Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Arrested Wednesdays #2

First names aside, I have always felt a deep connection with Michael Bluth. My favorite Bluth, Michael is fiercely loyal to his family and always puts them first, but is not above trying to get them to better themselves. Michael struggles both in his life and at work to always do the right thing, even when a short cut presents itself. He has aspiration of being a lawyer, finding another wife and mother for his son and handles all of his frustrations with a dry wit and confidence that even I cannot emulate.

While he may seem mild mannered, there is a darker side of Michael. He is capable of turning on his family, whether it's stealing his brother's girlfriend, deceiving his mother into rehab, keeping his father in prison, out of prison or on house arrest and striking a blind woman in the face with a bible, burning down the family banana stand and threaten his secretary all in the first season.

But, Michael does everything for his son and the Bluth Company. He lives and dies for them, putting his blood, sweat and tears into his work. Particularly, the sweat as evidenced in the clip below.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Basterds, Quentin and Me

Last Friday night, the New Beverly Cinema in West Los Angeles held a midnight screening of Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. Having already seen and reviewed the film, I still wanted to go see the midnight show. The New Bev runs double features every day of the week and you can catch some really great movies there for seven bucks. But, they also have special events as well and being so close to Hollywood allows them to host special guests. I've seen Last Picture Show and What's Up Doc? with Peter Bogdanovich in attendance and last Halloween I saw Shaun of the Dead with Edgar Wright and John Landis judging the costume contest. Living about forty minutes away from Los Angeles has it's advantages, but it's not always easy to get someone to go with me, particularly since on an evening like Friday, we didn't get home until four in the morning.

So, I decided to tell a little, tiny white lie.

Mike (on the phone)
Hey man.

Friend (also on the phone)
Hey man, what's going on?

There's a midnight screening of the Basterds at the New Bev tonight.

That sounds cool.

Yea, and I heard Quentin is going to be there too.


That's what I heard, man.

Would anybody really be upset if he weren't there? Probably not, but as it turned out, it didn't matter. We bought our tickets, received a free copy of the soundtrack and sat in our seats. I decided to go and get a soda and as I walked back up towards the lobby, I saw Quentin Tarantino standing by the wall. He saw me headed towards him and in an attempt to remain incognito, turned to face the wall, then turned around again, made eye contact and said. "Hey." I smiled, stuck my hand out and as he shook it, I said, "Big fan, man." He nodded and said thanks. I turned around in the lobby and went back to my seat, telling my friends that not only was the line too long for a Coke, but Quentin was here and I think he was almost ready to intro the movie. Which he did and as we applauded for him, I told my friends I couldn't believe he was actually here. But, you knew he was coming, they replied. No, I said, I made that shit up so you would come along.

Kinda blurry, I know, but QT doesn't like to stand still.

Quentin thanked us for coming out and told us he had cut together some trailers from some WWII "guys on a mission" movies and would we mind checking them out before the Basterds? The audience clapped loudly in approval and then we sat through roughly twenty five minutes of trailers. Somewhere between Kelly's Heroes and Hornet's Nest, I leaned over to my friend and wondered aloud if anyone told Quentin that his movie was over three hours long since it was already twelve thirty in the morning. However, his movie held up extremely well for not having seen it in two months time and moves up on my list of top films of the year. Also, as we left, everyone got a free poster too.

Good times, good friends, good movies. What more can a guy ask for?

Not listening to the LAMBcast yet?

The third installment of the LAMB's podcast, cleverly entitled the LAMBcast, has hit the interwebs and is available for download on iTunes. If you have not been listening to the LAMBcast, you suck. Every podcast has gotten better than the last and the third episode is chock full of more good stuff. I'm joined by fellow Bloggers Dylan Fields, Tom Clift, Nick Jobe and Jason Soto, all unique voices in their own right. We chat about news on our central website, The LAMB, which stands for Large Association of Movie Blogs, share what new trailers have our interest or disinterest and play a few games as well. It's topical, humorous and you just may learn a thing or two as well. You can check out the website here where you will find more information, options to download or just listen to the streaming version.

Now, all formalities and niceties aside, I have to write MY post-LAMBcast debrief and speak up on my own behalf. You see dear readers, I am the subject of mockery and ridicule for my general lack of knowledge in the horror genre. In episode 2, Attack of the Oscars, I was under fire for not seeing any Nightmare on Elm Street movies in my youth, whilst seeing more Billy Wilder films than every other LAMBcaster combined! In this week's episode, while improving my Last Man Standing record to 3-1-0, I was again marginalized by having intentionally missed 28 Days Later. Not a big Boyle fan, what can I say?

