Cinematic Listology

Beetlejuice Video Game

Most video game adaptations make some sort of sense. Like a game based on a kids’ movie, or a popular action franchise, or something like that. Hell, in the 1980s, they made pretty much anything into a video game just to see what stuck. But there are some movie-based video games that don’t make sense under any circumstance. Even ones from the anything-goes 80s. Trying to figure out how some of these went bizarrely from the big screen to console is like staring into the eye of madness. Someone, somewhere, said, “Yes, we should totally make a video game out of…”

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summer04_spiderman

Everyone likes to cut corners, especially when it’s a job you’ve done a zillion times before. (I’ve tried re-submitting the same lists from a few months ago a bunch of times, but the editors keep noticing.) The same apparently applies to the music part of the movie-making business. It makes sense when you really think about it. 99% of viewers probably never even notice the music anyway. The whole point of movie music is to exist in the background, silently lurking, waiting for its chance to… wait, I’m confusing movie music with Jason Vorhees again. That’s been happening a lot lately. I probably need to see a doctor.

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New Line Cinema

One of the first things you learn as a creative person is that everyone needs an editor. (Except me.) (Especially me.) Having an extra set of eyes that cares about your piece and wants it to be better can never hurt. Sure, sometimes studios get in the way, and in those cases, Director’s Cuts are a wonderful thing. But sometimes a director gets a bug up their ass about some perceived flaw in their film and puts out a cut that’s just… worse. Like, bad worse.

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Burt Reynolds in Heat

When I did one of these posts a year ago, the basic idea was to highlight how many remakes were coming out in 2014. Most were obvious retreads, whether the name was a giveaway (RoboCop) or changed to promise a new angle (Maleficent). This year there are surprisingly few rehashes capitalizing on familiar titles and short memories. Yes, there are reboots of Poltergeist, Point Break and Fantastic Four coming later in the year, but at least for the first six months of 2015 we appear to be getting more continuations than do-overs — or in the cases of Mad Max: Fury Road, maybe a combination — with the mainstream releases. You don’t have to worry too much about your childhood being raped between now and the end of June. Still, I was able to find 15 movies opening in the next half year that are either official remakes or new versions of previously adapted works (look for part two of this feature at the end of June for the second half of the year). Few of them will sound familiar, let alone have a significant fanbase built in through the original or precursor. Some of them — and this is different from last year — are not redoes at all. They might have some other notable relationship to a movie of the past. And in at least one case there is a sequel of sorts, arriving so much later and without any clear titular connection that it’s worth pointing out by recommending the prior part. With each of these […]

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Universal Pictures

Generally, film and television characters have the least discerning tastebuds of anyone, ever, when it comes to drinks and libations. They sidle up to a counter or bar and order the vaguest thing they can think of. Sure, it’s a narrative technique to avoid product placement, but it’s almost always nonsensically vague. They order a “beer,” but not even a lager, ale, or porter; they order a whisky, but not (at least) a scotch, rye, or bourbon. In this never-ending sea of vagueness rises Sleepy Time tea – an unstoppably specific force infiltrating the business in and out. Sleepy Time is the tea offered to Eric Stoltz when his café, Java, doesn’t have chamomile, and chamomile is the answer Seth Rogen gave our Scott Beggs years ago when asked about his favorite Sleepy Time tea flavor. It is what fictional characters sip while watching What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, and part of the nightly beauty routine of one of the How to Get Away with Murder stars. It’s even used as a measure of cinematic worth – what Take Shelter has been compared to, as well as The Eye, and the dialect in Suddenly. On-screen it pops up again and again. People might not care whether their beer is dark and rich or light and refreshing, but they sure as hell care about how much Sleepy Time they consume. One dare not be vague when it comes to tea, as if there is an all-powerful Sleepy Time lobby pushing […]

