27 December 2009

2012

Disclaimer: I went in knowing this would be bad. At least it wasn't Transformers 2.

In 2010, a Hindi scientist discovers that nutrinos from space (dear god, yes) are bombarding the earth and ripping apart the crust, core, and whatever contrivances the writer/director comes up.

None of this matters, because all we want is to see crap blowing up.

Sadly, we get the same three scenes over and over again for 2.5 hours. Either we hear politicians talk about the escape plan, a plane/car races away from disaster, or John Cusack's family is having dysfunctional family issues.

And just when you think a crisis is averted, there's another one and another one... just idiotic. Not tense. Towering Inferno is tense. This is inane. There's even an ethical debate about saving some 500 or so lives even though less than 1% of the planet is going to survive 2012 anyway.

Lame.

Lame.

And you know what? I don't have the energy to go on in too much depth about it. Suffice to say, the film has as much depth as any else Roland Emmerich has made. Not as bad as ID4 or 10,000 B.C., but still bad.

If you like explosions and Russian accents, check it out. If you like to see Tibet crushed under the heel of China, it has that too.

03 December 2009

The Road

Wow.

I read the book (which is amazing) and this movie does not disappoint.

Based on Cormac McCarthey's book of the same name.

So exhausting, though. Depressing. Grueling. Not a

single

happy

moment.

Seriously.

John Hillcoat directs. He also directed the Proposition. Which I hated. It was good to see that he didn't go into too many boring useless directions.

I'd be curious to know if he read the book or not.

Awesome cameos in this. Very little dialog. Bleak landscapes.

Everything a post-apocalyptic film is supposed to be.

Lots of details to pay attention to. Lots of moments of awful human misery and indignity. Not for people who think 2012 is about the end of the world.

Long Way Down

Based on the exceptional Long Way Round documentary about Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman going EAST from London to New York, this new film (in 10 parts) takes the pair from the Northern Tip of Scotland to the Southern Tip of the Cape of Good hope in South Africa.

Like the original, the pair travel with Claudio (camerman) and find ways to get into accidents and mangle their motorcycles (more than a few times). The first 7 episodes this go around a very boring though, as the pair rushes from location to location, barely enjoying themselves at any of the locations they visit. In fact, a lot of Drama unfolds as a result.

And not good drama. Just pissing and moaning.

However, when the pair get to Tanzania (the last three episodes of the series) the film explodes open with potential. You can see everyone finally enjoying themselves, visiting gorgeous corners of Africa, and really taking the bikes into fun quadrants of the dark continent.

No where near as good as the Mongolian and Kazakhstani legs of the original series, Long Way Down suffers from exploring material that's been explored before... and this time with more money and more creature comforts.

If you like motorcycle stories and epic cross-country journeys this is a must-see, but I would certainly recommend Long Way Round before recommending this.

26 November 2009

Mystery Men

My second favorite superhero film (after Unbreakable). Everything is spot on perfect. Really. The only slow part is watching them train with the Sphinx. Even then, who can complain about lines like…
When you can balance a tack hammer on your head, you will head off your foes with a balanced attack.
Superb. Magical. Serendipity.

It even has Tom Waites and Eddie Izzard.

15 November 2009

Who Am I?

In order to cleanse the awful taste of Kung Fu Chefs from my mouth, I had to watch one of my favorite Jackie Chan films. I've reviewed this movie a bunch of times on this site. I'm not going to do it again. I skip the first 15 minutes now, when I watch this film and get right to the road rally race portion. After watching it 20 times, can you blame me?

Gong fu chu shen (Kung Fu Chefs)

Sammo Hung and a few other no namers take on the world of Iron Chef cookery and kung fu nonsense is the epileptic story with two many themes to count. Siu-Lung Leung makes a small appearance as Sammo Hung's estranged brother. Illogic and poor writing stars throughout the film.

Only three fight scenes. All of them good.

13 November 2009

Vitus

Vitus is a German film about a young boy whose IQ is beyond measure and the complications that arise from a world that bores him.

He's a masterful piano player and everything he tries to do, he masters effortlessly. The movie meanders during ACT II and then comes together in the end. It's really good.

And for a German film, it's quite emotional. I was impressed.

The movie is not about expert film techniques, lighting, and cheoreography. But it is about story and narrative. Which are really important to me.

12 November 2009

I.O.U.S.A.

Another of the many documentaries about debt and fiscal irresponsibility.

It is the best made of these, but other than the information about Medicare, there's nothing new here.

In fact, what's obvious to me about this documentary is that young people aren't going to foot the bill of Medicare twenty years from now; so this really won't cripple the government the way the documentary insists it will.

But yeah, the American economy is THAT screwed. If you haven't watched any of these kinds of documentaries, this is the one to watch.

Sword of the Stranger

I saw this in theatres before during that one day extravoganza. And my opinion has not changed. Unless improving is change.

Fantastic. I wish all anime was this good.

Watched it twice in fact, before sending it back to Netflix.

So. Frickin. Good.

31 October 2009

My Brother's Keeper

Done in the style of an Errol Morris documentary…
This acclaimed documentary explores the odd world of the four elderly Ward brothers -- illiterate farmers who have lived their entire lives in a dilapidated two-room shack. When William Ward dies in the bed he shared with his brother Delbert, the police become suspicious. Citing motives ranging from sex crime to euthanasia, they arrest Delbert for murder, penetrating the isolated world that left "the boys" forgotten eccentrics for many years.
Not the quality of Errol Morris, to be sure, but a gripping story. Highly recommended.

I can't say much more without giving away the plot. The documentary is over 10 years old, so bear that in mind.

26 October 2009

Surveillance

When you think of the kind of movie David Lynch's daughter might make about a pair of serial killers who terrorize a small town, you might envision something like Surveillance. What you don't expect is that Jennifer Chambers Lynch might just be better at this than her father.

And that's saying something.

Surveillance cannot be defined in simple jargon. It is not a movie for the masses. It is not a film for anyone with sensibilities, ego, children, or perhaps… even a soul. This movie is that depraved, awkward, distressing, and majestic all at the same time. If Old Boy is one of the greatest vengeance films of all time, then certainly someone should examine which genre Surveillance is the greatest film (in).

The movie preys upon many factors: perspective, power, and tone. The perspective of each character comes into question (most strikingly by the film styles revealing their accounts of the murder). The power of those who have it and those who do not. The murders are not merely acts of violence but demonstrations of helplessness. The cops themselves abuse their power, to vile ends, showing that no one is this film is worthy of redemption.

Finally, there's the tone of the film, which keeps the viewer constantly on edge and distressed by what is going on. This tone is exacerbated by two factors. One, the cops are reprehensible figures who deserve nothing more than death at their abuses. Two, the actors, all playing at different tones and values throughout the film, each almost working in their own one-man show. The casting is perfect for this in fact. No greater example of this exist then the first time Julia Ormand, Bill Pullman, and Michael Ironside all stand in a hallway together, awkwardly redacting lines and blocking to create a melange of disjointedness — making the audience feel fitful about the events taking place (which again brings us back to perspective).

On the surface it would appear that Lynch is just trying to freak us out with gore, and the "making of on the DVD" certainly adds to this pallor. But this is just a bait and switch technique to distract us from the true themes of the film.

I haven't been this impressed in a long time. Movies like this just don't exist.

Disclaimer: Seriously. If you think Ice Cube/Eddie Murphy/Chevy Chase is funny or you enjoy romantic stories from the makers of the McConaughey-Bullock-Lopez-Aniston nonsense machine, do not see this film.

Mou Gaan Dou (Infernal Affairs)

The punny title of the American release makes my skin crawl with stupidity, but I had to watch the movie Departed was based on. And while not as good as Scorsese's version, it holds its own.

And it's obvious Scorsese watched this version. Many tropes are used wholesale and other ideas are just dropped or improved.

Tony Leung Chiu Wai (from Hard Boiled) once again plays a deep undercover agent, only this time the focus is a little less action-oriented and more on the drama of being removed from polite society for ten years.

If you've seen Departed, I recommend this, just to see how high production values and a strong script can improve on an already good idea.

As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me

Clemens Forell, a German soldier during WW II, is sentenced to a labour camp in far east Siberia by the victorious Russian army. After four years working in the mines he escapes from the camp (in 1949) travelling 14,000 kilometers, to reach his family.

And yes, it's as good as it sounds.

Vanguard pictures is known for low-budget, off the beaten track films. And this one is really good, despite the poor-lighting, awful action scenes, and sometimes poor acting. It does have Irina Pantaeva however, so I can't complain... I have a new crush.

Some plot threads are just dropped and the Russian commander who chases him just gets silly after a while. Luckily, they know how to focus the attention to the film. What the movie lacked, however, was a better explanation of the geography he was in. Even though it's a German movie, set in the old USSR, I'm not sure I could place exactly what land they were in at times.

