Your letters. My smartass replies.Hey folks,

You have a comment and don’t want to send a letter? Please click HERE and pipe up on the message boards. Please? That thread is deader than Greedo.

The third of our MAIL BAG GRAB BAG winners is here as well as a host of other offerings. Folks, each week a person who sends in the letter of the week gets a treat. Isn’t that worth pegging me a little missive for?

Either way, here’s the letters.

What’s This?:

Each week I’m going to take a picture of something and it’s your task to guess what it is. First response I get from a correct guesser gets blurbed here. Send guesses to THIS LINK. Last Week’s Winner: Scott Kilpatrick. It was a fork.

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Photo From Life.

Now I REALLY don’t like Tyler Perry.

Answering Devin’s Mail, #1.

Mitch to the left!Chris J. writes:

Hey, Dev. I’m hoping doing this email (which I guess I shouldn’t be writing at 4:30AM when I’m actually quite tired…) won’t cause some kind of terrible ripple effect, as I have a bad tendency of stepping on people’s toes when I find a disagreement point and speak up to that person about it. I’ll try to restrain myself and act as maturely as posisble in this instance, though. (especially if, God forbid, this ends up in a Shout At The Devil)

Anyways. "Dumb Action Films."

I’ve read many of your columns, articles, news pieces, messageboard posts and so forth for many years now, some agreeing and sometimes getting my buttons pushed wrongly due to a phrase or thought. I’ve never spoken up because none of the topics were of particular interest. However, given that Action Films are basically my goal in life (writing and directing) and given there were some points I felt discussion-worthy, I kinda figure hey, maybe I oughta say something for once.

The interesting thing that I’ve begun to notice about action films and the "summer popcorn flicks", from now and even back to the older days of exploitation cinema (and so on and so on), is how amazingly subjective it is for the viewer in terms of what they actually desire from the film and what they take from it. I, myself, try to get a little of everything given my desire to become a filmmaker and wanting to learn from every single aspect possible. Obviously, in most cases, people have other things they focus on. Sometimes they want action that makes them feel a certain way, maybe a certain motion they like or a vibe of intensity. Sometimes it’s a creative storyline/premise, sometimes a certain type of performance, and of course "interesting characters" that engage the viewer in the story at hand, getting a personal human connection. There’s many facets and aspects of the action film that people want in it or appreciate about it or even have aversion to. (I know someone, for instance, who’s not a fan of martial arts-based action movies) Because of this, although there are things that many groups of people agree on, it’s difficult sometimes to truly figure out what makes a "quality action film". Just looking at the thread spawned from your article alone gives at least a theoretical confirmation of that and is part of where I drew this line of thought from. So my point there is, yes, this is all opinion-based.

Now I try to continue on from where I’ve begun by mentioning a factor I find interesting, which is the worth of every single film that is made. There can be a film that most say is "pointless" that a few people find absolute brilliance in. Given a recent (and very difficult, I might add) friendship with this person I know, I’ve come across many cases where she and I disagree as to the worth of a film, because she’s a writer and I’m a filmmaker, so we differ greatly. Whereas I’ll say some film was well-directed, she’ll hate it for being emotionally disconnected or some other thing. The point I’m trying to get to, which I’ll just out and say since this beating-around-the-bush is getting irritating, is that in many cases, I find myself finding value in a film that others think is ridiculous. I don’t doubt I’ll hear lots of complaints about MI3 from people I know for the next year. I saw it myself and although I do love parts of it and enjoyed it on the whole, I do agree there’s some amazing problems with the relationships, the depth of characterization, and the storyline. (the third act just killed it for me, honestly) But, the thing is, I found value in it, given my perspective as a young filmmaker, trying to find tricks and elements I could use (like the constant intensity and low amount of slow-motion), and find what could be fixed with the bad aspects (such as not having the balls to waste the wife). And I don’t doubt this will happen again with X-Men 3, Miami Vice, and whatever "may not be great" film that’s coming out, especially in the action film genre.

