Monday, January 31, 2011


How Oscar couldn't find a place at the table for Peter Weir's astonishing The Way Back is fucking beyond me. Amazing, inspirational stuff. Makes you really appreciate life. It's a movie that sticks to the ribs.  Lots more tomorrow on this captivating but dark story of human endurance.  How it's not up for picture, director, and cinematography is baffling.  If I were Weir I'd be pissed.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


I really enjoyed Map of the Sounds of Tokyo. It's nothing brilliant but it's very well done. Extremely strong on atmospherics, textures, and surfaces.  Lots of rain, lots of steam, lots of neon colors. Very dream-like.  Stony in many respects.  You never quite know how things will play out and while the film is way more interested in style than it is story, it's always involving thanks to the two central performances, by two very different actors (Rinko Kikuchi and Sergi Lopez). The stunning, Wong Kar Wai-esque cinematography by Jean-Claude Larrieu is easily the best aspect of the movie and the explicit sex scenes (writer/director Isabel Coixet clearly has a thing for oral gratification) always keeps the vibe sexy and loose.  Like Enter the Void, there's lots of cool-to-a-foreigner Tokyo-set imagery which always keeps things interesting; it's a place I'd love to visit one day.  The tale that Coixet has cooked up, that of a hit-woman falling in love with her mark, is farily predictable, but that didn't bother me because I was always visually interested in what I was looking at.  It's a mood piece, and as such, it's a rich success.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Every performance is perfect in David Michod's masterpiece crime drama Animal Kingdom. It's a fucking verifiable embarrassment of riches to be perfectly honest. Not one wasted scene. Not one false step in the plotting.  Nothing out of order or in need of fixing. I am going to immediately buy the blu ray this week. This film is a re-watch of the highest order.  The last 2 minutes of Animal Kingdom are some of the best stuff I've ever seen. WOW. What a movie. Incredible. Everyone needs to see this film. Along with The Square, it's been quite a year for Australian crime films. Hot diggity damn was that an amazing piece of work.  More later.

Friday, January 28, 2011


At home:  Map of the Sounds of Tokyo


The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Welcome to the Rileys
Middle Men
The Beat that My Heart Skipped
Tamara Drewe
Down Terrace
Three Monkeys
The Secret in Their Eyes


The Way Back and The Company Men are both playing in my area; I'd like to see one of those this weekend.

From Netflix is Map of the Sounds of Tokyo; been wanting to see it for a while now.

Last night I watched All Good Things.  Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst tore it up; I don't remember Dunst being this good and it was nice to see her back on screen.  The film itself is a very unsettling, ripped-from-the-headlines mystery that is very troubling to say the least. Clever direction from Andrew Jarecki with a script that blends fact and conjecture possibly a bit more than it should have.  But overall, it was well done.

HD On-Demand options include The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Red, and Animal Kingdom.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Totally thrilling and about as visceral as moviemaking gets, 127 Hours is one of those films that makes you thankful for the fact that you’re likely never going to encounter the same obstacles as the main character does during the course of the film.  I’m speaking of course about Aron Ralston, brilliantly played in what amounts to a tour de force performance by James Franco, the lonely mountain climber who had to cut off his own arm in order to dislodge himself from a boulder that kept him pinned in a crevice for, well, 127 hours.  Director Danny Boyle brings his energetic, Tony Scott-esque shooting & editing style that he employed on Slumdog Millionaire, and in tandem with two gifted (not to mention gravity-defying) cinematographers (Tony Dod-Mantle and Enrique Chediak) and one sensational editor (Jon Harris), has created a harrowing yet oddly touching movie that somehow feels life-affirming even the face of pure agony and despair.  That’s not easy to do.  Franco’s subtle moments are just as good as his big ones, and without his magnetism as an actor, we’d just be staring at a dude stuck between some rocks for 90 minutes.  It’s an incredible piece of work all around.

I loved the calm and the quiet of The American, Anton Corbijn’s already underrated 70’s-style hit-man anti-thriller with George Clooney giving a career best performance.  I also loved the simple beauty of the film, and the way the narrative unfolded like an onion, at its own casual, unhurried pace.  I loved how it worked against your expectations when it comes to easy, genre-based thrills and how when you thought that something was going to happen it didn’t.  And then when you never expected something to happen, it did.  Then there’s the scenery (Italy and the Italian women…) on top of everything else, which makes The American feel distinct and unique.  Come to think of it – the only thing I don’t love about the film is its title; The American is just so bland.  They should have used the name of the book – A Very Private Gentlemen – that’s much more in line with the sensibilities of the film.  Rowan Joffee’s carefully parsed screenplay only gives you exactly what you need to know in the moment, and demands that you do some figuring out.  Clooney does so much with his eyes and so little with his voice in this film that it’s a shame there wasn’t a spot for him at the Oscars as this is definitely the best, most nuanced that he’s ever been as an actor.  I’ve watched the movie easily a dozen times now, and I think it’s about as perfect as cinema can be.

