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This post is inevitable

This ever-popular clip featuring the song “Jan Pehechaan Ho,” from the 1965 Bollywood murder mystery, “Gunnaam,”  was something I first saw at a friend’s place on a compilation tape of that circulated among hipsters in the nineties. In 2001, director Terry Zwigoff and cartoonist/screenwriter Dan Clowes made it immortal in the West by including it in “Ghost World.”

I love this clip to death despite having seen far more times than I can remember, and it was going to turn up here eventually; I can’t think of a better occasion, can you?

Happy New Year, everyone.

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

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Movie news for a dying decade

It’s the very last day of the aughts, the noughties, or the 2000s, whichever term you prefer, and there’s some movie news to pass along.

* It’s a funny day to have a stockholders meeting, but that’s appears to be what Marvel Entertainment did and, yes, they approved the widely heralded Disney merger. Russ Fischer at /film has the details.

* With, as far as I can see, no major wide releases or, as I far as I can tell, even large expansions to talk about and not much other information available, I’m dispensing with this week’s box office preview. However, Jolly Carl DiOrio is here to tell us that this weekend is going to look a little something like last weekend.

That’s not to say there aren’t some new movies out that you can see this week — though you’ll possibly have to live in New York or L.A. to see them. Since I dig Tennessee Williams, I’m sorry to see the bad reviews for “Loss of a Teardrop Diamond. South Korea’s “The Chaser” was a hit at home for director Na Hong-Jin and looks intriguing to me. It has also been optioned for a high profile American remake, possibly involving Leonardo DiCaprio and screenwriter William Monahan of “The Departed.”

the-chaser-movie-3

* Speaking of box office, I’m not sure this is exactly news, but, get this, “Avatar” is doing really well — it just passed the $800 million mark worldwide — and looks likely to continue to do extremely well for quite a long time. Even the busiest man in the world apparently couldn’t wait to see it in the White House movie theater (I wonder if it can show digital 3-D?) Also note that eight year-old Sacha and 11 year-old Malia were allowed to see it even though it has a PG-13 rating . Expect this to be discussed at length on the Sunday shows.

* I had to update yesterday’s post to correct this. Apparently, The Weinstein Company is going to leave “Nine” in the roughly 1,400 theaters it’s in, despite last week’s poor showing.

* It’s now “Sir Captain Picard” to you. Alongside Patrick Stewart, film and theater director Nicolas Hytner (“The Madness of King George”) just got an excuse to be extra snooty.

* Neil Blomkamp of “District 9” wants to make original films that aren’t based on older franchises and, so, has said he’ll stay away from large budgets. He’s not dumb.

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Family Guy: Something Something Something Dark Side

When FOX decided to give “Blue Harvest” – the first of the “Family Guy”-themed “Star Wars” specials – its own DVD release separate from the season sets, fans were a little annoyed. The studio must have made a killing in sales, though, because it’s gone one step further in screwing over its loyal audience by releasing the follow-up, “Something Something Something Dark Side,” direct to DVD. The betrayal wouldn’t burn so much if the 54-minute special lived up to the quality of its predecessor, but despite the reputation of the film it’s spoofing, this is one sequel that falls well short of that. There are a few good jokes about AT-ATs, the shitty accuracy of Stormtroopers, and the looming fate of Luke’s right hand, but a majority of the jokes fall flat. It feels more like a straight retelling of “The Empire Strikes Back” with “Family Guy” characters than a parody, and though guys like Mort Goldstein (as Lando Calrissian), Carter Pewterschmidt (as Emperor Palpatine) and the Giant Chicken (as Boba Fett) finally have a role to play in the story, it’s more out of necessity than because it’s funny. The addition of a snarky pop-up trivia track helps increase the special’s replay value, but it doesn’t change the fact that “Something Something Something Dark Side” is a bit of an unexpected disappointed for fans of “Star Wars” and “Family Guy” alike.

Click to buy “Family Guy: Something Something Something Dark Side”

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Chant “Todd!” during New Year’s Eve countdown for charity

Comedian Todd Barry wants you to have an extra special New Year’s Eve. If you film yourself chanting his name while counting down to the new year, you may earn $500 for a charity of your choice. Sounds like a good deal to me.

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Zombie comedy: the killing gift that keeps on giving

Between “Shaun of the Dead,” “Zombieland,” and who knows how many humorous books and live comedy bits, the zombie-movie inspired vein of humor seems oddly unlimited — as we see in this short film in which pals Rich Sommer (“Mad Men“) and comedian Paul F. Tompkins take a fresh approach to the brain-eating zombie paradigm.

