Formerly "A Movie A Day" :/

Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Kid Stays in the Picture - 2002 - Dir. Burstein

I didn't care for this documentary. To some degree, I felt like I was just listening to Robert Evans tell me about himself... something I'm sure he enjoys and has had a lot of practice doing. Considering the doc is based on his autobiography, and features his voice, I think it's safe to say we are very much on Robert Evan's turf in this movie. And I'm not sure I really enjoyed feeling that way. There's a kind of manufacturedness about the story to begin with. Like he so badly wants it to fit into the normal story-telling arc, a nobody to somebody story with him exploding and learning his lesson and then an eventual redemption. No matter how hard he tries though, he can't hide the obvious. His life is not a movie and he never is as sympathetic as much as he would like to be. For example, he talks about his true love: Ali McGraw and how he loses her to Steve McQueen. We're told this was important emotional event for him. The film neglects, however, his six other wives that came before and after. So it just feels like it is there because they needed to have a Girl in the story. Stir up some sympathy for the dope. He's also pictured as extremely passive. Like his discovery is indicative of the rest of his life, he just hangs out near famous people and great shit happens. I dunno, I feel like I could go on and nitpick how the thing continues to fail on several levels... but I think you get the point. It's just very cold and empty.
Robert Evans will make you pay.

Arsenic and Old Lace - 1944 - Dir. Capra

I think it makes sense that this is the first Capra movie I've seen. Probably in no way appropriate... OR I'm sure I could've found a MORE Capra-esqe movie. I ended up watching it basically due to an interest in a early american dark comedy. And you know, this fits the bill. I always think it's a little interesting to see Dark comedy from a different time. Just to see where the lines are drawn and what is done to make the Dark part of it palatable. In this case, we're given a mad-cap hectic theatrical vibe. Grant is makin' faces and noises, running all around like a Stooge- The ladies are overly innocent and silly. For perhaps the first chunk of the movie, I wasn't really engaged. The movie gets a little bit more interesting when we meet Jonathan and Dr. Einstein. I'm always a sucker for Peter Lorre and always enjoy his performances. But they are really the only thing that raises the stakes. Otherwise, it felt a little too silly... and we spend the majority of the time just watching Grant spaz out, which he is very good at. The real charmers are the old ladies though. Perhaps they make the movie. It's certainly the most memorable and unique aspects. It's a very adorable naivete that they carry around. So, I dunno, it's an all right movie. I can't say I got very much into it. There were a few satisfying laughs. I suppose I'm a little biased against that Wacky Theater Tone it had so much of. I suppose it is pretty impressive that Capra managed to carry that Tone out of the theater and into the film. You don't see it done that well very often. I still don't care for it though!
Such a dashing fellow...

Conan the Barbarian - 1982 - Dir. Milius

I watched the first fifteen minutes of this a while ago... and then I got bored as hell and turned it off. Second time around, I turned off around the same point. Even Mako's voice over couldn't keep me going! But eventually, I persevered. And yeah... It picks up. I'm not sure how much though. It's the kind of movie I felt I was trudging through. It's long. It takes its time to get going. The movie kind of insists that there is a lot of depth to this world which doesn't surprise me with Milius. I always get the impression that the guy takes masculinity very seriously. I dunno, I guess this was a treat or something for fantasy fans back in the day. That this in some way raised the bar. So maybe I'm from the spoiled Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings generation where fantasy didn't just have to be muscle-y guys with silly hats. We do get to see early Arnold and you can see why the man got more work. He looks the part but he's sympathetic enough looking too. He's a little silly naturally, unintentionally, but it makes his barbarian a little more likable. I dunno, I guess the movie never feels particularly fun but always feels too silly to take seriously. It's a long son of a bitch too. I mean, I like all the basic ideas on paper but the whole thing felt too vast and yet, not at all epic.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Silverado - 1985 - Dir. Kasdan

It's a Big Classic type Hollywood western with big ole actors and charm and shootouts. And I dunno... I felt EH about it. I haven't yet seen a Kasdan picture that really got me up and going but I'm not really sure that's something that's bound to happen. I mean, I'm not going to lie... it IS a charming movie. It's pretty referential to classic westerns without being indebted or winking at the audience. Maybe to some degree, it stands out perhaps most because of the cast. There's a lot of Big Faces showing up in the movie, and it's fun to see 'em. And they seem to have a good time. Brian Dennehy is an absolute delight to watch. I wouldn't say the performances are OUTSTANDING or anything. But you know, they're fun or you know... they're just good performances. Glover and Glenn probably are responsible for that department. The enjoyable performances help because Plot-wise, the movie doesn't exactly feel too assembled. There's a lot of story lines and I can't really say any of them are very interesting to follow or plotted out in a particularly enthralling way. They basically crash into one another as the movie goes on... and not in the satisfying way. I felt the movie could have profited from some trimming. It just feels like a long ass time. There are plenty of filler sequences considering the amount of directions the movie attempts to move in at once. It's got the nice feel of a classic western except with big shot 1980's actors.
Aaaahahahaha... AAAAHAHAHAHAHHA!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Shame - 2011 - Dir. McQueen

I had a pretty good idea of what I was going to get when going into Shame. And I was pleased that I got what I wanted. Just a mostly quiet, character driven piece. Not a lot of fire works. Not even a lot of out right conflict when you get right down to it. It ends up being quieter plot-wise than I even expected. There's no nasty reveals. There's suggestions that nasty reveals are to be had though. Even, to be honest, there's not a lot that's shocking about the film. We're just quietly sinking with our hero. The movie is absolutely beautiful. There are some just... incredible shots. But I suppose that's the thing with McQueen. It saves us from sneaking into melodrama at times (If I see one more movie in theaters with a man shedding a single tear, I will shed THREE tears). If I had to throw a weakness out there was the Dude Dialogue. It sounded... part insulting, part tongue-in-cheek, and then just part white noise. Like we were just supposed to ignore it, but... there's not A LOT of dialogue in the script. And I think a good chunk of it was supposed to be white noise. But some of it is done so well, like the flirtatious dialogue. His sister and his boss. Granted, I'm not someone who should judge what men like that sound like when they are together, but it rang false to my ears. All that bitchin' is for a pretty minor part of the story. We spend most of the time with Fassbender, alone. Which is awesome for a script about sex addiction. Also, lemme just say that as a man who no longer lives in the NYC area, this movie made me homesick. WHAT DOES THAT SAY ABOUT ME!? Oh wait... I thought Carey Mulligan was excellent in this. Fassbender was good. Hell, he's carrying the whole movie on his back. But I do feel like Mulligan had a trickier role in this and she just does a great job.
Shame: A Great time to Have in the Big Apple!

