Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Burn After Reading

I really disliked the first half hour before slowly warming to the last hour. This is by no stretch that good but it does the job and is fun enough.

At first, Brad Pitt was über annoying but then he sort of amused me during the homestretch of his performance. Clooney was funny for the most part. Malkovich was also good. Tilda Swinton continues to weird me out though and Frances McDormand's character from hairdo on down was really annoying. J.K. Simmons pretty much made this movie with his brief role in the last third.

I liked the story and how the pieces all fit together though. In fact, the silliness of the story overcame the annoyingness of most of the characters. Not counting Intolerable Cruelty which I don't count as a real Coen Bros movie, they have sandwiched one of their best (No Country for Old Men) with their two worst, The Ladykillers and this one. I don't get it. Granted, this is way better than Ladykillers but not as good as any previous Ladykillers effort.

Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
2008
Cobble Hill

Sunday, September 28, 2008

American Gangster

Better than I was expecting but not nearly as good as Ridley Scott thinks that it is. Denzel was fine enough, Crowe wasn't annoying like he often is, and Josh Brolin was super awesome looking with that 'stache. I enjoyed seeing Stringer Bell as well in his limited role.

I enjoyed the second half more than the first half but that might be because when I watched the second half, I was still a bit doped up from a colonoscopy earlier in the day. Bam!

Directed by Ridley Scott
2007
HBO

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Blast of Silence

Damn, this is one of the darkest movies I've ever seen. Dark looking, dark outlook on life, super dark ending. Dark, dark, dark. Obviously, I liked this movie. It isn't the greatest thing I've ever seen. I was even a bit bored by it at times but it just looked and felt so damn cool.

The movie is about a hitman who wants to get out of the life after finishing one last job after falling in love. Too bad nothing quite works out for him. Poor guy.

Directed by Allen Baron
1961
DVD

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Year My Parents Went on Vacation

As Jim described it in an e-mail to SHR, this movie was about "a boy, soccer, political turmoil, and Jews." That about sums it up. It also reminded me a little of Two of Us, Together, and Duck Season but not nearly as good as any of those films. Wasn't there another film about kids caught up in political turmoil out this year as well? Oh yeah, this one - and it sounds very similar right down to it taking place in 1970.

This film is about a boy dropped off at his grandfather's apartment by his leftist parents who are fleeing town on a "vacation." Unfortunately, the grandfather has just passed away so a next door neighbor takes him in. The movie is a pleasant enough diversion but nothing you've got to run out and see.

One definite highlight though was that there was a character in the movie who looked like a 12-year-old Phoebe Summersquash only with a much larger nose.

Directed by Cao Hamburger
2007, Year of U.S. Release: 2008
DVD

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Grapes of Wrath

In high school, I did my big 11th grade research paper on Of Mice and Men. I read the damn thing in one Sunday morning and ended up producing the only A in my Honors English class. That Dr. Traubitz was a tough grader I suppose. Hooray for a young Listmaker!

A few months later, I started reading The Grapes of Wrath but got bored after a few pages and stopped. I promised myself that I'd come back to it someday. Well, in a way I guess that I did almost twenty years later. But I chose the easy road - the movie. Oh well, better than nothing I suppose.

The movie is very good. So good that maybe I'll never read the book now! Henry Fonda was great. Ford's direction is stellar. So dark. So pinko too! The swelling speech at the end that Tom Joad gives to his mom gave me a lump in my throat. Alright, maybe I will read the book after all. It is what Dr. Traubitz would have wanted me to do, I'm sure.

Directed by John Ford
1940
Cinemax

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The White Diamond

This was my favorite movie of 2005, barely edging out The Squid and the Whale. Upon reviewing it, I stand by it being one of my two favorite films of that year but I might even nudge Squid to a tie. I'm a listmaker. It's what I do.

SHR didn't love it but enjoyed it enough. I wasn't as enthralled with it the second time as I was the first time but I still loved it. I think I was in the absolute perfect mood to see this on the day that I originally saw it. This time, I sensed SHR's antsiness and I felt guilty that I had perhaps built this up too much to the point that she was would be disappointed by it.

My review from 2005:

This film is unlike any I’ve ever seen before. Werner Herzog’s documentary (or so he says) left me speechless. Some of this seems too perfect to be caught merely by chance. The credits list Herzog as the writer of the film lending even more doubt to whether or not this is all a true story. I’d love to believe that it is all true but like any documentary, the mere fact that a person is filming it, shapes the experiences of the people being filmed so I suppose it doesn’t really matter.

The film tells the story of Dr. Graham Dorrington who embarks on a trip to the giant Kaieteur Falls in Guyana to fly his helium-filled flying craft above the unexplored tree tops. The guy is manic and good for a few laughs. Herzog wisely chooses not to make him the ultimate subject of the film. Instead, Herzog focuses on whatever event happens to grab his attention as a filmmaker.

Herzog spends a lot of time interviewing one of Dorrington’s crew, a Guyanese man named Mark Anthony who ruminates on technology, nature, life, poetry, and his longing to fly the craft to Spain to visit his family who he hasn’t seen in thirty years.

Dorrington also explains how his friend died twelve years earlier in a similar expedition. He is clearly haunted by his friend’s death and harbors guilt for it. This is one of those times that I can’t believe that all of the things in this movie are real. At one point, when talking about his late friend, Dorrington explains that his friend had once been swarmed by elephants while his camera was rolling. Sure enough, Herzog included footage of elephants stomping by overhead.

There is just something about this film that put me in a trance. Whether it is villagers talking about the legend of the great falls nearby, a miner moonwalking next to the falls at sunset, beautiful shots of thousands of swifts flying into the mist of the great falls to the cave behind it, or Herzog’s melodic narration, I was absolutely transfixed by this film.


Directed by Werner Herzog
2005
DVD

Monday, September 15, 2008

Shadows and Fog


A few posts ago, I mentioned that I had seen every Woody Allen movie from 1969 - 2001 except for this one.

I wish that it had stayed that way.

Terrible. Absolutely terrible.

Directed by Woody Allen
1991
Starz Comedy

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Underground

I'd wanted to see this movie for years and am glad to have finally seen it because it did not disappoint at all. Completely absurd. So political. 100 percent brilliant.

The soundtrack is one of the best ever ever ever. I can't get the raging horn arrangements out of my head. The movie is truly nutso. Lots of dancing, yelling, and smashing glasses. Somewhat Felliniesque but for the most part completely original.

The film takes place from the beginning of the German invasion of Belgrade in 1941 up through the Balkan fighting in the early 90's. Truly a supreme work of art and a must see movie. Don't waste any more time reading this crap review and add this shit to your Netflix Queue!

Directed by Emir Kusturica
1995
DVD

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Control

I guess I'm not a big enough of Joy Division fan to really get into this. I liked it okay. The black and white cinematography looked great and the band was quite convincing. Samantha Morton and newcomer Sam Riley, who played Curtis, was excellent as well.

But I just never could really get into this because of my lack of knowledge about the band. I think if I had seen a documentary about them first and then seen this, I would have appreciated it more.


Directed by Anton Corbijn
2007
DVD

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Surfwise

The incredibly true story of Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz, his wife Juliette and their surfing clan of 8 boys and a girl. I had never heard of this family but apparently they were quite well known in the 70's. They traveled non-stop in a small beat-up trailer looking for good places to surf and to just chill. No school or nothing. No jobs. No money.

Needless to say, they are completely fascinating. Old footage mixes well with recent interviews. Doc is a complete character - a brilliant eccentric guy. I lost a bit of interest by the final third where the family reconciles with each other after some estrangement. You can't really keep 9 kids cooped up in a a trailer for years and not expect a bit of resentment. But the first hour is so fascinating as it traces the family history that I definitely recommend this film.

Not to mention, I knew absolutely nothing about the early surfing scene in Tel Aviv. Did you?

Directed by Doug Pray
2008
DVD

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Man on Wire

I hadn't even heard of Philippe Petit until 9/11. Since then, I've been fascinated by his story. I read the picture book about his feat to my class every year on the anniversary of the attacks to help them have a little more knowledge about the towers other than that they were knocked down. Mondale has a coffee table book with amazing pictures and such. I also display the great New Yorker drawing of the event in my classroom.

Needless to say, I was looking forward to seeing this film. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed. It felt like a long 90 minutes. I think I would have liked this more if it had been an hour long doc on PBS. I would have maybe liked more interviews with New Yorkers about it - maybe the cops involved? Or maybe more on his other exploits rather than seemingly endless footage of the planning of the venture. I had more than enough footage of him practicing his walk in a field in France.

Still, the 20 minutes or so when he actually is out on the wire between the towers is completely thrilling and more touching now than it probably was then. Then again, NYC wasn't doing so well in '74 and Petit's feat was greatly appreciated at the time as well. Gotta love crazy Frenchmen ...

