Thursday, July 30, 2009

Trailer Tournament FINALS: Won't Somebody Think of the Children??

This is it, folks! This one's for all the marbles. This one's for all the tea in China. This ones for the children, the children of the world. Voting will remain open throughout the weekend. Choose wisely!

2. Children of Men (2006)
Quick check...yep, still makes me cry. Even divorcing myself from how much I loved the film itself, I have to rave about the construction of the trailer. The premise is laid out immediately and simply, the chaos depicted, the hopelessness ... and then out of the chaos comes the girl. The music is stellar not once (the orchestral version of "Gimmie Shelter") but twice (the Sigur Ros song). ...Sorry, I just watched it again and got goosebumps. Just amazing.

[Embed disabled; click on link in title or image above]

Awesome trailer attributes: cool song/score




VS.

6. Little Children (2006)
Completely artful and tantalizing (and not just because it makes a point of ogling Patrick Wilson just as much as the film does) despite giving away virtually NONE of the plot. That train conceit is killer.



Awesome trailer attributes: teaser; iconic performance




Monday, July 27, 2009

My Gay, Jewish Summer of Love

Well, after that previous post full of bah and humbuggery and the exasperation with which I am anticipating Avatar, I figure I should balance the scale with a post full of what I am looking forward to with much glee.

As you can see on the sidebar, I saw (500) Days of Summer over the weekend. And besides realizing that Joseph Gordon-Levitt singing "Here Comes Your Man" directly to me is a Top 5 romantic fantasy of mine and somehow always has been, I got a pretty good snapshot of every movie I'm looking forward to in the next few months, via the trailers.

So, okay there were Adam and Julie & Julie, both of which I will likely see (the latter before the former, I'm guessing), but which are more honorable mentions than anything else.

Whip-It, however, has me super psyched, in a way that kind of surprises me. You'd think "Drew Barrymore's directorial debut" would give me more pause, particularly since my one defense for liking her -- "she's oddly likeable" -- doesn't make much difference from behind the camera. But I really love how much of a girls' movie this is -- even moreso than Juno was, when you consider that Michael Cera isn't lurking off in the corner somewhere, waiting to add this flick to his hoodie-laden oeuvre. And Ellen Page doesn't even need to get knocked up to be interesting in this one! Not to get all feminist-by-proxy or anything about the roller derby subject matter, but a movie about a team of girls being totally badass where the object isn't to measure up to the boys, it's just to be totally badass -- I like that.

And that cast! Ellen Page, Kristen Wiig, Ari Graynor, Juliette Lewis, Alia Shawkat, Marcia Gay Harden, Drew Barrymore, and Eve. That shot of Ari going "Looking good, Barbie" at Ellen Page already tells me I'm going to love her. And it makes me wish Fringe would quit fucking around and give her character something to be awesome with, because clearly the lady works wonders with whatever little you give her.

(Also, the Weezer song in the trailer is wonderfully employed:)



Taking Woodstock I'm anticipating for reasons more auteur-based (even when Ang Lee fails, he fails interestingly; more often he wildly succeeds) and also prurient. Because seriously, this movie is just gay, Jewish nirvana, is it not? About a dozen vaguely Jewish actors playing vaguely gay characters and all looking grubby and hot and impressionable. Hello, Demetri Martin, Emile Hirsch, Liev Schrieber, Paul Dano, Daniel Eric Gold, and the guy who played Meadow's fiance in The Sopranos! And that's all before Jonath Groff strides into the screen like a pixie made of sexual rebellion and weed. I've actually gasped every time the trailer gets to that part.



And then there's the odd case of Paper Heart, which arrived at Sundance pretty much pre-loaded for backlash, what with the Michael Cera hoodie count reaching critical mass and the premise -- a documentary-or-is-it where Charlene Yi and Michael Cera play Charlene Yi and Michael Cera trying to make a movie about love or some such -- seeming almost too precious for critics to emerge with their dignity intact. But I don't know, you guys. I saw the trailer and it seems ... sweet. And funny. And relaxed, and charming, kind of delightful. It's only a trailer, sure, but considering most of the people writing this off are doing so off this same preview footage. But count me tentatively in the Paper camp right now.

Avatarded

In the wake of the recent bombardment of ComicCon reports across 60% of the blogs I follow, I've been enlightened as to a few things. I'm both more intrigued and less certain about the final season of Lost. I'm super amused at how the Twilight fans managed to so perturb, enrage, and inconvenience all the other nerds.

But the most crystal-clear impression I'm taking away from the ComicCon reports is this: I am so beyond tired of goddamn Avatar.

For those of you who've managed to stay out of the movie blogger loop thus far, Avatar is the movie James Cameron has been developing pretty much since Titanic. Something-something about a faraway planet and scientists and big blue aliens and the environment and Sigourney Weaver and Sam Worthington and blah blah blah. As we've been repeatedly reminded throughout the past week, the story is completely beside the point, because the effects in this movie are fixing to blind us, restore our sight Jesus-style, then knock our eyeballs clean out of our heads, before leading us onto a plane of existence where we won't even need eyeballs anymore because we'll have James Cameron to tell us what we're seeing and how amazing it is.

So, yeah, it's the second coming, not only of special effects and digital filmmaking, but of storytelling itself. And up until this week, my concern was that the film, its backers, and its director were setting a standard so high no film could possibly reach it. On one level, it's hard to imagine James Cameron NOT aggrandizing his own upcoming achievements. But even as far as the beginning of this year, Avatar was going to have to make $300 million and win fourteen Oscars in order to meet expectations.

Of course now, after a week's worth of hosanas coming out of ComicCon, I can officially say I'm good with hearing about Avatar until it opens. Which, by the way, isn't until DECEMBER 18th! How in the world is anybody not going to be sick of this movie by then?

And how much of the movie is going to be seen as old news by then, if we keep getting chunks of preview footage? Twenty-five minutes of the movie screened in San Diego last week, and fifteen more minutes (not sure how much of that is overlap) will screen in IMAX theaters on August 21st. (And if the footage they're leaking keeps betraying the kind of clunky scripting that Movieline's talking about, that can't help matters.)