Bold, blustery, and totally over the top, Darren Aronofsky has never been one for subtlety, and with Black Swan, he indulges in his most melodramatic tendencies as a filmmaker and delivers a juicy piece of fuck-with-your-head-cinema that pivots on a nothing short of sensational performance from Oscar bound Nathalie Portman, who all but loses herself in the lead role of Nina Sayers, a mentally conflicted (and afflicted) ballerina who will stop at nothing to be the best she can possibly be.  The themes that run thru Black Swan are as old as time; it’s nothing more than the familiar story of an artist who begins to lose herself through her art until it could potentially kill her.  Much has been made of the high-kink factor of the film (yes, Portman and co-star Mila Kunis go at it a bit, and yes, there is more than one scene of self-gratification featuring Portman), but what Aronofsky is doing with these perverse bits is creating an inner anxiety for his characters, and in turn, his audience.  Because of how intense Portman is in her role, and because of how likable she is as a person, the audience latches on to her at the start, so when she begins to unravel, and it begins to become clear that she's a bit loony, the audience also feels like they are coming apart at the seams.  The film has a unique gritty-yet-glossy look due to cinematographer Matthew Libatique’s dual shooting styles.  In some scenes everything is hand-held (like their work on The Wrestler), with the camera placed directly behind Portman’s head, which gives off a tentative, natural feel.  It also heightens tension.  Then, during the dance scenes, the camera takes off in swirling motions, and the audience is wrapped up with the dancers in a constant state of motion.  And then, in one breathtaking sequence and using some of the canniest visual effects I’ve ever seen, you get to see an…ummm…transformation...that is positively transfixing to watch.  Black Swan is one of those movies that loves the fact that it’s a movie – it’s high-art and low-camp all at once, and as a result, feels like not much else that’s out there.
Emotions run raw and deep in Derek Cianfrance’s bruising relationship drama Blue Valentine, a film that some people might find too honest and real for their comfort levels.  Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are phenomenal and wholly believable as husband and wife and it’s downright shocking at times to see how intense the two of them got with each other.  Cianfrance’s script (which he co-wrote with two other people) goes to some deep, tough places that might hit close to home for people who have been in volatile relationships, and as such, might be uncomfortable for some.  The grittiness of just about everything in the film (the look, the sound, the textures) also helps make the entire thing feel like a slice of life; at times you feel like you’re watching home video footage of a crumbling marriage.  Blue Valentine shows you a marriage, one that will feel familiar for some people, with all the highs and all the lows, and how two people who think they know each other are really just scratching the surface with one another.  I dare not reveal any of the revelations or surprises that this film has in store as there are any number of moments while watching that I felt the floor moving under my feet.  When you have two incredible actors like Gosling and Williams tearing it up in every scene and imbuing every moment with emotional honesty and openness, it’s almost impossible to not become totally consumed and engrossed as a viewer.  And that’s what happens during Blue Valentine, or at least, that’s what happened to me.  I forgot that I was watching a movie and I felt like I was observing two real people with their very real problems.  And even though the film ends on a note of slight discontent, there is an oddly uplifting undercurrent that can be felt as the final frames appear and the amazing closing song starts to play; it’s a totally sublime ending to an already extremely confident piece of filmmaking.

Epic in scope yet intimate with its details, the terrorist biopic Carlos is exhilarating cinema.  Considering the elephantine length (5.5 hours in its full version; 2.5 hours in a shortened version) multiple viewings will be necessary in order to distill each and every plot point, fact, relationship, and motive.  Edgar Ramirez burns up the screen as international terrorist Carlos “The Jackal” in a Brando-esque performance of physical transformation and verbal command.  French filmmaker Olivier Assayas utilizes hand-held camera work, a propulsive musical score, nimble editing, and a variety of spoken languages which all helps to create a totally real and organic atmosphere and viewing experience.  Much of the film feels like a documentary, and the ability of Assayas and his crew to transport the audience into many of these frightening sequences makes the film feel incredibly vital.  Bombs blow, people are shot, cars are ignited, and it all feels scary and impactful.  Carlos sort of feels like distant cousins with Steven Spielberg’s Munich, another terrorism epic set in the 1970’s all across Europe.  The international hop-scotching and zigzagging of Carlos is extremely impressive especially when you consider how many speaking parts there are in the film.  Again – multiple viewings will help.  And multiple viewings will definitely occur as it was just announced that the Criterion Collection will be releasing the film later this year on Blu Ray.

