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December 2009 Archives

December 28, 2009

New trailers

Cop Out, Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan

I saw Sherlock Holmes over Christmas (a fun movie, really funny, Robert Downey, Jr. is fantastic) and thought I'd mention a couple of the trailers that ran along with it.

Remember the photos from a few months ago of Tracy Morgan riding a bike in a cell phone costume? Those were taken on the set of Kevin Smith's new movie A Couple of Dicks. So now here's the trailer with Tracy and Bruce Willis as cops chasing after smart-ass Seann William Scott. Then the title flashes up, and it seems the movie has a new, less funny title: Cop Out.

Kevin Smith says that after the experience of trying to market Zack and Miri Make a Porno, the studio was worried about running TV ads for A Couple of Dicks. They checked with the networks, who said that as long as the word "dicks" was in the title (the plural, specifically; "dick" apparently would have been OK) they wouldn't air ads until after 9:00 PM. So they had to come up with a new name.

Cop Out makes it sound like an 80's cop buddy movie, which Smith says is the feel he was going for anyway, plus it's a little meta-commentary on the forced title change. Smith still sounds disappointed: "We were making up sequel titles in our heads, dude. Like, you know, Two Bigger Dicks. Or Dicks 2: It Just Got Harder."

The trailer is OK, but not gaspingly hilarious. I liked Kevin Smith's last couple of movies, but this is the first movie he directed that he didn't also write, so it's hard to know what to expect. It might not have any funnier moments than Tracy shoving nachos into his face (see above).

Then came the trailer for Hot Tub Time Machine, the most confidently self-explanatory movie title since Snakes on a Plane. The cast is pretty strange: there's Craig Robinson, who is building a solid career out of supporting roles in every funny movie and TV show produced this decade, Rob Corddry, who hasn't quite exploded into the superstardom I thought he would achieve after he left The Daily Show a few years ago, and one of the kids from Sex Drive, which no one saw.

And John Cusack.

I'm not sure where John Cusack is heading with his career these days. Think about the movies he's been in lately. He's had a hit or two this decade (2012, Serendipity) but he has had a LOT of bombs, like War, Inc., Martian Child, The Ice Harvest, and a whole bunch more. Even his serious little indie movies like Grace is Gone looked sort of awful.

The last good, successful movie that starred John Cusack that I can think of is High Fidelity from 2000 (actually, that's the last movie he was in that I saw in the theater, so that's probably why I think that.) I used to think of him as one of my favorite actors, not that he had the most incredible range, but that there was a better than average chance that a movie he was in would be worth seeing. Somewhere around Must Love Dogs, everything changed.

Anyway, Hot Tub Time Machine could be an OK example of a doofusy time-travel 80's spoof. It's directed by Cusack's old pal Steve Pink, and it has Crispin Glover in it, so there is hope.

There's also a not very funny red-band trailer available on a Greek movie site. The best part is that the Greek site calls it "Hot Tube Machine".

December 22, 2009

Biggest movie surprise of the year

World's Greatest Dad

On a recent episode of the Filmspotting podcast, the hosts listed their favorite overlooked movies of the year--movies that didn't attract big audiences but were worth a look. I liked a lot of the ones they picked, including Moon, Food, Inc., and Humpday (they also listed Anvil! The Story of Anvil, which I still haven't freaking seen yet.) So I decided to check out one I hadn't seen, which they thought was one of the strangest comedies they'd seen in a while: World's Greatest Dad.

You may not have heard of this movie, which was released late this summer, and you almost definitely didn't see it: it only made about $200,000 in box office. Here are three interesting things about this movie:

1) It stars Robin Williams
2) It was written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait
3) It's maybe the darkest, most cynical comedy I've ever seen.

These things are probably the reasons why so few people saw it: how do you market a really, really dark Robin Williams comedy? No Mrs. Doubtfire fan should see this movie (you can see some of their horrified comments on IMDb) and few fans of disturbing, sick comedy would be all that intrigued by a Robin Williams vehicle.

I'm not going to give away anything about the plot, which is weird enough that it should be experienced with no advance knowledge. The movie centers on some really detestable, self-centered characters, some overtly so and some who think they're good and decent people but are actually as bad as everyone else, sort of like Arrested Development's Michael Bluth. The main themes include suicide, masturbation, literary fraud, and poop porn. And it has a sort of sweet ending.

It's not for everyone, and it's probably not altogether bad that the movie didn't reach many people in theaters, because it just would have made the people who should have been watching Old Dogs feel kind of dirty. But for fans of Heathers who wish the main characters had been floundering, desperate adults instead of sneering teens, it's worth a look. Robin Williams is great, and his outrageously obnoxious son is played by Juni from Spy Kids (Daryl Sabara) which is a sort of shocking new direction for him. There were some funnier movies that came out this year, but none that were anything like this.

