Monday, November 30, 2009

Fat City

This movie could only have been made exactly when it was. It's got early 70s written all over it. From the grittiness of it all to the performance of Susan Tyrrell to the alcohol fueled scenes to the slow pacing to the Kris Kristofferson song over the opening and closing credits - this movie oozes 1970's downer realism.

Jeff Bridges plays a young boxer who becomes friends with a boozed up washed out former boxer played by Stacey Keach. Keach keeps warm at night with the boozer Tyrrell who I had never seen before but was fantastic in her booziness. And Nicholas Colasanto (Coach from Cheers) plays the owner of the gym. Fantastic.

There are many memorable scenes in this movie - none more memorable than the last. And nothing really happens in the last scene! I love the 70's!

Directed by John Huston
1972
TCM

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

The book is one of my all time favorites. But adapting such a short book into a feature length film might have been too ambitious a task. Then again, I respect the attempt. And while the film doesn't even come close to what I was hoping for, it definitely has its moments. It looks fantastic of course. And the tone is an intriguing one. Sad yet incredibly bizarre at times. And when lines from the book are uttered or when Max first puts on his wolf costume, my 4-year-old self got very excited.

But SHR and I couldn't put our finger on what it was that was missing from this. But Sean and Rebecca nailed it - there's no sense of joy in this movie ever. Yes, Jonze taps into the loneliness and anger that Max feels. Yes, childhood can be tough. But there's also a hell of a lot of joy as well. Everything was so sad the entire time. Even the supposedly fun parts didn't feel that fun. I am fine with the overall melancholy of this film but a bit of unadulterated happiness would have gone a long way. The superior Coraline was a lot more successful in tapping into the melancholy and joy of childhood than this film did.

For some reason, I also would have liked a narrator at times as well. Maybe just at the beginning and end when he was in the boat?

Still I'm glad that I saw this. There are completely original moments that will add to my thoughts of the book in the years to come as I read it to my boys. I love the fort they were building. I loved the big pile they slept in. There were definite moments of magic in this but I wanted an entire movie of magic. That might have been asking for too much.

Directed by Spike Jonze
2009
Cobble Hill Cinemas

Monday, November 23, 2009

Brief Encounter

A housewife meets a doctor in pre World War II London. They fall in love. Unfortunately for them, they are both married and can't bring themselves to destroy their families. But the tension is so tensionriffic.

I love films from this era. A movie with a similar plot now would suck. But this movie was very good. Maybe all the furtive meetings in railroad stations did the trick. A movie today wouldn't have any scenes in railroad stations! And they never even screwed. Those buttoned up British!

Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard are great as the would be adulterers. The storytelling structure is interesting as well. It's told in flashback as Johnson tells her husband the story of how she met Howard and how she fell in love with him. However, her husband is too busy doing the crossword puzzle to listen to a word she says. Perfect.

Directed by David Lean
1946
TCM

Goodbye Solo

Loosely based on the brilliant 1997 Iranian film The Taste of Cherry, this is my favorite Ramin Bahrani film thus far. In fact, I think each of his films is better than the previous one. I didn't care much for his first film Man Push Cart. Chop Shop, his second one, had its moments but overall I wanted a bit more. This one is good from beginning to end.

A Senegalese cabdriver (played flawlessly by a nonprofessional actor) in Winston Salem, NC picks up an elderly white man. Within a few minutes, it is established that the older man wants the cabdriver to drive him to the top of a mountain in a couple of weeks so he can commit suicide. The cabdriver will be compensated well for the drive.

The driver decides to try to change the man's mind and befriends the man over the coming days. Like all of Bahrani's films, the cinematography is gorgeous. But this one is much better than his other two films because he's simply telling the story of the characters involved rather than trying to make larger points about society. And within the story of Solo (the driver) and the old man, Bahrani finds something a hell of a lot more universal than he did in his other two films. His other two films felt a lot more heavyhanded to me.

The movie isn't perfect. But it is a definite step in the right direction for a filmmaker whose films have interested me but have also frustrated me in the past. Maybe he just needed to get out of NYC to make a good movie.

Directed by Ramin Bahrani
2009
DVD

Friday, November 20, 2009

Drag Me to Hell

I was expecting to like this but not quite as much as I did. I loved it. I had a big grin on my face the entire time. I haven't seen a movie this absolutely out of control crazy fun since ... since I guess Evil Dead 2. So silly. So gross. So great. I almost watched this again right after finishing it. From beginning to end, this movie is nonstop perfection. Really.

The hallmarks of the Sam Raimi of old are all here. The absurdity. The corniness. The dazzling Raimi filmwork. The over the top gore. I hope he never goes back to Spider-Man. I want more movies like this. I'm giggling with glee even as I type this review.

