2 Trailers: The Sessions and Alex Cross


A frequently asked question: When is John Hawkes going to win an Oscar?

Ever since I first saw Winter’s Bone back in 2010, I’ve wondered just when exactly John Hawkes is going to finally win an Oscar.  Unfortunately, he did not win for Winter’s Bone and his chilling work in Martha Marcy May Marlene was ignored.  This year, however, he’s back with The Sessions.  In this film, Hawkes plays a 38 year-old man who is confined to an iron lung and who is attempting to lose his virginity with the help of William H. Macy and Helen Hunt.

The Sessions has been getting a lot of buzz since it premiered on Sundance.  That, quite frankly, makes me wary because I’ve come to learn that you have to take Sundance acclaim with a grain of salt.  If Cannes is where people go to be insanely critical, Sundance has a deserved reputation for going overboard when it comes to praise.  However, I will take a chance on anything featuring John Hawkes and, just judging from the trailer, it looks like both The Sessions and John Hawkes could be contenders when it comes time to hand out Oscar nominations.

A less frequently asked question: When is Tyler Perry going to win an Oscar?

Most people would probably answer that question by replying, “Never,” and they could very well be correct.  I have to admit that I’ve never actually sat through any of Tyler’s Perry’s films and, to be honest, I’ve never really had any desire to.  That said, I’ve always been fascinated by Perry’s success and I can’t help but admire the fact that he’s not shy when it comes to self-promotion.

In the upcoming Alex Cross, Tyler Perry will step into a role that was previously played by Morgan Freeman and, if nothing else, it’ll add fuel to the debate as to whether or not Perry is a legitimate acting talent or just a smart businessman.  To be honest, the trailer for Alex Cross plays less like a movie trailer and more like a commercial for a movie on Chiller.  I think that’s largely because of the presence of TV-movie mainstays like Matthew Fox and John C. McGinley.  Still, chances are, Alex Cross will be the first exposure that I (and a lot of other people) get to Tyler Perry as an actor as opposed to just a personality. 

Poll: Which Films Are You Most Looking Forward to Seeing In August?


Last month, we asked you what film you were most looking forward to in July and not surprisingly, The Dark Knight Rises was the clear winner.

This month, we ask you which films you’re most looking forward to seeing in August.  You can vote for up to four films and, as always, write-in votes are happily accepted.

Vote often!

A Warning From The Past: Six Murderous Beliefs


I don’t know about you but I love watching those old short films from the 50s, 60s, and 70s that were designed to terrify my mom and dad into living a safe, upright, drug-free, patriotic, and community-centric life.  These were the short films that were designed to make sure that everyone understood just what exactly the wages of sin were. 

What I love about these films is just how melodramatic and judgmental they often were.  It wasn’t enough, apparently, to point out that people occasionally made mistakes.  No, instead, every mistake had to be accompanied by a very judgmental narrator saying things like, “No, Jimmy didn’t think before ran across that street.  And now, he’s dead.”

Seriously, if I had been raised on a steady diet of these films, I would be even more of a fragile, neurotic little thing than I am now!

One of my favorites of these films is presented below.  Clocking in at nearly 12 minutes, the classic 1955 scare film Six Murderous Beliefs is designed to make sure that we understand that not only are young people stupid but they’re dangerous as well.  The film presents 6 examples of people foolishly believing one of 6 beliefs that are (as the narrator informs us), “wanted for … MURDER!”  My personal favorite is the second example just because I’ve had the exact same conversation with my sister Erin.

(I also love how, during the first example, the pilot so clearly despises the jock who doesn’t want to wear a parachute.)

And remember … “One of these beliefs might be about to murder you!  So watch carefully…”

 

Trash Film Guru Vs. The Summer Blockbusters : “Men In Black 3”


Right out of the gate, Men In Black 3 feels dated. Not like something out of the 1960s, which is when most of this film’s story is set, but like something out of the late 90s/early 2000s. Director Barry Sonnenfeld —- who’s had a hell of a time getting other projects off the ground in Hollywood despite helming up two incredibly successful “blockbuster” franchises (MIB and The Addams Family — just in case, like apparently most studio execs, you’d forgotten) — jumps into this thing with so much gusto that you’ll forget within minutes that it’s actually been 10 years since Will Smith’s Agent J and Tommy Lee Jones’ Agent K ran around chasing men from Mars (and even further afield) across the silver screen.

