Friday, January 9, 2009


Cronch cronch cronch | Photo courtesy

Those of you who know me, know that one of my all-time favorite books is the classic Alan Moore-penned, Dave Gibbons-drawn graphic novel Watchmen. More than a mere superhero comic, Watchmen is crafted with intricacy and themes that oftentimes escape even traditional novelists. Yeah, its characters parade around in costumes, sometimes, but they also face the realities of impotence, living in the shadow of our parents, and the other myriad trials and tribulations that make up a life. They are real people (as far as fiction characters can be) and they live in a real world: what ours would be like had all those golden age super heroes been real, rather than colored inkblots on the printed page, for better...and for worse.

Seeing as the long-awaited film adaptation of the novel has finally become a reality, I have been following its press pretty religiously. Although I have certain beefs with adaptive changes that I won't spoil for anybody out there in blogland, I am still super stoked to see the film when it hits the silver screen on March 6th. That is, if it gets there.

Fox, who up until now had little-to-no interest in making a film of Watchmen, has sued Warner Bros. claiming it owns at least distribution rights to the film. I know, right?

Well, Watchmen producer Lloyd Levin has posted an open letter about the debacle via Hitfix. Despite Fox's obvious, according to Levin, early disinterest in the Watchmen film, one wonders why now, after the movie has been filmed, edited and is nearly ready to go, that studio would suddenly want a piece of the heavily-Warner Bros.-invested pie.

Isn't it obvious? 2008 was a knockout year for comic book films, most notably Iron Man and The Dark Knight. Both films were huge hits and critical successes. They starred actors, as does Watchmen, that had yet to really prove their worth as box office draws (What's the last chart topping Robert Downy, Jr. film?) and yet both films made bank. Had comic book adaptations not become the new Hollywood trend, you can bet that Fox would want no piece of the action.  Although one could also argue that neither would have Warner Bros., or at least that studio wouldn't have given as much leeway with the project as it has, the fact remains that Warner Bros. picked up the project back in 2005...when the biggest draw from the graphic medium was the Spider-man franchise (which didn't exactly star an A-lister at the time, either).

Oh, and don't forget that Zach Snyder, a virtual-unknown director at the time he was chosen for Watchmen, also spun Frank Miller's 300 into a mega-blockbuster film (also starring virtual unknowns, see a pattern here?).

The bottom line? Fox knows Watchmen will be huge, despite their reservations three years ago. Anyone afraid the film won't make it to screens come March is missing the point. Fox doesn't want to stop Watchmen, it just wants to reap the benefits. Besides, the best-looking comic film they have coming down the pipeline is Wolverine. Not exactly Watchmen caliber, is it?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Three films

After months of staying away from the Cinema, this week i've managed to settle into the cushy, rocking seats with oversized cup holders three times for three films. Here's a recap:

Sunday night, Regal Cinemas Atlantic Station:
Rating: Awesomeness X 1,0000

In limited release until tomorrow, I was completely taken by surprise by the awesomeness of this film. Invited to tag along by a fabulous friend of mine, I admit that I had little interest in seeing this movie based upon the less-than-interesting TV spots I had seen. Boy, was I wrong.

Clint Eastwood, who also directs, plays his emotionally closed off curmudgeon to perfection, simultaneously grouchy and lovable despite the barrage of racial slurs coming from his mouth. More than just another movie about a kid and gang violence, Gran Torino examines the relationships that redefine family and bridge cultures and age--and it does it all without without being preachy (*cough* Crash *cough*). Hilarious and shocking, Gran Torino is a fantastic film and I have rarely been more pleased to be proven wrong.

Monday Evening: Regal Cinemas, Atlantic Station:
Rating:  Move along, nothing to see here

Frank Miller, what happened? You are the mind behind Zach Snyder's 300 and Robert Rodriguez's Sin City. You are even responsible for reinventing Batman as The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan owes you big). So how could you make such a lackluster movie?

Instead of a kick-ass comic book flick, The Spirit is downright boring. Rodriguez knew how to adapt a comic book for the silver screen when he took Sin City bigtime back in 2005, but Miller clearly was thinking more like a comic book artist than a director, allowing for long scenes of little movement accompanied by long-winded monologues. Even could-be-awesome lines like "I'm gonna kill you all kinds of dead" could work under different circumstances, but amongst the rampant cheesiness these quotables are just cringe-inducing.

