Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Recent Movies I Did Not Love

In order of descending tolerability.

A Serious Man
"You goys with your suburban suffering movies, I'll tell you suburban suffering..."

Law Abiding Citizen
A white, working class black-ops strategist decides the American judicial system is corrupt, forcing an African-American careerist to pay witness his diabolical deathtraps - Saw as a teabagger's fantasy.

The Box
If you don't want your Twilight Zone story bloated with elaborate sci-fi explanations, retro kitsch and someone walking through a magic portal, don't hire Richard Kelly to adapt it.


Lavishly portrays the apocalyptic endpoint of the "Too Big To Fail" philosophy with resignation rather than outrage, and still expects you to care whether John Cusack gets back with his ex.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox
The stop-motion animation keeps Wes Anderson from falling back on slo-mo, if nothing else.

The on-screen text, celebrity meta and interminable faux-Michael Cera narration suggest a zombie movie for teenagers too cool for zombie movies, but not too cool for Diablo Cody.


Where The Wild Things Are
A child acts out lesser Beckett with his stuffed animals.

Script so threadbare, direction so workmanlike, lead so wan, quality supporting cast so wasted that I left with fifteen minutes to go, knowing the Wikipedia entry would resolve the plot just as thrillingly.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Friday, November 06, 2009

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Big Fan

Rather than detail why I loved a Taxi Driver for fanboys starring Patton Oswalt and climaxing on Passyunk Avenue (the appeal seems pretty obvious to me, cartoonish supporting cast aside), I'd rather bring up a subject I haven't seen acknowledged in any reviews. So...


Is there any reason to believe that Oswalt's character is not gay? It's announced he's a compulsive masturbator, but he never shows the slightest interest in the opposite sex (the ladies at the strip club don't even make him blink). He sleeps under a crotch-centric poster of his favorite footballer, and has slo-mo visions of the sweat-dripping jock when he sleeps. A resolute Catholic, he denies any interest in the kind of life his married siblings have, and seems happy to spend his nights with his henpecking mother. The film even peaks with Oswalt locking a gay-baiting Eagles fan ("Giants fans suck my balls!") in a men's room and blowing a load (of sorts) on him. I'm glad the film never makes it overt - it would have reduced the scope - but writer/director Robert Siegel would have thrown a small cop to heteronormative behavior if he didn't want us to see it.

Friday, September 18, 2009


In the mumblecore hit of 2009, Mark Duplass, the evasive boyfriend who resents his girlfriend and free-spirit brother in the 2005 mumblecore hit The Puffy Chair, plays an evasive husband who resents his wife and free-spirit college buddy (somebody give this guy a series on HBO). Determined to prove their eternal bohemianism, the guys decide to tape themselves fucking for The Stranger's erotic film festival, despite (or rather, because of) their heterosexuality. That the pair refuse to abandon their drunken whim the morning after conceiving it should make perfect sense to Kevin Smith and hopefully no one else.

A tape of two bros navigating the basics of physical affection could make a great skit, but the hour that precedes it in Humpday is to Hollywood comedy what Henry Rollins' "spoken word" is to stand-up: a sloppy simulacrum that expects a cookie for avoiding crass pay-offs. But when your material is this silly, there's no point in leaving them out. Even Kevin Smith knows that.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Stupid Horror Movie Round-Up

The crazy pills come fast and easy in Sorority Row - wouldn't it be a better prank to let the freaked-out "murderer" of Audrina Partridge call the cops than leave him alone with the body after telling him to dismember it? - but the characters' baffling life choices are of a piece with the bitchy performances (I don't know if even Leighton Meester could shrug off a rising body count as easily as the unfortunately named Leah Pipes does here), campy dialogue and silly death sequences. While I wouldn't say the film was inspired, it did deliver the prerequisites of the slasher genre with a modicum of wit and self-awareness. Also, boobs.