Oh, sure, a lot’s happened in that decade as far as the principals here are concerned — Smith’s been pretty quiet the last few years, for one thing, and Jones has aged pretty visibly and is more or less consigned to supporting roles these days (including here, given that his younger 1960s alter ego, played with impeccable precision by Josh Brolin, actually gets far more screen time than Jones’ present-day version), but it’s pretty clear that when it comes to carrying the load in big-budget brainless summer fare, neither of them has left a step — nor has Sonnenfeld, who puts his foot down on the gas immediately and never once lets up long enough to allow us to do the one thing that’s guaranteed to pulverize the credibility of any glitzy megamiilion-dollar Hollywood FX extravaganza : think.

And ya know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sure, there’s some sappy “bromance”-type crap shoehorned in here, and a love-interest subplot involving the Agent Ks of both the swingin’ Sixties and the present day, but that’s all fine and good too in the limited doses tha Sonnenfeld serves them up. By and large, though, to the shock of absolutely no one, this flick is all about big, flashy, lighthearted, comedic fun, and that’s something that’s sorely been lacking in the midst of all these dour summer movies this year, like Prometheus, for instance, that take themselves just sooooooo seriously.

Men In Black 3, quite clearly, doesn’t, and that’s perhaps its greatest virtue.The plot’s pretty basic time travel stuff — J goes back in time to prevent K from being killed, various hijinks ensue — but this is one of those films that isn’t so much concerned with doing anything new as it is just doing what everybody and their brother (or sister, or cousin) knows it’s there to do and doing it well. Give us a likable cast, some cool eye-candy effects, a couple little nifty quirks like Andy Warhol actually being a “Man In Black” himself, and you know what? You’ve got the recipe for a very familiar, but nonetheless pleasant, little serving of celluloid. It’s not at all filling on an intellectual, or frankly even artistic, level, but come one — does everything absolutely need to be? Sometimes you just want to go out to the movies, shut your brain off, and have a good time. If that’s the kind of mood you’re in, there’s nothing else out there this summer that will satisfy you quite like Men In Black 3.

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night: Head (dir. by Bob Rafelson)


Last night, I turned over to TCM and I watched the 1968 film Head.

Why Was I Watching It?

Though Head was a notorious box office bomb when it was released in 1968, it has since become notorious as one of the most incomprehensible movies ever made.  Every book that I’ve ever read about film or pop culture in the 1960s makes mention of Head.  Not only was the film written by a pre-Easy Rider Jack Nicholson, but the film also featured The Monkees literally acting out against their stardom by committing career suicide by appearing the film that was apparently conceived while Nicholson and director Bob Rafelson were tripping on LSD.  I’ve read about Head in dozens of books and I’ve seen it described as being “a surreal masterpieces,” “an incomprehensible, pretentious mess,” and “a total head trip of a film.”  Having now seen the film, I can say that’s all true. 

I do have to admit that before I saw Head, I didn’t know who the Monkees were.  Don’t get me wrong — I knew that there was a band in the 60s called The Monkees and I knew that they had their own TV show.  Thanks to the fact that The Brady Bunch Movie played on cable for like two months straight earlier this year, I knew which one was Davey Jones.  But, that was about it.  Even after seeing Head, I’m still not really sure I could tell you which was one was Mickey Dolenz and which one was Peter Tork.  I also have to admit that I spent the first half of the film referring to Michael Nesmith as the “Texan with the sideburns.”

Fortunately, I watched Head with two wonderful groups of people on twitter — the TCM Party and the Drive-In Mob.  They came together last night and provided a very entertaining live tweet session devoted to the film.  Unlike me, they actually knew one Monkee from another and following their tweets helped me survive the film’s rough first half.  To all of them, I say “Thank you for the education.”