Inception managed an almost impossible feat: a summer movie that blew away the mind AND the eyes.  Densely plotted, imaginatively conceived, and incredibly entertaining, this is the “thinking-man’s blockbuster” if there’s ever been one.  No plot rehash is necessary – unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve seen the film.  I’m just gonna note my favorite bits:  the ski-attack sequence on the fortress, all of Tom Hardy’s stuff, Joe Levitt walking on walls, Marion Cotilliard’s amazingly expressive eyes, Leo’s hard-charging intensity, the totally realistic and completely real-looking special effects, and the phenomenal editing job that consists of the last 30 or so minutes of the film.  Oh – then there’s the indelible soundtrack with that how-can-you-forget droning which is really a play on Edith Piaf’s song which is head all throughout the movie.  Inception is great because it reaffirms the fact that Christopher Nolan is interested in making art movies that are masquerading as popcorn films.

No film in 2010 felt as carefully made as Mark Romanek’s haunting and sobering cloning drama Never Let Me Go.  A heady and unlikely mix of period trappings and science fiction, the film is chilling to the core while also allowing for deep swaths of humanity to burst in through the sprocket holes.  The trio of Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, and Andrew Garfield are all perfectly cast as three “donors” who are kept at arms length with society, raised and schooled in the British countryside at a massive estate, basically just waiting to make their “contributions” or “donations.”  They are the creations of rich people, and the film asks an incredibly deep and morally probing question:  if you had the money, would you clone yourself in an effort to live longer?  If you lose an arm, you’ve got a new one waiting just down the road.  Bad heart?  No problem – call your clone.  All of this is handled with a surgeons care by Romanek, who always seems to be picking away at the surface of every scene.  Alex Garland’s quietly creepy screenplay goes to some  very dark places and all of the actors are up the task; as you might expect, there are any number of emotional breakdowns experienced by the characters as they all come to accept their fate.  Never Let Me Go is the type of movie where you’ll think about life in a different way after seeing it.  It makes you think and that’s always a very good thing.

The funny thing about The Social Network is that while it’s a great piece of storytelling and it’s a piece of virtually flawless filmmaking, it’s not even the fourth best film from master director David Fincher (it goes like this: Seven, Zodiac, Fight Club, Benjamin Button, The Social Network, The Game, Panic Room, Alien 3).  Crisply written, efficiently shot and edited, eerily scored, and shot thru with laser-like intensity by a variety of skilled young actors (Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, and Armie Hammer are all fantastic), The Social Network represents Fincher doing yet another Alan J. Pakula imitation, while also experimenting with seamless visual effects that help to create a dark worldview of the human condition.  There’s nothing fancy about the film; it’s the least showy of Fincher’s efforts and the one film that seems to respect the writing more than anything else.  Aaron Sorkin’s biting and rapid-fire dialogue is a perfect match for Fincher’s fleet and sophisticated visual style; the pacing of this film is extraordinary with the run time clocking in at a precise two hours.  While not the “American Landmark” that some critics made it out to be, The Social Network is an important piece of filmmaking from one of our premier filmmakers.

Nobody entertains an audience like Tony Scott and Unstoppable finds him at his audience-pleasing best.  The set-up is simple: two men need to think fast in order to stop a runaway train from decimating an entire town with a load of toxic chemicals.  Prime material for the director of Top Gun, Crimson Tide, Man on Fire, The Last Boy Scout, and Enemy of the State (just to name a few).  Denzel Washington and Chris Pine make a terrific team but the real star of Unstoppable is Scott, his editors, his cameramen, and the train itself.  This is loud, kinetic, and extremely entertaining action-movie cinema for people who like to see shit getting blown up real good.  The real-time stunt work is incredible, the notable absence of phony-baloney CGI is wonderfully refreshing, and the little character bits that are thrown in by writer Mark Bomback help keep the entire thing moving along as the script piles on explosive incident after explosive incident.  There is nothing trendsetting or genre-defining about Unstoppable – it’s just a solid movie made with lots of skill and style, but every once in a while, it’s nice to just go along for a wild ride at the movies and not have your intelligence insulted.  It’s glorious fun.

