Nightfall - good little movie about a wrongly accused everyman played by aldo ray who i haven't seen much of, but liked here. he has a simple delivery and is matter-of-fact in his performance. part of me thinks he's not acting at all and is just showing up, but it works somehow. bancroft is fine and also turns in a fine performance. ha ha. B.
Fighter - mostly a pretty typical boxing movie here. hometown hero makes good by overcoming the odds. also has a feel good story about redemption from his big brother who was a crack addict and of course a love story. it's rocky, but based on a true story and with poor music choices instead of a great score from bill conti. the acting is the strong point here with plenty of star power from a less known melissa leo to household names like bale, adams, and wahlberg. has a nice mix of comedy and drama, but sometimes russell tried to mix the two together in the same moment. sometimes that can work well and other times it doesn't. this time it didn't.
as mentioned, the musical choices were poor. there were good songs, unfortunately they were used at the wrong time. russell really dropped the ball there because the right music would have really elevated the film for me. instead, i found myself unable to gauge what kind of tone russell was trying to strike. there were moments that felt heavy that had songs like "good times, bad times" from led zeppelin. great song from an amazing album, but it didn't fit the gravity of the moment.
there will be some (well-deserved) acting nominations during the awards season, but i don't think it warrants much more than that. B.
Tangled - really doesn't standout among the 49 other disney animated features. besides the computer animation (which i don't like as much) the film also is weak from a musical perspective. the strongest aspects of little mermaid and beauty and the beast were the great songs. there were several classics in each of those films and this one had only one decent song (the dreams one in the pub). the story itself is fine and hits on many of the usual disney themes. i didn't connect with the male hero like i have in their real classics. his journey didn't come off as authentic for me. the secondary characters, too, weren't as rich or plentiful. there was the chameleon and the horse, but nothing on the level of the furniture in the beauty and the beast or the seagull/crab in little mermaid or the genie in alladin. simply put this one wasn't anywhere near the early classics like snow white and dumbo or those from the second great wave of little mermaid, beauty and the beast, alladin, etc. C.
Tron: Legacy - daft punk did the music which makes sense because it was really good and there's that scene in the club where they're looking at each other while playing music. unfortunately, the music was really good, but not great. it was so close to being great, but i felt like it never was allowed to explode or crescendo like it wanted. it was actually fairly frustrating to be watching a chase scene or a battle and have the music be so good and to feel like it was going to crescendo, but then it never did.
there were also a few slow points in the film that i think, with repeated viewings, would get even slower. outside of these moments and the frustration of the music never being allowed to blossom, the film was good. the symbolism of the father's disc going with the son to the real world was a nice one. ultimately it's a coming of age story of sorts. a worthy sequel to a sci-fi classic. B+.
True Grit - don't remember the original well enough to compare and contrast, but i remember enough to say that both versions are quite good and rely heavily on the performances of the girl and rooster cogburn. both here and in the original both roles are well executed by their respective actors. the screenplay is great and fits the coen brothers mold well. there's a great balance of comedy and drama which is a hallmark of their work. some good shots here and there and an entertaining picture, but it's still no fargo. to me, fargo is their apex and we'll see if they ever get there again. it was the perfect blend of humor and humanity. the look of that picture is as good or better than any other. the way they capture the locale, the acting, the suffering, the comic relief...fargo has it all. true grit is a fine film, but not a great one. B+.
City Of Fear - sort of similar to kiss me deadly, but even more like the killer that stalked new york. it's about an escaped con who steals a cylinder of heroin, but it turns out to be radioactive material instead. while he's waiting around the city trying to find a fence for the heroin, he keeps getting more and more sick because of his exposure to the radioactive material. ironically, he clenches the cylinder more and more tightly as the film wears on. works well on that level because it's a symbol for his greed and moral turpitude that is slowly killing him. the penultimate shot is of him lying on the ground with a blanket over him and a sign that says "caution radioactive material." it's such a stark and almost comical shot. much of the acting leaves something to be desired, but it's forgivable. it falls into the detective-noir/police procedural category. B.
Carriers - end of days film that should have been more widely released. it stars piper perabo and chris pine and both are good here. it's a well-executed take on a type of film that we've all seen before with varying degrees of success. this one is above the average of its type in part because the acting is solid and the screenplay is fairly realistic. B.
Flawless - the ending was too cute, but most of the rest of the film was pretty good. michael caine is good, demi moore not so much. the plot had more potential than was realized so i can't say it was a really good picture, but it was entertaining enough. considering the stars, it's odd that this one wasn't more widely released. B-.
A Farewell To Arms - fallen asleep both times i've watched this movie. this time i rewound so i could actually watch the whole thing. it's a fine little story about love with war as a backdrop. both the leads were good, but it didn't feel like much was happening. i didn't see any great evolution of the characters and the plot is pretty thin. liked it better this time around, though, and can recommend it for the performances alone. the final movement of the score was really good, though i don't know who did it because several composers did work on the film and were not credited. my grandpa's book has them all listed, but doesn't give that kind of detail for that would require another lifetime's worth of work. B-.
When Harry Met Sally - good and influential romantic comedy. reminded me of some woody allen stuff and seinfeld. both leads are good and this is easily the best work nora ephron ever churned out. snappy dialogue and accurate (to my mind) views of the sexes. the aging/maturation of the characters is well done both from a makeup and writing perspective. B+.
Moonstruck - much-lauded film that i hadn't ever gotten around to seeing. cher was pretty good and i think the acting in general is the best aspect of the film. didn't get much else from this and don't find it of particular note myself. C+.
A Christmas Carol - 1938 version. i think the 1951 version is better in large part due to alastair sim who does the best job of making the transition of scrooge seem real. he's really believable as both the evil and kind scrooges. this one is more of a family favorite, though, so i've seen it several times as well. tiny tim in this one is good and it does have a more light-hearted feel to it. it's also short and sweet which probably makes it a good entry-level version of the story. it's like the one you show kids after they've seen the muppets version and the 1951 version is the one you show them when they're teenagers. B+.
A Christmas Story - it's the perfect christmas story. it's about family, america at a certain time, marriage, growing up, adolescence, and christmas. the more you watch it the more you notice about it and the more you find yourself understanding the different characters. when you're young you see ralphie like you see yourself - wanting that one big present for xmas. and you see his dad like you may see your dad or your friend's dad. as you age, though, you start to understand the dynamic between the parents more and the idea of christmas changes so you see it all through a different lens. everything about the film is perfect. A+.
How Do You Know - as far as romantic comedies go, this one isn't too bad. james brooks is historically fairly reliable and he turns in another good enough picture here. reese witherspoon and paul rudd both are cast well for their parts and do a workman-like job with the roles. it's kind of a throwback to some of the 30s stuff in a way. not in terms of quality or writing style, but in terms of the characters and their relationship arc. witherspoon is more more empowered here than some of the dames in the earlier films and rudd is relatively impotent (can't get out from under his dad's influence, is under indictment, career spiraling out of control). so, it's a more enlightened version of the story, but not necessarily better. it has all the a-list stars and crew (witherspoon, rudd, wilson, brooks, zimmer, kaminski, etc.), but doesn't achieve that level of success. B.
Unstoppable - taut thriller that has that "speed" style setup that makes it difficult to not be engaged. denzel is denzel and the direction is what you'd expect from tony scott. chris pine is a good new star in the making. he has the chops and an edge (and not in that fake channing tatum kind of way), which is good to see from a good looking guy. hope he'll continue to do the star trek films and maybe branch out eventually. it's scott and washington so you know it's pretty good. "i wish i had more time"...to write about this movie. B.
Over-Exposed - another seiler/cleo moore collaboration. this one is a bit better than women's prison, but isn't as progressive. it's another story about a woman entering the workplace and scheming her way to the top. she's not an awful girl, but she feels compelled to chase the dollar by whatever means necessary. in the end she falls for the guy and gives up her professional life in the process. i love these older films, but this one has that element of false choice for womanhood (family life or career) that can give older films a bad name. moore is pretty good and i'd like to see more of her work, unfortunately so few of these films are on dvd even now. B.
Of Mice And Men - think i read the book years ago, but don't remember much of anything about it other than the general dynamic. it's a story that is recycled in films like midnight cowboy and far country. this filmic telling of the story isn't especially great in my opinion. far country does a much better job with basically the same setup of two guys (one who has his shit together, and the other who gets them in trouble - brother's keeper idea). there's a lot more depth to the characters in far country and the dynamic outside the two characters is greater. this isn't a bad film, but it's not as good as grapes of wrath or other films like it. B-.
Women's Prison - ida lupino, cleo moore and jan sterling star in a film that is exactly what it's title promises. it's entertaining enough and has a social commentary component to it, but isn't especially strong in any way. B-.
Miss Pinkerton - joan blondell early 30s pic about a nurse and a detective trying to figure out the truth behind a mysterious death. haven't seen a lot of blondell pictures, but this one is good. it came out right around the production code and i'm not sure it was thoroughly enforced yet because she shows a decent amount of skin early in the film. it's a funny and fun little picture worth watching if you're a fan of her or george brent or 30s stuff. B.
Human Desire - unusual noir in that the guy who murders two people gets off scot-free. it really probes the depths of human desires and all the seedy emotions that we have. murder, war, statutory rape, domestic abuse, adultery...it has it all. humans are such pathetic beings sometimes and this film illuminates that about as well as anything else. fritz lang directs and emile zola wrote the book. reuses basically the same line as from "one girl's confession." in this one it's "all women are the same, they just have different faces so you can tell the difference." B+.
Brothers Rico - they say that the rico laws (which are famously used to prosecute the mob) were named after the character rico from little caesar, but i think it's equally likely that they were named after richard conte's character in this film. it's about a brother who has gone legit, but the mob "keeps pulling him back in." it's a gangster movie that's right in between the sort of cartoonish films of the 30s and the more serious gangster films that began with the godfather. it's a movie that shows blood and opens with conte brushing has hand near his wife's breast. sure, it wasn't intentional (he's supposedly asleep), but it's pretty risque for the time (1957) and there's plenty more where that came from. it's not conte's best performance, but he's solid and the story is a good one. definitely a good one for fans of noir or gangster films. B+.
One Girl's Confession - stars cleo moore, who i was unfamiliar with until now. interesting picture. it's definitely a b-picture from a production standpoint, but it has some nice writing and an interesting enough plot. it's about a girl who gets revenge against a greedy employer by robbing him and then goes to jail because she openly admits to the crime. when she gets out she goes back to work and (for some reason) doesn't worry too much about getting her buried money until her new employer is desperate for it. long story short, she confesses to a murder that never happens and ends up doing pretty well for herself. has a great line early on that's something like "all men are the same, they just have different faces so you can tell them apart." B.
Pushover - second time i've seen this one. didn't remember much. opens well with some double indemnity-type double-entendre dialogue. it's not on that same level, but it's a nice noir nonetheless. kim novak's first credited film. things get worse and worse for fred macmurray in this one until the whole plan falls apart. love movies that build a house of cards that you see teetering long before the characters and this is one of those. B.
Night Editor - another gem of a noir from the women of noir collections. this one is told in flashback by a newspaper man about a detective that gets mixed up with the wrong dame and ruins his life as a result. i won't spoil the ending, but suffice it to say that this is well worth watching if you're a noir fan. the femme fatale (janis carter) is truly awful and her counterpart (wife played by jeff donnell, weird first name for a woman) is great in her role. william gargan is the protagonist and is basically a walking zombie through most of the film because his life is crumbling around him. it's about the situations we get ourselves in and can't seem to get out of. this isn't an a-list noir by any stretch, but it's one of those b-films that really rises above. A-.
American Movie: Making Of Northwestern - still a great documentary, but it's been a while since i've seen it. this time around a saw a lot of elements from "it's a wonderful life" - a good guy surrounding by incompetence who's just trying to make it in life. there's such a sense of regret from mark and he's such a tragic character. his battle with the bottle as well as his own ideas about how life should be lived vs. how most people choose to live it. this is a great story of a middle american going through life. the ending is as perfect as you'll see. uncle bill, out of nowhere, starts talking in some sort of poem and the camera is there to capture it. no one interrupts his ramblings (and that's what they are), but they have a tinge of regret and seem to express unrealistic expectations that we all place on ourselves when we think about life. a really great film. A+.
Black Swan - first the good: it's the best ballet film i've ever seen. considering it's so cronenberg-esque it's also the best cronenberg film i've seen since the fly. now the bad: it's the worst aronofsky film ever. it's been downhill since pi and i've frankly lost hope that he'll ever regain that sort of form. there are thematic elements here that are similar and it wasn't a terribly uninteresting film, but it wasn't raw like pi or powerful like requiem for a dream or as grandieose like the fountain. C+.
Tourist - one of the worst films of the year. depp and jolie aren't even close to my favorite a-listers and they don't do anything to change that here. just a dumb film that shouldn't have been made. D-.
Strange Woman - great hedy lemarr film that was reminiscent of baby face. lemarr plays a crafty woman who manipulates the men around her to her advantage. she marries for money and spends her husband's money for seemingly good purposes. therein lies the contradiction of her character. she's not truly awful like a femme fatale, she's awful to the men around her, but she uses her power in good ways on occasion.
there's some really dark stuff in here, especially when you read between the lines. for example, there are hints of incest and s&m along with the fact that lemarr is sleeping with everyone who will talk with her, especially those who can move her up the ladder. it's about as seedy as you're like to see, and that includes sweet smell of success which i consider one of the worst/best in that regard. lemarr is really good. B+.
Steel Magnolias - it's a chick flick based in louisiana, how much do you think i liked it? olympia dukakis is awful. D-.
127 Hours - one of the year's best films because it works on a few different levels and is well-executed. i saw the real aron ralston on letterman shortly after this happened to him and he came off as cocky, smart, and matter-of-fact. there's a difference between carefree and careless and i think ralston, on this occasion, was certainly careless and he paid the price. that's really what the story is about. it's not as great a survival story as shackleton's crew or even the one told in touching the void, but it has more personal symbolism than those stories, which are purely stories of (amazing) feats of survival. ralston's story here is more about the realization that he's a selfish, somewhat unkind, hubristic person. he's forced to confront the reality of his situation in life as well as being stuck in the canyon.
it's well-shot and a pretty engaging film considering not much actually happens. there are some good bits that keep it fun and interesting like the bit where franco does a game show bit with himself. boyle doesn't disappoint. B+.
28up - this, the fourth installment in the up series, was originally presented as two separate programs so it comes in at a relatively hefty 2hrs 15mins and doesn't even include two of the subjects (they opted out). it has a couple surprises and some real maturation on the part of some of the worrisome characters. neil is struggling and his musings are very interesting. he's a loner and a man of the road who probably spends a lot of time by himself thinking about things. i could relate to him in a lot of ways, but also wished he had been savvy enough to see this coming and avoid it. we'll see how things go in the next few...B+.
48 Hours - joel silver and lawrence gordon had a good run in the late 80s - 48 hours, lethal weapon, predator, die hard (and the sequels to almost all of them). in all these you have: good action, good comic relief, and a team of a black guy and a white guy who go up against the bad guys. 48 hours was the weakest of the four and produced only one sequel. it's also the first of them and the most crass. nolte is really abrasive, to the point where it's actually difficult to like him. he drinks all the time and calls murphy a spear chucker and the like. in other words, he's a racist alcoholic who isn't good to his girlfriend, but he's a good cop (other than the fact that he abuses his power left and right). it has some nice moments, but it's really only the beginning of what became a good producing tandem. B.
21 - the best of the series that i've seen so far. as i write this i've actually seen all of them except 49up, but i saw 35up and 42up eight years ago so i really don't remember much about those. this one still has all the original subjects (in 28up, which i watched yesterday, a couple of them decide not to be interviewed). this series is about as potentially important as anything else that could be considered film or documentary. ebert placed it in his top ten. for me it's not necessarily a favorite, but it's eminently watchable and provides an amazing amount of material for those who, like me, are interested in living a good and useful life.
i see life as a game in some ways. there are good and bad ways to play a game and there are certain universal goals of both a game and life. there isn't necessarily the chance of "winning" in life, but there are strategies that can allow you to live a better life than you would live without those strategies. some people seem to float about in life as if the only goal is to get through it. others attack it and try to get as much out of it as they can; i'm somewhere in the middle. but there are also ways that you can make your life easier (avoid addiction and self-pity, being a reasonable person/citizen by being polite, honest and humorous, etc.) there are all sorts of life skills and outlooks on life that can help people and this series of documentaries showcases some of them in a certain way and, most importantly, shows the potential outcome of those strategies. since only a dozen or so people are followed, one can't take this as a playbook ("if i act like neil as i see him in the film, then i'm going to end up like he does at ages 21, 28, 25, etc."), but it's very interesting from a scientific point of view to see how people end up relative to how they start, how they look at life, etc.
in this installment all the subjects are about 21 years old and it's quite interesting to see them coming into their own. you can see what path their lives are taking and in most cases it's easy to see how they'll end up in the next installment. it's interesting to hear their thoughts about class (since the uk is such a class-based society) and how the rich kids do/don't justify their positions. poorer people might value having a car more than paying for education, john points out. numerically we (the rich) have about the same options as the less well off, but ours are different and presented to us differently, another points out. some of this stuff is b.s., but some of it has its merits.
if you're only going to watch one of the series, make it this one. A.
Skyline - never really got off the ground for me; i kept waiting for something to happen. it's a b-film so it shouldn't be compared too closely to independence day or war of the world, but that's basically what it is. the end was unsatisfying and seemingly pointless. C.
Love And Other Drugs - fairly well-acted and a nice screenplay, but didn't work for me. reminded me of thank you for not smoking, but i think we were supposed to like the characters in this film. todd solondz once had an interview for fresh air and he talked about the challenge of making characters who were not likable, but still somehow liked by the audience on some level. he remarked that you could just give the character cancer and take the easy road out, but that that's not really character development. that's kinda what they do with this film. they have two characters who i would never want to be friends with, but one of them has a disease so i'm theoretically supposed to have feelings for them and their situation. gyllenhaal's character in any other film would probably be the villain, but here he's the hero for some reason. he's vacuous, egotistic, materialistic and sells zoloft as if it were a used car. he's a despicable character by most accounts, but he falls in love with a diseased fuck buddy (hathaway) and now we're supposed to like him? i think it worked for a lot of the women in the audience based upon the giggles everytime he did some klutzy thing. women are almost as simple as men in this regard. klutzy good looking asshole = chick with huge tits.
gyllenhaal and hathaway are both good here. hathaway is trying to be an upper echelon actor, but she's not there yet. her acting is obvious when she's shaking and having her disease-induced (she has stage one parkinson's) breakdown. but she's pretty solid otherwise. she's taking fairly good roles, but i don't know that she's worked with a great director on the right film yet. rachel getting married was supposed to be it and i think she thought this was going to be it too, but neither was actually very good. she has the potential, though, so she'll probably get there eventually.
the worst thing about this film may have been that the screenplay had real potential to be a nice little love story as well as a great social commentary on the healthcare system in our country. there were plenty of digs at the industry, especially early on, and we see hathaway's character trying to navigate the system without insurance (paying with cash, going to canada for drugs, etc.), but, meanwhile, her boyfriend is part of the problem. the tacked on ending where he sort of grows a soul just didn't work because i couldn't believe that his character would transform like that. just like i didn't believe the scene where she asks him to say four nice things about himself and he can't come up with anything. really? a serial philanderer and egotist can't say a few nice things about himself? in retrospect, maybe gyllenhaal just didn't sell it for me. nah, i think it was the writing. C+
Faster - tillman's best film to date probably because emotional honesty isn't required here. it's an homage to the 70s revenge/chase films, not a drama or biopic like men of honor or notorious. ironically, there's more emotional honesty in this film than in those films. sometimes emotion can work better when it's not the central force driving the film; when it's the center of the film it takes a good director to pull it off without coming off as contrived. the action sequences could have used some better direction, but it was solid otherwise.
good story, good balance of throwback, comedy, action, etc. dragged a little bit towards the end, but it was forgivable. B.