25 October 2009

Whatever Works

Sigh.

It's been a long ride of bad "comedies" as Woody Allen cranks out another Woody Allen movie. While not as painful of some of his previous work, it once again involves an old man with a young woman, infidelity, and mindless banter. This one adds a threesome, gay marriage, and a "genius" of quantum mechanics (David) that you can see the actor even getting tired of playing.

Patricia Clarkson (god bless her) even tries to make sense of the film's meandering and pedantic script, but she can't. Ed Begley Jr. also appears in the most contrived of roles. What was he thinking?

Gladiator (1992)

I know this movie is simple and narrow in scope, but I love it anyway. Don't ask me why. Maybe it's the perfect scene in the ring where Tommy and Abraham stare one another down and Tommy says, "Come get your money." Maybe it's Robert Loggia playing such an even-handed role as the muscle who is your friend when he needs to be. Or maybe it's Brian Dennehy as the perfect bad-ass.

I don't really care. The movie is nearly 20 years old now, but I think it holds up well to my expectations and shows the last touches of the 80s movie-making, perhaps a few years behind the times, but still a part of that era of movies.

It remains among my favorite movies.

Year One

Saw this one on the plane for free, so I can't complain about it.

But it will receive no accolades either.

Harold Ramis writes/directs. Judd Apatow produces/destroys. Jack Black acts/flounders. Michael Cera acts/phones it in. McLovin acts/cameos. David Cross acts/redeems. Oliver Platt acts/appears courtesy of a bad agent. Hank Azaria acts/entertains. Vinnie Jones acts/tries to expand resume.

Does anyone remember when the last time most of these guys were funny? How did Ghostbusters get made anyway?

And how much of a pain in the ass will Michael Cera be in the Arrested Development remake?

Coraline

Dreadful. Dreadful. I'm not a fan of Tim Burton and his protege is nothing to speak of either. A simple childrens' story becomes a maze of stupider and stupider tropes in an attempt for the director to:

a. fill 90 minutes
b. seem more intelligent
c. ruin a good time

I don't know what this was supposed to be, but I fell asleep before it ended and woke with no interest in watching the rest, either.

Redbox sucks.

The Proposal

As bad as you think it is. Redbox does not have the options one would expect and being on vacation in Puerto Rico it was this or Paul Blart.

I think I chose poorly.

The last 20 minutes may be the worst Act III in the history of bad Romantic Comedy Act IIIs.

Dear god. It hurts.

The interviews during the ending credits were funny.

Denis O'Hare and Malin Akerman were underused in this film and Betty White was given some great and horrible dialog at the same time.

Did I mention how bad it was?

Big Stan

Stupid comedy from Rob Schneider. Not great. Some funny bits. Still better than most of Adam Sandler's last eight movies or whatever.

It was funny to see him as a bad ass in prisoner. Schneider is somewhat funny.

11 October 2009

Sorcerer

The original Wages of Fear is among on the greatest films ever made. It is nearly perfect and I can't find one flaw in it. Saying the William Freidkin's remake (Sorcerer) is only half as good as the original, still means it is half-way to perfect.

Freidkin is a master at setting, tone, and tension... French Connection and Exorcist are perfect examples of what he can accomplish. Sadly, this (and Brink Job) show Freidkin slowly losing his edge. While the opening 40 minutes is nothing but fluff, the travails along the way are just as precarious and harrowing as the original... sadly they are shorter and there are fewer of them.

In the end, the remake seems unnecessary (even though it is good) and does nothing to add to the original with the exception of the final scene.

10 October 2009

Joint Security Area (JSA)

I am the president of the "Chan-wook Park can do no wrong" club, but I've tried three times now to watch this film. And finally I just forced myself to sit through it.

I can't for the life of me figure out why the NCSS* storyline is in this movie. Had this movie just been about the soldiers and their camaraderie, it could have been Oscar-worthy. Instead, it's just lilt-less and a little contrived.

The elements are all there and the performances are extremely realistic, but the need to get the camera involved and spin the story through flashbacks is just... inane.

Disappointing.

Kang-ho Song (the Host) is fantastic in this movie and so believeable as a North Korean soldiers. He is quickly becoming my favorite Korean actor, alongside Min-sik Choi (Old Boy, Lady Vengeance, Tae Guk Gi).

* Neutral Swiss/Swedish agency that oversees communications in the JSA (compound along the DMZ for both North and South Korean officials).

Misery

A rewatch of the classic. Wife has never seen it before... was great to see her get involved with all the tension and realistic horror of this top-notch film.

Never read the book. I wonder if the end is nearly as good as this one.

Easy Virtue

Jessica Biel made a wise choice taking this role, but sadly doesn't really steal any scenes. Ever. She's outclassed at every turn. But she tries... sadly, she has many movies ahead of her. Colin Firth and Kristen Scott Thomas on the other hand.

Well.

Too bad their characters barely speak to one another.

The movie does not follow a pattern or formula, which I enjoy. However, it never really grows out of it's shell either. The ending is good, not great. And the scenes are always 15% shy of their true potential... always remaining forever "british" in their quiet servitude and dignity.

C+

Zombieland

Outrageously good. Really.

It's not what you think at all. And to talk about it, would rob the movie of it's cool.

Go see if. Even if you don't like the zombie "genre."

23 September 2009

The Hunter

Steve McQueen's final film and a living testament to the pure genius of his work. An aging bounty hunter, played by a dying actor, having trouble climbing up fences and running.

So good.

I mean, the movie opens with Steve McQueen having trouble "parking his car."

The final chase scene is like nothing else I've seen. So strong.

21 September 2009

Dummy

Perhaps Adrian Brody's best performance. Milla Jovovich's too. Fantastic movie. Hilarious.

Among my favorite movies. I read some negative reviews of it on Rotten Tomatoes... and I have to ask... why?!?

Seriously good film.

20 September 2009

Osmosis Jones

My wife had never seen this old cartoon by the Farelly Brothers. Chris Rock, Bill Murray, David Hyde Pierce, a young Elena Franklin, and a few others.

Really good stuff. Not for kids, though... which might be why it didn't crush at the box office.

Murray is fantastic. Of course... and I really like Molly Shannon in this too.

18 September 2009

Extract

Please don't ask me to explain the plot, because I don't think I can. And if I did, it wouldn't sound like a good movie anyway.

Which is far from the truth.

Mike Judge is known for movies with underlying themes or messages, but this one… this one is just funny… and it doesn't have a cause to champion or point to make. It's just Jason Bateman getting himself into quicksand.

There you go.

That's the plot.

16 September 2009

The Pledge

Among my favorite Sean Penn films... this dark masterpiece kept my brain going for hours after it was over.

And it's now 1am and I need to sleep.

Damn you, Penn!!

14 September 2009

9

The world has once again come crashing to an end… war, overpopulation, or devastation of the environment… whatever the cause, my DNA requires that I see yet again, another film about why humanity is or is not worth saving.

In Shane Acker's animation "masterpiece" the question of WHY is never answered… and maybe it's because all that remain are nine little puppets, who lack the cognition to understand the frailties of humanity… after all, they are just golems, created by the Doctor (ironically voiced by Alan Oppenheimer), the last person to die from the ravages of the war.

All of this aside, the film is gorgeous. The art style brilliant. The opening 40 minutes are stronger and smarter than anything you'll see in animation. Sadly, it's the road to a finale that the writer/director can't sew together, that stutters and stops its way through the second half of this otherwise flawless gem.

I want to love it more than I do, but I can't sign off on it 100%. I still recommend it, but it's just not as great as it could have been with just a little better writing.

13 September 2009

How the Earth Was Made

A history channel documentary about the origins of the PHYSICAL earth, with a few discussions about life on the planet. Very interesting and informative. It could have used about 20 more minutes with a little more detail on each EPOCH of the earth... perhaps with those EPOCHS named.

Not the best thing ever made (History Channel is getting worse), but still accurate and intriguing.

Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial

As part of my quest to watch as many documentaries as humanly possible, this one ranks among some of the best I've ever seen. Watching creationists fall apart on the screen fills my heart with enough glee to power the TV I was watching it on.

A must see on the subject of religion and politics.

The Tale of Despereaux

As a kid growing up in the 70s, I always hated Disney cartoons. First, we didn't get anything new for a long time — we had all these 50s and 60s reject films and nothing that spoke to our generation. Second, they were lame, lame, lame. Singing animals are just about as stupid as it gets.

To give you a timeline, Peter Pan was 1953, Cinderella was 1950, Bambi was 1942, Pinocchio was 1940, and Snow White was 1937! And let's not forget the 1946 classic, Song of the South.

