Sunday, June 29, 2008


WALL*E was amazing.  Absolutely stunning.  Felt like a little kid while watching it.  The visual storytelling was simply incredible.  Loved it.

Thursday, June 26, 2008



Feels like ages since I last sat in a theater.  WANTED and WALL-E are big-screen must-sees for me.  I still would like to catch GET SMART.  I am thinking THE HAPPENING will wait for dvd. I'd love to get back to see THE FALL once more before it leaves theaters.  And next Wednesday brings one of my most anticipated movies of the summer: HANCOCK.

Lot's to look forward too...hope they all kick ass...  

Thursday, June 19, 2008


I am on a road trip so postings will/have been light.

I caught THE INCREDIBLE HULK (***) and my full review will be up soon. Enjoyed it. Hardly as good as IRON MAN but it delivered some nice action sequences.

Friday, June 13, 2008


TEETH (**1/2) is one of the kookiest movies I've ever seen. Meet Dawn, a cute, peppy, virginal high school girl played by the amazing Jess Weixler. She's not your typical high school girl. She's got...well...ummm...a...little problem. Seems that Dawn suffers from the famous myth of vagina dentata, or, in layperson's terms, she's got teeth in her most private of areas. Writer/director Mitchell Lichtenstein has created a weird, strange, bizarre film that while intermittently entertaining, never finds a consistent tone to tell his whacked-out story in. Is this a horror-thriller? It's certainly creepy and gory. Is this a black-hearted high school satire? It is very funny at times. Is this a uniquely strange coming-of-age story? Dawn's predicament certainly elicits viewer sympathy. The main problem with TEETH is that Lichtenstein, while talented, isn't talented enough to bring all of these story elements together into a cohesive whole. The film works from scene-to-scene, and at times is laugh-out-loud funny, while also being off-puttingly disgusting. No doubt, there will be some men who will clutch their family jewels all throughout this perverse movie.

Dawn first realizes her situation at an early age. She's in a kiddie pool with her soon-to-be step-brother who casually tells her: "you saw let's see yours." He ends up wishing that he didn't ask to see (and then touch) her in her nether region. Cut to about 12 years later and Dawn is now a pretty and prim high schooler who has taken a vow of abstinence. She leads a group of virgins who tour other schools proclaiming the benefits of abstinence till marriage. Of course all of the guys in her school want to sleep with her. And they also enjoy ridiculing her. With her hormones raging she ends up developing a crush on one of her fellow virginal group members. Things don't go well when they try to experiment with bumpin' uglies. Her step brother Brad, the darkly funny John Hensley from NIP/TUCK, has been sexually fantasizing over her for years, still having never fully recovered from the traumatic moment in the kiddie pool. Her mother is sick and confined to her bed. Her step-father is a dunce. So what's a girl like Dawn to do? Horrified by her mutation, she goes to an OBGYN for the first time; not the best idea. And when her step brother demands to get a full peek at what's under her dress...well...let's just say that things don't end well. Dawn reads Internet info about the vagina dentata myth, which says that there is special male out there who can conquer her problem. Will she find Mr. Right?

Weixler's performance really makes the film watchable. It's a brave performance really, made even more impressive by the fact that TEETH is only her second feature film. I can't imagine what she must've though of the script when she read it. Or how she told her parents when she got the part. "Hey Mom...Dad...I got the part! I play a girl with teeth in her vagina!" Lichtenstein aims for satirical comedy with a horror edge and while he's partially successful, there is a drabness to the production that hurts it in the long run. Compositions are just okay, and while the film has only a 90 minute run time, the pacing and overall rhythm of the film is a little awkward. Also, after about the fourth or fifth close-up of severed, bloodied penises, the movie just starts feeling a bit gross and icky. But, it's occasionally funny, always outrageous, extremely different, and not like anything I've ever seen. As my father has said for years when it comes to watching movies, take me to a place I've never seen or been too. I've never seen a world like the one that the characters in TEETH inhabit and I don't think I'd ever want to go back. But I'm happy I caught a glimpse of such a freaked-out and sexually paranoid universe. And the film's final scene, is, in its own little way, rather perfect. Lichtenstein seems to have some personal issues he needs to work out with the opposite sex; could he really be this scared by female genitalia? Or is just having some nasty fun?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I wasn't sure what to make of Olivier Assayas' cryptic thriller BOARDING GATE (***) while I was watching it, and a few days later, I am still not sure what to think about it. I liked it, though, so I guess that's all that matters in the end. This is the first film I have seen from Assayas, who wrote and directed, and it won't be the last; I'm very intrigued by Assayas' aesthetic, which is in the key of minor Michael Mann. BOARDING GATE is the sort of genre film that doesn't make ripples in the theaters, but that people end up discovering on DVD or pay cable. It's a naughty little film, with some kinky sex and bloody gun-play, all steeped in the traditions of the femme fatale and international crime noir. Not as interested in coherent plot developments or definitive answers, BOARDING GATE operates in an almost dream-like state which heightens the actions of its sleazy characters. But what makes the film worth watching has more to do with what it doesn't do, then what it does do.