Can't Buy Me Love - this is pretty typical 80s teen flick fare. isn't john hughes/karate kid quality and isn't weird like better off dead.
actually has a scene where someone gives an inspirational speech and then some goober starts clapping, as mocked in not another teen movie. only one i can actually remember that happening in. B-.
Seven Plus Seven - seven years later we see the same kids as in the first one. pretty neat to see them change over probably the second most important 7 year period in a person's evolution. most of them are shy/aloof teenagers at this point. great series. really fun to watch these kids as their ideas evolve. most of them are still products of their parents and environment, but now they're a little more able to justify their positions (politically for example). the next couple should also be fun. B+.
Seven Up! - the first in the up series which was later directed by michael apted. a really cool series that is equal parts social science and film. they follow about 20 (or less as the series progressed) british kids and check in with them every 7 years to see how they're doing. i've only seen two of them now (this one and 42up), but hope to watch the rest of the series by year's end (it's at 49up now). in terms of content, it doesn't get much better than this. B+.
Sweet Smell Of Success - one of the best film noirs of all-time. great script with plenty of laugh out loud lines. curtis and lancaster are both quite good. this is one of the more seedy noirs i've seen; it's just such a twisted tale of humanity's inhumanity to man. james wong howe. A+.
Glass Wall - ahead of its time visually and quite moving from a socially conscious point of view. it's about a hungarian who comes through ellis island but is rejected. he jumps ship and looks for an american soldier, whose life he saved, in order to get a witness to vouch for his having fought for the allied forces (which would make him eligible for citizenship). it's a great story with a solid performance from the lead. a gem that you probably haven't heard of, but is as relevant today as ever. B+.
Better Off Dead - this is like a john hughes film as directed by paul bartel. pretty funny teenage coming of age film. also has a good soundtrack. B.
Help! - wacky little film with some musical interludes. first time i've seen this one. never been a huge fan of the beatles movies, though they're my favorite musical act. B-.
A Face In The Crowd - the thing about demagogues like andy griffith or glenn beck is that eventually they're exposed as hypocrites or liars or whatever else and the majority that was once swayed by them stops listening to them. that's the good news. the bad news is that they're like that game whack a mole - they just keeping coming back up in different forms. that's what makes this movie as timeless as a film like the day the earth stood still. because as long as there are people there's going to be fighting and demagogues. an optimist points out that eventually the truth wins and a pessimist points out that you can get rid of one, but another will pop up. the truth is, as usual, they're both right.
the film itself was good and had a strong ending, but it was a bit long for my taste. about on par with all the king's men. B.
Bad For Each Other - melodramatic noir with charlton heston. has a good feel to it and i kinda got into it about half way through. B.
Morning Glory - two harrison ford movies in two days. this one was actually more enjoyable. it's a standard setup - klutzy girl is down on her luck, gets a good job, meets a guy, things turn around. it also has some awful (and overly literal) music, but those things aside the film is entertaining, funny, and has some good performances. the three leads (ford, mcadams and keaton) are all very good. mcadams plays a good range in the film and is likable in spite of the fact that she's basically crazy and is producing a shitty morning "news" show. ford is the curmudgeon who eventually comes around and he's good in that role. the ending ties everything up too nicely which is to be expected; it's what the genre calls for. B.
Fair Game - pretty standard stuff here, nothing special. watts and penn do the sad face thing for a couple hours and make a somewhat interesting story rather boring and heavy-handed. it just seems like they don't know how to make serious films like they once did. there's no balance here between the serious and the comic, but we also get the impression that that's how joe wilson lives his life. so, in that way, i guess penn was the perfect casting because that guy's lips are tighter than a drum. doug liman is usually a pretty interesting director, but he comes up short here. C.
Blade Runner - this and thx 1138 are probably the two most over-rated sci-fi films i've ever seen. i've given this one three chances now and fallen asleep twice. this time around i didn't fall asleep, but sorta wish i had. for the record, i've seen the director's cut twice and this time i saw the "final cut." supposedly the theatrical version is a little better, but it's only a difference of four minutes and that amount of time wouldn't have helped this film.
the sets and atmosphere were successful. the music was also pretty good. acting wasn't great, concept didn't do much for me, direction was slow, dialogue was nearly non-existent. for better sci-fi films try: 2001, clockwork orange, tron, alien(s), terminator, matrix, island, just about anything else. C.
Two Of A Kind - decent noir about a woman who gets a guy into a scam to act like the long lost son of a millionaire. things go pear-shaped of course and the guy has to get his way out of the jam. intriguing enough plot and o'brien is good so it's solid enough. B.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off - one of the reasons this film succeeds is that it shows both extremes of being a teenager. you'll never be as neurotic and in as much trouble as cameron and you'll never be as slick and cool as ferris, but you probably feel like it at one point or another in your teen years. a definite all-time classic from a guy who has more than a couple of them. john hughes and martin scorsese are the great auteurs of my time. i may love p.t. anderson and spielberg is more prolific and popular, but hughes had a distinctive style of writing and directing that surpasses them both. the funny thing is that he talent really only lasted about 6 years, whereas many of the other greats in film had longer spans of success - kurosawa with rashomon in 1950 and sanjuro in 1962, kubrick with the killing in 1956 and full metal jacket in 1987, scorsese with taxi driver in 1976 and aviator in 2002. hughes was more like breakfast club in 1985 and home alone in 1990, or you could argue national lampoon's vacation in 1983 and curly sue in 1991; either way a much smaller span of greatness. not a great span, but he had true gems in that time. films that defined a generation as well as a period of life that is as transformative (mentally and physically), the teens, as any other. A+.
Island - good sci-fi flick with the michael bay touch. owes plenty to the matrix and isaac asimov. it was panned by critics for some reason, but i found it (both times) to be a fun film. it's stimulating from a philosophical stand point and it's a joy to look at. the action is fun and the cinematography is beautiful. it's an example of what hollywood is uniquely capable of doing. B+.
Seven Days In May - another cold war, the-nation-is-on-the-edge-of-nuclear-war film from 1964; fail-safe and dr. strangelove being the other two. this is the "worst" of the bunch, but a solid and engaging film. the cast is strong and so is the writing. this one does end like the other two so i suppose you could argue it's more realistic. it shows the politics that go on behind the scenes to either retain the union or not, and that kind of things is interesting for a political science major like me. B+.
10 Things I Hate About You - another good remake of a shakespeare play set in high school. doesn't have the gravitas of O, but has a different tone that makes it more watchable. overall, i prefer O to this one. B+.
Blood On The Moon - not a bad film, but didn't really do it for me. it's a familiar setup - ranchers vs. settlers, old friends (robert preston and robert mitchum) meeting again (but one has gone straight) and a woman is in the middle of it all. it's got some good stars and robert wise (three roberts?!) behind the camera. it's a more melodramatic western than i usually go for. C+.
Due Date - there's no way of reviewing this film without referencing its similarity (and inferiority) to planes, trains and automobiles. so there it is.
as its own film it's a fairly good odd couple/road film that has some nice laughs. downey jr. and galifianakis do a fine job here and the writing works well with their style so it's a good match on that level. however, the weakness in the writing is apparent because i couldn't help but constantly compare it to ptaa. in ptaa the characters are revealed to us slowly and organically; it's the difference between easing yourself into a pool and diving right in. ptaa is actually a shorter film, but feels much more full. we know everything there is to know about del and neal and their relationship evolves slowly until its explosion, resolution, explosion, resolution and ultimate friendship. here, though, the explosion is much more immediate and the friendship is less believable. due date is ptaa in the internet age where one can't simply break from an annoying character clearing his throat as del does in ptaa, rather it comes from getting your arm broken by galifianakis' character who later accidentally shoots it and then throws up on it. i'm not making this up, i couldn't. and that's, perhaps, the greatest divide between the two films - one was done with relative subtlety and the other goes to the extreme. there's nothing wrong with wacky comedy like this, but when it's essentially a remake of a perfect film, then wacky is just as pointless as remaking it in the first place. B-.
Red - nodded off during parts of this action/comedy so i can't pass judgment to greatly. there's an all-star cast here and it has some fairly entertaining moments, but ultimately it didn't do much for me. C+.
Killer That Stalked New York - half noir and half propaganda film, this 1950 film has the femme fatale as a jewel smuggler who is coming from cuba to nyc with some hot diamonds, and something else. that something else turns out to be smallpox and she spreads it around town which gets the health officials into a tizzy. it's a film that works on a couple levels - there's the obviously immoral act of her being part of a stolen diamond heist, but it also carries with it the unintended consequences of moral turpitude in the form of smallpox. it's a metaphor for the way lawlessness spreads and corrupts a city. it's also a good chance to preach to the audience about the importance of vaccinations, as well as the downside of illegal behavior. pretty good stuff from a b-film with no big stars to speak of.
outside of the premise and the writing the film didn't do all that much for me. harry essex wrote it and he wrote a few other pretty good noirs so i guess he's one to look out for. B.
Lookout - good film that kinda reminded me of the score. jgl does a good job as does jeff daniels. nothing particularly amazing here, but it's a solid little film. B.
Standard Operating Procedure - standard errol morris stuff here in both style and substance. really exposes the depth of insanity in dealing with abu ghraib on our part and is fairly depressing as a result. it's not brought up in the film, really, but i'm split on the idea of how war is waged these days. for a long time i've felt that perhaps we would be better off if we required a draft and if the geneva conventions were thrown in the trash. if everyone's ass was on the line and if rape and murder of civilians was expected then perhaps we'd be less likely to agree to wars on two fronts for no real good reason, at the same time. maybe we'd think twice about this insane tradition of perpetual war. or maybe the govt. would just get better at covering up movies like this. danny elfman does his best philip glass impersonation and comes up short. nice try danny. B+.
Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 - an interesting documentary about an interesting game. in the final analysis the game is just another ivy league game that had a wacky final two minutes, but it's not like there was a lot on the line. however, there are all sorts of ancillary stories that make it an interesting story. like tommy lee jones being one of the harvard guards, and he was roommates with al gore. and then there's the yale lineman who was going out with meryl streep or the yale linebacker who was good friends with gw bush, who was also attending yale at the time. these upper-crusters are an incestuous bunch. yale is shown as the more conservative school and harvard as the liberals. it's the 60s, etc. all these little side stories told alongside the game which itself was interesting.
it's the kind of little story that encapsulates a time and place well, is fairly entertaining and would have otherwise been lost as these guys died off. B.
Conviction - i can understand why they made this movie. it's a pretty good story about a sister who goes to law school and works for 18 years to get her brother out of jail after he was wrongly accused of murder. unfortunately the film leaves something to be desired in the execution. it drags at times and feels like it's kind of just going through the motions trying to tell the story. i didn't feel like there was a lot of character development. probably the single most prevalent attribute of swank's character is that she's basically obsessed with getting her brother free. i always think of donnie brasco when i see characters who are really good at their job, but not so good at having balance in their life. clearly her marriage suffers and she doesn't do the job she would have liked as a mother either. watching these movies it reaffirms the fact that greatness has great personal consequences, and it's usually those closest to you that suffer. guess you can't have it all in life. minnie driver gets hotter every year. B-.
O- i have this list i've been working on that's like a wannabe wooden pyramid of success and it has like a dozen attributes (balance, selflessness, honesty, perspective, etc.) that define a good person and then some ways to achieve those attributes (things like travel, hard work, volunteerism, and reading shakespeare/aesop). the theory is that if a reasonably intelligent person studies a story like othello or romeo and juliet they'll glean certain immutable and fundamental lessons like trust, communication, etc. there's a good reason shakespeare and aesop have stayed so relevant for so long.
here we have a re-imagining of othello that came on the heels of 10 things i hate about you and romeo + juliet. they're all good versions of classic stories. i'm sure some will cry heresy, but i don't have any problem with updating a classic so long as it's well done; and this one is. tim blake nelson directs and strikes a good balance of realism and the over-the-top, theatrical quality that goes with shakespeare's stuff. it's heightened reality, but it works, at least in part because the setting is high school which seems like the beginning and end of life when you're in it.
there are some uncomfortable and poignant scenes in the film which add good drama and the script does a nice job of adding some linguistic flourishes to keep it somewhat shakespeare-esque; again, with the modern twist. good film. maybe it taught a few teenagers to trust but verify or not keep secrets or keep their jealousy under control or...B+.
Cannibal! The Musical - first feature length film from trey parker and matt stone. matt stone has made a lot of money from being friends with trey parker. honestly it seems like he sorta hangs around and comes up with like 25% of the ideas, but is worth just as much (stone, parker) according to celebritynetworth.com. anyway, there isn't the same socio-political commentary here as there is in team america and south park, but it's pretty funny nonetheless. some good scenes, a pretty good first effort. B.
Saw 3D - not a well-written or produced film, but it squeezes the franchise and "saw" name for a few more bucks. they shot this for $17 million, which is about $7 million more than i would have guessed, but still a low amount these days and pretty much a sure thing as far as ROI goes. the detective character in this installment was just awful, as were the lines he was delivering. you probably don't see one of these for the acting/writing though. it's torture porn and it succeeds on that level. the gore level is high and the rube goldberg devices were somewhat interesting. D+.
Inside Job - add this review at the end of the year so i'm not sure of the exact date that i watched it. great documentary that gives a blow by blow account of the global financial meltdown. one of the better things about it is that the interviewer really goes after some of the people who were in positions to know better and/or do something about it. one memorable moment has an interviewer sorta breaking down when he figures out this isn't a puff piece and says something like "i realize that i stupidly gave you my time and now you want to come after me with this questions. well, give it your best shot, you've got 3 more minutes." good stuff. B+.
Paranormal Activity 2 - pretty much what you'd expect if you saw the first one. this one incorporates the story of the first which is nice because it builds on the events and mysticism of that one a bit. acting is good again and the suspense is well done. the major strength of the film is its pacing which alternates slow with loud, sudden moments for maximum effect. definitely jumped a few times so it was successful in that way. i watched it in a semi-empty theater which has a different effect than a full theater. the empty theater lends itself to scares more and the full theater (at least for me) lends itself to more laughs. either way, a good experience. B+.
It's Kind Of A Funny Story - really good film in the tradition of 500 days of summer. similar soundtrack, feel, look, risks and themes. cast is good across the board and the writing feels true to life. it's a coming of age story that reveals all the insecurities a thoughtful teenager is likely to have. it's a very hopeful and empowering film in the end. also has a nod to the comic side of a mental hospital, like some of the parts of one flew over the cuckoo's nest. this a film i should check out again. B+.
Big Fan - good film about fandom gone too far. patton oswalt is good as is kevin corrigan, who plays his sidekick. it strikes a nice balance between sad and funny while maintaining a fairly honest and truthful tone. whereas deniros "the fan" went overboard, this one stays more in the realm possibility. good flick. B+.
Mallrats - pretty good smith comedy. not as good as clerks from a writing standpoint, but probably more funny. this is a bit more silly than clerks or chasing amy and about in line with dogma and jay and silent bob. B+.
Waiting For Superman - there's a great line from planes, trains, and automobiles when neil page (martin) is trying to separate from del griffith (candy). he says "I've been thinking that when we put our heads together, we really...we've really gotten nowhere." this is how i often feel about society. there is immense individual intelligence, but it seems that when we put more than a handful of minds together we get complete chaos, disrepair, inefficiency and utter failure. too many cooks in the kitchen, as the aphorism goes. systems as large as the financial system or the educational system have so many competing interests and so many layers of accountability and action that it becomes nearly impossible for rational behavior to win out and quite easy for selfish buck-passing to occur. it's far too easy to take the tact that "i'm just doing my job" when you're just a cog in a machine that defrauds the public out of its money or systematically passes bad loans to new chumps. or, in the case of education, it's too easy to look out for yourself and forget the children, as cliche as that sounds.
guggenheim directed this and the first year, a 1999 documentary that i saw in 2002. i wrote about it: "this was as depressing as it was inspiring. not fantasically shot or told, but documentaries don't need to be - especially when the subject matter is so good. B+." i watch a lot of movies and remember very few of them, but i remember this one eight years later because it really was a depressing and inspiring film. guggenheim has done it again with waiting for superman. he's obviously a pretty good guy so i guess it makes up for the fact that he stole elizabeth shue from the rest of the world. damn him.
it's a sobering look at the state of education today and it's well put together. it mostly pins the blame on the unions, which probably isn't too far off. one major problem, though, is that we continue to measure success as going to, and graduating from, college. that really shouldn't be the goal of about half our population. we should reemphasize manufacturing and working with our hands (other than flipping burgers). as a society we should also encourage continued education. our community colleges are under-utilized and its a shame because they have a lot to offer.
it's a pretty depressing state of affairs and i've felt it (education) is the most important single issue in the country since my freshman year of college when i first got to thinking about the problems our country faces. an educated polity solves a lot of ills and an uneducated one causes a lot of problems. it's really that simple.
good, solid film that probably isn't going to make any difference on a systemic level. i'm increasingly of the same mind as george carlin who lamented that change can only be seen on the individual level. so, i'll continue to try to change things one person and one speech at a time, all while knowing that the rest of society will be happily walking off the edge of the cliff. B+.
some of my recommendations:
Gerrymandering - pretty standard in style and substance. gerrymandering is a major problem in american politics and if people decided to read books maybe they'd know about it and do something. in other words, it looks like the status quo for the next 20 years. ho hum. actually, the best part came from arnold schwarzenegger who pointed out that gerrymandering pushes politicians to the political edges and further divides the legislative and political processes. B-.
Backfire - watched this a while ago, but apparently forgot to review it. it's another noir from the latest warner noir boxset. it's a twisted story where a vet needs to do some investigating on his own in order to save his friend. ties in well with the other film on the disc, deadline at dawn. B-.
Deadline At Dawn - film noir about a sailor who wakes up not knowing where he got $1300. through some investigation (thanks to the help of a nightclub dancer) he finds that he got it from a woman who is now...(wait for it)...dead. similar to black angel and other noirs that probe the potential of the protagonist. alcohol can make you do some wacky things and we're all capable of these black out moments, is what these films seem to indicate. black angel is better, but this one is nice enough. B.
Murder On The Orient Express - a whodunnit with plenty of stars. albert finney is off the charts in this movie, but the film didn't do all that much for me on the whole. so, what film has the biggest big time (big stars) cast of all-time? B-.
