Sunday, February 26, 2006

In The Soup

I'd never heard of this movie before I saw it sitting on the shelf at blockbuster last week. It's written and directed by Alexander Rockwell and stars Steve Buscemi and the wonderful Seymour Cassell.

The film won the grand jury prize at Sundance in 1992. It's not the greatest film I've ever seen but it's got some great moments and overall was an enjoyable watch.
If nothing else see this movie for Cassell. He's brilliant as a larger than life tough guy who takes an interest in Buscemi's filmmaking aspirations.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Flirting With Disaster

I saw this David O. Russell comedy several years ago at my brothers. I loved it. Watched it again this past week and loved it again. Great ensemble cast led by Ben Stiller and Patricia Arquette. Alan Alda and Lily Tomlin were especially hilarious.

I'd say this is one of the best "straight" comedies to come out of the nineties. (Alan Alda is in my other favorite nineties comedy - "Manhattan Murder Mystery")

About Films

Saturday, February 18, 2006

McCabe & Mrs. Miller/ Junebug/ Zombie Honeymoon

McCabe & Mrs. Miller:
Since Robert Altman is receiving an honorary oscar this year, I thought I'd watch a few more of his movies. And since Roger Ebert called McCabe & Mrs. Miller a perfect film, I started with that one. It stars Julie Christie and Warren Beatty as owners of a brothel in a small northwest town in the late 1800's. And according to Roger Ebert it has one of the saddest deaths in a Western. And he's right. It's really, really sad.
I can only stand a Robert Altman film about once a year, but man, when I see them, I really enjoy them. (I've also seen Nashville, Popeye, The Player and Gosford Park. Before the Oscars I hope to see California Split and The Long Goodbye.) I give it 3.5 out of 4 stars.

Junebug: I loved this movie. It might be my favorite movie I've seen in a long time. My favorite parts are when the husband tries to tape the documentary on Meerkats and also when the three guys sing, "Softly and Tenderly." I wish the Mormons had that song in the hymn book. 4 out of 4.

Zombie Honeymoon: My absolute favorite kind of movie is a horror comedy that doesn't ham it up. That doesn't wink and nudge you every second. That plays it straight and lets all of the laughs come from the situation. The humans act like humans would act and the monsters act like monsters. The best examples are Bubba Ho-tep, Shaun of the Dead, and Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein.
While Zombie Honeymoon tries, it doesn't quite make it. The problem is the humans aren't quite believable. When the bride finds her husband eating a guys intestines in their vacation home bathroom, she runs outside screaming and crying. So far so good. The husband runs after her shouting, "This is not what it looks like" and "I'm so sorry," which again rings true. Of course it's exactly what it looks like, what else could it be? But that's the kind of thing that a flesh eating zombie would shout when he's caught in the act. The problem is that the wife doesn't take that much coaxing to say, "I guess my mom always said that you should stand by the ones you love." Which I don't think any newlywed would say right away. Her husband would have to do a lot better explaining the situation. It makes the heroine a lot less likeable. At least I didn't root for her when she helped the husband clean up the gore. And I didn't cry with her later when she realized that her husband probably wasn't going to get better. She should have gone to the police.
Compare that to Bubba-Hotep, where the geriatric Elvis realizes that he's lead a wastrel life and that he's always wanted to be a real hero and to atone he decides to fight the nursing home mummy. That's something that invests me in a movie. I can get behind that goal.

But I'm being too hard on the Zombie Honeymoon and it's unfair to compare any movie with Bubba Ho-tep. Zombie Honeymoon was pretty fun and it was a good first movie.
And seeing a zombie covered in blood and snapping at his wife, "Look, I'm trying to kill the least amount of people before we fly to Portugal," (C'mon lady, get off his back) gives a pleasure that you don't find in a Merchant Ivory movie.
2.5 out 4 stars.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A Theory

So I have been thinking about how everything is cyclicle and how this decade is kind of like the Sixties. My favorite decade for film is the Seventies. So if my theory holds we should be in for another film revolution similar to the Seventies. In the Seventies, it seemed that the revolt was against the studios but today maybe the revolt could be against the "remake" or the "sequel" or the big-budget-spectacular-extravaganza-blockbuster. Hopefully in about 4 years we will find out or maybe it's already happening now with the advent of media compression and personal viewing. Maybe people will just buy movies for their Ipod and share it with friends much like indie music is spread today. Maybe films will start touring agian instead of mass marketed worldwide on the same day.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


