Monday, December 15, 2008

The Hunted


2003 suspense drama by one of my favorite suspense directors William Friedkin who, in movies like The Exorcist and The French Connection, has a nack for scaring the crap out of you and, yet, making it to where you can't turn away. While The Hunted isn't as good as those two, it still falls in comfortably in their family and is really stinking good. The Hunted is about a man, Aaron, (Benicio Del Toro) whose identity was erased by the army so they could train him to be an ultimate assassin and yet he'd be perpetually classified (sort of a Jason Bourne kind of thing). Well, suddenly Aaron snaps and, as an Army guy says in the film, "can't tell the sharks from the guppies anymore" and starts killing people across the Pacific Northwest. Well, guess who else lives in the Pacific Northwest, the very dude that trained him to be this ultimate assassin, L.T. (played very well by Tommy Lee Jones). So they bring in L.T. to track him down and bring him to justice. L.T. is alot like Aaron, in that he's a master at what he does and he works best when he disappears. So, L.T. heads off into the wilderness outside Portland and looks for Aaron. The FBI has been looking for Aaron for some time now and wants to know if L.T. wants provisions, backup, weapons, etc. L.T. doesn't want any of it, not even a walkie talky, he's going in with what he's wearing and he says his only instructions are "if I'm not back in two days, I'm dead." Sound awesome yet? Well, it is. This movie is hella tense and just imagine being alone in the woods looking for a guy who L.T. describes as so good that "most of the people he's killed didn't know he was even in the room with him." Del Toro plays Aaron very very well and seems to simply disappear before your eyes on more than one occasion. And Jones doesn't play his normal character made famous in The Fugitive, instead, here, he's a quirky, eccentric who totally lacks confidence in the interpersonal department. This is one of those classic action movies (almost like an Eastwood western) where the 'good guy' and the 'bad guy' aren't that much apart and seem to really understand each other and yet also understand that the situation demands that they take each other down. Great stuff. Even though Jones is getting on in age, by action movie standards, he does very well in the intense fight scenes in this movie. This is a suspenseful, emotional, lean action flick that will keep you certainly engaged and keep your gut tense. Plus it shows off my home town and some of the beauty that surrounds it. If your looking for a good 'guy movie,' this is the one.

Worth Watching

Eastern Promises


2007 crime drama by master of the tense and creepy, David Cronenberg, about a Russian family very connected to the Russian mob that everyone seems to want access to whether it's a driver looking to move up in the ranks, a woman trying to find answers about a girl who turned up dead in her hospital or a police officer trying to bring the family down. What starts this great march to the sea is when a very young girl shows up very pregnant and deceased at a London hospital and her diary seems to implicate a local Russian restaurant owner (played as a wonderful, sweet, harmless old man by way too underrated actor Armin Mueller-Stahl) as the father, and not through consensual means. The nurse from the hospital (Naomi Watts) goes looking for answers and bites off more than she can chew, including simply making contact with a driver the family calls the undertaker (played to uber-creepy perfection by Viggo Mortensen). The performances in this movie are great and those great performances mixed with fantastic sights and sounds make this movie feel like you really did wander into the wrong part of town, rather than watching a movie about the wrong part of town. Where this movie falls short is in scope. Cronenberg simply tries to do too much, and in return doesn't do anything as well as he could have. There are too many story lines going on here. If he'd trimmed it up, made some primary stories backstories and streamlined the movie a bit more overall, then this really could've been a catchy, engaging crime drama, rather than a kind of boring slice-of-life drama. That said, the performances were all really, really good and felt totally natural, including some by actors like Mueller-Stahl and French actor Vincent Cassel who go way under-noticed. Long story short, this movie is gritty, tense and a good watch, but it's nothing great.

S'good

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Step Brothers


2008 comedy directed by Adam McKay and written by McKay and Will Ferrell, the same comedy team behind countless SNL sketches, Anchorman and Talladega Nights. This one is about two medical professionals who hit it off and soon learn that they both have a 40-something son whose still living at home. This couple soon falls in love, marries and moves in together. Now, I'm going to lay a little test on you at this point, because that's really about all you need to know about the story and premise. Here's my test: there's a scene where the dad makes a treehouse for the boys and fills it with Penthouse magazine b/c he knows they like it. Now, did that make you crack up? I mean, really laugh hard? Or did it, like me, make you mildly smile but pretty much forget about it two seconds later. Well, I use that as a test, b/c that's really a snapshot of the movie. It doesn't really matter what happens in the movie b/c really it's just one moderately funny joke played over and over. I asked at one point, "what could the director say during this scene, except, alright John and Will, now, act like your seven and react to whatever happens like a seven-year-old." And it's funny, b/c they're not seven, right? Well, there you have it folks, that's the whole movie. I'm not saying it's never funny. All I'm saying is that one can only see so many shticky moments like this and keep laughing. After an hour or so, I just really didn't care anymore and wasn't doing any laughing. Maybe I just don't have the type of sense of humor that's amused by premise-alone or maybe this movie just falls short b/c all it has going for it is it's premise.

Saturday Afternoon

Four Christmases


Yeah, that's right, I saw it. Look, my wife's nine months pregnant and she wanted to see it, what am I supposed to say, huh? That said, Four Christmases is a 2008 comedy by, up until now, documentary filmmaker Seth Gordon. He's done funny doc's for several years now and made the leap into features with this flick. You see, when one makes a documentary they simply film as much as possible in an attempt to capture on screen what they see in their subject. That had to be the approach here. What I mean is, the best parts of this movie are those where the actors are let loose and the camera seems only to capture these comedic masters doing their thing. You don't go to this movie for the conflict, the drama, the story, the cinematography or even the message. Everything that I just mentioned is totally predictable and there's really nothing new here. The reason it's watchable is because of the moments you get now and then where people like Vince Vaughn and Robert Duvall are given a second to be hilarious. Even Mary Steenburgen is funny. In a way, this approach of mostly mundane moments peppered with funny moments feels realistic to the holiday experience. This movie is going to a relative's house that you don't see outside of the holidays and grinning and making it through the night, only to come home mostly bored but with some good stories about moments now and then where this or that crazy relative made you laugh. In other words, overall it's not worth it, but when it's funny it really is funny. Plus it's a sweet message and christmasy and blah blah blah. I say, if you want a good Christmas flick see other things like Home Alone, Meet Me In St Louis or Love Actually and skip this one.

Saturday Afternoon

Monday, December 1, 2008

We Own the Night


2007 crime drama starring Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix and written/directed James Gray whose only other flick in the last 14 years was The Yards, a crime drama starring Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix. Gray also has a romantic comedy coming out in February starring an actor named Joaquin Phoenix. Wait, is anyone else detecting a pattern here? Anyway, jokes aside, We Own the Night is a rough, gripping movie about family. It starts with a father and his two sons, who are pretty much all that's left of their family, as the mom is now deceased and no one else is ever even mentioned. The father is a police chief and one of the sons (Wahlberg) is a police captain. Phoenix, however, is a manager at a bar/nightclub and lives a life that's pretty simple and hedonistic. His life doesn't have the drama that his father/brother's do and they resent him for it. All of a sudden stuff hits the fan and the already fragile family they have going on becomes even more threatened. You see a regular at Phoenix's club has put a hit out on his brother AND father and an assassin has shot Wahlberg. The only reason Phoenix's character is ok is that he's changed his name and no one even knows who his father or brother is. So he has a chance, he can go on living his life and not worry about them, or he can (as my father used to say) rally the troops and take up his family's fight. Problem is, his family's fight is the fight of the police, and that means he basically has to abandon his life/lifestyle. So will he forsake himself for the sake of the family or will he continue on and turn his back on them in the biggest way he could? That's basically the movie. All three of the leads (which includes a great turn by Robert Duvall), and Eva Mendes, are great and truly exude the weight of such a heavy situation. And man is it heavy. This film has a tone and a tension that reminded me of suspense greats like Seven and Psycho and there are times in this movie (like a scene in a secret drug lab) that truly had my gut in a knot. It's definitely dark but the message is good and if you're looking for something that straddles that line well, this is the movie for you. If that's not your bag, then you may wanna skip it.