I get the feeling I’m losing my point and getting sidetracked on some personal tangent here…but the one thing this also kind of applies to, though, is also the fact that due to the subjectivity of the way action films are and given the different ways in which people value art, is that it’s going to be difficult to have a change in the way action films are made (at least from the perspective you seem to have shown in the article and your reviews of films within this genre). As sad as I am to admit it, perhaps you’re right that the genre needs to die out for awhile in some fashion or another, or at least not take center stage as the end-all be-all for studios. I hated the dead period of "no action films" basically from `98-`00 (with the only major exception being The Matrix) when I was a teenager, but it would be nice to see some good dramas, low-key sci-fi films, and unique thrillers start coming out and gaining mass appeal. I do heavily agree that thought-provoking, or at the very least conversation-stirring, films don’t get enough credit from audiences these days. The only thing that seems to spark discussion with myself and my fellow geek-friends is mediocre films that we disagree on or feel the need to complain about and I don’t doubt it’s the same for a lot of people. I’m not going to ask the question of why is this happening, but I will say – yeah, it totally sucks that we don’t have great films that’re worth talking about for hours.

Anyways. I guess it’s time to sort of correlate the above paragraphs and gather together my main point, the one I was kinda rolling with when I decided to write up this mess of an email. This will get it back to the personal approach though.

As a filmmaker who absolutely loves action movies and hopes to make them, the "dumb action film" factor has been interesting in its evolution with my own work, since for a long time I wrote scripts that pretty much hinged on action sequence staging and ideas, but were without a lot of heart and soul to it. Sometimes there were some pretty good storyline ideas (well, different story ideas anyway) but it was a lot like the messy scripts that’re getting made today, films that lack the logic and believability of a realized world, ideas tossed out just because it seems cool, and full of unnecessary special effects. (in my case just pipe dreams, of course)

Then, I finally decided to make my first live-action film, a horror film, and things began to change, mostly in part thanks to that picky writer friend of mine, but also because I began to realize how the difference of "dumb action" and "thoughtful action" made me feel, so much so that when my dad (another fellow geek) and I went to see Underworld 2, he really dug it and I damn near despised it. Suddenly, character, emotional connection, and interesting psychology became important to me in my work and has been so ever since in a higher degree. Which is not to say I don’t still find those good elements to use from dumb action films or learn what not to do from the newest Van Damme or Seagal DTV film. What the change has meant, though, is that I’m now focusing on telling stories with characters and originality, using action scenes to drive the conflicts along.

Okay, so WHY mention this change, then? Well, to answer that, I must say I’m gonna come off as one of those hopeless romantic optimists, but the hell with it, it’s what I am and I’m not going to apologize for it. But here it is – because the change in my mindset and approach is partly a reaction to the current crop of action films being made right now. When I go see Underworld: Evolution or Ultraviolet or MI3, then get pissed off at this or that, I get inspired to go forth and try to kick ass in my own work, which is something I do hope to take to the big time someday. And I already covered the "find what’s good to use and find the bad to fix" factor. Furthermore, there are others like me, that I know and that probably exist, who will at some point arise to create a new breed of action film that rocks people’s socks in a good way again, spurned on by both a love of the old and a love of what was done in this decade. Maybe sometimes mediocrity must occur to educate the filmmakers of the future.

So does the fact that stupid films with bad characters keep getting made and doing well suck? Of course. But as much as we don’t want to value that which we find offensive to our sense of cinematic taste, there can be great value in these films being made when younger folks like myself and others decide, "that’s good…but we can do better".

Anyway….that’s my half-asleep rant of teenaged stupidity for ya, sir.
If you read this, I thank you for giving it the time. No need to reply, I guess I just wanted to speak out, even if unheard. Just hoping I didn’t make an ass of myself.

Keep up the work. I may barely agree with you from time to time, but with articles like this, you help make CHUD interesting.

