Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Stand Up Guys (2012)

JohnnyTwoToes doesn't like this mediocre crime comedy and you'll know why

Stand Up Guys is a B grade scripted film but with an A list class of actors that disappeared from theaters as quickly as it appeared. Not surprised at all. What a waste of film this was. 

The film stars Christopher Walken as Doc who picks his friend, Val (Al Pacino) up from prison upon Val's release, and after a few drinks and some food, the question arises from Val, "Enough with the best friend bullshit. Who's gonna do me? Just answer the question, Doc. Is it you?" "Yea, it's me," Doc responds sadly. So they decide to live it up one last night before the deed is done. 

Claphands (Mark Margolis) is a mob boss who lost his son at the hands of Val as the result of an accident, but regardless Claphands wants Val dead. Since Doc owes Claphands a great deal of money, all will be forgiven once Val is given the dirt nap. Hence the conflict. What follows is a series of unfunny incidents and a comedy of errors ensues. The joke, as it turns out, is actually on us. 

Stand Up Guys is supposed to be about honor among thieves but there was nothing really interesting or even challenging about this film. It's directed by Fisher Stevens. Yes THAT same Fisher Stevens from Short Circuit and Hackers fame. He is a decent actor and might even be a decent director, however this is not that film. 

Stand Up Guys suffers from one cliche after another and the film sputters along on autopilot. These guys are past their prime (in the film) and so when Val gets out of prison the first place he wants to go is the local whorehouse and get some. The joke of this scene is he can't seem to get the blood flowing; lead in his pencil so to speak, so he takes some pills and REALLY gets going to the point he has to be taken to the hospital. I guess that was supposed to the punch line of that joke. 

It was not funny as is most of the film is not funny, instead there is scene after scene of recycled elements of far better films. David Mamet's Things Change with Don Ameche and Joe Mantegna from 1988 comes to mind as a great little film with a similar plot. Don Ameche played an innocent old gentleman who was asked to take the fall for a crime which he did not commit. The payoff was he would have a final weekend of doing whatever he wanted with the Mobs's money and live it up. Joe Mantegna was the enforcer who tags along to make sure Ameche has fun but shows up for prison when he is supposed to. That film was well written and the characters seemed like real people that we could know in our own lives. It was a sweet, sentimental and clever film. Stand Up Guys is sadly none of that. 

Noah Haidle's script is a mess with the guys parading around town making fools of themselves in one plot device after another that we seen all before. They throw in Hirsch (Alan Arkin) whom the guys bust out of an assisted living facility and what do they do? Steal a car! Wow how many times have we seen that done before? Oh and they drive really fast, too! Since Hirsch is only in the film a few scenes, his character is pretty much a throwaway.

You know you are in trouble when you start noticing how attractive the waitress is that waits on Val and Doc. There is a dancing scene that seems to have been lifted from another Al Pacino film (a much better film) Scent Of A Woman. Val tries to come on to a woman and at first, she throws a drink in his face for being a crude ass but then he is polite and they dance wonderfully together. In fact, the car stealing scene is also lifted from the same Al Pacino film. Julianna Margolis is thrown in for good measure as Hirsch's (Arkin) daughter who happens to work at the hospital that takes care of Val's erection problems. Nothing special about her character, either. The final scene where the guys try to settle up with Claphands is another shootout that is just plain tired. 

How many times do we have to sit though the same cliches? Can Hollywood not come up with anything fresh and inventive? Where is it written that when you get a little older limp penis jokes, gratuitous foul language and stale characters is suddenly funny? or when you get older you lose personality and are about as interesting as lint? About the only good element that works is the music. The score, by Lyle Workman is a good one, but the songs are fun and provide some much needed flair for this film. Jon Bon Jovi was asked to compose a couple of songs for this film and they are decent songs with "Not Running Anymore" getting nominated for Best Original Song at the 70th Golden Globe Awards. 

I never thought I would complain so much about a film that has Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin but frustratingly this film is lame, not funny or even remotely fresh. There is nothing 'stand up' about these guys. Stand Up Guys-* 1/2

Friday, July 26, 2013

Lovelace (2013) - Official Trailer is Here!

The Original Trailer - sponsored by Lionsgate

In 1972 - before the internet, before the porn explosion - Deep Throat (1972) was a notorious social phenomenon: the first scripted pornographic theatrical feature film, featuring a story, some jokes, and an unknown and unlikely star, Linda Lovelace (real name Linda Boreman).

