Thursday, November 29, 2007

Michael Clayton

This is such a fun movie. A movie like this happens when the entertainment comes first and the political aspects come second rather than the other way around. Unlike the ridiculous Syriana, this movie didn't try to hit the viewer over the head with its message.

Clooney was great. He was so good that he didn't even have to resort to doing his whole charming Clooney thing which he often reverts back to in most of his roles because wouldn't you if you were the Clooney? Sydney Pollack as always was a pleasure to watch.

First time director Tony Gilroy also wrote the screenplays for the three Bourne movies. Based on his scripts for this film and the Bourne films, he has proven that he knows how to tell a good yarn. This is one of those entertaining movies that grabs you from the first frame.

I haven't even seen movies like The China Syndrome and Silkwood, but after seeing a movie clearly modeled on the tone of those type of films (or so I imagine), I need to Netflix those suckers.

Directed by Tony Gilroy
2007
Lincoln Square

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Margot at the Wedding

I loved The Squid and the Whale. I love Eric Rohmer. But I really did not like this movie though. Maybe it was because Baumbach was emulating one of my least favorite Rohmer films, Pauline at the Beach, another film with no likable characters.

I don't have to have likable characters to like a movie but I need something more than what this movie gave me. Yes, there are a few good lines and moments but not enough to sustain me for the whole thing. I wish that Baumbach would try to ape another Rohmer film rather than the one he did. That film struck me by having no interesting characters and I was pretty bored with it. Just like I was with this one.

Despite the subject matter, The Squid and the Whale cracked me up. I think of that movie more as a comedy than anything else. Margot at the Wedding is tough to watch but not fun to watch. As a fan of awkward cinema, it is even stranger to me that I couldn't get into this movie.

It also reminded me of a really harsh no-fun drama, Woody Allen's Interiors, which was his first attempt to make a Bergman film. But I liked that film (I can't remember it that well - I think I saw it almost fifteen years ago) more than this one. At least that one didn't have a blubbering Jack Black during the last 30 minutes of it.

In my review of The Squid and the Whale, I wrote, "The arrogance, the pettiness, the selfishness, the insecurity, the confusion of this family are all on display here. It is a testament to the acting, the directing, and the fine script that the audience is drawn to care at all about these pretty unlikeable people."

So Baumbach pretty much made a similar type film but just didn't pull it off nearly as well. Plot developments for the most part felt pretty forced throughout the film. It's like Baumbach had the story idea and knew roughly where it was going but then pieced it together as he went along. Or perhaps it was bad editing. It just didn't flow well to me.

It also didn't help that BAM's print was strangely dark. Or is that the way the movie is supposed to look?

I didn't like The Life Aquatic all that much, a movie that Baumbach co-wrote. I remember not liking Kicking and Screaming. I've heard that Mr. Jealousy isn't very good. Is Baumbach a one hit wonder?

Directed by Noah Baumbach
2007
BAM

Monday, November 26, 2007

No Country For Old Men

I didn't love this movie when I was sitting through it. But I have a feeling that if I saw it again, I'd like it more than I did the first time. I think I might have messed myself up on this one. I started reading the book right before seeing the movie. That might not have been the best idea. I also had read 2/3 of it before seeing the film. It is at the 2/3 mark that the story's tone takes a definite turn. So maybe my mistake was that I should have read the whole book before seeing the movie.

Either way, I wasn't prepared for the last third of the film. I was waiting for a bang-up ending but that isn't what the story ends up being about now does it? I can live with Cormac McCarthy's decision to change the tone of the story and turn a pulp thriller into something a bit more quiet and a bit more contemplative. Kind of ballsy actually. But it threw me for a loop as I was watching the movie.

Anyway, this movie is definitely a huge step up for the Coens but that isn't hard to do after The Ladykillers. In fact, this film reminded me a bit of Sam Raimi's A Simple Plan, an adaptation of a book as well. This was the first book adaptation for the Coens.

No Country For Old Men fits well alongside Blood Simple as well. The dialogue is great. It is very faithful to the book but what the Coens add is even better than what was in the book. Some of the scenes rank up there with the best of any Coen Brothers movie. The casting was amazing. Javier Bardem is scary as all get out. Tommy Lee Jones continues his recent interesting run of acting choices. If you haven't seen The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, you should.

After the odd choices of The Ladykillers and Intolerable Cruelty (which to be fair wasn't really their movie and also a movie that I have not seen) it is nice to know that the Coens are back doing interesting work.

By the way, the worst time I completely ruined a movie for myself was when I read the entire movie picture book of Return in the Jedi that I received in my book order a few days before the movie came out. I tried not to read it but I couldn't help myself. And then I was completely disappointed in the movie. Oh well, that movie sucked anyway though right?

Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
2007
Lincoln Square

Monday, November 19, 2007

The U.S. vs. John Lennon

Terrible poster, decent movie. But nothing amazing. How does a movie like this get released in the theaters even though it is a straight up VH1 type documentary while the really good recent Who documentary goes straight to cable and DVD? I suppose it is because John Lennon still sells a helluva lot more than The Who?

