"Well, the first thing is that I love monsters, I identify with monsters." — Guillermo del Toro
Greetings from the apocalypse! This week sees one of my most anticipated releases of the summer, "Pacific Rim," making land at the competitive blockbuster season. Whether it can survive at the box office, as the dismal tracking numbers bode ill for, is incidental, as it’s a miracle that such a bonkers movie exists at all, even in sweded form let alone $175-million-dollar form.
Brooklyn's Bottleneck Gallery has a new movie-themed art print show going up tonight titled "Where is My Mind," and yours truly has crafted a special tribute to one of my all-time favorite movies, Terry Gilliam's "Brazil." The exhibit runs through July 26, and prints go on sale online Saturday at noon. Check it out — there are some amazingly trippy pieces by some dynamite amigos that all film fans will go nuts for, including some other Gilliam flicks!
Friday, July 12
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POW! IN THEATERS
"Pacific Rim," Guillermo del Toro's pleasingly innocent ode to half-a-century's worth of Japanese monster vs. mech culture, suffers from an overabundance of cool s**t. GDT doesn't just want to make a blockbuster; he wants to make a personal statement about his five-year creative absence, a B-level Godzilla Kaiju flick, a Michael Bay extravaganza and a David Cronenberg sci-fi deconstruction all rolled into one immensely disjointed package. In other words, he wants the audience to have their cake and eat it too, then eat the people who ate the cake. (As one proud fat man to another I'm sure he'll appreciate the analogy.)
Point is no matter how much the geek press praises this film to the rafters it is by no means the next "Star Wars"; rather it's the next "Speed Racer," i.e. a super-indulgent visual marvel by a gifted auteur that never quite gels from a pure story point. The Hong Kong battle sequence is one of the greatest on-screen fights I've ever seen — my jaw dropped, my eyes scorched — but then the underwater action climax afterwards doesn't even come close to topping it. It's a live-action anime in the best and worst sense, reliant on stock characters as a delivery system for badassery, tossing out brilliant sci-fi concepts like The Drift without paying them off, yet holy cannoli is it fun. Any genre fan will at least get a contact high from this ultra-realized (and by God, hopeful!) fantasy world, one I personally plan to hotbox in many times over without looking a gift horse in the mouth too much. It is, of course, this week's much recommended Survivor of Thunderdome.
If you've seen at least one Guillermo del Toro movie in your lifetime ("Hellboy," "Pan's Labyrinth," etc.) then by now you should know that the man designs movies within an inch of their lives. Eschewing the tendency towards eye candy, the director prefers the term "eye protein," and you can get a man-sized serving of the stuff in the new making-of book "Pacific Rim: Man, Machines & Monsters." Besides gorgeous production art featuring robots and monsters in various states of distress, the book is also packed to the gills with goodies including posters, stickers and other things you can cover your spaghetti sauce-stained walls with. Also available from Legendary Comics is "Pacific Rim: Tales from Year Zero," a graphic novel prequel to the movie written by its screenwriter Travis Beacham and featuring far more implied nudity than its motion picture counterpart. YES!
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NETFLIX RECOMMENDS WITH A VENGEANCE
Netflix has lots of tried-and-true vintage Kaiju movies in its Instant Streaming bin, but in honor of "Pacific Rim" I'm gonna recommend "Terror of Mechagodzilla." This is the good stuff straight from the source, with authentically phoney (yet charming) miniature sets crushed by Godilla and his massive mech counterpart. You really can't go wrong with this, as it has a great montage of previous "Godzilla" entries right at the beginning and will provide countless opportunities to make snarky comments.