Escaping a strict religious family, Linda discovered freedom and the high-life when she fell for and married charismatic hustler Chuck Traynor. As Linda Lovelace she became an international sensation - less centerfold fantasy than a charming girl-next-door with an impressive capacity for fellatio. Fully inhabiting her new identity, Linda became an enthusiastic spokesperson for sexual freedom and uninhibited hedonism of those days. Six years later she presented another, utterly contradictory, narrative to the world - and herself as the survivor of a far darker story. 

Lovelace is that autobiographical dark story directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman based on a script written by Andy BellinStarring Amanda Seyfried in the title role of Linda Boreman, it also features a stellar cast including Peter Sarsgaard, Sharon Stone, Adam Brody and Juno Temple in important roles besides significant cameos by James Franco, Eric Roberts, Hank Azaria, Robert Patrick, Chloe Sevigny, Wes Bentley and Chris Noth.

Lovelace originally premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and is releasing worldwide shortly! Here's the original trailer exclusively for all Websnacker Blog readers sponsored by Lionsgate!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fat is Beautiful!

Fat Acceptance or Fat Liberation ?

When I decided to do fat liberation stuff for a mag it was mainly because there is so little out there for a "fat" person especially a "fat" woman. This is a very small attempt to fill a void that’s in the consciousness of most people, regardless of size, but especially of other fat people.

I see fat people divided from each other because they’re only allowed to accept parts of themselves, rather than the whole. Hell, they’re not even allowed most of the time to identify as “fat” unless they’re apologizing for it. Think about it, when was the last time you heard someone say “I’m fat” without it being followed by a tirade on how awful they thought their body was, how they were going to go on a diet to ‘fix’ that, or how it was an excuse for that laziness or gluttony that all fat people are supposed to be part of.

When was the last time you heard “fat” said, where it was devoid of a negative judgment, let alone a positive thing? I’d wager a guess that it’s been a while. You can’t even say “I’m fat” in a matter-of-fact sense, without people jumping in to defend you against your own description - “You’re not fat, you’re chubby/ pleasingly plump/ fluffy/etc.” the word fat has such deeply ingrained negative connotations that you can’t even describe your body without someone interpreting it as an insult. I find that insulting. That people buy into this belief that fat is the worst thing you could possibly be, and therefore, fat people can’t even acknowledge their size.

We can bring up anything about ourselves except our bodies... those we’re only allowed to talk about if we’re being self-deprecating. And it’s not like it’s something that no one notices even if you keep your mouth shut about it, it’s still there -- everyone still knows -- but it’s such a dirty word that fat people aren’t allowed to talk honestly about their bodies. That’s wrong.

It sucks to be so alienated from one’s own body, and to be divided from one’s physical self. I don’t ever want to hear a fat person apologize for not living up to “perfection.” And you don't have to put up with that shit anymore! I defy a single person on earth to tell me who has a ‘perfect body’ and what makes that body better than yours, or better than the fat girl who thinks the most surefire way to change her life for the better is to lose weight.

Biologically, thinness is certainly not considered anywhere near the perfect body. For bodies to function at peak performance, they have to have -- by today’s standards -- relatively high levels of body fat. And for most of the earth’s history, voluptuous and fat women were sought after as examples of great beauty and prosperity. If a woman was well-fed, it meant she was healthy and did well for herself. Fat was (is) beautiful! Where did we lose that?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Best Hits of 1977

Nostalgic Radio-Friendly Hit Songs from 1977

1977 was a notable year in Musicdom. It was in February this year that the rock foursome comprising of Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner known as the Eagles released their momentous Grammy winning single "Hotel California", the title song from their hit album of the same name! 

It was also the same year, when Donna Summer sang the super hit track "I Feel Love" considered by Rolling Stone mag as one of 'The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time' , Paul McCartney's band Wings became popular with the Christmas oriented international best seller "Mull of Kintyre" and Boney M, the Euro disco band gave the world "Ma Baker".

1977 also produced more such awesome gems but did not achieve the super popularity they also deserved! I could go and on and write an entire 'Top 100 songs from 1977' for you. Instead, I give you the 'Websnacker fav Top 8 Songs from 1977' including tracks from the Floridian disco group KC and the Sunshine Band, the funk-soul band Commodores,  the pop rock duo of Daryl Hall and John Oates and more!

1. Shake Your Booty - KC and The Sunshine Band 
2. Easy - Commodores 
3. Year of the Cat - Al Stewart 
4. It's So Easy - Linda Ronstadt 
5. Couldn't Get It Right - Climax Blues Band 
6. Rich Girl - Hall & Oates 
7. Shannon - Henry Gross 
8. All by Myself - Eric Carmen

Click HERE to hear these great songs on 8tracks or just click the artwork below!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Score of the Month - Phantom (2013) by Jeff Rona

An exciting Monthly New Feature for Soundtrack fans by JohnnyTwoToes 

Jeff Rona's score for Phantom (2013) is my choice for the 'Score Of the Month', a new monthly feature from me for the readers of the Websnacker Blog, especially music and soundtrack fans. 

