Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

A GIFT FROM THE MOVIE GODS


Sundance Channel HD will be broadcasting the original 5 1/2 hour director's cut of Olivier Assayas's Carlos on October 11th.  Big-time.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

APPOINTMENT TELEVISION

At the present time, these are the shows that I can't miss:

Returning Shows:

Mad Men
East Bound and Down
The Office
Bored to Death
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
The League
The Big C

New Shows:

Boardwalk Empire (Sundays, HBO) -- this sprawling and ambitious period piece from Martin Scorsese and Terence Winter is already establishing itself as a landark achievement.

Terriers (Wednesday, FX) -- a unique neo-noir set in San Diego concerning a team of private dicks that places humor first and action second.

The Event (Monday, NBC) -- the pilot was intriguing enough for a second viewing...we'll see...I'll either be hooked or done with it by the 3rd or 4th episode...but the person who said that it's Lost mixed with 24 wasn't lying...

My Generation (Thursday, NBC) -- I don't get all the hate that critics had for this new reality-TV inspired show -- it wasn't brilliant but it was always entertaining to watch...we'll see where it goes...

Outsourced (Thursday, NBC) -- cheap and obvious, this funny but silly new comedy is fairly racist and frequently sharp -- it's definitely something a bit strange and I'll tune in for a second helping...

Other Bits:

I am half-way thru season 2 of Sons of Anarchy -- what an incredible show -- Shakespearean in its dynamics, ruthless with its violence, and completely gripping, it's the best surprise I've ever come across on television.

Friday Night Lights can't get here soon enough (I'm not a Direct TV subscriber but I do thank them for helping fund the last few seasons).

It's a big-time bummer that next season is the last season for Entourage.  Ditto Rescue Me.

When does Southland come back for season 3?  Soon, I hope...

Despite my relative lack of interest in horror product, I'll definitely be sampling Frank Darabont's upcoming zombie show The Walking Dead, which airs in October on AMC.

Friday, September 24, 2010

HIGH CONCEPT


A runaway train with a million tons of deadly explosives on board.  A town of 100,000 innocent people.  And only 100 minutes before all hell breaks loose.  Yep -- sounds like a mid-90's, high-concept actioner to me!  Action auteur Tony Scott (Man on Fire, Domino, Enemy of the State, Crimson Tide, The Taking of Pelham 123) directs with Denzel Washington and Chris Pine as the two leads.  Looks high-octane, totally explosive, and wonderfully over the top.

LOTS OF TALENT


Looks like a darker Up in the Air.

MOVIES FOR THE WEEKEND

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps on Sunday afternoon.  Looks slick.

From Netflix is the indie drama Afterschool.

I motored through the first season of Sons of Anarchy this past week -- fucking incredible show.  Went out and purchased Season 2 Blu sight unseen; I'm 4 episodes deep at this point -- 2nd season is even better than the 1st.

Next Tuesday sees the release of Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line on Criterion Blu; my Amazon package should be shipping any day now.......

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

TACO BELL FILMMAKING

As per usual with Robert Rodriguez, his trailer is better than the film itself. Don’t get me wrong…I had a lot of fun with his latest glop-fest, Machete – there is a ton to laugh and wince at and it’s clear that Rodriguez is reveling in the idea of making a Mexploitation film. But honestly – it’s crap…total garbage that’s slightly redeemed by a few witty lines, some crazy action, and the sight of character actor/bad-guy extraordinaire Danny Trejo in a lead role. Sadly, it's clear to me that Rodriguez isn't interested in ever making a real film; he’s all about genre riffs and nothing more. And that's fine. There’s a small market for this sort of cheap schlock so if not Rodriguez then who? But this is all he's got.

I wasn't a huge fan of Grind House overall, but I enjoyed Planet Terror more than Death Proof (still the one thing from QT I am not down with; maybe I need to see it again), and while I enjoyed Machete more than Planet Terror, I just keep waiting for Rodriguez to come alive as a real, honest to goodness filmmaker. Who knows what he "directed" in Machete considering the co-director credit he shares with that inflated assistant guy. But I will say this – it was fucking cool as hell to see Danny Trejo in a lead role...he's totally fucking awesome. His face alone speaks 1,000 words. Cheech Marin has a sweet cameo. You see some of Lindsay’s Lohans. Robert de Niro was a hoot and was clearly having a blast playing the racist senator. Jessica Alba (who is a terrible actress) and Michelle Rodriguez (who plays the same exact character in every single movie she appears in) were extremely hot. Steven Seagal's stuff is fairly funny (it dawned on me in the theater – other than his bit in Executive Decision, I've never seen Seagal on the big screen). But you know what the best part of the movie was for me? JEFF FAHEY. This guy fucking OWNED whenever he was on screen. When he goes into the house to rescue his daughter – highlight of the film.

