Archive for the ‘The Future’ Category

Cloud Atlas (2012)


If you didn’t see this movie on the big screen, you missed out.  If you missed it entirely, you fucked up.  And if you were one of those who called it “the worst movie of the year” (whoever Mary Pols at Time magazine is; stupid stupid Peter Travers) – God help you.  When this movie comes to be seen as a lost classic in a few years, you may wish you weren’t so nasty.

I won’t be gloating though.  I choose the avenue of love.  This movie encouraged me to be that way.  This movie is about a lot of things I may or may not believe in – fate, true love, reincarnation of sorts – and it made me believe – strongly – in them all.  That’s the power of love, son.  That’s the power of cinema.  And I was skeptical too.  I’ve always liked the Wachowskis but I’m not as high on THE MATRIX as so many are (although, weirdly, I liked the sequels better than most), and I haven’t seen a Tom Tykwer move that really resonated with me since RUN LOLA RUN.  Most of all, without having read David Mitchell’s original novel it was hard to tell in advance what the hell this movie was going to be about.  Answer:  It’s kinda about everything.

It’s a 19th-century nautical drama involving slavery and other human cruelties.

It’s a period piece about the creation of classical music and an impossible romance.

It’s a 1970s political thriller about an intrepid reporter (co-starring THE THING‘s Keith David as SHAFT‘s Shaft!).

It’s a whimsical farce about an attempted escape from a nursing home.

It’s a science-fiction anime action-movie love-story.

It’s a post-apocalyptic future-tropical tribal-warfare-slash-horror-movie that turns into a campfire fable.

It’s like no other movie I’ve ever seen before, which for the record is exactly why I go to the movies:  To see things I haven’t seen before.  The performances are surprising and exhilarating, the score is clever and moving, the cinematography is colorful and absorbing, the scope is bold and ambitious.  Does it matter too much that some of the storylines are more affecting than others?  You think I care about anybody’s stupid little quibbles over some of the makeup effects?  This is a movie that shoots for the moon and more than once hits the stars.  This movie didn’t just surprise me with what it is – it surprised me about ME.  It’s sad that more people haven’t embraced it yet, but believe me, I’m happier loving this movie than you are disregarding or ignoring it.  Feel free to come over to this side anytime!

I wrote this for Daily Grindhouse and reposted it here because CLOUD ATLAS is out on DVD & Blu-Ray today. Now’s your chance to remedy the mistakes of the past…



Posted: January 18, 2013 in Art, Observations, Opinions, The Future


Welcome to 2013! According to Stanley Kubrick we’re twelve years past the future. We could’ve all been in space by now. The only thing stopping us is us. Although maybe we’d better start small, with the simpler questions. Are you keeping any of your resolutions so far?


“Resolution” is a good word. It’s got a few different meanings. At the start of the year — although less so by the day, it being January 17th already — resolution indicates a kind of fortified resolve, as in: These are the aspects of living which I insist on doing differently or better in the new year.

Resolution can mean determination: If you’re resolved, you’re certain of something. If a situation is resolved, that means it’s been settled. In political terms, a resolution is an official statement put into action. And in reference to images, such as on televisions or computer screens, resolution means clarity.

Sometimes clarity can be found by watching people you respect, and listening to what they have to say. This happened to me recently while reading the Vanity Fair Comedy Issue, where the great comedian Louis CK was interviewed.

Louis CK   Louis CK

For some random cosmic reason, or maybe just out of pure coincidence, I’ve been aware of Louis CK for years and have periodically lucked into vantage points to observe the arc of his career. My best comedy-expert buddy introduced me to Louis’ short films over a decade ago, the films he made around the time he was working behind the scenes writing for Conan O’Brien and Chris Rock.

When I first moved to LA, in 2001, I ended up at a screening on the Paramount lot of POOTIE TANG, the feature film Louis directed. It was an obviously-unfinished workprint and it’s safe to say that the crowd I was with didn’t get it. It must suck for filmmakers to sit through preview screenings, but it sucks only a little less to have to sit and listen to the dumb comments of humorless audience members. The movie has since gained a cult following but it can’t have been an easy experience at the time.

Around that time, maybe 2002, I befriended a guy who hosted a comedy night at a bar in Santa Monica. I went several times, during which time I decided beyond a doubt that stand-up comedians are to be respected. That’s a hard job. I got to watch plenty of them up close through those comedy nights. One of them was Louis CK! This was the first time I got to see his brilliant “Why?” routine. I have rarely laughed so hard.

The next time I saw the “Why?” routine, it was in 2006, as the opening scene of Louis’ HBO series Lucky Louie. This show was fucking great but it only lasted one season.

Thanks to that same comedy-connoisseur friend, I have seen Louis do stand-up live several times over the years. In the last few, those tickets have become harder and harder to get as his popularity has exploded. You’ve all seen his FX series, right? It’s wonderful, a true victory for individualism and uncompromised comic vision. The most recent time I saw Louis do stand-up, it was a week before he hosted Saturday Night Live on November 3rd. Once again, I was among the privileged who got to see a routine or two earlier, in the working stages. His SNL monologue was an abbreviated variation of the material he did at that show a week before (both versions were hysterical).

Louis CK

The point I’m trying to express is the admiration I have for such a hardworking and thoughtful artist. It’s humbling. And it’s instructive.

All of which brings me back to that Vanity Fair interview. It’s their Proust Questionnaire, an exercise meant to reveal the personality of its subjects. The following is one of the questions, and Louis’ response:


Which talent would you most like to have?
I wish I could draw. I can’t make a thing in my mind go on paper. I draw like a child. Like a heavily beaten and molested child. Who can’t draw.


As a creative person who has struggled to find his way, reading something like that is incredibly illuminating. Louis CK can’t draw. Someone of so many obvious talents, who I respect so much — even he has limits that bother him. And I’m sitting here, lucky once again. I can draw! I can’t get up on stage and change the world with uncommonly perceptive and bluntly eloquent comedy like he can, but I can draw.