Asia Argento (XXX, MARIE ANTOINETTE) is Sandra, an ex-call girl with a history of drug problems and a taste for S&M. She's working a legit job in Paris for some sort of international importer/exporter, while also conducting shady drug deals on the side. Her old lover, Miles (Michael Madsen), also happens to be her ex-pimp; the two have a very, very sordid past. She meets up with Miles again and it's clear that there is still some heat between the two of them. What Miles doesn't know is that Sandra is also carrying on an affair with her boss, the quietly mysterious Lester (Carl Ng), who runs his company with his wife Sue (Kelly Lin), who may be up to more than she lets on. Someone gets murdered (not telling who it is or who the killer is) and Sandra flees to Beijing, where she has dreams of opening a night club. I may be missing something but that might be due to the way certain events in this film are explained. As the film nears its conclusion, BOARDING GATE builds to an almost certainly grim finale that given what actually transpires, will be a surprise for most viewers.

Assayas is most interested in style, tone, ambiguous characters, and the chance to photograph his sexy leading lady in black lace panties while she brandishes a pistol. The fun that Assayas has with the ingredients of crime noir is presented right from the beginning. Argento, not the world's most amazing actress, has a clear-cut confidence in front of a camera that is cold, hard, and real. Her dialogue, much of which is delivered in a gravelly whisper, is heavy with symbolism. She pouts her lips, tilts her head, and genuinely looks like she'd be up for just about anything. She's a true femme fatale that De Palma or Hitchcock would love. Madsen, who never met a sleaze-ball character he couldn't ace in his sleep, is perfectly cast as Miles, a guy who'll never be able to keep his shit straight. One scene between the two of them, involving oral sex and a leather belt, is pervertedly hysterical while also being rather titillating. Cinematographer Yorick Le Saux bathes the film in hot, bright light that illuminates interiors with a slick, almost ghostly glow. And because the film operates in such a tentative mind-set with the characters making frantic decisions, there is a purposefully messy quality to the narrative that is both liberating and frustrating to the viewer.

There were times when I wished I better understood what was going on during BOARDING GATE, yet, I can't honestly say I was ever truly confused or annoyed by Assayas' deliberately opaque style. The film is more about what happens in between the big moments dictated by the necessity of plot, and less about the more obvious instances of action or spectacle. But the film's final moments, which I totally loved, really sealed the deal for me. The ending of BOARDING GATE might anger some viewers who are looking for a more overtly satisfying emotional conclusion to the story. It was here when I got the feeling that Assayas was channeling Michael Mann, or trying to anyways. BOARDING GATE isn't as strong overall as anything that Mann has ever created, but Assayas deserves points for trying. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think I am. This is a fun, dangerous, sexy thriller that's well worth checking out.


Christian missionaries trek through the Burmese jungle with medicine and supplies for refugees. They are taken hostage by sadistic local soldiers who enjoy killing children, raping women, and beheading the men of the local villages. John Rambo and a team of mercenaries set out to rescue the missionaries. Lots and lots of bad guys explode.

I don't recall a recent action film that was as gory as Sly Stallone's RAMBO (**1/2). The blood-lust that this film possesses in its heart was pretty astounding to witness. Stallone, efficiently directing from a script he co-wrote with Art Monterastelli (THE HUNTED, which was basically a riff on FIRST BLOOD), keeps a lean, mean, fighting attitude during the film's swift 80 minute run time. Characterization is kept to card-board stereotypes, the bad guys are disgustingly reprehensible and deserve everything that they get, and the film's statement about revenge and "give 'em what they deserve" is refreshingly 80's in its mindset. Who would argue that genocidal maniacs who throw children into pits of fire, lop off the arms and legs of the elderly, and rape and abuse women don't deserve to be extinguished from this planet? That's basically what Stallone is saying with RAMBO, and boy does he ever make his point graphically clear. The bad guys aren't just shot and killed in this film; they are utterly decimated. Gatling-guns are fired at the enemy from about a foot a way, leaving bloody, chunky piles of human viscera in the spot where a body once stood. Throats are torn out with bare hands, people disintegrate after stepping on land mines, and the tops of people's heads are ripped clear off their skulls by obscenely large bullets.

