I co-wrote a movie. Wanna see?

If you’ve got nine minutes and want to see a musical, modern-day Western that I had something to do with (featuring geeks vs. bikers), here’s your hook-up.

The film was made in 48 hours as part of the Minneapolis 48 Hour Film Project. My sister was the production manager and she invited me to join her on the writing team with her friend Erin. I had a blast doing it.


22 Movies I Regret Not Seeing in 2012

Happy New Year, everybody!

One of my favorite things to do each January is look back at the movies of the previous year. I’m gonna do that every Wednesday for the rest of the month, starting with my least favorite and working my way up to a Top 10, but I realize that ranking movies that way is a flawed process. I can only talk about movies I’ve seen. There were a bunch that I had no interest in this year, but I also didn’t get to see everything I wanted to.

So, by way of clearing the floor for my lists, here are 22 movies that I wish could have been on them. I have no idea how I might have ranked them, but I’m sorry I wasn’t able to find out by Year End.

In the order they were released:

1. The Raven

I love Edgar Allan Poe and John Cusack. Not entirely confident about the plot that seems ripped off from the series premiere of Castle, but I’m willing to find out.

2. The Pirates: Band of Misfits

I have no idea how I missed a pirate movie starring Hugh Grant by the creators of Wallace and Gromit. That should’ve been something I saw opening night.

3. Safety Not Guaranteed

Audrey Plaza is very funny and I also dig Jake Johnson from New Girl. The plot also sounded intriguing with its focus on loneliness and whether or not the time travel aspect is real or just a metaphor for regret.

Full disclosure: I actually saw this movie about half-an-hour before writing this post, so maybe it shouldn’t be on this list. I saw it on DVD though and the rest of my lists are all movies I saw in the theater, so I’m keeping it here.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed by Safety Not Guaranteed. It’s a funny movie and worthwhile for the performances, but the story doesn’t have much to say other than “loneliness sucks” and that it’s better to have someone in your life. That’s a fine start to a theme, but I wanted more. There’s a huge, missed opportunity in a choice Plaza makes late in the film and Johnson’s subplot is only halfway done when the final credits roll.

4. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

If there’s anyone I find more charming than Keira Knightley, it’s Steve Carell.

5. Magic Mike

No, wait. It’s Matthew McConaughey and he’s hilarious in the trailer for this.

6. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

My son turned me on to the Wimpy Kid movies and I love them. They’re hilarious. I’m not watching one without him though and he’d just as soon see them on DVD.

Actually, not a big fan of seeing movies in the theater, my son. He’ll go if everyone’s going, but he’d prefer to be at home (and we don’t even have a decent TV). I don’t know if that’s typical of other kids, but it makes me curious about the future of the movie industry. Not about whether there is a future (of course there is), but just about what it will look like. Will future generations value having control over the presentation more than the less convenient spectacle of the big screen and giant sound?

7. Chicken With Plums

I loved the graphic novel this is based on.

8. Dredd

My only exposure to Judge Dredd is a) those Dredd/Batman crossovers they did in the ’90s and b) the horrible Sylvester Stallone/Rob Schneider movie from the same time period. None of that stuff made me a fan, but I’m as fond of second chances as I am of anything Karl Urban signs up for. Judge Dredd has a lot of fans, so there must be something to him. I’m interested in seeing the character’s film potential redeemed.

9. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Like me a teenage comedy/romance. Also curious to see what Emma Watson can do post-Potter.

10. Solomon Kane

I don’t know if it’s accurate to call this a 2012 movie, because they’ve been announcing it for about three years now and I’m not real up on why it was just now released this year to a very limited number of theaters. Probably because it’s not very good, but it’s such a solid concept and a Robert E. Howard character, so I’ll take my chances.

11. The Oranges

Hugh Laurie and Oliver Platt. Hoping this’ll take the edge off my House withdrawal.