Is it me or is Allison Lohman a dead ringer for the young Jennifer Jason Leigh? In fact, the only not great element of this movie is Justin Long. Then again, he plays the part of the clueless boyfriend so he works in the role.

I want more people I know to see this so we can talk about all of the great moments. See it!

Directed by Sam Raimi
2009
Blu-ray

Thursday, November 19, 2009

An Education

Nick Hornby is done. I haven't read one of his books in years but I've read some of his short pieces and none of them have done anything for me. Plus, he just sort of seems to be a celebrity these days who occasionally feels like writing as opposed to a real writer. He wrote the screenplay for this movie and I say blah.

The acting is good though. I guess. Or maybe it is just that in general, I can't get enough Alfred Molina. It looks good too. Or maybe I just love the setting of 1961 London. The first 2/3 of the film held my attention if nothing else but the last 1/3 is so stupid and so poorly written that it ruins the whole thing.

It was nice to see Olivia Williams again though - again in the role of a teacher.

I tired to convince Mitch not to see it but he saw it anyway. His take?
I hated it. Peter Sarsgaard creeped me out the whole time and the main actress reminded me of a British Katie Holmes. Emma Thompson was so over the top it seemed like she was in an "SNL" sketch. Overall, it was like a pedophilia-infused "Pretty Woman" with a British accent and a little bit of "Dead Poets Society" thrown in for good measure.
Directed by Lone Scherfig
2009
BAM

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Forbidden Planet

When I set up to record this film, I had forgotten that I had already seen it a few years ago at Film Forum. No matter. I could watch this movie once a year and not get sick of it.

Let me count the ways of how much fun this movie is.

1. A young and awesome Leslie Nielson.
2. Easily one of the best soundtracks in movie history.
3. Reminded me of Star Trek in a good way. Years ahead of its time.
4. Dr. Morbius!
5. Anne Francis is such a sexpot. 12-year-old boys in 1956 must have gone apeshit.
6. And of course - Robby the Robot. I love that in the credits he is listed as "Introducing Robby the Robot."

The trailer


Directed by Fred Wilcox
1956
TCM

Outrage

This was much better than the other Kirby Dick film I've seen. This is a perfect example of why I keep HBO. Other than the original series and the occasional movie, I watch many of their documentaries. I would never have thought to have seen this in the theater or even to get it from Netflix. But I'm glad that I had a chance to see it.

The film is about closeted gay politicians who go out of their way to try to screw the gay community through legislation and policy decisions. Think of the likes of Larry Craig. But there are plenty of others most of whom still deny they are gay. The interviews with Jim McGreevy were quite illuminating. Also, I had no idea about the saga of Charlie Crist.

Directed by Kirby Dick
2009
HBO

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Frownland


I really need to stop watching any movie that has anything to do with mumblecore or with loser white dudes. This movie had some interesting moments but was painful to watch and not fun at all for me.

I need big happy movies these days.

Directed by Ronald Bronstein
2008
DVD

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pusher II

Seven years after the first Pusher, the thugs and scum and punks and freaks return (well some of them anyway) for another installment in what is shaping up to be one of my favorite recent finds.

Last time, Frank was in big trouble. This time, his even more dim friend Tonny is the star. And what a star he is. One bad caper to another, this guy is an idiot. But a fun idiot to watch. As gritty as the first installment and just as much fun. I need to see part three soon.

Directed by Nicholas Winding Refn
2004
Sundance on Demand

Thursday, November 05, 2009

A Serious Man

For some reason, this movie rubbed me the wrong way. I'm not quite sure why. It has many of the usual Coen Bros. ingredients that I like. However, there is a key difference. Usually, they make movies based on a genre. This one feels completely original. There were times when I felt like I had never quite seen a movie like this one so I guess I have to give it points for that but I was happy when it ended. A lot of this felt like a cosmic joke - right down to the ending when they end it right when the suspense gets revved up. Sometimes their movies feel like a big joke on the audience. Most of the time I enjoy that aspect of their movies. However, I wasn't in the mood when I saw this.

I know it was supposed to be funny throughout but I found it hard to watch. Not that it was depressing per se but I was really turned off by pretty much all of the characters.

It is supposed to grapple with the big questions in life I guess - Coen Bros. style. Maybe my life is so chaotic these days that I simply want to watch things like How I Met Your Mother. Perhaps I would like this more if I saw it again. In fact, I'm sure that I would. But for me, right now, in the fall of '09, this movie didn't do anything for me.

Or perhaps the reason I couldn't get into this was that I'm a self hating Jew who has a hard time watching a movie made by other self hating Jews.

In fact, now that it has been a couple of weeks since I've seen this, there are definitely parts to it that make me laugh when I think back on it. Damn, looks like I need to see it again at some point.

Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
2009
Cobble Hill Cinemas