Little Foxes - wyler makes good films. there seems to be a lot of southern dramas that were released in the 40s-60s and this is one of the better ones. it's just such a twisted and sadistic story of incest and selfishness and backstabbing. great drama with great writing and acting (bette davis is a clear stand out of course). great stuff. B+.
Avatar - nice use of sfx of course. however, the terminator isn't a great film because of cameron's use of sfx which are fairly commonplace now, rather it's great because of the timelessness and execution of the story and characters. avatar has a bit of that, but a lot of the characters are lost because it's essentially an animated film. it's also essentially a mix of the matrix and dances with wolves. also wasn't a huge fan of the simplicity of the characters - all the army guys are gun-toting dumbasses and almost all the aliens are peace loving nature lovers. the shades of gray just weren't well developed and other than the sfx it wasn't anything new. watched it in 3d and most if it was a bit out of focus; possibly a bad projector. B.
It's Complicated - pile of shit that is saved only by alec baldwin being alec baldwin and john krasinski doing his thing. nancy meyer makes bottom of the barrel stuff if you ask me. now, if you're a 50 year old mom then you're likely to have a completely different opinion; and moms are always right so just ignore this review. D.
Word Wars - pretty much the same documentary as scrabylon which i watch a couple years back. features some unique players in a subculture you probably wouldn't thinking about if not for the film. don't remember this being any better or worse than the other documentary so take your pick. B.
Swing Vote - pretty decent film about a guy who doesn't care too much about the political process, but his precocious daughter does and gets him into a situation where his single vote will determine the outcome of the presidential election. it's a crazy premise, but it proves a point about civil duty and apathy and the rest. madeline carroll (the daughter) is really good and the script gives her and costner a good, rounded relationship. a worthwhile film on the whole, though i didn't think either of the candidates was worth voting for. B.
A Lawyer Walks Into A Bar - didn't get the double entendre of the title until after the film was over. this is another documentary by the same guy who did word wars. this one follows six people studying for the CA bar exam which has a pass rate of 39%, lowest in the nation; 15% lower than #49 in the nation. it's a good little documentary that introduces you to the lawyers of tomorrow as well as providing some context re: the legal system and our litigious culture. it's pretty pathetic, really, how many lawyers we have in this country and how many people feel it's necessary to sue each other. i've never sued, nor have i been sued so i'm not part of the problem so far as i can tell. people can't figure out shit on their own i guess. one stat given in the film said we had more lawyers in this country than in all the others in the world combined. the film made it seem like you're almost a fool if you don't sue someone and get some money out of it. hmm... B.
Last Game - documentary about a high school coach in PA who has gone undefeated and won state championships the last two years. the documentary follows him during his attempt at a repeat championship. the narrative of the film is jilted, but it eventually gets going and finds a couple storylines. it has a fair amount of insight into the football culture, high school, and at least one father/son relationship. glad i finally got around to watching this one which has been in my queue for about four years. B.
Manufacturing Dissent - canadian filmmaker basically does a hatchet job on michael moore, but by the end of the film you come out thinking he's deserving of it. many of her indictments of moore are nit-picky to say the least. he grew up in davison, not flint like he always says. but i'm pretty sure his dad worked in flint and davison is like 10 minutes away and much smaller. it's splitting hairs if you ask me. but the fact-checking gets deeper as the documentary goes on - chronological misrepresentations in roger and me and bowling for columbine, for example. apparently a staged scene in roger & me, the staged free gun scene in bowling for columbine, and others. in the end i had to admit that moore is an even worse preverter of truth than i thought. i knew that he took liberties with chronology and editing, while not outright lying, especially in bowling for columbine and fahrenheit 9/11, but i didn't realize how bad it really was. even though this documentary employs a lot of the same b.s. tactics that moore does it doesn't take away from the fact that moore basically lies in many of his films. what's annoying is that he doesn't really need to lie because the facts are generally on his side when bashing bush or corporations. oh well. B.
Cashback - story about a guy who gains the ability to freeze time. this has long been one of my three wishes (omniscience and the ability to live as long as i want being the other two) so the concept was intriguing. it's a funny and engaging picture. B+.
Righteous Kill - to my recollection pacino and deniro have been in three films together - godfather pt. II, heat, and righteous kill. they weren't ever in a scene together until 1995 with heat and that's an "a" level film as is the godfather pt. II. righteous kill represents a steep drop from those two films, but it's to be expected as avnet hasn't even sniffed a quality film so far as i can tell. his last two have been pacino vehicles that just didn't work. this one wasn't awful, but it's really not good either. the ending seems contrived, the characters don't have much life, the direction is uniformly bad, and it just never gets off the ground in any substantive way. with a different director this would have been a b+ film, with avnet, even with the other talent involved it only gets a C.
Lives Of A Bengal Lancer - another in the gary cooper boxset that didn't really grab my attention. the only reason i bought the boxset is that it has beau geste, a film i saw about 18 years ago, maybe even more. i remember really liking that film so i bought the boxset when i was working at tower. i've seen all the other films from the set so next i'll check out beau geste, hopefully it's just as good as i remember it being. C.
You Don't Mess With The Zohan - it's adam sandler and you probably don't even need to watch the film to have a rough idea of what you're going to get. unlike click, punch-drunk love and funny people, this film doesn't have any serious elements, it's just the billy madison, happy gilmore stuff here. not as funny, but entertaining nonetheless. B.
Fantastic Mr. Fox - fun enough film. looking at it you instantly know it's a wes anderson film which is weird since it's a stop motion piece. but when i first saw the trailer i thought it had the look of an anderson film and found out later that it was indeed his work. besides the look it has the familiar setup of the strong willed central character who is a bit offbeat, but a real go-getter and is always hatching his next plan/adventure. clooney does a good job with the voice work. i probably won't run out and buy this film like i have with anderson films in the past, but it passes the time and has some interesting elements. end drags on a bit. B-.
General Died At Dawn - only notable thing about this gary cooper film is the writing by clifford odets which is very well done. good dialogue is mostly wasted, though, on a film that just didn't ever get off the ground for me. C+.
Palo Alto, CA - this movie is practically a cut and paste of other teen/college-age films. totally cliche and predictable. offers no new characters or interesting thoughts. of course much of the genre is like that as well, but at least most of them offer some laughs and this one didn't do much in that category. come to think of it, it didn't even have a lot of tna. really a subpar film all around. tom arnold was ok in a minor role. D+.
Toxic Avenger - some people will think this movie is god awful and others think it's brilliant.
Road - not entirely sure what to make of the film, but it's pretty good. going into the film i knew only one thing and i think that helped me enjoy it a bit: that the film never explains how the world comes to an end. not knowing that would have been a distraction because i would have been fixated on knowing what caused the fires and lack of living things. i guess that in the final analysis it's a hopeful film about a boy who learns from the good and bad of his father and goes into the world in his own way. he has a hopeful view of a world that is seemingly hopeless. throughout these post-apocalyptic films i always ask myself at what point i would end my life. for me this film presented the post-apocalyptic world in a more bleak way than usual. generally there is a great disease or everyone turns into a zombie or there has been a nuclear disaster, but people generally want to survive to rebuild society. here, it didn't seem like that was the case at all. it seemed as though humans would never be able to live on earth again because the earth was barren and seemingly uninhabitable. so i don't know when i'd end it for myself, but if i couldn't at least live like a human then i don't think i'd want to go on. it was pretty good at creating that atmosphere as well as creating an atmosphere of constant fear and very few enjoyable moments. really depressing and scary, but in the end hopeful. maybe that's like the u.s. 2001-2008. B+.
Did You Hear About The Morgans? - butterface and the blinker do their usual schtick here and it elicits about two laughs in the process. sam elliot loses his dignity and actually appears in the film in a supporting role. seriously, though you ever notice how much hugh grant blinks? D.
An Education - story about a girl who falls for a guy who's twice her age. or, to put it another way, about a guy who tricks a young girl and her family into thinking he's a good guy. mostly it's a film about a smart girl who isn't wise and is unfortunate in that she doesn't have any wise people around her. sure, they're all brilliant when it comes to jane eyre and latin and the like, but when it comes to common sense questions like "why is a 40 year old guy picking up 16 year olds?" they not only don't have a proper answer, they hardly even seem to ask the question. they're more distracted by his charm or the fact that he's a jew than the fact that he's someone unattached and seemingly perfect yet is still single in spite of his age.
the tragic figures here are of course the girl who gets caught up in the fantasy world that the guy presents and the boy (graham) who she used to be interested in before the old guy came into the picture. graham does everything right, is smart and even wants to travel rather than bury his head in the books after high school, but he gets the short end of the stick in this one. c'est la vie, he's probably better off without these schlubs anyway.
the film itself is fine enough, but nothing special. falls under the "reader" category in this year's run to the academy's, but it doesn't have a performance like that from winslet and it doesn't have anything about the holocaust so it doesn't get bonus points for that. i'm being facetious of course. B.
Gomorra - so far as i can tell it's a fairly realistic film that is probably most similar to traffic, but instead of being about the drug trade in the americas, is about the crime syndicates in italy. it's a good portrait of the kinds of crimes that take place and some of the effects they have. it's not as detailed as traffic and some storylines are less intriguing than others, but it's a fairly interesting film on the whole that kept me engaged the entire time. B.
Let The Right One In - if i had known this was yet another vampire movie i probably would have skipped it. that said, it's got less capes and pale good looking guys than a lot of the other vampire crap that's been out recently, so i guess it's not bad by that standard. it's about a boy who gets picked on at school and he starts a friendship with a 200 year old vampire girl who ends up helping him out with the bullies and that friendship turns into love? he's 12 so i don't know that i'd call it love, but i think that's what is implied. it has a good atmosphere and eerie soundtrack. B-.
Peter Ibbetson - about a boy and girl who are separated at a young age, but it turns out that they've pined for each other ever since. it's a tragic story which sees her imprisoned in a mansion and him in actual prison. they stay in touch, though, through their dreams. it's an interesting idea and the film has some moments of interest, but mostly i was disengaged. gary cooper isn't as good as usual. C+.
America The Beautiful - good documentary (mostly) about the ideas we have in america about beauty. the director makes a lot of common sense observations like the fact that beauty is arbitrary and differs from culture to culture. he also points out all the effects it has on society, particularly young girls. one odd paradox that exists in america is that we spend more time and money than anyone being bombarded by images of skinny as beauty, yet we're the fattest nation in the world. perhaps we value being skinny because it's increasingly rare. as for youth, we probably value that because it's fleeting and i don't think that's specific to our culture as the fountain of youth has been written about for ages throughout cultures.
roberts gives us a lot to think about and meanders a bit with tangents like the plastic surgery bit or the bit with the racist scientist, but it's all interesting stuff and is at least somewhat connected to his original thought that it works well enough. there are plenty of problems that feed this ugly machine that makes people feel bad about themselves for not looking a certain way. in the end all we can control is ourselves so we need to begin within and realize that what doesn't matter, doesn't matter. set your own standards and stick to them and you'll probably be fine. ignore the noise. unfortunately the majority of people are so eager for validation that they change themselves in the hopes that they can get it. B+.
Criminal - other than the ending which makes absolutely no sense, this is a fun little con-man movie. maggie gyllenhaal, john c. reilly and diego luna are all good. it's a pretty straightforward con-man flick and the end is only surprising because it's completely unbelievable. that said, i did guess it. it was one of only two guesses that i had, but i rejected it because it just didn't make any sense. the filmmakers don't explain it to make it more believable which i figure is just a mindfuck. B.
Design For Living - took a minute for me to get into the tone of the film, but once i got going i was into it. it's another 1933 film (babyface being the other recent one that i've seen) that flaunts the code restrictions. it's about two guys in love with the same girl and she's in love with them. they talk openly about premarital sex and the arrangement they make so that all three will be happy is to not have sex. she helps them with their careers and all are happy, at least for a while. it's a good, funny film. miriam hopkins is really good as are march and cooper. lubitsch does a good job overall. B+.
Christmas Carol - 3D imax version of the christmas classic. the reason this is such an enduring classic is because the original text is so solid. it's like a frank capra story with the life-affirming, goodwill towards men type ending. it's also very well written and has a number of great lines. i've seen a good deal of the filmed versions of this story and prefer the 38 and 51 versions the most. this one was mostly about showcasing the effects and having it in 3d. carrey is fine, but not amazing as a voice actor. C+.
Up In The Air - not as good as the oscar hype it's getting would suggest, but pretty good anyway. it's about a guy whose job it is to fire people, generally as part of big corporate layoffs. he travels the country/globe so he doesn't really have a home, nor does he have the family and friends that usually go along with that kind of stability. vera farmiga is good once again, this time as a kindred road spirit who befriends clooney. the title refers both to where he spends much of his life as well as the state of limbo his life seems to be in during the film. it has good comic relief and some nice little life commentary that will get you thinking a bit. mostly, though, this film will be remembered because of the two idiots in the front row who laughed, talked and threw popcorn at the screen for 3/4 of the film. not sure if the guy was showing off for his girlfriend or if he was just born dumb. worthless. B.
Brothers - looks like sheridan will soon have done more stuff in america than he has done in ireland. this one starts off a little slow and unsure of itself, but it gains steam all the way until the end. sometimes you watch a film and it really appears to have been filmed linearly in that the acting and everything else gets better as they do more of it. this is one of those films. at first the acting was either wooden or too animated; it just wasn't right. as the film went on, though, the actors seemed to settle into their characters and the last scenes of each were their strongest. as for the plot, it's another film about the uncounted costs of war. we all know the death toll and the economic toll, but the emotional one is easiest to overlook because it's the hardest to quantify. worth watching. B.
Risky Business - wish i had watched this when i was 16, it would have been a classic. solid pic about what a teenage boy does while his parents are gone for vacation. reminded me of ferris bueller or weird science, but with an ethereal tangerine dream soundtrack that gave it a different feel. the cast is solid and it has all the hallmarks of a great teen flick. first film i've seen using the netflix ondemand via ps3 service. works well. B+.
100 Girls - surprisingly well-written teen sex flick about a guy who is searching for a girl he's already slept with, but knows virtually nothing about. the concept is a bit wacky and some of the plot points are dumb, but the writing isn't half bad and it's more thoughtful than the average comedy of its kind. also has plenty of tna for those who aren't in the mood to think about gender relations. cast has a few up and comers like heigl and pressley. B.
Rocking Horse Winner - decent, not wonderful, story about a boy who is able to see the winner of horse races by getting on his toy rocking horse. presumably it's about broken family life and living a life of excess. i don't remember the story all that well so i don't know how many of the details make their way in or out of the film. it's not much in the plot department so it really is incumbent upon the characters to hold up the film. the mother makes some strides as a person, but i wasn't real impressed. had a good time watching it, but having trouble remembering anything noteworthy about it. B-.
To Live And Die In L.A. - decent enough cop drama with another great car chase from friedkin. other than that and the fact that the c.s.i. guy plays a young hot shot, it's not a very notable film. B.
Holiday - cary grant and katherine hepburn in a film about the ills of the upper class. grant is a less well off guy who is trying to marry hepburn's sister. turns out that the family is too rich and upper crust for the way grant wants to live (by the seat of his pants, traveling, etc., at least while he's young). hepburn is really more his speed and eventually they end up together when the sister dumps grant for being too much of a free spirit for her liking. any movie that makes fun of the uber rich elitists is fun. B.
Everybody's Fine - a bit weepy and intentionally maudlin towards the end. that said, it's a good film overall with a good heart. deniro is right for the part and his children are portrayed fairly well too. B.
Armored - totally predictable and not a lot of action. the good guys gone bad is usually interesting, but it didn't do much for me here. none of the actors were particularly good and the plot was full of logic holes. C-.
