Archive for the P Category

Paint Your Wagon (1969) Joshua Logan

Posted in P on February 10, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: over $20 million (100 million inflated)
Gross: about $30 million

In the 60’s, bug budget musicals were the fad de jour and Warner Bros. wanted a piece of that action.  They decided to work with the team of Lerner and Loewe (but really only with Lerner) with adapting one of their musicals.   Previous adaptations from their work include Bridadoon, My Fair Lady, and Camelot.  Lerner, in particular, had an ax to grind since he believed those adaptations were not good at all.  Lerner reached a deal with WB to produce another of his musicals, Paint Your Wagon, and another project along with some future endeavors.  The original story of the musical is about an old prospector with a daughter who falls in love with a Mexican outcast.  The movie went through a few false starts before it got picked up and seriously produced by Paramount.

Paramount felt they needed to connect more with 60’s audiences and made some *ahem* questionable decisions.  For one they changed the story of the musical.  Now the movie is a strange mish mash of a Soddam and Gommorah gold rush mining town and how the two main characters share a wife.  To further their “counterculture” image they hire rebel actor Lee Marvin.  Well, they got what they paid for.  Marvin was drunk every day on set, was an a**hole, and even by one stories account, pissed on the director’s boots at one point.  They hired Clint Eastwood for his cowboy image.  Eastwood was initially impressed with the dark nature of the story.  But when the writing essentially pussed out, Eastwood tried to leave but got roped back in.

The shoot was a debacle in every definition of the word.  The producers had a brilliant idea to shoot the movie in the middle of Oregon nothingness.  What they didn’t realize is the shoot is about 47 miles from the nearest town so it was a several hour commute just to get to the set every day.  The big stars got flown in every day by helicopter.  Producer Lerner was on set, and didn’t waste time being a micromanaging, insufferable prat.  Arguments were an everyday occurrence where by the end Logan didn’t know what the hell he was doing.  During this Eastwood was having and affair with actress Jean Seaberg which ended bitterly in the middle of the shoot.  The movie got panned with the terrible plot and singing.  Marvin’s “I was Born under a Wanderin’ Star” actually became a Shatner-esque “Rocket Man” type hit for how horribly bad it is.  Logan never worked in Hollywood again, Seaberg died shortly after in the 70’s for an overdose in barbiturates, and this movie kinda killed off the big budget musical for a while.

Special thanks to “Fiasco” for all the info.

Is it any good?  Oh f*ck no!  Let me start off with the fact this movie is nearly 3 hours long.  The length especially doesn’t help since the plot is so scattershot.  I really feel there is no real overarching plot.  Its actually kind of like a bunch of Three’s Company episodes wrapped into a 3 hr. movie.  Every 30 minutes we get a different little plot cul de sac.  First its about Ben (Marvin) and Pardner (Eastwood) setting up this gold mining camp and how lonely they are.  Then its about how Ben buys himself a wife and how jealous he is of his new trophy wife.  Then its about Pardner’s budding love affair and how it turns into a love triangle.  Then its about Ben and Pardner coming up with a money making scheme to survive the winter.  Then its about a Christian family coming to stay with the threesome and the hijinks that ensue.   It just never feels stable or coherent.

The movie tries to be a comedy but the humor falls flat.  It seems like the writers are going for this Brittish sex comedy/satire of manners with the kooky situation of Ben and Pardner marrying the same woman.  But the movie is way too goofy and screwball and it makes any “subtle” humor fall flat.  The actors chew the scenery with Marvin being the absolute worst.  His real drunken ramblings are obnoxious and he mugs for the camera in every scene.  Eastwood is the only one who tries for any kind of subtlety.

But how the hell can I talk about the movie and not mention the singing.  Now, I’m actually not going to jump on the bash Eastwood bandwagon here.  Eastwood does have an ok voice when used correctly.  He can sing soft ballads and has actually a gentle and pleasant voice.  The problem comes when they have him belt out big Broadway show stoppers.  He can’t project loudly and ends up sounding like Dirty Harry singing about his love of gold.  It sucks at that point.