And you know what -- there was something eerily satisfying about all of it. Not that it's a great film, or even a very good one, for that matter. It's just ballsy and sort of deranged in its decision to be so upfront about its violence. Stallone has taken the real-life atrocities that have been occurring in Burma for years and has made a film that some might be tempted to call exploitive. I'd disagree. It would've been exploitive had Stallone shied away from showing the terrible things that this film portrays. He wants to remind people that there are shameful things happening all over the globe. And within the confines of the action movie genre, he's able to spin a story that anyone with a pulse will be able to identify with. Who wants scum like these barbaric soldiers living and breathing? Clearly not Stallone, so through the iconic character of John Rambo, he's able to dispatch some good old vigilante justice. The film is simple yet never stupid, focused and never incoherent, and stripped down to the bone when most action films feel the need to run on and on and on. It's well shot and well edited, with the final action scene really feeling like Michael Bay's ultimate wet dream. Sure, the writing is ham-fisted, the dialogue is clunky, and the acting is average. But if you want to see an R-rated action film of the likes that never get made any more, check it out.

Friday, June 6, 2008


I want people to see THE FALL, which I feel is the best film of 2008. No other film in recent memory has transported me to a different world the way THE FALL did. It's an extraordinary, one-of-a-kind experience, a film I want to revisit immediately. I saw it last Sunday and ever since then it's been stuck in my head. I have been pissed off by some of the reviews I've read online for the film, dismissing it as self-indulgent, boring and preposterous. I'm dismayed by them, actually. However, one of my favorite critics, Roger Ebert, feels the same way I do. He awarded the film four stars, as I did, and because he is who he is, he had a chance to meet with the film's director, Tarsem, and conduct an interview.

Here's a link to the article:

Also, here's a link to the trailer for THE FALL; check it out's just a taste of the unforgettable things on display in this masterpiece of imagination, ideas, and images.


I am not interested in any of this weekend's new releases.

YOU DON'T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN looks like a gigantic piece of shit. Seriously. It looks awful. How anyone could be excited for something that looks this stupid is beyond me.

KUNG FU PANDA looks moderately amusing. Maybe I'll catch it on DVD.

I have Sly Stallone's RAMBO and Olivier Assayas' BOARDING GATE from Netflix to watch this weekend. Looking forward to both of 'em.

Next weekend brings THE INCREDIBLE HULK and THE HAPPENING to theaters, two films I'm quite interested in. I hope THE HAPPENING is a nasty return to form for M. Night Shyamalan, who slipped big time with his last film, the horrendous LADY IN THE WATER. Despite mixed early-word on the big green guy, THE INCREDIBLE HULK is now getting great buzz, and the latest round of trailers are very promising. I'm still not sold 100% on the CGI but it looks like it could be a fun superhero movie, with lots and lots of action and explosions. Which is what the summer movie season is all about, right?

Thursday, June 5, 2008


THE FALL (****) is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. It was mine, however. I drank the whole pot and loved every single sip. There are movies and then there are films. There is junk-cinema and there is art-cinema. There is pure escapism and there are documentaries. Directed by Tarsem (THE CELL) from a script he co-wrote with Dan Gilroy and Nico Soultanakis, THE FALL is one of the most personal and private films that I’ve ever encountered on the big screen. Terry Malick and Werner Herzog would blush if they saw it. It’s also an uncompromising masterwork that is the best film I’ve seen so far this year. There is imagery in THE FALL that I will never forget. For the past week, the film has been haunting me, in a good way, and if I had the time and money I’d go back and see it again. And again. And again. I think you’re getting the point. Mixing surrealist fantasy with a simple yet dark story, THE FALL captivated me in a way that no other release has this year. From the utterly engrossing opening all the way to the emotionally draining yet satisfying ending, THE FALL sweeps you out of your seat with lush, exotic, and unforgettable imagery while spinning a touching yet complicated narrative that adds up to something completely spectacular. Tarsem has only made two feature films at this point; I hope he becomes more prolific in the coming years.