12. Cloud Atlas

I don’t have high hopes that Cloud Atlas‘ execution is equal to its ambition (the makeup isn’t at all convincing, for starters, and that seems like a big deal), but it looks like a magnificent spectacle and I’m a sucker for these stories about how we’re all connected.

13. Fun Size

A Halloween comedy with Jane Levy from Suburgatory. That’s all I need to know.

14. Wreck-It Ralph

I’m not enough of a gamer to be super excited by the cameos and in-jokes, but I like a good Disney animated movie and by all accounts, this is one.

15. Lincoln

Torn between loving Daniel Day Lewis on the one hand, and not liking Spielberg’s sentimental side on the other. Curiosity wins out though.

16. Anna Karenina

Another one I’m conflicted about. Adultery stories usually push me away, but Keira Knightley has the opposite effect.

17. Silver Linings Playbook

Another one I was wishy-washy about. Love Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Pretty tired of uninspired romantic comedies and Robert DeNiro’s being in them. I’ve heard this is anything but uninspired though, and it also features Chris Tucker’s return to acting in something other than a Rush Hour movie. Honestly, it’s that less element that finally draws me in.

18. Life of Pi

Didn’t think I wanted to see a movie about a kid adrift on a lifeboat for two hours, no matter how pretty it is, who directed it, or how many CGI tigers are involved. Ironically, it took having the end spoiled for me to make me want to check it out. I wish now that I’d been willing to see it before and been surprised, but oh well. I’d like to see it so that I can talk with people about it. Sounds like there’s a lot of discussion to be had around this one.

19. This is 40

Because I’ll watch any Paul Rudd comedy. That rule has bitten me in the past, but most of the time it’s trustworthy.

20. Zero Dark Thirty

Didn’t have much interest in a docudrama about the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, but the trailer sucked me in with its focus on Jessica Chastain’s character and her team. Also, the mission itself looks absolutely haunting. Should’ve trusted Kathryn Bigelow to do this right.

21. Jack Reacher

Looks like a mediocre Tom Cruise action flick, but I still tend to enjoy those.

22. Django Unchained

I’m not as in love with the indulgent, alternate reality of Inglorious Basterds as most people, so I’m not all thrilled at the possibility of seeing it repeated against the backdrop of the Antebellum South. I’d prefer to examine history as it really was and learn from that instead of seeing Quentin Tarantino play out his fantasies onscreen. On the other hand, I love pretty much everyone in this movie and want to judge it on its own merits instead of on my fears about it.

The 6 Greatest Roles of Kurt Russell

This week’s assignment from the League of Extraordinary Bloggers is stunningly beautiful in its simplicity:

Kurt Russell

Since the field’s wide open, I’m going with a pictorial trip through the man’s greatest roles. Probably not any surprises here, but my aim is to celebrate, not educate. Let me know in the comments if I missed something.

In chronological order:

1. Snake Plissken (Escape from New York, Escape from L.A.)

2. R.J. MacReady (The Thing)

3. Jack Burton (Big Trouble in Little China)

4. Wyatt Earp (Tombstone)

5. Col. Jack O’Neil (Stargate)

6. Michael Zane (3000 Miles to Graceland)

Honorable mention: The jungle boy on that one episode of Gilligan’s Island.

What’s your favorite Kurt Russell role?

LXB | The League’s Ultimate Crossovers

Brian’s posted the rest of the League of Extraordinary Blogger’s responses about their ultimate movie crossovers and there are several that I’d pay big bucks to see on the big screen. The image above was created by Sideshow Cinema for an imaginary crossover that I cannot believe Dark Horse hasn’t yet done. Other ones I want to be real are:

