Movie Karaoke

I’m not really a fan of karaoke.  I get annoyed when I go to a bar and discover that it’s karaoke night.  If I want to listen to a song, I’ll listen to a good version, not some terrible cover by a drunk chick who really loves Total Eclipse of the Heart.  Maybe I’m a stuffy jackass who is incapable of having fun, but that’s just how I feel.

Last night I went to a midnight movie showing of The Princess Bride.  Now I don’t expect a midnight movie crowd to behave in the way I expect a general release crowd to behave.  I’ll put up with people shouting at the screen at certain points or behaving like little kids who suddenly are without adult supervision.  Unfortunately, last night’s showing was in a tiny theater (really more of a screening room) that only seats 30 people.  That meant I was stuck two rows behind a group of eight to ten morons who had to recite every line of dialogue along with the characters.

I dealt with it as best I could and tried to enjoy it.  It was impossible.  I don’t want to hear a bunch of snarky 20-somethings chant along with Mandy Patinkin as he proclaims, “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die.”

Before you say I should have known better and expected this behavior out of a midnight movie crowd, I’ll just say that I am a midnight movie veteran.  I’ve encountered problems before, but they were movies where I expected problems.  After going to see Monty Python and the Holy Grail, I knew never to see a midnight movie where the cult around it has built up because the film had been turned into audience participation.  I didn’t expect this kind of reaction to something as charming and innocuous as The Princess Bride.  Maybe this is something that has built up around the film that I was not aware of, but I doubt it.  The film still stands on its own and is much funnier when Wallace Shawn is spitting out his ridiculous lines and not idiots who are only entertaining themeslves.

posted by Matt Wedge in Uncategorized and have Comments (2)

Cyclists Need Protection

I suppose this post comes perilously close to violating the middle P of our No PPR pledge (No porn, politics, or religion) here at The Parallax Blog.  Still, this is a subject I’m passionate about, so I figured I’d risk it.

Under Mayor Bloomberg, New York City has greatly expanded the number of bike lanes.  This should seem like a no brainer in terms of being a good idea.  But then I read this.  My reaction to the complaints of the drivers tends to run along the lines of: What a bunch of whiny bitches.

Let me explain up front: I do not live in New York City.  But as a cyclist who depends on his bike for daily transportation, I believe you can never have enough bike lanes.  The simple fact of the matter is that bike lanes save lives.  When I lived in Chicago, I rode my bike all over the city.  With the wide streets and many miles of bike lanes, I was reasonably safe.  I had some near misses with drivers and did take a pretty hard hit when I was doored by a guy in a cab who didn’t understand the concept of a bike lane, but for the most part, I had a pretty safe run of it for as much as I rode.  I have since moved to a smaller city in Connecticut.  There are precious few bike lanes here and I get paranoid when I ride because I’ve had so many near misses in a short amount of time.  Even when I don’t see my life flash before my eyes, the drivers seem to believe that yelling death threats are a good method of getting me to ride on the sidewalk.

Don’t get me wrong, most drivers leave me alone.  But there is a very vocal minority that seek to intimidate for seemingly no good reason.  It seems that vocal minority is making waves in NYC, trying to get the city to remove the lanes that makes biking safer for all cyclists.  The kind of anger that these anti-bike lane groups are nursing is what leads to incidents like this.

If you’re a driver and can’t stand the fact that you have to wait an extra five minutes to get where you’re going because a bike lane is saving lives, then you have some serious issues in your life that eliminating that bike lane is not going to fix.  These people need to grow up and learn how to share the road.

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The Dungeonmaster

Several years ago, I had my first exposure to a little-seen anthology film called The Dungeonmaster.  A combination of directors who have brought us such goofy films as The Puppetmaster series, the Ghoulies series, and Laserblast toiled on the story of a nerdy computer programmer who is zapped into a Dungeons & Dragons-esque gaming world and becomes the plaything of Mestema, a Satanic figure played by Richard Moll (Bull from Night Court).

