Thursday, January 31, 2008
I never really thought much of Glen Hansard's band The Frames. I listened to one of their cds (Burn the Maps) to see if I wanted to stay and watch them after Josh Ritter. The disc was awful and I decided that an early retreat from Lawrence was a better idea. About four years later I watch Once which is directed by the former bassist (John Carney - not the former NFL kicker) of The Frames starring their lead singer. The story of Once is very simple and yet it works. A street musician (Hansard) meets a girl (Marketa Irglova) who can play the keyboards. A friendship is forged through music - which is surprisingly great.
Once doesn't go much deeper than the surface. The two leads seem to have a chemistry of great proportions, but the writer/director seems determined to subdue it. Tis a pity a couple of unnecessary f-bombs are thrown, coz nothing else is stopping this from being PG. Hansard comes across as clone of Hugh Laurie (House), while Irglova (who has never acted before) never really gets a third dimension. The script leaves their relationship feeling boxed in.
Clearly the film is a showpiece for some marvelous musical collaborations between the two. The soundtrack is a must buy. The film is ok, but leaves you wanting more out of this little movie.
The Kingdom is from actor/director Peter Berg. Berg made a name for himself in directing for his last two efforts: The Rundown and Friday Night Lights. Both turned a little profit allowing him to go nuts here with a big budget political-action film. "The Kingdom" refers to the a section of Saudi Arabia with a lot of westerners live. A series of violent terror strikes kills 70 plus people. One of Foxx's best friends was killed in a blast prompting Foxx to use his connections to go investigate.
His team includes the surly Chris Cooper (Don't placate me like I'm your mother boy!), the out of her element Jennifer Garner, and the cheap comic relief Jason Bateman. When you get down to it, The Kingdom is just another fish out of water story with an overly complicated first 80 minutes culminating in a fantastic climax. Berg clearly knows how to direct an action film. The final sequence is one of the best choreographed action sequences I have ever seen.
All of the actors playing the Saudi's are excellent especially Ashraf Barhom as the liason to the FBI. Cooper is criminally underused here. If I had it my way, Cooper would be in every film along with Michael Rooker, William H. Macy, William Sadler, and Andre Braugher. Foxx is fine as the lead who does a solid job with the action scenes.
I clearly would like to see Berg do some more material. Word is he has some crappy Will Smith/Charlize Theron film coming out later this year. I like both of those actors, but they have a terrible history of picking films. The Kingdom is fairly decent flick that's not very memorable.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
From producer Judd Appatow and writer/director Jake Kasdan, The TV Set is satire on the tv industry. It follows a writer named Mike (David Duchovny) trying to get his script made into a pilot and the horrible influence a network has in that. The network big wig Lenny (Sigourney Weaver) makes her decisions on programming based on the opinions of her 14 y/o daughter.
You go through all the crap with Mike from having to cast an actor you hate to having to changed the basic premise of the show. There are some hilarious stuff with Duchovny trying to get through a simple scene with the less than desirable lead. Judy Greer does excellent work here as Mike's business manager Alice. Alice tries to keep the ball rolling by softening the blows from the network.
This is film for people who know a bit about tv and film. The network seems to be loosely based on the Fox Network and their reputation for bawdiness. (Slut Wars is their top show) Lots of on target criticism makes The TV Set a must watch. Duchovny does his best work since Fox Mulder. I was really happy to see Jake Kasdan rebound to greatness after the box office sell out of Orange County. I look forward to catching Walk Hard soon. On the dvd, you not only get a commentary from Jake and David, you also get one from Jack and Judd! Lots of good talk about Freak and Geeks.
Monday, January 28, 2008
If you are in the mood for a batshit crazy movie then look to The Ten. Written by the fellows who did The State and Stella, The Ten brings together 10 stories veeery loosely based on the The Ten Commandments. And the best part, well they got Paul Rudd to introduce each one. All of the stories have interlocking characters - mostly in unexpected ways.
