Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Odd Couple

I never really watched the television series - it was on before my time and I didn't watch the reruns. So I didn't have too many preconceived notions about the film version other than I love both Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. Both are, of course, amazing. I dug Neil Simon a lot when I was 12 or so. At 33, I can take him or leave him. In this case, I'll gladly take him. How can you not like a movie with so much going for it?

The beginning was a little bit slow going but once Lemmon moves in full time, the famous music starts being played regularly, and Matthau starts trying to woo the British twin sisters in the building, I was more than sold. The film is also an interesting time capsule of a vanished or perhaps never really existent New York City.

Director: Gene Saks
1968
TCM

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Queen

I would have never thought that I'd want to see this movie. But it kept getting great reviews and it opened the NY Film Festival so I figured why the hell not? The reviews are not wrong, this is a very good movie.

Having no real interest in the Royal Family, I still found this film fascinating. Set in the week after that little bitch Diana's death, the Royals just don't quite get it. They don't understand the mood of the country and assume that the rest of the world will soon see how obnoxious Diana was and everyone will move on. Stiff upper lip, stiff upper lap.

Young whippersnapper Tony Blair (played by Michael Sheen who looks just like him, it is quite eerie) has to convince the Queen to make a public appearance during the ensuing week. I often find films based on history either tedious (Thirteen Days) or straining too hard to connect to current events (Good Night and Good Luck). This film doesn't suffer from either of these faults.

The two scenes of Blair meeting face to face with the Queen are brilliant bookends for this modest yet very good film. Helen Mirren is a shoo-in for Best Actress.

Director: Stephen Frears
2006
Chelsea Cinemas

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Shortbus

Loved the animated New York stuff, really liked the first half of the film, the sex scenes were good, but I got way bored with most of the characters and stories by the end.

I really like Mitchell's filmmaking style and the way this film even came about is quite interesting - perhaps even more interesting than the movie itself. Real sex on film, real couples, the script was developed by the cast as they got to know each other. Sex, sex, sex. Too bad the rest of the film didn't live up to the promise of all the sex. As a film, not that great a followup to Hedwig and the Angry Inch. As a memorable experiment though, it succeeds.

Director: John Cameron Mitchell
2006
Chelsea Cinemas

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Little Miss Sunshine

I don't get it. I just don't get it. This is the movie hit of the summer? From all I had heard about this movie, I expected it to be the funniest fucking movie in years. Not even close.

Before I get labelled a hater, let me state that I did like parts of this movie. The acting was great. The last 20 minutes were indeed hilarious. But I had to sit through a lot of one-note characters, unfunny yelling, and overall mediocre screenwriting to get there. This movie felt like it was written by a guy my age who just couldn't get enough of National Lampoon's Vacation when he was a kid and used that movie as his model right down to the whole dead grandparent story line.

I really liked the character of the daughter. She was the only three dimensional character. The teenage son was painful to even look at. Greg Kinnear and Toni Collette's characters got really old really quick. Alan Arkin and Steve Carell were uniformly good though.

Overall, I think maybe this was simply a case of my expectations being raised too high. This movie definitely had its good moments. I think I would have enjoyed this more on TV. In fact, the whole thing played like an HBO family drama and might have been more suited for the small screen in the first place.

I admit that I can be awfully quick to judge a movie. In fact, I had a feeling back when this film first came out that I didn't want to see it. I don't know why - something about the title of the film and the poster and perhaps even the cast that just seemed too "indie" calculated for me. I was quite ready to be wrong when I heard how great it was. Turns out I was right (at least for me) in the first place. Hater Listmaker? Has a ring to it.

Directors: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
2006
Cobble Hill Cinemas

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Departed

I can not quite believe how much I loved this movie. While not as good as the Hong Kong original (Infernal Affairs) this film delivers the goods.

