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Monday, June 30, 2014

Trailer Watch: Gugu Mbatha-Raw Follows Up BELLE With a New Role as a Struggling Starlet in BEYOND THE LIGHTS



The more I look at Gina Prince-Bythewood's BEYOND THE LIGHTS, the more I get a made-for-TV vibe. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, seeming as TV is still experiencing its new golden age, but the whole "starlet struggling under the weight of superstardom finds a new lease on life with a promising romance" thing just screams Lifetime Television.

But, again, the caliber of talent Prince-Bythewood has assembled for this piece is what's keeping me hopeful. Gugu Mbatha-Raw's critically acclaimed performance in Belle is still fresh in people's minds, and Nate Parker has always been a solid actor, so I am counting on them to really elevate the film.

Here's the synopsis:

BEYOND THE LIGHTS is the story of Noni Jean, a hot new award-winning artist who is primed for superstardom.  But not all is what it seems,and the pressures cause Noni to nearly fall apart - until she meets Kaz Nicol, a promising young cop and aspiring politician who's been assigned to her detail. Drawn to each other, Noni and Kaz fall fast and hard, despite the protests of those around them to put their career ambitions ahead of their romance.  But can Kaz's love give Noni the courage to find her own voice and break free to become the artist she was meant to be?

The teaser trailer premiered during last night's BET Awards, and I've also got it here for you. Check it out:



BEYOND THE LIGHTS is in theaters November 14th. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Are We Grading Certain Films on a Curve?

Idris Elba in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013)

Remember that episode of Seinfeld when Jerry dissed Schindler's List and his Jewish family completely shunned him? Or the one in which Elaine HATED The English Patient and everyone thought she was a menace against society? I always think of these episodes whenever I begin to write a negative review of a black film. Once I unleash the review into cyberspace, I can expect eye rolls and sneers from members of my fellow black community for somehow turning against the cause by sharing that I didn't think a particular film was great.

It's an interesting situation because I know there are some who, shall I say, grade certain black films on a curve. Which, while I understand the reasoning (too often these films are graded by mainstream critics on an opposite curve in that they have to be twice as good merely in order to compete with other films), it seems detrimental to the film and filmmaker who may (or may not) rely on reviews as an validation of his/her ability. This is the part when I ask whether there are critics who simply promote certain kinds of film versus those who discuss films for certain reasons: whether it's to highlight specific commentary (political or otherwise), or analyze the technicality of the film, or even another angle at their discretion.

I don't really think there's any right or wrong here. After all, film analysis, especially now during the pop culture era, is highly subjective, which makes for really interesting debate and conversation. But I've also found that some critics of color--and even casual moviegoers--don't feel comfortable openly expressing a negative review of a black film because of the criticism that they in turn may receive. As a result, this leaves us only with genuinely positive reviews, think piece/social commentary reviews, faux positive reviews, and what I call "radio silence" reviews (posts that discuss everything about the film except whether or not it's good, fluff pieces). All of these articles serve a purpose and an audience (they can all be quite engaging to read), but it does give me pause when people feel that they are unable to express their actual opinion--whatever it might be--and are compelled to evade it in order to retain a certain image. But then I ask: Whose image are you trying to keep in tact--yours or someone else's?

I don't find it particularly useful to piggy back off the opinions of others, which is one of the reasons why I created my own space here--as a way for me to explicitly sound off about what I liked or didn't like, and how a certain film made me feel. But I do understand that some larger media outlets have a specific purpose in the way they approach films in their efforts to promote a unified voice. This is why I appreciated writer Damon Young's "Black Movie Angst" piece on Ebony Magazine's website which questioned whether we are "too easy" on certain films. It was refreshing to see an article like this on a major website whose target audience is also the main demographic for films like The Best Man Holiday (Young's prime example in the piece). While it was predictably met with scrutiny in the comments section, it was nice to see a writer go against the grain, not facetiously but rather to present his own perspective despite the fact that he "really wanted to like the film."

I get it. It's a fine line to cross, especially as we continue to navigate the imperfect Hollywood system and the way in which certain films (particularly those featuring women and talent of color) are deemed inadequate or unqualified to even be in the same sentence as their counterparts. But I don't think that coddling films that we actually think are sub par will help our case either. Do we really want a whole bunch of great movies being overlooked for mediocre yet more talked about films with faux positive reviews?