Sketch Of The Dead

Atom.com: Funny Videos | Atom Originals | Funny Animations

H/t Huffpo

And, just for the heck of it, here’s a blast from the zombie comedy past I also enjoy.

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Mid-holiday week movie news report (updated)

Somewhat to my surprise, given how slow Monday and Tuesday was, we have some movie news to report. Sadly, the first item is a bummer.

* Our very sincere condolences to the friends, family, and avid readers of writer and horror/gore maven Chas Balun, who died of cancer on December 18th. Probably mostly because of my phobia of the kind of movies he championed, Balun’s name wasn’t immediately familiar to me before this, but clearly the author and longtime contributor to Fangoria and Gorezone was a writer whose work meant a great deal to genre fans as well as a very sincere film geek/cinephile, and for that he has my respect. The Fangoria blog has a very good obituary.

* Sony has not been including a screener DVD for Duncan Jones’ highly regarded science fiction film, “Moon,” in its pre-Oscar promotional package. The result: “Twitter storm“!

Moon

* It’s now Sir Peter Jackson to you.  Considering the positive impact his LOTR tour de force must have had on the New Zealand economy, they might have considered making him king. Okay, New Zealand doesn’t have one. Also, I gather it’s more of a British Commonwealthy kind of a thing.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Celluloid Heroes: Jason Zingale’s Best (and Worst) Films of 2009

For film critics, the end of the year means only one thing: “best of” lists. It’s probably one of my favorite parts about the job, so when Bullz-Eye decided to do a decade-end feature in place of our annual retrospective, I didn’t let that deter me from putting one together anyway. This year’s crop of films was just as uneven as in past years, but while you might have had to dig a little deeper to find some real gems, there’s no denying that 2009 still delivered some truly great movies. Here’s a look at my ten favorite films, along with a few honorable mentions and a list of the year’s worst.

THE BEST FILMS of 2009:

1. “Inglourious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino’s WWII revenge fantasy is every fan’s dream movie. Not only does it feature the director’s trademark dialogue (and plenty of it), but it also boasts a stellar ensemble cast, award-worthy performances from Christoph Waltz and Michael Fassbender, and some of the most thrilling sequences of the year. The German bar scene may feature QT at his nostalgic best, but the opening chapter is his magnum opus. That “Inglourious Basterds” can run for an additional 120 minutes and still be just as engaging is a testament to the film’s supreme quality.

2. “The Hurt Locker

This Iraq war thriller is one of the most suspenseful movies I’ve ever seen, piling on the tension so high that you’ll literally spend the entire film on the edge of your seat. Jeremy Renner is a marvel to watch as the bomb squad thrill junkie at the center of the story, but the real star is director Kathryn Bigelow, who takes an otherwise barebones script and transforms it into a series of memorable set pieces that continually upstage the one before it. But best of all, “The Hurt Locker” proves that female directors don’t have to make movies for women to be taken seriously in Hollywood.

3. “Up in the Air

There’s a pretty good chance that “Up in the Air” would have moved up a spot on my list had I found the time to see it a second time, but as it stands, the Jason Reitman-directed seriocomedy is still one of the year’s best movies. Reitman may not get a lot of credit as a director, but between his funny and timely adaptation of the Walter Kirn novel and keen use of his actors, it’s pretty clear that he has a promising future in the business. George Clooney continues to charm the hell out of moviegoers in a role tailor-made for the veteran actor, while Anna Kendrick steals the show yet again in a performance that deserves to be rewarded come awards time.

4. “Fantastic Mr. Fox

I’m surely in the minority on this one, but “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is the best animated movie of the year. I love Pixar just as much as the next person, but while “Up” proved to be yet another excellent addition to the studio’s still-flawless portfolio, director Wes Anderson’s adaptation of the popular Roald Dahl children’s story is even better. From the spot-on voice cast and witty script to the incredible sets and wonderful costume design, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” has so many layers that you have to watch it several times just to soak up all of the rich detail that went into making the movie.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Early De Niro

I’m such a fan of Mel Brooks, that I’ve given short shrift to his fellow filmic Kennedy Center honoree, Robert De Niro. The show airs at 9:00 tonight (Eastern and Pacific), but in the meantime, here are a pair of key moments from 1973, when two performances in smaller films garnered De Niro a great deal of attention and some critic group awards, paving the way for his role in “The Godfather: Part II” and superstardom.