By now, I'm sure that you can tell I'm being sarcastic and have nothing but good things to say about the LAMBcast and my fellow LAMBcasters. I look forward to each new episode and have more fun recording them than almost anything else I'm doing right now. For myself and on behalf of the other LAMBs, we hope you enjoy listening to them as much as we enjoy recording them.

Also, below is the
Cemetary Junction trailer that was discussed in this week's LAMBcast. Check it out, good stuff.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Damned Funny Film

The Damned United is a British film about football coach Brian Clough. The film jumps back and forth between Clough's rise as the manager of small 2nd Division team Derby County and his fall during his 44 days stint as manager of powerhouse champions Leeds United. Clough was outspoken about football and despised within the sport, but along with his assistant manager Peter Taylor, he turned small clubs into contenders and remains the only manager to not only win the English League Championship with two different teams, but the only one to back to back European Cups as well.

Played more than ably by Michael Sheen, Clough is charming, outspoken and from the very beginning of the film, the audience is rooting for him. Granted, an American audience of six people watching the film less than twenty miles away from where their local team is that very night staving off elimination at the hands of baseball's greatest franchise is more likely to cheer for the underdog, but that's neither here nor there. Sheen shines in the film with no presidents or special effects to distract from him and he is brilliant. The film is a character piece that focuses on him rather than the sport itself. In fact, there are almost no scenes of him coaching and very few of the games themselves. Instead, one whole game is seen from his point of view, in his office, under the stands whilst the crowd cheers and shakes the stadium as he finally beats rival Don Revie and Leeds. The supporting roles played by Colm Meaney, Timothy Spall and Jim Broadbent are all well done, but it is Sheen who carries the film and creates a sympathetic portrait of a man who was loved almost as ferociously as he was hated by fans and footballers alike. If you get a chance to see it here on this side of the pond, I cannot recommend it enough.

Sheen is a pimp. He has a child with Kate Beckinsale for God's sake!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Arrested Wednesdays #1

Today marks the debut of a new weekly feature on Big Mike's Movie Blog, entitled 'Arrested Wednesdays'. Every week I will be writing a short post highlighting the funniest television series ever, 'Arrested Development'. The purpose of this feature is twofold. First, to increase awareness of the critically acclaimed and publicly dismissed series as the likelihood of a feature length film based on the show grows greater by the week. Secondly, to motivate me to write something new even when I haven't seen anything new and exciting.

That is part of the charm of 'Arrested Development'. Off the air for years now, the show has gained a cult following and for some fans, has become part of their everyday vernacular. I am on of those devotees and will be recounting similar stories in the weeks to come. But, more importantly, I came to re-discover the series this past week and it lifted me out of my funk. I adore the show and wished I could write about it instead of the awful movie I saw instead. So, I decided to do just that.

'Arrested Development' was a Fox sitcom that ran from 2003 to 2006 and in just three seasons managed to win 7 Emmys and constantly stave off cancellation while struggling with ratings. It helped to launch the careers of Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Tony Hale and Alia Shawkat while serving as a huge career boost to Jason Bateman, Jeffrey Tambor, Jessica Walters and David Cross. The show hosted such special and recurring guests such as Charlize Theron, Henry Winkler, Liza Minnelli, Jeff Garlin, Ed Begley Jr., James Lipton, Julia-Louis Dreyfus, Zach Braff and Ben Stiller. Infinitely quotable and rapid fire with its jokes, the show never found an audience on the air, but lives on eternally on DVD, reruns and in the hearts of fans around the world.

If you are unfamiliar with the show, you can find the three seasons on DVD for under twenty dollars each in most places, especially Target.

Now, the blog feature about the story of a wealthy family who lost everything and the one son who had no choice but to keep them altogether.

It's Arrested Wednesdays.

Friday, October 16, 2009

2010, The Year We Make MORE Contact

In an interesting article by Gordon Paddison entitled Moviegoers 2010, the author cites a recent study intended for film marketers and explains how the Internet is mainly responsible for how people choose what movies to see. Traditional media and critics are becoming increasingly less likely to influence moviegoers and the Internet is their chief tool in learning more about a film that they are interested in. Furthermore, the opinion of their peers is an important factor in determining which movie they see, for better or worse. Audiences from age 13 to 49 spend a large amount of their time online and utilize various forms of technology for entertainment from TV, internet and mobile devices. Social networking sites and mobile to mobile communication are also very important as 'word of mouth' for younger audiences.

