movies


Those deathless herkyjerky timelapse videos I compile from my bike rides are often filled with a whole lotta nothing happening beyond a 12 frames-per-second commemoration of whatever route I’ve taken.  But usually I can count on encountering something  eye-catching and worth a second glance. Maybe it’s a unique pedestrian or a scenario or an architectural aspect that I’m happy to have been able to capture.

Such is the cloud-crowded frame above (cinematic, if I do say so myself; click it for the bigger picture), snapped as I was making my way east across the Sixth Street Bridge onward to Montebello for some Broguiere’s egg nog last Monday. Pedaling  past these independent filmmakers during a break in the traffic flow as they rolled on a key moment between what I’d guess could be the protagonist and his or her love interest against a background of the downtown skyline.

Since my approaching presence posed no danger or impediment that forced them to yell cut and flee to the sidewalks, maybe the final cut of the film will find me pedaling along the outskirts of this scene.

Approaching my tenth anniversary as a subscriber, I’m pretty much an OG when it comes to Netflix. But I’m thinking it might be time to call it quits. It’s not really Neflix’s fault, but it’s certainly their predicament — one made ever the more aware to me with last night’s spinning of the “Despicable Me” Blu-ray they sent.

Hollywood studios have certainly been trying to make Netflix and other mail-order/point-of-purchase movie rental companies pay in an effort to recoup losses piling up from a drop in the number of their DVDs the public is no longer purchasing. And they’ve succeeded on certain fronts. Last year Warner Brothers won the right to delay providing new releases to Netflix for 28 days in an effort to bolster sales.

Maybe that’s worked for them. Certainly there are legions of OMG-gotta-have-it impulse buyers who will race to purchase the latest from “Harry Potter” and “Twilight,” but I’m not among them. Case in point: my last DVD purchase was “Avatar” when it came out last spring. Before that the latest “Batman.” Before that I’m pretty sure it was a couple years with the latest (and hopefully final and definitive) version of “Blade Runner.” In other words, I’m very picky with the movies I add to my sparse — and dusty — collection of DVDs. The day you see me spending aaaaaaany amount of money to add a Jennifer Aniston vehicle or “The Green Hornet” to my permanent collection is the day I need to either be dressed up in a t-shirt saying “I’m Hollywood’s Bitch” or smacked soundly about the head and shoulders. Preferably both. In either order. Every day for the rest of my life.

Like the good little Netflix OG subscriber I am, I’ve shrugged and accepted the imposed delay because with the exception of films such as “True Grit,” that hold extraordinary appeal enough to get me into a theater seat, I can wait until the DVD release and beyond a month or two to see pretty much everything Hollywood throws at me.

But last night was different. Last night something changed. Last night I personally discovered how petty and ugly and unblinkingly desperate Hollywood’s crackdown is getting while spinning the Blu-ray Netflix had sent me of Universal’s “Despicable Me.” After the movie ended I clicked to access the accompanying extras listed in the main menu and instead of being able to see an array of short films was shown that as a “rental copy” the disk contained only the film and should I wish to view the additional features it was demanded that I buy a copy.

Despicable, indeed.

And while I’m not readysetgo to finally say to hell with Netflix, it’s not going to take many more similar rental roadblock experiences before I enact my own across-the-board crackdown and cancel — even though I know it’s not really their fault they were dressed up as Hollywood’s bitch.

Call it coincidence, but it’s an interesting one. Like many dreams, I can’t quite remember when it exactly began, but an awareness about my lack of them has been in place for quite some time, and as someone who previously dreamed pretty regularly the prolonged dearth was a bit disturbing.

Well, in a curious case of timing wouldn’t you know after seeing the mind-blowing dreamscape epic  “Inception” over the weekend I blew my own mind with a remarkably vivid and detailed dream the likes of which I haven’t experienced in a long time — if ever. So intense was it that I awoke with an actual pounding headache. Or maybe the headache fed the dream? Whoa!

In it I was in trouble for something big and scheduled to surrender to authorities. But instead with Susan’s help I fled hoping to evade capture at the hands of a top-notch bounty hunter who was hot on my trail. Holed up in a dingy second-story flat straight out of film noir on Pico Boulevard in the Mid-City area and feeling the dragnet closing in, I arrange for Susan to come get me. But my attempts to get undetected to where she’s parked fail and I end up in a bullet-filled footrace to Susan’s SUV (foreshadowing of the Ford Escape hybrid we’re going to get soon?) with the bounty hunter in hot pursuit  and closing  — a chase so fear-filled and lifelike I can recall consciously acknowledging the physicality of how heavy my dreamself was breathing as I ran, very much like a spectator to my own movie. I dive into the truck and we make our getaway, barely evading my nemesis.

