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Grrrrr….Arrrrggh…Buffy heads to big screen without Whedon or Gellar

26 May

buffy

May 26th, 2009-

It’s been an interesting coincidence that as several of the new series reboots have been hitting theaters, I’ve been making my way through an old one for the first time. Having more or less yawned my way through the 1992 theatrical film Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and being underwhelmed by the t.v. pilot in winter of 97, I never watched the Joss Whedon helmed t.v. series of the same name. And, as I’ve come to realize in recent months, that was my loss.

Whedon created a strong cast of characters that formed a tight-knit community and as inventive as his monsters and fiends were, they always took a back seat to the woes of teenage high-school life. When the characters moved beyond high-school and took on college and the work-force, the show moved with them. It was constantly changing and shifting–not in tone, only in theme –and it was growing, not violently rearranging itself. What I see now, is that Buffy the Vampire Slayer, despite its groan-inducing title and long running stint on the teen-burial-ground that was the WB, was one of the best shows to ever grace the television screen. And as I watched Terminator and Star Trek get a new lease on life, I wondered if Whedon would ever see fit to give us a big-budget Buffy movie.

And, it looks like part of that wish is coming true, but the rest of it is so off-base I’d just as soon not have heard this. Buffy, it seems is going (back) to the big-screen, with the director of the awful first film at the helm and it’s proceeding forward without Whedon, Gellar, and the rest of the cast. O.k., so it won’t attempt to touch the t.v. series, which is a good thing, but this reboot doesn’t make much sense. I don’ t know if Whedon or Gellar or anyone else were approached about this, or considered it, but I always thought the purpose of a reboot was to improve or jump-start a franchise which had run out of steam. We already HAD the Buffy reboot, back in 97. That’s the version that has fans, not the 92 mess. And Buffy didn’t just fade out with lousy final seasons. It finished strong, and during it’s seven year run, only season 4 was not quite up to snuff. If I didn’t think Whedon couldn’t find another interesting story to tell with the original cast, fine, but I think he easily could. Right now, this sounds not only unnecessary but a heart-breaker for those fans of the show that were holding out hope that one day Buffy and the Scoobies would make their way to the big screen.

Bummer.

Read the Empire Online account of this travesty HERE.

 

Ok, so who has seen Terminator: Salvation? Lets hear! How was it?

22 May

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Heres the deal. I was hoping to see Terminator: Salvation last night, but my wife wasn’t feeling well so we stayed back and caught up on a few other films I had lying about. Thing is, the critical response to this one is brutal. No one is calling it awful, save for a few passionate voices, but it sounds like it might be even worse than awful–mediocre. I’ve been hearing lots of things, but not much from the regular movie-going public. What do you guys think about it?

I want to hear from as many as have seen it. If you want to drop full-out reviews, that’s cool, or just a line or two in the comments. If you have a link to another blog, send it by. I’m going to see this weekend regardless, but I thought it would be cool to see how united or disconnected the typical audience reaction is compared to the critical reaction.

So lets hear it! Is Terminator: Salvation a beacon of Professionalism or is it just a flippin’ amateur?

 

Gilliam’s Parnassus enchants at Cannes and the reviews are coming in!

22 May
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Christopher Plummer as the titular character in Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

 Terry Gilliam is one of the most unique directors working today. Alas, just because he has been working today, doesn’t mean there has been much fruit as of late. Mostly, it’s not his fault. The infamous The Man Who Killed Don Quixote with Jean Rochefort and Johnny Depp crumbled under events outside of his control. His follow-up film The Brothers Grimm was entertaining enough but it was hacked and hampered by the Weinstein Bros and his next venture, Tideland, felt like the artist in meltdown mode. He was cramming every irreverant idea he had into a thin little whisp of a movie and without any sort of constraints it exploded into delirious, over-cooked pieces.

Then, he began work on The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, an all-out folk fantasy with a great cast; Christopher Plummer, Heath Ledger, and Tom Waits. It sounded like the kind of great stuff that had made me fall in love with the man’s work originally. I still consider his trilogy of Time Bandits, Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen to be some of the finest examples of fantasy filmmaking ever concieved.

When Ledger died, it seemed like the curse of Gilliam had struck again. But, remarkably, Parnassus was raised from the ashes like a Pheonix when Depp, Law and Farrell came alongside Gilliam and allowed him to finish making the movie by playing different facets of Ledger’s character, and donating all of their salary to Heath’s family in the process.

So this week, the amazing happened. A new Gilliam film premiered at Cannes. And so far, the word is great. Right now the idea of a great new Gilliam movie is a bit overwhelming. All of the current reviews, including ones written prior to Cannes, are available below. I’ll keep updating as they come in.

Variety’s Todd McCarthy gives Gilliam his due HERE.

Kenneth Turan applauds Parnassus and Gilliam’s gumption HERE.

Aint It Cool News’ Harry Knowles cheerfully slobbers over it HERE.

Another AICN alumn, Quint, calls Parnassus “unadulterated Gilliam” HERE.

