Monday, November 23, 2009

"And that's how you came up with the idea for the flux capacitor..."

"...which is what makes time travel possible."

In six years it will be 2015, and while the world's geniuses are (obviously) hard at work on the flying car, the hoverboard, self-lacing Nikes, self-fitting auto-dry jackets, video waiters, Gray's Sports Almanac, thumbprint credit and identification, Jaws 5-18, timed weather, a faster justice system without any lawyers and inundating the general public with an extreme 80's fetish combined with a total lack of aesthetic taste, someone has invented an amazing Back to the Future mod for Crysis and Crysis Wars.

Also, I was monitoring that scan you just interfaced, you are terminated. In the meantime, here's a bunch of other Back to the Future-related video to make you feel better.

But, really. The hoverboard. First in line.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Fourth Kind

I wrote this for but due to a bit of confusion, there were two Fourth Kind pieces, and the other one was already up before they figured it out. Since it's still a perfectly good piece, I figure I'll run it here instead.
In late September, the long-delayed independent horror film Paranormal Activity opened in 12 theaters with a low level of buzz among genre fans. Now, in the final days before Halloween weekend, the film is riding a massive wave of fan-generated hype that's earned the $15,000 film $65.1 million in the US so far and helped it shut out the long-standing Saw series at the box office last weekend. This week, Paramount announced that international releases are currently on the horizon, and extremely tentative plans for a sequel are being kicked around the studio.

However, at Universal, it's not the film's demonic possession plot that's sending chills down people's spines, it's the striking similarities between Activity and their upcoming thriller The Fourth Kind, which opens on November 5th. Both films play with the implication that the events depicted in the movies are either real or based on real events, both dabble in the characters' disbelief before building to some seriously scary phenomena (although Fourth Kind's creeps are aliens rather than demons), and it's possible that both even contain at least a little low-quality digital-camera tripod footage (a few chunks show up in The Fourth Kind's trailer, but it's unclear if it's actually in the movie).

It's also probably déjà vu for writer/director Olatunde Osunsanmi, whose 2005 feature directorial debut WIthIN (aka The Cavern) bears more than a few passing similarities to Neil Marshall's The Descent, which was making a stir in UK theaters just over a month before Osunsanmi's cave horror premiered in Los Angeles. In both cases, his competition was a similarly untested director, leaving Universal with very few marketing hooks to hang their hat on that Paranormal Activity hasn't already laid claim to. "I think The Fourth Kind marketing is top notch and they're selling the movie quite well, [but] now the audience will see right through their gimmick," says Bloody-Disgusting's Brad Miska (aka Mr. Disgusting). "[And] The Box also opens that weekend, which I expect to take a small piece of the cake."

Then again, despite movie star Milla Jovovich in the lead role, The Fourth Kind doesn't look like the kind of epic undertaking that would break Universal or producer Gold Circle's bank; even a flop could probably be counted on to earn $5 million on opening weekend and make the rest back in home video sales and rentals. However, Universal has struggled since the beginning of summer, releasing a string of box-office disappointments that, on paper, probably read like surefire blockbusters, including the Adam Sandler/Judd Apatow collaboration Funny People and the Borat follow-up Bruno. Given that Universal had a pretty good spring (bolstered by the hit reboot Fast & Furious) and started off fall on the right foot (thanks to their stake in Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds), the studio is no doubt hoping for at least an even theatrical return on The Fourth Kind to make their overall 2009 performance sound merely disappointing rather than lackluster.

What that actual magic number is remains a mystery. On IMDb, The Fourth Kind's production budget isn't listed -- perhaps a PR move on Universal's part -- but the film is being heavily advertised on The Discovery Channel between various ghost hunting and alien abduction programs, so it's clear that the studio has already sunk some money into the film. Had they not already pulled the trigger, it might not be a stretch to think Universal would have considered moving the film to January, where the extremely similar White Noise (based on the real-life phenomenon of E.V.P.) did very well back in 2005, racking up $55.8 million against a $10 million budget, and where the studio successfully released the $16 million PG-13 horror The Unborn earlier this year, to tune of $42.6 million.

Meanwhile, the Paranormal Activity hype train rolls on. Ain't It Cool News founder Harry Knowles Twitters a rumor that a 17-year-old girl had a heart attack at an Activity screening in Lowell, Massachussets, while Universal remains trapped between a rock and a hard place, unable to make a move. Even if Paranormal's box office peters out after Halloween, Universal can only hope that audiences are still looking to be scared. Miska is optimistic. "Fans of Paranormal will probably hate Fourth Kind, while Paranormal haters will find what they're looking for in Fourth Kind," he says. "Our readers are even sick of hearing about it. All of the people who have already seen Paranormal are excited for Fourth Kind. I almost think it's helped them. I'm sure Universal is pissed, but I think they should be thanking the Gods of movies."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Back from the dead

It's late, and I'm bored, so I'm making this post just for the hell of it, since I've been bad about updating the blog (although Matt Lingo will be posting some AFI coverage soon). For some reason, the recent DirecTV commercial featuring footage from Tommy Boy and some new material with David Spade has been getting flak for trampling on Chris Farley's legacy. I think the ads are kinda clever; they may be crassly commercial (which is probably what turns people off more than anything), but that's because they are f---ing commercials. Had the spot digitized Farley into shilling the service, then perhaps the complainers would have a case, but personally, I find it more startling to see David Spade's chin looking a shade bloated. Regardless, Spade has said he thought of it as a tribute and it was apparently Farley's family's idea in the first place, so if you hate it, I'm letting you know you're wrong.

For reference, here's all the DirecTV commercials of the same ilk that I could find on YouTube. I bet they could get Danny DeVito to do one of these. And Dan Aykroyd in Ghostbusters. Maybe Carrie Anne-Moss in The Matrix. Sam Jackson in Pulp Fiction. See? It's fun selling out your favorite films.

Aliens (1986)

American Pie (1999)

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)

Back to the Future (1985)


"Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?"

The Dukes of Hazzard (2005)

King Kong (2005)

Misery (1990)

National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)

Poltergeist (1982)

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Tommy Boy (1996)

I mean, really, when all of this was said and done, it made me want to watch Tommy Boy (and Misery, for that matter), even if it didn't make me want DirecTV. In other words, quit whining, because I guess it sort of works.

Note to YouTube users: Apparently something being "banned" makes it more interesting, but 99% of commercials are not "banned". In fact, 99% of most things in the world aren't "banned". Stop making s--t up. I hope you guys get "banned" from YouTube.