Shot over the course of four years in over 20 countries and fully financed by Tarsem out of his own pocket, THE FALL is the story of two lost souls who connect while convalescing in a Los Angeles hospital, sometime in the early 1920’s. Roy Walker (the excellent Lee Pace from PUSHING DAISIES) is a Hollywood stuntman who’s been paralyzed after falling off his horse during the filming of a western action flick. Confined to his bed in the hospital, he’s a man who’s suffering not only from his terrible injury, but from a broken heart; it seems that his actress-girlfriend has run off with the film’s leading man. Along comes the impossibly precocious Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), a Romanian immigrant no older than 10 years old, who is nursing a broken arm at the hospital (she fell out of a tree while picking oranges on a farm with her family). Their paths cross and an instant bond is created. Roy begins to tell Alexandria a fantastical story about five adventurers (an Indian, an Italian explosives expert, a masked bandit, an African slave, and Charles Darwin) who are all caught in a battle with the evil Governor Odious. Alexandria patiently listens to Roy tell his story, and the audience gets to see how she envisions what she’s being told. Because of her wild imagination, the language barrier between her and Roy, and her child-like view of the world, Roy’s story shape-shifts in Alexandria’s head to the point of cerebral exhaustion. In a nod to THE WIZARD OF OZ, Alexandria imagines the five adventurers as versions of the people who surround her in the hospital (a doctor, a nurse, Roy himself, etc). What she doesn’t realize is that Roy is really conning her; he starts stopping the story at integral moments (much to her chagrin) so that she can fetch him morphine pills, in an attempt to commit suicide. That’s as much of a plot synopsis that I will offer.

What I will concede is that THE FALL is one of the most gorgeously mounted productions I’ve ever seen. Tarsem, a world-renowned commercials and music-video director, is operating on another level, an all together different playing field in this film. His mastery of the visual image is so sharp and so intricately detailed that I’ve found it difficult to think of anyone else who comes close to this level of artistry. There are flavors of the film BARAKA and PAN’S LABRYINTH and the aforementioned WIZARD OF OZ, but Tarsem has created something truly original with THE FALL. And it might have been a complete failure. Without a strong story and well developed characters, the film would have become two hours of startlingly beautiful imagery in search of a meaningful narrative. The friendship that develops between Roy and Alexandria makes the fantasy sequences all the more involving because the closer they get in spirit, the more intense the fantasy elements become. Pace brings you into Roy’s situation and you feel his pain at times. His performance is always interesting and quite layered once you factor in the various levels that the story is pivoting on. Untaru is a revelation in her big screen debut. Her line readings, at times alternating between supremely confident and slightly awkward, produce a nervous quality to the film that melds perfectly with the avant-garde nature of the visual scheme. Alexandria, whether due to her naiveté or youth, doesn’t understand everything that’s going on around her, which allows Tarsem and his writers the freedom to run wild with her interpretation of the story she’s being told. Certain moments, including a swimming elephant, a chanting and dancing tribe of natives, a city painted in blue, a man resting on a bed of arrows like a bed of nails, and a creature separating itself from a flaming tree, were beyond words in their level of visual sophistication. Working with the cinematographer Colin Watkinson, Tarsem has given THE FALL one of the most unique and distinctive visual palettes that I’ve ever come across. The breathtaking opening sequence, showcasing Roy’s tragic accident in creamy black-and-white and super-slow-motion sets the tone right away; THE FALL is akin to a living, breathing painting.

THE FALL will be a polarizing film for most audiences; you’re either gonna love it or hate it. There will probably be no middle ground. It’s experimental, it’s artsy, it’s a tad pretentious, and above all, it’s totally exhilarating. To watch a filmmaker shoot for the moon the way Tarsem has here is like watching someone preform a high-wire act; his ambition is almost lunatic. This is not the sort of film that could ever get made through the traditional studio system and it’s not the sort of film that, sadly, will win over sold-out crowds and every critic who checks it out (it’s a 50/50 split at Rottentomatoes with some truly moronic comments made by some sneering “critics”). However, it’s a work of art, and a one-of-a-kind accomplishment that’s worth seeking out if you care at all about the power of filmmaking and storytelling. This is the best film of 2008 that I’ve seen thus far, and a visual tour de force that has few equals. Tarsem put his money where his mouth is, and the results are nothing less than brilliant.