Again, this would normally be the usual publicity cycle burnout (albeit one starting especially early in the year) , were it not for Cameron's extraordinary self-regard -- which has always been a problem for me -- and the extreme defensiveness of its backers at even the slightest hint that the movie won't be the actual greatest movie ever made. Like, you think I'm exaggerating, but read this open letter CHUD's Devin Faraci got for failing to sufficiently lick Cameron's bright-blue, photo-realistic balls.

I remember thinking the ramp-up for Watchmen was the next level of Dark Knight-style overkill and mass demand for unequivocal adulation. But the Watchmen response was far too mixed for that. Avatar, however, has all the makings of the next big showdown for the New Dork Order, where the fanboys make the rules and the rest of us are just haters.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

So You Think You Can Blog (Blog, Blog...): Top 8

AB Chao: Ok I am very drink. I have not watched the show. I have been at [REDACTED for anti-defamation purposes] all night. Maybe I will try to watch the show tomorrow.

Um ... AB didn't watch the show today. So we're going lean and mean with a 3-person squad this week: Vance from Tapeworthy, Lauren S, and me. The three of us will get drunk later, after this show does the impossible and kicks one of those four PHENOMENAL women off the show. Could we possibly just lose Jason and Evan both? ...Please?

EVAN and JANETTE

Jazz (Sonya Tayeh)

Joe: I thought these two were really well-matched to this style, since Sonya's dances never really require a lot of length or straight lines or anything these two wee little darlings just can't pull off. As with most of Sonya's stuff, I found it weird, but pleasantly so.

Vance: Me too. I thought this match actually worked well. I wouldn't have thought so either. I thought it was a lot of fun and loved those "shut up" moments within the dance. I didn't think it was Sonya's best routine but yah, it was good enough and thoroughly enjoyable.

Lauren: Let me start by saying I think that Evan is awesome and talented and so cute and pocket-sized, but while his height worked well with Janette, I didn't love him in this piece. He wasn't *bad* -- I mean, no one is bad at this point, quite the opposite -- but I was just drawn to her and her crazy awesomeness the whole time. My love for her only grows!


Rumba (Tony Meredith, Melanie LaPatin)

Joe: Okay, I really loved that. I bought the sexy coming from Evan this time, and they slid around each other quite effortlessly. And Kris Allen's version of "Heartless"! Too much adorable, I fear for Vance's delicate emotions!

Vance: What? Joe thought Evan did an adorable job? LOVE Evan's attempt at a sexy look. I did figure out why he does not look right in these kinds of dances. It's 'cause they outfit him in skintight clothing which makes his small body look small. Thus his bobble-headed huge noggin looks imbalanced on top. So he looks like he can't be taken seriously. But hey, while his steps weren't perfect, I thought he did a pretty good job. Oh, and Janette? She's just awesome. Don't we know that already?

Lauren: Again, I think it was a good effort by Evan but I didn't love it, but Janette knocked it out of the park (I'd also expect no less as this really falls into her style). I think Evan did make an incredible effort, but I feel like, while I thought this was going to be Jason's week, maybe it's Evan's time now.

Vance: Also, why did Evan get Tony and Meredith for the second week in a row? Can't they mix things up a bit more considering how many choreographers they have on their roster?

Lauren Seriously, that is kind of putting him at a disadvantage as I feel like ballroom is probably his weakest area.

Joe: Wow, the Evan defenses are coming fast and furious now! Heh. For the record, I think his fanbase has shown itself to be strong enough that I don't think Evan will go home tonight.

Lauren: Look, I still think it should be Evan going home, despite his crappy luck of the draw. That said, I agree that his fanbase is probably big enough to keep him there.

Click below to read the rest!



JEANINE and BRANDON

Waltz (Hunter Johnson)


Joe: Well, looks like we've finally found the one style Brandon isn't really suited for. Very, very stiff, on his part, in a way that didn't mesh well at all with Jeanine. Who, all things considered, pulled this off pretty well. I'm supressing my insane Jeanine love for the moment (though: guess who finally got me to pick up the phone for this show?), but she was the better here.

Vance: I actually didn't think Brandon was THAT bad but yes, my eye was always drawn to Jeanine and her yellow dress. I didn't think it was nearly as bad as the judges made it out to be. I thought it was pretty. Then again, I'm a sucker for those Irish Enya-sounding songs.

Lauren: Once again, a waltz that isn't breathtaking. That said, I thought Jeanine was beautiful and while it was probably Brandon's weakest dance, his weakest dance is still pretty dang good. Something just didn't quite click for me.


Pop-Jazz (Laurie-Ann Gibson)

Joe: Okay, Laurie-Ann Gibson getting up in Jeanine's face and making her cry? AAAAHHHH! So intense. But all that meanness means she gets results, you stupid chief! Seriously, though, how EFFING BADASS is Jeanine? No, I will NOT stop talking about her! (Also, weird, but I've been waiting all season for someone to choreograph a routine to that Jordin Sparks song, so I'm all sorts of satisfied.)

Vance: Yes, Jeanine is my new favorite dancer of the week. She was FIERCE! (ACK. I need a new word. I hate using that word). I watched it several times and she was SO ON! Though uh, Brandon was always slightly ahead or behind and looking to Jeanine to match, while Jeanine totally just WENT FOR IT. Not that Brandon was bad, he brought the power and passion but they were out of sync and after some replays, it looked like it was him and not her.

Lauren: Now THIS is what I was waiting for! Vance is right that they were a tiny bit off sometimes, but the energy and the moves and all that were so fun that I didn't really mind. I liked having a different choreographer and really enjoyed this. Can't say much more about these two that hasn't already been said about their awesomeness.


MELISSA and ADE

Cha-Cha (Tony Meredith, Melanie LaPatin)

Lauren: I didn't love this cha-cha. I thought it was really interesting to hear the feedback about how hard it must be for Melissa to un-learn all her ballet training to do this correctly, and I thought they did a good job, but not a great job. I think that for this particular couple this was their weakest dance yet. Fortunately, they had one more dance coming.

