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How do you like your Bond?

November 14th, 2008 (12:50 pm)

Today's Tusk piece:



How do you like your Bond?
By Ben Flanagan
Ben Around
November 14, 2008

The name's Bond. Jason Bond. Er, I mean James Bourne. Uh, James … Bond? Got it!

Today, MGM releases its latest explosion into the canon of one of film's most celebrated global film franchises, the new James Bond movie 'Quantum of Solace.' Last time, producer Barbara Broccoli and the other folks that line the braintrust of the franchise decided their hero had trailed off into a muddled malaise of silliness (2002's 'Die Another Day') that even Roger Moore would disapprove of, and thought a revamp of the series was the right direction to take and essential.

This realization sparked the conception of 2006's highly touted 'Casino Royale,' which boasted a fresher, brawnier and blonder Bond, with a little more depth behind Daniel Craig's tender blue eyes. Broccoli deserves a hefty amount of respect, because the latter years of Pierce Brosnan's run at 007 were working financially. The uncomfortable 'Die Another Day' grossed a domestic total of $160 million, which if you're in the movie business, you rinse and repeat, and fast.

But they obviously knew something was off. The charm of their iconic hero had been compromised in the naughtiest of ways. But leave it to the people who have delivered between 15 and 20 solid spy thrillers in the past 40 years to catch themselves before they fall, to understand that they had drifted into a losing streak, even if Brosnan had eased nicely into the role and given the franchise one of its best entries ever ('GoldenEye').

Lucky for us Bond geeks, and general fans of spy thrillers, Craig came along to pulverize us with his new, more realistic hitman who wanted the audience to hurt just as much as his victims. The new Bond and his film kicked and strangled their way to become the highest grosser of the franchise.

There are a few of us out there, though, who liked the movie (sans the painful Chris Cornell theme song and tiresome running time), but have a sneaking suspicion some of its impressive action cues were influenced by another secret agent hero of the same initials, Mr. Jason Bourne. I must stress that the influence came from the two films that Paul Greengrass helmed ('Bourne Supremacy' and 'Bourne Ultimatum'), which brought a frenetic, handheld brutality and realism to fistfights and car chases that left us happy and hurting.

Is this such a bad thing, that the dominant franchise of the spy movie genre, in dire need of an overdue retooling, took a few pointers from a rookie phenom? It's as if Greengrass and his 'Bourne' movies said, 'This is how action is done, and that's that,' and the Bond folks said, 'Okay, we're fine with that. Can we play, too?'

Understand that while I've enjoyed all of them to a great extent, I don't feel those 'Bourne' movies are flawless. Personally, I'll always pick Bond over Bourne. There's just something about the tradition or mystique with this franchise that will never get old, and forever be as cool and suave as its debonair and dangerous hero. Fast cars, beautiful women, nifty gadgets and unashamedly silly puns all surrounding one of film's most purely bad-ass characters is a template no other series can match.

Even if nerds on the online message boards were labeling today's release 'The Bourne Solace' based on its initial trailers and footage, who cares? If you take a closer look at it, the Craig features have maintained a rather stylish, steady hand without resorting to a shaky, jumbled presentation.

And there's that title, too. 'Quantum of Solace' may be the single most scrutinized and bashed movie title I've heard in all my years of watching movies and following the online forums. Yes, if there is a single entertainment figure who solely owns the word 'Quantum,' it's Scott Bakula (forget it, Dean Stockwell!), but perhaps we should give this one a chance. If the title confuses you, don't worry, it confuses all of us. Falling into the 'good movies with questionable titles' category with 'The Shawshank Redemption,' 'The Hudsucker Proxy' and 'The Parallax View,' the latest yarn in this deservedly celebrated series may indicate how it simply wouldn't work with any other title at all.

What's scary is that 'Quantum of Solace' seems to have a bit of that swagger and word-of-mouth 'The Dark Knight' had heading into the summer. Everyone I've talked to who has the slightest interest in seeing movies at the theater has expressed a considerably antsy anticipation for the latest attempt at establishing Bond's dominance over other spy movie wannabes.

Early skeptical reviews have suggested that director Marc Forster's stab at the franchise has been stripped of the customary humor and elegance we've come to know from most Bond movies and that the hero is a colder, less emotional brute. That's fine with me. I prefer the Bond who has a license to kill and will use whomever neccesary for the mission's sake. But I had tended to enjoy it when 007 goes rogue and falls hard for the occasional lady (see the totally awesome 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' from 1969).

What we can all agree on, though, is that the last one got it right most of the time, and the new one looks to be headed on the right track, which is all we can ask for in the midst of this dreadfully bare season at the movies.

What's YOUR favorite Bond movie? Song? Who's the best bond?

The Penetrators at Egan's tomorrow night: Quite easily my favorite surf rock band — never mind that they're former local heroes of Tuscaloosa's music scene. A dream of mine came true when these guys came back a couple of years ago on my request to play a 90.7-FM benefit concert at the Mellow Mushroom. Their last album, 'Locked and Loaded,' released a while back, continued to cement them as one of the more creative surf rock groups I'd ever seen. Always a ton of fun, The Penetrators' return to our town is a special occasion. Highly recommended.

The Dexateens at the Jupiter Bar and Grill tonight: Another great T-town rock band hits the Strip for what should be a truly memorable music weekend in this town. This band's shows are always a fast-paced, guitar-slamming hoot and shouldn't be missed by a person that's into rock ‘n' roll music.

'Reckless' at the Allen Bales Theatre opening next Tuesday: Start the holiday season the only way you can with a yuletide dose of dark humor in Craig Lucas's play "Reckless," as performed by the University of Alabama department of theatre and dance next week. Craig's play is about a woman trying to escape from a hitman hired by her husband with plans to rub her out just in time for the big winter day. When Christmas time rolls around and I'm looking for a little black comedy, I normally reach for a copy of the hilariously foul-mouthed marital comedy "The Ref," starring Dennis Leary and Kevin Spacey. If I can get more of the same, then that makes things all the merrier.

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Reeling/Tusk Halloween Movie Special

October 31st, 2008 (11:24 am)

Today's Tusk piece:

You can read the thing or LISTEN TO THE REELING HORROR MOVIE SPECIAL!

http://www.thecapstone.ua.edu/Podcast/halloweenspecial.mp3

This thing was put together in about an hour, so the production quality isn't my favorite, but the genre allows it, I think. Just glad to be back with the show! It airs live today on 90.7-FM at 11am and 1 pm.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

Horror movies for a Happy Halloween
By Ben Flanagan
Ben Around
October 31, 2008

What defines a horror movie? Something that scares us, right? Pretty plain and simple. Most of us reach for the clear classics that we can find in the horror section of our nearest video store, and that’s fine. But once we think a little harder about what gave us those uneasy, queasy feelings we couldn’t shake in the theater. We learn that some movies, no matter the genre, are simply horrifying. This Halloween, reach for the traditional titles for sure, but take a look at a few of these gems we may not think of every day as our run-of-the-mill, timeless horror films. While I’m at it, I can’t leave out the standards. Here’s what gives me the heebie-jeebies.


