Sunday, October 30, 2011

Steve Buscemi = Dead

Ironically, "Ghost World" was one of the few films in which Steve Buscemi didn't get ghosted. This is quite the compilation of Buscemi endings, and it's probably worth mentioning a SPOILER WARNING, just in case you plan on watching any movie Buscemi has ever made.

Some YouTube commenters (society's lowest rung) seem to think it's somehow humiliating to be killed by Christopher Lloyd, but these people are too blinded by Doc Brown to remember that Lloyd has a history of being a badass. Remember his evil Klingon villain in Star Trek III? And, more importantly, as Judge Doom? Shit, that's still horrifying. "Remember me, Eddie? When I killed your brother, I talked... just... like... THIS!"

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Death Of Context

You may have noticed that I haven't written one of my legendary out-of-context texts posts in a few months. That's because of some pretty amazing recent developments. In the spirit of "Shit My Dad Says" and "Texts From Last Night" getting sitcom development deals, my own out-of-contexts have been optioned for a new series on ABC.

In the show, two buddies (Joey Lawrence, David Alan Grier) find themselves in possession of a magical smartphone that periodically spits out completely random text messages. Then, the pair are teleported to a mysterious universe that reflects the bizarre scenario outlined in these texts. With the help of a wizard (Andrew Dice Clay) and his apprentice witch daughter (Kathy Ireland, but only using archival footage of her from the early 1990's), the two pals have to figure out how to solve a problem presented by the text before they can return to their true reality. We're hoping we can land Ian McKellen to play the phone, but his asking price is ridiculous. Like, "if you want me to play a goddamn talking smartphone, you will have to pay through the nose" ridiculous. Provided Sir Ian signs on the dotted line, the show should be launched by midseason to replace any of ABC's sure-to-fail other shows. We're thinking probably Pan Am's timeslot once America gets fully creeped out from Christina Ricci's face. Has she always looked vaguely like E.T., or is this a recent development?

….okay, the preceding paragraph may not have been true. (The part about Ricci's face was true.) But no, there's no sitcom in development and I didn't cash in on my blog. The real reason for the lack of out-of-context texts is that cataloguing them all has become a bit of a chore. With my old, crappy phone, the inbox only held 50 messages at a time, so whenever I hit 50, I knew it was time to clean things out and write a post. With my Blackberry, however, I can essentially hold a limitless amount of texts, and they're all kept alive in specific threads, not a finite number of messages of which I can keep track.

Now, I guess there's no *reason* I couldn't continue the series. I'm still certainly getting odd messages and while it would just take more time and effort to catalogue them all, it's certainly not an impossible task. So basically it just comes down to laziness. But it's a metaphor! The Blackberry has made multitasking so easy in so many different ways, but ironically, it has kept me from completely this single task that brought so much joy to millions, thousands, hundreds, dozens, nay SOME people!

If you ever wanted to replicate the "out of context texts" experience, steal someone else's phone. Simple!

N.B. This is Mark's attorney. Mark is not actually advising you to steal a phone, nor is he endorsing theft in any way, nor is he liable if your phone actually does get stolen. Just ignore Mark. I personally find him insufferable, but hey, he pays his bills on time…or at least he will, once the money from this sitcom deal comes through.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tebow Taiwan-imation

The Taiwanese news animations have become a staple of late-night comedy in recent months, but they never fail to be completely goofy and loveable. The latest one takes a look at the Tim Tebow phenomenon. This is also the first time I've laughed at a video of a dolphin being viciously stabbed with a trident -- usually I just applaud say, "Get 'em, Aquaman!"

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

UFC 137 Predictions

* Matt Mitrione over Cheick Kongo, TKO, R2
It's time to start taking Mitrione seriously. The goofball from the 10th TUF season has quietly gone 5-0 in the UFC and if he beats Kongo, will get himself into a contender's bout in his next fight. How in the world did this happen? It happened by Mitrione being a generally tough nut to crack, able to take a punch, land a punch and knowing enough basic wrestling and jujitsu to stave off more experienced guys in those disciplines. Kongo is, as ever, going to try to keep it standing but I'd expect Mitrione to take him down a couple of times, and eventually Kongo will tire out and Mitrione will land a bomb or two that ends it.

* Scott Jorgensen over Jeff Curran, decision
Curran is your classic gatekeeper fighter that loses to top-level guys and beats lower-level guys. I don't think Jorgensen is quite a top-top-level fighter who will be seeing a title shot anytime soon (especially since Dominick Cruz just beat him for the WEC belt last year) but he's got enough to top Curran. It'll be a pretty exciting 15 minutes, but Jorgensen's got this one.