Joe: Sloppy, yes, and I too noticed Ade's butt. And for actually the right (or, for Ade, wrong) reasons too! Much as Mary can grate with the hot tamale train and all (I could not get enough of Ellen throwing crazy shade her way all night), I fucking LOVE it when she brings it with that rat-tat-tat barrage of ballroom knowledge. Seeing that many facts coming from such a crazy face is brain-melting.

Vance And if Evan was disadvantaged with a double header of ballroom, Melissa and Ade together again? Really? Love these two. Did not love this Cha Cha. It looked slower than the Waltz. That fringe stayed limp the whole time. But is that Melissa and Ade's fault? or Tony and Melanie's (seriously, I never had anything against them but... I'm talking about them AGAIN?)?


Contemporary (Tyce Diorio)


Lauren This was fantastic! Yes, it was totally manipulative because who isn't going to be touched by a breast cancer story? But that said, it was beautiful and super emotional, and I don't think any of the other couples could have pulled this off anywhere near the way they did it, which is probably why I liked it so much. I had four friends over and all of us -- whose opinions can differ -- were sniffling and wiping our eyes at the end of this routine. I thought this was Melissa's week to go but after this dance I'd be completely shocked if it's her.

Joe: Ohhh lord a'mighty. Okay. One of the very best Tyce routines he's ever choreographed, despite being a smidge more literal than I like my high-concept routines. But how can I argue with all that crying? I can't. And honestly, Melissa and Ade were at their graceful, passionate peak dancing it -- and Ade is still my favorite male dancer by a mile -- so I'm not about to slam it. Just to say that I'm with Ellen in the "impressed but not a puddle" category. Though I desperately wanted to give Mia a ten-minute hug.

Vance Ah... the Cancer Dance. Uh, where do I even start? I actually missed the intro so didn't realize it was Tyce's and basically figured out the cancer thing from the scarf. I will also just state first that I thought Ade and Melissa did a beautiful job with it. Beautiful. Everything that was great about this was because of them.

But seriously, take away the scarf and it was just another standard contemporary dance (though to a very very smart song choice). And THEN I found out Tyce choreographed it. My hatred knows no bounds. That and I have no soul. Then the judges cried and cried over it and I sat there like a log wondering what I missed. Yah, the cancer part was very sad, but I didn't think it was the most emotional dance piece from SYTYCD. I still enjoyed it but I think it was overpraised. Because seriously, can you remember any of the actual dance moves without thinking about that scarf? I'm going to hell aren't I?


KAYLA and JASON

Broadway (Tyce Diorio)


Lauren I really liked this! It wasn't one of the most memorable routines we've ever seen but I loved watching it, it was fun, it was danced really, really well by both of them, and as one of my friends said, "Kayla's legs do things legs aren't supposed to be able to do." Holy moly, woman! Two thumbs up.

Joe: Very well danced, of course, but probably the one routine that had dropped completely out of my head since the episode ended. Though, wait, was this where Mia was talking about cracking Jason's chest open with a hammer? God, I love Mia.

Vance Not bad for a Tyce routine (seriously, I'm really trying to be nice. Really!) but Kayla really saved this with her length and her sparkle. And Jason is finally becoming SOOO charming on the dancefloor.


Hip-Hop (Shane Sparks)

Lauren THIS, though, was completely awesome, and I was so relieved because I feel like Shane hadn't been having a great season. But this was super fun (kind of Thriller, but I'm fine with that) and inventive and super well-danced by the both of them. See, just when I think it's Jason's turn to go... I have no earthly idea who it's going to be.

Joe: I was crossing all my limbs that Shane would finally have one of his routines danced well this season. And either I was looking through rose-colored glasses or Kayla and Jason were really good. There really isn't much Kayla can't do, and Jason was a whole lot better than his last time in Shane's clutches.

Vance My fave of the night. Jason got into full character and if you told me that was someone other than Kayla, I would have believed it cause she totally buried herself with this piece.


Thoughts on the solos/group routine?

Lauren Loved it! Totally fun, I loved the wacked-out costumes, I loved the glasses like you buy at Disneyland once it gets dark. I'm certain that I am a little bit biased because I love Travis so much and wanted it to be good for his sake, but overall really enjoyed it.

Joe: As for the solos, I thought Ade and Jeanine's were the real standouts, though Brandon always has those 1 or 2 moments where he pulls out something super astounding. And I appreciated how Melissa and especially Janette mixed their ballet/ballroom up with more contempo style so they weren't just doing a succession of movements. Evan's routine, I will say, was so similar to last week's that I couldn't get excited for it.

Vance You know I love my future husband Travis but I actually expected a bit more. Seemed a bit all over the place. Still, some nice moments but I wished they turned off the lights more to milk that glowy light gimmick effect.

Solos? Jeanine's was AMAZING. The first girls solo's I finally truly loved. It was well planned out and felt unique and whole. Evan's and Ade's, who are probably the best male soloists, also had more complete solo's than the others though both were not as good as last week's. If anything, Jason and Melissa had the weakest solos. I give credit to Melissa for trying some difficult but slow ballet moves that are technically difficult but it needed to be a bit more showy and faster, especially to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs song she picked.



Thoughts on Ellen/Judges?


Lauren: I adore Ellen, but I was glad when she stopped having the same pattern of quips and just started complimenting the dancers. (Granted, I think this also came about because the dances in the 2nd hour were far and away better than those in the first half of the episode.) I wouldn't want her to be a regular, but I was fine with the little shake-up for a week. I also really enjoyed that Mary had a good amount of actual feedback this week, because I love hearing what she has to say when she's actually critiquing/teaching instead of screeching. (Wow, that's quite a rhyme.)

Joe: Yes, as a one-timer, Ellen was lovely. And I'll gladly take the occasional useless comments in exchange for how she clearly couldn't stand Nigel and Mary's insanity for another minute. It all made me very happy that Mia's bipolar ass was around being a stickler (and occasional supporter of beauty in all forms, even Evan's droopy eyes).

Vance I'm glad Ellen didn't pretend to really know anything about dancing the way I do! It was nice to have a bit of star power on the judges panel but she played it just right, throwing a few funny quips and letting the others give the real critique.


