Wednesday, April 29, 2009


The Hangover's got a pisser of a trailer.

The cast is sweet (Ed Helms is poised to explode one of these days...) and the director, Todd Philips, can be a very funny ringleader of R-rated comedy (see Old School or Road Trip for proof). However, his last effort, School for Scoundrels, was painfully bad. I have a feeling that The Hangover will be a return to form for him.

The early buzz on The Hangover is through the roof. A script for a sequel has already been commissioned. That says something. This isn't a special-effects extravaganza; it's a raunchy buddy comedy.

Also, of personal note in regards to Philips, I sat next to him at an opening night screening of Collateral in the Dome at the Arclight a few years back. Pretty funny.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Sounds like Bigelow's back, baby.


I finally get to see this flick this week. Really looking forward.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


State of Play (***1/2), from director Kevin McDonald (The Last King of Scotland), is a shadowy conspiracy thriller in the vein of The Parallax View mixed with All The President's Men-esque journalistic intrigue that piles twist upon twist all the way up until the end. Russell Crowe, one of our best and most commanding leading men in movies today, powers an all-star cast (also including Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren, and the scene-stealing Jason Bateman) as a reporter trying to solve a sordid, politically motivated murder without compromising his own set of old-school ethics. The statement (and argument) that the film makes in favor of old-media (i.e. newspapers and hard fact-checking) as opposed to new media (i.e. blogging and quick-reporting internet news) is pointed and topical, while the thriller elements move at a fast but coherent pace, thanks to the sharp-as-a-tack script by Tony Gilroy (Bourne, Duplicity), Matthew Michael Carnahan (The Kingdom, Lions for Lambs), and Billy Ray (Shattered Glass, Breach). Great Washington DC-based production values and moody, noirish cinematography from Rodrigo Prieto (8 Mile, Alexander) really seals the deal. It's just an entertaining, twisty genre exercise, classed up by the actors and crew. Well done.

I love how writer/director Jody Hill (The Foot Fist Way, Eastbound and Down) thinks. He's a devil. He finds stuff funny that most normal people don't find funny. My fiancee is always telling me how I'm weird and just a tad bizarre. I think this is why I found Hill's latest excursion into comedy's heart of darkness, Observe and Report (****), to not only be one of the funniest films of the decade, but some sort of strange, small masterpiece that despite being sloppy around the edges, has something perversely subversive to say about the way that some people go about living their lives in our country. From the trailers, you might have thought that the film was a cruder Paul Blart. And while I haven't seen that runaway box office smash (nor do I ever intend too), I've read about 100 reviews for it, almost all of which said that it was painfully bad. I read the plot synopsis. I get the drift. Well, the fact that there were two studio comedies that centered around mall-cops was just a coincidence, because Observe and Report couldn't be any more different than Paul Blart. Observe and Report is like some sort of wild mixture of Falling Down, The King of Comedy, Taxi Driver, and Hill's own The Foot Fist Way. Apatow golden-boy Seth Rogen does a complete about-face in this film, squashing the lovable stoner character we've all come to love, and ripping into the role of the morally bankrupt, bi-polar Ronnie Barnhardt, a sociopathic head of mall security who fashions himself as judge, jury, and executioner. Literally. The plot involves a serial-pervert who has taken to flashing the female mall shoppers in the parking lot. Ronnie goes head-to-head with a slimy detective played with manic glee by Ray Liotta who is investigating the case. Danny McBride pops up in a priceless cameo. The object of Ronnie's affections, the slutty cosmetic-counter girl Brandi (Anna Faris, brilliant), ends up getting flashed, and Ronnie uses her fears as a potential way into her heart (oops, I mean pants). Faris, in a performance that is nothing less than a small tour de force, gets some of the film's best material; her date-night with Ronnie is one of the more questionable things ever to be featured in a film that is asking its audience to laugh. And that's basically what Hill is all about -- having you look directly into the face of humiliation, the face of dead-beats, the soul of people who are completely delusional and who cannot be helped, and then having you laugh at them (not with them), while the characters slip deeper and deeper into their own self-destruction. The finale of Observe and Report stands as one of the craziest endings I've seen in recent memory; even coming close to spoiling it would be a crime. I almost hesitate to call this film a "comedy;" it's certainly no Apatow production. There's no overt sentimentality, the characters aren't classically "likable," and the way that humor is derived from scenes depicting violence, racism, homophobia, and sexual deviance, will test the limits of some audience members. Me? I found it to be the most daring, the most original, and the ballsiest studio comedy since Team America: World Police. I can't wait to see it again.