(There are a few good reviews of the movie that are worth reading after you've seen it, but they give away everything about the plot that's best left as a surprise. Here's the Times review and the Cinematical review; both are huge spoilers. Roger Ebert liked it too, but the movie wasn't quite dark enough for him.)

December 17, 2009



I didn't realize how excited I was for The Runaways biopic until I watched this excellent short trailer that came out today and my mind exploded.

Yeah! They're gonna tear this world apart!

In addition to the cast that plays the band (Kristen Stewart, finally playing the big butch role I've always wanted her to do, little Dakota Fanning in full glam-punk regalia, and Alia Shawkut as a bassist that never actually existed, but was definitely worth inventing so that Alia Shawkut could be in this movie) there's Michael Shannon as the band's manager Kim Fowley.

Fowley was a legendary producer in his own right, producing "Alley Oop", Dr. Demento standby "They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Ha", and some early Jonathan Richman albums, and co-writing songs for KISS and Slade among others. As is sometimes the case with legendary producers, particularly those who discover and promote successful girl groups, he was also a real jerk, and after The Runaways split up, he used the name to start a new group called The Runaways, then was sued by the original band for the name and money he owed them.

Anyway, Michael Shannon is the actor to play Kim Fowley. Dark, charismatic, sort of sinister, and not afraid to play deeply slimy guys.

I can't wait to see the transformation of the band from the group of girls who posed in a wood-paneled basement in their t-shirts above (look at that cool teenage Lita Ford on the right!) to the stylized, heavily-jumpsuited rock act they became:

Runaways, glam

Comes out in March!

December 14, 2009

Where the hell has Julianne Moore been?

Julianne Moore in 30 Rock

Over the weekend I watched last week's episode of 30 Rock, and there was guest star Julianne Moore, playing the cutest girl in East Sandchester High School's Class of '76, Nancy Donovan. She was so funny and gorgeous, and even if her Boston accent was a little uneven (her "I wanna sit on it and play a boh-uhd game!" was totally weird and great) I was delighted to see her again.

Because, really, when was the last time you saw Julianne Moore in anything? Here's her IMDb page. For me, it was when she played the Joan Baez-esque person in I'm Not There, and that was two years ago. Before that, she had a couple of scenes in Children of Men in 2006.

The heyday of Julianne Moore seems to be over. Between Boogie Nights in 1997 and The Hours in 2002, she was in tons of stuff: Magnolia, The End of the Affair, Hannibal, Far From Heaven--some great movies, some not so great, but all were important in their own way and did pretty well.

Since then, things haven't looked so hot for Julianne. She's gotten into some pretty terrible desperate mom movies with The Forgotten (spoiler!: aliens took her kid) and Freedomland (spoiler!: she accidentally killed her kid) and other questionable stuff like The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio and Nicolas Cage's schlocky psychic Next. Then there was Blindness, which I don't think anyone saw, and now she's in Tom Ford's adaptation of Christopher Isherwood's A Single Man, which looks OK, I guess.

It's high time for Julianne Moore to have a starring role in a big, great movie. Paul Thomas Anderson could use her again, but he doesn't seem to be working on anything. She's got something coming up with Lisa Cholodenko (who did Laurel Canyon) called The Kids Are All Right that could be OK, and some Barry Levinson adaptation of a Larry McMurtry novel about a gutsy pioneer woman called Boone's Lick, which despite the title is probably not a porny comedy.

At least one of these had better be at least as good as her re-enactment of "Hey, Beantown!" with Alec Baldwin.

What it was like to make The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker

Now that it's awards season, The Hurt Locker is going to be all over the press again for the next couple of months. It's already won the Boston and LA Critics awards (best film and best director) and will probably be all over the Golden Globes nominations that come out tomorrow.

Reuters has a great piece on the origins and production of the movie--starting with screenwriter Mark Boal, who was an embedded journalist with an Iraq bomb squad in 2004, through getting funding, deciding to film in Jordan (it was a lot cheaper than Morocco) and finding a crew willing to work there, and writing scenes on the fly during the shoot, based on what was going on in their locations.

But the best details are about the incredibly difficult conditions they worked in. The star, Jeremy Renner, was wearing that crazy armored spacesuit in July in Jordan, and they couldn't use the suit's built-in air conditioner because it made too much noise.