S'good/Worth Watching

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Body of Lies


2008 political/war thriller from director Ridley Scott (whose been doing awesome movies for decades) and writer Bill Monahan (who hasn't done a ton, but wrote The Departed) that follows three (but mostly one) types of characters in the war on terror going on in the middle east. One is a high level agent, who's on the ground, in the thick of it getting his hands quite dirty (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), another is a high level counterintelligence agency chief from a Jordanian agency (played wonderfully by British actor Mark Strong) and a high level chief from the CIA (played by Russel Crowe). What is very interestign about this flick is that it shows a view of the current war from a perspective that hasn't been well portrayed in films so far, in that it shows the war from the perspective of the people who are really pulling the strings. And here's the thing, no one trusts anyone and no one is really working together all that well. In other words, all three are both good guys and bad guys. They're not all bad, but none of them are all that good either. You might like any of the three working for you, but you wouldn't want any of them dating your daughter. And this is, in a way, a comment on the world's present "good guys" in the actual global conflict and not just those from the movie. The same goes for how it's played out as well. The missions frequently have more good intentions than effective or clean results and the conflicts are all over the place. Blink during this movie and you'll suddenly have gone from Turkey to London to Iraq. The movie does a very good job of showing (at least what's likely) the realities of this present global conflict. It's not about battles or territories, it's about competing interests and alot of cat and mouse. At no time in the film do we feel like "if we could just do X, or get X, then this will all be over." Instead, it's alot of just doing what you can and moving on when you can't. There's no time to think, in other words. There's not alot of story or character development but there's not on purpose (similar, in a way, to Scott's Black Hawk Down). You're adrift at sea, and now you have to figure out what the heck to do to survive. I liked this movie, enjoyed watching it, felt like it added a good perspective to the discussion, but I didn't love it. If you recently saw Burn After Reading, you'll likely laugh now and then during this movie b/c the music and visuals are so in line with the traditional (insert cliche) sights and sounds of these sorts of movies. In other words, the stuff from this movie that's original is all macro, the micro stuff is all pretty typical. It can feel a bit preachy at times as well. What makes it not a total snore though are the performances of the three leads. All three give detailed, nuanced, natural performances. It never really felt like the leads were just skating by. I'm not ashamed to say I've always liked Leo and this flick is a good example of why. The language is a little harsh and the violence is very realistic, so if those things turn you off you may wanna steer clear, but if you're looking for an interesting, global spy flick that's more like Syrriana than the Bond movies, then check it out. Otherwise, wait for the rental.

S'good.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Baby Mama


2008 directorial debut of Michael McCullers, whose better known as the writer of many episodes of SNL from what I think of as the golden days of the mid-90's. Well, he teams up here with two famous SNL'ers in Amy Poehler and Tina Fey in an attempt to harness their combined comedic energy that made Weekend Update great a few years ago and the Sarah Palin and Hillary/Katie Couric skits on SNL now. I hate to say it, as I do love these comediennes, but McCullers simply doesn't pull it off. Fey plays a 30-something executive who's succeeding in everything she does, except procreating. Since she's tried just about everything and isn't willing to wait on an adoption (b/c she's seriously obsessed with reproducing), she's enlisted the help of a surrogate, who, as it turns out, is a pre-teenager in a 30-year-old's body. She's loud, rude and supposed to be the ingredient for comedy gold. The problem is the filmmakers go in too many directions, introduce too many characters and don't take the time to get any depth out of any the relationships. I never felt sucked into this movie and I don't think I actually, audibly laughed at any moment. Fey does well with what she's given, as does Greg Kinnear, but they don't have enough and don't do well enough to carry this movie from trinket into treasure. Just about everyone in this movie is a stereotype. The single executive is, gasp, desperate to find a man and have a baby. The black door man is brash, listens to crude rap and talks mostly about all the baby mama's he has around town. The owner of the nature food store does little more than yoga stretches right on the boardroom conference table. It's all too predictable and not funny. I say skip it. Instead, rent the best of Chris Farley and wonder at the glory of some good McCullers writing. That said, there's a moment where Steve Martin rewards Fey's character with five minutes of un-interrupted eye-contact, and I gotta admit, that's pretty funny. God bless you Steve.

Unacceptable

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Burn After Reading


2008 return to form by the brothers Coen, those two Austinite filmmakers who've made a career of cinematic alchemy. I mean, I hated the book No Country for Old Men when I read it, but their adaptation to the screen was simply fantastic. Well, here they've done it again. This movie is, seriously, about a woman who sees an opportunity to make some money for four, count 'em, four plastic surgeries by extorting it out of an ex-CIA analyst. How could she extort him? Well, her and a co-worker got their hands on some "raw intelligence" that was found on the women's bathroom floor at the gym where they work. Problem is, it's not intelligence at all, in fact, it's part of the rough draft of the memoir a mid-level analyst is writing. Problem is, they just have a CD with some of it on it. He still has it all on his hard drive. In other words, they have nothing. Are you a Coen brothers fan? Do you like it when they tell a story of a couple idiots who inadvertently open up a Pandora's box of chaos? Did you like their movies like The Big Lebowski or Raising Arizona, for example? Then you are going to love this one. These two morons, played wonderfully by Francis McDormand and Brad Pitt, have smacked what they thought was an easy target but turns out to be a bee hive. They start a chain of event that just spins totally out of control by the end. And it's a fun thing to watch. The other great thing about this flick is all the subtle spoofing the Coen brothers lay on the political spy genre. Whether it's Patriot Games or the Bourne Identity or Enemy of the State or...well the list goes on and on doesn't it, the style is mocked perfectly here. The film begins with a shot of Earth from far off, it clicks in closer and closer like a computer program, until eventually coming in on the CIA headquarters in Langley. All the while, the music is haunting and ominous and little words are coming up on the screen with that old school computer sound beeping off with each letter. Then inside the headquarters the shot is of black leather dress shoes as they clop down a long empty hallway. And so on and so on. Their understanding of the vibe of this genre is spot on and it lends a humor to the movie it wouldn't otherwise have.
The language is pretty foul, the jokes sometimes crude and the very rare violence is graphic and intense, but if you know the Coen brothers and are expecting one of their movies you won't be suprised to see these elements. If you're not a fan of their work, or are a fan only of their more dramatic stuff like Miller's Crossing or No Country for Old Men, then you may not dig this one much. The only exception would be if you are someone who simply loves movies like Hunt for Red October and would totally dig on the spoof like James Bond fans loved Austin Powers.
It's a stupid comedy done by some brilliant actors and filmmakers and the results, I think, are totally worth watching.