On the other end of the comedy spectrum is Greg Mottola's sweet and simple Adventureland (***1/2), a film that doesn't try to reinvent the wheel like Observe and Report, but succeeds in its own modest way as a generally pleasing dramedy that's played for low-key humor as opposed to outrageous bits of lunacy. Starring The Squid and the Whale's Jesse Eisenberg as an aimless college grad named James who gets a summer job at a B-level amusement park in 1980's Pennsylvania, Adventureland follows James' quest to get laid, make some new friends, and figure out where the next chapter of his life is headed. A fantastic supporting cast of clowns, headed up by Martin Starr, Bill Hader, Kriten Wiig (a.k.a. the funniest person on the planet), and Ryan Reynolds, really add spice to the proceedings, and Twilight star Kristen Stewart is along for the ride as the girl of James' dreams. The humor in Mottola's gentle script is real and honest, grounded in reality, and never taken over the top. The packed soundtrack brings out some classic 80's tunes, but never trots out the overly familiar and cliched sounds that we've heard in countless other 80's movies. While the plot isn't necessarily deep or extremely layered, the performances really bring you close to the characters; you feel like you've met some of these people before. Lots of pot is smoked, lots of booze is consumed, and there's more than one instance of on-screen vomiting. Mottola apparently based aspects of the script on his own life, and there is definitely a personal touch that one feels while watching the movie. It's a movie that you'll have a hard time disliking.


Yes, this post is one day early, but I won't be around this weekend on the account of some travelling. The Soloist, a film I'd like to see but considering the tepid reviews I'm not dying to see, opens this weekend. As does Fighting, a movie I have zero interest in seeing. The Informers gets a limited release; I'll definitely get that one via Netflix. The well reviewed Disney nature documentary Earth opened yesterday, and that's something I'd like to check out at some point. I hear that it's best to see it on the largest possible screen. It's the last weekend before the official start of summer 2009; Wolverine kicks it off next Friday. While I am not foaming at the mouth for it, hopefully, it might be some solid comic-book movie fun. And finally, last night I watched one of the silliest horror/thrillers in recent memory -- the British import Donkey Punch, a film that centers around, well, just what the title implies. Despite an extremely graphic sex scene, a very photogenic lead actress, and some decent kills, the movie was a feeble attempt at suspense and moral quandry. The film doesn't really warrant it's own post.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Someone I work with asked me today who my top ten favorite filmmakers were. People who are currently making movies. These were the first ten that immediately came to mind:

1. Martin Scorsese
2. Michael Mann
3. Tony Scott
4. Ridley Scott
5. Werner Herzog
6. Terrence Malick
7. Michael Bay
8. David Fincher
9. Oliver Stone
10. Paul Thomas Anderson


Last night's episode of Rescue Me was the best so far in this terrific fifth season. Where this show has been going creatively is nothing less than surprising, engrossing, and brilliant. I find it to be one of the fastest one-hour shows I've ever gotten into; it seems that it's always ending a moment after it started. And with the addition of the sexy French author who is writing a book about 9/11 and the aftereffects of that day on the guys in the fire house, the show is going back to its roots -- this is a show, afterall, that is uniquely framed by the 9/11 tragedy. One of the firemen in the house is of the firm belief that the destruction of the towers was an inside-job; he'd give Oliver Stone a run for his money in the paranoid-conspiracy department. The trouble is, what the character spouted off last night was nerve-rackingly honest and troubling; he made some good points. But beyond this one new story strand, the show just keeps upping the ante. The addition of Michael J. Fox to the cast as a parapelgic recovering drug addict who just happens to be dating Leary's wife's character has so far been played mostly for laughs; that storyline was sadly absent from last night's episode. My guess is that it will pick up steam over the next few weeks. The development of the relationship between "Black Sean" and Leary's daughter on the show has been hysterical, oddly heartfelt, and true to form for everyone involved. Rescue Me is a such a rich, layered show; I've found it to be emotionally rewarding on many levels. I can't wait to see what happens next.



Boring, uninvolving, and only sporadically amusing, with a nerve-grating soundtrack. Ari Graynor steals the movie as a drunken floozie and Michael Cera knows how to get laughs from these types of characters in his sleep. I just didn't care, and when the film is all about its characters, well, that's a big problem.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


The first one did roughly $750 million worldwide (if I recall correctly; too lazy to look it up).

Will part two crack a billion worldwide? I think it has a great chance of doing so.

This movie is gonna deliver. BIG TIME.


This is a commercial done for the new Philips G10 Plasma television. Wowsers. Whoever made this is pretty much a visual genius.


