Friday, December 28, 2007


This is a year-old notion perpetrated by a clever so-and-so over at Ironic Sans. The conceit: Build a skyscraper in the shape of Godzilla in the heart of Tokyo! For your pleasure, the entire entry is reprinted below:
Idea: A building shaped like Godzilla

The people of Tokyo should construct a giant building shaped like Godzilla. Imagine what it would do to the city’s skyline, and to the tourism industry. People would come from all over to take pictures. His eyes could flash red so airplanes don’t hit him. There could be an observatory in his mouth so people could look out over Tokyo. One of his arms could house a bar, and the other arm a restaurant. They could serve drinks called Mothra Martinis and dishes like Grilled Gamera Steaks, with a side of Mashed Potatoes.

Conversations could take place like this one (translated from Japanese):

“Hey, I just got a new job!”

“Oh, really? Where do you work?”

“You know the Godzilla Building? I’m just a couple blocks South of there.”

Or maybe it could be partially residential. And then people could talk about that famous artist who used to live in the Godzilla Building in the apartment right above Godzilla’s left nipple. And then they could argue over whether or not Godzilla even has nipples.

Monster Movie conventions could be held in the building’s grand ballroom. A concert hall could be built between his legs. The Tokyo Philharmonic could call it their home. Season Ticket holders could get discounts at the Godzilla Gift Shop. There could even be a park at the bottom of the building, with Godzilla’s tail circling around it. They would call it Godzilla Park, naturally. And it could have a fountain in the shape of his footprint.

There are so many good and/or goofy ideas tied into this that I find it priceless.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Little Movie That Could?

Every couple years, a little movie comes along that warms the hearts of filmgoers and critics alike, and becomes the big surprise. This year, that honor was bestowed upon Once, the tale of a busker (that's a street musician to you) and the immigrant girl who rekindles his passion for life. Sadly, for my part, it just didn't connect with me.

I really expected to like the film, and - truth be told - I didn't hate it. I simply kinda shrugged at the end. I'm not too sure what I wanted out of it. Perhaps a different ending, something more "traditional" - which is odd, coming from me. I'm normally quick to champion any picture that can thumb its nose at expectations - particularly at the end. However, for some reason, this time it just didn't do it for me. Also, as the film centers around musicians, there is a plentiful amount of music throughout. Again, typically not a problem for me. Yet, Once is roughly 60% composed of scenes with the Guy (who's never named) singing his songs. They're good songs, and I might even listen to them on their own. But, they simply did not connect with me - there's that phrase again - in a way that propelled the story and/or allowed me to empathize with the character(s).

I caught up with this on DVD and, despite my feelings about the film, opted to watch the short "making of" included therein. Though plenty of details increased my respect for the film and those involved - shot on digital video for just over $100k, good musicians who could kinda act over good actors who could kinda play music - I still came away with a shrug and a slight bewilderment at all the attention and praise. But, hey, as with all things herein, that's just me.

"He's Not a Terrorist, He's Just an Idiot."

Ah, more straight-up fun for 2008. I haven't looked forward to a year of forthcoming films this much in quite some time. And, happily, I think that most everything I'm waiting on qualifies - to most - as "popcorn flicks". Nothing heady, no three-hour war epics. Just good times. Here, now - for your enjoyment - the first full trailer for Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. Yes, you read that right.

To: Me, From: Aaron Sorkin

I am an Aaron Sorkin fan. This should come as no surprise to anyone who's paid attention to this blog for a while. I felt his Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was one of the finest programs to come on TV in many a year. He is a master of dialogue; his characters may be quicker and wittier than we mortals are in day-to-day life, but we can't help but feel a kinship there, as if remembering the times when we ourselves caught the conversational rhythm and hit all our cues. I could listen to his characters forever.