So, for me, Disney was a symbol of the absolutely most wretched and stupid cartoons out there. Bugs Bunny was just as old as Mickey, but 1,000 times smarter and funnier for a kid like me. As a result, I learned to hate and resent fairy tales (never really knowing about the Brother's Grimm until I was much older). But by then, I'd cemented by hate for talking animals and singing nonsense.

There was no such thing as a good cartoon.

Without a good segue, why couldn't something like The Tale of Despereaux be made 30 years ago? Why does god hate anyone born in the 70s.

This cartoon is good on so many levels, I don't know how to review it. As a result, I'm sure it suffered at the box office and mom's hated trying to explain the really complex plot to their ADD-addled 5 year olds, pumped up on sugar-coated nonsense. I don't keep track of box office tallies on children's movies, so I don't know. I'm just speculating. Because if people really liked watching these kinds of stories, we'd never be forced to watch Shrek 3-D or Cars or hakuna matata.

In the first hour of this film there isn't a single flaw. A single bad decision. Not one misunderstanding of genre or story or pacing or art. Just gorgeous, gorgeous brilliance. I watched it on DVD and I didn't pause it once.... I was sucked right in. The rats, mice, humans: all done to perfection of detail. Even the dream sequences, with the alternative art style, just different enough. Fantastic. I even think the knight was inspired by Warhammer.

While it's a fairy tale, and therefore predictable, the story does not follow a normal formula. In fact, by minute 35, the protagonist still doesn't have a "quest" yet, making this more of a comedy of errors, rather than a true fairy tale... which is another reason people might not like it.

My only complaint is so minor, it doesn't even make sense to mention it. But the "charging" vegetable man was silly. There, I said it.

Whew.

Also note, I've not read the books, but the obvious differences from the wikipedia description to the actual movie are immense. And the changes sound like stark improvements.

In an attempt to do research to write this review, I found out things I wish I hadn't and read reviews from people that are apparently very stupid.

Make up your own mind, but go see this film.

11 September 2009

Derailed

This movie is not what you expect.

This movie is not what anyone expects.

Seriously.

Three different times during the course of watching the film, my opinion and observations changed.

Really smart.

Good movie. That's all I can say.

No spoilers.

One of Aniston's best characters ever.

Fighting

Seems odd to me that a nearly two hour movie called "fighting" would have only three fight scenes in it, an overly complex love story, truly original and organic dialog, and a truly predictable and boring finish.

I'm really, really confused. I don't like Tatum Channing anyway, but I was expecting more or less from this movie. Not... what I got.

MMA fans will be bored. Women looking for a love story will be confused. And anyone with brain cells will be offended.

10 September 2009

12 Monkeys

Among my favorite movies of all time.

Favorite Quote: A monkey and a roast beef sandwich.

The Great Buck Howard

I really liked this movie, but I did NOT like the extras. Nor did I like the last 10 minutes of this film. Writers love to make it look so easy to become a writer.

Ha.

For those unaware of the story, the writer/director creates an homage to the Amazing Kreskin and his own story of becoming a writer/director. While self-serving, the film is really fun... until you watch the extras.

So, don't.

30 August 2009

RocknRolla

Another Guy Ritchie film, this time following the same story-telling style of Snatch, with a hint of Revolver thrown into the mix. The results are a B+, instead of the A+ that is Snatch. And while I liked most of the characters a lot more in this film, Gerard Butler's voice and Johnny Quid's drug-addled behavior wore thin.

Mark Strong (as Archy) was the best part of the film, however. He really was the most collected. After that, the two Russian bad-asses that wouldn't die were also a nice treat. Again Snatch does this a little better.

Jeremy Piven and Ludacris make a good pair in this film, mimicking the work that Guy Ritchie laid down in Revolver.

Sadly, none of these films come even close to Layer Cake. But, I recommend the entire series for someone looking for a weekend of London's criminal element.

Gonzo

Over-rated documentary about an over-rated writer detailing events that had little or nothing to do with Hunter S. Thompson. The celebrity of Thompson always outweighed the writing prowess. It's too bad these documentarians had to sling some other snake oil…

I ended up turning it off 30 minutes before the end. I just didn't care. Jimmy Carter and George McGovern turned out to be 100 times more interesting than Thompson, who always wished he could be Burroughs, to be sure.

29 August 2009

Transsiberian

Not at all what I was expecting.

Really good.

Really.

Love Russian and Mongolian landscapes, so this film is right up my alley in that regard. And then it's done even smarter, with a great cast and a smart script.

Brad Anderson (of TV crime drama fame) directs.

28 August 2009

Severed Ways : The Norse Discovery of America

I'm not sure about the Norse Discovery of anything. In this film, two immature D&D players run around in the woods for two hours, killing chickens, fish, monks, and finally our patience. At one point, the director actually films someone defecating... and I'm not sure why.

According to the jacket:
In the 11th century, Vikings, Native Americans, and Irish monks collide on the shores of North America in a historical epic adventure of exploration, personal glory, and religious dominance.
Epic adventure? This barely qualifies as a hero's journey, let alone an epic adventure. They wake up, walk 200 feet, say about 10 words, and repeat this 20 times ad nauseum. What's so epic about being lost in the woods?
Abandoned by a Western exploration party and stranded in the New World, two lone Vikings struggle for survival while still in the grip of their Norse ways. eaturing an icy black metal soundtrack including Burzum, Morbid Angel, Judas Priest and Dimmu Borgir.
Of course, in order to appreciate any of that music you have to NOT put it on x2 speed, so that the figures on the screen actually move at a normal pace — this did help me finish this 107 minute film in about 60 minutes.

Two retarded films in a row. What an awesome night for me. Woohoo.

Megashark vs. Giant Octopus

While, I would love to say the movie was so good, they didn't even have to bother naming it, this preview is all of the footage of the beasts you'll actually see in film.



Yeah.

It's that bad.

This could have been fun. Instead it was stupider than Michael Bay and had worse special effects than the Godzilla rubber suit movies.

27 August 2009

Doubt

Doubt was a play before it was made into a movie and the use of monologue-ing and dialoging is ever-present throughout. There are no fist fights. No car chases. No Ridiculous special effects.

Just three amazing actors (Hoffman, Adams, Streep) working to make the most amazing scenes they can. In fact, the scene where all three of them sit down and talk about the "pageant," only for the two nuns to blind-side Father Flynn about their suspicions is among the best scenes ever recorded. The blocking, pacing, tone... absolutely brilliant. I couldn't sit still.

Like most movie adaptations of anything, the ending crumbles — in this case, only a little. But none of that matters, because we had our fill of powerful chicanery half-way through the movie.

I have nothing bad to say about this movie.

A++

24 August 2009

Miss March

Funny.

Not truly awesome. Plot problems near the end.

Too much gross out humor, albeit the pooping was funny... it was just too much.

A movie about playmates needs more boobies than this movie delivered.

C+

Pineapple Express

$1 to the first person who can list three good Judd Apatow movies.

And this isn't one of them.

District 9

So. Damn. Good.

G.I. Joe

Not only was this NOT a complete waste of time, it didn't utterly destroy my fond memories of the characters, either. Although the Korean guy as Storm Shadow made very little sense, his costume was silly, and in general 30% of everyone's dialog was garbage. Also, Snake Eyes' mask was really dumb, many characters never get called by name, Tatum Channing is a lame Duke, the majority of costumes are just bad, and the two worst actors take us a majority of the screen time.

Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 37 vs. Transformer 2's 19... nearly double. Which is sad, because even the worst movie ever made is twice as good as Revenge of the Fallen.

As far as plot-holes go:
The Baroness and Duke romance angle is weak.
The Baron works as scientist for some reason and has to weaponize the nanotech for the Baroness that Destro invented?!?!
Ice sinks.
No Major Bludd, Wild Weasel, or Firefly. What the heck?
No Joe really gets hurt (except Cover Girl who was misused anyway).
As soon as Joe decide he wants to win, there's no way anyone can stop him. Thus killing the tension.
I found myself always rooting for the badguys, because they had better actors and plot-lines.

Good Plot-Points
Marlon Wayans was not a complete waste of screen time.
Some cameos were priceless.
Awesome set up for sequels.
Anything Zartan (please no Dreadnaughts in the sequels).
There's an actor in the movie whose real name is Duncan Bravo... not a character... an actor. How cool is that?
I found myself always rooting for the badguys, because they had better actors and plot-lines.

20 August 2009

The Class

Filmed in a documentary style, this movie is about a teacher in France and the annoying pain in the ass students who argue about every little f****** thing with him. At least that's what the liner notes should say.

After two hours of this, you wonder how many more stereotypes the film is going to dredge up. Seriously, there are about five kids in the class you need a punch in the head — no one should be that good at acting smug — but because the main star is a big sissy, no one ever gets called out on their nonsense.

Rather than reveal the weaknesses of the education system and the failings of parents to encourage their children, the movie really just shows you people are jerks... and it does it for about 120 minutes.

