Formerly "A Movie A Day" :/

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!