I saw a great film in Salt Lake this week. Cache is from director Michael Haneke who also directed Funny Games. He is a master of subtlety and terror. I don't know if there is a more light handed director working that can ravage you more emotinoally with tense situations. This film was very challenging and stirred up a lot of controversy among my friends. It is about a couple that receives anonymous video recordings of themselves comming and going from their house. The videotapes show up mysteriously on their porch. Once they know they are being watched they are unable to keep certain secrets hidden. I would love to hear someone's views on this film as I thought it was fascinating.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Dr. Zhivago

Omar Shariff has some great facial expressions.
This was one of those movies I knew I needed to see but have always avoided. Don't get me wrong, I like epic movies and I love David Lean's stuff. But an epic Romantic film isn't always that appealing (even if it is set against the backdrop of the Bolshevik revolution).

But I loved Dr. Zhivago. It has compelling characters, visually stunning scenes, and some really cool transitions (I'm a sucker for those old-school Hitchcockian transitions). Epic filmmakers of our day could really take something from Lean's stuff. This film in particular is very personal and deals with the characters in an intimate way yet manages to keep it's epic scope throughout.

Four out of Four stars.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Point Blank

I love Lee Marvin.
While watching this, my co-worker said, "Man, that guy's ugly." And I suppose he's right. His nostril's stick up and he's got a real narrow face. But in a movie about an amoral killer just trying to get back his 93,000 dollars, I don't necessarily want James Franco.
I want someone who looks like he's killed before and he'd kill again, not because he wants to but because he needs his 93,000 back.

I didn't even know he was ugly until my co-worker pointed out the fact. Because he's got something that makes his ugliness really appealing. The same way Charles Bronson did. Ugliness is the wrong word. They've got bodies that look used.

This was remade with Mel Gibson in Payback. It's the same basic story except this is a little more artsy. This is a great revenge movie that does some interesting things with non-linear time. The DVD has a commentary with Steven Soderbergh and the director John Boorman. Steven Soderbergh says that he's stolen from this movie countless times. So if you're interested in his influences then this is a good movie to watch. I give it three out of four stars.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


Jarhead is a statement for the deglamourization of war and violence. And it succeeds. It was a nice movie...definitely feels epic and drives it's point home. Wars are not glamourous and for most part suck... The movie is summed up nicely by the voice over of the narrator - 'Every war is different, Every war is the same'

Jake Gyllenhall gives a really good performance and so does Jamie Foxx. Peter Sarsgaard's character is under developed or cut up and his character arc is kind of confusing. The use of music is really cool and the sound design is definitely something to be appreciated. The cinematography was really nice especially after the oil wells are lit up and the editing is nicely paced.

If you are looking for exciting action set pieces this is not the movie for you. Look somewhere else - pick up a mindless action blockbuster. Recommended Watch.

Before Sunset

Just finished watching, 'Before Sunset' and it is a beautiful movie. This is not to be confused by the Pierce Brosnan starrer - that one is called 'After the Sunset'. 'Before Sunset' is a magical and fragile film starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy and directed by Richard Linklater. The movie is a sequel to the 1995 movie 'Before Sunrise' and is set 9 years after the original story takes place.

I haven't seen 'Before Sunrise' and was afraid that I might miss something but 'Before Sunset' works beautifully on it's own. The story is tender, honest and has a gentle reality. What makes the movie work is the chemistry between the two leads. The whole movie is 2 talking heads but you can see so much happening with the characters in the short amount of time - the lies, the conceit, the love, the hurt, the pain, the hope. The movie clocks to about 75 minutes odd. It is a love story worth feeling for because the characters feel real.

Highly recommended watch.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Exorcist - The Beginning

Hmmmm....How do I start writing a movie review when I am not a reviewer per se and all i write is a set of jumbled thoughts and impressions which stay in my mind after the movie has finished..I will try and write as I usually do. The views I am writing are my own and you may or may not subscribe to them and I guess thats the whole point of this blog. So here goes..

I did not watch 'Exorcist - The Beginning' when it came out originally because I wasn't into the original movie in the first place. The movie was playing on cable and I had nothing better to do (I mean I had but...), so I sat down to watch the movie.