I was not exposed to the film itself, which was pretty hard to come by, but by an audio clip a friend made of Richard Moll reciting the greatest monologue in the history of cinema: I Remember When I Was a Lad…

Operating under the delusion that the film provided some sort of context for this disturbing yet awesome description of animal cruelty, I immediately leaped onto Amazon.com and bought a cheap VHS copy of The Dungeonmaster.  It disappointed me to learn that the monologue is pretty much self-contained.  It has nothing to do with the story, characters, or anything else.  I like to believe Moll ad-libbed this while practicing his Orson Welles impression.

At any rate, The Dungeonmaster just popped up on Netflix’s Instant Queue, if anyone’s interested in a terrible anthology film with one spectacular, nonsensical moment.

posted by D. B. Bates in Uncategorized and have Comment (1)

Muppets!

I was a kid when the original Muppet Show was on the air.  At the age of five, the idea of appointment television was alien to me, but I knew damn well I had to watch the Muppets.  My love for all things Beaker, Swedish Chef, Gonzo & Camilla, and Kermit-related carried over to The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, and The Muppets Take Manhattan. And then the great Jim Henson died.  His creations passed hands from one ownership group to another.  New, annoying characters were added.  The Muppets were grafted on to established stories (The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island) in an uninspired attempt to make a fast buck.  Eventually, a new variety show was launched in the mid-90’s that lacked all the creative spark of the original.

Last year, the Siskel Film Center featured a 35mm print of The Muppet Movie and you know what?  It holds up as great entertainment.

I had already heard about the new Muppet movie project that was in the works.  I had little hope for it until I found out Jason Segel was writing it.  I’ve been a fan of Segel’s all the way back to Freaks and Geeks and the man obviously has a love for puppetry (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) that isn’t just based in irony.  I don’t know if he’ll be able to pull off a return to the glory days, but this picture makes me misty-eyed and only increases the odds that I will be crushed when the movie is finally released and proves to be just as bad as all the crap that came out in the 90’s.

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Remake The Toxic Avenger? Really?

Apparently this was announced last April and I just missed it.  It seems that now the studios have moved on to pillaging Troma films.  Now, I’m no big fan of the studio or its output.  I’ve never been a big fan of self-consciously campy movies, but do the powers that be (in this case, Akiva Goldsman–insert your Batman and Robin jokes here) really think that people are going to see a remake of The Toxic Avenger?

I actually like Steve Pink.  I enjoyed what he did with Hot Tub Time Machine and I think he managed to make Accepted work a lot better than it had any right to.  But I have to wonder just what he thinks he’s going to pull off here?  I suppose he might make me eat my words, but this just seems like a horrible idea.  Not because the original is a classic (it’s not, it’s a piece of crap), but because no one wants to see this.  This is the remake equivalent of adapting comic books that only hard-core comic nerds are familiar with.  The non-fans have no interest in watching it and the comic nerds will only be outraged.  How about pursuing some original scripts for a change?

Am I alone in understanding that this is lunacy?

posted by Matt Wedge in Uncategorized and have Comment (1)

“Scott Pilgrim” Thoughts

Technical difficulties this week prevented me from voicing my thoughts on Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, so I thought I’d do it here.

I didn’t love the film as much as Matt did, but I did like it a lot.  It felt like a goofy comic-book walking tour of my early 20s, steeped in metaphors based on the emotions of that time in my life.  I have a suspicion that (in addition to the awful trailer) is why it failed at the box office.  They were marketing it toward the high school and college crowd, but the film works better if you have some self-awareness and emotional distance.  The film is largely ridiculing the way men and women behave at this time in their lives–everyone in the movie is sort of a horrible person, with the possible exception of Knives Chau (who’s pretty much delusional).  People in their late teens and early 20s have that heady combination of feeling like they know everything and like they’re completely invincible, physically and emotionally.  A film that mostly mocks them will just make them angry.  “This movie doesn’t get it, maaaaan.”

But it does.  Oh, does it ever.  Despite the goofy, over-the-top nature of the film, this film has more moments of truth and sparked more bad memories than any romantic comedy that’s come out in the past decade.  Maybe it’s too hard to market a film about 22-year-olds to an older crowd, or maybe Universal just doesn’t want to market to anyone older than 25.  I’m not sure.  That would certainly explain why they make so many shitty movies about 40-year-olds acting like emotionally unstable 15-year-olds.

