Friday, June 13, 2008

"Die Hard" Is Depressing

Last night I caught the end of Die Hard 2: Die Harder and immediately began to ponder the futility of man. Sure, John McClane kicks a lot of ass and says some funny lines, but when you look at the series as a whole, it's actually quite depressing.

In the first film, McClane is estranged from his wife, living in New York away from her and his kids. But clearly he loves her. You can see how upset he is when he discovers she's listed under her maiden name at work. And then when the building is taken over and his wife becomes a hostage, he risks his life to safe her. He applies the old saying of "walking over broken glass barefoot for someone" and takes it even further. He RUNS over broken glass. While being SHOT at.

Ultimately he rescues her and is reunited with his love. But as fate (and the producers) would have it, she's ripped from his arms again when terrorists take over an airport. Unfazed, he goes back to action and saves her once more.

But this story does not end happily. Sure, the MOVIE ends happily, but as we learn upon first seeing McClane again on the big screen in the third film, the relationship did not work out. He appears to us broken and hungover, most likely from staying up late and drinking alone while watching some softcore on Cinemax.

While I don't think he's suicidal, he's definitely lost all sense of self-worth. It doesn't bother him in the slightest to wear a horribly racist sign in the middle of Harlem. He doesn't care what people think of him.

And yet, the movie presents a sense of hope. The villain, while clearly not concerned with human life, does beckon McClane in a way, bringing him back from the depths of his own personal hell to force him to care once more.

So at the end of the movie, we're left believing that McClane will call Holly. They will get back together and be happy because that is what action heroes do.

It's not until the fourth film that we realize this isn't the case. Now McClane is a beat cop with a daughter who wants nothing to do with him. The only way he's able to connect with her at all is to literally save her life.

And while we're supposed to be happy that she's likely going to end up with the Mac guy at the end, the previous films have taught us that this is a false happy ending. Not everyone can be happy. PC guy might break her heart, and she might take her heartbreak out on her father. Or, if those two do wind up together, they will move away and leave McClane all alone once more.

So you see, McClane literally saves the lives of those he cares about most, yet they continue to leave him, turning him into a hollow shell of a man.

Thus the moral of the films is this: The efforts of man are futile.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hitch's Roommate

That would have been a better name for the upcoming film, My Best Friend's Girl. My apologies for subjecting you to this, but you have to watch this trailer:

If you're an aspiring screenwriter who has some sort of romantic comedy under his/her belt (quality isn't an issue), throw it into the path of Kate Hudson. It will suddenly be a movie.

I was a fan of her in Almost Famous, but that's slowly becoming a description of her as a person. Whether or not she's that talented, she has a chance to be very famous if she stops making movies like this.

And Jason Biggs, while entertaining at times, has somehow managed to ride a wave of fame simply for having sex with a pie. All it got me was a stern talking to after home-ec class.

Finally, don't even get me started on Dane Cook. While I've laughed at some of his jokes, his material is suspect to put it mildly. The Onion summed up my problems with it better than I ever could.

The thing is, after having seen him in Employee of the Month, I think he could actually be quite good in the right kind of role. So yes, I just said that this film looks worse than Employee of the Month.

Ignoring any of the actors involved with the project, the story itself has a number of logic problems. I mean, aside from the fact that I'm expected to believe that a person would be named Tank.

Here's the deal. I enjoyed the movie Hitch. Most of that is due to the fact that Will Smith is so damn likable. But at the least, the premise of the movie was believable in a "this is believable in a romantic comedy film sort of way." I don't know if Hitch's profession actually exists, but why not?

In My Best Friend's Girl, we're given a similar occupation, except that the guy gets people to go back to their exes instead of getting them matched up with people they like but haven't approached. And he does it by actually DATING them, not creating some elaborate scenario.

I'm willing to go with this. What I cannot accept is that the guy's ROOMMATE is the other main character in the story. It would have been bad enough if it was just a friend, but his freaking roommate?

I mean, sure, if a guy actually existed that did this for a living, I guess he would have a roommate. But that adds a whole mess of logic problems into the pot. Hudson's character says they've been dating for 5 weeks. Are you telling me she hasn't met his roommate (or at least seen a picture) in FIVE WEEKS?!

And then she apparently starts dating Cook's character and must never go over to his place, otherwise she'd recognize it. (I mean, I assume she at least went to Biggs' apartment once during those five weeks.)

Even if I could accept everything so far...what exactly is Biggs' plan? If she takes him back and falls for him, then clearly she's going to meet his roommate at some point. Don't you think that will end badly? It's not a She's All That-type thing where he falls for someone he never intended to and she finds out the truth. This guy is setting himself up for disaster.

