Monday Morning @ the Movies … done?

Of course, right after I decide to end the “Monday Morning @ the Movies” weekly feature due to low readership (compared to other posts), I get emails asking where it is today.

If you want it back, just let me know. I’m very accomodating to loyal readers. That being said, if you want a particular post on ANYTHING movie or TV related, write a comment on one of the posts. If you want posts on music, you’ll have to negotiate with BK.

Stay tuned for the November Sweeps TV Discussion coming soon, which will involve discussions on the recent bad news for “Community” and “Cougar Town” and predictions on which of your favorite shows will be dead by May.



I love zombie movies.  That is purely a statement of fact.  I love the uber-serious ones like 28 Days Later.  I love the zombie comedies like Shaun of the Dead.  I love the campy ones like Dead Snow.  I love them all equally an wholeheartedly.

There is a new indie zombie flick coming out called Juan of the Dead about a group trying to rid Havana of a zombie infestation.  It looks like its using the Shaun of the Dead approach and mixing in equal parts horror and laughs.  The problem is that it was filmed in Cuba!  It is the communist country’s first horror movie.  What makes the story even better is that the filmmaker behind it, Alejandro Bruges, had to smuggle in a bunch of the props and latex for the actors.  This is indie film making at its finest.  I just hope someone out there will be able to smuggle me in a copy.

(via Boing Boing)


Big Comedy Goes Indie

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Every summer there are films with giant explosions, robots, cowboys, aliens, monsters, monsters vs. aliens, cowboys vs. aliens, and little independent film gems with big name comedy stars. While you generally know what to expect with anything directed by Michael Bay (“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”) or produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (“Pirates of the Caribbean 4”), it’s the little indie films with big names that can either bomb or become huge commercial/critical successes (think: Steve Carrell in “Little Miss Sunshine” and Jim Carrey in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” as successes)

If marketing companies get it right, they get young men, ages 18 to 34 to say “WHOA! THERE’S A NEW WILL FERRELL MOVIE! IT’S GONNA BE AWESOME!!!!!” and indie movie fans and older people to say “Will Ferrell is playing an alcoholic dealing with the disintegration of his life and relationships … sounds like a potential Oscar nomination!” while neither comes close to think what the other is thinking.

The result: “Everything Must Go” starring Will Ferrell.

How did it do? Not well, my friends … not well. It came out in June 2011, expanded beyond New York and L.A. to cities such as Omaha and then left within two weeks. After five weeks, it has made $2.5 million on a very low for Will Ferrell $5 million budget.

But, it’s the summer and the studio execs call this “counterprogramming” so let’s try again:

How will “Our Idiot Brother” (starring Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, and Zooey Deschanel) do? Well, what do you think? Hilarious comedy? (Ehh…) Heartwarming family drama? (Ehh …) We shall see.

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Rebound (Not the Martin Lawrence Movie)

Steven Spielberg is set to re-take over the world, both in cinemas (as executive producer of J.J. Abrams’ critically well received (so far) “Super 8” and as director of both “The Adventures of Tintin” and “War Horse” in December) and television (executive producer of both TNT’s new alien series “Falling Skies” starring Noah Wyle and FOX’s ambitious dinosaur time travel drama “Terra Nova”). This column could focus on his great achievements, his Oscars, or his humanitarian work for Holocaust victims … but it doesn’t. Instead, it focuses on how when Spielberg makes a bad decision (2010’s “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”, also discussed here), he immediately bounces back. The man is a machine.

Falling Skies (Starting soon on TNT)

To prove my point, let’s go back to 1989 when Spielberg directed “Always”, a sappy romantic drama that made the second least money of any Spielberg movie in the past 25 years. He also started work on “Hook”, the Peter Pan drama starring Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, and Julia Roberts (when she was in her “crash and burn” career phase). While I thoroughly enjoyed “Hook,” (RUFIO! RUFIO! RU-FI-OOOOO!) it had an extremely high budget for the time and ranks as Spielberg’s worst reviewed film in his 40-year career. Undeserved low praise, but the man needed a rebound.