* Hatsu Hioki over George Roop, submission, R2
I'm breaking one of my cardinal rules here in that I'm picking the highly-rated Japanese fighter who's making his UFC debut. In a lot of cases the guys who competed in DREAM, PRIDE, CAPITAL LETTERS and other international organizations had their reps boosted by facing inferior competition (this is known as 'pulling a Diaz') and then getting a reality check when fighting in North America. The thing is, in this case, I think Hioki is actually legit and George Roop, while only tops out at decent. Roop will probably get himself tapped and Hioki will get himself established as a new contender at featherweight. Should Hioki win, I'd suspect he might get the next shot at Jose Aldo, probably at the UFC event in Japan in February. It's either Hioki or possibly Chad Mendes, though Hioki has the advantage in that he isn't criminally boring. Sorry Chad, next time hail from a country that's hosting a UFC PPV. (Though, according to Wikipedia, "Mendes is of Portuguese, Italian, Puerto Rican, Irish and Indian descent," so you figure it's just a matter of time.)

* Roy Nelson over Mirko Cro Cop, KO, R3
Man, poor Cro Cop is definitely in the "Jordan with the Wizards" phase of his career, except Jordan just missed the playoffs in Washington. He didn't walk off the court and get knocked unconscious at the end of every season. If Frank Mir and Brendan Schaub and catch Mirko at this point in his career, then certainly Roy Nelson can as well. Nelson, for all the crap he's taken about his physique and cardio, still took Mir and Junior Dos Santos to decisions in his last two outings. Roy escapes getting cut (both literally and figuratively) once again by beating Cro Cop to stay in the UFC.

* B.J. Penn over Nick Diaz, decision
When Georges St. Pierre pulled out of this card with an injury, thus cancelling the main event against Carlos Condit, I considered not even bothering with a predictions post. But, hey, why pass up the chance to publicly bash Nick Diaz? Anyway, Diaz (a.k.a. the most overrated fighter in the world) has sullen-ed his way into a high-profile bout in his return to the UFC following five years in smaller promotions. In that time, Diaz has gone 11-1-1 with wins over such notables as…uh….well, guys who either used to be good (Frank Shamrock, Mach Sakurai) or guys with negligible 'potential' (Cyborg Santos, Marius Zaromskis, Paul Daley) that haven't capitalized on it because they're not actually good, or just outright cans. In spite of this unimpressive win streak, Diaz has fooled a number of MMA fans into thinking he's actually an elite fighter, and when combined with his unabashed punk attitude, it's made for a really obnoxious wall of hype going into this event. Had Diaz not been unprofessional and no-showed a press conference, it would've been the one getting the shot at St. Pierre on this card.

Instead, he gets B.J. Penn. It's not going to matter. Diaz can't beat GSP, Diaz can't beat Penn, Diaz can't beat Jon Fitch, Diaz can't beat Condit, Diaz can't beat Josh Koscheck, Diaz can't beat Jake Ellenberger….do you want me to keep going? I can keep listing top-10 welterweights if you wish, but the bottom line is, Diaz is an overrated fighter to say the least.

The only, ONLY way that Diaz has a chance here is if Penn has one of his half-assed training camps and comes into the fight in poor shape. It's possible Diaz could outwork BJ for two rounds out of three and steal a decision, but really, Penn is usually fine in the first couple of rounds unless he's against a real elite guy like GSP or Frankie Edgar. If Penn can manage to crack Jon Fitch in the first two rounds, I'm sure he can goddamn figure out Diaz, and there is zero chance Diaz can win a 10-8 round in the third to steal a draw like Fitch did. I'm saying Penn by decision but really, it's also possible BJ just knocks Diaz out cold since Penn is an actual boxer, unlike Diaz and his pitter-patter punches. In short, Penn wins by however he wants. The bright side for Nick is that once he's proven to be irrelevant, he won't have to attend any more press conferences when he's fighting on the undercard. Hooray!

* Francis Carmont over Chris Camozzi, submission, R1
* Danny Downes over Ramsey Nijem, decision
* Donald Cerrone over Dennis Siver, submission, R2
* Bart Palaszewski over Tyson Griffin, decision
* Brandon Vera over Eliot Marshall, decision
* Clifford Starks over Dustin Jacoby, decision

Monday, October 24, 2011


Today is my thirtieth birthday.

Roger Federer is generally considered to be on the downswing of his career. It seems like Novak Djokovic and (when healthy) Rafa Nadal have passed him by in the overall tennis world and if Federer is going to add to his record total of 16 major titles, it will be seen as something of a upset. But, regardless, he could retire tomorrow and still be Roger Freakin' Federer, probably the greatest tennis player ever and someone to be remembered as long as tennis will be played.

So, to recap, Federer has enjoyed a peerless career, worldwide fame, is the second-most respected man in the world and is now edging gracefully into the twilight of his tennis life. Federer turned 30 last August.