The movie was mediocre and for most of the part it seemed like someone gave first time film makers big money and they couldn't decide what to do with it. But whatever they did - they did not do anything properly. Technically the movie is inconsistent from the start to the end. The CGI looked fake and the creature effects were laughable. The cinematography goes from brilliant from one scene to fake in the next one. The pacing of the movie is inconsistent and basic rhythms are missing. The scares are predictable and doesn't do to help the pacing of the movie. The acting was alright and it wasn't aided by the bad script. The 2 hour runtime is unjustified and definitely overstays its welcome.

Overall you can avoid the movie if you want to - you are not missing anything major. Not worth the money or time.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Some movies

I've seen a lot of films lately while staying home with Joanna and the new baby. Here are some of them:

Tess- Roman Polanski's adaptation of Thomas Hardy's classic novel. Dark and tragic and epic and beautifully shot. Reminded me of Barry Lindon in many ways. Natassia Kinsky is great in the title roll. 3.5 out of 4 stars, clams, dollars, horseshoes or whatever.

Dear Frankie- Genuinely touching but not contrived. This Scottish production is worth watching. It's a movie about relationships but to classify it as a 'chick flick' would be misleading. 3.5 out of 4

Maltese Falcon- Jon Huston wrote and directed. There's some cool moments but overall I was a little underwhelmed by this 'classic.' 2.5 out of 4

Rafifi- Early heist film by French director. Pretty raw and innovative for it's time. The heist scene is long and silent and great.

Chronicles of Narnia- Loved it for it's sentimental impact. My dad used to read us the books so it was great to see the characters come life. i do think that it's probably easier to read about fawns and minotaurs and such than see them on screen. in fact if not for reading the book before hand i'd probably be laughing throughout the film. and what was with Mr. Tumnus' sick chest, arm, and facial hair - it was creepy in a pedaphile sort of way. 3 out of 4

Howl's Moving Castle- saw it at International Cinema. Like his other films I loved the imagination, the creatures, the world. this movie was quite bizarre but good. 3.5 out of 4

Junebug- minimalist, indie, sundance, comedy/drama. set in the south (Carolina), phil morrison's first film plays out pretty slowly. there's some great scenes and great characters. doesn't really have a strong and compelling story to follow but rather pieces of people's lives and relationships that create a mosaic. if you like 'lost in translation,' 'in between days,' 'station agent' etc. you'll probably like this film. 3 out of 4

Chumscrubber- How could you go so wrong with a cast so good. Cast: Jamie Bell, Glen Close, Ralph Fiennes, Carrie Ann Moss, William Fichtner, John Heard, Rita Wilson, Allison Janney, Camilla Belle, Rory Culkin, Lou Pucci, etc. It's a film about suburban teen angst. The actors were trying but their characters were all scattered all over the place by a script that was trying to force theme and mood over character development. the result is characters that just don't make sense. the film had a lot of possibility. maybe i saw this potential because i'm interested in these played out drama/comedies about suburban teen angst but I found myself watching it and being bored, confused, and even angry that someone would get a chance to make a film with this cast and with a pretty moderate budge and fail so badly. Also, I watched it and recognized that I tend to do the same thing with my writing. I'll often sacrifice character for theme. Which I now know, after watching Chumscrubber, is not good. 1.5 out of 4

Skeleton Key- Above average horror/thriller. The setting is great - the bayou. I wasn't expecting much and so I was pleasently surprised. I'm not a huge fan of the genre and this film isn't a must see but I'll give it a high 2.75 out of 4 (yes that's right, two and three quarters)

Exercism of Emily Rose- Again, this film was better than I thought it'd be. I wasn't planning on watching this one but a friend told me that I might be surprised. And I was. It's not great but it's good and it's different. Tom Wilkinson and Laura Linney are both very good. The film isn't just a movie to try to make you feel evil. It's a movie about the legal battle over the preacher who oversaw the health/spiritual care of emily rose and her exercism. The film's crux is the question of whether or not spiritual/super natural influences were the cause of Emily's infermity and subsequent death or physical/chemical/psychological influences. 2.75 out of 4 (for some reason i can't seem to give a horror film three stars. i'm sure i'll get over it one day.)

The Island

It starts out with Ewan McGregor cutting in line. When somebody reasonably points out that fact, he rather smugly says, "That's right, I did." Then Ewan is able to get on an elevator, while the guy he cut off has to wait for the next one.

Which I guess shows that he doesn't play by the corporation's rules. He's a maverick or something. But why did the other clone have to suffer?

I wonder why they made the protagonist so unpleasant right from the get go? I haven't seen the end yet, but I hope the bad guys catch Ewan and harvest his liver.