Friday, March 09, 2007

The House Between: Episode # 3 Sneak Preview ("Positioned")

Next Friday, The House Between's third episode, "Positioned" shall debut here, at, and at Veoh. That's assuming no more technical difficulties, of course! (If there are difficulties, check again Saturday...and pray for my sanity.)

I'll be blogging about the making of this episode next Thursday in my director's notes section, so check the blog out next week.

Without further ado, here's a sneak peek at our third episode. Let me just say this: the episode itself is a humdinger.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

They Belong in a Museum!

Okay, so this is my cranky old man post for the week. I apologize in advance for the rant.

But, late last week, I was surfing channels instead of getting a good night's sleep, and I watched the History Channel special about Star Trek, and in particular the big auction of series' props, miniatures and costumes at Christies' last year. And today, I see a story on Yahoo about Star Wars and James Bond costumes being auctioned off too.

This is a trend I despise. My response is likely the Indiana Jones response. "Those things belong in a museum!"

And truly. They do.

The Star Trek special, I believe titled Beyond the Final Frontier, sent me off to beddy-bye in a royal funk. I was depressed for days after watching. Why? I saw elements of Star Trek's long and illustrious history just sold off to the highest bidder. The Klingon Bird of Prey, Deep Space Nine, the Enterprise-A, the Reliant, The Enterprise-D...all of it.

Scattered to the four winds. To the richest collectors in the world. What the hell is this, Earth - the seat of the United Federation of Planets - or fuckin' Feringinar? "Yankee Traders" indeed. What a craven race we are, Mr. Spock might note. To auction off our own past, rather than share it with everyone for the common a museum.

Shame on you, Paramount, for your pursuit of the almighty dollar at the expense of Americana, nostalgia and entertainment history. Now, in the years to come (and on Star Trek's fiftieth birthday, for example), these one-of-a-kind items WON'T be in the Smithsonian...where people rich and poor, young and old can examine their artistry. Nope. Kiss that dream goodbye!

I realize that major movie studios are all about the benjamins and little else, but couldn't Paramount at least pretend to care that Star Trek is the rolls royce of science fiction television? That, as we move fully into the era of CGI, these great old miniatures deserve to be preserved as tribute to an epoch in film and TV history? Nahhh!

Going...going...gone! Sold!!! Gotta make room for the props to Tomb Raider III, or some such thing, I guess.

And the real betrayal is this: Star Trek itself has always been about things other than design! Do you know that there are more references to the works of Shakespeare in Star Trek than in any other popular movie or TV franchise? Do you realize that Star Trek has tackled issues like racism, war, corruption, poverty, minority rights, health care for four decades? This is a legacy to take pride in. The people who watch Star Trek are engaged people; people who seek to understand the world around them. Star Trek is the Gullivers Travels of our time. To treat it like less is insulting.

Sure, the snobs can argue, Star Trek? Culture? Gimme a break! Well, only Nixon could go to know what I'm sayin'? People once believed the same thing of Shakespeare's plays...

So Paramount sucks royally for selecting avarice and commerce over the preservation of history. I like Leonard Nimoy, Patrick Stewart, Kate Mulgrew and the rest of those talents who participated in this special...but to see them in interviews smiling and waxing philosophical about how great this Christies auction just made me sick to my stomach.

Again. This stuff belongs in a museum! Did this auction depress the hell out of anyone else?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

MOVIE REVIEW: Snakes on a Plane (2006)

I'll be honest: I haven't enjoyed a movie this much since I saw Borat. During Snakes on a Plane, I confess, I must have suffered at least three uncontrollable giggle fits. The first (and best instance...) involved a fat rapper getting bit on his big fat ass by a determined snake, which just stuck there plugged to his butt for several seconds, while he shimmied around comically.

At this point in the movie, Kathryn said to me, "this is a movie designed for 13-year old boys." Whoo-hoo!! My mental "demographic" precisely! She's right, of course...

Yes, Snakes on a Plane is a latter-day exploitation flick with no pretensions of greatness or artistry. This is a (ridiculous) movie in which there's snake vision P.O.V. (which looks kind of like the monster vision from Pitch Black...), and also every outrageous snake attack you can imagine. It's like a check-list of silly moments with snakes. A snake bites a man's penis while he's urinating ("get off my dick, bitch!" he shouts during the uncomfortable-looking tussle...). Another snake latches on to a woman's ample nipple while she's having sex in the bathroom with her boyfriend. Then there's the aforementioned ass-bite, a coup-de-grace for the ages.