Now, since Federer has been on this planet longer than I have by two whole months, obviously that head start was all he needed to outpace my lifetime achievements. While I can't match him tennis majors, however, ol' Rog and I are tied in terms of doing something we love for a career, having scores of wonderful friends (I may have Roger beat in this category, since now he's down one Tiger Woods), more than one city we call home (I have London and Toronto, he has wherever he's from in Switzerland and presumably homes around the world), and, while I can't implicitly presume this about Federer, I can guess he's as satisfied with his life as I am with mine.*

* = You could argue that Federer has a wife and kids while I'm still single and childless, so he has one up on me. Not so! Has Roger Federer ever gone on a mission to find several free hamburgers in a single day? Doubtful. Surely that's as fulfilling as being a husband and father. *dusts off hands triumphantly*

It's been a fun 30 years. Let's hope my next 30 years are just as good. The 30 after that will probably be increasingly grim, but, what can you do?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Great Audience Reactions

Watching a movie in a crowded theatre adds immeasurably to the viewing experience. Whether it's group laughter that makes a joke seem funnier than it actually is, outright gasping that adds to the effect of a horror movie or the outright "I can't believe I paid to see this shit" tension that comes from watching a true piece of garbage, groupthink is a lot more positive in a theatre than it was in 1984.

Here are, in only a mildly particular order, the top 15 audience reactions I've experienced amongst a large group of film-watchers.

15. In The Line Of Fire. When I was 11 years old, I only had a vague knowledge of who Clint Eastwood was, based on general pop culture and the fact that his old westerns and Dirty Harry movies were aired on a semi-daily basis on TBS. (I didn't actually watch any of these films at the time, just the ads.) So, I didn't have a full shot of the Clint experience until I was in a theatre for some other movie during the summer of 1993. During the previews, the original trailer for "In The Line Of Fire" ran and wow, does the ending scene ever look corny watching it today. But, in a theatre in 1993, there was an audible "WHOAAAA" from the audience, in the sense of "All right, Clint's gonna fuck some assassins up!" It was at that moment my young self realized just what a bad-ass Clint Eastwood was. This feeling has continued until the present day, with perhaps a slight dip during the "Bridges of Madison County" era.

14. Daredevil. As I've written about this film before, it's quite bad but has three memorable scenes. One is when Daredevil can 'see' Elektra because she's being framed by the raindrops, the second is when Kingpin gets dropped (for its unintentional hilarity) and the third brings us to the 13th entry on the list. At one point, Jennifer Garner makes her big entrance at a ball and looks like the hottest thing on earth. That's it --- that's the whole scene. In fairness, it was indeed a really nice dress, and 2003 was just about Jennifer Garner's absolute prime. The entire audience reacted with a sharp intake of breath and I'm pretty sure every guy in the theatre got at least a semi. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, the "entire audience" was actually just me and four friends. We took in Daredevil during a rainy night at a theatre in Florida during spring break 2003 and the five of us were the only ones there. I'd still say this counts as an "audience reaction in a theatre," though. We paid for the tickets! We were the audience! Let's just move on.

13. Crazy Stupid Love. For the reverse of the Daredevil incident, I give you the scene in CSL when Ryan Gosling takes off his shirt to reveal his 'photoshopped' abs. Literally every woman in the theatre gasped and, presumably, the older women temporarily had their menopauses reversed. And this was in a packed theatre, not just some poorly-attended theatre in Florida. C'mon ladies, I'll give you 2011 Ryan Gosling if you let us have 2003 Jennifer Garner, that's a fair trade for not judging me and my pals to be shallow yahoos.

12. Contagion. I recently noted this during my review of the film, but after it was over, we're all filing out of the theatre when somebody coughed. Some other smart-ass immediately yelled out, "Oh no, we're all gonna die!" It got a nice reaction of about 90 percent laughter and 10 percent "Wait, are we REALLY going to die? Can you catch a fictional virus just by watching a movie?" This 10 percent then all ran in a panic out of the theatre and into traffic, so hey, Darwin Awards.

11. I Am Legend. I also recently wrote about this during my Contagion review, so here it is verbatim….During 'I Am Legend,' they have that scene of Emma Thompson talking about how she's engineering a strain of the measles meant to fight cancer, followed by an immediate cut to a desolate Manhattan. As if on cue, the guy in front of us in the theatre yelled "Uh oh, they couldn't cure the measles!" Doesn't sound great on paper, but the timing was perfect and it just cracked the entire audience up. Probably the highlight of that movie aside from the scene where Will Smith strangles his dog, then asks "How come he don't want me, man?"

10. City Lights. When the TIFF Lightbox theatre opened last year, it ran a 'greatest 100 films ever' promotion, screening 100 all-time classics so audiences could enjoy them on the big screen for possibly the first time. Last year I had the pleasure of watching Charlie Chaplin's legendary City Lights for the first time, and while I enjoyed it, I'd seen so many of the scenes before in various Chaplin retrospectives that it didn't feel totally fresh. That is, until we got to the famous "cigar butt routine." I've included the clip below but it needs a bit of setup: the Tramp has been befriended by a drunken millionaire that has let the Tramp have use of his car. Despite this temporary access to wealth, the Tramp is always out to pinch pennies, so he can't pass up trying to catch a quick smoke from a discarded cigar. Then….