As a bonus the dream came to a conclusion, with me next sequestered out of sight near to the stark, post-modern hillside house that was our home, watching the bounty hunter try desperately to convince Susan that if I didn’t give up I’d be dead and she’d go to jail as an accessory. Doing the right thing, I step out hands-up from my hiding place and turn myself in.

The moment I feel the handcuffs tighten on my wrists, I wake up, eluding capture once again. But oddly left with a throbbing headache.

And in case you’re wondering, I thoroughly enjoyed “Inception.” Exceptionally original, wonderfully performed, masterfully directed and fully immersive, as an adult I haven’t so jaw-droppingly reveled in a motion picture since “The Dark Knight” (no surprise since they both were directed by Christopher Nolan), and “The Matrix.”

A few days ago I made public my frustration with the mistitling of the upcoming remake of “The Karate Kid,” and wouldn’t you know in today’s LA Times, way too much front page Calendar section play is given to what amounts to soft -‘n-puffy feature about the backstory of the production of That Movie Which I Shall Not See.

Of course I took issue with a couple points:

I guess most of your readers (“Comeback Kid,” Calendar, May 30) will just surrender to Hollywood’s incredible ability to rationalize, but not me. When Overbrook’s self-serving James Lassiter explains that the power and authority rests with the actual Chinese “people” when it comes to location shoots there, I’d like to see him apply that logic to events such as Tiananmen Square and the Sichuan earthquake. Apparently from his strange “That’s why it’s called the People’s Republic of China,” point of view  those same “people” didn’t want democracy and used their “authority” to violently massacre those who did? And I guess all those school children killed in the 2008 quake came about because the “people” didn’t want their kids getting educated in buildings that wouldn’t fall down?

The second, third and fourth letters in Lassiter’s name pretty much sum up what such a statement makes him look like.

And speaking of asses, blame for the lame title gets attributed to the original “The Karate Kid” producer Jerry Weintraub who allegedly objected to Sony’s plan to correctly title the film “The Kung Fu Kid.” I’m curious to know who said that exactly and why such a statement was run without getting a response or no comment from Weintraub.

I already wasn’t going to lay eyes on this film for the stupid title alone, but now this puff-piece on its production will leave me avoiding anything Overbrook puts its hands on — and anything under John Horn’s byline.

Will Campbell
Silver Lake

There’s a movie whose arrival is imminent that you may have heard of called The Karate Kid. It features an elderly man who happens to be a secret martial arts master who teaches a young punk transplanted far from home how to protect himself from big bad bullies at school who aren’t really down with him — and especially with him getting all  smitten with a pretty young classmate. Life lessons ensue,  a cross-generational friendship is forged, skills get honed, and it all ends up at a competition where the kid kicks ass.

Sound familiar? Of course it does. Who hasn’t seen the wonderful original from 1984 with Pat Morita and Ralph Macchio (or its sequels — yes even that last silly one with Hilary Swank).

But here’s the thing, and by “thing” I mean Idiocy That Pisses Me Off.  This version of the film should not be called The Karate Kid. It should be called The Kung Fu Kid since it takes place in China where that is the indigenous martial art — and indeed according to the film’s summary on IMDB is what the elderly gent (played this time by Jackie Chan) teaches the punk (played by Wil Smith’s kid Jaden).

But  everyone who made the movie seemed less intent on basic factual truth in titling and instead more desperately intent on greedily making bank by piggybacking on the franchise, which at a quarter century in age is old enough to engender nostalgia in those 30-somethings who were kids and teens during its originally release. Sure, the filmmakers could argue that they didn’t want any confusion/connection between this film and the far more recent Kung Fu Panda, but that’s just a buncha silly sauce. You want silly? I’ll argue that there should be a statute of limitations invoked prohibiting remakes of any kind — properly titled or not — from being made for a minimum of 40 years after the original’s theatrical release.

But since that day will never come, and nothing’s sacred, I’ve decided instead to offer up the following  list of films the studios should consider remaking (or in some cases re-remaking) under their original titles while also brainlessly changing crucial elements — the more the better:

Waterworld — The earth is covered by water sand. The remaining people travel the oceans deserts, in search of survival led over endless dunes by a uselessly gilled guy called Mariner for no reason.

Lawrence of Arabia — T.E. Lawrence Balthazar blazes his way to glory in the Arabian desert post-Katrina New Orleans.

Gone With The Wind — The epic tale of a woman’s life before, during and after the Civil War Woodstock, which she didn’t attend but said she did.

Goodfellas — The lowly, violent blue-collar side of New York’s Elvis Presley’s Italian Memphis mafia.