Wednesday, June 4, 2008


It was never going to be easy for me to objectively review Steven Spielberg’s INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (***1/2). The original trilogy is such an important and beloved part of my movie-watching childhood that the mere thought of seeing Harrison Ford back up on the big screen as Indiana Jones was enough to send me into geeking spasms of joy. Not getting caught up in the excitement and hype of Indy’s latest adventure was never going to be an option for me. Before watching the new installment, I watched all three of the original films, to get pumped up, and to remind myself of the love I have for this character and these films. When I was growing up, I had a rotating line-up of movies on VHS (thanks Mom and Dad!) that played almost on a loop: the original STAR WARS trilogy, the original INDIANA JONES trilogy, the BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogy, THE MONSTER SQUAD, MY SCIENENCE PROJECT, EXPLORERS, and HARRY & THE HENDERSONS. There were a few others but those were the standouts. I never tired of any of those films, but my favorites were always the INDIANA JONES series. I was also obsessed with science and fossils and archeology, so for there to be giant action-adventure films that revolved around a scientist...well…that was it for me. What I am pleased to announce is that not only did I love INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, but that it felt, for the most part and with a few minor exceptions, like a logical and sensible extension of the series. It wasn’t perfect but it was a thrilling blast of old-school movie nostalgia that doesn’t come around too often.

Part of the fun of the Indy movies was not knowing too much about the film before watching it, so I am hesitant to reveal too much of the plot and its various twists. What I will reveal is that Indy is up to his old tricks again, but some time has passed since the events of INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE. It’s the 1950’s, the Red Scare is everywhere, and Indy is looking a little more weathered since we last saw him. The action kicks off in the Nevada desert with Indy being blackmailed by some renegade Russian soldiers, led by the villainous Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett, what can’t she do at this point?), into breaking into a top-secret government facility (Area 51, maybe?) There seems to be something of great importance inside one of the many, many boxes in the facility, which looks eerily similar to a certain facility glimpsed at during the final moments of INDIANA JONES AND THE RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. The Russians find what they’re looking for, only to have Indy escape, in the first of many thrilling action sequences.

Cut to Yale. Indy is back behind his desk, teaching one of his history classes. He’s told by his boss that he’s being suspended pending a formal F.B.I. investigation into his work. Indy crosses paths with a young kid named Mutt Williams, played by rising star Shia LaBeouf. After a rollicking car chase which takes them through the streets of Connecticut and into the campus library, the plot kicks into high gear. Mutt tells Indy of the supposed Crystal Skull of Akator, which may or may not be otherworldly. They head to Peru (yes, we get to see that awesome connect-the-dots map from the original trilogy when they’re in the plane) where Mutt seems to think the skull is located. What Mutt doesn’t tell Indy is that his mother is being held captive Spalko and her brutes, who are already in the jungle, looking for the skull. Mutt’s mom is a familiar face to Indy – it’s Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), last seen bickering with Indy during RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Also being held captive is wild-eyed scientist Professor Oxley (John Hurt), who happens to be one of Indy’s old cohorts, who is also an expert on the crystal skull in question. One event leads to another and through a series of chases, fights, shoot-outs, and revelations, Indy, Mutt, Marion, and Oxley stampede through the jungle, in and out of underground tombs and caverns, and even encounter…well…I won’t spoil. I didn’t know how the film was going to wrap up before I entered the theater and neither should you. If you’re an Indy fan don’t let anyone spoil any of the surprises.

One of the many delights of this new Indy adventure is that everyone involved, from the actors to the filmmakers, look like they’re having a blast. Ford slides right back into the action heroics without ever missing a beat, tossing off one-liners with a gruff snarl, and cracking his whip with veteran authority. LaBeouf is terrific as Indy’s smart-ass side-kick, though I think it would be silly to spin off the franchise with Mutt as the lead, an idea that’s been floating around the internet ever since the film became a lock for $300 million domestic. Blanchett is awesome as the lead villain. She bites into the role with gusto and really has some fun with it. Wielding a sword and speaking in a bristling accent, Spalko ranks as one of the top foes that Indy has ever faced off against. And while it was a nice idea to bring back Marion into the fold, Allen seemed awkward during most of her scenes. I’m not sure whether that’s due to her not being in much over the years, or if everyone was having too much fun while filming; she seemed a little loopy. But that smile of hers is ear-to-ear and she and Indy waste no time in getting back into the bickering swing of things. Hurt is perfectly cast as the crazy scientist who knows more than he realizes but Ray Winstone, saddled with nothing role as a duplicitous treasure seeker, is completely wasted.

