31 October 2011

War of the Months: October

Welcome once again folks to War of the Months, NMW's year-long assessment of the best and brightest movies that have been released each month. As the wind is blowing, leaves falling and little unloved bastard children go door to door soliciting candy while the final hours of October tick away, we take a look at this 10th month of Ghouls and Goblins.

October: Terrortown Month

October is generally an awful month at the movies. After all, there are a lot of other distractions like Football Games, school and Halloween to think about. There isn't a whole lot of reason to go to the movies. That said, there are some really quality films that have emerged from this month, but typically they're niche enough to avoid any serious box office bank.

October Dinero: Ghost in the Closet

There isn't a whole lot here. October has the second worse aggregate box office of the year, only beaten in futility by September. The greatest October ever was 2009 on the backs of such dynamos as Couple Retreat, Where the Wild Things Are, Zombieland and Michael Jackson's This is It. There was also the sleeper Paranormal Activity that really beefed up the bank of this month.

Since then October has really been saved by Paranormal Activity. The most recent sequel grossed $52,568,183 for the biggest October weekend ever. Other great weekends in this horrible month are taken by Jackass 3-D (2010), Scary Movie 3 (2003) and Shark Tale (2004). Ouch. There are plenty of other Horror Movies, of course, such as Paranormal Activity 2 (2010), The Grudge (2004), Red Dragon (2002) and High School Musical 3: Senior Year (2008). These flicks are obviously only intended for the brave of heart.

Before Paranormal Activity secured October it was really pushed on the back of the Saw franchise, and before that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003 and 1974 versions actually), I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) and stretching back further you've got all the Halloween movies, but curiously no Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street has ever been an October release. Needless to say, when a month banks on Horror, it's not going to be breaking many records. Horror is profitable for studios because they're cheap to produce and the best tend to be culturally iconic (leading to a lifetime of merchandising) but the money isn't going to be made in theaters.

October Quality Control: Somehow Excellent

With all this said, there is actually many great October Films out there. It's really right on the eve of Oscar Season and so there's easildy a few that slip in there among the all-time greats.

#10: Reservoir Dogs - 10/23/1992
#9: Leaving Las Vegas - 10/27/1995
#8: Fight Club - 10/15/1999
#7: Glengarry Glen Ross - 10/02/1992
#6: Training Day - 10/05/2001
#5: The Prestige - 10/20/2006
#4: The Terminator - 10/26/1984
#3: The Social Network - 10/01/2010
#2: The Departed - 10/06/2006
#1: Pulp Fiction -10/14/1994

Other notable films released this month include Good Night and Good Luck (2005), Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) (Quentin cleans up this month), Mystic River (2003), Meet the Parents (2000), American History X (1998) and even First Blood (1982). It's also interesting to point out that Clerks (1994) was released within weeks of Pulp Fiction and Kevin Smith owns October with Mallrats (1995) as well.

This is also an insane month for cult hits, including Zombieland (2009), Across the Universe (2007), Primer (2004), Donnie Darko (2001), Being John Malkovich (1999) and Boogie Nights (1997). Finally this month is home to two Trey Parker creations, Team America: World Police (2004) and Orgazmo (1998) as well as three of my all-time personal favourite films, My Name is Bruce (2008), Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005) and Jackass: The Movie (2002). Yep. Like I said, October isn't going to get a lot of money at the box office, but there are a ton of good movies that have come out of this month, most that no one has ever really heard of - exactly what cripples its dinero.

29 October 2011

The Long Halloween Vol. III: Obscure Edition - Hermit Day

Greetings, Internet lovers! For the past two years Norwegian Morning Wood has had special holiday posts for every month of the year. We call it The Long Halloween, as it's always started and ended with October (It's a damn Batman joke). At this point we've really gotten to the point where we've done Holdiays like Halloween and Christmas to death. So for the next 12 Months we're looking at obscure, random Holidays and picking out the best movies to watch.

Today, October 29th, as you all no doubt know, is National Hermit Day. It's a day intended to inspire people to give up the world and live in a shack in the woods, devoting oneself to misanthropy and self-sufficiency. Naturally, the best flick to slide in the VCR on this day is Get Low (2009).

The film stars Robert Duvall as a simple, old-timey Hermit (the kind of grizzled character Duvall should always play) who has carried a hefty burden inside him for many winters. Bill Murray doesn't have nearly as big of a role as the trailer implies but like many of his more recent roles he puts in just as much as he needs to without overdoing the sass. Annette Benning and that old dude from those Heinekin Light commercials also make some brief appearances. You gotta give it up for Peter Cetera. Finally there's Lucas Black who is actually ok in a non-Tokyo Drift role here.

