Saturday Double Feature: A Million Ways To Die In The West (2014) and…

Okay, let’s start with a quick recap of the “rules”, shall we? The basic idea here is to take a movie that is out in theaters now, and pair it up with another movie from the 1980s or before. Sometimes the connection will be obvious, and sometimes it’ll be a little less so, but that’s part of the fun.

So what’s out this week? Well, the big box office draw is obviously Seth MacFarlane‘s A Million Ways To Die in the West:

And of course, if you’re anything like me, from the moment the first trailer for the movie hit, there was one very obvious double feature pairing, and yep, that’s the one I’m going with today. The year was 1974, and Mel Brooks unleashed his classic western parody Blazing Saddles on unsuspecting audiences across the nation:

So what do you think? Could A Million Ways… be this generation’s Blazing Saddles? Does it need to be? Or can you think of a better pairing for the new flick? Leave your thoughts in the comments, along with ideas of any other upcoming movies you’d like to see “double featured”. Consider it, if you will, your chance to challenge me to come up with an interesting pair.

Until next time, Happy Viewing!

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What Does This Tell Us About The Movie We’ll Eventually Be Getting? Here’s The First Official US Trailer For Snowpiercer (2014)

Yep, gang, here it is: your first official look at the US version of Snowpiercer, the film Harvey Scissorhands – ummm, I mean Harvey Weinstein thinks you’re probably too stupid to actually get to watch in full. (Actually, the latest reports I’ve seen indicate that there will be at least a “limited release” of the entire film with a possible cut version for eventual wider release, or it may just get the release to a few theaters and VOD and then move straight to DVD/Blu-Ray.)

So what cuts have actually been made? What theaters is it actually going to be released to? It appears those are questions we’re still awaiting the answers to. But we are at least getting closer to finding out.

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Is This Eva Green Poster For Sin City: A Dame To Kill For (2014) Too Sexy For Your Theater? The MPAA Thinks So

Along with determining what rating your movie is going to get (often quite controversially, but I’m not here to get into that today), and also approving the trailers that get shown in front of movies (we’ve all seen that “appropriate audiences” flasher that comes up before each trailer), the Motion Picture Association of America also has a say in the promotional materials that are sent to theaters in order to showcase upcoming movies.

Now it appears that the MPAA has determined that the latest character poster for the upcoming Sin City: A Dame to Kill For which features actress Eva Green is too risque to appear in your local theater. According to the article linked above, the cited reason is “for nudity — curve of under breast and dark nipple/areola circle visible through sheer gown.”

Now there are a number of different ways the debate could go from here: we could discuss sexuality versus violence, we could discuss American prudishness when it comes to this kind of thing, we could even discuss the role of the the MPAA in the first place, and whether the determination of what is too much should be in their hands or in that of local theater owners. And those are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to springboards we could use this particular poster for.

We could even discuss whether this is all just a huge publicity stunt by the studio to get more attention for the movie by submitting a poster they knew would be rejected knowing that it would get people talking about both the poster and the film (which, if that was their purpose has obviously worked, since here we are, doing exactly that). And for that matter, I find the whole “controversy” in a way rather amusing given the amount of obvious photoshopping this poster has undergone in the first place so that it’s doubtful that the part(s) of the poster the MPAA finds objectionable even belong to Ms. Green in the first place.

And those are all valid topics. But instead, in this case, I’m just going to tell you to take a look at the poster for yourself and see what you think. Is it too sexy to be displayed in theaters? How would you react if you came upon it in your local multiplex? Would your reaction to it be different if you had kids with you? I’m curious to hear your responses, so let me know what you think in the comments below.

(Oh, and yes, you can click on the image below to biggiefy it if you so desire.)

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Old Time Radio Thursdays – #042: Signing Off For Now

The short intro: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Old Time Radio is the phrase generally used to refer to the time when radio was (mostly) live, and was full of a variety of different shows, as opposed to simply being a means for record labels to use robots to promote the top records of the day. Old Time Radio Thursdays is my chance to explore some of those old radio shows, their connections (both old and new) to movies, and hopefully to encourage some of the rest of you to take a look at a probably unfamiliar source of entertainment that I truly love. If you want more info on OTR, and some examples of the variety of shows that were made, be sure to check out this introductory post.

