Mars Attacks!

Mars Attacks Congress

It’s that time of year again. Leaves are turning burnt orange, horror movies are confusingly not being released, and the GOP has threatened to shut down the government because they failed for the 54th time to stop a law that was passed three years ago. Only this time they actually followed through with the threat (go figure), and now none of us can enjoy the leaves at National Parks or watch NASA launch stuff into orbit. Unsurprisingly, the concept of the government shutting down (or at least this version of a shut down) isn’t well represented in movies because of how breathtakingly uncinematic it is. When we want to see a political crisis on screen, we demand that Harrison Ford punch a terrorist off of Air Force One or Denzel Washington get brainwashed. That doesn’t stop films from tiptoeing around the periphery or taking a central role in this current freeze. Whether directly referenced by politicians or symbolically evoked by our collective subconscious, movies are here to help us make sense of it all and/or confuse us even further.

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Last week, conversations flared around the alleged retirement of Jack Nicholson. The jury is still out as to whether or not he has officially called it quits in his acting career, but even if the accomplished performer (nominated for Academy Awards 12 times – more than any other male actor) and notorious personality hung up his guns for good, he’d leave behind a rich 5-decade-long career. Magnetic but not conventionally handsome, brash but able to convey remarkable subtlety, Nicholson is as much a consummate actor’s actor as he is a movie star. Like other aging stars of the ‘60s and ‘70s, some of his later roles have found him exercising a form of self-parody, a send-up of the patented “Jack” persona. But when you look past the long list of Nicholson’s greatest hits, a rather complex performer emerges, one that any late-career parody can’t contain. Beyond the groundbreaking performances of The Last Detail and Cuckoo’s Nest or the canonical star turns of Batman and As Good as It Gets, here are some of Nicholson’s under-appreciated deep cuts.

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IntroStructures

Let’s face facts – explosions are great. No one is denying that in the least, but sometimes they just get a little… mundane. Really once you’ve seen the White House explode under an alien disaster beam or get rammed by a giant tidal wave, you don’t really need to see that again. It’s been covered. So let’s take alien beams and tidal waves right off the table and start thinking about some of the more ingenious ways Hollywood has wrecked the place.

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Tim Burton is not a fan of the horizontally-challenged. That’s the conclusion I reached from watching Frankenweenie, an otherwise very pleasant return to form for for the director. What isn’t so pleasant is how every paunchy character — the mayor, the gym coach, and the chubby kid whose name doesn’t matter — is cackled at by Burton and turned into a visual punch-line. Burton portrays these characters in a way that seems antithetical to how most people perceive him and his films… with a casual dash of mean-spiritedness. The one constant in Burton’s films, aside from Johnny Depp obviously, is that he’s always championed the outcasts and made them the eventual heroes of their worlds. Think of the Goth cutter Edward Scissorhands defeating the jock bully, the goofy Amish kid saving the day in Mars Attacks, the friendless Charlie Bucket outlasting the truly bad kids to win the chocolate factory, etc. Looking back at his work, though, it seems clear that Burton himself has been acting the bully when it comes to even the mildly obese. They’re made to be clumsy, goofy, obnoxious and irritating, and if they don’t exist strictly as a visual gag they’re almost sure to be a villain. Can you think of one overweight hero or true good guy in his films? I can’t. Why would a man so feverishly in favor of defending and uplifting outsiders himself single out a specific group of people to consistently bully throughout his career? Hell if I know, but […]

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Boiling Point

Editor’s Note: The following article contains discussion of events from the third act of Prometheus. You’ve been warned.  Prometheus just can’t get a break. From poor reviews to my upcoming list of the 10 Dumbest Crew Member Mistakes, you’d think we’d have picked on Ridley Scott’s revisit enough. But we haven’t! This just isn’t about Prometheus though. Hollywood has a long history of illustrating stupid people doing stupid things. One that has always bothered me is when people are fleeing gigantic objects. Whether it’s a falling spaceship, a collapsing building, or a gigantic beast, there’s one tried and true method of escaping – and it ain’t running in a straight line.

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Aural Fixation - Large

With Dark Shadows set to hit theaters this weekend, Warners hosted a small Q&A this past Tuesday to highlight what will be composer Danny Elfman and director Tim Burton’s fourteenth film together. I am notorious for getting lost on studio lots (I once accidentally wandered into a background shot during the filming of Private Practice while looking for a screening room), but I was pleased (and relieved) when I arrived and realized this event was being held outside making it easy to find (although the long line of Elfman fans flanking the venue was also a pretty clear indicator). It was a nice change of pace to be outside on a warm afternoon and seemed to put everyone in a good mood. While the Q&A was moderated, the goal of the afternoon was primarily to open the floor up to the fans and have them ask the questions. This can be a precarious opportunity when the questions are unfiltered (and sometimes cringe worthy) as anyone who has attended a Q&A can attest to. However this afternoon the questions (save for a few – no, Oingo Boingo will not be getting back together) were incredibly thoughtful and interesting. Elfman noted that doing events like this are something he gladly takes time to do as he loves interacting with fans and this was clear as he took every question seriously and gave each person his undivided attention when answering. The event was also to commemorate the release of Elfman and Burton’s 25th Anniversary […]

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If Jesus or Tupac ever finally return like we’ve all been saying they will, they should probably do it in a Judd Apatow film or something like that. We love cameos, don’t we? It’s especially delightful when it’s extremely unexpected, and of course extra points if they are playing themselves – or better yet some kind of silly version of themselves. It’s all about recognizing the kind of person you are perceived to be, and then playing off that in a way that makes the audience realize that you are in on the joke. If a celebrity is able to do that, it’s instant coolness.

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Welcome back to that thing the title line said it is! Well another year has passed and you’ve wasted dozens of Fridays scarfing down bad movies until your eyeballs cry out for mercy. Good for you! When Master Chief Neil Miller asked me to a be a part of the Film School Rejects 2010 Year in Review, I cursed him for making me put forth some modicum of effort. I mean honestly, how could I possibly choose my 10 favorite Junkfood Cinema entries when I don’t feel any of them are worth celebrating? So instead, I’ve decidedly to launch what will surely not become a yearly tradition: The Junkfood Cinema Awards. Prepare yourselves…for The Junkies!

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Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; home of the Whopper. Actually no, but every week I dive head-first into the quadruple celluloid cheeseburgers that we all love despite the crippling heart burn that results.

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Ten Movies You Need to See Before Going to Vegas

We have put together this list of must-see films before any Vegas trip. Trust me, it will keep you out of trouble.

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