Worth Watching (but maybe a little bit ME)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Kung Fu Panda


2008 flick by directors Mark Osborne and John Stevenson (who haven't done much else, outside of a few Spongebob episodes). Po is a good hearted, clumsy, accident prone, overweight panda living w/ his dad upstairs from the noodle shop they run together. Po is a HUGE fan of the furious five, a group of great kung fu artists who live in a temple on a mountain top above Po's village. They live in a very different place than Po, both physically and metaphysically. His life is very normal and he idolizes their life of excitement. His restlessness reaches it's peak when the master of the temple announces that he plans to chose the dragon warrior (aka, the best kung fu SOB there is). In reality the master is choosing this dragon warrior b/c a disgruntled ex-student(Tai Long) who thought he should be the dragon warrior is returning to bring vengeance and destruction to the temple and village and to steal the dragon scroll. In other words, they need a suitable opponent and fast. Well the master chooses Po when Po literally falls into the competition. Problem is, Po is as far from a kung fu master as it gets. Kung Fu Panda is a funny, uplifting story about an unlikely hero. It's not all that inventive and you know how it's going to turn out. But it seems to me the goal of a kid's flick is not to be inventive and surprising per se, but to be enjoyable and this one certainly is. The two leads are voiced by Jack Black and Dustin Hoffman. They are just wonderful and really seem to have comedic chemistry. Jack Black is hilarious as a supposed dragon warrior who looks more like the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons than he does Bruce Lee. And Dustin Hoffman's great as the yoda-esque elder sensei. The crude humor's at a minimum and the violence is pretty few and far between for a movie w/ the words Kung Fu in the title. If you have kids, they'll surely enjoy it and I'm guessing if you like good but easy comedy you'll enjoy every second too. It's not a classic, but it's definitely worth a watch.
S'Good

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Mist


2007 pairing of writer/director Frank Darabont and novelist Stephen King that tells the story of a small Maine town that's suddenly besieged by bloodthirsty monsters, who descend on the town via a strange mist following a storm. This is the third pairing of this creative duo and the results are at best disappointing. The movie seems thrown together, with none of the visuals gripping or characters engaging. It almost seemed like they just tossed the flick together last minute and you can see this most clearly in the visuals and the reliance on tired horror story devices. Aw, there's a cute kid caught up in it. There are horny teenagers who sneak off to make out and, surprise, it doesn't end well. Some of the people want to go out and face down the monsters. Some want to deny they exist at all. Others think it's the wrath of god and, don't be shocked now, the hero is the person/group that wants to think things out and take the 'rational' approach. It all feels very cliche and it didn't surprise me at all to learn that the visuals were done entirely by the A and B units from the TV show The Shield while they were on a brief break from the showfor a few days. That's how it felt, like a pre-formed group of professionals were poured into another mold for a few moments. For example (and it's a big one), everything that was computer generated looked computer generated. The CG, the angles, the layering, it all looked like something made for the Sci-Fi channel, in other words, rather than a Darabont and Kingfilm. And that was a big let down for me. The last two outings of these two were The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption. These movies are fantastic and their great precisely b/c they don't feel like they just plopped out of a cookie-cutter mold. They were great b/c they came across as heartfelt pieces of old school American cinema. Those movies, especially Shawshank, seem like classics, while this movie seems more at home in television re-release. One feels cinematic, while the other seems like TNT. I wanted to like this movie, but I just flat didn't. It never felt scary, never engaging and not worth your time.
Saturday Afternoon

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Devil's Rejects


This is the 2005 horror flick that landed writer/director Rob Zombie the gig of remaking Halloween. Like that remake, this movie isn't much more than disappointing. However, I gotta say, the new Halloween looks a heck of alot better after this one. But let me back up by giving a little bit of a disclaimer that I shun this movie out of love for the genre. And I do love it. I love horror and always have. My favorite movies as a kid weren't the GI Joe movie or Home Alone but The Omen, Children of the Corn and The Shining. I love just about all of it, from Italian masters like Fulci and Argento to modern day fun flicks like The Hills have Eyes remake. I'm no snob and I love these types of movies, but I hated this one. It's about a family whose kill den is discovered by the police and after two of them are killed in the ensuing firefight, the other three members of this murderous family go on the run. My biggest problem with this movie is that all the characters and story developments are shallow excuses to see these freaks rip up on more victims. It's gore for the sake of gore. There's no hook. There's no Clarece Starling or Danny Torrence or Cole Sear. In other words, nothing about this movie grabbed me and I felt like I could walk away and come back some time later and not have missed anything important. I liked Bill Moseley's Otis and Sheri Moon Zombie's character, but everyone else was one-dimensional at best. Long story short, it's basically like watching the X Games, all shock and awe and no story. I think I'd rather watch the X Games, at least there's competition there to hook me in a little.

Unacceptable

The Dark Knight


2008 installment in the Batman series, this one again directed by Christopher Nolan, and once again he's done a great job. This film serves as the introduction (but not the back story) of the Joker. While the 1989 Batman flick showed us the story behind the Joker, it also showed us his end. The Dark Knight is more concerned with his arrival on the scene in Gotham. He shows up out of nowhere and reeks havoc. While in the 1989 film we start with him breaking out of the asylum, this film ends with him going in. Got it? Good. I really liked this movie. It's gritty, it's harsh, it's emotional, it's intense, but it's not as amazing as many of the critics are making it out to be. Basically I would put this Batman right in line with many of the more recent comic book flicks (the better one's at least) like Spider-Man or the X-Men movies or, say, Batman Begins. In other words, it's dang good and certainly worth a watch, but it's not the Citizen Cane that critics are portraying it as. The one element that makes the movie stand slightly higher than it's contemperaries is the performance of Heath Ledger. I am usually turned off by hype and to be honest I've never much liked Heath's performances (in fact, the only one's I can think of as any good are Brokeback Mountain and Monster's Ball), but even with all that I was totally blown away. Here is in a movie with great actors like Bale, Freeman, Cane, Oldman and others and he seems leaps and buonds better. He is natural, emersed in the character and totaly believable. The movie is good, but nothing new. Heath Ledger's performance makes the whole film something very very good, especially for the genre. The only other thing I'd add is that this is the first Batman that is really not for kids at all. It is darker than the others, but really I say it's not for kids b/c the movie is not directed at kids. The themes, the visuals, the dialogue, everything is aimed at an adult audience. So, there, you're warned, don't bring your pre-teens to this installment. But you, you should definitely see it.

Worth Watching

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Space Chimps


2008's Space Chimps is the first directorial effort of Kirk DeMicco and it's good at best. DeMicco is new to directing, but he's produced several other kids movies like Racing Stripes and I had high hopes for this flick b/c it's produced by The Weinstein Company (previously Miramax) and stars some great people like Patrick Warburton, Andy Samberg and Stanley Tucci, but I was largely disappointed. This movie was like so many movies for kids of late, whether it's Shark's Tale, Madagascar, The Wild or...say...Racing Stripes, in that it doesn't focus on story and in fact seems to care very little about story, relying instead on easy, very predictable plotlines and stupid humor that doesn't even get my seven-year-old laughing. This is why when a kid's movie w/ a decent amount of emphasis on story comes along (like say Finding Nemo or Over the Hedge) it's talked about w/ a reverence generally reserved for classics like Citizen Cane. Space Chimps falls right in line w/ most of the typical movies that come out for kids now-a-day's. It tells the story of a chimp who's never amounted to anything, much less his famous grandpa (the first animal in space), who suddenly has the chance to be a hero. Problem is he doesn't really want to be one. Here's a shocker though, in the end he turns out to be a hero all along. I'll wait for you to finish gasping. Done? Ok. It's not all bad though. The scientists did make me laugh now and again. And while the visuals and audio both are generally subpar, I did like that the the movie had a sweetness and innocence to it that most kid movies lately don't have. There aren't the now regular fart jokes, random cuss words and far too intense violent moments. Outside of Pixar, most studios are producing animated movies full of crass humor and inappropriately scary moments, but not this one, it's just a simple, sweet story. I liked that. It's not enough to make up for the bad, but this would certainly be worth a rental if you have a young kid and are wanting a safe movie w/ a good hearted message.