Knocked Up - still a pretty great film in my estimation. it has a nice human element to it that rings true for me. it's a battle of the sexes film in a way and works well on that level. it also works well as a coming of age film, a romantic comedy, a stoner comedy, and more. pretty damn successful on all fronts if you ask me and maybe the best of the judd apatow productions. A-.
Jackass 3D - the worst of the three films so far, this one sees an aging cast of characters doing what they usually do, but with less gusto. you can practically hear their joints squeaking as they get up from their latest stunt. the stuff is still funny, but they don't take it like they once did. they're noticeably reticent during some pranks which aren't any worse than the things they've done in the past. for the fan this is more of the same and will provide a good laugh along with plenty of gross out humor. there's more of the gay innuendo and feces-play here than there has been in the past, but i guess that's easier for them because it doesn't hurt as much the next morning.
what surprises me about the jackass franchise is that they haven't ushered in a new generation of guys along the way. it's also surprising that there haven't been any successful copycats in the ten years that they've been doing this. it's a cash cow (the movies always make plenty of money back on their investment) and it's a simple formula. it's like the male version of porn - guys use their bodies to the delight of the viewing audience and get paid well in the process. why haven't others caught on? none of the stunts are amazingly creative. sure, they're creative and funny, but it's not at all impossible to emulate.
the 3d aspect of it was fun. it's the best use of 3d i've seen to date, including avatar or anything else that has received high marks. they use an ultra slow camera along with 3d in live action and with some well done and well thought out sequences at the beginning and end that are visually impressive. good use of the technology, unlike pretty much all the other movies that have used it just to make a few bucks more per ticket. B+.
Buried - it's about an iraq war contractor who is buried alive and has a cell phone that he uses to try to get out of his situation before he runs out of oxygen. pretty basic concept that is an interesting challenge for a filmmaker/writer. considering the constraints of the film i think they did a pretty good job with the tension and keeping things interesting enough.
part of the reason i wasn't really into it is because there were stupid things that reynolds' character did or didn't do to get himself as much time/help as possible. near the end when the coffin started collapsing it seemed like a good opportunity to break free, but he didn't even try it.
at any rate, it's a decent film given the constraints, but i thought cellular was a better trapped-with-only-a-cell-phone movie. B.
Far Country - it's between this and shane for my favorite western of all time. i think the edge goes to shane because, though they are similar in a lot of ways, the main character here is a dark and reluctant hero. ultimately i suppose i prefer the mysterious, but altruistic hero that shane represents. far country's vision of humanity is one i think is probably more closely aligned with reality, but shane is a more hopeful film. far country is a beautiful film with a great supporting cast and an excellent screenplay.
stewart's character (jeff) doesn't turn toward the common good until he sees what it's like to be powerless. ultimately self-sufficiency belongs solely to the strongest among us. through most of the film jeff is the best shot around so he can pretty much get along on his own. by film's end, though, he doesn't have that edge and realizes what the others have gone through for so long. still, i think revenge was the primary fuel for his decision to take a stand, but sympathy figured in there somewhere too. A+.
She's All That - for being a teen movie with the usual teen movie clichés and poor acting, unexceptional direction and script, this one is actually not bad. there are a couple decent lines in the film and it's basically a modern day my fair lady/pygmalion in high school. it doesn't take itself too seriously and has a nice balance of comedy, cheeseball romance, drama, and intrigue. it's not in the same league as john hughes' best stuff, but i wouldn't' consider sacrilege to mention it alongside his lesser films. B.
Scream 3 - scream 2 was still relevant and interesting, but this one didn't do it for me. it's longer and less intellectually stimulating. we'll see if scream 4 can get things back on track. C.
Catfish - knew that this was a documentary style film (didn't know if it was real or not) and that it had something to do with facebook. i thought it might be a horror film (like so many of these faux-documentaries [fauxumentaries?] are these days). unfortunately so many of these seem to revolve around the question: is it real? people asked it about blair witch, i'm still here, paranormal activity, etc. this one convinced me of its reality more than any of the others i've seen, though i don't believe it to be real. it's also not about a famous guy and it doesn't turn into a horror film so it's pretty unique for this budding genre. spoilers ahead.
the story is about a photographer who has a young girl (abby) as a fan who paints one of his photos and sends it to him. a friendship develops and branches out to the rest of her family, including her mother (angela). soon the photographer finds himself enamored with the young girl's older sister (megan), despite the fact that he's only interacted with her on facebook and on the phone. the rest of the story is him discovering that everything that happens in the first part of the film is the result of a hoax perpetrated by the girl's mother. i really didn't see the point of the whole journey. intellectually it's an interesting film because, like "i'm still here" or even the scream films and inception (if you want to take it that far) it has layers of reality and awareness and illusion that get you thinking. it's a film that portrays itself as a documentary (one layer of falsehood), within that story there is a story about a beautiful family and a young girl who paints nice pictures, it turns out that this is all an elaborate falsehood hatched by a lonely middle aged woman (second layer of falsehood). after the protagonist confronts her she opens up and tells the truth, it's later revealed that only parts of her confession are real (another layer of falsehood). it also reminds me of a film that made my top ten in 2006, which i saw at the sxsw film festival - s&man. it's also a fauxumentary that goes in an interesting direction. pretty unknown and i don't think available on dvd, but worth checking out.
the title comes from an anecdote angela's husband tells at the very end of the film. apparently cod being shipped from north america to china would arrive mushy because the cod didn't move enough while in transit. someone came up with the idea of shipping the cod with catfish in the holding tank in an attempt to keep the cod sharp and exercised during transit. so, does this film seek to have us question reality, question internet relationships, question documentaries...?
it was a nice film to watch, in part because i thought that it might get really fucked up and freaky should it turn off the road and have the body count start escalating. unfortunately it never did that. part of the fun in watching the film was the anticipation that it might go that way. were i to watch it again, knowing what i know about the mystery of the film, etc. i don't think i'd have nearly as good a time. so, should someone watch it? well, if you've gotten this far then i've ruined the mystery of the film for you, so probably not. if someone asked me to say yay or nay my recommendation would depend upon the person. going through my head of everyone i know there's really only one person i can think of who i know might like it (my dad). everyone else would probably not see the point, and i can't say i necessarily disagree. that said, i'm glad i watched it. so you figure it out. B.
Scream - well done, postmodern horror film that plays with all the rules and is about as layered and self-aware as horror films come. still remember watching this for the first time. saw it in century city with my dad at the same place we saw eyes wide shut. also the same place i saw independence day and the re-release of star wars with phil. horror films are really fun for me. none of them rank in my top 25 of all-time because they don't affect me on that level, but they're fun to watch and this is one of the few horror films of the 90s that did a really good job. A-.
Scream 2 - nice enough sequel. instead of exploring the clichés and formulas of horror films, this one explores, among other things, the role of the audience in the death of victims in horror films. it's a theme that is expressed in some of the more savvy horror films like bloodsucking freaks, a film that turns the jaundiced eye back on the audience. "you think we're monsters for cutting up women in cages? what about you for watching this filth?" this is slyly represented in the opening scene with jada pinkett and omar epps. the audience is full of jocular young adults in costume chasing each other around with plastic knives while waiting for the sequel to "stab" (a popular fictional film) to start. by the end of the scene epps and pinkett are both dead, the latter is stabbed to death in front of the audience as they cheer it all on, thinking it's just another couple playing along while in costume.
you could write a fairly lengthy paper on the horror genre as viewed through these two films and it would be good and interesting. maybe you should do that. B+.
Social Network - features an excellent trailer with radiohead's creep as done by scala and kolacny brothers, a belgian girls' choir. it's about as good as the original, which is a classic. the song fits the film's theme and the trailer perfectly and deepens the sadness of the original version, if such a thing is possible. of course, radiohead's version has withstood the test of time and they wrote it so it's still the superior version, but not by much.
the movie itself isn't as good as the trailer, but it's a solid effort from a talented group. eisenberg has his best performance to date, fincher turns in another solid flick and sorkin stays relevant. trent reznor even gets in on the party and does the score. it's a good story and i like films that tackle recent history. it's a difficult thing in a way, but it's much easier for the audience to draw their own conclusions and have a more interactive experience with the film. i don't use facebook, but it's a much better topic of historical fiction than, say, the inferior coppola's "marie antoinette."
the story is a contradiction on a few levels - it's a story about the most successful social network in the history of the world which was created by a young man who evidently couldn't make or keep his own friends. a big thesis in the early days of facebook was the idea of exclusivity, but of course now it's the most popular group in the online world and is therefore not all that exclusive.
it's a rich and layered story with plenty of compelling characters and it's well-executed. it's not the film of the year and it's certainly not fincher's best, but it'll make my top ten. B+.
Nothing But The Truth - this is an interesting film for a couple reasons. for one it's based on the valerie plame case so it's another recent history film and it's about a case that is going to be covered by watts and penn next month in fair game. secondly, this film has quite a few stars, but because the production group filed for bankruptcy, it never saw theatrical release beyond la and nyc. it's also interesting because, stylistically, it's the kind of film i would probably end up making if i ever made a film. every scene tries to be great by putting in nice little touches and you can see that the director was really thinking about punching up every scene with style and film school tricks. in other words, i'd probably suck as a director because i was trying to do too much. a guy like capra was great in part because he didn't want to wow the audience in every scene. kurosawa was a more cerebral filmmaker, but his films worked on that higher level without hitting you over the head with their brilliance. this film lacks that ability to tone it down when necessary. the cast, too, gets into the routine of trying to hit a homerun with every line they deliver. in the end it just doesn't work for this reason. it's got a good enough core of talent and writing, but the director/producers just went too far over the top to be really successful. C+.
Scary Movie 3 - the first two are fairly solid, but this one doesn't do much for me. it doesn't stick to parody of horror films, either, it strays more into popular culture and even makes fun of 8 mile which is just another film. i think they ran out of contemporary horror films when this came out, but were already locked into a third film so they just threw the kitchen sink at it and hoped for the best. not great. C.
American - i have a dvd of many of corbijn's music videos, but it's the only one in the series (that includes romanek, jonze and gondry) that i never really got into. his direction here is decidedly nordic with plenty of open spaces and time to contemplate. it's a nice little story that didn't seem to have a point for me, but it was a good enough journey, i suppose. B-.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps - decent enough sequel that paints the economic collapse through the eyes of oliver stone. the original dates itself a bit, but works well as a document of the 80s excess and i think this one will do the same. there's nothing really great about either film other than the fact that they told a story that needed telling. mulligan looks sad throughout the entire film because that's what she does. brolin didn't do much for me. labeouf is excited and that's pretty much how the film plays out. B-.
Scary Movie 2 - steps up the gross-out humor and has about as many laughs as the original. you pretty much know how you're going to feel about this so a review is basically worthless. B.
I'm Still Here - i don't know how much of this was real or just a hoax, but i'm pretty sure a good portion of it was a ruse, and that's a good thing. it's a big middle finger to the idiotic magazines and paparazzi that follow celebrities wherever they go and constantly speculate about things like their mental state, relationship status, etc. it's a commentary on all that as well as the nature of celebrity. phoenix is most likely a weird guy and i may not want to be friends with him, but that he was part of a film that pokes fun of all this crap is commendable. the film itself pokes fun of other biopics and documentaries that show a tortured artist self-destructing. they're as formulaic as most any genre and therefore worthy of parody. the film isn't particularly fun to watch, it felt like it was about 150 minutes and it was more like 100 minutes long. i'll probably never want to watch it again, but i liked it enough the first time.
it's a challenging film. it challenges you to think, on the most basic level, of what is real and what isn't. it also challenges you to think about how you view celebrities. does your viewing of the letterman interview change when you see phoenix's breakdown afterwards? does it then change again when you find out the film is a hoax? what if phoenix really wanted to quit and become a rapper and then played up the descent into insanity for the sake of playing into the media's viewing of him (as the film's opening suggests). i'm pretty sure i would have called this one a fake without knowing anything about it, but i guess i can't be 100%. it's like a less funny and longer to evolve andy kaufman joke. anyway, interesting stuff here. B.
Scary Movie - speaking of genre parodies...scary movie is one of the better ones and it makes fun of all the horror films that seemed to come out around the time the scream movies were being released. it makes fun of plenty of specific films as well as the entire slasher film genre. it's gross and funny and responsible for anna faris being a household name, which is fine by me. B.
Devil - pretty solid little horror flick. not especially scary, but more mysterious than average so entertaining on the whole. short but sweet. B.
You Again - awful comedy that has a nice message in there somewhere. it's about getting over things that happened early in life and that's something we could all do well to learn. however the film was neither funny nor inspiring. it cast a poor man's jack black in the ex-boyfriend role of the the poor man's megan fox. the leads did an okay job with what they were given, but really the problem was in the writing, which produced one laugh and nothing else. D.
Outlaw Josey Wales - pretty typical setup. southerner caught up in the post-civil war fallout goes on a revenge-fueld rampage. eastwood has this character down to a science. it's well-filmed and has some good moments of action. liked the interaction between the titular character and the local indians. good film, though a bit long. B.
Some Kind Of Wonderful - pretty standard john hughes formula here. didn't have the hughes directorial touch, but the characters were pretty good. it's basically an amalgam of other hughes teen films which means it's fine enough, but it didn't really separate itself in any way for me. B-.
Toe To Toe - reminded me of tart which was a sort of rich version of kids. it's about two girls - one white and one black, one rich and one not very well off. the rich one is a manipulative slut and the other is an over-achiever. that's about as interesting as it gets. C-.
Easy A - nice film with the smart and sassy emma stone. it plays with teenage sexuality and the spreading of rumors. it also pokes fun at thereligious crazies. B.
Town - basically heat filmed in boston. heat is a much better film, but this one's good too. the writing is solid and there was an authenticity to the to the townies that really helped the film. jeremy renner was really good and everyone else was good enough. hamm was actually the weakest link in my opinion. maybe a little long. B.
Restrepo - i've seen my fair share of iraq/afghanistan documentaries as well as other war documentaries. at their core they're all basically the same, not that that's a bad thing. this one uses mostly imbedded footage which is generally much better than a frontline style documentary which mostly leans on interviews and stock footage. as good as frontline is, the actual footage of guys in the middle of a fire fight is much more illuminating than an interview after the fact. if you've seen a lot of these kinds of films i'd probably still recommend this one because it's in the upper echelon of war documentaries. if you haven't seen many (or any) of these then this is as good a place to start as any.
now for some high horse talk: if you voted for bush or obama and you don't have a family member in the army or you don't talk with soldiers or you don't watch these films then you really are an asshole. these kids volunteer for the service to help protect the country and we send them over there to fight bullshit wars that last too long to be painless and don't last enough to actually accomplish anything. they medicate themselves with anti-depressants, they're constantly on edge with an almost complete lack of normalcy and then we expect them to come back and be good citizens and fathers and husbands? it's just a completely torturous and stupid situation. maybe one day we'll learn from our mistakes and stop engaging in dumbass wars. obama was supposed to be a pretty smart guy, but i honestly can't find the wisdom in 1) extending the war in afghanistan 2) extending it for the useless time frame of 18 months. it takes 18 months to get a building permit in some cities, how the hell are we going to help bring a backwards ass country like afghanistan into the 20th century, much less the 21st? whatever. B+.
A Perfect Getaway - pretty good thriller that stood up nicely the second time around. like the look of the film and the acting. nice writing gives the film more layers than the average thriller. B.
Letters To Juliet - awful and formulaic chick flick that didn't do much for me other than pass the time on the airplane. D.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding - about as funny as i remember it being. it's not a fantastic film, but it's better than the average romantic comedy in part because it combines other genres like the fish out of water story and cultural comedy. B.
Last Exorcism - pretty good movie most of the way through. good enough tension and always on the edge of believable...not sure if things are real or supernatural. the end left plenty to be desired and left me mostly unimpressed. i know how these blair witch project type films have to end, that's not the problem, but there just wasn't any explanation and it seemed like there should have been. the ending knocked it down a peg. B-.
Keyhole - good curtiz film from before he was popular, about a woman who needs to get rid of an old boyfriend. in order to do that she comes up with a plan to go to cuba, knowing the ex will follow her there, and pull some strings to make sure her ex-boyfriend can't leave the country once he's there. her jealous husband doesn't trust her alone and doesn't know of the plot (only that she is going to cuba), so he has a p.i. follow her while she's on the voyage there. the p.i. falls in love with the girl and, as a little comedic side story, his partner gets duped by a sort of woman of the night [played by glenda farrell (muni's wife from i am a fugitive from a chain gang)] who gets men to buy her fancy things and then takes a cut of the profit from the proprietors. it's about trust and love and relationships and surveillance. good, lesser known film. B+.
About Last Night - pretty basic relationship dramedy with rob lowe, demi moore and the living belushi brother. not sure how formulaic this was at the time, but it's definitely in cliche territory now. some of the writing is good, but the montages and poor character development don't help the cause. demi moore's nakedness, however, does. C-.
Armored Car Robbery - good noir about a heist gone wrong. one exchanged reminded me a lot of the exchange between elisha cook jr. and marie windsor in the killing. he talks to her about being in love with him and she sorta blows him off and he tries to win her over by promising more money soon. it falls into the docu-noir subgenre. it's like call northside 777 in that it shows a lot of the procedural aspects to police work and crime. B.
Ikiru - only watched this twice now, but it's in the running for my top 25. while watching it i was trying to think of another director who has five films as solid as kurosawa's top five: yojimbo, sanjuro, rashomon, ikiru and seven samurai. i couldn't come up with anyone else, which is probably why i have him listed as #1 on my favorite directors list. i haven't seen any of his films in a long time and i shouldn't let that happen again.
