Saturday, May 31, 2008
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
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.
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.
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.
Friday, May 16, 2008
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.
Monday, May 12, 2008
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.
Friday, May 9, 2008
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
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.