Plus, couldn't they think of a better title than My Best Friend's Girl? That doesn't incorporate the guy's occupation at all. If that's not the point of the movie, then why have that strange occupation in the first place? Everything in the second half of the movie could still have happened without it.

Minus one billion points for Hollywood. Nay, humanity.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Just Add Money: Antarctica Condoms

Here's another very short article that you can read for yourself if you'd like, but I'll explain it a bit because I have a few comments.

Basically, a year's supply of condoms (16,500) was sent to a US research base in Antarctica in anticipation of winter darkness, where the sun will not rise again until August 20th.

The article says they are being provided for free in order to "avoid the potential embarrassment of having to buy them." I don't really understand what that means. Maybe they mean that if you're cheating on your partner, it would be bad news if they were also the one in charge of the selling of products on the base.

The base manager then says, "Since everybody knows everyone, it becomes a little bit uncomfortable." So maybe it just means people are such close friends that they don't want to have to buy condoms from each other. But if there's such a need for all these condoms, I'd say everyone is actually VERY COMFORTABLE with each other.

Long story short, it sounds like a lot of sex happens at the base during winter darkness, and that's where the movie idea comes in.

WARNING: This one is a little dirty. That's Hollywood for you.

Title: "Station Sex"

Format: A direct-to-DVD film. In fact, let's just make it "American Pie presents Station Sex".

Tone: Crude sex comedy.

Story: Three nerdy, horny, virgin researchers learn about Station Sex, where even the goofiest scientists can get laid because for a few months out of the year, there's no one else available.

They pull some sort of elaborate stunt to get transfered there. Maybe they fake a discovery that can only be researched there. Or they break into some office and change some files.

Upon arrival, they meet the Station Sex Stud, the best looking and doucheiest scientist in the world, who makes it his mission each year to keep any and all ladies from having to lower themselves to the degrading position of being serviced by "Geek Dicks." There's plenty of him to go around for the ladies.

From here, it's basically one disgusting, potentially hilarious (but more likely cringe-inducing) sex joke after another. The set-up gives us scientific equipment, sub-zero temperatures, and total darkness. Just imagine some of the possibilities:

-A girl promises to meet a guy in one of the vehicles outside (in the dark) but it's an elaborate joke because someone else goes in her place. Most likely a fat chick or a gay guy. Funny.

-Some kinky girl likes to do stuff with the beakers. Amusing.

-Someone gets locked outside in his underwear. While this would probably kill him in real life, in the movie it just means that his scrotum gets frozen to his thigh and has to be peeled loose. Hilarious.

-Someone ejaculates outside. It freezes, and they mix it with someone's ice in his drink. Sidesplitting.

Ending: Honestly it doesn't really matter. At least one of the three guys actually falls in love and watches that first new sunrise with his new girl. (This is pretty similar to the ending of American Pie, actually.) Another one probably hooked up with the kinky beaker girl and barely escaped with his life. And the last guy...maybe the Station Sex Stud's mom works there too?

Category Five: My 5 "Favorite" Films

Being a lover of film, and a guy that majored in film, and a guy that hopes to work in film, I often get asked: "What's your favorite movie?"

While I have a standard answer (#1 on this list), I wish that people would be both more specific and more general. What I mean is, let me name a number of films, and give me some caveats.

Such as:

What were your favorite films from last year?
What are some of your favorite action movies?
What are some movies that you know aren't that great but love to watch anyway?
What are some of your favorite older movies?

That said, I'm still presenting this list to you. I figure it's a good way to give you a sense of my taste.

I could go on for pages and pages about these films, but that would be too easy for me and too difficult for you. Instead, I'm providing five concise sentences that will hopefully give you some sense of why I like these movies so much.

(The "ranking" is arbitrary, except for the #1 spot. And even then, it's only so I'll have a pat answer.)

#5: Monty Python & the Holy Grail

*It has jokes about the feudal system AND jokes about whether or not a man’s arm has in fact been cut off.

*Every single scene has at least two great quotable lines.

*It’s practically impossible to explain the jokes to people without them seeing it for themselves.

*Pretty much everyone plays multiple characters.

*There’s a running gag that involves cat abuse going occurring the background of scenes.

#4: The Princess Bride

*Kids might like it, but it’s much funnier to adults.

*It’s both goofy and incredibly sweet.

*Despite the material, everyone is incredibly earnest with their performance.

*The fact that it’s all a story a grandfather is telling to his grandson reminds me of the pure joy you can get from sharing a great story with someone.

*It might sound crazy to say that it’s about true love, but is love really any less crazy?

#3: The Silence of the Lambs

*The IDEA of Hannibal Lector is almost scarier than the actual being.

*Clarice and Hannibal have an incredible relationship that, while not sexual in any way, is romantic in a sense.