Jeff Rona has scored and collaborated for countless films and television shows including movies like Mothman Prophecies, The Quiet, Whisper, Slow Burn, Exit Wounds, White Squall, etc and TV projects like Profiler, Persons Unknown, The Ropes, Traffic, Sleepwalkers, Chicago Hope and Homicide:Life On The Street which catapulted him in the big league. He has worked with big name film makers  likes Robert Altman, Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Steven Soderbergh, Wong Kar-wai and many more.

Of all the many contributions, his score for Phantom is one of his best for either medium. A electronic score presented in a dreamlike reverie, it comes out mostly as an ambient score (with tinges of melancholy and emotions) but with the right amount of tone and structure to punctuate the action and struggle for power as required by the claustrophobic submarine setting of this underwater movie directed by Todd Robinson  and starring Ed Harris, David Duchovny and William Fichtner.

Apparently, Rona and an assistant actually went on location to the set used in Phantom to record sounds of the sub and the little pings and pongs as they gently hit just about every part of the sub with sticks to record the sounds made. Rona then went back to his studio and digitally integrated the sounds of the sub into the music for the score and it works beautifully. 

Mixed in with the natural sounds of the sub are the ethnic instruments of the country of Russia and it is quite moving. My favorite track on the album which pulled me into the world of the deep ocean and the sub in it is actually the very first track, The Early Dawn as the k-129 sets sail on its ill fated voyage. It is a mesmerizing theme and sets the tone for the rest of the album with other favs like Welcome Aboard and My Father. A title theme called 'On Ocean Away' sung by Rachel Fannan seems fitting for the film and is a lovely theme in itself. Unlike the high-energy scores of films of a similar genre, Phantom seems like a surreal film and the score is fittingly surreal as well. 

The full score has a whooping 27 tracks and was co-produced by Jeff Rona and Nathan Rightnour.  It is available on the Milan Records label on CD or MP3 download formats. And at over 66 minutes, its a very good an hour and more of first class music to just plug, play and enjoy. 

Phantom Soundtrack (Score) Album track list:

1. The Early Dawn 
2. This Is Not a Drill 
3. Can We Be Redeemed For the Things We’ve Done? 
4. Time for Farewells 
5. We All Go on the Same Way on a Boat 
6. Welcome Aboard 
7. We Sail at Dawn 
8. True Zealots 
9. Twenty Ton Screws 
10. These Government Drugs Are Shit 
11. Like a Thousand Snowflakes 
12. Engage the Phantom 
13. Only Two Reasons 
14. My Father 
15. You Should Be Flattered 
16. Sending a Signal 
17. Go Below 
18. They Already Have the Codes 
19. If They So Much as Blink 
20. Torpedoes in the Water 
21. This Is Your Captain 
22. Arming the Warhead 
23. We’re On the Bottom 
24. Give Her a Message 
25. To Stay Here With You 
26. I Wish He Knew 
27. An Ocean Away (Feat. Rachel Fannon) - Carmen Rizzo Mix

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Phantom (2013)

JohnnyTwoToes recommends this first rate Submarine thriller!

The film Phantom (2013) tells the little known story about the Russian submarine, the k-129 that sank under mysterious circumstances in 1968. The film came and went pretty fast at the box office and was considered a flop since it cost about 18 million to make and made only a little above one million in box office receipts. 

I say little known because I had a helluva time finding any information about this story. Since most of it is still under wraps by both Russia and the United States governments I was lucky to read anything at all. What I did find was that this is an incident that could have very well started World War III between China and the United States without involving the culprit of Russia. 

Long story short - a antiquated Russian sub sets out for, what is supposed to be its final voyage before being mothballed to the Chinese. The captain is Demi (Ed Harris), a hard drinking but very efficient submariner who is ready to retire and he and his crew are just coming off of a 3 month tour, only to be sent back out. Demi does it reluctantly but has some slight suspicions that something is not right. This is still Communist Russia, so he keeps his concerns to himself and agrees. 

The mission is to test some "new technologies and maneuvers", but not much else is given. While readying his boat, Demi is introduced to a group of KGB officers led by Bruni (David Duchovny). "We will try not get in your way," Bruni smiles. "Good luck with that," responds an unimpressed first mate, Alex (William Fichtner). 

As the mission continues, it is clear that the KGB have other plans for this submarine and it is a wide spread conspiracy from the rogue elements of the Communist party. What was the objective? 