Aside from a regrettable moment of T&Quease, none of this can be said for The Collector, which glumly trudges through an even more absurd concept. If your M.O. was to break into houses and tie up the residents before slicing them to death, would you bother setting up elaborate booby traps in the empty rooms of the house? What's the point of nailing razorblade-lined planks of wood to the windows if those inside have little chance of reaching for them? Why tape kitchen knifes to the chandelier if you're going to blow the place up before the police can admire the handiwork? If a desperate thief-by-necessity (played by an exceptionally drab TV named Josh Stewart - watch out for this airsuck) hadn't wandered into The Collector's dastardly game, no one would have been around to play it. Without Saw's dimwitted morality plays to justify the dour tone, the film feels like a grisly, joyless homage to Home Alone (a comparison point I'm embarrassed not to have thought up myself - thanks, Leila).

While The Collector takes little pleasure in its sadism (and why make a horror film if you're not going to?), it at least delivers the prerequisites of the slasher genre with a modicum of imagination and minimal fuss. We aren't repeatedly graced with the sight of the director's wife wandering around with a white horse and shit, as we are in Halloween II (thanks for the opening dream dictionary definition, Rob Zombie, lest we assume Michael Myers just has a thing for ponies). The 44-year-old fanboy's returns have diminished to little more than a stream of facial traumas, the sound of Scout Taylor-Compton whimpering (never mind who she is, it won't come up again), a brief Deadwood reunion, less than thrilling cameos from Margot Kidder and Howard Hesseman, and interminable chatter more Diablo Cody than John Carpenter. If I have to struggle to remember anything Malcolm McDowell said or did in your movie, your last name probably shouldn't be Zombie.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Funny People

I thought it would be like taxes, but watching this was more like having an unusually awkward visit from an old friend. You're glad to see them and wouldn't have missed it for the world, but you have to wonder if everything's alright. Are they drinking too much? Is everything all right at home? Why were they talking about that ex the whole time? Was that self-deprecation or self-pity? Who knows? I wanted to say something, but had no idea how.

As weird as it was for Judd Apatow to cast his wife and kids as an opportunity lost while chasing success, these quirks might just be due to his chucklebuddies not knowing how to critique wanna-be James L Brooks. Maybe no one ever suggested a rewrite where the emotional focus was on the nice guy trying to make it in comedy rather than an embittered movie star of questionable talent. Sure, it might have meant cutting his family out of the film (not like Leslie Mann needs his help to get work at this point), but Adam Sandler might have gotten that "he can act!" Oscar nom if his lumpy Jack Nicholson kept to the background while Seth Rogen and Aubrey Plaza took the romantic spotlight. Why spend months beefing your cast's stand-up chops if the movie isn't really going to be about stand-up?

The muted reaction to the movie might be beneficial, as he's neither being pushed to chase that Oscar or told to make with a new Cannonball Run or get out of Hollywood. With his dayjob as The Biggest Producer In Comedy keeping him busy, hopefully he'll craft his next dramedy a little more astutely. Or, considering the value of an astutely crafted dramedy, he'll just stop directing movies.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Headless Woman

I assumed at first that the upper-class Argentinian dentist in Lucrecia Martel's The Headless Woman was suffering from severe brain damage following a small car accident, only no one cared about her enough to notice. Neat premise, but do we need to watch her smile with false serenity and hang up on people for a full 90 minutes to get it?

Once her conversation skills returned, it became clear she was simply concerned that the dead dog we saw lying in the street was actually a lower class orphan, or maybe she hit a dog and an orphan, and did she really stay in that hotel the night after and how do we really know anything and do we really need to watch her smile with false serenity for a full 90 minutes to get that the rich are detached from consequence and experience? Imagine Michael Haneke's Cache if you took out the MacGuffins and left those menacingly banal shots of someone silently making left turns.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Inglourious Basterds

Chronological displacement probably wouldn't have helped Basterds - conversations detailing upcoming action sequences won't seem any less redundant if you've already seen the sequences - but it might have made the film less of a slow clomp towards obvious, unmemorable pay-offs. I'd need to see Death Proof again to tell which recent Tarantino effort enjoyed less. In both cases, he relies on charismatic performers to make do with his waning knack for dialogue (can't say I heard a new Royale With Cheese in either), but Proof's languid masturbation may have more verve than this thin epic (only 16 scenes!) when it's not preceded by jolt-o-ramas from less indulgent directors.