Believe me, that’s not ego inflation. I’m not comparing myself to anyone, or suggesting I have anything coming to me, or anything like that. This is about the inspiration I get from others, and about using it for self-motivation. There are plenty of wonderful artists who can draw far more beautifully than I ever will. But still, I can draw. I have talents that other people wish they could have, even some of the most famous and successful creative people in the world. I should appreciate that more. I should utilize that more.

So that’s my resolution, and my clarity. To use my talents, all of them. To find what I can do that other people can’t, to find what I can bring to the world that the world might need or want. I happen to believe that my writing and my personal perspective are among those virtues. My drawing ability is another.

What’s yours? Let’s all figure it out and get to work in 2013!


Drokk is not the soundtrack to the new DREDD movie.  Well, it could’ve been.

As you can surmise from the subtitle, Music Inspired By Mega-City One, this collection of music is very much Dredd-affiliated.  Geoff Barrow, instrumentalist for the English trip-hop band Portishead, collaborated with composer Ben Salisbury on this collection of orchestral music that at one point was intended to be the score for the new DREDD movie.  For whatever reasons, that didn’t pan out, and the score to DREDD was provided by Paul Leonard-Morgan.  The actual DREDD score is still very good, the general difference being that it’s heavier on the tangible instruments, such as guitar and drums.

Barrow and Salisbury primarily used 1975-model Oberheim 2 Voice Synthesizers for their compositions, the result of which being that Drokk has less in common with the bombastic Zimmer-influenced action soundtracks of today, and falls more in line with the more measured, eerier likes of Fabio Frizzi and Goblin, and also with the pseudo-futuristic shimmer of Vangelis (BLADE RUNNER).  Oh, and John Carpenter.  Very much John Carpenter.  Listen to Track #4, “301-305” — sound familiar?  It will if you’ve seen ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13.

Drokk is the most fun kind of homage.  It’s all the action movies and sci-fi movies you grew up on, but the only place it’s happening is inside your head when you listen to it.  Maybe it’s ultimately not a huge tragedy that it was separated from DREDD — I like the idea of this rogue soundcloud travelling adrift from the context within which it may or may not have originally been created.  It doesn’t have to accompany a story made up by someone else — you can have it soundtrack the story you imagine yourself.

If you’re into that kind of thing, that is.  (I am!)

You can listen to the entire thing here, but it’s well worth a buy:



Me more here always:  @jonnyabomb

From here on out, I’m just going to refer to Lockout by my preferred title of Space Prison, if you don’t mind too much.  Lockout sounds like a GI Joe code name, and a movie as brutishly high-concept as this one demands to be named as on-the-snout as possible.

I loved it, by the way.  I know it can get confusing, but when I call a movie “stupid” it’s not always a putdown (or a lockout.).  In local parlance here in the multiplexes of New York City, to exclaim “Yo that shit is stupid, son!” does indeed imply that a movie has some inherent stupidity, which Space Prison has in abundance, but it also connotes that said stupidity is very enjoyable, which Space Prison also is.

Space Prison was co-written and directed by the team of Saint + Mather, otherwise known as the Irish filmmakers Stephen Saint-Leger and James Mather, who got hired off the strength of their pretty cool short film, Prey Alone.

The man who hired them, basically, was Luc Besson, the writer-director who has made action films as influential as La Femme Nikita and Léon (The Professional) but has had an even more prolific career as a producer of  films of drastically varying quality, including Taken, Columbiana, the District 13 movies, the Transporter movies, and Tommy Lee Jones’ The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada.  (!!!)  Here Besson wrote the script with Saint + Mather based on his original idea, which, as you can tell from the title I am insisting on, Space Prison, is about a space prison.  The idea is that in the near future, the nation’s worst criminals are put into cryo-sleep and stored about a facility which orbits the Earth.  When they get woken up and abduct a member of the Presidential family, the last-ditch effort of the authorities in charge is to send in a lone man, a specialist, to get in and get out.

Call it Star Wars meets HBO’s Oz.  Call it Demolition Man meets Escape From New York, In Space.  Just don’t call it late for dinner.  This movie is hungry and what it likes best to eat is scenery.  In a lighter-hearted turn than he usually gets to take, Guy Pearce (LA Confidential, Memento, The Proposition) is a lot of fun as a cantankerous rogue named Snow, which I think is the Eskimo word for “Snake Plisskin.”  Snow is a captive of the future government, wrongfully imprisoned, about to be shipped off-planet to a state-of-the-art jail in Earth’s orbit.  You can tell he doesn’t play by the rules because he wears a T-shirt that reads “Warning: Offensive” and he sneers a lot. 

Not a lot of movie action heroes would be caught dead wearing a novelty T-shirt, but I guess on the sliding scale of novelty T-shirts, “Warning: Offensive” is a touch witter than “I’m With Stupid” and a touch classier than “I Fucked Your Girlfriend.”

So this guy Snow is introduced as he’s being beat up by police-state thugs.  That’s the title sequence, for the record.  Every time Snow takes a punch, his head drops out of frame, and then another screen credit comes up.  How can you not immediately warm up to a movie that starts that way?  

Elsewhere, while Snow is taking his lumps, the plot starts happening.  The President’s daughter (Maggie Grace from Taken) is making a standard publicity visit to the Space Prison.  When one escapes and frees the others and she’s taken hostage by armies of belligerent convicts, that’s when her dad, Liam Neeson, springs into action.  He has a very particular set of skills, skills he has acquired over a very long career…

…Sorry, wrong Luc-Besson-produced movie.

No, instead, Snow’s adversary, Langral, agrees to send Snow on a suicide mission to infiltrate the Space Prison as the inmate he was slated to be anyway, and instead bring Future Chelsea back to safety.  This standard officious-prick character, apparently a Southerner, is played by all-purpose-European Peter Stormare, a great character actor whose strength is not accents.  Hey wait:

Somebody asked Peter Stormare to do a Southern accent for this movie.

Somebody asked Londoner Idris Elba to do a Southern accent in Prometheus.

Neither Southern accent is a good fit.

Guy Pearce is in both movies.


Or space-conspiracy?