Directed by James Marsh
2008
DVD

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Band's Visit

This is a charming little movie that got a bit of an Oscar push last year. The film is about an Egyptian band who has been asked to play traditional songs at an Arab Cultural Center in a town in Israel. Unfortunately for them, they end up in the wrong town and have to spend the night. The band is split into three groups and each spends the night with an Israeli host.

Over the course of the night, they each find their own transcendent moments. Of course, the overall point is that people are people, no matter what the political nonsense. It is funny, sad, and mellow. And it looks damn good to boot.

Directed by Eran Kolirin
2007
DVD

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Dan In Real Life

SHR liked this more than I did but she's more of a sucker for big family ensemble pieces than I am. She dubbed this 2007's Family Stone. I mean, this kept my attention and all. And Steve Carell was good. And I really liked the Sondre Lerche score - much better than Badly Drawn Boy's songs in About a Boy.

But I didn't buy that there was any chemistry between Carell and Binoche in the slightest. And Dane Cook is such a doofus. I can't believe I had to be subjected to listening to not one, but two songs sung by him. And it just wasn't as nearly as funny or as quirky as it wanted to be.

Directed by Peter Hedges
2007
Starz

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Landlord

I missed this a few years back when it played at Film Forum and I've wanted to see it ever since. Even though it was a little uneven, I enjoyed finally seeing it. It is no Harold and Maude, but it definitely has its charms.

As a time capsule of 1970's race relations, it is fascinating. Beau Bridges (who absolutely cracks me up in this) plays a well-to-do WASP from a "liberal" background who decides to buy a brownstone in the "ghetto" of Park Slope. So if for no other reason, I loved seeing what the neighborhood looked like in 1970. Unlike not being able to find parking like in The Squid and the Whale (set a distant 16 years in the future), Bridges has to worry about having his hubcaps stolen.

At first, he's an arrogant out-of-touch whitey landlord. By the end, he's evolved and his bigoted yet quite comedic family is a nice foil for him plot wise. The first hour is bizarre and funny. The second hour is bizarre and serious. I didn't love the film as I was watching it but I've been thinking about it a lot since.

Pearl Bailey and Louis Gossett Jr. are also very good in the film

My favorite line, another early gentrifier says to Bridges, "This neighborhood will be so chic one day." In 1970, that must have seemed funny. Now, not so much.

Directed by Hal Ashby
1970
Cinemax

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

American Pimp

Back in the early 90's, Washcloth and I counted how many times the word fuck was uttered in Reservoir Dogs. The answer? 276 times. And one asshead.

The next time I see Mr. Cloth, we should see this movie together and count how many times the word bitch is used. It's got to be more than 276.

This movie is exactly what you'd expect it to be. Fun clips from old movies, great music, funny pimps, completely misogynistic. If that sounds good to you, make sure to see this.

Directed by Albert and Allen Hughes
1999
Starz Edge

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Point Blank

I had heard about this movie for years but had never gotten around to seeing it. After having finally seen it, I see what all the fuss is about.

Lee Marvin is a badass. Angie Dickinson is awesome. Everything is super stylish and late 60's Godardian fragmented cool. Even Archie Bunker makes an appearance as a sleazeball. The images of an abandoned Alcatraz at night are damn eerie. This is a memorable movie all around.

This movie is so good that even Mel Gibson couldn't mess it up. I remember kind of liking Payback.

Directed by John Boorman
1967
HD Net Movies

Monday, September 01, 2008

Sigur Rós: Heima

I like this band a lot but not enough to give this 97 minute movie my full attention. It was very good while on in the background. That being said, it is very well done.

The film documents the band coming back to Iceland and playing a number of supposedly unannounced shows throughout the country. Some are in conventional music hall type venues. Other are filmed outside in beautiful locations. Throughout the film, clips of interesting Icelandic landscapes, people, towns, etc. are intercut with the band's performance. Their ethereal, soaring music makes even more sense now when you hear it while watching images of the land that spawned them.

This reminded me a bit of the Fugazi documentary Instrument, in which a standard rockumentary is transformed into art. Since I find the Fugazi's story more interesting than Sigur Rós's, I like that movie better. But this one is worth seeing. Especially if you have the patience to watch all 97 minutes of the film.

Directed by Dean DeBlois
2007, Still not released in the U.S.
Sundance Channel