Monday, August 24, 2009

Au revoir, Shosanna.

Quentin Tarantino makes movies about movies. He's really outdone himself with his latest, Inglourious Basterds. Basterds has a plot, a shaggy-dog story about a scheme to assassinate Hitler. But it's really Tarantino's love letter to film.

That said, it's an awfully funny, tense, violent love letter. As you've probably seen in the movie's trailers, the Basterds are a group of Nazi-killers (their leader points out they're not in the prisoner-taking business). And Tarantino isn't afraid to show them do their thing in graphic detail. And as you probably learned in history class, the Nazis were pretty rough customers themselves.

This isn't a History Channel production, though. Like Hendrix covering Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower," Tarantino takes World War II events and spins them into something all his own, a movie full of larger-than-life heroes and villains. I mean, when we're first introduced to Tarantino's Hitler, he's wearing a cape.

A cape. Like Darth Vader. Or Doctor Doom.

Getting back to the real subject of the film, a French movie theater is a major character. Tarantino throws in nods to noir movies, Hitchcock, and probably a hundred other cinematic particulars I wasn't hip enough to catch, at least on first viewing. I especially love how one character, even after meeting an untimely demise, gets the last laugh thanks to a movie projector.

As is the case with most of Tarantino's flicks, the cinematography, editing, and sound work are top-notch. And the music is great, of course. I especially love a totally period-incorrect David Bowie song that shouldn't work but does. Totally. In fact, it might be my favorite ever use of a pop tune in a Tarantino movie.

I don't feel like my rambling about Basterds is really doing the movie justice, so I'll just add that it is currently my pick for best movie of 2009. And it's a movie you should see. In a proper movie theater.

I've had a good run at the theater lately, having also seen District 9 and Moon. Both are worth your time, and both feature excellent effects--D9 on the CG side (seriously, and I don't even usually like CG), and Moon on the practical side (seriously, and I love practical effects). And speaking of effects, the makeup and pyro in Basterds are just about perfect.

Sidewalk screening day and time...


Thursday, August 20, 2009

How I learned to stop worrying and love the dual-layer.

I am relieved to be watching the new Hide and Creep "special edition" DVD. It doesn't "street" till October 6 (pre-order it from Amazon!), but I paid the replicator to run me a few advance copies, which arrived Wednesday.

I say "relieved" because this Hide and Creep disc is the most complex I've ever authored (multiple video files, audio tracks, ROM content), and it's my first attempt at dual-layer authoring, so I really couldn't be 100% sure the DVD worked properly until I tested one of the 1,000 copies the replicator made. If I had screwed up badly, that would be a lot of coasters.

I won't go into a lot of detail on the whole dual-layer thing at the moment. The short version: while the extra layer almost doubles the amount of content you can fit on a DVD, it throws a few kinks into the authoring process. Luckily, I found a few online articles about the process (particularly in regards to Apple's DVD Studio Pro software) that pointed me in the right direction. When I get some time (ha), I hope to do a detailed post about dual-layer authoring, just in case my limited experience might be of use to another DVD author out there.

Only other news at the moment is the impending Interplanetary screening at Sidewalk, but I still don't have a specific date/time/venue for that yet. And the super-awesome Lisa Mason interviewed me Tuesday for the 106.9 FM "The Eagle" website -- I'll let you know when that interview is available for listening.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Price gouging.


Nine copies of the Asylum Hide and Creep DVD are for sale at for more than $100 each.

This means either...
  1. Hide and Creep is a true cult classic and has a bigger following than I realize; or
  2. Some greedy seller arbitrarily decided to mark up his copy of Hide to an absurd price, and some other greedy sellers followed suit.
I'm thinking "2" is the correct answer.

Standing in the shadow of Darth Vader.

(My summer blockbuster review project has obviously gone to heck. I didn't even see Transformers 2! That said, I did manage to catch a flick yesterday...)

I like to complain about what George Lucas has done with the Star Wars franchise as much as the next guy. Maybe more. But it's hard to deny the influence of the series (especially the 1977 original) on other movies.

Case in point, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. (Hey, is anybody else tired of the word "rise" used in movie titles? For some reason, that always rubs me the wrong way. And why does a movie that is not a sequel need a subtitle anyway?) Though I assume the movie is based on the Hasbro toy line and the television shows and comic books it inspired, several of the flick's plot points are straight out of Star Wars.

For example, there's a climatic battle where the good guys attack the bad guys' battle fortress. In Joe, the fortress is underwater instead of in outer space, but all of the submarines and whatnot behave more like X-wing fighters than actual aquatic vehicles--not sure if that was dictated by the screenplay or the director or the special effects house. Inside that base, a good guy with a badass sword goes off alone to disable some problematic piece of equipment (Snake Eyes vs. a plasma cannon in Joe. In Star Wars, it was Obi-Wan vs. the tractor beam).

When one of the characters kisses another "for luck," I leaned over and whispered to Stacey that we'll discover these characters are brother and sister in the inevitable sequel.

Debts to Star Wars aside, the G.I. Joe plot is pretty decent for an action flick. The only real motivation for the main bad guys (Destro and Cobra Commander) seems to be revenge, but at least they're motivated. Not sure what's in it for all those henchmen though. It would be interesting to see what Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer (creators of The Venture Bros.) have to say about that.

As you might guess, there is a ton of action. Some of it cool (ninja fights!), some of it average. The CG effects are all over the place, usually not particularly good. I wonder if I should just quit complaining about sloppy CG. But G.I. Joe actually has lots of solid practical effects and sets and costumes. If the same effort went into the computer effects, it would have really improved the overall viewing experience.

The cast is full of good actors who do what they can with the action movie dialog--except Dennis Quaid, who seems hell-bent on chewing every piece of scenery in sight. After the early negative buzz around the flick, followed by a little last-minute positivity from guys like Devin Faraci over at, I wasn't sure what to expect. I suppose I landed in the middle. I found G.I. Joe a pleasant enough time-waster, but I don't expect I'll be re-watching it anytime soon.

It's definitely no Team America: World Police. But, then again, what is?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Director's cut.

Chuck stopped by one night last week to record some commentary tracks for four of our short movies. Those shorts and commentaries will be on the upcoming Hide and Creep DVD. After taking care of business, we were watching some of the original 1977 version of Star Wars and talking about how the "special edition" version didn't even seem like the same movie.

I mention this because, while revisiting Hide and Creep, I was tempted to "fix" a few things. But I resisted. If there's one person out there who really likes the original version of Hide (and I like to think there is), I'd hate to take out or alter some particular bit that said person is fond of.

Well, okay, I did change one title card. But that was to correct an error, and I assume no one gets too attached to the content of title cards.

Speaking of Hide and Creep, I finished up the DVD authoring around 3 a.m. this morning. After I get some discs back from the replicator and confirm that everything works, I'll post a complete list of specs. Thanks again to Kevin Powell and Los Angeles Design Studios and Advertising for taking care of menu design and cover art, respectively. And thanks to Ces and John White for their contributions to the new disc.

In other news...

Steve "Alien Redrum" Pattee posted his review of Interplanetary at

Steve gives the movie a 4.5 on the 5 scale and says the movie was "well worth the wait." Given the wait, I'd say that's high praise, indeed.

I tell ya, if we can find a distributor who likes Interplanetary as much as the critics, we're going to be in good shape.

And my good pal Andrew Bellware's latest flick, Alien Uprising, has been picked up by Blockbuster Video. Congrats, Andrew! I rented a copy tonight at the Blockbuster over on Green Springs.