Reminds me a lot of Kids, which was another unresolved piece of nonsense that glorified adolescent misconduct.

Sigh.

Slippery Slope

Low-budget indie comedy mixes feminist messages with sub-understanding of Adult industry.

The neurotic female lead is funny to watch, if you like laughing AT the lead character. Otherwise, you'll be disappointed that there's no one to root for in this movie.

Dan Fogler plays a small bit as the Crafts Services guy on the set. He's perhaps the highlight of the movie, with his 2.5 minutes of screen time.

Lowest point of the film was just how sadly liberal and narrow-minded the main characters are.

19 August 2009

12

In embattled Chechnya, 12 people weigh the fate of a teenager (Apti Magamaev) accused of murdering his stepfather. The jurors represent a cross-section of modern Russia's fractured society: a mealy-mouthed television producer, a flashy musician, a bigoted cabbie, a holocaust survivor. Inside this room, as in the streets, the battle for peace and tolerance plays out. Co-writer Nikita Mikhalkov directs this Oscar-nominated twist on 12 Angry Men.
If I had never seen 12 Angry Men (either version), this would have been great. Instead, it's a gorgeous, but laborious attempt at revealing Moscow and Chechnya through the eyes (and stories) of twelve very angry people.

Very little "logic." Mostly impassioned pleas for "attention" from each of the characters.

I would not be surprised if most of these actors were improving.

Following

Part Strangers on a Train, Part Three Iron, and Part David Mamet this 1998 film looks like a 1960s French psychological thriller (even though it's British). At only 70 minutes, this movie is as lean as they come. There's no down time, no "what's going on?", and no clutter.

Awesome, brainy film where the writer is king.

18 August 2009

The Edge of Love

Keira Knightley and Sienna Miller give amazing performances in an otherwise dreary film. It starts strong and drags about 20 minutes too long. Near the end, there's a shooting and the "stand off" is intense, but by that time, we're asleep.

If you're not a Dylan Thomas fan, or if you hate British period pieces (even though this is WWII), avoid this film.

And if you're looking for a story with two strong female leads, turn the movie off about 90 minutes.

Quid Pro Quo

A little short, but wow... what a brain-scrambler this little drama is. If you haven't heard of it, this is a story of Nick Stahl (Issac Knott) as a paraplegic and Vera Farmiga (Fiona) who wishes she was.

You might need to read that sentence again.

This film is strong. Very strong.

I hope it surprises you.

Doomsday

I thought this movie was going to be stupid and poorly scripted. But instead, it had about 50% of quality content, 25% of gratuitousness, and 25% of huh?!?!

Solid acting, amazing camera work, and an eye for detail make this movie better than a senseless action movie could be.

Opening is slow, knights on horseback makes no sense, and constant decapitations desensitize you, but that's movie-making, I guess.

I can't complain too much.

Rhona Mitra is strong as the lead too. She plays the first "feminine" action star in a long time. She's a little UMA Thurman and a little Signorney Weaver.

11 August 2009

Very Young Girls

David Schisgall's startling documentary captures the heartbreaking stories of underage girls -- many as young as 13 -- who've been forced into prostitution in New York, exposing how pimps use isolation, violence and drugs to keep girls dependent. Many of the girls interviewed take part in GEMS, a shelter and mentoring program founded by activist Rachel Lloyd -- once a prostitute herself -- that helps them transition out of "the life."
Not sure I can sum it up any better than that. It's not as depressing as you'd think. Most of these women have "gotten over it." But, to see some of them in transition. Horrifying.

In Bruges

If this movie had been marketing as a dark, moody piece than perhaps I wouldn't have been surprised to find out that it's a weird-exploration of some really dark material. Instead, they tried to spin it as a comedy.

And it's not.

Sadly, I'm not sure what the tone was supposed to be.

The director threw in really gorey stuff from time to time, without measuring that against the actual tone of the rest of the film.

Not sure what else to say about it, beyond that. It's not for everyone. And it's not what you think.

03 August 2009

In the Valley of Elah

Acclaimed writer Paul Haggis shows an even hand for two hours as he painstakingly shows the turmoil of Tommy Lee Jones (Hank Deerfield) pushing his way through the mire of military and civil bureaucracy in an attempt to discover the fate of his son.

So good, I don't really know what stopped it from being perfect. Or what made me wait so long to see it.

Look at this cast:
Tommy Lee Jones — tortured and depressed father
Charlize Theron — stoic and under-appreciated cop
Jason Patric — nearly emotionless military investigator
Susan Sarandon — haggard mother (who spends most of her time acting into a phone)
James Franco
Josh Brolin
Frances Fisher
Jonathan Tucker
I would pay good money to see any of these people in a film. Altogether in one movie is just gravy.

Tommy Lee Jones drives the film, taking up 85% of the real estate. Theron and Patric do get a few moments on screen, proving why they are in this movie, but in the end, Tommy's Oscar-nod is well-earned.

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels

Because of the very thick accents, I never really got past the first 15 minutes of this film, years ago when it came out. However, now that I have a massive TV and DVD has subtitles and I'm finally getting around to watching stuff I missed, I finished this on Sunday.

And you can really see Guy Ritchie finding his stride as a director in this film. Really smart. Clumsy at times and no-where near as good as Snatch (the six endings in this are a bit much). But I think this is a funny, clever film.

And Guy's ensemble casts really give room to showing a wide tapestry. No one person stands out as the lead in the movie.

I can't say much more than that. Layer Cake, Snatch, and Rock n' Rolla have much better villains than this had, but you can see Ritchie laying the foundation for really smart capper films.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

I find it almost impossible to believe this was directed by Kevin Smith. Seriously... it's not like any of his other work. Technically precise, multi-angled, fascinating... really good stuff.

I also can't believe half the Apatow crew made a movie with half the View Askew crowd. I still hate Seth Rogan, but he brings along some other talent that I enjoy watching. Elizabeth Banks and Craig Robinson to name two... oh and thank god Jonah Hill isn't in this... man what a retard he is... like Seth Rogan Jr. only more annoying.

Anything. That's hardly a way to review this film, so let me start again.

Seth Rogan and Elizabeth Banks play the title characters (Zack and Miri) with money problems. Taking a little too long to get to the plot, the characters eventually realize they can make some money by making a porno. Tracey Lords makes an appearance as one of the actress in the porno, set in the coffee shop where they work. Hijinx and poop jokes ensue, with "Randall" from Clerks making an appearance in a much toned-down role from his previous outtings. And, of course, Jason Mewes is in the movie as the lead male in the porno who can get it up anytime he wants.

In the end, the Kevin Smith shows that he's not as relevant as he used to be. Five years between projects is not a good pace for a director/writer. Especially when he's not Stanley Kubrick. I counted five laugh-out-loud moments and the rest was just screen time, passing to fill the story.... which has some great dialog until the final 15 minutes.

B–

CAMEOS: Justin Long plays Brandon St. Randy — a gay adult film star who gives them the idea to make a porno — and Brandon Routh (from Superman Returns) plays Bobby Long in some elaborate in-joke about how the latest Superman movie is gay. Really funny, actually.

22 July 2009

State of Play (2003)

Not the Ben Affleck movie (where everything is given away in the preview), but the British mini-series that waits five hours to give you any real information, and then rushes the final episode.

Sigh.

Paced liked the State Within and Five Days, both BBC mini-series, this one is the weakest of the three. Mostly because there are no likable characters (well, Bill Nighy is always good), the narrative thread is forced, and desire to actually pay attention to anyone but John Simm's character is nigh-impossible... not sure why the cast was that huge if they weren't going to use them. Seriously... the guy playing Pete (Benedict Wong) was in all six episodes and had less dialog than this review.

Lame.

I love ensemble cast stuff and this is not it. This is 30 characters all trumping up one lame character who finds out information at such a slow plodding pace, there's not really much to watch, except him being the biggest selfish bastard in mini-series history.

And he's the protagonist.

First three episodes are really good, though, in my opinion. But they really needed to edit that script down or fill it with something else. Because it's not Shakespeare.

Engima

Based on a true story, I think… about the Enigma machines used by the Nazi navy during WWII.

Part espionage. Part codebreaking. Part history. Part love story.

I'm not sure how to review this one.

It was okay. Not great. There was really very little tension.

Maybe because I just watched State of Play as well, I think British "trickery" in film-making is a little heavy-handed... at least in these two cases.

Big Trouble in Little China

This movie is my heroin. If someone were dying and I was watching this movie, I would have to finish the movie before I could help them.

That's just the way it is.

18 July 2009

Killer Klowns from Outer Space

The classic, amazing, near-perfect B-Movie romp was just as good as I remember.

Back to back with Pee-Wee, that's some good movie watching.

Big Top Pee Wee next? Hmm....

If you have seen Killer Klowns, get off your bum and rent it. Now. Go.

