Wednesday, March 28, 2007

13 Tzameti

This was one of those films last spring that I kind of wanted to see but because of my vow to see fewer films in the theater, I decided to skip. While some I've regretted not seeing in the theater (Death of Mr. Lazarescu, The Child), most of the movies I've seen on DVD have been just fine watching on the small screen.

This would be a good example. Maybe if I had seen it in the theaters, I would have liked it more. But watching it at home was more than good enough for me. I just didn't like it all that much. Yes, it looked fantastic. Yes, the premise was an interesting one but it was a one trick pony.

The film is about a twenty-year-old who stumbles onto this "game" to make a lot of money. The game involves 13 men (too bad because the one in Istanbul, we are told, had 42 people, perhaps they'll make a prequel) putting guns to each other's heads and pulling the trigger. The first round = 1 bullet in the chamber. The second round = 2 bullets and so on. Then there is a duel and the winner is crowned and the loser is dead. The entire time, there are a bunch of bad richies betting on which of the lower class contestants will pull out the victory .

I liked it fine enough but I really did not care about any of the characters. It was all very artsy but for a movie that has round after round of the main character having a loaded gun put to his head was utterly lacking in real suspense.

Directed by Géla Babluani
2005, U.S. Release: 2006
DVD

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Pauline at the Beach

I'm a big fan of Eric Rohmer's films. I've seen a number over the years and have enjoyed them all. However, I've got to say that this is my least favorite (other than the silly French Revolution one he made a few years ago) of the ones I've seen. Not that this is bad or anything but it is just kind of silly. It felt like a Three's Company plot but with lots of Frenchies talking and talking and talking.

Maybe if I were French in 1983, I would have liked this more but as an American in 2007, I was kind of weirded out by this film a little. The fifteen-year-old Pauline was hit on by one grown man while her older cousin kept trying to pawn her off on another. Quite odd.

This was the first Rohmer film that SHR had seen and she asked me if all of his movies had the kids acting like adults and the adults acting like kids. And the answer would be no. I hope that this one doesn't scare her off. But again, this movie was good enough. I just wouldn't recommend it to someone who has never seen a Rohmer film.

However, years before I had even heard of Eric Rohmer, I knew about this movie. I think this was always front and center in the foreign section of the Erol's Video I used to go to as a kid. For some reason, I always link this film with Blame It On Rio in my mind. Not sure why though. Teenagers and sex perhaps?

SHR said that if this had been an American film at the time, it would have starred Kristy McNichol. Definitely.

Directed by Eric Rohmer
1983
Showtime Cinema

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Fast Food Nation

I've never read the book by Eric Schlosser that this movie is based on. I was a little confused about how they were going to take a non-fiction book and turn it into a feature film. But Schlosser and Linklater did a good job writing a script that weaves the overall points of the book (I'm guessing since I haven't read it) into a fictional film.

It is quite an ambitious movie. It attempts to weave illegal immigration, middle managers buying into the system without question, college kid protesters, working class white workers, higher ups selling their souls, and evil rich dudes into one appetizing stew. And it partially succeeds. I've been thinking about this film a lot over the past few days.

Bruce Willis has only one scene in the film but he is so incredibly chilling in it that I want him only to play evil dudes from now on. Greg Kinnear is great as usual but pretty much disappears after the first 70 minutes. In fact, the last 50 minutes can't quite live up to the promise of the first 70 minutes. There were too many balls in the air to successfully wrap them up in enough time. This film probably would have worked better as a three hour film or as a 12 part HBO miniseries or something along those lines.

Still, I can't give the filmmakers too much grief for being so ambitious and almost succeeding in making a really really good film.

Directed by Richard Linklater
2006
DVD

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Naked City

This movie ends with one of the greatest lines in film history - "There are eight million stories in the naked city. You have just seen one of them." Or something along those lines.

Too bad most of the movie is a fairly pedestrian police drama. What sets this movie apart from others though are the New York scenes. It was all shot on location and had a real documentary feel to it at times. In fact, a number of the street scenes were shot from a van in order to hide the camera from people so they wouldn't know they were being filmed.

I loved the narration. I loved the cinematography of the street scenes. And I absolutely loved the ending chase on the Williamsburg Bridge. I just wish the rest was as good as the street scenes. Still there are so many amazing New York street scenes that this is well worth the time.