Meditative, head-splittingly violent, and narratively trippy, Valhalla Rising, from auteur in the making Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson, Pusher), is not your grandfather’s Viking adventure.  Nominally about a one-eyed mute warrior (stoically played by Refn’s go-to-guy Madds Mikkelsen) who has to fight in order to stay alive while under capture, Valhalla Rising is like some sort of bad-dream come to life; it looks like it was filmed literally at the edge of the fucking earth, the musical score is brooding and unsettling, the violence is shocking and at times very tough to watch (but hey – that’s how it probably was…), and the narrative takes any number of creative liberties and sojourns.  This isn’t an A to B to C type endeavor with a concrete finale that ties everything up; far from it.  This is challenging, some might say frustrating cinema; Refn isn’t out to coddle or make it easy for his audience.  He wants you to think and while he makes you think he’s gonna fuck with your head and then also smash it with a rock. Valhalla Rising feels like a Terrence Malick film crossed with a little bit of Werner Herzog and then a little bit of Jerry Bruckheimer thrown in with a dash of psychological horror and a pinch of existential journey.  It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen and for that fact alone it should find its way into your viewing cycle soon.
Experimental.  Daring.  Seductive.  Engrossing.  These are all words that I’d use to describe Gaspar Noe’s pulsating masterpiece Enter the Void, a movie that for many will be too much, but for some, will be just right.  I am interested in seeing NEW stuff when I sit down to watch a movie, and to paraphrase something that Manhola Dargis said in her glowing New York Times review, Noe is a filmmaker interested in showing you something new and startling and taking you to a place that you’ve never been. Now…the places that Noe likes to go…those places won’t be everyone’s cup-o-tea.  This is as explicit of a movie that I’ve ever seen; nothing is left to the imagination: sex, drugs, death, hallucinations, conception, fatal car-crashes, abortion, birth – Noe doesn’t leave anything out.  Loosely inspired by the Tibetan Book of the Dead and shot through the prism of a DMT trip (Google DMT to learn more), Enter the Void is an almost entirely first-person point-of-view cinematic experience (meaning the camera is literally the main character amd that the cinematographer should be winning EVERY award available) and as a result the viewer is all but forced head-first into Noe’s madness and depravity.  Brian De Palma eat your heart out.  This is extreme, outlaw cinema, better and more provocative that Noe’s earlier freak-out movie Irreversible. Nothing is traditional about Enter the Void so a traditional “review” is sort of pointless.  This is film as art, something that is obviously very personal and very unique.  It’s the best film I saw in all of 2010.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011


And the award for the WEIRDEST movie ever made goes to Dogtooth, the Greek film that was just nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars. I am convinced that the Academy DIDN'T ACTUALLY WATCH this film before nominating it. Not that it's terrible; far from it. It's just ULTRA deranged, totally whacked-out, and playing by its own set of twisted rules.  One thing is certain: this film is NOT FOR THE EASILY OFFENDED.  Similar to Enter the Void in that it's a movie that feels utterly untinkered with and completely the product of a filmmaker who knows EXACTLY what he wants, it's also a film that defies normal description.  Certainly living in the world of satire with detours into black comedy and mixing graphic violence with explicit (and in some cases illicit) sex, Dogtooth is a film of many tones and much ambition.  First time filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos has won lots of awards for his debut effort and it's easy to see why; there's nothing else quite like Dogtooth and the originality of its vision, despite its limitations and weaknesses, is ever present throughout the entire run time.  When people, especially film critics, are presented with something like Dogtooth, something that is challenging and taboo-breaking and envelope pushing, there's a tendency for extreme reactions -- love it or hate it.  For me, this is one of those films that leaves me somewhat uncomfortably in the middle.  I appreciated what I was watching while I was watching it and I'm glad I saw it.  But you can never unsee some things, and there are some bits during Dogtooth where I genuinely questioned if what I was watching was really something I needed to see (think: incest).  And here -- I haven't even "reviewed" the film in a traditional sense or explained what the "plot" is, though my guess is that Lanthimos laughs at the idea of a conventional "plot."  In a nutshell, Dogtooth is the extreme version of The Village; a father raises his children (two girls and one boy who are well into their early 20's), along with the help of his wife, to believe that they should never leave their house/yard/property because of killer cats that live outside the gates. They are self-taught and home-schooled, totally oblivious to the outside world, comepletely uneducated in areas of sex, drugs, and rock and roll.  Everything changes when the father starts bringing a woman home for his son to sexually experiment with and it's then that all of the dynamics in the house change due to a series of unforseen circumstances.  Yes, the title of the movie is explained.  No, the film doesn't end all tidy and wrapped up with a little bow on top.  Lanthimos is clearly interested in giving lots to his viewers to chew on and think about and discuss, and via the interview with him that was provided on the DVD, he stated that it was his intention to provoke debate with Dogtooth -- it's something that he feels should bother people and make them question what they've just witnessed.  Honestly -- if you want a blow by blow of what happens in this film -- then go to Wikipedia and type in Dogtooth.  It's all right there.  What I will say is that this is a film that will appeal most to movie buffs, fans of extreme cinema, and people who are looking for something different and offbeat.  It's a film that features pitch-perfect performances from an exceptional ensemble cast, it's got terrific widescreen cinematography that subverts the very ideas that it is thematically posing, and the lack of a musical score in tandem with incredible foley/sound work creates an unending sense of tension and unpredictability.  Dogtooth isn't a film that I'm likely to see again but it's one that I'm glad that I saw.  And if it actually wins the Oscar, I'll laugh my ass off. 