The theatre EXPLODED. This was one of the most sustained laughs I'd ever heard from any audience. It's a pretty simple scene on its own but man…what really sets it off was Chaplin's "pwned" look back towards the homeless guy, whereas the poor bum is just dumbfounded, wondering if he really just got cigar-jacked by a guy driving a Rolls-Royce. If you had any doubts about Chaplin's enduring genius, just look at the that this scene got a monster response almost 70 years after its release.

9. Paranormal Activity
8. Signs. Duel entry here, since both deal with the same basic idea of how watching a horror movie amongst several dozen people can greatly enhance what you're watching. I saw both films on their opening weekend, when the theatres were at their most packed, and it should be noted that virtually the entire audience was comprised of dopey teenagers. It was an audience that was *ready* to be freaked out, and thus they responded with literal shrieks at even the slightest bit of tension, and literal SCREAMS during sudden movements. Cheesy as it sounds, it made both movies seem frickin' awesome. Signs, for instance, suffers anyway from a total lack of tension once you know the twists (a.k.a. Shyamalan disease) but moments like the alien's hand suddenly appearing when they're in the basement just carry no punch whatsoever a second time around.

7. The Dark Knight. SPOILERS. (Though really, if you haven't seen Dark Knight by now, it's your own fault.) This might be another example of an audience that is just ready to be entertained. TDK, opening night, standing-room-only audience and there wasn't a person there who wasn't expecting the movie to kick ass. This is actually three moments from the film, but I've grouped them into just the one entry. Firstly, the pencil scene: a reaction of gasping, followed by immediate "Ha ha, holy SHIT." Secondly, Batman's little rev of the Batcycle up a wall following that big chase sequence: this drew a huge cheer, somewhat inexplicably. I mean, it was a nice chase, but c'mon. Thirdly, when Gordon removes the riot gear helmet and we see that he's been alive the whole time: wild applause. I dunno if we were cheering the plot twist (which wasn't that big a twist since it's not like they're going to kill off Commissioner Gordon….right?) or just the fact that Gary Oldman made Gordon into such a decent guy that we were pumped to see him again.

6. Devil. Poor M. Night Shymalan. Such promise, such a quick spiral into garbage. His negative influence even stretched poor "Devil," a film he didn't even direct himself. The trailer began and things looked promising: five people caught in an elevator, there's a demon in there, all good, all good. Then, just when the audience is starting to get hooked, this pops up in big letters on the screen: FROM EXECUTIVE PRODUCER M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN. Everyone just started laughing. The crowd couldn't have been more turned off if the executive producer had been Osama Bin Laden. 'Devil' actually ended up being a decent little movie, too. Shymalan, it may be time to change your name to Chuck Meriweather and start over.

5. Kiss Of The Dragon. By all rights this should be at least #2, but I'm forced to dock it since it didn't actually happen when I was present. My pals Dave and Trevor went to see Kiss Of The Dragon and came back talking not so much about the film, but about one phenomenal reaction from an audience member. During one particularly impressive kill from Jet Li, some guy yelled out, "That's a broken neck, brutha!" Needless to say, Dave & Trev forgot everything else about the movie and began to recite this line at the drop of a hat for the next, oh, year. In the interest of research, I really should've grilled them about how the rest of the audience reacted, how busy the theatre was, etc. This incident may have already led to a fantasy baseball team called the Broken Neck Brothers.

4. Blade II. My buddy Dave again takes centre stage for this entry, as he caused it himself. During one of the climactic fight scenes, Blade is battling the enemy vampire and, inexplicably, begins using pro wrestling moves to subdue his opponent. Where a daywalking vampire suddenly got the idea to imitate Randy Savage I'll never know, but at one point Blade hits the enemy with a full suplex, then dives across the room with a Macho Man-esque elbow smash. Dave literally stood up from his chair, pumped his fist, and screamed "OHHHHHH!" as if the actual Macho Man had just dropped the big elbow during a Wrestlemania main event. Our group immediately stopped laughing at the ridiculousness of the movie and began laughing at Dave's overblown reaction. I know, I know, this is kind of cheating the concept of the list since it was just us (not the whole audience) reacting, but man, was it ever funny.