The End-All-Be-All: The Shining (1980) – Let me stress that nothing lights a candle to Stanley Kubrick’s masterful, horribly and beautifully unsettling adaptation of Stephen King’s book. While King purists scoffed at the loose rendering, I say fiddlesticks.With every slow turn we make with the Torrance family through the great,haunted halls of the Overlook Hotel, I’m both happily committed and psychologically terrified throughout this haunted odyssey. Nicholson’s crazed patriarch has maybe the single-most chilling movie conversation in the hotel bathroom with the former caretaker Delbert Grady, edging out a previous conversation old Jack had with Lloyd the Bartender. A true masterpiece in anygenre and just another notch Kubrick’s belt, this one is not only a must-see for the horror geeks out there who want a little friendly Friday night PTSD,it’s essential for those who just like the movies.



The Close Second: John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) – One of my first picks once I signed up for Netflix, director John Carpenter cemented himself as a horror pioneer in the early 80s with this one only to fizzle out with questionable projects and inconsistency. Carpenter scores here with grade-A performances from all of its cast members, especially the mega-bearded Kurt Russell (and a rare Wilford Brimley with no mustache!). Its wonderfully desolate Antarctic locale makes for a terrifying setting in this highly unique take on the genre where members of an American scientific research outpost in remote Antarctica find themselves terrorized by an extraterrestrial organism capable of assuming physical appearances of any of life forms it inhabits. Not unlike what you’d think a David Mamet horror script would resemble.



Painfully Obvious: When this holiday rolls around, most of us probably load up our Netflix queues after we Google “top horror movies ever” and get the regular list that’s dished out every single year, and rightfully so. John Carpenter’s “Halloween” (1978) set a gold standard in terms of how the rest of Hollywood chops up its teenagers. Tobe Hooper hurt my high school street-cred when I saw “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974) late one night in the Ferguson Center theater. Did I run out like a girl? No, but I did think about it. Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” (1960) remains at the top of the heap if not only for Bernard Hermann’s wicked musical score. Elsewhere, you’ve got the Friday the 13th and “Nightmare of Elm Street” series that stretched from the 80s on into the90s, and at times they were even pretty good. The franchise names have stood the test of time better than the films, I’m afraid, but each follows the teen slasher formula closely enough to give you your money’s worth this time of year.



Romero of the Dead: While zombies don’t necessarily send my blood running cold, there’s a certain camp value they all embody that wouldn’t work anywhere else but the horror genre. Who nailed walking cadavers better than Romero, considered by many as the father of the zombie film. His iconic satire (as some like to call it since it portrays zombies aimlessly sauntering through a shopping mall, yuk-yuk) “Dawn of the Dead (1978)” delivers the chaos early on as all hell breaks loose and folks start chomping on each other’s brains from the word “go.” Before that,Romero had established himself with the disturbing and minimalistic “Night of the Living Dead” (1968). Years later,Romero returns to form with his much sillier “Day of the Dead” (1985). How you out-silly a zombie movie, I don’t know. I do know that director Zack Snyder paid a nice homage to Romero with the updated and even innovative remake of“Dawn” (2004), a rare, highly worthy remake.



Supernatural Scariness: David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986), now an opera, will certainly gross you out if you’re a fan of bones not snapping on screen. Jeff Goldblum’s Brundlefly makeup will either haunt your sleep or make you cackle. We may never know who actually directed the haunted house classic Poltergeist (1982). Whether it was Tobe Hooper or Steven Spielberg, we can agree that whoever the hell it was scared our pants off with a PG-13 flick. Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) stands up as agenre masterwork where a frightening cat-and-mouse thriller where Sigourney Weaver’s spaceship crew gets picked off one-by-one by a terrifying space creature. "Event Horizon" (1997) is another creepy space-set contemporary release that falls into this and the underrated category.



Fun Times with Screaming: Mixing Christmas with frights, Joe Dante’s Gremlins (1984) works wonders for the kiddies this time of year or a few months later. Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice (1988) remains nearly flawless in term of overall surreal weirdness. Edgar Wright’s “Shaun of the Dead” (2004) gives more laughs than scares but serves as a formidable entry into the zombie canon. Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead 2” (1987) will never escape its well-earned cult status, and why should it. Bruce Campbell taking on an onslaught of flesh-possessing spirits out in the woods will live forever. Who says you can’t laugh and shriek?



Stephen King of the Castle: Sure, it’s expected and a bit corny, but this author handed us some doozies in his heyday, including a clown I’d like to have forgotten years ago from “It”(1990). Maybe my favorite King adaptation is Rob Reiner’s simple stalker movie “Misery”(1990), where Kathy Bates “heals” an ailing James Caan. But a few months ago, I finally caught David Cronenberg’s “The Dead Zone” (1983), where a young Christopher Walken gains psychic powers after a car crash, and it’s duking it out with Reiner’s gem.



Unconventional Scares: David Fincher’s serial killer masterpiece “Se7en” (1995) literally saw me checking my door locks over and over the night I first saw it. Without spoiling the surprise, once we meet the killer we’re under a brutal trance we knew was coming more than an hour beforehand.

While you’re all hyped on “The Dark Knight” please do not forget about director Christopher Nolan’s beautifully realized magician thriller “The Prestige” (2006), a disquieting tour-de-force that gets better every time I see it. Last year’s highly suspenseful best picture winner “No Country for Old Men” boasts one of contemporary film’s greatest supervillains ever with Javier Bardem’s hitman Chigurh, rocking a sinister death-stare I’d like not to see in person please.

The always creepy David Lynch served up his best and creepiest movie in “Mulholland Drive” (2001) where a chipper actress (Naomi Watts) arrives in Hollywood where she soon finds herself entangled in murder, intrigue, nightmares and confusion.

Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)” has some of the scariest images, sounds and situations I’ve ever seen in film, which is why it would be crime to leave it off of this list.The evil, man-made HAL 9000 compromises his crew’s mission, putting his astronaut colleagues in the worst danger imaginable. The lip-reading sequence is chilling stuff.

Finally, what’s a list without Woody Allen? It takes a lot to find this guy’s place on the list, but out of nearly forty movies, I got one. His horror film is “Shadows and Fog” (1992), a dark ode to German expressionism about a small town serial killer who murders his victims by strangulation. Pretty scary stuff from Mr. Annie Hall, huh?

