Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Simpsons Movie

I haven't even watched this show in years but I liked this movie so much that I'm ready to start watching the show again!

For too long, I've held the show's brilliant run of the early to mid 90's against it knowing that they were never going to reach those heights again. And this movie definitely does not reach those heights. But it is a lot of fun anyway. It reminded me of the reasons I liked the show in the first place. Although I've got to say - too much Flanders.

When Ralph Wiggum was singing along to the 20th Century Fox song at the beginning, SHR declared this the best movie ever. My favorite image from the film was the shot from inside the dome of Homer trying to climb it.

I almost would like the creators of the show to stop making the show and put out a new movie once a year. I often feel like recent episodes I've seen feel too constrained to the 22 minute sitcom type rushed ending to a conclusion. The longer movie form let the story unfold at a nicer pace. All around an enjoyable experience.

Directed by James Silverman
2007
Court St

Monday, July 30, 2007

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

I probably would have seen this eventually but when both Hater Larry and Mooney raved so much about it, I had to see it sooner rather than later. Larry calls it the "best red-state satire ever" or something along those lines.

The very beginning felt disjointed but it quickly gained momentum. It was pretty damn funny. What's not to like about John C. Reilly, right? And I still think that Will Ferrell is an underrated actor - although I've had about enough of seeing him run around in his underwear.

The product placement was so out of control that it was turned into a joke in and of itself. I can live with that. There was silliness, satire, and all around good times in this movie.

And, oh yeah, the page from 30 Rock, Andy Richter (in a hilarious cameo), and Sacha Baron Cohen as Ricky Bobby's gay French nemesis (brilliant) were all in it.

I wish I had seen it either in the theater or with Chris Larry to have gotten the full effect though. Or at least to be in a theater in the South when Ferrell and Cohen share a really long kiss.

Yes, SHR did fall asleep but she made it almost to the end.

Directed by Adam McKay
2006
Starz

Friday, July 27, 2007

Blackmail

This was Hitchcock's last silent film but it was also his first talkie. He shot it as both.

It played at the annual Alloy Orchestra performance at Prospect Park. When the schedule is announced in the spring, the first thing I do is check the date for this event and hope that I'm actually in town. Every year, it is a different film and it is always a great experience - other than the incredibly uncomfortable chairs but I suppose you can't have everything.

I'd never seen one of Hitchcock's silent films before. I wonder if they are all as good as this one. The film is about a woman who wants to cheat on her detective boyfriend with a bad boy who ends up trying to rape her in his art studio. For 1929, I was surprised how suggestive the scene was. She ends up killing him with a knife but she accidentally leaves her gloves at the scene of the crime.

Her detective boyfriend finds the gloves but decides to protect her. However, there's a crook who witnessed the whole thing and now wants to blackmail the woman.

The Hitchcock humor is in full effect in this movie - I loved the many cuts to the creepy clown painting that the murdered artist left behind. And the chase scene at the British Museum reminded me of some of the later stunts he'd pull off later like the one at Mt. Rushmore in North by Northwest, even though that one wasn't really shot at Mt. Rushmore but you see what I'm getting at.

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
1929
Prospect Park Bandshell

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Breach

This movie came out in the winter and was completely ignored. I think if it had come out in August, it would have done a lot better. Why release a decent movie at the beginning of the year when it is just going to get ignored?

This isn't a great movie by any stretch but it is very entertaining. It tells the story of the FBI agents who nabbed the FBI agent/spy Robert Hanssen in 2001 for selling secrets to Russia for years. There's all sorts of intrigue, suspicion, and Cold War fun. It makes me wistful for the Cold War and the fun movies that it inspired. Who wants to watch Spies Like Us with me this weekend?

Chris Cooper is pretty damn scary as Hansson.

Directed by Billy Ray
2007
DVD

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

12:08 East of Bucharest

All hail the Romanian New Wave! While not as good as The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, I still liked this movie quite a bit, especially the more I think about how dry and absurd the whole thing is.

The film is about a host of a local television show who wants to commemorate the 16th anniversary of the Romanian revolution by having a show to talk about how the lives of the people in the town have changed since the overthrow of Ceausescu's government The problem is no one in the town feels much like participating because the revolution didn't really make much of a difference in their lives at all.

The second half of the movie is all set in the studio of the television show. The host was able to corral an alcoholic old man/town Santa Claus obsessed with the corruption of the town's firecracker lighting youth and a hungover bitter teacher. While the host desperately tries to keep the conversation serious, the old man wanders around the studio, and the topic turns to whether or not anyone in the town had actually participated in the overthrow of Ceausescu or not. The question remains - did anyone in the town actually take to the streets before Ceausescu was deposed or did they take to the streets after the television told them it was safe to?

And then they take phone calls. Everyone seems to have a different memory of what actually happened on that fateful day 16 years earlier. Cameras fail, the host gets flustered, the teacher storms off the set in anger, the cameraman gets yelled at ... the low key comedy just keeps on building. This movie definitely is not for everyone but is well worth watching if you give it time to grow on you.