Then came 1993, the greatest year ever for a film director. Spielberg directed both “Jurassic Park” and “Schindler’s List” and proved he could be commercially and critically untouchable in two movies within a single year. This is an impressive feat and one Michael Bay likely aspires to but will never reach.

Spielberg then took a 4-year break from directing before “The Lost World” in 1997. Is the movie horrible? No (it’s certainly not “Jurassic Park 3”). Is the movie anything close to the smartly written Michael Crichton novel? Oh god no. Spielberg threw away the novel and remade the classic “The Lost World” movie about a dinosaur running rampant through a city. Akin to, and less successful than, “King Kong” (and without the racial commentary about bringing a big, black ape in a cage to America on a boat), it lost a lot of the wonder of “Jurassic Park.”  As in 1993, Spielberg also released a ‘prestige’ film in 1997, but “Amistad” + “The Lost World” came nowhere near to the commercial or critical successes of “Schindler’s List” + “Jurassic Park.”

So, what did Spielberg do? Did he give up? No. He directed “Saving Private Ryan”,  one of the greatest films of all time. Still, he must have pissed off someone because I will never forgive the Academy for giving best picture to “Shakespeare in Love” instead. Just embarrassing.

What does this all amount to? Well, even if you all tell me Indiana Jones 4 sucked (which you all did here), I know that Spielberg is set for a heck of a rebound.

Sean Penn hunts down Nazi refugees

When the fearless leader of that essence rare asked me to contribute my movie insight to this blog, my guess is that he wanted discussion on movies where you have to go “WTF is going on!?!?” Well, after my initial posts on Broadway movie adaptations, Disney, vampires, billion-dollar-earning action movies, here’s something to talk about:

Sean Penn … Frances McDormand … and the overall essence of “WTF is going on!?!?”

PLOT (not that you’ll get it from this excerpt that screened at the Cannes Film Festival):  A bored, retired rock star sets out to find his father’s executioner, an ex-Nazi war criminal who is a refugee in the U.S.

Michael Rapaport’s Tribe Documentary

Breaking news (in the sense that I just heard about it)!  Michael Rapaport has debuted his A Tribe Called Quest documentary called Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest at the Sundance Film Festival.  You who he is right?  He’s the guy at the top of the page (with Tribe member Phife).  He was on Prison Break for a while and he had an arc on My Name is Earl.  You know what, it doesn’t matter.  The point is the footage that he has been collecting since 2008 has finally been turned into a movie.  It chronicles the Tribe’s reunion tour, 2008’s Rock the Bells.

For those who are not familiar A Tribe Called Quest (rappers Q-Tip and Phife Dawg and DJ/produce Ali Shaheed Muhammed) put out five albums between 1990 and 1998 and were highly regarded for their fusion of hip hop and jazz.  Along with contemporaries, and fellow Native Tongues members De La Soul, they pushed a more positive form of hip hop that was less concerned with the gangster lifestyle of drugs and guns and more focused on musicality and wordplay.  After releasing several albums regarded as classics, especially 1991’s The Low End Theory, they split in 1998 after the release of the Grammy nominated The Love Movement.

Interestingly, Rapaport, who for some reason seems have exceptionally strong ties to the hip hop community despite being about the most Irish looking thing I have ever seen, has been feuding with the most visible member of the Tribe, Q-Tip, about the film.  Apparently, someone isn’t too pleased with the film’s editing.  I have a feeling the final product made him look like kind of a dick and hes whining about it.  It sounds like the group has a pretty self centered dynamic.  According to Rapaport, at no one time was he ever in the same room as all the group members despite filming for over two years.  Phife was the only member of the group to actually go the film’s Sundance premier.  To be honest, this only makes me want to see it more.  No news yet on what kind of release it will get.  More on that later if I feel like digging for more info.

Thanks to my crack reporting team for bringing this to my attention.

Pictured:  My reporting staff.

Vampires: No Glitter Edition

Tomorrow is an important day in the history of vampires.

Stop getting excited ladies, a new “Twilight” movie is not being released. I don’t mean vampires who wear glitter and eyeshadow (which should be reserved solely for movie men playing Goblin Kings). I mean real vampires – the ones you’re supposed to be afraid of, the ones who are driven away by garlic because it kills them, not because it would kill their breath when trying to make out with a mortal girl (or a shirtless werewolf).

