Thursday, December 27, 2007

National Treasure:Book of Secrets

2007 sequel to the 2004 boxoffice hit National Treasure. If I was 10 and had never seen a movie I might have loved this movie, but I'm not and I have. This movie sucked pretty hard. Nothing surprising happened at any moment in this movie. Seriously, you know exactly what's going to happen at all moments of this movie. I just sat there thinking to myself that I can't believe that 4 of the 6 main actors are Oscar winners. The sets were nice, the performances weren't terrible, but the writing and the movie as a whole were wholly predictable and lame as all hell. And to think, I love this director. Oh well, they can't all be gems. If you're looking for mindless fun and someone is going to pay for your ticket, it still wouldn't be worth your time unless you seriously had nothing else to do that day.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Dog Problem

A dark comedy with Mena Suvari, Don Cheadle, Scott Caan and Giovanni Ribisi, it's gotta be good right? Eh, not so much. The Dog Problem tells the tale of Solo, a writer whose down on his luck and cash flow and way up in the problems department. Almost simultaneously, however, he meets a dog and a girl who start steering his life towards the silver lining. But before that can happen a bunch of wacky shit happens that I think is supposed to be really funny. But I didn't laugh much at all. It felt like they were trying to be Get Shorty but really just seemed like a two-hour long Seinfeld episode that really wasn't even that funny in the beginning. And by that I mean that it was very wordy (TONS of dialogue) and wasn't really about anything. The problem is that Seinfeld was a great show b/c it was so witty it didn't have to be about anything. The Dog Problem, on the other hand, just wasn't about anything. I might watch parts of it if it were on television, but I certainly wouldn't pay money to see it. Not a terrible flick, but not all that good either.


Friday, December 21, 2007


2004 movie about the life of Cole Porter. It's written by the guy that wrote Gangs of New York and a director that hasn't directed many movies, but produced some of the best ever, like Rocky, Raging Bull and Goodfellas. Cole Porter had a very full and interesting life. Not only was he one of the most successful songwriters ever, but he was bi-sexual and went through numerous tragedies. He is wonderfully portrayed by Kevin Kline and his wife and muse Linda is fantastically portrayed by Ashley Judd. The best thing about this movie though is how it's presented. The idea is that Gabriel has come down to take Cole up to heaven and is allowing him to help put on a play that tells the story of his life, starring the actual people from his past. And so this is how they transition into a really interesting, enjoyable bio pic. Throughout they occasionally go back to Gabriel and Cole. And since Cole is putting on his life story it is of course a musical. But if that turns you off, don't let it too much b/c there are only parts now and then that are musical and for the most part it's not. Good flick, about a fascinating American couple.


Alvin and the Chipmunks

I loved the chipmunks growing up, especially the TV show. And when I heard that a movie was being made written by one of my favorite writers from The Simpsons and starring David Cross and Jason Lee, I was optimistic and kind of looking forward to it. But once I saw the previews I was no longer interested. But I saw it tonight w/ my daughter and I gotta say, it wasn't all that bad. It was not like the show, but it was good-hearted and fun. The acting wasn't great and of course it wasn't a great movie at all, but I actually did enjoy myself and the chipmunks themselves were well animated and very likable. So, I didn't love this movie by any means, but I didn't hate it either. Long story short, if you have kids, take them, they'll like it and it won't be too bad for you. If you don't have kids, skip it and go rent The Chipmunk Adventure (it's awesome).