If it wasn't for Kill Bill's swordplay, it'd be tempting to suggest Tarantino never had the knack for grand kineticism he's shown for smaller scale violence (from Bill's split-screen to this film's slo-mo, Tarantino makes a shitty DePalma, too). While I understand the cultural catharsis this historically inaccurate revenge fantasy provides for the chosen, I expect to get more from the violent paybacks in Robert Rodriguez's upcoming historically inaccurate revenge fantasy Machete. Had Rodriguez run this, you know that shot of Samm Levine screaming with a machine gun would have made the final cut. Fuck a literary-themed card game! This is supposed to be a historically inaccurate revenge fantasy!

Damningly symbolic of these neglected opportunities is a Mike Myers cameo less rewarding than his turn as Steve Rubell in the historically inaccurate revenge fantasy 54. In an ILX thread comparing QT to the Coens, I claimed I couldn't imagine the former ever wallowing in the miserabilism you expect from aging auteurs. I'm glad I can't see him using a genre piece to ask what it all means, but self-amusement alone won't keep his crackerjack edge from dulling. Maybe it's more noteworthy when a mix of Roger Corman and Eric Rohmer doesn't suck.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra

All that kept this from being a totally enjoyable live-action cartoon was the constant reminder that Marlon Wayans should be shot screaming into the sun.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

District 9

With an A+ ad campaign rocketing the film into the sci-fi nerd canon, it's tempting to dump on District 9 a lot more than I normally would a modestly budgeted foreign directorial debut with no stars and great special effects. Then again, much of what's wrong with the film can be chalked up to its makers' awareness of the American marketplace. Based on Alive In Joburg, a short mock-documentary about aliens arriving in '80s South Africa, where they're forced to live with the black population, District 9 keeps the location and time while removing all references to the nation's racist policies. There isn't even an aside suggesting the aliens helped make the transition from apartheid easier - after all, how many in the theater would even know what apartheid is?

The rushed sum-up of the first 20 years of alien interaction offers plenty of other "refrigerator moments" (Hitchcock's term for specious details you don't realize until think about the movie at home). How can aliens and humans understand each other while never ever speaking the same language? How could humans know so little about the creatures' goals, history, etc after so long a time? Are we really to believe the population of 1,000,000+ aliens are a bunch of clueless, scavenging bottom-feeders except for a solitary scientist with a cute kid and a spaceship in his basement? And if you spray an alien with gasoline, do they start turning human?

Had the movie maintained its faux-documentary origins, many of the issues could be written off as the ignorance of the documentarians (how would they know how just how few of the aliens were behind an uprising?). But the film gradually abandons the POV shots and security cameras, shifting into standard action movie omniscience. It's possible they could have worked tender family moments, tearful phone calls and a Defiant Ones climax successfully into a faux-doc, but why risk the device distancing audiences by asking them to think and accept ambiguity? Better to use the talking heads and "found footage" as 21st century pepper for a rewrite of Alien Nation.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Perfect Getaway

The first movie in memory where unconvincing performances are actually in service of a plot twist that might not have redeemed having to watch such awful acting even if the switcheroo wasn't completely absurd. And just when the audience can least believe what he's selling, David "Chronicler Of Riddick" Twohy throws in a wipefest complete with three-way split-screen. Since the rest of the film goes without such editing trickery, he must not have known how else to establish three people running after each other. It couldn't have been for dramatic effect.

Saturday, August 08, 2009


After his overwrought "Vengeance Trilogy" (Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, Lady Vengeance), Park Chan-Wook directed I'm A Cyborg, But That's OK, a 2006 romantic comedy set in an insane asylum that has yet to be released in the US. I have no idea if it's any good, but I'm guessing it would have helped prepare the audience for Thirst, which giggles where his previous films wept, even as it wallows in bloodletting, sexual dysfunction and Catholic guilt.

A monk (Song Kang-Ho of The Host and Memories Of Murder, who has shown crazy range for a leading actor) martyrs himself for science only to be accidentally resurrected by a transfusion of vampire blood (its origin is never explained). While refusing to kill - he slurps on the IV tube of a comatose patient for sustenance - his moral code is shaken enough to let him get freaky with the downtrodded wife of a sickly perv he went to school with. The sex is good, but he can't get over his guilt and she's manipulative - issues only complicated by his condition.