TOP THREE PERFORMANCES

Lauren Kayla/Jason's hip-hop; Melissa/Ade's contemporary; Jeanine/Brandon pop-jazz

Joe: Jeanine/Brandon's pop-jazz; Kayla/Jason's hip-hop; Melissa/Ade's contemporary

Vance Kayla/Jason's Hip-Hop; Jeanine/Brandon's Pop-Jazz; Melissa/Ade's Contemporary


LEAST FAVORITE

Lauren Jeanine/Brandon's waltz

Joe: Melissa/Ade's Cha-Cha

Vance Melissa/Ade's Cha-Cha



Trailer Tournament, Final Four: The Bride vs. The Fugee

Low Res presents a 64-team NCAA-style bracket tournament to choose the best trailer of the past decade. At the end of each post, YOU make the call: which was the more effective trailer? Not the best movie, exactly, but the best two-and-a-half minutes that made you want to see said movie. You can take a look at the full bracket here, and you can catch up on the entire tournament so far here. Enjoy!

[On a formatting note: I've tried to both embed the trailers (where possible) and link to the trailers someplace where I know they won't be pulled. If there's no embed, blame YouTube. Just click the link on the movie's title and you'll get it.]


1. Kill Bill (2003)
This would be the original teaser clip, released even before the film was split up into Volumes 1 and 2. It's an absolute knockout, instantly making "The Battle Without Honor and Humanity" an iconic piece of moving scoring and time-out music at your local sports arena. The choreography of the clips to the music might be the best I've seen in a trailer, and while "the 4th film by Quentin Tarantino" is self-aggrandizing, it's Tarantino. Would we expect any less?



Awesome trailer attributes: cool song/score; iconic performance; teaser




VS.


2. Children of Men (2006)
Quick check...yep, still makes me cry. Even divorcing myself from how much I loved the film itself, I have to rave about the construction of the trailer. The premise is laid out immediately and simply, the chaos depicted, the hopelessness ... and then out of the chaos comes the girl. The music is stellar not once (the orchestral version of "Gimmie Shelter") but twice (the Sigur Ros song). ...Sorry, I just watched it again and got goosebumps. Just amazing.

[Embed disabled; click on link in title or image above]

Awesome trailer attributes: cool song/score






Click here for more Low Res Trailer Tournament polls.

Trailer Tournament, Final Four: Train vs. Bus

Low Res presents a 64-team NCAA-style bracket tournament to choose the best trailer of the past decade. At the end of each post, YOU make the call: which was the more effective trailer? Not the best movie, exactly, but the best two-and-a-half minutes that made you want to see said movie. You can take a look at the full bracket here, and you can catch up on the entire tournament so far here. Enjoy!

[On a formatting note: I've tried to both embed the trailers (where possible) and link to the trailers someplace where I know they won't be pulled. If there's no embed, blame YouTube. Just click the link on the movie's title and you'll get it.]


2. Closer (2004)
Artistic but not oblique, this trailer is an absolute masterpiece. It wisely holds on to the film's stellar opening scene/intro for Natalie Portman, letting the Damien Rice song do what it does. It then adds Suzanne Vega's "Caramel," creating one hell of a one-two punch. The whole thing plays like a dance with partners getting swapped at every transition. The rhythms are seductive.



Awesome trailer attributes: Cool song/score





VS.



6. Little Children (2006)
Completely artful and tantalizing (and not just because it makes a point of ogling Patrick Wilson just as much as the film does) despite giving away virtually NONE of the plot. That train conceit is killer.



Awesome trailer attributes: teaser; iconic performance






Click here for more Low Res Trailer tournament polls.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Low Res Trailer Tournament: The Final Four

The Regional finals are OVAH! Let's see how they shook out:

BLAIR WITCH REGION: (6) Little Children 60%, (13) 28 Days Later 40%

GUMMO REGION: (2) Closer 52%, (8) Watchmen 47%

INDEPENDENCE DAY REGION: (1) Kill Bill 52%, (2) LOTR: The Two Towers 47%

SUSPIRIA REGION: (2) Children of Men 54%, (4) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 45%

The Final Four polls open tomorrow. Vote, vote, vote!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Few More Thoughts on Harry Potter

I wasn't really able to get out everything I wanted to say about The Half-Blood Prince in that capsule review. But I also didn't have time today to craft a proper review. So you're getting all my spillover thoughts in a list format. The laziest format there is!

A Bit More Explanation Would Have Been Nice: I'm coming at the movie having read the book, but even I thought that only giving cursory mention to Harry's mysterious textbook, only to have that "I'M the Half-Blood Prince" reveal as a near throwaway at the end was kind of laughable. I already mentioned how a bit more time spent explaining just what the fuck a horcrux is would have been nice (though, with two movies worth of time to present the final book, I guess there will be time for Horcrux 101, with flowcharts and stuff). And the Katie Bell stuff is a hell of a lot scarier and more immediate if we're given a little bit of context for her -- she was a friend of Harry's, they played Quiddich together, et cetera.

And Speaking of Things That Had Much More Gravity in the Book: We really needed to be able to see the damage Harry did to Draco with that sectum-sempra spell he used. I'm pretty sure the book mentioned huge, bloody gashes on, like, his face. It really took the reader aback and let you share in the revulsion Harry felt over what he was suddenly capable of. In the movie, it was too sanitized. There, those are all my nitpicks.

The Casting Agents Deserve Several Medals: I realize they pretty much had the entire United Kingdom at their beck and call, but more than any other movie in the series thus far, Half-Blood Prince is a triumph of casting actors who are able to make an impression in an instant. Mostly because that's often what they get. Alan Rickman has by now settled into having about three scenes per film, but he gives you everything you need on Snape in every one. Helena Bonham-Carter is having a fucking ball playing Bellatrix Lestrange, and she's actually done a better job of presenting Bella as a significant second-tier villain than the books had at this point. Similarly, the gravity on Julie Walters' face during the attack on the Burrow not only tells you everything you need to know about this warm, proud, fierce woman, but it also perfectly sets up THAT SCENE in the final chapters of the series.

