Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Film Unfinished

Yet another good movie proving the theory that there are still an innumerable amount of Holocaust stories out there to be told.

This documentary attempts to piece together footage that the Nazis filmed of the Warsaw Ghetto to be used as propaganda. The film alternates between the footage, and of survivors and historians trying to piece together what the footage really shows. Illuminating, harrowing (of course) and damn good.

Directed by Yael Hersonski
2010
PBS

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My Perestroika

This is a solid documentary - well worth seeing for anyone who grew up when I did or has any interest in the Cold War.

The film focuses on five classmates who grew up in the 80's in the Soviet Union as their country went through tremendous changes and, of course, eventually suffered political collapse. The film weaves current interviews with the classmates about their lives with home movies of them from the era. It also includes great historical footage from the time as well.

The found footage is great - it almost lends the film a bit of a 7 Up, 14 Up etc. type feel to the film. As a kid, I often wondered what kids my age were like in the Soviet Union. This film goes a long way in answering some of my 9-year-old questions.

Directed by Robin Hessman
2011
PBS

Bridesmaids

A breath of fresh air in so many ways. Clearly, there are not enough chick buddy films. Hopefully, there will be more now. And maybe it won't even have to be part of the Judd Apatow factory.

Things I liked:
- Sookie I've missed you! Melissa McCarthy needs her own movie.

- The Wilson Phillips gag was funny.

- Some really funny slapstick moments.

- The whole vibe of the movie.

So what didn't I love?
- Too long as usual, Judd Apatow style.

- The Richie Rich characters were so boring and poorly written.

- Even with the gag scenes, it felt a little too safe for me.

- A lot of it was very awkwardly (in a bad way) set up and some of it just wasn't as funny as it thought it was - case in point was the excruciatingly not funny scene with Kristin Wiig and Rose Bryne trying to one up each other with their speeches at the party. I would have expected Paul Feig, the Freaks and Geeks mastermind, to shoot awkward scenes well.

All in all, I'd give this a solid B to B+ rating but I wanted something in the A territory. I hope this doesn't mean I hate women. I mean, that Jon Hamm was such a jerk, right? Right?

Directed by Paul Feig
2011
Battery Park

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Man in the White Suit

I love me some Alex Guinness. That is a proven fact. I also love darkly comic 1950's films. This movie fits the bill on both counts.

Guinness plays a chemist who invents a fabric that is so perfect that it never needs to be replaced. The corporate powers-that-be recognize how bad this could be for the clothing industry so they set out to make sure his invention never sees the light of day. And it turns out, the laborers don't seem to like his idea too much either. Poor Alec.

MacKendrick went on to direct one of all my all time favorite movies a few years later - The Sweet Smell of Success.

Directed by Alexander MacKendrick
1951
DVD

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Midnight in Paris


Since I finally gave up on seeing every Woody Allen film about ten years ago, I've only seen three of his films - the obvious ones - Match Point, Vicky Christina Barcelona, and this one. I love seeing a good Woody Allen movie every three years or so. You've got to hand it to the man - he keeps plugging away.

I liked this movie for what it was, a silly little romp that's smart enough to make you feel kind of smart while watching it. Owen Wilson, where have you been? So good in this film - especially since he wasn't trying to mimic Woody Allen too much - although that might be interesting to see in a train wreck kind of way.

This was like Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure for grownups. I think Allen should make a series of these films going back to different eras. Why the hell not? That could carry him for at least five more films. If not, I'm looking forward to 2014 when I see my next Woody Allen film.

Directed by Woody Allen
2011
Chelsea Cinemas

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

I feel like kind of a jerk for not loving this. Just like I feel like kind of a heel for not loving his last documentary either. Just like Encounters at the End of the World, I was ready to be blown away and instead, I just merely liked it a lot. Have I set the bar too high for Herzog's films?

I wanted more of the ending stuff with the albino mutant crocodiles. That stuff was awesome. And I loved the Fred Astaire clips to illuminate some of Herzog's thoughts. I'd love to see a sequel to this if and when the plans for a theme park type place is opened near the caves.

The 3D looked great. The score was hypnotic and worked well with the footage. I found myself thinking about this film for weeks afterwards. And who am I kidding? I'll really like any movie Herzog makes. I love that guy.

So I guess what I'm saying is that I want every one of his docs to be an A+ and anything less than that disappoints me slightly. The problem is mine, not his.

Directed by Werner Herzog
2011
BAM

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Another Year

Yet another great Mike Leigh movie. Why haven't I seen them all? I really like every single one that I see.

This one is one of the most realistic and saddest portrayals I've ever seen of loneliness. The Mary character kills me. Every character in this film is well written and well acted. Every single character - no matter how minor could easily be the main character of their own movie.

The story is told over the course of four separate days spread out over each season during one year. When the film ended, I wanted a sequel - Another Another Year perhaps?

This is definitely a film told by an expert filmmaker at the peak of his powers. Brilliant.