Matteo Garrone’s Gomorrah (****)
Jody Hill’s Observe and Report (****)
Henry Selick’s Coraline (****)
Zack Snyder’s Watchmen (****)
James Gray’s Two Lovers (****)
Neveldine/Taylor’s Crank: High Voltage (****)
Kevin McDonald’s State of Play (***1/2)
Tony Gilroy’s Duplicity (***1/2)
Greg Mottola’s Adventureland (***1/2)
John Hamburg’s I Love You, Man (***1/2)
Pierre Morel’s Taken (**)

Monday, April 20, 2009


Let's see...where to begin? There is no point in "reviewing" Crank: High Voltage (****). You know already if you want to see this type of thing. The plot here is the same as the first one: indestructible hitman Chev Chelios (the awesome Jason Statham) has to keep his heart pumping fast enough to overcome a ridiculous affliction (this time, the removal of his real heart with the replacement of an artificial one that requires electricity to operate). The filmmakers, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, are sadists of the first order. Here's a random checklist of some of the cartoon-like atrocities that are displayed in this gonzo action movie: anal-violation via shotgun; elbow-caps hacked off with machetes; close-quarter machine gun shoot-outs; 10,765 squibbs being detonated; graphic and near pornographic sex scenes; 5,439 exposed female breasts; Godzilla-style beat-downs (in the film's most inspired sequence); casual racism; casual homophobia; casual misogyny; pitch-black humor; this film's got it all! I am able to easily award this amazing piece of trash ****. It knows that it's insane. Everyone involved in the making of it knows that it's insane. It doesn't give a fuck what you think of it; it is what it is and it makes sense on its own terms. Sure, it's nothing more than an R-rated Wile E. Coyote cartoon where nothing makes any logical sense. But the sheer energy and low-tech skill that Neveldine/Taylor bring to the table is simply staggering. Working with the daring cinematographer Brandon Trost, the filmmakers shot this off-the-wall movie with 20, $1000 consumer-grade camcorders, resulting in a Tony Scott-on-a-sheet-of-acid look and feel that will send anyone with any sort spastic disorder into bouts of epileptic shock. Oh, and MAJOR shout-out to Amy Smart, who has again proven herself to be a champ on all fronts. She's basically topless THE ENTIRE FILM, and her racetrack sex scene with Statham is probably one of the longest, funniest, and wildest bits of simulated movie sex ever put on film. Crank: High Voltage is basically Grand Theft Auto: The Movie. Again -- you know before reading this review if you want to see this film. Is it art? Hell no? But is it an unqualified success based on its ambition and what it set out to do? Yes. Big time. Crank: High Voltage isn't something that's going to end up on a top 10 list (though some people might be tempted to do so...), but it's a product of a singular vision, that, no matter how depraved the vision is, is a vision nonetheless.

Sunday, April 19, 2009



I love a good, smart political thriller, and that's exactly what I got last night when I saw Kevin McDonald's excellent State of Play. Russell Crowe, yet again, delivers an awesome lead performance -- this guy is probably my favorite actor working right now. He's got great taste in material and he always commands the screen with his presence. I'll have a full review up soon, but this is another intelligent piece of work from writer Tony Gilroy (who co-wrote with two other big-gun screenwriters, Matthew Michael Carnahan and Billy Ray), and director McDonald, hot off the riveting The Last King of Scotland, directs with clean, precision-tooled efficiency, never getting bogged down in unnecessary stylistics or pointless narrative digressions, instead creating a coherent but tricky political guessing game with a shadowy 70's style look and feel. I really enjoyed this one.

Friday, April 17, 2009


I came across a blog a few weeks ago that I really enjoyed -- check it out:

I struck up a friendly conversation with the blog's owner/creator, Trista, and I submitted a piece for her "10 Movies to See Before You Die" series -- here's the link which was posted today:

I could have come up with 100 different lists for this particular assignment. There are just so many amazing movies out there.


State of Play tomorrow. It looks tight.

Crank 2 hopefully on Sunday, if not, one night next week. Looks insane.

Got Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist from Netflix for sometime over the weekend. Could be cute. Or it could be a fee-fee. We'll see.

Full reviews will be coming up on Observe and Report (****) and Adventureland (***1/2).


Thursday, April 16, 2009

BEST OF 2007

1, Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
2. Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
3. Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood
4. Joel & Ethan Coen’s No Country for Old Men
5. David Fincher’s Zodiac
6. Sean Penn’s Into the Wild
7. Ridley Scott’s American Gangster
8. Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd
9. David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises
10. Susanne Bier’s Things We Lost in the Fire

Runners-Up: Before the Devil Knows Your Dead, Michael Clayton, The Kingdom, 300, The Bourne Ultimatum, Transformers, 3:10 To Yuma, Knocked Up, Once, Rescue Dawn, Away From Her, Charlie Wilson's War, Juno, Gone Baby Gone, Enchanted, Southland Tales, I'm Not There, The King of Kong, Crazy Love, We Own the Night, In the Valley of Elah, Rendition, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, 28 Weeks Later, Breach, Ratatouille, The TV Set, Dan in Real Life, Sicko, No End in Sight, The Darjeeling Limited, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, The Simpons: The Movie, Waitress, 2 Days in Paris, Lions for Lambs, The Host, Seraphim Falls, Reign Over Me, Smokin' Aces, Shoot 'em Up, Reservation Road, Joshua, Bug, Black Snake Moan, Sunshine, The Astronaut Farmer, Margot at the Wedding, Superbad, Redacted, The Mist.

Note: With only one year left in this decade, 2007 is my pick, thus far, for best overall year.


Adventureland is sweet, honest, witty, and very well acted. Extremely entertaining overall and as good as the reviews had indicated. It's not a blow-your-mind type thing but it goes down easy and smooth and is just a pleasure to be around. Also, it's got a fantastic 80's soundtrack.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

BEST OF 2006

1. Martin Scorsese’s The Departed
2. Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men
3. Michael Mann’s Miami Vice
4. Robert DeNiro’s The Good Shepherd
5. Paul Greengrass’s United 93
6. Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto
7. Larry Charles’ Borat
8. Tom Tykwer’s Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
9. John Hillcoat’s The Proposition
10. Todd Field’s Little Children

Runners-Up: World Trade Center, Venus, Idiocracy, Ask the Dust, Hard Candy, The Prestige, Running Scared, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Pan’s Labyrinth , Letters from Iwo Jima, Thank You For Smoking, Inside Man, Jackass: Number Two, The Fountain, Crank, Flags of our Fathers, Déjà vu, Fast Food Nation, Brick, L’Enfant, The Aura, Bubble, The Wild Blue Yonder, Happy Feet, Cavite, Lady Vengenance, The Science of Sleep, District B-13, Mission Impossible 3, The Good German, The Last King of Scotland


First season hits DVD on 6/30/09. A day to rejoice.


Clever, creepy, twisty, and twisted, Nacho Vigalondo's independent time-travel thriller Timecrimes (***) is a brainy mixture of science-fiction and murder mystery, with a nod to Rashomon for good measure. I can see why this film is getting an American remake, and while it's not a perfect movie, it's very well crafted and it's been directed with a real sense of tension. You'll spend a few minutes upon the film's conclusion trying to mentally wrap up everything that you've just spent 90 minutes watching, but it's the sort of rewarding foreign language thriller (similar in some respects to Tell No One) that proves that you don't need fancy Hollywood special effects to tell an engrossing story.

Monday, April 13, 2009

BEST OF 2005

1. Terrence Malick’s The New World
2. Chan-Wook Park’s Oldboy
3. Steven Spielberg’s Munich
4. Tony Scott’s Domino
5. Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man
6. Stephen Gaghan’s Syriana
7. Fernando Meirelles’ The Constant Gardener
8. Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven
9. Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins
10. Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller's Sin City

Runners-Up: Lord of War, Cinderella Man, Good Night and Good Luck, Tristam Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The White Diamond, The Devil’s Rejects, The Weather Man, The 40 Year Old Virgin, A History of Violence, Jarhead, Junebug, Brokeback Mountain, Hustle & Flow, In Her Shoes, The Squid and the Whale, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Unleashed, Walk the Line, War of the Worlds, Last Days, March of the Penguins, Match Point, Palindromes, The Island, King Kong.

BEST OF 2004

1. Michael Mann’s Collateral
2. Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator
3. Peter Berg’s Friday Night Lights
4. Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Volume 2
5. Tony Scott’s Man on Fire
6. Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou
7. Trey Parker & Matt Stone’s Team America: World Police
8. Jean Pierre Jeunet’s A Very Long Engagement
9. David Mamet’s Spartan
10. Sam Raimi’s Spiderman 2

Runners-Up: The Bourne Supremacy, Sideways, 2046, Alexander, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, The Assassination of Richard Nixon, Before Sunset, Birth, Closer, Dawn of the Dead, The Dreamers, Enduring Love, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Fahrenheit 9/11, Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, I Heart Huckabees, In Good Company, The Incredibles, Kinsey, King Arthur, Layer Cake, The Lady Killers, The Machinist, The Manchurian Candidate, Mean Creek, Million Dollar Baby, Open Water, Oceans 12, P.S., The Polar Express: 3-D Imax, Primer, The Phantom of the Opera, Ray, Supersize Me, The Terminal, Troy, Undertow, The Upside of Anger.


I just saw this poster over at

What an awesome poster this is. Hand-drawn by the cousin of director Rian Johnson for his upcoming con-man flick The Brothers Bloom, which happens to star one of my favorite actors, Mark Ruffalo. I really dug Johnson's debut Brick from a few years back. Hope his new one is as cool and stylish as his first.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

BEST OF 2003

1. Gus Van Sant's Elephant
2. Ridley Scott's Matchstick Men
3. Clint Eastwood's Mystic River
4. Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Volume 1
5. Peter Weir's Master & Commander
6. David Gordon Green's All the Real Girls
7. Terry Zwigoff's Bad Santa
8. Alejandro Gonzalez-Innaritu's 21 Grams
9. Billy Ray's Shattered Glass
10. Michael Bay's Bad Boys II

Runners-Up: Capturing the Friedmans, In America, Elf, Dirty Pretty Things, In the Cut, Bus 174, The Good Thief, Winged Migration, The Missing, Cold Mountain, Lost in Translation, House of Sand and Fog, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Fog of War, Open Range, Swimming Pool, Intolerable Cruelty.


