Monday, May 22, 2017

Prepared To Be Floored By The Mesmerizing Romance And Unique Spirit Of Moulin Rouge!

I wonder what it must have been like to be on the set of Moulin Rouge!, being directed by Baz Luhrmann and trying to make sense of what he was crafting here. The dude had made two films prior to Moulin Rouge!, and while I haven't seen those two initial features from Luhrmann, it's pretty clear they aren't exact copies of the incredibly one-of-a-kind aesthetic that Moulin Rouge! is reliant on, one that is very much informed by elements that get added into a movie during its post-production like editing. One can't help but ponder what was going on in the actor's minds as they acted out scenes that were going to have their own unique rhythm and pacing that could only be fully appreciated once the movie was fully completed.

Plenty Of Well-Done Musical Numbers Pop Up In Chicago, Though, Sadly, There's No Pizza

We've had plenty of "ladies-in-prison" movies in the history of cinema, to the point that it's become its own subgenre so ubiquitous it inspired a fake trailer on Grindhouse. Such a concept has endured so much that it's even eeked over into television with Orange Is The New Black being a hugely popular show for four years now. Despite the huge amount of content fixated on the idea of women getting into shenanigans in prison, I doubt any other piece of "ladies-in-prison" pop culture is quite like the 2002 Rob Marshall movie Chicago, which is based on a hugely popular and long-running Broadway musical of the same name.

Liza Minnelli And Bob Fosse Joins Forces For Thoughtful Musical Fare In Cabaret

The idea of Liza Minelli and the late great Bob Fosse teaming up feels like as natural a pairing as peanut butter and jelly or dogs and cuteness or Donald Trump and racism. EGOT winner Liza Minnelli most certainly knows her way around a musical number while you'd be hard pressed to find individuals in American pop culture from any era more adept at the art of dancing than Mr. Bob Fosse, whose knowledge of how to pull off the most exquisite dance moves seemed to come as naturally to him as breathing air. Such a promising pairing came to pass in the 1972 musical drama Cabaret, which also managed to rope in Michael York into the proceedings.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

There's Just Not Enough Brains Or Good Scares In The Underwhelming Alien: Covenant

Ridley Scott is a master of his craft. Like fellow 1970's filmmaker trailblazer Steven Spielberg, it's awesome to see him still out there making large-scale movies and pushing boundaries in the modern age. The guys made his modern-day duds for sure (The Counselor has its notable fanbase for sure but I just couldn't get into and Exodus: Gods And Kings was a total snoozefest) but his most recent film, The Martian, demonstrated why we al fell in love with him in the first place. All of that praise having been said, I won't lie; Alien: Covenant, his newest directorial effort, does make me think it's time for some new creative (acid) blood to get injected into this franchise on some level.

Alien: Covenant Has An Underwhelming Bow As Everything, Everything Does Solid Box Office And The Newest Wimpy Kid Film Lives Up To Its Name

Five years after Prometheus, the Alien saga continued again with Alien: Covenant, which managed to have an underwhelming bow compared to expectations. No one was expecting this one to handily top the $51 million bow of Prometheus but it should have been a given for this one to cross $40 million given the ubiquity of the Alien brand name. Instead, Alien: Covenant grossed only $36.1 million this weekend and failed to hold well throughout the weekend, going down 21% on Saturday from its $15 million Friday (Saturday drops over 10% are more forgivable when a film's opening day is above $30 million) and scoring a B CinemaScore that's quite lackluster as far as blockbusters go (though, to be fair, it's actually better than average for conventional horror movies). When looking at past opening weekends in the Alien franchise, Covenant comes in third behind the $51 million debut of Prometheus and the $38 million debut of Alien vs. Predator. Adjusted for inflation, it slips to fourth place since Covenant had a lower opening weekend than the adjusted for inflation $41.4 million debut of Alien 3 and also was only 14% ahead of the $31.7 million adjusted for inflation debut of Alien: Resurrection.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Man (With A Movie Camera)! I Feel Like A Woman!

Sight & Sound Voyage Entry #33
Placement On Sight & Sound Top 50 Movies List: #8

In the early days of cinema, everything you could with a camera was revolutionary. The works of folks like Eadweard Muybridge, Thomas Edison and the Lumiere Brothers may seem quaint now, but at the time, they were changing how art could be made forever. Film was such a new artform at that point that the very act of filming anything was rightly considered something tantamount to an act of Biblical proportions. By the time 1929 rolled around, cinema had advanced notably since the 1890-1900 era, but there was still much to be done and experimented with when it came to the art of filmmaking. There was still plenty of artistic terrains yet to be charted in the realm of cinema.

