Thursday, February 28, 2008

Brandon loads up on tomatoes

Brandon Fibbs, our movie critic, just got on Rotten Tomatoes.

I met Brandon at UCCS, where he was a film student of mine when I taught a sci-fi class (that was fun!), and we later hired him at The Gazette as a summer intern.

He went off to NY a few years ago to get his graduate degree in film studies from NYU. He just graduated and moved to D.C., where he joined the critics association.

So, now, I guess, he has the clout to throw tomatoes. Way to go, Brandon.

By the way, he also write reviews for Christianity Today.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

See 'Across the Universe'

Don't listen to our critic, Brandon, on this one.

He kept vacillating between B- and C+, and the more he thought about it, the lower his grade went.

This isn't a movie meant to be thought about. It's meant to be experienced.

I'll admit that you get the sense that there were a behind-the-scenes battle between the writers and the design team and the design team won in a TKO. (I had a similar sense about the newer "Star Wars" trilogy.)

The characters are thin and the story is thinner. But, man, is it a thing of beauty.

The visuals, the singing, the originality ... they were intoxicating.

The little kid singing "Let It Be" sitting in a burned-out-car in the middle of the Detroit riots ... his chorus picked up by an amazing gospel singer at a funeral. I absolutely LOVED that stuff.

So what if the whole doesn't quite equal the sum of its parts. Those parts are so transcendent.

For Beatles fans, especially, the movie is a must.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Oscar reflections

I have to disagree with Dave Germain's assertion in today's Oscar story that winning Best Picture puts the Coen brothers into the center of the mainstream.

Living in LA has given David a skewed view of America. Look at the box office. Most of middle America hasn't seen "No Country for Old Men." In fact, most of middle America hasn't seen any of the Oscar contenders.

The Coen brothers were closer to the mainstream when they made "Fargo."

About my Oscar picks: Damn! Kimball just edged me out.

So, I will be serving popcorn and cleaning his theater some time this week. Probably Friday, I think. Feel free to heckle.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Is Oscar out of touch

OK, who -- besides Brandon, the guy we pay to go to screenings -- saw all the big Oscar nominated films?

Few of you, I'm sure.

This isn't the first year in which the slate of contenders were movies few people have actually seen. But I wonder if the gap between the Oscars and the public is widening.

I long for the days of "Titanic" or "Lord of the Rings" ... when the big blockbuster we all saw and took our kids to see also took the lion's share of statues.

It made us all care more about the Oscars.

So, why is it that we're not seeing these nominated movies? For me, and I'm sure a lot of you, it's about the ratings. It's a heck of a lot easier for me to go to a movie with the kids than sneak off alone or just with my wife. So, I'm more likely to see the "National Treasure" sequel (PG) than "There Will Be Blood" (R).

I blame Hollywood and the way films are sold to studios. If it's sold as a "family film" or an "adventure film," the bar is set high for star power and special effects and low for script and artistry.

The R-rated flicks, on the other hand, are marketed for either exploitation or quality.

That's not to say that there weren't great films this year that weren't rated R. "Juno" was a terrific PG-13 comedy. G-rated "Ratatouille" was funny, clever and visually sumptuous. But those are the exceptions, and although "Juno" is nominated for Best Picture, it'll probably lose to a film that fewer people have actually seen.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

My brother almost killed Roy Scheider

Scheider had been living on borrowed time for the past 20 years.

He nearly died in a fiery car crash in the '80s, compliments of my brother, Arthur Epstein.

Back then, Arthur was a struggling actor/limo driver in Manhattan.

One day, his fare happened to be Scheider. Arthur was thrilled. He'd been a prominent extra in "All that Jazz," (He bumps into Scheider in the hospital hallway.) He was reminiscing with Scheider about how much fun he'd had on the set, when Sheider leaned over, looked at his ID and said, "Arthur?"


"I think you're going the wrong way in a one way street."

Arthur noticed the headlights heading his way and spun into a wild U turn.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Hurray for Hannah!!!!!!!

My sons didn't get it. We went this weekend to see "The Eye" (a mid-level horror flick that was better than I expected ... and really should have been screened for critics), and my boys wondered why we had to wade through a sea of little girls to get to the concession stand.

The reason, of course, was Hannah Montana, who's concert film is dominating the box office. Here's an observation from our Day Desk Editor Carmen Boles:

My 7-year-old daughter and I showed up at the Cinemark at 7 p.m. for the sold-out 8 p.m. show Saturday night. (I had purchased the tickets days earlier online.) At least 100 people – mostly moms and daughters but also some unlucky dads – were already queued up waiting to snag seats, some with blond wigs and almost all wearing HM apparel.

When they gave the signal to go in the theater, everyone ran to get seats. Those at the end of the line had to sit in smaller groups or in single seats throughout the theater – every single seat was occupied. A manager type told everyone to stay seated during the concert. For the most part they did, but there was a lot of clapping and swaying and singing along. People in the audience even whipped out their cell phones and swayed them in the air during the one slow song.

The girls loved Miley/Hannah, but the biggest screams from the audience were for The Jonas Brothers, who toured with Hannah/Miley. You really start to feel old when you’re sitting in a theater full of pre-teen girls going crazy for 3 mop-headed boys in skinny jeans with mediocre voices.

As a parent, it was probably much less painful than attending an actual concert (and WAY cheaper) but I still said no when Natalie asked if we could go again next weekend.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Kimball's seats going fast

Kimball's Twin Peak owner Kimball Bayles just called in to report that they've now "sold" about 40 seats in their quest to upgrade the theaters' seating.

Here's the Gazette story about the sale, if you missed it.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Strange synergy

Has anyone noticed that the plot for the new spiritualist comedy "Over Her Dead Body" sounds exactly like the plot for "Blithe Spirit," the Noel Coward comedy that's playing right now at TheatreWorks?

Just an observation.