The screenplay, which is credited to David Koepp (JURASSIC PARK, PANIC ROOM) based on a story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson (CATCH ME IF YOU CAN), is brisk and straightforward, though at times, a little too expository. Koepp’s talent as a writer has always been pace and structure, and in this respect, he keeps the film moving at a brisk clip. However, while some of the dialogue is witty it’s mostly serviceable, and there is a heart and depth that was achieved during parts of LAST CRUSADE that don’t reappear in this new adventure. The action sequences are all first rate under Spielberg’s classical direction. Just like in the original three films, Spielberg is patient during his action scenes, never over-cutting or shooting the footage with an overly stylized, Michael Bay eye. The standouts are a rousing amphibious-vehicle chase set in the jungle along a cliff with sword fights and shoot-outs happening simultaneously that ends in a spectacular water-fall plunge that has echoes of TEMPLE OF DOOM. The climactic action set-piece, while a bit rambunctious, is extremely satisfying as well. Again, at the risk of mentioning any spoilers, the last few beats of action during the finale had my head spinning with geeky glee.
However, there were a few, small things I didn’t like. There’s a sequence with Mutt where he essentially becomes Tarzan for a few minutes that was beyond stupid, both in idea and execution. Some of the CGI is on the sloppy side, which was a big surprise, considering that Spielberg is usually works on the cutting edge with this stuff. The filmmakers certainly tried to remain faithful to the old-school spirit of the original trilogy but it’s obvious that computer-aided temptations might have gotten the best of them at times. The film is no more ridiculous or over-the-top as the original three so any complaints on that end aren’t justified in my opinion. I just wish that Lucas, Spielberg, and Koepp had devised a better way to fuse the action and the plot together during the film’s mid-section. It’s not that the film drags per se, it’s just that there is a hold placed on the momentum of the story as Indy scrambles to figure out what’s going on. In the other movies, Indy was more of a doer than a looker; he spends a little too much time as an observer rather than an adventurer. But again, these complaints are minor, and if you can’t just sit back and enjoy an IDIANA JONES film for what it is, then there’s no reason to even attempt to watch it.

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL was never going to reach the heights of the original trilogy. There’s just no way it could. The first three films were made in a different time and climate in the Hollywood studio system. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK was a go-for-broke experiment made by a filmmaker who was just beginning to flex his blockbuster muscles. TEMPLE OF DOOM was a dark sequel that took what was started in RAIDERS and brought it to the next level. It was also the film that helped create the PG-13 rating when parents flipped out that people were having their hearts torn out of their chests in a PG-rated film. Then, in LAST CRUSADE, the father-son dynamic between Indy and his dad, played by Sean Connery, lent a certain degree of heart and class that hadn’t been touched upon in the first two installments. Over the years, Spielberg has matured as filmmaker and storyteller but he hasn’t lost his whimsical touch. Nobody does action-adventure stuff the way he does it; there is a classical handling of these sequences that is both thrillingly old-fashioned and refreshingly simple. Lucas, who is probably to blame for the film’s few shortcomings, is still a big kid in a candy store with his take on this material, and it would be unfair not to heap a little praise on the man for simply creating this character. INDIANA JONES has always been Spielberg and Lucas’s homage to the Saturday morning television serials that they grew up with as kids, and their love for those programs is still very evident. INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL is a fitting conclusion to this massively entertaining series of adventures. It could have been a total disaster, but thankfully, Spielberg, Lucas, and Ford have reassured audiences that there is still life left in the old archeologist. I had a blast with the film and I can’t wait to see it again and again on DVD. Grab some popcorn and get ready to have some serious fun.


Brian De Palma, though one of my favorite filmmakers, has had a very hit and miss career. When he's on, he's on fire. Just watch THE UNTOUCHABLES, BODY DOUBLE, FEMME FATALE, CARLITO'S WAY, DRESSED TO KILL, SCARFACE, BLOW OUT, CASUALTIES OF WAR, CARRIE or MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE and it will be impossible to deny that he's a terrific director. Even when he doesn't have the best script (SNAKE EYES, THE BLACK DAHLIA, THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES, RAISING CAIN, REDACTED), his films are always watchable, if not for his bravura visual technique, then for his taste of the perverse. If you've never seen FEMME FATALE then I highly reccommend you grab it on DVD. It's one of his best films ever and one of the most underrated movies of the decade.