Nightmare on Elm Street — On Elm Street Maple Drive, a group of teens aging boy band members are tormented in their dreams during lunch by a clawed six-fingered killer nursing home janitor named Freddy Krueger Skippy Gunderson.

Jaws — A shark marmot makes a resort coal-mining town its private public feeding breeding grounds.

Towering Inferno — A skyscraper jumbo jet catches fire lands safely due to poor wiring an uneventful flight and competent pilots.

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! — Three wild women congressmen in fast cars on Segways take time off from stripping in clubs budget negotiations to go on a murder tax-and-spend rampage.

3:10 To Yuma — A rancher agrees to hold a captured outlaw who’s awaiting the 4:25 train to go to court in Yuma Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

The Matrix — A computer phonebook hacker deliveryman learns about ignores the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against the controllers of it.

Citizen Kane — Following the death of an aged publishing tycoon astronomer, reporters colleagues scramble to discover hide the meaning proper spelling of his final utterance, “Beetlegeuse.” Or is it “Beetlejuice?” Or is it “Beetleguese?” “Beetlegoose,” maybe? No, Beetlegeese!”

Memento — A man, suffering from unaware of his short-term memory loss, uses notes smoke signals and tattoos disappearing ink to hunt for never find the man he thinks killed his wife his wallet, which is in his back pocket the whole fucking time.

Or as told in the film’s unique reverse timeline:

To hunt for never find the man he thinks killed his wife his wallet, which is in his back pocket the whole fucking time, a man uses notes smoke signals and tattoos disappearing ink  while suffering from unaware of his short term memory loss.

It’s A Wonderful Life — An angel out-of-work Angels Stadium groundskeeper prevents a compassionate heartless but despairingly frustrated and sociopathically fraudulent mortgage company executive from seeing what how much better everything would have been if he never existed.

The Man Who Knew Too Much — An American doctor idiot savant vacationing in Morocco accidentally stumbles onto an assassination plot.

The Poseidon Adventure — A group of passengers chefs struggle to survive serve dinner when their ocean liner Gordon Ramsay capsizes berates them at sea Ocean, a new eatery having its soft-open in Culver City with rumors that food writer Jonathon Gold is coming.

Plenty more where those come from, but I’d better quit while I’m behind.

Or make your own Madlib style:

Armageddon: When a giant asteroid [adjective] [noun] the size of  Texas [celebrity’s name; possessive] [thing or things] is discovered headed for Earth [place], hope for survival rests on the success of a misfit [adjective] team of deep-core drillers [specialized group of people or animals] sent to space [place] on a suicide mission [adjective] [noun] to nuke [verb] it.

From GreenLAGirl’s blog I found it, and also found it will be the headlining film of the upcoming Long Beach Bike Festival.

GreenLAGirl writes:

Riding Bikes with the Dutch — the brainchild of Long Beach resident and filmmaker Michael Bauch — highlights not high-speed bike racing or flashy bike maneuvers, but everyday cycling as a convenient, healthy, and eco-friendly mode of transportation.

In addition to films, the festival will feature everything from Fixed Gear contests to a CYCLESTYLE Fashion Show. Bicyclists and the bike-curious will get to race in a Bike Push/Pull event, play bicycle polo, take a 30 mile “see cruise” ride around Long Beach, bid on bike-centric art works created by artists at the Plein Air Bicycle Painting event — and enjoy general festivities and merrymaking with food, music, bike-friendly vendors, and more.

Ooooooh how the times have changed. In the past the major newspapers would expose things like the Pentagon Papers or the occasional Watergate break-in. Now they’re ripping the covers off… our DVD rental habits?

Seriously: in major city by major city, postal code by postal code, the New York Times tells the United States the top films it’s borrowing from Netflix .

Here’s how things break down in the 90026. With three of the top five unseen by Susan and me clearly our viewing tastes differ somewhat from our Netflixing neighbors (films in bold are discs we’ve spun):

  1. Rachel Getting Married
  2. The Wrestler
  3. Burn After Reading
  4. Twilight
  5. Vicki Cristina Barcelona
  6. Milk
  7. I Love You, Man
  8. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
  9. Pineapple Express
  10. Changeling

Without checking out our queue, I’m pretty sure the only film of the four unseen on our list is Rachel Getting Married, but I’d be surprised if its lurking anywhere higher in our Netflix purgatory than, say,  Syriana , Babel or Infamous. If there’s a “Hell No!” option Twilight would get it from me. As to the other two? Meh. If they show up streamable through my PS3 via my Netflix on-demand list I might give ’em a play — like we did the fascinating James Toback documentary about Mike Tyson last night.

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