The film is wearingly episodic - how could a synthesis of Scorsese at his most sniggering and DePalma at his most perverse not be? - but I love that Chan-Wook embraces the silliness of the supernatural while giving the melodrama its due. In an age of self-serious genre epics, his nasty kicks suggests awareness and vitality, his set-ups playfully masterful. It's hard to complain Chan-Wook included too many of them when you want to see what he'll do next.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

Five More Movies From 2009 Seen In 2009

The Hurt Locker is my new Favorite Film Of 2009, proving that a "celebrated art film" can engage me more than a "masterpiece of craft" like Drag Me To Hell (of course, that I'm calling a war thriller by the director of Point Break an "art film" says a lot about movies today). Sitting nervously through each tense, masterfully composed set-piece (yes, a film shot with hand-helds can feature composition!), I wondered if Kathryn Bigelow would eventually pull out In The Valley Of Elah's tattered American flags or the auteur-addled fury of Redacted. But where those films obsessed over crimes hidden in the name of wartime patriotism, The Hurt Locker finds plenty of madness and horror - as well as heroism - in war itself. And when it finally trades near-death experiences for the cereal aisle, the focus remains on soldiers and their reality, not the rest of us. As familiar as some of the observations and archetypes are, Bigelow makes them haunt.

Due to my monaural hearing, experiencing war has never been an option, let alone a threat. But with my impeding nuptuals, The Hangover struck close to the bone. While I'm more than a little burnt on the "perils of slumming, i.e. psychotic ethnics" strain of American comedy, this successfully exploited my desire for some obnoxious male camraderie before the Big Day. I'm thinking bowling.

The sci-fi psychodrama Moon could be titled Too Many Sam Rockwells! except you can never have too many Sam Rockwells. The closing voice-over suggests there may have actually been some kind of pointed message or metaphor to the hero's dilemma - something about corporations treating us like gristle, mabye? - but I enjoyed it as a b-movie no one bothered to put a serial killer in. Kevin Spacey's emoticon-loving HAL is nowhere as insufferable as you'd assume.

Dead Snow isn't so much the arrival of the next Sam Raimi, as the appearance of a Sam Raimi fan in Norway. The zombies are Nazis mostly for aesthetic purposes (those coats!) and for all the attention the filmmakers probably gave the international marketplace, I doubt any set piece or performance will make the whimsical gore canon. But hey, Nazi zombies.

I won't give away the novelty about the villain in Orphan, even though I guessed it from the trailer. Ok, I will. The child playing the Orphan is actually playing a 30-something serial killer with Andy Milonakis' hormone condition. I'm spoiling because a) the producers - who include Leonardo DiCaprio! - hired a 12 year old to play an adult serial killer that regularly traumatizes a deaf child - WHY, LEO? WHY? - and b) this knowledge shouldn't affect whether you find the movie entertaining as shameless trash. As in the superior Joshua (with Sam Rockwell!), Vera Farmiga plays the troubled mother of the Bad Seed. Unlike Flightplan and The Skeleton Key, Peter Sarsgaard doesn't signify his evil at the climax by turning around slowly and squinting. It's a shame - a real twist would have been that Papa Sarsgaard knowingly adopted an adult for some wife-offing, faux-Humbert Humbert shenanigans. Who else could have bought her all those blacklight markers for her secretly psychotic drawings?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The First Ten Films From 2009 I Saw In 2009

All these films (described in descending order of enthusiasm) deserve individual reviews as much as The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three, by far the least worthwhile of the bunch, but I'm playing catch-up.

If Drag Me To Hell winds up my favorite film of 2009, I'll only be disappointed because I'm going to make a point to see celebrated art films this year - might as well take advantage of living in NYC and see some Spout bait - and it would be nice if at least one could engage me more than a masterpiece of craft. Sam Raimi has just as much gruesome fun here as he did with the Evil Deads, his decade of Spider-manning adding polish with no expense to his wit or imagination. That this movie can be so nasty while PG-13 (anything can fly in and out of people's mouths as long as it's not related to sex, apparently) is arguably more impressive than a making a great gore flick on a shoestring budget. A third viewing in central PA following two in NYC was a little heartbreaking, as the smaller theater played the film at a very low volume, drastically reducing its impact. If you're waiting for DVD, make sure you play it loud.