But, then again, this really goes back to our own purpose as reviewers, which varies for each of us, and the message we're ultimately trying to provide for our readers. So I will leave this to you express below in the comments section.

Friday, June 27, 2014

See 3 New Images from Director Gina Prince-Bythewood's BEYOND THE LIGHTS, Starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Minnie Driver and Nate Parker



I have to be honest, when I first saw the above photo from writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood's (The Secret Life of Bees, Love & Basketball) new movie musical, BEYOND THE LIGHTS, I thought it was taken from a a really good Funny or Die meme. Mostly because Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle) is sporting bright purple hair and a gold bra, and Minnie Driver seems so completely out of place in it.  

But, after further investigation, I realized this was an actual movie (and I do like the idea of seeing these actors out of their usual element). Hoping to duplicate some of the success of recent movie musicals, Jersey Boys excluded, Prince-Bythewood has assembled a fine cast, which also includes Nate Parker and Danny Glover, to tell the story of a young starlet (Mbatha-Raw) struggling to deal with the pressures of superstardom.

I'll update you as I get more information on the film, but below are a few more images to check out:




BEYOND THE LIGHTS hits theaters November 14.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Yes, Hollywood Needs to #HireTheseWomen

Most of us already know that the Hollywood system is broken, particularly when it comes to recognizing the talent of women in front of and behind the camera. So folks took to Twitter today via the hashtag #HireTheseWomen to sound off on the female talent they think is underrated and underused. The hashtag itself politely demands Hollywood bigwigs to get off their asses and, well, hire these women already.

So of course I had to put my two cents in by creating my own list of 20 women who I think deserve a whole lot more than what they're getting in the Hollywood system. Check it out:



PARMINDER NAGRA, ACTRESS
Known for: ER, Bend in Like Beckham
Last Seen: The Blacklist (2014)
Up Next: Nagra will lend her voice to Postman Pan: The Movie (2015)



PARKER POSEY, ACTRESS
Known For: Dazed and ConfusedScream 3
Last Project: Grace of Monaco (2014)
Up Next: Ned Rifle (2015)



RACHEL TRUE, ACTRESS
Known For: The Craft, Half & Half
Last Project: Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys (2014)
Up Next: No upcoming projects confirmed



SHELBIE BRUCE, ACTRESS
Known For: Spanglish
Last Project: Big Time Rush (2011)
Up Next: No upcoming projects confirmed




DEVON AOKI, ACTRESS
Known for: Sin City, 2 Fast 2 Furious
Last Project: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead (2009)
Up Next: No upcoming projects confirmed



ADEPERO ODUYE, ACTRESS
Known for: Pariah, 12 Years a Slave
Last Project: 12 Years a Slave (2013)
Up Next: Outliving Emily (2014)



PAM GRIER, ACTRESS
Known For: Jackie Brown, Coffy, The L Word
Last Project: Mafia (2012)
Up Next: Old School Gangstas (no release date)



THERESA RANDLE, ACTRESS
Known For: Bad Boys, Malcolm X
Last Project: Shit Year (2010)
Up Next: No upcoming projects confirmed



ROSIE PEREZ, ACTRESS
Known For: Fearless, In Living Color
Last Project: The Being Experience (2013)
Up Next: An American Education (2014)



LAUREN VELEZ, ACTRESS
Known For: Dexter, Oz, New York Undercover
Last Project: Dexter (2012)
Up Next: No upcoming projects confirmed



MARY HARRON, WRITER/DIRECTOR
Known For: American Psycho
Last Project: Anna Nicole (2013)
Up Next: XX (2015)



KASI LEMMONS, DIRECTOR
Known For: Eve's BayouTalk to Me
Last Project: Black Nativity (2013)
Up Next: No upcoming projects confirmed



LUCY ALIBAR, WRITER
Known For: Beasts of the Southern Wild
Last Project: Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
Up Next: No upcoming projects confirmed



ROBIN SWICORD, WRITER
Known For: Little Women, Memoirs of a Geisha
Last Project: The Jane Austen Book Club (2007)
Up Next: No upcoming projects confirmed



LISA CHOLODENKO, WRITER/DIRECTOR
Known For: The Kids Are All Right
Last Project: The Kids Are All Right (2010)
Up Next: No upcoming projects confirmed