The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that De Palma has teamed up with producer Gale Anne Hurd (ALIENS, T2, THE INCREDIBLE HULK) on another true-crime drama, this time centering on the infamous Boston strangler. The film will be adapted from Susan Kelly's book "The Boston Stranglers: The Public Conviction of Albert DeSalvo and the True Story of Eleven Shocking Murders." The film is tentatively titled THE BOSTON STRANGLERS. Per the Hollywood Reporter, "the thriller will detail the early-'60s Beantown killings and their controversial resolution." No writer is attached yet. This all sounds very promising and I am really, really hoping that De Palma knocks this out of the park. He has the talent. He just needs to stay focused and make sure that his shooting script is in good shape before any film gets shot.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


If you were even a casual fan of SEX AND THE CITY when it was airing on HBO then I think it’s safe to say that you’ll enjoy the new big-screen adventures of Carrie Bradshaw and her gal pals. SEX AND THE CITY: THE MOVIE is a breezy, funny, and pumped-up chick-flick that was a better overall movie than I had anticipated. Written and directed by Michael Patrick King (who oversaw the HBO series) and executive produced by creator Darren Star, SEX AND THE CITY: THE MOVIE (***) delivers just about everything you’d expect: sex-centric laughs, emotional outbursts, over-designed outfits, look-at-me handbags and shoes, female and male nudity, and enough witty one-liners to choke a horse. And while there wasn’t anything particularly envelope-pushing about the content (something the TV show did on a regular basis) or extremely surprising from a narrative point of view, it’s the charm of the terrific cast and the snappy pace that seals the deal on this much anticipated reunion of estrogen.

After a quick and snazzy opening credits sequence (during which that catchy theme music plays) that fills the audience in on what’s been going on since the characters were last seen during the series finale a few years ago, the movie starts building a number of plot-lines. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) is still with “Big” (Chris Noth) and the two lovebirds are looking at swanky NYC apartments, though, he hasn’t proposed yet. Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is living in Los Angeles with her younger boyfriend, Smith, and working as his manager; he’s become a huge television star. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Steve (David Eigenberg) are still married but are having problems. And Charlotte (Kristin Davis, always my personal favorite) is having a ball being a mom; she and her husband Harry (Evan Handler) have adopted a cute little girl. The ladies are still close as ever, even with Samantha on the opposite coast. The camaraderie between the actresses, which was infectious on the television show, is still very much apparent in the film; the chemistry between them is as sweet as candy.

However, things get complicated quickly, when Big proposes to Carrie. And at the risk of divulging any spoilers, I will only discuss plot elements that have been glimpsed in the trailers. Everyone can guess that Carrie’s wedding isn’t going to go smooth (it doesn’t) but I won’t reveal what happens to her relationship with Big. Miranda and Steve have constantly battled each other throughout the years, and that aspect of their relationship doesn’t change in the film. Samantha is still sex-obsessed, and since Smith is too busy with his career, she starts to get impatient. Especially when she realizes that an Italian hunk (cleverly named Dante) is living next door (and frequently showering naked outside). The movie essentially riffs on all the plot schematics that were touched upon during the television years, but does everything bigger, louder, and sexier. The ladies go to over the top fashion shows and go out for expensive meals, there is a wedding dress montage that really needs to be seen to be believed, and the sex scenes sizzle with comedic zing.

All of the performances hit their mark. I’ve never found Parker to be particularly attractive, though she certainly has her moments, one of which, while in a flowing, blue dress, is especially striking. But what I like about the character of Carrie is her ability to make you like her, even if she’s being a spoiled little princess. There’s a level of emotional confidence that Parker brings to this character, and it should also be noted that her comedic timing is very sharp. Cattrall steals every scene she appears in, just as she did on the series. Her sexually blunt comments are still sharp as a tack and it’s refreshing to see a 50 year old actress as comfortable in her birthday suit as Cattrall seems to be in hers; she’s a true cougar in wait. She’s also extremely funny which adds to her sexiness. Nixon always had the thorniest character in Miranda, and her neurotic tendencies still made me grit my teeth. Noth ruffles his eyebrows and flexes Big’s wallet with aplomb, even if he is kind of scary looking. Davis’ Charlotte always felt like the fourth friend, and it still feels that way in the movie. But it’s the way that Davis infuses Charlotte with just the right level of naiveté and spunk that reminded me of why I always liked her character the best.