Observe And Report stands out from other goofball-hero comedies just by acknowledging how disturbed the lead is. Imagine an Adam Sandler film where pills are popped, therapists are consulted and we're never asked to find him cute. Remove the Apatowian atmosphere (not that I'd want to lose an improvised stand-off between Seth Rogen and Aziz Ansari) and you're basically left with Taxi Driver. Refreshingly, writer/director Jody Hill seems totally aware. I Love You, Man's gender twist on rom-com cliche is a smaller breakthrough, but equally welcome. Now that we've nakedly addressed the value of (and humor in) platonic male friendship - something I have more than enough experience with to appreciate - maybe the Apatow mafia can make a comedy about something else.

Proof I'm as great a catch as Paul Rudd in I Love You, Man - maybe even the wry-yet-sensitive Justin Long in Drag Me To Hell - is that I've taken my fiancee to see not only Up (my first Pixar since Toy Story) but Every Little Step, a frikkin documentary about A Frikkin Chorus Frikkin Line. Both were a little confused and a lot sweet.

When a film is as redundant as X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the value is in the details. Yes, the token black character dies early and says "damn," but the token black character is a teleporting Will.I.Am in a cowboy hat and the "damn" comes with Hugh Jackman battling a man in a fat suit that would make Mike Myers weep with envy. Jackman and Liev Schrieber do wonders as fierce, emotionally conflicted forest creatures and two characters - including Ryan Reynolds in fine jerk form - practice gunkata. To complain would be churlish.

Obsessed is similarly heroic trash, with the supporting cast and crew never seeming bored, embarrassed or even cheeky as they go through the stalker-drama motions. With this bed of professionalism to bounce upon, Beyonce is free to sass and kick ass without ever removing her heels. My Bloody Valentine is slightly less expert in its audience pleasing obviousness - I blame the lack of Jerry O'Connell - but a solid good time even without the novelty of 3D (I need to pay more attention to signs posted in the lobby).

Know1ng is anything but obvious, and if you're as crazy as Roger Ebert, I can't blame you for preferring it to everything else here. The first two thirds are a fairly successful homage to M. Night Shyamalan, with Nic Cage comforting a sensitive child while dealing with enigmatic, supernatural forces seemingly linked to the defining traumas of his life. Then sci-fi and religiosity are forced to fuck by gunpoint, providing us with an apocalyptic climax not dreamt of even in Shyamalan's philosophy. Say what you will about the quality of his films, but Cage has shown a commendable devotion to getting the weirdest shit imaginable up there on the screen, to the point that I'm shocked he had nothing to do with making The Butterfly Effect. Even something as seemingly banal as National Treasure actually concerns the glory of Freemasonry. Respect - and a permanent place on freakier Netflix queues - is due.

Watchmen is also mandatory viewing for movie pervs, and not only if you're familiar with the book. By making few alterations other than to streamline/underline the plot and up the sex and violence - courageously refusing to tamper with the cartoonish dialogue and multiple blue penises that probably aren't why this made Time's Top 100 Books Of All Time - Zack Snyder has created a tone-deaf epic about the midlife crises and global ramifications of magical men in tights. That this happened in 2009 feels incredibly appropriate, and if it keeps just one previously curious adult from ever investigating the world of superhero comics, it was worth the millions, the legal wranglings and the decades of pre-production that went into its creation.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three

The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three had every flaw I read it did and then some. Tony Scott fills the film with blurry second-unit footage, time-displaying text (familiar from the five grating minutes I caught of his Spy Game) and wanton, sudden zoom-ins. Badass isn't derived from the New York setting, it's smeared on the screen in post. John Travolta's performance is more petulant than menacing ("lick my bunghole?" really?) and the plot is nonsensical. (If you were going to manufacture and exploit a stock market plummet by hijacking a subway car - questionable enough - would you hold the gun yourself? Wouldn't you watch from some faraway island and let professionals take care of the dirty work?) Worthlessly busier than the workmanlike original or the '98 TV remake with Edward James Olmos I can't believe I've actually seen, Pelham is very much the audience-insulting piece of shit critics have advertised.