I thought the Oscar noms, on the whole, were mostly predictable, and incredibly safe (as effing usual). The best pic nom for Winter's Bone was nice as was the nom for John Hawkes. But mostly it's what I expected. And considering that only 4 of the movies nommed for best picture made my personal top 10 list, there was lots left off the list that I wish was on there. But knowing that some of my personal favs (Void, Valhalla, The American, Carlos, Never Let Me Go) were never going to make the final cut, I guess I respect what was nommed, if I'm not entirely excited. However -- Toy Story 3 should ONLY be competing in the ANIMATION category. It's a waste of a nomination in the live-action category. There are HUNDREDS of movies released every year and there are any number of smaller films that could benefit from a best pic nomination in this new age of 10 nominations. So when Toy Story 3 is nommed in two categories, it annoys me. All of the films nominated for best pic (in particular The Fighter, The King's Speech, True Grit) feel like genuine "Oscar" movies. The Social Network, which I think has a 50-50 chance of winning based on the enormous amount of critical acclaim it got from critics and awards groups, might prove be too young and hip for the room, but David Fincher has done one masterpiece after another, so it wouldn't surprise me if this is his year.  If The Social Network doesn't take best picture, The King's Speech will get the big trophy, but I expect Fincher to get best director for his efforts.  I would have loved to have seen both Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine) and Mark Whalberg (The Fighter) up for best actor, but this year was VERY tough as there were any number of incredible performances.  The idea of Edgar Ramirez not getting a best actor nomination for Carlos is appalling but who out of the five that got nominated would I leave out?  Really tough call.  I just wish that the Academy would grow some balls and REALLY examine the state of film and start acknowledging some of the smaller, more boundary pushing pieces of work that get released each year.  If I were to look at the 10 movies nominated for best picture this year, this is what would come to mind immediately about each:

Inception -- visionary piece of contemporary sci-fi that likely made the cut due to the new 10-movie rule
The Social Network -- a razor-sharp study of friends dicking each other over
The King's Speech -- a circa 1993 Miramax-esque British film dominated by it's performances
Winter's Bone -- the bleak little indie that could
The Fighter -- a traditional, solid family movie set against a boxing backdrop heightened by performances
Black Swan -- a mind-fuck-melodrama that thankfully was embraced by critics and audiences
Toy Story 3 -- no matter how good, animated films should ONLY be considered in the animation category
The Kids are All Right -- a slice-of-life-for-right-now that's too California for some people
True Grit -- a satisfying western made by a revered filmmaking duo who can't seem to fuck up
127 Hours -- cutting edge, visceral, true, real, unflinching, uncompromising -- it'll never win

So....some great films on that list (The Social Network, 127 Hours, Black Swan, and Inception all made my top 10 list)...but all feels so safe, so routine.  The show will be fun (co-hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway will be, if nothing else, different) no matter who wins, and at the end of the day, who really cares except for the people who are being nominated?  None of this Oscar stuff means anything in the long run -- it's just a chance to watch beautiful people in beautiful outfits.  I like to keep my eyes on the various film festivals (Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, Sundance) in an effort to stay up with what's being offered on a world-wide film spectrum.

My early predictions on who I think will win (not what/who I'd necessarily pick to win):

Best Picture:  The King's Speech
Best Director: David Fincher, The Social Network
Best Actor:  Colin Firth, The King's Speech
Best Actress:  Nathalie Portman, Black Swan
Best Supporting Actor:  Christian Bale, The Fighter
Best Supporting Actress:  Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Best Original Screenplay:  Christopher Nolan, Inception
Best Adapted Screenplay:  Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Best Editing: Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter,  The Social Network
Best Cinematography:  Roger Deakins, True Grit
Best Animated Film: Toy Story 3
Best Art Direction:  Alice in Wonderland
Best Costume Design:  The King's Speech
Best Documentary:  Inside Job
Best Foreign Language Film:  In a Better World
Best Make Up:  The Wolfman
Best Original Score:  The Social Network
Best Sound Editing:  Inception
Best Sound Mixing:  The Social Network
Best Visual Effects:  Inception


The Green Hornet was a solid time-waster. It was cool to see what director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine, The Science of Sleep) did with a big-budget action flick -- lots of neat tricks, scene transitions, editing ticks, jazzy beats -- but I hope he gets back to more personal filmmaking soon.  The 3-D effects were well done for the most part and I never once felt that the movie looked too dark or retrofitted --everything felt visually seamless. Seth Rogen's character was interestingly unlikable but in a good way; he kept making it so easy for you NOT to like him but then he'd drop a great one-liner (there's lots of great dialogue bits) and I'd find myself laughing.  This is NOT your typical superhero movie, and while it's nowhere near as transgressive or genre-busting like Pete Berg's Hancock, it gets points for not doing some of the usual-usual that we've come to expect out of the superhero genre.  It's very jokey one minute, very violent the next, which is similar to Rogen's script for Pineapple Express, a movie that has this one beat by a country mile.  The Green Hornet is nothing great by any means but it entertained me and did the trick for a matinee.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Cold/flu season kept me out of the theater this weekend.  Hope to see The Way Back next weekend.  Still gonna try and catch The Green Hornet at some point this week.