"to give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." - steve prefontaine
the film is about an old man who discovers early in the film (and we're told in the film's opening frames) that he has stomach cancer and doesn't have long to live. so, yeah, it's a tearjerker, but it's one of the best. it also benefits from possibly the most perfect casting of all-time in a lead role. takashi shimura isn't a household name, but he's completely brilliant here and is as good as it gets in other kurosawa films like seven samurai, rashomon and stray dog.
the conceit isn't an entirely new one, there are probably a few hundred films that feature a dying character. however, kurosawa's worldview, direction and storytelling make this one unique. the cancer that is in shimura's character is the physical manifestation of his mental state. he's beaten down by bureaucracy and mundane existence. he lives more for his unappreciative son than anyone else and is trapped in a dead end government job. when the doctor goes over the symptoms of his stomach cancer they all have corollaries to his mental conditions - throwing up (he can't take his mundane life anymore), a heavy feeling in his gut (sadness and regret), always thirsty (not just for water, but for life too). i prefer these more literal symbols to the abstraction you might see from more "intellectual" directors.
as usual, the music here is quite good. kurosawa, like kubrick, had a good hear for music.
beyond the personal story of shimura's character is the story of post-war japan. the country is in a state of transition and is still experiencing the growing pains of democracy and a different form of government. this is best exemplified in an early sequence which shows a group of mothers petitioning the city to clean up a cesspool in the neighborhood. they go to public affairs which directs them to health and sanitation, which directs them to the engineering dept., which directs them to animal control (because there are too many mosquitos), which directs them back to public affairs, which directs them to the mayor, who directs them back to engineering. you get the point. this is bureaucracy at its finest and it's also a sign of the modern condition, which is another theme.
in the middle part of the film shimura's character tries to connect with a young female co-worker. he wants to feel young again and wants to have some connection. we all strive for connection in life and that's another motif in the film. regret for not having used your time well, for not connecting with people on a more intimate level. it reminds me of the citizen kane scene where everett sloane is talking about a woman he saw on the street one day, but never spoke to. he thinks about her on an almost daily basis and wonders what could have been. ikiru is a noir in a way. the character is dead from the very beginning, there are visual motifs of confinement and near imprisonment. it also reminds me of it's a wonderful life which is about regret and the human condition, but ultimately a hopeful film. capra, kurosawa and i are similar in our worldview, so far as a i can tell. we all feel that the world is a shithole, but we somehow hold out hope.
probably the best part of the film is after shimura dies, somewhat suddenly in the storytelling. the first half of the film has a particular pace and then, suddenly, the protagonist dies. at his wake the story of his final few months are told, not in the omniscient point of view of the first half, but through the point of view of his co-workers attending his wake. it reminds me of 12 angry men - his co-workers judging him after his death in this instance. one remembers him fondly, but the rest don't. they say he got too much credit for the playground he helped make a reality in the spot where the group of mothers were complaining was a cesspool. they speak of him jealously, and selfishly state that they had more to do with the project, or that it was luck, or (once they discover he knew of his impending death) that they would have done the same thing if they were facing certain death. it's some of the worst of human behavior being very truthfully committed to the screen. this is how people are; selfish, petulant, jealous, petty. after telling stories to each other of shimura's final months, their collective knowledge of his final months leaves no other option than to conclude he did what he did for completely good reasons. it's rashomon-esque - each co-worker telling a different anecdote from a different perspective to come to some idea of the truth. they come to the realization that his actions were inspirational and that his example should be followed for a better, more responsive government and a better life. the scene ends with them inspired, for tomorrow is a new day when they can begin to change the world.
the next scene has them back at work with yet another citizen complaining about some public nuisance. instead of taking the project by the horns as shimura would have, they quietly pass the complaint onto another department. one co-worker stands up in disgust, but is stared down by his superior whose inspiration probably wore off in his sleep. it's about as true a statement on human nature as i've seen in film. we can be so incredibly inspired one night and so utterly unchanged the next morning when reality settles back in. i think back to the night obama was elected or the afternoon of 9/11 when we all felt united. where has that inspiration gone? in the end nothing changes except that which is left behind by a truly changed person who does everything he can to change the world for the better. shimura's character may not have inspired the next generation to be better, but he left his own little thumbprint on the world in the form of a playground where there was once a cesspool, and i guess that's all we can hope for sometimes. A+.
Expendables - was kind of excited about this one because i figured it would be a guilty pleasure with plenty of good action and throwback tongue-in-cheek one-liners. unfortunately it didn't deliver. the action was occasionally good and there were some moments of self deprecating humor, but not as much as i would have liked. it also had some aging tough guy philosophy in there that gave it more humanity than the 80s action flick, which was a nice little surprise i suppose. i think a couple extra million could have gone a long way in the stunts department here and for a film like this, that kind of thing really matters. let's face it, we're not coming to watch this film to think about life's regrets or the cost of being a tough guy. those elements are fine, but you gotta have the other stuff down first. C.
Switch - pretty cute and fairly funny film with aniston and bateman. after arrested development bateman really has done well for himself. either he's getting a lot of people to write for him or he's finding good roles to fit his brand of comedy. he's like vince vaughn in that he's a funny guy who has a particular, unique style and he does it well. he brings a little heart to his role here and does well with that. the kid also does a good job of basically just looking cute. aniston is reliable in this role and we know what to expect from her. she can be more funny than she was here. juliette lewis is annoying as usual, but doesn't seem to have aged in the last 15 years. jeff goldblum plays the male counterpart to lewis (best friend of the same-gendered lead) and is pretty funny. in other words, the casting here is spot on and everyone they pick has something that they bring to the film.
in the end it's a good enough film with some good writing and a nice tone. B.
Crime In The Streets - similar to rebel without a cause, but it's like a theater version of that superior film. this is directed by don siegel though it doesn't have his usual punch. it's actually a relatively uninteresting film in large part because of the theatrical feel of it. there are only a few sets and everything is overly-dramatized. sold as part of the film noir vol. 5 boxset from wb, but doesn't fit in that genre if you ask me. C.
Fifth Avenue Girl - tim holt, ginger rogers, and walter connelly. gregory la cava directs, the great robert wise edits. this is another (gabriel over the white house being the other) great little gem by la cava that 9/10 people have never heard of and will never see. this one is similar to another la cava film, my man godfrey, in that they both have a poor person coming into the house of a rich family. after watching this film i'll have to review that film again.
it's got a lot of discussion of the division of classes and it does it in an engaging and funny way. sometimes it's really thoughtful and other times it's simple for comic effect. it's a really well-written film with good dialogue and a cast of characters that really complements each other.
p.s. another great 1939 movie. B+.
Waiting For Armageddon - documentary about fundamentalist christians waiting for the rapture. i love these people because they encapsulate a condition that is universal to humanity throughout time: temporal centrism. it's the idea that the age you're living in is the golden age, the age that is different from all others and that the end is nigh. i love movies about armageddon because i like to think about the possibilities and see what humans are really capable of. however, that doesn't mean i think we're living in some completely unique time as many others seem to. each belief system has their own version of the rapture, whether it's global warming or the second coming of christ or nuclear war. i'll grant you that our time right now is unique because of the speed with which we can move people/data around the world and we have more ability now to end humanity than we have throughout most of human history. however, i don't think that we're all that unique other than that. i don't see any more reason to believe that the end of humanity is closer now than it was 150 years ago or during the plague or any other time. the psychos on the film will have you believe that since the middle east is in a state of disarray and things like aids are spreading, these are signs that god is coming. gimme a break. disease kills fewer people now that probably any point in history and the middle east has always been a mess and probably always will be because of nut cases like those in this film. interesting stuff. B+.
Sour Grapes - pure larry david here. finally got around to watching this after putting it off for a long time. it's about as good as an average curb your enthusiasm show. i like cye, but don't think it's hilarious and that's where this film is - funny, but didn't laugh out loud much. it's also similar to cye in theme and plot. it has the usual device of a guy trying to get some social justice in the world, but of course he doesn't. in the end things don't go well for him because that's how the larry david world works. B.
Dial 1119 - sort of a cross between die hard and ace in the hole (which it predates by a year). nice noir about a mentally unstable guy who thinks he's a soldier and goes to jail after he murders three people. we pick up his story after he has escaped. he goes on another murder spree and takes five people hostage in a bar. it has a lot of social elements in it - sensationalistic media, mental health, effects of war, psychiatry, and more. it's a little undiscovered gem waiting to be watched. B+.
Desperate - falls into the wrong man/downward spiral subgenre of film noir. about a guy who unwittingly gets caught up in a robbery and then is forced to go on the lam. it's anthony mann so the direction is good and the acting is fine, but not exceptional. steve brodie stars. he's been in a bunch of solid noirs, but i can't say he's ever stuck out to me. he's no richard conte. nothing about it really stood out for me, but it's another solid noir. the genre that consistently produces b to b+ films. B+.
Middle Men - good film about the nascent internet billing industry. of course that means much of it focused on the porn aspect because the guys who got into the business and revolutionized the way internet commerce was done were in porn instead of book/music sales. i like films about recent history because it's a lot more relatable and i am able to fill in some of the gaps; i lived through the early internet days when it was the wild west so it's interesting to see the story of a few guys who helped change it into a legitimate commercial arena. seeing a film about 15th century france, on the other hand, doesn't have nearly the same degree of relevance for me.
luke wilson has moments of very good acting and he steps outside of his comfort zone. kudos to him. he didn't nail it, but he did a good job. B+.
Inception - it's not often that i see a film twice in the theater. it wasn't quite as good this time around in large part because i spent so much mental energy trying to make all the puzzle pieces fit together. when i watched it the first time the mystery of it all kept it really interesting even though i was constantly trying to figure out where it was going and where it was. this time around i was trying to put it all together and looking for clues throughout.
i'm more convinced this time around that the whole film is a dream. there are little clues throughout that would indicate as much. when leo is in mombasa a few unlikely things happen which seem unrealistic - the tightly spaced buildings which leo is forced escape through and the unlikely arrival of saito to bail him out. also when being chased through mombasa one of the henchmen says something like "are you dreaming now?" when chasing after him. easy to miss unless you're looking for it, as i was.
another big one to me was in the final dream layer when ellen page enters leo's dream where they hope to get mol to release fischer. that layer seemed like it was an elaborate catharsis that leo dreamt up to rid his mind of mol once and for all. it doesn't make sense that anything he did in that last layer would affect the next layer up because the next layer up was fischer's dream, not leo's. however, if the entire film was leo's dream then that final layer could affect the previous layers. otherwise i don't understand how the final layer could affect any of the higher layers. of course these points are in addition to the points (like the fact that the kids look the exact same [same clothes, same posture] in the end as they do in his visions) i mentioned in my previous review.
ultimately i don't know if we can know what nolan's intentions were. we can continue to guess - the whole thing is mol's dream, the "reality" layer is reality and he's back with his kids (face value), the whole movie up to the point where leo wakes up on the plane was a dream, etc. i suppose there's some support for all of them. ultimately it's a good experience so i guess that's all that matters. A-.
Pi - one of the best soundtracks of all-time. great film about the pursuit of truth and how it ultimately leads to madness. love the direction and the feel of the film. this is a great film from a technical and cerebral point of view, but i'm not sure it'll end up in my top 25. i like everything about it, but i'm not sure i'm in love with it. A+.
Matrix - great film pretty much all-around. it has a couple corny moments, mostly because keanu isn't a very good actor. that said, i think the film works really well as an intro to epistimology and is a good reference point for a lot of philosophical discussion. of course the effects are great as are the fight sequences and these together make it one of the best action films ever. A+.
Other Guys - good comedy about the other cops in the police department that movies don't usually focus on. cop movies are usually either hero-based or anti-hero-based. so you have films like lethal weapon where the guys are kicking ass and taking names or you have the movies like bad lieutenant. this one is about the mundane paper pushers instead. it takes this theme and uses it throughout the film so it's actually a good little piece of social commentary in addition to being a funny film about the less seen and less impressive cops. instead of it being about a drug cartel or terrorists, it's about white collar crime and the theft of billions of dollars from a police pension.
social commentary aside it's a funny film with ferrell and wahlberg playing well off each other. in step brothers ferrell was lined up with john c. reilly and that worked really well because the two have a similar type of energy. here it works because ferrell and wahlberg are opposites. script is good and class mckay/ferrell. some really off the wall humor that leaves you shaking your head wondering where they came up with this crap. B+.
Cornered- so-so noir that never really clicked with me. wasn't really following it though that's definitely in part because i watched it over the course of a couple days. C+.
Three Days Of The Condor - good redford conspiracy film. the new amc show rubicon is similar to this so it works out that i watched this just a couple days before watching the first episode of that. love these kinds of films that show how deep the influence of govt. agencies goes and the lengths to which individuals will go to get more power. B.
Office Space - great film with plenty of quotable moments. also has some nice direction from judge. however, i'm looking at these films for top 25 status and this one isn't quite in there for me anymore. it's still an a+ film with social commentary and good laughs, but it wasn't as hilarious for me this time around as there's something about mary. still probably the best film about office life i'll ever see. A+.
Charley Varrick - smart heist film that's actually about 95% post-heist. features the line "They're gonna strip you naked and go to work on you with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch" which was later used in pulp fiction as "I'ma call a coupla hard, pipe-hittin' niggers, who'll go to work on the homes here with a pair of pliers and a blow torch. You hear me talkin', hillbilly boy? I ain't through with you by a damn sight. I'ma get medieval on your ass." besides that it's a good film. was unsure with the intro credits sequence, but it heated up pretty quickly and never really lets up. varrick is a smart guy who's always one step ahead of the mob and the audience. good film with a good performance from matthau. matthau was also in fail-safe which i watched a couple weeks ago. he's done some good stuff. B+.
There's Something About Mary - after watching karate kid i needed to take something off my list and this was the first thing that came to mind. watching karate kid fucked things up because i realized i wanted it on the list, but also realized i didn't know what to take off the list (which was actually 26 movies long). so over the next couple months i'm going to try to watch the bottom 10-15 movies to sort out the top 25 properly.
after watching this again i realized that this kinda needs to be on the list. it's just behind planes, trains, and automobiles in terms of pure comic power. it's got staying power and has several iconic moments. it doesn't have the social commentary of office space (also in the top 25 running right now), but it has more laughs. it's going to be interesting to see where all this stuff pans out. A+.
Pandorum - reminded me of event horizon, but less scary. actually, i thought event horizon was great the first time i saw it, but it didn't do as much for me the second time around. at any rate, this didn't do much for me at any point. watching it in the theater would have been better, but wouldn't have made it good. C.
Cyrus - it's interesting when a film takes a situation that could easily go in either direction (comedy or drama) and it walks the line. there are parts of this film that are haunting and/or depressing and there are parts that are laugh out loud funny. depending upon your interpretation or the execution, some individual scenes could go either way.
the two male leads are well matched because they're two guys who can play a role sad or funny with equal ability. john c. reilly in particular has the ability to be the lovable loser that breaks your heard or makes you laugh your ass off, with boogie nights being the greatest example of this.
the camerawork was excessive, but not as bad as i was expecting since both meryl's mom and my dad thought it was obnoxious. B.
Karate Kid - watched it this time around with my cousin and it was his first time seeing it. i think watching it through the eyes of someone seeing it the first time reminded me of the first time i saw it and made me think about it, not as the great 80s nostalgia/sports movie that it is, but as a coming-of-age film that has a lot more to offer.
the film isn't just about learning karate, it's about learning how to live life. i'm not sure if i ever fully realized that in my previous viewings. it's pretty explicit in the film so i'm not sure how i missed it, but i guess i was always caught up in the moment - daniel getting the girl, defeating the evil karate dojo, etc. in the film daniel and miyagi talk about balance and what it means. they talk about it being important in karate and it's the balance of everything in karate (daniel asks because he wants to learn how to strike), but miyagi later points out that balance is the key to everything in life as well as karate. these nuggets of karate wisdom are found throughout the film.
one thing that really resonates with me is the value of hard work. we see daniel do an extraordinary amount of hard work in the middle part of this film. there's all sorts of manual labor that miyagi has him do seemingly because he's a masochist or slave driver. however, in probably the best scene in the film, we see how this hard work is useful in more ways that just strengthening his arms. sanding the deck and painting the fence become karate moves and that revelation that hard work pays off in unforeseen ways is a great lesson for young kids and adults alike. it reinforces the fact that karate isn't just about fighting well, it's about living better. living with balance, confidence, etc.
i also love the socio-economic stuff in the film. daniel lives with a single mom and they're working class, he's trying to date an upper class girl, he's learning about karate from a handyman...it's no mistake that when daniel is supposed to pick up ali at the country club he comes in through the kitchen. in a lesser film they would have overlooked this detail and had him coming in through the main entrance like everyone else. it would have been a missed opportunity. it's subtle (i'd bet that most people miss the importance), but it reinforces the point.
when daniel trains on the beach it's a nod to an avildsen theme of training near the ocean. it's used in rocky as well and it works. it brings up all the feelings/images of the churning power of the sea, the changing of the tide, etc. it's about the power within us and the desire to change for the better.
as it true with all great films this one has a fair amount of comic relief as well. there are puns, usually having to do with the language difference, throughout the film. a couple i remember are when daniel and miyagi are on the boat and miyagi tells daniel to stand on the bow of the boat. daniel stands and bows. miyagi, the grumpy old man that he is, says no, don't bow, go stand on the bow. daniel figures it out. another is when miyagi is drunk and he says bonzai! daniel asks what a small tree has to do with anything. miyagi tells him, not bonsai, bonzai. good stuff.
other nuggets - reference to manzanar. miyagi's pregnant wife is interned there while he's fighting for the u.s. in wwii. she dies while giving birth. manzanar is one of those atrocities that we seem to have forgotten because it's not as bad as slavery or the genocide of native americans or the holocaust, but it did happen and it happened on the watch of "the greatest generation."
after daniel gets his license miyagi reminds him that a license doesn't replace eyes and ears. it's a throwaway line that is easy to miss, but it has great meaning if you actually stop and think about it. unfortunately it's not given a lot of time to breathe, instead they move on with the conversation, but it's there for you to pick up after you've seen it 15 times.
a last point is that in both versions of the film there is a character that befriends the daniel early in the film and is then forgotten throughout the rest of the film. in the original we see exactly why this early friend (freddy) leaves the story, but this explanation is completely lacking in the remake (showing once again that those who remade the original didn't have a real grasp of what the original was doing). the reason we never see freddy again past the first 10 minutes is that freddy abandons daniel after daniel gets his ass kicked by johnny. remember, freddy's first interaction with daniel was after daniel kicked open the gate and freddy thought daniel knew karate. freddy is an asshole kid just like most high schoolers - he wants to be part of a cool crowd and wants to hang out with tough guys. as soon as he finds out that daniel isn't a tough guy we never see him again. remember, daniel fits in well that first night, it's only after he gets his ass kicked that he becomes an outcast. of course, ali is the exception to this which is why she's the perfect girl for him. like his mom and miyagi, ali is there for daniel through the entire film. it's easy to miss this element, but it's important. freddy represents the capricious nature of adolescents.
final note that i found uplifting. miyagi points out in another profound one-liner that there are no bad students, only bad teachers. that goes for freddy, who really isn't a bad kid, as well as johnny and bobby and the other cobra kai assholes.
this is great piece of work. it's the best sports film of all-time and maybe the second best coming-of-age film of all-time. there are some cheesy songs, but really it's a great film and it's moving into my top 25 effective immediately. A+.
Sex And The City - not as bad as i remember, though i may have made it worse in my head because the sequel was about as bad as it gets. if you can get past all the superficial crap (it's a lot to get through) and the cheesy writing and the obnoxious characters, then you might find something in here that's somewhat worthwhile. i feel like this time around i sorta did that so it was elevated a notch. i guess if the fashion and the superficial characters are familiar or appealing then the life lessons learned are a bit more accessible. D+.
Predators - the best thing about this sequel is the music and most of that was recycled from the original. alan silvestri should get a cut from this movie's take because he literally was the best part of it even though he probably never even stopped by the studio. it really doesn't touch the original in any way. the beginning was especially bad, though it got better as it progressed. can't recommend it. C-.
Salt - started off nice enough and didn't really go anywhere. there were twists and the action was ok, but i didn't glean a lot of meaning from this film and the ending left me basically numb. i didn't really see the motivation of jolie's character and i don't think i sympathized with anyone in the film. i was also left wondering why salt needed to escape in the end when she has the president as an eye witness to her innocence. whatever. C.
