Saturday, December 29, 2007

Ah yeah... here it comes... my top 20 worst films I've seen this year

The rules:
1. The films do not have to be released this year, just viewed by me in their entirety for the first time.
2. I've probably watched something like 150 films this year and I'm sure Good Luck Chuck belongs on any worst list, but I never watched it.

All right... here we go.

20. Idiocracy - I hate to slam Mike Judge, but this has all the feel of a SNL dragged out for 90 min. There are maybe two laughs from Luke Wilson, but most of the film is spent with such an awkwardness I find myself feeling uncomfortable even now...

19. Georgia - A well intentioned film that was nominated for various awards back in the day. My gal Jennifer Jason Leigh is almost too effective as the annoying hanger-on sister of folk star Mare Winningham.

18. The Italian Job - We are talking the original with Michael Caine. A mess from start to finish with intermediate moments that didn't suck. I actually enjoyed the overrated remake more.

17. The Presidio - Meg Ryan as a sexy window dressing? What? This is a horrible waste of time for Sean Connery and Lee Roy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon to you NCIS virgins). This film is bad on so many levels that I think a new kind of low was achieved.

16. Copying Beethoven - I have to admit... I'm totally smitten with Diane Kruger, but she is miscast here. All I could think about was her legs and not the awful performance from Ed Harris in the lead. I still love Ed, but seriously... you were great once... get it together man.

15. Cache - There is nothing more disappointing then seeing a critically loved film only to find out that is a hack job of a student film masquerading as a thinking person's thriller. Blah...

14. Edmond - David Mamet... I know what you were trying to do, but it didn't work. Julia Stiles is awful... oh let's be honest... so is this entire pile.

13. Rise: Bloodhunter - Lucy Lui doin' some naked time saves this from the top ten. From an awful filmmaker Sebastian Guiterrez. Learn the name and run the other way when you here it.

12. Notes on a Scandal - Another film with lots of awards, but it is still just a glorified TV movie. Cate Blanchett plays a teacher who sleeps with a student... Judy Dench is in love with Cate... and is jealous. This should have been dead before it was made.

11. A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints - Just a cliche film from a first time filmmaker that borrows from everything. When you cast Robert Downey, Jr you have to give him screentime moron... that should be filmmaking rule number one.

10. Without a Clue - Ben Kingsley and Michael Caine go slumming as Watson and Holmes in this spoof of the genre. Absolutely all wit is removed from the screenplay... cringe-worthy dialogue ensues.

9. The Black Dahlia - I guess Hilary Swank and Scar-Jo got mixed up in the casting... plus who wrote this awful script? And hard to belive, but Josh Hartnett isn't the reason this one bites...

8. The Reaping - The advertisements should have boasted the most incomprehensible ending ever in a film NOT by David Lynch. Hilary, this is twice this year... you should be glad I haven't seen Freedom Writers... yet.

7. The Staircase - I haven't the heart to put this well intentioned story of a modern day Job trying to fulfill a dying nun's dreams higher on the list.

6. Into Thin Air - Peter Horton is the best actor here? Wow... at least it prompted a Side Out reference in my review. One of my favorite books though.

5. Live Free or Die - Paul Schneider and Zooey Deschanal reunite after the delightful All the Real Girls in this giant mess of indie film crap.

4. White Noise - Michael Keaton tries his best... but the idiots who wrote the script don't even understand the whole concept of EVP. Morons... morons.

3. Northfork - Another disappointment from the Polish Bros. A lot of critical acclaim is laid upon them for some reason. This is awful and almost unwatchable.

2. Stolen Summer - The first of Project Greenlight's releases achieves bad filmmaking in every way possible. I literally think the plot was written from a dart board of ideas.