This is the kind of film where if most of the stories work, then you enjoy it. Not every single one did work, but I like 8 out of the 10. My favorite being when co-writer Ken Marino is sent to prison following a death of one of his patients. Inside Marino's character is quickly claimed as a bitch by Big Buster only to fall in love with The Daily Show's Rob Corddry. I promise you it is hilarious.
Two other stories that were solid included Liev Schreiber (?) as a man trying to one up a neighbor to bizarre proportions and Winona Ryder (who is in two stories) who falls in love with a dummy - the puppet kind. Ryder goes all out and I was disturbed by her decication, but yet oddly turned on since it involved her in very little clothing... hmmm. When did she buy new breasts? Anyone?
Anyway, The Ten is a quick, little movie. If one story bores you, it is quickly over and you move on to the next one. Look for a HILARIOUS cameo from Oliver Platt. I can almost forgive him for the Ice Harvest.
We Are Marshall tells the story of the 1970 plane crash that killed 75 people, including the Marshall football team, and the recovery the town makes over the next year. Already a great story and it is hard to mess that up unless you do a TV movie of Into Thin Air or you let director McG have his way with your story.
McG is a very ambitious filmmaker in terms of his broad shot selection and his bag of camera tricks. This works very well when you are trying to dress up a 2 hour pile of shite like Charlie's Angels, but when you are doing a character study about a very sensitive subject... it doesn't work. In fact, the camera stunts are right out of an asinine episode of CSI Miami. Okay... with that being said, WAM is actually a fine film once you get through idiot camera movements.
The story revolves around 6 main characters. Matthew McConaughey is top billed for his performance as Jack Lengyel, the only man who take over a program that lost almost it's entire staff and players. The real lead is Red Dawson's (Matthew Fox) character. Red was the only coach not on the plane thanks to a recruiting trip he had to do after the final game of the year. Anthony Mackie plays the only returning starter who feels survivor guilt for having missed dying on the plane with his friends thanks than injury that kept him home. Kate Mara plays the young fiance of Ian McShane's son who died in the plane crash. Mara also serves as the narrator... Last but not least, David Strathairn plays the interim President of Marshall U. that is trying to pull everything together so the town can have football again.
All the performances are fine, even if McShane's and Mara's are almost completely unnecesary to the plot. Matthew Fox and McConaughey are adequate here, but hardly revelatory. Mackie and Strathairn shine when given the chance. The best acting of the bunch is the ten minute cameo that Robert Patrick has at the beginning of the film. Now that man can play a football coach! The rest of the plot is simple with the normal "conflicts" thrown in to complicate things now and again.
This most certainly is not a "football" movie. There is three small sections of games that punctuate the acts of the film, but this is more a character story. McG just doesn't have the chops to bring it all together perfectly, but it is enjoyable. After watching it though, you wonder what a Peter Weir or Steve James could've done with this material?
Friday, January 25, 2008
Clifford Irving (Richard Gere) was just another rejected writer when he decided he had enough. Irving constructed a premise to write a book on recluse Howard Hughes. Everyone wanted to know more about the famous billionare, but he hadn't been seen in public in a decade. Hughes couldn't come forth in court room since there was a pending lawsuit in regards to TWA. With that in mind, Irving decides that is the perfect chance to cash in, especially if Hughes can't sue him. Irving gets his editor (The wonderful Hope Davis) to bite that he and his friend (Alfred Molina) were picked by Hughes to write his autobiography.
What follows is a story of a man, Irving, who wants the spotlight at all cost. His lies get him in deeper with his wife (Marcia Gay Harden) and his publishers. Lots of nice cameos including Eli Wallach, Stanley Tucci, and Julie Delpy (And one of her boobs).
The director Lasse Hallstrom is quite an enigma. Reading his Imdb page is a scattershot of failures and vanity projects since his big screen debut of What's Eating Gilbert Grape? His biggest triumph was the superb Chocolat. I'm very intrigued to see the bomb Casanova with it's late star Heath Ledger. In The Hoax, Hallstrom keeps it simple and moving along. The story is so strong you don't need a stong hand to mess it up. Molina is especially terrific here as Irving's collegue Dick Suskin. Gere is perfectly casted as a showboat that craves attention. Only Harden falters here with her awful generic European accent. Why didn't they call Nadtassja Kinski? The role screams out for her!