But I didn't hate it. Scott's usual grotesquerie is reined in by the PG-13 rating (edit: turns out it's rated R, and after Drag Me To Hell I'm genuinely surprised - unless shooting deaths are flat-out verboten it must be over Travolta's language), and simple caper movies can take a lot of abuse. The cast helps, too; though Denzel Washington, James Gandolfini and John Turturro fail to make fully-formed characters out of their roles, the script gives them just enough room to show some of their natural charm and avoid the shrill cartoons or CSI-style sleepwalking this kind of story invites. Travolta even gets dangerously close to his old charisma with a colorful anecdote about watching a dog crap in Iceland (seriously, that's his highlight). I can't recommend the movie to anyone, but I can't rail against it. Shit usually smells worse and I walked away clean.


Side note: has Travolta had it together for a movie since Battlefield Earth? I remember him being somewhat likable (for what it was worth) in Domestic Disturbance, but I haven't seen anything else he's done this decade. His career has gone in waves, but he may be beyond the pale.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Blurbing My Life Away

Hypothetically, someone reading my tumblr could be disappointed that it's short on opinions of new media and long on videos of reprehensible men like Spencer Pratt and Jay Leno. If this person exists (aw), they should check out The Singles Jukebox - if they don't already - as I'll now be contributing blurbs. Remember when this blog was full of blurbs? I still bathe in two-star DVDs, I just haven't been telling you about them.

There are a shit-ton of 2009 movies I definitely plan to write about on this blog, as well as pretentiously titled essays like "On Spoilers" I should eventually bring to life. I'll be linking to them on the tumblr, so feel free to check that alone if the silence here frustrates you. Otherwise, look to the skies.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I give up. Kinda.

I still plan to write longish blog posts about various pertinent and impertinent subjects here (I do! Really!), but I've decided random youtube inanity and such looks a little too random and inane here. Instead, I'll post such things on a Tumblr, where it looks prettier. But - SERIOUSLY - I could write some mamajama of a post here tomorrow. I AM NOT KIDDING. Now that I have a separate outlet for internet media jive, maybe this blog will reblossom (or just blossom, your call) into an outlet for the kind of heady, ruminative prose that seems so refreshing in this era of twitters, SEOs and Lady GaGas. Stranger things have happened! Something to do now that Idol's almost over.

If you are looking for unheralded quality longform bloggery, check out Mind Your Own Goddamn Business, by my childhood friend Trey. It's funnier than all that big city shit (including mine), and it's straight outta Greeley, CO. I haven't seen this guy since the summer of 1991, and he's apparently aged like fine wine.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Evil Cowards Hype Continues Here

Caught Electric Six at Maxwell's last night - don't know if they had the percussion stand last time they were in the area but Dick Valentine plays extra percussion on instrumental breaks now. It's a shame I won't be able to see them tonight at the Bowery Ballroom, as Evil Cowards, the Dick Valentine spin-off I wasn't aware of until the merch person sold me their CD, is opening. It's a synth-pop duo with back-up dancers. Ohhhh yeah.

According to their bio, Evil Cowards will be playing a bunch of shows this summer. They better, or I will cry.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Eminem, "3 AM"

You know what would have been really scary, Eminem? If you were wearing clown make-up.

Friday, May 01, 2009

ich bin mclovin

Type "German Trailer" into YouTube along with the name of a movie. Fun!

(Possibly less fun if you speak the language, but still.)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Other 2008 Films I Was Excited To See In February (And Have Since)

Favorite to least.

The 28 Days Later Project, starring Emily Rose and the dude from Hostel. So entertaining that I'm not actually sure the original foreign film would be better! Can't remember when everyone took stupid pills (which always happens in thrillers so the movie doesn't end with someone hiding until its safe), so it couldn't have been that annoying when they did.

In Bruges
We really need to stop making our smartest, most inventive and most colorful comedies about hit men. There has to be a way to make one without shooting everybody in the head. There has to.

Funny Games
Exactly like the original, which I wanted to see again. Now prepared for his cold-hearted didacticism, I appreciate Michael Haneke films for their Hitchcock times Kubrick craft. He's a reliable source of cheap thrills, not unlike John Carpenter. How ironic!