Anyway, when it comes to Space Prison I know you guys are still stuck on thinking about Escape From New York, but let me just tell you that this guy Snow escapes from New York in the first ten minutes of the movie.  See?  Totally different.  He gets on board the Space Prison and almost immediately gets into a zero-gravity fight scene that actually reminded me a lot of that “Burp, Charlie! Burp!” routine from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.   

That’s the thing about this movie, for everything that feels a bit fresh about Space Prison — such as the “voice sensor” grenades which are throwable explosives that are sound-activated (like the Clapper!) — there’s an equal and opposite moment that feels like a blatant and occasionally bizarre reference to a movie you’ve seen many times already.  If you watch Space Prison expecting it to be as hardcore serious and straight-up badass as Escape From New York or Die Hard or No Escape or Lock-Up or any of the other cool movies it owes a beer to, you’ll see it as a missed opportunity.  It’s such a silly movie that as long as you’re willing to go with the silliness, you’ll have fun. 

I mean, let’s talk about the villains.  They’re supposed to be these horrible felons, the worst of the worst, murderers and rapists, but at the same time everyone cracks jokes as if they they share ghost-writers with Dane Cook.  All of the bad guys look like they come from that Marvel Comics storyline back in the 1990s where all the X-Men had tattoos and scars and everybody carried guns and knives. 

The main bad guy, “Alex”, looks like that hilariously awful X-Men character Cable.


Even Guy Pearce looks like he was drawn by Todd McFarlane or something in this movie.  He looks like he was redrawn to look like Brad Pitt, or like Liev Schreiber (but only in X-Men Origins: Wolverine).  Check it out — there are literally a couple of scenes where you can see him thinking, “I’ve uttered words written by Brian Helgeland, the Nolan brothers, and bloody Nick Cave, and now… I’m not doing that at all.”

Space Prison is an enjoyable, energetic, good-looking movie, and I had a good time, but let’s face it, there’s a climactic scene where the main characters literally jump out of space and land safely on what looks for all the world like Southern California’s 10 Freeway.  (The story started out in New York, remember?)  It’s a very, very stupid movie.  In the press notes for the movie, Stephen St. Leger talks about Billy Wilder being a pivotal influence on the interplay between Guy Pearce and Maggie Grace, and also says that “The relationship between Emilie and Snow brings to mind Bogart and Hepburn in The African Queen. In other words, two polar opposites who are forced to get along.”  Which is great.  Even the press notes are stupid.  To watch Space Prison, you’d have guessed they had John Carpenter on the brain, but it turns out it was John Huston all along.

But hey, they can’t all be The African Queen.  Not even the ones that apparently wanted to be.

Shout at me on Twitter, son!  @jonnyabomb

Book Review: THE PASSAGE.

Posted: April 10, 2012 in Books, The Future, Vampires

I’m revisiting this piece I wrote on The Passage because the next book in the projected trilogy is due out in a month.  There’s not much chance I’ll re-read the first book before then (it’s long, and besides, I gave my copy to someone else to read), so my summary will have to do.  If you haven’t read it yet though, please read the following:  It’s a pretty friendly recommendation. 

The other night, I finished all 766 pages of The Passage, the gigantic new horror novel by Justin Cronin.  That’s a heavy load of dead trees, and it seems to me that the longer the story, the greater the risk:  When an author asks his or her audience to commit to a book or a movie or a series, they’re making an implicit promise that the time spent will be worthwhile. With The Passage, Justin Cronin delivers fully on that promise.

The most striking thing about The Passage, before the plot even gets going, is the quality of the writing.  Cronin’s prose is impeccably rendered, so that even the most traumatic incidents have a beauty to them.  This helps captivate interest from the start, because the story takes some time to build, before it hits its crescendo, and from then on, refuses to let up.

Technically speaking, The Passage is a vampire novel, but when I say that, it probably creates all kinds of genre expectations in your mind, and The Passage defies them all.  The monsters in this story don’t go by the name – the word “vampire” is scarcely used, save for a couple of references to Tod Browning’s Dracula.  Cronin takes great pains to ground the familiar myths in believable reality, but either way the creatures are generally peripheral players in a much wider, much more human story.  There are long stretches between the attacks and the action scenes, in which you get to know (and care about) a wide range of characters.

This is a story about how bad things can truly get, and about what humanity is capable of once things get down to it.  The Passage will be compared to the best of Stephen King (specifically The Stand), and that’s not inaccurate.  It also has a spiritual kinship with I Am Legend.  But it reminds me even more of The Lord Of The Rings, as far as the massive scale of the story and the generational sweep of it all.  To say any more would be to spoil the surprises, and that would be criminal.  Just know that The Passage is ambitious, impeccably written, and never predictable.  On the very last page, just as the story seems to be winding up, something happens that calls out for a sequel, and it’s to this big beautiful book’s credit that I can’t wait to read it.  Somehow, I’ve been convinced that all those trees didn’t die for nothing.

Find out more at:

And from me here: @jonnyabomb


 And we’re back!  Ready for the thrilling conclusion?  I’m only asking because I’d love to get your go-ahead before I make you read a long post about twenty-five movies.  Then again, maybe I’d just better be assertive and just get on with the list-making.  In case you missed it, here are the first batch of potentially exciting movies expected to arrive in 2012 (according to me).  That group stopped at 25.  Now here comes 26 through 50.


26.   Imogene 

Kristen Wiig’s next movie, from the directors of American Splendor and The Extra Man.  It looks to be a dark comedy, which is just the way I like it.  And it co-stars Matt Dillon and Annette Bening, old pros at dark comedy.  This is a good group to make that kind of tricky tone work.


27.   John Carter

You notice how smoothly Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) transitioned from Pixar cartoons to live action with Mission Impossible 4?  Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, Wall-E) is attempting the same trick here.  I’m not overly excited about this movie, but then again, maybe I should be, as it features a truckload of weird-looking aliens, including one who kind of looks like a butt.  (Third from the left!)


28.   John Dies At The End

Never finished the horror-comedy novel which this movie comes from (still might!), but either way. the guy doing the adapting is one Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, The Beastmaster, Bubba Ho-Tep). Between that and the presence of one Paul Giamatti, I’m gonna be there.

