It starts with a scene of two young college girls, bored out of their minds. Sitting in one of those arena like classrooms, the teacher projecting everything they’ll need to know as part of a high tech Power Point presentation, they contemplate the next few days. “I need penis,” one writes in her spiral notebook. The other, drawing a rather large phallus in hers, mimes fellatio. As their fellow students sit back, dead eyed, these two twitter and tweak like a couple of sex starved meth birds. We soon learn that they are anticipating a road trip to St. Petersburg, Florida, a chance to pal around with two other female chums while drinking and drugging their way to some equally inebriated frat boy’s motel room. After that…well, anything goes.
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It may be the first time in mainstream movie history that gore is getting the high sign from marketers. If you’ve been paying attention to the advertising for the new Sam Raimi approved remake of his classic Evil Dead, you’ll understand. Currently making the rounds is a commercial featuring nothing more than brief glimpses of the film and multiple reaction shots—teens, the target audience, and even a couple of older people offer up their first look faces as the trailer (one assumes, red banded) unspools before them. Mind you, we don’t see the splatter, but the implication is clear: the update of the classic ‘within the woods’ workout is one shocking, disgusting blood feast where body parts and arterial spray are beyond the norm. The grimaces and gasps say it all.
In a different universe than ours, the idea that the Academy Awards would one day be presided over by the likes of Seth MacFarlane would seem to be a godsend. A onetime insurgent in the Fox television conglomerate, MacFarlane is a guy who spun post-post-post-modern webs of non-sequitur animated bafflement into an empire of offensiveness. His favorite movie is The Sound of Music, he has a Broadway-ready singing voice, recorded a Grammy-nominated album of standards, is (for an animator) strangely comfortable before huge crowds, and his sense of humor ping-pongs from layered multi-referential ironies to vaguely cretinous bathroom stall jokes.
In other words, he ticks a lot of boxes, from purportedly shocking humor to bring in the young ‘uns to classic glitzy “That’s Entertainment!” revues that the old folks like. Of course, in reality, the young ‘uns barely know what the Oscars are and the old folks are DVR’ing NCIS.
It was a night of firsts: Daniel Day-Lewis became the first ‘actor’ to win three Oscars for best lead performance (Katherine Hepburn still has four - and the “-tress” delineation - while Jack Nicholson’s trio are divided between major and ‘minor’ divsions); Ang Lee won a second award for directing Life of Pi, more or less confirming that anyone tackling (and successfully, mind you) an ‘unfilmable” project is bound to get a bucket full of accolades. Quentin Tarantino surprised everyone by besting Mark Boal and Zero Dark Thirty and Michael Haneke for Best Original Screenplay, proving that a provocative use of period appropriate epithets and homage-heavy cinematic copycatting is worthy of the night’s greatest prize, while Argo won the war of partially fictionalized history (read: Best Adapted Screenplay) over Lincoln.
What were they thinking? No, honestly, what WERE THEY thinking? John McClane in Russia? Running around Chernobyl to stop a scientist from unleashing his secret stockpile of nuclear grade Uranium on a world flush with rogue terrorist bomb makers? (Oops - sorry…spoiler alert?). Before, our befuddled cop often transplanted to places outside his flatfoot comfort zone, has taken on bad guys in a building, drug thugs in an airport, a bomb-happy heckler from his past, and a computer whiz wanting to destroy the world’s information grid. So nukes aren’t such a bad idea…or are they? Indeed, as the latest installment in the Die Hard series (given the precursory clip “A Good Day to...”) eats up an unhealthy portion of the President’s Day weekend box office, one has to wonder if this was the best approach to keeping a once healthy franchise flourishing.