I feel every generation should have a movie or two that defines them and how hard it is to grow up during that period. We’ve had movies like “Dazed and Confused,” “Mean Girls,” and “Breakfast Club,” and we’re very fortunate to have had two very good movies (“Eighth Grade”) about the modern youth culture in the last five years. Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is one of the finest drama comedies of the year. It’s an honest and entertaining look at two girls trying to find out who they are before they graduate high school and enter in to college–possibly without one another.
It’s estimated by Deutsche Kinemathek that 80–90% films, and 75% of all silent films are now lost. Many made even before the 1900’s are gone, with over 3500 lost films having been recorded by archivists and historians. So it’s an invaluable service that Undercrank Productions is giving its movie loving audience by delivering previously unseen and rare short films by many movie stars audiences have never even heard of. While the shorts aren’t always pristine, the fact that they get a new life on DVD is a wonderful gift to film enthusiasts that want to learn more about the film stars of yesteryear and how they helped shape the genres.
I was more than a little surprised when “The LEGO Movie” ended up being one of the best movies of its year. Lord and Miller managed to take what could have been a glorified commercial for LEGO and ended up building a unique universe, and a heartfelt, hilarious adventure about reaching deep to find what makes us so special, and appreciating the child within us. I even loved the meta-climax, which with other creative minds behind it, might have destroyed everything we saw before it.
After FOX Studios revived comic book property the X-Men and paved the comic book movie as bonafide moneymaker, the canvas of pop culture was carved from the gateway “Blade” forged. After the 2000 cinematic adaptation “X-Men” and its sequel “X2,” both films and the franchised built shocking influence, not just on other genre properties, but comics in general. With X-Men once again being celebrated, the iconic series and comic book team was primed for an animated reboot, after the end of “X-Men: The Animated Series.” Marvel and Film Roman approached the series from a different angle by establishing a new continuity of the “merry mutants” in contemporary times. They changed the focus of the series, as well as the ages of the entire group to appeal to a wider young audience.
And it worked.
Twenty years ago, Studio Ghibli and the master Hayao Miyazaki opened my mind up to a new dimension of animation and storytelling that pretty much changed my life. It also inspired me to look toward telling bigger tales with richer characters, because Miyazaki is very much about rich characterization and brilliant metaphor. Much of his films revolve around the love of nature, the vastness of the open sky, and the effect humans can have on the environment and the world around us.
Nathan Juran’s “The Deadly Mantis” is the antithesis of every single monster movie ever made. It’s aggressively boring, tedious, and doesn’t even have any kind of camp to compensate for the obvious lack of the monster. Even worse, at almost eighty minutes in length, the monster never actually rears its face on camera until about twenty five minutes in. The rest is stock footage, stock footage, and even more stock footage!
Charlize Theron is a woman who can play almost any role at this point and come out looking golden. She’s been able to portray so many interesting characters, and in “Long Shot” she is a beautiful politician fighting for the role of president. “Long Shot” would be a good movie if it weren’t mired in all that Judd Apatow nonsense that was very popular in the early aughts that reduces her to a cliché. There’s the frumpy man child winning the love of the ideal gorgeous woman, and there’s even the snide BFF of said woman who hates the frumpy man child at first, but then eventually learns to love him. And of course, there’s Seth Rogen who’s made a career of playing Seth Rogen once again playing Seth Rogen.
Billy Blanks was one of the archetypal straight to video action stars of the nineties, he was one of those men with a ton of charisma and appeal who never quite found his niche in American cinema. He managed to be pushed in to the gallery of people like Jeff Speakman, Roddy Piper, and Don “The Dragon” Wilson (no disrespect to those gentlemen), but always deserved so much more. He was relegated to a ton of straight to video action and genre titles eventually becoming a fitness guru for his Tae Bo program. It’s a shame because Blanks does have a very good on screen presence and could have likely launched in to the blockbuster fold alongside contemporaries like Wesley Snipes.