Hello, Charlie Wilson's War. The film is a pretty good fit for Sorkin, dealing as it does with political intricacies (Sorkin created The West Wing) and touching upon the military (he also wrote A Few Good Men). Here we have sharp dialogue in abundance, delivered with appropriate relish by Tom Hanks, as titular congressman Wilson, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, as the CIA operative who helps him ramp up the end of the Cold War. Hoffman is excellent as ever, and Hanks gives his best performance since Road to Perdition, which I didn't really care for, truth be told. Julia Roberts appears as a socialite who shares his cause. She also turns in some fine work, disappearing behind bleach blonde locks and a palpable sense of disassociation from the working class.

For me, the movie only falters in two spots. We get a pair of scenes where Wilson gets all teary-eyed - once over the plight of the Afghanis, again over the recent marriage of Roberts' character - that are simply unnecessary; they actually pulled me out of the film. We, the audience, could have been sold on his feelings in both cases without resorting to cheap waterworks. The only other stumbling block in Charlie Wilson's War concerns - oddly enough - the depictions of war itself. Here, director Mike Nichols oscillates between grainy news/stock footage and low quality Hollywood-ized combat sequences, the latter divided between attack helicopters firing what almost look like laser blasts(!) and "Afghani freedom fighters", clad in fake beards and the newest garb from wardrobe. Mercifully, this last bit is only on screen for a few seconds.

Ah, don't focus on the negative, for it is so minor in comparison to the rest of the flick. Surprisingly, the movie only clocks in at just over 90 minutes, something that appeals to many a movie-goer these days, myself included. However, when I was about fifteen minutes into this latest world from Aaron Sorkin, I found not only that I really didn't want it to end, but also that I hoped there would actually be an "Extended Edition" when it comes to DVD. Hey, I can dream.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

"It All Started With a Chair...."

After suffering (seriously!) through Youth Without Youth, boy was I pleased that Juno turned out to be everything I expected. I had been looking forward to this film for a few months, and while it's not the only movie to actually live up to my expectations/hopes this year (see Michael Clayton and No Country for Old Men - SEE THEM!), it was certainly the most uplifting.

Someone on IMDB describes the film as Superbad for girls, which isn't too far off the mark. Both movies feature witty characters who are never at a loss for words, who might have an elevated vocabulary, but who are written as less-than-perfect teens. And this is why both Juno and Superbad connect. So very few of us had perfect developmental years. Juno's sixteen-year-old title character finds out in the first five minutes that she's pregnant. It's how she and others react to this news that shapes the film. To say much more would give away too much.

But, then, it really wouldn't. You see, Juno isn't filled with a bunch of shocks and surprises. There's no big twist ending. What makes this a quality movie is the emotion and character of the piece. Major praise must be directed to star Ellen Page, who has already picked up a few relatively minor awards for the part, along with a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress. She is of that rare breed of performer who can convey so much with just the slightest hint of expression; I look forward to more from her. Big kudos also to writer Diablo Cody. She writes fantastic dialogue for all of her characters - not just the clever teens - and creates a story that is at once tender and intelligent, without getting anywhere near After School Special territory.

So, does this make my Top Ten for '07? Does it?

One will have to wait and see....

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Dark Knight

Yeah, I'm a couple days late with this trailer. I'm sure most of you who have any interest have already seen it - and in HD, too. Well, I got Hellboy II within hours of release (see below), so sue me.

Based on this trailer, Ledger's Joker makes it seem almost like a horror film - which is not a bad thing!

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Love me my Hellboy. The first film is just plain fun. That said, I was shocked and pleased that the studio opted for a sequel. Again, I say 2008 is shaping up to have a lot of cinematic potential. Feast....

Monday, December 17, 2007

R.I.P. Dan Fogelberg

As a kid in the '70's, Dan Fogelberg epitomized what would come to be known as soft rock. While his songs and style would become a source of mockery for many in the anti-'70's years that followed, there remained a sense of honestly and soulfulness in his work, the likes of which seem to have faded in the last few decades.