Two Days In April - documentary about four college football players hoping to be drafted. three of them end up being drafted, as high as the second round. they go through the img camp that is supposed to tune you up for the combine by getting you ready for the media, the coaches, the drills, etc. it's a pretty decent inside look at the process. more than once people refer to it as a meat market, which of course it is. it's a pretty rough thing we ask these guys to go through, though i guess you can't feel too sorry for them since there's millions of bucks on the line. what i do feel bad about, though, is the expectation so many kids and young adults have going into athletics that somehow it's going to be their meal ticket. for the most part it really isn't. on the one hand i don't have a problem with kids spending a lot of time doing this because there are opportunities out there, even beyond the nfl (canadian league, coaching, etc.), but on the other hand you have tamp those expectations with a dose of reality. if you love acting then you should pursue it, but you have to be realistic about it - you're probably not going to be in the next titanic or harry potter series. B+.
Arthur 2: On The Rocks - not as good as the original which isn't the best movie ever already. she's the dutiful wife and he's the obnoxious, drunk brit. hilarious. C.
Radio Bikini - aa nominated documentary about bikini atoll which the u.s. government decided would be a good place to blow to smithereens for "scientific purposes." here's one of those times where science goes too far, like when the nazis thought it would be cool to cut off fingers and see if they could get them to grow on places other than the person's hand. pretty awesome when you think about it. let's take all the natives off their island, put some goats there and see what happens. yay, science! then there's the navy guy with no legs and a left hand the size of an average person's thigh because of his exposure to radioactive water after the experiment. science strikes again! B+.
Dark Knight - was a little worried that the second time around wouldn't be as good. thankfully it held up to a second viewing quite well. this is a great action flick and works with the same nolan themes we've seen before. in the end of this one we see batman eschewing the truth that harvey dent turned to the dark side and instead allowing gotham to think that dent was the white knight. meanwhile batman takes the heat and is forced to go underground as the police hunt for him, and that's how the film ends. it's kind of a downer, but an empowering one, which is sort of what nolan does best if you look at dark knight, memento, and inception (which are his three best films in my opinion).
also liked the switching of roles. batman as a good figure, having to do bad things and ultimately be perceived as a bad man. the good people on the ship voting to kill the ex-cons on the other ship. the ex-con throwing the detonator out the window. the hostages dressed as clown villains and the henchmen dressed as doctors in the final shoot-out. the good cops doing bad things because the joker had them over a barrel. great flick. A.
Inception - well it happens every year, there are a few movies that come out that instantly jump into the top 25 of all-time according to imdb.com. this year we've got toy story 3 and inception. neither really belong in the top 25 films ever for me at this point, but inception is the one that threatens the most. christopher nolan has three films in the imdb top 30, with memento (his best film) at the 29th spot. note that dark knight was at the #1 spot within a couple weeks of its release.
there are times when you're watching a movie and you think to yourself "holy shit, i'm really watching something here." films like boogie nights, memento, matrix, and now inception come to mind. when i watched the trailer i knew this was going to be great and after that first time i would close my eyes and plug my ears so i didn't ruin the film in any way. by the way, that trailer (#3) gets added to my list of best ads ever. possible spoilers ahead.
the film itself reminded me a lot of dicaprio's last film - shutter island - which was also about an alternate reality. a tortured man trying to live in an alternate world because of a traumatic event involving his wife. same basic setup as this film. it also reminded me of the matrix, both because of the feeling i had the first time i watched each film and because of the basic, but life-changing, idea that we could be living a falsehood - all of us in a dream or in a jar in a lab somewhere, thinking that this is reality, when it really isn't. and then there's total recall which had layers existence within the mind just like this did. this film has a familiar setup at its core - a pro and his crew pulling off one last job. we've seen a million of those films, but this one has a (fairly big) twist to it.
about 30 minutes into inception i thought it was all a dream. depending upon your interpretation of the ending, i was right. everything within it, even the "true reality," felt unreal. in the end when he sees his kids, in the exact same pose he's seen them in throughout the film, it just bolstered my belief that even his reality was fake. i thought that as he greeted his kids michael caine would go over to the spinning top and stop it. dicaprio would look back and see it had stopped and "realize" that indeed his life was real. instead, he didn't even look back. it was memento-esque in that he didn't even want to know the truth. he thought he did because he spun the top, but once he was with his kids i don't think he cared about truth anymore. it's this idea that is also seen in memento and shutter island, but rejected in the matrix - that ignorance is bliss. we choose our reality and live happily with it, instead of seeking Truth.
one thing i didn't like about the film is that all of this is ostensibly done to help saito take out his business competition. it's not exactly noble work. it's not the crime fighting of batman or giving truth to the world like the matrix. of course for dicaprio it's, much more so that's really why we want them to succeed.
after watching the prestige i wrote that nolan would never be as good as memento again, i stand by that. however i wrote that a bit cynically because i didn't think that the prestige was a great film. though dark knight and inception aren't as good as memento in my mind, they're certifiably great films. kubrick never did anything as good as paths of glory, but that doesn't take anything away from dr. strangelove or full metal jacket. same is true here with nolan.
in the film it's said that an idea is like a virus - it spreads and takes hold and can change a person forever. great films like this are indeed like a virus. and for me iconic films become a part of my vocabulary, they become reference points. in order to understand me, where i'm coming from, and what i'm saying you have to see the films i've seen so we can "speak the same language." this film is going to join my lexicon and that's about as much a complement to a film as i can provide. A-.
edit 9/22/11: nolan confirmed my point that the end is more about the fact that leo doesn't care about the truth of the top (he looks away from it): "There can’t be anything in the film that tells you one way or another because then the ambiguity at the end of the film would just be a mistake … It would represent a failure of the film to communicate something. But it’s not a mistake. I put that cut there at the end, imposing an ambiguity from outside the film. That always felt the right ending to me — it always felt like the appropriate ‘kick’ to me….The real point of the scene — and this is what I tell people — is that Cobb isn’t looking at the top. He’s looking at his kids. He’s left it behind. That’s the emotional significance of the thing."
Kids Are All Right - not bad film that's more like a long sitcom episode than anything else. the whole thing is one odd situation after another, some more funny than others. the cast is all decent, ruffalo is the best of the bunch. B-.
Despicable Me - nice animated comedy. it follows a familiar script of the lovable loser who happens to be kind of a bad guy. in the end it's a funny, cute little film. liked carrell's voiceover work. B.
Winter's Bone - one of the better films of the year. takes place in the ozarks, not the appalacians as i had assumed. it's thin on plot, but the characters are interesting and perhaps the most interesting character is the mountain ghetto that people generally don't even think about. when we think about ghettos most will envision south central la or harlem, not the mountains of arkansas or west virginia, yet these areas are probably more impoverished than the typical inner city ghetto. this film brings all that to light and more. instead of crack it's meth. instead of hip-hop it's bluegrass. instead of uzis it's hunting rifles. instead of black it's white.
the film also shows an interesting gender divide and the gender roles of the culture. violence against women is fine, so long as you're another woman. men are in charge, but women solve problems. the same could be said about the inner city ghetto where women are much better at entering college than men.
jennifer lawrence was especially good and should get academy consideration. B+.
A Boy And His Dog - post-apocalyptic film with an odd tone and supporting character (a snarky, talking dog). it's got a good tone to it and it's a nice little story, but it's not the best post-apocalyptic film i've ever seen. don johnson is pretty good. the real winner here, though, is the writing of the dog's character. he's real sarcastic and annoyed by the simplicity and occasional stupidity of johnson's character. it makes for a good dynamic.
the whole underground society thing was psychedelic. the female dominated element reminded me of an episode of the original star trek. B-.
Fail-Safe - not sure why it took me long to find this gem. release the same year as dr. strangelove it's basically the same film, but a serious version. to be honest i liked this more than dr. strangelove after one viewing. of course strangelove has held up well to repeated viewings and i've yet to see if this does that.
henry fonda is perfectly cast as the president who has to deal with an accidental nuclear attack on the ussr. it's more believable than strangelove and probably changed more minds about the nuclear standoff that our two countries had for so long. gotta love cold war films. A-.
Le Mans - nice auto racing and camerwork, but a snooze otherwise. this is best left for big mcqueen or auto racing fans. same basic deal as grand prix, but shorter and with less plot and more driving. this one's better. C+.
Fly 2 - definitely not as good as the first remake. it's directed by the guy who did the creature design in the 86 version so i guess he earned the right to direct the sequel. production values are low and most of the end is just a chase from one place to the next with eric stoltz (the fly) getting worse and worse. there's plenty of carnage, but it's not as effective as it is under cronenberg. these definitely were an influence on the recent sci-fi/horror film "splice." this one shows eric stoltz growing up in a lab enviroment at an accelerated rate and then he lashes out as his mutations get out of control. same deal as splice.
probably should watch the original again since it's been many years since i last saw it. C.
Arthur - comedy that grew on me as it progressed. never thought all that much of dudley moore or liza minnelli, but both are actually pretty good at what they do. moore plays a rich mess and minnelli plays a free spirited waitress. opposites attract and he learns that money isn't everything. some good laughs, i'd watch the second one to kill some time. B-.
Fly - one of the creepiest films you're likely to see. cronenberg is good when it comes to the human body - mutations, breaking the body open, bodily fluids, etc. he explores them well and without reservation. goldblum is really good in all phases of the film - as the scientist, the fly, the cocky human with abnormal strength...
cronenberg definitely isn't my favorite director, but this is probably my favorite of his films. i remember seeing it many years ago and a few of the scenes really stuck with me. it's not a film young people should see unless you want them to be scarred like i am. B+.
TiMER - good little indie film with a nice concept. it takes place in the future when there is a device that is able to tell people exactly when they're going to meet their soulmate (assuming their soulmate also has the device). it follows two sisters who each have a timer - one who knows when she'll meet her soulmate (5,000 days away) and the other who doesn't yet know because her soulmate hasn't gotten the device yet. it's funny and doesn't cop out with the ending. good film. B+.
Predator - about as good as a pure action film gets. die hard and matrix are better, but the matrix mixes sci-fi and philosophy and die hard is the best ever. this has a lot of the same mctiernan camera moves and the same sense of building characters. ahead of its time in that probably half the crew is hispanic. speaking of crew, it's got alan silvestri and stan winston, both academy award winners. A+.
...And Justice For All - good film about the law and the limitations thereof. pacino plays a good guy that reminded me a bit of his character in serpico. he's real good here, but i prefer him when he's a bit more on the bad side, like godfather or scarface. his intensity comes out here, but it's not quite as powerful when it doesn't have menace behind it. B+.
Last Airbender - not an altogether bad film, though it seems to have been panned by the experts. it's a familiar setup - young savior of the world on a mission to do just that.
in this case the savior exists in a world where each tribe can manipulate (bend) the four elements. the eponymous character is the savior and he jumps into his role fairly quickly. usually in these films the savior has great growing pains and/or is reluctant to accept his role. the film drags a bit as it goes on and the setup isn't changed enough to be novel. there are some stilted performances and it's not shyamalan's best film to date, but it's pretty good for a young teen audience which is more or less what it's geared toward. C+.
Twilight Saga: Eclipse - meryl (out of morbid couriousity i guess) started me watching this crap and makes us watch each new film that comes out. i went into this one thinking it would be another F grade film, but that at least the series would be over. i was wrong on both accounts. this is the best film in the series so far in large part because it takes itself a little less seriously. there are some decent little laughs at the expense of the characters.
of course a couple laughs don't spare the film from the trash bin, which is where it belongs. it's still a shitty film about some stupid war and a stupid girl who can't make up her mind. after watching it i discovered that there are two more of these being planned. wonderful. D-.
Rio Grande - not a huge fan of the cavalry films by ford/wayne. it's an ok film that's basically a cowboys vs. indians western. to me the father/son storyline didn't really resonate. C+.
Bachelor Party - seen parts of this 80s comedy before, but never the whole thing. it's like porky's and revenge of the nerds and other films of this era that came from the animal house tree. tom hanks is good and the gags are too. a classic. B+.
Stupidity - not a very good documentary, but it covers a subject that should be explored with more depth. as the title indicates it's about stupidity in society. the subject is great fodder for a documentary, but they don't do it justice. much of the problem is the haphazard presentation and poor production. it relies far too much on dramatizations and not enough on primary material. it's probably a copyright issue or something, but with more work they could have found some free stuff to use instead of the cheap dramatizations that they use over and over and over again.
the experts are the same as you're used to seeing if you watch a lot of leftist documentaries on the downfall of society or the bush administration (pretty much the same thing). noam chomsky and mark crispin miller always seem to end up in these films for some reason. could have been infinitely better. C.
Knight And Day - good action-comedy with two stars that do well together. cruise nails his character and is especially good early in the film when you're not quite sure how out of his mind he really is. in the end it's a predictable film that does what a lot of hollywood films do these days - entertains and passes the time. B.
Grown Ups - essentially a series of one-liners from comedian friends. i counted six ex-snl people and if you've seen any adam sandler films in the last 15 years you know what you're going to get in terms of content. the plot is thin and isn't overly back-weighted so that was good. a lot of these comedies go quickly into the comedy and then save all the plot stuff for the end of the film which leaves an unbalanced film. the plot here was sprinkled here and there and was real thin anyway so it never gets in the way of the fart jokes. clearly not an elevation of humanity, but a funny film anyway. B.
Diary Of Anne Frank - one of the saddest stories ever told, and it's true. not sure i want to know you if you don't get sad when you see this movie or read the book. in spite of three hours and one set, the film doesn't drag on too much and that's a major accomplishment. i tend to enjoy films like this that take place in one spot - lifeboat, my dinner with andre, rope, 12 angry men, etc. they don't always work, but it places the emphasis on the characters and i think i'm more into characters than i am into plot.
according to my dad this is the first film to address the issue of the holocaust. it came out 14 years after the end of wwii so i find that pretty shocking. with all the german emigres and jews in hollywood, one would assume the holocaust would have been the subject of a film at some point in the 40s. night and fog (1955) is a short documentary that addresses it and it's the first thing i know of that talks about it.
george stevens has done some good films and this is one of them, but when i was getting ready to watch it i was worried that it would be long and boring like giant or overrated like a place in the sun. instead it was closer to shane, though not as good as that, the best western of all-time. everyone in the cast does an excellent job as well. A-.
Dogma - used to like this more than i do now. ultimately i think that this fruit can only be fully squeezed by christians (especially catholics). i enjoyed the satirical look at the bible and all that, but a lot of this stuff just goes over my head because i don't know the stupid stories that so many people shape their lives around. it's mostly a nice piece of writing, but you can only get so much out of it if you don't know the bible well. B-.
Men With Brooms - comedy that revolves around curling. it's only mildly funny and it doesn't really separate itself from most sports movies other than its sport is curling instead of baseball or football. like all sports movies the film is also about overcoming hardship and teamwork and personal triumphs. ultimately, though, it's only notable because it's a movie about curling and that's why i watched it. oh, and leslie nielsen is in it. B-.
Emerald Forest - this came out 25 years before avatar and a 5 years before dances with wolves. dww is probably the best of the three, but this one is closer to my heart than that is. avatar is clearly the worst film of the three which is probably why it's the highest grossing film of all-time. the backstreet boys weren't the best band of the 90s even though they sold like crack, it's just the way the mainstream is.
first saw this when it came out in 1985 and saw it with my dad. it's about a white boy who is kidnapped by aboriginals in brazil. his dad works for a company that is building a dam in the area and after the kidnapping he continues to look for his son for the next 10 years. from there you can pretty much infer what happens from the films that copied it after its release. it's not a really well known film even though powers boothe was in it and boorman (deliverance) directed it. not huge names, but big enough to be better known. it's more mystical than dww, closer to avatar in that respect.
for me, the theme of native culture being dominated by the westerners is a sad and oft-used one. by itself it has lost some of its power so the fact that this film has the lost son connection makes it stronger. it also resonated for me because it came at a time when i was being reunited with my father so i could relate. if you liked avatar then you really should give this one a shot. it's not as fancy to look at, but it's a solid film. A-.
Toy Story 3 - never saw the second one and haven't seen the original since it came out. that said, this one was good and stood well on its own. funny and poignant (it kept that for the end). to my memory toy story started it all for pixar and computer animation. it was the first of its kind and it's still the standard for a lot of people. this one made me want to revisit the first and watch the second. if you're a fan you're going to like it and if you're not then you'll probably enjoy it as well. B+.
War Games - classic 80s cold war film, one of the best of its kind. in the cold war film genre there's dr. strangelove and then there's everything else. like that film, war games shows the futility and insanity of MADD and constant war posturing. it also shows the ease with which the human race could be reduced to near zero. in this case it's not a rogue general, but some kid looking to play a game who hacks a computer with far too much power. in this way it's a cross between tron and dr. strangelove.
it lacks subtlety in its message, but most of these films do. it's not about gently nudging the audience towards the conclusion that being on the edge of nuclear war at all times is possibly a poor idea, it's about hitting people over the head with the fact that the current situation (at the time) is idiotic. that said, the film never gets preachy. on the one hand it's about this kid (broderick) who is in way over his head, on the other hand it's about two countries that are in way over their heads as well. the cold war was an interesting time, i'm glad i was around for part of it. A-.
Tron - one of the ultimate geek movies. had only seen this in bits and pieces up to now which was an embarrassment i had to rectify. great flick with better efx than i remembered. way ahead of its time and influential for all sorts of films, the most obvious being the matrix which plays with the same idea, but takes it even further and is much more philosophical (and has much better action).
in spite of being 28 years old with outdated efx this one really stands the test of time. if you haven't seen it already then you definitely should. A-.
American Pie 2 - more of the same here. male sexuality is often regarded as either pathetic or comical in our society and in this case you have a bit of both in stifler and jim (as the two extremes). here, the women avoid the ridicule and have the power which fits the view of the audience that these films are going after (young males). nothing hilarious. B.
Take The Money And Run - playful faux documentary by woody allen. this early stuff by him is really playful and more like his stand-up routines in that it has less plot and is more a series of excuses to make jokes. pretty good laughs, but not as sophisticated has woody allen's films became. funny, his films got more sophisticated as he aged, but his real life got more sophomoric (to the point that he thought it was ok to have sex with his daughter). think about it long enough and you'll think it's ok too. hey, after all we're all dead in some test tube anyway, right? B.
Trading Places - pretty classic 80s comedy. shows the fickle and stupid nature of the stock market, but also shows the inherently evil nature of the money hungry. not too bad for a comedy with akroyd and murphy. jamie lee curtis was once considered hot. B+.
Unthinkable - guess this one went straight to dvd even though it has some notable stars (carrie anne-moss and samuel l. jackson, among others). it's a simple premise - american-born terrorist makes three nukes and releases a video telling the authorities that he's going to detonate them in three days unless they meet his demands. terrorist lets himself get caught and jackson is brought in to do the dirty work (i.e., torture the fuck out of the guy) until he gives up the info. have we changed as a result of these techniques? was it worth it? it raises the usual questions and has a not unpredictable twist ending. production values weren't all that hot, but not a bad movie overall. B-.