As the DVD extras explain, the Russians were going to simulate a Chinese submarine's movements to instigate an exchange of Nuclear weapons between China and the United States and leave Russia the last man standing for global domination. Not everyone on the k-129 was willing to go along with that, thus a "Crimson Tide" battle ensues on the ill-fated sub. 

(Phantom refers to the technology that was being tested by the k-129 that simulates the propeller and wake movements of American subs so the American subs would never hear an opposing subs movements). 

Phantom was written and directed by Todd Robinson in his first attempt as writer and director. So far he has done mostly documentaries with the exception of Peter Weir's classic White Squall and the less than impressive Lonely Hearts with John Travolta and James Gandolfini. 

Here, Robinson does a fine job, though of creating characters that are intelligent and complex. Demi's father was a legendary submariner and Demi has tried long and hard to create his own legacy as a fine captain and submariner which he has done, until Bruni starts to reveal a less than stellar career by Demi. This is something Demi has suffered long and hard with the demons in his closet and has turned to drink and pills, but has always been able to maintain control of his boat and his men. Harris plays Demi with a certain sadness but also with a tough streak that is interesting and with the right amount of power as only Harris can do. He is a fine actor. 

It was fun to see Duchovny play Bruni, a soul less ghoul with a sneer that will make you hiss whenever he is on screen. William Fichtner is great as Alex, Demi's First Mate. He is a loyal, smart and very well qualified man that will get his own sub when they return to port. He is the kind of friend you want backing you up in a tough situation. Jonathan Schaech is good, too as a sniveling communist part official, pretty standard on any Russian subs during the Communist rule. Rounding out the great cast is Jason Beghe as the ship's doctor who is good friends with Demi and knows all about Demi's ghosts but says nothing and supports him, nevertheless. 

Robinson's script presents a compelling story and his direction is solid and is paced well. There are a few action scenes, but the real selling point, for me was the dialogue between the characters. It is well written and extremely well acted, and although the cast speaks perfect English it is clear that they are Russians so speaking English did not bother me. Ed Harris spoke perfect English in Enemy At The Gates, as a deadly Nazi Sniper. In fact, the whole cast of that film spoke English and it did not bother me. 

Phantom is a first rate thriller, well crafted, written, directed, scored and acted about a battle for power and survival in the last place on earth there should; a sub with a nuclear warhead. Phantom may have bee  a modestly budgeted film that came and went but deserves a second look

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)

Not your usual movie review

The 70s Horror Suspense Thriller Hyperdrama directed by the late Irvin Kershner, (the guy who also directed Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Never Say Never Again and Robocop 2)

Starring the premier and overfamous Hyper-dramatic (yeah) Actress of the 1970s - FAYE DUNAWAY "I'm (SIGH!) alright." MURDER, SUSPENSE and A 70s SOUNDTRACK FROM AN ACTUAL 70s MOVIE! RETRO-WOW! 

See perverted Raul Julia leaping on women, Tommy Lee Jones say: "I LOVE you. I LOVE you."too funny to be sexy but good try, Tommy! 

Retro Commercials in inopportune spots, "Plop Plop Fiz Fiz..." 

An over-long, misleading plot trail 70s style! "Gee, he's not the killer after all. No wonder the movie didn't end 15 minutes ago!" (can't believe John Carpenter wrote this)

And a bad case of shamelessly letting your girlfriend, Barbra Streisand, sing the tortured and irrelevant theme song. "WHAAAAAAAAT is it about You" You go, Jon Peters (the producer)! 

(I saw more violence from Bette Davis in Agatha Christie's Murder On The Nile) but please still watch it - its considered the first Hollywood (American) movie to try the Giallo genre and was also a big box office hit!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Xena - Warrior Princess Reboot ?

Return of the sexy warrior

I know this is probably a hoax but watching Lucy Lawless as XENA again would be kick ass .   However, lets take this honestly - the 1968 born Lucy (seen last in Spartacus  CSI - Miami and Battlestar Galactica) is well past her prime for a reboot if ever there was one.

For those with poor memories, Xena: Warrior Princess was a successful sword and sorcery fantasy TV series of incredible popularity around the world in the mid 90s to early 2000s. Xena's character would change from sweet innocent girl, to ruthless conquerors of kingdoms and finally to warrior princess who defends the helpless and fights for justice on the side of the greater Good. 

Although the character was fairy-tale-like and very sexualized in her outfits and movements, many felt it was still important for girls to grow up with female role models like Xena because although she is a warrior princess, her power does not lie only in her weapons, but also in her heart and her mind. 

For them,  Xena embodies male and female principle in a well balanced form that makes her a perfect role mode so every victory in battle becomes an another victory against her inner "darker side" whatever..go watch, its old-style swordfest sexy fun!

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