It's not even the big-name Brit thespians doing this kind of sharp work -- though, seriously, additional kudos to Michael Gambon and Jim Broadbent, who tie for Best in Show here. But some of these teen actors are aces here. Evanna Lynch is once again the most perfect Luna Lovegood I could have ever hoped for. Frank Dillane -- son of Stephen Dillane (The Hours) -- freaked my shit out as the teenaged Tom Riddle, like Chuck Bass with dark magic. And I was completely in love with Jessie Cave, who played lovestruck Lavender Brown like a cross between Lisa P and Pepe LePew. In the best possible way.

Was It Just Me? (or Hey, Check Out All the Gay-Ass Subtext!): Seriously, though, I can't have been the only person chucking to himself at the sight of that delightfully blatant phallic imagery during all those Quiddich scenes. Particularly given that none of the early films have made the Quiddich broomsticks protrude so triumphantly from betwixt the wizards' legs. I mean, when Ron and Cormac are in tryouts, trying to impress Hermione with their respective prowesses? I'm not the sick one here.

Also, the whole "Harry laying out the bait for Slughorn, and by 'bait,' we mean Harry's fine ass" thing was pretty provocative too, right? It didn't hit me until Harry's conversation with Dumbledore when he actually said, "You said Slughorn would try to collect me. You want me to let him?" It was all History Boys from then on out. No YOU go write some fanfic!

The Kids Are All Grown Up: Before you get grossed out, this isn't an extension of the above point. This is where I have to tip my hat to the central trio of Dan Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson, who have all really come into their own as actors. No, I won't be throwing awards statues at them, but given how remarkably green they all were through the first 2-3 movies, who'd have ever thought they'd be able to carry a movie this restrained on action. Clearly, Radcliffe has made the biggest leap (not surprising considering the master class all those weeks on Equus must have been), nowhere more evident than how genuinely funny he is (I'm thinking the scenes after he takes the good-luck potion, among others). Well played, Potter Kids!
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Monday, July 20, 2009

Trailer Tournament, Round 4: Blair Witch Regional Final

Low Res presents a 64-team NCAA-style bracket tournament to choose the best trailer of the past decade. At the end of each post, YOU make the call: which was the more effective trailer? Not the best movie, exactly, but the best two-and-a-half minutes that made you want to see said movie. You can take a look at the full bracket here, and you can catch up on the entire tournament so far here. Enjoy!

[On a formatting note: I've tried to both embed the trailers (where possible) and link to the trailers someplace where I know they won't be pulled. If there's no embed, blame YouTube. Just click the link on the movie's title and you'll get it.]

The BLAIR WITCH Region


6. Little Children (2006)
Completely artful and tantalizing (and not just because it makes a point of ogling Patrick Wilson just as much as the film does) despite giving away virtually NONE of the plot. That train conceit is killer.



Awesome trailer attributes: teaser; iconic performance





VS.

13. 28 Days Later (2003)
Perfect example of a great teaser, where glimpse after glimpse piles up in your mind and you end up seeing far more than you probably did. Then, in the last third, you get that tantalizing shot of Cillian Murphy alone in the middle of a deserted Picadilly Circus. Unexpectedly beautiful look at an unexpectedly beautiful (and terrifying) movie.



Awesome trailer attributes: teaser; creep-tastic; cool song/score






Click here for more Low Res Trailer tournament polls.

Trailer Tournament, Round 4: ID4 Regional Final

Low Res presents a 64-team NCAA-style bracket tournament to choose the best trailer of the past decade. At the end of each post, YOU make the call: which was the more effective trailer? Not the best movie, exactly, but the best two-and-a-half minutes that made you want to see said movie. You can take a look at the full bracket here, and you can catch up on the entire tournament so far here. Enjoy!

[On a formatting note: I've tried to both embed the trailers (where possible) and link to the trailers someplace where I know they won't be pulled. If there's no embed, blame YouTube. Just click the link on the movie's title and you'll get it.]


1. Kill Bill (2003)
This would be the original teaser clip, released even before the film was split up into Volumes 1 and 2. It's an absolute knockout, instantly making "The Battle Without Honor and Humanity" an iconic piece of moving scoring and time-out music at your local sports arena. The choreography of the clips to the music might be the best I've seen in a trailer, and while "the 4th film by Quentin Tarantino" is self-aggrandizing, it's Tarantino. Would we expect any less?



Awesome trailer attributes: cool song/score; iconic performance; teaser




VS.

2. LOTR: The Two Towers (2002)
Once again, we encounter Clint Mansell, whose Requiem for a Dream piece "Lux Aeterna" was fleshed out into this rousing, oft-repurposed orchestration that practically blasted my face off for the latter half of 2002. Of the three Rings trailers, this one probably had the most anticipation going in, and it delivered the best of all of them. Note the strategic decision to reveal one fairly significant spoiler (Gandalf's alive!), which, given that 50% of the audience already knew (anyone who read the books or a casting report), probably wasn't that big of a risk. But it was crucial to allow McKellen's voiceover into the trailer -- no one sells a line like "the defenses have to hold" better.



Awesome trailer attributes: cool song/score; iconic performance






Sunday, July 19, 2009

Recently Screened

Sidebar updated -- comment here if you feel like it:

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
I'm kind of astonished -- and way impressed -- that Warner Brothers would throw a couple hundred million (let's say) at David Yates to make what amounts to a 2.5 hour movie about a pair of teenage romances. Don't get me wrong, because I love the movie that resulted, and in the grand scope of things, and of what's time come in the last two movies, it was wonderful to see a movie that basically lingered on Harry and his friends and showed us what's at stake in the coming battles. I still think certain things could have been lingered on a bit longer (the explanation of the horcruxes went by so fast, I'm not sure if I totally understood it, and I've read the books and know how it all turns out). B+

The Hurt Locker
Really tightly-paced action and inventive storytelling wrapped around an occasionally soggy script, but boosted by some of the strongest performances of the year. Especially Anthony Mackie, but especially especially Jeremy Renner, who I'm not sure will be topped by any actor this year. Kathryn Bigelow really gets at the day-to-day toll that life on the brink takes. A-

Knowing
For a movie about prophecies about future disasters, the fact that it's so predictable is either sneakily artistic or else just a gift to snarky reviewers. Either way, Rose Byrne delivers 3/4 of a competently inoffensive performance before kind of embarassing herself when it came time to start screaming and sobbing. The ending manages to be heartless AND New Agily queer at the same. Time. All that said ... it had a moment or two. C

Waltz with Bashir
I'm not sure why I was expecting this to be boring, but I found it particularly engaging and beautiful. Which means, in terms of exceeding expectations, this one rated above WALL-E. That Animated Feature Oscar was a farce! B

Trailer Tournament, Round 4: Gummo Regional Final

Low Res presents a 64-team NCAA-style bracket tournament to choose the best trailer of the past decade. At the end of each post, YOU make the call: which was the more effective trailer? Not the best movie, exactly, but the best two-and-a-half minutes that made you want to see said movie. You can take a look at the full bracket here, and you can catch up on the entire tournament so far here. Enjoy!