Extraneous Raunch And Viagra Weakens The Charming Romance In Love & Other Drugs

Back in the late 2000's, specifically around 2009 through 2011, the American romantic comedy took a detour into the raunchy and R-rated. It's not like no film in the subgenre had gone to such terrain before, but the likes of The Ugly Truth, Friends With Benefits and No Strings Attached decided to unleash more nudity and F-bombs in the world of romantic comedies in order to entice moviegoers and keep things fresh (a friend of mine smartly pointed out how this trend was also likely a response to Judd Apatow's mid-2000's R-rated comedies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up which had major romantic components to them). Ironically, the most financially lucrative romantic-comedy from this epoch was the PG-13 feature The Proposal!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Double Indemnity Provides So Many Engrossing Thrills It's Practically A Crime!

I always try to reiterate my feelings that no cliche is inherently bad, it's the way it's presented that makes all the difference in the world. Perhaps no better example of this phenomenon exists than the world of noir thrillers. We all know the trappings of noir cinema, maybe from seeing plenty of noir movies or maybe even just from seeing one of the countless parodies of this subgenre, the omnipresent narration, the black-and-white color scheme, the dames and femme fatales, the steel-jawed detective, all of those are recurring factors in many entries in this subgenre. And let me tell you, I love those recurring traits of noir filmmaking, I really do. When they're done right, they can create a storytelling atmosphere like no other that merges intrigue with a bleak tone.

You Can Thank Sanaa Lathan And Alien Carnage For Making Alien vs. Predator More Watchable Than Expected

Ever since a 1989 comic had created the idea of the Xenomorphs from the Alien movies and the Predators from the Predator movies meeting up and duking it out, 20th Century Fox had carried a hankering for creating an entire motion picture centered around that concept. Despite Sigourney Weaver, the face of the entire Alien franchise up to that point, feeling the idea was a bad idea and would kill the franchise, the studio plowed ahead on the concept, with the results of the fruit of their labors being Alien vs. Predator, a 2004 action horror movie that broke new ground by being the first entry in either the Alien or Predator franchises to be rated PG-13.

"Here Comes The General!" "This Should Be Fun!"

Sight & Sound Voyage Entry #32
Placement On Sight & Sound Top 50 Movies List: #34

Me and my love for classic silent movies have already had plenty of experiences with one Mr. Charlie Chaplin while the phenomenal motion picture Safety Last! allowed me the chance to be introduced to Harold Lloyd, another titan of this era of filmmaking. But despite my intense affection for this particular decade of movies, there's one major star from the age of classic silent movies that I have not been exposed to; the one and only Buster Keaton! Yep, somehow Keaton and his numerous massively influential features have passed me by over the year, though that changed for the better recently when I finally saw  Keaton's 1926 feature The General!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

In Laman's Terms: Let The Men (And Raccoons!) Cry

In Laman's Terms is a new weekly editorial column where Douglas Laman rambles on about certain topics or ideas that have been on his mind lately. Sometimes he's got serious subjects to discuss, other times he's just got some silly stuff to shoot the breeze about. Either way, you know he's gonna talk about it In Laman's Terms!


When the original Guardians Of The Galaxy motion picture came out, multiple articles on The Dissolve surrounding the movie had comment sections that quickly turned into extended discussions on the film's virtues and what specific elements of the film really stood out to people. Plenty of memorable lines ('That was my favorite knife!") got brought up of course but one notable compliment has stuck out to me regarding the film in three years since its release. Disqus user Persia mentioned how Guardians Of The Galaxy really went all out in depicting the individuals characters vulnerabilities, particularly in a final scene depicting Rocket mourning the loss of his buddy Groot by sobbing over such an event. As Persia rightly pointed out, how many recent blockbusters depicted male protagonists outright bawling over tragic events?

In Space, No One Can Heart you Be Disappointed By A Forgettable Sci-Fi Horror Film Like Alien: Resurrection

The Xenomorphs are back! And this time, they're trapped in a movie that harkens back to the 1960's sci-fi schlockfest's the original Alien was supposed to be an atmospheric and suspenseful counterbalance to. Now, there's nothing at all inherently wrong about the world of B-movie cinema, far from it! It's just interesting to me to see this franchise become the very yin it was supposed to be the yang to. More than a little bit of tragedy is added to that transformation considering Alien: Resurrection turns out to be the weakest Alien movie in the franchise yet.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Another Brick In The Wall

Truth in advertising still exists it seems, as The Wall very much does indeed focus on a wall. I have this wish that more modern-day Hollywood movies would use more inventive titles and eschew these shorter generic titles running rampant in modern cinema but at least the more truncated title of The Wall is pretty accurate to what the actual movie entails. The only way it could be more accurate is if it somehow managed to cram in the names of its two lead actors and its primary location (Iraq) in the title, though at that point I suppose the title would become quite unwieldy at that point. I doubt they could even fit that on a poster in a satisfying manner.