But you wanna know what’s worse and more embarrassing than Eastwood singing?  Lee Marvin singing!  Holy fuckballs!  Words can’t express it.  You know, I’m gonna break tradition and give you a clip.  Enjoy! (singing starts about a minute in)

Its like my dad’s singing.  I’ve had stoned friends who sing the line “All you need is love” for 47 verses and its more enjoyable.  Its like Treebeard is singing about wanderin’.  But you know whats more embarrassing than Marvin singing?  Eastwood AND Marvin singing together in a duet!  Okay I’ll get off of it.

What’s a shame is that some (just some, 4 or 5) of the songs are really good like They Call the Wind Maria, Gold Fever, Best Things and I’m on My Way.  The songs would actually work if they got real singers to do them.  Maria is the only song with a trained singer; which is why its the best.  This movie could have been good (good, not great) if they didn’t f*ck around with the story so much and got honest to goodness singers to sing these songs.  This movie sucks.  Its nearly three hours of horrible acting, terrible scripting, and some of the worst singing ever in movie musicals.  I can’t believe my dad loves this movie.  *shakes head*


Push (2009) Paul McGuigan

Posted in P on February 1, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $38 million
Worldwide Gross: $34 million

The plot involves an evil government conspiracy to develop telepaths as weapons.  Anyone that has telepathic abilities are hunted down are hunted down by agents.  These people have many different powers like the ability to predict the future and the power to move objects.  Chris Evans plays Nick, a telepath on the run who gets caught up in a bigger plot.  He and Cassie (Dakota Fanning) must find a rogue teep who is on the run from Djimon Hounsou because, um, the fate of the world or some crap hangs in the balance.

Okay this movie seems interesting by the trailers.  It looks semi fun as you see people being knocked around like pinballs using their telekinetic powers.  That’s not really the case.  Push wants to be more a thriller than a heart pounding action movie.  In fact, for all the mystical wonderful amazing powers everyone has, they all seem to resort so semi-fair play by shooting each other and punching each other.  I guess its not all that useful after all.

The biggest problem is with the story.  The writers seem to love making up the rules as they go.  It seems like every 10 minutes they write themselves into a corner and they just make up a random power to write themselves out of that corner.  Now when you think of mental powers, you think of basically the power to read minds and telekinesis (the power to move items).  But no, here in the Push universe, the mind has more options than an extra large pack of crayons.  There are “sniffers” who can track people down.  How do we outsmart the sniffers so we can find the girl?  Why, use a shadow of course!  A shadow can use his mental powers specifically to hide a person from a sniffer.  How convenient!  But oh no!  The government also uses “watchers”; people who can see the future.  How do our heroes outsmart people that see the future?  Why, use “wipers” of course!  Then they use “pushers”.  Oh no, I don’t mean people that physically push things but mentally push people.  And there are “stitches” and more “pushers” and “intention watchers” and “screamers”…

Oh dear lord.  Yeah, we have “screamers”.  The most hilarious moments of the movie.  They are people that scream really loud in order to blast out people’s ear drums.  Whenever they do they make this face like they are about to shit themselves.  The director really tries to build these guys up like the agents from the Matrix, but its hard to be really scared of these guys when you nearly rupture your spleen laughing at their goofy ass faces.

But yeah, like I said, this movie seemingly makes this sh*t up as it goes.  Can’t actually think of a way to get your heroes out of danger?  Make up some new power to get yourself out of this mess.  Its like watching an episode of Voyager but instead of technobabble its psychic powers.

The acting is okay.  Djimon Housou is not screaming for a change, Chris Evans is alright, and Dakota Fanning just looks like a crack whore.  The action scenes are few and far between and when we do see them use their powers its underwhelming.  Its nothing like what is promised us in the trailers or even the poster.  The biggest FU is when they have the balls to threaten a sequel.  *shudders*  Don’t watch this movie.  It is poorly written and not interesting at all.