It's a great film for Hermits who have good reason to retreat from the world and perhaps a better reason to come back to it. It was somehow largely ignored by Academy voters although Duvall had been getting some buzz and the entire cast is splendid. It's also a greatly shot film with a relatively simple story that plays to characters who aren't naïve or one-dimensional but certainly small-town traditional. It is also immensely entertaining and lighthearted considering its macabre premise, although there are plenty of scenes with heavy and sincere gravitas. It's Duvall, after all.

So turn those confounded radios down youngins and turn this flick up for those bitter old ears.

Happy Hermiting!

28 October 2011

Six Inappropriate Halloween Costumes Inspired by Movies

Well kiddies it's All Hallow's Eve again and this year you may decide to go out Trick 'r' Treatin' dressed as your favourite movie hero. You might go as Captain America this year or as Johnny Depp (Like from Pirates of the Caribbean and not The Rum Diary) or any other film icon. I'm betting we'll see every little girl want to be Nina from Black Swan (2010) this year!

Maybe that's not the best idea. In fact, we here at Norwegian Morning Wood have come up with SIX terrible Halloween Costume ideas. Some are just iconic Film Douches, others really have no time and place for implementation ever. Grab your bowl of candy corn and let's dive in:

#6: White Guy as Sgt. Lincoln Ossirus from Tropic Thunder (2008)

Robert Downey Jr.'s Academy Award-nominated role from Ben Stiller's epic Tropic Thunder seems like an enormously clever idea for any white guys. Slap on some black face, talk like a stereotypical brother from the 70s and you're halfway there. Obviously this is such an immensely offensive idea to wear out on a night where you'll be much more likely to be mistaken as a black army soldier. Or rather as people will actually see you, a racist white army soldier. Funny performance but leave this one at home please.

#5: Father / Son tagteam as Man and Boy from The Road (2009)

What better way for a Father to bond with his son than by reenacting everyone's favourite post-apocalyptic journey film, The Road. This should be easy to do - for the month of October neither one of you eat, bathe or shave. Go find some jackets at the Dump and there's even built-in Candy Storage for the night - a big ol' shopping cart! Not only was this one of the most depressing (although very good) movies of the past decade you and your son / father will not be welcome at very many houses. Vagrants wandering around Halloween grumbling about not eating enough cockroaches for the day and asking for candy sounds awful. Send this one back to Netflix.

#4: Eager Child as Bomb Diffuser from The Hurt Locker (2009)

This one actually isn't that bad. It will be nice and warm for Halloween night, it's from a prestigious, Academy Award-winning Picture and really shouldn't offend anyone. The only major issue is that as you walk around you won't be able to see a thing or run away from candy-stealing bullies, always a Halloween Danger. Also every single house you come to will complement you on your Ninja Turtle costume then chastise you for not wearing a read bandana (because if you are a team of One Turtle you've got to be Raphael, everyone knows that). To spare yourself an annoying evening of correcting people, leave this one alone.

#3: Five Guys as the Ghostbusters...and Walter Peck from Ghostbusters (1984)

This is far too cruel. You've got a group of five guys who decide that they want to do Ghostbusters this year. It's an awesome idea, it's pretty cliché but you're going to get a ton of use out of that costume down the line, it's a great investment. The only big issue is the fact that you've got five. And that Fifth Fucking Ginger won't shave his beard. So he gets to be Walter Peck who, as played by William Atherton, is one of the least likeable douches in all of cinematic history (his only challenger really is Dick Thornberg from Die Hard [1988]...played by...William Atherton). It's tempting because it's a pretty easy costume. Suit and beard - hooray! You had better put in the extra effort to go as Slimer or Tully instead. Or find some chick to be Annie Potts.

#2: Anyone as Man from Bambi (1942)

Going as the Hunter from Bambi may be a worse costume than parading around as Hitler on October 31. Is there a greater evil in the world? It's not like the outfit could really declare it, you'd just look like a hunter. UNLESS you carry around a stuffed Bambi Animal and make sure to take a couple shots at it at every party you attend! When's the last time you saw that scene above? How could they put that in a kid's movie?! That's terrible! You killed Bambi's mom?! Get out of here! How does Bambi end? Doesn't he become a badass buck by the end of it all? I don't know.

