Monday, January 21, 2013

This is 40

Sean recently told me about a review he read of this movie that was only six words long -- "THIS IS 40 - This is 40 minutes too long." True but there are many other problems with this film as well.

Apatow needs a little less control of his films. He needs someone to edit his movies a little, let him know when some of the improvised scenes don't quite work, and someone to tell him to stop casting his entire family in every movie.

I was ready to love this movie. Hell, I'm almost 40. Hell, I know that marriage isn't easy. Hell, I probably eat too many cupcakes. I was almost in tears when I first saw the preview. I was primed to like this.

But none of it really rang true. Everything seemed just a little too easy. I mean, when Paul Rudd is your stand-in, the whole joke about eating too many cupcakes makes no sense. Rudd's character looks great and is always exercising. And are we really supposed to feel bad for someone that looks like Leslie Mann and who also has the time and money to worry about it to the degree she does.

And just because they are upper middle class and entitled doesn't mean that the themes of the movie can't be universal. How much more universal can you get than worries about aging and marriage? For example, I can't relate to the richies in Scenes From a Marriage or Husbands and Wives, but those movies about troubled marriages are great. Granted, I'm not comparing Apatow to Bergman or Woody Allen but he has shown in the past that he has the talent to straddle the line between comedy and sadness quite well. He just didn't do it here.

Sure, there was some worrisome conflicts - maybe they need to sell their incredible house. Maybe Rudd has to sell his original artwork by John Lennon. Maybe Rudd needs to stop lending almost 80 grand to his father. 80 grand!!!! Maybe they can't take their fancy retreat vacations for awhile. Or maybe they need to find other jobs to replace their boutique record label or boutique shop.

And did I mention there were too many random subplots that either went nowhere or went somewhere that wasn't very interesting. 

Sigh.

Now that I've gotten that out of my system - I did like parts of this movie. It isn't all obnoxious upper middle class white people's problems.

Things I liked:
- the Lost story line
- Melissa McCarthy
- the Tom Petty lookalike
- Paul Rudd is a funny dude
- a few minutes of Albert Brooks before that became tedious
- Some of the marriage dialogue straddled the line well between funny and serious.
- The Graham Parker subplot was pretty ridiculous but some of it was so absurd that it almost kind of worked. 

All in all, at least this was better than Funny People, right?

Directed by Judd Apatow
2012
Universal Screening Room

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Amour

I've seen most of Michael Haneke's films since moving to NYC. And there hasn't been one even remotely like this one. I like the change. I also like his crazy other films as well though.

Three of the last four years, there has been a majorly hyped foreign film that has come out at the very end of the year that played at Film Forum. I loved the other two films. By those standards, I was a little disappointed by this one. But comparing this to Haneke's earlier film The White Ribbon and last year's A Separation really isn't fair, is it? This is a much different film.

I really don't have much to say about this movie. It was very good. The acting was great. The direction was great. 

I guess all there is to say is -- it's heartbreaking but so is life. Getting old is a bitch.

Directed by Michael Haneke
2012
Film Forum

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I haven't read the book but now I'm thinking maybe I should. I really liked this film. Plus it was adapted and directed by the author of the book.

It nails the small moments and ennui of being a teenager in the early 90's pretty well. Plus, it has a bit of a John Hughes feel to it. Tell me that that shirt on that kid on the left doesn't remind you of Ducky.

All told, this movie is much better than the other coming-of-age film set in Pittsburgh. 

The acting was stellar, the emotions felt real, everything felt honest. Pretty much my only major problem with it was these are kids who supposedly know about Nick Drake (pre VW ad) and The Shaggs but had never heard of Heroes by David Bowie. Doubtful.

Directed by Stephen Chbosky
2012
Times Sq. 25

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Almost Famous

In 2000, I wrote, "Good, but it just lacked that little something something. Crowe should have made this film fifteen years ago. It's almost like he was trying to gloss over too much of the story to please the Jerry Maguire crowd but instead he alienated everyone (well at least me). Now if he would make a whole movie with Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs, that would be exciting"

For years, I've gotten grief from Chris Larry for being too hard on this film. It was time to give it another chance -which I did last month.