It is kind of an odd proposition that The Hoax didn't do better in theatres. It received mostly positive reviews, but seems destined for better days on DVD. This film is wildly entertaining that goes down even better if you don't know anything about the event. This would be a marvelous double feature paired with Scorsese's The Aviator afterwards to really get an idea of Hughes.
Ok... the new David Lynch film stars Laura Dern as Sue/Nikki. Nikki is an actress who gets a part in a new production that she learns has been cursed and is based on a Polish folktale. The previous attempt at making the film led to both of the leads dying. So with her director (Jeremy Irons) and costar Devon (Justin Theroux), they begin work on the film. Devon goes to investigate a mysterious sound on the set one day and finds a double of Nikki looking into the studio...As filming begins, Devon and Nikki start having an affair.
Soon, the reality between the characters becomes blurred. Nikki/Sue ends up going into a parallel universe to where the prior production was in Poland. And you also get a homage to Alice in Wonderland... So you end up with the actors reality, the movie reality, the reality of the prior film, and the people outside of the film watching it. All of this nonlinear of course, Lynch seems desperate to make his films almost impossible to follow. At just under three hours, there is a lot of bloat to this film.
I can't really say I enjoyed Inland Empire. I don't mind a film that makes me think long afterwards about really what happened, but the blatant disregard for the audience bugs me. I can't decide whether Lynch is a bitter genius or a drugged out maniac. This, is not a film for the average movie watcher.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Keaton is trying to sell his new film at Sundance. The strange thing is he also directed it... read about it here.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Viggo Mortensen reunites with his History of Violence director David Cronenberg with Eastern Promises. Mortenson plays a man self described as merely the driver for some Russian mobsters in London. Of course, there is much more to the tale than that.
Naomi Watts plays a midwife that has a 14 yo Russian prostitute come in and die giving birth. She finds a diary that chronicles her tough life and the events that lead to her pregnancy. In the process of trying to get the diary translated and finding the child's family, Watts stumbles into a Russian mob run by Semyon(Armin Mueller-Staal). Mueller-Staal has got to be in the conversation for most overlooked actors ever.
Viggo works for Semyon's less than desirable son Kirill (Vincent Cassel). He has learned to have Kirill's back, but when a murder sets into motion a riff with a rival group - the shit starts hitting the fan.
Eastern Promises has a very basic storyline with strong actors throughout the roles. I, for one, always enjoy seeing Cassel living it up as the resident asshole of the picture as in The Brotherhood of the Wolf. Mortensen always gives a good turn, but I couldn't help but be reminded here of Robert DeNiro. Bobby usely tries the minimalistic route with much being conveyed with looks and well timed dialogue. It's as if Mortensen studied this aspect of DeNiro's craft and brought it all to the table here.
The storyline does have a couple of twists towards the end that don't feel forced. They seem like natural details that come to light only when necessary. By no means is this a perfect film. See the annoying narration from the prostitute while her diary is being read. They seriously could've gotten a better actor or method to express the words on paper to the audience. Despite the few problems I had with the storyline, Eastern Promises has a way of seducing you into watching it. Cronenberg does accomplish something very important: he leaves you wanting more.
"Run for the stronghold Thunderheart. The soldiers are coming."
Thunderheart was a somewhat well reviewed film in 1992 from the well regard director Michael Apted. Apted, is a fellow much like Stephen Hopkins that has made a few mistakes in choosing his material, but he finds one he knocks it out of the park. Apted directed one of my favorite movies of all time in 2000's Enigma. Apted has done blockbusters in 007's The World is Not Enough and some commercial drek in Enough. Looking at his sheet on IMDB is a very interesting glance.