1. (drum roll) The worst film by far this year I have watched was Beat. You probably haven't heard of it... good. It is a take on the "beat" poets of the day featuring such craptacular performances by Kiefer Sutherland, Courtney Love, Ron Livingston, and Kyle Secor. Somehow it has maintained a 5.3 on IMDB, but that has got to go down as more Jack Bauer fans stumble onto this little slice of hell.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Franklin J. Schaffner was on a hot streak in the late 60's and early 70's when he decided to make the prison film Papillon. Planet of the Apes and Patton had established him as a commercially viable director with a flair for showing off his lead actors. It seemed only natural he get one of the biggest stars of all time, Steve McQueen, and agruably the best actor of the time, Dustin Hoffman, together for film.

McQueen plays the title character who has been wrongfully convicted of killing a pimp (I thought that was doing a good thing). The French government decided to send him across the sea with hundreds of other prisoners to work camps in French Guinea. Along the way, Papillon meets Louis Dega (Hoffman) who has been convicted of a white collar crime. Dega has money and Papillon soon work out a deal for protection. Papillion needs the money to try and escape his new prison once they get ashore.

The film turns into a story of friendship over many years and more than a few prison breaks. Dega settles in to a cushy job working for the warden, but Papillon is hell bent on his freedom. Schaffner does a masterful job of direction with the shots. The sets are impeccable and you actually feel a little uncomfortable in the heat of the locations. Both of the leads are quite good in their own different ways. McQueen could do this role in his sleep, yet manages a little extra especially in the second half of the film. Hoffman does his thing with the character of Dega with a whiny voice and Coke bottle glasses. All of the elements come together well with just a little bit of pacing issues towards the end. Overall a very worthy watch.


Friday, December 21, 2007

National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets

Sometimes you go into a film and you want to like it. Especially if it is a sequel to a film you loved. You want it to just keep it simple and entertaining. The start of National Treasure 2 does keep it rather simple. Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) finds out his ancestor has been linked to the Lincoln assassination when a mysterious man (Ed Harris) comes out of nowhere with a page from John Wilkes Booth's diary. This sets our leads Gates and Riley (the underappreciated Justin Bartha) out on the chase. You learn that there are problems with Ben's relationship with Abby (Diane Kruger)... no surprise since she is a beautiful, intelligent woman and he is a kid-like dreamer who looks as if his artificial hair is going to fall off at any point.

Anyway... so the chase goes all over the globe with one improbable scene after another. I guess this never really annoyed me in the first film since they all seemed a logical exercise that they never really had to do anything too incredible (Except for stealing the Declaration of Independence which wouldn't even make the top 5 here). This one is just completely idiotic. Plus the fun dialogue between the characters is mostly gone with a seemingly rushed script to capitalize on the huge gross of the original. Add in too many extra characters...I'm looking at you Helen Mirren... and it just feels too crowded for the actors to share the chemistry of the first film.

Filmmaker Jon Turteltaub directed both films and the Wibberleys wrote both, so the problem has to lie with them. All the people involved have VERY spotty track records in the past so perhaps National Treasure was a fluke. Turteltaub did create one of the better tv series of the past few years for the non-cable networks in Jericho. I left Book of Secrets feeling much like I did after The Bourne Supremacy, where did the magic go?


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Maybe you saw one of these piles of crap this year

I haven't seen any of them, but AV Club has...

Look over here

I will be posting a ten worst films that I've seen this year that weren't necesarily released this year... interested? You know you are.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Ok, after taking some time off to start watching The Sopranos, I was able to catch the 1969 classic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Legendary director George Roy Hill had his first time working with Paul Newman (Butch) and Robert Redford (Sundance)- which would lead to 1973's collaboration on The Sting (Winner of Best Picture at the Oscars). Hill has also directed two of the funniest films of the last 30 years with Funny Farm and Slap Shot.

With all that being said, there is a tremendous pedigree and hype to live up to for this film. The story follows two crooks who have been making a living getting by robbing the local train and of course banks. Eventually the owner of the rail company gets frustrated and turns it into a personal matter hiring the best around to track down Butch and the Kid.