What Women Want - actually not a bad film. not at all a nancy meyers fan (i gave her last two films a D and D+), but this one actually holds up fairly well. it's a gender comedy that has an interesting conceit - mel gibson, through much of the film, is able to hear what women are thinking. it's one of those powers that everyone can relate to wanting and it's kinda like scrooge seeing how the other half lives so it creates a more believable (even though the cause is completely unbelievable) transformation of his character. gibson does well as the chauvinist, as the sensitive guy and as a gay guy (when he's trying to get rid of marissa tomei - another unbelievable element of the film). there are some lost storylines and some storylines that didn't really need to be inserted. other than that and as far as romantic comedies go, this is pretty watchable. B-.
Sleeper - didn't really get where this film was going. sometimes it felt like a comedic kubrick film. some jabs at religion and the government. mildly funny with a silly plot. there's witty comedy here, but the plot and characters are silly. i think allen did better stuff when his plots and characters got more complex than here and bananas and a couple other early films. this and bananas feel more like kentucky fried movie than annie hall or crime and misdemeanors. C+.
Brewster's Millions - a classic 80s comedy. as a young kid just the idea of this film gets your mind racing. now i see all sorts of holes in the logic, but it's still a fun conceit. good solid comedy. B+.
Solitary Man - solid film about aging, mortality, power, male sexuality, and more. michael douglas is good here as a sex-obsessed older guy who is still trying to grasp at the straws of his former self. he used to be desirable to younger women, he used to be powerful and wealthy, etc. the opening song is perfect for the film, it's a cover of solitary man by johnny cash and it sums everything up fairly well. i also found it repeating in my head throughout the film. at its simplest it's about a guy who, like many of us, doesn't want to think about his own mortality and his own aging. it causes him to be self-destructive in a late mid-life crisis sort of way.
douglas isn't the kind of guy you really root for here, but you do feel his pain in a way. surrounding him are mostly relatively sane people who he either doesn't really care about or cares about doesn't do a good job of proving that to. it was mostly an interesting film because douglas's character has potential to turn a corner at any point. you know that there's a decent guy in there, but we don't know if he's ever going to come out. he has things to contribute to the world, pieces of wisdom that any smart guy that age has gleaned or figured out. unfortunately he alienates himself and it's anybody's guess what he's going to do next with his life. B.
Killers - meet the parents meets true lies. kutcher actually isn't half bad and heigl does her thing well as she always does. i've seen one episode of grey's anatomy and can't say i liked it at all, but i do find heigl's films to be generally entertaining. katherine o'hara's character was good for a laugh as well. it's one of those films that takes white suburban banality and flips it into an action-comedy. can't recall another (other than the aforementioned true lies) off the top of my head, but i know it's been done plenty of times before. B.
A-Team - i was a big fan of the show when i was young so the movie was a nice prospect. the key, i think, to the dynamic is having the murdock character be solid. here he's played by sharlto copley who did a really good job in district 9 and does another good job here in a completely different role. he keeps it light and that's critical to the tone of the series as well as the film. they'll likely do another as i expect this one to do fairly well and they have a fine core of established talent and up and comers. the next one should be a bit shorter. was kinda interesting to see how the crew first came together. seemed to differ from the narrative given at the beginning of the show, but i guess it was never explicit - i just assumed that they knew each other while serving in nam. does the tv series justice. B.
Baseketball - some good stuff here, but nothing near the brilliance of south park. some of it felt similar to idiocracy. decent enough throwaway comedy to pass the time. B-.
Karate Kid - this version of the 1984 masterpiece is no comparison to the original. they follow the broad outlines of the script, but mix it up enough that it's not an exact replica of the original. the two biggest changes are that this one takes place in china and that the protagonist is 12 instead of 15 or 16. actually jayden smith is 11, but we can stretch a year for the sake of the film. to me, the age change is a big deal. the original had all the elements of a fish out of water mixed with the teenage angst that a mid-teen experiences - wanting to get the girl (at 12 jayden smith wants to get the girl, but he's really not sure why yet - it just didn't have the believability to me), wanting to establish yourself as an adult, pushing the boundaries as teenagers do, trouble with parents, etc. a lot happens between the ages of 12 and 16 and this film completely loses that dynamic my casting a younger kid.
from a direction standpoint this one also falls short (to varying degrees) in every major scene. the one scene where this version did a close to original quality job is the one where morita/chan gets drunk and tells macchio/smith about his sad past. chan does a good job here and they changed the life tragedy from a dead wife to a dead wife and son so it adds some resonance to the chan/smith relationship. however, that scene is as close as they get to touching the greatness of the original. other key scenes like the finale are flat by comparison. there's a common scene where macchio/smith plays a prank on his bullies and runs away. eventually he is caught, cornered and beat up. morita/chan comes to his rescue and that's how their relationship begins. in the original this scene takes place during a costume party at night and the bad guys are wearing skeleton outfits. macchio sees morita save him, but he's too dazed to fully process it. it's a great, moody scene. the remade version of this scene is trash by comparison. it's just a slightly humorous ass-kicking delivered by chan.
and this where the remake really strays from the original - it's too much of a jokey kids film. it goes more for laughs and cuteness than it does for truth and teenage angst. it's a light-hearted version of the same story. the villains here aren't nearly as bad as they are in the original. the original has an ex-marine from vietnam brainwashing his pupils to become killers. in this one it's just some mean guy. there's just so many more layers to the original than there is here. and that's odd because this one is 15 minutes longer so you'd think they could add more to the characters in that time.
other deficiencies of this version: soundtrack was weak by comparison; original had a japanese sensei, this one is chinese so it's kung-fu, not karate; the mother-son dynamic isn't as well developed; jayden smith was fine for the character here, but the character in this version just isn't as troubled as he should be; the last kick move was ridiculous (i.e., it was impossible). oh, and one of the production companies was some chinese company that very well may have been there just to make the film show china in a positive light. would like some more reporting on that one.
the training scenes weren't nearly as cool as those in the original. in this one the wax on, wax off that we all know is take off your jacket, now put it back on. not as good as a quip and not as educational. sure, his mom likes that he knows how to hang up his coat rather than leaving it by the front door, but he's not learning how to paint a house or sand a deck. one of the cool things for me in watching the original, and maybe this is just because i was a handyman in the making, was seeing daniel-san improve morita's house and property with all his hardwork. the added benefit of all that hard work was that he could translate those movements to karate. this is a metaphor for life in a way. in the remake it's just turned into a joke and there's no visual reward for his hard work.
bottom line: fine enough for the 5-11 set, but it's not a teenage or adult film like the original is. they turned one of the best coming-of-age/sports films of all-time into just another kid's movie because will and jada smith wanted to get their kid some more work and another payday. as a kids movie it gets a B- as a remake of an already amazing film it gets a D-.
Get Him To The Greek - has the apatow style to it and he was a producer, but i'm guessing (hoping) he wasn't all that involved here. there are gross out moments and awkward, yet funny sequences, but nothing that translates into the kind of guttural laughter that i've gotten from watching 40 year old virgin and knocked up. jonah hill is funny, though i think he's better as a supporting man. he's also not as good as the straight man in a film. he's generally better as the weird roommate or oddball friend and here he's forced to play the straight man opposite russell brand. brand is another guy who is probably better in pieces than in such a central role. he was great in forgetting sarah marshall, for example. they're trying to bring jonah hill up like they did with seth rogen, but i don't know that he's made for that. rogen can play the straight guy without losing his best stuff. we'll see how hill does opposite reilly in cyrus. C+.
Robin Hood - the only robin hood version that i remember well enough to compare to this one is the errol flynn version. seen the kevin costner one, but don't remember it well enough. this is a drastically different film in a couple ways - tonally it's more heavy and epic than the flynn version, and from a plot/character standpoint this one is about robin hood becoming the legend, rather than at the height of his popularity. of course i like the flynn version more, but they really can't be compared.
as far as period dramas go this one is pretty good. i found it more enjoyable than braveheart, though i'm definitely in the minority there. it has a nice balance of comedy, drama and action. it runs a little long for my taste, but it has enough to chew on so it's not tedious. supporting characters like max von sydow and the friar tuck/little john staples were all good. B.
Splice - weird freaking movie. seems much more in tune with japanese cinema or 70s era american cinema than it is with shrek 3, which it's playing next to in the theater. it falls into the audacity of science subgenre of the sci-fi film. sarah polley plays one of the more aggravating women in the history of film here. she's ostensibly a scientist, but is guided very little by the morals or norms of scientific thought. she successfully bends arguments about the greater good to satisfy her own maternal instincts and curiousity. brody, meanwhile, is a half-assed voice of reason who ultimately enables the complete downfall of the system because he's just another horny guy.
there's some good stuff in here about starting a family and male/female relations and humanity's proximity to the animal world in spite of our "civilization." of course we can't forget the role of the corporation in this all as enabler and financier and catalyst for the shocking (but not unpredictable) denounement.
the science is pretty iffy here so some sci-fi fans won't like it for that reason. it did a good job of keeping me tense. B.
We Own The Night - not quite as good the second time around, but a nice experience nonetheless. there are still two scenes that stand out - the raid scene and the chase scene, both were just as good this time around. phoenix is a good actor in these sorts of troubled roles, hopefully he comes back at some point. the black sheep stuff was good as was the caught between two worlds theme. B.
Prince Of Persia: Sands Of Time - not as bad as i thought it was going to be. nothing here that hasn't been seen before and nothing that is especially noteworthy, good or bad. this is a payday for gyllenhaal and it's really not his thing. he got buff for the role, but he's still at his best when making wise cracks. the film has a fair amount of comic relief which is good. all the gutsy moves of killing key characters are undone by the film's ending. sorry i ruined it for you. C+.
Saint - good soundtrack and smoking hot elizabeth shue, those top the list of reasons to watch this film. kilmer is so-so and the writing is subpar. noyce's direction doesn't elevate it much, though it's definitely a watchable thriller. hopefully noyce's newest film will be better. C+.
Insider - probably the last great film about old style journalism. came out in 99, but was about events in the mid-late 90s when cell phones were somewhat rare and the internet wasn't even a factor. it shows old school investigation and pulling strings and favors and everything else that goes along with the journalistic tendencies associated with all the president's men, etc. it also touches on network with its corporate-influenced news coverage.
introduced me to russell crowe who is as good here as ever. pacino is as good as usual, but crowe really is the heart of the film. as good a film as this is, it's still not michael mann's best; that's heat which is an undeniable masterpiece in my opinion; a moving and epic thriller. A-.
They Live - great sci-fi flick with rowdy roddy piper and keith david. it's probably too literal an indictment of modern culture for some, but i like literal stuff like this. nice direction and concept. well-executed all around. got a bit tired of carpenter's main theme, but that's a minor complaint. end reminded me a bit of running man. B+.
Romy And Michele's High School Reunion - eye candy and a couple jokes don't equal a movie. D-.
Exiles - nice as an historical document, but not the most riveting film of all-time. even the guy who introduced the film on tcm didn't have much to say about the film other than it was good because it showed native americans in a certain time and place and has value for that reason. agreed. felt like cassavetes throughout most of the film. think shadows. C+.
Trial By Trigger - pretty nice short that i found because it came after the film above on tcm. it's about a logging community that's being taken over by an evil capitalist. nothing exceptional, but in 20 minutes it tells a succinct story and has some nice characterization and action. in short, it's a better film in 20 minutes than a lot of films that are five times that length. B.
Last Wave - there's probably a lot more to this film than i got because it's a criterion film and there's probably some stuff i missed because i don't know everything there is to know about aboriginal australians. to me it was a somewhat average thriller on its face with a bit of depth because of the sci-fi aspect and the whites vs. aboriginal overtones. it's a nice enough journey, but wasn't particularly eye-catching and i wouldn't have pegged it as criterion-worthy. B-.
Sex And The City 2 - unlike the mainstream press and fans of the series/film i wasn't disappointed by this film. the first film was a big success and was well-received, this film is falling on its face a bit. it's basically what i expected from this franchise - vapid and hollow. to me it's the logical conclusion of a franchise that has always been about fairly straightforward observations and crappy, fickle fashion. this isn't the exception for me, it's the rule. the rest of the world seems to disagree - this is a horrible installment in an otherwise great franchise, is how the reviews i've heard are coming in.
the sex and the city world that this film portrays is one in which all women want to be fashion/money driven americans like carrie and crew. it's also a world where everyone who is gay is funny and over-the-top. i think we're regressing here.
in the end there is the usual drama and resolution which is supposed to make everything good again. D-.
Scanners - pretty good early cronenberg flick. the head explosion scene is the climax and it's in the first 20 minutes, so the rest seems a little tame by comparison, but it's a pretty nice little throwback sci-fi from a guy who always does unusual stuff. B.
Money Talks - not as good as the rush hour series mainly because jackie chan isn't around. tucker isn't at the top of my list when it comes to comedic actors. C.
Duel - surprising that this was a tv movie, one of the better i've seen. brian's song is the other that comes to mind. it's also the earliest spielberg film i've seen (it's his second feature length film) and probably the earliest worth watching. it was remade as joy ride by john dahl a few years back and i thought that was just as good as this, though it had a different arc to it. this one doesn't have a lot of plot and is at times reminiscent of vanishing point because it's mostly about a guy in his car. spielberg shows some promise here with basics like cross-cutting and building tension out of not much in the writing department. of course it's easy to say that now that he's become who he is, but it's not difficult to see some of the promise that he realized later, here in this film. B+.
Bangkok Dangerous - now's as good a time as any to watch this because of all the chaos in the region. the movie has nothing to do with red shirts or any of that other stuff. nick cage turns in clunkers about 20% of the time these days and this one definitely fits into that category. it's a shame because he has the ability to turn in good performances like bad lieutenant, leaving las vegas, lord of war, matchstick men, weather man, kick-ass, and raising arizona, but he's not real picky about scripts and will pick up roles like this and ghost rider which are both bad films.
the writing here from the opening scene onward is just bad, and obvious. the first 15 minutes feels like they had three writers write the intro and they couldn't decide which one they likes the most so they used them all. the action isn't great either. cinematography is decent. only cage's sidekick does a halfway decent job of acting, everyone else is basically as good as the average LA bartender.
it's kind of the inverse of karate kid. in karate kid it's an older asian guy befriending a young white kid. in this movie it's an older white guy in an asian country who befriends a younger asian kid who isn't doing so hot in life. karate kid was good, this one was bad. D+.
Rush Hour 3 - honestly i don't remember this being any different than rush hour 2. all i remember is that chris tucker looks a little bigger in the third and the two partners have a little tiff in this one. same as rush hour 2 for all intents and purposes. C+.
MacGruber - about as good as naked gun 33 1/3 and strikes the same tone. some of these satires are totally over the top (scary movie series) and some hold back a little from being completely silly, this falls into the latter category. i'll likely never see this movie again and that's fine by me, but i'm also not saddened by the fact that i bothered to watch it. i seemed to laugh more than most of the audience. i guess i'm not very mature. C+.
Bullets Over Broadway - pretty run of the mill woody allen film. not his best and certainly not his worst. not essential to his catalog, but better than manhattan, which is considered one of his best. B.
Rush Hour 2 - doesn't do anything that the first one does better. somewhat funny, chris tucker starts to wear thin here as does the race comedy which isn't insightful like chappelle and isn't all that funny either. nothing especially memorable here. B-.
Rush Hour - going to watch the trilogy. first one has some nice fight sequences and a lot of race/culture comedy. some funny moments here and there. i'm a jackie chan fan in part because he was doing parkour before there was a name for it. basically a less dark lethal weapon i.e., it's basically the same as lethal weapon 3. B+.
Iron Man 2 - not as consistently entertaining as the first one in part because it's a bit more serious, but solid summer-fare nonetheless. the fight between downey and cheadle seemed more artificial and placed there fore commercial interests than anything else. the rest of the film felt fairly organic in its progression, but that scene seemed to be placed there just so they could work in another fight scene.
they didn't give cheadle much in terms of writing. rourke had some good stuff and did well as the villain. of course downey owned his role again. paltrow's role changed a bit so we see her character growing a bit, but i didn't think she was as good a comic book hottie as she was last time. instead that role went more to scarlett johansson who was fine enough. B.
Orgazmo - a comedy about mormons and the porn industry from the makers of south park. how can you go wrong? pretty good comedy, but i think their talents are better left to the tv format. B.
Millions - well shot film by danny boyle that didn't really end up doing much for me in the end. not exactly sure where it fell short, but it did and that's too bad because it's got a nice little message and some capable people involved. for boyle enthusiasts only. has a little shoutout to who wants to be a millionaire, which of course was the main plot device for slumdog millionaire. C+.
Kiss Of The Spider Woman - not really sure what the point of this film was. it was nice enough to watch the progression of the characters and william hurt had a good performance. i got the sense that the whole thing was a parable for some political unrest in brazil. frankly i didn't gleen much from it and i can't understand why it was nominated for a best picture when ran, back to the future, enemy mine (a somewhat similar film), and pee-wee's big adventure didn't even get a whiff of an oscar. whatever. B-.
Simpsons Movie - really funny film version of the show everyone knows and (hopefully) loves. some nice gags that play on the fact that it's a film instead of a tv program. laughed out loud throughout the film. the format allows for plot and gags not necessarily related to plot to be worked in with equal measure. a lot of simpsons episodes, particularly after they found their stride, are frenetically paced. that's fine, but it's nice to have a little more time to develop the plot and work in related and unrelated gags along the way. A-.
Back-up Plan - this is standard fare and even though it didn't turn out exactly as i thought, the general idea was there. of course that's true with many genre films so you can't fault it too much for being predictable. i can say that it wasn't very funny or at all touching, though. lacked depth of character, good writing, a decent soundtrack and most of the other things that make a film worth your while. that said, it wasn't in the awful category. it didn't hurt to watch the film in its entirety (though it did drag quite a bit). a step up from gigli for j. lo. D+.
Babies - goto youtube and search for cute kittens and cute babies and you'll get a lot of the same emotional resonance that you get from this film. the documentary follows four babies in san francisco, tokyo, namibia, and mongolia. you get the predictable sense that we have more in common than we have that divides us; nothing new there. you get plenty of "awww" moments and a few moments of fear for the baby or disbelief or surprise. all in all it's a nice little film with not a lot of new ideas to add. it's the kind of film that 90% of the women who watch it will enjoy because chicks like babies and cute animals. it could have been a lot more than it turned out to be if they had chosen more babies or edited differently. felt like i got more out of another fly on the wall french documentary called microcosmos than i got out of this one. B.
College - another showtime flick that i recorded on a whim. this one was better than frat party, but still totally missable. it has the usual dynamic, but goes with a threesome instead of 4-5 guys. no one is particularly funny and actually the outtakes are probably as funny as the entire movie. the intro credits were also somewhat interesting with the names of the cast/crew on school related items like chalkboards, books, and graffiti. this is like that costco brand cola you had a couple weeks ago and have completely forgotten by now. it's not coke and it's certainly not henry weinhard's root beer. of course it's also not mr. pibb which probably would have made you gag and possibly throw up should you try to finish an entire can. D+.
