I’m beginning a new mission to try and find the best apps available for smartphones and tablets everywhere. While this mission may one week develop into a noble pursuit of finding useful, game-changing applications, or even just innovative time-killers, for this first edition, I can’t help but share my unhealthy fascination with an app that celebrates one of the greatest and most stupid innovations of the internet age.
I speak, of course, about the animated GIF file.
Short for Graphical Interchange Format, the GIF file is another bitmap image format that is easy to use and fairly versatile. But its real potential wasn’t realized until the 90s when people started to animate their GIF files, allowing for them to display a few precious seconds of motion in a repetitive loop. Then suddenly, after one dancing baby became an overnight sensation, the animated GIF established itself as a staple of internet humor.
Now with the free iPhone app Loopcam, you have the ability to create your own animated GIF files to one day slow down the load time of a webpage and lead to potential seizures. It’s an incredibly simple app that streamlines GIF creation into a few-step process. From there, Loopcam gives you the ability to share your creations with the world via e-mail, texts and all of the usual social media outlets. While there are other, similar apps out there, Loopcam’s user friendly nature and range of features make it the standout of the pack.
The GIF is one internet joke that looks to stay, and that’s largely due to the many, creative “shouldn’t be funny but somehow is” ways that people have used the format. Loopcam allows that same user creativity to thrive anywhere you may be, and for that reason stands triumphant as my first app of the week.
When I posted the latest simple-but-awesome video from OK Go to my Facebook page, a friend joked, “No hot tubs? Bitches and hos? Gold chains/teeth? Money being thrown in the air?”
Truth be told, it’s hard to believe that all of those hip hop video cliches still exist. The money they’re throwing? Not real. Hot tub? Only if you want to contract hepatitis. The women? Well, most of them are ho’s, if that one woman’s tell-all book about her life as a video vixen is to be believed. Either way, none of those clips stand apart from the others, and if your video doesn’t stand apart, then odds are your song won’t, either.
OK Go clearly knows this, because they have made a game out of constructing music videos that are easy on the eyes – in that they don’t include a million jump cuts – yet impossibly complex. Their last clip, the Rube Goldberg puzzle “This Too Shall Pass,” set the bar impossibly high, but damned if “End Love” doesn’t rise to the challenge. Using the stop-motion photography that Zbigniew Rybczyński made famous in his clip for the Art of Noise’s “Close (To the Edit),” OK Go shoot a clip that appears to be taking place in real time…really lengthy real time, like 24 hours. And then, just to be cute, they include a couple of super slo-mo shots and at least one shot at normal speed. And check out the goose that follows them everywhere.
Neil Hannon is, for all intents and purposes, my boy. The sublimely literate frontman (only man, really) for ork-pop darlings the Divine Comedy, Hannon has been applying his acerbic wit to instantly memorable pop songs for almost 20 years. They actually sounded like R.E.M. when they first started. That’s just hilarious to me now.
After collaborating with Pugwash’s Thomas Walsh for last year’s Duckworth Lewis Method (my album of 2009 by a country mile), Hannon has donned the DC hat once again, and “At the Indie Disco,” the first single from the Divine Comedy’s new album Bang Goes the Knighthood, is as Hannonesque as they come. Funny bits name-checking bands from Blur to the Wannadies, combined with spot-on observations about the club culture (spending the night staring at each other’s feet while dancing), make for one of Hannon’s funniest songs yet. But will they play it at the indie disco? Let’s hope they have enough of a sense of humor about it to oblige.
All right, let’s get something out of the way up front: we chose “Burn It Down,” the debut single from Under the Influence of Giants spinoff band Awolnation, less for the video – which was made by a fan who admits that the clip itself is “crappy” – and more for the fact that this song kills, a straight-up rock ‘n roll freakout along the lines of Little Richard fronting the Hives. Better yet, the song is available for free download (no email registration required) on our music blog ESDMusic. Spin this at whatever party you’re attending tonight, and watch the place explode. Burn it down, indeed.
The press release came in early November. In it were four words that came together for the first time like a cinematic Reese’s peanut butter cup of awesomeness. We were powerless to resist, not that we would have tried. The four words:
“Hot Tub Time Machine.”