The violence is extra gory and brutal and gloppy, but at the same time, aggressively silly. People have their head's blown off with shot-guns, limbs are sliced off in every direction, and sometimes, more than one person is decapitated in the same shot. Trust me...I've spoiled nothing. This is Taco Bell Cinema. And this is what it seems that Rodriguez wants to do for most of his career. He has this weird thing with making these types of movies and then doing the Spy Kids films -- it's almost like he's atoning for the atrocities he depicts in his splatter fests with a kiddie franchise. But if you ask me, I want something like Sin City again. Hell, I’d even settle for fuckin’ Desperado; that was an AWESOME movie to be OBSESSED with at the tender age of 15. Rodriguez needs to do something with more meat, more substance. And he needs to learn how to move his fucking camera! I swear to Christ -- every shot in Machete is done with a static camera set-up. Sin City had visual splendor. Machete is just animalistic. I guess it’s almost impossible, and sort of pointless, to review a work like Machete. It is what it is as they’d say. Wait a minute…I didn’t even discuss the plot…hahahahahaha!!!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

QUICK BITS

The Town was very enjoyable. Didn't reinvent the wheel but there was a lot to like about the film, from the performances, to the action sequences, to the writing. I'll have a full review soon.

Boardwalk Empire, in only the pilot, has established itself as one of the most ridiculous pieces of television. When I say ridiculous I mean that in a good way; it's ridiculous how many things were OUTFUCKINGSTANDING about the show. Lots more comments to come on this breathtaking new show.

Solitary Man was a solid, small, intimate drama with a great performance from Michael Douglas.

Gentlemen Broncos was one of the oddest movies I've ever seen. I laughed frequently, but holy shit was it deranged. Wanna see a shitting snake?

I just began watching the brutal FX drama Sons of Anarchy (I'm way late to the party...). I watched the eps 1-5 from Season 1 and so far so great.

Mad Men has been on fire this year.

There are definitely some promising new shows premiering over the next few weeks. I'll have a quick TV round-up of some sort in the near future.

It's so annoying that Friday Night Lights will begin airing on Direct TV in a few weeks while the rest of us have to wait until next summer.

It's very nice to the have the blissfully crazy It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia back on the tube. Same with The League -- I'm predicting a great 2nd season.

There are so many potentially amazing new films coming out in the next few months: Never Let Me Go, The Social Network, Wall Street 2, The Fighter, Black Swan, Biutiful, Let Me In, Carlos, Mesrine, Hereafter, The Company Men, Monsters, Due Date, Unstoppable, 127 Hours, Fair Game, Skyline, Morning Glory, The Next Three Days, Love and Other Drugs, Tron, The Tourist, True Grit -- it's gonna be an awesome fall/winter movie season.

I want to see a trailer for Lucky, the new HBO/Michael Mann/David Milch/Nick Nolte/Dustin Hoffman/horse-racing show. NOW.

I just picked up some new Blu Rays: Seven, Close Encounter of the Third Kind, Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State, Face/Off, and the Red Riding Trilogy (taking a chance as I haven't seen any of 'em yet...)

I really want to see this Ed Norton/marijuana comedy Leaves of Grass.

Next Tuesday sees the release of Terrence Malick's masterpiece The Thin Red Line on Criterion Blu Ray. Wowzers.

I keep having this recurring nightmare that Malick is never going to finish/release The Tree of Life.

Friday, September 17, 2010

MOVIES FOR THE WEEKEND

The Town. Saturday. 1st show. Big-time. Looks like an ass-kicker of an action flick.

Other openers include Devil (not my thing) and Easy-A (I'll check it out via Netflix or On Demand). Still curious about Going the Distance (another Netflix).

I just sent back My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? to Netflix -- next to ship is either Afterschool or Me and Orson Welles.

I still need to see Machete. And I really want to catch Animal Kingdom.

