Wednesday, December 30, 2009


The Road is the best film I've seen in 2009 thus far. Ever since I saw it last weekened it's been impossible not to go back to it in my head. A riveting experience, it's a film that's not likely to be loved by all viewers, but I found it to be a masterpiece on pretty much every level. The inevitable snubbing of the film in all categories at the Oscars will be predictably despicable; it's a crime that the film got dumped the way it did by the Weinstein company, and it's mind boggling that more than one esteemed "critic" didn't see the brilliance of this film. I'll have a more detailed take on John Hillcoat's masterful piece of apocalyptic fiction, but for now, I'll say that it's a helluva film, and one that I cannot wait to watch again and again. That may sound strange as the film is quite dark and bleak, but I sort of see it as a companion piece (in some respects) to Children of Men, another film about the end of civilization that has stayed in the memory banks for a long time.

Nine was very enjoyable. It's pure style; it's really a show for cinematographer Dion Beebe and editor Claire Simpson. The cast is solid all around, but it's Daniel Day Lewis who (predictably) owns the screen. Marion Cotillard is fast becoming my favorite working actress, Penelope Cruz should think about becoming a full-time Victoria's Secret model (kidding...but not really...), and for the first time, I didn't want to strangle Kate Hudson on screen. It's not a groundbreaking movie like 8 1/2, one of its inspirations, but it's a classy, jazzy, snazzy, big-screen musical with lots of visual razzle dazzle. Rob Marshall knows what's up with this sort of thing.

I'll be seeing Up in the Air tomorrow.

I've got tickets for Avatar in 3-D IMAX for Saturday.

Might check out It's Complicated on Sunday.

That leaves only The Lovely Bones, Crazy Heart, A Single Man, and Sherlock Holmes as the last few major releases for 2009. I'll have to catch up with Invictus, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and An Education on Blu Ray.

Recent DVD viewings have included the hysterical bro-mance Humpday (looooved it), G-Force (very amusing), Dedication (it was only a'ight but Billy Crudup was terrific), Ballast (solid but overrated), Monsters Inc. (lovable and tons of fun), and Love, Etc. (disappointing).

I'll be posting my best of the decade list soon, so keep an eye out.

Happy New Year to all!

Friday, December 25, 2009


I got a surprise gift this holiday weekend -- The Road is playing (only two showings per day however) in my area, so tomorrow night, my plan is to check it out. I am very excited.

Nine on Sunday.

Up in the Air on New Year's day.

Avatar next Saturday.

Sherlock Holmes and It's Complicated soon.


The fam/wife hooked it up for Christmas this year -- the bounty:

Gladiator Blu
Fight Club Blu
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Xmas Special Blu
Bruno Blu
2001 Blu
North by Northwest Blu
The Dark Knight Blu
Who Framed Roger Rabbit Vista Series
Homicide: Criterion
The Muppet Movie
Richard Pryor: Live & Smokin'

Sunday, December 20, 2009


...but this film has been directed by ultra-hack extraordinaire, Shawn Levy.


Friday, December 18, 2009


Avatar opens today. I'll be seeing it. But not this weekend.

Still have Ballast from Netflix kicking around the apartment.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009


My wife, God I love her, hooked it up for me in a majorly Blu way for Hanukkah 2009 -- Casino, Gomorrah: Criterion, Black Hawk Down, Planet Earth: Complete Series, State of Play, The Sopranos: Season 1, and 300. I wish there were 25 hours in a day.



You gotta read Roger Ebert's 4 star review of Avatar:

The buzz has reached a fever pitch; I'm really excited now, much more so than I've ever been to see this film...

Friday, December 11, 2009


Invictus opens this weekend. I want to see it. But I won't have time over the next few days.

Sunday is a day at the theater in NYC; seeing God of Carnage. Looking forward.

From Netflix I've got the critically acclaimed indie Ballast -- have heard nothing but excellent things.

Also -- speaking of excellent things -- the first reviews for Avatar are making their way online and the buzz has been nothing short of spectacular. Now I am getting more excited...