Directed by Corneliu Porumboiu
2006, Year of U.S. Release: 2007
Film Forum

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

In Between Days

This movie was hard to watch sometimes. Not because it was bad but because it was so damn realistic. Being a teenager can blow and being an immigrant teenager must really really blow. How's that for brilliant commentary? I hope that my pulled quote is used on the DVD box when it comes out.

Anyway, the movie is about a young Korean immigrant girl, Aimie. She's mean to her mom, is a terrible student, and is all around confused. Most of the movie is about her on-again, off-again desire to be more than friends with her friend Tran. The lack of communication between the two is what makes things really awkward.

More than anything, the film is about loneliness. Like the recent Tony Takitani, I can't think of two better recent films on the subject. Not that this is a complete downer or anything though. There are plenty of nice slice-of-life teenage moments and I found all of the characters and scenarios very interesting. The scene where Aimie goes to sing karaoke by herself broke my heart. This would be a great double feature with one of my favorite films of the past few years - Blue Gate Crossing.

Directed by So Yong Kim
2005, Year of U.S. Release: 2007
IFC Center

Monday, July 23, 2007

Time

This didn't get great reviews and to be honest, the plot of the film sounded a little dubious to me. But I loved the last two Kim Ki-Duk films I've seen (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ... and Spring, 3-Iron) so I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and go see this film. Plus, with no AC, it felt good to get into a comfortable theater for a couple of hours.

The film is about a woman who is insanely jealous of any woman that evens looks at her boyfriend. So she leaves her boyfriend to get plastic surgery to change her appearance. After six months, she comes back to her boyfriend's life as a new person with a new identity. A test of her boyfriend's love for her or a test to see if she can win him back? Who cares? The 90 minutes felt tedious.This movie just didn't do it for me.

I did like the scenes in the sculpture park though.

Directed by Kim Ki-Duk
2006, Year of U.S. Release - 2007
Village East

Friday, July 20, 2007

Ten Canoes

This will rank high on my year end list. This had played for a long time before I finally decided to see it and I'm glad that I did.

The film does a remarkable job creating the feeling of a folk tale that has been passed down from generation to generation. I was disappointed by 2001's Atanarjuat that tried to create a similar vibe as it tried to recreate an Inuit folk tale. Ten Canoes was a lot more successful if no other reason, it looked great as compared to the crap DV look of Atanarjuat.

The film is about an Aboriginal tribe and is set in the distant past with present day narration. The film opens with men out on a trek to gather bark to build canoes. The young brother of the tribe's elder has a crush on the youngest of the elder's three wives. The elder then goes on to tell his younger brother a story set in the tribe's distant past about a similar situation.

The story is enthralling, humorous, and completely fascinating. It deftly intercuts between the distant past and the distant distant past, the story within the story. There's stories about how babies are made (you've never heard this one before), magic, spear throwing, magpie geese, an engaging narrator, and one tribe making fun of another for covering up their penises with cloth because they don't. In other words, this film is completely memorable.

As a side note, this is the first ever feature length film shot in the Aboriginal language of Ganalbingu. Interesting, no?

Directed by Rolf de Heer
2006, Year of U.S. Release: 2007
Cinema Village

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Rescue Dawn

As I was watching this movie, I was thinking that Herzog has got to be my favorite director at this point. If you had asked me that question seven years ago or so, I probably would have said it was Truffaut. Twelve years ago, it was probably Woody Allen. But now, it's got to be Herzog. The man is a genius. I have yet to see a Herzog film that wasn't good. But then again, I doubt I've seen even half of his films.

This one is his first Hollywood film for what that's worth. Not that it feels all that Hollywood. It still feels very much like Herzog. Like many of the Herzog films I've seen, this one tells the story of a stubborn/crazy/eccentric man refusing to give in to nature or the lack of imagination of other men.

Based on his 1997 "documentary" Little Dieter Needs to Fly, this film fleshes out more of the daring escape and flight through the jungle. The movie is pretty faithful to the first film but Herzog has admitted that he makes things up as well as stages things in his documentaries to get to the larger truth so who knows exactly how much of this is completely true? For example, I loved that Herzog incorporated parts of the instructional film from Little Dieter shown to pilots to tell them what to do in case of getting trapped behind enemy lines. The training film is presented in Little Dieter as being a real training film. But who the hell knows? I wouldn't put it past Herzog to have shot that film himself and presented it as real. With Herzog though, who cares? Genius need not be contained by what actually really happened, does it?

Other than Christian Bale's strange accent (he's supposed to be a German-American but he sounds more like John Wayne trying to imitate Sean Connery to me) and the incredibly silly last three minutes, this movie is really really damn good.

Directed by Werner Herzog
2007
BAM

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Live Free or Die Hard

Great title, bad movie. Timothy Olyphant had to have been the most boring villain ever. Bruce Willis was boring as all get out - the dude can't even smoke a cigarette anymore or say motherfucker. Unless I missed it, (the sound was a little iffy at the theater) it seemed to me that the curse was edited out.