Bar none the best movie title to come down the pike in years (and hot on its heels is the equally awesomely named “Kick-Ass”), and it had us thinking about what we consider to be the all-time best movie titles. But first, we had to set some ground rules. Porno titles were obviously out (too easy), as were movies named after plays, songs, books or lines of poetry (borrowed material). Bonus points were given to titles that were either startlingly direct or looked like unfinished Mad Libs, thus provoking a reaction along the lines of Lisa Simpson when she saw “Yahoo Serious Film Festival” on a marquee (“I know those words, but that sign makes no sense.”) Horror movie titles were so plentiful that they received their own list, though a few choice selections made the regular list. Lastly, we feel compelled to remind everyone that this list was made purely for fun, so legitimately good titles – “Alien,” “Fight Club,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Drag Me to Hell,” “Kill Bill” – were disqualified. Because really, how boring would that list be? Answer: very.
And so, without further delay, here’s our list. Discuss, debate and dissect amongst yourselves.
20. Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus (2009)
Because, you know, a simple battle between a shark and an octopus is on Discovery Channel twice a week. But a mega-shark and a giant octopus, that would be…well, craptacular, actually. And that is why we love the title; It’s eye-catching, but for all the wrong reasons. You want to give it credit for self-awareness – this is, after all, a movie that features a shark taking a plane out of the sky, thousands of feet off the ground – but perhaps that is giving the movie a bit too much credit. Still, there was a point where it was the most viewed trailer on the web, so the filmmakers clearly knew what they were doing when they came up with the title. Or maybe it was the irresistible allure of one Miss Deborah Gibson, one of the two.
19. The Brother From Another Planet (1984)
Using “brother” in this context was relegated solely to the exploitation genre until John Sayles wrote and directed this movie about a mute alien being chased by alien bounty hunters. It may seem harmless now, but it was downright ballsy at the time, even for an independent movie. And we totally have to learn the card trick done by the guy on the subway.
18. The Midnight Meat Train (2008)
Come on, who doesn’t want to ride that? Oh, right: everyone.
The thing is, this tale of a photographer who uncovers a subway serial killer is a pretty damn good movie. (And look at that cast: Bradley Cooper, Leslie Bibb, Roger Bart and Vinnie Jones, to name a few.) But that title was apparently too much for some to handle, to the point where after several release date changes, the movie finally surfaces in the dog days of August, making its first run…in second-run movie theaters. It goes down as another box office miss for Clive Barker, but this is easily the best Barker-related movie since “Candyman.” And you’d be hard pressed to come up with a more descriptive yet grossly unappealing title than that one.
17. Shoot ‘em Up (2007)
Sounds like an unholy straight-to-DVD Steven Seagal schlockfest, yes? (Though the preposition is in the wrong place, since Seagal’s movies usually begin with one.) Yes, and then you see Clive Owen and Paul Giamatti are the leads, and Nigel Tufnel’s line about the fine line between clever and stupid comes to mind. “Shoot ‘em Up” perfectly encapsulates what the movie is all about, while underselling it at the same time. “Leave your expectations at the door,” it says, so we did, and walked out grinning from ear to ear. And did we mention the lactating hooker?
16. Spanking the Monkey (1994) Sexual Euphamism Movie Title #1. Hey, we’re dudes. Even though we like high-brow humor, we’re dudes.
Still, don’t let that title fool you. Yes, there is masturbation going on here, but this isn’t some “American Pie”-type sex comedy. It’s a disturbing black comedy where Jeremy Davies ends up having sex with his mother. Oh, that nutty David O. Russell. Only he could find the humor in incest.
15. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
You’d be hard pressed to come up with a name as pre-packaged with stereotypes as Buffy. Girls named Buffy are rich, spoiled, not terribly bright, and most likely blonde. (It goes without saying that they’re also white.) What they’re not are vampire slayers, thus making a perfect title for a movie about the textbook definition of reluctant hero. While the TV adaptation clearly surpasses the theatrical release, we still have a soft spot for the movie, due in large part to Paul Reubens’ spectacular death scene.
14. Mars Needs Women (1967)
The movie itself may have been a stock footage fiasco – hey, what do you want, it was made for TV for the price of a ham sandwich – and they made a fatal mistake by taking the subject matter seriously, but that title will live forever, making a memorable cameo in the song “Pump the Volume” and inspiring a level to one of our favorite video games, “Zombies Ate My Neighbors.”
13. Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977)
Had they simply named it “Death Bed,” people might mistake the movie for a stirring drama about someone who’s about to meet his maker. But since this movie is about a demonic bed that feeds on human flesh (you read that right), the filmmakers decided to add a little something extra to clear up the air. Not wasting too much thought on the matter, they went with “Death Bed: The Bed That Eats” – “The Bed That Eats” – and boom, a cult legend was born. Credit where credit is due: Patton Oswalt tipped us off to this one. The clips of the movie on YouTube are even funnier than we thought they’d be. Seriously, who plays poker on a bed? Dead people, apparently.
12. Frankenhooker (1990)
Granted, every word is funnier when combined with ‘hooker.’ See, watch: Robohooker. Cyberhooker. Psychohooker. Amish hooker. But nothing trumps “Frankenhooker” on the ‘funny prostitute’ scale. And admit it: you’d risk the itch for a shot at that, wouldn’t you? One woman assembled from several other women to form a, um, dream hooker? (And played by a former Penthouse Pet, no less.) Well, all right, maybe we wouldn’t actually risk the itch…but we’d think about it. Sex with a sex-crazed monster: hey, could be fun. Lord knows there are worse ways to die.
11. Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)
Its title has inspired a metal band and a techno song (Brittany Murphy, R.I.P.), and Quentin Tarantino wants to remake it, though one could argue that he already has with “Death Proof.” But here’s our question: do people love the movie because it features a group of tough-as-nails strippers, or do they love it because it’s called “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!”? Had it been named something else, something tamer, like “Stripper Girls on the Loose,” would it have the same cult status today? We doubt it, which is why this movie, more than any other, shows the importance of a great title.
10. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
By stealing the title from George Romero’s game-changing 1978 horror film, but changing that one word, “Shaun of the Dead” sets the tone perfectly. You know the source material (zombies), and the sense of humor (bone-dry). If you’re still unsure what to expect then, as comedian Jeff Marder once said, pull the plug, because you’re just taking up space.
9. Mother, Jugs & Speed (1976)
One is a black man named Tucker who drinks on the job and harasses nuns for fun. One is a disgraced cop who sold cocaine to school children. And one of them has big tits. We’ll let you figure out who’s who.
This movie about a rag tag group of ambulance drivers and EMT specialists also includes the potential rape of an unconscious college student and a junkie murder-suicide (Toni Basil!) …and it’s a comedy. A comedy called “Mother, Jugs & Speed.” At one point, Bill Cosby (yep, he’s Mother) gets a massage from a woman using a dildo. If you want to know why people are nostalgic for the ’70s, this movie sums it up in one word: swagger.
8. Vampiros Lesbos (1971)
It was so cute that the producers of the 2009 straight-to-DVD movie “Lesbian Vampire Killers” thought they were pushing something edgy . We’re guessing they didn’t know that a German film beat them to the punch by nearly 40 years. Exploring erotic horror at a time when the genre barely existed, this tale of an American lawyer lured to an island for business, only to discover that her client is, yep, a lesbian vampire, has a rabid cult following, as does its psycho-lounge soundtrack, which Quentin Tarantino lifted for use in “Jackie Brown.” There’s just something about the foreign translation of “lesbian vampire” that classes up the joint.
7. Slap Her…She’s French (2002)
Just about every ethnic group has someone representing them when it comes to matters of unfair portrayal in the media, cultural insensitivity, etc. But call someone a frog, and no one bats an eye. Those poor French are still getting kicked around like it’s 1965, and this title sums that up as well as anything. The conversation writes itself: “Did she do anything wrong, or hurtful?” “No, but she’s French, damn it. Do you need another reason to slap her?” Apparently, though, the TV censors did need another reason to slap her, because the movie runs on the tube under the nondescriptive name “She Gets What She Wants.” Blech.
As for the movie itself, yes, the title is the best thing about it, but this tale of a Texas alpha female whose life is turned upside-down by a foreign exchange student has its moments, notably when Starla (Jane McGregor) is dragged away from a confrontation with Genevieve (Piper Perabo), screaming, “I’m going to get you, Kermit! You’re going down!” Heh heh, Kermit. Frog jokes: the slur that will not die.
6. Boss Nigger (1975)
This should be disqualified on a technicality since blacksploitation movies by nature have humorous, ‘fuck you Hollywood’ titles. But “Boss Nigger” makes the cut because it would be lucky to see the light of day in today’s climate as a working title, never mind an official one. (See: “Cop Out,” which was known as “A Couple of Dicks” during production.) Indeed, when the movie was issued on DVD in 2008, it was simply titled “Boss,” and writer/producer/star Fred Williamson is surely having a laugh at the knee-jerk reaction the title elicits today, since that was the point all along.