Precious - good content and good acting make for a solid film. the direction left something to be desired and the soundtrack could have done more given the time/place (1987 harlem) and subject matter. sidibe and mo'nique were both really good. mo'nique was actually better in a really unpleasant role. she'll never have another performance like that again and she's gotta get some oscar buzz. wasn't in love with some of the daydream sequences and thought it inconsistent that sometimes precious would imagine herself as white and thin and other times as big and black, but with a nice dress on. had i done the film i would have shown a progression - picturing her ideal self as white and thin early in the film and as just more glamorous later in the film. mariah carey did a good job as a social worker and lenny kravitz was good enough as a male nurse. the teacher (patton) was also good, but there were a couple of overly glossy moments with her.
overall, it's a well done picture with plenty of heavy content that makes the film what it is. B+.
Old Dogs - it doesn't get much worse than this pile of steaming dog shit. if i had known that pulp fiction would resurrect travolta's career and that this film would ultimately be made as a result, i might rethink the whole casting of him as vincent vega in that film. not only is it predictable and completely unfunny, it also makes everyone who is associated with it look like they have no artistic merit. just don't go near this one. F+.
Only Angels Have Wings - not a great grant, arthur, hawks collaboration here. wanted to like it, but wasn't in love with grant's character and, frankly, felt that arthur could have done better than to be with him in the end. its about a delivery company that flies mail (and other things) to various places in central/south america. it's got to be the worst shipping company in the history of shipping because about one in four flights ends in death or a serious crash of some kind. C+.
Talk Of The Town - completely predictable, but nevertheless good cary grant film. he plays a wrongly accused man on the run who takes refuge at his old girlfriend's place (jean arthur). it has some philosophy of law stuff in there between grant and ronald colman who plays a supreme court justice to be. decent enough. B-.
Thief Of Bagdad - excellent sfx, sets, and use of color, especially given the time. wasn't overly captivated by the story, but it was a good vehicle for the spectacle. B.
Blue Gardenia - basically the same setup as black angel which came before this one, but this time it's a woman who is in the hot seat. the dynamic between the three female roommates is pretty good. anne baxter is the protagonist and she's fairly straight-laced, though she gets herself in trouble by drinking a few too many in the early part of the film. one of her roommates is a total slut (ann sothern) and the other wishes she was. pretty good direction from lang and conte is good as always. B.
Babyface - really seedy stuff here. watched the uncut pre-release version which includes an extra 5 minutes of stuff, but doesn't include the tacked on ending wherein the board of directors explains that babyface is slumming it as a result of her transgressions. funny stuff. i'll put this film in the pre-noir category which would also include i am a fugitive from a chain gang. films that predate the official start of noir and maybe don't have all the same stylistic/structural elements of a
proper noir, but are similar in theme and tone. this one has a certain cynicism to it that definitely fits right in with the darkest of noirs. stanwyck is great here as is the music and direction. this is a real classic. A-.
American Madness - capra moves up in my book everytime i see one of his films. based purely on the films i've seen i would say that he's probably the filmmaker i would most like to be friends with. i love film noir, it's my favorite genre, but capra, who is one of my ten favorite directors, makes what can only be described as anti-noir films. something like it's a wonderful life gets quite dark, as does this film to a lesser extent, but, in the end, becomes so uplifting and life-affirming that it really is the polar opposite of the fatalism that pervades the noir genre. walter huston performs perfectly here both sides of his character's arc. gleaming and happy in beginning and end, sullen and maudlin after he finds out the news about his wife, and inspired and inspiring when he's leading the bank through its toughest time.
in addition to making great personal films about individuals, capra makes films about society and people in general. i honestly think that people throughout the world could relate to his films. even though they're about americans during the depression in small towns (or whatever), there is a common humanity that underlies his films that people across cultures could likely relate to. feelings of isolation like the ones huston and stewart and cooper feel in this and it's a wonderful life and mr. deeds goes to town. desires to be part of something larger, etc. they all bond us. great stuff from a master. A-.
Knife In The Water - remade later as kaaterskill falls, which is actually the version i saw first. this one is better. it may actually be polanski's most engaging film, right up there with chinatown anyway. it's about a couple that goes for a boat ride and picks up a hitchhiker. the dynamic is interesting between the threesome, though i actually remember it being more tenuous in the remake than in this one. here it doesn't seem quite as edgy. that said, the story unfolds slowly, but there's always an underlying tension between the two men which makes things interesting. B+.
Patterns - really good corporate drama. along the lines of executive suite, but better in my mind. heflin is great as is everett sloane. B+.
In The Mood For Love - i was with this film for about 2/3s of the running time. after that it just began to sag and the momentum of the characters and their relationship fizzled, as did the film. beyond that i didn't really understand what the point of the whole thing was. fairly disappointing considering how loved the film is. the cinematography is nice and so is the acting, but the story left something to be desired. B-.
9 To 5: Days In Porn - documentary about the adult film industry. one of the central figures is an ex-porn star who beame a doctor and helps regulate the industry from an std point of view. other figures include producers, talent, a manager, and directors. the overriding sense you get is, like the title indicates, most of them think of it as just a job. it's a business and they have to do what they have to do to continue to earn money. it's unique in that it addresses the entire industry and does so in a fairly even-handed way. unlike the frontline documentary which just focused on the european sex trade or "body without soul" which looked at eastern european gay porn and how it preys on young men or the ron jeremy documentary which focused on one person, this film looks at domestic and international industries and more or less tells it like it is from many perspectives. apparently there is more than one version out there, the one i saw was 115 minutes long, the shorter version edited out the scenes from prague. B+.
For Keeps? - basically an after school special with a bigger budget. ringwald is a teenager with a smart boyfriend, but their plans of going to college and eventual marriage are thrown off track when she gets pregnant in spite of being on the pill. it's directed by avildsen and the score is done by conti, but it doesn't have the same flair that their previous collaborations (rocky, karate kid) had. in the final analysis it's actually not a bad film despite the corny subject, but i wouldn't call it good either. the performances lift it out of the anti-sex propaganda category that it could have fallen in. B-.
Man Of The West - decent, but not great anthony mann/gary cooper film. some think this one is hot shit and it apparently took a long time before it was appreciated, but i didn't see it. worth watching for the mann enthusiast. B-.
Magnificent Obsession - another very solid douglas sirk effort with wyman and hudson in the lead again. it really is a precursor to all that heaven allows, though the style isn't as refined as it is in that film which i'm concluding was his best work. i've seen about a half dozen of his films and it's the best of those. the most important character is the one we never see, which is interesting. in this way the film is a bit like religion, but really only the good parts of it. ends the same way as all that heaven allows. really, this was sirk's first attempt at making all that heaven allows, though it does stand on its own as a solid work. B+.
Awful Truth - classic screwball comedy here. the leads are married at the beginning, but they cheat on each other and don't really get along. only after a trial divorce to they realize how much they really love each other. reminded me of mr. and mrs. smith and philadelphia story and a bunch of others. B+.
Blind Side - touching story about the rise of michael her. if you follow football you've probably at least heard the name and may know a little about the story. it's a feel good story which is perfectly timed to coincide with thanksgiving and the height of the football season. bullock puts in a good performance as the republican mom who is pushy but in an endearing way. quinton aaron is good as oher as well. liked the writing, particularly the beginning which shows the importance of the left tackle when you have a right handed qb. the book does more of this than the movie, but it was nice to have it in there to give the film some football cred and context. B.
Twilight Saga: New Moon - probably not as bad as the last one, but still a god awful film. the first one had that pale, sad looking twerp in it too much. here he's just in the beginning and the end so most of the middle we are allowed to forget about him. it's still the same old shit with the girl who loves to see guys fight over her and who wants to be protected. she's caught in the middle of two worlds, this time it's the wolves and the vampires, instead of the vampires and the humans. it's really basic and dumb stuff. there isn't any character development anywhere in the film, the script is awful and laughable. the motivations of the characters are about as simplistic as one can imagine. she apparently loves him so much it literally hurts and i guess he loves her too or something. in the end they think about getting married and the movie ends. it's an amazing cliffhanger if you're into the movie in which case waiting 7 months to see the next one is probably going to be the hardest thing you've had to do in your sheltered, pathetic life. i kid.
this is just a bad movie and no one over the age of 13 should consider watching it. honestly, i think the film is so successful with the kids because it's written by them. there's probably some programmer out there who wrote a program that looks on internet blogs of teenage girls and it cuts and pastes fairly random passages from the blog into the screenplay. then the program merges the blog puree with some random vampire stories and out comes the new twilight installment. F+.
Double Indemnity - hollywood is generally derided today for not providing good stories or quality acting or good dialogue, but frankly i think it's a bit silly to ask hollywood to produce extremely well-made and polished films with sfx that are unseen elsewhere in the world as well as giving us fantastic stories with world class acting and dialogue. it's kinda like asking jenna jameson to not only fuck like a porn star, but also to cook like julia child, give conversation like oprah and be into sports too. it's just being greedy. that said, it was done at one time and the 40s were that time. hollywood once was able to produce films like double indemnity that entertained and were well done and had top notch writing and acting and all the rest. of course it doesn't hurt to have the cast (stanwyck, robinson, macmurray) they have with the writers (wilder, cain, chandler) and composer (miklos rosza) and costume designer (edith head) and cinematographer (seitz) that this film has. these are all top notch talents working on the same film. there was once a time when the master and apprentice relationship still existed. people were able to move up the ranks within the studio system learning from the masters, working their way through to the top. now, films are directed by guys who know guys and the apprentice system in almost all areas of society is basically gone.
double indemnity isn't as moving and beautiful as all that heaven allows which i also revisited recently, but it's a great piece of work. there aren't a lot of films with exchanges like the one you see between macmurray and stanwyck early here; they (people other than tarantino) just don't write like that anymore. it's too bad. A.
Planet 51 - co-production between us and spain which explains all the latin names in the credits. there are about a million movie references in the film. most of them are to sci-fi films like aliens and 2001 and most of them aren't particularly funny. this one made me nod off. it's not an awful film, it just wasn't engaging for adults and it moved rather slowly. C-.
Outsiders - coppola had some really great films in him, but this wasn't one of them. nice little cast and a decent enough story, though i never finished reading the book. it's kinda like stand by me meets rebel without a cause but not as good as either. C.
Pirate Radio - the incessant commercials for this film had me wanting to skip it, but meryl put it on our "to see" list so we went. turned out to be a fairly funny film that was more like a frat comedy than the political period film that it appears to be in the trailer. the cast is all good and the soundtrack is nice. has lots of anachronisms, but no one really cares. B.
All That Heaven Allows - a masterwork by a great artist. sirk does a great job of juxtaposing the beauty of the scenery with the artificial beauty of his characters. when he scratches the surface a seedy, hidden malevolence shows itself. rock hudson's character in this one is great. he sees the world for what it is and cuts through the bullshit. in many ways he's what i aspire to be. honesty is more important than appearances. faux friends should be eschewed for inner reflection and a meaningful life. jane wyman is caught in the middle, still feeling the familiar tug of the cushy life and not wanting to upset the status quo with her community, friends, and children. the toast hudson and his friends have summarizes it in a familiar fashion: here's to them that wish us well, all the rest can go to hell.
sirk's visual style is top notch. he fragments the frame to visually reinforce the idea that not all is well. he shows the characters in reflection, boxing them in as they are boxed in by society's mores. showing us the two-sided personality we all carry with us - one for the outer world and one for our closest friends. his use of colors is great and great to look at. his use of shadow and light is also top notch. characters moving in and out of light within a scene. in one scene wyman is alone putting on makeup and her kids walk in. she's in the blue half of the screen that is dark and they come from the door which casts a yellowish light into the room. the room is divided with these colors and the characters move around the room within these divisions, but wyman and the kids are almost always on different sides. it reminded me of a scene in rashomon where you have three characters in a triangle and depending upon where kurosawa puts the camera you get to think about the one, two, or three characters he shows. how do they relate to each other, what is that combination of characters thinking?
speaking of characters, there's a colorful cast here and there's an economy of storytelling that i really appreciate in films like this, the killing and paths of glory. all of them are in the 90 minute range yet they have 6 or more characters who are well-defined and interesting. many films spend over 100 minutes to barely establish one or two characters, much less a half dozen. wyman and hudson are well drawn, of course, but the lesser characters like moorehead, wyman's daughter, wyman's son, and the neighborhood gossip are all well-defined.
the music, too, is right where it needs to be. it punctuates emotional notes with the same style as the rest of the film. it's clear, but not overly dramatic. really, that's what sirk, in his best work, does so well - dances on the line of melodrama and understatement. he does it with great flair and a deft touch and it just works. these same stories (all that heaven allows, imitation of life, written on the wind) in the hands of a lesser director would overwrought and unwatchable. A+.
Judgment At Nuremberg - big time cast and long film led to 10+ aa nominations for this one. the cast is uniformly good and i thought that clift really stepped out of himself for his role. tracy is solid as always. it's a good script that looks at the aftermath for some of the nazi supporters. it was a difficult time and there are some thorny issues here. in the end, if you're on the losing end everyone judges you and if you're on the winning end then history is more kind. of course, the nazis were especially bad, but not all germans were nazis as many films like this and das boot have pointed out. though all the subjects of this trial went to jail "for life" it is also pointed out that all of them were out within 12 years when the film came out.
like hunt for red october this film uses the camera to indicate a transition from the actors using their native tongue to speaking purely in english. i like the device because it sets up the realistic portrayal first and then transitions to the more convenient one later. it's a technique that is unique to film and moves everything along much more quickly than if they had to wait for the translation throughout the courtroom scenes.
it's a good movie, but it's also long. note that the piano piece that is being played during the concert that tracy attends is later used in a seinfeld episode (the pez dispenser) wherein jerry makes fun while george's girlfriend is playing the piano. i pretty much guarantee that larry david and jerry seinfeld were aware of the fact that the same piece was used in this film as they are both jews and aren't averse to poking fun at holocaust films. cheers to them. B.
St. Elmo's Fire - has a big cast, but is a crappy 80s flick in my opinion. shows the excess and self-absorbtion of the decade which i suppose is good as a historic document. no one in the cast has a standout performance and it didn't resonate with me on any level. second time i've seen this and barely remembered anything about it. totally missable in spite of its reputation. D.
Gunnin' For That #1 Spot - finally got around to watching this adam yauch documentary about high school basketball players who participated in the elite 24 game at rucker park. it mostly just profiles 8 of the 24 players, though it does get a bit into the recruitment and marketing of these young guys. we know by now about a lot of this stuff so it isn't necessarily new, but the reality is still a shame. there really ought to be better protections in place for both high school and college talent. college kids should get a living wage for essentially working for the university and bringing in so much money. they should be allowed to have an agent, etc., but they should also be required to take classes that go over the predators who are out there. they should have to learn about the nba and the business and whatnot before they set their sights on that goal. we need to give them advice from guys like chris webber who was taken advantage of from day one and fell to temptation and then lied about it. we need to give the power to the labor in both the form of money and knowledge. anything less is a disservice to them. B.
Where The Wild Things Are - the book is a pretty lean little story so i didn't really see a movie coming out of it, but i watched this anyway. they did a lot of filling in the blanks and took a lot of creative license in constructing a story and max as a character. the book never really stood out to me as great, though the simple idea of a boy and his imagination is a solid one for the age group. the film doesn't expand upon that simple premise much, though it did seem to portray the wild things as different parts of max's psyche which was interesting. some of the dialogue was funny and it was a creative film on the whole, but the storytelling could have used some work. the pacing was slow and i just wasn't very involved in the film. C+.