But wait, there's more. Snakes on a Plane also offers a snake baked in a microwave oven (shades of Gremlins...), snakes leaping out of barf bags, snakes pleasuring fat women travelers (don't ask...), and a virtual potpourri of other movie absurdities.

I'm reminded of Stephen King's description of "moron movies" while writing this review, and I must say, this is the most enjoyable moron movie I've seen in a long while. By the time Samuel L. Jackson verbalizes his famous quote about "motherfucking" snakes on a "motherfucking plane," the movie had won me over. In fact, it had me at the ass-bite. By the way, that moment with the snake and the ass-bite is quickly followed by a hysterical scene in which a male air-flight attendant offers to suck the snake poison...out of the rapper's ass.

Oh, glory days.

It's easy to dismiss Snakes on a Plane as trash. But what marvelous trash it is! And it comes from a long, storied history in terms of genre/exploitation movie-making. Because - let's face it - this movie is a perfect (and I do mean perfect...) fusion of two 1970s B- forms that I cherish. The first is the revenge-of-nature or nature-gone-amok environmental horror films of the 1970s. You remember, don't you? I speak of Frogs (1972) or my personal favorite, Kingdom of the Spiders (1977), which pitted William Shatner against buckets and buckets of creepy crawlies. In this genre, animals go nuts and attack people, usually because of something bad humans did (like experiment with hormones, or pollute the environment). In this case, evil criminals have sprayed pheromones on Hawaiian leis to drive the snakes wild! This is SSSSSSS! (Hiss it, don't say it!), or Stanley (1972) or Venom (1982) gone one better.

The other genre in the mix is the airplane disaster movie, efforts such as Airport 1975...the airborne equivalent of The Poseidon Adventure. This genre has seen a resuscitation of late with the entertaining Craven thriller Red Eye and the lugubrious but pretty stupid Flight Plan starring Jodie Foster, but Snakes on a Plane is hands-down the best variation on this form since it was thoroughly roasted by Airplane! in 1980.

A jaunty, go-for-broke fusion of airport/disaster movie and animals gone wild - with all the cliches and gimmicks of each genre on hand - is irresistible to a movie historian like me. Let's see: we've got all the passenger/victim stereotypes we'd expect in the plane movie, including a newlywed couple, two children on their "first" solo air flight, a famous musician (not Sonny Bono, here, alas), a cop, the well-meaning stewardesses, and even a police witness being flown under protective custody. Then we have all the in-flight disasters you could imagine: the death of the pilots (meaning someone else has to land the plane!), mechanical disruptions, and the trip to the cargo section. And, naturally - depressurization in mid-air.

Best of all is that this film was written dead serious, with howlingly-bad dialogue only the most perverse movie lovers could love and enjoy (like a fine wine...). The moment when the snake expert (described in the script as a "hardcore snake specialist") describes to Samuel L. Jackson the nature of the snakes as "serious" and "hyper-aggressive" and Jackson responds that they are "snakes on cracks" is a high-point for this brand of silly entertainment. I also love the moment when Jackson's partner confesses that he suffers from Ophidophobia -- a fear of snakes. Like what are the chances he'd end up on a plane with snakes? In this genre, 100%!

The end of Snakes on a Plane is a bit of a mood breaker. The smirks and silliness inherent in vetting such material bubbles to the surface, and the mood of deadpan thrills and chills is broken. It's as though no one could keep a straight face for the climax. Which is understandable I guess. From the gag reel, it looks like the cast had a hell of a good time creating this silly movie, and that's to their credit. It's a testament to their professionalism that they didn't laugh their asses off till almost the end of the picture.

This movie is review-proof, really. I loved it, but wouldn't say it is a "good" movie in any traditional or objective sense. Only you know if you appreciate this kind of nonsense. I do appreciate it, so I had a whopping good time with the movie. Even Kathryn did. We watched it late at night, and she tried to will herself to sleep during it, but couldn't do it. Snakes on a Plane holds the attention, and makes with the belly-laughs. It will be discussed for years in the annals of moron movies, and guilty pleasures.