The recent Hollywood comic landscape that Judd Apatow has been dominating over the last few years has a new sherrif in town: Jody Hill. After his delusionally funny super-low budget debut The Foot Fist Way, he co-created one of the strangest, most awkwardly funny television shows in Eastbound and Down. And now, with his latest film, the diseased masterwork Observe and Report, I can confidently state that he is, at least for me, the most daring and hysterical comedic voice getting to play with big-studio money. It's SHOCKING to me that Warner Brothers allowed this film to get made. It couldn't have cost much to make (I've read the budget was $15-20 million), so it was never going to be a high-risk financial move. It's just that the humor in Observe and Report comes from some of the most unlikeliest of places. It's not really a comedy. It's more like a completely fucked up, modern day version of Martin Scorsese's brilliant satire The King of Comedy. Now, overall, Observe and Report can't touch Scorsese's film. And, in fact, unlike The King of Comedy, there are a few things that didn't work for me in Observe and Report, and at least one thing that I know that could have made it even better than it turned out to be. But I'll save all of that for my full review.

All I will say is that there are moments of dangerous, sickly inspired humor in this film and the ending is one of the craziest, most go-for-broke things I've seen since some of the edgiest bits of Borat (the upcoming Bruno should be very interesting...). What Hill doesn't do (which Apatow does) is inject his work with easy sentimentality. Hill's characters are pathetic losers, the dregs of American society, people with zero moral centers and zero ability to realize that, yes, their shit does in fact stink. I laughed out loud at least 10 times while watching this film, and constantly sat in my seat with a perplexed grin on my face. Hill shows that he's got a little bit of style in him with his direction, but really, it's the genuinely fucked up set of ideas and sequences that he wrote that really make Observe and Report woth seeking out. Now, there is no doubt -- some people will utterly hate this film. And I can respect that. But if you're like me, in that you want to see something different, something that will actually challenge your perceptions of what should be considered funny, then Observe and Report should really satisfy your need for the new and outrageous. If not, I'm pretty sure that Ronnie Barnhardt's PG-rated cousin Paul Blart is still kicking around theaters.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Sam Rockwell (Snow Angels, Matchstick Men, Galaxy Quest) is one of my favorite actors, and one of the most underrated acting talents working in Hollywood. Later this year, he stars in Moon, a low-budget science fiction film that sounds like a grounded, realistic space-themed drama, as opposed to an expensive special effects show. I think this new poster is extremely well designed.


I am extremely excited to see Jody Hill's Observe and Report tomorrow night. I have loved this guy's output thus far (The Foot Fist Way, HBO's Eastbound and Down) and from what I have read about his latest, the film sounds like a completely whacked-out piece of work. Can't wait.

From Netflix I have the Spanish time-travel indie Timecrimes, which got a ton of great reviews last year during it's limited theatrical release.

Next weekend brings two movies I am planning on seeing -- State of Play and Crank 2: High Voltage. And on the last weekend of April, the long-delayed The Soloist finally lands in theaters. Then...the onslaught of the summer movie season begins...and not a moment too soon.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

BEST OF 2002

1. Fernando Meirelles' City of God
2. Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch Drunk Love
3. Paul Greengrass' Bloody Sunday
4. Joe Carnahan's Narc
5. Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale
6. Spike Jonze's Adaptation
7. Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York
8. John Lee Hancock's The Rookie
9. Steven Spielberg's Minority Report
10. Sam Mendes' Road to Perdition

Runners Up: 25th Hour, Changing Lanes, Irreversible, Dark Blue, Insomnia, Panic Room, Death to Smoochy, About Schmidt, Far From Heaven, Full Frontal, The Quiet American, 8 Mile, The Bourne Identity, The Ring, Catch Me If You Can, One Hour Photo, Reign of Fire, Lilo & Stitch, Spiderman, Phone Booth, 28 Days Later, We Were Soldiers, The Pianist, The Hours, Chicago, Signs, Insomnia, Storytelling, Auto Focus, Das Experiment.


Ang Lee's period piece Taking Woodstock hits theaters this summer. Could be some trippy fun.


Yesterday, HBO officially greenlit a second season (8 episodes) of Jody Hill, Ben Best, and Danny McBride's hilarious comedy Eastbound and Down. This is amazing news for everyone who loved this uniquely twisted series focusing on a delusional, down-and-out ex-MLB pitcher. If you missed the show on its initial run, it's probably available via HBO ON DEMAND and the DVD set should be out soon. McBride is one off my favorite on-screen comedians currently working, and I find the darkly humourous tone that Hill and his team clearly love working in to be nothing short of hysterical. This is not a show for everyone; some people will find it too mean and nasty and juvenille, with characters who aren't easily sympathetic. Not me. I think it's brilliantly subversive. I just hope that everyone is able to bring the same level of creativity to the upcoming season. The fact that the show ended on such a perfect note in its finale scares me a bit. I really hope the second batch of episodes is as entertaining as the first.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

BEST OF 2001

1. Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down
2. Michael Mann's Ali
3. Jonathan Glazer's Sexy Beast
4. Jon Favreau's Made
5. Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums
6. Ben Stiller's Zoolander
7. Todd Field's In the Bedroom
8. Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amelie
9. Tony Scott's Spy Game
10. Antoine Fuqua's Training Day

Runners-up: Chopper, Amores Perros, Vanilla Sky, Donnie Darko, Monster’s Ball, Heist, Hannibal, Enemy at the Gates, The Mexican, 15 Minutes, Bandits, Blow.