5. Young People Fucking (2007)
4. Dude, Where’s My Car? (2000)
Talk about a movie casting itself. “It’s called ‘Dude, Where’s My Car?’ Go get Stifler and Kelso. No need to call anyone else.” In retrospect, the movie is like a beta test version of “The Hangover”; the two leads wake up with no memory of the previous night’s events, though the path of destruction they left in their wake soon comes back to haunt them. Only this one has twins…who don’t look remotely alike. The movie was admittedly dumb but not without its charms, and while it didn’t deserve a sequel, we were pushing for one anyway, since the only thing better than a movie called “Dude, Where’s My Car?” is a movie called “Seriously, Dude, Where’s My Car?”
3. Donkey Punch (2008) Sexual Euphamism Movie Title #2 If you’re not familiar with the expression ‘donkey punch’…good for you. That means you’re a testament to clean living, and we could all learn from your example. Now, if you would like to know what it means, go here. But don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Pretty vile, isn’t it? To quote one of our favorite “Futurama” episodes, you’ve seen it, you can’t un-see it.
Truth be told, we still haven’t seen this UK horror import, but the filmmakers get our undying respect for having the nerve to not only write a movie around a fun night of sexcapades gone horribly wrong after a guy kills a girl while executing the move in question, but also naming their movie after it. The title is both perfectly clean and utterly depraved. That’s a pretty impressive trick, by any standard.
2. Snakes on a Plane (2006)
In an industry with an irrational love for vague, meaningless titles like “Edge of Darkness,” “Deception” and “The Happening,” the directness of “Snakes on a Plane” was nothing short of revelatory. It doesn’t get more ‘are you in or out?’ than that, and to think, the producers briefly toyed with the idea of changing the title to “Pacific Flight 121.” What the hell is that movie about? No idea, but “Snakes on a Plane” is about motherfucking snakes on a motherfucking plane, you dig?
Of course, as we all know, the end result did not meet the ridiculously high expectations of the movie’s rabid online following – well, it actually did meet their expectations; it just didn’t meet anyone else’s – and “Snakes,” despite a huge push from Entertainment Weekly and your friends at Bullz-Eye, barely managed to make its money back. The studio will probably say that the title failed them, but our finger is pointed squarely at New Line’s marketing department, who apparently thought the Internet would market the movie on their behalf and did nothing to increase the name recognition. Sorry, guys, but even movies with awesome titles need promotion, too.
1. Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984)
Bow down before your robo-popping, ceiling-dancing overlords, bitches.
Deciding to do a sequel is easy; naming it, not so much. (Ahem, “Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.”) ‘This’ becomes ‘That,’ singular becomes plural, and the words ‘Another,’ ‘Return’ and ‘Next’ are lazily inserted, along with the inevitable Roman numerals. Now look at what the producers of “Breakin’” did after their low-budget dance flick became a left-field hit and there was demand for a sequel: they used a predictable ’2,’ then followed it with “Electric Boogaloo.” Electric, fucking, boogaloo. The result of having balls of steel, or the last-minute inspiration that comes with a suitcase full of cocaine? Doesn’t matter, really; over time, the title has gone from ‘WTF’ laughingstock to holding a permanent place in the pop culture lexicon as the ultimate sequel title in movie history.
Great Titles: Horror Division
This list could literally go on for days, but there were a few that missed the main list that deserved a mention.
I Spit on Your Grave
I Dismember Mama
Chopper Chicks in Zombietown
Sharks in Venice
Werewolves on Wheels
Vampires on Bikini Beach
Remember when there were guys responsible for changing the letters on the marquee outside the theaters? They hated these movies.
The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom (Thankfully, this one was made for HBO.)
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension
Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feeling So Bad
The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!?
The nation may be in the throes of economic peril, but you’d never know it based on the boondoggle trip offers we’ve received lately. Will Harris was invited to drink whiskey in Belfast, and Editor-in-Chief Jamey Codding was invited to Capetown, South Africa (!) to take part in the sequel to “Death Race.” I, meanwhile, had to settle for a weekend in Lake Tahoe with the stars of the movie that I’ve been drooling over since November: “Hot Tub Time Machine.” MGM planned a fantastic weekend for us, all expenses paid. Of course, that didn’t stop one of their guests from complaining by junket’s end, but more on that later.