#1: Older Man as Kevin Bacon from The Woodsman (2004)

The Woodsman is a movie about a child molester named Walter, played by Kevin Bacon, adjusting to life back in the real world after prison. I know what you're thinking. Dark, cold night. Hundreds of joyful little kids running around the street unsupervised. Begging for candy. Talking to strangers. Here comes Walter. He'll have some candy for sure. And luckily since this movie is so obscure no one will know you're the woodsman. Alright now I've creeped myself out. Please stay away from this one. These are all terrible ideas. Just be Batman or somebody. At least not this version of Kevin Bacon. Yeah that's way worse.

23 October 2011

Tops: Kanye West's 12 Best Songs

October has been a nutty month, folks, not a whole lot of time to devote to the regular inane chatter I usually spill out onto the Internet. Needless to say though, on the one-year anniversary of the debut of the insane "Runaway" video, I thought I'd take a moment to talk about THE GREATEST RAPPER OF ALL TIME Kanye West. A while ago I talked about this dude and how he's really not wrong for being so egotistical - his songs rule. Here today then are in fact, the Top 12 Greatest Tracks Yeezy has Touched Ever.

#12: "Homecoming" off Graduation (2007)

Kanye picks some strange collaborators but usually pulls it off. This song works equally for Chris Martin as it does Ye's styles and works as the meeting place for two of the most popular artists of the past decade.

#11: "Street Lights" off 808s & Heartbreak (2008)

I don't knock 808s & Heartbreak because it was a highly experimental album. I knock it because it was a highly awful album. It does have this track, though, which has a delicately rising instrumental, a restrained level of AutoTune (for this album) and a strong emotional core.

#10: "Roses" off Late Registration (2005)

Kanye does a nice job telling stories in a handful of songs and his winding prose through the echoing beats, drops and accompanying singers and hooks is masterful.

#9: "Spaceship" off The College Dropout (2004)

One of Kanye's trademarks is sampling a capella noises, sometimes even words or phrases that he integrates into his beats and raps over. This track exhibits this concept very smoothly and is clearly an early effort rap-wise but has an excellent flowing beat.

#8: "All of the Lights" off My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

Crusading against epileptics everywhere!

Included here is the Track 4 Interlude along with the Track 5 Album-version, which I think is superior to the radio single. That Fergie verse just adds a needed dose of swag. This is how Yeezy should experiment - layering voices on top of each other, producing really freaky effects. The song is one of both trumpeting triumph and choking failure. Everything about it is epic, but the lyrics are regretfully so.

#7: "Murder to Excellence" off Watch the Throne (2011)

For all its hype there isn't a whole ton of exceptional tracks off Watch the Throne. This is an exception though, probably the album's best song with a guitar-fueled beat, rapid lyrical delivery and the trademark a cappella underlying it all.

#6: "Addiction" off Late Registration (2005)

I think it's the hypnotic and mysterious beat here that catches me. It's also a guilty-pleasure inducing song about temptation, power and the normal rap tropes (weed, cars, guns & ho's). Ye bounces and flows through his rhymes here better than anyone else can.

#5: "Hell of a Life" off My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

The beat is intense, the lyrics unrelenting and there's some Black Sabbath sampling for good measure. It's got just the right amount of Tune in it and works well within the climactic dark ending of the album.

#4: "Through the Wire" off The College Dropout (2004)

This is certainly a Yeezy classic by now. At the moment it's simultaneously a song of triumph and accomplishment after a tragic accident that also transcends normal racial and hip-hop tropes. That said, if the accident and subsequent track happened in 2009, there's no way it would turn out as inspirational.

#3: "Last Call" off The College Dropout (2004)

The College Dropout was largely about the world's introduction to this young kid who had been behind the scenes in hip-hop for years and when he exclaims that he's underrated he's actually telling the truth here.

#2: "Late" off Late Registration (2005)

A bonus track off Late Registration, the track is extremely chilled out and also displays some of Ye's best flows, ups and downs and still has a focus on the collegiate, educated persona that he strove to develop before he instead went the route of huge narcissistic asshole.

#1: "I Wonder" off Graduation (2007)

Graduation is probably Kanye's best album and this is one of his better tracks. The beat is ethereal and his emotional vocals contrast with the smooth dreaminess of it all.