Complicating matters is their relationship is Etta (Katarine Ross). She loves Sundance, but knows that he like all outlaws is doomed for death. Alas, she goes along with them anyway on their attempt to outrun the posse. This sets up the second part which takes place in Bolivia.

One of the problems I had with the film was the used of two lengthy musical montages. The first has a pop song (Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head) of the day playing while Newman shows off his bicylcle skills. This has absolutely no place in the film, but unfortunately is something older people no doubt remember the most. The second is used a a device to set up the final section of the film where the trio flees to Bolivia. It is an ok idea to use still photos to show them on their journey through NY/NJ to get the boat to South America, but it is far too long. Both are attempts to use more humor to lighten up what is really kind of a downer of a film.

I remember reading that Steve McQueen was supposed to be Sundance and I think maybe that would have helped. Redford is pretty much the silent type. He never really adds much to the role even though he can be quite the actor (See All the President's Men). Paul Newman gives the one solid performance as a old criminal that is more legend than legendary. George Roy Hill also appears to be working too hard at keeping this a lean film with not a lot of meat showing the relationship of the two. I found Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to be kind of a disappointment overall. The whole film never really works or goes any deeper than the surface. And by no means is there enough humor to say this works as a comedy.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Paris, je t'aime

Paris, je t'aime is a collection of short films by some very famous directors and some not so famous ones. All of which tell stories involving Paris. Some of them we find out at the end, connect in a very loose way... while others are out there on their own.

To try and tell the plot of 20 would be fall too much. So let me tell you my favorite two of the bunch. The first of which is about an American actress (Natalie Portman) who falls for a blind man (Melchior Beslon) directed by Tom Tykwer (Perfume). The visuals are spectacular while giving you an entire story of their relationship in 5 minutes. Absolutely a talented director.

My second involves a young couple (Rufus Sewell and Emily Mortimer) on vacation. They are visiting a famous cemetary with several notable people buried there. The woman fears that her fiancee won't make her laugh and doesn't share her love of Oscar Wilde. The segment was directed by the very talented Alexander Payne (Sideways, Election).

There are a few other famous actors including Steve Buscemi, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Elijah Wood, Olga Kurylenko ( Hitman playing my favorite prostitute), and Nick Nolte. The Coehn brothers direct a short, Wes Craven, and so does the gifted Latino Alfonso Cuaron.

Some work, many don't. The overall impression left on me was that under an overall director that his could have worked much better. Too many of the stories just aren't that interesting. Thankfully, you only had to wait 5 mins for a chance at something better.


The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

A near classic from 1962, in which Tom Courtenay plays Colin Smith. Smith is a troubled youth from the outskirts of London who spends his days pinching things to get by. After his dad passes away, he finds himself in more trouble than usual. He is picked up for a crime and sent to a boys reformitory school. The headmaster (Michael Redgrave) sees talent in the lad. He wants Smith to lead the track team in their first ever competition with a public school.

The film starts with Smith at the school and tells the backstory through flashbacks. Smith finds himself struggling to do the right thing. Eventually he is put into a decision of how he is going to live his life.

Tony Richardson directed The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner after having a brush of success with A Taste of Honey. His visual style is very distinctive with the stark black and white of England in winter. Richardson would later follow this up with Tom Jones which netted him a couple of Oscars and be credited with the discovery of Albert Finney. Courtenay is quite a find for the lead here. He has a Ewan McGregor swagger that adds quite a bit to what could be a very cliche role.

The story is limited on some fronts. Certain characters are only given the one dimensional view, but overall Richardson is quite effective in his storytelling. For 1962, this film is very well put together. I think I've only seen one other director (Stanley Kubrick) who had at the time such striking vision for cinematography. (You can argue Hitchcock if you want) LOTLDR is worth watching just for the visuals on screen. I'm now moving Tom Jones up on my Netflix.


Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

For the third installment of the Mad Max trilogy, two directors were hired. George Miller would continue to oversee and focus on stunts while George Ogilvy would focus on the actors. The results of which were very noticeable. The action sequences still ring true with balls to the wall adrenaline... but problem lies in the story.

The story starts off which Max (Mel Gibson) getting his rig jacked by that damn gyro captain (Bruce Spence) from the second film. Max tracks him down to a shit-hole (Literally) way station called Bartertown. In order to get his possesions back, Max has to make a deal with Aunty(Tina Turner). Max has to fight and kill the muscle of Master who controls the underworld of Bartertown. You see the town actually is run by pig feces and Master is the only man who knows how to do it. But... he is holding that over Aunty's head and keeps his power with his protection in Blaster.

Enter Thunderdome... for something so prominently displayed in the title you would have guessed quite a bit would have to do with it right? Nope... just a 15 minute sequence. The 'dome is a enclosed space where people who have beefs with another settle it to the death.

Eventually Max finds that his partners doublecross him (You just can't trust anyone in the future). He finds himself out in the desert once again, but this time he is picked up by a lass (Hellen Buday). She thinks that he was the pilot who was flying the jet liner that crashed during the great wars. It turns out the children of the flight have made a world of their own at a tiny oasis. Eventually the children turn to Max to get them back to civilization setting up the third act.

Now that is all well and good. The two headed director approach loses steam for the action sequences which are the heart and soul of the two prior films. They contruct an interesting idea with wasteland, but they are unable to make it truely compelling. The final part of the story with the kids feels tacked on after the fact. The Thunderdome sequence should have come closer to the climax. By placing it in the beginning, you lose the momentum it built up.

The world and characters of Mad Max, are tremendously fascinating. There should be no limit to the stories you can tell in this apocalyptic world, but this film all but killed the franchise. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome isn't a bad film, merely a disappointment after The Road Warrior established itself as one of the best action films of the 80's.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Dewey Cox to the front please

Walk Hard is a flick spoofing music biopics from much loved director Jake Kasdan. Kasdan did my favorite film The Zero Effect. The multi talent John C. Reilly stars as Dewey. You can watch the first ten minutes of Walk Hard here.


We shall keep this short. Superbad tells the tale of two high school "dorks" who are enlisted with providing alcohol to the graduation party of a cute gal (Emma Stone who is suspiciously a lot like Lindsay Lohan) one of them likes. Seth (Jonah Hill)tells the gal that thanks to their fake id it shouldn't be a problem. Oh but wait it is... the fellow with the ID is McLovin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse)... or at least that is what the ID says. Evan (Michael Cera) is just going along with Seth because he thinks he can perhaps hook up with his dream girl Becca.

That's it for the plot. Just sit back and enjoy a sporadicly hilarious film with excellent supporting turns from the entire Apatow (who produced)gang. The film divides into two stories. One with Seth and Evan and the other is the best with Bill Hader and Seth Rogen(who coscripted) as the slapstick cops who befriend McLovin. The cockblock scene between the trio is just one of many highlights.

The laughs are spread out and a bit to the raunchy side, but nothing too bad. Jonah Hill is the glue that keeps the story together and that is evidenced by some funny outtakes included on the DVD. The chemistry the cast all have together makes it a pleasant two hour journey to secure beer and perhaps women.


The Ghost and the Darkness

The Ghost and the Darkness references two lions that terrorized the work site of a bridge in Africa circa the turn of the century. As the film reminds you several times, the basis of the movie is constructed on real events that happened to Col. John Patterson played here by the always terrific Val Kilmer. Patterson accepts the job as a way to see a continent he has long been fascinated with and to work himself up the ladder in the employee of a tyrant's (Tom Wilkinson) company for the British.

The first attack of the company brings swift retribution from Patterson as he kills a normal sized lion suspected of the killing. Soon it becomes evident that they have more than that to worry about. Two enormous man-eaters brutalize the camp and lead the workers to the aformentioned nicknames for the lions. A man named Remington (Michael Douglas) is called in to rid the construction site of the lions.