Long travel day to get there (I was flying in from Columbus). Thank goodness Southwest flies to Reno, so I didn’t have to pay to check my bag (biggest bullshit expense ever). The flights were on time and uneventful, and I finished Matt Beaumont’s new book “e²” before landing. It’s as funny as Beaumont’s other books, though the comedic factor of a couple of the plot threads was questionable, to say the least. Sorry, but I don’t find people stealing anything and everything to cover their gambling debts funny. But that’s just me.
There is a shuttle bus waiting to take us to Tahoe, which is only 35 miles away, but the road to get there is very twisty, so it takes roughly an hour to drive…on a normal day, anyway. Halfway up, a snow storm drops on us with ninja quickness and the conditions become treacherous in a matter of seconds. Not that that stops our driver; dude plowed through it as if the snow wasn’t there. Well, until he slid into a snowbank, anyway. But he quickly got himself out and carried on like we were in “Ronin.”
Eventually, we arrive at the Hyatt Regency in Incline Village. Very nice. It has a heated pool with a swim-in/swim-out feature, so even in the middle of a blizzard, there are a bunch of people in the pool. We check in with the studio, and then we have a few hours to ourselves to poke around the hotel and get situated in our rooms. I took a nap.
MGM secured us a discount rate at a local ski resort, and since I live in Ohio, I’m all about taking advantage of good skiing when I can. As I’m getting fitted for skis, who should walk in returning his gear but Crispin Glover, who plays one-armed bellhop Phil. We talk for a bit about the movie, which he’s proud of (“I like it when people throw up,” he says), and he says he just skied the place I’m hitting tomorrow, and that it’s nice. Sweet.
As I’m poking around the lower level, I run into Craig Robinson, who’s on his way to the gym. Super sweet.
At 7:00, we gathered at the Cutthroat Saloon for drinks and “heavy appetizers,” which is my new favorite expression. I met up with the people on our bus, which consisted mainly of DJs and contest winners. The only other writer was Paul from Screen Rant. This would prove to be a pattern, as I saw very little of the other writers all weekend. With everyone well fed and boozed up, we were bused over to the local movie theater for a screening of the movie, with free popcorn and soda.
Now, I am forbidden from telling you how I felt about the movie until it’s released, and that’s fine; I’d like to see it again before starting my review anyway. But I will tell you this: the crowd went absolutely fucking bonkers. Bar none the loudest crowd I’ve ever heard at a movie theater. The audience just lost themselves in this movie, some to the point where they seemed to forget that they were in a movie theater, and refused to shut the hell up. All around me, yak yak yak yak yak. For a critic, it was unbearable. For the studio, it was heaven. Loud crowds are good crowds.
From there, we go back to the hotel, and I head back to the Cutthroat for a drink. I have only met two writers at this point (the other is Thor from Heavy.com), so for the moment, I’m drinking alone. That doesn’t last long, though, as the couple next to me at the screening – who were taking pictures of themselves during the opening credits of the movie – come in and invite me over for a drink. Turns out they’re contest winners from Kansas City, and their unofficial DJ chaperon, who calls himself Dave O, knows someone I went to high school with. Small world. I spend the rest of the weekend hanging out with these three.
There is free breakfast in the hospitality suite, but it doesn’t start until 8:30, and I have a date with the slopes (as far as I know, I’m the only media person who skied, thus perpetuating the stereotype of writers as non-athletic dorks), so I hit the buffet at the Sierra Cafe instead, for the low, low price of $21. As I’m waiting for the shuttle bus to take us to Diamond Peak, I run into Craig Robinson again, who holds out a fist, which I promptly bump.
Diamond Peak is a small resort. There are only four working lifts (two other lifts remain as decoration) and about 25 runs, but since I’ve only skied three times in my life and four years removed from my last outing, it’s perfect for me. Everyone is really friendly, and the blue runs are all very manageable. Best of all, it’s wide open. There are no lines for the lifts, and wherever you go, you’re basically skiing alone. I got some incredible shots of Lake Tahoe from the top of the mountain. Here’s one of them.
I call it a day after a couple hours and head back to the hotel, shower, and poke around the shops on the other side of the street. Hey, a liquor store! I buy a pint of Jack, which costs as much as a single Jack and Coke at the hotel.