I'll wait.

BIG LINE: "What are you gonna do with those pies, boys?"

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure

Played at the local arthouse this evening... I can't believe how well this film holds up. Hilariously good.

And even with Tim Burton at the helm.

Fantastic!

I forgot about the "training monkeys" line... perfect!

Thanks Long Beach Art Theatre

15 July 2009

Huozhe (To Live)

Among my favorite movies of all time, Zhang Yimou's To Live is perhaps the most depressing movie around. Telling the story of a Chinese family that goes from estate owners to impoverished victims of the Communist revolution over the course of three decades.

You Ge and Li Gong absolutely own this film, in fact, I've never seen Li Gong (or Gong Li) ever take second-fiddle to another actor so well. As Xu Fugui, You Ge deserves all the accolades he received.

Wow.

Just amazing work.

And the directing is painstakingly good. If you don't cry at least once at this film, you are a soulless monster.

Spoorloos (the Vanishing)

In an attempt to finally start watching good movies again, I rented the original Criterion Collection version of the Vanishing. Rated 100 on rotten tomatoes, it is among one of the most perfect movies ever made. Unlike it's American counterpart (dreadful), the Dutch/French version is right up there with the best Hitchcock films.

In fact, because the movie hardly even treats itself like a psychological horror film, the things that take place are that much more disconcerting... and unlike the remake, this one doesn't have a nonsensical ending.

14 July 2009

Bad Movie Night II

Lower Learning. Brainless comedy about an elementary school and someone siphoning money out of said school. My brain died a little.

He's Just Not That Into You. Mindless romantic drivel about why women are so stupid and no one can write dialog anymore. My heart died a little.

How is it possible that Jason Biggs has fallen so far and that Justin Long can do anything now?

Sad. Really sad.

My Name is Bruce

Continuing my quest for bad movies...

I've never seen a B-actor make so much fun of himself — this is a really good "bad" movie.

I wish the ending made more sense and I wish the dancing scene in the middle was gone. Otherwise, this is fantastic.

Grade A bad movie!

09 July 2009

Rodger Dodger

I couldn't make it past the third verbal beatdown by the main character — thusly turning the movie off — but the opening Tarantino-esque rant at the film's opening is far better than anything I've seen, short of Reservoir Dogs.

Look for it on youtube if you can.

Salton Sea

It took me about 10 years to finally get around to seeing this.

Val Kilmer is great in this one. I'm sorry this film didn't do better. And I'm sorry Anthony. LaPaglia just phones it in. Everything else in this movie is superb. The last five minutes are choppy at best and haphazard at worst... but that doesn't hurt the rest of the film.

Seriously. I just should just stop saying the ending sucked to movies. Just assume it did, unless I say otherwise... American Cinema has no clue how to close a film.

The film is dark, Kilmer brooding, and the pieces of the whole more than the sum. With a few minor glitches, there's not much else I can say without talking about the plot... which you want to see for yourself.

08 July 2009

Public Enemies

What the hell?

DId Michael Mann go crazy? Sure Miami Vice wasn't great, but it was still passable, especially when you compare it to junk like the Transformers. But when you take the film style of Miami Vice, break up the script like a jigsaw puzzle, remove all the tension, and then set it in the 1930s, it's kind of stupid.

Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 65.... 65!!! But then you read some of the reviews and the red tomatoes are really kind of 50/50 reviews of a poorly transcribed piece of work. I don't get it?!?

What am I missing?

Did I see an uncut copy or something?

I was so bored, I didn't care when the fight scenes finally happened. I didn't care when someone died. I didn't care and I didn't care. And I don't really care to say much more about this movie.

Bad Movie Night

I'm going to review all three films at once and just say... at least they were better than Public Enemies and Transformers 2. Bear in mind, it was just a bad movie night for the sake of a bad movie night. This won't happen again for a while.

Hank and Mike. Perhaps the worst titled movie since Boat Trip, this movie is about Easter rabbits who get down-sized in order to make profits. It's well-handled actually, with humans in bunny suits, one who is too shy for words and the other who drinks, smokes, and cusses. It's not Shakespeare, but it's pretty funny. C+ to B-

Marley and Me. Okay. I have no right to see this movie and this movie has no right to be sad. Damnit. We know the dog is going to die when everyone ages 10+ years, but that doesn't make it any easier for us. No dog is as bad as this one is portrayed in the film, but it's still fun to watch him break everything... and it's not nearly as lame as Beethoven or Air Bud or any talking dog movie. It's more about the family, with the dog disrupting their lives. Again, not Chaucer, but still enjoyable enough to not make you wretch. C+

Definitely, Maybe. What is wrong with me? A romantic comedy? Really? And I watched it all the way through. And I even liked some of it? What the heck. Sadly, there's no room in this world for mold-breaking romantic comedies and this movie's marketing was nothing like the actual film. Ryan Reynolds was awesome. His three co-stars were good to great. And the young girl from Little Miss Sunshine (Abigail Breslin) was just perfectly cast. The last 15 minutes suck, because, well... the director is gay and needed to make us all feel good about every little thing and couldn't leave anything to chance. No dangling plot threads here. Could have been a B+, but the ending makes it a C+. I really liked the subplot about the book, but they botched it at the end.

Sigh.

26 June 2009

Transformers 2

So bad. So so so bad. While nothing will ever replace Vanilla Sky as the worst movie of all time, this movie is 2nd place.

Farting robots. Humping robots. Wayans brother robots.

This movie is the equivalent of someone taking a dump in my mouth.

Screed

25 June 2009

Postman

I know what people say about this film and I don't care. It's about the end of the world. The opening hour is fantastic. And before Kostner beats the theme to death, rebuilding the government through "communication" lines is a really strong anchor.

Sadly, the last 20 minutes are just asinine.

Normally, I would complain about it, but I'm going to let it go, because it's in my genre.

Quiet Earth

Another fantastic end of the world movie, this one has three actors in it (plus one flashback) and three dead people.

Amazing.

Filmed in the 80s in New Zealand — I'm not sure where they got the budget for it — this is really one of the better end of the world films. I don't even care what caused it, or how they intend to fix it. I just loved watching Bruno Lawrence (from Smash Palace) for the first 40 minutes not having a single person to talk to. And what that leads to.

So. Damn. Good.

16 June 2009

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

I really liked this. And I know everyone else hated it. But I loved it. I just wish it could have been meaner.

The last 10 minutes are stupid... I've been saying that a lot lately, but it feels like people have forgotten how to end a movie.

Seriously. This one becomes a completely different movie in no time... it's almost like they forgot what the movie was about and raced to get two people together that had nothing to do with anything... it wasn't a romantic comedy... just a comedy.

They could have ended BIG and instead, they ended stupid.

Big Fish

I am not a fan of Tim Burton. In fact, I've enjoyed fewer of his movies than I've hated. He rarely understands the narrative thread and usually focuses on tiresome crap that no one (but he) cares about. Seriously, you can be a Burton fan, if you like. But don't tell me he's a storyteller... just tell me his an art director and we can stop arguing.

But Big Fish is an exception to everything I just said. It's smart, well-written, excellently paced, and brilliantly cast... Albert Finney could convince me that my feet were soft-boiled eggs... he's so good at what he does. Billy Crudup is always solid. Jessica Lange doesn't get enough screen time, and Ewan McGregor might have the performance of his career here.

I love this film... even when I shouldn't.

The FX are bad... really bad... even when they aren't supposed to be bad.

15 June 2009

The Taking of Pelham 123

I'm not sure of the logic here. You decide to remake a classic film that really doesn't need to be remade. You hire Tony Scott. You involve Denzel. And then you cast one of the retreads from Road Hogs (man, I wish that thing had buried some careers). You basically ignore most everything from the first except for details like names and so on.

And then set about making the movie it's own THING, before driving it off the Washington bridge with one of the worst endings I've ever seen.

Seriously… does travolta write his own lines? Because no professional writer could barf anything that ridiculous.

AMC: I want my $10.50, back.

And the bribe angle... really?!?!

UP

I love Pixar. I even endured Cars. But this one is NOT for kids. Sure it has talking dogs (very clever), and stupid dog planes (not clever), but the themes and tone are not for kids.

I don't know how this one got past Disney.

Anyway. Saw it twice, already and I loved it more the first time. It does not have very much replay value.

But, it is still amazing.

Repeat. Amazing.

08 June 2009

Dan in Real Life

Rest assured, that if it was up to me, Dane Cook would be removed from the timeline by Skynet Terminators that went back in time before his birth and sterilized his mother. So, you can be certain that I would never watch a Dane Cook movie. Even on a dare.

When I rented Dan in Real Life, I didn't know Dane was in it, but luckily the two true stars of the film (and the three daughters) soaked up 90% of the screen time, so the film is really really enjoyable during that 90% of the time — minus whatever minutes take place from the moment the girls say, "Go get her" until the film ends; I suspect that's about 8 minutes.