Bang the Drum Slowly” was a gentle, somewhat thin and corny, sports comedy-drama/tearjerker based on a book by Mark Harris. In it, Michael Moriarty portrays a seasoned major league baseball player who befriends a less successful teammate who is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but who also has an incurable illness and whose only wish it to finish out the season. It’s far from a heavy-duty film and De Niro’s magnetic but ensemble-friendly performance is a million miles from the tortured or melodramatic tour de force you might expect. He also generates some extremely nice chemistry with Moriarity, a really outstanding actor in his own right who actually might have received nearly as much or more attention for this film than De Niro did. It also shows that De Niro has the ability to be one of the most hilariously lame dancers you’ll ever see at about 1:38.

Also, given that this is a Scorsese film about quasi-criminal characters in seventies Little Italy, the NSFW warning is somewhat in effect.

And in Martin Scorsese‘s third film and first masterpiece, “Mean Streets,” De Niro pretty much became the De Niro we know today, and I think this scene, which also features a young Harvey Keitel in the leading role as well as familiar-faces-to-be Richard Romanus and David Proval, makes that point about as clearly as possible.

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Networks in trouble, examining cable format

Fox vs. Time Warner

- Image from the ad Fox has been airing during its programming.

As cable channels continue to attract more advertisers, the networks are losing money left and right. In response, they are seeking higher fees from cable providers. The most recent and publicized situation concerns Fox and Time Warner. Rather than pay Fox’s asking price, Time Warner is threatening to drop the network entirely.

Even worse, their audiences are dwindling and their affiliates are even demanding more money. These problems are causing many network executives to consider switching to a cable format. The change would be monumental.

That will play out in living rooms across the country. The changes could mean higher cable or satellite TV bills, as the networks and local stations squeeze more fees from pay-TV providers such as Comcast and DirecTV for the right to show broadcast TV channels in their lineups. The networks might even ditch free broadcast signals in the next few years. Instead, they could operate as cable channels — a move that could spell the end of free TV as Americans have known it since the 1940s.

The traditional broadcast model works like this: CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox distribute shows through a network of local stations. The networks own a few stations in big markets, but most are “affiliates,” owned by separate companies.

Traditionally the networks paid affiliates to broadcast their shows, though those fees have dwindled to near nothing as local stations have seen their audience shrink. What hasn’t changed is where the money mainly comes from: advertising.

Cable channels make most of their money by charging pay-TV providers a monthly fee per subscriber for their programing. On average, the pay-TV providers pay about 26 cents for each channel they carry, according to research firm SNL Kagan. A channel as highly rated as ESPN can get close to $4, while some, such as MTV2, go for just a few pennies.

Having two revenue streams — advertising and fees from pay-TV providers — has insulated cable channels from the recession. In contrast, over-the-air stations have been forced to cut staff, and at least two broadcast groups sought bankruptcy protection this year.

So rather than wait for the Internet to become a bigger source of income, the networks and local stations are mimicking what cable channels do: They’re charging pay-TV companies a monthly fee per subscriber to carry their programming.

The American Cable Association says its members — mainly small cable TV providers — have seen their costs for carrying local TV stations more than triple over the past three years. The group’s head, Matt Polka, says those fees have gone “straight to consumers’ pocketbooks” in the form of higher cable bills.

All this means for viewers is a higher cable bill. CBS, NBC, ABC, and FOX have always supplied their programming for free. The reason they’ve stayed afloat is because of ad sales, which are decreasing. If they do wind up severing ties with their affiliates and jumping to cable, consumers will have to pay for them like they would any other channel.

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It’s a slow day; your reward: “The Making of the Avatar Bootleg”

It really is embarrassingly slow in the movie blogosphere this week. I mean, I could link up to some stuff being generated out in the movie news blogosphere, but it’s just pretty much marking time, especially now that the deadline for movies to be eligible for 2009 Oscar consideration is almost here. Cinephile bloggers are generally just posting holiday greetings. It’s time to watch movies more and write about them less.

In fact, according to Box Office Mojo, there is only one Wednesday release slipping in under the 2009 wire for Oscar consideration tomorrow — and it’s Michael Haneke’s “The White Ribbon.” Since the acclaimed dark drama from noted feel-bad director Haneke is Germany’s official entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar anyhow, I’m not sure it even matters. (Some foreign film nominees are often not released in the U.S. until well after the Oscars.)

Also, it appears that the studios aren’t even bothering to release anything new on Friday/New Year’s Day.  A good weekend for catching up, which I certainly hope to be doing.

So, let’s make jokes poking fun at James Cameron and self-promoting DVD extras. Via Devin at CHUD.

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