Saturday Afternoon.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Wackness


2008 Sundance Audience Award winner by Jonathan Levine (who hasn't done anything else you've heard of) that focuses on that crucial period in lead character Luke Shapiro's life, the summer after high school graduation and before college. What if I told you there was a movie out there were a pot dealing teenager is the most grounded, sane, innocent person in a film? Well, that's what's going on here. Luke is 18-ish and is spending his last summer trying his damndest to sell enough weed to make enough money to go to college and abandon his loser-ish life at home and at high school. Along the way he meets Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley), a character that seems to stem from the dreams of the late Hunter S. Thompson, and his intoxicating stepdaughter (the girl from Juno that's not Juno, the other teenager, you know the one). Dr. Squires is a pothead and a psychologist. who agrees to give Luke complimentary seesion if Luke will "pay" w/ weed. Problem is, Luke falls head over bong for the good doctors stepdaughter. And so begins a story about two very different people (Squires and Shapiro) who are trying over this summer to figure out both who they are and who they want to be and maybe find a little love along the way. Ben Kingsley plays Dr. Squires to perfection and with an irony that is just simply thick (as in, he's a psych who's much more messed up than his patients). But now the real surprise in this movie is Josh Peck who played Luke. Peck is best known as the chubby comedy kid from the Disney Channel. He's been in all their pre-teen comedy crap for years, be it The Amanda Show or Josh&Drake. Here he gives a performance that feels so confident and natural that he actually overshadows the great Ben Kingsley. I couldn't believe it. I absolutely loved this performance. Peck's Shapiro is cool, smart and very very brave and yet at the same time vulnerable, naiive and innocent. I really liked this movie and found myself thinking about it for well beyond the time it was on screen. It does drag a bit at times and could've used a more cohesive vision, but overall I really did love it and thought the performances, especially of the leads, were just fantastic. And the whole movie is packed w/ style, I mean, the visuals are amazing for the budget. I hate that this flick is playing almost nowhere, but if it's in your town and your looking for something a little different, check it out. It's a truly decent flick that's totally flying under the radar.

Worth Watching

Friday, July 4, 2008

Wall-E


2008 brings another Pixar movie and like all the others, this one is fantastic. Pixar takes making kids movies seriously. They work on the visuals, the performances and the story like someone trying to truly impress and entertain. Too often filmmakers and studios churn kid flicks out, knowing they'll make money no matter how bad they are. Not Pixar, they put the time, heart, money and talent into every pic, no exceptions and Wall-E doesn't fall short of that standard. Wall-E is directed and written by Andrew Stanton, he's the bad mutha who brought us things like both Toy Story's, A Bug's Life and Finding Nemo. Like those, this film is essentially about the little guy overcoming vast odds and in the process finding real love and friendship. In this case, the little guy isn't an ant or a toy, but a robot whose only friend left on an abandoned Earth is a cockroach. You see we humans have so trashed earth by the year 2110 that it's uninhabitable. Corporations have built large spaceships that resemble cruiseships, and we've been out in orbit stuffing our faces and sitting on our duffs for the last 700 years. Meanwhile tons of robots are back on Earth cleaning up our mess. Wall-E is one of them, but over the centuries he's become the only one left. All of a sudden another robot shows up scanning the Earth to see if it's inhabitable again. And the story takes off from there as Wall-E and the other robot (Eva) bond and make their way back out to that giant spaceship. The movie is very endearing and actually left me thinking about it long after it was over. That said, it might not be for everyone. There's almost no talking in the film and none at all for the first third or so. It's a very very very simple movie. There's nothing clouding it up at all. It's just about the most simple, straightforward feature length cartoon I've ever seen. For that reason, some people will love it for it's universal approach and it's minimalism, while other might get bored as hell. I have a feeling that this one won't be as easy to swallow as Stanton's others and may well go down as an overlooked jewel in the Pixar collection, like Fantasia is to Disney or The Secret of NIMH is to Don Bluth. So, what I'm saying is, I loved it, but it is pretty different in it's approach and it's likely not for everyone.

Worth Watching

Monday, June 30, 2008

Wanted


Alright, what happens when you take a movie like License to Kill or the Living Daylights, mix in just a pinch of the Bourne movies, add a little National Treasure, sprinkle it with the Matrix and add more than a heavy helping of the supernatural elements from movies like Jumper and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? You get 2008's Wanted...and it's not much. I say all that to say that this movie is so many movies you've seen before from (oh I don't know) 1980 forward. It's not even an improvement on those types of movies, it's just a rehash. Wanted tells the story of Wesley, a nobody who suddenly realizes (thanks to a little help) that his father is a member of an ancient group of super assassins who are killing the bad guys across the globe. Their motto is, kill one, save a thousand. So what's the message? Violence is the cause of and solution to all of life's problems? What, is this a pro-death penalty movie? This movie is predictable, cliche and boring. There's just nothing new, I'm sure any of you could come up with ten movies w/in a minute of leaving the theatre that felt just like this one. Beyond that, it glorifies violence more than any movie I've seen in a long time. If you want to see a movie about a guy w/ principles who also happens to kick alot of ass, skip this one and see David Mamet's new one, Redbelt.

Unacceptable

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Touch of Pink


This 2004 dromedy tells the story of Alim, a young Canadian-Indian living in London. He has a man who loves him, a great job and everything's going well until, Uh-Oh, his Indian mother shows up. This movie sucked big time. The performances are amateurish and flat and every minute of this flick feels forced. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that there was barely a single moment of this movie that felt natural or genuine. The portrayal of Indians was tired too. What? Alim's Indian mother is nagging, superficial and obsessed with his getting married!? Are you kidding? How original. In fact, all of the people groups and social groups portrayed in this movie were stereotypes. I don't want to shock you but the gay men in this movie love to go clubbing, sleep around and are very fashionable. Whatever. This movie was awful. Even the casting was bad, I mean, the actress who played Alim's mother couldn't have been but a couple years older than the actor that played Alim. Long story short, skip this one.

Unacceptable

Harold and Kumar: Escape from Guantanamo Bay


This 2008 sequel to the ridiculous and very funny first Harold and Kumar catches up with the pair just a day after the last movie. They are now headed to Amsterdam and are suddenly interrupted when a bong Kumar's constructed for the flight is mistaken for a bomb and the two are sent off to Guantanamo, labeled as North Korea and the Taliban working together. Whatever, it doesn't really matter what it's about. The point of this one (and the last one for that matter) is seeing these two guys (one's uptight, the other's a slob) get into all kinds of crazy situations and to watch the comedy ensue. While the last one did a good job, despite the tired premise, this one doesn't. It's funny now and then, but mostly it's not funny at all, just easy jokes that get more of a smile than a laugh. NPH is great again, but not as funny, seeing as how we've already heard that joke. There's nothing original here and even the stuff that's tried and true is not nearly as funny as the last time we heard it. If you wanna laugh at Harold and Kumar, rent the original. You're bound to laugh more even if you've already seen it before.