Underrated Shockers:M. Night Shyamalan’s criminally dismissed thriller “The Village” (2002) will age well I think, once the snobs who claim to have figured out the twist early on admit their lies and their love for the film.

Francis Ford Coppola’s “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992) shows us the once untouchable maestro mustered his strength again for a throwback adaptation to the horror classic, remembered by many only for Keanu Reeves’ “bad” British accent.

To me, “Rope” (1948) is one of Hitchcock’s finest efforts, not only technically, as we see two young men strangle their best friend “for fun” and hide the body during a dinner party.Filmed in one location with just a few edits, this remains an unsung classic.

Guilty Pleasures from Outer Space!: Two B-movie delights that don’t really make us feel guilty unless we love them for the wrong reasons. “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” (1988) and Edward D. Wood Jr.’s “Plan 9 from Outer Space” (1956) areperfect examples of when bad is painfully good.


HallNOween with The Great Big No tonight at the Mellow Mushroom: Dress yourself up and march down to the Mushroom where one of our favorite T-town bands will rock evening into a frenzy for a second straight year. This time, they'll be joined by Atlanta's Random Rabbit who will play in between GBN's three sets. I've had plenty of good times at this venue on Halloween night, where there have been some extremely creative costumes. Do your best (or worst) this year because there will be a cash prize for creativity. Rumor has it that there might be a few surprise musical guests joining the headliners, and based on the Mushroom's impressive performance thus far this fall, that's almost no surprise at all. BOO!

'Rocky Horror Picture Show' tonight at 9:30 p.m. at the Bama Theatre: Presented by Well That's Cool and the Pink Box Burlesque, everyone's favorite corset-donning cult classic will screen at the lovely Bama, hopefully sparking a rivalry with the folks up in Birmingham who do such a fine job. If there's one thing I learned in college, it's that people love their "Rocky Horror," which often astounds me. At a 90.7-Mallet Assembly joint screening at the Ferguson Center Theater last Halloween, I saw ROTC members in full-on drag at the show. Can't make that stuff up. Another Halloween event, another costume contest, so dress nice on your strange journey. EEK!

Hank Williams Jr. tonight at 8 p.m. at Coleman Coliseum: Joined by special guest James Otto, this raucous country crooner will light Coleman's stage up for what promises to be a hell of a party. Even if you can't quite get into the whole country music scene, ol' Hank Jr. will find a way to help you feel included at this concert that should be a knockout in terms of attendance. An extra pat on the back to University Programs for finally landing an act that makes total sense. For the naysayers, put your mask on and hit up your Halloween party - after all, there's always next year. MU-HA-HA-HA!

reeling [userpic]

Can stoners make bank?

August 8th, 2008 (01:06 pm)

Can stoners make bank?
By Ben Flanagan
Ben Around
August 8, 2008

If a pack of lazy, blazing stoners can generate millions of dollars at the box office, what has four years of college actually done for me?

My third pick for a surefire summer bet, 'Pineapple Express,' opened nationwide Wednesday, and while it boasts recently established comedy megastar Seth Rogen and mogul-of-funny Judd Apatow's names on its poster, its chance at bringing in serious seasonal dough hinges on whether a mainstream audiences can accept pervasive drug use throughout a near two-hour running time.

Rogen and former Apatow crony James Franco (television's 'Freaks & Geeks') star as a pair of tokers on the run from a slew of ruthless killers.

While the Rogen/Apatow alliance has yet to falter, based on the success of last summer's pair of R-rated raunchy comedies 'Knocked Up' and 'Superbad,' the existence and evolution of the stoner comedy as a box-office champion has seen a flatline, neither going up or down and remaining almost painful ignored by audiences.

As a bit of a subgenre, stoner films tend to center around the fairly explicit use of marijuana, predominantly in comedies. In most cases, to fall into this subgenre, marijuana should act as the catalyst that sends the plot into motion, though sometimes it acts as a prevalent background artist.

Looking back at this classification's catalogue, several titles suggest that we as a collective audience tend to adore and even worship these films to the extent of leaving the DVDs in our players for weeks to months. But perhaps it's a generational thing.

Even within the realm of stoner comedies, an upper echelon for the headiest efforts exists while most sophomoric, self-evident releases teeter on the bar just above awful.

To suggest the stoner comedy can manifest itself as an art form isn't a joke. Even the most eclectic contemporary filmmakers dabble into the disoriented, hazy atmosphere in which dimwitted inhabitants wander aimlessly into misadventure. Joel and Ethan Coen's stoner odyssey 'The Big Lebowski' may arguably stand as the all-encompassing stoner masterpiece, chronicling the baked escapades of an unlikely hero, The Dude.

Fried fans of Richard Linklater's Austin-set thing of beauty 'Dazed and Confused' (1993) might beg to differ, pitching this '70s high school yarn as '‘American Graffiti' high on weed.' 'Dazed' and 'Lebowski' would sit atop my own list, were I to make one.

Locals shouldn't forget University of Alabama filmmakers' Chris Merritt and Matthew Stewart's 'Killer Weed,' a series about marijuana that turns smokers into zombies.

But real purists will reach back into the late '70s and early '80s, when Cheech and Chong reigned supreme among slackers who rolled massive joints their dogs digested (see 1978's 'Up in Smoke' if you feel the need to partake).

'Pineapple Express' marks what could be a first within the genre: a stoner action comedy. Car chases, shootouts, explosions, a Huey Lewis title song and inhalation will serve as the vehicles that send this movie from point A to point B.

But will the sum of its parts send 'Pineapple Express' to the top of the box office this weekend, possibly surmounting Warner Bros.' juggernaut 'The Dark Knight' as No. 1? Certainly, opening numbers will depend on its marketing campaign. So far, so good. A clever red-band trailer released last spring featured Rogen and Franco up to no good in a slow-mo mishmash of mayhem set to M.I.A.'s popping reggae/hip-hop track 'Paper Planes.'

With Rogen starring and co-writing with fellow 'Superbad' scribe Evan Goldberg, Apatow's Midas touch and strong early critical buzz, Columbia Pictures looks to have a hit on its hands. But why haven't stoner comedies fared all that well financially prior to this release?

Recent marijuana-driven yarns such as 'Super Troopers,' 'Grandma's Boy,' 'Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny' and the 'Harold and Kumar' pair haven't shot up into the $100M stratosphere, but sometimes these theatrical numbers can deceive us. Usually, these releases don't get monster, blockbuster budgets to begin with, therefore a profit never falls too far out of the line of sight. 'Super Troopers' and the 'Harold and Kumar' movies both fared well monetarily, doubling and sometimes tripling their budgets (not to mention their substantial performances when released on DVD).

