Random Factoid #384

16 08 2010

How’s this for a disturbing report?  Listen to this excerpt from a Cinematical post:

As if you needed another reason to stay home with your hundred home entertainment options instead of seeing a movie in the theater, Gothamist shares a story about bedbug infestations at some of NYC’s cinemas, including the tourist-friendly AMC Empire 25 near Times Square and another AMC up in Harlem (the Magic Johnson Harlem 9). One anonymous reader was attacked by the pests during a showing of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” last night and was even told that the theater staff knew about the problem and had an appointment for an exterminator this week but stayed open without warning (an update to the article now says the theater’s general manager is denying any such knowledge or admittance of fault at all).

I kid you not, the problem extends much farther beyond New York City.  Houston friends, I believe a local theater may have a very dire problem.

Before I go too far into that, I have to provide some crucial information about the way I sit to watch movies.  I change positions a lot, rarely remaining in one for a long time.  I usually tuck one leg under the other at a right angle (the way guys cross their legs), often switching which leg is underneath.  Really, the area around my ankles are the only exposed parts of my body that touch the theater seats.

You may recall a factoid several weeks ago, Random Factoid #358, in which I described a particularly painful experience watching “Salt” from the front row.  I failed to extend the story beyond watching the movie, but there actually is more.  I came out of the theater itching my ankles and lower knees.

When I got out into the light, I looked down at these areas and found my ankles to be covered in what appeared to be big red bug bites.  Since this is the part of my body that touches the theater seat, and I was sitting on the oft-neglected front row, I suspect bedbugs could be the culprit!  And what negligent theater, my dear local readers, could possibly let such a thing happen?

The Edwards Marq*E.

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Random Factoid #362

25 07 2010

Is a one-word title a tragedy?  That is exactly what the Chicago Tribune‘s cultural critic, Julia Keller, dares to suggest in the wake of the release of “Inception” and “Salt.”

Here’s her argument:

There’s a word for titles like these: Ugh.

The hot new summer films “Inception” and “Salt” may be entertaining and popular, but when it comes to the snipped-off monikers by which they’re known — the one-word title — they’re as disappointing as stale Milk Duds.

Trying to come up with an evocative one-word title is a challenge, a dare, a high-wire act without a net. It’s an all-or-nothing adventure without a Plan B. There’s no backup adjective, no cushioning adverb, no peppy little verb to take the pressure off. Neither a politely introductory “The” nor the helpful threshold of an “A” or an “An” is present to lend aid and comfort. No prepositions are in sight. No ampersand stands by.

Going with a solo word as a title is like risking everything on a single throw of the dice or spin of the wheel. It’s like betting the house on red 7 or black 17. It’s one-and-done. title is a challenge, a dare, a high-wire act without a net. It’s an all-or-nothing adventure without a Plan B. There’s no backup adjective, no cushioning adverb, no peppy little verb to take the pressure off. Neither a politely introductory “The” nor the helpful threshold of an “A” or an “An” is present to lend aid and comfort. No prepositions are in sight. No ampersand stands by.

But whether it soars or it sinks, the one-word title is a constant reminder of the marvelous, astonishing, complex and unfathomable power of words. Words are a matter of nuance and texture, of memory and association, of linguistics, of history, of that ineffable magic attending any creative enterprise. With just a single word, an entire world may leap to life. A one-word title can imbue a work with the primitive, epic, thunderous power of eternity; indeed, some one-word titles — think of the film “Gladiator” (2000) — march forth and demand to be chiseled in granite. Other titles — think of the film “Sideways” (2004) — seem achingly fragile, ephemeral, as if they might blow away at the merest hint of wind and be lost forever, like first love.

She lists “Inception” as one of the worst one-word titles ever.  But I say, what’s wrong with the title “Inception?”  It perfectly communicates the mystery and power of the movie, and what more can you ask for?

Let’s brainstorm some other titles – “Subconscious Security?”  It sounds like a bad Martin Lawrence comedy.  “Dream Within a Dream?”  That wouldn’t sell because it sounds way too complicated.  “Limbo?”  Sounds like a raunchy beach movie.  “Inception” perfectly teases us, sounding sophisticated without giving too much away.

Is a one-word title really THAT bad?  Sound off below!





REVIEW: Salt

22 07 2010

“Salt” is all about Angelina Jolie.  Forget the character, the movie is about making her look like a goddess.  It’s about how she can pull off being blonde and brunette.  It’s about how she can look good with long or short hair.  It’s about how she can still manage to look gorgeous after scaling a building or taking a punch.  It’s about how she can walk away from explosions and jumping on cars without ever looking unattractive.  No matter how much blood coats her face, Angelina Jolie can still look hot.

The movie is one made of surprises and twists, and Angelina Jolie’s never failing good looks are not one of them.  The movie throws us into disarray as we try to figure out what side Jolie’s Evelyn Salt is really on: Russia or America.  What we think we know is never certain, and subject to change at the drop of a hat.  It takes everything we’ve hated about summer 2010, the predictability and the banality, and gives us an entire movie jam-packed with the exact opposite.  Between this and “Inception,” the season is covered for plot twists.