Ah but back to Thunderheart. Val Kilmer plays a part Sioux FBI agent Ray Lavoi brought in to investigate a murder of an officer on tribal grounds. He is partnered with Frank Coutelle (Sam Shepard) who is a legend in the FBI. Frank quickly decides that it is the work of a local movement trying to advance Indian rights on the reservation. Complicating things in a militia group working for a man named Milton (Fred Ward reuniting with fellow castmate Shepard from The Right Stuff) that is interested in expanding his land empire.
Lavoi learns about his past that he was ashamed of growing up as he digs further into the death. What follows is a decent thriller with a lot of well done touches including Graham Greene playing the local LEO also looking into the death of his friend. Graham Greene got noticed in Dances With Wolves and always provides levity in his roles. It always seems a shame that his highest profile roles are because of his skin. Greene is a master in the interplay between actors. I swear he could haven chemistry with anyone even Jessica Alba. (That would be a miracle)
The quote from above comes during a revelatory talk Ray has with a tribal elder. The scene unfolds in a mesmerizing way that I can't quite describe. The usual complications happen in the way that they do in thrillers... but ultimately I felt very satisfied with the product. I miss that Val Kilmer intensity... it is too bad he has decided to take the less traveled way. American movies need him back.
Friday, January 18, 2008
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
This was Richard Roeper's pick as the worst film of 2007 and the the 3rd worst reviewed film of 2007 according to Metacritic. I approached this with the hope that it was so bad it would be fun. Alas no fun is here...
Lindsay Lohan plays Aubrey who is a shy gal who aspires to be a writer. Something tramatic (a kidnapping) happens to her and she starts losing a grip on reality with her fictional persona Dakota. You see Dakota is a tough talking stripper who uses her sexuality to get what she wants. So while the mystery of that tramatic event hangs over everything, Audrey lives out her dark side. (Minus a hand and leg)
I Know Who Killed Me wastes Brian McNamara (Arachnophobia, Caddyshack 2) and Neal McDonough (Boomtown, Ravenous) in inconsequential parts. The second half of the films consists of a horrid guessing game as to who may have been the kidnapper blah blah blah. Lindsay Lohan is absolutely miscast here. Her smoker's voice seems barely able to read aloud the narration at times. Plus, how many strippers don't actually get naked when they strip? Not that nudity would have been the answer, but the director seems to try and add that lurid sexuality to the film, but fails.
Basically all this amounts to is pretentious trash. Look for a cameo from 24's Gregory Itzin midway through the film coz God knows you'll need some reason to stay awake. Pretty bad, not sure if this was the worst of the year. Here's hoping screenwriter Jeffrey Hammond stops for good.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Michel has directed lots of weird videos including Radiohead and Massive Attack, but the past few years he has been doing feature films. Gondry did one absolutely brilliant film in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and a flawed one in The Science of Sleep. His next film seems to be a step back for him with Jack Black. 95% of all Jack Black films are nothing more than moronic concepts stretched out over 90 minutes. So how do I feel that Gondry's next one smacks of the same stupid Jack Black? I feel dirty...that's how I feel. Check out this article over at Indiewire about the man behind the weird.
Mark Fergus and his screenwriting partner Hawk Ostby have already contributed a strong screenplay in last year's Children of Men. They have another in production for this year with the much anticipated Iron Man... but their first collaboration with Fergus in the directing chair was this tiny film called First Snow.
Guy Pearce is Jimmy Starks; a flooring salesman always looking for the next big thing. Pearce always happens to be a bad driver... he winds up waiting for his car to be fixed one day... he decides to have his fortune told by a roadside psychic (JK Simmons). Simmons tell him of a windfall of money that will be coming his way and a darker event that he will not go into that will come with the season's "first snow."
Starks is convinced that the psychic is telling the truth after a basketball game predicted comes true and so does the riches that were foretold. A shooting target is put in his mailbox... is someone out to get Starks? Is it possibly an old childhood friend who was burned in some scheme by the Feds? First Snow sets up possibilities and follows Starks down the path to his fate. Good supporting turns from Piper Perabo as Jimmy's girlfriend and William Fichtner as his business associate.