Stephen Hopkins, who directed The Ghost and the Darkness, is one of the directors I've talked about before. Just this year he brought us the Gothic thriller The Reaping that had a mess of third act. He is clearly talented and shows it here. Hopkins spins a tale that is very taut with very little excess at 105 minutes. The film gets to the point very early on. Think of it as Jaws on the land. Michael Douglas gets the juicy Robert Shaw-like role. Although, Douglas doesn't make an appearance til the 45 min mark. Douglas looks like he just stepped out of Romancing the Stone and chews up his screentime with much aplomb.

The CGI lions look a bit fake by today's standards, but most of the scenes are very convincing. Kilmer and Douglas seem to have a chemistry that isn't all construced in the screenplay. You get a sense of real admiration Patterson has for the hunter Remington. Their friendship with the foreman of the crew played by the indespensable John Kani again has that comradely that lacks so many movies of this type. The actors are top notch and Hopkins shows us again that when he chooses the right material he can make a slick thriller look effortless.


The Road Warrior

I haven't seen George Miller's The Road Warrior in probably 15 years. A lot has changed since then with George Miller. He directed the kid friendly Happy Feet and is signed on to do a film version of The Justice League. Miller originally struck gold with Mad Max which told the story of a Australian cop trying to avenge the death of his family from a vicious biker gang. The Road Warrior is a continuation in a sense, but more of a reimagination of Max set in a world torn apart. The film preludes with a brief explanation of the superpowers fighting a great war over oil (Sound familiar) and eventually falling into a barren wasteland. Scavengers hunt for petro along deserted stretches of highway where the only way to keep alive is to never stop moving.

Max (Mel Gibson) has a tricked out police interceptor with a sawed off shotgun, but no ammo for the weapon. Max tangles with road gang led by some guy in a Jason Voorhees mask and Bennett (Vernon Wells) from Commando. Max shakes free and soon meets a crazy inventor(Bruce Spence) who tells him of a working oil derrick with unlimited amounts of gas. Max decides to investigate and makes a deal to help get the people of this operation to safety in exhange for all the octane he can carry.

The Road Warrior was the biggest budget film ever made at the time in Australia. The stunts and action sequences are all old school with no CGI. Elaborate chase scenes are done with no fat and all meat. This a streamlined action film with no stopping. All of that creates a superbly desolate and thrilling future world. Miller and company obviously knew what they wanted to do and they do it well. The dialogue is limited, but the film doesn't drag because of it. The real stars here are machines that keep the people alive. It left me quite thrilled to rewatch the third film in the series later this week.


Monday, December 10, 2007

The Sand Pebbles

This weekend I had a chance to catch a classic from 1966 from director Ray Wise called The Sand Pebbles. The name is a reference to a boat an engineer Jake Holman (Steve McQueen) is assigned to off of mainland China in the 1920's. Wise was flying high off of the tremendous success of The Sound of Music so he was able to do this epic tale of the Chinese revolution with some good ol' racism, lots of budget, and romance thrown in for good measure.

The aformentioned engineer is a simple man. Give him his engine and he is fine... unfortunately the crew on the San Pablo is relying mostly on Chinese workers to do all the grunt work. Enter the racism with tensions amongst the crew while the revolution starts to take hold.

There are the usual plot points of one sailer (Richard Attenborough) falling in love with a hostess of a brothel and wanting to buy her freedom. Add to the mix Holman meeting a teacher (Candice Bergin) on her way to a missionary camp. He apparently finds her much more desirable than I did coz he has thoughts of going AWOL and running away with her. Toss in a proud captain played by Richard Crenna (Col. Trautman for you Rambo fans) who is not going to let his crew go and committ mutiny after a string of unfortunate events happen.