For all of you who got a giddy rush from the mention of “Inception,” no, “Salt” is not in the same ballpark as Nolan’s latest and greatest.  It has the adrenaline kick of “Wanted” with the espionage intrigue of a Bourne movie.  We are always kept engaged by this combination, no matter how far the boundaries of plausibility are pushed.  It’s most like “Wanted,” though, with some similar action sequences that stay more tightly bound to the laws of physics.  Although that’s not to say they aren’t entertaining; they just lack the extra sucker-punch energy.  Salt has to be resourceful and kick butt in more human ways, which makes our jaws drop in an entirely different fashion.  It’s complication without sophistication, and there’s no shortage of fun to be had.

As for Jolie’s acting, it’s a combination of her smugly cool assassin in “Wanted” with her compellingly hysterical family woman in “Changeling.”  She’s mastered both of these character types, and while Evelyn Salt is a far cry from her award-winning roles, it’s a further reminder that she can sell us anything.  I think I can only be entertained by “Salt” once because so much of the movie is in the reversals, but I can watch Angelina Jolie many, many times.  B+ /





Random Factoid #358

21 07 2010

Last night, I added a new moviewatching experience to my extensive collection.  But it wasn’t one I wanted to add.

I was fortunate enough to receive passes to an advanced screening of “Salt” last night (review coming tomorrow), but I made the mistake of not reading the time of the screening on the pass.  I assumed it would be 7:30 like every other screening I go to, yet for some reason, this one was at 7:00.  My friend and I got there a little before 6:30 and stuck it out in the standby line until showtime.  We were two of the last three people let in and thus had to sit on … the front row.

I had sat up close before, as I described in Random Factoid #66:

I really like to get to movies early because I prefer sitting in the middle and towards the top.  Usually, I am able to get a reasonable seat.  I can, however, think of two horrible moviegoing experiences that were strongly affected by my seat.

  1. I have described this experience in a previous factoid, but for my 8th birthday party, the theater reserved us a row right behind the railing for “The Grinch.”
  2. I saw “The Reader” from the second row.  I had to crane my neck for two hours to watch a lackluster movie.  Also, Kate Winslet doesn’t look quite as good from such an angle.

But never had I been forced to endure the torture of sitting on the front row.  For those of you with a little bit of geometry under your belt, imagine looking up at the screen at a 60˚ angle of elevation.  Looking straight ahead, I could see the bottom tenth of the screen.  That’s how miserable it was.  It wasn’t watching a movie; it was looking up at a skyscraper that was Angelina Jolie.  It messes with your perception of things too.  People’s heads looked disproportionately small compared to the rest of their body.

Honestly, it makes so mad that theaters put in seats like that.  If I’m going to pay $10 (which I didn’t in this case), I want to be able to actually see the movie.  I feel like the theater should be paying me to sit there – or at the very least not make me pay full tilt.  Or maybe give me a neck massage or something because even today, my neck is SORE!

So has anyone else been the victim of the theater’s front row sadism?





What To Look Forward To in … July 2010

10 06 2010

People are already calling summer 2010 one of the worst seasons in history.  Ouch.  Does July hold anything in store to turn the tide late in the game?  Let’s take a look.

July 2

M. Night Shyamalan give us his most mainstream movie yet with “The Last Airbender.”  Due to James Cameron’s mildly successful film “Avatar,” the Nickelodeon series opted to use only the last part of its name to avoid confusion (although you could make some good money from dumb moviegoers under the impression they’re seeing “Avatar 2”).  It got the quickie 3D conversion slapped on in the past months, which means I’m sticking to 2D here if I even see it at all. I’m worried that some backlash against the conversion could wind up really hurting this movie. But even before I knew about the added dimension, I couldn’t get myself too excited. No matter how extravagant and enormous they make it look, it’s still a Nickelodeon series. I have mixed feelings for Shyamalan; the only movie of his I actually liked was “The Sixth Sense.” I don’t know anyone in the cast save for Dev Patel, better known as Jamal Malik from “Slumdog Millionaire,” and he may end up being what draws me in to see it.

Sometimes I don’t catch everything when it is initially released, particularly indies.  I want to give them their fair shake, so I’m going to feature movies when they open in my hometown if I missed them before.  The first of these movies is “Solitary Man” starring Michael Douglas and thank heavens it’s not Michael Cera (that’s code for Jesse Eisenberg).  In her glowing review of the movie, Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly called this, not “Wall Street 2,” Douglas’ best shot for Oscar glory.  The story seems friendly enough and the character seems an Oscar type.  Rounding out the ensemble are Jenna Fischer (“The Office”), Susan Sarandon, Danny DeVito, and Mary-Louise Parker, so it seems pretty audience friendly too.