Sometimes, the trick for studios is to find that built-in cult audience prior to theatrical release, well before it reaches video stores. What 'Pineapple Express' has going for it is that it looks like a solid movie that should draw heady word-of-mouth. Along with Rogen, Apatow and Franco (trust me, give him a chance) plenty of talent, including indie director David Gordon Green and funnyman Danny McBride (in a supporting role), has jumped on board to give this thing an extra hit of street cred.

But this movie either hopes parents won't catch on or will show a sense of humor this time around. After all, one message the movie has dished out in its marketing campaign is that where there's weed, there are bad guys with guns.

Myself, I'm banking on the promise I made earlier this summer. In between two other hard-R comedies ('Step Brothers' and 'Tropic Thunder'), 'Pineapple Express' should bring the funny stuff that'll keep people laughing and laughing — the kind of people who tend to laugh for no reason at all.

The Binary Blitzkrieg tonight at Mellow Mushroom: Rockers Model Citizen return to our town for the first night since I don't know when (this will be my first time seeing the longtime favorites, but don't tell anyone). The show will also feature last week's pick Squirrelhouse, a sneak peek at an upcoming performance from the Pink Box Burlesque and a live taping of 'Well That's Cool,' a video podcast to be posted on the hosts' Web site, wellthatscool.com.

KrautFest at the Mellow Mushroom Wednesday: Former WVUA 90.7-FM station manager and everyone's favorite German techno- enthusiast Tim Neunzig will bid farewell to Tuscaloosa in style, hosting an event that'll feature several rocking acts upstairs at the Mellow Mushroom (doing a few things right this week, it seems). Druid City Rockers, Mansfield, Me, THREE and one of the town's more entertaining bands, Skullduggery. Neunzig, known as DJ KrautDawg by many, will spin plenty of popping beats and rockin' tunes between acts. Things will get going as early as 8 p.m., with a $2 cover, where one of those bucks heads straight to non-profit organization Empower Alabama.

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Nobody likes a spoiler

August 1st, 2008 (01:53 pm)

Today's Tusk piece:

Nobody likes a spoiler
By Ben Flanagan
Ben Around
August 1, 2008

Has anyone ever spoiled the end of a movie for you? I'd guess that a sudden something comes over you – a certain wave of violent rage and cynicism, and a constant rush of regret for what you'll do to someone in a matter of seconds. Has anyone ever spoiled the end of a movie for you? I'd guess that a sudden something comes over you – a certain wave of violent rage and cynicism, and a constant rush of regret for what you'll do to someone in a matter of seconds.

Do you get that, too? Just me?

Maybe in the real world we can't wring the necks of thoughtless herds of blabbering faces chattering about the climax of a movie while you stand in line for the next show. At that moment, you unleash it: a dark, insidious glare – or look of death – in the doomed direction of a bozo who indirectly or subconsciously felt the need to ruin your evening. Next time, make sure they see your disgusted face, one that can't find the strength or mercy to forgive and move on.

Reverse the scenario now and ask yourself, 'Have I ever spoiled it for anybody? Couldn't I follow that unwritten rule of the multiplex that says I keep my yapper shut until I get in the car unless I'm convinced everyone surrounding me has seen what I have?'

Surely you and I have committed the same cinematic sin of spoiling, whether we knew it or not. Either way, do those of us who didn't make the midnight showing a favor, and come to grips with the sickness that could spread an epidemic on any night at the Cobb Hollywood 16, and hold off on spilling the beans. We want that sweet shock value, too – we just might have needed a few days to actually make it into the theater.

For the masochists, let them peruse the nerdy Web sites and message boards that, without remorse, let them in on anything and everything. A select cluster of sad individuals who summon everything in their power to wreck a moviegoing experience does exist, and their collectively disturbing hobby tells you more than you should know about these people – the kind who will read the script before they've seen a movie, without getting paid for it.

Some either completely ignore, or simply don't look for the caution sign all articles must include in their headlines if they plan on delving deeper than some of us had hoped: 'SPOILER ALERT!'

Don't hesitate to inform your friends you've wandered out of the loop, but will find your way back soon enough, and make it clear with your serious face. Don't let them pull out some lame, slap-in-the-back-of-the-head-worthy justification: 'Well if you really wanted to see it, you'd have done it by now.'

Are you a victim of spoilers? Who blew the defining moment of 'The Empire Strikes Back' in 1980? Was there any reason to venture out to 'The Planet of the Apes?' Who blew every single one of M. Night Shyamalan's plot twists for you? Did you know who Keyser Soze was before you'd seen 'The Usual Suspects?' Can anyone really watch an Alfred Hitchcock movie without having read (sometimes forcibly in academic settings) essays analyzing the specifics of the Master's dazzling denouements?

Certainly it applies to television as well. That joker in the office who hasn't yet discovered TiVO or DVR and deafeningly relives the final moments on the '24' or 'Lost' finales.

Those of you lucky enough not to have endured such spoilage, journey forth and see what you've always wanted to see. Directly address the hype and feel that stream of surprise trickle down the slope of your spine before some nimrod blurts out, 'He was dead all along!' Smack him if it makes you feel better...unless he's much bigger than you.

What about the sadists, you ask? The sickest lot of ‘em all who deliberately rob us of genuine shock and awe, or how the director intended us to see it; they slither and ooze among us, perhaps even closer than you might think. Take a look in the mirror.

For how many years now have you berated and condemned the deadly spoilers who walk the lobbies of innocent, unsuspecting moviehouses? You're a full-blooded spoiler-phobe who can't shake the idea that this whole time you hail from a long line of ashamed closet spoilers. Once you accept it, you can overcome it – forever.

If you must spoil, though, I'd advise you to think twice and become familiar with your surroundings. One slip of the tongue, and the next thing you know, you'll wake up and wonder what happened to you. For your own safety, spare us the trouble.

Artrageous Riverfront Arts Tour Thursday: Held on the first Thursday of each month, this event lets you tour local art galleries, stores and restaurants as well as catch the latest exhibits and demonstrations. Withhold digging deeply into your pockets and save a little petrol by taking the bus to boost your arty street cred. At these galleries, art buffs or first-timers can find an eclectic blend of diverse artists while enjoying live jazz and classical music, hors d'oeuvres and wine tasting at select galleries. Do your local artists a favor and get artrageous, you worldly people you.