Saturday Afternoon

Clip o' the Week

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Before Night Falls

This 2000 film tells the tale of Cuban poet, revolutionary and counter-revolutionary Reinaldo Arenas. Maybe I should rephrase that, this is the film version of Arenas' memoir of his life, which he wrote mostly in prison and was only able to get published after going to many drastic measures to get the manuscript smuggled out of Cuba (including wrapping it in plastic and trying to ride an intertube to Miami). I so wanted to love this movie. I absolutely love the main actor, I love the story and I totally love the writer/director. This is the second movie by writer/director Julian Schnabel who wrote/directed one of my very favorite movies ever, Basquiat. But I couldn't love this movie b/c it was too strange at times and really dragged at others. There were scenes that I felt like were totally unnecessary. And there were times where they were clearly trying to be artsy but it just came off to me as boring, pretentious and unnecessary. But there were some very good things. Javier Bardem's portrayal was absolutely perfect, spot on. The story was good, the look was good and the message was very good. Arenas was a man oppressed. He was oppressed as a young artist by his family. He was oppressed by his society as a homosexual and he was oppressed by his government as both a homosexual and an artist. If this film does anything it shows the true ugliness of bigotry, a message that everyone should hear and soak in. But as a movie en totale, I just didn't love no matter how much I wanted to.

S'Good (fyi, there are some scenes of pretty explicit sexuality in this movie)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Broken English

This 2007 film tells the story of Nora Wilder, a thirty-something New Yorker who's on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She's so focused on finding love that she's she's almost obsessed. The movie starts with her practicing her smile before going to a party. It's almost hard to watch. She goes on one bad date after another and in one scene is giving up on another party (and seemingly her lovelife) when a young French man named Julian walks into the door. At first he just seems like a flirt but as the night goes on she lets her guard down and he gives up the sexy French guy thing and before she knows it he seems to be turning into just what she's been looking for. He's young, he's only here for a weekend and he's from a different country, but there's something about their connection that she can't deny and has to learn to relax and embrace. But like I said, he's only here for the weekend. When he leaves, she's got to figure out what she's going to do and, really, who she is.
I liked this movie alot, but I didn't love it. Sometimes Nora is hard to watch, but the story and the performances are great and it feels like a very genuine expression of life and the desperate attempts we take to define ourselves through the doorway of love. There are no bad performances in this movie and it plays like an old school romantic flick that should be starring Cary Grant.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio

The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio tells the true tale of Evelyn Ryan, a woman whose life work was to make lemonade out of lemons. The film is based on the memoirs of Tuff Ryan, one of Evelyn's TEN children. Evelyn was a typical housewife from the 40's who's life seemed like one sacrifice after another. Not only did she take care of the ten kids but she gave up a writing career to do it. And her husband is no help at all. In fact, he's a major douchebag who does little more than spend money on booze and be verbally abusive to the family.
Defiance isn't just the name of the film, it's also the name of the game for Evelyn. She decides to use her wit and writing skills to enter contests, in an attempt to get some extra money for the family. She wins everything from two bucks to cars and thousands of dollars. She serves as an inspiration to her kids that they can overcome anything with a little bit of hard work and a positive perspective on life. She has a knitted sign above her desk that says, "the harder I work, the luckier I get." If your heart isn't warmed by this film, something is seriously wrong with you. Halfway through the flick I was so frustrated by her. Why won't she leave this a-hole? Why won't she get a career and see the world? But by the end I realized that I may well want to be just like her. It's clear her kids felt the same and it shows in this loving tribute the the writer's mom Evelyn.

Worth Watching

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Monday, December 3, 2007

Another Clip for the Week (Couldn't Resist)

No Country for Old Men

I so rarely do this, but if you like Blood Simple you're gonna like No Country for Old Men. This is the latest movie from the writing/directing team of brothers Joel and Ethan Cohen. Most of their movies are quirky and a little odd (even though they're also all great) but their first movie, Blood Simple, was a tense, straightforward, dark suspense film. This is a return to that form. In No Country the brothers create a movie that is a slow boil and a world that is gritty, harsh and genuine. From the first seconds of the film people are dying and things are going very wrong. No Country tells the story of a guy from west texas who's come back from Vietnam only to live a boring life, living in a trailer and doing not a whole lot. Suddenly he finds a bag of money (over $2million) among a bunch of dead bodies in the desert and finds himself in a world of shit. See the money was part of a big drug deal and the people who supplied the drugs want the money and the good ole boys from Houston want their money back (since they never got the drugs). Both parties hire ruthless people to track one thing, that vietnam vet named Llewellyn Moss. A west texas sheriff is also looking for him to save him in an attempt to do one last good thing before retiring. Unfortunately for everyone, one of the people hired to find Moss for the Houston boys is a damn psychopath named Cigur. Javier Bardem's portrayal of Cigur is pitch perfect. He truly embodies this truly scary, heartless man. And his performance is by far the best thing about the film. It's a good flick that is certainly worth a watch and will have you biting your nails from moment one. Again, if you've seen Blood Simple and have been waiting for another movie like that to come along, then this is it.

