This will be full of misspellings, improper sentences, and various other mistakes (so what else is new) as I am still very punchy and tired from the fourteenth annual Butt-Numb-A-Thon. I'm normally first out of the gate with these things, so why break tradition? This will not be as long as my usual BNAT write-ups, because I'm tired as hell, my feet feel swollen, and I'm, as usual, so sad to be away from my friends and geek family for another year. It's never soon enough, people.
This year, I think, will go on record as being the most relaxing, chilled BNAT ever. Unlike other years, where the anxiety and nervousness are almost palpable due to the many premieres and special events, this year I really just surrendered myself to the day and whatever Harry had planned. I was especially happy on Friday to finally see the finished RAIDERS Adaptation, as I had only seen the first half almost ten years before to the day. Hanging our with Eric Zala and Chris Stromberg, the two insane kids (now adults) behind that wonderous movie, was a bonus. The fact that after 10 years of having their movie rock BNAT's world, that they were finally experiencing the event for themselves, was really terrific.
This year Harry really wanted to show 35MM prints, because as we all know the format is dying. This was a celebration of that format, and I was thankful to see these movies before they are gone. Who knows if any of these titles will be converted to digital? Plus, there's something so soothing and tactile about 35MM. I loved being able to see these movies as they were intended.
It's been quite a year at Ain't It Cool. Harry's show has done well, and we all hope for a new season of insanity. I'm putting in my request right now - I want to be eaten by Boiler at some point. I feel it's probably the only appropriate way to die for me. Here's the sizzler reel for Season 1 that played at BNAT - and I'm always so honored to be a part of this site and with everyone here.
Listen, this isn't the crowd to bitch to if you aren't being catered to your specific wants, especially when it comes to seeing things that you haven't seen before, or premieres and stuff like that. We are film enthusiasts, open to practically anything, and if we see a premiere that's terrific, but that's not the point of BNAT, never has been, and never will be. It's Harry throwing us into the deep end of the film pool, so to speak, and just trusting his tastes to see us through. This year, we ran the entire gamut - fantasy, horror, crime dramas, musicals, utterly bugfuck nuts strangeness, film noir, dystopian sci-fi, and even a little bit of that old 1980s action movie style. And this year, because it was mostly vintage, for me much of the urgency of BNAT went away, and I really enjoyed the event and the tone of it this year.
So yeah, I'll talk about the new stuff, some of the old stuff, and yes, I will dive into THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY and all the brouhaha surrounding the 48FPS thing. In no particular order:
The STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS Full Trailer
Those expecting the villain to be revealed should probably think again - although we see Benedict Cumberbatch more, it's still unsaid who he plays. But, he does definitely wear a Starfleet uniform, and this time we see some space battles, as well as that now infamous shot of the hands-on-glass. But the tone of that original 53-second teaser is much the same, and little is revealed. I'm just as intrigued about what the movie is actually about, and if this is vague, I'm sorry - I'm really tired. But don't expect to have your questions answered - this is a J. J. Abrams movie, after all.
The First 8 Minutes Of WORLD WAR Z
If you've seen the trailer, you've seen a lot of it. Brad Pitt and family in the car, slowly becoming aware of some bad shit going down. One bit I really did like - Pitt's daughter's teddy bear singing a song and counting down from ten, as we see a man transform from human into zombie in that ten seconds, body wracked with the transformation, and then the singalong "The train has left the station!" and the new zombie stands up and breaks into a full-on sprint. This is big in scale and the 8 minutes sets the tone very well about the mass chaos that ensues in just a matter of minutes. It's well-done and shot; I'm just not seeing much of Max Brooks' novel yet. There is a mention of "rabies" being spread, and the scale works very well (although it was unfinished). Whether or not fans of the book will be satisfied is uncertain, but I did like what I saw.
The PACIFIC RIM Footage From Comic-Con
Guillermo Del Toro brought his new movie that he produced, MAMA, but he also brought what we thought was the new trailer for PACIFIC RIM. Instead, someone gave him the wrong file and we saw the footage from Comic-Con. I hadn't seen it, so that was fine by me. The scale is marvelous - these robots and monsters have weight to them that feels genuine, and I'd love to have that old Sensurround Sound installed in theaters for this one, literally shaking the roof off the place. You;ll get a new trailer this weekend with THE HOBBIT, and you'll see what more GdT has in store. But make no mistake, as Harry said during the Q&A, this is Del Toro's STAR WARS - a new universe for us to play in. You should be excited for this.