BEST OF 2000

Here's my best of the year list back from 2000. It's gonna be a lot of fun looking back over this decade.

1. Steven Soderbergh's Traffic
2. Ridley Scott's Gladiator
3. Mary Harron's American Psycho
4. Robert Zemeckis' Cast Away
5. Joel and Ethan Coen's O Brother Where Art Thou?
6. Curtis Hanson's Wonder Boys
7. Mike Figgis' Time Code
8. Kenneth Lonnergan's You Can Count On Me
9. Darren Aronofsky's Requiem For a Dream
10. David Gordon Green's George Washington

Runners-up: Unbreakable, The Cell, Thirteen Days, The Contender, Boiler Room, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Exorcist: Director’s Cut, The Perfect Storm, Snatch , Almost Famous, Keeping the Faith, The Way of the Gun, Proof of Life, Me, Myself, and Irene.



Tony Gilroy likes to make you think when you go to the movies. A prolific screenwriter (the Bourne franchise, The Devil’s Advocate, Proof of Life, Dolores Claiborne) and now a rising talent as a writer-director (2007’s Michael Clayton was superb), his latest film, the tricky, espionage rug-puller Duplicity (***1/2), is an even more deceptive endeavor than Clayton, and while not as fully satisfying, still makes for a solid piece of adult-minded, sophisticated fun. He’s also grown as a visual stylist, working again with master cinematographer Robert Elswit (he shot Clayton, as well as There Will Be Blood and Boogie Nights, among many others). Duplicity has an Oceans-esque glitz and sheen without any of the snarky smarm that those crafty flicks doled out. The less said about the plot of Duplicity the better, as it’s sort of pointless to try and list a checklist of the plot points. Clive Owen is ex-MI6, and Julia Roberts is ex-CIA. They now work in the private sector, as corporate spies for rival pharmaceutical companies. One of the companies is on the verge of unleashing a revolutionary new product. The other company wants to know what that product is. So over the course of two, tight hours, Gilroy piles flashback upon flashback and location on top of location, as his characters double-talk each other almost into oblivion. Owen, always a smooth operator, is top-notch, and Roberts is the best she’s been in years (not to mention extremely sexy). Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson are the battling company CEO’s who have a lot at stake with one another, and their hilarious opening credits brawl is one of the highlights of any movie so far this year. You have to pay strict attention to everything in Duplicity. This is not a movie to text message thru, or to talk to your date while viewing. And make sure you go to the bathroom before the lights do down. The plot is always moving, always falling back on itself, and by the time the final twist is delivered in the very last scene, your head will be anxiously scrambling to connect all of the dots. Some people won’t like Duplicity for the very reason why I admired it – Gilroy demands that you bring some level of smarts to his work. This isn’t a film for passive moviegoers. People complain that high-minded movies like this don’t come around too often. That’s true. They don’t. And that’s because movies of this sort usually underperform at the box office (just as this one has). And that’s a shame. Audiences are more in the mood for simplistic bullshit like Paul Blart and Taken, films that require nothing of their audience. What a shame.

The breathless French thriller Tell No One (***1/2) makes Duplicity seem positively straightforward. This is an Oldboy-esque “wrong-man” chase movie that Hitchcock would have gone ga-ga over. And while I would be lying if I said that I totally followed every single plot development over the two frenetic yet coherent hours that Tell No One occupies, it’s pretty clear that writer-director Guillaume Canet has created an awesome mind-bender that takes you on a fantastic ride. I will offer only the barest of plot descriptions: Alex (Francois Cluzet, a dead-ringer for Dustin Hoffman) is a well-respected doctor whose wife, Margot, was murdered 8 years ago, or so he thinks. He doesn’t remember much from the last time he saw her, as after they took a nocturnal lake-side swim, he was knocked into a three day coma after being hit over the head. Margot’s body was discovered, and while a serial killer is tried for the crime, the cops still think something’s fishy with Alex’s story. We know that he’s innocent, but that doesn’t matter. Things get downright spooky when Alex receives a series of cryptic emails that seem to show Margot alive and well. Complications ensue when Alex is framed for the murder by a nefarious group of bad-guys, who seem to be working for some sort of higher-up. At the film’s mid-section, there is a stunning foot and car chase, with one of the most spectacular high-way pile-ups I’ve ever seen. With Alex running across speeding lanes of freeway traffic, dodging oncoming cars, trying to evade the police, he nearly gets himself killed by various cars and trucks. If special effects were used, they were flawless. If not, the multiple stunt drivers involved should be given medals. I’ve never seen a chase quite like it. The movie gets pretty complicated, and to be honest, the fact that it’s a French movie made it a little harder to follow than if it was in English (for me, anyways). Yes, you will find out the truth by the time the movie comes to its powerful conclusion. And yes, the movie is vigorously contrived to within an inch of its life, much like David Fincher’s underrated The Game and other brain-teasers of this sort. But that’s sort of the point – everyone involved knows that the movie they’re in is wildly ludicrous, but it’s the level of skill that everyone brings to the table that makes Tell No One as effective as it is. Cluzet’s commanding performance is riveting to watch, and Canet’s stylish, energetic direction propels the movie forward at a hurtling pace. This is a movie that demands multiple viewings. I can’t wait to watch it again.


Rescue Me returns tonight for its 5th season. I love this show. Love it. One of my favorite shows of all time. On par with The Sopranos, Lost, The X-Files, Deadwood, Friday Night Lights, The Shield, and Mad Men. What Dennis Leary and Peter Tolan have created with this show is nothing less than brilliant. So excited to have this back on the air.


I have only seen 7 new films in 2009 thus far. That's pretty weak in my estimation. And it's not from a lack of desire to head out to the theaters. There's just been too much shitty-looking product out there. I'm looking at you Paul Blart. I just can't get Fast and Furious. I'd rather stay above ground then head into the Underworld. And I'd rather watch Friday Night Lights on Friday the 13th. I would like to know about Knowing, so hopefully I can get to that before it leaves theaters, if not, certainly on DVD. I'm very excited about this weekend's arrival of Observe and Report, and next weekend's launch of State of Play should satisfy my craving for a solid political thriller (I missed The International, but look forward to checking it out on DVD in a few months). Anyways, here's my current best-of-the-year list:

Matteo Garrone’s Gomorrah (****)
Henry Selick’s Coraline (****)
Zack Snyder’s Watchmen (****)
James Gray’s Two Lovers (****)
Tony Gilroy’s Duplicity (***1/2)
John Hamburg’s I Love You, Man (***1/2)
Pierre Morel’s Taken (**)

Friday, April 3, 2009


No trips to the theater planned for this weekend. I could care less about the Fast and Furious franchise at this point, so I'll be skipping the latest installment which hits theaters today.

I think I'll wait for DVD on Adventureland, but I might check it out on a matinee in the coming weeks. It's got a great cast (the incomparable Kristen Wiig is in it; she's one of the funniest people on the planet).

I really want to see the new independent movie Sugar, from Half Nelson filmmakers Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden. That's a limited release opener this weekend so when it gets to my neck of the woods I'll be sure to check it out.

From Netflix I have the critically acclaimed French thriller Tell No One. I am psyched.

Next weekend brings Jody Hill's Observe & Report. I am BEYOND pumped for this one. I loved Hill's The Foot Fist Way and his recent HBO series Eastbound & Down. The early buzz has been white-hot. Very excited. Wish it was coming out this weekend.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Because I am too lazy to write up a plot summary, here's a link to the wikipedia page that describes last night's (and possibly greatest) episode of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's masterpiece television series South Park.,_Pray,_Queef

Now that you've read what the episode comprised of, let me just say, if you haven't seen it, it's funnier than you can ever imagine it actually being. Last night's episode was so funny, that it was almost impossible to laugh out loud. I've watched it twice now, and upon my second viewing, my shock had somewhat worn off, and I was able to laugh out a loud a bit more.

It's damn near impossible to truly call out one episode of South Park as being the "greatest" or "best" episode of the series. What Parker and Stone created over 10 years ago has grown into something very special -- and American comedy that both pushes the limits of what's acceptable from a cable broadcasting perspective, and a show that dares to look at and poke at all of the taboos that our society has deemed to be innapropriate. The level of satire on the show is stunning; it's ferociously funny at times, always smart and knowing, and totally deranged. When it comes to their art, Parker and Stone just don't give a flying fuck about anyone. Even themselves.

South Park, much like The Simpsons, has been a pop-culture staple for over a decade now, and it's just incredible to think that Parker and Stone have continuosuly upped their game, year after year, season after season. I hope they never get tired of creating this brilliant show. Characters such as Randy Marsh, Cartman, Mr. Mackey, and Mr. Garrison are some of the funniest, wittiest, subversive creations ever formed.

Last night's episode was a tour de force of idiocy, but the amazing thing about it (and all of their work) is that they are ALWAYS able to work in some sort of societal message in between all of the farting, puking, queefing, and swearing that the various characters revel in. There's always a point, always a greater message, always something more than just surface craziness.