JULIE TAYMOR, DIRECTOR
Known For: Frida, Across the Universe
Last Project: A Midsummer Night's Dream (2014)
Up Next: No upcoming projects confirmed



LYNNE RAMSAY, DIRECTOR
Known For: We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
Last Project: Swimmer (2012)
Up Next: No upcoming projects confirmed



PATTY JENKINS, DIRECTOR
Known For: Monster
Last Project: Betrayal (2013)
Up Next: Exposed (2014)



HAIFAA AL-MANSOUR, DIRECTOR
Known For: Wadjda
Last Project: Wadjda
Up Next: No upcoming projects confirmed



KIMBERLY PEIRCE, DIRECTOR
Known For: Boys Don't Cry
Last Project: Carrie (2013)
Up Next: No upcoming projects confirmed

If you have a Twitter account, make sure to follow the #HireTheseWomen hashtag. Who would you add to the list?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Trailer Watch: Brad Pitt Goes Behind Enemy Lines with Shia LeBeouf, Jon Bernthal and Michael Peña in FURY



Every time I hear about a new war movie, I instantly think Oscar bait (which I realize isn't a phrase a lot of people like to use, but I feel it applies). I believe the last one that comes to mind is The Monuments Men, which I finally saw recently and...it was as mediocre as they say (I can't even remember most of it--my memory has apparently gone into defense mode). But FURY, the latest genre off starring Brad Pitt, may fare better, perhaps because it looks a lot like Saving Private Ryan.

The actor teams up with the likes of Shia LeBeouf, Jon Bernthal, Scott Eastwood (who you may know better as Clint Eastwood's son, whose glamour shots have been burning up cyberspace) and Michael Peña to tell the story of a small time battle crew who seem doomed from the start in 1945. Read the synopsis:

April, 1945. As the Allies make their final push in the European Theatre, a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) commands a Sherman tank and her five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Outnumbered and outgunned, and with a rookie soldier thrust into their platoon, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany.  

I assume LeBeouf is the "rookie soldier," but aside from Pitt I am most interested to see Peña and Bernthal in the film, both of whom I think are on their way to become huge stars. David Ayer, who wrote and directed End of Watch starring Peña, also helmed this project. So that's also a plus.

FURY is in theaters November 14.

THE HUNGER GAMES' President Snow Delivers a Chilling New Message



Gather 'round, children. President Snow is speaking.

The lovely folks behind THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 have released a chilling new video of President Snow's (Donald Sutherland) Panem address, in which he makes good on his promise to annihilate anyone who threatens his bloody rule. Despite his somewhat calm demeanor in the clip, with the ever coy Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) by his side, he hisses that "If you fight against us, it is you who will bleed."

In just over one minute, President Snow manages to set the tone for what will surely be an eventful semi-finale. Check it out:






THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 opens in theaters on November 21. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Here's That 'Robin Hood' Movie You Requested



Well, not exactly. Piggy backing off the success of Saving Mr. Banks is another throwback to old Hollywood, THE LAST OF ROBIN HOOD. Seemingly more about late actor Errol Flynn's scandalous relationship with ingenue actress Barbara Aadland than anything else (according to the new trailer), the movie apparently follows the life and times of the thespian, widely known not only for his devilish charm on the big screen but for also being a womanizing playboy in real life throughout his heyday (1930s-1950s).

Dakota Fanning plays Aadland, who I believe is 15 years old when she is first courted by a 40-something-year-old Flynn. Yeah...the clip is a bit eyebrow-raising, to same the least (truthfully, I'm not really believing Fanning in this type of role, but I'll have to wait and see it). But Susan Sarandon as Aadland's quirky, protective mother (with stage mom tendencies), Florence, lightens things up a bit.  More in the synopsis:

Errol Flynn, the swashbuckling Hollywood star and notorious ladies man, flouted convention all his life, but never more brazenly than in his last years when, swimming in vodka and unwilling to face his mortality, he undertook a liaison with an aspiring actress, Beverly Aadland. The two had a high-flying affair that spanned the globe and was enabled by the girl's fame-obsessed mother, Florence. It all came crashing to an end in October 1959, when events forced the relationship into the open, sparking an avalanche of publicity castigating Beverly and her mother - which only fed Florence's need to stay in the spotlight. THE LAST OF ROBIN HOOD is a story about the desire for fame and the price it exacts.