I haven't see all of his films from the past sixteen years (Kundun and The Age of Innocence) but this is easily my favorite since GoodFellas. I don't count any documentaries or whatnot, just his straight up movies. Both The Aviator and Gangs of New York had their moments but weren't great from beginning to end. Bringing Out the Dead was a piece of crap. Casino aggravated me to no end. So I didn't have the highest expectations for this one. But I was wrong. Very wrong. This is one of my favorite films of the year. Maybe I'm just a sucker for cat and mouse, cop and mole type movies. Who knows?

You know a movie is good when Leonardo DiCaprio isn't terribly annoying. You know a movie is good when things surprise you even though you've seen the original on which it is based. This film took the fun and intrigue of the original and Americanized it without losing too much of its original appeal. Even Jack Nicholson was good. It seems that he has been variations of The Joker in public and in movies for years now. It was a hell of a lot of fun to actually see him act like something other than Jack Nicholson.

In lesser hands, this film might have sucked. But Scorsese is a fucking master. No more big ambitious projects for Marty with this one. It is like he's going back to his roots without pandering to his audience like he was with Casino. A light little film for Marty. But it was so much fun! And unlike some of his other films, the violence is not over the top. That doesn't mean the film isn't violent. The violence erupts with jarring suddenness but some of the most violent scenes are offscreen and merely alluded to.


I dug this movie from the very first frame until almost the very end. I've got to admit the last three seconds are pretty lame. Don't worry - this isn't a spoiler or anything. When you see it, you'll know what I'm talking about.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how killer Mark Wahlberg's haircut is in this movie.

Director: Martin Scorsese
Court St. Cinemas
2006

Monday, October 09, 2006

Porco Rosso



1930's. A flying middle-aged pig with a flair for the ladies. Air pirates. Balgavy's favorite animated Japanese film. Miyazaki. Not sure I really need to say more.

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
1992
TCM

Monday, October 02, 2006

Stalag 17

This was okay. I'm not really a fan of war movies that are also supposed to be comedies. There are some really dumb slapstick moments in this movie. Not that the film makes it look super easy to be a POW but it also doesn't seem that bad. It is the kind of movie where the characters ask the German leader in charge, "Come on, tell us how you knew about our escape plans. Come on!" It is the kind of movie where two prisoners get caught trying to sneak into the Russian women's barracks by a soldier and then splatter paint in the soldier's face.

However, when the real intrigue begins (Who is the mole within the barracks tipping the Nazis off?) the movie gets better. William Holden is good but Otto Preminger steals the show as the German leader of the camp. His comedy was more restrained than all of the other comedy bits. Funny and sinister at the same time, a great combination to watch on screen.

Overall, this wasn't was one of my favorite Billy Wilder movies but I'm glad I've finally seen it.

Director: Billy Wilder
1953
TCM

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Science of Sleep

I enjoyed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind but I didn't love it. There is only so much of Jim Carrey that I can take and since he was in the entire thing, I had a hard time blotting him out of my overall movie experience. Still, as a a completely unique film, I greatly respect it. But it was a movie that the abysmal casting of one actor greatly reduced my enjoyment of the film.

This one doesn't have Carrey but it also doesn't have the screenwriting talents of Charlie Kaufman. And that seemed to be a problem. I know that the movie is supposed to be dreamlike and all. But was it supposed to be so dreamy that huge leaps in plot that weren't really explained well supposed to be ignored? I guess. Because once I let myself go with the whole thing, I really got into it.

Don't expect Eternal Sunshine craziness. Don't expect for everything to really make sense. Rather expect a pleasant little journey of strangeness with countless inspired sequences. The dream sequences blend incredibly well with reality to the point that sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between the two. They are fascinating in a A Trip to the Moon kind of way. The scene where the characters sing After Hours with new words while dressed in animal outfits is straight out of the Flaming Lips arsenal.

This isn't a great movie. Maybe Kaufman could have connected the dots a little bit better than Gondry did on his own. But there is still a lot to like here.

This was only the second time that I've been to BAM since I let my membership expire last August. That obnoxious BAM trailer is still played before the movies. They still turn off the lights and start previews ten minutes before the movie starts. And they still will not get me back as a member.

Director: Michel Gondry
2006
BAM