Sunday night brings the premiere of Martin Scorsese and Terrence Winter's Boardwalk Empire on HBO. The trailers have been nothing short of sensational and every single review of the show that I have read has been 4 stars. Can't wait.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

HEY STRICKLAND!!!!

Eat lead, slackers!!!!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

HERZOG = MADNESS (AS USUAL)

There's never been a "cop film" quite like Werner Herzog's engrossing and bizarre My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?. I use the phrase "cop film" loosely because, as usual, Herzog subverts all your genre expectations, and has created a surreal, fascinating look at a man descending deeper and deeper into madness. Michael Shannon is incredible (when is he not?); he's able to convey "fucking crazy" better than any other actor out there. From his darting, menacing eyes to the way his jaw clenches when he's thinking really hard, Shannon has the market cornered on "obsessive/crazy." The plot is inspired by real-life events: a mentally disturbed man murders his mother with a samurai sword. Willem Dafoe and Michael Pena are cops who are called to the murder scene as Shannon has taken hostages and his holed up in a house across from his mother's. The film flashes back to show Shannon's fractured psyche and all of the events that contributed to him him reaching his breaking point (not the least of which was his freak-show mother). My Son, My Son was produced by David Lynch, and yes, it does have a Lynchian imprint at times. But this is Herzog's movie all the way. From the Peruvian jungle bits (was that stuff based on fact?) to the African bushmen to the stuff with the ostriches to the way Shannon resembles Klaus Kinski, this is yet another instance of Herzog unleashing another damaged -- yet incredibly interesting -- soul on the big screen and letting the audience take a trip to a truly weird place. So much seemingly random stuff happens in My Son, My Son that at times you're left thinking -- what the hell does this have to do with the main story? But then Herzog's genius kicks in and brings everything together to form a strange but complete whole; this is a film of acute angles, prickly sides, and odd moments. The musical score, while at times slightly off-putting, adds to the mysterious and unpredictable tone, and much like Herzog's other, better cop film, The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, My Son, My Son takes the viewer on a wild ride through the mind of a troubled, deranged main character.

Note: This is an avant-garde film that many people are likely to become frustrated with; I'd recommend it only to fans of Herzog and to adventurous cinephiles.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

SINFUL

I remember watching Seven frame-by-frame in a cinematography class in film school. What a treat that was. An even bigger treat will be arriving in my mailbox any day now -- the Blu Ray of David Fincher's masterful serial killer thriller.

Monday, September 13, 2010

UPDATED: TOP 10 OF 2010

The American
Inception
Valhalla Rising
Cyrus
Green Zone
Shutter Island
Robin Hood
The Square
The Kids are All Right
Repo Men

ALONE IN ITALY

Many people are going to dislike The American for all of the reasons why I think it's the best film of the year so far. It's slow. It's quiet. Very quiet. Not a lot "happens." Characters aren't incredibly likable at times. The ending is a a bit of a "downer." This is a film for film buffs --producer/star George Clooney (he of impeccable taste) managed to cajole about $20 million from Focus Features/Universal and set out to make a 60's/70's-esque, European flavored existential drama with a Dutch artiste at the helm (Anton Corbijn, Control). Rowan Joffe's spare and carefully parsed screenplay is an adaptation of Martin Booth's novel A Very Private Gentleman; I can't remember a recent movie that has been as precise with its words as The American was. This is the sort of movie that pisses people off because of the pains it takes to be different, to play by it's own set of rules and not by the ones set in place by countless other, lesser movies of this ilk. At this point in his career, it's clear that Clooney can basically get any movie he wants made made. I'm glad he's deciding to tackle rich, exciting stuff like The American.

We meet Clooney (to some he's Jack, to others he's Edward) as he's under-fire from a mysterious shooter at his lodge in the forests of Sweden. After a shocking moment of violence, Clooney is off to Italy to hide-out. What he does we're not too sure...unless we've seen the totally misleading coming attractions that make The American look like the next chapter in the Bourne series. Yes, Clooney is a hit man, and yes, he's brought out for "one last job," but that last job isn't what you might expect it to be, and how he goes about doing it will surprise many people. While in hiding, Clooney lets his guard down long enough to fall in love (or is it just lust?) with a local prostitute named Clara, played by the alarmingly gorgeous Violante Placido, who, it must be noted, spends much of her screen-time either semi or fully naked. The town's priest takes a liking to Clooney and the two of them share a few conversations about sin and man's ability to be reconciled for the mistakes they've made. Yes, there are some chases and shootouts, but they're treated almost as after-thoughts; this is a thinking person's drama that subverts your genre-based expectations at almost every turn.