The movie was inspired by none other than Florence's own book (co-written by Tedd Thomey) which recounts the events of this affair. (In that case, we may expect a slightly skewed story, or not). Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland (mostly known for helming the 2007 John Cassavetes Independent Spirit Award winner, Quinceañera) co-directed and co-wrote the film.

Watch the trailer:



THE LAST OF ROBIN HOOD comes to theaters August 29. 

You Know You Want to Hate Watch TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES

Raphael

I know we're supposed to hate all remakes of cherished animated TV shows, and usually I would be right on board on that. But, I can't help it, I remain intrigued by TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES. It looks a little ridiculous, in a Michael Bay (who produced the film) kind of way, but also maintains some of the humor and self-awareness of the original 80s-90s series about four crime-stopping, pizza-loving reptiles. (How can you not love it based on that description alone?)

However, there is the matter of Megan Fox, Bay's Transformers muse, with whom I have yet to be impressed. She plays April, the turtles'  human sidekick/local reporter. Also, Whoopi Goldberg makes an appearance in the newest trailer, along with Will Arnett (as April's cameraman), hamming it up as usual. William Fichtner, who we can always count on to portray a convincing villain, plays Shredder.

The awesome foursome are played by Johnny Knoxville (Jackass), Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard, and Noel (Shameless). And Tony Shalhoub lends his voice to Splinter. 

While director Jonathan Liebesman may be a deterrence for some (after all, he did helm Battle: Los Angeles AND The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning), but he's teamed up with a pretty legit writing trio--Josh Applebaum, André Nemec (both mostly known for their Alias episodes, among other TV scripts) and Evan Daugherty (DivergentSnow White and the Huntsman). Okay, Daugherty may not have the best credits, but two out of three ain't bad.

The title pretty much says it all, but in case you're unfamiliar with the TMNT concept, check out the synopsis below:

The city needs heroes. Darkness has settled over New York City as Shredder and his evil Foot Clan have an iron grip on everything from the police to the politicians. The future is grim until four unlikely outcast brothers rise from the sewers and discover their destiny as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Turtles must work with fearless reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) and her wise-cracking cameraman Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett) to save the city and unravel Shredder’s diabolical plan. Based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Characters Created by PETER LAIRD and KEVIN EASTMAN with a Screenplay by JOSH APPELBAUM & ANDRÉ NEMEC and EVAN DAUGHERTY, Producer MICHAEL BAY (the blockbuster Transformers franchise) and director JONATHAN LIEBESMAN (Wrath of the Titans) bring Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the popular franchise that has captivated audiences of all ages for decades, into the 21st century.

Here's the latest trailer:


You see Raphael's (who's always been my favorite) character poster up top. Here are the other three:

Leonardo

Donatello
Michelangelo

If nothing else, this will certainly be a spectacle--for better or worse. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES is in theaters August 8th. 

Tribeca Film Acquires North American Rights to LISTEN UP PHILIP, Starring Elisabeth Moss and Jason Schwartzman

Can I tell you something? I'm a little obsessed with Elisabeth Moss right now. You may remember a few months ago I gushed over her quirky little indie movie, The One I Love. And I think her work on Mad Men perfectly complements Jon Hamm's magnetic performance. The one thing I couldn't really get into is Top of the Lake (and I tried).

After The One I Love comes to limited theaters on August 15, the Golden Globe-winner can next be seen alongside Jason Schwartzman in the Alex Ross Perry-directed Sundance film, LISTEN UP PHILIP. Tribeca Film announced on Monday that it just acquired North American rights to the film, which also stars Krysten Ritter, and will release it beginning on October 17 (with video-on-demand platforms following on October 21). Check out the synopsis of the film below:

A complex, intimate, and highly idiosyncratic comedy, Listen Up Philip is a literary look at the triumph of reality over the human spirit. Anger rages in Philip (Jason Schwartzman) as he awaits the publication of his sure-to-succeed second novel. He feels pushed out of his adopted home city by the constant crowds and noise, a deteriorating relationship with his photographer girlfriend Ashley (Elisabeth Moss), and his indifference to promoting his own work. When Philip’s idol Ike Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce) offers his isolated summer home as a refuge, he finally gets the peace and quiet to focus on his favorite subject — himself.

