Sunday, February 25, 2007

My Oscar Picks

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE


Who I think should win: Adriana Barraza – BABEL. She was outstanding as a housekeeper who gets stuck at the U.S. - Mexico border with the children she's supposed to watch.

Who will probably win: Jennifer Hudson – DREAMGIRLS. Since it didn't get nominated for best picture, my guess is that Dreamgirls will take many of the other categories for which it's nominated.

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE


Who I think should win: Alan Arkin – LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE. He had me in stitches the whole time he was on screen.

Who will probably win: Eddie Murphy – DREAMGIRLS. First time nomination (I think), and he's famous. Think: Sean Connery in The Untouchables.

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEAD ROLE


This one is a total shot in the dark, but here's my guess:

Who might win: Meryl Streep – THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA. She's an academy favorite, and plays a smarmy bitch -- something a talented actress can have a lot of fun with.

Who will probably win: Helen Mirren – THE QUEEN. She was already honored for Elizabeth I, so it's not a stretch. Plus, the Academy loves characters based on real people.

BEST ACTOR IN A LEAD ROLE


Again, a shot in the dark.

Who I think should win: Forest Whitaker – THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND. And I think he will win, too. He's a talented actor, long overdue for an award. And he's playing a famous person.

BEST DIRECTOR


Who I think should win: Paul Greengrass - UNITED 93. He did an amazing job on this film. It was gripping and tense, but also thoughtful and appropriate.

Who will probably win: Martin Scorsese - THE DEPARTED. He's long overdue, and the movie was popular. Though, I still wish he had won for Goodfellas.

BEST PICTURE


Who I think should win: Letters from Iwo Jima. The second part of an epic saga, masterfully crafted.

Who will probably win: The Departed. With Dreamgirls out of the way, this could be Scorsese's year.

Best Picture Nominees Part V: Babel

[rate 3.5]

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/9R0WfYhwATU" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Alejandro González Iñárritu's Babel is sort of an anti-Crash. Where Crash (last year's Best Picture) focused on one city's pent-up hostility between people of different races, Babel shows how well-meaning people from different cultures can fail to communicate.

Babel, like Crash, follows several stories that are interconnected by one incident -- in this case, a shooting.

Story one is about a Moroccan family that recently received a rifle from a grateful Japanese hunter (played by Koji Yakusho). The father gives his two boys (played by Said Tarchani and Boubker Ait El Caid) about a 5 minute lesson in target shooting, and then sends them to protect the family's heard of goats. Bored, the two boys decide to test the rifle's range and shoot at a tour bus passing by.

Story two is about an American couple (played by Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett), who apparently lost an infant recently and have been having problems dealing with the loss. They decide to get away for a while, and for some strange reason chose the Moroccan desert as their destination. While on a bus tour (are you getting the connection yet?), the woman is shot through the window. The trouble is that the nearest hospital is four hours away.

Story three is about the American couple's housekeeper (played by Adriana Barraza), who is unable to find someone to watch the couple's two children (while the couple deals with the shooting), decides to take them to Mexico for her son's wedding. Upon trying to return to the U.S., her intoxicated nephew driving, they have a run-in with the border patrol.

Story four is about the deaf daughter (played by Rinko Kikuchi) of the Japanese hunter. Troubled by her mother's suicide, and filled with teen angst, she roams around Tokyo looking for something to ease the pain -- and for her first sexual experience.

Babel is a completely believable study in misunderstanding and culture clash. As an American, I can understand how nightmarish it would be to be stuck in a foreign country, unable to speak the language, and my wife is injured. Even when the locals try their best to help, and they do try, it doesn't take away the frustration.

The same goes for the housekeeper's plight at the border. She wasn't trying to do anything wrong; she's lived in the U.S. for 15 years, and was returning. But her nephew, drunk and arrogant, made misunderstanding inevitable.

Babel's greatest strength is realism. Each culture is captured in all its beauty and ugliness, down to the smallest detail.