Monday, December 19, 2011

My Neighbor Totoro - 1988 - Dir. Miyazaki

I'm not gonna sit here and act like I don't think Totoro isn't charming as shit. I'm not going to do that to you people. I mean, seriously. We're talking Totoros. It's charm goes a long way because it has a pretty simple bare bones story. With almost no conflict whatsoever. I think it we were watching your usual children's fare... or really just a normal movie. You know, you would put up roadblocks for our characters. "Adults don't believe them" or "Some Lumber magnate is threatening the forest" you know, crap like that. But we're in exploratory mode with this movie. Just watching kids discover mystical creatures of the forest. Then a kid is lost for a short period of time, but it's certainly nothing we're hinging the movie on. It's merely the highest point. I suppose the closest thing to the conflict throughout is the sick mother... at least, it's the source of drama for the script and what eventually leads the little sister to get lost. But that is about the long and the short of it as far as drama is concerned. Miyazaki can get away with this of course because of the aforementioned charm and the damn visuals that we've all mostly familiar with. You know like a giant cat bus and whathaveyou. Just so we're clear: if you have a giant cat bus, your movie can be whatever it wants to be.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Constant Gardener - 2005 - Dir. Meirelles

I had always kept this film in mind. Knowing it made a big splash when it came out but I never really knew anything about it and never pursued viewing it in anyway. After seeing Tinker Tailor, I figured "Hell! Might as well see some other adaptations!" Obviously, they are pretty different. In fact, Constant Gardener is not your usual spy flick. It's a lot more of a... romance? Or Drama? Set in a world of espionage and Big Pharma with a Kenyan backdrop. The mystery and conflict arises more through the relationship between Fiennes and Weisz. Confusing? Well, it's got a few different faces. Thankfully, they are work together pretty well. In fact, pretty damn seamlessly now that I think about. You'd think it'd be wwwwaaaaayyyy more confusing and fractured than it is. Perhaps because Fiennes and Weisz provide such a sturdy emotional backbone for the film and the tone maintains itself throughout. Even as Fiennes is fleeing Raiders, we don't feel like we've suddenly been jerked into action movie territory. So yeah, it's an engaging enough and well made picture. It didn't exactly blow my socks off, but I got involved and liked it enough that I didn't feel cynical about the dream-y close-ups and occasional overly-ponderous moments.
Hey now, Pete! Button up!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Season of the Witch - 2011 - Dir. Sena

You know... I kinda wanted to like this movie. I mean, Cage and Perlman? In plague times!? And I think the premise of dudes transporting someone suspected of a witch has a bit of clout. At least, it gets my imagination going as to what could happen. But I suppose it should come as no surprise that this movie is horrible. It's awful. I stopped the movie twice, and I have no excuse for why I resumed watching. And you know it's a bad sign when you feel like if Topher Grace would have played the priest, it would really elevate the material. The movie tries too hard to be cheap and fun too early on and then tries to be too ponderous when it's too late. Nicholas Cage seems bored, probably because his character is a bore who goes nowhere and does nothing. Perlman just kind of hangs out. The movie doesn't make much of an attempt to maintain suspense or you know... keep us involved apart from asking us "What will the Witch do next?!" repeatedly. I wouldn't have minded a bit more of a period of time where we are actually wondering if she is ACTUALLY a witch. The movie is good enough to at least provide us with some terrible plague imagery. Christopher Lee probably is the high point of the film and gives the performance of his career by laying in bed wearing make-up. And lemme just throw this out here... SPOILER ALERT EVERYONE. WATCH OUT! I'm gonna spoil this movie. But she's not a witch... She's a demon! And the movie tries to act like this is a twist. Like it's pulled the carpet from underneath our feet. A shitty attempt to get us to give a fuck about what it's doing- WAIT? This movie is for teenage boys and not grown men? Oh... (awkwardly leaves). Oh man... the battle/drinking montage in the first ten minutes is so shitty... This movie is so bad...

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - 2011 - Dir. Alfredson

I didn't know much about the source material going into this one like how friggin expansive it supposedly is. Expansive enough to be a mini series, at least. The film certainly seems to try to cover as much material as possible too. You have to prepared to take in a lot of information and make a lot of inferences. Scenes are short, edited on top of each other, and often include cuts to small moments. It's storytelling at it's least verbal. Paradoxically, there's also a lot of talking, people speaking over scenes. Now that I think about it, the sensation of watching it is a lot like Primer. Reminiscent, at least. Visually, the film is great to look at. Not only costuming but just the entire style. It's sparse but attractive. At times, visually a little surreal. If anything, like any story told in this fast-paced style, it doesn't exactly get you on any emotional level. And since I felt like I was playing catch-up throughout, I don't think I ever really connected with the film. I just really enjoyed watching it and being in that world. Acting helps incredibly, too. Especially Toby Jones, who does a lot with less screen time. There's just some terrific faces made in the movie! Any Cumberbatch fans will be pleased with the film, he's got some fine chunks in the film. And a really nice tie. I have to say though, there are one or two reference to characters being homosexual in the film, which is just starting to feel slightly cliched. At least, I'm at the point where if I'm watching a period piece with Man's men, I feel like it's expected that at least one of them is gay. I dunno. So anyway, definitely scratches the heady spy itch you might have and a delight to watch!
Where's a Handsome Spy when you need one?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cronos - 1993 - Dir. Del Toro

I think I meant to watch the Devil's Backbone because as soon as I saw Ron Perlman, I was all "Oh, I've seen this one." But you know, I'm glad I re-watched it. I remember thinking it was pretty good when I first saw it back in college but clearly not much stuck with me. Except Ron Perlman's awful gray outfit... and his Charming Demeanor. I'm not a huge Hellboy fan but I get pretty excited about Del Toro's other movies. I feel like they're horror movies for adults but there's so much in it that is reminiscent of fairy tales and often times a child's perspective. I dunno, they make for really pleasant viewing experiences as fully grown man suffering from arrested development. First of all, it should be no surprise that Ron Perlman is terrific in this. It's funny because his character often feels like an aside. Or a henchmen with too much screen time. BUT HE'S SO GREAT! I think maybe he sort of overshadows how solid of a horror movie it is. Del Toro is so good at bringing a nice touches like Pearlman's character or the backward suit which balance out Luppi's controlled performance and just a well crafted "classic feel" of a horror story. Luppi is awesome. The whole film has such little dialogue and Luppi knows just how much to express. He holds his cards so tightly and lets just the right amount sneak through at the right points. If anything, sometimes the ending feels a little anticlimactic but for the most part: A fine viewing!
This creep just loves gum.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Descendants - 2011 - Dir. Payne

I'm a big fan of Payne but I always end up at his movies somewhat begrudgingly. I don't know why. So I begrudgingly made my way to the theater preparing to see what would be a really well made movie with thought behind it and everything. And it was! And you know what, it's not nearly as much of a bummer as it looks like it's going to be. I mean, a movie about a guy reconnecting with this daughters after the wife/mother is dying in a coma? That could've been... a hell of a time. Payne's know-how and Clooney's stupid ass running around keeps "hell" at bay. Clooney has really mastered looking goofy while sneaking/running and he's in full force in this movie. He's at he usual Clooney awesomeness, of course. Woodley plays the teenager daughter like an expert. She's clearly a source of friction but she's not a brick wall. Her character relents has tangible weaknesses, we can access her, which I feel like infrequently happens in these types of movies. It's a really well-paced movie, especially for Payne. I was pulled in and stayed in for the entire movie. The Hawaii locale makes for nice eye candy. I especially liked the plotline involving Clooney's cousins and thought it had a lot of impact in the film. It also allows us to see that sheriff from Twin Peaks with a goofy ass tan. Oh wait!? And can I say that Matthew Lillard was awesome in this? I can and will!