2012 - if the previews get you excited then you'll probably like the movie. if the previews don't do it for you then you probably shouldn't bother. it's a sfx tour de force and that's mostly what the film is about, but it also has some stuff in there about the unifying elements of humanity and the importance of working together and all that jazz. it's not at all a realistic film, there were several unrealistic and unreasonable things that occurred in the film, but those didn't really detract from it much. it would have been better if they had made the science and details like one of the protagonists bringing actual books on the ship with him instead of a kindle or something similar were more plausible. it was a fun movie to watch, but i imagine it was even more fun to make. just think of a famous landmark and how you would like to destroy it using some natural disaster, then put that into a film. that's basically the prompt that the sfx people were given.
it's totally contrived hysteria and that's not necessarily a bad thing. it's just a function of the genre. calling it a bad thing is kinda like saying noirs are too depressing or something. duh, that's what the genre is. some are just more well done than others. for all the one-world talk they didn't even mention africa until the end of the film and i don't recall seeing people from south of the border either. in general we tend to forget the southern hemisphere (except for australia). also, it should be pointed out that the most unrealistic thing about the film is that the whole world is depending on china to make arks that will keep the species alive. bad idea considering they can't even keep lead out of baby toys and are infamous for making cheap plastic crap. zing! in all seriousness, china will be number one in the near future so i gotta get my blows in while i can. B+.
Super High Me - not exactly sure about the date i saw this, but this is close enough. this is a documentary about a guy who doesn't smoke any pot for 30 days and then gets high all day for the 30 days after that. it's about as scientific as you'd expect from a potsmoking stand-up comic, but less funny. it's actually a neat little idea, but it doesn't prove anything one way or the other. actually, i guess that's more or less like the documentary it was based upon - supersize me. i'd like to make a documentary where all i did was eat out at fast food places, but instead of getting the worst thing possible like spurlock did, i'd practice some damn self control and get a salad, grilled chicken sandwich, or one of the other healthy alternatives. B-.
Saw VI - laughable at times primarily because of those little things called writing and acting. that said, the jigsaw character was still compelling here. the gadgets were so-so for the most part, though they did save the best for last with a gang of spikes impaling an insurance executive and injecting acid into him which disintegrated his body from the inside. pretty cool. this one railed against the health insurance industry with as much fervor as a michael moore film. it also took shots at bankers involved in selling bad mortgages. yes, i'm serious. production is a step below hollywood b-film which places it about even with your average tv show. C.
Sum Of All Fears - a good jack ryan film, this time with ben affleck. ryan is like james bond, but he usually does less killing and is more of a reluctant hero. odd in that you would think bond, the brit, would be more like ryan and vise versa. i guess american is the new british anyway so really it's just a matter of timing.
anyway, i first watched this in the theater in 2002 and it sorta blew me away when 2/3 into the film a nuke went off in baltimore almost killing the president. i can't think of any non-cold war era films that do something like that on american soil. red dawn, dr. strangelove, and the day after were all in the 60s and 80s when we hated the russians and they had more (or as many) nukes as us. at any rate, i find that most of the film is fairly accurate, though the end does move into hollywood drama land with ryan more or less saving the entire civilized world. this is a step below hunt for red october and crimson tide, but still a fine film. B+.
Men Who Stare At Goats - fairly slow, unfun film about a subject that really could have volumes written about it. mostly, it's about the military's foray into the psychic world. i've heard anecdotes about various programs that the military has tried at different times and none of it really surprises me. they're always looking for some kind of edge and they're so suspicious that any word that the russians have such and such a psychic device would cause them to get their panties in a bunch. the film addresses some of this and is funny at times, but is mostly hampered by how slow it is. it was originally a book and that makes more sense for the subject matter. C+.
Box - from the director of donnie darko. it's a good story which i took as a sort of parable about karma and the way we live our everyday life. the premise is: stranger drops a box on a couple's front door with a card that says he will come calling later that day. sure enough he does and he explains it like this: if you press the button in the box you'll get $1 million free and clear and someone you don't know will die. or you can return the box without pressing the button and you'll get $100 for your time. you have 24hrs to make your decision. it seems ridiculous, but this kind of thing happens daily for all of us. while i was at the theater i had a non dissimilar decision to make. should i, out of my own self-interest and laziness, leave the candy wrappers in the cup holder in the seat, or should i pick it up and throw it in the trash like a "civilized" human being. no money or lives were on the line but it was a decision where my self-interest would have meant work for someone else. 8 or 9 times out of 10 i would throw the trash away, i worked in a theater so i have a keen understanding of what it's like to pick up other people's shit in the dark, but this time i didn't.
it also reminded me of the short story "the monkey's paw" which is essentially about the unintended consequences of getting those things that we wish for.
overall the film had a good atmosphere to it and was thoughtful and creepy. the ending left me scratching my head a bit, but i think i got it more or less figured out. good film, not as good as donnie darko. B.
Tall T - pretty good little western with the scott/boetticher pairing that is beginning to grow on me. to give you an example of how highly this guy (boetticher) is regarded the dvd has a tribute to him and to this film which features the likes of eastwood, tarantino and scorsese who are all singing his praises. it really doesn't get any more impressive than that and they all mention him in the same breath as hawks, ford, and the mann/stewart pictures. it begins like shane and has a bit of stage coach in the middle and maybe some naked spur in the end. it's a good, tight flick with good characters and writing. you get a great sense of the feelings everyone has just because the situation is so well drawn. they don't need to say a lot to say a lot, if you catch my meaning. scorsese talks about this vis a vis body language and the efficiency of boetticher's direction when it comes to the movement of the characters. wish they still made 'em like this. third boetticher i've seen in the last year or so. B+.
A Serious Man - not really sure what the coens were doing here. the film begins in poland with a husband who returns from the cold to his wife who has been waiting hours for him. he explains that his carriage broke, but that someone helped him. she freaks out because the guy who helped her is supposed to be dead. the guy who helped comes to the door and they let him in. the wife stabs the guy thinking he won't be hurt, but then he bleeds and presumably dies after he leaves the house. the rest of the film takes place in 60s (you can tell by the music) suburbia, though it looks more like the 50s. it's just a strange film. there's some good dysfunctional family based humor, but most of the rest just left me scratching my head. commentary on marriage? wives? justice and karma? no clue. C+.
Invention Of Lying - aka the invention of fiction or the invention of religion. the idea of the film (that no one on earth can tell a mistruth) is an intriguing one. it makes you wonder when people first came up with deceit. how do animals use deceit to get by? how has deceit shaped our culture, etc.? it's also a funny film, though it could have been even more funny. atheists will like this more than religious people. B.
Friends Of God - alexandra pelosi's hbo documentary looks at evangelicals and their beliefs and their influence in politics. it has some interesting stuff in part because she doesn't grill the interviewees. she did the same in her travels with bush documentary. it's a testament to the power of a simple question without the foreboding element that comes when the interviewer is clearly on the offensive. it's a short film that lacks structure (and an ending), but it's good nonetheless. B.
Halloween 2 - it was between this and saw vi so i went for this. zombie is a good director who knows the genre well, but the ultimate truth is that i'm not a huge fan of the slasher subgenre of horror films. i don't like vampire films and slasher films. splatterstick and zombie films are generally my favorite. torture porn, post-apocalypse stuff, alien stuff and some others are also good. it holds the tension well, but ultimately didn't do it for me. i've only seen the original halloween, none of the sequels or even zombie's remake. that said, i was able to follow the "plot" which consisted of about 3 pieces of information sandwiched between stalkings which all ended in death. C+.
Dead Pool - probably the second best dirty harry movie in the series, it's also the last. it has a couple noticeable things: the car chase with the remote control car was pretty fun and the whole dead pool premise was also good. a decent series overall this one seemed to know that it was part of a series and it almost treated itself in a more light-hearted manner as a result. also has a notable cast including james carrey, liam neeson, and patricia clarkson. B.
Reality Bites - first saw this in the theater with teresa kacena. hadn't seen it since. i remember thinking that it wasn't a great film when i saw it, but i think teresa liked it so i felt kinda uncool. she was cool and she liked the characters in spite (hopefully not because) of their promiscuity and drug use so maybe i was missing something. it's kind of a film within a film. the documentary that follows ryder's group of friends which is all about her generation is basically the non-fiction version of what stiller is trying to do with reality bites. i don't think he really succeeds though. there are mild concerns about the economy and aids as well as relationships and the usual 20 something ennui. i guess i've just always been too old for this film. singles does the same basic thing better if you ask me. it's a time of life that i just don't relate to very well, at least as presented in films from the 80s and 90s. the graduate is about the same time in a young man's life and it's my favorite film, but in that film there seems to be more purpose, even when he is "just floating along," as he puts it. here the characters seem to lack purpose and are self-destructive and self-important. this is not to mention naive, clueless and not grown up. those last things, though, are perfectly understandable traits given the age.
the ending is pretty lame. ryder isn't a great actress. C.
More Than A Game - pretty good documentary about the national champion saint vincent saint mary high school basketball team which is probably most well known for having lebron james on the team. it's a bit oddly structured - it will tell the story of one or two players and then it tells the story of the team and then it tells the story of another player, then more about the team. the result is getting background about a couple of the guys pretty far into the film. aside from that it's a good story about friends and basketball and fame and fatherhood and the hood and much more. it seems that, overall, james and his friends did things the right way and didn't get caught up in a lot of the troubling things that inner city kids deal with. granted they were a talented bunch who were thus able to go to a nice school, but it's still a good story. from a basketball standpoint it's easy to see why they were so good. lebron is among the 5-10 greatest players ever, but even if he weren't they had a great chemistry. good ball movement, good shot making ability, good work ethic, etc. B+.
Law Abiding Citizen - fun thriller that's pretty well written. foxx and butler are both good and their characters are fairly interesting. butler is more 2 dimensional than foxx is, though i found myself rooting for butler more. it challenges the prospect of peaceful change and the structure of justice in society. in these ways it was more fulfilling than the average thriller. it was also smarter than the average thriller which keeps you on your toes. nice one. B+.
Whip It - a grrrl power coming-of-age flick from drew barrymore. some of the coming of age stuff was decent - ellen page making her own mistakes and all that business. i thought the parents were well represented. it definitely has some of that austin vibe to it - the culture and some of the settings were recognizable. it also has zoe bell who isn't a good actress, not even by a long shot, but she's a really good stuntwoman. you can also find her in death proof and she's done stunts in other tarantino films. ellen page has her usual role here, but she more or less mailed this one in. it's not amazingly well written and her style is getting to be old hat. you expect more from a up and comer like her so hopefully she'll dabble in more stuff like hard candy instead of sticking to the less well-written juno-esque stuff. in general the acting wasn't all that good and the writing was only occasionally effective. needed more polish. C+.
Stepfather - it's been almost 20 years since i've seen the original so i can't comment on how this one stacks up. the idea is a good one, though, because it feeds into that basic fear of someone close to you turning into a psycho. this one had a good pitch to it. the eldest son was also a highlight. having to fill the void left by his father, the conflicted feelings he had about the stepdad, etc. it's not a masterful character, but it's pretty good considering my expectations for this film. the titular character also did a pretty admirable job. i wouldn't mind seeing this one also having a sequel, just as the original did. B.
Messenger - pretty good film about the soldiers who have to give the next of kin the news about their dead loved one. it's a rough job to be sure and it's an interesting angle from which to approach the subject of war. it's not an anti-war film or an unflattering view of the military complex or anything. it's just a sober and even handed view of the facts as most people probably see them. woody harrelson was real good. he was also at the screening at the mill valley film festival and we saw a q&a with him. pretty funny guy. B.
Singles - cameron crowe shows promise here as a writer, but not so much as a director. it's a nicely structured melrose place type 20-something relationship film. it has some nice dialogue and a good seattle soundtrack. it's reminiscent of mamet and not just because campbell scott (spanish prisoner) is in it. nice enough for a sometimes obnoxious genre which is generally just about a group of people in their 20s and early 30s bitching about being single or about the opposite sex. swingers does the genre about as well as anything i can think of so watch that first. B.
Waltz With Bashir - quite a boring film, frankly. it's a nice idea and the animation is interesting for 10 minutes, but it just didn't hold my interest. of course the subject matter is moving and awful stuff, but really that's secondary. you shouldn't get a whole lot of points just for making a movie about the holocaust, for example. C+.
Paranormal Activity - the obvious comparison here is the blair witch project. stylistically and story arc-wise they're a good match, the guerilla marketing is also similar. blair witch, i think was better overall, but this one its equal in many ways. the acting is excellent and the tone and pitch of the story is just right. the effects are subtle and enhance the real feeling of the film. blair witch didn't have effects, but with computers and software being what it is, i supposed you can do some good stuff these days on a shoestring. it's getting a lot of hype which can be a dangerous thing. blair witch sort of suffered after the hype that made it $100 million. hipsters thought the marketing was manipulative and that the whole experience was overrated, so that's something that may happen here as well. dampen your expectations a bit and just go to get scared. don't expect to see "the best horror film of the decade" or any of the other superlatives that are being thrown around. B+.
Running Man - 80s arnold action flick that lives up to that description in every way. the effects, the acting, the cheeseball one-liners; it's all there. overall it's a watchable film that is really all about the concept and themes. themes of media hysteria, fame, big brother, brutality, propaganda - the things that never get old. take that stuff out and it's just an outdated action film with a good turn by richard dawson and an average effort from the governor. B-.
Couples Retreat - decent enough comedy that probably makes a good date movie. didn't do as much with the talent and premise as could have been done. i was unsure about vince vaughn, but now i think he's a pretty solid comic actor. you know what you're going to get from him and they seem to write pretty good dialogue for him. jason bateman and favreau also have a certain style and tone that writers have been doing a good job of writing for lately. directed by ralphie from a christmas story. B-.
Teen Witch - not sure how i got suckered into watching this, but i did. if you're not a teen girl or the parent of a teen girl you probably shouldn't know of this movie, much less watch it. there's nothing reprehensible about the general thrust of the film, it's just that it's a god awful film. D-.
Informant! - a different kind of movie with a different kind of humor and an oddball score by the great marvin hamlisch to match. damon does a real good job with a one of a kind character. the writing and the inner dialogue create a unique and layered character that is both entertaining and, in the end, sad. the original story was the subject of a story on this american life. and it's one of those truth is stranger than fiction stories. it's also a story that reaffirms a fact that took me over 20 years to truly realize - everyone is just a person. we have high expectations of people like fbi agents or world leaders or whomever, but ultimately they are all able to be duped, they're all fallible.
soderbergh does a great job in his career of balancing big and small films. this isn't ocean's 11, but it's a bigger film with a bigger cast than his previous film, the girlfriend experience. well-balanced film that could end up in the top ten of the year. B+.
Zombieland - horror comedy that entertains throughout. gory at the beginning and always funny it's just a good flick. it's also a film that proves that video games and film have officially become one. it's been a recent trend where video games have more story and films have more video game style action. this one is in the middle of the two - enough story and structure to be a film, but video game style action and touches like rules that pop up on the screen and interact with the mise-en-scene. also features a memorable and entertaining bill murray cameo. good stuff. B+.
Paycheck - poor john woo film that i saw when it first came out and revisited because it was on and i was bored. the idea is a good one and comes from a p.k.d. short story. it's about being able to wipe out a person's memory as well as being able to see into the future. there are some interesting elements that the film touches on, but none are explored deeply or in a meaningful or interesting way. woo trots out the mexican standoff motif and the dove a couple times, but it lacks his touch other than that. skip it. D.
'Burbs - only seen this once before, but it kinda stuck out to me. a good film that both confirms the suspicions held by the noisy neighbors while condemning their behavior. the cast is quietly good and the writing is actually good too. this is a nice little film. not a comic masterpiece and not a laugh riot, but a solid little flick with some good characters. B+.
All The President's Men - i've always felt that the ending is a bit abrupt, but it makes sense to cut it off where they do. it's also a great shot to end on. the ensemble cast does a fine job and it's a well put together film. not the best of the year. A-.