But realism is also its weakness. While there were a few tense, dramatic moments, such as the shooting itself, most of the film went at a slow pace. Scenes tended to be long, with many moments not related to the story. This can be a powerful tool for character development, but if overdone, as I believe was the case here, it can take away from the drama.

I also found the story in Japan to be too disconnected from the plot. It would be interesting on its own, perhaps as a separate film, but its connection was in theme only, and that wasn't enough for me.

Overall, I'd classify Babel as well-crafted, but not entertaining per se. It's more like watching a tragedy on cable news, seeing every possible angle of a story -- who was shot, the victim's family, the shooter and his family, and they guy that originally owned the gun. -- no matter how distant the relation.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Monster Planet Web Site Gets a Makeover

I took a little time and updated the Monster Planet site. I also moved it to a new location: http://monsterplanet.silentgraywolf.com. It now has a snazzy gallery (2, actually), and the trailer is embedded via YouTube. Check it out.

For those into Web development, I used a content management system (CMS) called Joomla, which has a huge array of functions, such as WYSIWYG editing; category, section, and menu management; site-wide search; user accounts (requiring registration); and a host of others.

Once set up, it only requires someone to add content. Plus, it's fully customizable, and open to plug-ins -- of which there are a ton already available. And the best part is that it's completely free!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Best Picture Nominees Part IV: The Departed

[rate 3.5]

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/VqKZ8ARPgC4" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

The Departed is the story of two men from South Boston who were raised within the sphere of Irish organized crime. Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) has a "connected" family but wants to get away from that life, while Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) is taken under the wing of Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), a major mob player, as a child.

Costigan and Sullivan join the police force with different agendas: Costigan to become a good cop and fight crime, and Sullivan to gain a position of power and feed Frank Costello information that keeps the cops out of his business.

Sullivan breezes through life as easily as he does through the police force. He's well liked, confident, and can't seem to make a mistake. Costigan, on the other hand, is insecure, and hated by the other officers (they know his family is "connected" and don't trust him).

Costigan, therefore, is given the option to go undercover and infiltrate Costello's gang. "You will never be a cop," they say to him. This is his one chance to make a difference.

Eventually, the police and the mob realize they have rats in their midst, and try to find them. Sullivan, as usual, is the lucky one. He's put on a one-man task force to find--himself. Costigan, however, is suspected of being the rat and kept under scrutiny.

Things get interesting when their paths cross.

The Departed is an enjoyable movie to watch, but lacks the style of Scorsese's earlier mob classics. In Goodfellas and Casino, we're exposed to the cultures within the New York and Vegas crime families, we see their camaraderie, their night life, even how they treat their wives. In the Departed, we only see Costello barking orders and behaving strangely. We barely get to know his crew.

What is also lacking is the witty, conversational dialog. A case in point from Goodfellas is the now famous moment when Tommy (Joe Pesci), believing he's being made fun of, confronts Henry (Ray Liotta): "You think I'm funny? I amuse you?" Henry doesn't know how to take that, and the situation almost comes to blows, but doesn't; though, there was always doubt in Henry's eyes.

There are moments in The Departed that attempt this conversational style, but those moments seem forced and insincere. For example, when Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) addresses fellow cops in a board room, he gets into a shouting match with one of them. They shout obscenities about each other's mother, or something. That seemed completely out of place and unnecessary.

I also found the climax disappointing. It was interesting, and got my attention, but it could have been more compelling. In a story filled with dramatic irony, the dichotomy between these two men, resorting to shock value is a real let down.

Where The Departed really shines, however, is the performances of Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon. Both are believable in their roles, and both outshine Jack Nicholson (as it should be, since they are the leads). DiCaprio, of course, has the more challenging role as the introverted, angst-ridden Costigan, and he never loses his focus. I suspect his performance in The Departed will help his chances to take the statue for Blood Diamond.