Pearce is always terrific and does a wonderful job picking offbeat parts. Every since he stepped on the screen in LA Confidential, Pearce has radiated a quiet superiority over the rest of the characters on screen. In First Snow, this lends an air of doom when the Starks character for once isn't in control.
Mark Fergus does a solid job in his first try as director. The shots are well done without being overly showy. Lingering moments combined with the music by Cliff Martinez (Wicker Park, Traffic) create a haunting trip into madness. I am very intrigued to see Fergus's sophomore effort behind the camera.
First Snow seems to have dissenters in regards to the ending. The final sequence is set up consistently throughout. When you think about it, how else could it end?
Friday, January 11, 2008
The first AVP actually worked for me. You could tell that director Paul W.S. Anderson was a fan of the series. It was back to the basics of the first Alien movie: a bunch of humans trapped in confined space with an alien. Only in AVP, you also had the Predators there hunting the aliens down. I think it gets a bad rap for being a soft movie with a Pg-13 rating, but really it was just a well done film for the genre. I expected much less and got something pretty decent. Anderson did much the same with the first Resident Evil and Mortal Kombat films... neither one of those were really good, but they weren't awful either.
So going into AVP2, I thought hey... remember last time... this could end up being kind of fun. Boy was I wrong...not a good time. My gal Reiko Aylesworth from 24 stars as one of the human fodder in the war between the aliens... she is a mom just back from Iraq who's daughter has lost touch with her. Steven Pasquale from Rescue Me is also here as a troublemaker coming home to a small Colorado town to find his way. There are more people, but none of them are worth mentioning.
The aliens have infected the predator from the first film and cause the ship to crash land on Earth. A mercenary predator gets the last transmission broadcast and sets out to hunt down those damn facehuggers. Cue the small town life... bullies ... pregnant women... all are fair game here. Hardly any back story is set up which would be impossible with all the humans here. Pasquale never really gets anything to do except to follow his friend the sheriff around to each new scene.
Reiko, playing a soldier, doen'st get going until the last twenty minutes. One would think being a soldier she would be pretty badass ala Ripley in the first two Alien films... no no not here.
The first time directors, The Strause Brothers, missed out on a big time chance to really establish this franchise here. I know that the budget was slashed from the first film with the effects looking somewhere on par with a SciFi channel film... hell Battlestar Galactica looks better. My friend commented quite accurately that one scene looked like it was from the remnants of a Babylon 5 episode. So the budget isn't there... you can work around that. You've got a badass leading actress who looks as good sweaty as you can find in an action film... you've got a previous film that has gotten a lot of attention and everyone is just waiting for you to do something good... and then you give us this? Action and sci-fi fans deserve better.
+ 5 for Reiko... we'll always have 24.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
I've just been busy. It seems with the large influx of people to the theatres this holiday season, I've found less time to update this site and watch movies. I'll get crackin' on that this week. First up is Reiko Aylesworth AKA Michelle Dessler of 24 starring in AVP 2 and that poorly reviewed Lindsay Lohan movie that sounds so bad I have to see it.
Here is a feature about my boy Baron Davis's favorite films of the year. Not too bad considering... although he does knock Zodiac.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
Closure is the tale of a business woman named Alice (Gillian Anderson) who hooks up with her young fellow (Danny Dyer) who is installing her security system. She dresses him up and takes him to a company party where they indulge in some alcohol and steamy sex in the woods. A perfect evening is ruined when the happy couple hit a moose. In the process of moving it off the road, they are assaulted and Alice is raped.
The rest of the film devolves into The Brave One times Straw Dogs times Showtime cable crap. There just isn't any character development at all so when the heinous act happens the audience doesn't care. Very limited dialogue so as not to show the fact that Anderson is using an awful British accent.
Closure is a waste of film. The only thing I got out of it was that Gillian Anderson is now in damn good shape. Otherwise, this was 80 minutes I could have been watching X-Files reruns.