Yeah, the implication in the headline is true. This is probably going to be the last Old Time Radio Thursday post for awhile. Oh, I’m sure it’ll be back eventually, but everything runs its course, and I feel like for me at least, it’s time for a bit of a change. Actually, there are probably going to be a few changes upcoming to the blog, including a new feature that will be taking up this Thursday slot that I hope you’ll enjoy as much as this one, but I’ll have more info on all of that for you tomorrow.

Anyway, rather than just having the feature simply disappear, I thought I’d leave you with another sampler round of some of the great shows from radio’s golden age. Some of these, if you’ve been following along all this time, you will have heard before, some of them are new ones, but all of them should make for fun listening.

So one last time (for now) let me invite you to sit back, close you eyes, and join me in enjoying some of the greats from the years when radio was king.

Until next time, whenever that might be, as always, Happy Listening!

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Top 250 Tuesday #171 – King Kong (1933) Revisited

Continuing to wend my way through the Sight and Sound Top 250 Greatest Movies of All Time. This week, it’s #171 on the list, Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack.’s King Kong. For a longer introduction to this series and a look at the full list, just click here. And if you want a heads-up on what I’ll be watching for next week in case you want to watch along, just head on over to the Facebook page or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are also in the sidebar) where I’ll generally be posting that info later in the day.

kk2It’s not really in my plans to revisit these movies once I’ve posted about them, since there are still a lot of them that I need to get to. However, I had the chance over the weekend to catch the 1933 version of King Kong again on the big screen, and since that viewing brought to mind a thought that I wanted to share here, I decided, at least in this instance “why not?”.

(By the way, if you want to see what I had to say about Kong the first time around, that posting is right here.)

Basically, the point is this: what the 1933 Kong gets right, and what the later versions – along with so many other “monster” movies – get wrong, is exactly that. Cooper and Schoedsack never for a moment forget that what they are making is a monster movie. They are not making a movie about a sympathetic creature, they are not making a movie where Jessica Lange or Naomi Watts falls in love with the big hairy ape, they are making a movie where Fay Wray is completely terrified of the creature that literally holds her life in the palm of his hand. And she remains that way throughout the entire movie.

Yes, it is a “Beauty and the Beast” movie, as is repeatedly stated throughout the course of the film, but it is one that emphasizes the “Beast” part of that equation as much as it does the “Beauty”. Kong in this iteration is a creature of the jungle who would just as soon munch on a native or two (or, for that matter, a New Yorker or two) as any of the other giant creatures he does battle with throughout the course of the movie.

kk4There’s a reason that that giant wall is there in the island, and once that wall is breached, we see exactly what that is, as Kong has absolutely no qualms about rending anyone he can get his hands (or, for that matter, his mouth) on, nor does he show any compunction about stomping the natives completely into the ground and grinding them underfoot.

Even when he reaches New York and is supposedly made more sedate by the tranquilizers he has been given, Kong has no problem with pulling a girl from her apartment, realizing she is not the blond beauty he is looking for, and simply dropping her, letting her fall a number of stories to her death.

kk3It may have been, as Cooper stand-in Carl Denham states at the end, “Beauty that killed the beast”, but she certainly didn’t tame him.

And that, it seems to me, is exactly why Kong works so well, while the retreads and so many other so-called monster movies don’t. Because they seek, rather than treating whatever titular monster they may involve as a true monster, rather than allowing the beast, whether its a giant ape or, say a vampire or even Doctor  Frankenstein’s  creation to make the so-called villain of the movie a sympathetic character or at worst a sort of anti-hero, rather than allowing them to be truly monstrous or evil.

It also occurs to me that perhaps that’s the reason for zombies being the monster-du-jour, and for even people who generally say they don’t like scary movie or monsters to be caught up in shows like The Walking Dead: because when it comes right down to it, no matter what “brand” or version of zombie you prefer, those mindless creatures that just keep coming at you no matter what, really are monstrous, and are something to be terrified of.

Of course, that’s also one thing that. for instance, the Alien franchise gets right. There is never any doubt that that sucker (in whatever iteration, from face-hugger to queen) is a true monster. Which is, again, why it is so effective.