At any rate, the humanity of the story is what really made it work for me, although Edgar Wright uses every visual trick in his arsenal to make the film look like nothing I’ve ever seen before.  No amount of sugary gloss can polish a turd, but there’s a solid story and interesting, well-acted characters.  I also appreciated Wright for not fetishizing the characters’ nerdiness.  Their nerdy interests are simply a part of who they are–nobody takes pride in their geekiness, nobody has long-winded Kevin Smith pop-culture combinations to prove their geeky street cred.  As a nerd, I’m kind of sick of “geek chic” pandering to my alleged interests.  To paraphrase Seymour in Ghost World: “Why would I want someone who shares my interests?  I hate my interests.”

My major gripe is mainly theoretical.  I liked this movie a lot because I related to it.  As a nerdy male who played in bands and dated an unending rabble of chaotic women, this felt like a wacky variation of my own personal story.  However, not everyone is me, and I honestly didn’t feel like the film did a great job of making itself available to outsiders.  It’s very esoteric, and Scott and Ramona remain ciphers for most of the film.  So I can easily understand moviegoers not buying into the central relationship.  If you can’t relate to that particular attraction, the film doesn’t do the greatest job of selling it.  It simply wants us to accept that this character we barely know is obsessed with this other character we barely know for reasons that don’t merely involve her crazy hair and nice rack.

I did like the movie a lot, though.  Hopefully, it’ll find a nice audience on DVD.

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Conan Lives!

Did anyone else watch Conan last night? It felt like a solid start, not outstanding, but definitely better than his first Tonight Show episode. There were some good laughs with the opening “Last season on Conan” video and he immediately brought out the Masturbating Bear to good effect. His energy was high and it looked like he was having fun, which was infectious. I just wish the interview segments didn’t feel so stilted. Seth Rogen was entertaining, but the interview with Lea Michele just dragged on for what felt like forever (that could be my problem, I really can’t stand Glee). I even enjoyed the rockabilly number with Jack White (and I normally can’t stand him).

I’m kind of glad to see that he doesn’t seem to be trying to reinvent the late night talk show–he’s just trying to do a good version of it. It wasn’t as good as the height of his Late Night days or the anarchic end of his run on The Tonight Show, but it was still better than the other late night talk shows currently on the air. Given his track record, I’m optimistic that he’ll only improve.

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Cue the Bittersweet Symphonies

I have officially bought my second to last Harry Potter midnight showing ticket. And I do so with the utmost of excited, anxiety and sadness. He’s the boy who lived, yet as of July 2011, won’t anymore. Once I finally decide to visit Orlando for the first time, there will literally be no new Harry things to do.

No books, no movies and alas, no theme park. After a love affair for the past 12 years, it’s about to end.

“But the airwaves are clean and there’s nobody singing to me now”

Bittersweet Symphony

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Life Wish

In doing research for the Death Wish sequel reviews I’ll be writing all month long, I learned that Jill Ireland (Charles Bronson’s wife and costar of Death Wish 2) died of breast cancer. During her long struggle with the disease, she wrote a memoir called Life Wish.

Against my better judgment, I laughed. Hard.

As someone who has seen all five Death Wish films and is a bona fide fan of at least two of them, I can’t really think of anything sillier. Well, Once Upon a Time in the Breast would be sillier, but you know what I mean. It just strikes me as inappropriate to reference one of the most gleefully violent film franchises in history in the title of a serious book about battling breast cancer. I know Bronson was her husband, but still…

Am I the world’s worst person for thinking Life Wish is a really absurd, amusing title? Or am I the world’s worst person for “Once Upon a Time in the Breast“? You decide!

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And I continue to bang the drum for Winter’s Bone

I’ll be the first to admit that I have probably driven all my family and friends insane with my never-ending appeals for people to check out Winter’s Bone.  Luckily for everyone, I’ve found yet another outlet to gush about the film:

http://newhavenreview.com/index.php/2010/11/07/2010s-best-movie-winters-bone/

Hopefully, I’ll have this out of my system by the time awards season is in full swing.  But I doubt it.

posted by Matt Wedge in Uncategorized and have No Comments