Capitalism: A Love Story - it's michael moore's worst film so far. essentially it's a compilation of all his previous work presented in the same format that you're used to by now if you haven't been living under a rock. he comes back to flint, he uses archival footage to open the film, he does some ambush journalism stuff, he gets some anecdotal evidence to support his claim and that's pretty much it. really, it's like a michael moore clipshow, and actually that would have been better.
so, it sounds like i'm panning the film, but i'm really not. i like moore's work. i've said for about 8 years or so that i agree with about 85% of what he says, it's mostly the 15% and some of his tactics that have made him noteworthy, but overall i think he's a good guy and good filmmaker with good intentions. but the thing you have to understand about him is that johnny got his gun is his favorite film of all-time; that says something about the guy. the sad thing is that he sold out a bit when he dropped nader and jumped on the "anybody but bush" bandwagon in '04; that move made me lose a good deal of respect for his convictions.
at any rate, this film really is a notch or two below even sicko which was a good, but not great film. i think he mailed this one in, but he'll be back. the film raises some obvious issues with capitalism and i think that most thinking and informed people have noticed or thought about most of the ideas presented here. the shame isn't that the style lacks the vision he's had in the past, rather it's that he makes a sloppy argument here and he could have done better. again, he mailed it in. unlike some of his other work, this one isn't going to really inspire anyone to change their mind or think about the issue in a great new way, this one is strictly for the choir. B-.
Eddie Murphy Raw - murphy's overrated standup routine consists primarily of jokes that revolve around male-female relationships. he jokes about how much tail he gets and how easy guys are and how manipulative girls are. all this goes a long way to explaining his 8 kids. most of it isn't very funny either. there are a few laughs and murphy has talent, i just don't think it's as a stand-up comedian. he laughs at his own jokes too much. some would be offended by the content of the routine and would be turned off for that reason, for me that wasn't an issue, it was just that the routine wasn't very funny. C-.
Menace II Society - some amateurish acting aside this is an excellent film. really it should be mandatory viewing for all of america's youth and that's not something i say often.
it all begins with the writing which is perfectly paced, finds the right tone, and is as real as it gets. the primary theme is the cyclical nature of life in the ghetto; a theme that would be of great educational value to a lot of the people that the film is about. the film comes full circle in the end and in dramatic fashion. this sequence is the best directed and most impacting of the film; it's the culmination of all that is good about the film.
it's not a film you're likely to ever forget because of its raw realism. boyz in the hood was the first of the modern urban cautionary tales, but menace ii society is the pinnacle of the genre. in spite of some of the poor acting and second level production, this film earns an A+.
Kids In America - not a very good film with a nice enough premise and heart. the cover of the dvd and the poster art make it look like another stupid teen comedy, but it tries to be a lot more, and it fails. points for effort i suppose, but not many for execution. D.
Coming To America - sort of a modern classic, though i didn't see it as such. it's humorous and showcases murphy's talents in the usual way, but really isn't fantastic or timeless. B-.
Network - really a great film that gets better with each viewing. great editing, ensemble cast, and writing. 76 was a tough year for best pic - all the president's men, network, rocky and taxi driver are all great films in their own way. my favorite is taxi driver, but i don't have too much of a problem with any of them winning. i do think that network should have won for editing, though, instead of rocky. rocky gets the edge because it's a sports movie and has "action" scenes, but when you look at this one closely it's well put together and deserved the nod.
each character is so twisted and fucked up in their own special way. each one represents a changing of the guard and the shift of society at large and television more specifically. this is a film that is going to last a long time because of these reasons. it also works on a human level with dunaway as the vacuous broad who is married to her career and holden as the over-the-hill guy looking to revitalize his life in all the wrong places. beatrice straight won an academy for something like 4.5 minutes of screen time in large part because she shows the very real effects of man's desire for adventure (i.e., holden's dumping his wife for the newer model). it's a sad film, yes, but it's also a funny film. the satire extends beyond the tv world and into the world of political extremism. the communists and self-righteous revolutionaries who make a deal with the devil (dunaway/tv in general) are portrayed as equally obsessed with money - they come with their own team of lawyers and break their own values just to get their faces on the dummy box.
then there's howard beale who is certifiably insane yet the only one who seems to have any real convictions beyond himself. in the end those don't last because he's too unstable and prone to visions of god (even if they come in the form of the chairman of the board).
a piece of work. A.
Gamer - running man meets surrogates. directed by the same guys who did both the crank movies so you know what to expect visually. it also contains the usual motifs of sex, violence, and video games. it's a pretty good idea for a film, one that's ripe for social commentary. didn't quite live up to its potential in that way. alison lohman was miscast for her role. overall worth watching, but it peters out towards the end. B.
Surrogates - matrix meets blade runner. great idea for a film though it lacks something in its execution. a bit on the predictable side as far as plot goes. funny that this and gamer came out so close to each other. films like these really aren't too far from reality. sci-fi in general is an exaggeration of current societal trends and this falls into that category, but isn't as exaggerated as some others. ending lasted about one beat too long. i find that is often the case. filmmakers need to realize that movies don't always need a nice soft landing. sometimes it's better to just cut to black and let the audience sort things out. B-.
Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs - better than up. right away this one just felt more adult, more witty without the wink wink cuteness that accompanied up. i'm not a fan of a lot of animated films, especially, it seems, the megahits that pixar puts out, but this one was good; then again it's not made by pixar. it's a clever film that i think the whole family can enjoy and it's a novel concept. co-directed by someone with my name. B+.
Sudden Impact - the second to last of the dirty harry films. probably the best since the first one, likely because eastwood is behind the camera as well as in front. this is the one that has the famous "go ahead make my day" line in it as well. about a woman who is raped and then gets revenge. in the end dirty harry exacts justice as he sees fit and balance is restored to the universe. B.
At The Circus - decent, but not fantastic marx brothers film. B-.
Jennifer's Body - really good teen horror flick that touches upon the nature of fame and popularity as well as the usual high school stuff. it's like a modern day heathers because of its use of fresh language and darker themes. megan fox is very good as the evil central character, her best performance to date. she delivers diablo cody's lines just about as well as ellen page, though in a totally different way. this one is recommended. B+.
I Love You, Man - solid comedy that didn't deliver as many laughs the second time around. crass humor abounds and both seigel and rudd are good here. jones plays her part well, but the real standout supporting players are favreau and pressly who have a good chemistry together. worth checking out. B.
Inglorious Bastards - original version. this one is similar to the remake, but not to such a degree that the word "remake" really fits. it's about a band of misfit soldiers who are being hauled away when their convoy is attacked. they get loose and try to make it to switzerland. there isn't the same nazi retribution angle that there is in the remake. it's also similar to dirty dozen because of the premise that these guys are less than stellar soldiers who are on a mission for the forces of good. good idea with some 70s style execution. lots of action and the little italian guy is good for comic relief. the dvd also features a conversation with quentin tarantino and the director of this version. worth it for fans of 70s film or for those who are really interested in seeing one of the influences of the tarantino film. C+.
Straight Time - not sure how i got turned on to this one. reminded me a bit of badlands meets taxi driver meets dennis haysbert's character in heat. hoffman is good as always. the film is slow at times, but has a nice arc. it's a somewhat sad film, though i wouldn't call it tragic. walsh is also good as the parole officer who gives hoffman a hard time. walsh is somewhat underrated, maybe because he doesn't play leading men often enough. B.
Room Service - definitely a second tier marx brothers comedy. occasional laughs of course, but nothing amazing here. C+.
Seven Men From Now - solid all around western here. boetticher's direction is good, like the small camera moves. scott is expectedly good as is lee marvin. the final shootout is great in its simplicity. bits reminded me of other films like red river and winchester '73. B.
Whiteout - poor excuse for a thriller. antarctica is always a good setting for a horror film, but this one doesn't do much with the setting. it looks mostly fake and the acting and writing are so bad that it just never gets going. indeed, the first modern day shot is of the continent and it says: "Antarctica. The coldest, largest, most isolated land mass on the earth." we know what antarctica is, where it is, and what it's about. this doesn't pass the "show, don't tell" test at all. this film taught me that beckinsale apparently has a nice ass, but little to no acting talent. predictable. D.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels - good comedy with some nice direction from frank oz. martin and caine are able to embody several different personas thanks to the film's premise and it plays up to their skills quite well. i can't imagine two other actors being better for these roles. doesn't produce a million laughs, but is funny and has a good con artist twist that entertains on that level as well. could have become a series, but didn't somehow. A-.
Monster - great benigni comedy here. reminiscent of chaplin, benigni plays a tramp of sorts who is constantly finding himself in incriminating positions and is thus mistaken for a serial killer who is on the loose. great gags, good film. A-.
Extract - extract has some of the same elements of previous judge works, but is only about as good as an average king of the hill episode. it's no beavis and butt-head or office space. the humor, as usual, revolves mostly around the stupidity of the characters. overall a disappointment coming from judge which is still better than most. C+.
Taking Woodstock - does a good job of capturing the time and the event. martin is good as are his parents. as interesting a time and event as the 60s/woodstock were, the film was not equally interesting. the music could have been a million times better and there was a lack of interesting characters. lee directs well given the material, unfortunately i didn't feel that the screenplay itself did a good enough job of making the story interesting beyond martin's character and the event itself. the small town politics could have been used to greater effect, the interesting characters (liev schreiber was an attempt at creating an interesting character, but he fell flat) could have been better and a bigger part of the story. C+.
Time Traveler's Wife - a really poor film in every aspect. the whole premise is silly and there really isn't any logic to it. in a film like time machine or back to the future there is a time traveling logic that makes some sense. this film just makes shit up.
then there's the whole romance element which is bizarre at best and pedophilic at worst. the guy travels through time and meets his future wife when she's like 8 years old. he's 40+ at this point, mind you. he visits her often while she is growing up and she always leaves out her dad's clothes for him (when he travels through time he comes through naked). there's a lot of this oedipal stuff throughout the film. it's ripe for feminist vitriol, but i haven't heard any buzz against it so far.
beyond those two major problems, the film is just poorly made and executed. mcadams and bana both have talent and it is utterly wasted here. avoid this one like the plague. F+.
Home Alone - another hughes-penned film with john candy. there are four to my knowledge - ptaa, ha, ub, and great outdoors. we're doing the hughes marathon in memory of his great work. there are several films of his that we don't own and we'll start on those next. A-.
Uncle Buck - not many directors have three films that get an A+ grade from me, but hughes does. A+.
Paper Heart - really a dull film that probably sounded like a nice intellectual jaunt during the pitch, but doesn't work on the screen. it plays with the nature of documentary vs. fiction film and the nature of love vis a vis film and real life. in the end, a total bore from beginning to end. C-.
Final Destination 4 - the same film as the first three with some nice kills and the added element that it's in 3D. entertaining enough to watch once. B-.
Inglourious Basterds - with the prospect of another tarantino film i began thinking about his legacy. after some thought it occurred to me that he'll never ben in the pantheon of great directors because he hasn't made enough films and of the films he has created he has one masterpiece and a few really good films. the simple truth is, that he's just not prolific enough to be placed with
the likes of hitchcock, chaplin, ford and even kubrick who also didn't make a lot of films, but got the most out of each film he did make. when he comes out with a film it's a must see event, but i really don't think he's as good as the great ones of our time - scorsese, spielberg, coens, or even fincher and p.t. anderson. he's a step below those guys in terms of actual final product, but he has a unique style and is a cultural magnet so i think that helps his cause.
inglourious basterds (what's with the spelling?) is definitely tarantino. it works in various elements that define his style and tastes - film references, lifted styles (ford, leone, aldrich), gratuitous violence,
conversation-heavy scenes, his foot fetish, use of both harvey keitel and samuel jackson, and more. what it's lacking that kill bill and pulp fiction had is a tighter structure - this one meanders a bit and you're aware of it. in pulp fiction the story digresses with conversation and frayed storylines, but it's always interesting; here that doesn't happen to the same degree. this one also lacks the sense of humor that kill bill and pulp fiction had. there were a few laughs throughout and only one or two real good laughs.
another area that is lacking here is the soundtrack. generally you can count on tarantino to introduce us to a few new songs per movie, but here there isn't much to lean on. the early pieces lean on morricone, but don't really deliver like miserlou or bang bang (nancy sinatra) or the 5,6,7,8s or chick habit or down in mexico - songs and artists which really stood out in his other films. there also isn't a "stuck in the middle" scene like there was in reservoir dogs or a bring out the gimp scene like in pulp fiction. the bar scene was a more drawn out version of the mexican standoff in reservoir dogs.
this one does build tension very well and the tension is paid off well in the bar scene, the first scene, and the penultimate scene. still, i think a strong producer could have reined this one in a bit. a lot of times a successful director gets too much creative license and doesn't know how to edit himself, i think that happened here.
another thing tarantino is known for is finding talent. he resurrects careers and gets new ones going seemingly every time he makes a new film. here he finds christoph waltz and waltz gives a great performance; likely the best of the year.
the whole anti-nazi element was cathartic, but easy. whereas his two best works (r. dogs and pulp fiction) were about people on the edge of society who it was a challenge to like, this one is about a group on the edge of the military structure, but it's easy to like them because they're fighting the nazis. it's the equivalent of feeling sorry for a character because the director gives him cancer - it's just too easy. pitt and his crew aren't particularly dynamic or fleshed out. they're good at what they do and we like them because they kill nazis, but they don't have the depth of jackie brown or the interest level of keitel/roth in reservoir dogs or jackson/travolta in pulp fiction.
so, there's good stuff here to latch onto for fans, but overall it doesn't deliver in the same way that his better work does. it has isolated moments of success sandwiched by lulls and meandering stretches that don't entertain the way tarantino has in the past. if this were a new film from a young upstart i would think he had talent that needed to be better focused, but coming from a director who has been called a visionary of our time, it just isn't up to par. B.
Planes, Trains And Automobiles - the last seven minutes bring the film down a bit, but the first 90 make it so that doesn't matter. this is one of the all time great comedies. it's rich with verbal and physical comedy. it's well-written, but not in a way that necessarily makes you feel that it is. it's a more natural writing, rather than a pulp fiction kind of writing which is more snappy and crisp in its humor. it uses music and sfx well. it dabbles in the absurd. it has a perfect tandem in martin and candy. this is hughes' best and most adult film. infinitely quotable. A+.
Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard - doesn't deliver. has talented people, but the script needs major work. a few good laughs, forgettable overall. C.
District 9 - district 10 in 2010? the obvious parallel is blair witch project (which owes a lot to cannibal holocaust) in that it presents itself as a documentary and rebuilds the events after they have occurred. the acting was good overall, with only a couple issues. the premise is a good one, though a lot of questions were left unanswered. the title, for example, didn't make sense. district 9 is where the aliens stayed and the new one was district 10, what happened to districts 1-8? is the sequel going to be a prequel? whatever.
the effects were good on the whole, with only a couple obvious process shots. they mask a lot of that stuff with shaky cameras anyway; an obvious and effective trick.
besides the documentary style the film is also like cannibal holocaust in that it asks the question: which group is more human - the aliens or the humans? B.
G.I. Joe: Rise Of Cobra - g.i. joke. actually it's not half bad, more like 30% bad. the acting is mostly poor and the directing could have used a punch up, but, as far as action goes, the film delivers. it kept me interested on one level or another for almost the entire thing and that's pretty much all i expected from this one. transformers 2 was better, but i wouldn't mind seeing a sequel of this. C+.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off - best teen film ever. A+.
Cannibal Holocaust - a precursor to the blair witch project and an off shoot of the mondo films which took cameras to exotic locations and showed the barbarism of the natives. this one asks us who the real barbarians are as we see the film crew descend into true barbarism as they rape natives, pillage their villages, and kill animals seemingly without reason. apparently there were a string of italian cannibal films and this is sort of the pinnacle of the genre. it's more infamous than famous because of its brutality and gore factor, some of which is not at all staged (the animal killings, for example). it's not an appetizing film, but for the initiated it's not the grossest thing you'll ever see either. this film isn't very entertaining, but it's interesting and a somewhat important film for the novelty of it. C+.