SEX AND THE CITY: THE MOVIE runs at nearly two-and-a-half hours, but thanks to the quick pacing and smooth editing, it never drags for a moment. I could have used a little bit more of Carrie’s satiric voice-over (which was always one of my favorite aspects of the show) but her narration does pop up from time to time which lends an extra inner quality to the proceedings. I also expected something sexually outrageous to happen, which was always the selling point of the television series. Whether it was sexually explicit dialogue or steamy encounters, the series always pushed the boundaries of what people had seen in this genre. But considering the Apatowization of the current Hollywood comedy, there really don’t seem to be any more taboos to break. But this isn’t a deep, realistic movie by any stretch. The show always was a farce about sex and relationships, and King never loses sight of that fact. All of the creative parties know what to do with this material, and they all seem to have fun doing it. And with a film like this, that’s all that one can really ask for. Making big-budget movie versions of television shows has proven to be a tricky endeavor. King and his excellent cast have delivered a love letter to all the show’s fans, and judging from the reaction in my sold out theater, there will be plenty of takers all summer.

Some critics have complained that SEX AND THE CITY: THE MOVIE is shallow and conceited and a little too up-its-own-ass. Well…duh! That’s the way the show always was, so why would the movie be any different? This isn’t a documentary or a “slice of life,” rather, it’s a piece of female wish fulfillment that is quite similar to, oh, let’s say, the action film BAD BOYS 2. It’s a film made by someone with complete mastery of the genre (King has a way with the female mind and handbags much like Michael Bay has a way with exploding automobiles and machine-gun bullets) and it’s a film that revels in its own excess. It’s style galore, it’s fashion-porn, and it’s just the sort of thing that will delight female dominated audiences around the world. Some critics feel that SEX AND THE CITY: THE MOVIE sends the wrong message to young women, but to be honest, I think that’s a lot of hogwash. If women are actually taking life-lessons from this movie or from the television series then they have a lot of explaining and growing up to do. This is as unrealistic a film as the above mentioned BAD BOYS 2; people shouldn’t read too much into it. SEX AND THE CITY: THE MOVIE is a fun, stylish romp with old friends that shouldn’t be taken any more seriously than it deserves to be. It’s a fan-girl movie that delivers what the fan-girls have been craving.

Monday, June 2, 2008


Christopher Nolan's THE DARK KNIGHT simply can't arrive in theaters soon enough. Every poster is beyond gorgeous, all of the trailers are completely ass-kicking, and the film is poised to become a massive critical and commerical success.

I think this poster is very cute and the trailers for WALL-E have been terrific. This is a film that was not on my radar at all and now I'm quite anxious to see it. I have heard that much of the film is silent; very curious to see it later this month (it opens 6/27). My favorite Pixar film, to date, has been THE INCREDIBLES. Last summer's RATATOUILLE was fantastic as well. This one looks pretty darn cool.

I'm a Hunter Thompson freak so anything having to do with the Good Dr. is worth my time. Last year's documentary BUY THE TICKET TAKE THE RIDE was excellent; I'm hearing that Alex Gibney's new doc GONZO: THE LIFE & WORK OF HUNTER S. THOMPSON is even better. It's a trippy poster, that's for sure. I still think that Terry Gilliam's masterpiece FEAR & LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS is one of the most misunderstood films of all-time.


Tarsem’s THE FALL (****)
David Gordon Green’s SNOW ANGELS (****)
Kimberly Peirce’s STOP-LOSS (****)
Roger Donaldson’s THE BANK JOB (****)
Martin McDonagh’s IN BRUGES (****)
Matt Reeves’ CLOVERFIELD (****)
Martin Scorsese’s SHINE A LIGHT (****)
Jay Roach’s RECOUNT (****)
Jon Favreau’s IRON MAN (***1/2)
Adam Brooks’ DEFINITELY, MAYBE (***1/2)
Michael Patrick King’s SEX AND THE CITY (***)
Kent Alterman’s SEMI-PRO (**1/2)

I have some reviews coming up for INDY 4 (***1/2), SEX AND THE CITY (***), and THE FALL (****), which was the best film I've seen so far this year. Truly extraordinary. Can't stop thinking about it. Masterful stuff. Go see it if it's playing in your neck of the woods.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


THE FALL is an almost indescribable film-going experience. I was in awe of it. It's a visually imposing film. Tarsem is operating on a different level, on a different playing field. It might be the best film I've seen this year. It's certainly unforgettable.