For me, The American is a masterpiece. It's the sort of film that only a class-act like Clooney could get made in this day and age of cookie-cutter sequels and sanitized blockbusters. There's an elegant cool that radiates from Corbijn's film that is distinctly European -- along with director Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson, Valhalla Rising), the Dutch are a breeding ground for promising filmmaking talent. Along with the brilliant compositions of cameraman Martin Ruhe, the classical score courtesy of Herbert Gronemeyer blends beautifully with the terse dialogue exchanges. Obvious influences from Michaelangelo Antoinioni's heady The Passenger, Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samourai, and even John Frankenheimer's Ronin can be felt all throughout The American; at it's core, The American really is a re-telling of a classical samurai story, with Clooney's lone-killer character stoically taking orders from his potentially double-crossing master, all in an effort to ponder everything that's lead him up to that point. The American is a phenomenal piece of filmmaking, a work that I will be re-visiting numerous times once it's available on Blu Ray. A film like this can only get better and better with repeated viewings.

(My one minor complaint -- the title. While The American is suitable and definitely ties into the story, the title of the original souce material, A Very Private Gentleman, would have been much, much better).

BLU REVIEW: THE SQUARE

Without question, The Square is the best thriller I've seen in 2010. Tautly directed by newcomer Nash Edgerton (his brother Joel is one of the main characters and co-wrote the brilliantly layered screenplay), this Australian neo-noir sits atop of the genre pack with titles such as Red Rock West, The Last Seduction, Blood Simple, and Bound -- it's a damn near flawless piece of screw-tightening and filmmaking. There is a confidence to this film that I found highly engrossing; right from the start I knew I was in the hands of a filmmaker who knew exactly what he wanted. With twists coming left and right and all the way up until the end, The Square requires your attention, for which you'll be handsomely rewarded.

Spoiling any of The Square's surprises would be criminal. The gist is this: unhappily married Raymond (the gruff David Roberts) is carrying on with beautiful young mistress Carla (Claire van der Boom) who is stealing from her mullet-sporting, low-life boy-friend Billy (Edgerton). When a plan to rob Billy goes haywire and unexpected deaths ensue, all hell breaks loose. Plus, Raymond is dealing with shady contractors at his construction site who may or may not know what Raymond's been up too with Carla. Mysterious notes are sent, people are followed, chased, and killed, and more than one person gets shot. Nobody is safe in The Square. Not even the family pet. All of this is done with expert style and with a minimum of logic lapses and inconsistencies. And across the board, the acting is excellent, with Roberts and Boom registering strongly as two people who never should have met, let alone fall in love.

Mixing a De Palma-esque voyeuristic shooting style (be on the lookout for some amazing stedicam work) with gritty, hand-held realism, Edgerton ramps up the suspense in one scene after another. This is a genuinely unpredictable film that only the smartest genre enthusiasts will be able to guess before the end credits start rolling. Because there is so much plot in The Square the film could have easily felt bogged down in exposition, so it's a testament to Edgerton's writing and directing skills that the narrative never grinds to a halt. The film's brisk pace compliments the ruthlessness of the action scenes. The Square felt like an early Coen brothers film to me -- a movie totally in command of its story and style, made by people who love the genre they're working in and who want to wow people with a good old fashioned crime thriller. I love films like this.

BLU REVIEW: THE JONESES


You can't really blame writer/director Derek Borte for going a bit soft on his characters in his debut The Joneses. Look at them -- they're soooo pretty. A film of glistening surfaces and that sharply satirizes the dark underbelly of suburban-dwelling consumerism, The Joneses is an entertaining black comedy for most of it's run-time; it's only towards the last 20 minutes when Borte injects the film with a bit too much melodrama, draining the narrative of some its bite. The cast was perfectly selected given the scenario: The Joneses aren't a real family, but rather, a family of actors who are being paid by a company who is paid by multiple companies to have their products subliminally marketed to the upper middle class. Think a sci-fi-less version of The Stepford Wives. The "parents" are David Duchovny (acting like he's fresh off the set of Californication) and Demi Moore (does she age?); their "kids" are Amber Heard (gets points for going topless and playing a nymphomaniac) and Ben Hollingsworth (what's his secret...?). The Joneses is always entertaining, and at times, it's viciously smart about the way people in this country piss away their money on shit they don't need. In a world where advertising is literally everywhere we look, a filmmaker like Borte (an ex-commercials director) was the perfect choice for this film; he has a keen eye for these people and they way they blend in with their surroundings. He's a filmmaker to look out for in the future.