'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' at Tuscaloosa's Bama Theatre: Released a bit early in 2008, this critical darling and throwback to screwball comedies made it to Tuscaloosa's Cobb Hollywood 16 for too short a period for anyone to know it ever existed. Now the choosy bunch at the Bama Theatre have reserved a week for this romance, starring 'Enchanted' star Amy Adams and Oscar-winner Frances McDormand ('Fargo'), who plays a middle-aged London governess who works for a highly social American actress. Sparse numbers of little gems like these run into rotten luck sometimes in terms of pesky January-March release dates; but thanks to our friendly Arts Council, we can take it all in now, and in such an ideal setting.

Squirrelhouse tonight at Egan's: Amidst the current clash between new and old management and listeners at the University of Alabama's college radio station regarding its changing format, local musicians who might feel a bit slighted still find the zeal to keep on truckin'. One band in particular I've heard recently on 90.7-FM will keep the dream alive tonight in one of the local artists' favorite abodes, Egan's. Squirrelhouse's catchy song 'Fours' (its newly aired studio version) still has a home on Tuscaloosa's radiowaves, which can't upset a talented bunch of native musicians looking for any and every push they can get.

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Review: THE DARK KNIGHT

July 23rd, 2008 (04:03 pm)

---MAJOR SPOILERS!!!---

GRADE: ***1/2

Viewings: Two

NOTE:I caught the midnight screening at the Cobb Hollywood 16 in Tuscaloosa, where my theater did not provide digital sound; in fact, the sound was shoddy with music often muffling much of the dialogue (including Gordon's final speech). The following Sunday, I caught an afternoon show in a larger theater with digital sound and a larger screen for the full effect (though it was neither digital projection nor IMAX, so maybe not the full effect).

I'll try and spill the beans in a bit of a Q&A-type fashion to keep things moving along.

Has Christopher Nolan made the perfect, quintessential, flawless "BATMAN" movie with THE DARK KNIGHT? Frankly, NO. Although...

TDK is miles and miles, far and away by leaps and bounds better than the only pretty good (stretching it) BATMAN BEGINS. At this point, I get tired of people stranding this movie within a genre, labeling it, "Not only the best comic book movie of the year - maybe the best ever!" Forget the genre, this is one of the better MOVIES of the year - and I mean right along with the still excellent (remember?) IRON MAN. Each film competes with the other in terms of best comic movie ever, as do Burton's BATMAN movies and some other titles.

Has TDK lived up to the ludicrous hype brought on by fans, critics, its filmmakers and those of us who hadn’t even seen the thing? TO EN EXTENT. From the get-go, the movie delivers on a number of levels, opening with an homage to what Nolan has publicly claimed to be a direct influence on this film, Michael Mann’s HEAT. While the sequence is effective and extremely well-filmed, was it enough of a gut-punch to kick things into overdrive like it should have? Almost. Even throughout this sequence, when he’s masked and silent for the most part, we get hints of what we’re in for from one of the actors.

What Nolan has given us with TDK is exactly what a ton of critics and bloggers have deemed it: a crime epic told in a grand scope, thanks a great deal to cinematographer Wally Pfister, who has come a long way even since his work on MEMENTO. These GODFATHER PART II comparisons seem legitimate at this point; I think the Hong Kong sequence between Lucious Fox and Lau showed a pretty evident influence in terms of the framing and setting of their meeting. Otherwise, the speed and tone of the movie feels similar. While it certainly doesn’t match it step-for-step, most notably quality-wise, I wouldn’t totally berate someone for making the parallel.

Nolan’s unexpected knack for grandiose action set pieces – car chases, specifically – establishes him as one of the action-meets-substance genre’s go-to guys. TDK is a big movie – a blockbuster – that isn’t afraid to marinate on its story or feel for its characters, although there were spurts where I didn’t feel anything at all for various, not even secondary characters in the latter portion of the movie. A major strength and flaw within Nolan’s film is its consistency. Where it lifts off at certain points in the narrative, tone, characters, special effects and action, it nearly collapses at others. For the filmmakers – and perhaps the fans more so – to brag about placing an absurd comic figure like Batman in an almost totally realistic setting, I feel like they crossed the line during what I thought was a disappointing climax. Yes, it is still a comic book and this sort of thing would normally fly (especially on “Batman: The Animated Series” or just in the comic), but didn’t they set some boundaries for this universe? Maybe it’s an unfair quibble – just didn’t totally work for me.

Folks who claim TDK takes itself a little too seriously might be right, but I wouldn’t say there’s necessarily anything wrong with that, given how many different takes we’ve seen (of this nature) in print prior to this release. Still, it’s a fair criticism, but what separates BATMAN from the other comics and keeps it superior is the darker and more sober nature of its protagonist and his bleak environment. One thing Nolan lacked in BATMAN BEGINS was a tangible realization of Gotham City, which I think he’s found in TDK (at this point, I can’t decide between both of Burton’s Gothams or this one). While this might pluck the consistency chord again (as there are several noticeable differences between BEGINS’ and TDK’s Gothams), this time there’s a progression.

Where this movie fails reflects the tendency of a most superhero movies to overstep their boundaries in terms of the use of villains. How many is enough? Burton attacked both methods: one villain in BATMAN, three in BATMAN RETURNS (Penguin, Catwoman, Max Shreck). Joel Schumacher threw two bad guys at Batman in his efforts, and Nolan juggled between three and four at times in BEGINS (if you count Joe Chill – most wouldn’t, I’m guessing). With TDK, Nolan had a real chance to carve out a beautiful, maybe perfect reflection and dichotomy between two people; to pit Batman against only the Joker – one-on-one – and make it personal would have been the right thing to do even if they pulled off Harvey Dent’s character arc.

My thinking: save it for the next round! In my opinion the villain Two Face has been wasted, THAT IS, if he really died. At this point, I remain unconvinced that he really “died a hero.” That’s the front. Maybe it highlights one of Nolan’s few weaknesses as a director (I doubt it), but in no way did Harvey’s final sequence tell me, “He’s definitely dead.” Harvey Dent is dead – he has “lived long enough to become the villain.” I know he became the villain in TDK given his five-person rampage in the final half hour, but the character still felt like Harvey Dent and less like Two Face. In Nolan’s Gotham, this villain would flourish, and it’d be a crying shame to have wasted him completely, which he might have.

Criticisms fall few and far between with this movie, as it’s so jam-packed with things that work, it almost hurts to discuss what doesn’t. But I’ll list off a few things that bothered me:

1. The Sonar – Stupid. The only outright stupid thing about the movie had to serve as the catalyst for what should have been a memorable climax. Morgan Freeman’s stunned and disgusted face says it all when he sees the thing as he’s approaching, as if he’s thinking, “You’re going to screw it up, aren’t you? We had a great thing going, but you’re f*cking it all up!” One blogger or critic out there suggested that the sonar POV effects shots looked to come right out of the DAREDEVIL movie. Stupid, outrageous idea that served little purpose and hurt the overall experience.