The EVIL DEAD Footage
I'm bummed we couldn't get to see the whole movie - due to some inside baseball politics BNAT was not able to show the movie in its entirety - but know this: I am freakishly excited for this now. The footage we saw involved a young woman, possessed by the demons in the NECRONOMICON EX MORTIS, which we get to see in detail - as she wounds herself in the face in a most gruesome manner. As a young man tries to stop her, he gets a bit of nasty business straight into his eye, and the audience screamed as he pulled a broken syringe needle out of the bottom of his eyelids. It was spectacularly gory, hardcore, and so utterly completely EVIL DEAD - down to the crazy-ass Raimiesque camera angles - that fans who are being reluctant to embrace this should put aside their misgivings. From this one scene alone, I was utterly convinced. EVIL DEAD is going to kick unholy amounts of ass.
G. I. JOE RETALIATION Footage
We saw a new 3D trailer for RETALIATION, and it looked about as good as it expected to, with all sorts of metal stars and pieces of swords flying at the screen. But the best thing about it was the scene where Snake Eyes makes his was into the enemy compund to capture Storm Shadow. We get ninjas flying from mountainsides on cables, shurikens flying at the camera to be dispatched with automatic gunfire, a duel between Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes, all in 3D, and it looked amazing. I don't know how good GIJOE RETALIATION will be, but it sure looked fun.
THE HEAT Footage
Paul Feig brought the red band trailer for THE HEAT, starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, and then a couple of scenes - one where Melissa McCarthy harasses and arrests a poor john played by Tony Hale and another where Sandra Bullock tries to save a choking man at a restaurant with the worst tracheotomy surgery ever performed. It was rude, crude, and very funny and the audience laughed a lot. I'm a fan of BRIDESMAIDS and Feig looks to bring more of that humor here - McCarthy was especially funny, but Bullock looked to hold her own as well. THE HEAT opens enxt year and looks to be just as funny as BRIDESMAIDS.
Michael Bay's PAIN AND GAIN Trailer
This was my favorite trailer of the night, and it's because I completely did not expect this. I, along with Mr. Beaks, am an unabashed fan of BAD BOYS 2. I don't give a shit - that movie is organized chaos, a movie so screwed up in its priorities that with Humvees it literally runs ramshod over poor people in a Cuban shantytown. This is that filmmaker again, not the one from TRANSFORMERS, and he's playing in a decidedly adult world this time, as Mark Wahlberg (looking almost old-school Schwarzenegger huge) and Dwayne Johnson decide to rob poor Tony Shalhoub of all his money. Devin Faraci described this as having a somewhat Coen Brothers feel to it, and I can see that, but it looks as if Bay is truly playing with the camera in a way that even his higher-budget movies don't allow. Plus, the dialogue is flat-out awesome. This may very well surprise us all - Bay fans and haters alike - next year.
THE NEW MOVIES
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
I'll be writing a bigger review later in the week, but short answer is that I loved this first film in the new Middle-earth Trilogy. Stepping back into that world was about as comforting as it could get, and Jackson eases us back into this world with the same skills that he had in the original. It's hard to be critical when Peter Jackson brings me back into that place again. That said, there is some fat that could have been cut, and the CGI is far more prevalent than even the first trilogy. But Martin Freeman is flat-out perfect as Bilbo, and Richard Armitage is noble as Thorin Oakenshield, even when he lets his nobility get in the way of his reasoning. It's, of course, wonderful to see Gandalf, Galadriel, Saruman, and Elrond again, and you can tell that they will definitely be up to something in the second movie. The Riddles In The Dark sequence with Bilbo and Andy Serkis's Gollum is a definite high point; another great moment is when two mountains literally go to war with each other, with the tiny Dwarves and one Hobbit at their mercy. That felt truly epic in the 3D.
I know I am in the minority on this. Just from reactions at BNAT, I know this. But I truly liked 48FPS. It made the 3D pop in a manner in which I've never seen before. I've been struggling with eye issues all my life, and I've never been able to see 3D in its full potential - until now. Yes, it does take getting used to - people seem to move faster than normal, and then about 15 minutes in it really does kick into place. That said, this is a different aesthetic than many are used to, and many film enthusiasts will flat-out reject it. I'm still not entirely sure what I think yet - there are moments so beautiful in this format, and others that really do look strange, especially with the CGI. Perhaps THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG will look different, and if you are used to film this will take some adjusting. But for now, I had no eye strain when watching this 3D, and that alone made it worth it for me. Time will tell for me on my preferences, but I didn't reject it outright like I thought I was going to do. We'll see.