Worth Watching

Clip of the Week

Monday, November 26, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

In the Company of Men

1997 film by Neil Labute about two guys who decide to play a little game where they simultaneously seduce an office girl then simultaneously dump her. They cook this up after a
series of demotions, break-ups and other such life annoyances. They want to "restore their dignity " as they put it. Well, as you might guess, things are more complicated than that and it ends up creating complications and misfortunes. This movie is formulaic, predictable and boring. I found myself wanting to fast forward many, many times. This movie is only 90 minutes long but it could've been thirty and felt like well over 120. The acting is good, the dialogue is good, but the scenes run way too long and the general pace of the movie is a snoozefest. I left this movie feeling like "what was the point?"


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sunday, November 18, 2007

American Gangster

American Gangster is the latest film from director Ridley Scott (GI Jane, Gladiator, Thelma & Louise, and many more) and screenwriter Steve Zaillian (Schindler's List, Gangs of New York, etc) and it tells the true stories of Frank Lucas and Richie Roberts. The former is an African American from North Carolina who is trying to define and establish himself as a gangster/drug dealer in New York. Across the river in New Jersey is Richie Roberts, a man who too is trying to define and establish himself, but as a cop and, eventually he hopes, a lawyer. Both men face numerous odds and work tirelessly to stick true to what they believe and be the best damn gangster/cop in town. This leads Lucas to the very top of the drug food chain (his net worth in the 70's was hundreds of millions) and Roberts to being picked to form the first DEA office in Jersey. This means Lucas soon becomes Roberts primary target. It's a very good watch, and has some fantastic performances by all involved. It's very good, but it's not great. At times it seems like characters just do things w/out the filmmaker developing why (for example, one of the characters turns to the other side at one part and that scene lasts like a second, it's almost like, ok, games up I'm on your side now). All that to say, I left the movie feeling like, that was good, I enjoyed it, but I didn't think much about it and I certainly wasn't running to tell people to go out and see it.

S'Good, but borderline SA

Gone Baby Gone

Alright, I'm going to just lay this out there so you're not taken off guard and run out of the theatre. Affleck's directorial debut. I know, I know, but hear me out. It's actually really, really good. This flick, starring Casey Affleck, Ed Harris and Morgan Freeman is tense, gritty, emotional and very well done. Somehow you feel like you are there in the dirties parts of Boston and like the characters in the film, all you wanna do is clean things up. Gone Baby Gone is the story of a young guy and his girlfriend who've decided to start a private investigator firm that specializes in missing persons. But up until now all he's done is, as he puts it, people who get a little drunk during spring break and wander off. Suddenly he's approached about finding a missing girl that's in all the headlines. He takes the case and is soon in way over his head. The movie is dark, raw and at times very hard to watch. But it's one of the best movies I've ever seen on the subject of child abuse and neglect. Everyone seems to be saying they're acting in the best interest of the child and yet it's hard to decide, even by the end, if ANY of them actually are. This movies is suspenseful and tense and will certainly leaving you thinking.

Worth Watching (but do be warned it's a tough watch)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Why We Fight

In his farewell address, Ike Eisenhower, a man who's rise to fame came as a result of his military genius, warned the nation that it was headed down a path leading to a "military industrial state" as he called it. He said that building up this military industrial state can't be done without sacraficing other things we want in our nation. Every bomb we build is a school we don't improve. Every jet we build is a hospital we didn't build. He said this country runs on resources and the more we pour towards the military, the less we have to pour into other things.
This documentary by Eugene Jarecki is an examination of that speech and a look at how we've, unfortunately, made reality many of the nightmares Eisenhower warned about. It is a look at how vast and pervasive the military has become in our society and, to some extent, a look at what that means for our future. It is a very well made doc and I assure you that will either leave feeling proud or downright enraged. It is a very good flick that is certainly worth a view.
Worth Watching