29.   Lay The Favorite

At this point I’m not sure a sane person automatically gets excited about a movie starring Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Vince Vaughn, but a smart person would never dismiss Stephen Frears.  He’s a sly director who can make magic in unlikely places.


30.   Lincoln

Feeling weirdly enthusiastic at the prospect of Steven Spielberg directing Daniel Day-Lewis in a movie about the beardliest president — like how every once in a while you’d get homework at school that seemed like it could be fun for once.  Spielberg has been contemplating this one for years, so it’s not like it’s going to be a rush job.  And have you seen that cast list?  It’s like thirty or forty people deep with great names.


31.   Looper

Rian Johnson is the guy who made the high school noir movie, Brick, and the underrated con-man movie The Brothers Bloom.  Those movies show a potentially great talent, and even if they got a little cutesy at times, his work directing episodes of Terriers and Breaking Bad (two of the greatest TV shows of the past decade) prove that this guy is only getting better.  And there ain’t nothing cutesy about the badass premise of Looper: “A killer who works for the mob of the future recognizes one of his targets as his future self.”


32.   The Lords Of Salem

Rob Zombie is a strange case.  He loves all the same stuff I love and casts all the cult actors I adore, but hasn’t yet made any movies that I’ve had an easy time finishing, let alone been able to enjoy.  I keep trying, though.  And he’s arguably got his best cast yet on this new one.  Really, it’s just full of great actors.  It’s like the Lincoln of junk movies. 

33.   The Man With The Iron Fists

The RZA wrote and directed a movie starring Pam Grier, Russell Crowe, Jamie Chung, and himself.  Damn right I’m curious.


34.   The Monkey King

A Hong Kong action movie starring Chow Yun-Fat and Donnie Yen as the famed Monkey King of Chinese legend.  If that doesn’t excite you, you’ve got some Googling and Netflixing to do.


35.  Only God Forgives

This is the Thai boxing movie that Nicolas Winding Refn (Valhalla Rising, Drive) is working on.  I’m not sure if it will be done and released in 2012, or how exactly Ryan Gosling is involved, but I’m excited to see it whenever it comes. 

36.  Premium Rush

High-concept thriller about a bike messenger on the run from a crooked cop in the heavy-traffic zone of midtown Manhattan.  My niece and I wandered through the set of this one so for sentimental reasons I’m into the idea of seeing it.  Also any occasion to ogle Jamie Chung and Dania Ramirez is a solid one.  (We didn’t see them that day or I totally would have charmed them.)


37.  Rampart

Director Oren Moverman and star Woody Harrelson previously made a really effective movie about military veterans called The Messenger. Now they’re addressing a subject of eternal fascination to me, the L.A. Rampart scandals of the late 1990s.  I lived in that neighborhood a few years later and I’m always curious about local history, particularly such an explosive topic as police corruption.  Oh yeah, and this one was co-written by James Ellroy.


38.  [REC]3 Genesis

The first two [REC] films, found-footage zombie flicks from Spain, are completely underrated in this country.  Check ‘em out!  Then join me in anticipating the third one, from the same production team. 


39.  Red Hook Summer

Spike Lee has been making some great documentaries lately, but it’s been a while since he’s made a narrative film, and a while longer since he’s made one resembling his earlier, more personal movies.  Clarke Peters, probably my favorite actor from The Wire (it’s either him or Wendell Pierce), is featured in the cast.  This is all kinds of promising.

40.  Red Tails

This movie is about the Tuskegee Airmen, black fighter pilots during World War 2.  George Lucas is producing (not directing though, that’s done by a director named Anthony Hemingway).  It’s a story Lucas has been name-checking for years.  It’s commonplace on the internet to knock George Lucas, but I’m interested to see what a Lucasfilm production looks like when it isn’t related to Star Wars or Indiana Jones.  Not only that, but if you look closely at the above poster you’ll see it was drawn by the great Joe Kubert, and any movie with that poster has to, by law, be okay by me.


41.  Re-Kill

Another Scott Adkins action movie, although this one has horror elements since (as far as I can tell) it’s about the war between humans and zombies.  While normal people are out watching Meryl Streep movies, this is the kind of movie I’m looking at. 


42.  Seven Psychopaths

By far one of my most anticipated movies of the year, this is the second film from playwright Martin McDonagh, who previously wrote and directed In Bruges.  If you click that link you will read me loving up a movie with shameless vigor.  I’ve been ready to see McDonagh’s next movie since the end credits of his first one.  Seven Psychopaths brings back Colin Farrell and matches him up with Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Tom Waits, and for all you Tower Heist fans, Gabourey Sidibe.  I’m guessing that those guys portray some of the titular psycopaths.


43.  The Sweeney

Apparently this is an update of a 1970s British cop drama.  If we Americans can do it – over, and over, and over – I guess the Brits can do their remakes and reboots too.  At least this one has a script by John Hodge (Trainspotting) and stars Ray Winstone, Damian Lewis, and Hayley Atwell, three actors I am prepared to watch in just about anything.


44.   Syrup

Way back in 1999 I read this novel, by a guy named Max Barry, about corporate shenanigans in the soft-drink industry.  I liked it.  It was funny.  Now it’s a movie and Amber Heard is in it.  I’ve watched many movies for much worse reasons.


45.   This Is 40

Any new movie from Judd Apatow (written & directed by, not necessarily produced by) will automatically get my fifteen bucks.  That said, I’m not overly jazzed about this one, which is said to be a continuation of the story of Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann’s characters from Knocked Up.  Somehow Jason Segel’s character is wrapped up in there, as is Megan Fox somehow.  Thing is, and I don’t know about you guys, but I haven’t exactly been clamoring for an update on any of those characters.  Also I’m a little woozy from the Jason Segel onslaught that came about during that whole Muppets blitzkrieg.  Still, as I say, it’s a Judd Apatow flick, which ensures that I’ll find something to like about it regardless of my dumb reservations.  And once I found the above picture in a Google search, I couldn’t resist including this movie on this list.