Lakeview Terrace
Not quite absurd enough to do for race what The Wicker Man did for sex, but I hope Neil LaBute keeps trying.

Paranoid Park
An hour-long after school special about a disenfranchised closet case and a half-hour of slow-motion shots of teen boys on skateboards, seamlessly combined by someone who's done this all before.

Josh Hartnett tries so hard.

First Sunday
Katt Williams doesn't need good lines to be funny, but, apparently, Tracy Morgan does.

Rachel Getting Married

It's funny to hear people talk about Rachel Getting Married as Jonathan Demme's comeback: I might have enjoyed the film a lot more if I wasn't familiar with his work. Neil Young, Robyn Hitchcock, Sister Carol and that cross-eyed dude could have come off as inspired quirk rather than self-parody. I might have even credited the wedding's cultural mishmash (like Janeane Garofalo watching Speed, I kept waiting for an Eskimo with a spear) to the underwritten characters ("a bunch of virtuous, good-hearted people who will manage to work out all of their problems, live happily ever after, and vote for Obama," Village Voice), rather than the director. But with no explanation provided, I had blame the film's multi-culti madness on Demme, whose tastes I know more about than Rachel's.

If I wasn't familiar with Melvin And Howard and Married To The Mob, it might not depress me that the director uses cinema verite to cloak the Lifetime melodrama in Jenny Lumet's script - don't give away the shocking family trauma, viewers, or your friends may not enjoy piecing together the clues! My disappointment with Demme is what keeps me from pondering quality performances like Debra Winger's detached mom (even more impressive when you know how easily she can seduce an audience) and instead grumbling about how she's used for a cheap "fight the real enemy," Ordinary People climax. It's hard to accept how dishonest and lazy he can be when ostensibly set free.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Friday, February 20, 2009

This belongs in a museum.

As you may have guessed, forces both pleasant and otherwise are keeping me from updating this blog as regularly as I'd like. Someday soon I hope to spontaneously restart posting with unbridled enthusiasm, clockwork regularity and improved grammar. Until then, please enjoy this decanter from Michael Jackson's upcoming auction, starting at $1,000-2,000.

What's he going to serve Jesus Juice out of now?

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Top 20 Movies Released In 2008 That I've Seen (Out Of 35)

Harold & Kumar: Escape From Guantanamo Bay
Tropic Thunder
The Dark Knight
Iron Man
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
The Signal
Pineapple Express
What We Do Is Secret
Burn After Reading
The Strangers
The Ruins
The Foot Fist Way
Hamlet 2
The Spirit

20 Movies From 2008 I Haven't Seen But Can Imagine Being Better Than Rambo, Most Anticipated To Least

Lakeview Terrace
Paranoid Park
Funny Games
The Wrestler
Rachel Getting Married
Wendy And Lucy
Seven Pounds
Transporter 3
Frozen River
Speed Racer
In Bruges
First Sunday
Flight Of The Red Balloon
Synedoche, NY

Sunday, February 01, 2009

We look at each other in the eye, and it's no use.

If you thought Walk The Line pussied out on hard living, see this movie. The only real problem I had with it was the ending: just about all of Maury Dann's real-life Outlaw counterparts made it to their sixties and beyond. You couldn't have expected the filmmakers to guess that in '73, though. Or that Rip Torn would outlive them.

Paths Of Glory
It's startling and touching to see Stanley Kubrick wrestling with man's inhumanity to man after watching his later films, which quickly devolved from sardonic giggles over the subject to droll resignation. His treatment of horror is already unflinching and almost sadistic (the climax is practically politicized torture porn), but he hadn't settled on the "man is beast" thesis that underlines the last thirty years of his work. It shouldn't surprise that Kirk Douglas' speeches and the commoner-pitying coda don't quite soothe. They didn't soothe Kubrick either.

The Craft
It's hard to tell what the moral is of this teen witch melodrama. Is it wrong to take revenge on violent assholes? Does absolute power only corrupt those with class resentments? Despite the vague Gump subtext, the movie's still worth it for Fairuza Balk (her day will come) and Skeet Ulrich, whose dimbulb Depp has never been better utilized.