Friday, September 10, 2010

GROWING CURIOUSITY


I loved the original (called Let The Right One In). For me, it's the only vampire movie worth discussing. From early reports, this Matt Reeves-directed remake is NOT a shot-for-shot re-creation. That makes me happy; one can adapt another film and make it their own but still pay tribute to the original's strengths. This is one horror movie that I'll be seeing on the big screen.

MOVIES FOR THE WEEKEND

Amazingly, the critically acclaimed indie drama Animal Kingdom has opened up in my area...I'd love to see it this weekend at some point...

From Netflix is another critically acclaimed indie -- The Square.

I'll have a review posted soon for The American, which is probably my favorite movie of the year (at the very least it's in my top two). A fantastic piece of work.

Pumped for The Town next weekend.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

MASSIVE DISAPPOINTMENT

It's official -- Terrence Malick's probable masterwork The Tree of Life has been delayed a full year. Excuse me while I vomit. The good news is that it's been picked up by Fox Searchlight, so one would presume that the film will get a major awards push/wide release next fall. But to have to wait another full year to get a glimpse at what Malick has been up to for the last 5 years is just fucking excruciating.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

SUMMER MOVIE ROUND UP

What the hell is Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson, Pusher, Fear X) smoking? I’m kidding, of course, but really…this guy is something else. Valhalla Rising, his bold and astonishing Viking movie with a silent and scarred Mads Mikkelsen as a one-eyed, mute warrior, is a masterpiece of hypnotic filmmaking, a film that Terrence Malick and Werner Herzog will likely embrace as a one-of-a-kind vision of hell on earth. Valhalla Rising cannot be compared to anything – it exists on a playing field all to itself. There’s no real plot…just the desire felt by each character to kill before being killed. Because, in all honesty and reality, in those times, I'm not really sure if life had a "plot" per se. It was probably a moment to moment existence for most people. This is an atmosphere movie (most of it is silent), a film that places a large importance on look and feel and attitude, rather than getting bogged down in politics or excessive plotting. Mikkelsen is a warrior forced into fighting to the death for the enjoyment of his kidnappers. After he kills them and escapes, with the help of a young boy, he encounters a group of Vikings who are headed to the new world in order to preach Christianity. Things get downright spooky after Mikkelsen joins the explorers. The viewer is basically taken into a literal and metaphorical “hell” and the results aren’t pretty. Ever seen hallucinating Vikings? I hadn’t. Until I saw Valhalla Rising. Artsy, uncompromising, and defiantly non-commercial, Valhalla Rising will likely only be embraced by a small group. But for those of us within that group, it’ll stand as one of the finest and most viscerally exhilarating movie experiences of 2010.


Two viewings of Inception are simply not enough. It’s pointless to try and re-hash the plot. Everyone’s heard about it…dreams within dreams and Leo all emotional and Joe Levitt walking on walls and the guy from Bronson wielding a massive sub-rocket launcher and Ellen Page designing entire cities with the blink of an eye. Oh, and that scary-sexy Marion Cotillard haunting everyone. From the epic-sized action sequences to the more intimate moments between Dicaprio and his team/conspirators, Christopher Nolan never misses a beat. This is grand, thought-provoking entertainment for people who want to have all of their senses stimulated. But you have to be patient, be ready to pay attention, and keep an open mind. One of the mesmerizing things about Inception, and more specifically, the way the screenplay has been crafted, is that the film truly will hold up to repeated viewings, if for no other reason than the fact that the film can be interpreted through any number of wave-lengths. Mixing sci-fi and action and drama, Nolan yet again delivers a big-budget but big-brained piece of work that feels like an instant classic.
No two ways around it – Cyrus is a dark, sad film. It’s also extremely funny and oddly touching at times. Jonah Hill proves that he can do much more than just be the fat guy in the room making everyone laugh. As always, John C. Reilly is lovable and engaging and Marisa Tomei continues her late-career renaissance (Before the Devil Knows you’re Dead, The Wrestler) with another perky performance. What the Duplass brothers do as filmmakers may seem easy because of their loose and shaggy aesthetic but it has to be hard as every single scene in this film feels awkwardly real and believable. Tomei plays Hill’s overprotective mother while Hill nails his bit as the clingy son. When Reilly arrives and falls for Tomei (and she as well), things get complicated as Hill tries to sabotage their relationship. Think a smarter, more honest version of Step Brothers (and enjoyable piece of idiocy that can’t be taken seriously). And that’s why Cyrus is one of the sharpest films of the year – it takes a potentially icky and off-putting idea and makes dark-comedy gold out of it.