So.

There you go. A 98-minute movie, minus 8 minutes, minus another 10% (modified as Dan Cook time) and you have 81-minutes of entertainment.

Not bad. Especially if you're pirating the movie from some site that the Swedish Pirate Party endorses.

05 June 2009

Star Trek

How did I forget to review this movie?

Damn.

I'm an idiot.

Okay.

One. I'm not a trekkie. Two. I'm not a trekker. Three. I have a wife.

But damnitall, if this movie wansn't fan-freaking-tastic. Finally a Star Trek for people who mate.

Wow.

This onion review says more than I ever could.

[My one minor complaint was the constant drilling of "friendship" in the last 30 minutes, but the movie was already a success by then, so I don't care.]

I cannot believe I just said something good about a Star Trek anything.

Link

30 May 2009

Every Little Step

First, I am not gay. Second, I hate musicals. Third, I am not gay.

I saw this documentary about A Chorus Line, because the preview was interesting.

Sadly, the movie was not. It was a reality show, not a documentary. Who will get cut? Who won't? Oh my. The drama.

Since I've never seen A Chorus Line, 90% of the documentary was indecipherable gibberish — well, Cassie is the most complex JIBBER JABBER BLAH. "I don't care!"

For anyone looking to watch a documentary about a musical they've never seen, I highly recommend this one. It's chock full of all the gay and none of the backstage drama you were hoping for. All the while making sure you never get a glimpse of anything substantial except really really really dated 1974 dialog.

Oh. And if you are a fan of the musical, apparently some 15+ characters/dancers are ignored during the documentary. Apparently, they were easy to cast or those characters are boring.

Or whatever.

What Would Jesus Buy

This should have been a 20-minute special on Nightline. Not a 90-minute documentary. Loved the message, but I couldn't finish it. And the Jesus angle was unnecessary. You can hate the consumerism of XMas without loving god.

29 May 2009

Terminator Salvation

I don't recall a colon (:) in the title, so somehow this movie is about the salvation of terminators. Okay. Sure. Whatever. It's got to be about something, because it's not about entertainment.

Redemption would have been a more appropriate title as the writers resort to the tired "three times over three acts" trope prevalent in all B-movies. "No one gets a second chance" is the tired recitation of this particular film that in no one resembles anything close to a story, logical thread, or purpose (beyond blowing crap up).

If you're a fan of Terminator (One), then you know the series has gotten worse with each film — although in all honesty, I really like three (I have my reasons, and yes the girl terminator is dumb) and I think two does not age well. T1 on the other hand is a perfect movie.

In many ways, Terminator Four is to Terminator what AVP is to Alien. The mythology is kinda still there, but it's not important enough to really address other than to give people a reason to blow crap up (as I mentioned before). The attempt at a story is made a few times, but it eventually gets punched into the earth like so many bad Terminator/Transformer sequels that are coming for the next nine years (in 2018, we win the war against Skynet and this will all be over).

I didn't expect anything going in, but sometimes that's even worse than having expectations. At the very least if someone told me that the film would ignore everything from three completely and then only cherry pick the logic from T1 and T2 that suited them, I might have just avoided the film altogether. As it stands, the best part of this movie is the barrage of awesome previews that come before it.

Really looking forward to BrĂ¼no.

11 April 2009

Fast & Furious

What should have been a really smart movie with great action and non-stop questions, becomes an exercise in prayer. Every moment people are talking, you pray they would just get into a car and drive, or shoot something, or blow something up.

The action is so frickin' good, it could cure cancer.

The dialog is so bad, it can CAUSE cancer.

The movie picks up LONG after the first movie (I did not see #2 and only a few minutes of #3). One of the characters from 3 makes an appearance in this one as does Michelle R.

The story meanders in a good way, making you wonder where it will go next. It's a good thing, because the action does need a pause and the story has a chance to be good in places. I actually liked what was unfolding, I just didn't like what I was hearing. "No. Donna. You go. It'll be safe. I know it will." I don't really recall what it was that was said, but I wish it was THAT good, because it was much worse.

Sadly, the words that come out of the cardboard figures on the screen make you wonder if the script was hacked together by eight-year old kids storyboarding the script with hot wheels in the backyard with some jumbo playset. At one point, Character A and B have sex on the kitchen table, while Character B's brother (Character C) works on Character C's car in the garage 15 feet away, despite numerous warnings in the script that Character C hates Character A's face for hurting his sister (Character B).

High Points
Vin Diesel is out for blood in this one. He hurts people this time. Really, really, really just brings the pain.

Jordana Brewster is sooo hot. Sadly, she gets about 10 minutes of screentime (albeit, it fits the story).

Paul Walker is a little gritty in this one, but he's still a dough-faced sissy, so until they make Running Scared 2, I can't buy the tough guy act from him.

The foot chase after the Dominican Republic heist is really well-done. A little to "Bourne Identity" shaky cam for my taste, but a great opener. I wish Jordana Brewster had gotten a scene like this. Maybe Character E's accomplices could have abducted her, knowing that Character C was coming for them. That would have heightened some tension.

Low Point [spoiler]
The phone call from Character C to Character A during the interlude when we find out Character D was working for Character A all along only works if they add one last piece of dialog that runs like… "We needed someone to find Character E. We didn't know who he was. Not even a name. Nothing. He's a phantom. Character D was willing to do find him for us… for you! If Character D had lived, Character E would already be in jail and you'd be back to stealing gas in the middle of BFE... jackass!"

Instead, the scene begs the question… why didn't Character A know who Character E was by now?

Anyway. Great action. Go see it.

12 Rounds

For obvious reasons, the writers of something as bad as 12 Rounds failed to do anything interesting with the entendre of ROUNDS also being bullets in a gun.

Instead, they took the script from Die Hard 3 and made a really really poor version of this film. Complete with european terrorist with a score to settle, this movie wasn't the kind of "Snakes on a Plane" bad I was looking for.

Instead, it was just plain lazy.

Bear in mind, it was directed by Renny Harlin (of whose fame, I don't need to recite on this list). And while he really outdoes himself with the opening 20 minutes of chase, choppy photography, and half-ass character development, the movie does get REALLY bad until ROUND 3 (yes, the villain counts which ROUND john cena is in — gamers will laugh).

I went expecting bad enough that I could laugh. Instead, I got bad enough so I could cry.

04 April 2009

About a Boy

Watched this again. My previous review can be found below.

Link

31 March 2009

Louis L'Amour's The Quick and the Dead

Not to be confused with Sam Raimi's film of the same name, this is Louis L'Amour's novel made onto the small screen (straight to cable).

Made in 1987, like many sagebrush Westerns (Tom Horn, Shane, Last Stand at Sabre River), it holds up well, so long as you are looking for a "western" that plods instead of gallops.

Sam Elliott plays Con Vallian and Tom Conti plays Duncan McKaskel (Kate Capshaw the wife that Con Vallian takes a shine to). Set in 1876 Wyoming, the story opens right where it should. No pretense. No need to explain why the settlers are passing through the tiny shack of a town. In no time, Elliott is killing bad guys and helping the settlers make it to safety.

A great story, with some pacing editing, this could be a really tense film (without being B-shlock).

ASIDE: I'm a little confused about whether or not Sam Elliott sleeps with Kata Capshaw (done in the 40s style where the lights go dark), but otherwise this is a pretty straightforward western... although someone online wrote the ending being unpredictable, but I can't fathom that being true.

30 March 2009

Chocolate

If you don't know who Prachya Pinkaew is… he directed Ong Bak… he also directed the Protector, which has a few descent moments, but he also directed the horrendous Dynamite Warrior (which actually has dialog about a young virgin's moon cycle) and the even worse Ong Bak 2.

Prachya Pinkaew, I fear, is out of ideas.
An autistic girl with intense fighting skills discovers a list of debtors in her horribly ill mother's diary and decides to go collecting, only to find herself up against an organized crime ring.
I cannot see a story that opens (so belaboredly) with two gangsters from warring gangs, falling in love together and then making a baby. And a tired and long explanation of why a Japanese guy who likes details might father an autistic baby.

I can't imagine a producer giving this script a thumbs up?!?!

If I were to pitch this movie idea to a producer, I can see a dark, gritty movie, with deliberate shots and perhaps planned pacing.

Instead, we get perhaps Pinkaew's worst film to date, filled with transsexuals (I counted seven), and a fight between two mentally challenged people (seriously, did he just film that?).

I mean… what the heck?

It makes me want to watch the Protector again. And that can't be right.

Here's some nagging questions I have about the movie.

Why does he set up the mother of the child to be a gangster? Was this the only way to have an autistic child have to fight?

Why does the mother suddenly develop cancer?

Why is the young friend fat and inept?