The Downward Trend In Quality In The Alien Movies Began With Alien 3

How do you follow a one-two punch like Alien and Aliens? Well, really, you should just leave a good thing alone, especially if you haven't got a great idea for a third movie burning a hole in your pocket. But 20th Century Fox was determined to make more entries in the franchise after the big box office bucks generated by Aliens. From their determination to wring another Ellen Ripley adventure out of the franchise sprung Alien 3, which ended up being the feature-length directorial debut for one David Fincher. Yes, that David Fincher, the guy responsible for The Social Network, one of my favorite movies of all-time.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Douglas Laman Gets A Tune-Up (Entry #2): The Velvet Underground & Nico

ENTRY #1: The Velvet Underground & Nico by The Velvet Underground and Nico

Douglas Laman Gets A Tune-Up is a new weekly series wherein Douglas Laman listens to an album of music he's never fully listened to before (though he may have heard one or two songs from it) and writes up his brief thoughts on it.

I had never heard of The Velvet Underground prior to it being selected as the next title in this series (friends of mine who are way bigger music geeks than me choose the albums I cover for this series), but boy am I not gonna forget 'em now. If you're as out of the blue in regards to this group as I once was, The Velvet Underground is a mid-20th-century band that existed for only eight years but left an incredible impression on the world of music in that timespan. A key reason for them carrying such influence in their work comes from their very first album (released in 1967), The Velvet Underground & Nico.

Originality, Fun And Being Entertaining Are Not King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword's Strong Suits

I always felt like The Sword In The Stone was one of the weakest animated Disney movies as a kid. Maybe my opinion would change as an adult (I haven't seen it in years) but its more episodic story structure was more obvious there than it is in other animated fare from Disney in the same era and the characters never struck me as all that interesting. That having been said, I'd handily say that particular cinematic take on the King Arthur mythos is notably superior to Guy Ritchie's new take on the world of Camelot in King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword. After all, The Sword In The Stone at least had that owl who was occasionally funny.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Ya Can't Help But Believe In Aliens

James Cameron is about to spend the next eight years immersed in the world of Pandora creating four Avatar sequels, which, considering they just cast Cliff Curtis in a major role in said sequels, means it looks like these Avatar follow-ups are actually finally happening after nearly a decade of development. Cameron himself is no stranger to sequels having started his entire directorial career with Pirhana 2: The Spawning, a cheapie 1981 horror movie he directed with Ovidio G. Assonitis. A decade later he would helm Terminator 2: Judgement Day which is widely considered to be one of the best blockbusters of the 1990's. In between those two sequels though came Aliens, a direct follow-up to Ridley Scott's earlier Alien film.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 Wins The Box Office Again As King Arthur Loses Legendary Amounts Of Money

We got the first major blockbuster bomb of the summer this weekend, one that'll probably go down as one of the years bigger duds. Before we get to that film though, let's first talk about Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, which ruled the box office again with $63 million, a 57% decline from its opening weekend. That's a slightly better second-weekend hold than the ones experienced by the last three early May Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, Captain America: Civil War (59%), Avengers: Age Of Ultron (59%) and Iron Man 3 (58%), though it's slightly larger than the 55% decline the first Guardians Of The Galaxy experienced in its second weekend. In ten days, this new Guardians Of The Galaxy movie has grossed $246.1 million and looks to be headed for a final domestic total in the $350-360 million range.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Snatch Me If You Can

Before he was making big blockbusters like the Sherlock Holmes movies and that new King Arthur film that just opened this weekend (the latter feature is why I'm covering the subject of this review today), Guy Ritchie was a bloke from England looking to make crime movies with a distinct air to them. He's carried over his unique editing and directing sensibilities over to some of his blockbuster work, but if you want pure unfiltered Guy Ritchie, you can most certainly find it in his 2000 crime movie Snatch, which is packed to the gills with energy as well as characters in its gargantuan ensemble cast.

Friday, May 12, 2017

We Built The Lost City Of Z On Rock And Roll

In his 1995 review of Congo, Roger Ebert mentioned how the jungle adventure movie had "fallen out of fashion", which is true, we didn't really see a whole bunch of such movies in the years leading up to 1995. While last year brought the new Jungle Book remake from Disney and The Legend Of Tarzan, jungle adventure movies have otherwise been mostly scarce in 2010's cinema as well, a sign that that particular subgenre may really have just fallen by the wayside for a variety of reason. But just because it's scarce doesn't mean it's gone extinct. Case in point, last month brought a brand spanking new jungle adventure movie in the form of James Gray's newest directorial effort, The Lost City Of Z.

Charming Craziness Runs Rampant In Spike Jonze's Debut Directorial Effort Being John Malkovich

I'll be right upfront and proclaim myself as a total Spike Jonze fanboy. When I saw Where The Wild Things Are as a thirteen-year-old, I had no prior experience with his filmmaking but the movie itself was so captivating and incredible that I knew I would never forget Spike Jonze's name. Just a few yeas later, Jonze managed to surpass his 2009 achievement with the masterpiece Her, one of the best movies made in the 21st century. Since seeing those two in their theatrical runs, I've also gone back and watched the superb Adaptation and have no finally rounded out Spike Jonze's feature film directorial catalog by finally viewing his debut effort Being John Malkovich, which paired him up with writer Charlie Kaufman, the writer of Adaptation.