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Inherent Vice

Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice is slowly unleashing itself in a few theaters to sneak into the 2014 awards race before its wide release next year. Joaquin Phoenix stars as Doc Sportello, a strange, drug-taking private eye investigating the disappearance of an ex-girlfriend and finding himself in the middle of an insane mix of missing persons, police investigations and strange business ventures. This is the first Thomas Pynchon novel to the make it to the big screen (save for “Gravity’s Rainbow” inspiring the German docudrama Prüfstand VII). It’s a film that will never be a blockbuster success, though it boasts a cast ranging from Jena Malone and Owen Wilson to Jeannie Berlin and Eric Roberts; it’s just too weird. It is, however, a breath a freakish fresh air in a film landscape that’s gotten oppressively predictable. If this could start a trend where Hollywood embraces weird texts, there are no shortage of possibilities ripe for the picking – ones that evolve from our obsession with post-apocalyptic worlds, the dangers of multi-national corporations and scientific experimentation, and worlds where a can of pork and beans can set off on an epic journey to salvation. Here are seven delightfully unique tomes that should be made into movies. Success or failure, at the very least they’d give our eyes and mind some new cultural food to graze on.

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Sucker Punch Movie

Recently, we’ve lived through trailers for Jurassic World, Terminator: Genisys, and Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.  Some people are getting way excited, but it’s worth keeping in mind that trailers are built specifically to make the movie look good. Now, we’re not saying anything about the quality of those movies. Just beware before you plunk down your hard-earned cash in case they end up like…

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Merry Friggin Christmas

There was once a time when Christmas movies were about Claymation heroes fighting abominable villains, visits by ghosts and angels, and young dreams for a Red Ryder B.B. Gun. Now these classics share the stage with hordes of super-basic, super-saccharine fare with the simplicity of a greeting card (and not surprisingly, often produced by the channel of a greeting card company). Instead of worlds full of Santas and mystical powers, these are basic escapist fantasies where life can be fixed in the blink of an eye – where soulmates can be found near and far, where prison sentences can be avoided by finding love, and kindness will get you everything you’ve ever hoped for. These movies are embraced by some and mocked by others, as their simplistic storylines are flooded with little subtlety and cast with actors who are often firmly out of the spotlight. But there’s more talent in these films than a quick glimpse suggests. There are no shortage of C-list names attached to these films – of which there are more than you’d ever realize – but it’s surprising to see just how many talents have moonlighted in Christmas fantasy. The only thing kookier than the storylines these movies boast are the talents that often bring them to life. Wayne’s World director Penelope Spheeris last directed the 2012 flick The Real St. Nick. Wallace Shawn has appeared in Karroll’s Christmas and Christmas at Cartwright’s. Summer Glau filled time between Alphas and Arrow with Help for the Holidays. […]

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The Matrix Zion Rave

The difference between a 120-minute movie and a 115-minute movie can be surprisingly huge. Pacing and editing are the most underrated parts of the filmmaking process, so it’s baffling when a movie spends a bunch of time on a scene that, in the end, doesn’t even matter. Turns out there’s not really a good technical term for it, except “a bunch of bullshit they put in to pad the runtime or something.” But these are parts of movies that wasted a bunch of your time and you’ll never get it back. Enjoy!

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Nick Cave

By most accounts, Nick Cave is a particular taste, only occasionally entering pop culture by covering iconic songs or collaborating with pop superstars like Kylie Minogue. Yet the man who “sings every line like a Batman villain” thrives on film. His idiosyncratic brand of storytelling songwriting morphs to the occasion. It’s a strange phenomenon of film – that particular songs about particular experiences can become so universal in the right filmmaker’s hands. But this isn’t merely a songwriter whose early work is continually reembraced and reimagined like Leonard Cohen. Nick Cave is a ghost who haunts cinema with his melancholy and anger, and a noticeable presence within it – creating, scoring and performing for the camera. 20,000 Days on Earth, out this week, reinforces his image as the cinematic preacher, depicting 24 fictional hours of his life, but his life on screen stretches much farther – especially in these 7 glorious uses of his music and presence.