The Sand Pebbles is exquisitely shot with gorgeous colors... each frame on screen is sight to behold. The leading men are all well suited to their roles with the only weak link being the wooden Candice Bergin. She is unable to bring any life to the role of Shirley Eckert. Ah but that is a small qualm in 3 hours of masterful filmmaking. Look for little parts with actors like Mako (Sidekicks) and James Hong (Lo Pan in Big Trouble in Little China or as Snotty in Revenge of the Nerds pt 2). An underrated film that netted McQueen his only Oscar nomination.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

Stealing Home

Between my love for the game of baseball and my respect for Mark Harmon (NCIS), Stealing Home would look to be a good bet for me. Although the film has the guise of a baseball film, it really tells the story of Billy Wyatt's coming of age. Mark Harmon plays the older version of Wyatt who is called back to his home town after his first love kills herself. Wyatt has become a washed out explayer who has seen all of his dreams fade away. As Wyatt makes his journey homeward, we are told the story of Billy and Katie (Jodie Foster) with William McNamara as the young version of Billy.

What follows is pretty much the standard coming of age tale with a young Jonathan Silverman playing Billy's best friend. Katie starts out as Billy's babysitter, but the bond between them grows much stronger after a tragic event.

Cliche after cliche follows with cheesy 80's music with a large dose of saxophone tries to set the romance between the two leads. You never really get the sense of the special relationship they shared thanks to fairly stock dialogue and one dimensional characters. Even the name itself Stealing Home comes from an event that seems relatively unimportant in the story.

That being said, I still liked it a bit with much thanks to Mark Harmon. The last twenty minutes saves the day as Harmon is reunited with his best friend played as an adult by Harold Ramis (Egon from Ghostbusters). Stealing Home is by no means a great a movie... it was one of those films where it bugs me that lots of things could've been done better. A deeply flawed film that gets a mild recommendation.


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Wondering what the hell has Guy Ritchie been doing?

He made a movie called Revolver that is just now getting released in the States. It has Turkish (Jason Statham from Snatch) and Mr. Ray Liotta starring. Apparently it had some Turbulence...


Lenny is the story of the life and times of Lenny Bruce. Bruce is famously known for fighting against the idea of obscenity and what a performer can say on stage. Veteran director Bob Fosse seems an odd choice to direct this project considering his reputation was built on musicals. Expect black and white, lots of nudity, and an incredible of amount of music to drive the story forward.

The films actually looks phenomenal in b & w with each shot perfectly framing what is on screen. Fosse clearly knows how to get the look of a film, but can he make this a complete movie? The answer to that would be more or less yes he can.

The first half of the film chronicles the early years between Lenny (Dustin Hoffman) and he eventual wife Honey (Valerie Perrine). It jumps back and forth between a faux documentary featuring interviews of Lenny's inner circle and what was going on in his life. I'm not a fan of that style of storytelling, but it all seems to work without slowing down the film. Lenny takes a little while to get rolling, but it seems to find it's legs after Honey is jailed for possesion. Bruce is forced to take care of their daughter while trying to make ends meet emceeing at a strip club. A club owner sees him and his brand of humer and wants to make him a regular as a comedian.

His career begins to snowball until he starts getting noticed for all the wrong reasons. At that time in history, performers didn't use dirty language on stage. Bruce is using it to try and change the way people thought about the words themselves and was trying to make a point. Bruce was gifted with the way he was able to turn a phrase or idea around and present it in a new way. The film does delve into his performances with them interwoven into the second half.

Lenny ultimately works because of Dustin Hoffman. He is such the mannered actor who completely loses himself in the character. A lot of times you are still cognizant of who the actor is, but here you find yourself caught up in who Bruce really was and what he wanted. Fosse is very capable with the camera. You have to be able to appreciate the Fosse-style, which might strike some people as annoying. The first half drags a bit, but stick with it.