3. Rear Window. SPOILERS. I had planned on just being an English major when I began attending university, but switched to a combined English/Film Studies since my first-year film course was just so much fun. Part of it may well have been inspired by the consistently fired-up reactions from the students during screenings. Sure, a good 30 percent of the students were taking the course on a lark, but the other 70 percent really wanted to be there. Given that I'd tried and failed numerous times to introduce my friends to more artistic fare during our movie nights ("Hey guys, I know you want to watch Terminator, but have you ever heard of a little movie called….Fellini's Roma?!"), it was a pleasure to be in an audience that not only appreciated the classics*, but also got as into them as if they were brand new. To wit, Rear Window, during the climactic scene when Raymond Burr suddenly realizes he's being watched, and turns up his head to look directly at Jimmy Stewart's telescope and --- since we're in his point of view --- at the audience. Given that Hitchcock had ramped the tension up to intense heights over the course of the movie, Burr finally noticing he's being watched was a total release of that feeling, and the audience reacted with a noise that was part scream, part gasp and part gulping panic. I'd imagine it was akin to how hot dogs feel when Burr turned his hungry eyes on them.

* = one exception, and it was another Hitchcock film. Segments of the students were laughing and hooting so much during some of the cheesier scenes of 'Vertigo' that, after the screening, our very laid-back professor got angry for maybe the first time in his life and chewed everyone out for "not respecting the film." Talk about a release of tension.

2. Inglourious Basterds. Minor SPOILERS here, though it's only a spoiler in context of the movie itself. You might know what this is already if you saw this film in theatres since I suspect it inspired the same reaction everywhere. But…Shoshanna is sitting with Landa and wondering if he recognizes her, then Landa orders a glass of milk from the waiter. Fuck. A 500-person theatre gasped as one when Landa made his order. Just absolute ridiculous tension in this scene from start to finish.

1. The Big Lebowski. Yet another one from first-year film class. Of all the hilarious or memorable scenes in this classic movie, what was it that got the biggest reaction? It was Steve Buscemi. That's it, just Steve Buscemi. The moment Donnie makes his first appearance, the film students started applauding. I kid you not, actual applause, like he was a heralded theatre actor coming on stage for the first time. I think this was truly the moment when I realized that in the midst of my fellow film geeks, I (unlike Donnie) was in my element.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Community Outtakes

"Watching a blooper reel from one of your favourite comedies is one of life's simplest joys. Also, they really need to somehow work Annie's Rosie Perez impression into an actual episode." -- Walt Whitman

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The (Updated) Comic Movie List

To be frank, updating my my last ranking of films based on comic books might be a waste of time. Sure, it's been three years, but there is not a ton of new quality entering the field here. Put it this way --- there are six entries in the bottom two categories against only four combined in the top two categories. I'm basically taking time out of my busy (?) schedule to give you breaking news about mediocrity….then again, I also cover Toronto FC games, so this is old hat.

I've made a few minor adjustments to my original rankings, plus included longer descriptions of the new additions to the list. I'm going to continue to omit the Ninja Turtles movies because a) I forgot them on the first list, b) I haven't seen any of the movies in almost 20 years and c) I'm turning 30 years old next months, for god's sake, I'm certainly not going to go back to watch them because they're in all likelihood secretly awful. In fairness, we did name our family turtles 'Michelangelo I' and 'Michelangelo II' when I was seven years old, so I figure that's a decent enough tribute.


50. Batman & Robin
49. Jonah Hex
-- This movie was so bad that I gave it some genuine consideration for the very bottom spot. Of course, "Batman & Robin" was probably the worst movie ever made so its spot was safe, but still, the fact that Jonah Hex actually made me think about it is a victory in itself, since I never thought I'd see anything approach B&R in my lifetime. The biggest thing going in JH's favour is that it's a purer failure. I can buy the fact that, during the making of B&R, Joel Schumacher or some of the cast and crew might've bought into the concept and thought they were actually making a fun, tongue-in-cheek comic book movie. With Jonah Hex, I find it hard to believe that this was considered to be a good idea at any point during its production. The screenwriters must've thought it was half-assed, the studio felt they had to go ahead with production because of deadlines, the director was just trying to get a credit, the cast had already spent their paycheques, etc. Truly a horrific film all-around and very worthy of the fact that it was a tremendous box office disaster.
48. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
47. Wolverine
-- The best part of Wolverine occurs in the first five minutes, when we see the montage of the near-ageless Wolverine and Sabretooth fighting in various wars through the 20th century. After that, holy crap, does this thing fall off a cliff.
46. Fantastic Four
45. Superman IV
44. Superman III
43. Hulk
42. Blade Trinity
41. X-Men 3
40. The Green Hornet
-- I just don't get why this movie wasn't witty. It tries to be funny, in the sense there are jokes and Christoph Waltz's character is a joke himself, but there's no tongue-in-cheek wit whatsoever in Green Hornet. It's baffling since Seth Rogen actually co-wrote the thing and, more importantly, even the original Green Hornet show was very aware of itself as being a silly Batman ripoff. Also, Cameron Diaz is at least a decade too old to be playing the sexy love interest in….well, anything.
39. Daredevil