46.   Under The Skin

All I know about the movie is this:  Jonathan Glazer (director of Sexy Beast), Scarlett Johansson, aliens, and the title.  I’ll take it.

47.   Untitled James Gray Project

For all my reasons on why anyone should be interested in the work of writer-director James Gray, please refer to my piece on his most recent movie, Two Lovers.  His newest is a period piece involving magicians, burlesque, and vaudeville, and stars Jeremy Renner, Marion Cotillard (pictured above), and Gray’s go-to-actor-for-contractual-ever, Joaquin Phoenix, who’s never better than he is in Gray’s movies.  Could be good.  Won’t be boring.


48.   Untitled Terrence Malick Project

I can hardly believe that we could get another movie from Malick just one year after the monumental achievement of The Tree Of Life, but it looks very possible at this particular moment in time.  I’m flabbergasted.  (I think that word can be used to mean the good kind of surprised.)

49.   Wanderlust

Like any decent person, I’m a Paul Rudd fan.  I’m an embattled Jennifer Aniston fan.  You couldn’t cast a comedy with a more likable pair of lead actors.  If this movie is half as fun as Role Models (an earlier flick from the same crew, minus JA), it’ll still be pretty fun. 


50.   Wettest County

The latest movie from John Hillcoat (The Proposition, The Road) was adapted from novel to script by Nick Cave.  The cast includes Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce, and Jessica Chastain.  There’s plenty of pedigree to be had here.  Yes, I know it’s got probably the worst title yet to appear on my list.  Not all film titles are created equally.  They can’t all be The Curse Of The Buxom Strumpet.  That’s just the way it is. 


What follows are a bunch of movies which could turn out to be very worthwhile.  This list is way too long and self-explanatory for me to do an in-depth introductory paragraph, so let’s just dive right into it.  Quick note:  This list is in alphabetical order.  If I’m especially excited about any movie in particular, you’ll know it.  Also, it remains to be seen if all fifty of these movies will actually be released in 2012.


1.  Argo

Based on a true story about a 1979 CIA attempt to rescue American hostages from Iran, this is Ben Affleck’s next movie, co-starring Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, and Victor Garber, among many other tremendous character actors.  Far as I’m concerned, Affleck is two-for-two after Gone Baby Gone and The Town.  That’s a good track record.  And look how happy (and beardy) he’s feeling about it!


2.   Bad Ass

There’s a good chance this movie doesn’t actually exist, but if it does, and we can see this thing… Lenny… it’s a Danny Trejo action movie. I am on record as being in the pocket for anything resembling a Danny Trejo action movie.


3.   Battleground

Previously known as Skeleton Lake (awesome), this is a story about six nasty bank robbers who basically run into a deranged Rambo-type in the woods.  I’d watch that.  I’m also a sucker for a cool poster, as above.

4.   Brave

Pixar’s first movie featuring a female protagonist is about a Scottish princess with mad archery skills.  Looks a little less cutesy and a little rougher than usual.  I like that.  My niece likes the princess part.  Should be fun for the whole family.


5.   Bullet To The Head

An action film about a cop and a hitman teaming up Sylvester Stallone and Jason Momoa may or may not be all that exciting, but throw in Sarah Shahi (for my money one of the hottest actresses on the planet) and the super-cool Sung Kang from Fast Five, and top it off with direction from the should-be-even-more-legendary-than-he’s-currently-considered Walter Hill, and I’m all the way in.


6.   The Cabin In The Woods

Joss Whedon is a great writer.  Drew Goddard is a great writer.  Cinematographer Peter Deming shot Evil Dead 2, Drag Me To Hell, Lost Highway, and Mullholland Dr.  The scuttlebutt on this movie says that these dudes have done some majorly inventive things with the horror movie.  I make it a practice to always believe scuttlebutt.  With a name like “scuttlebutt”, it has to be sincere.


7.   Casa De Mi Padre

It’s a Spanish-language film, played in the overwrought style of telenovelas, starring Will Ferrell.  I like the cut of that jib.

8.   Cogan’s Trade

Last time Andrew Dominik and Brad Pitt got together, they made The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford.  You should see that movie, again if you have already.  This time they’ve got James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta, Sam Shepard, and Vincent Curatola (Johnny Sack!), among others, to add grizzle to an already grisly-sounding story of a mob enforcer investigating a ripped-off poker game.  Basically, if Tony Soprano would have outsourced the Season 3 Jackie Jr. problem to Brad Pitt. 


9.   Cosmopolis

David Cronenberg’s next movie.  If you need to know any more than that, check out his resume and realize that you don’t need to know any more than that.


10.  The Curse Of The Buxom Strumpet

This is the best title on this list, or on any other list anywhere on the internet.  Plus, it stars Sir Ian McKellen, one of my favorite voices to imitate, which means I’ll be intoning “The Curse Of The Buxom Strumpet!” often enough to drive my nearest and dearest totally crazy by October.


11.  The Dark Knight Rises

Yeah I’ll be keeping an eye out for this obscure little indie production.  Me and everyone else on earth.

12.  Dark Tide

Halle Berry versus great white shark.  Sold.


13.  The Dictator

To me, Sacha Baron Cohen is one of those comedians who isn’t just hysterical, he’s necessary.  I liked Bruno better than most people did, and Borat is pretty clearly one of the best comedies of the past decade.  In this movie, he’s going after the absurd and horrifying excesses of dictators like Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong-Il (BIH) and all the others who are still out there.  Not only that, but you will see comedians JB Smoove and BJ Novak, both each other’s opposites, on screen together for the first time anywhere. 

14.  Django Unchained

Speaking of Sacha Baron Cohen, he’s but one of the amazing talents crowding Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie.  There’s Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Christoph Waltz, James Remar, M.C. Gainey, Tom Savini, and Michael K. Williams.  And more.  I’m a little disappointed that Will Smith didn’t take the lead role as rumored, although Jamie Foxx is a serviceable enough substitute I guess, and I have reservations about Tarantino tackling the subject of slavery, seeing as how I still have mixed feelings about his handling of Jews and Nazis (although I admittedly find Inglourious Basterds to be extremely rewatchable).  But it’s about time Tarantino made a Western.  I can’t wait to see what calamity has ensued.


