Thursday, September 29, 2011

Moneyball

Soderbergh would have made a good movie. Despite having fun elements, this movie was not particularly good. I don't particularly mind that a lot of the intricacies of the book and also the real story weren't touched upon or were fudged for dramatic purposes. So what rubbed me the wrong way so much?

Since this was a baseball movie, here are the three big strikes against it.

Strike One: The baseball scenes are way clunky - think Naked Gun.

Strike Two: The movie tried to have it both ways. It treated the 20th victory in a row as sweet vindication for Beane and featured lots of slo-mo and cliche sports movie excitement. But the A's still lost and the streak didn't really matter to Beane anyway. One conversation between Beane and Jonah Hill's character after the victory felt like a halfhearted attempt to make that clear.

Strike Three: That song that Beane's daughter sings to him in a special father-daughter moment. As I was watching it, I just knew that it would make its way back into my ears before the credits. Unfortunately, I was 100% correct to have that fear. Unless Beane's daughter actually wrote and recorded the song back in 2002 (she didn't), this is a horrible misstep for the movie. Why is this even in the movie other than to show that Beane can do more than stomp around the place while spitting into a cup?

Some other thoughts:
- If I were Art Howe, I'd be a bit annoyed that they made me look super fat in the guise of Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Howe was not a fat guy.

- If I were who Jonah Hill was based on (Paul DePodesta) I'd be annoyed. DePodesta is a good looking dude. Jonah Hill is Jonah Hill.

Were they just trying to make Brad Pitt look that much more handsome by surrounding him by non attractive sorts?

- If I were Scott Hatteberg, I'd be honored to have Chris Pratt portray me. Pratt nailed it.

- If I were David Justice, I'd be annoyed that I wasn't asked to play myself.

- This film is a pretty big disappointment to me. The people who are calling it 2011's The Social Network are misguided. I never really got the sense what drove Beane. Countless flashbooks to him as a young hotshot prospect don't really add much.

I understand that the book must have been hard to adapt but forcing a book about ideas into a conventional story line didn't work. It's not smart enough, it doesn't develop enough interesting characters or relationships amongst the characters, and it doesn't work as a rousing sports underdog movie either.

No hustle either, Skip.

Rebecca and I definitely left this film in a negative loop and it continued on throughout the day.

Since she wasn't familiar with what some of the real people in the movie looked like, I sent her some links. I also sent her the link to this movie review I found that details all the excruciating details behind the story of the song Beane's daughter sings. Apparently, it's from a 2008 Old Navy commercial?

She wrote back:
OH MY GOD. Why did they take this away from Soderbergh and give it to the Capote kid? That seems like such a huge mistake.

The origin of that song is so much worse than I ever thought it could be. Also, I wonder why everyone else was really people but Jonah Hill did not really play Paul DePodesta? Also, Paul DePodesta is very handsome and Jonah Hill is (was) very fat.

I mean, would it have KILLED Phillip Seymour Hoffman to lose a little weight to play a relatively trim Art Howe?

The more I think about it, the more Chris Pratt was the only thing worth watching in this movie.

I have said this eleventy billion times, but Brad Pitt just CANNOT be a leading man. He is one of the greatest character actor/weird quirky side part players in the world, but he can't carry a whole movie. I don't know why I tricked myself into thinking this would be different.

I just re-watched the trailer and it made me mad all over again. The trailer is 100% better than the whole movie was.

Directed by Bennett Miller
2011
Kips Bay

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Catfish

I went into this a bit skeptical. I didn't know much about it other than that there had been some whispers that maybe this wasn't as true as it was made out to be. But my skepticism was misplaced. I liked this film quite a bit. And I don't care how true it actually is.

It works for me on many levels.

If it was true - then it's a fascinating document of how modern technology and social networking have shifted the way we communicate with each other. And how easily new personas can be created. And about gullibility. And about believing in things that we know we shouldn't. All that stuff.

If it's only partly true - so what? It still gets at the deeper truths (what Herzog has called the ecstatic truth) that I wrote about in the previous paragraph.

If it is all a hoax, then even better. It's like The Blair Witch Project but about lonely people rather than witches. I almost wish it was completely made up.