Limitless - 2011 - Dir. Burger

I have no idea why I watched this fucking movie. It's okay, I guess. It's worse than I thought it would be. I expected something a little tighter, a little smarter. I'll admit to being surprised at how doofy this movie ended up being. It's like the writer said "What if-" and started writing... and then realized that everything had to be tied up by the end and never bothered to go back and rewrite. Why is Bradley Cooper's climactic challenge a Russian mobster? Even on the Enhancement drug, he never seems like a valid threat. Even the supposed twist is so underwhelming that I'm baffled by how disinterested in it I was. I mean, it's a fun premise, but it just seems like Burger made no attempt to make it interesting or to dig deep. It's all drug addiction, Wall Street jerks, and Russian mobsters. Sometimes it seemed nearing Crank style ridiculousness which just seemed... strange. I guess, it was an attempt to jack energy into it. I'm not sure I really jived with it, though. It just felt like electrocuting a corpse. Bradley Cooper is okay, I suppose. It sorta felt like the entire cast was just made of nondescript good looking people. No one spurred much of anything. Probably he most interesting thing is Cooper playing a dweeb... which he does well... but it isn't THAT interesting. I dunno, I suppose it'll work as empty entertainment... but I'm sure you could do a lot better.
The hair desperately trying to get you to believe that Bradley Cooper is geeky.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Lenny - 1974 - Dir. Fosse

I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy this movie basically because I never gave much of an "eff" about Lenny Bruce. Understanding that he was an important early foul-mouthed comedian. He never really struck me as all that funny. The film gives me a little spanking for that. Much of the film follows Lenny's obscenity trials and I suppose I'm someone who has a good time watching some musings on our first amendment rights so I had a pretty good time with the movie. No, you know what? I really liked this movie. I got into it. It also helped not having any idea what happened to the man so the movie had nothing but surprises. It's filmed in the usual Fosse manner of having character interviews interspersed between sequences. Some of the party sequences are just awesomely assembled and are probably some of my favorites in recent memory. Hoffman makes for a great Bruce. He has a ton manic energy as very subtly shifts into out of control Lenny. It's fun to see it early on, where he's just brimming with the stuff and has no outlet. If I had to nitpick, the whole arch revolving around the Wife sometimes feels a little artificial. She's so unimportant in the second act that her role in the third sometimes seems a little unwarranted. But hey, I suppose Biopics have a tendency to do that, don't they!? Anyway, a fine film. A fine film, indeed!
Bruce struggles with the Solo Pull My Finger gag...

The Expendables - 2010 - Dir. Stallone

I was pretty psyched for this movie to come out but when it did... I made no attempt to go see it. It got perfectly decent reviews... but I think I just felt... out there in the universe, that this movie would not give me what I needed. I was right... The movie exists uncomfortably between the "seriousness" of Stallone's newest Rambo and the silliness of the 80's action flicks it's clearly influenced by. That struggle probably hurts the film more than anything else. It's not goofy enough to be fun, but it's goofy enough that it is hard to take it as seriously as it'd like us to. Apart from a decent car chase, there aren't really many interesting action set pieces to lift it up. As much as I might have felt "feh" about the new Rambo, I felt at least I was getting some kind of visceral experience. Expendables feels like the action is a lot of overly large boys brawling and firing weapons randomly. The Terry Crews second half of the film is a welcome pick me up but is so artificially inserted that it hurts. Hey, guys, forgot all that other stuff we were talking about: Check out Terry Crews with a big gun! Maybe it's the lack of charisma that makes Crews a sudden bolt of life. Stallone sorta lurches around in front of the camera, making dismal wise cracks with a mopey Statham. Jet Li ends up looking like the golden boy of comic timing compared to most of the cast. So... yeah, I could be happier with the movie. A lot happier. Will I see Expendables 2? Most certainly. I'm a sucker for the genre and I'm willing to see what the "best" and the "brightest" churn out. Even if it isn't that good.
They are have different Hat statuses.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Castle - 1997 - Dir. Haneke

I think this was being taken off Netflix so I popped it on. I like Haneke. He seems to enjoy making movies with neat hooks but remain interesting throughout. Often challenging. And you know... Kafka's all right, I guess. Haneke's style mesh really well. It's kind of a strange movie to comment upon because, like the book, it ends mid sentence. And it kind of drones on... so without an ending, you feel like you just witnessed a series of pointless events. Or at least... the movie is repetitive. We watch K bang his head against the bureaucracy of in several different forms. Then it ends. We could play the game where watching the movie could mirror K's experience. But I don't feel like playing that game, even though, you know... I wouldn't be surprised by Haneke pulling that. The movie is fun (to me) though. I like watching that kind of conflict a Man against an overly complicated system. Haneke is more subtle than others, the system doesn't visually loom and scream at K. It crawls. We're treated to several walking sequences. Back and forth. Characters shift spasmodically at times. There are plenty of Funny Games alum about which is fun to see (Plenty meaning three). If this sounds like its up your alley, it probably is. It was up mine. I like Haneke can make a hell of a movie, so there!
Am I in Funny Games, right now?

The Dead Pool - 1988 - Dir. Van Horn

FEH. I'm not a huge Dirty Harry fan. Well, I've only seen the first one apart from this and I don't remember anything about it. I mean, I like Clint. But I suppose the series suffers from too many rip offs or something. It was the original, you know. But by the time this movie came out... I don't think that's an excuse. This is just goofy as hell. Jim Carrey and Liam Neeson are in it. And they are both just... dumb... Carrey bows out pretty early on but Neeson is a train of obnoxiousness because clearly, that's what the movie calls for. So I blame the movie on Liam Neeson's bad acting. The series seems to be winking at the audience at this point ("An Asian Partner!?" "You better watch out, Det. Chang or whatever!"). I can't say I was particularly amused or interested in the movie apart from the initial premise... which is very much the premise of a movie that will not be that good. Gambling on Celebrity deaths. Movie making. Serial killing. FEH! I just... it feels SO dated. TO the point where it's just painful to watch. Patricia Clarkson's all right, I guess. And Clint, too! Their scenes are probably the better ones... Maybe. I dunno. It's a bad sign when I'm considering the romantic subplot to be the better part of the movie. Oh man! And that ending is so disappointing. FEEEEEHHHHHH!!!!
Liam Neeson is probably teaching Clint Eastwood something in this scene.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Don't Be A Menace - 1996 - Dir. Barclay

You know, I remember this movie from back when... but I never really showed any interest in it. A general bias against the Wayans, I suppose. Well founded if we take the Scary Movie series into stock. I ended up watching it simply because I've recently moved to Los Angeles and for some reason it seemed appropriate. I was in the mood for silliness. AND MAN it delivered. I had a fine time watching this. Maybe I just thought Shawn Wayans overly naive and mild protagonist was funny as hell. That guy... and the repeated jokes about his Dad just charmed the shit out of me. It's pretty upfront about being a parody. The plot is secondary to them just making sure they get every stereotypical sequence out of the mid-80s to 90's street gang movies. So I suppose... it's not well-made in the traditional sense. It resembles the modern Family Guy style parodies that we have been getting, but it just feels less churned out. It feels like they are amusing themselves rather than mugging at the camera. At times, I wish maybe it felt a little tighter... maybe a few less winks for the audience (yeah, they do do SOME mugging [I guess I'm just not a huge fan of mugging!]). But overall, I got a real kick outta the movie. Maybe I'll rethink my feelings about the Wayaneseseseseses.
The Frame of the movie Bernie Mac is in.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Into the Abyss - 2011 - Dir. Herzog

Probably sedated for what people expect of Herzog these days. You know, being that it's about people on death row (that's the starting point, at least). The man has respect for his subjects and the topic of the death penalty. And it clearly shows, there's no goofy voice over, no albino alligators. So if you are going in with that narrow view of what to expect, you may be a little disappointed. It feels like his older documentaries. It's not a somber Death Penalty film by any means but more of an document of how a group of people are coping with the aftermath of a violent crime. Herzog's strengths do really show in this picture though. I feel like he has a great eye for America. It's depicted with great admiration but he is still very aware of its blemishes and never shies away from them. His tangents are more controlled, more thoughtful. I admit, I'm pretty biased. It's Herzog doing what he does best, being himself, so I had a great time watching it. I like that we get to watch a movie about people on Death Row and we don't have to hear about Death Row the entire time. I like the amount of perspective given from the criminals, to the victims, to an almost complete stranger whose rants Herzog clearly fell in love with. It just feels like a refreshing documentary on perhaps a somewhat tired topic.
This guy is so mad to be stuck in such a tiny picture.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

13 Assassins - 2010 - Dir. Miike

I'm so biased towards this movie that it's painful. Samurai? Miike? Yakusho? That's it. There we go. Yes, I would like to see this action movie please. The movie is basically setting up the huge forty or so minute set piece at the end. We get to know our awful motherfucking antagonist. The Badasses that are going to kill his ass. And then them planning on how to do it. Even then... when it happens... there are still tons of surprises that make you say "GODDAMN IT, YEAH!" It's just a really well put together action movie. I am so impressed with Miike. That guy has a lot of range. Sure... it's generally a pretty violent range, but he feel fleshes out of the spectrum of violent movies. And Yakusho... perhaps not typically cast as an "Assassin," he still plays the Leader of the Pack with APLOMB. The man gets so passionate about the assassination that he cries a little at the thought of it! Yakusho is also so good at bringing silence or a quietness to a role. He's an excellent contrast to Miike bombastic style. And when the film explodes by the third act... it feels good. Naritsugu is a great antagonist. A complete sonuvabitch. And I can't help but like a bad guy who gets overly philosophical about all the awful shit that he does. So, yeah, it's just a really tightly made movie about some samurai killing a real dick.
I'm Koji Yakusho and I'm gonna FUCK YOU UP!