Saturday Afternoon

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Clip o' the Week

Semi-Pro


2008 comedy by first time director Kent Alterman who, while he's never directed before, was the executive producer on some great TV and movies like Strangers with Candy (TV) and Little Children. This effort of his is good but not anything I'd call great. The flick's about Jackie Moon a guy who had one hit (a hilarious song called Love Me Sexy) and bought an ABA franchise with the money he made from the single sales. The problem is he sucks as an owner. He is the team's (which he named the Tropics despite being located in Flint Michigan) owner, coach, PR guy, power forward and personell manager. He's not very good at any of them. He even says he doesn't know anything about basketball but feels like he's a great motivator "like that nun in India." The movie is about him and his teammates and their attempt to keep the franchise after the merger of the ABA with the NBA, but it's really about the hilarious state of basketball back when b-ball had more than one league and some of them (like the ABA) often bordered on the rediculous. Will Farrell (who plays Moon) is really funny and feels very natural in this role. He wears a fro (which he grew naturally), fur coats, platform shoes and drives a big gold caddilac. Moon is a sweet, naiive character that Farrell pulls off very well. And I gotta say I really enjoyed the movie. It was funny as heck and I had a good time watching it. However, it did get boring at times and they included storylines (like the one involving Maura Tierney) that felt totally unnecessary. There was also just about nothing surprising in the plot or the story. However, if you like b-ball, Will Farrell and are looking for a movie that'll make you laugh and not require you to think at all, then this is the movie for you. I laughed alot, but they were all more like chuckles than side-splitters if you know what I mean. Glad I waited for the DVD, but dug it when I finally got around to it.

Saturday Afternoon

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Jane Austen Book Club


2007 Drama/Comedy by Robin Swicord, who hasn't directed much but has written tons of classic chick flicks like Memoirs of a Geisha, Little Women and Shag. The Jane Austen Book Club picks up in the lives of several strangers as they intersect. Bernadette (played wonderfully by Kathy Baker) meets Prudy, a young French teacher whose full of ego and contempt for her husband. Well Bernadette decides that since they're all at a sort of crossroads, that maybe they should indulge a common love, Jane Austen, and form a Jane Austen book club. The plot is very typical and the tone plays out like a Lifetime made-for-TV movie. The dialogue is pretty thin and relies waaaaaay too much on those facicious statements where characters act like they're talking about a book (as here, but could be other things in other movies) but it's obvious to everyone in the room (and watching the flick) that they're really not talking about that book, but about each other. Also, for someone like me who hasn't read much Austen at all, there were way too many times where I had no idea That might work once or twice but they do it at almost every meeting. In other words, the movie's not great and at times seems pretty typical, but the salvation of this movie lies in the performances. Everyone is good, even people I've never seen before. They're all great and the chemistry is really thick. Their relationships feel natural and it's fun to watch. If it weren't for this, this would be a clunker. It's still not great, but it would be worth a watch if you're looking for a rental.

Saturday Afternoon

Clip o' the Week

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sex and the City


2008 movie version of the influential HBO series, written and directed by the creator and chief writer of the series, Michael Patrick King and co-written by Candace Bushnell, the author of the book on which the series was based. I mention those two things to point out just how faithful to the TV series the movie sticks. I also mention it to say that if you're a fan of the show you will certainly be a fan of the movie. Essentially the movie is a redo of the finale of the show. This time the conflicts have slight factual variances and the movie is about an hour longer than the finale. The movie picks up right where the finale left off, more or less, but is set three years later. But, everything is basically the same. I can't go into much, without giving stuff away, but if you saw the finale you basically have seen this movie. That's not, per se, a bad thing, but it's just the facts. I loved this movie, but then again I was a big big fan of the show. I love the message that you aren't selfish if you want to live your life the way you want to live it. No one is the same and no one is judged for being different. They are only judged if they act like an idiot and even then they're usually handled with care. I plan on owning this flick just like I plan on eventually owning the series too. If you love all the characters from the show you will love getting just a couple more hours with all of them. If you aren't a fan of the show, you probably won't be a fan of the movie either. If you haven't seen the show, then don't you dare go see this movie. It is a major spoiler on the show and will totally deflate many of the great conflicts and storylines from the series. Rent the DVD's, watch them all, THEN go see the movie, but DO NOT do it in reverse. Good flick, totally enjoyed it and absolutely loved getting a few more minutes in the lives of those four girls.

S'Good (but maybe a ME)

P.s. If you don't even know what the series is about or didn't read the title of the movie before going in, you may want to know that there is a decent amount of nudity and sex in this flick. Just to let you know.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull


2008 flick by Stephen Spielberg about...well...you know who it's about, and really you know what it's about too. In this latest installment we see Indy in the late 1950's. He's a little older and the enemy is the commies now and not the Nazis. I realize they made this decision to give them more believability with Harrison Ford's age, but the Nazi's were obsessed with archeology and finding/controlling all the major cultural and religious artifacts of history, plus they were evil as hell, so they were perfect as the nemeses of an adventurer archaeologist. The commies could have cared less about such things. Ok, enough of that, on to the movie. I'm not sure what to say about this one. It's pretty much like the others. Evil bad guys want artifact and get artifact, Indiana has to save so-and-so and also get the artifact back or save it or whatever and along the way he's bound to be involved with a girl and bound to be betrayed by someone. So, that's this one too, in a nutshell. But I can't decide if doing the new one just like the old one's makes it bad or good. I mean, it sort of made me leave the theatre thinking, so why did they even need to make another one? But then again, if they'd totally changed it, I'd probably have thought, why even call it Indiana Jones then? I mean, isn't that what pissed everyone off with the Episode I Star Wars, that it was sooooo different than the old ones? So I feel like I can't complain about it, but it also made me not love it either. You know how the plot's going to develop and you know when the one-liners are going to come and so it just lacks some of the freshness of the old one's when all that stuff was new. Plus, and here's my biggest and last complaint, when this one gets unbelievable it gets CRAZY unbelievable. I mean totally, 100%, even for an Indiana Jones movie unbelievable. For God's sake the man is tossed hundreds of feet into the air following a nuclear blast and lands on the rocky ground of the desert and survives simply b/c he got inside an empty fridge and held the door shut. Really? Seriously, Spielberg thought this would go over? These such moments are few and far between, but they were so bad that it made me not like the movie nearly as much as I would have otherwise.
So overall, don't expect suprises but do expect to be entertained and especially if you're a fan of the franchise. It's not as good as Raiders and not as bad as Temple of Doom and it's certainly worth a rental, though it may not be worth the $20 bucks you'll shill out to take a date.

S'good.

The Valet


2006 French comedy by director Francis Veber whose made a career of formulaic French and American comedies like Three Fugitives and Out on a Limb, and this flick is not much different. The Valet tells the story of Francois Pignon, a scrawny, ambitiousless, awkward thirtysomething that works as a valet parker at a fancy hotel. Even though this is a beautifully shot French film, it might as well have been a dumb, typical American comedy from the late 80's or early 90's. The plot alone should've given this one away for me. Pignon is in love with a shockingly beautiful (or should I say unrealistically beautiful) store clerk, but she's (not so shockingly) uninterested. So he must somehow figure out a way to get her to fall for him. He happens to be walking down the street when a paparazzo snaps a pic of a supermodel and a billionaire leaving a hotel. This pic gets published in all the major gossip rags and the billionaire is in major trouble with his wife. Fearing what she'd do to him in a divorce he gets the supermodel to live with Pignon (who was also in the pic) and hold herself out as his girlfriend until he can smooth things over with his wife. Well, one unrealistic, not so funny thing happens after another and (supposed) comedy ensues. In case you can't tell, I found this movie neither surprising nor funny. Change the plot slightly and you've got a countless amount of movies we've all seen too many times before. In other words, not worth your time.