15.  End Of Watch

I was so impressed with David Ayer’s script for Training Day that to this day I’m interested in any project he wrote (and directed also, in this case.)  I don’t think that Dark Blue, Harsh Times, or Street Kings turned out quite as well as Training Day did, but I’ll keep turning up all the same.

16.  For A Good Time, Call…

This essentially looks like a Jewish version of Girl 6, but I’m easy sometimes.  That girl Ari Graynor up there is pretty cute, and Seth Rogen is in this also. 

17.  Gangster Squad

Will Beall is another writer whose projects I follow, since I thought his novel L.A. Rex was such a great read, kind of like The Shield on paper.  This movie, about L.A. cops in the 1940s fighting off the East Coast mob, stars Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Nick Nolte, Anthony Mackie, Robert Patrick, Jon Polito, and several other actors who will make it totally watchable at the very least.


18.  GI Joe: Retaliation

If you’ve seen the trailer for this movie, you already know that it’s making a noisy case for being a proud contender for stupidest movie of 2012.  It looks even stupider than the previous G.I. Joe movie, which was plenty stupid.  Unfortunately, when it comes to stupid, I’m quite often a moth to a flame.

19.  Gravity

Sandra Bullock has arguably never made a great movie.  Alfonso Cuarón has arguably made nothing but.  When the two of them team up (with George Clooney and the great cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki) to make a movie about an astronaut stranded in space, whose career path will be the one to veer drastically in which direction?

20.  The Grey

This is the movie, from writer/director Joe Carnahan (The A-Team), which will for better or worse be known to most as “the movie where Liam Neeson fights wolves.”  Even if that’s all there was to it, that’d be enough for me to crave it.  Knowing that it’s more than that, I have to say that if this list were narrowed from 50 to 5, this movie would be at the tippety-top.

21.  El Gringo

If you don’t follow direct-to-video action movies, you may not know who Scott Adkins is.  Eventually, you will.  Maybe his role in The Expendables 2 will help raise his profile, but either way this dude is bound to break through.  He may not be Philip Seymour Hoffman on the acting tip, but he looks like Ben Affleck and can legitimately kick tons of ass.  He’s as good a candidate for big-time action star as anyone.  El Gringo finds Adkins drifting down to Mexico to stir shit up.  It looks like an Eastwood/ Leone riff, which I believe to be a thing Adkins can manage.

22.  Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

There ae few new genres less promising to me than all this “adult fairy-tale” nonsene, but if you cast the beautiful Gemma Arterton and the badass Jeremy Renner in an action movie with horror overtones, then I will be compelled to buy a ticket anyway.

23.  Haywire

Screenwriter Lem Dobbs is the guy who wrote The Limey for Steven Soderbergh.  That was a terrific, totally underrated movie (and a must-hear DVD commentary too.)  I’ve been waiting a dozen years to see them collaborate again.  And this is a movie about a badass lady on a revenge tear, which is the only thing better than a badass dude on a revenge tear.

24.  The Hobbit

My excitement for this one hasn’t kicked in yet, but it will.  This one has a dragon in it.  Also I loved the Lord Of The Rings trilogy like anyone else, and I think Martin Freeman is an even more relatable and likable lead than Elijah Wood was.  I’m a little creeped out by the promo pictures of all the dwarves, but I think that’s kind of the point.  Ultimately I’m pretty sure I’m siding with the nerds on this one.

25.  Hyde Park On Hudson

An unofficial sequel to Rushmore, or a stunt-casted historical drama?  This movie stars Bill Murray and Olivia Williams as Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt.  So either way you know I’m down.


I’m gonna stop there for now.  Look for Part Two’s thrilling conclusion tomorrow!


You know the routine.  I show the movie posters, I drop some sarcasm, you chuckle and guffaw and forward the site to every last one of your friends, everybody goes home happy.

Here’s how it went in the recent past…

April’s Most Unfortunate Movie Posters.

June’s Most Unfortunate Movie Posters.

July’s Most Unfortunate Movie Posters.

August’s Most Unfortunate Movie Posters.

September’s Most Unfortunate Movie Posters.

October’s Most Unfortunate Movie Posters.

But enough waltzing down memory lane.  Let’s enjoy the moment we’re in! November!


Chris Evans… Mark Ruffalo… Robert Downey Jr… And Chelsea Handler in…





Tom Berenger?


If you pay as much attention to details as I do, sometimes the movie is ruined for you right from the moment you see the poster. Dig it: It’s about “a family of whales trapped beneath the ice,” right? Now take another look at that poster. What’s happening on it? Looks like a bunch of whales are escaping though ice. In other words: THE POSTER IS SHOWING THE END OF THE MOVIE.



“Not dying doesn’t mean you’re alive.”  When taglines go into double-negatives, you know shit just got REAL!


I’m sure it’s totally the point, but it still seems like a shame that they used the title “Carnage” for a “comedy of manners,” rather than a post-apocalyptic car-warrior horror movie.  Maybe if that spooky John C. Reilly reflection in the mirror hopped out and started kicking some ass, that could liven up that Oscar-conscious dinner party there.


This doesn’t look like an actual movie.  This looks like one of those movies that used to run on HBO, that had actual stars in them but still no one could ever tell whether they were from 1988 or 1998 or 2008.  Look at Forest Whitaker’s face.  He’s as bewildered as I am.


No joke here, I actually just wanted to have a picture of a chimpanzee on my website.  I’m totally gonna see this movie in the theaters.


Well, I guess if you’re going to be locked inside a coffin with any actor, you’d want it to be Kevin Sorbo.

(I’m just being nice to Kevin Sorbo for no particular reason. Obviously if you were stuck in a coffin, the only actor who’d do would be Sofia Vergara. For the cushioning.)


Not too shabby, I just find it a tad ironic that the posters for a movie called “The Darkest Hour” are all so brightly lit.