One unfortunate statistic was that teenagers tend to go to the movies in large groups. Thankfully, I tend to go to the movies at venues which have strict curfews.

Well, what does this have to do with my blog? If you're reading this, then it is statistically likely than your take my opinion into consideration when deciding to go out to a movie. If you happen to fall into this category, firstly I would like to thank you for reading and hope to continue to do so. Secondly, I am proud that you listen to my voice and would like to hear yours more often in any form of feedback. The thought that someone out there is reading my nonsense makes me want to write more of it.

However, if you are one of my movie blogging contemporaries, this study should be of far more importance than it is to the casual movie fan. As the shift from traditional media and critics continues, people who read our blogs and reviews will be more inclined to trust our opinions
more than anyone else. Most of us are already known amongst our friends as 'the movie guy/girl' and as our online readers grow, so will the number of people that will or will not see a movie based on your recommendation. Let's face it, movies such as Transformers 2 will remain critic proof, (the study backs this fact up as well.) but when deciding what else to see or what to see to avoid the lines and crowds they will likely be reading your site or a site like yours in order to help them choose. Remember that sites such as Ain't it Cool News and started out as smaller sites run by one or two fans. I am not under the delusion that my little dog and pony show I call a blog is anywhere close to that caliber of a website, but some of your blogs that I read certainly have that potential. However, I get a ton of emails everyday from studios and independent filmmakers who are looking for any kind of write up on my site for their movie. I more often than not choose otherwise, but if it were a movie I was already interested in *coughShutterIslandcough then I might be more inclined to consider tickets to a screening or post a link to pictures or trailers.

So, in conclusion to my Jerry Maguire mission statement, the aforementioned article gave my cause for both hope and caution. Hope that someday what I write may be taken in by a much larger audience, who respect and value my opinion on film as a 'friend' rather than a 'critic'. And caution in that I try not to forget why I write and become the very reason that I started writing in the first place, which was to provide a my own unique take on movies.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Doing Time in Stalag 17

This post is in conjunction with the LAMB event - LAMBs in the Director's Chair.

Stalag 17 is a stand out film in Billy Wilder's career. It has all the hallmarks of a Wilder film, including voice over narration, double crosses and men in drag. But, it also marked an important turning point in his career. After making a few comedies and excelling at dramas and noir like, Double Indemnity, Sunset Blvd. and The Lost Weekend, Stalag was a war drama unlike any other. Taking place in a prisoner of war camp in World War II, a group of American sergeants try to discover the German spy in their midst that giving information to their captors. Like many Wilder films, it was based on a play, yet production started without a completed script. This added to the realism for the actors who themselves were unsure of which one of them would turn out to be the rat. Furthermore, Wilder infused the film with overtly sexual humor and clashed with the studio over the tone of the subject matter. It led to the dissolution of his working relationship with Paramount. As was his style, his belied his drama with a sublime humor that would be far more evident in later films such as Oscar winning movie, The Apartment. In addition, the studio angered him by withholding part of the film's profits and suggesting that Wilder change the nationality of the camp guards from German to Polish. It is widely believed that Wilder took carte blanche with the film because of the fact that his mother died in a concentration camp. That fact makes it more remarkable to me that he would choose to make a dark comedy about a film that show closely mirrored a tragedy in his own life. But, that was what made Wilder's movies special. He could take stories about betrayal, murder or lust and make them relatable, show us characters we could identify with and ultimately a movie that audiences would enjoy.

Not to take anything away from Wilder, but for me, the film is all about William Holden. In fact, it's a stroke of casting genius on Wilder's part for the studio wanted Charlton Heston in the role. But, Wilder saw the character of Sergeant J.J. Sefton as far more cynical and anti-heroic than he thought Heston or second choice Kirk Douglas could play. He instead chose Bill Holden, whom he made four films with, more than any other actor beside Jack Lemmon. Forced into the role by the studio, Holden, like the character, was stuck in a situation he could not escape, but he makes the best of it the only way he can. Sefton finally escaped, while Holden won an Oscar. He was an actor who simply seemed to be himself on screen, cool and intelligent. Who else could romance Audrey Hepburn while beefing with Humphrey Bogart? He won an Oscar, worked for wildlife conservation, brought Japanese films to America, fought against the blacklist and served in the Army during WWII. Bill Holden was just cool, man. In Stalag, he defies everyone's objections by trading with the Germans for luxury sundry items as well as conjugal visits with female Russian workers. As the other prisoners grow to resent him and become suspicious of his activities, he digs in his heels and is determined to find the spy himself. Finally, Holden leaves the camp with a line that I wish for anything in the world to be able to go back in time and tell some of the guys I served with as I left my duty station for the last time.