I watched Public Enemies last night and it really bothers me that this film isn't going to get the across-the-board Oscar nominations it deserves. Brilliant film.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


A Christmas Carol (A) is more evidence of writer/director Robert Zemeckis smashing technology to smithereens and providing a rollicking piece of holiday entertainment for the entire family. Sticking very close to the original text by Dickens, Zemeckis races through the snowy Victorian streets of Old London with his CGI-enhanced camera, and along with his stunning use of 3-D, he transforms his entire motion-captured-cast, most especially Jim Carrey (in multiple roles), into surreal pieces of an intricate puzzle. For Zemeckis, the mo-cap technique has been hit (The Polar Express) and miss (Beowulf), but with A Christmas Carol, he picks up where he left off in The Polar Express, and crafts another film that’s really in tune to the true meaning of the holiday season. And again – Carrey is just dynamite in the film; it’s a shame that he’ll be overlooked by the Academy because his work deserves more recognition than it’s received. In recent years, Carrey’s taste in projects has felt a bit off at times, and I’ve been waiting to see this brilliant actor make a big come-back; remember his great work in The Truman Show, Man on the Moon, and yes, Dumb and Dumber? With the exception of The Cable Guy, Carrey hasn’t felt this sinister in a long time as he does during stretches of A Christmas Carol, and I love how Zemeckis decided to keep the old-school vernacular of Dickens’ text. The film is a visceral experience and something that should be experienced in the 3-D format.

Jim Sheridan has way with child-actors that is basically incomparable. Go watch In America. Check out My Left Foot. If you get a chance to see his latest picture, the searing war-time drama Brothers (A-), you’ll see more of the same, with two of the best kid-actor performances that I've seen in a long time. But beyond that, Brothers offers thought-provoking (if disturbing) entertainment for people who can stomach some pretty intense dramatics, and again serves as a reminder of the toll that our soliders take when the take the field of battle. The plot is this: two brothers, one a good soldier (Tobey Maguire), one a petty screw-up (Jake Gyllenhaal), have to contend with life altering changes when the soldier goes off to war, leaving behind his wife (Nathalie Portman) and their two daughters. Based on Danish director Susanne Bier’s original film of the same name, this American adaptation by the screenwriter David Benioff (25th Hour, The Kite Runner) sticks extremely close to the original source material, and is all the better for it. I'm a massive fan of Bier's work; Things We Lost in the Fire is disgustingly underappreciated and After the Wedding is a masters class in direction and narrative economy. The one major difference between the two versions of Brothers is style; Bier’s original was a Dogme-inspired hand-held camera fest with lots of jittery compositions and scruffy surroundings. With Sheridan there is a Hollywood polish, which while not a bad thing, reminds you more of the fact that you’re watching a movie and not a slice of life. Again, not that Frederick Elmes’ cinematography is ugly – quite the contrary, actually. Brothers looks terrific, and has a snowed-out quality that works well with the chilly themes of the narrative. It’s just that Bier’s naturalistic style has a way of further drawing the viewer in than Sheridan’s all-pro craftsmanship can. And some of the pop-music cues felt off. But nevertheless, Brothers has three incredible performances, especially from Maguire, who goes deep here, and comes as close to Bruce Dern in Hal Ashby’s classic Coming Home as anyone else has in recent memory. As the mentally scarred soldier, Maguire is asked to do a role he hasn’t yet done; I’d like to see him go dark again. Gyllenhaal, as he did so effectively in Zodiac and the underrated Rendition, continues to imbue his on-screen characters with a quiet integrity. And Portman, who at first glance felt miscast, reminds the viewer that she’s an all-stops-out actress when she wants to be. Brothers is a smart, well-written film that doesn’t shy away from life’s complexities and cruelties.

The Men Who Stare at Goats (B+) is a stoney, hazy, somewhat sloppy political satire that hits a lot of funny moments but never feels fully formed. And maybe that’s the point when you’re movie is about a bunch of LSD-taking psy-soldiers who are trying to walk through walls and kill people (and the occasional goat) by staring at them. Based on a supposedly true story, this Looney Tunes-esque farce stars George Clooney with a funny moustache as a wild and crazy soldier, Jeff Bridges reprising his role of The Dude from The Big Lebowski as a New Age military guru, Kevin Spacey with seriously funny prickish attitude as the heavy, and a bevy of familiar faces in supporting roles. The fact that one of the highlights of this asinine yet entertaining yet slightly frustrating movie is a mass LSD trip-out involving soldiers and their huge and expensive military combat equipment might tell you immediately if you’ll find the proceedings funny. I can’t say that I’ve seen another movie quite like The Men Who Stare at Goats; it’s almost as if the filmmakers (director Grant Heslov and writer Peter Straughan) are daring you to hate their film. Had it been more tightly crafted, it would have been a better film. It felt to me like everyone was going for a Dr. Strangelove vibe, but nobody on this project was up for Kubrick's level of overall brilliance. This movie isn’t for everyone, but for people with adventurous cinematic taste and a craving for something heady and unique, go check it out. It’s not perfect, but it’ll leave you with something to think about and discuss, and if you have a sense of humor, it’ll make you laugh more than a few times.