At this point, the only “Good Deeds” I want to see from Tyler Perry are his retirement from writing, his retirement from directing, and his gifting to me of Gabrielle Union’s attention so I or anyone else can write her into a movie worth watching.  But hey, look, Jamie Kennedy is in this movie.  Maybe Tyler Perry can get a subtle, nuanced performance out of him, Tyler Perry movies being well known for their subtlety and nuance.


Boy, this movie looks like so much FUN.


There are a lot of things ABOUT to happen on this poster.  I wonder if all those awful acts of cruelty are as synchronized in the actual movie.  That’d take some real orchestration.


This poster says to me, “I played the love object in three superhero movies in a row.  Tired of always being the one to be saved, I jumped into a power plant and became… Electro-Dunst.”  Or okay, fine, Melancholia.  That’s a decent superhero-lady name.


Yup, you read that right.  That name seemed vaguely familiar to me too, so I looked it up, and discovered the truth:  Somebody made a ‘legitimate’ horror movie starring the Oct0-Mom.


When I first saw this poster, it instantly reminded me of another poster I’d seen all over the place for a long, long time, starring another adorable, pint-sized teen idol.  That’s right, it’s Tom Cruise in…

Never Say Never!

What’s really unfortunate is that they could lose the whole butch hooded-sweatshirt Tom Cruise motif and just use the following poster and I’d be much more likely to get there opening weekend…


This photograph captures the brief moment where the young lovers united for one beautiful kiss, right before they were crushed by the pillar of names falling from the sky right on top of their heads, captured by one lucky cameraman directly before the moment of impact.


Ed Burns is still making movies.

Moving on.


And now it’s time for Point/Counterpoint.

Badass Woody Harrelson…

…And THIS version of Woody Harrelson.


I know you’re doing the Top Gun hero walk and all, but uou guys might wanna walk a little faster, considering that THERE’S A GIANT FLAMING PLANE HEADED STRAIGHT TOWARDS Y’ALL.


When movie taglines promote shoddy arithmetic. And spooning pregnant women on movie posters.


A lot of mad strange stuff going on around people’s mouths this month.


I wish I was industrious enough to search out how many times the tagline “Some secrets should never be uncovered” has been used on a movie poster.  I bet I wouldn’t have to look too far.  It’s a fairly generic notion.

However, I am pretty excited to see that Johanna Bradd scored the much-coveted role of Amanda.  It looked for sure like the role was going to go to a much more famous actress, like Fran Wellington, Eartha Carruthers, or Patty Putanesca. Anyone who is anyone in Hollywood wanted a role in The Levenger Tapes, so good on you Johanna!


I refuse.


Tim Story directed both Fantastic Four movies, so this is the natural next step.  I am a little suspicious on a movie based on a book by Steve Harvey that can’t even find a role for Steve Harvey himself.  Seems like someone somewhere lacks conviction.


Trust me, it’s better that they’re covering that up.




Personally, at the moment I’d see this movie for Nicolas Cage’s expression alone, but I’m particularly endeared to the hooded gunman cropped into the upper right corner, like a nerdy kid being ushered onto the field for soccer practice by his inattentive parents. He looks as unhappy to be there as Cage is unhappy to see him.


If there’s a cat that turns into a werewolf, I’m diggety-down.


Did you like The Notebook?  Yeah, you did.  How would you like The Notebook if we remade it, only using a less talented actor than Ryan Gosling?  It’s a novel way to jerk some tears, but it works.


We bought a zoo, but we could use an extra pair of kids to help us run it…

…And there they are!

Another pair of great things about this poster is the way that nobody seems concerned about the pair of man-eaters on Matt Damon’s right-hand side, and also the fact that the Dwight Schrute kid is apparently levitating in mid-air.


I like how these two guys are just all cool and cavalier, off-handedly pointing guns at Reese Witherspoon, America’s sweetheart, and everyone finds this perfectly charming and somehow I’M considered to be the strange one.


If you’re going to sell an American movie overseas, apparently it’s best to make the posters as Asian as humanly possible.  Observe:


This looks like THE worst possible remake of a beloved 1980s film starring Matthew Broderick and chimpanzees.  Now maybe it makes more sense that I posted that Disney poster at the top of the page.


Probably best for all concerned, at this point.


I did not rush out to see this movie on the largest possible screens when it was released nearly six years ago, and more the fool I for that.  It’s kind of incredible.

In their list of the top fifty films of the past decade, the Onion’s A.V. Club, one of my favorite daily web destinations, rated Terrence Malick’s The New World at number nine.  It was nominated for an Academy Award for Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography.  (Malick’s movies are always visual fireworks.)  Roger Ebert gave it four stars and called Malick “a visionary.”  Despite all this, The New World isn’t as well remembered as it could be.

Why is that?  I’m not the guy to ask.  I mean, I have some answers, but they won’t sound good to everybody.  I guess I’d reluctantly agree that Terrence Malick’s movies aren’t for everyone.  I’d argue that you really have to love movies to love his movies.  Most people apparently don’t love movies that much.  Your friend with the Scarface poster probably doesn’t love movies as much as he thinks he does.  Scarface is cool and all, but the well-rounded person doesn’t watch only one movie over and over again.  Really loving movies means being open to movies that aren’t the most obvious or accessible.

To appreciate what Malick does, you also have to be open to qualities which are too rare to modern movies, such as thoughtfulness and meditation, appreciation of the natural world, even spirituality.  (And not the obvious or accessible kind of spirituality, either.)  Though Malick (The Thin Red Line) has already directed a better World War II movie than Michael Bay(Pearl Harbor) has, guess whose movies are more popular?  I don’t like to be elitist, but we really are talking about sophistication here.  You don’t like it?  Cool.  I don’t either.  Prove me wrong.  Pay to watch these wonderful movies.

And The New World, in my opinion, is pretty wonderful.  It’s where cinematic art and American history meet.  It’s the story of Pocahontas (Q’orianka Kilcher), the Native American girl whose life was altered by the arrival of the Jamestown expedition, which introduced her to Captain John Smith (Colin Farrell), her first love.  That relationship is battered by the collision of the Native people and the English settlers, and it ultimately doesn’t survive the trip, though consolation arrives in the form of John Rolfe (Christian Bale), a good man who became the father of her son.