And I kinda loving Perry's quote from the press release about the acquisition, candid about the challenges of independent film but also genuinely thankful:

"Life isn't full of easy answers or situations where things are wrapped up in a neat little package, and I set out to make a film that reflects this. That scared some people. Tribeca Film has proven themselves fearless by partnering with us for the release of Listen Up Philip. In this day and age, distribution for independent films is a real broken system, probably worse than it has ever been. So it is incredibly exciting to be working with people who actually care not only about 'movies' and 'stories' but about honest to god Cinema, I mean serious Cinema that leaves audiences heavier. They've put their support behind me and this film and they believe in it in a way that I hope will allow Listen Up Philip to be seen by as many people as possible," said Alex Ross Perry.

You may remember that Perry won the John Cassavetes Independent Spirit Award (with writer Carlen Altman) for his 2011 comedy, The Color Wheel (which I haven't seen). Which means he has his indie film street cred. 

Also, I've always found Schwartzman to be an...interesting actor, to say the least. He's a bit unconventional, which should make him a good fit for this kind of role. But I am most intrigued to see what Moss and Ritter will bring to the project. 

Thoughts?

Tribeca Film Acquires North American Rights to LISTEN UP PHILIP, Starring Elisabeth Moss and Jason Schwartzman

Can I tell you something? I'm a little obsessed with Elisabeth Moss right now. You may remember a few months ago I gushed over her quirky little indie movie, The One I Love. And I think her work on Mad Men perfectly complements Jon Hamm's magnetic performance. The one thing I couldn't really get into is Top of the Lake (and I tried).

After The One I Love comes to limited theaters on August 15, the Golden Globe-winner can next be seen alongside Jason Schwartzman in the Alex Ross Perry-directed Sundance film, LISTEN UP PHILIP. Tribeca Film announced on Monday that it just acquired North American rights to the film, which also stars Krysten Ritter, and will release it beginning on October 17 (with video-on-demand platforms following on October 21). Check out the synopsis of the film below:

A complex, intimate, and highly idiosyncratic comedy, Listen Up Philip is a literary look at the triumph of reality over the human spirit. Anger rages in Philip (Jason Schwartzman) as he awaits the publication of his sure-to-succeed second novel. He feels pushed out of his adopted home city by the constant crowds and noise, a deteriorating relationship with his photographer girlfriend Ashley (Elisabeth Moss), and his indifference to promoting his own work. When Philip’s idol Ike Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce) offers his isolated summer home as a refuge, he finally gets the peace and quiet to focus on his favorite subject — himself.

And I kinda loving Perry's quote from the press release about the acquisition, candid about the challenges of independent film but also genuinely thankful:

"Life isn't full of easy answers or situations where things are wrapped up in a neat little package, and I set out to make a film that reflects this. That scared some people. Tribeca Film has proven themselves fearless by partnering with us for the release of Listen Up Philip. In this day and age, distribution for independent films is a real broken system, probably worse than it has ever been. So it is incredibly exciting to be working with people who actually care not only about 'movies' and 'stories' but about honest to god Cinema, I mean serious Cinema that leaves audiences heavier. They've put their support behind me and this film and they believe in it in a way that I hope will allow Listen Up Philip to be seen by as many people as possible," said Alex Ross Perry.

You may remember that Perry won the John Cassavetes Independent Spirit Award (with writer Carlen Altman) for his 2011 comedy, The Color Wheel (which I haven't seen). Which means he has his indie film street cred. 

Also, I've always found Schwartzman to be an...interesting actor, to say the least. He's a bit unconventional, which should make him a good fit for this kind of role. But I am most intrigued to see what Moss and Ritter will bring to the project. 

Thoughts?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Trailer Watch: John Lithgow and Alfred Molina Star as a Gay Couple Living Apart in the Romantic Drama LOVE IS STRANGE



Just in time for Pride Week comes the new trailer for LOVE IS STRANGE, the latest romantic drama from writer/director Ira Sachs (Keep the Lights On, Forty Shades of Blue) starring John Lithgow and Alfred Molina. I've been keeping my eye on this one ever since I saw it on the 2014 Sundance slate.