38. Punisher: Warzone -- The original Tom Jane Punisher movie is a guilty pleasure, but this one, yikes. To save you the time, here's every kill in the film, helpfully put together in a YouTube montage. (#40 is inarguably the best, and a genuinely funny scene.) Fun fact: I saw this movie before I saw 'The Wire,' so sadly this was my first impression of Dominic West. He gives a GOD-AWFUL performance in this movie. Just terrible. He plays Jigsaw as the Joker, if the Joker was a swaggering Bronx tough guy. West was so bad and it took me at least three episodes into The Wire to stop hating Jimmy McNulty. Not that McNulty is an inherently loveable character anyway, but still.
37. Green Lantern -- Incredibly, I may be being generous with this ranking, since it seems like GL has been universally panned. Hey, don't get me wrong, it was a bad movie clearly made to sell toys and 7-11 souvenir cups, but it was only bad, not an abomination in the eyes of God and man. There's a chance that the sequel could be an upgrade, right? Right? /power ring generates a green tumbleweed
36. Blade II
35. Ghost Rider
34. Wanted
-- The last line of this movie is literally, "What the fuck have you done lately?" Hey, get over yourself, Wanted. I live a full life writing about comic book movies on the internet. This last line is spoken directly into the camera, too, like Dr. Hibbert asking Chief Wiggum if he can solve Mr. Burns' shooting. If Green Hornet takes itself too seriously, then Wanted's whole "hey, let me make the unique observation that working in an office SUCKS" schtick definitely needs to be dialled back a ton.
33. Superman Returns
32. X-Men

31. 300
30. The Losers
-- An almost-instantly forgettable action movie that's basically a homeless man's version of The A-Team, and ironically it came out literally a week or two around the time the actual A-Team movie was released. Still, it gets a higher nod than Green Hornet or Wanted since, unlike those other films, 'The Losers' at least had a sense of humour about itself and doesn't try to be anything but a straight-forward action movie. Bonus Wire points for casting Idris Elba. By the way, I am heavily on board the "Idris Elba as the new James Bond" train. Make it happen, Sony.
29. Men In Black
28. Iron Man II
-- The first, and most irritating, manifestation of Marvel focusing all its attention on next year's Avengers movie. Fortunately they toned down the tie-ins for Thor and Captain America (I'll get to them later) but geez, Iron Man II makes us care way too much about Clark Gregg's character. The Avengers stuff sums up the basic problem with this film, in that there's just too much stuff going on. You have two villains, Tony Stark acting more like a drunken douche than a charming superhero, Gwyneth Paltrow walking around doing nothing, and things just never really get on track. A real letdown given the quality of the first Iron Man movie.
27. Superman II
26. Blade
25. Hellboy
24. Hellboy II: The Golden Army
-- Confession: I remember almost nothing about this movie other than the fact that I liked it. So, what the hell. Ignorance is bliss.
23. Ghost World
22. Punisher
21. Spider-Man
20. Spider-Man III
19. Watchmen
-- Part of me thinks the movie should've just stopped after the opening credits, which are phenomenal and easily in the conversation of the best opening sequences in movie history. (Only slight hyperbole.) There was so much hand-wringing over how much Watchmen would have to be altered and 'ruined' on the big screen that Zack Snyder played it safe by pretty much sticking straight to the original comic text, albeit with a modified ending. Probably the smart move given that, well, Zack Snyder ain't much of a filmmaker so at least he knew to not over-extend his reach, but it leaves you with basically just a filmed version of the graphic novel, rather than a unique entity unto itself. Basically the only extra emphasis Snyder seemed to add was devoting way too much time to the Nite Owl/Silk Spectre sex scene. I picture Snyder on the set with an old-timey director's megaphone, yelling "More thrusting!" at a visibly uncomfortable Malin Akerman and Patrick Wilson.
18. Thor -- A thoroughly solid film that, unlike Iron Man II, incorporates the Avengers stuff in a relatively painless and logical way. I get the feeling that the movie included a bit too much stuff that wouldn't make sense unless you were already familiar with Thor and, by extension, Marvel Comics (like the whole backstory of the Asgardian Destroyer or Sif and the Warriors Three) but since I know this stuff anyway, it had no effect. My basic rule for Kenneth Branagh is director = good, actor = bad, and 'Thor' continues the streak.
17. The Mask
16. Road to Perdition
-- A note about Road To Perdition, which made a noticeable jump up from the original list. I recently saw the movie again and quite enjoyed it, so I think my first viewing was coloured by the fact that I was expecting A Classic and was therefore let down, whereas if you just expect A Good Movie, you'll be certainly satisfied. Hmm, maybe I should similarly give Jonah Hex a second chance and NOPE.
15. X-Men: First Class -- Hey, I don't know if you realized this before, but I THINK (call me crazy) that being a mutant is a metaphor for teenagers not fitting in. I figured out this hidden secret of the X-Men series! Anyway, thematic hammering aside, this was a solid, safe reboot of the X-Men franchise, which was definitely needed after the lousy X-Men 3 and the failure of the Wolverine spinoff. I think everyone was eager to restart things after X-Men 3, but the only question mark would be how the new guys (James McAvoy and Michael F. Assbender) would live up to the iconic performances of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as Xavier and Magneto, respectively. They both did fine work, and also had the added bonus of getting a few more women into the theatres. My friend Sarah's Twitter review: "It was a good movie but I kept wanting Professor X and Magneto to make out."