A lot of us have heard this story before, in one form or another.  Hell, it was a Disney cartoon.   It’s popular history, but not that currently popular.  Malick’s method is to bring the past lumbering back to life, like a dinosaur rediscovering its bite.  The first time you see those colonial ships, matched with the unusually good score by James Horner (normally cornier), there’s a vivid majesty to the movie that makes it more interesting than Social Studies ever was back in grade school.

In The New World, Malick is specifically addressing the very moment of conception of the United States, beginning, as he posits, with Pocahontas, portrayed here as the first true American, a knowing and canny survivor.   This movie makes you love America all over again, the way you love Pocahontas as she’s conjured here, luminous, sweet, and full of promise.  (She’s a teenager so it’s a very innocent kind of love.)  Colin Farrell is really good at playing the mutinous rogue, a basically violent man, but he’s very tender in his scenes with her.  It doesn’t feel wrong.  Even more is the case with Christian Bale, dropping his usual intensity and playing a genuinely decent man for once.  Internet creeps who talk trash about these two stars probably haven’t seen how good they are in this movie.  Oh, and Christopher Plummer is in it too, as the leader of the expedition, Captain Newport, typically dignified and magnetic and a little bit sinister.  I don’t think we have to debate his greatness at this point in time.

I’m not sure yet how deep into history The New World actually goes (John Smith and John Rolfe were real people, but was Captain Newport? and does it matter?), but to me it’s thoroughly convincing no matter how much of it is actually true.  Does that make sense?  There’s a truly epic sweep to this movie — normally when I describe a movie as “epic”, I’m talking about scope or distance, but in this case the epicness actually feels like it spans a gap of centuries.  Malick, as ever, is able to evoke all the most ancient platitudes of storytelling and moviemaking, and to make them true through his poetic vision.

Yeah, I’d say it’s worth watching.






Suggested reading:


Days Of Heaven.

In Bruges.




In the beginning there was only man and nature. Men came bearing crosses and drove the heathen to the fringes of the earth.

Okay, I have to admit, you got my attention.

Those words are the opening of Valhalla Rising, the title card which pretty directly explains what you’re about to watch.  The movie, orchestrated by Nicolas Winding Refn, the director of Bronson and Drive, is about as direct, sparse, and skeletal a plot as a movie could possibly get away with.  It’s a movie made almost entirely of mood, sporadically punctuated by violence.  It’s like walking through a cool fog and occasionally stubbing your toe on a rock.  It’s a new genre: Viking psychedelia.  It’s also kind of wonderful to watch.

Set in the year 1000 A.D., Valhalla Rising follows a nameless, unknowable drifter known as One Eye (Mads Mikkelsen, best recognized by American audiences as the blood-crying villain from Casino Royale) as he is liberated from a captivity where he was kept as a medieval pit-fighter, and drafted into a much nobler war, less sarcastically known as the Crusades.  He’s called One Eye because he only has one working eye, also because he never speaks and therefore doesn’t mention whether or not he actually has a name.  This dude makes the Man With No Name sound like an Eddie Murphy character.

The fact that the movie’s main character doesn’t speak makes Valhalla Rising practically a silent film, which is totally refreshing in our modern age where everyone seems to be talking, texting, or typing always.  It’s almost entirely sound, picture, and music, a real sensory experience.  The cinematography, by Morten Søborg is crisp and absorbing; the editing, by Refn’s frequent collaborator Mat Newman, is lucid and impeccable; the music by Peter Kyed and Peter Peter (really) is the best kind of shoegaze noise-rock, creating an audio bed of unsettling yet hypnotic atmosphere.

When I mentioned it briefly on my top-twenty list of last year, I described Valhalla Rising as what would happen if Terrence Malick, instead of John McTiernan, made that viking action-movie The Thirteenth Warrior.  Refn seems to be far less disturbed by violence than Malick is — I would guess that Refn is more interested in violence as an end result, as a visceral release of accumulated cinematic tension, whereas Malick usually incorporates violence into his films for more psychological reasons.  But like Malick’s work, Valhalla Rising is lyrical, painterly, even experimental.  Any of Refn’s widescreen compositions in this film would be just as compelling out of context, hanging on a wall for instance.  The visual component is so strong that the story is comparatively threadbare.

In fact, the story is so simple that it is split into six chapter headings, which appear throughout the course of the movie like wooden blocks directing water flow:

Part 1/ Wrath.

Part 2/ Silent Warrior.

Part 3/ Men Of God.

Part 4/ The Holy Land.

Part 5/ Hell.

Part 6/ The Sacrifice.

Sounds just a little like the New Testament, doesn’t it?  Probably not unintentional.  Valhalla Rising could be seen as a couple different kinds of allegory, a couple different kinds of philosphical argument, but they’re pretty clear if you watch the movie and it’d be better for me not to explicate them.  Let’s just say that I’ve read the Bible, and this has better music.  The real reason I hesitate from nailing down the “message” of the movie is that explaining it would take away from its best quality, which is its dreamlike nature.  Like Malick, the broad, dreamy pace and picture of Refn’s movie (aided by some astounding locations, costumes, and production design) somehow makes it weirdly convincing as a period piece.  While those elements set the period, the performances and the droning electronic score are anachronistically contemporary, though even those streaks of modernity help make the period setting more tangible, paradoxically.  Valhalla Rising feels real at times, which is a big reason why it’s so hypnotic.

Really, this is a movie intended for late-night viewing, specifically under intoxicated circumstances (I’m pretty sure Refn has even said as much), but it’s not like you need to be under the influence to find this movie intoxicating.  Valhalla Rising is ominous and serious of purpose yet not pretentious or overly profound; it’s brief and slight of story, yet indelible.  It marks Refn as one of the more compelling stylists working in movies today, and makes the prospect of his next few movies a most exciting one, without a doubt.

Suggested reading:

My 20 Favorite Movies of 2010.


Days Of Heaven.