Watched Paper Man last night.  Really, really enjoyed it. Bittersweet and funny and offbeat. Big fan of Emma Stone. Why doesn't Jeff Daniels work more? He's awesome. Ryan Reynolds nailed it as the imaginary superhero. A nice little film with a lot of heart and some sadness mixed in.

Might watch Dinner for Schmucks via HD On Demand.

I've been watching HBO's The Ricky Gervais Show all morning long.  Utterly hysterical.

Friday, January 21, 2011


I hope to see The Way Back this Sunday.

My plan is to check out The Green Hornet next week one afternoon.

From Netflix is Paper Man with Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone, and Jeff Daniels. 

I still have to do a review for Blue Valentine, which was devastatingly honest and emotional and all-together incredible.

I have been continually abusing my blu rays of The American and The Social Network.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Buried is pretty much a perfect thriller.  Nightmarishly perfect.  I mean – what could be worse than being buried alive in a creaky coffin in the Iraqi desert with only a Zippo lighter and a cell phone at your disposal?  I know what could be worse – if you were put there by terrorists who are demanding $5 million for your safe return.  And nobody on the other line is taking you seriously.  And then -- shit! -- there's a snake slithering down your leg!  That’s the gripping scenario posed by Buried, the fantastic and diabolical directing debut of Rodrigo Cortes, who I am sure is getting offered every big project that Hollywood has in the hopper.  How Ryan Reynolds isn’t getting more acclaim for his one-man-show of a performance is mystifying; similar to James Franco in 127 Hours, his work should be considered to be nothing short of a tour de force.  He’s on screen in every single shot of Buried.  Never once does the camera cut away from the inside of the coffin; no flashbacks, no hallucinations, no easy ways out for the filmmakers to cut themselves some slack.  Chris Sparling’s ingenious (and by the end totally insidious) screenplay is clever when it needs to be, tight and spare at all times, and never feels impossibly contrived given the schematics of the plot.  How will this guy ever be able to make it out of the coffin alive?  Will anyone he speaks to via his cell phone actually be able to help?  Buried is gripping from its very first frame, due largely in part to the phenomenal, award-worthy cinematography by Eduard Grau (A Single Man).  Shooting in full 2.35:1 widescreen with Reynolds dominating every frame and with what appeared to be only natural light sources, Buried is always visually interesting and frequently astonishing to look at, which is no small feat considering the solo location and cramped shooting space.  Cortes and Grau’s ability to keep their audience guessing through strategic uses of pitch blackness from inside of the coffin is one of the reasons that the film is as riveting as it is.  The dynamic use of sound also helps create a harrowing atmosphere.  This isn’t a film for the faint of heart and it’s not what I’d exactly call a happy-go-lucky picture.  But for people who liked to be scared just a bit and for those looking to be totally engrossed by a top-notch thriller, look no further than Buried.


One of my all-time favorite films.  Is it De Palma's best?  This new Criterion Blu Ray of Blow Out drops in April.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Currently at home:  The Freebie.  Watched it last night.  Funny, dark, sad, sexy, mysterious, and very short.  Katie Aselton (who wrote/directed/starred) is a major talent and Dax Shepard really surprised me with his dramatic abilities.  The mostly improvised script felt very real and raw and honest, and the central idea for the film (can a married couple take a one night break from each other and sleep with someone else and still make it work?) is definitely provocative.  It needed to be a bit longer but overall it was very enjoyable.
Coming up:

Animal Kingdom
Paper Man
The Beat That My Heart Skipped
Map of the Sounds of Tokyo
Middle Men
Tamara Drewe
Down Terrace
Welcome to the Rileys
Three Monkeys
The Secret in Their Eyes
Altered States
Silent Light

Friday, January 14, 2011


Jean-Pierre Jeunet's movies will always interest me on a visual level alone.  He's an artist, a true visionary when it comes to creating worlds (his resume includes City of Lost Children, A Very Long Engagement, Amelie, the underrated Alien: Ressurection), so it came as a bit of a surprise that I didn't flat-out love his latest bit of French whimsy, Micmacs.  Don't get me wrong -- I enjoyed watching it...but that was the extent of my enjoyment.  It's a wonderful film to behold on Blu Ray on a high-def TV because of the saturated colors and frenetic energy that Jeunet revels in; it's just that the cockamieme story (something about a guy trying to exact revenge on two separate parties after a bullet gets inadvertently lodged in his skull) never fully grabbed me and pulled me in.  In the moment, I enjoyed looking at what was on screen, but I didn't care.  There's always next time.
Mother, from Joon-ho Bong (the awesome monster-movie/family drama The Host and the mesmerizing serial killer thriller Memories of Murder), is as Brian De Palma-esque as a movie can get without actually being directed by the master of the macabre himself.  Hye-ja Kim gives a riveting (if highly theatrical) performance as an mentally and emotionally unhinged mother who will stop at nothing in an effort to free her dimwitted son of a murder charge.  Mixing tones frequently and never once resorting to the predictable, Mother is an exciting and extremely entertaining thriller with numerous flights of narrative and visual fancy.
Olivier Assayas (the brilliant terrorist biopic Carlos) bounces from genre to genre (other credits include Irma Vep, Boarding Gate, Demonlover) and could almost be put in the same catagory as Michael Winterbottom or Steven Soderbergh, in that he's a filmmaker interested in a variety of topics and who lets the material inform the style that's employed to tell the story.  Summer Hours, which Assayas both wrote and directed, is a delicate, slow-burn family drama centering on two brothers a sister and how the deal with the impending death of their mother.  When she does pass away and they are left with her house, they all have differing opinions on what should happen to it.  Juggling humor, drama, sadness, and heartfelt romance, Summer Hours is another interesting addition to Assayas's filmography.

Simply put, Jacques Auidard's A Prophet is a masterpiece.  Instead of a hyperbolic review where I tell you that Tahar Rhamin's lead performance is extraordinary and that Auidard's writing and direction are exquisite and that there's one of the most insane close-quarter gun-fights I've ever seen and that there are some scarily amazing supporting performances -- oh wait -- here I go doing what I said I wasn't going to do.  Don't let the fact that A Prophet is also known in some circles as "that brutal, 2.5 hour French prison film" stop you from experiencing it.  It's a remarkable, multi-layered piece of work (similar in epic yet intimate scope to Gommorah) that demands your attention.


Really enjoyed The King's Speech. Doesn't crack my top 10 but it's very well made, extremely well acted, and the script is tight and funny. Firth & Rush are a great team and the arty camera angles always kept me visually interested.  In a field of 10 movies with the Academy, it's an easy shoo-in for a best picture nomination.



Theatrical options for this weekend include:  The King's Speech, Blue Valentine, Rabbit-Hole, and I Love You, Philip Morris.  Not sure what I will see and when I will see it but with this available lineup, I'd wager a guess and say that I'll see at least two of the above mentioned films.

I plan on checking out The Green Hornet 3-D this coming week after work on a matinee.

The Dilemma is a Netflix rental (at most...)

From Netflix is the indie rom-com The Freebie.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


It only took 14 weeks for David Fincher's The Social Network to go from the theaters to Blu Ray.  Wow.  Times have changed.  I remember when it would take a year for a movie to hit home video platforms.  Can't wait to listen to the incredible dialogue exhanges in this film all over again.  While this isn't my favorite Fincher film it's still a damn fine accomplishment, and a film that will likely get stronger with repeated viewings due to the density and wordiness of Aaron Sorkin's sharp and exacting screenplay.

Monday, January 10, 2011


I am quite curious to see what director Michel Gondry (Human Nature, Eternal Sunshine, The Science of Sleep) does with roughly $100 million...

Friday, January 7, 2011


Saving The King's Speech for next week when I'm in Florida on vacation.

Amazingly, I Love You, Philip Morris opened in my area -- would love to check that out this weekend.

Still have A Prophet from Netflix -- gotta watch it this weekend -- don't remember having a Netflix disc this long without having watched it...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Shane Black's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.  What a wild, witty, clever genre-riff.  Hadn't watched this one in a while but I'm glad I checked it out again -- extremely entertaining.


For any number of unfortunate reasons (limited release, time, festival-only-title), it's impossible to see everything that holds interest.  What follows is a list of films from 2010 that I missed during the calendar year, and that I plan on making a point of checking out on Blu Ray.  Am I missing anything?

Animal Kingdom
A Prophet (at home from Netflix)
Paper Man
Map of the Sounds of Tokyo
The Secret in Their Eyes
Get Low
Middle Men
Tamara Drewe
Blue Valentine
The Way Back
The King's Speech
I Love You Philip Morris
Four Lions
The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest
Welcome to the Rileys
Despicable Me
Toy Story 3
Clash of the Titans
Paranormal Activity 2
Dinner for Schmucks
The Tourist
The Crazies
The Switch


Most Disappointing Movie: The A-Team

Most Underrated Movie: Repo Men

Most Underrated Female Performance: Carey Mulligan, Never Let Me Go

Most Underrated Male Performance: Colin Farrell, Ondine

Best Performance by an actor playing a one-eyed, mute, Viking killer/warrior: Madds Mikkelsen in Valhalla Rising

Best Scene Stealer: Val Kilmer, Macgruber

Best movie that nobody has heard of: Leaves of Grass

Best opening credits sequence: Enter the Void

Best Remake: Let Me In

Best Car Chase: The Town

Best Shoot-Out: The Town

Film that had it been 20 minutes shorter might’ve been a masterpiece: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
(I maintain: had it been 3 evil exes as opposed to 7 – we're in masterwork territory)

Best ending/finale/final moments: a tie between Black Swan and The American

Best On-Screen Chemistry: Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway, Love & Other Drugs

Best Sex Scene: all of the stuff in The American

Best Action Scene: All of The Expendables

Best Stunts: Unstoppable

Funniest Film: Due Date

Funniest Moment: The two “A-Cops” jumping to their death in The Other Guys

Slight disappointment due to inflated expectations: True Grit


Still the best American film ever made...