The Die Hard movies really should be rated R. There were so many deaths in this movie but absolutely no blood. I loved the first two and remembered being somewhat entertained by the third one but this one was just dumb. And all the great action parts I had already seen in the preview so there was nothing new for me in this except stupid talk about "firesales" and lots of Kevin Smith mugging.

To be fair, I felt guilty because I had insisted to my crew that this would be a fun drive-in movie and it turned out that I was wrong. But I still say that Evan Almighty would have been worse! I also think a movie like this needs to have great surround sound and the drive-in experience doesn't quite deliver that.

Directed by Len Wiseman
2007
A Memphis Drive-In

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ratatouille

I had an easier time getting over just exactly how disgusting the premise of this film is than SHR did and because of that I think I liked it more than she did. I hadn't seen a Pixar film since the last Brad Bird one, The Incredibles. I liked that one fine enough I guess but I liked this one a lot more. What's not to like about an underdog rat hiding under a hapless teenager's hat and helping him make food in a snooty French restaurant while everyone else he knows tell him he should be happy with garbage? Brilliant concept. Great execution. Like all good kid movies, this one was clever without pandering.

The animation looked even better than any of the other Pixar movies. SHR has complained in the past that humans look awful in these movies. But in this one, they looked pretty good.

The scene where the snobby food critic is immediately transported to memories of his youth upon eating was brilliant and my favorite moment of the film.

For a four-year-old's take on the film, read here.

Directed by Brad Bird
2007
Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, Austin

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sicko

Easily the most sober and least grandstanding of Moore's recent work. There were many parts of the film (most of the first half) that could have been on Frontline, they were so serious. At first, I wanted more of the theatrics because I wanted my ten bucks worth. But I guess Moore feels like he needs to be more serious so he can actually try to have an influence on people rather than just preaching to the converted.

Like all Moore movies, you get the sense that you're only hearing part of the story. He doesn't really have time to try to fill in the details too much because that would stray from his world view too much. Granted, for the most part, it is a world view that I share. It is just too bad that he's so damn obnoxious because it really gets in the ways of his talent of distilling complicated topics into clear, incisive, and entertaining diatribes.

This is a call to arms and maybe our country is actually ready to make some changes. Hopefully, this movie has a little more impact on the direction our country takes on the health insurance mess than his last two films had on gun control and the 2004 election.

In the meantime, who's ready to move to France. That place looks awesome!

Directed by Michael Moore
2007
BAM

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Le Doulos

I just got home from seeing this and I implore you to go see it if you live in New York. It was so damn good! Much like last year's incredible re-release of Army of Shadows, this film blew me away. The cinematography and jazz score reminded me of Elevator to the Gallows. The double crossing reminded me a lot of one of my all time favorite movies, Miller's Crossing, in the fact that I didn't fully understand what the hell was going on even by the end. I want to see this again tomorrow so I can figure more stuff out! I also liked this a lot more than Melville's other gangster film I'd seen, Bob le Flambeur, even though I think that that one is generally considered a better film.

As befitting any noirish type movie, there are some amazing lines in this film. The whole movie is good but the last thirty minutes in particular blew me away. But that might be because I was so confused during the rest of the film. It pulls everything together with one great moment after another. There are some pretty damn violent moments in the film as well that I wasn't quite expecting.

And did I mention the best part - Jean-Paul Belmondo is the star.

Oh yeah, the 8 minute one shot interrogation scene

I really need to see this again. And soon.

Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
1963
Film Forum

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

An Unreasonable Man

Yesterday, Chris M was asking me what I thought the tone of this film was and if I thought that it was too anti-Nader about his presidential runs. I actually see the film as very much pro-Nader. But now I'm not sure. Did I read it as pro-Nader just because the people included in the film who ripped Nader just didn't convince me? I'm curious to see what other people think about this.

The first hour of the film traces his amazing career up to the 2000 run. I knew some of the things he had done but had no idea of the scope. Truly amazing. The second hour focuses on the 2000 and 2004 presidential runs. Nader has a lot of defenders and a lot of naysayers and both get their time during this half of the movie. I don't want to rehash points made in the movie but even with all of the backlash, I remain a pro-Nader guy even though I did not vote for him in 2004.

Michael Moore does not come across looking too good here as he goes to the mat for him in 2000 and then completely rips him in 2004 for ruining the country.

A very serious, informative, and entertaining documentary.

Directed by Henriette Mantel and Stephen Skrovan
2007
DVD

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple

Completely fascinating. I'm so glad that I saw this movie. I knew a little bit about Jones and the People's Temple but not nearly that much. I think because I didn't know much about it made the film even more interesting to me. Wow. The film brilliantly traces the descent into insanity of Jones. It has been a few weeks since I watched this movie and I still can't stop thinking about it. The audio recordings of the last moments are chilling.

Directed by Stanley Nelson
2006
DVD