Thursday, October 30, 2008

Religulous

I like Bill Maher as much as the next liberal, but this movie wasn't that good. I found it a bit tedious by the end.

I believed the beginning monologue where Maher stated that he simply wanted to have his questions about faith answered. But instead, he simply found (for the most part) ridiculous people to interview and then badgered them or tried to make them look stupid. The interviews with regular people were interesting. I liked the interview with the U.S. senator. I liked the interview with the people at the Vatican.

But I'd say only about 1/3 of the interviews were enlightening. Some of the real wackjobs didn't add anything to the discourse. It's like Maher didn't trust his audience enough to actually make a serious documentary. Not that I wanted a really serious doc from Maher, but interviewing nutjobs is too easy.

And the constant interspersing of clips was only occasionally effective. I wanted more from this movie. My dad wanted it to convince my mom that religion is stupid so he doesn't have to go to synagogue anymore. We both were let down.

I will say though that I didn't know anything about how the Jesus story is a piecing together of other pre Jesus religious stories. Interesting.

Directed by Larry Charles
2008
AFI Silver Theater

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Rachel Getting Married

This will definitely rank high on my year-end-list. It has gotten such good reviews that I was almost expecting to be disappointed. But I wasn't. I liked it even more than I hoped that I would.

After getting over the initial annoyingness of the handheld camera aspect and the irritating character that Anne Hathaway is at the beginning, I really became swept away by the whole thing. I'm not ashamed to admit that I teared up a few times. In fact, if you don't tear up during one of the scenes near the end (and you'll know exactly which one I mean when you see it), you have a heart made of stone.

Tunde Adebimpe from TV on the Radio was great. I loved seeing him in 2001's Jump Tomorrow before I knew him as the indie rock star that he is. Bill Irwin as the dad was very good. I enjoyed seeing Debra Winger again. I love the wedding band constantly playing all the time for rehearsal. Jonathan Demme Dogme 95 style! And when you can't take it anymore about how good the movie is, Robyn Hitchcock shows up to play some tunes at the wedding! Fuckin' brilliant!

All the comparisons to The Celebration ring true. They are quite similar in look, tone, and overall excruciating to watch moments. I should see that film again. I haven't seen it since 1998. This is kind of The Celebration meets The Family Stone with a bit of Monsoon Wedding thrown in. Hell, there's so much seamless multiculturalism in this movie that it made me feel like the U.S. is the best place ever.

I laughed, I cried, I liked this movie a whole lot.

Directed by Jonathan Demme
2008
BAM

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Up the Yangtze

This is a very very good documentary about the rapidly changing face of China. During the shooting of the film, the Chinese government was in the process of building the immense Three Gorges Dam. The building of the dam forced thousands of poor people from their homes and eventually left countless towns and villages under water. The government moved many of the people to nearby neighboring towns but some of the more poor families were left out of the equation.

The film is about a luxury cruise ship for (mostly Western) tourists to see the way China looked before modernization literally swallowed it up along a large portion of the Yangtze River.

The workers on the ship include many teenagers and early twentysomethings from families being forced out of their homes.

Director Yung Chang doesn't need to hit you over the head to make the point how f-ed up the whole thing is.

I look forward to seeing the fictional Still Life which uses the Three Gorges Dam project as the backdrop of the story. Jim saw it earlier this year and liked it a lot. Unfortunately, it isn't on DVD yet so I'll have to be patient.

Directed by Yung Chang
2008
PBS

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Kabluey

Loser dude goes home to help his sister-in-law and her bratty kids because his brother is shipped off to Iraq. She's annoying, he's juvenile, the kids are awful. Blah Blah. He ends up getting a job trying to promote a failing Internet company by dressing up in a big blue suit by the side of the road outside of town. Everyone sees in him what they want to see in him - he's a big blue template.

Visually this was good. But it was annoyingly "quirky" and it didn't have nearly enough to say about the state of our culture, the state of exurbs, the state of the war, etc, as it thought it did.

It was fun seeing Teri Garr though.

Directed by Scott Prendergast
2008
DVD

Monday, October 20, 2008

Snow Angels

SHR and I really liked the first hour of this. The cinematography by Tim Orr (all of the David Gordon Green movies, Raising Victor Vargas) is stellar. The acting is across the board good. I liked the girl who played Juno's friend a lot more in this than in that movie. Sam Rockwell is creepy as all get out. I liked the characters. I liked the realism.

But then the plot took a turn in the second hour and the characters were dragged along with it. I would have liked to have seen the first hour but with a whole different second hour scenario. After a four year absence, Green (director of my favorite film of 2000, George Washington, and Marc's favorite of 2003, All the Real Girls) put out two movies this year. This one was definitely not as good as his stoner buddy picture from the summer.

Directed by David Gordon Green
2008
DVD

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Gone Baby Gone

When I first heard of this movie, I thought that it was going to be a lighthearted romp with the Violent Femmes song as the inspiration. Um, I was wrong.