Why are all the women in the film better fighters than the men?

Why do swords come out as soon as the Yakuza boss shows up?

Why does the Yakuza oyabun speak english when everyone else speaks Thai?

Why do have the fight scenes look tight and well choreographed and the others look like manikins falling out of a closet full of wire hangers?

Why did I watch the whole thing?

Wasabi

Once again, Luc Besson tries to cram "family" messages into a production/script of his, but Jean Reno and Michel Muller are amazing, so who cares.

Smart and funny, with ridiculous action, the movie relies on the audience sitting back and enjoying the joke and not taking it all too seriously. I'm sure Luc Besson's original script was as bad as his Jet Li failure (forgetting the name at the moment), but the director of Wasabi pulls it all together.

A little too cheesy and cutsy at times, the movie is still funny enough to keep you entertained.

District B13

I've now seen this movie four times. The final moments are filled with nonsense rhetoric about how to solve violence crimes… as if movies know how to stop them… the rest of the movie is a fantastic race of action and more action.

Featuring David Belle, the inventor of parkour, the movie is everything you'd expect from a mixture of Jackie Chan and French film techniques. Cyril Raffaelli, of French action fame, also appears, but with no real background in parkour.

The ending is typical of Besson's later productions and scripts, but the action is all Pierre Morel's direction and David Belle's incredible talent.

NOTE: A sequel is rumored to be in the works, which will no doubt stink.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

Having never seen the original before and looking forward to the 2009 release, I was pleasantly surprised at how clean and fluid this film was. There's a lot of gems in the 1970s, movies that had small budgets and needed to move quickly. "Can't linger in times square, people. Let's get this shot and use what works."

And because a good percentage of the film takes place inside the control room and/or the subway car, the interior shots are extremely cheap to film. Leaving room to hire quality actors and get a competent crew in there.

Really. The movie is very good and I recommend it to anyone who loves films like Dog Day Afternoon and the Conversation.

Last 10 Seconds are a little predictable, but that comes with age.

13 March 2009

Employee of the Month (2004)

Oh.

So close.

This movie was so close to being good. But the limp script, subpar direction, and meandering narrative stopped the otherwise intelligent plot (and characters) from attaining their divine state among the Bodhisattva (which is only funny, if you've seen the movie trying to be eloquent).

At least it's not that Dane Cook piece of —

06 March 2009

Watchmen

Saw this at midnight.

Not sure what to say about it.

If you're not a fan of the comic, you might not like this film. Rorschach steals the show, as one might expect. A lot of the actors needed to put something into the lines… reading the comic would have helped.

The sex scene is awkward and Snyder puts way too much fetish nonsense into the movie. Not really sure what his tone/theme was supposed to be, but he misread a lot of what makes this comic great.

I'd be interested in hearing what non-fans think.

27 February 2009

Heartbreak Kid

The ending of this movie is fantastic. The 20 minutes leading up to the ending are about as convoluted as they could possibly be.

There's something to be said for sticking to the formula.

Not the Farelly Brothers best, but how could it be? But their worst is still better than Apatow's best.

Ha. Two in a row.

Hamlet 2

I've seen this once in the theatre and this is fantastic. Seriously underrated.

One of the funniest movies out there and it didn't get any press. "Rock me sexy Jesus." Oh man. So bad and so good at the same time.

Elizabeth Shue is great and the film is awkward without being Judd Apatow awkward.

22 February 2009

Out of Towners (1970)

Because I would never subject myself to the trash that is a Steve Martin remake, I will never see the 1999 slapstick flop that is one of Neil Simon's best scripts.

Jack Lemon plays George Kellerman ranting and raving his way through 16 hours of hellish travel (of which I'm sure Plains, Trains, and Automobiles gains its inspiration) trying to get to a job interview in NYC. Everything goes wrong from minute six of this film, as Jack Lemon fails to plan for the worse AND insists that he is always in the right. It is a comedy of errors on a scale that cannot be measured.

I saw this several times as a kid and I was recently reminded by my weird brain to see it again. Thank you Netflix for your love.

Sandy Dennis plays the wife — in a magical role that will be forever underrated — following Kellerman in a stark-mad series of follies that would make Peter Sellers stand up and clap. The final moments in the hotel are very sweet as well and I can't beleive I just typed that… because I would typically barf in such a moment, but all the parties present really "bring it" in this film.

ASIDE: If anyone has seen this, can you explain to me how they do that manhole cover gag without someone getting hurt? Seriously. I'm stunned.

The Ladykillers 1955/2004

I watched both films, back to back. And I hate to sound like a froward reviewer, but the original is better. Don't get me wrong, the Cohen brothers did something interesting with the new one, but it's just enough changing around and mixing up that it breaks apart what's so good about the original.

Irma P. Hall is fantastic in her role, but Katie Johnson in the original is so understated and amazing… I can't even compare it to anything else. As far as "old lady" roles go, that one stands above them all.

The original has Alec Guiness and a handful of B+ characters. The new one has Tom Hanks, J.K. Simmons (so good), and a handful of B- characters. It's hard to compare the two. Hanks' performance is one of his best, but how do you compete with the sheer genius of Obi-Wan?

Oh. By the way, the plot is like drinking Asahi. You don't even notice it going down until it's all gone. So good.

08 February 2009

Men of War

John Sayles writes the original script (before two yahoos step in) to Men of War. This movie came out back in 1994, which is when I originally saw it. The first 75 minutes or so are really good. Seriously. It's weird how good this film starts out.

Yes. The director didn't really read the script and kinda throws in random stupid into the film (Dolph Lundgren puts a guy's head through a limo window… just because).

Possibly a great film before someone else gets their hands on it, this movie is 1/2 intelligently written plot and exposition… and 1/2 stupid explosions. The list of things wrong with the second half of this film makes my head hurt. The amount of cool in the first 1/2 makes me wish they'd do a remake of the plot with someone that has a brain… director, actor, whatever. The amount of sad makes me wish I hadn't rented it again.

Stupidest Moment: Po (played by B.D. Wong) explains in detail how the dead who died in battle years before (centuries?) get buried in the cave underground (which rarely gets used after that, so what the heck?). And then, at the end of the film, when it's time to bury the dead who died in THIS battle, they put them on boats, set them on fire, and put them in the ocean. Oh yeah. That's some good direction.

Director Idiot: "It's sunny outside today. Let's film this last bit on the beach."
Assistant: "Um. Didn't Po explain about —"
Director Idiot: "I said, it's sunny. Set up shots facing the beach."
Assistant: "Facing? But aren't the boats —"
Director Idiot: "Yeah. We'll pick up some shots of the ocean afterward."
Assistant: "After? When it's dark? I thought you wanted to take advantage of the sun?"
Director Idiot: "Now. Where's my martini?"

07 February 2009

Sword of the Stranger

I love samurai tales. Having written several books about feudal Japan, I go out of my way for a good samurai story.

Without giving too much away, the Stranger (no name, Nanashi) must overcome his own personal demons while simultaneously protecting a young boy and watching as the world crashes down around him (literally). There are so many plot threads going, I just about wet myself. Sadly, I had to once again see this movie at the Long Beach Edwards 26 where audience members were as polite as say… someone taking a phonecall during Schindler's list.

Seriously.

The film was good. I hope it comes to video. Great animation. Good characters and story. And no, there's no Big Eyes Small Mouth going on.

The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara

Another Errol Morris documentary, this time interviewing Robert S. McNamara for nearly two hours, while also doing the typical Morris background research into the events of the time and splicing together some really smart historic footage.

A little slow at times, this is as good as any of modern Morris documentary and certainly a must-see for history buffs or foreign policy aficionados.

Step Brothers

Whew.

Finally something I can laugh at.

I've reviewed this before, but I can't mention enough how this movie is so much better than Talledega Nights.

Surprisingly hilarious.

The Marine

Needing a respite from deep movies, let me just say John Cena's acting was only worsened by the dialog that he was asked to say in this mind-numbingly, vapid, explosive "action" film. I use the term action loosely here, because action movies are supposed to ramp up the creativity and tension as the film progresses.

But.

In The Marine, John Cena leaps from an exploding building and/or car, not once, not twice, not three times… no… not even four times. But a quintet of EXPLODING buildings with John Cena being thrown from the building carry this 93-minute sleep-walk of a script from concept to fiery death sentence.

I knew going in it would be bad. I knew it would be stupid. And I knew it would lack any shred of IQ. But who knew that someone would crap into my sandwich before topping it off with olives, mushrooms, and retard.

Robert Patrick (of Terminator 2 fame) carries most of the film with his crazy and often creative one-liners. There's even a T2 joke in there. Might be worth the 99-cent rental fee. If you pay more than that, though… well… you know.

Reservation Road

Jennifer Connelly, Joaquin Phoenix, and Mark Ruffalo go through a maze of emotions over the conflicted and difficult threads that weave through this film about the loss of a child.

