Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hofstra Factor

In this video, Hofstra University alumni Kirsten Scoles and Ritchie Filippi talk about the high amount of Hofstra graduates on set.

video

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cheryl, Blue Screen, Revenge

Here, Cheryl Texiera describes the blue screen going up behind her for a very important moment in our new webseries - "My Future Girlfriend."


video

Because I surprised Cheryl with a very close FlipCam video, she decided she would exact revenge by turning the camera on me. She taught me a very important lesson in FlipCam manners that day...

video

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Return!

Day 2 has begun and look who's back on a Ragtag set...

video

Saturday, December 12, 2009

shooting day 1!

All I can say is - Incredible first day - Thanks to the hard work and dedication of a dozen cast and crew. They will all be named shortly. But let's start with breakfast.

Brian, Patrick and I went out last night to pick up breakfast and snacks for everyone, as our call time was 7AM. Since this is only our first shoot, and we're still New Yorkers at heart, we figured we'd stick with tradition and pick up bagels and cream cheese. What did we find out?

Finding bagels in Los Angeles is like finding the Covenant of the Ark.

We started at Ralph's, the classiest supermarket in town, and walked straight to their bakery. Lined up on a table were an army of pre-packaged bags of bagels. The problem? They were hard as hockey pucks. Not wanting to damage the teeth of our actors, we decided to move on. So, we drove to nearby Yum Yum Donuts. It was around 10:30 PM at this point. We approached the man at the counter and asked, "Can we have a dozen and a half bagels?" He said, "Sure!" Then he looked two feet to his left and said, "Oh, we don't have bagels." We asked, "When will you have bagels?" He said, "Oh, in the morning." We asked, "You'll have bagels in the morning?" He said, "Yes. Everything." We asked, "So we can come here at 6AM and get bagels?" He said, "Oh no. Not 6AM." This 'Who's on First?' conversation went on for about five minutes. Finally, we settled on playing our chances in the morning. At 6:30AM, I drove to Yum Yum, walked in and said, "Can I have a dozen and a half bagels?" The new person behind the counter asked, "Oh, you ordered already, right?" I said, "Yes." And walked out with a box of bagels. Mission accomplished, even if I sort of maybe stole someone else's order.

But this wasn't the only touch of New York in our morning. See, for the first time in months, it rained heavily in Los Angeles. While we're lucky we didn't schedule exteriors, it couldn't help but feel like a good New York-y omen.

Actors and crew arrived at 7AM, and around 8:30AM we set up our first shot. Brian and I watched on the monitor, while Angel shot this behind-the-scenes video with this HD flipcam, an early Christmas present from my brother. Thank you George! Enjoy the following video...


video


We had a full crew on this one and some toys we've never really utilized before. Since "My Future Girlfriend" is a very cinematic webseries, inspired by movies like "The Terminator" and "Back to the Future," we all wanted to step up our game. Enter Jeff Billings, legendary young cinematographer from our college, who is bringing that feel in spades.

While our apartment is now much bigger than the "We Need Girlfriends" apartment, we still were occasionally crammed in tight spaces when shooting, due to a larger crew and more equipment. Take, for example, where Brian had to sit to watch the monitor...

video


Shooting progressed nicely throughout the day. Brian did a fantastic job directing. And later on during the day, we had a special guest. Tom Holland, director of "Child's Play," "Thinner," and, one of my favorite movies of all time, "Fright Night." He came with our pal Rob G, hung out, watched a couple of scenes and threw some words of encouragement our way. Great to have him on set.

video

Everything seemed to moving along without a hitch! Until, something ALMOST went wrong. From a distance, we all watched in horror as one of the big, heavy lights was headed straight for the head of our old pal Ritchie Filippi, assistant director, and a staple of Ragtag Productions' past shoots. As the heavy light rapidly descended towards his head, we saw a hand leap out and grab the stand, as it was mere centimeters from Ritchie's head.

That hand?

Belonged to Matt Hall - boom mic operator and younger brother of our old friend Chris Hall. Here is video of the aftermath.

video

Thank you Matt!

All in all, an incredible day. Big thanks to the actors - Evan Gaustad, Cheryl Texiera and Kirsten Scoles. Big thanks to the crew, cinematographer Jeff Billings, Ritchie Filippi, Chris Hall, Matt Hall, Jason Krangel, Mike Barnwell, Natascha Jones, Angel Acevedo - and - of course - fellow producers Brian Amyot and Patrick Cohen. Well done all!

Back to the grind tomorrow morning at 7AM! Expect more posts.

it has begun...



Stay tuned tonight for photos, videos and stories!

"You're like Jon Favreau!" - Chris Hall

Monday, December 7, 2009

Vintage Ragtag

While trolling the internet today, I came upon this little behind-the-scenes promo reel from about 2005 that gives a nice peek into the early days of Ragtag, pre-"We Need Girlfriends." It's produced by our friend J Hanna, and gives you a real look into not only our process, but how Brian and I have changed our looks through the years. Fun stuff!

The Prep Work Begins...

We start shooting "My Future Girlfriend" this Saturday, December 12th, and have been having a bunch of pre-production meetings building up to the big first day. Last night, Patrick and I worked on a prop that may or may not be a big deal in the "My Future Girlfriend" universe...



What does it all mean?

Stay tuned for more posts as we start shooting...

Monday, November 23, 2009

the table read!

Yesterday, Brian, Patrick and I gathered all of the actors together for a table read in our humble abode in North Hollywood. It went swimmingly. This is the first time we've all heard the script read aloud and I must say, it sounded great. We're all getting really, really excited about this thing. We absolutely love the actors we're working with, they're funny, they're nice, they're dedicated and they made every little moment come alive, even just sitting on the couches in our apartment.