Jules Dassin went on to direct Thieves' Highway, Rififi, and Night and the City - all well worth adding to one's Netflix queue.

Directed by Jules Dassin
1948
TCM

Monday, March 19, 2007

Marie Antoinette

I was curious but I should have steered clear of this movie. The two hours felt like two years. There was nothing at all to this fluff piece. Blah, blah, blah, history. Adding a Gang of Four song to the proceedings doesn't make the movie less boring. The whole movie felt like a big excuse for Sofia's friends to play dressup.

The cinematography was great though.


Directed by Sofia Coppola
2006
DVD

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Lives of Others

I saw this the day before the Oscars but for some reason I haven't gotten around to writing about it until now. It might be because I really liked this movie but didn't love it beyond belief. Everyone I've spoken to and almost every review I've read have been so incredibly glowing that I thought that after a few weeks of reflection, I'd change my mind and immediately rank this as the clear favorite for my favorite film of 2007. But it won't be. It will be ranked high, but not at the very top. And I'm not sure what it is about the film that makes me not quite as excited as everyone else.

I really liked the acting, the plot, the ideas of this movie so I think it might have something to do with the direction? I feel like in the hands of another director, this film would be great, a work of art that would be discussed for years to come. Instead, it was simply just a good movie but one that won't resonate with me for that long.

After three weeks, I'm still not sure why I'm so at a loss to have much to say about this film. Liked it a lot - yes. Loved it - no. I suppose I'll leave it at that and move on.

Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
2006
BAM

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

49 Up

The concept of these films still blows me away. I can't get over the fact that Apted has come back to film the same people every seven years since 1964. I also can't get over that I haven't actually seen all of them.

The first one I saw was 28 Up. I've seen all of them since. I remember not being that impressed with 42 Up but I really liked this one. Granted, watching a movie like this for two hours and fifteen minutes is easier to do breaking it up into a few segments rather than seeing it in the theater like I did in '99.

It doesn't seem like seven years since the last one. I'd assume it must feel like that for the subjects of these films as well. The older they get, the seven years must seem like they absolutely fly by. And then Apted shows up at their doorstep to film them again.

Even though SHR hadn't seen any of the previous films, she got into this one because Apted does such a good job of showing pertinent clips from previous films. As much as a pain in the ass as it must be for some of the people in the series to be filmed every seven years, I am quite fascinated by what it must be like for them.

Unlike the reality shows of the day, these films don't have such a short shelf life. And the people know that whatever they do in the next seven years will be there on display for everyone to see. How does that impact choices they make in the intervening seven years that aren't being filmed? I wonder if any of them make decisions based on the thought of "This will be interesting to talk about in the next film."

Granted, they don't have to share everything. Some of the people are quite guarded. Some are completely open. All of it is completely fascinating. Even though I hadn't thought about any of these people in seven years, I instantly remembered most of them upon first seeing them on screen again.

Also, it seems like this one looks a hell of a lot better than all of the other ones but maybe that is my imagination.

Directed by Michael Apted
2006
DVD

Monday, March 12, 2007

Dazed and Confused

The only time I had seen this was at a sold out midnight showing at Grafton Stovall Theater on the campus of James Madison University back in 1994. The theater was packed with fratboys and other assorted Jimmy Buffet types if memory serves correctly. That memory has tainted the movie for me for years.

I'm proud to relay the message that thirteen years later, I have finally reclaimed this movie for myself. What a great fucking movie, huh? While the rest of the film world watched this movie over and over again over the past thirteen years, I spent too much time watching Iranian films and picking my nose. What was I thinking? To rectify the situation, I almost feel like I need to watch this film at least once a month for the next thirteen years.

Every single line is amazing. Every single situation is perfect. Every song played is just right. What could be better about this movie? Linklater took the aimless nature of Slacker, added a semblance of plot and recurring characters, and an amazing soundtrack and he created an instant classic.

I watched the first 2/3 of this on the big screen at my parent's house. Stone Groove thought it was okay but didn't care that he didn't get to see the last 1/3. Oh Stone Groove! I know it is no O.C. or Desperate Housewives, but come on!

Directed by Richard Linklater
1993
DVD

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic

I think I'm officially Sarah Silvermaned out for the time being. I've quite enjoyed her Comedy Central show but maybe I should have waited a few weeks to go back for more. Plus, this is the exact same performance that she gave when I saw her back in 2002. The short sketches that were included to flesh the movie out were okay, I suppose, but not nearly as good as what is on her show.

