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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I recently saw the new Chris Rock special on HBO, "Kill the Messenger," and  Mr. Rock's stand-up is still very, very strong.  The material was great - not significantly less or more great that his past few specials, but the format of this one was a bit different.  This special took three different performances - one in New York, one in London and one in Johannesburg - and edited them together.   I'm pretty sure it was all the same material on three separate nights, but spliced together.  And this wasn't something that they were trying to hide.  He was wearing different outfits on each night and addressed the specific crowds during certain bits.  Overall, I'm inclined to think this wasn't a wise conceptual move. 

In stand-up comedy a fair amount of effort goes into making the material seem spontaneous.  Although this isn't obviously the case, the delivery shouldn't make the material seem "written."  In reality, a comic can (and should) work on new material in a set also containing old material, or go off on unplanned tangents.  Ideally, the audience shouldn't be able to tell what was unique to that set and what has been on a comics set list for months. 

The format of "Kill the Messenger" works against that.  It reminds the viewer of the mechanics behind tricking an audience into forgetting that the performer says this stuff exactly the same way night after night. 

The expectations that a fan has of a comedian have always amused me.  While most fans understand that comedians don't come up with material on the spot and say things that just come to them onstage, they do tend to feel that if they see you live, the material should be all new the next time you come into town.  It's quite common to overhear people leaving a comedy club with a tone of disappointment in their voice as they say "I heard a couple of those jokes before." 

This is in stark contrast to the world of music where fans exit in rage if the band hasn't played every single one of their greatest hits.  Moreover, many fans only want to hear the hits.  I was recently reading on a message board that at recent concerts of a very popular band, people had brought banners reading "No New Shit."    


Posted at 08:11 am by jmachinder
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Thursday, September 25, 2008

I recently caught the new CLAUDE CHABROL film, A GIRL CUT IN TWO.  I'm a big Chabrol fan and it puts a smile on my face to see the guy still making movies as he approaches 80.  His newest release isn't his best, but is still solid, examining themes familiar to his filmography while still not feeling stale.  The guy's still got his chops as a director and this effort is far better than late films made by, say ANTONIONI or JULES DASSIN, whose (early-to-mid) work I also enjoy. 

IMHO, Chabrol hasn't been given his due.  He was right there with GODARD and TRUFFAUT, when the French New Wave started (in fact, he preceded them and funded the movies of many of his peers.)  The guy has literally been making movies non-stop since he first picked up a camera (his credits list over 60) and so many of them are just wonderful.  Much like the way the writing in CAHIERS DU CINEMA, raised the stock and opinion of certain Hollywood genre filmmakers, I predict Chabrol will ultimately be recognized as an artist greater than his current reputation.

Chabrol frequently attacks the bourgeoise in his films, and AGCIT doesn't let up the assault.  The story is about a very attractive girl being pursued by two very different suitors, both of whom have serious flaws.  In that regard, it's sort of like SHOP GIRL, except here, niether of the two suitors have arcs in which they change into someone more mate-worthy, which I find that both more realistic and interesting to watch. However, the real interesting thing is the unusual and massive career of Chabrol as a whole. 



Posted at 08:30 am by jmachinder
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Monday, September 15, 2008

While surfing on Youtube, I found this segment from "The Jamie Kennedy Experiment" that I have always been a big fan of. The quality is obviously not great, but it's worth looking at.  

A great idea that's well written, but what really makes it is Pat Bullard's performance. Much like John Cleese's schoolteacher in the beginning of the "Sex Education" sketch in "The Meaning of Life," he makes it seem like these ridiculously complex rules are painfully simple.

Posted at 08:48 am by jmachinder
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Monday, September 08, 2008

There's a new law in California that people can't use cell phones while driving a car unless it's a hands-free version.  This has resulted in people from all walks of life walking around with high tech electronics sticking out of their ears. 

Some people have found it sill and annoying, but I actually like it and endorse any new law that makes it seem like the Borg is one step closer to assimilating us all.

Posted at 04:59 pm by jmachinder
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Sunday, September 07, 2008

I recently finished reading a book entitled THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. MABUSE by David Kalat.  I picked up the book since I've seen a few of the Mabuse films, enoyed them and wanted to know more.  I understood that the history of the film series (which began in the 1920s) was quite complicated and looked  forward to a text which could straighten it all out for me.  Boy did I get that in spades. 

The book was not only authoritative, but shockingly well researched.  It thoroughly covered all aspects of the Mabuse legacy and also corrected many myths which have been taken as fact by film historians.  The accuracy of the information was not by chance.  In the introduction, the author mentions that he wrote an article of the same title for "Midnight Marquee," and was called on numerous factual errors (that he made unknowingly).  Subsequently, he went straight to German resources in an attempt to straighten it all out.  He has most certainly suceeded as there's no possible question one could have left about Dr. Mabuse after reading this book. 

The book is aptly titled as Dr. Mabuse has had such a strange mix of directors making movies about him; filmmakers who run the gamut of artistic credibility - from celebrated directors such as Fritz Lang and Claude Chabrol to Eurotrash shlockmeisters like Jess Franco to uber-arty, experimental types like Ulrike Ottinger.  The author not only goes into each and every film related to Mabuse, but also provides chapters on these fascinating individuals. 