So maybe the next time you hear someone say that monster movies just don’t scare them, or even more importantly, perhaps the next time some Hollywood writer or director is trying to make a monster movie, they should also go back and take another look at King Kong, if for no other reason than to remember that perhaps the one thing they need to do is to let their monster truly be just that – a monster.

 

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What Do The Reports of X-Men: Days Of Future Past’s Huge Opening Really Mean?

I have to admit I was initially taken somewhat aback by the reports such as this one, that the most recent X-Men movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past was having such a huge opening weekend and was posting record-breaking box-office numbers for Fox, since it seemed to be bucking not only what I was seeing in my own local theater, but also a trend that I was working on an article about, incorporating reports that Amazing Spider-Man 2’s “disappointing” take of “only” 630 or so million dollars (at the time I started writing the article) was leading Sony to rethink their approach to future films in the Spidey franchise.

x1The premise of that article – which I still intend to appear later this week – is that rather than there being that one huge blockbuster this year that really sets itself apart from the pack and gets not only Avengers-type box but also the follow-through with audiences coming to watch and re-watch the film, the studios might have to settle for across-the-board “mediocre” sell-through and adjust their expectations accordingly.

So what happens to that premise when suddenly it appears that X-Men: DOFP may actually buck that trend? Do I treat it as an aberration? Or do I rethink the entire premise? Or is there something else going on?

Well, in looking at the actual numbers, it appears that the answer actually is that there isn’t a real bucking of the trend after all., because most of the huge box office numbers that are being reported are from overseas sales, since the movie opened in theaters everywhere on the same day, as opposed to most of the other franchise films this year, which have had opening dates in other countries either before or after their US debuts.

As a matter of fact, if you look just at the domestic numbers, X-Men only took in about $90 million, which is in line with, or even below, it’s summer competitors such as Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($95 million), Godzilla ($93 million), and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ($92 million). It’s only when you add in the estimated 171 million from the rest of the world that the film is reported to have taken in that Fox gets to brag about it’s huge debut.

So what is going on this year, really? Why do the box-office numbers seem so flat across the board? Well, like I said above, I’ll touch on that in the next day or two.

 

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Saturday Double Feature: Mom’s Night Out (2014) and…

Okay, let’s start with a quick recap of the “rules”, shall we? The basic idea here is to take a movie that is out in theaters now, and pair it up with another movie from the 1980s or before. Sometimes the connection will be obvious, and sometimes it’ll be a little less so, but that’s part of the fun.

So this week the big movie to hit theaters is the latest installment in Fox’s X-Men franchise, X-Men: Days of Future Past. However, rather than feature that one this week for our double feature, I decided to go with one of the smaller films that has been in theaters for a couple of weeks now, Mom’s Night Out. Here’s the trailer for that one:

Okay, so let’s go with the concept of unexpected babysitting and its consequences, and we wind up at 1987’s Adventures in Babysitting:

And actually, that looks to me like it could be kind of a fun mind-less comedy type pairing. What do you think? Have you seen Adventures in Babysitting? Or do you have any other ideas for movies to pair with Mom’s Night Out? Leave your thoughts in the comments, along with ideas of any other upcoming movies you’d like to see “double featured”. Consider it, if you will, your chance to challenge me to come up with an interesting pair.

Until next time, Happy Viewing!

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Old Time Radio Thursdays – #041: Boris Karloff On The Radio – A Spotlight Feature

The short intro: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Old Time Radio is the phrase generally used to refer to the time when radio was (mostly) live, and was full of a variety of different shows, as opposed to simply being a means for record labels to use robots to promote the top records of the day. Old Time Radio Thursdays is my chance to explore some of those old radio shows, their connections (both old and new) to movies, and hopefully to encourage some of the rest of you to take a look at a probably unfamiliar source of entertainment that I truly love. If you want more info on OTR, and some examples of the variety of shows that were made, be sure to check out this introductory post.

English: no original description

There are certain voices that stand out pretty much no matter what the context. One of those voices belonged to today’s spotlight star, Boris Karloff. No matter what role he was playing, from urbane gentleman to mad scientist to his most famous role as The creation of Victor Frankenstein, Mr Karloff’s voice always stood out.