Clip o' the Week

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

LATE! Clip o the Weeks

Halloween - 1978

This is the classic horror flick that launched the careers of almost everyone involved from Jamie Lee Curtis to John Carpenter and even the guy who played Mike Meyers is Nick Castle who went on to be a successful director (hello? he did the Boy Who Could Fly). This truly creepy movie tells the tale of Mike Meyers, a dude that's been locked up in an asylum for years since murdering his sister. When he escapes the first thing he wants to do is go back to the house where he killed his sister and stir up a little murderous havoc. His family no longer lives there and tonight (which just happens to be Halloween) it is occupied by some kids and their babysitter. Major studio player Irwin Yablans wanted to get in on the independent film scene, so he went out to make one of his own. He hired a very unknown director and told him that he could have total control of the film if he could do it for under $500k. He made it for $300k and that film was Halloween. It went on to be one of the most successful independent films of all time, spawned numerous sequels and even a remake and is in the top 5 (still!) for most profitable films of all time. Part of what makes this movies so great is that they had so little money to work with. Since they had no money they had almost no special effects. Instead, they had to rely on old-school suspense building. There's almost no blood, the mask is a William Shatner mask they bought at a local store and Carpenter himself did the music. And boy is the music good. It too is simple and wicked creepy. This movie is a marvel of simple, straight forward scare. They have truly created a tense, chilling masterpiece here and it's one of my favorite horror films of all time.
  • Worth Watching (or maybe a little bit ME)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Monday, October 15, 2007

Friday, October 12, 2007


2005 French film about a man who suddenly begins receiving eerie drawings and videotapes that show he’s being watched. No one knows where they’re coming from but he thinks it may be the result of a dark chapter in his past that he’s kept hidden from everyone, even his own family. This movie won director Michael Haneke the Best Director award that year at Cannes, which is ironic because the direction was the root of why I hated this movie. The acting was fantastic and the story was great. Seriously, you can’t be a plotline like this one. Every script is made up of scenes (elements) and it’s the director’s job to decide what scenes get in, where to put them and how long or short to let them run. The scenes of this movie were arranged in a boring, flat, linear fashion. The tone was so monotone that the movie even seemed to bore itself. I know I sure felt like I could turn it off at any given moment and not miss a thing. And that’s just to speak of the overall tone. The individual scenes in-and-among themselves ran way too long and many of them seemed totally unnecessary. In other words, this film wasted alot of time, don’t let it waste any of yours.
  • Unacceptable

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Rocky Balboa

2006 film, written, produced and directed by Sylvester Stallone that is the sixth and (supposedly) final film in the Rocky series. And, like all the other movies in the series this movie is majorly hit-and-miss. It has some good moments. Now and then it feels good and you get wrapped up in it. This is especially true (again like in all the other one's) for the final fight scene. The good stuff in this movie is in the little things. Like Dixon's expression of gratitude when the fight is over. But overall the movie is pretty much nostalgic, sappy, boring, junk. The story concerns Rocky wanting to train and have one more fight. It's not to make a comeback, it's to get rid of all that "stuff" that's dwelling in his "basement." In other words, he needs catharsis, closure. He needs to get things off his chest through his fists. The problem is the movie is 90% reminiscing and very little actual Rocky. In fact, a large chunk of the movie is clips from the older movies. I might watch this, or parts of it, if there was nothing else on on television, but I wouldn't bother renting it.