Pretty In Pink - not hughes' best work, but he also didn't direct this one. this one definitely appeals to females more which is fine and a sign of hughes' skill as a writer. the duckie character never did anything for me and mccarthy is just a rich guy without a lot of depth to him. stanton and ringwald are both good. B.
Enforcer - probably the best thing about this third installment of the dirty harry series is the 70s feminist/race stuff that it touches on. it captures the era well and has some of the classic dirty harry stuff. not as good as the first one, of course. B-.
Weird Science - not hughes' best work, but a good film, especially for guys. B+.
In The Loop - political satire with a british comic sensibility=over-rated. the idea of the film is better than the reality, and that's too bad. C+.
Egg And I - first appearance of ma and pa kettle here. macmurray and colbert head for the farm lands to get away from the city life. they have all sorts of problems adjusting, but like it in the end. the best part is after a fire burns most of their property the neighbors come to their rescue with building materials, seed, and livestock to get them back on their feet again. this kind of community thinking is inspiring stuff. not a fantastic film, a definitely dated in the women's rights/etc. departments, but good overall. B-.
Breakfast Club - solid teen flick that touches on all that it means to be a teenager. its remarkable for this reason alone. the way it touches on the cliques, the pressures, the family life, the different types of kids, the adults; it's all there. judd nelson heads up the great cast and he frankly should have been nominated for an academy here. A-.
Ugly Truth - fairly average romantic comedy. utterly predictable. it gets most of its laughs from butler being a chauvinist who shamelessly tells the truth about men and women. it's crass at times and that's actually when the laughs are best. heigl is good and so is butler, but the screenplay needed a lot of work to differentiate itself from the usual. C+.
Julie & Julia - streep was very good and will probably get a nomination here for her rendition of julia child. adams was fairly good as well, though she plays an obnoxious person. the first half was better than the rest of the film. it was relatively funny and engaging. overall it made me want to eat a good meal more than it did anything else. C+.
Perfect Getaway - pretty good thriller with the underrated steve zahn. jovovich is also good and better looking than ever. the screenplay is a good one, though not unpredictable. it's by the same guy who did pitch black among others. B.
Johnny Got His Gun - the premise of the book/film is what really makes this a great piece of work. it's about a guy who is bombed on the last day of wwi and loses his limbs, face, and hearing, but is still able to think and, with some effort, move his head. the doctors think he is brain dead so they keep him alive in a storage closet to do some medical experiments on him. this same idea was used in a next generation twilight zone or ray bradbury's theater episode once. the film goes back and forth between his current reality and his memories as well as fantasy. trumbo wrote the book and directs, but i don't know that he's the right one to direct. it's a bit slow at times and it could have used the touch of someone who really knows film. that said, the ending is what really makes this film and all the time spent earlier in the film with johnny just laying there describing what he is thinking and feeling makes the ending that much better. throughout the film johnny keeps a fairly even tone about the whole situation. in the end, when he realizes that he's going to be laying in a bed with no human contact for the rest of his pathetic life, it's heartbreaking. his innocence and positive spin on his situation throughout the majority of the film only deepens the depression that is felt when his final realization is made.
note: i, like many others, was first exposed to this through metallica's "one" music video. thankfully the film was finally released on dvd in april this year so you can run out and get it now. B+.
(500) Days Of Summer - this is a great film, and not just because it understands what the graduate is about and uses a clip from the film within it. it's fantastically told from the very beginning. it recalls another post-modern boy/girl story called annie hall. frankly, this is every bit as heartbreaking, though not as funny. eventually it could be seen as a classic as annie hall is for an older generation.
both leads are great as is the writing and directing. visually it's a fun film to watch. my favorite scene was the reality vs. expectation scene which was truly heartbreaking and the first time i cried at a new film in a while. i think most sensitive people watching that can relate.
i'm not sure how i feel about the ending, it's open to interpretation. i don't really want to write much about the film. it's a great one that's done in a lively way with a great balance of comedy and drama. probably the best of the year so far - watch it. B+.
Funny People - the least funny judd apatow production i can think of. it also has the distinction of the fewest laughs per comedian of any film i can recall. the film has cameos from like 20 comedians and james taylor gets as many laughs as any of them. it's also a bloated work - too long and in need of editing. there are some good themes here and some nice laughs, but it's not as good as 40 year old virgin or knocked up. watch this only if you've seen those first. B-.
Devil Wears Prada - not a good film. the worst part is stanley tucci's little speech about how brilliant the fashionistas are and how important their work is. he'd be aghast if he saw me in my dickies shorts and t-shirt. whatever. of course the guy takes the girl back in the end in spite of her prolonged self-subjugation. the ending allows her to have her cake and eat it too: she gets to climb the career ladder, she gets the admiration of the bitch boss (meryl streep), she sleeps with the charming nyc writer, and she's still able to come running back to the moral, upright, and normal boyfriend. yay. D+.
Animal House - great film and, to my knowledge, the first of its kind. spawned many imitators like american pie and porky's and old school and a million others. A.
Lust For Life - as is usual with me i found myself disproportionately interested in the person most affected by the mad genius, instead of the mad genius himself. theo's is probably the more interesting story here because it is just as tragic, less known and vincent's story has been heard a million times before from painters like pollock to musicians like jim morrison. theo, too, died young (younger than vincent actually) and vincent's own madness affected theo more than anyone outside of himself.
vincent van gogh was the first artist i ever appreciated on any level and, if pressed, i'd probably say he is my favorite. kirk douglas does a very fine job with the character. one of the better films about an artist of any kind. B+.
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan - really funny and insightful. wish they had done less staged stuff. A.
Bad Seed - precursor to the orphan and omen and the like. this one has a hays code ending which is abrupt and actually kinda funny. it also suggests that the audience not give anything away which is reminiscent of diabolique which came out a year earlier. that film ends by saying something like "don't be a grump and ruin the ending for your friends." the little girl is good and the mother is hysterical. good flick. B.
Varsity Blues - average teen sports flick. mostly predictable. jon voight was good as an asshole coach. the film reminded me a bit of the program, which is a great college football flick. the ali larter whipped cream bikini adds some appeal. C+.
Court Jester - funny robin hood type comedy. felt like the marx brothers at times with some of the verbal humor, good stuff overall. B+
Casino - most would say that goodfellas is better than casino in part because it came first. this one has always resonated with me more, though. they both employ voiceover from several characters to give you a sense of what everyone is thinking; it's not just one point of view. this one is more epic, has a better soundtrack, and tells an equally interesting story. this one is about an entire city (las vegas) and goodfellas is about a guy growing up around the mob. they're both great films, but i like this one a little more. A+.
Sandlot - classic little baseball flick that's good for the kids. B+.
Orphan - really good and fun horror flick with a good ending. it's about a family that takes in an orphan to fill the void left by a miscarriage. cracks start to show within the family and the orphan slowly is revealed to be manipulating the entire situation. it's a good yarn with some effective scares and false scares that keep you on edge. good stuff. B+.
Hurt Locker - not as good as the hype surrounding it. outside of the production values and acting, it's actually pretty average as far as war films go. i think a lot of the hype has to do with the fact that it's the first film about this iraq war. that said, i felt like jarhead, which was actually about gulf war 1, was essentially a film about the current gulf war because of the universality of the emotions and the similar setting. in the end, most of these war films are the same because all war is the same. the only thing that really differentiates itself with this war is the fact that we often don't know who the enemy is so there is a paranoia that arises as a result. hurt locker touches on this, as well it should.
i've seen a few other bigelow films - point break, strange days, and k-19: the widowmaker. each one of those films gets worse so i suppose hurt locker is good for her career because it certainly appeared to me that she was making shittier and shittier films as she got older. k-19, if memory serves, was a true piece of crap.
mackie and renner were both good, though renner wasn't very likable. too many problems and too much hype. B-.
Heathers - over-rated dark teen comedy. there's a certain juno-esque quality to it, or maybe vise-versa, but even though it tries to create its own teen world and present a darker version of high school life, i just didn't feel it worked for me. winona ryder said that it was up there with catcher in the rye for her which is too bad for her. C+.
Adventures Of Robin Hood - a classic. A.
Ma & Pa Kettle - mildly entertaining precursor to the beverly hillbillies. C+.
Vacuuming Completely Nude In Paradise - not as funny the second time around, but still a good little sleeper made-for-tv flick from danny boyle. worth checking out for fans. B-.
Whatever Works - the title is also the philosophy of the film. allen is positing that lifestyle choices don't matter so much so long as they work for those involved. this is an idea that is gaining increased acceptance amongst liberals who essentially say that so long as it isn't hurting anyone it's okay. this is fine to a point. the problem becomes when an old man has a relationship with his much younger adopted daughter. she's over 18 and she's adopted so there isn't any law against it i guess and she seems fine with it, so allen goes on living a perfectly happy life. in the film larry david has a relationship with a dumb southerner who is about 40 years younger. there's nothing wrong with it because they both approve. in typical allen fashion, there is also a threesome in the mix and a gay couple. i don't have any real problems with others living like this, but i do have a problem with the justification that allen provides because it allows for so many other things that i, frankly, don't think are good (like allen's own relationship with his one time daughter).
other than the guiding morality of the film, i thought it was a pretty average allen film. he's reliable in that he writes well and produces some good laughs. larry david is solid and the rest of the cast is varying degrees of good enough. this isn't near as good as cassandra's dream or any of his early greats, but it's better than scoop or vicky cristina barcelona. B-.
Bruno - in borat the idea was seeing the u.s. through the eyes of an ignorant foreigner. it was like putting a mirror up to parts of our society. here cohen tackles intolerance, our obsession with celebrity, and unity via comedy, though less successfully. this one is more about the stunts and ambush humor than any sort of social commentary, though that element is present. it's a less cohesive work and it resorts to picking on easy targets (the ron paul skit was unnecessary). that said, the comedy is strong and left me laughing throughout. by that measure the film is a complete success, but i think cohen says less here than he did with borat, which will probably be his best film. B+.
I Love You Beth Cooper - tried to be both a comedy and a heartfelt teenage coming of age flick. didn't do either very well. the two leads were good, but there wasn't a whole heck of a lot of comedy here. C+.
Killer At Large - as good as food inc. and a good companion piece. this one talks more about the culture that has led to the obesity epidemic, though it does address some of the same issues as food inc and future of food. this has better guests overall than either of those two films including the obligatory organic farmer and michael pollan (author of the omnivore's dilemma who has been doing the rounds lately) as well as ralph nader, neil labute, teachers, and other food experts. all these documentaries are at their core the same: they present the problem and trot out many of the same guest and then provide some examples of solutions. formulaic, but this one is pretty good. B+.
Women - last couple minutes got cut off, but i could have missed the last 30 minutes and still told you what happened. this one is all about the writing, which is why remaking it is a bad idea - they just don't write the way they used to. do they dumb it down for today's audiences or are they just dumb themselves? i don't know. at any rate, this is a classic in its own way and not an entirely bad film, but it's old-fashioned and not really my bag. if i were a girl i'm sure i'd appreciate this more. crawford was a standout. B-.
Bridge On The River Kwai - definitely better the second time around. guinness' character is an interesting one. he gets certain elements of his logic right, but hubris and obsession with the task at hand put him in a trance. it isn't until he is near death that he realizes his mistake and, with his death, does the right thing. i was never fully on board with him because of the bone he picks with his japanese camp master - that his officers should not have to perform labor. he makes it a matter of principal, but it's such a class-based argument. very british.
speaking of his japanese counterpart, colonel saito is one of the more interesting "villains" that i can remember. we know he is a bad guy, but in many ways i found myself with more sympathy for him than guinness' character. he's stuck between a rock and a hard place (you decide which one guinness is), and is fighting for his life, honor and pride. he loses the last two first and the first one last. tragic.
holden is somewhat of an afterthought and may have been put in there to appeal to the u.s. audience. he provides some needed comic relief and is somewhat necessary for the conclusion of the plot, but isn't as integral to my thinking as top-billing might indicate. i probably would have shrunk the film and had guinness plan the destruction of the bridge himself, without the knowledge of any of his peers. this would have made his character more of a martyr and more savvy and powerful in the final analysis. but i tend toward the martyr characters so that's just me.
a fine film as it is. a bit long, but that's Lean. the opening theme is too grand and the closing theme is too jovial - score could have used some work. B+.
Flow: For Love Of Water - like food inc. this is another documentary that spells doom and gloom about a fundamental element of our being: water. it's fairly well done, but not as good as food inc. and certainly not as good as the corporation. as usual, i had some problems with what i saw as some overreaction, but overall i am sympathetic to the cause. the same can be said about another recent documentary: I.O.U.S.A. which i felt blew the economic debt of the u.s. a bit out of proportion. in general, i think people want to feel closer to death so they come up with doomsday scenarios in religion or science or whatever.
a lot of these documentaries come up with some pretty bogus figures. this one states that the u.n. estimates all the world could have clean, healthy water if we only invested $30 billion, that's $70 billion less than the world spent on bottled water last year. frankly i don't believe that figure for a second. these sorts of projects invariably cost much more than originally imagined. $30 billion probably wouldn't even be enough to effectively address the issues in america, at least according to their assessment of our water system.
i've said for a long time that i don't feel the world has that much of a problem with the amount of water, it's just a matter of capturing and cleaning all the water that we already have. so, ultimately, when we have to turn to desalination on a larger basis, it's going to be an energy issue; once again.
speaking of "once again," how many documentaries like this need to come out before people realize how inherently evil corporations are? they are far too powerful in our legal and political system and they are at the root of so many of our biggest problems. whether it's france-based suez or u.s.-based nestle or swiss-based syngenta, these companies care only about profit, it is their nature. just as energy problems could be greatly addressed by a single solar panel on the roof of every house, a single cistern in every backyard would go a long way towards fixing our water problems. B-.
Food Inc. - not that different from the future of food, but it comes out just a couple years later and gets a lot more attention; sometimes it's all about timing. this one is a bit better than future of food which played on the fear a bit much for my taste. it's not that this one doesn't show the shots of cows getting gutted and chickens being crammed in tight cages, it just brought a bit more of a well-rounded case to the table. some of this has to do with the better cast that this film has and some of it is presentation - this film seemed a bit better produced. this genre of documentary might become like the glut of anti-bush documentaries we got in the early 2000s - the ones that all talked about the stolen election in florida and the connections between bush and any number of horrible people/corporations. those of us who watched all of them got pretty tired of it all. they all rehashed the same information and trotted out the same old tired interviewees from palast to moore and everyone in between. i'm sympathetic to this cause, but i hope that it doesn't become another documentary trend. so, let's all watch this one, read fast food nation (something you should have done 5-8 years ago anyway) and start acting on their suggestions so we can all live better lives. B+.
Public Enemies - good not great michael mann effort. the dv look is good on the big screen, but probably won't translate well to blu-ray or hdtv. i liked the camerawork which puts you in the midst of the action. this is a traditional strong point of mann's and he showcases it here in a different way. the gunshots sound and look realistic and the camera gets behind the guns in a way that really puts you into the shit. so far as i can tell mann does a good job of sticking to the facts of dillinger's life. he did seem to lose focus at times which led to a longer, more sprawling film. there's a lot of interesting material that came out of this time and he tries to fit it all in, which was a mistake. depp was decent, though i think colin farrell would have been just as good. cotillard was probably the best in the cast. B.