Probably in early January, once I've seen the last few major 2009 releases, I'll be posting my favorites of the decade. Not sure how I am going to do it -- a list, mini-reviews, runner's up, order of preference or alphabetical. The one thing I will say -- there is no such thing as a "best of" list. These things should be called what they are -- "favorites" list. Because I can pretty much guarantee that more than one of my top picks for the decade will be a film that lots of people hated (and in most cases misunderstood). I am really looking forward to the upcoming deluge of critics lists, both for 2009 (which has been great if you've made the effort to get to the theaters), and for the decade.

For the rest of 2009, I count these as the stand-out releases that I need to see on the big screen: Up in the Air, Nine, The Lovely Bones, Avatar, Sherlock Holmes, A Single Man, Invictus, and Crazy Heart. It's Complicated looks like the usual-usual from writer/director Nancy Meyers but I like the cast. It'll sort of be an appetizer for this year's Oscars with the involvement of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin.

I have grown comfortable with the disturbing fact that I will never get a chance to see either The Road or The Bad Lieutenant on the big screen. This sort of thing really chaps my ass. It's the one disadvantage to not living in Hell-A anymore.


Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 (A+)
Michael Mann’s Public Enemies (A+)
Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker (A+)
Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are (A+)
Joel and Ethan Coen’s A Serious Man (A+)
Pete Docter’s Up (A+)
Matteo Garrone’s Gomorrah (A+)
Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck’s Sugar (A+)
Ramin Bahrani’s Good Bye Solo (A+)
Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant! (A+)

Jody Hill’s Observe and Report (A+)
Zack Snyder’s Watchmen (A)
Henry Selick’s Coraline (A)
Michael Bay’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (A)
Bobcat Goldthwait’s World’s Greatest Dad (A)
Todd Philips’ The Hangover (A)
Tony Scott’s The Taking of Pelham 123 (A)
Robert Zemeckis’ A Christmas Carol (A)
Cary Fukunaga’s Sin Nombre (A)
Sam Mendes’ Away We Go (A)

Marc Webb’s (500) Days of Summer (A)
Alastair Fothergill’s Earth (A)
JJ Abrams’ Star Trek (A-)
Mike Judge’s Extract (A-)
Neveldine/Taylor’s Crank: High Voltage (A-)
Jim Sheridan’s Brothers (A-)
James Gray’s Two Lovers (A-)
Larry Charles’ Bruno (A-)
Kevin McDonald’s State of Play (A-)
Nora Ephron’s Julie & Julia (A-)

Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience (A-)
Hitoshi Matsumoto’s Big Man Japan (A-)
Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds (B+)
Grant Heslov’s The Men Who Stare At Goats (B+)
John Hamburg’s I Love You, Man (B+)
Greg Mottola’s Adventureland (B+)
David Thwoy’s A Perfect Getaway (B+)
Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell (B+)
Stephen Belber’s Management (B+)
Anne Fletcher’s The Proposal (B+)

Tony Gilroy’s Duplicity (B+)
George Tillman Jr.’s Notorious (B+)
Derek Martini’s Lymelife (B+)
Woody Allen’s Whatever Works (B)
Judd Apatow’s Funny People (B)
Neveldine/Taylor’s Gamer (B)
Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (B)
Bob Schwentke’s The Time Traveler’s Wife (B)
Rian Johnson’s The Brothers Bloom (B)
Christine Jeff’s Sunshine Cleaning (B)

Joe Wright’s The Soloist (B)
Alex Proyas’ Knowing (B)
Tom Tywker’s The International (B)
Dennis Illiads’ The Last House on the Left (B)
Brad Silberling’s Land of the Lost (B-)
Howard McCain’s Outlander (B-)
Wayne Kramer’s Crossing Over (B-)
Pierre Morel’s Taken (C)
Rawson Marshall Thurber’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (C)
Eric Zoncka’s Julia (C-)

Ken Kwapis’ He’s Just Not That Into You (C-)
Paul McGuigan’s Push (C-)
McG’s Terminator: Salvation (D)
Gregor Jordan’s The Informers (D)
Stephen Sommers’ GI Joe (D)
Timothy Linh Bui’s Powder Blue (D)
Justin Lin’s Fast and Furious (D)
Damien Dante Wayans’ Dance Flick (D-)


Easily one of the best movies of the year.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009


I want to see Brothers and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Not sure which one I'll get a chance to see. Hopefully both. I've seen the original Brothers, directed by Susanne Bier, and it was a great movie.

Nothing from Netflix for the weekend. I received (and watched) Monsters, Inc. last night and found it to be extremely enjoyable -- no big surprise considering it's done by the guy who directed Up.

The Bad Lieutenant and The Road still haven't opened up in my area. Fucking annoying.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009