Directed by Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman
2010
HBO

Monday, September 26, 2011

Better This World

Our government is f-ed up. Basically, don't go protesting anywhere near a Republican national convention. Bloomberg arrested everyone in sight in 2004.

In 2008, two twentysomething friends from Texas were arrested on domestic terrorism charges that pretty much were about FBI entrapment by a former leftist turned right wing commentator.

Ugly stuff. Really good doc though.

Directed by Kelly Duane and Katie Galloway
2011
PBS

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Uncle Boonmee is dying. But before he goes, he's visited by the ghost of his late wife as well as his estranged son in the form of a jungle spirit. I had no idea what was going on half the time but I still was kind of enthralled by this film. I've seen a couple of other films by this filmmaker and all three are similar in that respect to me. They all are heavily steeped in the spirit world and people taking the form of other animals and the like.

I spent a night outdoors in a rural area outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand back in 2000. Our guide spoke a lot about ghosts and the spirits that lived in the woods in the form of tigers and other animals. I don't know enough about Thai culture to know how prevalent this line of thinking is. All I know is that I was scared that night and that I really like the mysteries of the films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
2010, U.S. Release: 2011
Blu-ray

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Warrior

Jim was hoping that there would be at least one reference to The Warriors. There wasn't.

I was hoping there would be at least one good Nick Nolte drunk scene. There was. One.

Jim was hoping that there would be some hot dudes in this. There was but apparently the MMA action in this wasn't as homoerotic as it is in real life. At least according to Jim.

I was hoping for some super fun fight scenes. There were.

We both were hoping for Clubber Lang or Dolph Lundgren to show up to fight. They didn't.

We both were hoping to wanna stand up and cheer. We didn't but I kind of felt like it at times.

I would have loved to seen what this movie would have looked like if it had been directed by Darren Arnofsky or David O. Russell. Instead, the director of Miracle directed this and the movie made a lot of sense in that context. And I don't mean that as an insult.

Directed by Gavin O'Connor
2011
34th St.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Summer Hours

Am I done with these sort of frenchy talkfests? Perhaps. I didn't like this nearly as much as the previous Juliette Binoche film I had seen or even the most recent Assayas film. In fact, the most recent French film I can even compare this to was better than this.

I'm not sure what it was. I like family dramas as much as the next guy. Maybe not as much as Sujan does but I like them. But I just couldn't get into this particular bunch of white people's problems. I think that might be the only insight I have about this film. French, American. It doesn't matter. Sometimes WPP just don't resonate with me.

Directed by Olivier Assayas
2009
Sundance Channel

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Town Called Panic

Holy mackerel. What a great movie! See it right now! It even gets Double Trouble approval. And they don't even speak French or know how to read subtitles!

But it doesn't stop them from calling out "Horse!" "Cowboy!" "Indian!" "Penguin Tractor!"

It's not really worth even getting into what this is about. Ostensibly, the film is about a cowboy and indian who live together with their horse and decide they want to buy some bricks to build a barbeque for the horse's birthday present.

But it also involves a whole host of other absolute craziness. There's the aforementioned penguin. There are these bizarre thieves who hide underwater. There are crazy scientists who like to have their penguin tractor/tank creation throw gigantic snowballs at anything near it.

This is really one of the most fun, most inventive, silliest, strangest, awesomest movies I've seen.

Not to mention - the stop motion animation is perfectly not perfect.

Directed by Stéphane Aubier & Vincent Patar
2009
Sundance Channel

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Contagion

First of all - this is the creepiest poster of the year by far.

Second of all, poor Gwyneth.

Other thoughts.
- I loved the first half. The mundane beginnings of the catastrophe were fascinating to watch unfold.

- I loved the last minute. Answers are awesome.

- The second half overall though wasn't nearly as good as the first half. I think Soderbergh was so worried about making a cliche disaster film that the whole society starts falling apart section seemed a bit muted. Some of it worked, some of it didn't. And the dialogue is a bit hokey at times.

- Judging by this movie, all government officials are incredibly courageous and honorable. Non-traditional media on the other hand are all evil scamming liars. Silly. Plus I think the whole Jude Law plotting to do bad stuff while on a park bench was thrown in just to remind us how cool the 70s conspiracy thrillers were.