The movie is good enough I guess. Much better than the crap that was Mystic River but that isn't saying all that much. Ben Affleck's direction felt like he was directing a TV show. It didn't feel terribly "cinematic" to me. But whatever. The story is somewhat interesting if not a bit ridiculous. Amy Ryan was good and I was surprised by how good Casey Affleck was. And it's always nice to see Michael K. Williams.

Directed by Ben Affleck
2007
Starz

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Verdict

There were parts of this that were incredibly dated in a good way. There were parts of this that were incredibly dated in a bad early 80's TV movie kind of way.

It is amazing to me how slow paced mainstream movies used to be. If this were made today, it would like like a Tom Cruise Pelican Brief type deal. Or at least an over-the-top histrionic Mystic River offering.

Love Paul Newman of course but I was also extremely excited to see Jack Warden. I love that guy.

The beginning is very good. The ending is great. The acting is great. SHR and I both were skeeved out by the judge with the crazy eyebrows. James Mason as the defense attorney was perfectly arrogant. I just didn't see the need for the Charlotte Rampling twist though.

I had no idea that David Mamet wrote the script.

Directed by Sidney Lumet
1982
Cinemax

Monday, October 13, 2008

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

The first time I saw this was with my dad when I was nine-years-old or so. The second time was probably sometime in college. SHR had never seen it the whole thing so I was excited to watch it for the third time.

There were many scenes that I remembered vividly but I completely had forgotten about that strange montage on the way to Bolivia and all of the clowning set to Burt Bacharach.

Redford and Newman were so darn perfect together. So charming those two. So handsome, huh? The movie is timeless yet so late 60's. A nice combination.

I remember the first time I saw this, I was so upset about how it ended. I mean, really upset. How could such a charming duo find themselves in such a pickle?

Was this the first buddy picture?

Directed by George Roy Hill
1969
Cinemax

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Friday Night Lights

I wish that I had seen this before I had seen the television show because all I kept thinking about was how much I missed Kyle Chandler and how much I missed Mrs. Coach with a more modern haircut. I'm used to the show so this was odd for me.

That being said, this movie was very good. The template for the first season of the show (don't get me started on the second season) is all here. Plus some of the dumb stuff is missing. But also some of the really good stuff is missing too. In two hours, there's no room to show us anything about the coach's family. In fact, Billy Bob seems flat the whole time. He's no Kyle Chandler! Still, the story is so mindboggingly good and Berg's direction is so stellar, who cares about Billy Bob? I've got to get my hands on the book to get a more in-depth look at this story.

Boobie Miles!

Directed by Peter Berg
2004
DVD

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

SHR and Mitch really didn't like this movie. In fact, they hated it. As I was watching it, I didn't hate it as much as they did because I was having an interesting inner debate with myself.

Some of the questions that were raised?
Q: If I was 17-years-old, would I like this movie?
A: Nah, but maybe if I was 12.

Q: Do I not like this movie because I'm old and don't understand today's youth?
A: Perhaps, but if disliking bad movies makes me old, then I can live with that.

Q: Who is the market for this movie?
A: ???? Perhaps kids who have just outgrown the Jonas Brothers.

Q: Where was the infinite playlist that I was promised?
A: Nowhere, it was nowhere.

Q: How can a movie that has mix CD's as a plot point be so lame?
A: I don't know but I'm afraid that Chris Larry will yell at me for yet once again being too hard on a movie with a subject that I know a lot about.

Q: Is this the end of the line for Michael Cera?
A: No way. He can get away with one bad movie. On the surface, he's playing a very similar character to what he usually plays but not entirely. He usually is the bumbling loser who maybe gets the girl. In this, he is an indie rock loser who a super cute girl pines for the moment she sees him.

Q: How annoying is Bishop Allen?
A: Quite annoying.

Q: Why in the world did I think I wanted to see this movie?
A: It has gotten very good reviews. Including this nugget from A.O. Scott in the NY Times, "It’s like Martin Scorsese’s After Hours filtered through the high school sensibility of John Hughes, or Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise remade for Nickelodeon." Ok, I can see the latter. In fact, that is a good description. But that first line is as off base as the Onion review of Once that stated, "Imagine Belle And Sebastian remaking In The Mood For Love as a heartbreaking low-fi musical, and you have a fair approximation of the film's melancholy, unexpected genius."

Q: Why is there a six-year-old sitting in front of us?
A: Who cares? He cracked me up by his cracking up throughout the movie. Maybe six-year-olds are the market for this movie?

Q: Why was this movie so flat and lacking in energy?
A: Because the movie sucks.

Q: How could the director of Raising Victor Vargas make such a boring movie?
A: Suburban white kids are much more boring than city Dominican kids.

Directed by Peter Sollett
2008
Lincoln Square

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

City of Men

I was majorly disappointed in this movie. I wasn't expecting City of God or nothing but I was expecting it to be at least as good as the TV show that it was based on. It wasn't even close.

The show often captivated me. It was innovative, political, and almost always interesting. The movie bored me to tears. I don't understand how they could take the same characters, setting, actors, director, everything and make such a boring movie.

Directed by Paulo Morelli
2007, U.S. Release: 2008
DVD