So it turns out the first few days after bringing a baby home are pretty stressful – and that’s not even counting the hours it took to get him out of the meteor-like interplanetary vessel we found him in. There’s been a lot of general craziness, and plenty of instances where the “yeah, I’m gonna go blog, k?” line would have been even more lacking in tact than usual. Luckily, Aiden is proving to be a champion sleeper – like Steven Seagal in Hard to Kill in a coma for seven years kind of sleeper – so the death of this blog has been mostly exaggerated. And in this eye of the storm between feedings, allow me to touch on a few issues from the past couple weeks:
Juno – Let me get this asshole child of the 80s gripe out first: “Thundercats are go!”?? Are you kidding me? Sorry Ms. Cody, Liono never said that. His catchphrase was “Thundercats HOOOOO!!” and it was extremely effective. Were you thinking of “Thunderbirds are go!”? Or was that misstep intentional, to show that Juno isn’t quite as clever as she’d like to be, gleaming most of her 70s and 80s cultural tidbits from VH1 marathons? Seeing Juno next to my 9-months pregnant wife gave me a little different perspective than most, and while I wasn’t too annoyed by the overly witty dialogue and snark, what really bothered me was how the movie treated Michael Cera’s Bleeker character. Juno goes to great lengths in the beginning to set up a grand announcement about his pending fatherhood, but what happens to him after that scene? I know that if I was an expectant father at 16 (with the mother being one of my best friends), I would need a lot more than Tic Tacs to deal with it. Director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody unfairly keeps him in the background for most of the movie, with only occasional appearances so he can set up more of Juno’s would-be dramatic punches. We see how Juno’s parents react to the matter, what about Bleeker’s mom? Is Bleeker interested in who will be raising his child? I enjoyed the sweet ending, but it was impossible for me to invest much emotion in the movie after how little Bleeker figured into the story.
The Bava Box, Vol. 2 – As someone with very little experience with Mario Bava’s works, I was excited to get this for Christmas. What a fantastic set, with eight of the director’s movies ranging from his trademark horror titles (Bay of Blood, Lisa and the Devil) to his work in other genres such as comedy (Four Times That Night) and even Western (Roy Colt and Winchester Jack), with extras including commentary tracks by noted Bava buff Tim Lucas and excellent anamorphic transfers. I’ve only watched a few of the movies so far, but I know it won’t be long before I make my way through all of them. Lisa and the Devil is a wonderful atmospheric chill fest, with strange occurrences that stem from Elke Summer’s encounter with an ancient painting of the devil and a stranger (Telly Savalas) who eerily resembles the figure. Even the supposed clunker of the bunch, Five Dolls for an August Moon, has enough beautiful skin and bizarre images to keep it entertaining. I still can’t believe I passed up buying the first volume when it was on sale at Amazon for $20, but this set will force me to track it down no matter the price.
Cloverfield – I can’t wait to see J.J. Abrams’ upcoming monster flick, but there’s something about the movie that still disappoints me: the title. It just doesn’t seem right, not on the previews, not on the posters, and not coming out of my mouth when I’m expecting to say the name of the best monster movie of 2008. I’m sure the name refers to some plot point, but did they have to get that cute with it? Why Cloverfield (which sounds like a neighboring community of Star’s Hollow), when Everybody Panic! or Squashed would have worked? I love the movie’s Blair Witch-like storytelling concept, and the viral marketing is perfect, so why not go all the way and give it a real monster movie title?
Blu-Ray – I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed by the news of Warner Bros. supporting Blu-Ray exclusively over HD-DVD. The news had been expected for quite some time, and Sony’s heightened Blu-Ray marketing blitz had pretty much buried HD-DVD leading up to Christmas, but it’s still a little sad that the format I chose to back is headed for the cemetery. Even though I never bit the bullet and upgraded to an HD format, I really felt strongly about HD-DVD, and I still do -- it's a great format that's easier and cheaper to manufacture than Blu-Ray. What this means for consumers (besides making the format decision easier), is that we'll see less and less of those 10 FREE BLU-RAY MOVIES! deals that pop up every now and then with the sale of a player. And if you're going to upgrade, please wait for one of those sales, BestBuy lets you pick any five Blu-Ray discs at the store under $34.99, that's an amazing deal.
Universal HD -- now worse than ever! As someone without a dish, I rely heavily on my cable provider's pitiful high definition offerings. Universal HD seemed promising at first, allowing me to watch The Pianist and even The Legend of Billie Jean in glorious HD. But it soon occurred to me that programming like that was the exception, as the channel (despite apparently having access to Universal's full catalog of films) is content to show movies like Twin Town, Heartbeeps, Radio Flyer and I.Q. multiple times a month -- and that's still in between repeat showings of 2-year-old skateboard competitions. Now it even gets worse: while taking up the channel on a viewing of the Don Johnson-John Frankenheimer oddity Dead-Bang, I found out that the mediocre movies are now filled with commercials! Seriously, why can't this be a great channel? Does Universal/NBC purposefully restrict its catalog choices to the very back pages?
Friday Screen Test -- We're still counting down to a Jan. 18 launchdate for the 2008 Friday Screen Test season, and I'm very excited about the participants lined up for the first two months. But there's still slots available -- if you're interested, email me and we'll take it from there.
Site upgrade -- The second best arrival over Christmas was a computer capable of glorious screengrabs, so if I want to ... say, post my favorite unintentionally homoerotic scene in film history (from Planet of the Apes), there's nothing to stop me:
Expect to see many more enlightening screengrabs like these in the future, and a few more custom logos too.