What’s It About?

That’s not an easy question to answer but I’ll try.

The Monkees jump off a bridge and plunge into the psychedelic waters below but they’re saved from drowning by a bunch of mermaids.  This, of course, leads to the four members of the groups finding themselves in scenes from a war film, a boxing film, a western film, and eventually they discover that they’re actually dandruff on the head of actor Victor Mature.  Ultimately, they end up wandering around on a studio backlot where they’re menaced by veteran scary actor  Timothy Carey and an ominous black box that seems to intent on trapping them.  The Monkees react to this by running for their lives, complaining to Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson about the script, and telling everyone that they meet that they’re just actors in a film.  Eventually, it appears that the Monkees don’t have any options left beyond committing public suicide but Rafelson has other ideas…

What Worked?

If you’re as obsessed with pop cultural history as I am, Head is one of those films that simply you have to see.  Even if you find the film to be totally incomprehensible and just a tad bit pretentious, Head is a valuable artifact of its time.  Head is a film that could have only been made in the late 60s and it epitomizes everything about the age that produced it.  It’s like a cinematic Pompeii.

Now, I have to admit that most of the enjoyment I got out of the first half of the film came more from my own curiosity as a secret history nerd than from the film itself.  However, the second half of the film is often times genuinely entertaining.  The satire is a bit sharper and the overall theme (i.e., the struggle to maintain your own unique individuality in a world that demands conformity) starts emerge from the film’s mix of surreal images.

For me, the film really picked up with Davy Jones’ performance of Daddy’s Song:

The woman dancing with Davy Jones was Toni Basil, who choreographed all the dance numbers in this film.

Here’s another sequence that I particularly enjoyed.  This came towards the end of the film and, as I said on twitter, who doesn’t enjoy a little psychedelic dancing?

What Did Not Work?

While Head had all the virtues of its time, it also had all the flaws.  It’s a definite hit-and-miss affair, with the stronger (and occasionally insightful) moments uneasily balanced with plenty of sequences that dragged.  As you may have guessed, Head is the type of film that’s brilliant if you’re in the mood for it but it’s rather annoying if you’re not.

 

“Oh my God! Just like me!” Moments

I would have loved to have been Toni Basil, dancing with Davy Jones in the Daddy’s Song number.

Lessons Learned

Watching Head, I realized that I had discovered this year’s perfect Christmas present.  I’m going to get a 100 copies of Head on DVD and give them out to everyone I know.  That way, I’ll have an excuse to call everyone up in November and tell them, “Don’t worry, I’m giving you Head for Christmas.”  I think, if nothing else, that’ll make me a very popular girl come December.

Song of the Day: Smoke Without Fire


How much do I love the 2009 film An Education?

I love it so much that I once unfollowed someone on twitter when he said that he hated it.  And even though I eventually refollowed the guy, it was on the condition that he rewatch An Education and fall in love with the film.  Unfortunately, shortly after he promised to do just that, he announced that he felt that Rooney Mara was a better Girl with the Dragon Tattoo than Noomi Rapace and I had to unfollow him and his xenophobic film criticism.  So, I’m not sure if he’s rewatched An Education but I doubt it.

As you may have guessed, I love An Education.  It’s one of my favorite films of the past few years.  The rest of you can have your Rooney Mara and your Avatar.  I’m more than happy to watch and rewatch An Education, thank you very much.

Today’s song of the day plays over the end credits of An Education and, with its retro feel and smoky lyrics, it provides a perfect ending to a great film.  Performed by Duffy and written by Duffy and Bernard Butler, Smoke Without Fire is the song of the day for June 29th, 2012.

Trailer: Frankenweenie


I have to admit that I’m not a huge fun of Tim Burton’s and I found Dark Shadows to be a bit forgettable but I am looking forward to seeing Frankenweenie.  To be honest, I suspect that Burton’s vision is better translated in animated form and, if nothing else, it looks like this film might inspire me to shed more than a few tears. 

Here’s the 2nd trailer for Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie.