Friday, June 26, 2009


Michael Bay plays around in the biggest sandbox known to man. Transformers 2 was fucking INSANE.

Monday, June 22, 2009


I still haven't gotten around to writing full reviews (it's been a very hectic last few weeks) for The Hangover or Up, but in brief, they are two of the most satisfying movies of the year, with Up being the best I've seen so far in 2009. Here's a quick run-down of those two, plus two more I caught up with over this past weekend. Oh, and do you hear those loud foot-steps in the distance? That'd be Optimus Prime and his boys. They're coming to kick every one's ass on Wednesday.

I saw The Hangover (A) for the second time yesterday and it was just as funny as the first viewing. It's just a simple idea, executed brilliantly (for what it sets out to do), with great chemistry from the three leads (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifinakis), and huge laughs from start to finish. The pacing is brisk and efficient, it's surprisingly well-shot for a comedy (Todd Philips and d.o.p. Lawrence Sher go 2:35:1 and the results are glossy), and each performance is perfectly calibrated to play off one another. It's the best comedy that Philips has directed thus far.

Up (A+) is the best film of the year for so many reasons that I'll probably have to delve into it in a longer review in the near future. But in brief, it's nothing short of a perfect family movie, with a surprising amount of emotional depth and adult-level sophistication. Much like last year's fantastic Wall*E, Up has moments of visual poetry and narrative power that you sometimes forget you're watching an animated movie. The 3-D technique on display in Up enhances both the story and the dizzying action sequences. The opening 10 minute montage is emotionally devastating and Chaplin-esque; so much is said with so little words, with the beautifully rendered visuals telling a rich story. I loved this movie. It represents yet another gold star for Pixar. Finding Nemo, Cars (to a slightly lesser extent), The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Wall*E, and now Up represent an unprecedented run for an animation studio. You'd have to go back to the golden years of animation at Disney to find a time when a team of artists and storytellers were knocking them out of the park with this sort of consistency and expertise.

You gotta love Steven Soderbergh. If he's not out shooting back to back Che Guevara biopics or a star-studded and glitzy Oceans caper, he's doing small, personal, and experimental work like Schizopolis, The Good German, or Bubble. His newest feature, The Girlfriend Experience (A-), is what blogger/critic Jeffrey Wells would call a "high thread-count" movie. Everything looks sexy and richly appointed and luxurious. Less than 80 minutes and shot with a cold, detached style befitting the subject matter, Soderbergh's film examines the life of an extremely high-end escort, who is involved in a series of relationships with different types of clients, as well as a real relationship with her boyfriend. By casting adult-film star Sasha Grey as the call-girl, Soderbergh toys with audience expectations, and surprisingly, gets a focused performance out of his lead actress. The movie isn't about sex as much as it is about power and money. The film is also about the juxtaposition of jobs and careers, as Grey's character Chelsea tries to advance her brand into new areas (a website, a clothing line) as her personal-trainer-boyfriend tries to launch a line of work-out clothing while also trying to advance up the corporate ladder at his gym. Soderbergh, acting as his own cinematographer, drapes the film in sleek lighting patterns, with his camera alternately taking on documentary like angles as well as highly stylized ones. Shot over the course of a month in late October and early November of 2008, the film feels extremely "of the moment," in that many characters obsess about the crashing stock market and the volatility of the money markets. The phrase "bail-out" is uttered more than once. The semi-improvised screenplay by Brian Koppleman and David Levien (Rounders, Oceans 13) is tight and the dialogue feels very real. All of the performances carry an air of authenticity. The Girlfriend Experience is a neat little movie that only someone like Soderbergh could have pulled off.

Very briefly, Sharon Maguire's overwrought yet underdeveloped melodrama Incendiary (C) was nothing more than yet another showcase for actress Michelle Williams, who again delivers an excellent performance; too bad the script wasn't sharper. Playing an adulterous wife/mother who's son and husband are killed in a suicide bombing in London, Williams (in a very clean British accent) gets to go through a variety of emotions in this low-budget British indie. There are some steamy sex scenes (with a very naked Williams again proving she's not afraid of on-screen nudity), some interesting political ideas, and Ewan McGreggor and Matthew McFayden both lend solid support. Maguire is a better director than writer; had the script been more fleshed out the movie would have been all the better for it.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Pete Docter’s Up (A+)
Matteo Garrone’s Gomorrah (A+)
Jody Hill’s Observe and Report (A)
Henry Selick’s Coraline (A)
Tony Scott’s The Taking of Pelham 123 (A)
Todd Philips’ The Hangover (A)
Zack Snyder’s Watchmen (A-)
JJ Abrams’ Star Trek (A-)
James Gray’s Two Lovers (A-)
Neveldine/Taylor’s Crank: High Voltage (A-)

Kevin McDonald’s State of Play (A-)
Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience (A-)
Tony Gilroy’s Duplicity (B+)
Greg Mottola’s Adventureland (B+)
John Hamburg’s I Love You, Man (B+)
Tom Tywker’s The International (B)
Wayne Kramer’s Crossing Over (B)
Pierre Morel’s Taken (C)
Ken Kwapis’ He’s Just Not That Into You (C)
McG’s Terminator: Salvation (D)
Timothy Linh Bui’s Powder Blue (D)

Friday, June 19, 2009


Sadly, nothing in the theaters for me this weekend. The Proposal looks a'ight for what it is, but it's got Netflix written all over it. Same goes with the critically destroyed Year One; I'll rent that one just to see how bad it apparently is.

From Netflix, I've got the British independent thriller Incendiary, with Michelle Williams and Ewan McGregor. It sounds cool...

However, time stops next week when Transformers 2 hits theaters; I've already got my IMAX tickets in hand.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


1. Dick Donner's The Goonies
2. Randal Kleiser's Flight of the Navigator
3. Joe Dante's Exlporers
4. Fred Dekker's The Monster Squad
5. Richard Franklin's Cloak & Dagger
6. Jim Henson's Labryinth
7. Sidney J. Furie's Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
8. Gary Goddard's Masters of the Universe
9. Jim & Ken Wheat's Ewoks: Battle for Endor
10. Harry Winer's Space Camp


Wednesday, June 17, 2009


The main reason to check out Tom Tykwer's stylish political thriller The International (B) arrives at about the 100 minute mark. Clive Owen's interpol agent heads into an incredible replica of NYC's Guggenheim Museum with some heavily armed bad-guys giving chase. What follows next is nothing short of a tour de force sequence; the entire museum is shot to shit, bullets riddling the walls and art exhibits and a few innocent bystanders for extra nastiness. The fact that the bad-guys can't aim properly is beside the point; bad-guys have notoriously bad aim in action movies. Overall, The International is a solid piece of entertainment, but it wants to be placed in the same realm of other (but better) paranoid/conspiracy genre staples like The Parallax View, Three Days of the Condor, and Enemy of the State -- the problem is that the script isn't juicy enough. The plot centers on an evil bank(!) that is funding world-wide terrorist operations and arming third world militas with guns and ammunition. Owen, along with Naomi Watts in an underwritten role, runs, yells, shoots, and schemes his way through the fast-paced narrative but the movie feels oddly weightless by its conclusion. Tykwer, a first-rate stylist who also directed the great Run Lola Run and the supremely underrated Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, knows how to keep the pace taut and the action exciting. I just wish that the debut screenplay from Eric Singer had been crisper around the edges; his dialogue would have benefited from a polish as well. Still, it's a fun movie that's worth a rental.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Simply put, Tony Scott's The Taking of Pelham 123 (A) is fucking awesome. Bloody, profane, and obsessively stylish, it's a crisply written two-hander with juicy performances from Denzel Washington as the morally conflicted hero and a sneering, cussing John Travolta, in one of his best performances, as the psychopathic villain. It's clear he loved the role; he's in Face/Off territory here. Make no mistake: this film isn't going to win awards. It's not gonna make top 10 lists. It's just a souped up genre film. But what it does is take a well-worn narrative (the hostage crisis thriller scenario) and amp up the thrills and excitement with sexy cinematography and flashy editing techniques, which makes for a fast-moving piece of hard-edged entertainment. Tony Scott brings the visceral in all of his movies; this one is no exception. My first thought is that Pelham played liked a totally bad-ass cross between Man on Fire and Crimson Tide. And that, at the end of the day, is what Tony Scott is all about -- being a total fuckin' bad ass. Hell -- I know this for a fact as I worked for the guy. In a Tony Scott film, the star of the movies is the man behind the camera. It doesn't really matter what the plot is, or who is starring in it. The guy's an auteur of the first order -- something that no elitist "critic" might want to admit, but deep down inside, they know is true. Over the last 30 years, Scott (and his brother, Ridley), have done more to set the visual standards employed by their peers than maybe anybody else out there (Spielberg is an exception). Guys like Bay and Fincher and Spike Jonze and Johnathan Glazer (just to name a few) have all been clearly influenced by what Scott has been doing. And even though he's almost pushing 70 years old, Scott is showing no signs of slowing up. His films keep getting bolder, faster, more intense, and more visually audacious. Just watch Domino; the guy practically re-invented the wheel with that film. Watching his movies is like watching two hours of Picasso-esque images (only moving) while tripping on a bit of mescalin; it's like Scott's operating in some sort of acid-tinged cubist form. I love how impressionistic his cinematography can be; even the simplest of shots and situations are gussied up with camera calisthenics. In Pelham, he's working with shooter Tobias Schleisser, who shot Friday Night Lights and Hancock for Peter Berg (another young helmer who would probably name Scott as an influence). I realize that I have barely touched on the story of Pelham -- but if you've seen the trailer, you know the deal. Travolta is really pissed off. He holds up an NYC subway car and demands $10 million from the mayor (a perfectly cast James Gandolfini). Denzel Washington is the man on the other end of the microphone as Walter Garber, an MTA employee with a questionable past. The crafty screenplay by Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential, Man on Fire, Mystic River) is loaded with terrific zingers for Travolta, some solid comedic moments, and gets down to nasty business whenever the time calls for it. This is a happily R-rated adult-oriented actioner that only someone like Tony Scott could do these days. When people get shot in this movie, the squibb guy definitely earned his pay for the day. There's a great shoot-out towards the finale, some wonderful vehicular acrobatics, and lots of manly showdowns between the two leads. It's loud, aggressive, and ass-kicking. I fucking loved every moment of it.