If Sly Stallone wanted to make a big-budget Cannon movie with The Expendables than he succeeded. He’s got the Golan-Globus-esque producers behind him (Avi Lerner’s Millennium Films), and with zero major studio influence or bitching, he’s been able to craft one of the most over-the-top and enjoyable blow ‘em up’s in years. There have been better, more ambitious films this summer, but no movie left me with such a stupid, childish grin on my face than Stallone’s latest blood-bath. The Expendables is an idiotic movie, make no mistake. But it’s no more idiotic than the films it aspires to sit next too, testosterone fests like Commando and Cobra and Delta Force and Raw Deal. I loved the meat-headed attitude of The Expendables and the fact that everyone – I mean everyone – was in on the joke. The plot(!) involves, surprise-surprise, drug cartels (at least I think so), Eric Roberts in a $5,000 suit, a corrupt general, and hundreds and hundreds of faceless, nameless extras who serve has machine gun fodder for Stallone and his lumbering crew of ass-kickers (Statham, Li, Lundgren, ah fuck it, you’ve seen the ads). More shit explodes in the last 30 minutes of The Expendables to fill 2 Michael Bay movies (that man is gonna need an extra change of pants when he sees this flick). Going the hard-R route allows Stallone to revel in his new-found love of on-screen viscera; between The Expendables and the latest Rambo installment, someone should probably sit down with Sly with cup of cocoa and ask him if anything’s keeping him up at night. The Expendables is exactly what everyone has been saying it is…a throwback to when manly action films were in vogue, and I am pleased to say that the box office success all but guarantees a sequel. Now, let’s get Willis and Arnie to gear up and go to war with the rest of the crew and we’ll really be on to something. Oh, and Sly, hiring Jeff Kimball as your d.o.p. was a brilliant move.


The Kids Are All Right was the little indie that could this past summer season, and for good reason – it’s a wonderfully observed, sharply written and acted dramedy that anyone can relate too. Annette Benning and Julianne Moore are a lesbian couple with two sperm-donor teenagers whose lives are turned upside down when their kids decide to track down their scruffily charming dad, played by the always incredible Mark Ruffalo, who seems incapable of ever giving a false or poor performance. The Kids Are All Right will have you laughing out loud one moment and then covering your mouth the next as a seemingly funny moment becomes very serious. That’s one of the strengths of Lisa Cholodenko’s script, which while somewhat predictable, leaves enough to chance to keep you guessing about how things will end up for everyone. If the film has any obvious short-comings, I’d say that Ruffalo’s character doesn’t get the closure he deserves, but I don’t want to spoil anything. This is a real-feeling film that many people are going to really enjoy. My guess is an Oscar nom for original screenplay is in store for Cholodenko.