If the name - or his Greatest Hits album cover - doesn't ring a bell, and if songs called "Same Auld Lang Syne", "Leader of the Band", and "Longer" mean nothing to you, I can virtually guarantee you've heard his music at one time or another. For, while his heyday might have been some thirty years gone, his songs have survived, withstanding the advents of rap, grunge, "alternative" - you name it.

In my case, the man holds two significant spots in my memory.... I remember hearing his songs many a time while sitting in the back seat as my parents drove us everywhere. At the time, I was too young to know that all his many tunes were actually performed by the same person. It would not be until years later, when a group of friends who had grown up in the same period would put on their parents' copy of Dan Fogelberg's Greatest Hits. Eventually, someone got the cassette. Later, someone bought the CD. It wasn't something we listened to religiously or anything. It was just something we'd break out once in a while, for a song or two, to take us all back to a time when we were really young, and music was just something that came out of a car radio, with no concerns about who sang what, let alone their place on the charts.

It's been a while since I've listened to Dan Fogelberg. That said, I can hear him right now.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ragin' Rudolph

I first saw this years ago and still get quite a kick out of it. The premise: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as re-envisioned by Martin Scorsese. Fair warning: If you don't like his films, you won't like this. Conversely, Scorsese fans should enjoy.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Twas the Dark Knight Before Christmas

Friend of the blog Dan Wilson shot this my way. It's not Rankin & Bass, but it still brings a smile....

Sunday, December 2, 2007

"May You Be In Heaven Half an Hour..."

I'm working on getting caught up on some of the "Awards Season" films that are out there now. Today, I caught Sidney Lumet's Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. The picture has received some very complimentary reviews and high scores by the sites and industries that track such things. However - and not entirely surprising - people are not rushing out in droves to see it. My lack of surprise has nothing to do with the quality of the film - it is indeed quite good. My point is that - for whatever reason - film-goers are just not in the mood for movies for grown ups. Don't believe me? Have you seen Michael Clayton yet? I rest my case.

Like the George Clooney film, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead hearkens back to cinema from the '70's, a decade lauded in recent years as one of American filmmaking's best. However, such nostalgia does not fill seats. Perhaps if the marketing department capitalized on Marisa Tomei's copious nude scenes.... But I digress all over the place.... Sidney Lumet directed some of the benchmarks for '70's cinema - Serpico, Network, Dog Day Afternoon - and he's clearly aiming to mine that vibe here.

This is a heist-gone-wrong picture. I'm not giving anything away with that; we learn it within the first ten minutes. The film takes two big American values - family and money - and sets them on a collision course. Lumet has the clout to attract some fine acting talent and put them through the ringer, each one on a downward spiral. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney. Each one offers standout work. Hoffman gets the juiciest character of the three and has the opportunity to run the gamut of emotions. However, Hawke is allowed to perfect the man-child role he's been previously cast in time and again; as the "baby", he needs to grow up fast, but doesn't quite make it. Honestly, the biggest acting kudos I can dole out go to Tomei. I've never been a fan of her work, perhaps my favorite being her supporting role in Slums of Beverly Hills. Yet in this picture, she takes what could easily have been the throwaway girlfriend/wife part and imbues it with such subtlety and nuance; as an actress, she knows the value of a glance, of a sudden change in vocal timbre. I'd say she merits an Oscar nod, but as she already won one for My Cousin Vinny, I'm more inclined to say that this performance justifies that prior accolade.

So, what about the film itself? Is it any good? Yes, it is. Will it make my personal top ten? I dunno.... It's very much an actor's movie - which is just fine. However, it's nothing eye-opening or jaw-dropping. Should you see it? Yes - for two reasons. One, well, to see a good, solid film. Two, to support the few people still making decisions in Hollywood that allow for movies for grown-ups. Don't get me wrong; I very much dig my action films, my sci-fi, etc. But, I still get such a kick out of seeing something that was distinctly not made with the 12-17 age-range in mind.