Friday, June 12, 2009


I bow at the altar of Tony Scott, so I am more than excited for his latest feature, The Taking of Pelham 123. I'll be seeing it Saturday afternoon. Can't wait. It looks completely and utterly bad-ass.

From Netflix I've got this past winter's political thriller/actioner The International with Clive Owen. Looking forward to that shoot-out in the Guggenheim Museum.

I still want to see Land of the Lost despite the bad reviews...something tells me I'll be waiting for DVD so that I can pummel myself with substances while watching it. It'll probably go down easier that way...same with Drag Me to Hell.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Wayne Kramer definitely knows how to make solid movies. His Vegas-noir debut, The Cooler, was a nifty little gem with some terrific performances from its cast (Bill Macy, Mario Bello, and an Oscar-nommed Alec Baldwin). Then, Kramer drifted into Tony Scott/Domino territory with the out-of-control but brilliant actioner Running Scared, a movie so deranged and violent that I still feel like I need to take a shower. With his latest film, Crossing Over (B), Kramer has gone the Crash/Shortcuts route, and the results are his weakest film. But that doesn't mean it isn't worth watching and that it's not entertaining. Crossing Over features a sprawling narrative focusing on the plight of the illegal immigrant in present day Los Angeles. Neither a liberal out-cry or an outright condemnation of immigration, the film looks at both sides of the issue, with a starry cast of characters who all intersect with each other throughout the occasionally overly-melodramatic plot. Harrison Ford is a disillusioned ICE agent who busts up sweat-shops every day; he's also prone to go above and beyond his job description. Ray Liotta is a slimy green-card processor who coerces a gorgeous Australian illegal immigrant, played by a frequently topless Alice Eve, into a sexual relationship in exchange for proper citizenship papers. Ashley Judd is an immigration attorney trying to adopt an orphaned African child. Summer Bishil, from last year's underrated dark satire Towelhead, is an Islamic high school student who gives a speech in her class that most people construe as being in support of the 9/11 suicide bombers. What happens to her family is extremely dark. Kramer pumps up his film with some sex and some bloody violence, but there are far too many coincidences in the plot for the entire story to feel truly authentic. The practice of "honor killings" is explored in the film, which really hits a note of relevance; this sort of thing happened a few months ago in New York. Kramer, himself a South African immigrant, clearly had a lot on his mind with this film, and I think his heart is in the right place. But in the end, he proves that he's a better director than he is a writer, as most of the plot gets tidied up too neatly. But I'd take a film like this one any day over some disposable piece of junk; at least the movie is filled with important ideas which reflect on where we're currently at with this particularly sensitive and incendiary topic.



Tuesday, June 9, 2009


I watched He's Just Not That Into You (C) over the course of three nights. Activities I engaged in while watching this cheap-looking rom-com farce: folded laundry, put away dishes, cleaned the living room, and read the instruction manual for my new Krupps waffle maker. It's not a terrible movie, but, it's not very good either. Directed like a sitcom by, what a shocker!, a sitcom director (Ken Kwapis, The Office), He's Just Not That Into You is the sort of movie that takes itself seriously in some scenes, and then in others, throws any sense of believability right out the window. It's filled with scene after scene of people spouting off too-clever dialogue that nobody in the real world would ever say. I can't say that there isn't a bevy of lovely women in this thing: Jennifer Anniston, Jennifer Connolly, Scar-Jo (massive cans), and Ginnifer Goodwin are all easy on the eyes. But overall, the film feels like a collection of scenes in search of a strong narrative throughline, and the straight-to-the-camera confessions from a series of extras, while funny, don't feel like they truly belong. Based on a bestselling book, the movie made close to $100 million last winter, and I can see why -- it's undemanding entertainment. I like rom-coms when they try (see Definitely, Maybe, Notting Hill, Waitress, or Love Actually instead), and this one didn't try hard enough.