Well, okay, maybe it wasn’t quite as identifiable when he was playing Frankenstein’s monster, but in all fairness, he really didn’t get a whole lot of lines to work with there, either.

Nonetheless, it was this voice that made him a welcome presence not only in movie theaters, but in many diverse roles throughout the Golden Age of Radio. Therefor, I thought that today, instead of focusing on a particular show, we’d turn the spotlight on Mr. Karloff and sample a number of his roles in a variety of shows over the years. So just sit back and enjoy this visit with the always wonderful Mr. Boris Karloff.

Until next time, as always, Happy Listening!

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Shades Of Grey Make For Some Really Bleak Monsters – How Gareth Edwards Took All The Fun Out Of Godzilla (2014)

*** Two things to note before we start. Yes, this will be full of spoilers. This is simply one of those write-ups where I can’t really discuss the movie without hitting upon some of the twists and turns that it takes. So if you haven’t seen it yet, perhaps you’ll want to wait until you have to read this. Or maybe you don’t need to bother. Also, I am highly indebted to this article from the blog We Minored in Film for binging together a number of the quotes used as examples below from various interviews, etc. If you want to see more of their insights into the film, including much that isn’t covered here, along with links to the original sources for the quotes, I highly recommend checking that one out. ***

g1When Gareth Edwards and his team said that they were going back to the original 1954 Gojira for the inspiration for their new take on Godzilla, I really didn’t think that they meant that they were going to be making the new film in black-and-white. And while it’s technically true that they didn’t, in some ways they might as well have.

And in leeching all the color out of the film, it seems like they’ve also leeched out the fun.

Yeah, this is going to be another one of those reviews. Sorry.

The truth is, Godzilla isn’t really a bad movie. I suppose it does achieve what it set out to do, which is to ground the “Big G” in a 2014 reality and bring a fresh perspective and a human touch to a somewhat lost franchise.

The problem is, if I wanted “grounding”, if I wanted “reality”, if I wanted a “human touch” in my movie, then I wouldn’t be going to a Godzilla flick where what I’m really wanting to see is a bunch of big monsters kicking the crap out of each other. Or at least one big monster stomping his way through a city and tearing up everything in sight until eventually he is put down through some kind of contrivance.

And I’ll admit we do get those scenes. Well, sort of.

By my count, there were at least five different scenes in the movie that provided the opportunity for exactly what I’m talking about above. Unfortunately, of those scenes, at least three of those scenes are shown to us mostly on television screens or monitors,, and for the most part we only get to where the action is in time to see the aftermath of the fight, and only bits and pieces of the actual action.

Instead, we wind up spending most of our time with the human characters and seeing things from their viewpoint. Which even then might not be such a bad thing if we were actually able to care about any of those human characters. The harsh truth is, however, that we don’t. Even Edwards himself seems to have recognized this, as he has been quoted as saying in regards to the death of Bryan Cranston‘s character who really is the only one who truly brings anything even resembling chemistry to the outing

g2We tried versions where he survived, in terms of the screenplay.  The thing is in every one in which we did that there’s nothing left for that character to do without it being silly.  If he sticks with Ford, it turns into Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and the tone of the movie becomes fun, but not the tone we were trying to do…. Retrospectively, when you see the movie I understand, and I wish that we had maybe figured a way to make it work.

Yeah, that’s right, Edwards really didn’t want the movie to be fun. And it sounds like maybe he knew he had made a mistake in doing so.

g7Also, Edwards has said that, taking his inspiration from movies like Jaws, Close Encounters, Alien, and other “slow burn” movies where the ultimate reveal of the monster is delayed until the end of the film. Again, quoting the director:

Something they all have in common is that slow-burn build, where the audience is drip fed the imagery to get them on tenterhooks. I thought that style of filmmaking was really effective. It stayed with me the whole time I grew up, and those films stand the test of time.

Which again is a fine way to go, except for one thing: the thing that is burning slowly in those movies is a fuse, and no matter what, once you reach the end of that fuse, you have to provide the audience with a big bang. And the longer your fuse burns, the bigger that bang needs to be.

Unfortunately, Edwards forgot to include the bang. Or maybe he did, but the movie was, by that point so rain-soaked and water-logged that instead of a bang all we got was kind of a fizzle.