My 2012 thoughts ended up not being that different from my 2000 thoughts. I liked it but didn't think it was even close to being great. I did like the bus rides, the first scene where the young Cameron Crowe tries to get into the show, and all of the Lester Bangs scenes. Plus, Frances McDormand is great. And it was funny to see Marc Maron yell "Lock the gates."

But ...
1. I didn't care about the band at all. A fictional band based on the Allman Brothers? Snooze.
2. Patrick Fugit is dumb. He just couldn't carry this movie for me.
3. Kate Hudson is not pretty.
4. The whole thing seemed a little too Wonder Years for me. But there was no Wayne to spice things up.

I'm not upset I re-watched this but I remain fortified in my belief that this movie is overrated. So there.

Directed by Cameron Crowe
2000
HBO

Monday, January 14, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

- Not as good as The Hurt Locker. And I didn't even love that movie.

- Not as crazy intense as Black Hawk Down. That movie was crazy!

- Not as entertaining as Argo. But how can you compete with a movie featuring Kyle Chandler with 1970s hair?

- Not as illuminating about torture as Taxi to the Dark Side. But this isn't a documentary so why am I even making that comparison?

But ... this film will be the one ... the one!! People will watch this movie thirty years from now in the way we still watch All the President's Men to get a slice of history.

It sort of felt like the greatest hits of terrorism in some ways. Or a Jason Bourne globetrotting flick. It did tie threads together well but until the raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound, nothing felt that different or unique to me from other movies I've seen over the years.

Still - the raid. So good! Maybe not as good as that first scene in The Hurt Locker but it isn't a fair comparison since we knew how this would turn out.

I also was not that perturbed by the whole torture thing. I agree with the filmmakers - it isn't that clear that the actual torture is what got the information. And even if it did, the complexities involved make the film that much more interesting. Just not that interesting.

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
2012
Lincoln Sq

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Life of Pi

I liked this a lot more than I thought I would. It's kind of magical and all kinds of fun. Sujan didn't like the book all that much so I was a bit apprehensive. And parts of the story and themes might be a bit annoying if I had just been reading it. But the visual storytelling aspect of seeing it in on the big screen in 3D was so astounding that I didn't care about some of my doubts.

I've been a harsh critic of lackluster digital effects for years but in the past few years, I've become more and more of a believer. That shipwreck was awesome! That tiger looked real! Those meerkats were super cool! Irrfan Khan is always awesome, Ang Lee knows how to direct a great action scene, and a ferocious tiger on a raft in the middle of an ocean means drama.

Parts of this movie reminded me of amazing technicolor adventures from the 50's or Errol Flynn crazy pirate movies of the 30's or flying carpet movies from the 40's. Good stuff.

Directed by Ang Lee
2012
Times Sq. 25

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Holy Motors

I wasn't planning on seeing this but I'm a sucker for year end top ten lists especially the AV Club one. I remember seeing two of Leos Carax's heralded films in the 90's (Pola X, Lovers on the Bridge) and to be honest, neither made all that much of an impression on me at the time. But you can't argue with top ten lists!

So Matt and I met up the other night after school to see it. We both left with roughly the same impression. Most of it was really fascinating. But the last few minutes were kind of lame.

The premise is that this one weird dude travels around all day in a white stretch limo taking on various guises (a gangster, a dying old man, a sexed up green screen actor, a completely bizarre troll-like guy who terrorizes a cemetery and a photo shoot) over the course of the day.

Some of it was completely mesmerizing. I have no idea what any of it meant but it doesn't really matter I guess. It kind of reminded me of the one Cremaster I saw (the one with the demolition derby in the Chrysler Building) as well.

Did I mention that Eva Mendes and Kylie Minogue are on this as well? Such a surreal dream of a movie.

Directed by Leos Carax
2012
IFC Center

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Park Row

I love Sam Fuller movies. I was hoping that this would be an 1880's take on the media like the cynically brilliant Billy Wilder film Ace in the Hole was to 1950's news. But it wasn't.

And by the time, I finally started getting into it, it was over - the movie is only an hour and 23 minutes long.

So I guess I was a little disappointed -- I thought a Sam Fuller movie about the newspaper business in 1880's New York would be a definite slam dunk for me. Hell, look at that poster! She had blood in her veins ... he had ink and guts!

But every Sam Fuller movie is worthwhile to one degree or another and I'm glad that I watched this and feel like maybe I'm kind of a jerk for not liking it more than I did.

I have issues.