2. Two Face – Shouldn’t have even happened. Nolan had a great opportunity to keep the Dent character and set his transformation up for the next film, not unlike how he set up the Joker in this one. Two Face’s design, too, was a little…off. Graham pointed out similarities with MARS ATTACKS!, which I actually thought the first time I saw the eye and teeth at once. If they’d been truly hardcore like they were with the rest of the movie, they would have pulled off a killer prosthetic design. Don’t be scared to call upon Rick Baker. I know I’ll catch some heat for this, but I really believe it: ANYONE COULD HAVE PLAYED THIS PART under Nolan’s direction. I love a lot of Aaron Eckhart’s work, especially in IN THE COMPANY OF MEN, YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS and THANK YOU FOR SMOKING – he’s a proven commodity to most productions. And he does a fine job here as Harvey Dent, but nearly any male actor his age could have pulled it off with the exact same results. Unlike the previously mentioned films he’s in, you don’t get that edge he’s provided before. A great character handled well for the most part, but Dent is bland enough to have been played by anyone. At least it wasn’t Brandon Routh.

3. Rachel Dawes – Nothing against Maggie Gyllenhaal; I think she served her purpose well. But this character hasn’t helped this franchise in the least bit. Not at all. Although she sets up a decent love triangle between Bruce Wayne and Dent, here she really just shadows her boyfriend in and out of the courtroom and office. Blowing her to bits was a great decision.

4. The Bat Grunt – Where they failed in BEGINS, they failed again here. By now, I’m used to it, but that doesn’t mean I like Bale-as-Batman’s raspy, “scary” disguise voice hasn’t impressed me at all, and I still can’t fathom why they’re even doing it. Bale sounds goofy, but this one falls totally on Nolan who should know better. Every time I hear it, I just think, “No.” Especially bad in BEGINS, but not any better in TDK.

5. The boat(s) sequence – What started out as a disturbingly terrific sequence turned awkward and hokey, especially thanks to Batman’s croaky justification for Gotham’s good will. Whenever third-tier characters (usually in large quantities) get this much dialogue, expect bad results (see THE MATRIX and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN sequels). We’ve just been introduced to these people, and we don’t care about them once they’ve opened their mouths. Keep them quiet, and let’s see it almost entirely from the points-of-view of Batman, the Joker, Gordon, etc. When I scanned through Moriarty’s AICN review where he described this, it sounded terrifying. He left a lot out. The worst of it on my end is that part of me wanted to see one or both of those boats blow sky high to just further establish the Joker as the villain.

6. The final act – TDK deserved a better climax, which should have included a real showdown between Batman and the Joker. They got their talking points out of the way during the interrogation sequence, and while the Joker’s monologue was fine and all (“unstoppable force meets an immovable object”), the villain should have met a proper demise or been provided with some appropriate closure. The last time we see him is in a medium shot as cops are coming to pick him up. That’s the last of this iconic character that ultimately made the movie what it is. The actor and, more importantly, the character deserved much more than that. Even a short sequence in Arkham Asylum would have been enough. Dedicating the final 10-15 minutes of the movie to Harvey Dent and Jim Gordon didn’t do it any favors even if those characters deserved their closure. Ending things without the Joker just didn’t feel right – not at all.

7. Hong Kong – Doesn’t belong in this universe. I haven’t ready as many BATMAN comics as most people, but I can’t imagine many references to other real-life national or international cities and settings. I’ve just never thought of Batman as a globetrotter. Keep it in Gotham.

8. TRIM THE FAT – While the 152-minute running time felt brisk at times, some things could have been cut. Namely, the attempt at Two Face, Hong Kong and some of the Jim Gordon baggage.

Honestly, that’s about all I didn’t like. The rest of it pretty much hit the nail right on the head.

For about 50 minutes, TDK blasts its way through at about 200 mph, perhaps peaking earlier than it should. Which 50 minutes (estimated)? Starting the moment after Harvey Dent announces at his press conference that he is Batman. Once Dent hops aboard the SWAT truck and the street chase gets started, TDK makes its case for best movie of 2008, although the campaign comes to an end well before the end credits. From the chase to the precinct to Rachel’s Death to the hospital, Nolan hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs. Parts leading up to these sequences were definitely strong, but for this block, the movie peaked at a level unreached before or after.

WHAT I LOVED:

1. The Joker (Heath Ledger) – The hype is justified. Ledger played at a faster speed than anyone on the set other than Wally Pfister maybe. Making an effort to reach the echelon of a Daniel Day-Lewis/Daniel Plainview immersion, Ledger might be just as successful. Every time he was on screen, he had my full attention; and every time he left the screen, I thought, “I wish he were here, but I’ll settle for this.” Sort of the same feeling I fad for Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN; and in that regard, the man’s PRESENCE is felt throughout the entire movie even when he’s absent on screen. While his “proper introduction” shot didn’t really do him justice, the shot from behind as he interrupts the gangster meeting with his “ha ha, ho, he, ha, ho, he…” laugh sets a dangerous tone. The walk and behavior outside of the exploding hospital is not only brilliant on Ledger’s part but on Nolan and the crew’s as well for pulling off all of it in a single take. The Oscar nod is sewn up – mark it down – and he deserves it. Alive or dead, this dynamic of a character and performance would have raised plenty of eyebrows. Won’t call the win just yet; there are more movies and performances that need a-seein’. Ledger’s death is a tragedy, as we all know, but what’s also upsetting is that he can’t revive this character for the next go-around; this is another reason why I think Joker should have died. Everything the guy does in every scene he’s in is top-notch.

2. The Bat Pod – Singlehandedly provided two applause-worthy moments: when it’s released from the Batmobile/Tumbler (“Goodbye.”) and the spin off of the wall. For me, during Gordon’s final speech, I was glad that they went with the Bat Pod instead of the Tumbler, flying, running or just being perched up on a building; the cut to black from behind really did the trick. Just a cool addition.

3. The chase – Most notably, of course, the game of chicken played between Batman and the Joker (“I want you to do it…”) after the 18-wheeler topsides. Honestly, too, the image of the flaming fire truck really stuck with me during and after the sequence. Something about the Joker rigging that up in the path of the convoy really set a creepy and unsafe tone.

4. Wally Pfister – Truly a unique and successful pairing between this talented cinematographer and Nolan. Pfister brings the serious, flaming kind of heat this time (a serious improvement over the tight, Oscar-nominated photography in BEGINS). Can’t wait to see this one on DVD or digital projection. I have yet to see it in IMAX, too, but I can imagine what I’d be in for. Something about the smooth, gliding helicopter shots felt different than other aerial photography in movies.