Carre Blanc - 2011 - Dir. Leonetti

Saw it on a whim at the AFIFest. All I knew about it was that it involved an overly strict corporate future. And you know... that appealed to me. The film is exceptionally well handled. I think especially considering that this future has some pretty outrageous ideas on how to function, the whole thing could have blown up in our faces like most dystopian future films. I think one of the reasons it works so well is that we never delve too deeply into the mechanics of it. Leonetti seems to know that less is more and letting us scratch the surface while we must imagine the rest gives the film a lot of steam. Naturally, this makes it a little confusing and... but I would say it's an ultimately rewarding experience if you stick it out. There's also a really nice vein of comedy flowing through the film which gives it a significant sense of balance because the film can be pretty fucking dreary at times. It's fucked up enough that gorehounds, pessimists, and the like would probably be kept satisfied but approached in a thoughtful enough manner that you can feel like you're not just watching a Clockwork Orange knockoff or whathaveyou. In particular, I do really like what the film suggests about cut-throat tactics in modern day life and I appreciate it's lack of heavy-handedness. Sometimes, I feel a little dissatisfied with where our protagonists are left off by the end... but all in all, a really satisfying experience.
He... Hellooo?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Night of the Hunter - 1955 - Dir. Laughton

This is my first time seeing it in years. It's a natural edition to someone who is beginning to get into "FILM" and I did so in my early years. For no particular reason, I decided to revisit it. Probably one of the most well-known "under-rated" movies. Certainly not spoken in the same breath as the classics of that time, it's a movie that seems to be catching up. It's a strange creature. Part hilarious, part creepy, part beautiful. And sometimes it's just boring and crappy. It's certainly not what you would call a "well-made movie." All those elements prevented it from hitting the big time, and probably create a barrier for most people going into it. The movie feels more like a silent movie. Sneaking lighting cues from German Expressionism, we're also treated to some pretty broad, campy acting. It fits in this strange beast, but the kids can be somewhat rough to watch at times. Mitchum steals the show which is apparent very early on. He's still probably one of the highest ranking movie psychopaths in my mind. Switching between somber and cartoonish with unbelievable ease. I knocked the movie a bit, I realize that. But it really is an enjoyable watch. Like I said, it's a strange beast from another time. But I wish we had more strange beasts like this one.
Oops! Do you kids smell a Toot?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bombay Beach - 2011 - Dir. Har'el

Har'el popped up on a list of new filmmakers to keep and eye on. I'm a fan of Beirut's music and the trailer looked interesting enough so I made a point to see the film when I had a chance. And I'm glad I did! It follows the lives of three people who live in one of the poorest communities in Southern California. The area looks like a barren wasteland, desert as far as the eye can see littered with the decaying remains of society. The film is filled with the skeletons of cars, trailers, homes, and animals. Dead Fish everywhere. A Donkey corpse tangled in barb wire. There's some pretty gritty stuff. Meanwhile, we have a young boy on a plethora of prescription meds raised by his ex-militia parents, an old man who barely manages to take care of himself selling bags of cigarettes, and a teen for South Central with dreams to play for the NFL. It's beautifully shot and balances its seriousness and playfulness beautifully. Probably the most interesting aspect of the film is the infusion of choreographed sequences. All of a sudden, these people begin to dance or... well, they have their own little music videos. They could have come off as excessive or cheap but Alma pulls it off well. They feel like personal and intimate expressions of the subjects. A very well-balanced and engaging documentary.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wet, Hot American Summer - 2001 - Dir. Wain

I never really sat and watched this movie through. I don't think I really "got" David Wain for a while. Like, I wasn't convinced that he knew that we was being campy and funny. I thought maybe he was just some Idiot running amok. Now, I think he's great. The movie is Wain at the top of his form. At least, a lot more successful at being a movie than his later attempt The Ten. You know, the guy doesn't tell much of a long form story or anything. So, it's really a lot of camp stories jammed together told in a CAMPY manner. :D The strongest point of the film are the performances. Generally, letting everyone be as big as possible, Wain has a nice, simple straight-forward way of shooting so as to let us focus on the goofiness of the performances. Paul Rudd is easily my favorite, he's at home playing the smirking douche. Oh wait... David Hyde Pierce and Jeanne Garofalo have awesome chemistry together. MAYBE THAT'S MY FAVORITE PART!? Either way, it's a goofy comedy. It's a lot of fun and really, really dumb. And the cast is real good. Bradley Cooper and Amy Poehler play a pair of theater jerks. Chris Meloni plays a psycho (big surprise). Not to mention the whole cast of Wain regulars. It's good fun!
Get that fucking Face off your face, Paul Rudd!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - 1997 - Dir. Eastwood

I was expecting a murder mystery when I started watching this. It is not a murder mystery. I also didn't realize that it was based on actual events, whatever that might mean. I certainly wasn't expecting anything so... strange. So yeah, clearly, I didn't know anything about what I was getting into. It's a bizarre, uneven film. It seems that Eastwood either didn't know what he wanted to do with the film or he knew but couldn't pull it all together. The film leaps between Courtroom Drama and quirky southern character pieces. The Courtroom aspect bothered me quite a bit. It felt completely dramatic. Perhaps it's the mix of both Spacey and Cusack. Spacey's Southern Gentlemen seems to smile through the charges, as does his lawyer. While Cusack seems to remain distant from the entire procedure. Clearly he's rooting for Williams, but always seems to want to avoid being too involved. So, there never feels like too much is driving the story forward. A by-product of the film's attempt to re-create the feeling of the South? Maybe. The problem is that the "feeling" isn't much more interesting. Characters are lightly quirky, but never deep. He get mere sketches of these people so their existence is simply factual and helps color the film, but it doesn't save it from it's lull. Irma P. Hall ends up being the most interesting by far. Or maybe it's just my love of Voodoo ladies. Geoffrey Lewis' role is bizarre. Easily the strangest of the cast of characters, it goes really nowhere. And the "Fly" effects are pretty terrible. They were so bad that I thought maybe it was on purpose when we first see them. It's well-acted and strangely well-paced. For a two-and-a-half hour long movie as problematic, I'd expect this to drag a lot more. It's pretty interesting in the sense of I felt like I was trying to sort the movie out the whole way through, but by the end, realizing there was nothing to sort, I felt let down... and crabby.
It's a JAR, Cusack! You ain't never seen one of these before?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Blue Velvet - 1986 - Dir. Lynch