As soon as "Pacific Rim" was announced a few savvy movie journalists immediately got Cinemax flashbacks to the camp classic giant-robot-fighting B-flick "Robot Jox." With its awesome mech suits designed by Ron Cobb and animated by the late great stop-motion genius Dave Allen, this was as good as it got for live action rock 'em sock 'em robots until GDT's movie came swaggering along. Its Cold War-plot pitting America against Russia was already dated when it came out, and "Re-Animator" director Stuart Gordon's tendency towards silly clichés goes back around to being brilliant somehow. You can view it in its entirety via YouTube below:
Saturday, July 13
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POW! IN THEATERS
I'm not even going to dignify "Grown Ups 2" by talking about it at all, other than to say it's coming out and masochists are free to go see it over a truly unique film experience like "Pacific Rim." Instead, I want to pitch my own Adam Sandler movie, which I call "Squeaky Wheels." It revolves around a rich New York douche in a state of permanent arrested development (played by Sandler, natch) who uses the Orlando, Florida service recently chronicled in the New York Post where people pay thousands of dollars to rent a disabled kid in order to skip the lines at Disney World. Sure, Sandler would crack wise and call the kid names like "Ironside" or make Dalek noises while pushing him in his wheelchair, but the boy would be more mature than him and ultimately teach him a life lesson about integrity. Also Sandler gets to fall in love with a hot chick in a Goofy costume played by Olivia Wilde. Hollywood, please contact me to purchase my pitch, I will start the bidding at $1.2 million.
BASIC CABLE BLUES
If you want to double down on the Sandlerisms then ABC Family is proud to bring you some vintage Adam with "Happy Gilmore" at 9 p.m. and and "Billy Madison" at 11 p.m. "Happy" is the golf one and "Billy" is the one where he has to pass all 12 grades of school in six months. These were seminal films in the Sandler oeuvre, as he eventually named his production company "Happy Madison" in self-tribute.
If some of you feel more fatigued with Sandler's antics than others then you were probably born before 1989, when his super-low-budge debut comedy "Going Overboard" hit video store shelves like a drunken softball pitch. For those anthropologists out there who want to research Sandler's artistic ancestry can view it streaming on HULU fo free, yo. Here you'll see the Sandman laying the groundwork for the same schtick we would come to know and "love" over two shameless decades later, along with young/embarrassed cameos from Billy Zane, Billy Bob Thornton and future directors Peter Berg and Steven Brill. View it in its entirety below:
Sunday, July 14
NEW ON BLU
Multi-hyphenate James Franco, the man made of every kind of art, got some of the biggest accolades of his career playing caucasian gangsta Alien in Harmony Korine's no-holds-barred thriller/satire "Spring Breakers," now available on Blu-ray to put with the rest of your s**t along with "Scarface" running 24-7. Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and wife of the director Rachel Korine play a gang of wild college chicks who head to Florida for some "spriiiiing breeeaak" and experience robberies, drive-by shootings and three-ways as an added bonus.
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PAY CHANNEL PAYBACK
After the cinematic holocaust that was Tim Burton's 2001 remake of "Planet of the Apes," I thought for sure that my favorite non-Wookiee-related childhood franchise was resigned to Fox's scrapheap, where they would sit grumpily between "Daredevil" and "Fantastic Four." Then along came 2011's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," which airs bright and early today at 8:45 a.m. on Cinemax. English filmmaker Rupert Wyatt reinvigorated the franchise by letting science and social commentary once again run free, and Andy Serkis is astounding as the hyper-intelligent monkey Caesar. Oh yeah, and Franco's in it, too. Franco's in everything.
The Quentin Tarantino owned/curated L.A. theater New Beverly Cinema is one of L.A.'s great cinematic haunts, and this weekend they have a triple-feature to die for: Nicholas Winding Refn's "Pusher" trilogy. This is the grisly crime saga that put the Danish "Drive" director on the map and launched the international acting career of ol' bloody-eyed Le Chiffre himself, madman Mads Mikkelsen. It's six+ hours of nihilistic insanity that should serve as a handy primer for when "Only God Forgives" drops on July 19.
As I ride off into the distant horizon, here's wishing you fellow weekend road warriors the best outing possible from this burnt-out, blighted wasteland. Enjoy your fast Internet, clean-ish movie theaters, plentiful gasoline and all the comforts of home, for this world lives now only in my memories …