Directed by Mike Leigh
2010
Blu-ray

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Beginners

Yet another movie about dying - this one about a guy in his 30's and his father who is dying of cancer. Why don't I just go see Rise of the Planet of the Apes or something? Obviously, there's a lot more to this than just that though. Alex J told me about this movie a few months ago and I was looking forward to its release. I was not disappointed. Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer were great. And so was Melanie Laurent who I first saw as the cinema owner/Nazi killer in Inglorious Basterds. In fact, the first scene she was in is one of my favorite scenes of the year.

I liked the flashback nature of the storytelling as well as the asides about what life was like during certain years. These flourishes added to what was already a great script. I wasn't a huge fan of Mill's first film, Thumbsucker, but I really liked this one. That film was adapted from a book - this one was an original screenplay partly based on his own 75-year-old father's story of coming out of the closet after the death of his wife.

This film is about all those big things - loss, regret, loneliness, love, etc. But it never feels melodramatic. It's just darn good.

Directed by Mike Mills
2011
Chelsea Cinemas

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Tree of Life

This was the movie Terrence Malick was born to make. It's got all the hallmarks - the big questions, the alternating narrators, the jump cuts, the majestic soundtrack, the nature - the glorious nature.

This film put me in a trance. Every movie I see these days that deals with life and death is hitting me in the right spot. I need this catharsis. And this movie gave me space to marvel as well as think about what's going on in my life. I really liked it.

The acting was great - all the kids were incredible. Every frame of the film looks perfect. And did I mention that there is a dinosaur in this?

Directed by Terrence Malick
2011
Times Square 25

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rabbit Hole

I had a feeling I would like this but I liked it even more than I thought I would. Maybe it was just the right, cathartic time for me to see it. I had just come back from visiting my dad. I had just gotten the boys to bed. I was in the midst of drinking a few beers. I almost decided not to watch this because of everything that was going on but it had arrived in the mail so I figured why the hell not? And I'm glad I watched it. It was a good release for me. It felt good to cry.

And the movie isn't nearly as bleak as I was afraid it might be. Yes, it is set eight months after the death of a 4-year-old boy. But it isn't about the accident itself as much as it is about the parents of the boy trying to figure out how to move on with their life. I think this movie would have moved me no matter what but since I was already feeling so fragile, it moved me even more.

This movie is moving, subtle, and hopeful. A parent can never get over such a tragedy but this film shows how to begin to carry on. Just as long as you don't order a birthday cake from Lyle Lovett right before the accident, it is possible to move forward.

Directed by John Cameron Mitchell
2010
DVD

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Out of the Past

This movie confuses me. The first time I saw it, I had taken my sister and perhaps my mom to see it in Fells Point. I don't know what I was thinking taking them to see a film noir. Obviously, it wasn't their cup of tea and I had a difficult time enjoying it because I felt so guilty taking them to a movie they hated.

A few years later, I saw it again and was blown away by it. So when Bart came over to watch it, I was convinced we were going to love it. Instead, we both had a difficult time staying awake and thus were confused by the many twists and turns.

But I'm convinced that this movie is great and can't believe that two of the three times I saw it, I was disappointed. I vow that the fourth time will be the best. It's going to take the others ones off my chest.

I mean this movie has it all. Kirk Douglas. Robert Mitchum. Hot broads. Great locales. Great director. And killer lines.

Such as:
- You know, a dame with a rod is like a guy with a knitting needle.

- I sell gasoline, I make a small profit. With that I buy groceries. The grocer makes a profit. We call it earning a living. You may have heard of it somewhere.

- My feelings? About ten years ago, I hid them somewhere and haven't been able to find them.

Joe: I often wondered what happened to him. Then one day I'm breezing through here, and there's his name up on a sign.
Marny: It's a small world.
Joe: Yeah. Or a big sign.

Kathie: I don't want to die.
Jeff: Neither do I, Baby, but if I have to, I'm going to die last.

Maybe the fourth time is going to have to be soon. What are you doing this coming Tuesday, Bart?

Directed by Jacques Tourneur
1947
TCM

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

American Graffiti

This was always one of my favorites when I was a kid. I remember watching it with my dad and I remember he loved it. The music is great and any movie that somewhat led to the 50's/early 60's nostalgia, and by extension, Sha Na Na and Happy Days is A-OK in my book.

So does it hold up? Yes and no. It's good, no doubt. But watching it in a post Dazed and Confused landscape lessens the novelty of this film I think. Still, there are some great moments in this and every character is pretty funny so what the hell am I even talking about? I've changed my mind. The answer to the question at the beginning of this paragraph is YES!

It's crazy to think that the time that this film was nostalgic about was only eleven years earlier. But 1973 America was a much different place than 1962 America. Would a movie set in 2000 seem so nostalgic now? It seems crazy to think about but it was pre War on Terror, pre text messages, pre social networking. So maybe ... but no - that's crazy talk, right?