On May 26, 1897, Bram Stoker first published “Dracula” and, in honor of when vampires kept their shirts on, I intend to start reading it tomorrow. Dracula holds a special place in my heart, as it was the first R-rated movie I saw. I was at a sleepover  and, after a long day of baseball and eating my body weight in cake, we turned off all of the lights and put on “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” the version starring cinematic genius Keanu Reeves. I was eleven years old and scared out of my mind. Less than a week later, I saw “The Silence of the Lambs” (my second R-rated movie starring Anthony Hopkins) and am very surprised I do not have a life-long fear of Anthony Hopkins or all English men in general.

In honor of the first edition of Dracula, here are some fun facts from that empirical research Web site all of my students cite exclusively, Wikipedia:

– Despite being the most well-known vampire novel, Dracula was not the first. It was preceded and partly inspired by Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1871 “Carmilla”, about a lesbian vampire who preys on a lonely young woman

– As of 2009, an estimated 217 films feature Dracula in a major role, a number second only to Sherlock Holmes (223 films).

– It has been suggested that Stoker was influenced by the history of Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who was born in the Kingdom of Hungary. Bathory is suspected to have tortured and killed anywhere between 36 and 700 young women over a period of many years, and it was commonly believed that she committed these crimes in order to bathe in or drink their blood, believing that this preserved her youth.

The Rubber Beaver of Life

Time to preview three little Summer 2011 movies. Now, you might be saying: “That Essence Rare, I already saw “Jumping the Broom” and “Something Borrowed.” How can summer get any better?” To you, I reply … get the hell off this blog. You are embarrassing yourself. To the rest of you, here are three movies (maybe good, maybe awful) that will be coming soon to a theatre near you. Especially if the theatre near you is an independent arts theatre in Omaha.

RUBBER (May 20-21 at Dundee Theatre in Omaha)

For those of you in the world who won’t be in, say, Las Vegas on May 20-21, you should go see the cult classic in the making “Rubber.” It’s the story of Robert.  As Robert roams the desert, “he discovers that he possesses terrifying telepathic powers that give him the ability to destroy anything he wishes without having to move. At first content to prey on small desert creatures and various discarded objects, his attention soon turns to humans, especially a beautiful and mysterious woman who crosses his path.” Oh, just so we’re clear, Robert is a car tire. Yes, a tire. Genius, eh? Check out the trailer.

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Disney Trademarks “Seal Team 6”

On Saturday, I learned that The Walt Disney Company has trademarked the phase “Seal Team 6” to make, according to records, clothing, footwear, headwear, toys, games and “entertainment and education services.” Because, let’s be honest, when breaking news interrupted “The Celebrity Apprentice” to let me know Osama bin Laden had been killed the first thing I thought was, “Hmm… can I get that in a rainbow headband and an open-toed sandal?”

But, let’s not jump to conclusions here. Maybe it’s just a coincidence. Perhaps the Walt Disney Company has been hard at work on a rip-off of “Happy Feet” where, instead of penguins, an elite group of six seals learn to express their loneliness in the cold winter through interpretative dance. For a studio that made “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” anything is possible.


It Can Be Fixed!

I am honored to begin as a regular contributor to this blog, expanding it from just music. However, like the first day at any job, there’s always that worry you are going to make a bad first impression. What should my first topic be? The 10,000th story about whether Katie Holmes is pregnant, not pregnant, or a soulless robot programmed take over our lives? No. Too trashy. Perhaps comments on the rise (and stagnation) of Paul Giamatti, recently starring in the excellent film “Win Win”? No. Too film critic-y and, yes, I’m making that a word.

Just when I was about to lose hope, I found the idea was staring me in the face. I had been sitting in an airport, staring at a young lady with the body of a Hollywood actress (namely, Precious), when (and I’m not making this up), she bent over to grab the scoop of ice cream that fell from her cone at 9am, revealing a sign behind her for “Catch Me If You Can: The Musical!”

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