There were plenty of sections where I knew preciously little, but when I came to parts where I did have previously knowledge about the people and films involved, the information was always in accord with what I knew to be correct.   The author covers the golden age of German Cinema, the rise of postwar Euro trash films as well as the birth of the French New Wave with equal aplomb. 

The text itself is also a joy to read.  Perhaps my favorite line is "European B-movie makers understood that the easiest way to promote a low-budget picture is to confuse the audience into expecting something better."  No confusion needed here to recommend this book. 

Posted at 07:16 am by jmachinder
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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

I recently came across some people talking about the 80s, sci-fi/horror cult classic "The Hidden" and was reminded how much I enjoyed this flick.  Liked it when it first came out and still think it holds up.   

For those of you who don't know, it's a very different alien invasion movie.  An alien has landed and is indeed walking among us, "hidden" by disguising himself as a human  - but instead of working on some long-range plan to the planet, the alien is basically just out on a joy ride.  The film starts off with him speeding in a stolen sportscar while being chased by cops.  Earth weapons and dangers can't harm the alien - only the human host that he's hiding inside of.  The alien is difficult to track since he can leap out of the mouth of his current host and crawl into the mouth of a new one at any time. 

Kyle Maclachlan plays another alien out to capture the nasty one and defeats him with a special alien weapon before he can run for President in his current host. 

Once again, this is a very fun movie with a solid, original concept that's well executed.   In rethinking the movie, it became quite clear to me that the joy-riding alien might, in fact, not be fiction.  However, I don't think that the alien has been host-jumping that much, but instead has stayed within the same body for an extended period of time.  With this in mind, her actions over the years suddenly make a lot more sense to me....

Posted at 05:06 pm by jmachinder
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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I'm excited about the new CLONE WARS MOVIE coming out on August 15th.  I'm a fan of the original, 25-chapter series by Genndy Tartakovsky and look forward to more stories from this exciting period in the Star Wars Universe.  Here's the trailer

Looks good to me, but the question I have is when this story takes place.  Obviously - as much of the press states - between Episode II and Episode III.  However, the real question is when does it take place in relation to the original Clone Wars series.  Asajj Ventress is in this new movie and was introduced in the Tartakovsky CW series, so it looks to be the same universe.  Anakin defeated her at the end of Chapter 19, this story appears to be her return, so it's gotta be after that.  General Grevious is in this new movie and he was introduced in Chapter 20, so it's gotta be after that.  Chapter 21 picks up right where Chapter 20 left off (or perhaps even backtracks a little as the Clone Troopers are on their way to save Ki-Adi-Mundi from a Grievous ass-whupping), so it's gotta be after that.  Chapters 24-25 deal with Palpatine getting abducted, which leads right into Episode III, so this new movie has to take place before that, doesn't it?  Maybe this story takes place between Chapters 21 and 22?  22 and 23?  Your guess is as good as mine. 

I'm still looking forward to it, but the shine is off the apple a bit for the Clone Wars these days.  This period seemed a lot more exciting to me before Episode III than after.  What I'd really like to see is stuff between III and IV.  I'm sure George will get  to that eventually...

Posted at 04:08 pm by jmachinder
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Thursday, July 17, 2008

I recently got the notice to renew my car registration and saw that this was a year that I needed to get my car smog checked (in California, you've got to do it every other year).  I drove by a bunch of places and found what looked to be like a good, full-service smog station.  Upon handing an employee the certificate, I was told that they couldn't smog check my car, since I was authorized to get it done at a "Test Only" station.  I really didn't understand the logic in this, but acknowledged that it was the law and that the mecanics' hands were tied - figuratively (although it often seems like mecanics' arms are literally tied.) 

This "test only" system seems silly since if you fail, you've got to go to a completely different place to get it fixed.  And that's exactly what happened to me.  So instead of making one trip to get this taken care of all at one place, I now had to make four trips at three different places.  1.  The place that told me they couldn't test my car.  2.  The place my car failed the test.  3.  My own mechanic's shop where the problem was fixed and 4. Back to the place where I first failed then passed. 

I'm all for emissions standards, but after all this, I kind of want to refit my car to exhale as much smog as possible.  That will teach the DMV a lesson!

Posted at 04:18 pm by jmachinder
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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Check out images of this upcoming Meka Godzilla toy by Bandai!

 Standing 20 inches tall this sucker is of the very first (and very best) design of MG.  Although he won't fire any projectiles, the controller will let you mimic many of his famous weapons.   That's right, he's radio controlled!

The price hasn't been announced, but it's tough to come up with a figure that will stop me from getting this guy!

Posted at 04:08 pm by jmachinder
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Without even seeing it (I doubt I ever will) boy is it clear that "Hancock" is pure, undistilled Poochie.  Nothing sells "attitude" like sunglasses.  This isn't your parents' superhero, that's for sure. This movie is a completely outrageous paradigm.



Posted at 04:28 pm by jmachinder
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