Half Blood Prince conjures up new featurette

21 May

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This summer is turning out to be something of a mixed bag. There are several interesting movies hitting in May, but after that anything of substance is scattered over the following three months. Of those remainder, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is probably the one I’m looking most forward to, at least as big blockbusters go.  Bringing back David Yates, the director of the quite good last installment, Prince goes both darker and lighter places than its predecessors. Theres more humor, more teen interaction and a graver sense of peril for both the human and wizard worlds. Outside of an odd PG rating, which raises eyebrows as to how much of the book’s final conflict has been excised, this new Potter looks about as close to a sure thing as you can get without having the name Pixar on it.

It gets even better with the release of this new featurette from Warner Bros. which details the production of the movie and gives us some new scenes. The character work and relationships were the heart of  the book, and it was character work that shined most brightly in Yates last installment, so things just keep looking up for this Half-Blood.

See the featurette HERE.

Trailer for Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes is here

19 May

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Ever since Guy Ritchie announced he was making a film about the titular detective, I’ve been curious about Sherlock Holmes. It’s been quite some time since the likes of Basil Rathbone or Jeremy Brett took on the role, and I remained quiety cautious about Robert Downey Jr. inheriting it for this go-round. So, now that the trailer is here, I have to say that I’m not surprised by it. Nothing in it seems to particularly scream Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, save for the production design. Everything else looks like a slam-bang action romp with some oddly placed bits of humor; one scene early on is edited together in such a way it appears that Holmes leaves a room Bugs Bunny style with a dashing sound and a cloud of smoke. Whaaa??

The film doesn’t release ’til December 25th, so it’s far from completion. That means it could really be anything by the time it is finally released. Right now, the tone looks pitched halfway between 1988’s Without a Clue (not a good thing) and 1985’s Young Sherlock Holmes  by Barry Levinson(a good example of Holmes in action mode). Below is the trailer if you have ever fancied the idea of seeing Holmes and Watson try to run and out-leap a giant fireball Bad Boys style.

See the trailer for League of Extraordinary Holmes HERE.

Wrapping up Maryland Film Festival 2009

12 May

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May 11th, 2009-

Well, it was a crazy hectic weekend for the Bartleby clan but everyone made it to Monday with all limbs intact and in the end, I had alot of fun; spent some time with our relatives, pseudo-celebrated Jen’s birthday, hosted two picnics at the house and then shoved  as much of the Maryland Film Festival into the corners of the weekend as I could manage. And save for a late night incident on Friday involving a vanishing vehicle, my excursion into the MFF was a great time. This year boasted alot more interesting films and, at least to my eyes, a wider range of directors and recognizable faces than usual.

I arrived a little late to the Fest Friday afternoon with my traveling buddy Chris in tow. Chris, a full blown film fan and just generally entertaining guy, is one of the few friends I know who will talk art-house symbolism and still find some way to extoll the virtues of the latest Sci-Fi Pictures original; in short, he’s alot of fun at stuff like this.

Chris at the MFF, no doubt setting up a three picture deal with Sci-Fi Channel

Chris at the MFF, no doubt setting up a three picture deal with Sci-Fi Channel

So we boogied on over to the MFF tent, across the street from The Charles, and grabbed our tickets, at which point I learned that the three film deal was alot better than I initially thought. For the price of 20 dollars you can buy tickets on the spot to any three movies playing the fest on any of the three days. In the past it was 3 on the day you bought them, and they had to be before 6 p.m. So, that’s a nice surprise and something I hope they keep around for next year.

One of the enigmatic "Deagol Brothers", directors of the dark comedy Make Out With Violence; one of the movies I actually did see at the fest.

One of the enigmatic "Deagol Brothers", directors of the dark comedy Make Out With Violence; one of the movies I actually did see at the fest.

 So, Friday was a whirlwind of three films back to back, no food, and an incident involving me, an empty parking space where my car used to be, my wife heading to an ATM at midnight like something out of a hostage film, and a jaunt through downtown Baltimore and an encounter with the grouchiest towing attendant I’ve ever seen. In between that we saw some great stuff, hung out in the eclectic lobby of The Charles and watched the filmmakers mill in and out.

Bobcat chilling at the concession stand...

Bobcat chilling at the concession stand...

The festival is definitely a great scene for anyone into films, and in particular, into Baltimore. I’m considering a pass to all the films and events next year. Theres so much going on, so much to see, and always someone willing to talk film and just generally hang out that popping in and out sort of robs the experience a little bit. I’ve also got to say that the directors and guests themselves were very friendly and laid back types that slipped in and out of the mileu and chatted up the crowd without drawing attention. Possibly the most mellow was Bobcat Goldthwait, who looked like a kid at Christmas even as he was talking to the guy behind the concession stand. He just looked delighted to be there. Pity to have missed his film on Saturday night. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for it elsewhere.

Bobcat hanging out before a movie on Friday night. Goldthwait's own film, World's Greatest Dad aired at the MFF on Saturday night.

Bobcat hanging out before a movie on Friday night. Goldthwait's own film, World's Greatest Dad aired at the MFF on Saturday night.

I’ll be posting  individual reviews over the next two days for the films I did manage to see. Of the 8, the tally includes no bad films, four solidly good, and three that were excellent. My biggest regret: that The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle didn’t play other than sunday. It sounded so insanely bizarre and up my alley that only something like Mother’s Day could have gotten in it’s way.

Stay tuned for my review of the first movie I saw, Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo!