Thursday, June 26, 2008

Encounters at the End of the World

I liked this quite a bit but I didn't love love love it like I was hoping. I was reminded a bit of an earlier Herzog doc, Wheel of Time. Both of these films are in essence about a spirtual journey - one about Buddhism and the other about science. Herzog's usual pessimistic take on the world mixes well with his oddball interviewing skills. The underwater footage is indeed breathtaking.

So I'm not quite sure why I didn't adore this movie. Maybe it was because some of Herzog's questions and narration seemed somewhat mean-spirited in this film.

Or maybe it was that it simply seemed that Herzog was merely along for the ride in a similar way that he was in Wheel of Time. The Herzog documentaries I have enjoyed the most (Little Dieter Needs to Fly and The White Diamond to name two) are Herzog led all the way. This film was just a series of interesting diving footage and quirky people living in Antarctica mixed with Herzog's narration and hypnotic music - both human made and seal made. There's nothing wrong with that of course. This movie is very very good but I did find myself bored on occasion. I wanted a transcendent movie experience like my 2005 favorite, The White Diamond. It is still quite good. It just is not going to be my favorite film of the year like I was hoping it might be when I first read about it.

Directed by Werner Herzog
2007, U.S. Release: 2008
Film Forum

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Deep Water

Amateur English yachtsman stakes his fortune and reputation on a global yacht race in 1968. Disaster ensues. Amateur English yachtsman cheats. Amateur English yachtsman sends fake reports as to his whereabouts. Amateur English yachtsman records himself on film and audiotape while on the boat. Bad stuff ends up happening.

Overall, a pretty fascinating subject with a fascinating denouement.

Directed by Jerry Rothwell and Louise Osmond
2006, U.S. Release: 2007
PBS

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mongol

Who knew Genghis Khan was such a sensitive soul? Huzzah Genghis Khan! No wonder this movie is taking the world by storm. It has crazy battle scenes that should make Ridley Scott take notice and take some notes. It has sweeping vistas worthy of John Ford. It has Genghis Fucking Khan!

I assume there will be a next installment since this one is only about the rise of Mr. Khan as opposed to the conquering years. Bring it on!

Directed by Sergei Bodrov
2007, U.S. Release: 2008
BAM

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Living End

The classic lovers on the lam flick done all gay style. I can't believe I had never seen this before. I think it played at JMU when I was there. In fact, I might have even booked it but I must have been busy that night doing heterosexual things. Who knows? When I saw a new print of it was playing at BAM and that Araki would be there doing a Q and A, I decided to finally see it.

What a time capsule this movie is. It feels so early 90's indie low budget (which it was) in such a great way. I had heard of this movie for so many years that I felt that I was bound to be disappointed but I wasn't. It is quite a memorable movie with quite a few stellar moments.

Of the Araki oeuvre, I've only seen this and Mysterious Skin. Jim stuck around afterwards and saw his 2007 stoner comedy Smiley Face. He liked it quite a bit. I need to see it soon. Summer Dan likes those kind of movies.

Directed by Gregg Araki
1992
BAM

Friday, June 20, 2008

Spider-Man 3

Was Sam Raimi trying to kill the franchise with this movie? Did he actually think this was good? Raimi is a funny guy. Maybe he's just sick of making Spider-Man movies and rather than quit making them, he played a joke on everyone. I mean, wow, really? This movie can only be described as a joke.

The first hour isn't half bad (other than the terrible opening credits sequence) if not a bit slow. But then the Spidey shit hit the fan. The dance scenes? The Peter Parker with an emo haircut? I think Jim mentioned that you could tell the good Peter Parker scenes vs. the bad Peter Parker scenes based on how Tobey Maguire parted his hair. The movie fell apart quickly and with a thud.

Even the first hour seemed by rote and had no energy. But at least it wasn't the second half. And were the digital effects as bad in the first two as this one? I don't remember them being so incredibly awful. And was it me or did every scene feature some sort of debris falling from the sky? I think the effects would have been better if they had simply used stop action methods with fake spiderwebs and Tonka trucks - especially that last scene.

And Topher Grace vs. Tobey Maguire look too boringly similar to each other to be arch rivals. Blah. I say blah.

Directed by Sam Raimi
2007
Starz

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Truman Show

This was almost exactly the way I remembered it. Kind of good. Kind of eh.

Take Ed Harris out of the equation and his stupid hat and this movie would have been better.

I showed this to my class because the idea of a completely controlled society was reminiscent of two recent Read Alouds in class - The Giver and City of Ember.

If I only had one more month of school, maybe I could have read 1984 to them! Or maybe not.

My class really liked this even though they were a bit confused by it at times. Some of them kept thinking that Truman was real - they had a difficult time grasping that everyone besides Jim Carrey were actors playing actors and that Jim Carrey was an actor playing a non-actor.