Back to the Cutthroat, where I once again run into Dave O and his contest winners Georgia and Kris. We grab lunch (salad, to counter the heavy appetizers), and I get ready for the roundtable interviews. I’m paired up with three guys I haven’t seen all weekend. Damn. I was hoping to know at least one other person. I sit and chat with the other writers for a bit, and they’re all very nice…but I don’t see any of them for the rest of the weekend. Where the hell were all the writers? Is there some online writer’s club that I need to join? No matter; the DJs and contest winners were more fun, anyway.
Interview #1: Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, and Clark Duke
I haven’t listened to the playback of this one yet, but I’m guessing it’s going to be nothing but laughter, because these guys were just killing it start to finish. Craig even wore a Dunder Mifflin jacket. Clark had just flown in from Austin, where they premiered his movie “Kick-Ass” at South by Southwest, but if he’s jet lagged, you wouldn’t know from his responses. These guys all clearly like each other, and everyone in the room bows down to John Cusack. So far, so good.
Interview #2: Crispin Glover
Before Crispin entered the room, we all admitted that we weren’t sure what to ask him. There are a couple hot-button issues that we wanted to ask about, but we weren’t sure if we should. Eventually he comes in, decked out in a badass double-breasted suit, and eases any concerns we had about filling a 20-minute interview block by answering every question rather thoroughly. Eventually, one of the writers gets up the nerve to ask him about his lawsuit with the producers of “Back to the Future,” at which point Crispin gives us the seven best minutes of the weekend. You can read about that moment in more detail here, while the full interview will go live in a few days. Trust me, you don’t want to miss it.
Interview #3: Lizzy Caplan and Collette Wolfe
Another one we writers were sweating, solely because of the limited résumés of both actresses. Impressive résumés, yes, but small. Still, Lizzy was good with a one-liner (“What do you think two weeks on Poison’s bus would be like?” “Itchy.”), and there was a funny moment where she’s describing a scene she did with Cusack and inadvertently made it sound like he was wearing a dress, prompting yours truly to ask, “But what were you wearing?”
As for Collette Wolfe…I think I’m in love. I mean, look at her, for crying out loud. (She’s the blonde.) She’s gorgeous, but most importantly she’s the sweetest actress I’ve ever met. Confident, but not full of herself. And her wedding ring is the freaking Rock of Gibraltar. (Well played, Jody Hill.) I spend the rest of the weekend pondering the awesomeness of Collette Wolfe.
Interview #4: “Hot Tub Time Machine” director Steve Pink
Oh man, was this one interesting.
Steve Pink is not the biggest guy in the room, but he is a formidable presence. The first thing he does, before he even sits down, is ask us if we like the movie. Then he asks us what we didn’t like about the movie. Mind you, he still hasn’t sat down. When no one says anything, he says, “Let me guess: the movie’s perfect.” Clearly, he can take criticism, and wants an open dialogue. I like that in a director, so I’m honest with him about my feelings about the movie. It proves to be a catalyst for the rest of the interview, and I walk away with tremendous respect for the man. Whether it’s mutual, I’ll never know (I’m betting against it), but it produced some good interview moments nonetheless, and he didn’t recoil in horror when I spoke with him about stuff after the interview was over. Steve Pink: cool guy.
Interview #5: Clark Duke
I requested a solo chat with Clark because he was in “Sex Drive,” which for my money is the funniest movie since “South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut,” and I want interviews with all three leads. (Amanda Crew, you’re next.) Also, he’s in “Kick-Ass,” so he clearly has a thing for awesome movie titles. We spent the majority of the interview talking about music, and Clark positively lays waste to ’90s rock and grunge. “You sound like Mickey Rourke in ‘The Wrestler,’” I tell him. He seems flattered.
Two hours to kill before the big ’80s-themed party, so I head back to my room and upload my interviews to my laptop. (*reaches for Jack*) We are strongly encouraged to dress up, but I’m 41 years old; I already spent ten years dressing like it was the ’80s, so the thrill is a bit lost on me. I plan on bringing my camera to the party, but when it makes my pockets look like I’m wearing clown pants, I leave it in my room, opting for my camera phone instead. Fool. I missed some primo photo opportunities.
The first thing I see is a much fancier “heavy appetizer” spread, and these two promo posters above the pizza. Hell, yes.