I love South Park. Love it. I simply don't understand how anyone could ever watch this show and NOT think it was funny and/or brilliant. Takes all kinds I guess.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


It's going to be really cool when all of the nation's critics start unleashing their "best of the decade" lists at the end of this year. I have been going back over my lists from years past, and I will be posting my top 10's from each of the years this past decade over the next few weeks. Should be some fun to take a look back. Hopefully some good conversations will follow.


I just caught a glimpse of this poster for Steven Soderbergh's upcoming indie flick The Girlfriend Experience at Amazing website, by the way. If you don't visit, you should start.

The film is a candid look at the life of a high-priced NYC escort, played by adult film star Sasha Grey. Shot in less than a month and for around a million bucks, this is another one of Soderbergh's experimental endeavors that he likes to sneak in between larger projects. If it's anything like his last avant garde effort, Bubble, than we're in for another great piece of filmmaking.

I love this poster. Love it. It's easily one of the most striking movie posters I've seen in years.


It's like these people just keep creating movies that seem to be tailor made for me.

Per Variety:

James Franco is joining Danny McBride in "Your Highness," the Universal Pictures comedy to be directed by David Gordon Green ("Pineapple Express"). Scott Stuber is producing through his U-based Stuber Co. Pic begins production July 20 in Belfast. Stuber, McBride and Green set the project at U last year (Daily Variety, May 30). Scripted by McBride and Ben Best ("Eastbound & Down"), the comedy follows two spoiled and arrogant princes in a medieval fantasy setting. When an evil wizard casts a spell on their father and kidnaps the older prince's fiance, they're forced to go on a quest to save their family and the kingdom. Stuber Co.'s Jon Mone, McBride and Mark Huffam are executive producers. Franco starred for Green in Columbia Pictures comedy "Pineapple Express," which also starred McBride. Last seen in "Milk," Franco plays poet Allen Ginsberg in the Rob Epstein/Jeffrey Friedman-directed "Howl."


If your goal is to make a funny movie, it really does help when your cast includes Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Jon Favreau, J.K. Simmons, Rashida Jones, Jaime Presley, Andy Samberg, Jane Curtin, Jay Chandrasekhar, Ben Garant, and Lou Ferrigno. I Love You, Man (***1/2), from director John Hamburg, is the first laugh-out-loud movie I have seen this year. The script, by Hamburg and co-writer Larry Levin, is a clever romantic comedy that gets to play with its genre conventions a bit. It's not going to win awards and it's not a great piece of cinema, but if you're looking for some hearty laughs, look no further than this crowd pleaser.

Rudd is Peter Klaven, an ultra-nice, real estate guy who is engaged to the adorable Zooey (Jones). Problem is, Peter has been a girl-friend man all his life, and as a result, he doesn't have a solid group of guy friends to hang out and develop his masculinity with. Spurred on by Zooey to meet a cool new friend, Peter goes on a series of awkward (and often hilarious) blind dates in an effort to find a best friend, and ultimately, a best man for his wedding. I hate using the already annoying pop-culture term "bromance," but that's basically what this movie becomes after Peter meets the scruffy man of his dreams, Sidney Fife, played with natural, laconic ease and charm by Segel. Segel, who was in last year's good-hearted raunch-fest Forgetting Sarah Marshall, has impeccable timing and delivery, and he and Rudd are a great team. Sidney is everything that Peter isn’t – outgoing, sloppy but somehow contained, sexually aggressive, and just a tad crazy. Watching them develop their friendship is the movie's highlight, and the inclusion of Ferrigno (playing himself and poking fun at his Hulk persona a bit) as Peter's top-client, is an inspired bit of writing and casting. All of the supporting actors nail their scenes, with Favreau, Simmons, and Samberg really standing out. In fact, some of the film's funniest material belongs to Favreau and Presley as a bickering married couple who are constantly at odds with each other.

Some of the humor is of the gross-out variety, and some of it revolves around sexual practices, so, yes, there is a definite juvenile streak that I Love You, Man revels in. The film does feel cut from the Apatow cloth; nothing impressive is done with the camera, the performers have clearly been allowed to improvise, and you end up laughing so hard that you miss a few of the jokes. The script throws in a few surprises here and there, but you definitely can tell where it's going. By now, Rudd has proven himself to be a capable supporting player, but in this flick he really busts out and delivers the goods. He was funny in last year’s slightly underwhelming Role Models, and he stole the show in Knocked Up. But here, Rudd really comes alive. Hamburg's last directorial effort, the lame-ass Along Came Polly with Ben Stiller, Jennifer Anniston, and a ferret, was a film that I pretty much detested, except for the presence of an extremely disheveled Philip Seymour Hoffman as an aging child television star. The humor in I Love You, Man feels more real and honest than in the super-contrived Along Came Polly. Hamburg, who also co-wrote Zoolander and Meet the Parents, is obviously a talented guy, and for the first time as a director, he's brought it all together. This is the kind of movie that you see in the theater, laugh your ass off with, and then grab the DVD when it hits the previously-viewed bin so that you can catch all the stuff you missed the first time around because you were laughing too hard.