  • Memories of Toymorrow‘s goofy, fun mash-up of famous movie and TV bachelors competing for the affection of the cat from the Pepe LePew cartoons. I just can’t decide if it’s the ultimate romantic comedy or the ultimate horror film.
  • Branded in the 80s created a sequel to ’80s movies that pitted kids against a sinister government: Wargames, Cloak and Dagger, and The Manhattan Project. In his version, the kids are grown and pulled into another plot in which they have to prevent World War III. (In his comments section, a reader talks about his idea for a Dukes of Hazzard/Knight Rider crossover that would also be awesome.)
  • Tupa’s Treasures has three cool ideas, but my favorite is combining the casts of the two Raiders of the Lost Ark TV knock offs: Tales of the Gold Monkey and Bring ‘Em Back Alive.
  • Speaking of Raiders, AEIOU and Sometimes Why would love to see Indiana Jones meet the Doctor. And so would I.
  • The Man Who Stares at Toys sold me on his idea for Wookiees and Klingons teaming up to fight Xenomorphs.
  • Dave Lowe wins at life by coming up with Indiana Jones’ exploring King Kong‘s Skull Island.

There are a lot of cool ideas out there though, so check out Cool and Collected for the whole list, including Tombstone meets Deadwood, and Batman vs Ace Ventura.

Guest-blogging | That F’ing Monkey

I’ve been wanting to try guest-blogging at some other blogs for a couple of months now, but hadn’t gotten around to seriously thinking about it or approaching anyone yet before my buddy Ken from That F’ing Monkey asked if I wanted to chip in for three posts. Ken and his wife just had a baby boy and he knew that when his son arrived he’d need a break from the blog to focus on being a new dad. It was awesome timing, but I would have agreed even if I hadn’t already been thinking about it.

Ken’s idea was for me and him and Brandon (the other regular TFM contributor) to imagine that we were guest programmers on Turner Classic Movies and pick three films to talk about. We’d introduce them, talk about why we liked them, and give some background information and trivia if we wanted. I was totally into it.

I’ll let you visit TFM to read my posts (and Ken’s and Brandon’s), but the films I picked were Alfred Hitchcock’s silent version of The Lodger, the under-appreciated British horror classic Night of the Demon, and Tom Berenger’s hilarious Western parody Rustlers’ Rhapsody. Click the links or each picture below to go to the appropriate post.

My main criterion at first was simply that I wanted to choose from three different movie eras, but I ended up finding a recurring theme that tied them all together. I explain more about that in the Rustlers’ Rhapsody entry.

Anyway, thanks so much to Ken for asking me to participate. It was a lot of fun and I’d love to do it again.

Terra Nova cancelled, Tarzan arrested, and other news

Seems like a lot of cool/interesting stuff happened this week. Let’s recap.

Terra Nova cancelled

  • FOX announced that there would be no second season for Terra Nova, at least not on their network. The show was a modest ratings success, but not the blockbuster hit it needed to be to justify its expense. It never came together well creatively either. FOX was trying to figure out how to tweak a potential second season, but gave up.

    I’m not a fan of the mediocre relationship drama of the show – especially the way it sidelines the dinosaurs – but my son likes it pretty well and I’ve heard from other fans who are disappointed by this news. There may be a glimmer of hope for those folks. Though nothing’s been signed yet, Netflix is thinking about picking it up.

My new favorite Tarzan movie

MIT Certificates of Piracy

Ron Ely Tarzan series on DVD

Kickstart an ERB documentary

James Cameron’s 3D underwater documentary

Tarzan arrested for keeping tigers

  • Steve Sipek (aka Steve Hawkes) starred in a couple of Spanish/Italian Tarzan films in 1969 and 1972. It was during the filming of the second of these, Tarzan and the Brown Prince that something amazing happened. According to The Wild Eye:
  • During the shooting of a scene in which Tarzan had been tied down to be tortured, some spilled fuel ignited. The crew scattered, leaving Sipek tethered to two iron stakes at the centre of the flames. Tied to his arm on the end of a long rope was Sampson, a lion trained to rush to his rescue and rip off the restraints when given the cue.

    “As the fire came towards me, I pulled hard on the rope and Sampson came charging in,” recalls Sipek. “He pulled off the rope and dragged me out and my life changed for ever. I said that if I lived, I would care for any animal that needed me.”