One of the members of the house band, ’80s tribute band Aquanett, DJ’s before their set, playing the usual big hits. Everyone’s having fun. The actors appear, and God love Collette Wolfe, she’s decked out in a skin-tight outfit complete with lopsided ponytail. (None of the other actors dress up.) Spandex and lace are the order of the day for the women, and I have to admit, several of them had me flashing back to high school, with one big difference: nearly all of these women, in their attempts to wear revealing ’80s outfits, revealed their tattoos in the process. One girl would totally have had my number in 1985, were it not for the giant tat going from shoulder to shoulder…in the front. Pass.
Aquanett gets up and plays their set. It’s what you’d expect from an ’80s tribute rock band: Priest, Ratt, Guns ‘n Roses Def Leppard, etc. (They also cover “Play That Funky Music,” so the girls will dance.) And they were okay, though the singer took too many breaks in the songs (i.e., he skipped the high notes). And then I hear someone say, “Holy shit, look!”
Craig Robinson’s on stage, wearing a blonde mullet wig.
This is a callback to a scene in the movie, and as you can see, the crowd ate it up. Craig was pretty much the fucking Man all weekend, approachable and having the time of his life. Clark, on the other hand, was a bit withdrawn in the public setting. He had a glass of what looked like bourbon, and when I innocently asked him what it was, he said, “I don’t drink and tell.” Um, okay. (He told me later it was originally Maker’s Mark, then Jack Daniel’s.) He, Lizzy and Steve Pink played blackjack back at the hotel, and I got the vibe that they just wanted to be left alone. Luckily for them, Craig was ready and willing to do the heavy lifting when it came to pleasing the masses.
Finally, I ask an MGM rep: why isn’t John Cusack here? The official word: one of his sisters was getting married. It’s probably a good thing he wasn’t here, because he would have been smothered every second of the day.
Feeling a bit worse for wear, but not miserable, at least not compared to our studio contact, poor thing. We were not officially invited to the hospitality room for breakfast since we were checking out that morning, but I knew they had another day of interviews planned, so I snuck up there to see if they had some yogurt and bananas or something. As it tuned out, they had the exact same spread I spent $21 on the day before. Score.
As I’m waiting for the shuttle to take us back to Reno, I overhear someone at the front desk telling one of the DJs that the per diem the studio provided us expired at 2:30 in the morning, so he will have to pay for that buffet breakfast he just charged to the room. He walks towards us muttering, “This is bullshit.” I wanted to laugh in his face. There is no per diem for the day you’re checking out of a hotel. That’s an understood business rule, or so I thought. And anyway, MGM had just spent TONS of money wining and dining us all weekend. This guy naively thinks he has another $75 in house money to spend, and somehow that’s the studio’s fault? I hope they don’t reimburse him. Maybe that way he’ll know better next time.
The drive back to Reno was quiet, though we eventually start talking about, surprise, movies. Kevin McCarthy, a DJ from Washington DC, talks about his love for “Shutter Island” and the writing of Dennis Lehane, to which I say, “The one whose books all involve dead children? Fuck that guy.” As I give Kevin my card, he says, “Do you have a guy in London?” Turns out he remembered Will from the “Pirate Radio” junket last year. World suddenly becomes even smaller than I thought.
Walking to the airport, Breakfast Bullshit DJ comments about how rough the drive was. I tell him I didn’t notice, then think to myself, Man, what a bitch.
I’m on a flight to Vegas with three other DJs. I trade cards with Krayzie Kat (not her real name), and realize that I didn’t trade contact info with a single writer all weekend, and start to wonder if I have a bias against my own kind. I am a music guy first and foremost, after all.
Eventually, I crawl through my front door around midnight, thoroughly exhausted but also totally wired from the most thrilling weekend I’ve had in, well, years. As a father of two, trips like this don’t come around very often, and unfortunately I had to miss my son’s first rock concert in order to do it. (I originally had plans to take him to see They Might Be Giants that Sunday. Fortunately, my wife was happy to step in.) Hats off to MGM for organizing one incredible weekend, and the movie looks like it’s going to be a big hit. I’m seeing it again next week. Hopefully I’ll be able to actually hear it this time.