Not easy to watch at times, it does skip a few beats here and there as the director realizes he can't keep beating up the audience forever.

The movie stops being powerful about 3/4 of the way through. Definitely worth a watch, but it won't top your movie list, to be sure.

Not to be confused with Revolutionary Road.

Renaissance

I've seen this before, but it's been a while, so the re-viewing was well-worth it.

If you haven't heard of it, it's a futuristic animated movie done in black and white — stark line work, not grayscale.

Fantastic. Gorgeous. All British actors, but I'm sure Montreal or French animation.

Daniel Craig is the voice of the lead actor, in what is very much a better version of Blade Runner… in my opinion. Let the nerds strike me down for that apocryphal comment.

30 January 2009

Taken

What Man on Fire did to promote tourism in Mexico City, Taken does for Paris (and Albanians I guess). This time with Liam Neeson at the helm and Luc Besson writing (which means they'll be heart-felt family themes throughout — oh look, there's one). Built on the premise that "they kidnapped the wrong girl" and "Liam Neeson is a badass," this film narrowly escapes blatantly copying the aforementioned Tony Scott drama.

While decent, there is nothing riveting about this film. Taken is poorly edited and the intro is far too long and tiresome for the tension to mount in the way the director wants. Instead of being surprised to find out the father of the kidnapped daughter is a bad-ass, we know this before she even goes to Paris… which means we know something is going to go wrong… which means we know everything that is going to happen afterwards.

This film should have opened the exact same way as the trailer: daughter on phone to father, daughter gets kidnapped, father offers a threat over the phone, audience says whatthe----??! Tension mounts. Important details told through pictures in birthday photo album (which was used semi-effectively in the film) and bad guys getting ass handed to them in surprising ways as Liam continues to surprise us with his expertise.

Instead, there are never any surprises. There are no mysteries to what is going to happen. And in fact, despite the obvious attempts to copy the fight scenes from the Bourne series, and the car chases from Ronin, the movie lacks any unique narrative. Uneven in its quality, some of the choreography is amazing and other time its look lackluster and forgettable.

Lastly, the attempt to make this film gritty fails about a dozen times. The film quality is high-end and glossy, which means the villainy needs to be really gruesome to be effectual… and it's not. I've seen Trade. Girls kidnapped and sold for their virginity is not a new concept. Getting them hopped-up on drugs and hooking them out isn't either. Hell. Hostel did this better than you guys, and it's a cheap horror flick. The grit of this film would have been compounded with smarter (not better) film techniques and an understanding the intelligence of the audience.

Pierre Morel seems unable to grasp either concept.

Taken is not abyssmal, but it's no Professional. Besson has been phoning in his films for a long time and now he's phoning in his scripts as well. You're better off watching Transporter and Transporter 3. Neither film ever pretends to be anything else than what it is. Taken wants to be smart, and sometimes is, but fails to be consistent, which is the biggest tragedy of any wannabe blockbuster.

23 January 2009

Revolutionary Road

Sam Mendes + Kate Winslet = Indescribably good movie.

Seriously.

I am drained. I don't know what to say only that I have to see this movie again, watching for every little detail.

22 January 2009

To Live and Die in LA

Got this one on DVD and it looks to have a couple of extended scenes built right in. Nothing too obvious, but I saw stuff I couldn't recall before from past viewings.

Awesome film. I love Freidkin's work and this has one of the best chase scenes ever put to film.

Gorgeous.

Shanghai Noon

Just needed something stupid on in the background, ended up watching the whole thing.

Damn fine entertainment that is.

I've review this before. Yawn. You know the score.

21 January 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons

This was a really emotional film. Draining, actually.

Not David Fincher best work, but make just one or two steps behind Fight Club or Seven.

Incredibly tight production value. Amazing acting once again from Kate and Brad… just top notch.

Julia Ormond was a pleasant surprise. She's one of my favorite actresses… and what felt like it was going to be a throw-away role, turned out to be a vital part of the collective emotionality. The story isn't just about Benjamin, but also about the lives he touches.

Drawn from F. Scott Fitzgerald's very famous short story, the movie contains many almost Dickensian tropes, such as a wealthy benefactor, an overly romanticized "affair" (that goes on way too long), and the 1930s approach to everything… even though the story ends at the time of Hurricane Katrina.

All that does not distract from the quality of this movie — which is half Meet Mr. Black and half Great Expectations — taking the good from each. Certainly among the top 50 movies of the year, but clearly not the best.

09 January 2009

Standard Operating Procedure

Errol Morris once again proves why he kicks so much ass. I think every calamity should be investigated by his team.

Another home-run. This time covering the Abu Ghraib scandal and the soldiers who took the fall.

While 98% perfect, the film's only real failing is it's assumption that you know more than you do… like who people are and what their fates will become. Even in the end, there are questions. I sometimes think, Morris expects us all to be as brilliant as he is.

This is endemic of all of his work.

Be Kind, Rewind

Funny. Smart. Jack Black is tolerable and Mos Def is perfect as always.

Danny Glover also really strong.

And of course, Michel Gondry continues to prove his talents… and happy childhood… I mean, seriously, does anything get this guy down?

03 January 2009

Yes Man

Even a bad Jim Carrey movie is funny. While it's rarely said, Jim Carrey has some fantastic understated charm in the way he handles the "little" details of a movie. The way he says a particular line, how he moves his hands or his face. He has more than one trick up his sleeve. Though known for being grandiose and over the top, it's Carrey's heart that breaks-through into the tiny moments of pure genius that make the dreadful Zooey Deschanel (his co-star in this movie) interesting.

Luckily, the movie isn't that bad and there are some really good laugh outloud moments.

Sadly, the film is not ground-breaking or even close to Carrey's best work. It is however, a million times better than anything Judd Apatow could make.

So. Here here!

Quick Change

Among the best comedies ever. That is all I need to say.

Smart People

Everyone is too smart for their own good, but emotionally damaged. Great casting, good acting, great location, mediocre script.

Thomas Hayden Church steals the movie, but sadly doesn't get as much screen time as Dennis Quaid (who is also very good).

Nothing memorable, although the special features on the DVD are good.

Just Friends

This was funnier the second time, but the ending is still clumsy.

It's not anyone's fault but the people involved in making the film.

02 January 2009

The Wrestler

Easily, the best movie of 2008.

No contest.

This movie was made for me.

Darren Aronofsky is magical as a director. He just gets it. And this movie is about as accurate a portrayal of small-time wrestling as it could be. As a fan of the documentaries that OBVIOUSLY inspired this film, I can see everything in it, done with the greatest of care.

Obviously, events are compressed to increase dramatic tension, but the characters the events are drawn from are well-known. Hogan, Roberts, Savage, Lex Lugor. And Mickey Rourke is just perfect in this film, emulating the wrestler who has fallen so far from glory. Man. I need to go see this again.

Marisa Tomei is another "perfect" fit, being able to do just about anything. Seriously. All I could think is, she's a stripper in this one, huh? Yeah. Okay. I buy that. She's a freaking chameleon.

I'm not going to break it down, any more than that. The film is perfect. Seriously. Dead on, balls to the wall, unflinchingly perfect.

Why are you still reading this?

Gates of Heaven

Another documentary by Errol Morris, this time about funeral parlors for pets.

That's right.

Filmed in 1978, this one is… well… different. Watching it, you get a real sense of who Errol Morris is as a person. How he must be so patient and understanding of others.

There's a little rant by a crazy lady in the middle that I had to watch twice to understand why it's in there.

I'll let you figure it out. Very very strange.

Valkyrie

Brian Singer may be among the most flawless director's ever, but because of his penchant for off-beat material, he may never get the accolades he deserves. Usual Suspects and Apt Pupil are fantastic and even Superman Returns inspires me, a cynic about the character. Sadly, Singer's gifts as a director also work against him here. Because what should be a gritty thriller filled with complicated and conflicted characters, is more like the glossy Richard III released in 1995 (minus of course the brilliant screenplay behind Richard III). Additionally, Singer does a fantastic job of making each character "unique," there is little to no growth in any one of them.

All that said, the movie is really good. It's not a masterpiece, but it's smart and expertly explores the inner-workings of Nazi Germany. The Wolf's Lair was expertly recreated. What I found greatest about this film, however, was how it explored such a small event in Nazi Germany history, in terms of time, but such an important event in the scope of the war — which, ironically, has never been addressed in movies before as far as I know.

Everyone is superbly cast. Even Hitler, played by nobody character actor David Bamber (I had to look him up), was just brilliant in the role. He said more with his eyes then with his dialog.

Better than Seven Pounds and Frost/Nixon, to be sure.

Thin Blue Line

Considered by some to be the most important and best documentary ever made. Errol Morris is brilliant.

A must see.

That is all.