole film that takes place outside of the mental hospital, but when those inmates bust out…

Shooting: Sorry, but I can’t think of one movie with a gun in it.

Soccer: “Bend It Like Beckham” (2002) Fortunately, Becks isn’t in it — unlike our country.

Swimming: “The Big Bad Swim” (2006) A low-budget comedy about a swim class in Connecticut. Even so, it’s pretty good.

Table Tennis: “Ping Pong” (2002) A manga-based Japanese comedy-drama with cool CGI ping-pong action. (Runner-up: “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.” Who knew Winona Ryder had such talent?)

Tennis: “Match Point” (2005) Woody Allen managed to slip in a good movie this decade.

Track: “Run Lola Run” (1998) If you gotta watch someone run around and around, you could do worse than Franka Potente.

Volleyball: “Cast Away” (2000) Best use ever of a volleyball in a movie.

Wrestling: “Borat” (2006) Best use ever of a censor bar in a movie.

Well that should keep you busy. Oh, and if anyone knows of a movie with a badminton scene, let me know… (and no, “Bye Bye Birdie” doesn’t count.)

THE PLOT THINS… (15 GREAT MOVIES IN WHICH NOTHING MUCH HAPPENS)

Posted in The Popular with tags , , , , , on July 24, 2008 by Adam Sapiro

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HAVE you seen ‘The Dark Knight’ yet?’ That’s what everyone keeps asking. Well, no. I hated “Batman Begins” and I’m in no rush to see yet another overstuffed superhero movie. I decided to go another way this week.

I watched a little-known 1971 film called “Two-Lane Blacktop” instead. There’s no villain, no real plot, minimal dialogue, only one real actor — hell, the characters don’t even have names — and yet I was mesmerized from beginning to end (and this film has one of the coolest movie endings ever). I could tell you what it’s “about” but that doesn’t matter — and that’s why I enjoyed it.

A lot of people complain about films like this — “There was no plot!” — but these are the films that amaze me. Like life (which also doesn’t have a plot), they can move you, sometimes to tears, and you never see it coming.

As a rule, if a movie’s characters are interesting, I’ll follow them anywhere — no plot necessary. Some movies get it half right — I remember watching “Sideways” a few years ago and being really pissed when the contrived plot devices intruded midway through and spoiled the ride. And then there’s “No Country For Old Men,” a film that tricks you into believing the plot is important when it really isn’t.

Unfortunately, summer movies are all about plot. But if you’re burned out from the sensory overload of all the season’s blockbusters and you want to cleanse you’re palate, here’s a list of 15 of my favorite movies of the past 15 years that have little or no plot, just interesting characters connecting in interesting ways. If you see some movies you already like, then you’ll probably want to check out some of the others. Click on the titles to see each film’s imdb.com page.

(Disclaimer: I’m not a film snob — I love my share of trashy movies too, like “Armageddon” and “The Fast and the Furious,” so back off. And I’m not listing stuff by directors like Cassavetes, who paved the way — the films below are all fairly recent and easy to get into. Also, I’m not including excellent movies like “Jackie Brown” and “The Big Lebowski” that are more enjoyable when you just ignore the plot. Fourth, while I liked “The Savages” and the way it rambled on, it does kinda have a plot, so that should serve as a guideline here. Finally, three of the films listed are by Richard Linklater, one of my all-time favorite directors and a big fan of “Two-Lane Blacktop.”)

15 Great (Relatively) Plotless Movies

Bonus: If you really like your movies without a plot, check out director Aaron Katz’s “Quiet City” and “Dance Party, USA” — two fine examples of mumblecore (and if you don’t know what that is, you will after you watch them.)

The Over/Under

Posted in The Popular with tags , , , , , on July 1, 2008 by Adam Sapiro

Overrated: Jimmy Buffett Underrated: Jimmy Eat World

Overrated: The new “Doctor Who” Underrated: “The New Zoo Revue”

Overrated: “Batman Begins” Underrated: Split Enz

Overrated: Gus Van Sant Underrated: Van Damme

Overrated: polls Underrated: Poles

Overrated: Rihanna Underrated: “Syriana”

Overrated: “Devils and Dust” Underrated: Angels & Airwaves

Overrated: “Mystic River” Underrated: Mr. Misty