Gareth Edwards’ hotly anticipated reimagining of Godzilla opens in theaters this week. To celebrate, here are some surprising facts from the sixty year history of the famous monster (and his friends).
My Oscar predictions have a history of being thoroughly, spectacularly wrong. But if that didn’t stop me before, why should it stop me now? Here are my wild guesses for how this year’s Academy Awards will play out. Disclaimer: Using this as a guide for your Oscar pool is a surefire way of losing five bucks in your Oscar pool.
Sure, there were a few surprises in this morning’s batch of Academy Award nominations – no Hanks! no Phoenix! no Johansson! no Lee Daniels or his Butler! not much Llewyn Davis! – but nothing to cause too much of an internet freak-out. So instead of complaints, I offer a random list of facts and figures from this year’s batch of nods.
Earlier today, Deadline Hollywood broke the story: after decades of legal battles, MGM and EON Productions – the owners of the James Bond film franchise – finally acquired the rights to Blofeld and his terrorist organization, SPECTRE, both mainstays of the series’ Connery era. The history of EON’s courtroom troubles is tangled stuff; this James Bond news site does a fine job explaining things, but the main point, simply, is that EON now has full creative control of intellectual property not seen on screen since 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. But what does this mean for the movies to come, most notably Sam Mendes’ not-yet-titled follow-up to Skyfall?
This’ll be my last My Week in Movies post, at least for a while. My real-life schedule has kept me too busy to give it the time it deserves, and while a Halloween vacation allowed me a chance to catch up, this week is the exception, not the rule. Indeed, aside from the daily What I’ve Watched updates (which is essentially a personal list-diary neither requiring much effort nor affected by a lack of same), business is going to slow down for a while ’round here. I’ll still likely crank out a feature article or two each month, but nothing on a regularly scheduled basis. Things will possibly (maybe) pick back up in the new year. Until then, enjoy these final mini-ramblings. Continue reading
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2011) In terms of gory-yet-witty send-ups of horror movie tropes, Cabin in the Woods is good, but Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is great. While the former is impressed with its own cleverness, the latter is too busy delivering some terrific character work to bother being smug. The result is a rarity in the genre, a “yes” answer to that classic question Would I enjoy watching these characters just hanging out? Heck, I’d watch Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine all day; the horror/comedy antics are just icing. And what icing! By turning well-worn slasher flick ideas into a Three’s Company-esque case of misunderstandings and shenanigans (peppered with a well-honed sense of Looney Tunes-esque slapstick), writers Eli Craig (who also directed) and Morgan Jurgenson craft some of the sharpest, smartest, and funniest comedy I’ve seen in years. Continue reading
The Raven (1935) and The Black Cat (1934) Two entries from the “Lugosi vs. Karloff in a big ol’ creepy house” subgenre. The Raven is enjoyable for Karloff’s sadsack performance, but not too much else, as its plotless array of Poe-inspired sadism (including the pendulum) doesn’t do enough with its characters to get us interested in their fates at the hands of madman Lugosi. The Black Cat, on the other hand, is a masterpiece of mood (and set design!), its slow burn drawing us deeper into darker corners of its leading men’s troubles. The ghosts of World War I hang heavy, mixed with a then-innovate dose of psychological undertones and a then-racy dose of sexual overtones. It’s haunting stuff, one of Universal’s best non-monster entries of the decade. Continue reading
Gravity (2013) Yup, everything you’ve heard about Gravity is true. Revolutionary effects, stunning storytelling, powerhouse acting, the whole works. But the most amazing thing? Even more than recent exception-proves-the-rule stuff like Hugo and Life of Pi, Gravity is that rare film that has pretty much the entire film critic community, a group that cringes at the very thought of 3D, insisting this is a film that must be experienced in three dimensions, and on as big a screen as possible. Even jaded ol’ me, whose longtime love of the format was crushed years ago by too many upcharges for too many bad movies, insists you pay for the full experience. And Gravity is one hell of an experience – even without the high tech gimmickry, there’s an artistry at play that we’ve seldom seen before on a screen of any size. I probably need three or four or twenty more viewings to truly digest it all, especially the way it handles its scope, both vast and internal, but for now, I’ll simply call it amazing. Continue reading
Knuckleball! (2012) Let’s thank the makers of Knuckleball! for showing some much welcome restraint and not taking the obvious route with their film. The documentary covers the least respected pitch in baseball, a wobbly slowball that’s sometimes viewed as the last refuge of the untalented. But rather than go with a tongue-in-cheek snarkfest poking fun at the pitching style, directors Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg get earnest, with most of its time spent following the Red Sox’s Tim Wakefield and the Mets’ R. A. Dickey – at the time of production, the only two knuckleballers working in the Majors – through their bumpy career arcs, with most of the focus given to their performances in the 2011 baseball season. The filmmakers are more concerned with the personal side of the game, unafraid of quieter moments, using the humanity of their subjects to underscore the drama of the season. It’s a fascinating and rather gentle study of outsiders struggling to work in an insiders’ game. Continue reading