Unacceptable

The Namesake


2008 film by Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay, Vanity Fair, etc) about...well...I'm not sure what it was about. Factually, it's about a brilliant scientist who decides during a particular turning point in his life to move to New York. And the movie tells the tale both of his life leading up to the move and following the move. But, I really don't know what it's about. Is it about the the similarities and differences between a place like New York and Calcutta? Is it about the beauties and tragedies of his life? Is it about his son's quest to find his identity? His wife's search to find happiness in a land that feels both foreign and lonely? I don't know and in my opinion Nair is trying to create too many stories in too little time. Plus, she chose to use her well known pacing style, which flows along like a rhythmic, babbling brook. Problem is, in movies like Monsoon Wedding and Salaam Bombay there were fascinating and gripping stories that make pacing like that work, instead of, like here, making it simply feel hypnotic and borderline boring. Nothing in Namesake is developed well. Everything seems to happen out of the blue. Suddenly the son hates his life, but we have no idea why. Suddenly this person will dump that person, or fall in love with so-and-so and we, at least I, felt like I was clueless as to why. The plot turns and reaches conclusions that go totally undeveloped. I wish Nair was more focused with this story, b/c some of them seemed worth an entire movie. In fact, I would've loved to have just seen a movie about the mom, who is clearly brilliant, talented and obviously beautiful and yet lives the life of a typical suburban housewife. Now it sounds like I hated this movie, but I didn't. I didn't hate it b/c of the performances and the visuals. These two are also things Nair is known for and she does them both very well here. The art direction and production design are both beautiful and comfortable. Simply fantastic. And the performances, especially of the leads, are superb and ensnaring. B/c of these things, I would watch this movie again, but they're still not enough for me to like it or even recommend it. Long story short, if it comes on TV or something, it might be worth a watch, but otherwise you can skip it and not be missing much.

Saturday Afternoon

Friday, May 16, 2008

Redbelt



2008 drama by writer/director David Mamet, whose done some of my very favorite flicks ever like State and Main, The Untouchables and The Spanish Prisoner, and this one certainly falls right in with his best work. Redbelt is about a period in the life of David Terry, a man who runs a traditional, Brazilian-style Jiu-Jitsu academy in South Los Angeles. He is a purist, who thinks things like fight videos and competitions "weaken" the art. Instead, Terry teaches people like cops, bodyguards and soldiers to, as he puts it, "prevail." For him, this is the whole point of it all...to prevail, to beat the odds stacked against you. He has two mantras "there's always an escape, find the escape" and "insist on the move." What he means is, there's always a way to prevail and if you see an opportunity, insist on realizing it. These lessons come in handy as the odds certainly start stacking against him during the period in which we get to be a part of his life. He is a pure, honor-driven man in LA, a town that could give a crap about honor and purity and when he sees this first hand, he must figure out how to prevail. It's a great movie. The performances are great, the cinematography is great and the tone is especially great. It's like a slow, steady rhythm. It feels wholly realistic from the very first moment. There's no catchy soundtrack, no fancy camera works or effects, just real people, dealing with real problems. The best part of this movie, besides the tone, is the performance of Chiwetel Ejiofor and I hope this performance gives him alot of attention, that he certainly deserves. He's been good before, in some pretty big movies, like American Gangster, but for some reason doesn't get much talk. Well he's once again great here and I hope he gets some attention from this and more jobs. If you want to see him at his best, then check out Dirty Pretty Things, a great movie that features an absolutely fantastic performance by Ejiofor. So, long story short, Redbelt is a great flick, with a great message, and is certainly worth your time. Hopefully, it leads you to more flicks made by Mamet and some starring Ejiofor.

Worth Watching

Monday, May 12, 2008

Glory


1989 Civil War picture by Ed Zwick who would go on to make some great one's like Legends of the Fall and The Last Samurai. But this isn't a movie about military might or even, ironically, what most of us would classify as 'glory,' but instead it takes an isolated story among the war that captures the very essence of the war. This movie is about unity, about brotherhood and about the foundations of a united humanity. The story is about a well-to-do, young white man who goes into the Civil War looking for glory and instead gets battle scarred and wants an easy job like looking after a negro regiment, but there he discovers himself and the true meaning of the war. This flick has great, career-making performances by people like Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington and some truly fantastic performances by underrated actors like Matthew Broderick, Andre Braugher, Cary Elwes, and Jihmi Kennedy. It won Denzel and cinematographer Freddie Francis both Oscars, and they deserved every inch of gold in that statue, trust me. If it's been a while since you last watched this one, or if, heaven forbid, you've never seen it, check it out, it's certainly worth your time.
BA

Friday, May 9, 2008

A Patriotic Suggestion


Right before just about every election, America gets at least one moving documentary that comments on the state of political affairs or a particular hotbutton topic. In 2004, for example, we got Fahrenheit 911 and a FANTASTIC doc by the director I'm about to suggest, Errol Morris, named The Fog of War. This year we have several as well, but one is coming out that I plan on seeing and I would hope many of you do too. I love this country. I love that we were founded on ideals like democracy, freedom of expression, and the pursuit of truth and happiness. Overall I think we do a great job of that and we are certainly the most humane and evolved of any superpower the world has seen in centuries, if not ever. I love this country like a member of my own family, but just because we love, say, our kids, it doesn't mean we must always approve of the things they are doing. Sometimes what they do makes us sad or disappointed, not because we don't love them but precisely because we do love them and know they are capable of so much more. I've been feeling that alot since 2001 and, out of a place of hope and love for this country, feel that some of the things we're doing internationally are awful. America is better than this. We can do better and we must. Errol Morris has a new documentary coming out called Standard Operating Procedure and it digs deeper into the Abu Gharib scandal than anything has before. It's not just some diatribe about how awful it is, instead Morris attempts to understand these soldiers. After all, they were young, regular Americans before the story hit the presses. So what happened? Why? What can they say about it that might shed some light on what the heck was going on? It proves to be very interesting and I hope many of you see it. America should be the beacon of light, the city on a hill, that represents the pinnacle of humanity. We do a decent job of that already, but if we want to truly embody it, we gotta cut some of this crap out and get back on the straight and narrow.
For more information, check out Morris' site: http://www.sonyclassics.com/standardoperatingprocedure/

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The In-Laws


2003 comedy by Andrew Fleming who's best known as director of The Craft and the recent Nancy Drew movie and this one comes much closer to the latter than the former. The In-Laws is a remake of the Peter Falk/Alan Arkin 1979 classic and tells the story of Dr Peyser and Steve Tobias, two people as opposite as possible and whose paths would likely never cross, except their kids are getting married to each other. You see Dr. Peyeser is a softie, type-A pediatrist who once had a panic attack just watching an airline commercial and Steve, well, Steve is a deep cover CIA agent whose job is taking down major crime bosses and weapons dealers. Force them to comingle and comedy ensues. The story is typical and typically unbelievable and it does feel more like a sitcom or a movie from the 70's or 80's than a modern flick, but what makes it worth a watch are the performances. They're all good, from the most obscure to the leads. Albert Brooks and Michael Douglas fit like a glove in their respective roles. Ryan Reynolds and Candice Bergan are also fantastic, but the real showstopper is Hercule Poirot himself David Suchet. He is absolutely hilarious and just totally perfect, I mean Peter Sellers good, totally funny. Well, long story short is, if you're looking for something that'll give you some laughs and not make you do much thinkin', then this is a great one. For what it is, it's hella good. Not an objectively good movie, but good for a laugh.