P2 (2007) Franck Khalfoun

Posted in P on January 27, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $8 million
Gross: $4 million

I saw this movie directly after Vacancy, a horror movie that pissed me off with poor writing, acting, and many cliches.  I came in expecting to DESPISE this movie.  Yet about halfway through of moping I said to myself “Hm, this is pretty good.”  And after I finished the movie I said to myself “That was pretty damn good”.  Point is…I need to stop talking to myself.

The story is as follows.  A businesswoman is leaving her office building for Christmas dinner with her sister.  Her car won’t start for unknown reasons.  The friendly parking garage security guard Tom (Wes Bentley) offers to give her a jump and even share in some grub.  Later he kidnaps her, ties her to a chair, and professes his love for her.  Tom doesn’t want to hurt her, he wants to love her and hurt her enemies.

The first thing I have to mention is the acting.  When I first picked up the box I was bemoaning the death of Wes Bentley’s career.  I mean he was terrific in American Beauty, he was the next sexy young actor, and then vanished into thin air.  But damn, he IS this movie.  It could be easy Tom’s role could be very hammy and over the top.  Bentley does a great job of making him genuinely creepy.  He can be the friendly boy next door one minute and creepy psychopathic stalker the next.  He is very compelling to watch.  Of course the lead actress also does a good job in being shocked by the events occurring around her but also psychologically strong.

You would think that a movie with supposedly just two actors would be boring with not a lot of action but you would be surprised.  Even though there is a few characters, it is an interesting cat and mouse games.  Angela gets away through legitimate ways (and not just plot conveniences), tries to outsmart Tom in logical ways, and Tom tries to find her in some suspenseful scenes.  Its a movie that just has one thing, a creepy parking garage, and makes the absolute most of it.  Its refreshing to have a director utilizes what he has instead of throwing money and making it a spectacle like most PG-13 horror movies nowadays.

Now this isn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread.  This is a very good entry in the horror genre.  With the sh*tty state of the horror genre in the past couple years though, even very good  elevates it a little more.  I was desperate for a good horror fix and I was pleasantly surprised by P2.  And of course it had to bomb at the box office.  *rolls eyes*

Pathfinder (2007) Marcus Nispel

Posted in P on January 27, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $26 million
Worldwide Gross: $10 million

Oh god, this one hurt.  Okay, the plot, such as it is, is about a Viking boy that is left behind on an early expedition to North America.  The boy is raised by Native Americans to one day be the great white hope for when the Vikings return.  This movie is boring!  Unbelievably boring.  Pathfinder is almost two hours and if you are expecting it to be some non-stop action roller coaster you would be dead wrong.  A lot of the movie is useless character filler about Ghost (Karl Urban) working out his feelings about his dual identity as both Viking and Native American, his feelings over his love interest, his friendship with other tribesmen and on and on and on.  I know many times I complain about not enough character development but here we get way to damn much.  Its like watching Under Siege and putting in an extra 40 minutes on Seagal’s childhood and his inability to communicate his feelings toward women.  It especially doesn’t help that Karl Urban is not exactly an Edward Norton in terms of acting.  Hell, he is not even a Van Damme in terms of acting.  So when we get to the action much much much later what do we get?  A shield skiing scene ripped off from Willow and Ghost stalking Vikings in a rip off of Rambo.  The plot is awful, the acting is non existent, and the action is uninteresting.  Can we all admit the idea of Karl Urban as a lead failed big time.  First Doom then Pathfinder: can we restrict him to doing bit villain roles where he is banned from speaking?  Oh yeah, before I forget about the “Unrated” version.  The director seems to think if we add screens full of badly done CGI blood we think that will be entertaining or hardcore.  I am all for pointless violence, but the blood looks terrible as it seems to be thrown in at the last second.  Whatever version you get, it all blows.