14. Superman
13. Batman Returns
12. Kick-Ass
-- The ending gets a little goofy and not really true to the nature of the "this guy dresses like a superhero but doesn't know what he's doing" story, but overall, yeah, this movie is pretty frickin' awesome. I am not exaggerating (or, looking the IMDB page, lying) when I say that this is Nick Cage's best performance since 'Adaptation.'
11. Captain America -- From my original review: "Captain America is basically sold by the fact that Steve Rogers is a genuinely good guy. He's five-foot nothing, a hundred and nothing (tm Notre Dame football), but he wants to enlist in World War II more than anything because he just straight-up feels it's the right thing to do. He's short and tough without a Napoleon complex, and while his parents both served in WWI, Steve isn't enlisting just to follow in their footsteps. He's just a class act all the way around. While we've been indoctrinated to believe that all superheroes (especially Marvel characters) need to be driven by angst and conflict, Captain America has always been presented as the most clean-cut and noble of heroes and you know what? It totally works."
10. Batman
9. V For Vendetta
8. X-Men 2
7. From Hell

6. Iron Man
5. Sin City
4. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
-- Probably one of the most pure adaptations of any on the list, as Edgar Wright went out of his way to capture the comicky atmosphere of the original Scott Pilgrim books. It's just a fun, fun, fun movie. It gets bonus points for incorporating so much of Toronto into the setting, more bonus points for including Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza in any way, and even more bonus points for the hilarious Tom Jane/Clifton Collins cameo. Minus one bonus point for the fact that a lot of my London friends won't watch it because "it just looks too hipsterish," thus making me question for a brief moment that I might be a hipster, which is a reality too terrifying to imagine.
3. Spider-Man II
2. Batman Begins
1. The Dark Knight
-- Not a lot of suspense on this one. What more is there to be said about TDK? It has probably become 'the' iconic pop culture image of Batman, moreso than the other films, the cartoon or even the original comics themselves. Underrated example of Dark Knight's influence: since the Academy faced so much backlash for not nominating it for Best Picture at the Oscars in 2008, the Academy Awards have basically gone nuts with their nominating process. For the last two years it was a 10-movie Best Picture field, which led to such gems as The Blind Side being recognized in history as a BP nominee. Now, this year, there is no set number of Best Picture nominees, other than we know it will be a minimum of five and a maximum of ten; basically, if any film is ranked first on at least 5% of ballots, it makes the list. Just think, all of this nonsense could've been avoided had the morons at the Academy considered TDK to be a better movie than goddamn Benjamin Button.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

UFC 136 Predictions

* Chael Sonnen over Brian Stann, decision
This is tough matchmaking from a ticket-selling point of view. Both guys are top contenders at middleweight and the winner will get the next title shot against Anderson Silva….but man, the UFC must hate cutting Stann off at the knees like this. Stann is a former Marine and is basically being pushed right now as Captain America v. 2.0. However, I don't see how he can possibly beat Sonnen, who's just going to immediately take Stann down and ride him out for three rounds. Even Sonnen's big mouth has been silenced in the build-up to this fight since what's Sonnen going to do, hate on the war hero? If I was the UFC, I might'd had Sonnen face Mark Munoz, another high-ranked middleweight and one who isn't as big a potential box office draw so a Munoz loss wouldn't cost the company money. Then again, what the hell, it's a sport --- if Stann is good enough, he'll win anyway. Besides, the UFC will have box office gold anyway in a rematch between Silva and Sonnen, where hopefully Silva just ends Sonnen early and shuts that idiot up once and for all.

* Nam Phan over Leonard Garcia, decision
Garcia is on one of the strangest runs in MMA history. He's an even 3-3-1 in his last seven fights, except all three of his wins were via very controversial decisions. Without controversy, the man is on an eight-fight losing streak. One of Garcia's dodgy wins was over Nam Phan last December, and after both men had other opponents drop out with injuries, we'll get the rematch. Given that both of these guys are fourth-tier featherweights at best and the loser will certainly be cut, this is not exactly an important bout….but it is guaranteed to be an exciting one. The first Phan/Garcia match was awesome, Garcia's fight with "The Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung was named the fight of the year for 2010 and if nothing else, both these guys just throw caution to the wind in every appearance. I'm giving it to Phan just because I like seeing justice done, but what the hell, for all I know Garcia will get another bizarre decision.