I was mostly down with Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, a supremely hyper-active ode to video games and comics that feels as “in-the-moment” as any film ever has. I think it’s possible that the main reason for me not loving this wild and wacky movie is because my knowledge and interest in video games ended at the end of middle school. I’m also not a comic/graphic novel reader (this film is based on a very popular series of books). And I’m also not into alt/emo rock music, something this film revels in. But what I am down for is envelope pushing technique and form, and that’s what Wright brought to the table. Editing and shooting in a cracked-out manor that suggests Tony Scott on a paper-towel of acid, Wright obliterates any sense of reality and goes for pure fantasy and spectacle. Michael Cera is Michael Cera, err, I mean, Scott Pilgrim, a 20 year old guitar playing weasel that lives with some gay guys (they all sleep together in one of the film’s many, many homosexual references) and is dating an Asian high-schooler named Knives. There’s a battle of the bands coming up but when Pilgrim sees the girl of his dreams (played by the too plain looking Mary Elizabeth Winsted), he loses all focus. It also doesn’t help that he has to battle (to the death in arcade-style bouts) her seven evil exes. So, you have a wild idea, a wild filmmaker, and the chance to go for broke. So why isn’t this film the masterpiece it so desperately wants to be? Honestly, it needed to be shorter. Had it been, say, 3 or 4 evil exes, it wouldn’t have felt like a slog getting to the grand finale. There’s only so man times you can see a bad guy get wasted and then turn into coins before the idea becomes old. There’s lots to admire in each and every frame of Scott Pilgrim, and my guess is that another viewing will yield even more pleasures. It’s not perfect but it delivers something different and funky. I think my favorite part was the skewing of the Universal logo in the first 10 seconds of the movie!



Bourne. Bauer. Bond. Salt. That’s what director Phil Noyce, screenwriter Kurt Wimmer, Angelina Jolie, and Sony Pictures want you to think. And for the most part, they’ve lived up to those super-spy names. Salt is Jolie’s latest attempt at starting an action franchise (the Tomb Raider series died after the second installment) and based on the excellent box office that the film pulled in; I bet we’ll see another one. Essentially a $100 million episode of 24, Jolie is CIA agent Evelyn Salt who is falsely accused (or was she?) of being a Russian spy. Her bosses (Chiewetel Ejifor and Liev Schrieber) chase her all around the eastern seaboard while Jolie runs, leaps, and karate-chops her way from once action set-piece to another. Wimmer’s script is absurd, but no more absurd than most of these genre entries, and the old-school professionalism of Noyce’s direction (not a lot of CGI; Robert Elswit was the cinematographer) keeps things moving at a crisp pace. Salt runs a lean 95 minutes; there’s no fat on its bones. But there’s also not a lot of personality. The filmmakers and Jolie seem so intent on moving the action to the next beat that they never slow down and allow us to really get to know their heroine. We root for Salt because we like to root for Angie as she kicks everyone’s ass. Noyce, who has done everything from Clear and Present Danger to Rabbit Proof Fence, should he come back for the inevitable sequel, could stand to take a breath and let a little more story/characterization creep into the proceedings. It’s a silver-bullet of an action-thriller, steely-cold in look, and light on its feet.




To say that Takers is Heat-lite would be an understatement. I read another blogger refer to Takers as Warmth, as the film plays like Heat for Dummies. Stylishly directed by John Lussenhop with nods to Tony Scott (the climactic gun battle is straight outta True Romance) and Michael Mann, Takers is a low-budget PG-13 actioner that doesn’t have a lot of hard-edges. What it does have is mostly average acting, mostly average plotting, and a slick, music-video buff ‘n shine style that allows the viewer to sit back and look at some pretty stuff while a lot of clich├ęs are thrown around by the whole cast (Idris Elba, Paul Walker, Matt Dillon, Hayden Christensen, Chris Brown, Michael Ealy, T.I., Jay Hernandez, Zoe Saldana). It’s funny how Takers, The Losers, and The A-Team have all come out within the last 5 months and all three of them feel like the same movie (slight differences aside). But what saves Takers from being totally forgettable is a totally amazing foot-chase through the middle of downtown Los Angeles that was nothing short of bravura. The sequence goes on for what feels like 10 solid minutes, all during broad daylight, on location, and it looks and feels completely and utterly hard-core. The film is worth matinee ticket price for that one scene alone. Takers will be a rental for most people, but if you’re looking for a simple time-waster, it'll do the trick.

Friday, September 3, 2010

MOVIES FOR THE WEEKEND

The American is a priority. Sunday or Monday. Looks phenomenal.

I also have interest in the new rom-com Going the Distance, despite my lack of affection for both Drew Barrymore and Justin Long. Might check that one out as well this weekend.

Next week, one day after work, I'll be seeing Machete. Looks totally asinine.

From Netflix is Christopher Nolan's art-house break-out hit Memento, which I've only seen once (on opening weekend when I was living in Hell-A), and which for some reason, I don't own on DVD or Blu Ray.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

THEY'RE HERE...

Everything I've read/seen/heard about this film leads me to believe that it's excellent...