Directed by George Lucas
1973
HBO

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Another Earth

The premise of this film is pretty interesting if not a little bit hokey. Another earth is discovered. A teenage girl (after a night of drinking) is trying to look out her car window to see it after hearing about it on the radio. She crashes into another car and kills a mom and son. The father barely survives.

Four years later, she gets out of jail and tries to apologize to the man. But she can't bring herself to do it and lies to him, saying that she's there to clean his house. She also has applied to be a contest winner to take a voyage to Earth II which is an exact replica of our Earth right down to all of the people.

The film is low key and low budget and pretty good. Not great. But worth seeing. And I like William Mapother (of The Others on Lost) fame quite a bit in this. And the "What do you do after you find out that there is another you on another earth, let's play some Wii boxing" scene is A-MAZING.

Directed by Mike Cahill
2011
Time Square 25

Monday, August 08, 2011

Winnie the Pooh

The best thing I can say about this movie is that it was just what Winnie the Pooh always is. As Sujan pointed out, "Isn't every Pooh movie the exact same thing?" Although she also did comment that she was surprised by how fraught with anxiety Piglet was and wondered if that was always the case.

Things of note:
- The boys enjoyed eating popcorn for the first time.

- Sam stayed awake the whole time in the theater for the first time.

- Sam farted really loudly near the end of the movie and then acted all nonchalant about it.

- They were pretty silent during the entire movie except for one word - bumblebees.

- If Sujan had any more reason to dislike this film, she found it in the vocal stylings of Zooey Deschanel.

- After the movie, I asked the boys if they wanted to ever watch Winnie the Pooh at home and Otis emphatically said no. He only wants to watch Despicable Me at home. A boy with discerning tastes and he's not even two and a half. Nice job, O.

Directed by Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall
2011
Cape Cod

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Despicable Me

After not showing any interest in non Toy Story movies recently, I was pleased that Double Trouble really like this movie. They love the dancing at the end. They love when Jason Segal's character Vector was calling out "Oh Yeah." They loves the cookie robots. They love all the vehicles. They loved Gru (Steve Carell) and his car which they insist is a train. I love listening to them try to say the title of the movie.

Sam also really likes the cute little girls in the movie. And everything about this film is nice and clean and streamlined visually. It's colorful, fun, and easy to follow. It was a lot of fun watching this with them. And oh yeah - Carell's yellow minions are very similar to the aliens in Toy Story so that doesn't hurt either.

Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud
2010
HBO


Thursday, August 04, 2011

Super 8

I loved the whole Spirit of '82 feel to this. I liked the beginning quite a bit. I loved the zombie movie within the movie. I thought the kid actors were all very good. Yet ... yet ... I just couldn't get into this by the end.

First of all, Kyle Chander - completely underutilized! The greatest actor of our generation needed more to do! Secondly, it was so implausible at times that it lost me. For example, how the hell is a guy going to drive his pickup truck on the tracks causing an incredible explosion and train crash, yet not die himself - all while clutching the all important map? I mean, come on!

But I did like it more than Jim who sent me this e-mail when I inquired about why he disliked the movie so much. He wrote, "I hated the last 10 minutes. So much sappiness: the jerk dad getting all huggy with his son -- I didn't care about their relationship at all or need it to become suddenly lovey-dovey -- couple other things I don't remember around then, and then the clincher, the necklace escaping from his hand and being the last piece the alien ship needed to take off. That absolutely killed it for me. Also didn't like the fact that you couldn't see what the alien looked like until the end; that was unnecessary. Oh yeah: ALSO how the alien picked him up in its hand and listened to him saying "You can go..." or whatever, after it had just eaten a bunch of other people. All that annoyed me."

Two minutes after reading that e-mail, I read Kip's glowing review on Facebook and almost lost it: "Super 8 is SUPERB!! Go see it!! It's amazing."

So you be the judge. Who do you trust more? Me who gives it a lukewarm review. Jim who hated it. Or Kip who LOOOOOOOOVED it?

Directed by J.J. Abrams
2011
Court St.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The Killing Fields

I can't believe I had never seen this - especially since I'd really wanted to see it since visiting Cambodia in 2006. The movie didn't disappoint but in some ways, I'm almost more interested in learning more about the story of the actor Haing S. Ngor who was murdered in LA in the mid 90's, possibly because of his political activism about his home country.

I loved the mid 80's score. I did not love the ridiculous use of Imagine at the very end of the film though. I loved Spalding Gray's small role and now I feel like I need to re-watch Swimming to Cambodia soon.

Everything about this film (except the aforementioned John Lennon song) worked well. It made palpable for American audiences what had happened during the Khmer Rouge reign of terror without getting too bogged down in the gruesome details. Later films like Hotel Rwanda definitely have followed the template of this film.

Now all I need to do is actually watch what is supposed to be a great documentary, S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine, about a place where Jason and I visited back in '06.

Directed by Roland Joffe
1984
TCM