The official stamp of approval came from Girl Who Loves Sparkly Clothes but Hates Hillary Clinton who deemed the movie good.

Directed by Peter Weir
1998
DVD

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Talk to Me

I knew absolutely nothing about Petey Greene before this movie came out last year. How could I not have? He was a fascinating character.

He was an ex-con turned political activist with a Richard Pryor flair for words. He got a radio gig in Washington in the late 60's before segueing into a career on TV and doing stand-up. But he never really felt comfortable moving out of the radio booth and sabotaged his chances at a big career by refusing to tell "nigger jokes" on The Tonight Show.

Don Cheadle was great (other than his really fake, distracting mutton chops) and there were a lot of interesting moments in the film. Overall though by the end, I wanted a little bit more as the movie devolved into standard biopic mode at it hurriedly rushed over many years of his life to get to the end.

Still, I'm glad that I saw this. It was entertaining throughout and I learned a bit about a Washington D.C. icon who I had never even heard of. He died in 1984 of cancer and 10,000 people attended his funeral - the highest attended funeral in D.C. history for a non-elected official. I want to find out more about Greene to see how close to the facts this movie was. This website is pretty illuminating. Check out some of the videos.

Both of these nuggets are also from the site:

On March 8,1978 he was invited as a guest to the White House by President Jimmy Carter to honor visiting Yugoslavian President Josip Broz Tito. He famously quipped to the Washington Post that he “stole a spoon” during the evening gala.

Among the thousands of devout listeners that Petey impacted daily, he also made an impression on future radio and television personality, Howard Stern. During an appearance on “Petey Green’s Washington,” Howard stated, “ I have learned more from your show….I listen to your show and (when) I go on I use your material.” Petey quipped, “ They might not like us but they don’t change the dial.”


There wasn't any mention of The Tonight Show thing but I'm assuming that it really happened since it was such a key moment in the film. I'd be very disappointed it it had been completely made up.

A new documentary Adjust Your Color: The Truth of Petey Greene is making the rounds of the film festival circuit this year. I look forward to seeing it.

Directed by Kasi Lemmons
2007
Cinemax

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hangover Square

This is one messed up movie. Laird Cregar is one messed up dude. The story behind Cregar's life might be even more interesting than the movie but the movie is also quite good.

Cregar was a 300 pound behemoth cast as sinister villains. He wanted to be a leading man. This movie called for him to be a tortured artist who during his blackouts would commit murders but then not recall them later. He decided that he wanted to treat it as a springboard to becoming a romantic lead. So he lost 100 pounds for the role but that led to severe health problems. Right after the completion of the movie, he had stomach surgery. A few days later he died of a heart attack at the age of 28. The DVD features a fascinating short documentary about Cregar so if you rent this, make sure to watch that as well.

Mondale would love this movie because Guy Fawkes Day is heavily featured in a chilling scene where Cregar tries to dispose of a body on top of a pile of burning fake corpses.

The climatic scene of a crazed Cregar playing the piano as a burning building collapses around him is one of the most memorable endings to a film I've seen in a long time. Normally, I wouldn't give away plot points like that but with a movie like this, the ending is pretty obvious. It is watching how the filmmakers get there that is the fun. Creepy fun.

Directed by John Brahm
1945
DVD

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Gold Rush

For the record, Girl Who Loves Sparkly Clothes but Hates Hillary Clinton said that this was her second favorite movie she had seen in class all year after The Kid. She likes Chaplin.

I'd seen the original 1925 version a couple of times. It is a classic. It is the one with the house on the edge of a cliff and also the one with the classic potato as Chaplin's feet scene. You know what I'm talking about. I wouldn't quite put this in the top tier of The Kid, City Lights, and Modern Times but I would put it only one notch below.

This 1942 version (which I inadvertently rented) was pretty funny. Chaplin recorded a narrative over the original film. He spoke the dialogue for all of the characters and I must admit it added a new humorous layer to the proceedings. Check it out.

Directed by Charlie Chaplin
1925, Re-released in 1942
DVD

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Tuck Everlasting

Why would I have seen this movie you may be wondering. School. It's always about school. I read this to my class as a Read Aloud based on the high recommendations of the other two teachers in my grade. They loved it.

I wasn't as impressed. It was okay. A little too flowery for my tastes at times. Overall though, the story was interesting enough to keep me interested and also in kind of a creepy in a "This book was written in 1975 kind of way." The book is set in the late 1800's. The main character is a ten-year-old girl named Winnie. She stumbles onto the Tucks - a family who (get this) has discovered the fountain of youth in them there hills! But she can't drink from the crick because then she'll realize that this whole everlasting thing is a curse!