[On a formatting note: I've tried to both embed the trailers (where possible) and link to the trailers someplace where I know they won't be pulled. If there's no embed, blame YouTube. Just click the link on the movie's title and you'll get it.]

The GUMMO Region

2. Closer (2004)
Artistic but not oblique, this trailer is an absolute masterpiece. It wisely holds on to the film's stellar opening scene/intro for Natalie Portman, letting the Damien Rice song do what it does. It then adds Suzanne Vega's "Caramel," creating one hell of a one-two punch. The whole thing plays like a dance with partners getting swapped at every transition. The rhythms are seductive.



Awesome trailer attributes: Cool song/score





VS.


8. Watchmen (2009)
Naturally, it's the initial teaser trailer I'm ranking -- I've talked about it on the blog before, so I guess you could just read that, but to review: The blueprint for how to introduce an adaptation of a beloved known quantity to fans while giving newbies just a taste to get them curious. Many, many, many bonus points for use of the Smashing Pumpkins song (which was, to remind you, a rejiggered version of the song that appeared on the soundtrack to the geek-despised Batman and Robin), one of the ballsiest maneuvers in trailer-making I've seen.



Awesome trailer attributes: cool song/score; teaser; great tagline




Click here for more Low Res Trailer Tournament polls.

Trailer Tournament, Round 4: Suspiria Regional Final

Low Res presents a 64-team NCAA-style bracket tournament to choose the best trailer of the past decade. At the end of each post, YOU make the call: which was the more effective trailer? Not the best movie, exactly, but the best two-and-a-half minutes that made you want to see said movie. You can take a look at the full bracket here, and you can catch up on the entire tournament so far here. Enjoy!

[On a formatting note: I've tried to both embed the trailers (where possible) and link to the trailers someplace where I know they won't be pulled. If there's no embed, blame YouTube. Just click the link on the movie's title and you'll get it.]


The SUSPIRIA Region

2. Children of Men (2006)
Quick check...yep, still makes me cry. Even divorcing myself from how much I loved the film itself, I have to rave about the construction of the trailer. The premise is laid out immediately and simply, the chaos depicted, the hopelessness ... and then out of the chaos comes the girl. The music is stellar not once (the orchestral version of "Gimmie Shelter") but twice (the Sigur Ros song). ...Sorry, I just watched it again and got goosebumps. Just amazing.

[Embed disabled; click on link in title or image above]

Awesome trailer attributes: cool song/score





VS.

4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
The full-length trailer's good too, but this teaser was special, with the fake advertisement up front and the excellent and unconventional ELO song at the end, bridged by Tom Wilkinson's brilliantly deadpan performance ("I can assure you, it's not...").



Awesome trailer attributes: cool song/score; teaser; funny!; iconic performance






Click here for more Low Res Trailer Tournament polls.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Low Res Trailer Tournament: Round 3 Roundup

Well here we are at the Elite Eight, the field having been narrowed quite a bit. And the eight trailers that remain are not the ones I thought would be. At least not all these eight. New matchups will be posted on Monday, the Final Four on Thursday, and the championship matchup will be posted a week from Monday. But let's look at how we got here:

Biggest Blowout: Little Children blasted The Devil Wears Prada 88% to 11%, but that particular poll was goosed by some incredibly overinvested toy-train enthusiasts. The biggest legitimate blowout, then, was The Two Towers besting The Hours, 65-34.

Closest Matchup: Eternal Sunshine came from behind to overtake top-seeded The Royal Tenenbaums, 51-48.

Biggest Upset: To try to put 13th-seeded 28 Days Later's run to the final 8 in perspective, that would be like my alma mater, Canisius College, making the Elite Eight back when they were a 13-seed in the 1996 NCAA tournament (their only Tournament appearance of my lifetime). To put that in perspective, had that happened, you would have seen Jesuits dancing naked in the streets of Buffalo.

So here are the four matchups set for Monday's regional finals:

The GUMMO Region
#2 Closer vs. #8 Watchmen

The BLAIR WITCH Region
#6 Little Children vs. #13 28 Days Later

The INDEPENDENCE DAY Region
#1 Kill Bill vs. #2 Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

The SUSPIRIA Region
#2 Children of Men vs. #4 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Thursday, July 16, 2009

So You Think You Can Blog (...Blog...Blog): Top 10

Trying to get this up quick before tonight's results show. Lauren couldn't join us this week, so my usual all-star panel of AB Chao and Vance will be joined by Sarah "Bring Back Kellyanne" Blackwood, whose blog is back and Jest-ier than ever!


Kayla and Evan
Viennese Waltz (Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin)


Joe I thought Kayla was incredibly beautiful -- otherworldly in her lines and extensions and whatnot. Evan, I thought, was pretty glaringly the weaker of the two. Strangely enough, it's Mary who had the most insightful commentary on Evan (she does know her ballroom stuff, even after all the botox and screaming). Why am I so irked when Evan dances all smiley-like? I generally really like him!

Vance I don't mind the Evan smiley face but obviously he was the weaker one here but not as weak as I thought he might be. Yah, his steps were a bit clunky and his short stature against Kayla (even with evened shoes) didn't help, but he was still quite strong with his lifts and made Kayla look beautiful. And oh how beautiful did Kayla look!? Considering I'm still always changing my favorite pick, and I picked Kayla as my top pick last week and put it in print, I feel a bit relieved here that she held up and proved why I chose her as my current fave.