Popeye (1980) Robert Altman

Posted in P on January 25, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $23 million
Domestic Gross: about $25 million
Worldwide Gross: $25 million
Subsequent Earnings: $25 million

This is one of the few films I would call a flop instead of a bomb.  But f*ck it, I had to watch it and now you’re going to listen to me b*tch about it.

The owner of Paramount pictures at the time absolutely fell in love with the stage show of Annie and wanted to make a film production of it.  Evans lost the bidding war over the rights of Annie, but that did not stop him from wanting to make a musical (despite the musical being a dead genre at the time and several flopping in that era).  Evans discovered they had the rights to the old Popeye comic serial and cartoons and decided to make that into the next big musical.  Originally, they hired Dustin Hoffman to play Popeye and Hal Ashby (Harold and Maude, Being There) to direct.  Hoffman was a perfectionist, which led to a serious dispute between him and the producer.  This ultimately led to an ultimatum of choosing between the producer and Hoffman and Evans chose the producer.  Of course, it wasn’t just Hoffman leaving now but Ashby.

Next in line to play Popeye was Robin Williams, who had never done any film work but had starred in the television series Mork and Mindy.  For the directing role was the questionable choice of Robert Altman.  For those of you who know Altman knows that it is on par with choosing Darren Aronofsky for Woody Woodpecker: The Movie or David Lynch for The Goofy Movie.  Altman was a maverick who seemed like the last person to do a live action comic musical.  Altman accepted the gig because Evans hooked Altman up with someone who could fix his back problems.  I guess a good chiropractor is hard to find in Hollywood.  Altman set up production in Malta which required an entire town to be built including access roads and an artificial break so the town would not drown in the floods.

There were many problems with the shooting.  The script was written and re-written numerous times and songs were sometimes switched to completely different characters depending on the newest script.  The prosthetic forearms used for Popeye were so constricting  they cut the blood flow on William’s arms and had to remove them several times a day because they would make his arms numb.   The climactic fight had Popeye fighting Bluto and a giant octopus.  But like Bride of the Monster, the octopus didn’t work and the actors had to manipulate the tentacles themselves to fight with it.  If you look at the final product on the DVD you know how much of a mess it is.  Not to mention the fact Williams hated the production of the movie and called Altman “Stalag Altman”.  The movie did not do well critically and while it made just enough to claim a profit, for the large budget attached to it, it was considered a huge flop. (Fiasco: James Parish)

Is it any good?  Well, it’s not as bad as Quintet!  Okay okay.  Its bad.  Now I can tell Altman and the crew were really trying their best here, but its still not a good movie.  The biggest problem with the movie are the songs.  I actually don’t have a problem with the movie being a musical, but the songs are so repetitive and uninspired.  They range anywhere from alright (He Needs Me, I’m Mean) to utterly sh*tty (I Yam what I Yam).  I’m sorry, but Popeye can’t sing.  That’s like Columbo doing a love ballad; it just doesn’t work.  Williams and Duvall do a very good job as Popeye and Olive Oyl.  The movie also has a nice feel for the comic strip and cartoonish violence.  Popeye is just way too long and doesn’t fully embrace that cartoonish feel to make it enjoyable.  Really, I just want to watch the old Popeye cartoons.  When you inflate a couple minute cartoon into a two hour movie, it is going to be very dull.  So while not the worst Altman movie ever (again…Quintet) it is pretty bad.

Playtime (Jaques Tati) 1967

Posted in P on January 20, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Costs: Up to 12 million francs (took me forever to find that)
Worldwide Gross: Around $2 million (from what I could find)

I looked forever for those figures.  Anyway, this is another movie you probably have not heard of, but this was a big Euro bomb.  European movies are usually lower budget because they don’t have companies that can really afford a major flop.  Jacques Tati’s claim to fame was the Hulot character.  You’ve seen the Hulot movies right?  Right?  Anyway, Hulot was kind of the European answer to Charlie Chaplin.  His movies were kind of a funny commentary on the intrusive role of technology in our lives (like Chaplin’s Modern Times), new consumerism, and a mocking of political and social classes.