* Lenny ended up losing best picture at the 1975 Oscars to The Godfather pt. 2, but look at what else was nominated: Roman Polanski's Chinatown, Irwin Winkler's The Towering Inferno, and Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation! Dustin Hoffman not only got beat out by Art Carney, but was up against Al Pacino, Albert Finney, and Jack Nicholson! You don't seen that kind of competition at the Academy Awards anymore.


Batman in the Terminator?

Or more accurately, the American Psycho is John Connor? McG (Those awful Charlie's Angels films) is directing? What is wrong with the world?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Into Thin Air: Death on Everest

In 1996, Jon Krakauer and others in the expedition of Rob Hall, attempted to climb Mt. Everest. Hall linked his people together with Scott Fischer's in attempt to provide the best assistance they could offer for their clients making the summitt push. Most of the people who had paid to get to the top were not professional climbers. Krakauer was doing a feature on the commercialization of Everest for Outside Magazine and was himself attempting to summit. A storm hit the climbers on the descent and many people lost their lives. This created the basis for the book Into Thin Air by Krakauer on which this film is based.

Obviously you don't expect big production values on a TV film, but the surprising lack of funds is confusing. Into Thin Air appears to have been rushed into production to capitalize on the tragedy. The book would go on to become one of the largest sellers in nonfiction history and would have justified something more elaborate. Shooter Mcgavin... er Christopher McDonald, leads the known cast as Jon Krakauer and provides narration that cuts bits and pieces from the book. Peter Horton, star of the greatest volleyball movie ever Sideout, steps into the role of the reckless Fischer who seems in over his head.

Production values are horrible and the film completely cuts out the set up for the climbers. In real life, the climbers had to go through an acclimation period to the high altitudes of even the base camps. This is a pain staking process that is breezed through in the film. Alas in 90 minutes, all the heart and emotion had to be stripped out. You never really get a sense of the bonds that were formed or the real problems with the ascent.

The only real positive I was able to take out of the film was Jeff Perry. Yeah I didn't know the name either, but I recognized him as he guest starred in perhaps the greatest MacGyver episode of all time even though doesn't list him as in it. He plays a postal worker here trying to reach the top of the world.

What a mess of a film! The book Into Thin Air is easily the most compelling read I have ever experienced. I have probably read it five times over the years and it doesn't lose its punch. It's too bad that this great book doesn't have a film that could capture the narrative of Krakauer.


Knocked Up

Judd Apatow throws his hat back into the ring as writer/director of Knocked Up after the tremendous success of 40 Year Old Virgin. The story is a simple one, girl (Katherine Heigl) has an one night stand with a slacker guy (Seth Rogen)... girl gets pregnant. The rest of the film is the two leads trying to reverse date to see if they can find love together for the good of the baby.

What makes a plot lot like this stand out is the two standards of Apatow. 1. The actors have to be funny. Lots of the takes are improvised on the set and if they actors can handle that it translates into humor on the screen. 2. Push the boundaries of content, but don't do it at an expense to the characters. There is always an underlying heart in the people of Apatow's films. You want good things to happen to them.

There are two actors that get the biggest chance to stand out and it seems strange that they aren't even the two leads. Leslie Mann (Wife of Apatow in real life) gets a chance to shine as Heigl's control freak sister. Paul Rudd plays her husband who may or may not be sneaking out on her. Rudd hits some one liners out of the park and keeps the scenes interesting with the spontaneity that is missed when Rogen's friends aren't around.

Knocked Up is a gas... perhaps it doesn't need to be north of two hours, but that is a small quibble with an otherwise great movie. One problem I did have was the easy reconcilliation of two characters later on was a little too quick for my tastes.

Superbad star Jonah Hill also has an deleted scene on the dvd that is probably funnier than anything in the movie. Hill, and the rest of Rogen's friends, are trying to start a webpage that would tell you when and where actors/actresses are naked in films. Hill shares his thoughts on Brokeback Mountain to Heigl in graphic and hilarious detail.