I mean, as a weird jerk in high school, I ate this movie up. What weird teenage jerk wouldn't?! I had seen it so many times that I didn't need to watch it for well... a really long time. I completely forgot about the movie except for Dennis Hopper screaming which is engrained into our counter-cultural memory with a Dental Drill. A drill shaped like Dennis Hopper's head. And you know, even though I'm long familiar with the rants, seeing it again. That man is still shockingly fucked up in this movie. He's unendingly weird and loud. And then you have Kyle McLaughlin, who is basically a strange twelve-year-old boy in the movie. He's perfect... in a way that just feels wrong through and through. Like an aesthetically pleasing whitehead. And I'm going to say the he did it on purpose. Which makes him the best actor. Everyone is just great in this movie. I'll just say that. And I love Laura Dern. All of a sudden, I'm realizing that she's an awesome actress. Especially with Lynch. The movie is just a pretty straight-forward noir. Like, it's a story you would recognize, except Lynch adds all these details that skew it. And like Hopper, everything is amplified. It's hyper-suburban. I remember feeling like the movie was pretty slow back when, probably because Hopper was a kind of centerpiece and it takes a little while for him to show. Now, I don't think I got that. Considering some of his other movies, this is a jog through the park.
This guy...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sweetgrass - 2009 - Dir. Castaing-Taylor

"Anthropological" gets thrown around a lot when I hear talk of this movie, which I dunno... I find that term to be a little... iffy? I suppose it applies, but I feel like the word is used as an attempt to remove the film from the arena of Cinema and into Science, as if that makes it more trustworthy or reputable. True, it would be hard to call the film biased, but like anything and like science, IT IS. It has an argument, a perspective. One of those. Of course, since the director is an Anthropologist... it seems even more apt. But let me refrain from continuing this non-argument that I've already wasted so much time with. You can call the movie whatever the fuck you want (Let me just point out what a waste of time all those sentences were). The movie is about Sheep. Sheep being led across mountains. Which is not done anymore. I watched it for two reasons, 1) I like Sheep. I think they are fun and great to watch. 2) It promised to be minimal. I love a good minimalist documentary. I just want to watch stuff happen. No voice-over or wonky editing. I don't want some fat prick telling me what he thinks and then cracking wise. The movie delivered on both fronts. Therefore, it is a slow movie. There's very little explanation of what is going on. Almost none. So you spend a lot of time watching farmers do stuff. I would also say that it is a beautiful movie, though. There are some gorgeous shots in it. There are these strange protuberance of humor in the film, especially around the halfway point. But you know... it's not laugh out loud or anything. NO LULZ HERE. You know, I'd say, you probably know the kind of movie this is. If you're in that mood, DO IT.
Sweet, grass.

Friday, October 7, 2011

X-Men: First Class - 2011 - Dir. Vaughn

To be honest, I'm pretty vague about most of these characters. So I went into the movie being "Who the fuck is Sebastian Shaw?" I mean, having met him, I'm glad I did. He seems like a fine villain. So I felt like a bit of a n00b as you kids love saying. Perhaps this is the comic book movie that feels MOST like a Superhero, Comic Book to me. It toes a really fine line between badass, goofy, and melodramatic. Badass easily embodied by Fassbinder's Magneto who I've heard so much about and he deserves every fine thing said. I MEAN! THAT FUCKING THING WITH THE KNIFE!? Fassbinder did that without special effects. McAvoy, however, I'm not sold on. EH, I guess he's all right. In fact, everyone else. EH, I guess they're okay. Kevin Bacon makes a good german doctor, though. Sigh... This movie just has really great sequences in it and then okay stuff in between. It's just that the sequences are so friggin' cool and well done and everything else is just... bland. And I suppose I could have done with less... kids in the movies. But I suppose we're getting to the point where the majority of movies will be less and less for me. We want the kids to feel included in the superhero movies you know...

Take Shelter - 2011 - Dir. Nichols

This is a real movie. Not real in a stupid way... but like... It's a great movie. It definitely didn't blow me away. In fact, leaving the theater, I could best be described as being a little disappointed. Perhaps because the film respected me... and didn't do what I figured it would. The majority of this lies in where the majority of the conflict takes place. Rather than it being something where Shannon is trying to solve a puzzle, accomplish a set goal, or find what is giving him nightmares. It's about him living with his nightmares. With his anxieties. And the struggle that comes from making that choice. Shannon is perfect as the struggling husband. I've only seen him in off-kilter roles but to see him playing an ordinary fellah. It really showed his range. He's convincing as all hell and rarely distancing. Chastain is at her best as well. All of a sudden she's popped up, taking very different roles and doing a great job with each. I expected the film to be a well-made thriller rather than a well-made drama and I think the movie excels in that regard. It will probably not satisfy the thrill seekers. And to be honest, when I think about the resolution, it doesn't always feel like it fits. But a really solid drama. There's not a lot of bells and whistles. Enjoyable, tense, and well put together. I may just throw it out there... It feels like a bit of a rarity these days.
Whoa! Hey now! Let's uh... Let's not do that to the girl, okay?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Verdict - 1982 - Dir. Lumet

Mamet, Newman, and Lumet. Oh, and I guess, Mason too (I just don't know him as well, I'm not trying to knock him or anything). They're all big fucking deals, right? So we already know that we're going to get a certain caliber of work from these fellas. And you know, Verdict is good. I'm not gonna get too excited about it. It didn't exactly feel like a standout picture as far as those involved are concerned. It's your basic courtroom drama. Doesn't really pull many surprises. Paul Newman always makes an excellent drunk. He's just such a nice man! And then we wants to booze it up and be sad! It's always a great thing to watch. I would say, the opening of the movie is pretty awesome though. Just him drinking and playing pinball? It's awesome. Probably what I like most about this is the relationship between Newman and Rampling. Both of whom are excellent and give absolutely nothing away as far as where the relationship is headed. Also, it's just a relationship that quietly hurts by the end, which is cool. It takes up exactly the amount of time it should. And Mason is an appropriately shitty guy. Maybe he's too good, because you want him to get a little more of his comeuppance then he ends up getting. Like you want a pie to hit him in the face during the entire conclusion.
"Jack... I'm trying to do a scene here, ya mind?"

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Last Dragon - 1985 - Dir. Schultz

It's a sorta of tricky movie to talk about, because I feel like I should like it more than I do. And I didn't dislike it. I enjoyed it. A cult film I really knew almost next to nothing about until a few weeks ago. It had the simple ingredients of funk, kung-fu, and blaxploitation all rolled up into one film, so it seemed like a pretty safe bet that I would in some sense enjoy the film. I figured at the worst it would boring and poorly assembled like most exploitation films and I've seen plenty of those. It ended up being most like an 80's action movie, perhaps similar in tone to something like "Big Trouble in Little China." With it's over-the-top villains, bits of magic, and pretty much a cookie cutter story-telling. It was campier than I think I expected it to be. Bordering on a cartoon-ish movie. Especially enjoy Sho'nuff. The Shogun of Harlem who seems to have been ODB's father. The whole film is a very reasonable precursor to the Wu-Tang Clan's combination of urban living and kung-fu philosophy. I was surprised I hadn't heard of it sooner. Although, I suppose it comes from a generation slightly older than mine. Or perhaps of the older folks of my generation. The same people that love "The Warriors." Like "The Warriors," it's stylish and a nice snapshot of what an 80's movie is, but ultimately perhaps for reasons I'll never know, my heart remains cold to it.
Sigh... Kanye jokes...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Drive - 2011 - Dir. Refn