*They deal with the fact that Clarice is a woman but don’t make that the most interesting thing about her.

*The moment where Lector’s finger brushes Clarice’s has more kinetic energy than a thousand sex scenes ever could.

*It basically has TWO climaxes, and both are EXTREMELY tense.

#2: Rain Man

*While Dustin Hoffman’s performance is great, Tom Cruise’s might be better.

*It has a realistic ending that's optimistic but not exactly happy.

*Their best bonding moment comes to an abrupt halt due to Charlie lovingly touching Raymond and him reacting badly, and I can just FEEL the pain it causes Charlie.

*Though I often laugh at the things Raymond says or does, the film never allows me to laugh AT him.

*I feel that I get to know Raymond as a real person.

#1: The Shawshank Redemption

*It’s a story about undying hope.

*My friend had already told me the entire plot before I saw it, and yet I was still riveted.

*Each time I see it, I alternate between thinking it’s Andy’s story and thinking it’s Red’s story.

*Of all the Morgan Freeman narration out there, this is the best.

*The “big reveal” makes me happy every single time.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Ode to an Ad: "JAWS" Poster


If you were to look at this poster for too long, you might chuckle to yourself. It is slightly comical, in a way. Luckily, you won't have time to stare at it for very long because you'll be too busy changing your pants as a result of the sheer terror it evoked upon first glancing at it.

It's practically impossible to not think "DEAR GOD!!! LOOK OUT!!!" You know that woman is a goner, and there's nothing you can do about it.

What makes it so bad, worse than most images of a woman in peril, is that she has NO IDEA that she is about to be eaten alive. And that, essentially, is why JAWS is such a terrifying film: The unseen is exponentially more frightening than anything you can put on the screen.

This is why any good horror film (be it slasher, creature, or other) that involves someone/something killing people off knows that the most frightening moments in the movie are when the killer is NOT on-screen. When he/she/it appears, there might be some action in a chase scene or some gore that can disturb us, but it's nothing compared to the suspense of wondering when and, more importantly, WHERE, the killer will spring from.

JAWS has two advantages over most horror films, and both of these are incorporated into the poster. The first is that THIS COULD ACTUALLY HAPPEN. We all know there are sharks, and if one wanted to start attacking people, it easily could.

Were it some fictional creature on the poster, it would be pretty easy to not take it seriously. But seeing that shark makes you feel for that woman and wonder what you would do if you were in her place.

Which leads to the second, and more important, advantage. Location, location, location.

Lots of people watch a horror film and criticize the character's actions. It's just human nature. A lot of the time, it's done to alleviate fear. If you can find some lack of logic on the part of the characters, you can disassociate it from real life.

So when characters go into places they shouldn't or run down hallways instead of outside and away, their deaths are almost deserved (in a film sense, that is).

Not so with JAWS. All these people are doing is going swimming in the ocean. Literally millions of people do this year round.

And when they realize they are in danger...there's nowhere to go. You can only swim so fast.

I think this poster encapsulates all of that. The imminent victim is a woman minding her own business, just going for a swim. The attack is coming out of nowhere, so there's no way to prevent it. And even when she realizes something is wrong, there's no escape.

The poster promises that there will be moments in the movie where this happens, making us feel for the characters on screen. What it doesn't necessarily hint at, and what makes JAWS such a great film, is that it ultimately puts us in the place of these people, so that we live and die right along with them.


The style of the artwork and the leisurely feel of the poster (other than the giant shark, that is) is reminiscent of the types of advertisements used to attract people to beach communities in the 70's, such as the billboard for Amity Island featured in the film that is later defaced after the shark attacks.

Although your eye is immediately drawn to the giant shark, which forms an arrow pointing up to its victim, if you were able to address it from top to bottom, it has a calming feeling that is interrupted by the presence of the shark. That's what the film does. It takes a regular summer activity and ruins it with the appearance of a vicious beast.

Also, the people behind the movie and the poster obviously did their research on how great white sharks charge straight up to attack creatures on the surface:


There's a soft spot in my heart for Tremors. As far as ridiculous horror-comedies go, it might be my favorite. A lot of that has to do with Kevin Bacon's performance. I think the other part might be that it absolutely TERRIFIED me as a kid, and only when I checked it out during college did I realize how hilarious it is.

The films have the common theme of a creature attacking from below where you can't see it, so it was a great choice to recreate the JAWS poster out in the desert with the creature rushing up through the dirt.

But I think this poster more than proves my earlier point about how a non-existent creature would be hard to take seriously. Thankfully, Tremors only asks you to take it seriously to a very small extent.

It might be unfair to accuse a poster for a film's sequel of knocking off the original. After all, this could very well be done by the same artist.