Crossing Over, from Wayne Kramer (The Cooler, Running Scared), arrives today.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Pete Docter’s Up (A+)
Matteo Garrone’s Gomorrah (A+)
Jody Hill’s Observe and Report (A)
Henry Selick’s Coraline (A)
Zack Snyder’s Watchmen (A-)
JJ Abrams’ Star Trek (A-)
Todd Philips’ The Hangover (A-)
James Gray’s Two Lovers (A-)
Neveldine/Taylor’s Crank: High Voltage (A-)
Kevin McDonald’s State of Play (A-)

Tony Gilroy’s Duplicity (B+)
Greg Mottola’s Adventureland (B+)
John Hamburg’s I Love You, Man (B+)
Pierre Morel’s Taken (C)
Ken Kwapis’ He’s Just Not That Into You (C)
McG’s Terminator: Salvation (D)
Timothy Linh Bui’s Powder Blue (D)

Saturday, June 6, 2009


The Hangover is pretty much an instant classic. Make sure you stay all the way through the credits. Full review soon, but it's the funniest movie I've seen this year. Extremely entertaining and very fast moving. Great chemistry from the lead trio. It'll prove to be a very re-watchable comedy.

Friday, June 5, 2009


The Hangover. Saturday. It looks like a fuckin' pisser.

I'm curious about Land of the Lost. Love me some Danny McBride. And even though it's ultra-geeky of me, I'm interested in seeing this film for one big reason: the cinematographer. Dion Beebe (Collateral, Miami Vice, Chicago) shot the movie for director Brad Silberling (Lemony Snicket, Moonlight Mile), and I consider Beebe to be one of the premier shooters working right now. If I don't see Land of the Lost this weekend, I'll catch it one night after work next week.

From Netflix is this year's rom-com hit He's Just Not That Into You. We'll see...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


1. Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull
2. Michael Mann’s Ali
3. Oliver Stone’s The Doors
4. Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator
5. Oliver Stone’s Nixon
6. Tony Scott’s Domino
7. Milos Forman’s The People Vs. Larry Flynt
8. Taylor Hackford’s Ray
9. Milos Forman’s Amadeus
10. Oliver Stone’s Alexander


1. Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man
2. Errol Morris' The Thin Blue Line
3. Werner Herzog's Little Dieter Needs to Fly
4. Ron Fricke's Baraka
5. Errol Morris' The Fog of War
6. Michael Moore's Roger & Me
7. Steve James' Hoop Dreams
8. Martin Scorsese's No Direction Home: Bob Dylan
9. Werner Herzog's Lessons of Darkness
10. Tony Montana's Overnight


I was a big fan of James Mangold's neo-western 3:10 To Yuma. I was also a big fan of all of the film's one-sheets. But I had never seen this advance poster before. Pretty nifty.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Monday, June 1, 2009


A perfect movie. Can't stop thinking about it.


Timothy Linh Bui's Powder Blue (D) was like watching an inflated and seriously pretentious student film. I didn't expect much from this direct-to-DVD indie, but I rented it solely for the reason that Jessica Biel picked this film as her first where she'd take her clothes off (she plays a stripping single mom with a cancer-stricken son). If you think she's hot, you'll like the scenes that she appears in; a coked-up mess of a floozie, she's a shambling pole-dancer who sometimes enjoys dripping hot candle wax all over her chest while preforming on stage. All of this crap is shot with a either a blue or red filter because Bui is oh-so-stylish. Puuleezzee. The cast includes Forest Whitaker, Ray Liotta, Lisa Kudrow, Patrick Swayze, Kris Kristofferson (for a scene), and Sanaa Lathan (for a scene); all of them overact or just look confused. The narrative is Crash-esque; a bunch of people's lives collide in Los Angeles over the course of the week leading up to Christmas. The religious themes are overplayed, the plot lines are vigorously contrived, and the score is annoying. The only reason to rent this movie is to see Jessica show off her Biel's, and even then, Bui, the wuss that he is, doesn't even shoot it in a medium-close up (other dancers are shot in close up throughout the scenes in the strip club). I am making a big deal about this because it's slightly fraudulent to make a film about a stripper where you don't have the actress get appropriately naked. See The Wrestler for how it's done; Marisa Tomei knows what's up. Biel isn't much of an actress to my eyes (although I've heard excellent stuff about her performance in the recently released Easy Virtue.) But she's nice eye candy, so fans of her from her 7th Heaven days will probably have a mini-coronary. The film is crap, but has some scenes worthy of the old "fast-forward" option on your DVD remote.