We critics face this dilemma every day. We walk into a screening, not knowing what to expect, and come out convinced we’ve seen a work of brilliance…or something worth shoving down a sinkhole. In between lies the real issue, however. Sometimes, a movie makes us, well, think. It makes us wonder. It challenges our perceptions as well as what we think, or anticipate, a film will forward. It becomes a question mark, a challenge to revisit at a later date. Such is the case with most of Stanley Kubrick’s creative canon.
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It may just be the post-Oscar malaise talking, but 2013 isn’t shaping up to be the best year for films - at least as far as the first two months go. Oh sure, these are the real dog days of cinema, a time where studios dump the contractually obligated star vehicles that fail to meet the Summer popcorn/Fall Awards window, as well as any other distributable dreck hanging around their always overflowing vaults. It’s rare when a good film stumbles out of this four month fizzle. In fact, it was typically a given that nothing viable would come out of Tinseltown until the teenagers started to wake up - around mid-April. Until then, it was failed wannabe franchises, lame leftovers, and more than one example of star chutzpah supplanting viable acting ability.
Every year, since I’ve been a so called “professional” film critic, I have looked forward to End of Year lists. Best ofs. Worst ofs. The obscure and the obvious. It’s one of the joys of suffering through 12 months of measured mediocrity, of putting in the hours and contemplating the collective. One of my favorite features has always been The Best Films You’ve Never Heard Of, an attempt to bring attention to titles that might otherwise never get a single aesthetic credit. In past years, I’ve championed such amazing works like Eric Stanze’s Nazi immortality serial killer crime epic Ratline, Giuseppe Andrews’ Orzo, the spaghetti western surrealism of The Legend of God’s Gun, and Issak and Eva James’ contemporary comedy triumph Hungry Years.
For fans of the fiscally fascinating literary works of one Stephenie Meyer, the week of 16 November, 2012 will go down in double your ridiculous RomComDram pleasure history. You see, this is the week that Bill Condon unleashes his wholly unnecessary second half to the already under-baked and underwhelming Breaking Dawn, otherwise known as Bella and Edward kick Volturi butt, otherwise known as the final installment in the insipid, uninspired, Anne Rice should still sue series known as Twilight. As the usual unwed and sick of soccer suspects line up to give the Cullens and those shirtless Native American werewolf counterparts a slobbering sultry goodbye, the studio shills have been waiting in the wings, busy prepping the next wannabe phenom, another mangled Meyer’s work about alien invasion and post pre-pubescent love.
That’s right, no sooner are we done with the sparkly ridiculousness of the entire vampire lover routine than The Host arrives, in less than tempting trailer form. The movie, like Invasion of the Body Snatchers as imagined by Abercrombie and Fitch, offers a young girl (the deserves much better Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan) who fights against her soul-inhabiting extraterrestrial ‘thing’ to stay connected with the rest of humanity, and some hunky bland boy toy (Max Irons, son of Jeremy). From the Wikipedia outline of the novel, it appears that our heroine, Melanie Stryder, has an ongoing internal monologue with her problematic space parasite (known as “Wanderer”) battling against her emotions and memories while walking a fine line between enemy of the remaining real people and spy for her cosmic counterparts.
Coming SoonPerhaps you didn’t know it was happening. Maybe you don’t follow the FOX friendly line-up littering the Cartoon Network’s airwaves from 9:00pm until… seven days a week. Whatever the situation is, Adult Swim remains one of the cable channel’s most effective programming blocks. Preferred demographics, usually relating to age groups between 14 and 45, make it a hotbed for potential advertisers. Thanks to the constant repetition of King of the Hill, American Dad, and Family Guy (No Simpsons, though they will soon add The Cleveland Show to the line-up), as well as their own unique blend of in-house, Williams-Street hits (Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Squidbillies, The Venture Brothers, Children’s Hospital), it remains a ratings and marketing given.
So it makes sense that Hollywood would hop on the ballyhoo bandwagon and use the block as a means of getting the word out. But unlike your standard, straightforward approach (clips, cut-down trailers), Adult Swim appears to be the beneficiary of content specifically molded toward its membership. Instead of giving viewers the typical “coming soon” pitch, the studios have come up with compelling, often clever ways of circumventing the standard preview. In their place have been mini-interview featurettes, strange animated sneaks, quirky takes on the tired old conventions, and in some cases, efforts that appear to have nothing to do with the film focused on.