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Blade Runner Roy Batty

This year we had Maleficent, and Sony is working on a Sinister Six movie. Wicked has been on the verge of being made for years. Now is the age of the villain film. They’ve moved beyond the horror genre (where Jason and Freddy are the real stars) and now anyone is fair game. I, for one, am stoked. Let’s get some bad guy movies for…

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The Heartbreak Kid

Sixty-four years ago today, one of Alec Guinness’ best films hit U.S. screens – Henry Cass’ darkly comedic Last Holiday. Guinness plays George Bird, a boring bachelor in a boring job who goes for a routine check-up and finds out he has a deadly and incurable disease. Upon his doctor’s advice he decides to clear out his savings and make the most of his final days, checking into a luxurious hotel. It is a choice that paints his remaining time with the most wicked irony. Having a moment to stop and live rather than work and worry, George earns all the fortune his life had been missing – friendship, love and professional success that he can’t act upon. Except, this is a wildly dark comedy with enough cruel life twists that make George’s experience anything but simple. Though its wickedness is irresistible, the film has been tragically forgotten, its themes only vaguely living on in Joe Versus the Volcano until it finally got remake in 2006. But George became Georgia, Queen Latifah was cast, and the film excised all the darkness that made the 1950 film such an atypical treat in order to whip up a chipper and typical comedy full of good tidings and bolstered by Latifah’s charm. Though we always lament the obvious remakes, there are many more where the source material is forgotten, wiped away because the remake came so long ago, or because the remake was so terrible that no one ever wanted to look beyond […]

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Jarhead Movie

Happy Veterans Day, or early Veterans Day if this goes up early, or belated Veterans Day if it goes up late! Don’t blame me, blame our unpatriotic commie editors. (Note to editors: It was just a joke! Haha! Please give me back my family.) And what better way to celebrate our veterans than a good old fashioned war movie! But what if, like me, you’re not really a fan of war movies? Well, never fear, because I am here to help with these war movies for people who don’t like war movies. Simple enough? Good. MOVE OUT!

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Pineapple Express

“I think we have to get beyond the idea that we have to categorize people,” Roger Ebert once said. It is an idea that is no more felt than in the realm of cinema and celebrity, where our compulsion to categorize merges with the worst of typecasting and image-making. The minute a person excels at something they are defined by it, so much so that any and all departures become shocking diversions rather than relatable human actions. It doesn’t make sense to be shocked (we all have diverse interests that don’t fit into one neat mold), but we are, time and time again. Generally, it defines our actors as talents are typecast into one very specific sort of role that either makes us forget all that came before (like Christopher Walken being a trained song and dance man before a creepy villain), or keeps them narrowly cast until someone dares to showcase their other talents (like the countless comedians who shock people when they offer stellar dramatic work). It also happens with directors. If they dare to slip into a certain visual style or approach, we expect every film to follow suit. It can be downright shocking if they diverge from their norm, no matter how many times it happens, and no matter how many times we acknowledge how much Hollywood requires someone to manufacture an image rather than just be themselves. We forget the fact that image is what gets money, and sometimes style is the only thing that gets […]

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The Mist Movie

We’ve talked previously about movies that are better than their source material on the whole. Now let’s talk about movies that improve upon their source in a very specific way — the ending. A bad ending can ruin a perfectly good film (The Ninth Gate) and a good one can make an otherwise mediocre film shine (The Usual Suspects — Yeah, I said it, come at me). Even if the rest of the film was a complete dog turd, at least the creators got the ending right in movies like…

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Argento Deep Red

Not only is this week the 10th anniversary of the release of Saw, but the movie is also back in theaters as of today in commemoration of the occasion. Conceived by James Wan and Leigh Whannell, who met in film school as students at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and directed by Wan, this original installment of what would become a seven-movie franchise is also one of the most influential movies — not just horror movies — of the past decade. Like most seminal movies of the past few decades, though, it’s also a highly influenced movie. To discuss the inception of an idea like Saw is to discuss earlier movies that inspired Wan and Whannell. In honor of both the anniversary and the re-release, I’ve compiled the latest Movies to See… list as a retroactive primer for fans of Saw, or just for anyone who has or does see the original and wants some great precursors to check out afterward. Not all are horror movies, but the ones that aren’t technically of the same genre are relevant for their darker elements. Some are directly acknowledged as being actual influences and inspirations for Saw while others are just obvious predecessors in some way or another. Only one of this week’s picks, however, is included primarily for being an earlier movie starring one of the members of the cast. If by chance you haven’t seen Saw yet and have been able to go 10 years without it being spoiled for […]