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Inspired by this:

Best Picture

Enter the Void
Black Swan
127 Hours
The Social Network
Never Let Me Go
Valhalla Rising
The American

Best Director

Gaspar Noe, Enter the Void
Olivier Assayas, Carlos
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Mark Romanek, Never Let Me Go
Anton Corbijn, The American

Best Actor

Edgar Ramirez, Carlos
George Clooney, The American
James Franco, 127 Hours
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Mark Whalberg, The Fighter

Best Actress

Nathalie Portman, Black Swan
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Hye-Ja Kim, Mother
Tilda Swinton, I Am Love

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale, The Fighter
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids are All Right
Andrew Garfield, The Social Network & Never Let Me Go
John Hawkes, Winter's Bone
Vincent Cassell, Black Swan

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams, The Fighter
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Cecile de France, Hereafter
Greta Gerwig, Greenberg
Mila Kunis, Black Swan

Best Original Screenplay

Olivier Assays and Dan Franck, Carlos
Chris Nolan, Inception
Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, and John McLaughlin, Black Swan
Roy Jacobsen and Nicolas Winding-Refn, Valhalla Rising
Nicole Holofcener, Please Give

Best Adapated Screenplay

Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Joel and Ethan Coen, True Grit
Rowan Joffe, The American
Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy, 127 Hours
Alex Garland, Never Let Me Go

Best Cinematography

Benoit Debie, Enter the Void
Ben Seresin, Unstoppable
Wally Pfister, Inception
Martin Ruhe, The American
Morten Soborg, Valhalla Rising

Best Editing

Marc Boucrot and Gaspar Noe, Enter the Void
Chris Lebenzon and Robert Duffy,Unstoppable
Luc Barnier and Marion Monnier, Carlos
Andrew Hulme, The American
Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, The Social Network

Best Musical Score

Daft Punk, Tron
Herbert Gronemeyer, The American
Trent Renzor, The Social Network
Rachel Portman, Never Let Me Go
Michael Giaccahino, Let Me In

Best Visual Effects

Black Swan
Enter the Void

** Movies that I have yet to see that are not in contention include: The King's Speech, Ger Low, A Prophet, Mesrine, Conviction, Somewhere, The Way Back, Another Year, and Blue Valentine.


Below is the final tally of all films from 2010 that I laid my eyes on.  The top 10 are what I would consider to be my "favorite" films.  Not necessarily "the best," because, after all, who can really say what the best is?  When it comes to ranking films, I think about the following things: how did I feel the first time I was watching the film, how did the film make me feel immediately after viewing, how often will I re-watch the film, and am I likely to cull more and more out of a particular film after multiple viewings?  Because for me, almost every film requires more than one viewing to fully appreciate everything the various artists who made the film were striving for.  Something like Enter the Void or Carlos -- you can't tell me that those two films won't be improved by repeat viewings.  Are you really sure that you got all of the rapid-fire dialogue in The Social Network the first time around? When something is rich and bold and exciting, I want to return to that world often -- it's why The American hasn't left the Blu Ray player for the last week and why I am salivating over the impending Black Swan Blu Ray.  I'll be posting mini-reviews for my top 10 films from 2010 later this week, but for now, here's the list of everything I saw from calendar year 2010, in order of preference:

Enter the Void
Black Swan
127 Hours
The American
Valhalla Rising
Never Let Me Go
The Social Network

Shutter Island
Green Zone
Robin Hood
The Town
The Fighter
The Square
Let Me In
Due Date
Please Give

Repo Men
The Kids Are All Right
Winnebago Man
The Expendables
Winter's Bone

Love & Other Drugs
I Am Love
Jackass 3-D
The Other Guys
Knight and Day
Going the Distance

Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer
How to Train Your Dragon
Get Him to the Greek
Leaves of Grass
The Girl Who Played with Fire
Morning Glory
Scott Pilgrim vs The World
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Iron Man 2

Tron Legacy
The Losers

Holy Rollers
Life During Wartime
I’m Still Here
Solitary Man
The Killer Inside Me

Date Night
The Book of Eli
Dear John
The Extra Man

Hot Tub Time Machine
Remember Me
Youth in Revolt
Boogie Woogie

Alice in Wonderland

Piranha 3-D
The A-Team