After that, Jeff Billings, our director of photography, came over and had a nice, long meeting with Brian discussing the look of this new series. We're really upping our game on this one and are giving it a much more cinematic feel than the low budget, down and dirty, independent style we used on "We Need Girlfriends."

It's all moving along nicely as we head towards the first weekend of filming. The updates will continue! Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"MY FUTURE GIRLFRIEND" ANNOUNCEMENT

Ragtag Productions is proud to announce they have begun production on their latest webseries “MY FUTURE GIRLFRIEND." This five-part mini-movie is described as a “romantic comedy Terminator" and marks the team's first foray into sci-fi comedy. It follows Clark, a schlubby underachiever, who is visited by Kelly, his girlfriend from five years in the future who tells him that due to a rift in the timeline, she must help him fall in love with the present day version of herself.

Ragtag's first webseries, "We Need Girlfriends," gained over one million visitors a month to its official site. It was written about in the New York Times, Huffington Post, Slate, USA Today, Yahoo News, The Guardian Unlimited and numerous other publications, before it was sold to Sony Pictures and CBS as a half-hour pilot script, which is currently in development.

"My Future Girlfriend" will be directed by Brian Amyot based on a script by Steven Tsapelas. It will be produced by Amyot, Tsapelas and Patrick Cohen.


The show will star Evan Gaustad as CLARK, one-half of the lead couple. Gaustad is coming off of the webseries “Vicarious.”




It will also star Cheryl Texiera as KELLY…




Former “We Need Girlfriends” star Brigitte Hagerman as the mysterious LISA…





Kirsten Scoles as one of Clark’s best friends, the tough, tomboy CHRISTINA…




And another “We Need Girlfriends” alum, Patrick Cohen as Clark’s other best friend, the loud, obnoxious ALAN…





The series will start shooting in December and is aiming for a spring release.

Stay tuned to this blog for more information as we get further into the process!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

all quiet... or is it?

Things have slowing down steadily on this blog, I know. However, I can assure you, they're about to pick up soon. We're working on something brand, spanking new and can't wait to start talking about it and posting about it. I'll say the following three words to describe it...

Ragtag Does Sci-Fi.

Sci-Fi is one word, right? I mean it's a shortened version of science fiction... I'm going to stick with my "three words" description.

In the meantime, things are slowly creeping forward with the CBS pilot version of "We Need Girlfriends" as we hit the two year anniversary of the day we sold it. I know, I know, it's been awhile. But this is the typical TV development process. I can't say any of us like it. But we deal.

Also, things have changed in our new North Hollywood digs as well. A couple of weeks back, Angel moved out and into his own pad in Sherman Oaks, taking well over five-hundred DVDs with him. Our collection is looking fairly anemic these days. But, our new roommate, none other than Patrick's brother Jeff, is bringing some DVDs with him so perhaps that can bulk things up again.

Like I said, we're gearing up for something here and I can't wait to start blabbering about it.

Until then, watch "The Terminator."

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

beer quest!

Our friends Kieran Valla and Jon LaPearl are producing a new webseries out of New York and it is hosted by none other than our old pal Steve LaChioma (You might know him best as "Dennis" in "We Need Girlfriends").

We at Ragtag absolutely love this promo and are so proud of our friends for making it. Check out the promo here. And stay tuned for "Beer Quest"!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Nintendo Party!

Last week, the Ragtag Gang went to a Nintendo Party hosted by our old Hofstra pal Greg Bellavia, wherein everyone had to dress up like a famous video game character. Here we all are. Extra points to everyone that can name who we are...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

house of sudz gone

It has come to my attention (thanks to Evan "Rod" Bass) that the House of Sudz laundromat in Astoria, home of the first ever meeting between Tom and Lucy in the "We Need Girlfriends" web pilot, and seen here in this screen grab....




...has closed down. See...





Thank you House of Sudz for the memories and for allowing us to film for free. We'll miss you from 3,000 miles away.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

and we're back...

It sure has been awhile. Why so long, you ask? Well, when CBS delays your sitcom until 2010, you end up with a lot of time and little money. This means it's back to the day jobs for Brian, Angel and I, as we work in the unfulfilling industry jobs waiting to get back into the game.

In the meantime, we've been keeping busy! We've been developing and writing something new (more on that later, hopefully). And, hopefully, fingers crossed, we'll have some "We Need Girlfriends" news in the near future. Believe me, we're just as anxious to get this thing going as you are to watch it. We're actually more anxious. Because day jobs are boring.

And what are you all up to?

Monday, May 4, 2009

mailbag - finally!

Phew!

It sure has been a long time since I've posted anything.

Our friend Courtney got on my case about it last week. I must apologize for the delay. We've all, obviously, been adjusting to life in Los Angeles, have focused on working again and before you know it, you haven't posted a blog in six weeks. Very, very lame on my part. And I apologize.

But, I promised a while back to answer some of the pressing questions you all had about the future of Ragtag and "We Need Girlfriends." So, do that I will.



Devon asked two questions...

1) How come being on team tom is ultimately better than being on team rod AND team henry?

Did Patrick put you up to this?

2) Are there certain events from your move across the country that you're just DYING to put into writing for the show?

When we were in our hotel bar in Nebraska we met a group of forty-something guys that put up cell phone towers and were so incredibly excited to see new people in the bar that they wouldn't leave us alone. They ultimately offered us jobs helping them put up cell phone towers, then promised us they could get us a lot of "trim" in Nebraska. Trim, apparently, means.... you know. In almost every script we've written since then, we've included some sort of reference to trim. Hopefully we can popularize the ridiculousness of this moment. Maybe "Trim is the new Squirrel."