5. The score – Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard’s pulsating music really adds another dimension and even acts as its own character this time. Not sure why, but I felt like BEGINS’ score sounded empty and average while there were surely some similarities. Maybe it’s really all about the content it surrounds. The “theme” is exciting, if not as grand and evident as Elfman’s original BATMAN theme, every time it makes an appearance, which isn’t often. Joker’s chilling theme, too, even played during the opening BATMAN logo before the opening shot of the film, works well. Another frightening cue happens when the loudmouth on the “citizens” boat contemplates turning the detonator – reminds you of the recent THERE WILL BE BLOOD music.

6.The hospital explosion – Perhaps the most iconic image and moment that will resonate from the movie years to come.

7. Rachel Dawes’ death – No offense to her, but she had to go. Way to leave in style.

8. Joker’s first scene – I’m not counting the bank robbery; when we first really get to know this character as he crashes the gangster meeting. His entrance, the pencil trick and his response when someone asks, “You think you can just walk in and steal from us?” – all terrific.

9. The flaming mountain of money – Just a superb image you’d only see in a comic book, and to set it on fire when Lau at the top was just another menacing touch. “Why don’t we cut you up into little pieces and feed you to your pooches. Then we’ll see just how loyal a hungry dog really is.” Great dialogue.

10. The ENTIRE duration of the Joker’s time at the precinct – Maybe my favorite aspect of the entire movie. From when he’s arrested, requesting more time with Batman in the street after Gordon catches him, to when he’s hanging out of the police car, dimly-lit and speeding away from the cell. “I want my phone call” – another perfect delivery.

There are other things to speak of, but those are the moments that really sunk their teeth into me. And just the scope of it all; it all felt grand – like it was a big deal to even be there within the story, which is what some event movies don’t give us anymore. A lot of effort went into it, and it’s totally visible. What impressed me the most about the Joker was how far the Nolans went regarding the severity of his crimes. They explored some of the darkest depths a madman could reach when he’s trying to prove a point, and a ton of it hit hard.

The question of the hour at this point is, “What now?” Just what does Nolan do to top himself? Some say he can’t, but didn’t he top the people’s precious BATMAN BEGINS? Personally, I didn’t think it would take much. The first theatrical trailer for TDK is better than BATMAN BEGINS in its entirety –and I really believe that, exaggerations aside.

Who’ll the villain be? Here’s hoping my Two Face theory stands (not giving a rat’s ass what the original script says), it’ll be him and someone else if they resort to the two-or-three-villain format, which they shouldn’t. The tiny little reference and the death of Rachel Dawes almost feels like, if we’re using sports terminology, they’re clearing cap room for a Catwoman/Selina Kyle signing. I’d honestly like to see Nolan’s take on Mr. Freeze; I think BATMAN works well in a winter climate. If either of these villains show up, who do they cast?

By now, I feel like it’s clear that Nolan, Bale, Oldman and company will be back for round three. With TDK, they improved upon their first outing by well over 100%, in my opinion. I don’t have any vendetta against BEGINS – I’m a fan of everyone involved – I just don’t see it as the BATMAN movie we’d all been waiting for, which is the same moniker this one’s gotten since last Friday’s release. Do I feel that way about this movie? I think the phrase “Close, but no cigar” applies here, but that’s only in terms of perfection. Nolan’s getting closer and closer, but can he do it without Ledger’s Joker? I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt.

This movie is not perfect. It’s just really, really, really good.

reeling [userpic]

Reeling at Blogspot now!

July 18th, 2008 (01:42 pm)

If you prefer the presentation or are a user, this blog is also currently running on blogspot at the address www.reelingshow.blogspot.com.

Posts will all be the same.

reeling [userpic]

About skipping that midnight show...

July 18th, 2008 (12:16 pm)

So I caved (er, bat-caved) and went after learning the Cobb Hollywood 16 added four more theaters for last night's midnight screened madness. The manager told me they didn't have eight prints of the movie but were rather doubling up their four prints for dual projection. Interesting concept, and they almost pulled it off - SOUND WAS TERRIBLE. Not unlike a faulty DVD hookup where the music track is louder than the diegetic sound, muffling a chunk of the dialogue (even during key moments in the final minutes of the movie).

As expected, droves of people nearly sold out EIGHT theaters in Tuscaloosa, AL. Some dressed up; I saw a few Batmen, some Jokers, and one patron told me they saw a Harley Quinn - wishful thinking on her (I hope) part.

Was it good? Yes. Look for a longer review later today. Warning: it will be SPOILER-HEAVY. Do not read it unless you've seen it or are a masochist. It's just time to talk about it is all.

I'll certainly see it again - it merits another watch, not just because - hoping for clearer sound. Cobb loses major points on presentation, but I'm guessing the dual projection had a lot to do with it. Can't fault them for housing a bigger audience with huge demands.

Keep a look out for that review.

reeling [userpic]

DARK KNIGHT: Dead Man Acting

July 18th, 2008 (12:16 pm)

Dead Man Acting
By Ben Flanagan
Ben Around
July 18, 2008

Christopher Nolan's long-awaited Batman sequel, 'The Dark Knight,' finally hits theaters today, much to the delight of fans sick of the chopped liver this summer's mostly coughed up so far. Christopher Nolan's long-awaited Batman sequel, 'The Dark Knight,' finally hits theaters today, much to the delight of fans sick of the chopped liver this summer's mostly coughed up so far.

Not to say the industry hasn't left cinephiles totally unspoiled, they're just batting a notably low average. 'Iron Man' and 'Wall-E' each fall between really good and great (okay, great), and a few popcorn flicks ('Wanted,' 'Kung Fu Panda,' 'Hellboy 2') have left audiences satisfied enough; they've got the dollars to prove it.

Prior to the summer, the titles creating greatest anticipation were the fourth 'Indiana Jones' movie and what's now the sixth Batman movie since 1989. To our (or my) dismay, the first one might have opened a nasty can of worms, quality-wise, but continues to reap expected financial benefits, having surpassed the $300 million mark domestically.

Our summer, where we willingly suspend our disbelief and hope to escape the rotten rigors of the real world, hasn't had enough to keep us happy. Sure, the numbers disagree and tell you that ten releases have already cleared $100M, nullifying the argument that people don't want what they're getting. But, that's the beauty to loyal audiences who'll watch nearly anything hurled their way in the summertime — 'You Don't Mess with the Zohan' even hit it big.