So they kidnap the broad! But then she falls in love with Jesse, a 17-year-old Tuck who is really 104. Say what? There's a greedy dude lurking around in a yellow suit who gets his just desserts with a shovel to the head. What? Then the best part - Jesse makes a plan with Winnie to wait seven years to drink from the fountain. Get it, she'll be 17 and then they'll get it on!!! Gross, right? She's ten getting hit on by a 17-year-old who is really 104.

Well, of course, the movie is a bit different. Rory Gilmore plays Winnie and is supposed to be 15 because in 2002, you can't have a 10-year-old fall for a 17-year-old even if he is really 104. Whatever passed muster in 1975 children's literature is not okay for 2002 movie audiences..

The movie is set in the 1920's and Jesse, well Jesse is something else. Daughter of Bocce King found him quite dreamy. Most of the kids said he looked like a girl. To me, he looked just like any other boy with the haircut so popular in the neighborhood where I teach.

Anyway, the movie is as silly as you'd expect but Ben Kingsley is damn creepy as the Man in the Yellow Suit and the ending retained it's original intriguing end.

Directed by Jay W. Russell
2002
DVD

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Black Sunday

I had always wanted to see this movie. For some reason, I thought the entire thing was set at the Super Bowl. It was not. At an unwieldy 165 minutes, this movie was slooow. The first two hours plus was like Munich meets Chips but not as good as either.

The last thirty minutes were hilarious fun though and made sitting through the rest worth it. A blimp attacking the Super Bowl armed with 80,000 poisonous darts! Awesome! Bruce Dern as the crazy pilot? Even better.

Despite the slowness of the first two hours, Frankenheimer's direction was excellent throughout. The football footage was amazing. I'm assuming that Frankenheimer actually shot the football action during the Super Bowl. If this had been made now, it would have been a digital crapfest.

Directed by John Frankenheimer
1977
Cinemax

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I had such low expectations for this yet I remained cautiously hopeful. While this isn't the worst thing ever made I can't quite say that it is good. At least it is much much better than The Phantom Menace. Jeremy hated it though. He sent me this e-mail the other day about it that simply stated, "The crystal skull sucked big time. Quite embarassing at times and about as magical as a game of 3 card monte. Boo."

My take?

The Positives:
- Harrison Ford looked great.

- A few funny parts - the snake bit in the mud and the snatching the hat away from Shia LaBeouf at the end.

- Cate Blanchett looked scrumptious.

- The Twilight Zoneish nuclear bomb scene.

- It looked good for the most part.

- The interplay between Ford and Karen Allen was somewhat fun.

The Negatives:
- Harrison Ford seemed bored beyond belief.

- Flat, flat, flat

- The Shia scene flying through the trees tied the chipmunk scene as the most embarrassing moments of the movie.

- The action scenes were often quite dull and didn't really tie into the story that well. Or maybe I had just tuned out the plot halfway through.

- The digital effects looked stupid. Back in '81, Spielberg would have tried to film that sword fight on jeeps scene for real. Not in '08. It looked awful shot digitally. If Raiders of the Lost Ark were made now, I bet that the Indy underneath the truck scene would have been shot digitally and looked like crap.

- Where was the magic? The whole thing seemed very perfunctory and dull.

- The interplay between Ford and LaBeouf was lame. Jones needs a women to flirt with not an annoying LaBeouf to spar with. At least give me Short Round.

- For such a big movie, this didn't feel big. The other three films had such a large scale to them. This one seemed to be simply Blanchett and a few soldiers tracking down our heroes time and time again like an episode of Scooby Doo.

So obviously, I wasn't that impressed with the movie. But I'll take what I can get. Maybe the next one will be better? I'd like to see the next one set in the jungles of Viet Nam with a 71-year-old Dr. Jones.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Transformers

I liked the first hour in a campy way. The last 90 minutes grew tedious even though there were still a few highlights.

Maybe it was because I didn't really get into Transformers as a kid but I just couldn't get into the silliness of it all by the end. I assume that if I had watched it as a kid that I would have gotten nostalgic goosebumps every time that Autobots attack or whatever the line was.

A few thoughts:

- Digital effects are much better when people aren't in it. When it is just robots or cars or whatever, it looks better.

- That scene with Shia LaBeouf's mom talking about masturbation with him was pretty funny

- If the fate of the world depends on the Transformers, couldn't poor Shia simply have told his parents about the Transformers rather than hiding them? Yes, it was a funny scene but completely pointless.

- The soundtrack was funny. In the first hour or so, there were many appropriate songs played to set the scene like the Cars' Drive when Shia and his lady friend are driving. Oh, that Bumblebee sure knows how to set the mood! There were also plenty of John Carpenter sounding jamz as well over the course of the film. I liked that.

- John Turturro?

Directed by Michael Bay
2007
Cinemax