In March 2007, Bullz-Eye inducted its first class into the Bullz-Eye Directors Hall of Fame. It’s an unconventional list, to be sure, and that was the idea. With all due respect to Howard Hawks, David Lean, Charlie Chaplin, Cecil B. DeMille, Akira Kurosawa, et al., they will just have to wait their turn.
So what has our illustrious founding class of directors been up to since their induction? As it turns out, they’ve been rather quiet, though one of them finally decided to make his first movie in 12 years, and would you look at that, he’s completely changed the game for a second time. Let’s take a look and our directors’ newest credits. And, in some cases, debits.
Mr. Hitchcock has not been terribly productive lately – for anyone who just snorted that he’s dead, don’t say that; he’s just…unavailable – so his legacy remains unblemished. And thankfully we’re past the point of anyone speaking of one M. Night Shyamalan as the next Hitchcock. Those were dark days, indeed.
Burton’s been pretty quiet since his induction. He unleashed the bloody good musical “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” in late 2007, and produced “9,” the animated film about a group of puppets in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, last year. He does have two tantalizing projects on the horizon, the first of which is the much-anticipated “Alice in Wonderland,” a live action 3D affair that has Burton teaming up with Johnny Depp for the seventh time and boasts one of the creepiest trailers we’ve seen in years (two words: Cheshire cat). Then, in 2011, Burton brings one of his very first creations to life on the big screen. Yep, “Frankenweenie.” And they damn well better not change that title.
As director and/or producer, our resident manchild has racked up some monster hits since his induction…but at a cost. His lone directorial effort is “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” which made $317 million but also coined the term “nuke the fridge,” which some view as the modern-day equivalent of “jump the shark.” He served as executive producer for both of Michael Bay’s “Transformers” movies (insert your own explosion porn joke here), and God help him, he even executive produced “Eagle Eye.” There is hope on the horizon, though, as Spielberg is elbows deep into the production of “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn,” a motion capture adaptation of the Belgian comic book series starring Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, and Nick Frost. After that, Spielberg is scheduled to direct “Interstellar,” a wormhole and gravity-centric film co-written by Christopher Nolan’s brother Jonathan, and he is producing or executive producing eight (!) other projects, including the awesomely titled, Jon Favreau-directed “Cowboys and Aliens.”
He finally got his Oscar. About damn time.
It was actually one of the funniest set-ups in recent Academy Awards memory; the award for Best Director during the 2007 Oscars was given out by Scorsese’s longtime friends Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, and George Lucas, all of whom were looking at Marty as if to say, “Hey buddy, do you think they picked us to hand out this award for a reason?” The theater, of course, went nuts when they read his name, and as he made his long-overdue walk to the podium, it reminded us of when Michael J. Fox received an Emmy for his work on “Family Ties,” and said, “I feel four feet tall!”
Marty has only released one movie since 2006′s “The Departed,” the Rolling Stones concert film “Shine a Light,” but he directed a short Hitchcock tribute called “The Key to Reserva” as well as the pilot episode of the show “Boardwalk Empire,” the story of Atlantic City man about town Nucky Thompson. His upcoming thriller “Shutter Island,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, was originally scheduled for last fall, but was abruptly bumped to spring. Usually that is an ominous sign; we’re hoping that is not the case here, but February is generally more hospitable to horror movies than it is to period-piece thrillers. Good thing “Shutter” has a supernatural element to it as well.
And just this Sunday, Scorsese was just awarded the Cecil B. DeMille Award by the Hollywood Foreign Press at this year’s Golden Globe Awards. Everything’s coming up Marty. As we said before, about damn time.
So there’s this movie, you might have heard about it…
Love him or hate him, James Cameron does nothing by half, and once again, he swings for the fences, and once again he hits one that lands over the fence on the other side of the highway from the ballpark. “Avatar” only needed four weeks to become the second biggest worldwide box office hit of all time. This despite the fact that Cameron released his movie in the face of rampant speculation that he had finally bitten off more than he could chew, and the movie could not possibly live up to the 12-year hype. Whoops.
Is it finally time to give the man the benefit of the doubt? He now owns the #1 and #2 spots on the all-time box office charts – and yes, we readily acknowledge that 3D and IMAX upcharges have played a large role in “Avatar’s” performance – and has done so without pandering or playing it safe. He could use some assistance on writing dialogue, but we’re none of us perfect, and Cameron’s good points as a director far, far outweight his drawbacks as a writer. Let’s just hope he doesn’t take another 12 years to make his next movie.