Visually the movie has several striking scenes, as expected from a writer-artist, however they feel like Sin City leftovers at best, and odd distractions at worst. Campy acting by the typically fabulous Scarlett Johansson and super-bad Samuel L. Jackson only draw further attention to the film's many miscalculations: odd product placements, awkward, lengthy flashbacks and, the biggest offender, updating The Spirit to present day and leaving his world devoid of color. In the lead role, Gabriel Macht is one highlight in an otherwise bland movie, but by the end of the film even he can't save the billionth she-is-the-city-and-I-am-her-spirit monologue. Ok, already, we get it.

Tuesday Afternoon: Regal Medlock Crossing:
Rating: Cinderella's got nothing on this kid

An ode to all the little things we learn in a lifetime wrapped up in an unconventional love story, Slumdog Millionaire is an American fairy-tale set in India. Told mostly in flashback (and done well, unlike The Spirit), the film moves from hilarious moments to ones that are hard to watch, all of which weave together to create the present day scenario--a young man accused of cheating on India's version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. There's a lot of buzz and numerous accolades behind this film and they are all warranted. A fantastic premise and a fantastic director (Danny Boyle) have taken typical themes (boy-finds-girl, boy-loses-girl etc.) and reinvented them to recapture the magic that can only be found in movies. If you go see it, don't leave before the credits--what you see will put a huge smile on your face even if the ending doesn't make you as giddy as it did me.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Blast from the Past

Got empty wall space? We can help!
In an otherwise unsurprising article from the AP lamenting the further decline of album sales, I came across this awesome little nugget of information:
Ironically, as digital downloads grew, vinyl album sales also climbed. In 2008, more vinyl albums were purchased (1.88 million) than any other year since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991.
According to the article, the biggest offenders were Radiohead’s In Rainbows (guilty as charged), The Beatles' Abbey Road and, strangely, Guns N’ Roses' Chinese Democracy.

But what’s causing this surge in vinyl consumption?  As purchasing music without any type of physical form seems to become more and more the norm, it seems strange that the largest and least convenient format for playing music is seeing a surge. One somewhat obvious answer is that the group most likely to still purchase music in a physical form are its most devout fans: the record collector.  Casual music listeners are content to purchase via iTunes (or, much more accurately, download their tunes for free online), but the rock music faithful still seek out hard to find CDs and vinyl records that provide that soothing hum as it spins on the turntable.

Second, vinyl is hip. Even if you don't have a record player, vinyl albums make for great wall decor. Urban Outfitters has been selling record album frames for the past several years, and even Hot Topic is in on the action, selling new vinyl albums for a variety of bands (including the Radiohead LP).

And therein lies one major answer: even with the album collectors and hipster decorators, the truth is that vinyl is more available today than it has been in decades. More bands are releasing new albums in the antiquated format, and more stores--like the aforementioned Hot Topic, Urban Outfitters and numerous independent record shops--are offering these versions for sale.

Oh, and many of these vinyl albums come with an added mp3 download of the album. How about that for the best of both worlds? I, for one, am sold.

Friday, January 2, 2009


Which came first, the music or the misery?  A famous question from Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, many times the music is greater when the misery comes first. Some of the greatest, most heartfelt, honest songs and albums have grown from that pit-of-darkness, that inescapable sense of despair. Without it, artists like Elliott Smith, Radiohead and countless others never would have written the albums we love to hear and vent our own miseries to.

But what happens when these musicians take the Partridge Family’s lead and (gasp!) get happy? Bands like Aerosmith certainly took a turn for the worse after kicking their drug habits, but what about misery addition? What happens then? 

Zooey and Ben...Gettin' hitched!

Time will certainly tell for Ben Gibbard, the lonesome bard for Death Cab for Cutie. It will be interesting to see if the indie rocker’s repertoire will still consist of cleverly poetic, albeit unrequited, love songs as the shaggy haired frontman has recently become engaged to actress and She & Him chanteuse, Zooey Deschanel. 

Wipe your tears, though, indie boys. Deschanel may be off the market, but it may not mean the end of Gibbard's lonesome cries. Hopefully, though, it will lead to a guest spot on the band's next album, sickeningly cute though it may be. Misery or no, may this new mine produce even greater Death Cab fodder than that found on Narrow Stairs.