Overall, I liked this movie quite a bit and can't stop thinking about it. Cover your mouth please.

Directed by Steven Soderbergh
2011
Chelsea Cinemas

Monday, September 12, 2011

Attack the Block

Hell, yes! Screw Super 8! This is the alien movie to see this summer. The tagline of Inner City vs Outerspace says it all. But what it doesn't full let you know is how awesome this movie is in a late 70's Assault on Precinct 13/The Warriors kind of way.

The dialogue is hilarious. The action is sillily stupendous. The aliens are so low budget that it is incredible. They look like people wearing black fur outfits with humongous glow-in-the- dark teeth. The social commentary is great -- the block is being attacked by aliens but no one wants to call the police because they know they will get blamed somehow.

I'm looking forward to seeing this film again. And hopefully soon.

Directed by Joe Cornish
2011
Times Sq. 25

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Future

I really should have known better. I hated the previews but I was hoping that maybe the movie itself would be better. I really liked Me and You and Everyone We Know.

In 2005, I wrote, "This film captures so many little, fascinating moments of life (the goldfish on the roof of the car to name one). July incorporates so many universal themes in this film in a new, very unique way. This film got the big arthouse push over the summer and I was worried that I would be saddled with another cloying Napoleon Dynamite fiasco that strained too damn hard to be quirky. Instead, I was pleased to find this heartfelt, tender, charming film. And as far as I know, there aren't any Me and You and Everyone We Know lunchboxes as of yet."

I disliked this movie so much that I now wonder if even that movie was any good. Or have I just changed and can't appreciate a movie like this anymore? Things I liked about her last movie were not evident to me in this one. I didn't find it charming at all.


I remember that movie being cute and quirky and all that "twee" stuff but at least it was grounded in reality. As if the talking moon wasn't bad enough, the talking cat voiced by July almost killed me.

I'm all for exploring themes of aging, loneliness, relationships, etc in a cutesy way. Sure, why not? But I disliked the two main characters to the point that I couldn't give a crap what came of them. The daughter of the suburban dad was somewhat interesting as was the old man. But the woman in the window that July kept staring at was supposed to be a comment on what? Something terribly important, right?

And that scene with her boyfriend in charge of the waves was laughably bad. I wanted to punch everyone in this movie in the face. I think that might have been the point, and if so, July succeeded.


Directed by Miranda July
2011
IFC Center

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Somewhere

I watched this awhile ago and I don't quite remember that much about it. It was pretty good. Nice and mellow. I didn't like the ending much though. But I liked the subtleties of most of the movie. I liked the depressing stripper stuff. Hilarious.

Stephen Dorff was Stephen Dorffy.

I also loved Jim's quote while watching the movie, "I could get into this lifestyle."

Directed by Sofia Coppola
2010
Blu-ray


Monday, September 05, 2011

Enemies of the People

Filmmaker Thet Sambath lost most of his family during the Pol Pot reign. Then his mother was forced to marry a Khmer Rouge soldier. As an adult, Sambath became obsessed with documenting as much as he could. He interviewed anyone that was willing to talk including former soldiers who spoke candidly about the people they killed on camera.

But the real coup was gaining the trust of Brother Number Two (Pol Pot's second in command) over a three year courtship. Days before he was arrested for his crimes, Sambath got him to talk about the murders on camera.

The movie plays as an important historical document as well as a suspenseful drama. To gain Brother Number Two's trust, he deliberately delayed telling him the truth about how his family had died. The question looms over the entire movie - will Sambath ever let on to the truth? And if he does, how will Brother Number Two react?

This is one of the best documentaries of the past few years in its levity, uniqueness, and storytelling drama.

Directed by Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath
2010
PBS


Thursday, September 01, 2011

Tabloid

I loved this movie. Wow. This is one of those films that I need to see again soon to fully savor all of the crazy stuff in it.

I don't even want to go to what this is about but it does involve phrases like "Mormon sex in chains" and the idea of dog cloning. It also has a dog in it named Booger Hong.

After a few films about serious stuff, Morris goes back to filming whackadoodles and eccentrics. Welcome back Erroll to the world of fascinating nutjobs and those who love to write and talk about them! Amazing movie.

Directed by Erroll Morris
2011
IFC Center