This should be a pretty contentious list to make complete I'd love to include the following:

The College Dropout:
"All Falls Down"
"Family Business"

Late Registration:
"Touch the Sky"
"Diamonds from Sierra Leone"

"Drunk and Hot Girls"
"The Good Life"
"Can't Tell Me Nothing"
"Flashing Lights"

808s & Heartbreak:
"Welcome to Hearbreak"
"Bad News"

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy:
"Dark Fantasy"
"Lost in the World"

Watch the Throne:
"Niggas in Paris"

10 October 2011

Tops: Bill Murray's Greatest Speeches

Maybe it's just because Vh1 has been playing a lot of Stripes (1981) and Comedy Central has been playing a lot of Ghostbusters (1984) but I've been more attuned to the incredible trend of one of the greatest comedy icons of all time, Bill Murray. He always gives the greatest monologues. Whether it's inspiring a group of campers into action or developing character during the Holiday Season, Bill Murray's speeches tend to be effective, engrossing and hilarious. Here are my top picks:

#6: Scrooged (1988)
- Holiday Cheer

I struggle with whether or not Scrooged is an underrated or overrated Christmas movie. It's not exactly hilarious considering what its premise is supposed to be and nor is it completely heartwarming. People seem to mention it often but it's not like it's regarded as a Holiday Classic. Anyway, this final speech is about as dramatic as Bill's going to get on this list, although he has certainly had his fair share of eloquent dramatic roles, but not many with huge speeches. This monologue is really a plea for Holiday Hospitality and Bill uses enough charisma to pull it off after being a huge dick for the entire preceding film. It's just desperate yet hopeful enough to be pretty charming.

#5: Rushmore (1998) - No Backbone

Simple and effective, Bill advocates, not for the first time, to take down the rich people of the world. He's certainly getting through to Jason Schwartzman, whose reaction really completes this speech. It's decently inappropriate for a Chapel Speech to most of the people he's talking about taking down and Bill delivers it the sort of dry sincerity that his later roles morphed into. There are plenty of Steve Zissou moments where he uses this tone, but no real epic speeches besides the crossing the line bit.

#4: Ghostbusters (1984) - Dogs and Cats, Living Together, Mass Hysteria

A fragmented speech but nonetheless effective. Bill Murray is so immensely likeable in Ghostbusters because while he's a constant huge smartass he also knows what he's talking about and can convince people through intelligent reasoning if he wants to, despite his goofball nature. This clip is worth it almost as much for the little quips he's making in the background as well as his inability to take even the end of the world seriously, although dogs and cats living together puts him over the edge. In the end it's only through his appeal to the Mayor's political future that the Ghostbusters get out of there and save the day.

#3: Caddyshack (1980) - BARK LIKE A DOG FOR ME!

It was tough to decide which is funnier - Spackler fantasizing about himself at the Masters while destroying flowers or his rambling insane story about meeting the Dalai Lama that actually doesn't really go anywhere. Again, the kid's reaction as Bill taps the pitchfork into his throat inadvertently really makes this worthwhile. However, I've embedded one of the weirder Carl Spackler moments, his oggling a trio of old ladies playing a round. I don't believe any of Bill's words were written down in script, he was just allowed to spew whatever twisted thoughts came to mind and his continual creepy harassment of these ladies is just a small insight into how insane this guy really is. Spackler is actually a role Bill seldom revisited, he often played smooth charmers rather than dirty bums in his middle-career period.

#2: Meatballs (1979) - It just doesn't matter!

This goes without words. You don't really even need to see this movie to understand what's going on. After the first guy's completely ineffective speech, Bill really shows what he can do in rousing a crowd. It's a perfect capsule of what Bill's all about - no matter how well he tries, it really just doesn't matter. Everything this film has been leading to and with every rivalry, it just doesn't actually matter at all. Of course that's because all the really good looking girls would still go out with the guys from Mohawk because they've got all the money! That's one of the truest statements ever spoken in film. More flicks need this philosophy - it just doesn't matter!

#1: Stripes (1981) - We're mutts.

No greater patriotic speech has ever been given. We're 10 - 1! Bill has a great ability to turn something negative and spin it into something positive and inspirational, as well as relating to his troops, commanding attention and admitting when he's made a mistake. He also has fun with words an awful lot ("Something very very wroooo--ooonng with us!") as if you know, this speech and everything maybe just doesn't matter. He's showing that he's having fun and really at this point in the ovie he's the only one left having fun. He's able to take control of the group although he's really more of a slacker and unwilling to until Harold Ramis screws it up enough. Of course the graduation scene is also epic for weirdness but nothing really inspires one to be both a true American and as the Army says, all that you can be like this monologue.
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