Sarah: I generally hate it when Kayla wears long dresses because I want to see her legs! But that series of three turning extensions she did with the dress flowing? Wow. She looked just as good as she usually does, which I think says something about her excess of talent because this pairing was pretty unfortunate. But I think it was mostly unfortunate for Evan, who, on his own, looked okay in this waltz, but next to Kayla really just did not measure up (groan). Like think about how little his stature mattered during his really kind of great solo....and then think about how much it mattered in the paired dance. It kind of seems unfair, but then I think about how Kayla brought it despite the poor luck of the draw and, well, sigh, Evan.

AB I don't think I've sent in a top picks list yet, but if I had, Kayla would be at the top of it. I think I said this last week, but she is definitely this year's Katee for me. Everything she does is beautiful, and this week was no exception. I love her. (YES, I DO!) But poor little Evan. His solo was so good, and if anything can save him this week, that will be it. But he was awkward and nervous and short here. Except for the lifts: the lifts were good. But do we think it's really the "luck of the draw" that the shortest guy/tallest girl AND then the opposite were paired up? Or am I just bad at probability?

Joe: I agree some of the "random" pairings and dance styles have been anything but this season. But of the four dancers Evan could have paired with, he had a 50/50 shot of being towered over (he'd have barely come up to the hem of Melissa's tutu). I was more intrigued/skeptical of the fact that the two strongest pairs, going in (brandon/janette and Melissa/Ade) basically swapped partners, the two weakest pairs swapped partners, and the leftovers (Jeanine and Jason) got each other. Of course, the leftovers did better than anyone. And that's why they DANCE the DANCE.



Janette and Ade
Hip-Hop (Tabitha and Napoleon)


Joe I think we may have found our second great hip-hop routine of the season. At least very, very good. They seemed to snap to the same wavelength pretty quickly, and when Janette did that dead fall and somehow managed to land on her back, soft as a feather and all on her own, I gasped.

Vance There were moments they could have been more in sync, but overall, I loved it and I thought Ade was so strong, while Janette tried hard to hit it and managed through sheer enthusiasm to make it work for her (and us!).

Sarah: Ade was fantastic in this! I had no idea Janette was even shorter than Randi. I kind of disagreed with the judges that the size difference worked here-- there was something off putting to me about it-- but this was a really fun number. How great was it when Debbie Allen pointed out that Ade's character was basically a pimp with a magic hair pick?

AB I was trying really hard to hate this at first, because it is clear that Janette has no hip-hop skillz, but I ended up loving it. Ade was 1-800-Fanfriggingtastic in this, as he is in nearly all things. I'm glad that NapTabs seems to be back on their game, and I do agree with whichever judge said they did a good job working with their disparate heights. And Janette! Damn, girl. She is on FIRE. PS. How many times did this routine make Debbie "Clair Huxtable" Allen say "honey," and/or "chile"? Enough to cement my love for her. She is ridiculous.


Jeanine and Jason
Contemporary (TRAVIS WALL!)


Joe I won't pretend to be in any way objective about Travis. He's probably my #1 favorite dancer I've ever seen on this show. (P.S. How great was Cat wiggling her eyebrows at him as she intro'd the dance?) So I was already rooting for this routine. But I wasn't expecting something this ... passionate. That was some hotness, for real. It reminded me a bit of that Courtney/Gev contemporary from early last season, but with the heat turned up. I KNEW I saw something great in Jeanine back when Phillip was hiding her light under a bushel. And Jason was really the best partner for her -- their styles mesh so well, and they got some real chemistry going on there. I've already watched this routine three times, and if there's anything this week that's going to join last week's contemporary and jazz numbers as the season's best, this would be it.

Vance Travis is MY favorite dancer I've ever seen on this show. OMG I want to have his babies. The dance was great. I think a bit TOO full. Seemed like Travis got all excited to finally choreograph that he put in everything he could into those few minutes but whatever, it was a great peak at the great choreo he has in him. Jeanine danced it awesomely and even though I wanted Jason out last week, I thought he finally did good here! Well done Jason!

Sarah: Oh, this was just remarkable. I loved how the choreography repeated certain themes-- Jason cradling/grabbing Jeanine by her neck a few times, for example. And they really did dance it so well. I had been feeling grumbly about the pairings up until this number, but this was a revelation. Both of these dancers were suffering with their previous partners (Caitlin was like an interest-killer for me, and Philip, well, he was just one-note). And, seriously you guys-- were they actually making out at the end of this routine? This was hot right here.

AB NO, Travis is MY favorite dancer I've ever seen on the show. This whole situation (I mean, "conversation") was just unbelievable. The choreography, the tears, the journey, THE DANCE! It made me so proud of him, like he was my BABY. And I agree that Jeanine and Jason were the perfect pair to dance it; they had some crazy chemistry happening even before the hot kiss. I've always loved Jeanine, but this is the week Jason stood out for me, in any way. He was amazing. Love. Tears. Etc. I want Travis on every week.


Randi and Kupono
Paso Doble (Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin


Vance I actually agreed with the judges that the choreo was actually pretty good. But the costumes? The Wig? Were they trying to handicap arguably the weakest team? Well, it worked. Randi just looked heavy (in appearance and in dancing ability) and Kupono just wasn't strong enough here.

Joe: I said even before I saw the pairings that if Kupono and Randi were paired together, and they didn't absolutely KILL the routine, they'd both be gone. They were. They didn't. They will be. The whole thing was just so choppy, and they had absolutely no idea what to do with each other. You know I love Kupono like crazy, but it's probably time for him to go.

Sarah: Oh God. Paso abomination. This hurt my heart to watch. I heart Unitard Girl, but she really let me down here; I think there's an assumption that this kind of dance would look better with long lines-- but think about the power she could have brought. You know how they are always tell Randi and Evan to dance like they're 9 feet tall? I think it would be better if they tried to dance in the body that they have, because different bodies can really bring so much to the floor. Again with the sighing.