Tati did not like to play Hulot anymore and wanted to do his vanity project.  He wanted to make an completely open comedy (I will explain that later) and wanted to phase out his Hulot character.  So with company funding and Tati’s own money, Tati made Playtime.  Plot summary from IMDb:

“Monsieur Hulot has to contact an American official in Paris, but he gets lost in the maze of modern architecture which is filled with the latest technical gadgets. Caught in the tourist invasion, Hulot roams around Paris with a group of American tourists, causing chaos in his usual manner.”

What makes Playtime so unique was that Tati created an entire town for this movie.  This inspired Spielberg to create an entire airport terminal for his film The Terminal.  But when I say he made an entire town, he MADE AN ENTIRE TOWN.  He bought a sizable plot of land at Vincennes, paved the streets, built office buildings, stores, homes, apartment buildings.  The city was powered by two electricity stations, and all of the buildings had operating elevators, lighting, plumbing and electricity.  This was not shoddy work, he built a complete town and in a futuristic architectural design.  This obviously cost a lot of money.  The interesting thing is, it didn’t have to.  Tati’s producers actually came up with a good and practical idea.  They suggested that Tati buy underdeveloped land which was in a good geographic area, build the city with all of the utilities, then sell the land to developers at a profit after the movie was over.  Tati would not have that though.  He wanted to “give” this city to future filmmakers so they could have a permanent city set to shoot at.  This altruistic plan unfortunately fell through when he built “Tativille” on the site of future freeway development.  Dumba**.

To make matters worse, Tati was another perfectionist filmmaker.  He would not shoot until the scene was to his liking.  There were reports that the crew would be sitting around for hours because Tati was waiting for the clouds move or that the light wasn’t just right.  Certain sections, most notable the restaurant scene at the end, took many weeks to plan and shoot.  With the exception of Tati, there were no real actors in the film.  Many of the people were ordinary people taken from a local army base.  At first the many housewives loved the idea of being in a big movie.  But after many weeks of sitting around doing nothing, they quickly got restless.  Tati had a real problem when he ran out of money near the end of production.  He actually convinced a relative to spend the family fortune on the project.  This effectively eliminated the inheritance that Tati and his sister were due to receive.  That’s right, he took his sister’s inheritance.  The movie did not do well and made only a small amount in France.  Tati was bankrupt and only did two smaller pictures later on and he only did those for the money.  The movie has recently received recognition and a new DVD release on Criterion.

Is it any good?  Its Criterion, it has to be.  No, seriously it’s “good” I think.  The movie is gorgeous.  I have to give credit to the director on that.  Tativille is a sight to behold and the cinematography is gorgeous.  The movie is difficult to watch the first time through.  I said before Tati wanted to make an open comedy.  I will try my best to explain this but stay with me on this.  I don’t think this will come out clearly.  He wanted to do something different than the average comedy.  He thought in previous films the director forces you to look at a joke, like in a Chaplin comedy, Chaplin is the center of attention and we focus on him for all the jokes.  In Playtime, he didn’t want any main characters or main storyline.  We see a wide shot where many characters are interacting and where quirky and funny things are happening all over the place.  The audience can choose what to look at and what to laugh at.  Clear as mud?  The movie is almost a silent movie where we get scant dialogue and mostly visual humor.  The problem is, the first time through, you are struggling to find the humor.  It is so subtle and quiet, you have to be on your guard to spot it.  Its so hard to spot, that many times you think you are watching nothing.  This can lead many viewers to boredom.  Reviewers like Roger Ebert and Jonathan Rosenbaum suggest that you watch it multiple times to catch all the humor.  I might be patient enough to do that, but most people aren’t.  So it’s a good movie.  That’s all I have to say.  Dang, I talked a lot about this.