S'good.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Waitress


2007 film by Adrienne Shelly that tells a pretty typical story of a witty, beautiful southern waitress who wants so bad to escape her boring life and wretched husband but whose prospects for doing so become even slimmer after she finds out she's pregnant. We've all seen this before whether it's in dramas like The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio or The Good Girl or countless comedies like Sweet Home Alabama. Take one part southern girl that's bizarrely out of place in her nowhere home town b/c she's movie star beautiful and (usually) very talented and witty, mix this with one part deadbeat husband and/or dad and mix finally with a path of escape, usually in the form of an attractive male outsider. Usually the outsider is from New York, but here he's from Connecticut, how original. Sometimes you can throw in an alternative path to escape like the prize contests in the above mentioned movie The Prize Winner of...., or, as here, pie contests. If it sounds like I hated this movie, I didn't, I actually enjoyed it. My point is that the story is old and tired and I wish that would've been better, but it wasn't so cliche as to ruin the movie, and it wasn't successful in doing so b/c of the strength of the performances. Keri Russel and Andy Griffith are so great in this movie and truly carry it. That's right, you heard me, Felicity and Matlock were so fantastic that they made a tired cliche of a movie worth watching. While I never thougth I'd say that, it's true. Griffith plays the horny, gossip hog diner owner and is pitch perfect. Russel plays the titular waitress and really embodies this girl. Whatever those two were selling, I was buying. If it weren't for them, this movie wouldn't be worth your time, but they're there and it is worth a watch. It's not great, but it's fun, uplifting and at times will surely have you laughing and enjoying yourself.

S'good

P.s. The director, Shelly, did everything for this movie, she wrote it, produced it, directed it and even plays one of the leads (Dawn). She also was murdered before the movie was fully done. This was supposed to be a mainstream romantic comedy and feels like one. She was horribly murdered right when they were finishing though and no one knew what to do, so completion took a bit and distributors were wary. Thus, you have a mainstream movie that didn't get wide release. Anywho, weird story, you should look it up if you're curious.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Waterhorse


2007 Scottish film by Jay Russell, who's made a career of sappy, heartwarming movies like Ladder 49 and Tuck Everlasting. This movie isn't much different. Waterhorse tells the beginnings of the loch ness monster legend. So a boy finds an egg on the beach and whimsical adventures ensue. The movie is well acted and scenery of the Scottish highlands is amazing, but the overall story is formulaic and often ridiculous. For example, the boy (often in shorts and short sleeved shirts) goes into the water and dives deep w/ the "monster." However, there'll be snow on the ground and the lake, mind you, is the deepest in Scotland, so how was he not freezing then? Well, movies are all about suspending disbelief right? Well, you have to suspend alot of it for this one. It's sweet and generally uplifting but it's just simply not that engaging (at least not for this adult). It's alright and if your young one is looking for a movie and you want one that's not objectionable I might recommend this, but otherwise you can skip it and not miss a whole lot.

Saturday Afternoon

The Nazi Officer's Wife


2003 documentary by Liz Garbus, whose done mostly TV work, like American Justice and MTV's True Life, and this movie feels a bit like a TV doc. It's good though, just not great. It tells the story of Edith Beer, a jewish Austrian who posed as a regular arian housewife during the second World War. Basically she escaped the horrors experienced by other members of her family by posing as a simple, normal, nazi housewife. She forged documents and committed outright fraud to live a "normal" life while the rest of the Jewish community is living in terror. She goes to great extremes to live the fraud, including, eventually, marrying a nazi army officer. It's a crazy story, but it's a surprisingly boring documentary. They spend very little time on the nazi period and alot of time on the build up. I would've liked to know more about her experiences as an actual nazi officer's wife. Still, that said, it's a very interesting story and worth at least a rental.

Saturday Afternoon

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Keeping Mum


2005 British comedy by director Niall Johnson (who hasn't really done much else) about a family from a very small town in the English countryside that's falling apart. The wife is having an affair with the hot American golf instructor. The husband's a vicar who's about as clueless as it gets and the daughter is sleeping with just about every able bodied teen in area. The family is about to disintigrate when Grace comes along, a sweet, wonderful housekeeper who seems to put the entire home back in order. But, there's something a little weird going on. The family doesn't suspect a thing until they found out that Grace just might not be who she says she is. This movie is very enjoyable. It's alot like older English movies that mix comedy and mystery and it's certainly fun to watch. Now get this, the primary cast is Kristen Scott Thomas, Rowan Atkinson, Maggie Smith and Patrick Swayze. Whoa, what a cast. And of course, Kristen Scott Thomas is great and Maggie Smith is absolutely brilliant. And this has to be Rowan Atkinson's most subtle, subdued flick yet. So, the film is funny and fun to watch. It's nothing earth shattering or very emotionally engaging, but it's definitely worth a rental.

S'Good

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Game Plan


2007 film by Andy Fickman (She's the Man) about a pro football star who suddenly finds out he has an 8-year-old daughter. His nickname is the king and life is all about him...that is until she shows up at his door. I'm not sure what to say about this movie. It's a dumb, live-action, Disney movie starring The Rock. So, what can I really say? It's everything you'd think it is. I saw this movie b/c it was out and appropriate for my daughter. There was a cheap matinée and so on. It had some heartwarming moments, maybe a genuine moment of performance or two. But in general it's just like so many movies by Disney before from Snowball Express to...well....She's the Man. It's not horrible, but it's certainly nothing worth running out and seeing. I mean, even my six-year-old daughter got so bored at one point she was asking me if we could go to the arcade and come back.

Saturday Afternoon

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium


2007 flick starring Natalie Portman, Dustin Hoffman and Jason Bateman about a magical toy store and a not so magical girl. Or is she? Basically this movie tells the story of a girl who wants to be a concert pianist and has a "temporary" job as the manager of a toy store. She keeps working there for years b/c she can't seem to find that sparkle that makes her unique as a musician. Despite the fact that she's surrounded by the magical, she doesn't feel like she has any magic in herself. I loved this movie. It's heartfelt and uplifting and fun to watch. It's basically like a college student getting a job at Willy Wonka's factory and, in the course of things, finding her true self there. It's a great story, the production design is great, the performances are great, the message is great, it's all darn good. If you have kids this is a good movie for any age (nothing scary or vulgar) and really I think most adults (especially the young at heart) will like it too.

Worth Watching

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Once


2006 Irish film by John Carney, who, like most of the actors in the film, is more a musician than a filmmaker. In fact, the two leads aren't actors at all, but musicians who said they felt uncomfortable with filmmaking and would never make another. This is sad to me, b/c I loved this movie. It was so genuine and natural that it almost didn't feel like a movie at all. The story is very simple. Two thirtysomethings meet each other by chance. She's a maid and flower girl who met him when she came to his dad to get her vacuum repaired. He is a street musician. They find that they both love music and together they pull themselves out of their broken homes and impoverished lives and bring rays of hope, where so little light was before. There's no sex, there's no big money. It's just that they discover their own selves by finding each other, two people who seem, somehow or another, to truly get each other. So they start out in a bad way and end in a place of hope. I loved it. The performances are good, the scenes are well shot, the music is good and the overall feel/message of the film was wonderfully endearing.