But it was nice to see Phoebe Summersquash in a movie - she is the drummer for Silverman's house band during the standup segments. I can never get enough Phoebe Summersquash and I know that you feel the same.

Directed by Liam Lynch
2005
Showtime

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Zodiac

After taking a few years off, David Fincher returns with a very good movie. His last movie, Panic Room was fun but pretty damn ridiculous. Fincher's films are always amazing to watch visually and his latest is no different. But rather than be as showoffy as in the past, Fincher reins in those tendencies in Zodiac. Don't get me wrong, I liked Fight Club as much as the next Balgavy, but that sort of stylish filmmaking wouldn't suit this story.

And what a great story this film tells. I'm glad that I didn't know much about the Zodiac Killer because it helped me become completely immersed in the film's plot. I was riveted during the entire 160 minute run time. The film did a very good job at telling a story that takes place over many years.

Overall the film made me wish that newsrooms still were full of loud typewriters rather than boring computers. I kept thinking that this movie made me want to go watch All the President's Men again. Like right now.

Directed by David Fincher
2007
Court St. 12

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Puffy Chair

Mitch came back from Sundance in 2005 raving about this film. It took awhile for it to get released but it finally came out in June of 2006. I can see why he liked it so much even if it didn't blow me away or anything. It seems like the kind of movie that would be a breath of fresh air after sitting through two other movies earlier in the day.

It is pleasant, quite funny at times, and well-acted. Mitch ranked it at his tenth favorite film of 2005. He wrote:
Very well-crafted
Authentic relationship
It felt real throughout
I'd like to add that it felt like the films of Andrew Bujalski (Funny Ha Ha, Mutual Appreciation) but without all the stilted nature of those two. Bujalski's movies thrive on the akward nature of how people interact with each other. This film deals with some of the same issues but in a more likable and less stylized way.

I agree with Mitch in that the girlfriend is ridiculously cute. But he likened the main character to Nick from Freaks and Geeks. I see more of a Jim from The Office kind of vibe. The brother reminded SHR (she kind of watched the movie as she worked on other things at the computer) and me of Sam Beam from Iron and Wine.

The film is about a struggling indie rocker who buys a chair on eBay for his father's birthday and decides to head to Atlanta to pick it up. His girlfriend and brother end up for the ride.

The film would hook you if you just happened to stumble upon it on cable. It is definitely quite likable. And the scene where the three try to trick a motel owner that they are only one person rather than three to save ten bucks is one of the funniest scenes of any movie from 2006.

Finally, I'd also say that the movie has one of the more ballsy endings for such a small kind of movie.

Directed by Jay Duplass
2006
Showtime Showcase

Monday, March 05, 2007

Stranger Than Fiction

The film looked great. Will Ferrell was top notch with a mellow performance. The soundtrack was very good. The script was pretty solid as well. I really liked some of the absurdities of the film like the crane destroying Ferrell's apartment. There were genuinely a few laugh out loud moments for me in this film.

But Maggie Gyllenhaal couldn't have been more miscast. What the fuck? I didn't buy for one second that she and Ferrell would ever date. No way, no how. Replace her with Catherine Keener (who pulled off dating a geek so well in The 40-Year-Old Virgin) or anyone closer to 40 than Gyllenhaal and this movie would have been a whole lot better. And what was the deal with Emma Thompson? She played her role as such an incredible cliche that it was almost embarrassing.

Finally, we're supposed to buy that the incredibly square Ferrell knows how to play one song on the guitar and it is a fairly obscure late 70's song by Wreckless Eric? What?

Listen to Wreckless Eric's Whole Wide World.

Directed by Marc Forster
2006
DVD

Sunday, March 04, 2007

La Moustache

So get this. A man who has had a moustache for fifteen years shaves it off and no one notices. Not his wife, not his friends, not his co-workers. No one. Is he going crazy? Are they? What is going on?

The absurd promise and the decent reviews drew me in. But this movie was really quite odd in a not amazing kind of way. I can't say that I hated it but I also can't say that I needed to see it. An overall, huh?

SHR loved the couple's apartment though.

Directed by Emmanuel Carrère
2005, Year of U.S. Release: 2006
DVD