The Tao Of Steve
A life of tragically little sexual conquest has left me with a soft-spot for burlesque cocksmen, from Greg Dulli to LL Cool J to Henry Miller. Which is why I forgive myself for not being revolted by a sitcom indie about a lardass hook-up guru starring Donal Logue.

I'll take it on faith that there may have been a time when Hollywood did not give time to the young, stylish and amoral - and I can believe that the French got there first. I almost even buy that it was fresh to hear characters blathering "all women..."/"all men..." generalizations. But I won't pretend that this movie's influence on American cinema hasn't made everything but its Frenchiness incredibly familiar.

The Big Chill
Now-familiar white boomers dance to then-familiar black music and discuss how weird it is that they all grew up to be rich despite their ideals. I'm guessing the John Sayles version is significantly less devoted to telling boomers that they're still lovable.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Mother, The Whore And The Robot Maid.

Another evocation of Kanye's fascinating dilemma.

Friday, January 23, 2009

You can never have too much sugar.

A young man must decide whether to idolize his rakish uncle determined to succeed or his moral grandfather determined to suffer. When Gramps questions the honor of selling his otherwise worthless land to an oil company, you can't blame the country for choosing Hud.

The Perfect Storm
A group of likable actors go on a suicidal fishing mission - Armageddon on the ocean. Mary Elisabeth Mastrantonio, Karen Allen and Diane Lane do a lot of yelling. Not sure why Mark Wahlberg let Lane use that Boston accent in front of him.

The Abyss
James Cameron is the missing link between Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay, and he should be proud that he's not George Lucas. Sure knows how to make a three hour movie feel like two.

Definitely, Maybe
Van Wilder Ryan Reynolds is not the white Will Smith. Sweetiepie Abigail Breslin is not precocious. Isla Fisher is not Nicole Kidman, but sure sounds like her when half-heartedly attempting an American accent. Why was this a wide-release film advertised in theaters before Enchanted when it's identical to the countless blah dramedies that go straight to DVD each year? Maybe someone thinks Ryan Reynolds is the white Will Smith.

The movie coasted to $100 million off of John Travolta's charm, a quality praised even in negative reviews of the movie. Failing to notice it myself, I was instead entertained by the sound of William...Hurt? and AAAndie McDAOowul falling in love over Randy Newman's twerpy, arbitrary motifs - my favorite being the fretless bass and synth-reggae that accompanies the sight of Travolta in boxers.

MIA On Her Oscar Nomination

Thank you to all the people who are supporting us and the making of a real story of a slumdog millionaire…maybe I can afford to book Dave Chappelle at the baby shower now.

She knows Edgar Bronfman, Jr. is her fiancee's father, right?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Did the kid still have his glasses on?

From imdb:

A teenage movie fan has been stabbed following a New York screening of gruesome horror movie My Bloody Valentine 3-D.

An unnamed 16-year-old boy reportedly refused to leave the Long Island, New York theatre after the film had finished on Sunday night and began fighting with security guard Ricardo Singh, 24.

The youngster was stabbed during the tussle and admitted to Winthrop University Hospital, where he received treatment for his injuries and was subsequently released.

Singh was arrested, charged with second-degree assault and is set to be arraigned on Tuesday.

I just love that the security guard pulled a knife out, not the teenager refusing to leave the theater. Can we still blame this on horror movies?

My Bloody Valentine Is Not In 3-D At Every Theater


Shockingly, the movie was entertaining enough without the special effect - we actually stayed till the end! With all due to respect to the middle aged little person flung into the ceiling by a pick axe, the greatest sight was the green wool-knit sweater Tom Atkins (Halloween III: Season Of The Witch) wears in his climactic scene. Badass is all well and good, but retired sheriffs like to stay warm. If Clint Eastwood wears something similar in Gran Torino, I might actually watch it.

I'm tempted to see this again, assuming it's somewhere that's showing it in 3-D. It was going to be my first experience of the sort since Captain Eo! You have no idea how psyched I was. Damn cheapskates repressing advances in cinematic technology.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

RIP Ricardo

This remains awesome.

Did you know he was married to the same woman, Georgiana Young, for 63 years, until her death in '07? I would kill to read their love letters. You know they're florid.

Holidays are over, and hopefully so's my cold, so expect regular posting to resume.