Being that Martin Scorsese has never taken home a Best Director Oscar, my guess is that he'll take it this time. But I'd rather he had gotten it for Goodfellas.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Timewarp Moves Forward

Since Don Dohler's passing last December, we at Timewarp Films have been contemplating our next steps. To that end, we've been holding (and will continue to hold) monthly production meetings to discuss our goals, plans, ideas, gripes, and whatever else. You can read about our new production staff, and some of our initial plans here.

Needless to say, we're all excited about our future prospects. While I can't go into details, I would like to mention a little about what's on our slate.

First, we will continue to work on Crawler, and plan to complete it soon. We're finishing the last two scenes with the monster, about 7 or 8 shots, and then we have some miscellaneous FX shots, one scene to cut, some sound effects, and maybe a little tweaking (though we're not messing with Don's edit). That's it!

Then, our first new project is a 3-part anthology, with a common theme threaded throughout. A first draft is completed for the first segment, and we've cemented the ideas for the second and third. We're hoping that working on 3 short films will help our new team develop a synergy that will carry over into our upcoming feature-length stuff.

Speaking of feature length, we have 5 potential projects in the queue, all horror/thriller oriented: A zombie/action movie, a vampire movie with religious elements, a serial-killer movie, a supernatural thriller, and vampire movie that begins during WWII. That's enough projects to cover the next 6-8 years. So we'll definitely be busy.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Blood, Boobs, and Beast

John Kinhart has been putting the finishing touches on a documentary about Don Dohler. He's just announced that it's complete.

Posted with permission from John Kinhart

I'm happy to announce that our documentary about Don Dohler is complete! It will be titled Blood, Boobs & Beast, which are the three components needed to make a successful b-horror movie. The documentary follows Don and his collaborator, Joe Ripple, as they make their latest low-budget film, Dead Hunt.

The movie also features:

• key moments in Dohler's career, such as his pioneering underground comix character ProJunior, and his influential Cinemagic Magazine.
• behind the scenes footage of his low-budget films from the 70s and 80s
• interviews with J.J. Abrams (Creator of TV show Lost), Tom Savini (Effects artist for Dawn of the Dead), Tom Sullivan (Effects artist for The Evil Dead), Lloyd Kaufman (Director of The Toxic Avenger), and underground comix artists Jay Lynch (Nard n Pat) and Skip Williamson (Snappy Sammy Smoot).

Visit the website at http://www.bbbmovie.com to view the trailer. The website also has more information about the movie and will be updated weekly.

Thanks!

John Kinhart, Director Blood, Boobs & Beast

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Best Picture Nominees Part III: The Queen

[rate 4]

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/P8nD2KB0a_E" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

All that I heard about The Queen before seeing it was that Helen Mirren was superb playing Queen Elizabeth II. I definitely agree. I also believe that Michael Sheen was a perfect Tony Blair. In fact, all of the performances were first rate.

What surprised me, at least at first, was that a movie about a woman who reigned over England for more than 50 years, oversaw Prime Ministers such as Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, and whose country went to war several times since 1952, was about how she handled Princess Diana's death. Why was a week of silence that angered her country more interesting than the other fifty-some years? Then I thought about it. Since biopics about her have already been made, including one this year also starring Helen Mirren, that wasn't the point of The Queen. The film wasn't really so much about Queen Elizabeth II as it was about how the world, particularly England, has changed in the 50+ years of her reign. And how little she has changed.

In the film, the royal family follows century-old protocols in dealing with Princess Diana's death. They consider it a private matter, so the Queen makes no formal statement to her subjects, and they do not travel to London to appear at Buckingham palace; thus, do not fly a flag at half-mast.

The public, however, seeing Diana's death as a tragedy for the whole world, disapproves of the Queen's behavior, believing it has more to do with her disapproval of Diana than protocol. This makes for a week of angst and embarrassment for the Queen, and the rest of the royal family, as they watch the public and the press rebuke them.