XXX GODZILLA-MOV-JY-2346.JPG A ENTSee, that’s where we get to the point I was making at the top of this essay. One of the biggest drawbacks to this movie is that everything, and I mean everything in this movie seems to be cast in shades of grey. Godzilla? Grey. The MUTOs that he fights? Grey. The landscapes they are fighting in? Either cloud covered and rain-soaked (i.e. grey), seen on televisions or computer monitors (not only grey, but adding to the distance between us as an audience and what we came to see), underwater (well, okay, that’s really more of a blue-grey, but…). It’s almost as though Edwards and his tech team simply couldn’t stand the thought of giving us anything resembling a primary color in the film. Even when the opportunity presented itself for some color to be brought into the film, when we hit the Nevada desert and see some welcome sunlight and find out that one of the MUTOs is heading towards Las Vegas where we might actually get a really cool scene of destruction amidst the neon lights of the town, Edwards pulls us back and away again so that we only wind up seeing most of that scene on a monitor. Fortunately (he said ironically) we do get to go back to see the aftermath. Yay.

g6Again: rampaging monsters, the thing we actually come to a movie called Godzilla to see? Nope, not so much. Destroyed buildings in the wake of the monster’s passing? Yeah, we’ll show you that. Again, quoting Edwards:

We were already in Nevada due to the Yuka Mountain where they store their nuclear waste.  The nearest city was Las Vegas, really, and I couldn’t resist it because the way they do all their casinos is like a one-stop shop for monsters.  You can smash every major landmark in the world in one go!

Yeah, even Edwards realizes the potential for a lot of fun in that sequence. And he acknowledges that originally “that sequence was much longer, but then you watch the movie and as fun as everything is individually you kind of need to get one with the story”. In other words, again, Edwards has decided to sacrifice the fun of the movie for the “iconic” shot of post destruction.

g3Okay, so let’s finally get around to the climactic sequence. You know, the great big fight that we’ve been slow-burning all the way through this movie to. The one where we’re finally gonna pull the cameras back, open the perspective up, and just let these creatures have at each other like we’ve been waiting (or is that wading?) through the whole movie for. The sequence where Edwards finally takes the advice of Ken Watanabe’s character from much earlier in the movie when he says “let them fight”.

Yeah. And by “yeah”, what I mean is “no”. Instead, once again, we are stuck at ground level, looking up at these incredible monsters, rain-soaked, again in shades of grey, and when it comes down to it, the portion of the fight that we see may last something along the lines of three minutes. Now admittedly, there is one shot in there that is a standout, that almost makes up for everything else in the movie, but, like I said, it’s one shot. Which lasts at best 10 or 15 seconds.

Here, I’ll just let Gareth Edwards explain to you himself what the problem with the movie really is:

Originally, there was this thing where he would break the MUTO’s jaw, but we decided it was too much like King Kong.  So, it was like, ‘What if he just vomits blue breath down his throat?’ I honestly thought we weren’t going to get away with this; it’s absurd.  However, then we did test screening, and audiences loved it.

XXX GODZILLA-MOV-JY-2344.JPG A ENTYeah, that’s the scene. But look at what Edwards is saying there. He’s pretty much admitting that he had no idea that that kind of thing was exactly what his audience was looking for. To him it was too “absurd”. To the audience it was that one moment that actually delivered after almost two hours of missed opportunities.

And that, honestly, is the thing that really gets to me about this movie. Again, its not that it’s a truly bad flick. It’s certainly not Man of Steel or Lone Ranger bad. It’s just that it really could have been so much more.

So where does that leave Godzilla now? What can we expect going forward? Well, I have no doubt that it will perform well enough that we’ll be getting a sequel, though we’ve had no official word on that yet. And I suspect that if there is one, it will again have Edwards at its helm. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

But before he does tackle the Big G again, maybe he’ll actually sit down and watch some of the other movies in the preceding franchises. Maybe he’ll look at the audience reactions to this one and see what the real appeal of this type of movie is. Maybe he’ll consider opening up not only his perspective in shooting those big monster fights we’re plunking down our dollars for but also his special effects team’s color pallet so that we can have something to look at other than shades of grey.

And maybe, just maybe, he’ll let us have a little more fun next time.

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