Nick’s Reply: Thanks for the letter (to Devin). I think action’s not really broken, anyhow. To some extent we are. Turn on the TV and watch The Shield. Or Alias. Look at the hundreds of DVDs we have in our collections ranging from Kurosawa to Peckinpah to Frankenheimer to McTiernan to Bay. We have so much data and have been subjected to so much that it’s just about impossible to make something fresh. I had an idea of an action film that unfolded in what I can only describe as a mixture of a sports broadcast and first person perspective. Basically delivered through the lens of an invisible virtual camera. If done right, it’d turn heads but it’s just trickery at the end of the day. I think that our baggage gets the best of us. I don’t think we ought to ever go in a theater with the $10 we’ve invested hanging over our head… actually, this gives me an idea for the site. Let me finish the Steady Leak I’m trying to finish and I’ll address it there. Thanks for the letter!


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Answering Devin’s Mail #2.

Mitch to the right.Simon writes:

I find myself in an interesting position, writing an article in defense of the stupid, mindless, ‘popcorn flick’ while at the same time agreeing wholeheartedly with your article.

First things first: The movie industry nowadays is very little different from the music industry. Most everything produced nowadays is nothing more than manufactured tripe designed by committee to have the maximum amount of ‘synergy’ and profit potential. Artistic merit plays little or no importance in determining what gets greenlit or not, it’s all about the product. We’re one step removed from having laugh-tracks playing during the next family-friendly Eddie Murphy film so we don’t have to strain our brains trying to determine for ourselves whether something’s funny or not. There’s less and less at the local googleplex that truly appeals to me. Too often the best thing I can say about a movie is that it ‘didn’t suck’. It’s all too rare to watch a movie that strikes a chord, one that moves you on some level, or leaves you thinking about it for more than a few minutes.

On the other hand, I must take exception with your attack on dumb movies and people who ‘want to turn their brains off for 2 hours.’ I’ll grant you that the success of a stupid movie only guarantees more of its ilk, the stupid movie in and of itself is not a bad thing. First and foremost, movies are a form of entertainment, and if they entertain the audience, then they’ve succeeded. While I often feel what borders on nausea at the sight of what’s playing in theatres or on TV, I’d hate to live in a world where every movie was important, and moving, and profound and thought-provoking. Just a quick glance at my DVD collection reveals titles such as ’12 Monkeys’, ‘Band of Brothers’, ‘Below’, ‘Brotherhood of the Wolf’, ‘Das Boot’, ‘Donnie Darko’, ‘Equilibrium’, ‘Frailty’, ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’, ‘Ravenous’, ‘Shawshank Redemption’, etc. etc. So I don’t think that qualifies me as a stupid, ignorant person interested only in the lowest common denominator. At the same time, I also have movies such as ‘Con Air’, ‘Mission: Impossible 2′, ‘Commando’, ‘Transporter 2′, ‘Armageddon’, ‘Hard Target’, ‘Deep Rising’, and ‘Deep Blue Sea’ in the same collection. And I’ll never apologize for liking them. I get a rush whenever I find a movie that pushes dumb to a new level and can make me laugh. If for 2 hours I can feel like a kid, or forget about the girl who broke my heart, or take my mind off the latest tragedy on CNN, then so much the better. A movie like ‘Munich’ is thought provoking, and troubling, and important and many other good things, and there aren’t enough like it. But watching Arnold throw a steam pipe through Vernon Wells and tell him to let off some steam makes me feel giddy and puts a smile on my face, no matter what kind of day I’ve had. I love stupid movies, not because I can’t appreciate something more, but precisely because they’re stupid. I’ll keep seeing them, and keep buying them, and I refuse to feel guilty about it.

And if you have a single move like that in your collection that you honestly enjoy, then I think your article may be a little harsh and unfair.

Nick’s Reply: If at the end of a film you feel like you had a decent time and were entertained, who cares? If you feel elated, even better! If you feel like you just wasted your time, then you have every reason to be upset, but in the warm months ever since 1976 we’ve grown accustomed to larger than life spectacles of varying quality and what’s not to love about that? We have seen what happens when Oscar Bait movies are released this time of year; they tend to be forgotten. I can’t endorse shit like Shanghai Knights or National Security as things that I feel contribute to anything good, but I can find plenty to enjoy about Into the Blue and its ilk and not feel at all guilty about the pleasure. Fuck it, movies are business models first and entertainment second but unless you’ve become some kind of negativity fueled toad, what’s the freakin’ harm?


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Answering Dave’s Mail.