Directed by Sam Fuller
1952
TCM

Monday, January 07, 2013

Source Code

I love the premise of the film - a new invention has been created that allows a person to inhabit someone else's body for the last 8 minutes of that person's life. In this case, it is being used by a former soldier in the war in Afghanistan. He has been charged with trying to figure out who has planted a bomb on a moving train in Chicago in the hopes of preventing an even bigger attack later in the day.

Over and over again, Jake G has to go back on that train to get blown up again. It's kind of awesome - at least for awhile. Then some of the holes in the script start appearing and things that are supposed to be emotional end up being kind of flat instead.

Still, it is an intriguing follow-up to Moon and I'm interested to see what Duncan Jones does next.

Directed by Duncan Jones
2011
Showtime

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Lincoln

I'll go see anything that Spielberg puts out. But I also feel like I'm pretty honest with myself about whether or not I think the movie is any good or not. So ... with that stated, I think this movie is very very good. In fact, if Spielberg had just fired Tommy Lee Jones's makeup person, I'd rank this even higher. It is definitely Spielberg's best non-animated film since Catch Me if You Can and possibly even Saving Private Ryan.

In fact, I'd put this up there with Private Ryan and Schlinder's List as top Spielberg "serious" films. No question. He should make more historical films when they are this good. It's interesting - he already made one film that largely focused on a legislative battle over slavery (Amistad) but this one was much better.

Part of what makes it so good is the non Spielberg-ness of it all. No overwrought John Williams score (although John Williams did do the score.) No melodramatic crap. The first scene is post battle - he didn't even give us a battle scene - and I love that.

Daniel Day-Lewis can be cartoonish in a good way. Luckily, there's no cartoon here. He brings the complexities of Lincoln to life. And I loved his voice. I'm not an expert on Lincoln but the Tony Kushner script did a good job of pulling together different strands of his life in an entertaining, concise way. I loved the stories Lincoln would tell to drive home his point - they seemed rambling at first and then would become crystal clear by the end. And it was a smart move to limit the film to just a few months at the end of the war.

The drama is compelling and the political maneuvering is fascinating. The indoor cinematography is great as well. What's not to like about this film. Now all I've got to do is see that Michael Apted film about the legal battle in England to abolish slavery and see how it compares to this.

Directed by Steven Spielberg
2012
Times Sq. 25

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook

This was exactly what I expected it would be and that's a good thing. Entertaining as hell.

Some thoughts:
1. This is only the 2nd Bradley Cooper movie I've seen and he wasn't half bad!
2. When was the last time Robert De Niro was actually in something good? Welcome back Bobby!
3. Jacki Weaver has to get another Oscar nomination for this, right? A completely different role than her one in Animal Kingdom, but still remarkably similar - moms who love their kids. Crabby snacks and homemades might be the best line of the year.
4. I could have watched at least two more hours of Jennifer Lawrence dancing.
5. That last dance scene was really damn funny and the most  Flirting With Disaster-like I've seen David O. Russell try to pull off since that film. 
6. I'd love to see a sequel pitting Robert de Niro's character with Angelica Huston's Bills loving charcter in Buffalo 66.
7. Sujan thought that both the Danny Elfman score and the rock soundtrack were both very good. I agree.
8. Chris Tucker!!!!

Directed by David O. Russell
2012
Court St. 12

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

I blew this movie off years ago when I mistakenly thought it was some sort of Guy Ritchie nonsense. I knew that Sean was a big fan so I was intrigued. That guy never steers me wrong! Well, sometimes he does.

Also, conveniently Sujan has been on a Robert Downey kick recently so the stars were aligned for me to actually watch this.

What wasn't aligned though was my actual interest in this film. I mean, it is fine and all. I kind of liked the noirish aspects of it and in that respect didn't get so annoyed with it like I did with another recent film noir inspired movie. Robert Downey was fun as always. Val Kilmer was entertaining. And Corbin Bernson, for chrissakes! But it reminded me of Rules of Attraction in a bad way for some reason and I don't think it was because both films feature Shannyn Sossamon.

I also entertained myself by trying to picture just how much a 23-year-old Sean Gardner must have freaked out about the screenplay of this film. As a 39-year-old cynic, I found it not nearly as clever as it thought it was. Bah hambug!

Directed by Shane Black
2005
HBO