And the number one question on everyone's mind?

What is going on with the WNG TV series? Who is going to be cast?

Right now, the WNG TV series is STILL in development at CBS and Sony. We haven't shot anything, but the script is written. They decided the series didn't fit into their fall schedule, so right now it's on hold until 2010. We know this is frustrating as a fan of the show to have to wait so long. TV production is a notoriously slow process so you'll have to bear with us. And hey, if you really like WNG and want to see it on the air a little more quickly, feel free to write to CBS and tell them that.

So, since we haven't shot anything, the casting is still up in the air. We, obviously, love Patrick, Seth and Evan and hope the network will too. And if you love them, why not include that in the letter you promised us you'd write to CBS? I mean, this is how "Star Trek" was saved, right?


Thank you all for your questions! I promise to post more now.

Friday, March 20, 2009

evan conquers universal, gets eaten by a 20 footer (25)

Evan "Rod" Bass is in town visiting, so on Tuesday morning we all got up extra early and took the fifteen minute drive to Universal Studios in Hollywood!

We started by taking the famous tour of Universal Studios. The tram started out slowly enough. Brian and I even posed for this very nice photo which our mothers would be proud of.



But things quickly took a turn for the worse! First, we passed by this familiar landmark...





When who should we see outside of it disposing of a body but NORMAN BATES!!!!





Of course, this was just a Norman Bates impersonator that eventually chased the tram around with a butcher knife. We realized this actor had one of the most amazing jobs in the world. He sits inside the Bates Motel all day, waits for a tram to pass by, then chases it. All day. Every day. Frankly, we were a little jealous. You should have seen the smile on his face when he was tormenting us. This was a happy man.

However, we didn't have much time to envy him, as another Universal movie monster was headed our way....

JAWS!!!!!!!





Luckily, we not only escaped unharmed, but we captured him. Well, I captured him...






Evan was eaten.





This wasn't the only creature that threatened Evan's life. You see, after Evan and I were scared shitless by the Mummy roller coaster (neither of us likes rollercoasters) we took a little break in the Universal arcade while Brian and Angel did the Mummy again. While there, a familiar face walked by and Evan, wanting a photo, yelled his name once...

"BEETLEJUICE!"

Then, he yelled it again.

"BEETLEJUICE!"

But before he could yell it a third time I exclaimed, "Evan! NO! DON'T SAY HIS NAME A THIRD TIME!" Luckily, Evan didn't and Beetlejuice was even kind enough to pose for this photo...






It seemed danger was everywhere at Universal Studios, but luckily we had a hero in our midst. A cybernetic organism, from the future, sent to protect us at all costs. He was, appropriately, badass....






Of course, this hero was later seen in a rather scandalous pose with the Incredible Hulk...


Photobucket



We had a lot of fun at Universal and this series of ridiculous photos of grown men well out of college acting like idiots should be proof of that. Enjoy!








Wednesday, March 18, 2009

28 conquers Me

About a week and a half ago now, my roommates threw a little party for me in the apartment. A lot of people came (including Seth, who was in town!) and I even made "Watchmen" cakes. Here are some photos









It was a great, great time and I felt so lucky to have such great friends. Thank you all!

The next day, we went out for a special birthday dinner.

You see, a couple of months ago, while going to IHOP for an "All You Can Eat Pancakes" day (where Patrick got three orders of pancakes, eggs, bacon and french fries, and disgusted all of us) we realized there's a Chuck E. Cheese nearby.

So, I proclaimed that day I would have my birthday dinner at Chuck E. Cheese.

It made sense. I had my 7th birthday party at a Chuck E. Cheese and it was an absolute blast. Why wouldn't I have just as much fun twenty-one years later?

So me, Brian, Angel, Patrick, Seth and Angel's girlfriend Beth, also visiting, headed off to our local Chuck E. Cheese.

Angel ordered for us. We had only one request. We wanted a lot of food. Tons of food. Three large pizzas. An order of breadsticks. An order of Buffalo chicken wings. Angel took the honor of ordering, seen here...





We patiently waited thirty minutes for our food, but took the time to use our tokens to play some videogames, seen here...








Soon after, we settled in for all that food we ordered.

And you know what?

It was fucking disgusting.

And not only was it so fucking disgusting, but we had ordered a hundred bucks worth of it. So, we were forced to sit there and eat it all. Every disgusting bit of it. The pizza was somewhere between lukewarm and cold, the breadsticks were flaccid, and the chicken wings were described as "fat and skin covered with buffalo sauce."

We left the Chuck E. Cheese that day feeling completely disgusting. Was it our age? Were we too old to eat Chuck E. Cheese? Or was it the Chuck E. Cheese? Is Chuck E. Cheese disgusting?

Afterwards, my Mom called and I told her how Chuck E. Cheese was. She said, "Oh yeah, that place is gross. That's the only pizza I can't stomach."

So, I blame the mouse. But I can't blame him too much, because he was kind enough to pose for this photo.





Evan is in town this week! We went to Universal yesterday. Expect photos soon.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

bacon lucky and tomato

When Patrick came home late last night, we went upstairs to check on Smokey... and he was gone. I foresee only one logical conclusion.

Alf got to him before we did.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

cat on a hot tin north hollywood

I like hearing stories about Brian's childhood. Brian, the basis for the Tom character in "We Need Girlfriends," is clearly the most mature out of all of us, so it's hard to picture him as a kid.