Mitch to the left!Jill writes:

I’m only 9!

Nick’s Reply: Just kidding.


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We’re a Fucking Mess!

Mitch to the right.Rob’t writes:

Your site is a mess. The Hair link with Christopher Walken didnt go to old Chris and his hair couldnt even find it. The American Haunting interview no one gives a rats ass about Dungeons and Dragons so why the need to drone on. We werent looking for that!!!! Its a hallmark of your site that one cant find anything. Shit is crammed all over the place and theres no order to anything. Its just a goddamn mess.

Nick’s Reply: Well, you have ugly feet and your forehead looks like Nagasaki during the war.


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This We Can Do.

Mitch to the left!Shannon writes:

hey you want some feedback?Well do ya?Heres mine. Keep up the great work.I love the dvd reviews and anything else that gets put on the site really but I really love the dvd reviews with the funny captions.I mean I just can’t get enough.Please my only request for the site is to put more stuff up daily.Thats it.Keep up the great work.

Nick’s Reply: There goes my plans for us to become horrible. Well, just for you we’re going to try and not only keep it up but improve what we are already doing. Thanks!


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Meg. THIS YEAR!!!!!! OMG!

Mitch to the right.Leighton writes:

hold on i thought this Meg movie was premiering July 4 of this year canu tell me when exactly is it going to show

Nick’s Reply: I think we’re going to wait until we film it and edit it before showing it to folks like yourself.


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Mitch to the left!Joel writes:

Love your site. Where most fanboy sites are annoyingly glowing about
all things fan, you guys maintain some integrity by calling BS on
crap. I love that. Plus, you bring the funny daily and hey, a certain
other website (cough cough AICN cough cough) has the funny of a
seventh grade home ec class.

hit a page, this damn thing opens and annoys me with its stupid audio.
Sometimes I can turn it off, sometimes the cheap ass scripting running
this piece of pigsh!t just takes me to their moronic movie homepage.
MUTHAF%$KER, If I gave a flying poltergeist about the stupid film, I’d
hunt done the trailer on my own. I don’t need this stupid ad screaming
at me every time I refresh a page on your site. I don’t need 5th
string MR VOICE telling me about the only ghost that ever killed
someone with that retarded,
we-got-this-sound-effect-off-royalty-free-CD announcing itself.

Seriously, these kind of ads are an abomination. Stop them. Don’t run
them. Get rid of them. This isn’t 1999. The internet can be profitable
without installing crap like this on your site.

Love you guys, hating the ad. Don’t make me stop coming back or WORSE,
forcing me to install some annoying ad-blocking software. I’m happy to
be passively marketed to.

Nick’s Reply: I have no defense. That ad fucking sucks.


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Devin: Impossible 2 Like.

Mitch to the right.Michelle writes:

Ah yes, we can always count on Devin to piss on the parade and make being a movie fan a total drag. Chalk him up another point in his never ending quest to bum out the readers of when all they wanted was to find out some movie news.

Nick’s Reply: Actually, I think Devin’s goal is to write his opinion and not poo poo on the rest of us. I could be wrong, because Devin never sticks up for me. I think that he’s wrong about M:I III but he’s more than established himself as a damn good critic and a pretty reliable journo. Example, I have a feeling he’s going to render Poseiden‘s buttocks raw in his review even though his coverage has been some of the best on the web if not THE best.


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Mitch to the left!John writes:

I thought about responding to your response in the
last leak letters (#36) but got sidetracked by other
things. Then I saw Jonathan’s letter in the latest
leak letters (#37) and thought I’d give it a go.

In your initial response to my letter you wrote about
how the internet is a breeding ground for spoiled
brats who complain but never take action.


I agree with you. But the problem was you didn’t
mention any of the above in the “Go see Slither”
missive I was responding to.

You said (I’m paraphrasing here since I cannot find
the page): “I know everyone enjoys their weekends, but
there is a really great horror comedy, the first good
one since Shaun of the Dead, in theaters right now. Go
see it.”

No mention of internet crybabies, or of idiots who
download movies illegally instead of paying for them.