Score - four heist movies in the last week. heist movies are good wholesome fun and this one is one of the better ones to come out in the last 10 years. oz's direction is taut and even though i knew the outcome this time around, keeps everything suspenseful. norton and deniro are very good. brando and bassett were less so. oz has made a clunker or two in his career, but this is a real solid flick all around. B+.
Ocean's Thirteen - i wouldn't mind another one in the series, but i don't see it happening for a few reasons. this is more of the same and there's nothing wrong with that in my opinion. they would have to get soderbergh to direct though. sure they could get someone to direct with the soderbergh touch, but i want soderbergh (only one person will get that reference). soderbergh keeps it lively and fresh with his direction, they keep it under 2 hours each time, and the balance of comic relief and action is well done. the downfall of pacino and his casino in this film is the reliance on the system. when common sense dictates that an $11 million slot payout on the first day is fishy pacino looks to his security guru and the guru looks to his mega-computer. the computer shows genuine surprise (elevated heart rate, dilated pupils, etc.) on behalf of the winner so he concludes that it must be legitimate. later, when the machine feels threatened, it locks key personnel in the security room so they can't get out to thwart the heist. it's a commentary on the downside of trusting the system more than yourself. it's part of the reason that another heist was able to be perpetrated on the american people in the form of CDOs, credit default swaps, and a housing bubble. trust in the system and shifting blame to it can only take you so far. B+.
Frat Party - one of the worst films i've ever seen. it's got a lot of tna, but just showing boobs doesn't make you a good filmmaker, otherwise danni ashe would be one of the world's greatest photographers. some of the production is good enough to pass for theatrical quality, but mostly it's a student film level american pie type film without any good acting or any truth in its storytelling. as dumb as american pie and those films can be, they often had a truth in their characters, albeit hidden beneath a veneer of silliness and exaggeration only seen in film. here the characters are caricatures of caricatures. F.
Ocean's Twelve - nice sequel, but thirteen may be even better. the final reveal here was less fun than it was in the original. sticking it to the french guy was a nice touch and i liked the little inside jokes. B+.
Ocean's Eleven - great early 00s film with a lot of life and a good script. like the soundtrack by david holmes as well. holds up fairly well after 9 years. A-.
Death At A Funeral - gets better as it goes along, but another film that never really got off the ground for me. neil labute pretty good at directing uncomfortable situations and he does a fine job here, but it's nothing special. B-.
Losers - not bad, not good. never really got off the ground for me. zoe saldana seems to be in everything now which is a little annoying. she's an adequate actress, but she's reached the saturation point. C+.
Joneses - spoilers. loved the commentary here which worked in a lot of different ways. when cole kills himself he literally drowns in symbols of his debt. he, himself, is a symbol of the over-spending american who just wants to keep up with the joneses in the best way he knows how. i like literal commentaries like this, maybe because i'm a simpleton. as good as all that was, though, i wasn't sure about the tone of the picture. it was between dramatic and comedic and didn't hit either as hard as i would have liked. i suppose that's better than trying and coming off as cliche or overwrought, though, so i can't fault it too much. it's a tough balance to achieve, especially with a film like this. the film would have been better off in sam mendes' hands as he's a modern director who does the vapid american couple commentary film as well as anyone and can do comedy and drama equally well. B+.
Kick-Ass - nice comic book film. loved the little girl (chloe moretz) and nick cage as well. the protagonist was also good. never read the comics, but liked the premise here and the execution was good too. B+.
Junior Bonner - rodeo drama with steve mcqueen. the father/son and estranged family angles were nice to chew on. didn't do much for me, though i wasn't bored while watching it. while i was watching it i kept thinking how influential peckinpah was as a director because the film had the peckinpah feel to it. turns out that's because he directed it. funny. C+.
Magnificent Obsession - original of the sirk remake. this one wasn't as good. not sure how close either version is to the original story, but both films were very similar to each other. B-.
Piano - not a bad film, but certainly not my cup of tea. hunter is good and probably worthy of the aa win, though i can't recall who she was up against. probably meryl streep and three others. B-.
Foxy Brown - better than coffy. pam grier kicks ass and there's some good commentary in here about the position of women and blacks at the time. they don't make them with this kind of honesty anymore. B+.
Caged - 1950 film about a woman's prison. not as sexy as it sounds, but a good film nonetheless. agnes moorehead plays an idealistic prison warden and eleanor parker plays the tim robbins type character. hope emerson plays the nurse ratched type character. certainly ahead of its time and a good film as well. thoroughly captivating. B+.
Step Brothers - good comedy, well-written and acted. puerile humor doesn't get much better than the high points of this one. B+.
Libeled Lady - liked jean harlow more than myrna loy and spencer tracy more than william powell. not a fan of the thin man series much either. this one has some nice comedic points to it, but didn't knock my socks off. B-.
Bad Influence - feel like i've seen this before, but i haven't. curtis hanson is pretty reliable as a director and this one delivers adequate entertainment. spader has made a living off of playing libido driven a-holes and this is another installment in that series. B-.
Lakeview Terrace - really tense film with a great performance from samuel l jackson. writing is great and labute's direction really toes the line well. solid thriller. B+.
Why Did I Get Married Too? - not as predictable as i thought it was going to be. perry isn't known for his subtlety, but this is one of his least effective films to date. sometimes his films border on the corny, but work for me because the characters are likable and the message is good so i want it to work. here, though, the characters were over the top and the situations were often silly. i actually think that perry has talent, but he needs to work on his character development and direction in order to be successful to a wider audience. C-.
Date Night - nice enough comedy with two talented performers who could have done better. this is one that passes the time, but doesn't really excel in any way. it has an undercurrent of commentary on how uneventful modern living is and that's about all that worth noting. enjoyed the cameos by franco and kunis. B-.
Sex And Death 101 - interesting idea that doesn't really go anywhere. it's about a guy who gets an email with a list of the names of all the girls he will ever sleep with. the first 20+ are familiar to him, but the rest aren't. soon he discovers that the list is telling the future. i'll leave it at that. C.
Day Of The Dead - some of the direction showed some promise, but this is mostly a crappy remake with bad acting and writing. D+.
Don't Look Now - kind of a cross between tarkovsky (solaris) and polansky (rosemary's baby). the ending left me unimpressed, though there are probably plenty who would like it. it was blair witch project-esque and they were probably inspired by this film, but they did it better. the infamous sex scene is cheesy by today's standard. roeg's style is noteworthy and strong, but not really to my liking. by the end i found myself asking what the point was. really, that's all? that's how you're going to end the movie? it makes little to no sense. then i found out that it was originally written by daphne du maurier who also did rebecca, i believe. rebecca is another overrated suspense film that doesn't do much for me so i guess it makes sense. note to self: don't watch anything else inspired by du maurier. C.
Clash Of The Titans - i've seen the original probably 6+ times, but not at all recently so i only remember the broad strokes and tone/look of the picture. couldn't tell you how closely it followed the plot and whatnot, though they did leave the mechanical owl out which is too bad. the original was kind of a good bad film. it's good in a schmaltzy kind of way. good because the effects were weirdly good for the time and it was so otherworldly that it was kind of nice to see. maybe people will look back on sky captain and the world of tomorrow in the same way. that seems a forgotten film, but it had an unforgettable look and was tongue in cheek.
this film has been panned by pretty much everyone and i can kinda see why, but i don't think they're looking at it in the right way. it's not a 3d blockbuster like avatar and it's no lord of the rings, it's just a fun, kind of silly movie to pass the time between thinking about getting another parking ticket and wondering if anyone has been shot on your block while you're at the theater. in that way, the film succeeds. the first 15 minutes have some awful dialogue, but once it gets over that hump it's a watchable film. C+.
Reign Over Me - not bad not good dramedy. nothing really stood out to be honest. the chemistry between sandler and cheadle was fine, not exceptional. C+.
Greenberg - never really gets off the ground. it's not a bad film, but it's not good either. it's no kicking and screaming or squid and the whale. stiller is good in a toned down, comedic version of his permanent midnight character. it's not like he's never done this kind of thing before, but he's more well known for having jizz hanging off his ear than he is for this kind of performance. personally i prefer the jizz-soaked stiller, but that's because i'm high brow like that. probably because i spent a lot of time studying at oxford as a rhodes scholar. here here, bob's your uncle and all that good stuff mate. B.
Hot Tub Time Machine - gross and funny comedy that does a lot of 80s film and pop culture referencing. there are visual references to films like sixteen candles and back to the future, to name a couple. it was good to see crispin glover back. funny stuff here that passes the time between elections or whatever. B+.
Shampoo - afi has this as one of the 100 funniest american films ever. according to my dad it was a partial influence of p.t. anderson's for boogie nights. i've seen it twice now and laughed probably 6 times total. it's basically a piece of shit that follows wilt chamber, er, warren beatty as he lays pipe all around town. there are some humorous situations, but it mostly fails to produce actual laughs. there are 2-3 actual laughs in here so it's not a total waste, but it produces fewer laughs per minute than the average cbs sitcom, and i can't even name one cbs sitcom so that's saying something. in the end it tries for a tender moment and fails. don't bother. D+.
Kansas City Confidential - seen this karlson noir before, but barely remembered it. not much better the second time around. the premise is still a good one, but some of the plot holes kinda detracted from the film this time around. far-fetched is only the beginning. for me this one is more about look than anything else. there were some 60s era shots here which means karlson was ahead of his time visually. B-.
99 River Street - the better of the two phil karlson films. john payne was better here than he was in kcc. reminded me a bit of the killing in part because of the double-crossing wife and the sympathetic protagonist. it falls into the wrong man subgenre of noir too. B.
Wolfman - better than the remake, but not an amazing film by my admittedly modern standards. chaney was good and the effects were a laugh. i mean even by the standards of the time you'd think they could have done a better job with the makeup. anyway, this one was like 30 minutes shorter than the remake and that's about what the story deserves. the remake was bloated and i don't remember what it did with its 100 minutes. B-.
Strange One - not sure what the point of this one is. i need to write these reviews right after i watch the movies because i can barely remember this movie. ben gazzara was good. also remember that it felt more like a play than a film. i suppose it's ultimately about things like pure evil, the ease with which people are manipulated, street justice and probably some other things. gazzara was the standout here. took a while to get going and didn't have a hook which caused the first 30 minutes to drag. eventually it did get going. B-.
Meet The Fockers - pretty good sequel to a modern classic in comedy. not much new here of course, but the addition of hoffman and streisand add to the wacky chemistry. B+.
Big Heat - first time watching this classic. it goes up there with sweet smell of success as one of the more raw noirs ever made. this is of course before filmmaking lacked subtlety and restrictions like the production code. this one goes places you don't expect - the protagonist's wife is the victim of a carbombing meant to shut him up, another woman gets her face melted with hot coffee (courtesy of lee marvin), etc. wish i could recall more, but my memory is alarmingly bad. suffice it to say, though, that this is a great one. B+.
Meet The Parents - one of the most reliable comedies of the last 15 years. seen this plenty of times and it still provides good laughs. A.
Party's Over - ok documentary that follows philip seymore hoffman in the months before the 2000 election as he asks various people what they think about the country from a political perspective. it's a fairly non-partisan approach to the issues of the country and politics in general. they lean to the left and as a result bring nader into the debate more than the mainstream media did. some of the musical interludes detracted from the film and at times it felt like there was too much montage. there's not much new ground covered here and it's kinda funny watching this stuff now that the bush era is finally done. many of the issues have gotten so much worse and it was pre-9/11 so obviously a lot has changed since it was made. B-.
Green Zone - less engaging than the bourne films and more shaky (from a camerawork point of view). there's more talk and plot here than in those films because this one is much more political and seeks to explain some of the core problems with the occupation immediately following the invasion of iraq. it's nice to get a ground level view of the impact those decisions from d.c. had, but the overall impression was more complex than it needed to be. it tried to be a political thriller and an action movie, but it didn't have the clancy touch that usually allows those genres to work together. B-.
Our Family Wedding - at first it appeared as though there was going to be a somewhat funny and not pointless film here, but by the end things just sort of devolved and it became another crappy genre film. there were elements of humor and multi-culturalism that could have built upon to create a "my big fat greek wedding" type film, but it didn't do that. in the end it's missable. C.
Candidate - robert redford plays the idealistic son of the governor of california. he decides to run for senate after peter boyle coaxes him to do so. at first he runs a real idealistic campaign and is a straight shooter, but then he starts to tone it down when he realizes he has a chance and his handlers handle him too much. in the end he returns to his values and wins the election, but the future is unknown. it's a pretty good flick and redford is solid in it. the 70s style editing didn't really do it for me. B.
She's Out Of My League - fairly funny film in the apatow tradition. alice eve is great as the eponymous character and apple of baruchel's eye. has a couple cringe-inducing scenes that put it firmly into the cringe-humor genre like the office and apatow productions. it follows the familiar formula so there's not much surprise here, but the characters are decent and so is the script so i found it enjoyable enough. B.
Alice In Wonderland - no good trash. fell asleep for much of this one as i felt it was boring and uninteresting. never read the books so i don't know which of the films is more true to the original, but i know that the animated version is much better than this pile. helena bonham carter yells a lot and there's a lot of talk about some monster. in the end it's a dumb movie with few redeeming qualities. that said, if you like burton and depp you'll love this. personally i'd like to see them stop remaking classics like this and willy wonka. D+.
Ball Of Fire - good semi-take on snow white and the seven dwarves. it's got a hell of a cast and crew - elisha cook, barbara stanwyck, gary cooper, dana andrews, dan duryea, and henry travers in front of the screen and edith head, howard hawks, billy wilder, alfred newman, sam goldwyn, and gregg toland behind the camera. amazing list of people in various stages of their careers. it's a funny film with a nice premise. it's been called the last great comedy of the pre-war era. B+.
Brooklyn's Finest - a flawed film, but it has some strong elements that kept it entertaining. i really liked the opening scene near the graveyard with the two characters talking about "righter" and "wronger" setting up the relativistic nature of the rest of the film. the title is ironic - it's about brooklyn cops, but they're certainly not the best people in the world. none of the characters are particularly fun or great people. also liked the final frame which reminded me of rollerball without the zoom and bach. i found some of the dialogue to be forced and/or inauthentic. overall, though, it was an entertaining cross between short cuts and new jack city. also has a great cross-cutting sequene about midway through the film that i enjoyed. B.
Cop Out - smith's worst film. first one he'd directed without writing and i'm guessing he won't do it again. the writing didn't help him much here. in theory there's a mildly entertaining film somewhere in this lethal weapon meets rush hour comedy, but i had trouble finding it. morgan is funny enough and willis is fairly bland though not the weak link. like i said, that's the writing which is cliche for the most part and only produces a few laughs mostly from sean william scott's character. C.
Great Outdoors - pretty good flick that came between two superior hughes/candy collaborations - uncle buck and planes, trains, and automobiles. hughes didn't direct this one, but his touch is evident. it focuses more on the adults than most of his previous films, but it has the younger characters doing their thing too. though this is a nice enough comedy it shows that hughes was really at his best when he was writing and directing. B.
Foreign Affair - starts off with an odd feel, but gets rolling about 30 minutes into it. jean arthur is one of my favorites and she carries the film most of the way here. marlene dietrich is also good at what she does. wilder as a german expatriate clearly has a vested interest in the subject matter so it's interesting from that point of view as well. B-.
Going Berserk - lots of 80s actors make an appearance here, but they're the kind of people whose face you'll recognize, but whose name you may not have ever heard. the movie isn't great, though it has a couple laughs. notable only for being an early john candy and eugene levy film. C+.
My Favorite Wife - this is one of those 30s/40s films where the couple is separated in some way and waiting for the law to make things final. there are a few of these kinds of films, though i can only think of mr. and mrs. smith off the top of my head. my dad would probably lump them into some subgenre of the screwball comedy. in this one the wife is thought to be dead so cary grant is able to marry another woman. however a few days after the new marriage his old wife returns (she was actually stranded on an island and was finally rescued) and throws a wrench in things. irene dunne is pretty good and grant is grant. it's not one of the best films of this era, but it's good entertainment. B-.
Shutter Island - memento-esque ending was the cherry on top of this one. also liked the vertigo element to the ending. besides the ending the film is good and suspenseful. it's a bit on the long side and i think it tips its hat a bit too much (the new partner, the cut on his forehead, the timing of dicaprio and his partner's arrival [they come a day after the woman goes missing yet are both from different parts of the country and why is a missing woman a federal case anyway?] and the unlikely setup, etc.). dicaprio's performance gets better as his character gets deeper into the mystery. it's not scorsese's best film of all-time, but it's good to see him doing something different. B+.
Valentine's Day - not as bad as i thought it was going to be. it's certainly not a good film and there's not much in the character development category, but there were a fair number of laughs that kept it watchable. it's also got a pretty high babe index with chicas like julia roberts, jessica biel, anne hathaway, jessica alba, and jennifer garner. it's similar to love actually in a lot of ways but had more laughs and wasn't as heavy-handed as that was. C.
White Ribbon - i know that michael haneke is a good director, but i don't know much about his films other than that. i mean, i've seen several of his films (both versions of funny games, white ribbon, piano teacher, benny's video, and cache), but i don't necessarily know how to categorize the guy and his work. is he a pessimist, a realistic, or just really really german (or austrian as the case may be)? sex and violence are big themes as are precocious and mischievous (to put it mildly) kids. his films raise a lot more questions than they give answers, that's for certain.
white ribbon is no exception to this rule and it may actually be the film that encapsulates the michael haneke feel best. it has all the elements of twisted sociopathic kids run amok that we see in funny games and benny's video. it has the sadistic sexuality of piano teacher. it has the mystery and suspense of cache. it has the ambiguous, almost flat, ending of all his films. i've complained before about filmmakers ending a film too late. haneke is about the only director who (arguably) ends the film too early on a consistent basis.
this and his other films, aren't for everyone. i liked the film once it got rolling (after about 20 minutes), but it's not a film i'm going to run out and recommend to everyone i know. i don't know what haneke wants us to think or to think about with his films, but they provide a platform to think about a lot of the more unsavory elements of society and humanity. it's a side of humanity i wish we could deny, but ultimately i guess it's where the species is right now. the makers of south park have explained the premise of the show basically like this: "we think kids are assholes, yet they can be cruel little shitheads and get away with it because they're kids. so it makes for a good comedic setup where you can have a character like cartman who is a bigot an all the rest and kinda get away with it as comedians because it's just a stupid kid spouting all that hate and stupidity." i don't know if haneke feels the same way about kids in general or if the kids in his films are a metaphor for society in some way. socially we're still children, still unable to do the right thing, still sadistic and hateful and vengeful at times. B+.
Crazy Heart - decent film, but not great. bridges was nice, but i think kris kristofferson would have done as good a job. actually, they should make a movie about that guy because he's one of the more interesting people i've read about. look him up. it's the same film as the wrestler, but bridges is a bit more likable and the ending is happier. wrestler is probably more realistic when it comes to depicting the ebbs and flows of recovery. i almost doubt the story that is being pushed on the press junkets for this film. the story is that this was going to go straight to dvd, but was picked up at the last minute and went to the theaters. with the names behind the film early i just find it hard to believe. it's a familiar setup and it doesn't push the boundaries stylistically so i don't see why it wouldn't make it to the theaters. B-.