But one of my favorite, and saddest, young Brian stories involve his childhood cat Smokey. One day, Smokey climbed high into a Memphis tree, too high for it to get down. So, Brian's parents called the fire department and asked them to get Smokey down. The fire department told Brian's parents, "We don't do that kind of stuff anymore." And Brian never saw Smokey again.

Today, Brian returned from the gym in our apartment building and said, "There's a cat in the stairway, just sitting there. I said, 'Hi cat.' Then I shook my keys at it."

A few hours later, I went to the gym, and there was that same cat, sitting there and meowing.

I went downstairs and told Brian, "That cat is still there."

We speculated that it might be a stray. The front door to the building had been open all day, so it was quite possible that this cat could have snuck in that way.

"Well, what should we do?" I asked Brian. "Should we give it some milk or something?"

So, Brian and I went up to the stairwell and brought the cat a little saucer of milk.






I told Brian that maybe this cat is the reincarnated spirit of Smokey. Or, perhaps, Smokey finally found his way back home, after over twenty years of traveling.





I just went back to check on Smokey and it's still up there, meowing away. Did anyone lose a cat in North Hollywood? If not, how does one take care of a cat? Please help us.

questions...

We've noticed a lot of questions lately in our comments section about the "We Need Girlfriends" TV series and other projects we have in development.

So, we've decided to bring back an old feature of our WNG MySpace blogs ---


The "We Need Girlfriends" mailbag!

Post your questions in the comments section and we will answer them.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

episode VI, and we're done!

We wrapped up the marathon around 2AM last night.

It was quite an experience, one we'll always remember. It made us realize just how goddamn amazing the original trilogy is, compared to the prequels.

I recommend it for everyone.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

episode V, CLEARLY THE BEST.

We have just gotten through "The Empire Strikes Back." BOY! OH BOY! The best of the bunch? I still think so.

Jeff, Patrick's brother has gone. Brian, Ritchie, Patrick and I are still sticking through. Angel has yet to watch a movie. He's such a nerf herder.

episode IV, beyond loved.

Well, those prequels are pretty much useless now. We found "Revenge of the Sith" to be surprisingly enjoyable, but as soon as we were about 5 minutes into "A New Hope," we realized just how fucking useless and crappy the prequels are. Plus, they just don't fit at all with the original trilogy. There is absolutely no connection.

We're about to start "Empire Strikes Back," which is my favorite. Here we go!

episode III, enjoyed!

We've just finished "Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith," which was complimented by a Little Caeser's dinner.

Patrick's brother Jeff has joined us, and we're about to embark on marathon viewing of the ORIGINAL TRILOGY!

Hot Dog!

But while I'm here, here's the surprise.

It's the first episode of "I Live With My Parents," a webseries we shot over the summer. The 2nd episode was also supposed to be online, but we're having some YouTube trouble with it. We'll work on it. In the meantime, enjoy!

episode II, devoured.

We've gotten all the way through "Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones." And the arguments are already starting.

Ritchie and I preferred it to "Episode I." Sure, you could drive a landspeeder through the plot holes, but at least we don't have to sit through as many jedi meetings and galactic hearings.

Brian and Patrick prefer "Episode I." Brian's reasoning is at least "Episode I" makes sense. Patrick's reasoning is that "Episode I" stands up because of Darth Maul. You know, his five minutes of screen time.

Here's a video of the arguing...


episode II defeats us from Ragtag Productions on Vimeo.



And, don't forget, we have a special surprise for later today. It's A BIG SURPRISE!

episode I, watched.



We're all the way through "Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace." The reviews are mixed. Patrick and Brian swear it was an enjoyable watch. Ritchie and I found it unwatchable. And Angel is still in bed - he's been pulling doubles all week.

Patrick has just made spinach dip and we are getting ready to watch "Attack of the Clones."


the phantom menace ends... from Ragtag Productions on Vimeo.

episode I

The viewers are in place... kind of.

Brian and I are sitting here with our friend Ritchie, ready as ever to watch "The Phantom Menace," BUT Patrick Cohen wanted to go for an early morning jog, so now we're waiting for him to take his extra long shower. The movies alone are 13 hours worth of content, so if you add in breaks and ordering food and etc. stuff, we're going to be here until 2 or 3 in the morning. Ah well.

We have a semi-surprise built into this event, so stay tuned for the details.

I'll be blogging again after "Episode I" is over.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

a long time ago in a galaxy just outside of hollywood...

This Saturday, in our apartment, in front of the 73 inch HD television set that Patrick bought one day on a crazy, wild-eyed whim, we four are going to do something we've been talking about since our friendship began...


We are going to watch all six "Star Wars" movies in an epic marathon of Bantha sized proportions.

It's an endurance test, to be sure. Like most, we really hated the prequels and since those three will encompass the first SEVEN hours of the marathon, we will be like Rocky and Apollo at the end of "Rocky II" before we even get to the opening crawl of "A New Hope."

Which was also a place of debate...

You see, there was some discussion about which versions of the original trilogy we should watch. Should we watch the ORIGINAL theatrical cuts, with their brisk running times and Muppet puppet budget dance numbers? Or, should we watch the crappy, crappy special editions with the CG Puddle of Jabba, Han Shooting Kind of First, the Audrey II Sarlacc Pit, and, most infamous of all, THE HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN GHOST...


Now, of course, we all prefer the original cuts to the Special Edition. But Patrick and I made an argument for the Special Editions. If we were going to do this marathon correctly, we were going to have to do it the way "George Lucas intended." (For those of you who are too young to remember the trailers for the Special Editions from '96 and '97, the narrator kept saying, "The way George Lucas intended") Even if the way George Lucas intended was crappy and Jar Jar Binks-y, we wanted to see just how well the CG added to the original trilogy fit in to the prequels.

So, we're watching the Prequels and the Special Editions.

Now, there's another issue.

Recently, Brian and Patrick suggested we add "The Clone Wars" to the line-up. I am incredibly against this. A) I don't consider them part of the storyline. B) I DON'T WANT TO SEE STINKY THE HUTT IN ACTION.

Then I said, "If we watch that, we might as well watch The Star Wars Holiday Special!"

So, now that debate is out there.

The marathon starts Saturday. I plan to blog and vlog between the movies to let you know our progress. Please comment below on whether or not you think we should watch "The Clone Wars."

MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU!


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Angel's Top 10.

I like movies. I love buying DVDs (now, Blu-Ray). I enjoy movie award shows. I just don’t care for making yearly Top 10 movie lists. I see the movies, I like it or don’t. May see it again in theaters. Buy the DVD (now, Blu-Ray). Watch it again, watch the special features. Done. Move on. I rather play Tetris on Facebook, read Hollywood Reporter, look for jobs on Craigslist, work on my Las Vegas puzzle, catch up on my DVR, eat lunch, and other things that wouldn’t be appropriate to mention here.

Nobody cares what my Top 10 movies are right? I’m gonna strain my brain thinking of all the movies I saw last year, just to think of 10 favorite movies. It would be easier to just to look at my DVD collection and see what I’ve purchased in 2008. Or just ask me.

YOU: Hey Angel, did you see “You Don’t Mess With The Zohan?



ME: Yeah.

YOU: Did you like it?

ME: Yes, I liked it.

YOU: Cool.

End.

So in order to appease my roommates, because apparently I have to make a list, I will write down a list of my favorite, well-liked, movies I didn’t mind this year. But I will do it differently. I will make my Top 10 list of movies by their tagline.

Angel’s Unpretentious 10 Well-Liked Movies of 2008 (in no particular order):

1. A comedy about getting dumped, and taking it like a man.
2. Fully Charged.
3. Go!
4. Because you were home.
5. An Adventure Beyond the Ordinar-E.
6. Welcome to a world without rules.
7. Put this in your pipe and smoke it.
8. Quantum of Solace*
9. Trust no one. Deceive everyone.
10. What does it take to find a lost love?


*Apparently has no tagline.

Top Ten Movies of the Year - The PATRICK Edition

ed. note... This is Steven Tsapelas here. Prepare for handsome actor Patrick Cohen's Top List...





All right. So this is my first blog for Ragtag Productions, and I feel like I should start out by saying something. Something important. Brian is a crazy person. “A weak year for films?” Are you kidding me? This was an amazing year for films... with movies like “Hamlet 2” and Uwe Boll’s now-classic “In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale”… wait.

Well, it was an amazing summer at least. To see the master M. Night Shyamalan at work in his masterpiece “The Happening,” and to finally see the return of my childhood idol Indiana Jones… damn.

Well at least it was an amazing year for superhero films. I mean this year we got movies like “The Spirit” and “Punisher: War Zone”... hold on…

Maybe Brian was right…

Jokes.

Okay, here we go.

First, the unquestionable

Worst Movie of the year:

THE SPIRIT-
I’m sure most of you haven’t seen this movie. That’s a blessing. One day in December, my brother and I were bored and decided to see a movie. Why not? Movies are fun when you’re bored, right? Yea… do yourself a favor. When this is on TV check it out. No more than 10 minutes or so at a time, mind you, but give it a watch. And ask yourself: What the hell is Sam Jackson doing in this movie?” This isn’t like “Jumper” where it’s so bad it’s funny. This is like when a handicapped kid falls and starts crying. It’s just too embarrassing and painful to laugh at. This was easily the most painful cinematic experience of my life. And I’ve seen two Uwe Boll movies and “Ultraviolet” on opening night.

Now, the

Movie I hated the most this year:

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL-
Okay, so this movie is 100 times better than “The Spirit,” but there’s a big difference. I didn’t grow up watching the Spirit and thinking he was the coolest hero ever. I didn’t run around my backyard dressed like the Spirit. But Indy? Come on, I had the hat, the whip, a toy gun, and I’d run around fighting imaginary Nazis. I must have been Indy for Halloween at least 8 times (most recently in ’07). So to watch this movie was heartbreaking.
Now I’m not one of those people who’ll tell you that aliens don’t belong in an Indiana Jones movie. I get it. It’s the 50s now. The occult and WW2 has been replaced by UFO sightings and the cold war. I get it. That’s fine. I also don’t mind Harrison Ford in this. Is he amazing? No. Is he too old? Yes. But he works for me. I felt like he was Indy. The problem with this movie is not Shia LeBouf, Karen Allen or Ray Winstone. The problem with this movie is Lucas. The Beard. This was Episode 1. Stupid freaking CGI monkeys, ridiculously fake looking fire ants, surviving an atomic bomb in a refrigerator. A refrigerator people. And don’t even get me started on the gophers. My God the gophers. I know it was you George. You broke my heart. Again.


Okay, now here’s my top ten. Bear in mind, these are my favorite movies of the year, not necessarily what I think the “best” 10 movies of the year were. Also, it should be noted that I’ve had a busy few months getting set up in a new town, pursuing a career, etc, and haven’t seen quite a few movies. My blatant omissions are “Slumdog Millionare,” “Milk,” and “The Reader.” I have every reason to believe that I’d love two of those movies (guess which two), and who knows where they’d fit in my list. But here’s the best I can do with what I’ve seen.

10.) Rambo-
I know, I know. This one’s controversial. Brian will probably think I’m an idiot. But you know what? This movie totally works for me. I got exactly what I paid for. I wanted to see Rambo get really pissed off, and blow up a whole shitload of people, preferably in or around Vietnam. That’s what I wanted the second I read that they were making this movie, that’s what I wanted when I bought my ticket, and that’s what I got. I love it.



9.) Forgetting Sarah Marshall-
If it hadn’t been the year of Pineapple and Tropic, this would have been my favorite comedy of the year. I loved Segel in this. He killed me, especially when he starts singing the Dracula music that first time. When you don’t expect that accent, it’s freaking hilarious. And let’s just call it like it is: Mila Kunis is both ridiculously hot, and ridiculously good in this movie. Throw in a little cameo by Bateman and it’s no wonder my broke ass bought this on Blue Ray.

8.) The Visitor-
After years of being a nameless “that guy,” it’s good to see Richard Jenkins working so much. He’s hilarious in “Step Brothers,” and one of the better parts of the disappointing (sorry, Steve) “Burn After Reading,” but it’s in “The Visitor,” that Jenkins really shows what he can do. He is so good in this movie. I believe him every second that he’s on that screen.

7.) Pineapple Express-
Hilarious. This movie totally redeems Franco. Because, let’s face it, he’s pretty friggin bad in the Spiderman films. But in this? Amazing. Even with the useless and decidedly unfunny opening scene, this movie rocks. And Danny McBride in that final diner scene made me laugh harder than almost any other moment in film this year.


6.) Tropic Thunder*-
Okay, so a second ago? When I said Danny McBride’s diner scene made me laugh harder than almost any other film? Yea, that exception would be this film. Every moment worked for me. Loved the trailers in the beginning (particularly the “MTV best kiss award winner Tobey Maguire” moment), the “full retard” speech and virtually every moment of this film.
So why the asterisk you ask? Well, unfortunately, we live in a world where it’s apparently acceptable for a director to release a dvd of a film as an “extended” or “director’s” cut, without including the original theatrical release. This always drives me crazy. With the exceptions of the Lord of the Rings, Bladerunner, and possibly “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” (which wisely included the theatrical cut on the Blue Ray), the theatrical cut is always better. This lengthened, slowed down, and overall less entertaining version of the film is just not great. I really hate that I can’t own the movie I saw in theaters.

5.) Iron Man-
Not much to say about this that you don’t already know. A great, fun, and action-packed ride. Downey Jr. is so watchable in this role that I wish they could’ve made it 10 years ago so we could have more sequels. The Rocketeer meets Robocop with a little taste of Batman. Awesomeness.






4.) The Wrestler-
I am angry at the academy. This movie deserves a best picture nomination (and in my humble opinion, probably a win). It is beyond good. Rourke is so good here that it seems like it is practically a documentary. A perfect film. I wouldn’t change a frame, and that final moment is amazing. How Springsteen can win the Golden Globe and not even get a nomination for what is clearly the best song in any movie this year is mind-boggling. In my opinion the best film of the year.

3.) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button-
God I loved this movie. I understand why not everyone did. It is very long, has some serious pacing problems (do we really need to spend so much time in the hospital room? We get it, we get it, get back to the story…), and can feel a little heavy-handed at times. But it really worked for me. Aside from what is obviously a stunning breakthrough in makeup and visual effects, this is just a beautiful movie. I loved every actor in this film, I loved Brad’s voice-over, and I loved what has become one of my favorite lines ever. “We have to lose people. How else would we know how much they meant to us?” I’ll be honest. I teared up a bit at the end. A beautiful and touching film. Absolutely loved it.

2.) Wall-E-
My God this movie is awesome. I love sci-fi, I love animation, and I love Fred Willard. All in one? Brilliant. This movie is astonishing. The entire first act is basically a silent film. No dialogue (except for a bit of “Hello, Dolly”), and yet the story couldn’t be clearer. We easily follow and understand Wall-E’s needs, desires, and emotions. And of course, I love what happens to humanity in the future, and the captain’s epiphany as he realizes that it’s our job to take care of Earth. Brilliant film. My new favorite pixar movie (although I’m eagerly awaiting UP, so we’ll see how long that title lasts!)

1.) The Dark Knight-
Obviously. Come on, I’m a huge superhero and comic book fan. How could this not have been my favorite movie of the year? I am ridiculously pissed at the academy for this one. Should have been up for best picture. Should have been up for best director, best score, and best adapted screenplay too. This was not the second biggest movie of all time for no reason. There’s so much here to love.
Ledger’s performance is perfect. I love Bale in this role even more now than in the first one (the Batman voice totally works for me), and I love that this has become an ensemble piece. It’s not just Batman’s journey now, we follow, and care about Gordon and Dent, because of the wonderful script and performances. And that truck flip? Hopefully this film can convince filmmakers that sometimes CGI won’t cut it. Sometimes you have to go back to basics, and get some practical effects. Hire some stuntmen. It looks so much better.
Now I’m not Steve, I’m not scouring the internet for Batman 3 rumors, and I don’t think this was a perfect film (I hated the sonar eyes for instance), but it is easily one of my favorite movies of all time. Take your time Nolan, if you can’t give us another masterpiece, don’t make a third. One Spiderman 3 was enough.



There’s my list, Steve. Let the arguments begin!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Top Ten Movies of the Year - The BRIAN Edition

I felt this was a weak year for films. There was certainly a lot that I liked, but I’m not sure if they will stand the test of time (with the exception of my top 5). I see a lot, but always want to see more. There are a few films that I haven’t seen this past year that I feel may sneak on to the list, but them’s the breaks. So here we go…

Worst movie of the year:
SPEED RACER – Its difficult to pick a worst movie of the year, because there have been a lot of terrible films this year (and I’ve seen many). My worst movie is usually one that I just hate. Speed Racer was terrible, but more than that, I just hated it. It was so over indulgent, over done, and over blown. What a waste of money and time, it was almost two and half hours (!) of nonsense.

Best worst movie of the year:
JUMPER – This is probably one of the worst movies ever made. I’ve seen the majority of it on HBO. I expected it to be one of the worst movies ever made. It met my expectations, but to my surprise, it’s so bad that I loved every moment of it. Samuel L. Jackson’s final moment is a classic moment of trash cinema.




10) CLOVERFIELD – This was just a cool movie. It’s a concept (the monster movie) that has been done a million times over, but they totally revamped it. Terrifically shot with great looking effects, a badass monster. It was a really fun ride, and actually had a good story; I was genuinely interested every time the camera cut back to the day at Coney Island.

9) TROPIC THUNDER – Great cast, I even loved Jack Black (normally I don’t). Makes fun of actors, directors, writers and producers, and is very smart about it, how could I not love that. Tom Cruise dancing. That’s all I need to say.



8) THE DARK KNIGHT – Steve thinks this is a flawless film, so I always get him worked up poking holes in it. But ultimately, it winds up on my list. There is just no denying that it is a great film. Probably the best comic book movie ever. I love Michael Caine and Gary Oldman in these films so much. Ledger’s performance will win an Oscar and deserves to be remembered.

7) PINEAPPLE EXPRESS – I always like to get as many comedies on my list as possible, but it’s hard, because it’s so hard to do comedy well. There was some pretty good comedy this year. Pineapple was hilarious. Take out the opening scene and it’s just about a perfect movie. I love Rogen, but Franco really steals the show and owns this movie, and then Danny McBride shows up and just owns everybody. “Thug life.”

6) BIGGER, STRONGER, FASTER – It might be the year of the comic book movie for Steve, for me I guess it’s the year of the documentary. This is the first of two to make my list (note: Taxi to the Darkside was also brilliant, I saw it this year, but it was the Oscar for last year, so I’m not gonna let it qualify for this list). Bigger, Stronger, Faster is about steroids. Find it on DVD, rent it, buy it, and watch it. It raises great talking points and shows so many perspectives on the issue. But it’s told from a first person point of view, which makes it emotional and powerful.

5) SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE – It’s the likely best picture winner this year, and it’s an excellent film. It’s a real crowd pleaser and I definitely got swept up in it. It’s a fun watch and interesting to see actors, locations, and visuals we don’t see every day. I’ve always been a big Danny Boyle fan, so I’m glad he’s getting all this acclaim.

4) MAN ON WIRE – Another amazing documentary. This one, however, plays like a narrative film. The story is almost too good to be true. You won’t believe that a man could tightrope between the Twin Towers until you see it. Philippe Petit is such a compelling character, and the last image is somehow so powerful that I feel like it will be ingrained in my brain forever.

3) RACHEL GETTING MARRIED – I did expect to like this film. My girlfriend wanted
to see it, I like Demme, so I went in with an open mind. I LOVED this film. I loved everything about it. I’ve never really seemed anything like it. It just seemed so real, so honest. It was the best I’ve ever seen Anne Hathaway. The supporting cast is outstanding; Bill Irwin is hilarious and heartbreaking. And in my opinion, Rosemary Dewitt outshines Anne Hathaway and gives a great performance.

2) WALL-E – My favorite Pixar film ever, probably my favorite animated film ever. The first 40 or so minutes of the film when WALL-E and EVE are alone on earth is so beautiful and breathtaking, I could watch it every day. The sound was great, Ben Burtt is a genius. WALL-E was such a great character, I fell in love with him and I believed everything he did, they gave that little robot so much personality.

1) THE WRESTLER – A pitch perfect performance from Rourke, but this movie so much more than just a performance piece. Darren Aronofsky is not getting enough credit, this is masterfully directed. Every moment works so well, the pace is perfect. There is so much subtly to the film, especially from a director that is typically flashy, you can just tell that he was in total control of this picture. Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood give equally great performances. I loved every moment; it just sucked the life out of me. And I listen to Springsteen’s title song nonstop.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Top Ten Movies of the Year - The Steven Edition

The Oscars are next week. I've been watching the show every year since "Unforgiven" won Best Picture, but this is the first time I'll be watching it live from the West Coast - a full three hours earlier! Exciting, right? Anyway, I think so.

Anyway, in anticipation of the Oscars, I am encouraging my friends and roommates (Brian, Angel and Patrick) to list their Top Ten Favorite Movies of 2008 here on this blog. I'm not saying the Top Ten Best Movies of 2008 --- we all know that "Four Christmases" was, empirically, the Best Movie of the Year --- I'm saying YOUR favorite movies of 2008. And I encourage you, the reader, to list some of your favorites as well.



And here we go...



First, let me list my two Least Favorite Movies of 2008...



2) FOUR CHRISTMASES --- It started as a joke. When Brian and I saw the trailer for "Four Christmases" we jokingly said to each other, "Oh we need to see that." Cut to, Thanksgiving Eve. Brian and I go to the Arc Light to see "Milk." "Milk" is very sold out. So, we decide, "Let's see 'Slumdog Millionaire.'" Also very sold out. So we both jokingly say, "How about 'Four Christmases'?" And we laugh and we laugh. Then, for some reason, we continue the joke and buy the tickets. And we laugh and we laugh. Then, we look down at the tickets. Fifteen bucks. We just spent fifteen bucks. To see "Four Christmases." The theater was packed. The movie started. The audience ate it up! The guy sitting next to me was literally sitting on the edge of his seat waiting to see what would happen next. Brian said the guy sitting next to him was literally slapping his knees, he was laughing so hard. But it didn't hit us. Nope. It bored us. To tears. It was painfully, painfully, painfully contrived and unfunny. And stupid! Just stupid!

1) INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL --- Do I really need to say anything more about what a piece of crap this movie was? Lucas, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me FOUR FUCKING TIMES. SHAME ON ME! At least we learned an important lesson from the film... If a movie opens with a CGI gopher coming out of a hole... it's going to be bad.





Now, on to the good.

MY TOP TEN FAVORITE MOVIES OF 2008!


10. NICK AND NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST - Now, let me explain. I hated the crap out of this director's previous film, "Raising Victor Vargas." My reasoning was simple--- The lead character spends all of his time either shirtless or in a wife beater. He eats at the dinner table with no shirt on. Maybe it's just me. Maybe it's because I always wear four or five layers and am uncomfortable with nudity. But still, I hated "Victor Vargas." So, I went into this movie a little hesitant. And, I ended up falling in love with it. Now, to be fair, there might have been some external factors which contributed to my love for "Nick and Norah." Namely, I was moving out of New York that week and a love story set against the backdrop of the Lower East Side made me realize just how much I was going to miss New York. I bought the DVD recently and didn't have that same magic feeling. But I'll put it on here for the way it made me feel the first time. Though, part of me is thinking I should exchange it for "Pineapple Express." Can we call it a tie?

9. BURN AFTER READING - I've stuck with the Coen Brothers. Sine "O Brother," they'd been in a real slump. I still saw them all --- even the god awful "Intolerable Cruelty." I knew there were brighter days ahead. Then came "No Country For Old Men," which I loved. Real, dramatic, twisted, vintage Coen Brothers. But I was really, really hoping for them to do another dark comedy. Then came "Burn After Reading"! I loved the style. I loved the tone. I loved the actors. I was laughing out loud all over the theater --- and I saw it alone.


8. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE - I really dug this movie. I dug the style. I dug the storytelling techniques. I think it's a fine, solid choice for Best Picture.


7. INCREDIBLE HULK - I love the Incredible Hulk TV show. My biggest problem with Ang Lee's 2003 "Hulk" movie (besides the comic book panels, the running time, the tone, the acting, the story and the leap frogging Hulk) was that it wasn't the TV show. So, when this movie came along and basically WAS the TV show (complete with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno cameos), I was as happy as a Hulk Dog in Hulk shit. I saw this a second time with my Mom, also a big fan of the TV show, and we had the following conversation...

Mom: (Queens accent) It was nice that they referenced the TV show! That was my problem with the new "Batman" movie. They didn't even acknowledge the fans of the old TV show.

Steven: By "new Batman movie," do you mean the one that came out in 1989?

Mom: Yeah.





6. IRON MAN - What a great year for Marvel films! After coming off the colossally bad 2007 ("Spider-Man 3" and "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" - UCK!), they really shined this year with "Incredible Hulk" and this. I thought this flick was really smart. They took "Iron Man," a second tier hero, hard to adapt because he's basically a guy in a robot suit, and gave him one of the most charismatic leads ever in a superhero picture --- ROBERT DOWNEY FUCKING JR! And, to top it off, he has to fight The Dude. Kudos to Favs for directing the hell out of this movie. Kudos indeed.

5. SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK - I recommend this movie only for die-hard Charlie Kaufman fans. Otherwise, you'll be completely lost in this dense, complicated, confusing flick. I loved every second of it!

4. THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON - I didn't see this flick until yesterday, after hearing many, many, many mixed reviews. And, I can't believe it, but it really got to me. It almost played out like a really good book. That's why the running time didn't bother me so much. It's my choice for Best Picture, though I think "Slumdog" will win.

3. WALL-E - How did they make me care so much about a robot? How!? Was it Ben Burtt? Was it Pixar? Was it Andrew Stanton? Or was it just some sort of serendipitous merging of all the magical elements of the universe that made possibly the greatest animated film of all time? All I can say is, "MO!"





2. THE WRESTLER - Now, I love wrestling. I've read many autobiographies. Watched many documentaries. And have always known that the life of a wrestler isn't exactly easy. Then this movie comes along, and simply, beautifully, and naturally absorbs years and years worth of these stories and puts them all on the shoulders of Mickey Rourke. I really love this movie. And I'm so glad Marisa Tomei is also getting recognition. But, come on, Academy --- How did this movie (and "Wall-E" and "Dark Knight") not get a Best Picture nomination? It's certainly much, much better than the middle of the road "Frost/Nixon." It's a real shame. BUT GO MICKEY ROURKE!

1. THE DARK KNIGHT - This one's kind of a no-brainer, isn't it? I accurately predicted in my "My Favorite Movies of 2007" blog that "Dark Knight" would top my list next year, and here we are. The movie did not disappoint. It raised the bar for not only comic book movies, but traditional summer blockbusters. It was the "Batman" movie I've always wanted. So rich. So dense. So full of characters and ideas. And boy oh boy did I "Love that Joker." But even more than that, I loved that Harvey Dent. I'm waiting with baited breath to see where Nolan takes this series next. I only have two words. "RIDDLER. ROBIN."



So, that's the Stevie List. Bring it on, roommates!