Worth Watching (borderline BA)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

There Will be Blood


There is a book by Upton Sinclair called Oil! that had a major impact on my teenage mind. It told the story of the conquest and development of a small Western American town by an 'oil man.' He's not just an oil man looking for a "sea of oil" below this Western town, no, Daniel Plainview was and is a symbol of the American spirit. But I'm not talking about the good sides of that spirit. I'm talking about the need for conquest, the need to compete, to win. This greed allows those who embrace it to do incredible things, but this greed is also a cancer and you will eventually rot with it dwelling inside you. I loved this book and this 2007 adaptation to the screen is just perfect. It captured the message and feel of the book as so few movies have done for books in the past. It's an old-style movie, with sweeping cinematography and a slow, tense pace. It felt more like Papillion or Once Upon a Time in the West, and less like movies from our present era. The direction creates balanced, well-chosen scenes. John Frisk's production design is amazing and the performances by all involved are simply out of this world good. I am a huge and lifelong fan of Daniel Day-Lewis and loved the last time he and Paul Dano got together in The Ballad of Jack and Rose, but this is truly his best work. To me it felt like Welles or Olivier at their prime. This didn't seem like the performance of modern actors. It's something to behold. This is not an uplifting movie, but it has a message that's more appropriate now than ever. Plus, well, it's just damn well made.

BA

Bee Movie


2007 animated film written by Jerry Seinfeld and directed by two guys that haven't directed much else (Prince of Egypt) but have been on the art team for tons of movies from the Little Mermaid to Shrek. The movie tells a few days in the life of Barry Benson, a young bee who's just graduated and is headed into his career. But not so fast. First Barry wants to see the world, to lean new things, to have a little adventure. And like in most kids movies these days he gets into some sticky situations, overcomes some big obstacles, learns life lessons and finds his destiny. While the story wasn't terribly original, the movie was still alot of fun. It was uplifting, funny, fantastic visually and totally enjoyable to watch. It's also totally harmless. So, I guess, long story short is, if you have kids this is one you definitely want to pick up. If not, it's alright and you'd probably enjoy it but it's not like you're going to love it.

S'good

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

For Your Consideration


As the Oscar season arrives I feel it's only appropriate that I finally get around to Christopher Guest's 2006 parody of the whole Oscar thing. I love Christopher Guest and some of his movies have been my favorite comedies ever, but I don't think I laughed once. It wasn't touching, it wasn't funny, it wasn't much of anything. I don't even really get it. Are we supposed to be laughing at these people? They are actors, writers, directors and other producers who have been hoping for a break their whole careers and most of them have been around a long time doing crap. They finally have a chance at Oscar buzz and a renewed career and what, we're supposed to laugh at them for getting excited? Are we supposed to mock them? Pity them? I don't get it. I also don't like the fact that everyone in this movie is portrayed as shallow and naive. So let me get this straight, everyone who works in this multi-billion dollar industry in Los Angeles from the make-up artists to the studio heads are all idiots? If so, why aren't we all over there making that bank? There are idiots in Los Angeles, no doubt, but there are also many smart, accomplished people in this industry. This movie offers nothing new to the Hollywood satire genre. If you want to watch something good that pokes fun at Hollywood see Bob Roberts, see State and Main, see Hollywood Shuffle or Bamboozled, don't see For Your Consideration.
Unacceptable

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Alien vs Predator:Requiem


2007 follow up to the first Alien vs Predator that came out a few years ago. This time it's being directed by brothers Colin and Greg Strause who haven't directed much but have done TONS of visual effects work. They are big time visual effects supervisors having done everything from Titanic to the X Men movies. And that's alot of what this movie is, visual effects. This movie was just like so many b-action movies from the 80's and early 90's. What that means is that it's predictable, shallow in terms of plot and amateurish in terms of acting. But it also means that it's pretty fun. It's dumb and enjoyable. Lame and worth watching...if you're into the whole b-action movie thing. I don't think I'd run out and buy it, but if it were on tv, I'd pause there for a bit.

Saturday Afternoon

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Clip o' the Week

Venus


2006 film by British director Roger Mitchell whose done several movies not worth mentioning and one, Notting Hill, that you've all heard of. This movie is about a man in the winter of his life who is grasping out at one last vestige of youth and vitality in the form of a girl who could not be any further from like him in terms of...well...everything. She is a gum chewing, tv watching, teenager from the countryside. He is an aged, eloquent, classically trained, Londonite actor. The story is fantastic. It seems so genuine and natural. The old act old and the young act young. This movie shows things as they naturally are and not some hollywood version of them. It's funny, it's sad, it's creepy, it's many many things. But what makes this movie so good is the performances. Everyone is great. The side characters as well as the very small roles. But Peter O'Toole is truly magnificent. I have been a fan of his since I first saw Becket as a kid and I really think this is his best performance in decades. One of his best ever. He embodies this character. It's worth the price of admission at the very least. This is a great flick that made me laugh and made me think. Totally worth picking up.

Worth Watching

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Simpsons Movie


2007 bringing of the classic TV show the big screen by one of the series' most seasoned director (David Silverman) and many of the writers from the very best seasons of the show. This, basically, really long episode concerns Homer and Bart saving the town from certain destruction. Of course, lots of other crap happens along the way and of course he does actually end up saving the town. After Homer does something really ecologically stupid the town becomes a true cespool and the EPA has the idea to put a big glass dome over the town to isolate it from the rest of the world. But as you can imagine, Springfield doesn't take too kindly to this so the EPA changes it's mind and decides to just wipe the town off the face of the earth. When I first heard about the show coming to the big screen years ago I was very skeptical, but then when many of my favorite writers from the show (namely John Schwartzwelder) joined in on the act, I got excited. I love David Silverman, who directed my favorite episode 'A Milhouse Divided.' But I gotta say I didn't really like this movie at all. It was predictable and just really not that funny. It would've made a good episode, but as a stand alone movie it was pretty marginal. It's very hard to convert a tv show to a movie and few have done it well. But still this movie just wasn't that great. It just simply wasn't. I would love to see these same writers come back to the TV show, but as a movie I might watch it on TV like I've watched so many Simpsons reruns, but it's certainly nothing I'm dying to recommend or go out and buy.

Saturday Afternoon

Clip o' the Week

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Cloverfield


2008 film about a giant monster attack on New York City. Well...sort of. If that's how I described it you probably wouldn't want to see it unless you're some King Kong/Godzilla fan, but you shouldn't be disuaded. Yes, a giant monster and some other freaky creatures attack New York, but this shows that from the ground floor. The flick follows a small group of friends who are throwing a going away party for Rob (one of the friends whose moving to Japan). During the party the shit hits the fan. A guy named Hud was filming the party as a going away present for Rob and keeps filming b/c "people will want to see how it all went down." The movie is produced by JJ Abrams, the producer that brought the world Lost and if there's one thing Abrams can do, it's the unique. The entire movie is taken from a video camera found in Central Park after the attacks. So the whole thing is seen from the point of view of the people experiencing it. The quality is not always good and some times the film cuts out or they drop the camera, but I think it makes the experience so much more fun and frightening than if it'd been done in the conventional way. This concept is great, the sets are great, the acting is (mostly) great (and from unknowns), the story is good. I liked alot about this movie. I do think Hud was pretty annoying and that he probably would've stopped filming once things got really harry. And I do think some of the footage was so similar to footage we've all seen from 9/11 that it bordered on exploitation. But overall I thought this movie was engaging and alot of fun to watch. I mean, there was a scene on a rooftop about 2/3 of the way through the film that literally had me writhing in my seat. Fun stuff. See on the big screen for sure.

Worth Watching