* Melvin Guillard over Joe Lauzon, decision
These guys have been around the lightweight division for so long that I can't believe this is their first meeting. The book on Lauzon is simple --- he is the perfect gatekeeper, losing to anyone in the upper or second tier (since 2006, his only three losses have been to Kenny Florian, George Sotriopoulos and Sam Stout) and he'll whip anyone lower than that. So basically he's the perfect guy to get in the cage with Guillard so we can see if Guillard is truly the real deal. Melvin is on an 8-1 run and seems to have turned the corner in his career so that's my basic logic for thinking he'll overcome Lauzon's submissions here. This could possibly end up being a semi-dull fight since Lauzon will be looking for subs and Guillard will want to keep it standing, so a stalemate could easily develop.

The winner of this one will probably get a very interesting next fight. It's been assumed that the winner of the upcoming Clay Guida/Ben Henderson bout gets the next LW title shot, but there are also rumours that the UFC is bringing in Strikeforce LW champ Gilbert Melendez. If Gilbert is signed and we get a unification bout, then the Guida/Henderson winner can either go on the shelf to wait for their shot, or take another fight in the interim….like, say, the winner of Guillard/Lauzon. Conversely, we could also see Melendez face Guillard/Lauzon as a tune-up fight to get UFC fans familiar with him before he challenges whomever the lightweight champ is. And, of course, if a Guillard is able to beat both Lauzon and Melendez, then he's the clear-cut #1 contender. I love that I spent more time talking about post-fight fantasy booking than I did the fight itself.

* Jose Aldo over Kenny Florian, KO, R2
There's a popular groundswell of support behind Florian for this fight since a)he's a popular vet and an underdog and b) Aldo gassed and looked fairly unimpressive against Mark Hominick last April, so the 'Aldo is the next pound-for-pound king' train basically ran off the tracks. So this notion I say, good lord. Aldo's struggles against Hominick may have been due to the flu, not because he's suddenly forgotten how to fight. I think this one will be a quick, decisive, reminder from Aldo that he's as good as anyone and is the undisputed top dog at featherweight. Also, let's be honest, Florian's record in pressure situations is not good. 0-2 in championship fights, lost the original Ultimate Fighter finale to Diego Sanchez, and he lost a #1 contender's bout to Gray Maynard two years ago. Until Kenny actually breaks through and proves he's not a choker, I can't pick him in a title bout against a superb opponent like Aldo.

* Frankie Edgar over Gray Maynard, decision
Honestly, I just want this fight over with. The Edgar/Maynard rivalry has been a roller-coaster. When their last fight was booked, I spent four months dreading a boring decision between a genuinely dull fighter in Maynard and the bastion of peppery stand-up known as Frankie Edgar. Then, wouldn't you know it, their bout ended up being exciting as hell and ending in a controversial draw. A rematch was signed….and then postponed due to injuries to both fighters. So now, nine months after their last bout, these two will finally finish things and we (and the lightweight division) can move on with our lives.

I'm picking Edgar because I just think he can handle Maynard. In January, Edgar was dominated in the first round (losing 10-8 on all cards) but came back to win three of the next four rounds and ultimately salvage a draw. That first round was everything Maynard had in his tank and Edgar was not only able to withstand it, I feel that it was enough of a fluke that Edgar can prevent anything like it from happening again. So, on Saturday we'll see five rounds of Edgar fighting off takedowns and peppering Maynard with quick rights and lefts, en route to a decision victory and the last word in the rivalry. If one of these two guys gets hurt in the next few days, I'm going to scream.

* Stipe Miocic over Joey Beltran, submission, R2
* Steve Cantwell over Mike Massenzio, decision
* Aaron Simpson over Eric Schafer, decision
* Demian Maia over Jorge Santiago, decision
* Zhang Tie Quan over Darren Elkins, submission, R1
* Anthony Pettis over Jeremy Stephens, decision

Monday, October 03, 2011

Development Deal

Arrested Development, arguably the funniest TV series of all time, is returning to television with a 10-episode mini-run that will set the stage for the long-awaited film adaptation.

I'm withholding final judgement until the actual product is on my screen, since lord knows we've heard a lot of stops and starts with any new AD projects over the last several years. Plus, it hasn't even been firmly established which network will carry these new episodes, which is kind of a major point. And, the idea of devoting one episode to a particular cast member (sort of in the style of Lost and its flashback-centric gimmick) would give everyone a showcase, but the beauty of Arrested Development was in how the characters all interacted with each other and had their stories all intermingle. I'm not sure if 22 minutes of just, say, Maeby telling strangers to marry her would necessarily be interesting. This seems like it's a concession made to the busy schedules of the actors --- it's a lot easier to get Will Arnett for one episode than for 10, given that he's on another show right now --- rather than the best possible creative decision.


via Maggie....