You were just trying to spread the word on a movie you
liked. That’s not so unreasonable. But then I
remembered why I wrote the letter in the first place.
You went on Attack of the Show on Friday the 31st and
told everyone who saw it that Slither was the movie to
see that weekend. Then on Saturday the 1st you post on
your site a message saying basically, “I know everyone
likes their free time – but go see this movie.”

It was like having a friend call you up and say,
“Listen, there’s a really good band playing tomorrow.
You should come.” You think about it, but maybe you’re
not in the mood to see a band that night and you have
the number of a girl you want to call up instead. You
take the girl out on the next night and in the middle
of dinner your friend calls you up and says, “Where
are you, I told you to come see this band! I know you
have other things to do, but they’re really good!
Yeah, I know they’re playing every night for the next
two weeks, and I know that after a three month period
you can rent them, or hell, even buy them for $15 and
watch them until your heart is content, but man I told
you to come see them tonight!”

I saw you on Attack of the Show and if I was going to
see a movie that weekend I’d have seen Slither. But
that weekend was one of the first this year of really
great weather, so I went down to Piedmont park and
played a pick up game of flag football instead. And I
eventually did see Slither. It was good.

But not so good that, I couldn’t have waited to see it
on dvd.

Nick’s Reply: The front page blurb was so brief and raw was because I posted it from my T-Mobile Sidekick II. You can’t format the text, you can’t really add pictures or anything. I just saw the box office take and felt like we as the core audience were doing a good flick a disservice. Hope that explains the brevity and aggressiveness. Anyhow, your continued discussion earns you a free DVD. What is this prize, you ask? Meet the Yamadas, the anime.


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More Devin Mail!

Mitch to the right.C.S. writes:

The reason these movies are called, "Popcorn Flicks" is because you can get up, go to the concession stand, buy a bucket of popcorn, and get back to your seat without missing anything important in term of plot, character development, etc. And yes, "Popcorn Flicks" should be used as an insult. I can’t think of a single one that would not have been improved better dialogue, more interesting characters, etc.

On a side note, over on IMDb, there are nine films from 2006 in the bottom 100, not to mention films like Big Momma’s House 2 and Stay Alive, which came awfully close. More than half of the hits to come out this year have earned terrible reviews with some of the best films have missed expectations, (V for Vendetta and Slither, for example). The reason for this is simple, if you want to watch a good movie it is better to wait till it comes out on DVD and watch it with your Home Theatre system than it is to watch it in the theatre.

At home you don’t have to deal with people talking, cell phones ringing, overpriced snacks, ads in front of the movies, etc. If you need to listen to the dialogue to follow the plot, then these things are major problems. On the other hand, if you consider the dialogue, ‘that boring bit between explosions,’ then it doesn’t matter. Also, it is cheaper to buy the DVD than it is for two people to go to the movies, once you add in gas, snacks, etc.

The problem is, while more and more people are waiting till the home market to watch new movies, studios think that dumb movies are what the audiences are craving. And what the audience want, the audiences get. And since total box office is up 6% from last year, there’s little reason for the studios to do differently.

Nick’s Reply: You, my friend, are incorrect. They are called popcorn flicks because, to avoid the intense onscreen action the elderly take off their shoes and annihilate the knobby corns on their feet and ankles. See, that’s just gross. The whole argument to me is ‘off’. I think there are many kinds of summer movies, some that are not character driven and totally build around set pieces. If it works, then cool. If it doesn’t it sucks. There are ones built around characters that get put into extraordinary circumstances. If it works, then cool. If it doesn’t it sucks. So many different kinds of movies out there, there’s always the possibility for good and bad in every situation.


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Mitch to the left!

Pet Enhancement writes:

Is your dog’s food good enough?

VetBalance is a remarkable formula that fills in the “nutritional gap” of most dog diets.

Mr. Grunt and Point’s Reply: Here’s a more pressing question: How the fuck am I supposed to know if my dog’s food is good enough? They eat it. They eat it fast. They are immediately invigorated and then their assholes dilate and they go outside to void. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. They continue to bark and have fur and exist. I assume part of that is because their food is good enough. Next time send the email is dogspeak to my dog’s dogmail account.

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