Lithgow and Molina whose relationship is rattled after an unexpected event forces the two to live apart. More in the official synopsis:

After nearly four decades together, Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) finally tie the knot in an idyllic wedding ceremony in lower Manhattan. But when George loses his job soon after, the couple must sell their apartment and - victims of the relentless New York City real estate market - temporarily live apart until they can find an affordable new home. While George moves in with two cops (Cheyenne Jackson and Manny Perez) who live down stairs, Ben lands in Brooklyn with his nephew (Darren Burrows), his wife (Marisa Tomei), and their temperamental teenage son (Charlie Tahan), with whom Ben shares a bedroom. While struggling with the pain of separation, Ben and George are further challenged by the intergenerational tensions and capricious family dynamics of their new living arrangements.

Directed by Ira Sachs (KEEP THE LIGHTS ON, FORTY SHADES OF BLUE), LOVE IS STRANGE blends the romance of New York City's streets and skyline with a delicate Chopin piano score to poignantly capture both the lightness and sorrows of this modern day love story.

Watch the trailer:



The trailer doesn't really give away much, but with this cast it looks very promising. I'm checking out a screening of this tonight, but I'll let you know a final verdict as we get closer to the release date (August 22nd). 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The First Trailer for DEAR WHITE PEOPLE May Have You Looking at GREMLINS in a Whole New Way



I knew this trailer for DEAR WHITE PEOPLE would call out a lot of stereotypes about black culture, but never did I think it would target my precious Gremlins movies! The short teaser clip (coming in at just over a minute) from writer/director Justin Simien's Sundance Award-winning feature debut features a cast of college students (led by Tessa Thompson, Tyler James Williams and Teyonah Parris) taking aim at a bewildered movie theater worker for promoting films that hurt the cause like The Blind Side, Lee Daniels' The Butler, and The Help

Mixing real perspective with both humor and drama, DEAR WHITE PEOPLE doesn't seem to simply be about a group of young black people who are mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore. It actually seems to touch on real life issues that I think we could all relate to on some level. 

Watch the trailer:



DEAR WHITE PEOPLE is set for release in theaters on October 17th.

News of a New Scooby-Doo Movie Has Reawakened My Annoyance Toward Fred (And Daphne)

By now you've probably already heard the news about yet another big screen adaptation of Scooby-Doo in the works, right? Did you roll your eyes like I did? That's pretty much all the reaction I can muster after having already gone through the traumatic adaptations of some of my other favorite cartoons, including The Flintstones, Josie and the Pussycats and most recently Jem and the Holograms (which has yet to be released, but I already feel hostile about it). So needless to say, I am rather numb about this latest announcement.

But since we're on the subject of the mystery-solving Great Dane and his three human comrades, I feel compelled to finally admit my annoyance toward Fred, the self-proclaimed leader of the bunch. Don't get me wrong. I know many who swoon over Fred's luscious animated blonde locks, dapper blue bell bottoms, freshly starched white shirt and orange ascot. And that's totally fair, kinda. But it always bothered me, or maybe more so as I watch it now as an adult (unabashedly, might I add), that he was constantly taking credit for cases that Velma so obviously solved on her own, mostly.

I know what you're probably thinking: Seriously, it was a different era and it's a cartoon! This is all true, but if you're a devout fan of the original '70s cartoon (and an adversary of the later edition with the annoying Scrappy Doo character and subsequent '00s live action films), like myself, you've been biting your tongue about this very same thing for years. Here's a typical episode: Scooby-Doo and the gang plan to enjoy themselves on an adventure out of town when they stumble upon a spooky mystery instead (usually in the form of ghost sightings or mummy dwellings). Velma, the resident nerd of the group, boldly steps up to the plate and informs the group that their plans have changed and that their focus is now to solve this mystifying new case. She puts together a plan of action, is never afraid to interrogate the sometimes strange local residents, and even enlists Scooby-Doo and his BFF, Shaggy (originally voiced by the late Casey Kasem), usually out of desperation by bribing them both with Scooby snacks (I have yet to understand why Shaggy hungrily accepts dog food as compensation). Who doesn't Velma recruit? Why, Fred and his beautiful bimbo sidekick, Daphne, of course.

Why? Because they're utterly useless. True, Velma almost consistently loses her glasses each episode (she's practically legally blind without them), but even with less than perfect vision and two very clumsy partners, she's able to come to a conclusion while Fred is off somewhere trying to save Daphne from herself. (For whatever reason, Daphne is always either getting kidnapped or falling through trap doors. If this was a real job, she would have been fired after the first case).