There are things in here I didn't know much about but the whole idea that the U.S. government was out to get Lennon is only really explored in the second half of the movie. And to be honest, who wasn't the FBI keeping tabs on?

Still the source material was very good - who doesn't like over 90 minutes of John Lennon? Hell, the stuff on the Bed-In was more than enough to make this movie worth seeing.

Directed by David Leaf and John Scheinfeld
2006
DVD

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Apocalypto

I must really be a self hating Jew to keep seeing Mel Gibson movies. Last time Sir Mel was being discussed in these parts was my 2004 list where I described Passion of the Christ as one of the worst movies I'd ever seen. I wrote, "Mel Gibson is a hack. Wow, this was a piece of shit. I thought I was watching Beastmaster or something along those lines. The epic music, the super slo-mo, the fog, everything was awful. The whole thing screamed out "epic" and obviously this is the epic to end all epics, but let the source material speak for itself without hitting the viewer over the head."

So I'm not quite sure why I wanted to see this one. I didn't like The Patriot either. But I liked this one. It is a fun action movie with a fun twist of an ending. There were elements of the really stupid heart ripping out scenes from Indiana Jones but I got over that when I marveled at how awesome it was to see head after head roll down the stairs into the screaming crowd.

This movie has got all any self-respecting Mel fan could want. It's got the homoeroticism, the extreme violence, the sadism. What else is there in life besides Jew-baiting in Mel's eyes?

Maybe one of these days I'll get around to seeing Braveheart.

Directed by Mel Gibson
2006
Starz

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Inside Deep Throat

This is the kind of movie that five years ago, I would have made sure that I had seen it in the theaters so I could talk about it when it was out. Plus I never watched movies on DVD or cable so if I didn't see it in the theaters, I'd never see it.

Over the past few years, I've realized I don't have to see every single film in the theaters. This movie was fine but waiting two years to see it was A-Ok.

The movie itself was interesting. I'd never seen any footage from Deep Throat so I enjoyed seeing some of it to finally see what all the fuss was about. Any time I see footage from that era, I feel like I missed out. The early 70's seemed like a crazy ass time.

There are some really funny interviews in here. Apparently, I can't get enough of seventy-something former pornmakers. And the whole Linda Lovelace saga is such a sad one that it lends even more layers of intrigue to this documentary. An interesting film.

Directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato
2005
HBO

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

New York Doll

I really liked this movie. A few weeks after seeing it, I still often think about Arthur "Killer" Kane and it haunts me.

Kane was the bassist for the New York Dolls, a band that had great potential, but flamed out way too quickly. The other surviving band members went on to do other projects but Kane couldn't get over the disappointment and became a bitter alcoholic, jealous at the success of his former bandmate David Johansen.

After finding religion, Kane settled into a quiet normal life with the dream to reunite the New York Dolls. This was his dream for years. In 2004, Morrissey arranged for his idols to reunite for a show in London. Kane was incredibly excited. It was so touching to see him get ready for the show. It was heartbreaking watching the performance knowing that three weeks after the performance, Kane would be diagnosed with leukemia and die shortly thereafter.

I didn't know anything about Kane before watching this movie other than he had recently died. He was such a fragile and tender man or at least he was in 2004 during the filming of the documentary. I can't get him out of my head. A very good movie.

Directed by Greg Whiteley
2005
Showtime

Monday, November 05, 2007

Because of Winn-Dixie

I read this book to my class as the first read aloud of the year. It is a very good children's book. It deals with big issues of loneliness, race, alcoholism, loss, regret, etc, etc, etc. So, of course, I had to show the class the movie.

The movie is okay. Nothing terrible. Nothing terribly special. It is pretty faithful to the text but it can't resist some slapstick moments for box office potential. Why the hell was Dave Matthews in this movie? I am proud of myself that by the end, I had my students making fun of him.

During the movie, a student of mine compared me to the main character's father and said that I was a pushover just like him.

On another note, I was quite amused to learn that Stone Groove has seen this movie.

If you were wondering whatever happened to Wayne Wang, wonder no more.

Directed by Wayne Wang
2005
DVD

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Raise the Red Lantern

For some reason, I thought I had seen this movie years ago. It turns out that I hadn't. I was getting it confused with Farewell My Concubine. This one was a lot better. A lot better.

I remember being somewhat bored with Farewell My Concubine but this film completely captivated me. I can't believe it took my so long to actually see it. This is the kind of movie where the word masterpiece is not hyperbole. Every frame, every line spoken, everything. Everything about this movie is perfect.

It is about the fourth wife of a 1920's nobleman and the politics played between her and the other wives. She is an educated woman but her mother has persuaded her that getting married makes sense for her family. It is interesting enough through the first half when the jockeying between the women is the main focus of the film. As the story develops, the drama and tension escalate and the movie keeps getting better and better. I can't believe how great this movie is and don't even want to ruin it even more by writing dumb stuff about it. Just see it.

Directed by Zhang Yimou
1991
HD Net Movies