"If I ever run into any of you bums on a street corner, just let's pretend we've never met before."

Monday, October 12, 2009

All Aboard For Zombieland

Zombieland was a terrific movie that had great characters, fun zombie killing action and an excellent script. It will undoubtedly earn comparisons to Shaun of the Dead, but the movie is closer to 48 Hours in it's tone. Bookended by great opening and closing action sequences, the movie is more memorable for the dialogue and interaction between the characters. People remember Nick Nolte picking up Eddie Murphy in jail and the scene in the bar and with Zombieland, audiences will remember Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson riding cross country and the first four rules of living in Zombieland. With a lack of serious zombie action, it is the story and the jokes that keep the audience laughing and never once wondering where all the zombies are at. Witty bon mots such as "One and done, that's my motto. I said that once." and "I've beat wholesale ass for a lot less" would have made this movie as classic on their own strength, but the appearance near the end of the film by none other than Bill Murray completely canonizes the film as not only a classic zombie movie, but a straight forward comedy as well.

And Emma Stone with a shotgun is way hot.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Invention of Lying

Ricky Gervais knows that the comedic genius of The Invention of Lying is in it's premise that people can only say exactly what they are thinking at any given time. He packs as many jokes as he can into the first twenty minutes and spends the rest of the film telling a story in the uncomfortable, patient style that is his trademark. Which is not to say that the movie drags or becomes too serious, but if you know how Gervais works, then you can take your time with this film and enjoy it.

Ricky is great in the movie, stretching himself as an actor, particularly in the heavy dramatic scenes. If you've only ever seen him in other features like For Your Consideration or Ghost Town, you should see the other side of him that was briefly glimpsed in The Office or Extras. The supporting cast is terrific as well, with a lot of well known comic actors such as Jonah Hill, Louis C.K., Jeffrey Tambor, Rob Lowe and Christopher Guest. Jennifer Garner is also great as the girl who doesn't find Gervais' character attractive but slowly becomes his friend and then falls in love with him. Throw in some great cameos by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jason Bateman and Ed Norton and The Invention of Lying is a real treat.

I love Tina Fey, but I don't like her as the foil. I want to love her, not dislike her.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Always Sunny in Los Angeles, or The Nightman, The Dayman and Me.

If you're not a fan of the television series It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia on FX, you're missing out on one of the funniest shows on the air. Almost Seinfeld-esque in concept, it's a show where the main characters are selfish, narrow minded jerks who like to get excited about a new venture every week only to become disinterested in it midway through the episode and focus their energies elsewhere. In only four full seasons, the show has brutally satirized every hot topic issue from abortion, child molestation, political corruption, patriotism and the current economic crisis. But, in between the social commentary they find plenty of time for pure laugh out loud comedy and one great idea sprang from the episode entitled, "Sweet Dee's Dating a Retarded Person" in which the gang comes to the conclusion that if Sweet Dee's retarded rapper boyfriend came become successful as a musician, they can start a band as well. The different creative direction of the group force them into separate bands, Chemical Toilet and Electric Dream Machine, which leads to Charlie writing two different songs for each, Night Man and Day Man. One year later, Charlie would combine both songs along with a troll, a baby boy and cat eyes in the rock opera known as "The Nightman Cometh".

One year after that, the creators of the show took their production on the road. The live show toured eight cities, ending up back in Los Angeles and I was lucky enough to have a friend score tickets to the show at the Palladium in Hollywood. After an opening band that really wasn't as bad as everyone made them feel, the audience was treated to clip from the upcoming A Very Sunny Christmas Special, in which Charlie accosts a mall Santa, resulting in bloodshed and Mac punching children. When asked if they would like another clip, the crowd roared with approval and we were treated to a full length episode to air later this year. In typical Sunny style, this episode found the gang renewing their flip cup rivalry with another bar, only to deal with that bar's disinterest by beginning a new rivalry with Dennis' old fraternity. When the episode was over, Charlie leaped onto stage, burst into song and opened the show. From Charlie's announcement of writing a musical, to first rehearsals and Charlie inviting the waitress to the show, the stage version was just as funny as the broadcast version, especially considering most people in attendance had seen the episode before. There were extended songs, great costumes and hilarious ad-libs that made it different enough to more than warrant the cost of admission. It was a really interactive show, with the performers acknowledging the audience and planting the waitress in the crowd as part of the show. At the end, the entire cast came back on stage to lead everyone in a sing-a-long of Day Man.

Great show, good times, best friends.