Fred conveniently checks in when he's not helping Daphne, just long enough to provide Velma, Shaggy and Scooby-Doo with a map or to reiterate a discovery or a clue that Velma already relayed. Then he returns for the last few moments of the episode so that he can help do the big reveal, in unison with the group, of who the culprit is. Like, seriously dude? I admit, he's good for driving the mystery van and providing that protective layer to an otherwise scattered group, but his pretentiousness is a bit nauseating. Even though Shaggy and Scooby-Doo aren't the most reliable of the gang, they can at least accidentally help solve cases when prompted. So all I'm saying is, maybe Fred can step it up a bit in this next installment and allow Velma to chillax for a bit, maybe knock back a few mojitos and enjoy herself? (I'd suggest Daphne help out, but I don't trust her).

Okay, I've done enough random ranting for the moment. Anyone else love Scooby-Doo? Share your comments about the new adaptation below.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

8 Glorious New Images from Michel Gondry's New Fantasy Romance Film, MOOD INDIGO, Starring Audrey Tautou

I continue to be intrigued by Audrey Tautou's artsy new romance film, MOOD INDIGO, as today we see a brand new batch of beautiful images from the movie which is heading to theaters next month. Though Omar Sy can only be seen in one of them (just enough to remind you that he's in the film, too), we do get to relish in the whimsical romance between two lovers (played by Tautou and Romain Duris) through the delightfully kooky lens of Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind helmer Michel Gondry.

In case you need a refresher on the film or to re-watch the trailer, you can revisit my original post on it here. Check out the images below (courtesy of Drafthouse Films):










Seriously though, looking at these images makes me kinda wish that I was living inside a Gondry movie. But, judging from Eternal, there will likely be some unnatural disaster that will split these two lovebirds apart (which could be the strange illness indicated in the film's description). So maybe not.

MOOD INDIGO comes to select theaters July 18th. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

No, Not Every Book is Better Than the Movie

I don't know how many times someone has told me, the movie is good, but the book is better. I often wonder whether this is just a default sentiment, a thought that has become so ingrained in popular culture that few have ever considered straying from it. But I can think of a few books I've read off the top of my head that after which I thought, the movie was so much better. Here are six of them:



LITTLE CHILDREN by Tom Perrotta: While the book is fairly close to the movie, Ronnie J. McGorvey (played by Jackie Earle Haley) was far creepier in the movie, thus enveloping the story with an overwhelming sense of eeriness amid the forbidden love affair between Sarah and Brad (Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson).


JAWS by Peter Benchley: The movie is actually horrifying; the book is not. Benchley wrote in the foreword that he is fascinated by marine biology and the great white shark, and seemed to have created Jaws as a romantic ode to the mammal. As a result, the book is often a commentary about the treatment of these sharks. The death scenes aren't even graphic. It's very PG.


WORLD WAR Z by Max Brooks: Truthfully, I have problems with both the book and the movie. (You can look back at my review of the movie here). But ultimately, I think both stories (which share very little in regards to storyline), suffer from over-extension in commentary. They're both just trying to do too much. The movie is more entertaining, the book is more cohesive but less engaging.


I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER by Lois Duncan: Most people don't even realize this was a book before the Jennifer Love Hewitt-led franchise. But the movie and the book are almost completely unrelated. There is a chain letter in both, and a crazy lunatic. There's no man with a hook in the book, which is more pre-teen mystery than anything else. The movie is more gripping.


CAPE FEAR by John D. MacDonald: For so long people considered this book as one of the most suspenseful books of all time, and I spent most of the time reading it waiting for something to happen. Brilliant suspense could be found in Stephen King's The Shining, not this book. The 1991 movie with Robert De Niro is way scarier.



AMERICAN PSYCHO by Bret Easton Ellis: If you're going to create a vile character like Patrick Bateman, as the author you should at least care enough about him to find some kind of humanity in him. Ellis did not; he made a one-dimensional villain that had no meaning. On the other hand, director and co-writer of the film version, Mary Harron, stripped down some of the extra nonsense in the book character to deliver an accessible, entertaining villain that better embodied the themes Ellis attempted to present in the book.

Which movies do you think are better than their books?

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