I won't lie - at one point, I jumped out of my seat. Guillermo Del Toro produced this movie, directed by Andres Muschetti, a story of two young girls abandoned in the forest with only some... entity protecting them and raising them. When their uncle Lucas (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend Anabel (Jessica Chastain) find them and decide to take care of them, the being that was protecting them follows them to their new home. But Mama is jealous, and full of madness and rage, and threatens them all. I really liked how the movie doesn't pull a lot of visual punches - it's not all set-up with creaks and bumps for two-thirds of the movie. Jessica Chastain pals a very different role than in ZERO DARK THIRTY, and helps to elevate the material, even when the story starts to get a little creaky itself. I think strong word-of-mouth will help this find an audience, especially since it's PG-13 (but doesn't feel it). Pretty scary movie, kids.
BULLET TO THE HEAD
I found this Sylvester Stallone action-fest pretty generic, even with the great Walter Hill at the helm. It's funny at times, and Jason Momoa makes a formidable bad guy, and Sung Kang is good as Sly's cop partner who doesn't know whether to arrest Sly or help him. But if you've seen Hill's other 80s efforts like RED HEAT or 48 HRS, you've seen Hill far better than this movie. It's vaporware for the most part - it's got its moments of fun, but I've seen a hundred of these movies in the 1980s, and done better.
We almost saw the whole thing this time! I think me wearing the jersey helped poor Jeff Mahler's chances this year. Too bad we'll never know if the Beavers won.
THE BROADWAY MELODY OF 1940
My favorite musical of the night. Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell dance like gods. This was a truly great movie about a tested friendship and a love of cinema that knows no bounds. My wife's favorite movie of the night, and it would have been mine if a certain movie hadn't played later...
THE GANG'S ALL HERE
Busby Berkeley is a mad genius. If you've ever seen his wonderful work, from WONDERBAR to FOOTLIGHT PARADE, he makes such amazing use of the space and of choreography that it boggles the mind. THE GANG'S ALL HERE is Berkeley playing in Technicolor, and if you watch the scene above, it really is amazing to see on the big screen. It's beautiful, insane, and glorious. I'm so happy I saw this.
I wish Drew McWeeny was here to see this one, as he's a huge Myrna Loy and William Powell fan from THE THIN MAN movies. In this one, Spencer Tracy and Jean Harlow join in on the screwball comedy as a newspaper guy tries to prevent his paper from being sued by setting up a "libeled lady" to fall in love. The dialogue is witty and fun. A terrific screwball comedy.
If there's any great actor that George Clooney, in my opinion, emulates, it's Tyrone Power. Power subverted his own image much like Clooney does today - as a perfectly likable man, he is able to take audiences into places that may be darker than they are used to. This "carnival noir" movie is about faith, hucksterism, and the power of guilt in ripping one man's soul apart, Harry was adamant about seeing this in 35mm, and I'm glad we all did.
My favorite movie moment of the night. For years, I've been bugging Harry to play ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES, my all-time favorite James Cagney movie. People would have been sobbing into their breakfasts. But Harry seemingly heard my cries for a Cagney gangster movie and played what is probably considered his best, most iconic gangster performance of all time. I stood up and cheered when Harry announced this title - it was almost as if he programmed it just for me. If nothing else, I'm so so happy I got to see this with an audience - legitimately one of my favorite movies of all time. This, Harry, was my Christmas present, and I can't thank you enough for playing it.
I love this movie, and have seen it many times. I love it mostly because until the mid-90s, this was the only team in Houston that ever won anything. ROLLERBALL may seem quaint now, but when it was released it was seen as incredibly violent and controversial. The print was truly gorgeous, and I love the message about corporations trying to stfle the individual man, a strange dichotomy that seems very different in today's political realities. Plus. it's just a kickass movie.
It was another amazing BNAT, and I'd like to thank Harry, Eric Vespe, Steve Prokopy, Jay Knowles, Patricia Knowles, Moises Chiullan, Kevin Biegel, Rian Johnson, Noah Segan, Christopher Cargill, Meghan McCain, Eric Zala, Chris Strompolos, Elijah Wood, Jeremy Stomberg, Derek Mahr, Windy Bowlsby, John Ary, Ed Travis, my wife Tami, and so many others for an amazing time this year. Hated to leave, and hopefully we'll see you next year. Thanks for reading.