A weird, mutant of a film. To some degree, I'm surprised it's gotten the praise it has. It seems like a movie for a certain kind of Idiot. And I'm that kind of Idiot. It's not really one kind of movie... but seems to constantly wish it was a kind of movie. A strange, shifting tone. But perhaps I shouldn't be surprised considering Refn's other work. He seems to love a kind of Ambient hyper violence. The movie is dream-like, unreal. It's 80's soundtrack hums us through the movie. Our unnamed protagonist and his love interest communicate in silent glances. He drives at night, aimless. For a large portion of the movie that is what the movie is. Then tons of violence is heaped onto us. And you know... It's fucking awesome violence. Refn can make a beatin' scene. I'll just throw out the Elevator scene as perhaps the high point in this regard. The violence doesn't even really feel that cathartic because the tension level always feels pretty low. It's a muted b-movie. A well-made B-movie perhaps. Either way. I got a kick out of it. I like the 80's keyboards. I like driving around. I like cute girls and cute relationships. And I like incredible violence. I have no problem with all that stuff jammed together. I'm surprised about the praise... and I wonder if it deserves it. But maybe... everyone wants to see a guy with nothing kick the shit out of assholes.
My name is... Drive.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

BASEketball - 1998 - Dir. Zucker

Despite not having kept up with them in the recent years, I'm a big fan of Parker and Stone's work. This merely has them as actors and their influence sneaks in but the film is clearly a Zucker production. I feel like I always have to be a little easy on Zucker due to his involvement with Naked Gun and Airplane but I'm generally less amused by his more recent attempts. BASEketball is more of the same (looking at his filmography, this is probably the last one I'd bother seeing). It's got the corny Naked Gun-style jokes and Parker and Stone blend well with it. One might even say, it's seemless! But I feel like overall it's very much "Medium" entertainment. Probably what I enjoyed most was Parker constantly going "Awww! Aww!" In fact, both of their performances are probably the high point of the film. You know, I like puns and idiocy as much as the next guy, I just wished the movie tried a little harder on the story-telling front. There's almost no kind of tension or conflict... or, at least, any kind of substantial conflict. It's generally just a lot of goofy stuff and rich old mean guy. It's likable and if you want to round out your Parker/Stone viewing experience... well, I imagine you've already seen it.
Both of you... Stop having that hair!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Debt - 2011 - Dir. Madden

It's not exactly a memorable movie. To be honest, I think my favorite thing about it is the score. It's a refreshing change to see a female-lead spy-espionage movie without her being a sexpot. The Debt never really goes to that arena of spy-movie, which as I said, I appreciate. I just don't think the movie goes very far outside the theater. It's well-acted. I never really formed an opinion of Sam Worthington and this doesn't really help me any. He can act. Perform the action of acting. He's not a drag to watch or anything. Helen Mirren is great, but I rarely have a bad word for the lady . You know, there's the Nazi Guy and he gets to be all villainous and he does a bang-up job, but I'm not really sure how hard it could have been. Jessica Chastain ends up leaving the biggest impression, but I think I'm just feeling more impressed with her recent output rather than reacting to the actual performance. I mean, she's just picks varied roles and been consistently good at them. But the movie itself is just generally straight-forward with some adjustments here and there. Everything is just fine and dandy and TENSE. I mean, maybe I'm just not a huge fan of spy movies. I feel like I under react to the Bourne movies too.
People walking out of a plane? In a Movie!? No way!

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Fly - 1986 - Dir. Cronenberg

What can I say!? I like this movie a lot. I've seen it a handful of times. It's great! Jeff Goldblum turning into a Fly? What's not to like? Not only that, but before he becomes a Fly, he turns into a hyper weirdo! The first shot is Jeff Goldblum's weird face! He manages to change tracks several times in the movie without making it feel strange or sudden. Able to hold both the Old Brundle and the Brundlefly at the same time. And the movie is just paced so well. It's all "BAM! Let's do this Transporter thing!" It's basically everything I like about Cronenberg at it's very best. Strange, body-horror, sex/pregnancy stuff that's weirdly funny the whole way through. AND RIDICULOUS SPECIAL EFFECTS! It has those nice 80's practical effects where they are treated like set pieces, like freakish ape and Brundlefly. There's nothing in this for me to not like. Actually, that once sequence where he's speaking and crawling on the wall always seems a little disjointed to me, but apart from that it's all good. Davis is great as our heroine. She's not one of those forehead-smackingly dumb or overly emotional. But she's not a cold-hearted/super hero female. She has great judgement and I think that's some too appreciate in a horror movie character. We also get a smirkingly fantastic performance from John Getz, who basically just plays the shithead role perfectly. It has a really nice cathartic ending, too. It's just an entertaining movie that deserves it's status. Also, Jeff Goldblum's hair? I mean... C'mon... Jeff Goldblum's hair!
This is why you can't leave a Jeff Goldblum in direct sunlight.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Star 80 - 1983 - Dir. Fosse

It was recommended and getting taken off of Netflix so I figured I'd best make I way to see Fosse's last film. It's... well, it's not All That Jazz. You can see how they were made by the same fella but Fosse's holding back directing-wise. The real centerpiece of the film is FUCKING Eric Roberts. Who is SO weird and pathetic and threatening all at the same time. I mean, I'm really impressed by how many terrible emotion balls that man juggled in this film. Fosse was clearly interested in his psychology rather than Stratten's, who deftly handles her growing fame. Even Hefner and the Bogdanovich are mild. Robert's Clingy Overwhelmed Boyfriend just goes mad in the light of these characters. This does flatten the scenes he isn't in which are usually just about how to handle Eric Roberts. The fact that we know how it will end and the lack of any other proper drama leads to a pretty slow movie. We want it to move faster than it does. We know where we are headed, we're just along for the ride. The nuances of his decline are interesting, I give you that but not portrayed THAT differently from what is a pretty familiar story. I say, a fan of Fosse, Roberts, or nutcases should follow up. But I'm sure you could find better stories about Stardom, Playboy Bunnies, and even creepy boyfriends (although perhaps the boyfriends won't be as weird of Roberts).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Catfish - 2010 - Dir. Joost/Schulman

I gave into the viral marketing campaign and made sure it seek out the film to find out it's SHOCKING TWIST. Which you know can't be that shocking because... well... it's a documentary. But I bit anyway. And the shocking twist is about as shocking as you might expect... and probably IS what you would expect it to be. To start off, let me just say that I wasn't a fan of our subject, Nev. He kinda... seemed like a douche. That aside, the premise of the film takes over pretty quickly and holds our attention as unlikable as I might have found our subject to be. It's paced slow enough, and everyone in the theater knows something shifty is around so a lot of the movie is seeing if you could figure it out before they do. Or at least, trying to solve the mystery. When it's revealed. It feels pretty good and it is actually handled pretty well considering. It's an emotionally satisfying ending, I suppose. A lot of people question the authenticity of this documentary... as well they should: It's a documentary. But honestly, with something like this I have no issue with thing re-filmed/staged/whatever. It's not like it is making much of an argument. To be honest, I found it engaging and entertaining. If it's completely fiction, I don't give a damn. A fine little piece of entertainment.
Why, hello! I'd like to Friend you on Facebook!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Conversation - 1974 - Dir. Coppola

I always forget Coppola did this. It's a lot quieter, less ambitious, and less... well... less dynamic than say Apocalypse Now or the Godfather films. But to be honest, this probably ranks up as my favorite film of his. I had seen it long ago and entirely forgot about it. It's a taut, character-driven thriller. Hackman, always excellent at making unlikable characters watchable, draws us in as Caul. The film is a nice reminder of how enjoyable a movie can be when you have a strong character leading us. Caul is faced with a conspiracy but the majority of the film isn't about him unraveling the conspiracy. Rather, we are given almost all the information up front, but it follows Caul as he struggles with himself regarding the information he has. Information he doesn't understand but struggles to without leaving his safety zone. Generally, I suppose, people get all up in arms about the sound design. I'm not really sure I know very much about it's place in sound design history so I won't really speak on that. But hey! It's got a lot of great sounds and uses sound really well. Which is good based on how much of the film is about sound and HEARING and EARS. Anyway, the ending is great. Pitch perfect. And we also get to watch John Cazale act which is always dandy. And Harrison Ford! As a douche!
Hackman trying to understand toilets.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Paranoids - 2008 - Dir. Medina