    Sipek kept that promise and opened an animal sanctuary called Jungleworld in Florida. He and his animals were in the news several years ago when one of his tigers escaped and was killed by a wildlife officer. The Daily Mail reports that Florida wildlife officials began looking into Sipek’s sanctuary again this past October and after a lengthy investigation determined that Sipek didn’t have the proper licenses or training to keep his animals and that the compound was a threat to public safety. He was arrested on misdemeanor charges.

RIP Disney songwriter Robert B Sherman

Lots of cool projects coming

  • David Gallaher and Steve Ellis (High Moon) are trying to Kickstart The Only Living Boy, a four-volume series of 50-page comics “inspired by pulp adventure novels[…]like John Carter, Tarzan, Flash Gordon, Killraven, and the Jungle Book.” [Robot 6]
  • Jeff Lemire (Animal ManFrankenstein: Agent of SHADE) will have a new graphic novel in August about an expectant father who encounters something strange deep in the sea. Top Shelf describes The Underwater Welder as “equal parts blue-collar character study and mind-bending science fiction epic.”
  • How did I not know about a 380-page graphic novel about a cowgirl who wears a yellow string-bikini? Bikini Cowboy has been out since last fall and I’m just now getting it.

10 Movies I Didn’t Care For in 2011

47. Immortals

It sure was pretty, but the story made no damn sense beyond the general outline of the plot. All form; no substance.

46. Season of the Witch

I really wanted to like this movie; partly because I wanted to see a spooky story about a lone warrior taking on the medieval church, but also because I wanted to like Nicholas Cage in a movie again. I can’t talk about why I disliked this without going into spoilers, so I’ll just say that I wasn’t at all pleased with either the major plot twist or the way the climax was executed in general. There’s some nice mood in this movie, but it supports nothing.

45. Killer Elite

It’s partially disguised by the device of having an antagonist who’s not entirely a bad guy, but there’s no hiding that it’s filled with cliché after action-movie cliché, starting with the former assassin who’s new, peaceful life is threatened when he’s forced to perform One Last Job. So many actors that I like – especially Yvonne Strahovski – wasted.

44. Tower Heist

There were a couple of hilarious moments that weren’t spoiled in the trailer, so that’s good. I even liked a lot of the characters; especially the ones played by Michael Peña and Matthew Broderick. But the hitch in the heist was lame and led to an unbelievable and unsatisfying conclusion. And though Eddie Murphy was funnier than he’s been in a live-action film in years, this wasn’t the role to spotlight his comeback. He’s playing essentially the same function that Jamie Foxx did in Horrible Bosses, but Foxx was funnier. Way funnier.

43. Your Highness

So unfunny. The only redeeming quality is Natalie Portman’s butt.

42. Unknown

Not anything like Taken, which is what it wanted you to think it was. Characters do things for no good reason and January Jones’ performance is unwatchable. Liam Neeson and Diane Kruger are fun to watch together though and it sure was nice to see Aidan Quinn again, even in something like this.

41. The Ides of March

Great performances, but the movie’s only message seems to be that Politics Suck. I already knew that.

40. Hugo

I feel guilty about putting Hugo behind Cowboys & Aliens, but let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Hugo presented itself as a steampunk story with a central mystery about an automaton and a secret key. That’s the movie that I went to see, but it’s not the movie that Hugo is. Hugo is a love letter to the history of cinema; a concept I can get behind, but not while I’m waiting for mystic doors to open and reveal an awesome world of clockworks and magic. I’m interested in seeing this again and re-evaluating it for what it is, but until then I’m stuck with disappointment.

39. Cowboys & Aliens

Some of my favorite fimmakers got together and hacked out this SyFy original movie. The low point in several people’s careers. And yet, they’re all people I love.

38. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

I’ve already talked about this one at length, but the gist of my complaint is that it’s cartoonish and doesn’t follow through on the themes or characterizations from the first three films. What saves it is Penélope Cruz’ complicated character and its just being a Pirates of the Caribbean movie with all the jungle/island/sea adventure that comes with that (even if it doesn’t make a lot of sense).