While it's a great tag-line, this poster takes everything that was intensely unnerving about the original poster and makes it comical. Water skiing? Her being oblivious to the fact that an enormous shark has just surfaced behind her, likely creating a huge splash?

And think about this: The shark just MISSED her. He came up BEHIND HER her. It's not a dolphin. It can't scoot forward on its tail with its mouth gaping open in order to eat her. It has to land back in the water and then chase her.


If you're making a movie about sharks, it's a given that you're going to be compared to JAWS. So it's probably not a good idea to invite more comparisons by copying the poster.

But if you ARE going to knock-off the poster, AT LEAST knock off the far superior original and not the one for the sequel.

Also, there is NO FEASIBLE WAY that woman could get out of the depicted scenario alive. In the JAWS posters it doesn't matter because the women shown aren't even real characters. But this is the main character in Deep Blue Sea, and they just killed her in the poster.

Finally, take a look at that tag-line. "Bigger. Smarter. Faster. Meaner." As if I needed convincing that sharks were scary or something.

Just Add Money: Closet Dweller

Here's another news story that could easily be made into a movie. It's a short article if you want to read it, but here's the gist: A Japanese man discovered a homeless woman that had been secretly living in his closet for over a year.

I see two very different directions it could go. Option #1 would be a romantic comedy and Option #2 would be a horror/thriller.

Title: With Option #1, you need something cute and sweet that also plays with the fact that someone is secretly hiding in a person's house. Yet you don't want it to sound creepy. Since they would obviously eventually fall in love at the end, I like "Right Under Your Nose."

You also want to play with the subject matter for Option #2, but the title needs to be a bit unsettling. I'd go with "Uninvited."

Format: Both options would be feature films.

Tone: Not many "realistic" romantic comedies are made anymore, but just for clarification's sake: Option #1 would be an over-the-top romantic comedy. An even more far-fetched version of Win a Date with Tad Hamilton. (That will make more sense once I explain my idea for the story.)

It would also have a lot of slapstick/physical humor where the woman is about to be discovered and then hides at the last moment. That's always funny.

Option #2 has the chance to be really cheesy, but I think a deeply serious tone would make for a pretty great film. My idea for it sets it up as something entirely different from what it ultimately becomes, so think along the lines of Hard Candy.

Story: It should go without saying that in both options we're switching everything to America. Also, I think we need to significantly shorten the amount of time the woman goes undetected. Truth is stranger than fiction, after all.

Option #1: The basic idea is that a girl obsessed with a celebrity sneaks into his place and winds up living there, either continuously or off and on. Obviously you have to figure out some way to make this not as creepy as it should be and avoid making the girl look completely insane.

You'll need a younger actress playing a girl in college. Her friends/sorority sisters dare her to go into some heartthrob's house and steal something for their collection. He arrives back home, and she has to hide. She learns a lot about him and falls in love for real.

It might be nice to keep him home for an extended period (at least at first) so that she can't get away. Maybe he's under house arrest. Or maybe he has to stick around for the weekend to read some script.

However, at some point they have to meet in the "real world" so that she can use the inside information she's gained to make him fall for her.

At some point while she's hiding at his place, she should do little things that she knows he likes, such as make his bed in a certain way or buy some treats he likes. He can think the maid is doing it. Even though it's still creepy, it's also sweet.

Option #2: A homeless woman ventures into an empty house looking for food. The husband and wife that live there show up, and she has to hide. She spends the night and realizes it's a sweet deal for her if she can stay hidden.

For awhile, we're afraid for the couple because she spies on them and things like that. But at some point she witnesses the husband mistreating his wife.

NOTE: It would be easier if she simply witnessed him killing someone (might not be his wife...perhaps an affair), but I'd like it better if he was just a horrible abuser.

So now the tables turn, and we're on her side when she begins to terrorize him. Slowly at first, but then she catches him by surprise and makes him her prisoner so she can get back at him for the bad things he has done.

Ending: I think the ending to Option #1 is obvious. When the celebrity discovers the truth, he tells her off of course, but since he secretly has fallen in love with her, he doesn't press charges. Then when he wants to win her back, he has to sneak into her sorority house and stay hidden until he can find her. Done.

With Option #2, it all depends on how dark you want to take it. If the guy has actually committed a murder, then the homeless woman probably has him tied up but doesn't want to call the police because she has no proof of what he did and no one would believe her story (as the guy will point out). So she has to get him to tell her where to find some of the evidence. And at some point, after she has the evidence she needs, he gets loose and seems to have the upper-hand before she kills him.

If he isn't a murderer, it becomes a much darker story of this woman taking out all the abuse she's suffered on this man who, while a bastard, doesn't deserve what she dishes out. Who lives and who dies is up in the air, but no one makes it out of this version unscathed.