Magnum Force - not as good as dirty harry, but it captures the same essence. post does a good enough job putting the camera in the right place, but he's no don siegel. the screenplay here isn't as good as the original either where it's a mano a mano showdown between harry and the psycho sniper. this one stands alone fairly well, but works better as a companion piece to the first one. B.
Mad Max - the film's most memorable sequence is when max and his family go out to that house in the country and are then hunted down by the crazies. everything leading up to that point is good not great. the sequel is better, which is a rare thing to be able to say. good because of the atmosphere it creates, but it's really just a test run for road warrior. B.
Badlands - good bonnie and clyde type film where the bonnie character is somewhat reluctant and totally stupid. martin sheen is good as the eccentric outlaw. it's a good film. malick is more lazy than kubrick late in his career or tarantino, and not as talented as either. get off your ass and make more than one film a decade you lazy ass. B.
Away We Go - this is sort of the flip side of the "revolutionary road" coin for sam mendes. instead of the outside world beating down on the couple and turning them against each other, the couple band together against the nonsense of society. it's an us against the world kind of story and it works because krasinski and rudolph are so good in their well-written roles. krasinski is especially good and should get some golden globe buzz if there's any justice in the world. he plays what is essentially a big kid who views the world as a playground and never really lets things get him down. through the entire film we only see him get angry once, but it turns out to be one of the more funny scenes in the film. supporting characters like allison janney, jim gaffigan and maggie gyllenhaal are all very good. the final third of the film fades a bit as everything needs to find a settling point, but it's a strong film nonetheless. B+.
My Sister's Keeper - i'm not a huge fan of john cassavetes, which i guess is a bad thing for a film person to admit. his son nick, who directs this film, is also not great in my book. i've heard that the notebook is great, but i've never seen it. john q. tugged on my heart strings, but i attributed that to the father/son angle and denzel's performance. alpha dog had some moments but wasn't very good overall. here, cassavetes, tries to pull on the heart strings once more. he goes straight to the big guns by pulling out the cancer card and giving it to a young girl. the cancer tears her family apart and drama ensues. the cast is all pretty decent given the material. baldwin is a standout in the film's only comedic-ish role.
unfortunately, cassavetes doesn't handle the subject with the right touch, instead we get the standard cancer sob story. it's just not pulled off well. in the right director's hands the film could have been more realistic and touching. that said, there are going to be a lot tissues used by the women this film is targeted towards. and if you know anyone close to you who has had cancer then it's likely to tug on you for that reason alone, just remember that it's not because the film is actually any good. C-.
Blue Angel - the first half wasn't extremely strong, but the second half picked up when jannings marries dietrich and then things start going wrong. this is actually the first von sternberg film i've seen and it reminded me of murnau's work with jannings. this is sternberg's most famous and possibly highest regarded film. the second half of the film is really quite good and makes the film the classic that it is. dietrich is diabolical and sweet. jannings is great as usual. B+.
Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee - good tv film here. it presents the indian-american relationship in a straightforward and balanced way. i particularly liked the scene wherein one american says to red cloud (i believe) that playing the "we're a peaceful race" card isn't going to work - he points out the instances where his tribe trampled rival tribes in the past. he also points out that the mormons, like the indians, have their own claims about spiritual lands that they feel entitled to. this is the kind of thing that usually isn't touched because it would be deemed politically incorrect, but it's true. of course it gets into all the white on indian atrocities that you've all read about and seen in other films. a little slow at times, but a good micro-history of the topic. B.
Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever - andy hardy falls in love with his teacher. it seems like every one of these films has andy hardy falling into deeper and deeper love, but then coming out the other side with a renewed sense of life. it's a good series of films that i could watch any time. B.
Planet Of The Apes - don't remember the remake at all quite frankly, but don't think i'll forget this one. i had tried to watch it several years ago, but the vhs tape broke or something so we only got to watch the first 20 minutes or so. it's one of the great filmed parables because it works on a lot of different levels. the vegetarian slant, the humanity-is-doomed-to-self-destruct slant, the racism slant, and more. heston is over the top, but i think it works here. this is a solid film. A-.
Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen - a movie made for 12-22 year old guys. it's all about the special effects and boobs and miniskirts. the effects were pretty damn good and the action sequences were all noteworthy and good enough to carry the film in my opinion. if it were up to me i would have made it into two films. the running time was somewhere around 2hr 20min and i would have had the first film end around the time that optimus prime dies. it would have been a great cliffhanger and it would have allowed for some needed characterization. it would have been like kill bill one and two. anyway, they chose to condense the plot into one film and skimp on the characterization and have a shitload of action sequences. i'd like to see something else beat this for a best sfx academy. B-.
Hangover - just as good the second time around. laughed at the same stuff as well as different stuff this time. as good as the film is, i'd say that 75% of the really good stuff stems from galifianakis. B+.
Remember The Titans - pretty standard disney sports movie. take an underdog story based on real events, mix in some race and a couple stars and you got a movie. i didn't find this one to be any better than that basketball one that came out a year or two ago. glory road. beth cooper (don't want to bother to look up the spelling of her real name) is good as the feisty 10 year old who seems to know more about football than anyone other than denzel. B-.
Juno - lost its novelty after the first time, but still a good film. the writing is the strongest point, followed by the performances from garner, cera, and page. not as good as stardust, and i'd probably place knocked up in front of this now, which would make it the third best film of 2007 off the top of my head. B+.
Moon - worth checking out for sci-fi fans. the t-shirt in the first scene was a clear clue and i had most of the film figured out in the first 10 minutes and all of it figured out after about 30. that said, it's a good flick in spite of some slow sections. sam rockwell should be recognized by the academy, but probably won't be. i think the plot holds up to scrutiny, but i'm not big on finding plot holes or logic inconsistencies in film. check it out. B.
His Girl Friday - not as good as bringing up baby or philadelphia story (which this film is closest to), but good screwball comedy nonetheless. russell isn't as good as hepburn or colbert and grant is as good as always. B+.
Up - another overrated pixar production if you ask me. i wasn't a huge fan of films like the incredibles and toy story and everything in between. wall-e was solid, but a machine was the main character, not a human so i found it better in their animated world. i think my major problem with their stuff is that it's too sweet and clever. this is a delightful film that hits all the right notes, and is worse because of it. 90% of the characterization occurs in one montage (which ben mankiewicz called one of the best in all of film history). it was a nice start, but i didn't think the film ever got any better than that one 3 minute stretch. too cutesy. watched it in 3d which was nice enough, but not worth the hype or extra money. i feel real comfortable recommending this film to everyone i know because i'm sure they'll all love it, but i didn't like it. what does that say about me? C.
Year One - missable, but watchable. cera and black are more or less what you would expect. the writing isn't great here. i felt like you could have gotten more out of the premise, but i did enjoy the jabs at the biblical stories. fine enough. C+.
Princess Bride - classic. A+.
Goodfellas - didn't plan on watching this, but turned on the tv last night and it was on so i started watching it. ended up watching about an hour, went to bed, and watched the rest in the morning on dvd. great film. as good a film as there is when it comes to depicting the mafia culture. loved the insight of the wife (an oft left out aspect of the genre) as well as the freeze frame on the formative moments of hill's life. his descent is beautifully captured as well. a classic. A+.
Weather Man - funnier than i remembered. good visuals, solid nick cage pic. he's picked some bad films lately, but then there are films like this and lord of war which really redeem him as an actor. B+.
Proposal - another modern romantic comedy wherein the couple either fucks or gets married first and then falls in love. the old order was: fall in love, get married, have sex. the new order is: have sex, fall in love, maybe get married. starts off quite good with some good anti-chemistry between bullock and reynolds and it makes clear from the get go that it isn't a serious or realistic film. the second half fades as the laughs turn to plot and feelings. the director showed some promise, but it could have used another rewrite. C+.
Taking Of Pelham 123 - original version is better, let's say that up front. this one was more of a thriller and the original had a lighter tone. the ending of the original was far better. interesting to contrast the characters in the two versions. this one has travolta as a high tension terrorist, whereas the first one has robert shaw as a much more measured, british terrorist. of course tony scott couldn't betray his countrymen so he made the villain american. it's a talky film with a far-fetched scheme and some iffy details, but it entertains and the two stars are engaging in spite of some of the bad writing. scott has a style of his own. he doesn't go as far out on a limb here as he does in something like man on fire, but you can still tell that it's him. lately him and his brother have been about equal in terms of output quality. B-.
Phenix City Story - lesser known true-crime noir that takes place in alabama. missed the first couple minutes, but the first few minutes that i did see weren't entirely promising. it wasn't until the film went outside of the club for the first time that things got a bit better. as it progressed the film seemed to pick up steam and it ended up being a solid noir that showed the underbelly of vices like gambling and drinking and the mob that peddled these vices in phenix city. in the end it's a morality tale like all noirs. not fantastic, but a good flick. B.
Taking Of Pelham One Two Three - solid thriller with good ending. looking forward to the remake though it'll undoubtedly be less impressive. none of the performances blew me away, but all were solid. B+.
Apartment- pretty damn good, movie-wise. lemmon and maclaine are both quite good. writing is funny and adult and poignant. wilder's direction is also noteworthy. though, i don't see this as deserving 5 academy awards, it's a very good film and i suppose awards are always relative to the competition so i certainly can't fault the academy for giving this one high praise. solid pic. A-.
Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn - nice enough adaptation of the book which i never fully read. mickey rooney is good as always. like his andy hardy stuff better. B-.
Stardust - great film and a classic in my book, though it just came out 2 years ago and i've only seen it twice. great screenplay and perfect casting all around. make your kids watch this. rated pg-13 for no good reason, trust me. this film is tame and perfectly suited to all the kids above age zero that i've ever met. the adults should have a good time as well. deniro is comedy gold, danes is radiant, and pfeiffer is perfect. there is a slight hitch in the pace towards the end, but it's completely forgivable and mostly supported by the ghost brothers and their witty comments. a funny, entertaining, fantasy film that still stands up as the best of 2007. A.
Ringer - knoxville plays a retard, big stretch there. heigl is charming as always. this is just another crappy comedy that fills the time when you're installing drywall. C.
Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead - actually remembered parts of this movie from having seen it in the theater whenever it came out. it's harmless enough entertainment. cheesy stuff including some dialogue and the outrageous fashion sense of applegate. gets real with the feelings that come with pulling all the weight in the household and having to fess up to mom in the end. not bad if viewed correctly. same director as bill and ted's. B-.
Meet The Fockers - nice sequel that is watchable repeatedly. B+.
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story - another comedy that doesn't wear thin with repeated viewings. these aren't great comic films, but they hold up well and provide a range of laughs, an essential part of any dvd collection. B+.
Roman Holiday - classic that i hadn't gotten around to seeing until now. interesting because peck plays a less than stellar character which is rare for him. it's not that his character is a bad man, rather that he doesn't seem to have a problem with exploiting this girl for his own financial gain. that is, until the end which is when he has to come clean and his conscience wins out. it's treated with a more adult touch than many teenage flicks of its kind wherein the boy falls in love with a girl under false pretenses and is then forced to come clean and tell her that he only took her out on that first date because...(he did it on a dare or he did it for money or whatever). it's also interesting because it's like casablanca in that the love story is ultimately one that doesn't end in storybook fashion which makes for a sadder, but more real story. good flick which is the usual from wyler. B+.
Friday - pretty solid ghetto comedy. ice cube is in two of the most important films in modern black cinema, this and boyz in the hood. i don't find this to be a hilarious film, but it is occasionally funny and has a good ending. B.
Commando - action classic that was actually a bit better than i remembered. there are a lot of classic one-liners in this one, some of which i had forgotten, but quickly remembered (let off some steam, bennett). this predates schwarzenegger's best films (predator and t2) and he's still a little unpolished here. it wasn't until later that he was able to play more than one note effectively. that said, he shows promise here when he's with alyssa milano. in terminator he didn't need to play more than one note, but as his career progressed he added a depth that people didn't expect from a bodybuilder. this isn't to say that he ever became a fully rounded actor, but he was able to add comedy to his repertoire in films like t2 and last action hero which gave his films additional entertainment value.
everyone remembers the end of this picture which has schwarzenegger going up against about 100 mercenaries. dan hedaya is no good as the "hispanic" drug lord, or whatever he is. and bennett is oddly effeminate in his chainmail outfit and oversized knife which makes up for a lack of size elsewhere. bill duke should have been the real henchman, but he was a lower level button pusher. luckily duke got his due in predator, that time as a good guy. A-.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture - definitely a sci-fi film and wise makes sure we know that. he has the whole lights show thing going on and the warp drive distortion scene is pretty cool. i also liked the plot of the unknown thing in outerspace. turns out to be an old voyager satellite that has acquired intelligence; great concept. a more serious and epic version of the original show which is exactly what you would want as a fan. that said, i still don't think it compares with the excitement and humor of the newest installment. they're different films, but i like the new one more. sci-fi fans will probably like this one more and there's nothing wrong with that. this is also better than the overrated star trek II: wrath of khan which is often referred to as the best of the original crew films. B+.
Desperate Hours - good concept and nice execution, but shoddy on the details of the plot. a lot of it just doesn't make sense from a logic perspective. why would you stick around the house, why would you let the hostages go and trust them to come back? doesn't make any sense, but if you overlook these plot points then you can get plenty out of the performances and the dynamic between the criminal (bogart) and the father (march) and the son. arthur kennedy isn't great, but he's solid as usual. apparently the remake is complete shit. B+.
Targets - nice film. not entirely sure what it's all supposed to mean - is it an allegory of some sort? is there some social commentary i was missing? but i liked it nonetheless. the violence seemed senseless and inexplicable, but perhaps that was the point. it was around this time that violence in cinema was going new places with films like bonnie and clyde so i think bogdanovich was riding that wave to a certain extent. he's always been hyper aware of hollywood and has parlayed that into a good career as a critic which is what he's more suited to if you ask me. i also think this is his best film that i've seen. very good film overall which grabs you out of the box. slows a bit in the middle with his love affair with some old 30s pic that is featured in the film, but solid overall. B+.
Labyrinth - cult 80s film. i like early bowie, but a lot of his 80s stuff and beyond doesn't appeal to me. henson is the star of this show. the puppets are pretty good and that's what makes the film. overall not one of the better fantasy films and has never done it for me. C.
Lethal Weapon 4 - probably a step up from number three. jet li and chris rock join the fun here. riggs gets a haircut and gets married so he's officially sold out, but he does have a bit of crazy left. murtaugh and riggs are rock solid partners here and it's fun to see the two of them. notable to me because the guy who did our poster sales at tower was in the film. found out today that he died a few months ago. he was a good guy. B.
Land Of The Lost - never was a fan of the show. will ferrell and danny mcbride are the film unfortunately the rest of the film gets in the way. honestly i think it would have been a more enjoyable film if they just showed those guys doing material back and forth for 90 minutes. C.
Drag Me To Hell - plot drags out a bit, but there are a couple okay scares and the gross out humor is awesome. wish sam raimi did more of that evil dead type stuff with eyeballs popping out of their sockets and into people's mouths and all the rest. good campy fun, nothing amazing, but good for those who can enjoy this kind of humor. B.
Nothing But A Man - little known 60s film with a good soundtrack about a black guy trying to get by in the south. it's a strong film with good writing and a cinema verite feel to it. an historical document of sorts.
Hangover - great comedy about a group of guys on a bachelor party weekend that goes horribly wrong. why this exact plot hasn't been done before is beyond me, it's ripe with comedy gold. the entire cast does a good job, but helms and galifianakis are standouts. good range of comedy and a good, plausible ending ties things up nicely. B+.
Lethal Weapon 3 - jan debont does the cinematography. he was also the dp on die hard so yet another tie between the two series. this one introduces rene russo so it's notable for that reason. certainly a good film on its own, but not as good as the first two. B-.