For some reason, I was really excited about this, even though the trailer set it up to be a kind of run of the mill, artsy loner type movie. And it is. From the overly ponderous opening shot, which I feel really only has a tenuous connection to the movie. It's the kind of opening shot where I feel like I can hear the director say "Wouldn't it be cool if..." From there we get to explore our Protagonist and how much his life is shit. He's shy, with a crappy job, and he can't do what he loves cause he's screwed up, and he also does too many drugs. It's the usual bag. I think Hendler does a really good job doing that and it's directed well, but it's familiar territory. Throw in an old friend who has become successful and is a complete douchebag, things get slightly more interesting, but not much more. Some familiar story-telling tropes get thrown into the mix. I shook my head when the experienced older fellah started giving advice. It's kind of like an Urban Argentinian Garden State, which has good points and bad points to it. It was never an unenjoyable experience and I certainly didn't feel like the film spoke down to me or insulted my intelligence, but I don't feel like it really pushed or pulled me any one way.
Oh yeah, babe, blur your arms for me some more!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Graveyard of Honor - 2002 - Dir. Miike

A Miike remake of a Fukasaku film seems like an appropriate enough thing to exist. The two men certainly have their similarities. Although, let's not fool ourselves, this is a Miike movie. It is unendingly violent, loud, and strangely enough slow and boring. The man just seems to want to show us someone who can't not hurt people all the time. So, you know, we're never really rooting for the guy. We're just waiting for him to hit the wall. And good god, does it take forever... more than two hours of this jackass screaming and doing insane shit, getting fucked up on drugs. There's an arc of a kind. But the film is like a Punch and Judy show, where the character is a vehicle for violence and that is kind of the long and the short of it. We don't really get many insights into why or even a goofy quirk (like say Ichi the Killer might throw that our way). We're just dealing with a violent dude in a violent movie. This isn't Miike at his strongest. It's not his worst. There's some fun sequences... but they can be pretty far apart. Pretty, pretty far apart. So, I dunno. If you wanna watch a lot of fighting and blood and screaming (that actually sounds more appealing then the movie is), check it out. I think you could do better though.
Guys! I'm Batmmmaaaaaann?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Omen - 1976 - Dir. Donner

Probably better and more engaging than I thought it would be. Anytime you have the main conflict of a film be whether or not parents are going to kill their child. I mean, you generally want to see how that turns out. Having Gregory Peck play the father helps a ton, too. Sure, it's no "To Kill a Mockingbird" or anything but that guy brings his shit wherever he goes. Also, Jerry Goldsmith's score is a classic 70's horror score. Probably makes the movie. I mean, it's not exactly a "scary" movie. It's certainly tense enough and has plenty of strong sequences. It also doesn't rely on the pale five-year-old boy to bring the scares. In fact, what I kind of appreciated was that to some degree the film doesn't exactly ever condemn Damien. We're never like "GET THAT MOTHERFUCKING KID" because he doesn't do anything. Awful shit just seems to happen around him. So when Peck is debating whether or not to kill his son, it seems more like a debate because we haven't just watched scene after scene of Damien dismembering people with an evil glint in his eye. The kid is a kid, who just happens to be the son a Satan. So yeah, it's a pretty good movie. It's not a stand-out by any means, but it seems like just a very solidly made picture. And David Warner is in it too. That never hurts.
Quit bein' such a prick, kid!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Iron Man 2 - 2010 - Dir. Favreau

I had a bad enough feeling about Iron Man 2 that I didn't pursue it in theaters, despite having a good enough time in the first one. I did well to save my money. Iron Man 2 is a simple illustration of why I am often hesitant about super hero movies these days. First of all, we spend chunks of the movie without a reasonable threat to our protagonist. Except that he's dying... which really just spurs on Tony Stark to act more like an asshole and create tension between himself and his pals, which is the sole point of drama in the film. Sure, there's some Russian guy who is dispatched less than half-way through and Justin Hammer who is so goofy that it makes Sam Rockwell's comic relief the high point of the film. There's absolutely no build up to the climax. Oh great... the final bad guy is... Many Robots? Even the locale is just a series of random environments. The film just fucks around, winking at fanboys and nudging everyone else. The film takes the easy way out of every situation whenever it can and simply runs off of it's assumed charm and light-hearted manner. In the end, it just feels tiring and boring. And naturally, for some reason it thinks it needs to be more than two hours (by a minute, but still, we couldn't have pulled in a hour forty-five for this... it only deserves 90 minutes anyway). There aren't even enough action sequences to really even warrant that running time. It's mostly filled with watching a unsympathetic rich guy mope around and crack wise.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lars and the Real Girl - 2007 - Dir. Gillespie

I had put off this film for a while, fearing it would be a two hour examination of how pathetic and delusional one man can be. Sort of like an emotional car crash, where you can't turn away from the wreak of a man in front of you. It's actually more like a really nice bus ride with old people. It's charming, slowly paced, and any bawdiness is enveloped by it's charm. Assuming the old people aren't the filthy disgusting type of elderly people. The film rarely gets mean, rarely gets too sentimental. It doesn't really take many risks once you get past the premise. It actually ends up just being a much nicer movie than one might expect. Lars' delusion never gets cringe worthy and is often more about his progress to healing than his illness. Sure... I dunno. I suppose if you're looking for hard drama or... well... anything harder. You won't really get it from Lars. Solid performances from the main cast keep it from feeling to light and fluffy. They play it honestly and rarely cheap. The harder to swallow moments come from the townspeople... who as less developed characters, often highlight the Hallmark Card sentiment line that the film is toeing. It was a pleasantly light surprise, the kind of film that really sets out to do a certain job and does it very well.
Get the hint, Gosling! She's trying to read!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Capturing the Friedmans - 2003 - Dir. Jarecki

If you like movies about Child Molestation, then this is the documentary for you! It creeped me out, which I suppose isn't a stretch considering it's subject: the convicted Father-Son team of child molesters in suburban Long Island. Perhaps what ends up being the most disturbing aspect of it is the film's own ambiguity in regards to whether or not their guilt is justified. It doesn't take a strong stance exactly, but simply repeatedly suggests that all is not what it appears. So by the end of the film, we're left hanging, having either seen the up close and personal lives of a family where two of the members committed awful acts OR the jailing of an innocent. To be honest, the family dynamic exposed by the plethora of home video the Friedmans' kept is unnerving enough but to have the insinuations of child molestation underneath is the Icing on the cake. The terrible, terrible cake. Their constant clowning throughout the process, either as a bizarre way of coping with the situation or just... I don't know what, becomes pretty surreal at times. Either way, it's a well-crafted documentary and Jarecki seems to have pretty surprisingly open access considering the situation (that he got the home videos and interviews at all seems lucky). Worth the watch if you want to feel unsure and unsettled.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Beginners - 2010 - Dir. Mills

I swear I've seen Mills' previous film Thumbsucker, wrote it off as being like every other indie film at the time and moved on. I can't remember anything about it. It left absolutely no impression on me whatsoever, to the degree that I am no longer even sure that I've seen it. So I was skeptical about Beginners. The trailer hinting at more of the same, but Plummer seemed charming and I wanted some light fare. BACKSTORY COMPLETE. Christopher Plummer is so fucking charming. In fact, the cast all around is great. I rarely have anything bad to say about Ewan and my admiration for Laurent's performance grows as I think about it. The film so dangerously dances near the edge of forgettable indie-quirky romcom tripe that I WAS ON THE EDGE OF MY SEAT (okay, not really). But between a subtitled dog and the playful editing, there's a lot to be suspicious about. What saves the film is that despite the goofy storytelling, it seems to come from an honest and genuine place. And the cast knew this and keeps an honest face throughout. It actually makes the playful/quirky aspects of it more welcome as the film progresses. What could have destroyed it, actually succeeds and keeps it playful. What emerges is a emotional comedy, that has enough depth that I was still chewing it over after leaving the theater. LOOKING SO COOL, PLUMMER! >:|