On the other hand, Tony Blaire comes off smelling like a rose. He runs interference for the royal family, and offers them advice on handling the public. The press praises him for this.

Ultimately, the Queen must decide whether to follow tradition or cater to the public.

The Queen was thoroughly enjoyable, filled with great performances and a realistic, if not a bit too light-hearted, portrayal of they royal family and Princess Diana's death. However, the movie lost its focus on the Queen at times, as it ran actual news clips of Diana. Though, I suppose that couldn't be helped.

Monday, February 12, 2007

HorrorTalk Reviews Dead Hunt

DJBenz over at HorrorTalk reviewed our latest film, Dead Hunt. Check out the review here. Then watch the trailer (below).


Update 4/5/2014: I had originally uploaded the full res trailer to Youtube years ago, but some douche with a personal grudge against one of our Timewarp folks had it flagged for inappropriate content and Youtube took it down. This version was uploaded by someone else, so the sound quality is a little over processed and tinny. But it's the only one up there.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Best Picture Nominees Part II: Letters from Iwo Jima

[rate 5]

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/_fGgkDGF2Ts" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

What a well-crafted film. Films like this are the reason I go to the movies, and the reason I want to make movies.

In the tradition of Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers, Letters from Iwo Jima brings an introspective, human side to WW2. But this time we see war from the Japanese perspective. The film focuses on how the Japanese prepared for the American attack on the small island of Iwo Jima, ill equipped and undermanned. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe), a western-educated, academic takes command and finds he has his work cut out for him. While he prefers to use military tactics and careful planning to lead his men, many of his officers intend to use brute force and loyalty to the empire to keep men in line--and oh how these methods are incompatible.

Upon his arrival, he prevents two men from being beaten to death for disloyalty. One of them is Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya), a drafted baker who is perhaps the worst soldier in the entire pacific theater. His crime: suggesting to his friend that the Japanese should just give this worthless hunk of rock to the Americans. Such undisciplined behavior was not tolerated in the Japanese army, but the new General knows they need every man for this battle, and wanted Saigo and his friend spared.

The film portrays the men on both sides as shades of gray, not black and white caricatures. We see die hard Japanese soldiers torture Americans, kill themselves rather than be captured, and shoot underlings for showing cowardice, but we also see an officer speak kindly to an American POW, soldiers care for a captured American, and honest discipline for irrational behavior. And we see the same benevolence and cruelty in American soldiers. Were we really so different? The movie says we weren't. I doubt, however, that a German perspective will be produced by Hollywood any time soon.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Best Picture Nominees Part I: Little Miss Sunshine

[rate 4.5]

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/VWyH_twcMl0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

In the spirit of Oscar season, I plan to review each of the best picture nominees. If I do actually manage to see them all before Oscar night (I have for the last three years), I'll post my pick for best picture.

LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE


After last summer's vast desert of forgettable movies, Little Miss Sunshine was a true oasis, a real find. It was a light hearted satire that wasn't afraid to visit the darker side of human nature.

The Hoovers, a dysfunctional family if there ever was one, took a road trip across the country so their pre-teen daughter Olive (Abigail Breslin) can enter the Little Miss Sunshine beauty contest. That was the plan, and they all wanted Olive to go. But with the dynamic hodge-podge of personalities--A dad who's a wannabe motivational speaker, a mom who tries too hard to keep everyone happy, a son who took a vow of silence and hates everyone, a suicidal, homosexual uncle, and an I-don't-give-a-crap-I'll-say-anything-I-please grandfather--the trip was anything but "A to B".

Each obstacle they faced was harder to overcome, and funnier, than the last--with a climax that you have to see to believe. I laughed so hard, I cried.

What I really liked about this movie was that it didn't turn into a feel-good cliche where all the characters realize how much they love each other at the end. This movie is only about one thing: getting to the beauty contest at all costs, and not being a loser.

In addition to best picture, the screenplay, Abigail Breslin, and Alan Arkin were also nominated.