Lethal Weapon 2 - one of the better sequels to hit the big screen. this one has the classic "diplomatic immunity" line in it and riggs is still totally crazy here. good stuff. A-.
Star Trek - probably the best of the series, though i also like star trek 4. one of the interesting elements is that it goes back in time and alters the timeline in such a way that all the films that come after it are going to be on a different timeline than the original show and films. this is a remarkable storytelling decision because so much can happen now without being tied to what kirk et al did in all those other iterations of the original show. great move. abrams used the lens flare a bit much for my taste, but did an admirable job nonetheless. all the casting was quite good and the writing really made for an enjoyable film. recommended. B+.
Brothers Bloom - rian johnson's brick was a great neo-noir for the next generation. here, johnson dips into another reliable genre, but misses. this one is a fairly predictable and uninteresting con man movie which is actually difficult to do. weisz is really good and so is kikuchi, but the rest of the cast is fairly average. the writing has moments of promise, but falls flat overall. missable. C.
Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian - about as good as the first one which is to say that it's not a very good flick. it's a family film with adventure and all that, but it never grabbed my attention. amy adams was good as amelia earhart. C.
Dirty Harry - great film that influenced a great number of cop/renegade films that came after. eastwood is top notch here as the no nonsense cop with justice on his mind. seigel does a great job with the direction which adds to harry's mythical persona. it's as if harry is the only one protecting san francisco and even those in power are too weak to help him. classic. A.
Glengarry Glen Ross - classic mamet flick. great dialogue and characters. top notch performances and writing. better this time than last time. snappy film. A.
Tin Men - another classic salesman picture. glengarry was so good that i wanted more so i turned to this one. this one isn't quite as good, but devito and dreyfus are great and it has more comedy than glengarry so it makes for a great double feature. A-.
Intolerable Cruelty - good homage to the screwball comedies of the 30s. coen brothers always do something different it seems. B+.
Lethal Weapon - great 80s flick that was the precursor to die hard. joel silver may be the biggest story here. beginning in the 80s silver was a top notch producer. actually, his success started in 79 with the warriors, but he really gained momentum in the 80s with: commando, 48 hours, weird science, lethal weapon, predator, die hard, and sequels to those last three films. lethal weapon is quite similar to die hard: same composer (kamen does a lot of the same stuff here as he does in die hard), same location (LA), same time frame (christmas), same character dynamic (black and white cop working to rid the city of evil in spite of their bosses), same blond-haired henchman, and at least three actors appeared in both films (asian henchman, special agent johnson plays a cop here, and the chick reporter in die hard is the shrink here). both also happen to be great. i hadn't seen this one in a long time, but i'm glad i revisited it. so much of it informed my movie viewing and outlook on things. gibson (in his second best performance ever - road warrior) plays an on the edge cop who is a vietnam vet and suicidal. the movie shaped my view of vietnam vets to a certain degree (in that it cut to the core about their being forgotten in the mental health department). it also is notable because of the drug angle and the opening scene which features a topless girl committing suicide. the torture scene sticks out in my head and the relationship between glover and gibson is also noteworthy. it's a fun film with an edge to it and it's unrelenting. action, issues of suicide and mental illness, drug use, torture, etc. it's a heavy flick and a great one. A+.
Tropic Thunder - good comedy. was impressed more this time around by jack black, great role for him. funny stuff, fades towards the end. B+.
Terminator Salvation - 2, 1, 4, 3. that's the order, best to worst. so, yeah, this wasn't as bad as #3, but it wasn't good either. the series ends at #2 so far as i'm concerned. the other two didn't have the same social commentary, cast, comic relief, etc. that the first two did. this one is a v8 movie running on 4 cylinders. C.
Dance Flick - i haven't seen a lot of the films that this one makes fun of so i missed out on some of that aspect of it, but it's a funny parody film worthy of watching. B.
O'Horten - norwegian film about a train engineer who retires and has the rest of his life in front of him. throughout the film it seems as though horten is unable to finish anything. he goes to a retirement party, but gets caught up doing something else and isn't able to finish the party with his co-workers. on his final day he misses the last ride of his career, etc. the film is deadpan in tone and not a lot really happens so it's not a real thrilling picture, but horten is a nice enough character to keep you interested. reminded me a bit of "songs from the second floor" a swedish picture. kaada does the score, he worked with mike patton (faith no more) on an album a few years ago. B-.
Tyson- possibly the best film of the year so far. this one captures all of tyson's facets and, what's more, is that he is essentially the sole storyteller. who else can carry an entire film (that's this good) talking about his life and times? robert s. mcnamara is the only other person i can think of right now who has done it, in fog of war. B+.
My Best Friend's Girl - crass dane cook vehicle. that said, it's got some humorous scenes so it wasn't a total waste. hudson and biggs do their usual schtick. i wouldn't avoid it, not would i seek it out. C+.
Terminator2: Judgment Day - one of the best sequels of all-time. godfather 2 is up there, but not as good as the original in my view. road warrior is probably my favorite sequel ever, but this is near the top in any assessment. great balance of action and character and comic relief. sarah connor is so much more tortured here than in the first and hamilton makes the transformation seamless. the t-1000 is a great villain as well. excellent film. A+.
Terminator - great film and a complete classic. the effects date it a bit, but it actually holds up pretty well for being a 25 year old film. remarkable that it's that old. i'm getting old.
there are all sorts of great little touches: sarah connor wearing the jetsons t-shirt, the walkman her roommate was always listening to (precursor to the cellphone/ipods of today), their bathroom being full of every imaginable electrical device: curling iron, hairdryer, some other curling machine, etc.), the guy in the club staring at sarah adding to the foreboding feeling of the scene, 911 being busy, their outgoing message, etc. it has a 70s indie style in terms of its street aesthetic and camera movement. the music is also dated, but the main theme is timeless. arnold does a great job, but is even better in the sequel. A.
Rudo Y Cursi - a drama that is treated as if it were a comedy. it's not a very funny film, but the tone actually made the ending better for me. both the leads did a good job. B-.
Management - offbeat romantic comedy that is really brought home by the performances of zahn and aniston. the writing is good, but in the wrong hands it easily could have been a flop. instead, zahn and aniston are able to pull off the screenplay with a tongue in cheek seriousness that works. nice little film. B.
Clueless - kind of a modern classic, but i don't really love it. it's funny enough and captures the period to a certain extent, but isn't thrilling. in retrospect we also see how under-utilized paul rudd is in the film. B-.
Encounters At The End Of The World - not a fan of herzog's. here, again, his self-importance and attempts at novelty wear thin in spite of the intriguing subject matter. in short, he puts himself into his documentaries too much. every note in this film seems strained, he's trying to make the film big, but what he doesn't seem to realize is that it's big enough as is; he doesn't need to glorify it. at one point two scientists are talking and one reveals that they discovered three new species in their last dive. herzog asks "is this an important moment?" the maysles brothers would have shut the fuck up and let the thing speak for itself. res ipsa loquitor, as it has been put. herzog can't do this, though, so you get a documentary with some cool stuff in it, told by a guy i can't stand listening to. C.
Family Stone - not as good as i remembered it being. actually comes off as more rachel getting married than anything else. speaking of which, if you want to see a film like rachel getting married that does it well then check out in her shoes. C+.
Crank - just as good the second time around. fun ride. wish the music were a bit higher in the mix. B+.
Sex Drive - aptly named comedy for guys and teenagers. it's similar to all the other american pie type movies before it and it's predictable as can be. that said, it's got some decent laughs and fufills the tna quota so it does what it's supposed to do. B.
Next Day Air - decent enough comedy about hapless criminals who chance upon some drugs for free. nothing here really stood out for me. it was funny enough while i was watching it, but i can't remember anything funny about it now. time filler. B-.
In Her Shoes - probably the best chick flick i've seen; at least i can't think of a better one off the top of my head. curtis hanson is generally a reliable director (lucky you was his only disappointment) and he delivers here, but this film is about the writing and acting. collette and cameron diaz both do a good job with their characters who are written with a fullness you don't generally see in this genre. collette is actually the perfect actor for this role in part because she can look so frumpy and average, but she also cleans up nicely and can be quite attractive if presented properly. B+.
Equilibrium - a cross between 1984 or brazil and the matrix. frankly i've never thought much of the film version of 1984 or the over-hyped brazil, but i love the matrix. equilibrium is somewhere in the middle of those three films. it's got a decent cast and it's produced by the weinsteins so it's surprising this didn't get more hype when it came out. it's been in my netflix queue for about 6 years when i first found out about it, but it took this long to actually watch it. if you can stomach the premise (feelings have been outlawed in an attempt to avoid a fourth world war), then you'll probably dig the film. the fight scenes are pretty good and well shot and it's engaging enough. B.
I.O.U.S.A. - like obama, i think that things are never as good or as bad as they seem. this documentary gives us the doomsday scenario regarding our economic system - we're too far in debt to other countries and that's going to lead to our becoming china or, at the very least, china having far too much influence on our decisions. they compare this to post-wwii uk and their handling of the suez canal crisis in 1956. the uk was forced to give into american demands because the u.s. held so much of the uk's debt that the u.s. could have done massive economic damage to the uk if they didn't do
as we wished. the primary difference between that and the us/china relationship is that the us still has more military power than any country in the world. when push comes to shove, military power is more important than anything else so i reject the idea that the u.s. is going to fall apart economically because of our debt.
i also think that the u.s., being the largest single global consumer, has a great deal of power that the uk has never had. so that's the good, the bad is that reagan, bush and now obama have gotten us into such amazing levels of (absolute) debt that we really are in trouble. i don't buy many of the projections that the documentary put forth showing us being in debt to the tune of 200% of our gdp in x number of years because i've found that long term projections are incredibly inaccurate. for example, clinton's projection that we would run a surplus for the next 25 years under his economic plan. yeah right. it assumes far too much and doesn't account for things outside of our control - 9/11, katrina, earthquakes, changing presidents/congress, global factors, etc. it's absurd to project that far into the future, quite frankly. so much of those projections can change with increased energy independence and health care reform. even slight improvements in those areas have exponential dividends 25 years down the line.
so, the documentary is good to call attention to a serious issue, but i don't think it's as bad as they say it is. B-.
American Violet - thought it wasn't going to be very good given the way it started out as a contrived white vs. black themed picture. but beharie (the lead) does a good job of grounding the picture and pulling it together. it turns out to be a good little film about the inherent racism involved in the drug war and the fundamental unfairness of a former texas law that allowed people to be indicted based upon a sole witness's accusation. B.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine - expected it to be a little worse than it was. sfx were so-so. thought that the development of wolverine was good and gave me some insight into his character for the later films. could have done without the multiple scenes of jackman and schrieber running towards each other in battle. B-.
Microcosmos - basically the same thing as earth, but about insects instead of larger animals. it's also not narrated which is nice for a change because it allows you to do a lot of the figuring out just through observation. you see a specially evolved flower that dips it's pistil onto the back of a bee searching for pollen. then you figure out that in digging for pollen the bee is actuating a mechanism in the flower that moves its pistil which deposits seeds on the bee's back which it then carries to another flower and pollenates it. it's a fun little film which isn't nearly as known as the more recent films of its kind (winged migration, march of the penguins, earth, etc.) B+.
Soloist - overly self-important and too long, but not bad overall. downey jr. isn't very good, jamie foxx is good. not worth the wait that the studios made us go through for this one. listening to lopez on npr several months ago made me think that the story was an interesting one, but the movie wasn't as compelling as listening to him tell his version of it. C+.
Earth - feature length version of the great planet earth series. watch them on blu-ray and skip this, it's second rate by comparison. if you're looking for something shorter then watch microcosmos. B.
Piano Teacher - usual michael haneke here. in this one he proves once and for all that europeans are fucking crazy. it has his signature dead pan style. he doesn't mind leaving the camera still when others might cut or move. it also has an abrupt, odd ending which is similar to some of his other work. like both versions of funny games the opening credits feature abrupt music. in funny games it was a heavy metal soundtrack during the credits which come in suddenly. here it's classical piano interrupted by the cast/crew members' names. not for everyone, but haneke overall can be described in that way. B-.
Lola Montes - some have called it one of the best films of all-time. i call it completely forgettable. C-.
Friends With Money - good little picture about changing relationships and class. aniston is good as usual and the supporting cast is also up to the task. well-written and truthful. B.
Obsessed - like hand that rocks the cradle or fatal attraction. idris elba was good, ali larter was great, beyonce was poor. larter was truly creepy and psychotic. B.
State Of Play - fine film with political intrigue, a twist, the old school vs. new school journalism theme, and some good acting. affleck isn't bad overall, but has a few stilted moments. crowe is solid as is mcadams. there's a bit of comic relief along with the mystery that is the film's primary plot point. solid film, but no "all the president's men" or "network" or even "broadcast news." B.
Sin Nombre - seems to be getting a lot of good press amongst the critics. it's a solid film which delves into gang life in mexico. it follows a gang member from a mexican ghetto and a young honduran woman who is trying to get to new jersey (insert new jersey joke here). it's a fairly realistic view of the famous ms-13 gang which originated in la and is now international. what isn't realistic, though, is the relationship that ensues between the two primary characters. it's a good film that shows you some of the nitty gritty, but i wasn't amazed by it. B.
Fighting - reminded me of the kind of movie i watched when i was 12. none of the acting is good. terrence howard tries a mix of ratso rizzo and fagin of oliver twist. ending was predictable. not much here. D+.
Capricorn One - nice sci-fi flick. B+.
Zack And Miri Make A Porno - about as good the second time. nothing stunning, but a solid comedy with some heart. B+.
Crank: High Voltage - i'd like you to show me another two films like crank and crank 2. they're just craziness. the plot device allows it to be this crazy too. this one is pretty close in content to the first one which means i liked it about as much. the thing that the first one had going for it, though, was the surprise ending and novelty. great visual style and some good gags and stunts. B+.
Observe And Report - seemed like a vehicle for jody hill's favorite music. it's got some good tunes (pixies, radiohead, etc.), but doesn't use them very well and the majority of the movie had pretty lackluster comedy so this one is missable. rogen, farris and liotta are all wasted talent. michael pena was pretty good and his drug sequence with rogen was the best in the film. C-.
Role Models - still funny. paul rudd is great and scott turns in a good stifler performance. the kids round out the core of the film. the parents of mclovin and the sturdy wings boss (also the boss in 40 y.o. virgin) have some good scenes as well. B+.
Duplicity - gilroy tackles corporate corruption again here, but this time does it with humor. he also gives a spin on jim thompson's getaway, the most interesting element of the book was the rampant mistrust, even/especially between the bonnie and clyde type couple. again, gilroy treats this element with humor rather than seriousness. it's a fun little heist type film with a not unpredictable ending. i knew very late in the game what was happening, but knew that the people who thought they were pulling the strings couldn't possibly be as in charge as they had hoped. the chemistry between roberts and owen is pretty good. owen has the fast talking englishman thing down like vaughn has the fast talking comedic lead thing down. roberts is sexy and layered, honestly this is one of her better performances in my opinion; though i think she's overrated overall. supporting cast wilkinson and giamatti are also good. fun. B.
Sushine Cleaning - being called this year's little miss sunshine or juno. not really that similar to either, but it's a smaller picture with a strange-ish plot device so i guess that makes it indie and a darling child of the critics. whatever. adams is very good and the script is nice. it's a good film with a nice balance of humor and weight. the kid is cute and it's life-affirming, but not too neat in the end so people will like it. B.
Andy Hardy Meets Debutante - judy garland plays second fiddle to andy hardy's other love interest once again. this one centered about as much on judge hardy as his son so i didn't find it to be as fun. still, these andy hardy movies are a great look into the way things used to be. it's like the movie version of "reminisce" magazine only it was created at the time so it doesn't have the feeling of devolution that viewing that magazine does. B-.