Friday, July 29, 2011

Bridesmaids - 2011 - Dir. Feig

Bridesmaids made a big splash because of the amount of ladies in it, being hailed as a kind of rising of female R-rated comedies. To some degree, I'm pretty shocked that it got that level of praise. I think perhaps what initially bothered me about Bridesmaids is that it seems mildly condescending that the new female comedy hit is about Weddings. It is smarter than it might appear, emotionally more mature, although I'm divided as to whether this is because that was the goal or if they were being somewhat restrained from letting women look too goofy (ugly/stupid) in the film. I suppose it's an accomplishment that they were able to look as silly as they do. The film is cast really well. Wiig, who I'm not generally a huge fan of, is AWESOME. The movie ends up being more about Wiig's relationship with Rudolph and her new friend Byrne. Leaving Kemper and McLendon-Covey SUPER underused and McCarthy is thrown in anytime a raunchy joke needs to be made. So to some degree, I like to think that Bridesmaids is a somewhat misleading title. BUT I DIGRESS. Wiig plays the mid-thirties loser (read: Liz Lemon) with skill and with more earnestness than we may be used to seeing. Her relationship with the doofy policeman is perhaps the high point of the film. They're scenes are light, charming and they play off of each other really nicely. The film deserves the praise for being a good female driven comedy, but apart from that, it's a pretty basic comedy. Female roles plugged into a somewhat cookie cutter script. It's done well and perhaps the casting gives it a bit a fresh air, but not exactly as groundbreaking as we may lead to believe.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tree of Life - 2011 - Dir. Malick

Not my favorite Malick, but perhaps the one that most gets me excited about him. Partially because what he fails to do and partially what he does with flying colors. Firstly, it's undeniably beautiful. To the degree where you don't even mind that it is achingly slow. Small moments of a childhood in the 1950's have never been so gripping. The film's scope is practically boundless, with a chunk of it following the creation of the universe/world. To have that in contrast with the smaller (perhaps SMALLEST story) layers the film beautifully and gives me more than plenty to chew on. However, it should not be a surprise that the film at times dips into pretensions, the existential pleadings heard in the voice over are perhaps too on-the-nose. Often times removing me from the film. It's perhaps the first time where Malick didn't completely blow me out of the water with his voice over. Often times, I felt handed several pieces of a puzzle with no real idea of how to put them together. Or what I was expected to do with them. The film may be beautiful, but I can't say I'm driven to rewatch it in an attempt to put it all together. In some sense, just having them was enough. Rather, it leads to me want to watch something else of his. Still, there is something exciting about the scope of the film, that it has been tackled by a filmmaker during a summer of what seems to be pretty ordinary fare.
Stop playin' with all them Baby Feet, Brad!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Battle of Algiers - 1966 - Dir. Pontecorvo

I actually thought this movie was a documentary before I saw it. It was just so highly lauded as a political film that it never occurred to me that it was a dramatization praised for even handedness. And when you get right down to it, it certainly seems to make both sides out into violent brutes. There's no justification or silver lining to any of the violence in the film. These elements make it stand out in many ways, but at the same time, I'm not sure it really leaps out why this film is so well respected. It's kind of a cold re-telling and to some degree, maybe the film can be a little slow. Being critical for criticism's sake. We have no one who we really like and the film feels like a watching a series of terrorist incidents followed by the Occupation's reaction. The film still reflects our current political situations to a pretty surprising and horrifying degree. The story is told in a gritty black and white which feels absolutely perfect for the film. And as usual, Ennio Morricone still makes the hell out of those musical notes. When the Army is flooding the streets to the main theme, it sticks with you. It's a fine film, perhaps not as apparent off the bat why it is so highly lauded, but certainly deserves it's place in Cinema History and perhaps it is an important film to watch based on our own foreign policy.
That guy back there just LOVES checkpoint duty.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My Fair Lady - 1964 - Dir. Cukor

I'm not a big musical guy, which is something I say before I ever give my opinion about musicals. But I like My Fair Lady. It's silly, got a bit of sass in it, and it's charming . BUT WHO WOULDN'T BE CHARMED BY HEPBURN AND HARRISON!! I mean, both of them are a ton of fun to watch, and I do enjoy a musical based around the way people speak. Harrison plays a uppity dick ever so well but never so well that I want to smack him in the mouth. Hepburn plays a big-mouthed upstart but again, never so well that I want to smack HER in the mouth either. I guess, when you have a musical where the two main characters are jerks, I'm more likely to be a fan. But I suppose what works is that the tone is never really all that cynical. It's silly. Fun, in the spirit of a light-hearted bet. The emotion that gets injected into it is subtle. When everyone congratulated Harrison on a job well done, Hepburn's face is all you need to see. And the movie knows well enough to give us only that. It's can wander around sometimes. The scenes with the father are nice tough if a little tangent-y. It's one of those movies that kind of runs on charm rather than tight or compelling story-telling. It's not a bad story, but perhaps it's strongest trait is that it takes a backseat to the characters and music.
Audrey Hepburn, Filthy As Usual

Les Diaboliques - 1955 - Dir. Clouzot

I can say I easily enjoyed this more than Wages of Fear, which Clouzot made directly before this. The films are two completely different beasts of course. A classic thriller regularly compared to Hitchcock, Les Diaboliques follows the story of a woman and her husband's mistress plotting to murder the abusive husband/lover. Even if it wasn't for the famous twist, the movie is still very strong. Paced well. Keeps us wondering what could be going on. When our two main protagonists become overwhelmed with the situation, we could shift focus too the more light-hearted teachers and students of the boarding school they work at. Through them, a simmering tone is maintained without becoming two heavy. We try to continue to piece together what clues we can find. The problems that arise are both baffling and ordinary and our imaginations can go in any direction. We are given just enough information to keep us hooked and not frustrated but never so much that it has become obvious. OR I'm just an idiot that didn't see the ending coming miles away. Sure, it's not friggin' M. Night Shyamalan or what have you. But it's a nice classic thriller! So get off my back! It's a nice movie! For nice people!
Ted Raimi or Moe Howard?

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Parallax View - 1974 - Dir. Pakula

Certainly no All the President's Men, Pakula's middle entry of his paranoia trilogy is a straight-forward thriller. It seems to struggle to get started and then when it does so fails to really pick up much steam. It just feels uneven as hell and Beatty plays the unorthodox reporter on a big scoop about as well as anyone else might. Although, it bothered me as hell with how capable he was at basically everything. The man could even throw a punch! It was one of those characters whose flaw is that he loves the Truth TOO MUCH. Perhaps it is a little impressive in that it is about as entertaining as a generic paranoid thriller made these days (Compliment?). Except you get to look at Warren Beatty's ridiculous hair (Compliment!). I was caught off guard (shocked even) with how badly executed the Dam sequence is. That being said, the final assassination sequence is top notch! It is strange to think that it is the same movie. I don't suppose the ending will really catch anyone by surprise, but I'm not going to hold it against them. The third act is probably the strongest portion where Beatty struggles to tip the odds in his favor. So, a pretty ordinary paranoid thriller from the 70's. I imagine it's on a shelf a bit higher than it's peers at the time but that is something I should look into. OH! The opening sequence is pretty sweet too.
Wilson from Home Improvement is starting shit!

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