But today, the collective sigh of relief you hear nationwide comes thanks to the arrival of possibly the best of both worlds: popcorn and substance. A brooding and dark follow-up to its already brooding and dark predecessor, 'Batman Begins' (helmed by some as the 'Citizen Kane' of comic book movies; calm down 'Spider-Man 2' geeks), 'The Dark Knight' looks to pack a juicy dose of not only the slam-bang summer thrills we'd expect but a hardy bout of filmic texture both fans and critics can enjoy together.

Upon seeing its first theatrical trailer, I'd decided 'The Dark Knight' had in just two minutes transcended the overstuffed, groggy and lukewarm (though ambitious) 'Batman Begins.'

This time, as with most comic book sequels, the villain has robbed the hero of the spotlight, but the Caped Crusader can't be faulted for what goes on in the real world.

In 1989's terrific 'Batman,' Jack Nicholson sang and danced as the killer clown, much to the chagrin of some DC Comics purists — not me. Heath Ledger assumes a much grittier and crueler Joker, wearing smeared black and white makeup, sporting green hair and a gruesome scar stretching ear-to-ear. This Joker, not unlike Nicholson's, kills for fun, and critics lucky enough to catch an early look have praised the actor's sinister interpretation, one co-star Christian Bale credited with being inspired by 'A Clockwork Orange' and Sex Pistols member Sid Vicious.

Time Magazine's Richard Corliss wrote, 'This Joker is simply one of the most twisted and mesmerizing creeps in movie history.' Rolling Stone's Peter Travers raved that Ledger's menacing portrayal is Oscar-worthy.

Shortly after finishing work on the movie, Ledger died of a drug overdose in January, leaving 'The Dark Knight' as the actor's last completed role in a feature film. Some news outlets, mostly tabloid-driven entertainment programs, suggested Ledger immersed himself too deeply into such a psychologically demanding role. But Ledger's co-workers retorted the actor had loads of fun filling out the character, and that the work wasn't a catalyst towards his death.

It poses a challenging question: Will audiences stay committed to watching a dead man on screen, especially when he's playing such a macabre and violent character? Will Ledger's death have a positive or negative effect on the film's financial performance?

Warner Bros. doesn't have much to worry about, other than losing a microscopic percentage of a large and eager audience wound up pretty tight with impatience. Deadline Hollywood Daily owner and industry guru Nikki Finke predicts a $130 million weekend for 'The Dark Knight,' though some have whittled the number down to a still-impressive $90 million. Any reservations moviegoers have for the eeriness factor will only likely affect the film's opening weekend, as enormously strong early buzz suggests it will carry significant word-of-mouth.

At this point, every trailer, clip or promotion I see is only torture. While I was skeptical at first based on what I thought was an underwhelming but determined effort from Nolan, 'The Dark Knight' looks as if it's bringing serious heat to a cooled-off summer — and I'm in.

Live music on The Strip: A handful of good acts all weekend and only a few steps away from each other. Tonight at the Jupiter, Benjy Davis Project and Atlanta natives Hightide Blues will hit the big stage, while The Here We Go Boys and The Recognition share a double bill at Egan's just down the way. Saturday at Egan's, Birmingham rockers Happy Lemmy will play old, loud instruments with vacuum tube amplifiers.

The Shawshank Redemption: Birmingham's Alabama Theatre, 7 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday: Much respect should go to the Alabama and its summer movie programming, journeying this year through American classics including last week's 1965 best picture winner 'The Sound of Music.' This weekend, Mom and Dad can enjoy a contemporary classic that didn't make a whole lot of noise on the big screen but absolutely exploded on home video. Frank Darabont's drama 'The Shawshank Redemption,' based on the Stephen King novella, continues to age beautifully since its 1994 release on DVD and various cable channels, and now we've got a chance to make up for our absences at the multiplex. Get busy livin' and gaze on Roger Deakins' gorgeous cinematography projected on a gigantic screen. It'll warm you up for 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' next week.

Delmore Days Festival in Athens, Ala.: Head up north to Athens for what promises to be some toe-tappin' bluegrass fun for this inaugural festival, celebrating North Alabama natives the Delmore Brothers, a classic country duo recently inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Today and tomorrow at Athens State University's Beasley Field, enjoy what the event's Web site calls a 'good ole trade day' with arts, crafts, good Southern food and plenty for the kids to do as well. Several musicians, including featured artist Bradley Walker, will keep things lively throughout the weekend. Drive safely.

reeling [userpic]

DARK KNIGHT midnight show anyone?

July 17th, 2008 (04:51 pm)

Not me. I think I'm sitting tonight's early show out and opting for a Friday matinee instead. While I think the midnight crowd will be fun, it might also be a little distracting. Plus, the last midnight screening I attended was for INDY 4, which robbed me of three hours of good sleep.

But I do want to see this movie as soon as possible. I called this afternoon, and the Cobb Hollywood 16 had 65 available seats, though the manager said Fandango had been listing all four theaters sold out.

If Tuscaloosa, AL sells out four midnight screenings (which it will; and three sold out ahead of time), look for bigger numbers than you expected. Deadline Hollywood Daily projects around $130M at this point, which seems likely. My three-day prediction stands at around $119M, but this thing's playing on well over 4,000 screens. Can it beat SPIDER-MAN 3's massive $151M three-day opening? Yes, but I don't know that it will.

Either way, the movie looks really good - way better than BATMAN BEGINS, which left me cold and a little disappointed (and still does after re-watches).

Current BATMAN movie rankings:
1. BATMAN (1989)
2. BATMAN RETURNS (1992)
3. BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM (1993)
T-4. BATMAN FOREVER (1995)
T-4. BATMAN BEGINS (2005)
6. BATMAN AND ROBIN (1997)

reeling [userpic]

INGLORIOUS BASTARDS casting

July 16th, 2008 (02:45 pm)

Nikke Finke's staying on top of Tarantino's INGLORIOUS BASTARDS casting, recently reporting that Leonardo DiCaprio is in talks to portray a Nazi villain opposite another rumored member, Brad Pitt.

Can't say Tarantino's really going out on a limb with these two names, given what we've seen in the past. BUT who'll complain if he ends up with these guys? Because I'm intentionally ignoring plot and character details until the thing is released theatrically, I don't have any wishful casting ideas; though I always heard noise about a Tim Roth reunion, which is never a bad thing based on his previous work with the director.

We'll keep our eyes open on this one. Until then, do yourself a favor, and don't read the script. I haven't and won't. Don't believe in ruining these things, which is exactly what it is - RUINING IT.

Currently watching: Arrested Development, Season 1.

Currently checked out from the public library: DR. STRANGELOVE..., STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE.

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