12 Rounds - essentially a remake of die hard 3 directed by the guy who did die hard 2 (aka the shitty one). the surprise ending isn't all that surprising, especially now that i've told you it's like die hard 3, and what's his face (wwe boy) isn't as good as bruce willis. there also isn't the same comedic element that sam jackson brought in die hard 3. it's not a poor film, but it's a rip off with lesser talent and the stunts weren't anything to write home about so... C-.
Fast And Furious 4 - the first one was good because you could laugh at it. i don't remember the second one and i never saw the third. this one has some tna and a couple nice cars. one nice chase sequence (just watch the first 10 minutes, or the trailer, instead). nothing here to really latch onto which explains why it opened at #1 in the box office. D.
Courtship Of Andy Hardy - donna reed is smokin' as the girl from a broken family who andy hardy reluctantly takes on a date at his father's request. of course she blossoms in the end and andy hardy's job is done. andy hardy still has eyes for polly benedict so luckily he doesn't regret that reed has a perfect match in another guy. these movies are in no danger of being remade into a film or tv series, they just wouldn't translate to today's audiences. B.
Wall Street - stylistically outdated, but the core principles of the film will never get old. charlie sheen's performance is really pedestrian, but his father (who plays his father) does a good job and michael douglas is great. oliver stone's last couple films have made me rethink his entire catalog. solid core here, but stone's direction and young sheen's performance leave something to be desired. B.
Adventureland - freaks and geeks is one of the more influential tv shows of the last 10 years. this film is directed by yet another talent that came from the freaks and geeks family tree. apatow offered mottola a directing job, but he didn't end up working with him until "undeclared." this has what freaks and geeks did so well: heart and laughs. eisenberg is good and stewart does her usual shtick. a nice little film about young love and summer boredom. B.
Niagara - henry hathaway is a pretty underrated director; i hadn't even heard of the guy until about 4-5 years ago. with this one he channels late-50s era hitchcock, especially north by northwest and vertigo. now, this isn't as good as those films, but it's an entertaining film with noir themes. the ending fell a little flat for me, otherwise solid. B.
Last House On The Left - i can't recall all the details of the original, but i remember the parents' revenge in the end coming about in a different manner. in this version the revenge isn't really planned out and, with the exception of the totally tacked on final scene, isn't cathartic for the audience either. you see, these revenge pics are supposed to take the audience through the entire range of emotions involved with violent crimes. a film like "i spit on your grave" is an excellent example - its notorious 30 minute rape sequence is supposed to immerse you in the horrors of such a violent crime. you are able to imagine the feelings of both the victim and the perpetrators. later, you are able to revel in the beauty of the victim's planned revenge. there are a million of these revenge films from the 70s: coffy, thriller, last house on the left, fight for your life, i spit on your grave, foxy brown, death wish, lady snowblood, etc. not all are good, but all are notable for one reason or another. this remake of the 70s classic plays with some of the specifics - the original had the parents finding out in a different way and, as i said before, had their revenge coming about as a more planned action. i like the end of the original more, but the original also had the distraction of following two of the local police while they were looking for the escaped convict. it's not a bad remake. the new ebert and roper guys hated it; they're prudes. B-.
Haunting In Connecticut - in the horror genre there are horrorfying films and there are scary films, this is one of the latter and last house on the left is one of the former. haunting in ct does a lot of the usual camera tricks - inserting images in reflections, pans to reveal ghosts in the background, etc. the japanese version of the grudge did this as well and there have been many other films to employ this reliable scare tactic. it also borrows from the exorcist mold which finds a spiritual leader trying to rid the main characters of their unwelcome ghosts. the twist at the end was pretty good, not predictable, though we knew it wasn't over when they first said it was. it's a scary film so in that was it was a success. it also did a fairly good job of making parallels between the ills of cancer and alcoholism and the horror of having your house posessed by demons/ghosts. B.
Jackass 2.5 - not as "good" as the other two. that is to say that they don't hurt themselves as much in this one. it's also not really a feature length film; it clocks in at around one hour. for as easy as it is to make this shit, this one is sort of half-assed outtakes and stuff that was essentially left on the cutting room floor. that fact is implied in the title, though, so give them credit for that. B.
Bridge - good documentary about the most famous place to commit suicide - the golden gate bridge. it's an interesting topic for many reasons and the documentary touches upon them, but doesn't really go far with all the questions the topic raises. it would have been nice to have more substance and less of the filler (shots of the bay, the bridge, the water, etc. with minor key music playing). wouldn't have been a bad idea to have a couple "experts" on to pontificate about the draw of the site or suicide in general. interesting, but left me wanting a bit more. had some good footage. B.
I Love You, Man - rudd and segel are good together and the supporting cast also does a fine job. solid comedy. keep 'em coming. B+.
Knowing - films like this are almost always disappointing in the end because they promise more than they can deliver. you're watching them and wondering what amazing insight into how the world work the characters have found, but in the end it always ends up being aliens or a dream or that the character is crazy or something. that's why i didn't like close encounters of the third kind and why these films usually fall flat for me. this one kept me intrigued the entire time so i guess it was a success. C+.
Captain From Castile - probably most notable for alfred newman's main theme "conquest" which went on to be more famously associated with the usc marching band. great piece of music. tyrone power is good, as is the guy who plays the doctor who takes credit for everything. also interesting historically, though i wouldn't use this film as a history lesson. C+.
Watchmen - loved the graphic novel and thought right away that it would make an excellent film if they just took the comics and used them as storyboards for the film. they did a good job of staying true to the book's themes, but fell short nonetheless. it's a heady piece of work and the film didn't do a great job of conveying all the texture of the characters and the city that the book did. definitely my favorite sequence is the dr. manhattan recap. it features two pieces of music by philip glass which were originally in koyaanisqatsi and they're brilliant. it elevates the sequence. it's worth watching. B.
Class - not at all worth the hype. it's a good film with many of the same class/race themes seen in films like stand and deliver, dangerous minds and freedom writers and is interesting in this way. ultimately, though, it falls flat because the story arc just sort of dies. there are better films like this which makes me wonder why it was so well received. B-.
Examined Life - if you're into philosophy, especially the kind that doesn't have the director interviewing some academic in front of a piece of fabric or a bookshelf full of classics, then you should watch a linklater film like before sunset or slacker or waking life. they're more interesting and incorporate classical philosophy with ideas from so-called common people. cornel west was interesting as were one or two others, but most of this stuff isn't really new. C+.
Friday The 13th - pretty good for the standard horror fare. it doesn't break the mold by any stretch, but it does a good job with the usual horror film playbook. there's an element of comic relief which is always appreciated, there's t&a which is necessary with this young adults being stalked in the woods horror films in particular, and there are plenty of scares. good flick. B.
Confessions Of A Shopaholic - actually read this book and mistook the film version for another book that is like it - bitter is the new black. both books are about women who are addicted to shopping. neither were very good and the same could be said about this movie. it's awful which is too bad because isla fisher can be funny at times. avoid at all costs. F+.
Red Shoes - over-rated ballet melodrama. the use of color and art direction are nice enough, but the story is bland and i frankly don't know where they piddled away the 2+ hours. D+.
It Happened One Night - love capra. love the chemistry between colbert and gable. A+.
Gran Torino - not a great film because some of the acting was stilted and some of the writing wasn't realistic, but a good film nonetheless. clint eastwood really carries the film through any of its rougher spots with one of his more interesting film personas. it's another film that could make some people cringe, but i think it was pulled off in such a way that it works. eastwood's character is, in a way, a mix of my two grandfathers which is something i didn't think was possible. B+.
International - a decent yarn about international conspiracy. it involves a multi-national bank, arms dealers, assassins, etc. at times it feels like an international version of law and order. it kept me interested enough though it didn't thrill me. actually, there was one very good scene in the guggenheim which is worthy of mention. directed by tykwer, who also did run lola run. B-.
Towelhead- not a film for the faint of heart. it goes where a lot of films don't and goes where only a few actually mention. that said, it's not a film that's all about shock factor or controversy. it's a compelling and captivating film that had me interested the entire time. a good balance of (unique) characters and uniformly great acting. this one should have gotten more recognition. B+.
Mack - good film about 70s race relations and urban blight. it's made for an african-american audience so there's the typical evil white cop characters that you see in these films, but it also talks about the role that blacks play in shaping their community. films like this are time capules, shedding light on how things once were. we've come a long way, but we still have a ways to go. good from an intellectual standpoint, but wasn't entirely entertaining. B.
Frozen River - a good lead performance by leo, but the screenplay was unrealistic at times and the older son wasn't a great actor. a solid little film that ends about as properly as you could expect. B.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona - not a very good film by any measure, especially by the standard of woody allen. before i saw the film i picked cruz to win the oscar, but i almost changed that pick after seeing how uninteresting she was here. johansson is not a good actress. compelling at times, but not good overall. C-.
Casablanca - one of the best ever. great balance of noir and comedy and romance. beautiful film seen in a beautiful theater (paramount in oakland). acoustics there could have been better. yet another film with bogey stranded in an exotic location. A+.
National Lampoon's Vacation - not john hughes' best work, but certainly a classic and a precursor to what was to follow. chevy chase is funny here and anthony michael hall is also good as his son. audrey in this version doesn't have the same level of personality that she does in the sequel. randy quaid and john candy both have good supporting roles. A-.
National Lampoon's European Vacation - lesser sequel that still produces plenty of laughs. audrey's character stands out more in this one because of her obessesion with her boyfriend (johnny the bad guy in karate kid) and her eating disorder. rusty is good, but not as great as anthony michael hall in the original. B+
Man On Wire - shot more like a heist film than a documentary, it capitalizes on the main character's unique personality, and the intricacies of the plot itself. the plot follows the events leading up to and following the time when petit strings a wire between the two wtc buildings and walks across it. the level of planning and technical considerations that went into the stunt is more than one might think and makes it all the more interesting. petit is a bit loopy, but that's probably necessary for the deed to have succeeded. it's a fun documentary and it provides a light contrast to the planning and subterfuge that was involved with another wtc event. B+.
Taken - really good luc besson produced/co-written film. directed by pierre morel who did district b13 which was equally good, but in a different way. liam neeson and morel work well together to mask his physical limitations in the action sequences and play up the mental side of his prowess to achieve an imposing figure. it's like commando meets hostel but better than either. B+.
He's Just Not That Into You - spends most of the film telling women that they aren't the exception and that they should be realistic about the men they date and then becomes everything it denounced earlier. not much to write home about. C-.
Wall-E- cute film with a bit of social commentary about the role of super corporations. B+.
Major League - classic baseball movie. A-.
White Dog - interesting film about a woman who hits a dog and then nurses it back to health. soon she discovers that the dog is trained to be an attack dog, but it only attacks black people. not a film you're likely to forget and that's always a good thing. honestly the dogs and their trainers should have gotten a best actor nomination for the work they did - everything is so believable. sam fuller made a few films about racism so this film is a perfect fit for him. B+.
Beat The Devil - good john huston tongue in cheek tribute to noir, specifically maltese falcon. it's a fun little picture. roger ebert called it the first camp film. B.
Crank - d.o.a. meets speed meets the transporter. it's actually a very good action film. the action is good, the comic relief is solid, and the ending is surprising. visually quiet interesting, does a lot of different things. B+.
Wrestler - darren aronofsky's least interesting film to date. pi is powerful, lo-fi and cerebral. requiem has the multiple storylines and addiction themes as well as a killer soundtrack. the fountain, while his least entertaining film, has an immense depth and imagination to it. it's one of those films i'll probably revisit every few years and get into more and more as i understand it more. the wrestler, however, is what it is. it's well made and features a great performance from rourke (everyone's darling for the next 10 minutes), but i don't think it has the depth of his other films. it's got elements of rocky, city by the sea, and about a million other films that feature washed up has beens looking for redemption. the film doesn't beg you to like rourke's character, which is a good thing. it presents him warts and all and essentially allows you to make your own judgment on his character (thus the ending). the ending, by the way, was well set up by the early abrupt cuts of music/action. you question where aronofsky was going with that and the final scene is the answer.
for me a film's success is largely based upon the existence of a main character i can like, relate to, appreciate in some way. ultimately, rourke's character just didn't do it for me. he's a sad character, but that's not difficult for a director to do. he's sympathetic, sure, but not quite enough. he's sympathetic not because of the easy things that make him sympathetic - he's a screw up, he had a heart attack, he's a nice guy, but more because of the fact that he's an average guy. maybe he's too average. truth is, i feel sorry for him more than anything else. he's not dumb like rocky, but rocky is a better person. rocky is a guy who is trying harder to be a good person. rocky loves adrian and plays with the neighborhood kids like rourke does here, but rocky isn't asshole enough to leave his daughter hanging around while he bangs some bimbo in a public bathroom. i guess what it comes down to for me is that life isn't like baseball. in baseball you can bat hit the ball 30-40% of the time and be considered great. in life batting .300 makes you a shithead in my eyes. rourke didn't need to bat 1.000 to be great, but striking out with his daughter is like pulling a bill buckner; to beat an analogy to death. you get the point.
what's the deal with marissa tomei as a failed stripper? yeah, right. i've never been to a strip bar, but i can guarantee she'd be a major earner. good, solid film, not as amazing as some would have you think. would i watch it again tomorrow? probably not. B.
Notorious - biopic about probably the most overrated rapper ever. the film itself isn't all that great either. it picks up a bit when the baby mama drama fades into the background and concentrates more on the east/west coast tupac/biggie rivalry, but even that juicy (pun intended) material doesn't really live up to its potential. the actor who plays biggie does a good job, but everyone else is average at best. it's executive produced by puff daddy so don't expect any speculation about his possible role in biggie's death. instead it portrays him as constantly above the fray. it also portrays biggie as more or less an innocent victim of the rap game and one big misunderstanding. whatever. C-.
Heartbreak Kid - funny farrelly bros. flick that reminded me of forgetting sarah marshall this time around. B+.
Revolutionary Road - as good a film as this is, i couldn't help but feel that it could have been better. for one, the trailer was simply epic. it told the story of the failed american dream and a failed relationship to the soundtrack of nina simone's "wild is the wind" and did so about as efficiently as possible. it's one of the best trailers ever.
the film itself didn't quite live up the trailer, but you can't hold that against it. you can fault mendes' direction which, at times, felt absent. the writing, too, seemed to take a break once in a while. it was occasionally great, but occasionally too self-aware or un-naturalistic to the point that it jolted me out of the viewing experience. dicaprio and winslet were both excellent and were truly the heart of the film. that said, a supporting actor nomination should go to michael shannon for his role as a mental patient who visits the couple a few times and provides the film with its emotional/moral compass.
for all its defects revolutionary road still tells a good, touching story with two characters with real meat on their bones. the actors do a great job, i just wish those behind the camera had been equal to the task. B+.
Wedding Crashers - it's a good date comedy - vaughn is for the boys and wilson is for the girls. B+.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop - too many fat jokes and a weak die hard rip off plot. kevin james is actually pretty good, but this script isn't. probably the worst happy madison production i've seen. C.
Bedtime Stories - two happy madison produced films in one night. the wrestler was sold out. not bad for kids and the parents who are taking them. B-.
Pursued - good western with some incestuous themes that i wasn't too sure about. mitchum is good. B.
Reader - fine film with two nice performances. actually, one nice performance and one performance that carries the emotion of the film. kate winslet is going to get a nomination for this one for sure. i wasn't real clear about the motives of her character and the middle sagged a bit, but it's a good film nonetheless. B.
Marley & Me - shouldn't it be marley and us? it's basically a less funny animal version of the money pit. instead of a house being the source of frustration (and ultimately joy) it's a dog. how sweet. the best part of the film was the commentary on modern living with husband and wife unable to keep up with bills, kids, a job, crime, etc. in this way it touches upon a million other films like american beauty. C+.