One action sequence was "the week from hell," Anthony Mackie said. "Jeremy and I were just laying out there baking in the sun for hours and hours. Thirty pounds of gear, laying on your stomachs, 115-degree heat bouncing up off the sand and into your face. We were covered in flies. As uncomfortable as it looked on film is how uncomfortable it was in real life."

"I think we all had a nervous breakdown or two or three," Renner said.

Hey, at least it was a 44-day film shoot, and not an 15-month tour.

The article also points out that the cinematographer was Barry Ackroyd, who also shot United 93. Neither movie is a documentary, but both had a really appealing and appropriate documentary-like feel that was largely created through how they were filmed. Ackroyd gets a little too jerky with the handheld camera now and then, but overall I like his style a lot. He's also the cinematographer for Green Zone, a fictional Iraq movie with Matt Damon coming out next year. (It's directed by Paul Greengrass, who also did United 93 and the last two Bourne movies, which used way too much of the jerky handheld, in my opinion.)

Green Zone was shot in Spain and Morocco, so hopefully Ackroyd didn't keep passing out with heat stroke like he did during Hurt Locker.

So after all that, the movie only brought in about $12 million domestically. And I thought it was one of the indie hits of the year. By comparison, Precious has made $36 million so far. Hurt Locker will probably get re-released early next year if it gets a Best Picture nomination, so it should eventually make a lot more.

Another little note: I somehow missed that Kathryn Bigelow used to be married to James Cameron. Their marriage was from 1989-1991, right after he split up with Linda Hamilton, but, interestingly, before they collaborated on Strange Days. I think she's got about a thousand times better chance at winning a Best Director Oscar this year for Hurt Locker than James Cameron does for Avatar--and she'd be the first woman ever to win.

Here's the Hurt Locker trailer, and the Green Zone trailer.

December 7, 2009

Holiday gifts for kids

Mr. Squiggles and Chunk

Like a lot of people out there, I have a growing number of small children in my life, and all those children need presents. When you don't spend a whole lot of time around kids, it can be hard to keep up with their interests and obsessions. For example, I only recently found out about Bakugan and its vast universe of Battle Brawler merchandise that any self-respecting 6 year-old is required to possess. You could randomly select a few toys from this product line, but how do you know if you're choosing the coolest action figure, video game, or, God help you, activity book?

And now that this year's insanely popular Zhu Zhu hamsters have turned out to have too much of the toxic fire-resisting agent antimony in them (surprise!), you've got to find some alternatives.

If you're playing the role of the cool but untrustworthy aunt/uncle/family friend, you could just give all the kids on your list a carton of Kool cigarettes and a handle of whiskey. Or if you really want to ensure that you'll never be invited to a Christmas celebration again, give them a new book for families that I received an email about today, just in time for the holidays. It's called Why He Hates You!, and it's a book that invites mothers and sons to explore all the ways they hate each other.

The targeted audience of the book is black women who raised their children alone and black boys raised by single moms, but why not share the hate? Author Janks Morton uses his own experiences as the basis for uncovering "angst-creating parental techniques such as negotiation, manipulation, and castigation"--techniques that, let's be honest, span all races and backgrounds, and lead to deep-rooted parent-hating. Actually, mother-hating.

(Not surprisingly, Janks is a big conservative who is very unhappy about Obama's stimulus efforts and thinks making a case for reparations is "a waste of energy." His hero is his dad, Janks Morton, Sr., and in case you were unclear on this, he hates his mom.)

Give out a few copies of Why He Hates You! to the boys and mothers in your life, and watch the magic of the Christmas season unfold.

December 3, 2009

David Cross, Will Arnett, and Spike Jonze do a TV show together

Bad Decisions of Todd Margaret

David Cross's new TV show, The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, just started airing last week.

Unfortunately, it's on Channel 4. In the UK. I guess this is payback for Ricky Gervais coming to Hollywood and The Daily Show's poaching of John Oliver. Or some kind of karmic retribution for American TV canceling Arrested Development.

Anyway, here's a clip that features a ton of really spectacular swearing by Will Arnett, who hires the nebbishy David Cross away from his straight-man boss Spike Jonze (first thing Jonze has been in since Three Kings!) to go to London to market an energy drink called Thunder Muscle:

The show is co-written by David Cross and Shaun Pye, a British actor who writes for Never Mind the Buzzcocks and was on Extras.

Because the whole world sucks, you can't watch the full episodes that are up on the Channel 4 website if you're in the US. But it'll be over here eventually. Hey, it only took three years for IFC to start airing episodes of Arrested Development.

About December 2009

This page contains all entries posted to Amy's Robot in December 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

November 2009 is the previous archive.

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