Crazies - romero with another dead film incarnation here. this isn't anything special and is completely replaceable by any of the dead films, particularly the good ones (the first three). the white suits and gas masks are a haunting visual that is repeated throughout. the government reaction is also a nice touch, but really these things should have just been worked into dawn of the dead. it predates dawn of the dead so one could argue he was refining his technique here or something. looking forward to the remake. C.
From Paris With Love - expected a bit more in the action department here because i've been impressed by morel in the past. that said, it's a solid film, just a step below morel's previous films (taken and district 13). travolta is good as a not by the book agent who leaves a trail of destruction and dead bodies. it's a familiar setup in a lot of ways, but travolta and the action keep it good. amazing that travolta can be in films like pulp fiction and get shorty and this, but then also in films like old dogs and be cool and battlefield earth. pulp fiction is one of the 25 best of all-time and battlefield earth and grease are two of the 25 worst of all-time. B.
Wolfman - haven't seen the original, but will shortly. this isn't a very good film. the action is loud and obnoxious rather than being edgy or scary or exciting. none of the performances are noteworthy and the original concept can't really be credited to a remake. the sets were nice enough and the look of the film was suitable. that's about all i can say for this one. C-.
A Slight Case Of Murder - more comedy than gangster flick here. nice picture with a setup that could have gone more towards i am a fugitive from a chain gang instead of talk of the town. fun enough. B-.
Platinum Blonde - lead in this reminded me of jeremy renner, but just in the looks department. it's about a newspaper man who falls for a rich girl whose family he's writing a story about. slowly she tries to change him into a society type. eventually he leaves her and the film ends with him confessing his love for his lady friend who has been by his side the entire time. it's a classic setup that works because of robert riskin's writing and the actors' ability to deliver it well. it's much more a prelude to it happened one night than it is it's a wonderful life. capra definitely benefited throughout his career from riskin's writing. B.
Dodge City - another good 1939 film. errol flynn is good as always. has a good bar room brawl that got me wondering about the best bar room brawls in movie history. the one that immediately popped into my head was the one in destry rides again (another 1939 movie). B.
Edge Of Darkness - pretty good return for mel gibson after a long hiatus. reminded me of taken and payback (without the humorous edge). nothing amazing here, but it's solid with some comic relief and a couple badass moments. not as good as taken, but perhaps more thoughtful. B.
Harry & Tonto - nice enough film about an old guy who hits the road with his cat in tow. art carney won an academy for the role which is why i saw it. nice little road film. reminded me a bit of straight story. B.
Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls - russ meyer always delivers a certain aesthetic and this one is no exception. it's a hippie movie about the generation gap and the allure of fame as well as all the usual stuff that goes with a 60s era film (though it was released in 1970). this one is perhaps most notable because it was penned by roger ebert; his only film writing credit to my knowledge. it's well written, if a bit self-aware at times. the summary at the end is a good example. B.
Hamburger Hill - not amazingly well acted or directed, but the writing is really good and it captures life in the shit about as realistically and even-handedly as i can imagine a major motion picture doing. a few of the performances left something to be desired, particularly that of pretty boy dylan mcdermott. that was a poor casting and directing decision there. bad acting aside the film succeeds because of the snapshot it gives of the worst war in american history. we got our asses kicked and for no good reason. we didn't respect the troops, we had the draft, we shouldn't have been there and everything was boiling over. this film reflected all of that well. didn't realize until half way through the film that the original music is by philip glass which is always a bonus. like the roll call at the end which is a shoutout to old wwii flicks. predator, which came out just two months before this, also used a roll call at the end. B+.
Beautiful Girls - star-studded cast with bad writing and directing. this one doesn't do much. it has the usual buddy flick stuff like diner mixed in with the small town and aging 30 something malaise motifs. nothing about it is really noteworthy in one direction or another. C.
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me - pop culture references-a-plenty here. heather graham isn't as good as elizabeth hurley, but she's better than beyonce. mini me and fat bastard were good additions and mini me is a classic character for this generation. A-.
Austin Powers In Goldmember - the worst of the series. they totally ignore heather graham's existence in the last film. still a funny film with a couple good sequences and the rest of it is chuckle-inspiring. good that they ended with this one as it's the least memorable of the bunch and was clearly on the downslope at this point. B.
Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery - the best of the bunch on almost every level. the later films had better secondary characters like mini me and goldmember and fat bastard, but this one has the best of the women and the best jokes. it's a 90s classic. A.
Away We Go - jon krasinski is great and the writing is solid. maggie gyllenhaal is also really good. B+.
Miracle Woman - good not great early capra film. stanwyck is really good as is david manners, whom i had never heard of. it reminded me of later films like leap of faith and elmer gantry. the ending is definitely capra. one of the themes that capra works with is the stupidity of the masses. in it's a wonderful life george is only in his situation because his friend stupidly gives away the money in the envelope to the evil mr. potter. later the masses make a bank run that threatens to tear the bank apart. there's another bank run in american madness from people who stupidly and selfishly want to pull all their money out because there was a robbery the previous night. in mr. smith goes to washington you see the masses easily manipulated by the media boss who owns the newspapers. in spite of the overwhelmingly gullible populace it seems that capra has faith in humanity and the individual. we're all in this together. B+.
Gone In 60 Seconds - the plot is thin and, frankly, i didn't understand the entire premise, but none of that matters. this is about the cars and the car chase that makes up the last 20 or so minutes of the film. the rest is more or less an excuse to get there. the car chase at the end is one of the best in cinema history. it goes throughout the south la region and interrupts people going about their daily business. it's funny in addition to being action-packed and edge of your seat type stuff. the better car chases allow the drivers to destroy the cars and by the end of this one the car is pretty damn jacked up. also liked that it showed some of the details involved in car theft. like it when heist-type movies in particular decide to show you the nitty gritty details. B+.
Camp Nowhere - i may have seen this movie before, but i'm not sure. christopher lloyd helps it be watchable with some comedic stuff. other than him it's your usual preteen coming of age type thing. completely predictable and all that. C+.
Seven Pounds - knew how this would turn out within 30 minutes, so the next 1.5 hours were spent hoping that more characters would enter the story. instead it got caught up in the romance with smith and dawson and never went anywhere. the idea of the film is potentially a good one in the right hands and with the right people, but this film didn't have any of that. music, especially the main theme which featured a four note phrase that repeated with the third note being intentionally ill-tuned, was awful. acting was poor. just all-around not a very good film. points earned for being well-intentioned i guess. C-.
Seven Year Itch - finally got around to watching this classic. wilder is as close to lubitsch as i can think of in terms of style of humor while maintaining quality. monroe turns in a fairly nuanced performance here if you watch for it. she's also smoking hot with curves you don't see as much these days. classic for a reason. A-.
Heavyweights - not good and not bad pre-teen flick about a fat camp. ben stiller has great range and this, along with his show, demonstrate that as well as anything. C+.
Little Otik - trippy film about a couple who are infertile. one day the man chops down a tree and carves the stump into the shape of a baby. the woman thinks it's her baby and they take care of it as if it were a real child. after a fake pregnancy the stump turns into a living stump-baby that has an insatiable appetite. weird shit with some fun stop-motion animation. funny at times. not sure what the point is. maybe you shouldn't mess with nature or something. a major motif in the film is food which we see a lot of and is the driving plot device because the "baby" can't get enough of it. B-.
Beau Geste - saw this many years ago once and it always stuck in my head, though i didn't remember any of the details of the film. the three male leads are all good in their roles and great actors on the whole. it's fun to see preston, milland, and cooper in a great film that predates their best known films like dial m for murder, music man, and meet john doe. cooper shines when the role is right, but i don't think he was a strong enough actor to make a bad movie good. here the role is right and he turns in a nice performance. it's a strong screenplay and it's pulled off well overall. A-.
28 Days - dramedy about sandra bullock going to rehab. rehab movies are never overly fun, but this one manages to not be overly simplistic or preachy, given the subject. bullock is good and viggo mortensen turns in a good supporting performance. i found it to be fairly realistic from what i've seen of rehab clinics. B.
Diner - a modern classic of sorts. never watched this in its entirety until tonight, though i had seen parts before. in my family this film is most well known for the character (who has 2-3 scenes tops) who recites lines from the sweet smell of success. he's basically a throw away character, but for some reason he's seemingly the only reason my dad even mentions this film. it's got a good cast of characters and some nice dialogue. it goes over the usual 20-something malaise and lack of direction stuff that the graduate or american graffiti type films cover. it feels like a small town film, but it takes place in baltimore so that's odd. it's also interesting to note that the colts were a central element of one of the storylines, but they ended up moving out of baltimore a couple years after the film was released.
daniel stern has had a fortunate career. he's a fine enough actor, but i think i'll remember him best for his ability to pick important movies. breaking away, diner, c.h.u.d., home alone, city slickers, blue thunder, born in east l.a., hannah and her sisters, leviathan - these are all little classics in their own way. they're not all brilliant works, but they're each important or noteworthy for one reason or another and stern, a character actor, happened to get into all of them. B.
Heaven Can Wait - lubitsch film that i finally got around to seeing. can't remember much about the remake with warren beatty, but i remember it being a fairly harmless little comedy. this, though, is funny and thoughtful and dark all rolled into one. lubitsch is climbing up the ladder for me. if i were as dedicated as i was before i'd watch 4-5 of his films in the next month to really get a grip on his style, but that's difficult for me to do these days. i wish they made comedies like this these days. so-called thoughtful comedies these days are films like in the loop which produce no laughs are little entertainment value. a film like this is both high and low art. it is like the simpsons in its heyday. there is the high brow, literary comedy for the so-called intellectuals and then there's the more low brow stuff. meanwhile there is a plot that both tells an engaging story and teaches a lesson. we're lucky these days when we get a film like hangover which tells an engaging story and has a solid amount of low brow humor. there's nothing wrong with that, but it would be nice if the occasional film was produced that had it all.
i'm not saying this is the greatest of all comedies, but it's a solid and fun film that engages the mind on more than one level and i appreciate that and would like to see more of it. B+.
A Single Man - a slow and uninteresting film which has one redeeming quality - the sets and costumes. so, they captured the time well visually, but other than that the film was a total bore for me. firth is going to get an oscar nomination, but i honestly didn't see all that much to write home about. acting is as subjective as anything else i guess. honestly i'd be just as likely to vote for jean-claude van damme in jcvd as i would vote for firth in this film. i should stop watching julianne moore films because her schtick is getting tired and i don't want to ruin her performances in films i love - boogie nights and magnolia. C-.
Book Of Eli - spoilers ahead. best movie of the year so far and an early top ten contender. really liked the look of it, the feel of it, the soundtrack. denzel was good and the hughes brothers show they still have the touch. this one is more road warrior than menace II society, but it has the realism that that film has. that's not to say that it's a wholly realistic film, there are some things that require a leap of faith, if you will, but the feel of it was realistic and that's what i think matters most. it's not in the same class as road warrior, but it was more fun to watch than the road. there's obvious commentary about the nature of the bible and there's the universal themes of good vs. evil as well. in the end we find that denzel is blind which is a shock, but a fun one. you realize that he's blind yet he sees more than anyone else in the film. this borrows from many kung-fu films the theme of the handicapped hero - one armed fighters, blind monks, etc. B+.
A Letter To Three Wives - good film about three friends who get a letter from another woman that says she ran away with the husband of one of them. much of the film is flashbacks of the women and their husbands at low points in their relationship. the women think about their husbands and wonder if theirs is the one who was unfaithful. kirk douglas is a stand out as always. linda darnell and paul douglas are also good. it's a good film. B.
Coraline - visually interesting and imaginative, but didn't really capture my attention. meryl fell asleep and i nodded off here and there so...C+.
Invictus - a bit overblown and extended, especially towards the end. it's hard to make films about something like this because the truth of the subject matter is already seemingly right out of hollywood, that once you put it on screen it's difficult for it not to appear preachy or sappy. freeman does a good job. eastwood's son botched the music and eastwood senior should probably let someone else do his music from now on. i know he likes composing his own stuff from time to time and he has good taste in jazz, but i've never been in love with the scores from the films he directs. B-.
JCVD - a perfect double feature here and it happened quite accidentally. jcvd is about washed up action star jean-claude van damme who is trying to get his finances together and get back into big films and also trying to get back in touch with his daughter. it encapsulates the arc of jcvd's career and the career of many movie stars. in one memorable scene he talks directly to the camera about his drug addiction and the allure of fame and fortune. it's an autobiographical metaphorical film that works because it's honest, funny, sad, and even has some action. it's not the kind of film you would expect from a once big time actor. B+.
Star - this one stars bette davis, but is really more about joan crawford than davis. like jcvd it's about a washed-up film star who finds herself in some trouble. davis is great here as always. it reminded me not only of jcvd which i just saw, but also of sunset blvd which is better than this film, but a bit overrated too. sterling hayden plays a ron kirby (hudson in all that heaven allows) type of guy who helps davis out in her time of need. she's in complete denial about her career and thinks that her career is all that she has. it's a good film, but even a bad film about the show biz is at least somewhat interesting. B+.
Love Actually - i'm not entirely sure whether richard curtis intended for this to be a joke or not, but it is. in the film bill nighy plays an aging pop/rock star who comes out with a new christmas song in an attempt to reach the top of the charts. it's an awful cover of a song about love. he knows it's a shitty song and says as much throughout the film in interviews, etc. he's pandering to the masses and he knows it. this film is the same way, though i'm not certain that curtis knows it. i'd respect the guy a lot more if he did this all as a joke: i can make the most awful and schmaltzy crap filled film you're likely to see this year and you'll still eat it up because you're emotionally simple. if i ever talk with him i'll ask him about this.
it's not that the film is without funny moments or at least the idea of real feelings, it's just that it's delivered as if it were done by a computer program. there's little to no character development and absolutely no subtlety. i won't even address how ridiculously unrealistic it is, after all it's just a dumb movie.
the writing is awful and i'm convinced that the only reason people embraced this is the star power that it brings. there are an amazing number of (mostly british) stars who likely pulled in the viewers and were able to sell to the public the perception that this is a quality film. the thing that's so brilliant about the star system (the only sustainable system that the film industry has found) is that it doesn't always require good acting or writing or directing or anything else; and this film is evidence of that as well as any other in cinema's history. because people like the stars in the film they think they like the characters, they think they like the film, they think it's well done, etc. of course the whole things is a rouse, but it totally works.
by the way, i have little to no problem with the british people - they've historically made great music and, the revolution aside, have been on our side for a long time. that said, they're basically incapable of making great films. it's just genetically/socially impossible for them to generate a really great film. ok, so there are maybe 5 in their history - goodbye mr. chips (directed by an american), lawrence of arabia (overrated), bridge on the river kwai, trainspotting, gandhi. what's more is that their best filmmaker and maybe the best ever (hitchcock) didn't make his great films until he left. and one of my favorites (kubrick) made worse films once he moved to the uk. so clearly there is something cosmic about the uk which sucks away film talent.
lastly, the film has a pretty damn loose definition of "love." i understand that it was trying to show the various ways that love manifests itself, but i don't know that any of the man-woman relationships could be classified as love. i specify man-woman because it did appear as though the parents did love their children, though, oddly, non-romantic love really isn't addressed in the film. it's only the crushes and whimsical forms of "love" that are seen in the film. the cheating husband, the woman who has a crush on her co-worker, the writer who is infatuated with a woman who speaks a different language (they've never had a conversation yet they get engaged at the end of the film), the young boy who has a literal schoolboy crush on some nine year old girl, a guy who flies to wisconsin to hook up with american chicks, the prime minister who wants to pork his assistant (who looks an awful lot like monica lewinsky)...none of these suit my idea of love. i'd be interested to hear from people who like the film to see which one actually fits their definition of love. the couple that we may see the least is a man and woman who are stand-ins who develop a friendship and are engaged a couple weeks later. this may be love, though it certainly moved quickly. the only other love that may have existed in the film is one that we don't see - liam neeson and his late wife may have loved each other, but she's dead when the movie starts so we don't really know.
perhaps all the ideas of love in the film are cautionary, but that would require a completely different tone - one that isn't so happy, supportive of the nonsense, and is more critical. instead the film reinforces the idea that everything in the film is love with the intro and epilogue by saying "love is actually all around." it's supposed to be an uplifting statement in the post 9/11 world (it actually mentions 9/11), but it doesn't work. grant points out in the intro narration that all the people in the plane who called others before they died were calling loved ones, not hated ones. this is proof, apparently, that love is all around us and, presumably, more powerful and beautiful than hate. of course the reason they had to do that is that the terrorists were full of hate so it's an odd point to make.
dreadful film with a few funny moments and some tna. F+.
Sherlock Holmes - this film lacked something and i'm not really sure what that was. some have talked about a lack of chemistry between the leads, which may have been part of it. it also lacked some of the snap that ritchie usually delivers. the trailer was better than the film, definitely. should have been trimmed by about 15 minutes. B-.
Daybreakers - gory vampire flick where humans are the outcast minority. interesting twist in this way, but it's still yet another vampire film. visually it was nice enough and the gore was decent. story was average on the whole, ending was the usual. not good and not bad. C+.
Valentino: The Last Emperor - documentary about the fashion icon who is thinking about retirement after 45 years in the industry. in it we see that he's self-obsessed and constantly pampered by his entourage (which includes five little dogs that all look the same). on the one hand it's interesting because we see how he is pushed out by the corporation that bought his company and this is indicative of a larger trend of corporations squeezing all they can out of a brand/man and then moving onto the next one. on the other hand it gives some insight into the pathetic little world of a supposedly big man. it's not a biting expose or anything, but the guy and all his little followers are pathetic, self-important people and the film doesn't hide that fact. i wouldn't watch it unless you're interested in him or the industry. C+.
Hangover - solid buddy road trip comedy. B+.
Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call - New Orleans - pretty good, trippy flick that sees cage doing his usual thing, though it fits here better. i think he should take roles where he's on drugs most of the time because that fits his style much better than some of the comic book type stuff he's taken recently. still think raising arizona is his best effort, though many would say it's leaving las vegas. herzog does some weird things here that i honestly don't understand, but at its core this is a good film about pain and addiction. we're not sure how long cage has been an addict, though the film sets us up to believe that he does drugs as a coping mechanism for his pain. B.
Leap Year - pretty bad romantic comedy with amy adams. completely predictable and easy as usual. this one has been forgotten already. D+.
Up In Smoke - finally got around to seeing this, the first cheech and chong movie. pretty funny throughout, though it fades towards the end. next i'll have to watch born in east l.a. remember the corsican brothers being good, but haven't seen that in many years. B.
Cannes Man - probably good for the six degrees of kevin bacon, but not much else. nothing worth watching here folks, move along. D+.
Foul Play - uninteresting and long chevy chase and goldie hawn comedy. didn't do much of anything. dudley moore's character was kinda funny. C.
Princess And The Frog - old style animated disney flick. takes place in new orleans and is commonplace other than that. for fans of the genre and little kids. C+.