AB Hee! Paso Abomination, indeed. This was awful. What in the Sam Hill was with the WIG? I ask you. Randi looked like Elly Mae Clampett's dowdy cousin. And the dancing wasn't any better. Whichever judge said they didn't have any trust in each other as a pairing was right on, I think. Obviously, since Kupono totally dropped Randi on her ass at the end of the routine. It makes me sad about Kupono, because I do love him and his weirdo neckwear (did anyone notice his kee-razy vest during the intros?), but I agree that is might be his time to go. As much as it will make me cry.


Brandon and Melissa
Broadway (Emmy-nominated (oy) Tyce Diorio)


Vance Brandon and Melissa danced it beautifully. Okay, now that THAT'S out of the way. HAIR!!! (People, if you haven't seen it yet, GO SEE IT ON BROADWAY. IT'S AMAZING!!!) But WTF was that choreography? It looked like it was for something completely different and then they just overlaid "Aquarius" on top. Did it even match ANYTHING? Did it make ANY sense to what the song is actually about? I f@#ken HATE Emmy nominated Tyce Diorio. Oy. What a joke.

Joe: Okay, allow me a smidge of speculation, but Melissa didn't seem entirely thrilled to have drawn Brandon as a partner. Personality clash? You wouldn't be able to tell from the routine, which was energetic and let Melissa stretch out all over the place. But how awkward was Nigel talking about how symbolic it was for black Brandon and white Melissa to be dancing together? Hey Nigel, a while back, we Americans pushed you Brits out of here at the pointy end of our bayonettes. And now we let you sit and talk and stick pencils in your hair. That's significant, right?

Vance Ouch! As the Canadian in the group, the one that's basically part British (we still spell it colour) and part American (we love our ABC, NBC,CBS and FOX TV), am I going to have to play mediator here?

Sarah: I agree that this choreography was a mess but they performed it well, but I think the judges oversold it a bit. How about that weird 10 seconds at the end when they got lost in the smoke machine even though they were clearly still dancing? Nice work, art direction! And, Nigel wasn't the only Brit hit with strange racial tics this evening; did you guys notice how often Cat blurted "chile" when talking with Debbie Allen? But, she's Cat. So actually she can "chile" as much as she wants. I think Debbie Allen probably agrees.

AB It's like this: I hate Melissa. She's a great dancer, yes, but she is just so earnest and squeaky. Right, and whatevs, Tyce Diorio, Emmy Nominee. He is his own mess. But I grudgingly admit that they danced it well, although I could have done with a lot less of Melissa's "I'm Sooooo High" face. Brandon: back to "eh" on him this week. I did not notice Cat's racial transformation, but maybe she'll do better tonight.


The Bollywood and African Group Dances

Vance: Both Bollywood and African were SO FUN! I don't really have anything bad to say about them as a whole. Usually it's fun to see who pulls your eye in these group dances but almost everyone got my attention in the girls group, save Randi who was probably the only one I couldn't remember as I was watching. In the boys, obviously Evan stood out but not for not being able to keep up.

Joe: I don't really have a ton to say about the groups, except that it was hilarious watching Evan continue to do Broadway moves even through the live performance; and I really thought Kupono looked the best out of everyone out there.

Vance After repeat viewings, I will have to agree, I think I started realizing Kupono actually danced that best.

Sarah:: I agree that Kupono was a silent assassin in the African number. Ade was surprisingly not that good; he looked like he was holding back and not dancing from his core. And Evan, wow, what a thankless night for him as far as the choreographed numbers went. The girls Bollywood number looked so freaking hard. Talk about dancing from your core-- all those quick motions snapping in and out. I noticed Randi's hips during this number-- they were really divine-- and then also Kayla's arms and hands were gorgeous, but otherwise agree that this was a solid group effort, no real scene-stealers.

AB The group dances were so awesome to watch. This is my favorite part of the season, when everything starts getting switched around and there are separate group dances and whatnot. The girls edged out the guys, but just by a little. A little Evan, I mean. (Sorry!) Poor thing. He was struggling. Agreed on Kupono stealing the show.


The Solos:

Vance: Finally, I thought the guys did better than the girls overall. Loved Jason's, but for best Male Solo, it was a close match between Evan and Ade but after re-watching it several times, I give Evan's the win by a jazz hand. It had class and style, an emotional and comedic story arc and felt like a whole dance piece on its own. The girls, I was sort of down between Jeanine, Janette and Kayla's but all the contemp's are starting to look the same so I give it to Janette.

Joe: Great solos overall, but the ones that really popped for me were Evan (yowza! Perfect use of Rufus this time, too), Brandon, and Jeanine. Kupono did that thing he does where he choreographs something weird and insular and doesn't understand why nobody's that impressed. Sad. He's toast.

Vance But Mark's were weird and insular but we got it (or at least I did). Brandon's seemed part awesome and part seizure to me so I'm still debating if I loved it or not.

Sarah:: So, I have a problem with the solos generally, week to week. Who choreographs them? For most of them, it seems like a joint effort between the dancer and their po-dunk teacher from back home. I'd love to see more sophisticated choreography in the solos. In general, they tend to look like meth-heads shot out of a cannon, all rushed and seizure-y. I'd say this applied to Brandon, Ade, Kayla (I know!), Randi, and Janette. Evan's solo was fantastic, he's such a great combo of power (those leaps) and grace (his feet and hands are always SO precise). Besides his, I thought Jeanine's and Jason's solos were the only ones where the moves had time to breathe. I really loved Jeanine tonight, but I do wish she could get a little more air in her leaps. Her lines are fabulous, but her power off the ground isn't quite there for me.

AB At this point, I am barely paying attention to the solos, so I have little to say about them. Evan's was stellar, though. And it will probably be the reason he stays over Kupono (sniff!).


Three Faves:

Vance: Jeanine/Jason; Janette/Ade; Melissa/Brandon

Joe: Top 3: Jeanine/Jason; Janette/Ade; Melissa/Brandon

Sarah: Jeanine/Jason, Ade/Janette, Melissa/Brandon

AB: Jeanine/Jason; Janette/Ade; Melissa/Brandon


Least Favorite:

Vance: Randi/Kupono

Joe: Randi/Kupono

Sarah: Randi/Kupono

AB: Randi/Kupono