Unacceptable (borderline Saturday Afternoon)

Trivia: They show footage in the movie of every Rocky movie ever made except Rocky V. They just sort of forget about that one.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Little Dieter Needs to Fly

1997 documentary about Dieter Dengler. He grew up in an area of Germany so remote that he'd never seen an airplane until an American jet came roaring through his village guns and bombs a-blazin during the latter years of WWII. The experience blew his mind and he spent the next years trying to become an American fighter pilot. Years later he achieved this goal and on his first mission in Vietnam he was shot down over Laos and captured. For weeks he was tortured and starved all while chained to the bottom of a bamboo structure. He then led a revolt and he and the other prisoners escaped after killing nearly all the other people at the camp. He then spent three weeks wandering in the jungle until he was discovered. This film is done by Werner Herzog, a German feature filmmaker who is famous for taking big risks and working hard to create real emotions. He takes that attitude and puts it into this documentary having Dieter literally walk through his experiences. The start in Laos and end up in Thailand and literally retrace his steps. The movie is really not about Dieter at all but about humanity. And boy is Dieter full of human spirit. While it may sound like a depressing movie, I say without hesitation that it's really one of the most uplifting movies I've seen in a long time. Dieter exudes an appreciation for and love of life that is so rare. He harbors no hate or resentment. He kept flying as soon as he got back and didn't stop. If you want a movie that tells an interesting story and will lift your heart and give you some much needed perspective, this is the movie for you. (and while you're at it, check out some of Herzog's other movies like Grizzly Man and Fitzcarraldo).
  • Worth Watching

The Good Shepherd

2006 thriller/history pic directed by Robert DeNiro and written by Eric Roth, who wrote some fantastic movies in the past like Ali, The Insider and Forrest Gump. This is only DeNiro's second shot at directing and man what an amazing second shot it is. It is a rich, textured, complex slow boil. It takes a very slow, simmering pace that just seems to cook, despite that fact that an enormous amount of stuff happens. It spans the whole career of Edward Wilson from college to retirement. While this isn't a true story, it's a fictionalized retelling of the founding of the CIA and the career of one of history's most influential counterintelligence personalities (James Angleton, who Ed Wilson is based on). This movie is good at just about everything it does. The story, the costumes, the cinematography, the history, it's all good, and the acting is fantastic. This movie does a great job of creating the essence of that very tense, secretive period in our history and really shows the repercussions as well.
  • Worth While
Trivia: Leo DiCaprio was originally cast as Ed Wilson, but dropped out to do The Departed. He told Matt Damon (whose also in The Departed) on set. So, Damon decided to go out for the part, got it and just decided to do both movies at the same time. Leo's loss I guess.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Clip o' the Week

Blades of Glory

2007 comedy from the directing pair Josh Gordon and Will Speck who I could describe as the pair that produced the Oscar winning comedy short Culture or who created the new TV show Cavemen, but I'm not sure which one tells more about them. This movie, starring Will Ferrell and Jon Heder (and some fantastic cameo's and supporting roles) is moderately funny at times and hilarious at others. This is the first feature-length movie by this directing pair and you can kind of tell b/c it's not all that consistent in delivery. But both of the leads, and all of the support, offer really great performances and it's totally worth a watch on rental. You may not crack up, but you're gonna laugh.

  • Saturday Afternoon

Monday, October 8, 2007

Knocked Up

2007 film by director Judd Apatow and starring Seth Rogan and Katherine Heigl. This is the latest film from the creative team that brought us Anchorman and the 40-Year-Old Virgin.
Each one seems to be better than the last, but still not that great. Like the others it has some really funny moments but is overall not that great. Worth a watch, but nothing to write home about.


Warning: there are some sex scenes and they do show the baby coming out. Na mean?

The Proposition

2005 Australian film directed by John Hillcoat and starring Guy Pearce and Danny Huston. It is a fantastic, classic-style western that tells the story of the three Burns brothers. Charlie and Arthur run the horrific Burns Brothers Gang, along with tagalong brother Mikey (who is mentally disabled). A local captain captures Charlie and Mikey, but, dissatisfied, gives Charlie a proposition. If he kills Arthur, the gang's leader and arguably the most frightening of the bunch, by Sunday he'll let Mikey go free and only hang Charlie. In the meantime he's going to torture Mikey until he returns and if Charlie doesn't return by Christmas, Mikey's dead. It's tense and old school and wonderful. It is beautifully shot by French cinematographer Benoit Delhomme. If you like Once Upon a Time in the West, you will love this one.


It's worth noting that this movie has some scenes of very intense violence, but not many.