July 9

I’ll get to the mainstream fare later.  First, I must cover the indie comedy hit of the summer, “The Kids Are All Right.”  More to come later in an “Oscar Moment,” but expect it to make a splash a la “Little Miss Sunshine” and “(500) Days of Summer.”

Adrien Brody steps back into the horror arena after … let’s just say, going places in “Splice.”  This time, he’s rebooting the “Predator” franchise along with Laurence Fishburne and Topher Grace.  “Predators” proudly flashes the name of producer Robert Rodriguez.  But here’s what I want to know – will sequel/reboot/remake fatigue catch up with moviegoers by July and kill this movie?

I’m so excited for the release of “Despicable Me.”  Not because I want to see it, but because I’m so tired of seeing the stupid trailers with every movie I have seen for the past year.  My guess is families will still be choosing “Toy Story 3” over this.  Not even Julie Andrews can save a movie that proudly boasts the participation of an executive producer from the “Ice Age” series as if they had Steven Spielberg.

If you are looking for some shaky-cam horror, “[Rec] 2” comes out.  Strangely enough, I must have missed “[Rec]” 1.  But I did know about the predecessor to “The Girl Who Played with Fire,” the big indie of 2010 so far, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

Opening in Houston on July 9 is “Restrepo,” the winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance for documentary features.  It takes a look at the grittiest and most intense location of fighting in Iraq and its effect on the soldiers who fight there.

July 14/16

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Meanwhile, opening two days earlier to get out the way is “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” Jerry Bruckheimer’s latest blockbuster.  It starts Nicolas Cage as the sorcerer and Jay Baruchel as his apprentice.  I’ve been saying for quite a while now that Baruchel needs a big breakout; maybe he will get it with this once people match his face to the voice in “How to Train Your Dragon.”  On the Nicolas Cage front, the role seems kind of kooky.  Perhaps this is his Jack Sparrow?  I may end up seeing this solely for villain Alfred Molina, who rocked Doc Ock in “Spider-Man 2.”

Officially released on June 18 but not hitting Houston until July 16 is “The Killer Inside Me,” starring Casey Affleck and Kate Hudson.  Apparently it’s based on one of the most brutally violent and disturbing stories ever.  I’ll trust Kubrick here.

July 23

I’m hoping “Salt” becomes this summer’s “Wanted.”  Just an enjoyable, action-packed movie that doesn’t try to wow you, only entertain you.  Angelina Jolie makes one BA action heroine … or villain, depending on what happens in this movie.

Kiddie fare comes for the third straight weekend with “Ramona and Beezus,” starring Disney Channel sweetheart Selena Gomez.  This could do well because it’s an adaptation of the beloved series that has been around for decades, and it has an impressive adult cast including Sandra Oh, Bridget Moynahan, John Corbett, and Josh Duhamel.  Then again, it could also just fade into the mist of the other kids movies.

Opening on the indie side of things is “Life During Wartime” starring Allison Janney.

July 30

I’m honestly scared of “Dinner for Schmucks.”  I love both Paul Rudd and Steve Carell to death, and the plot here just reeks of a bomb.  My worst fear is that this and “The Other Guys” become the “Land of the Lost”/”Year One” comedy flop combo of 2010.  Maybe Zach Galifianakis can save it…

But what reeks of a stinker even more is “Cats and Dogs: Revenge of Kitty Galore,” a sequel that no one really wants.  And “Charlie St. Cloud” reeks of Zac Efron.

Meanwhile, there’s some good indie drama with “Get Low,” starring Robert Duvall.  See my Oscar Moment for further commentary.

Can July save the summer?  Will “Inception” rule the roost?  What will be the BEST movie of the month?  Let me know by taking the poll … DEADLINE IS JUNE 25.





What To Look Forward To in … Summer 2010

5 05 2010

Before the season actually gets kicked off in two days, I thought it was necessary to spell out my five most anticipated movies of summer 2010.  Rather than bore you with verbose observations, I will give you the rationale for my picks with only two things: the movie’s trailer and 10 words or less describing why I’m dying to see it.

Winter’s Bone (June 11)

I can’t wait because … it’s a rare summer drama and won big at Sundance.

Shrek Forever After (May 21)

I can’t wait because … it has to redeem “Shrek” after the last movie stunk!

Eat, Pray, Love (August 13)

I can’t wait because … this is that enjoyable watching chick-flick I’m always weak for.

Robin Hood (May 14)

I can’t wait because … Russell Crowe has Maximus bottled up inside for this.

Get Him to the Greek (June 4)

I can’t wait because … it’s time for Jonah Hill and Russell Brand’s breakout movies.

The Kids Are All Right (July 7)

I can’t wait because … it’s an indie and this makes comedy out of controversy.

Iron Man 2 (May 7)

I can’t wait because … action plus Robert Downey Jr. have equaled big fun before.

Toy Story 3 (June 18)

I can’t wait because … it’s going to be like revisiting my childhood!

Salt (July 23)

I can’t wait because … Angelina kicks butt!  And it’s not a franchise movie!

Inception (July 16)

I can’t wait because … it’s Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to a new classic.