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Poltergeist Poster Image

I’ve never been shy about my disinclination for horror, which is possibly my least favorite movie genre if I had to pick one. It’s not that I hate all horror films, but very generally they don’t ever immediately appeal to me. I find that I don’t scare easily, I don’t like to look at a lot of gore and I don’t have much interest in the psychology of fictional killers or the suffering of fictional victims. Most horror movies I see bore me, even those I might appreciate as being more than just a conventional series of deaths or hauntings or other frights. I often rationalize my disfavor as being the effect of watching a ton of horror movies at a very young age and becoming immune to their tricks and subtext. That might not be the truth, but I do remember having a dream around age 6 or 7 in which I was basically on a set visit to a horror film production, where I saw all the suicidal people who’d volunteered to play victims, because in that world the actors in horror films are literally killed. That makes me sound more messed up as a kid than I was, when really I think it was just my imagination reminding me that the actuality of horror movies is all just pretend. I’m sure my overthinking of the genre even then kept me from enjoying it. Anyway, whatever the reasons for my being a “horror hater” (nowadays my being a […]

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Cabin in the Woods Acker

The Final Girl was a pretty great evolution for horror movies. Instead of endless heaps of screaming ladies falling victim to supernatural and human evils, some would rise above, running out the front door rather than up the stairs, finding a way to fight back rather than just blow the audience’s ear drums with blood-curdling screams. But the Final Girl was just that – a girl. One solitary girl might live so that the evil had someone to fight with in future, franchised battles. The down side to having a Final Girl was that only one would persevere while many more perished – victims who were often just as capable (if not smarter, or at least more charismatic) than the ones who would live. To make the victims into Final Girls might not always make narrative sense – and indeed, can change the entire outcome of a film – but it’s still fun to imagine the alternative, especially on Halloween.

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Romeo is Bleeding Olin

The scene starts out typically enough. An exhausted, blood-covered man jumps into a car and peels out of the area with a prone, bloodied female body lying in the back seat. As he drives away, however, she watches. Before he can notice the change, she’s turned around, raised her legs, and wrapped them around his neck. It’s equal parts sadistic and erotic as she perches on her shoulders, her skirt riding up to reveal her garter belt and panties. She isn’t serious and focused, but delightfully cackling, her eyes closed as if she just heard the funniest joke. He swerves left and right, struggling for air and failing to stop her as blood smears all over the car. He crashes and is knocked unconscious. With her hands cuffed behind her back she crawls to the front, kicks out the windshield, grabs an envelope with her teeth, and wiggles her way out. She isn’t impervious to pain. When she falls to the ground she cries out, but pulls herself to her feet and wobbles off, kicking off her remaining stiletto to run away. When Gary Oldman drove off with Lena Olin in the back of the car in Romeo is Bleeding, the incomparable actress revealed the joys of female evil and the potential inherent in leg-based violence. The male gaze, quite atypically, merges with feminism in moments like hers. There is a sexual element of provocation mixed with a feminine release as she attacks with the very body part that differentiates […]

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We Need to Talk About Kevin

With adults, you have to put in a lot of effort to make them creepy – layering on makeup and blood and involving them in increasingly horrific acts to impact increasingly apathetic audiences. With children, however, you often need little more than a cherubic face juxtaposed with an evil act to make an impact. Mixing evil into childhood innocence is often the perfect horror concoction for movies, whether it’s a horror movie teasing at the fear of the unknown or a drama exploring the world of a truly terrible child. Of course, sometimes it’s nothing more than the result of really bad parenting. In the premiere of The Affair, Dominic West’s son fakes a suicide to get a rise out of his dad. But when West’s Noah quickly gets over his anger and shrugs off the stunt, it’s perfectly obvious why his kid is acting out – dad is an ineffectual parent. But sometimes it’s about much more than slightly atypical adolescent rebellion. Nothing compares to the chills that a child can evoke, whether they’re the perpetrators of evil or the seemingly innocent guardians of it with their redrum warnings. Many of our most chilling cinematic moments come at the hands of children, whether it’s little Gage bringing Mommy knives in Pet Semetary, twins wanting to play in The Shining, or some of the most truly terrifying images, like Linda Blair’s young Regan in The Exorcist – a film whose frights transcend the tarnish of age. Here are some of […]

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published: 01.29.2015
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published: 01.28.2015
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published: 01.28.2015
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