What movie was that...?

13 November 2010

River's Edge

directed by Tim Hunter

There are quite a few things that could easily date this teen shocker about a kid who kills his girlfriend, then (apathetically, for all intents and purposes) lets his friends in on the dark secret. The clothes. The talk. The Keanu Reeves as pothead routine. 80s burnouts were probably rolling over this tale of apathy and desensitized youth, but for the sober viewer, this film bears a surreal weight that has helped it to endure beyond the absurdity of the mid 80s. It does not hurt that such talents as Crispin Glover (whose career has only 2 wrinkles, Like Mike and Epic Movie) and Reeves, who brings complexity to a character for whom emotional articulation is a feat. And let's not forget an always electrified Dennis Hooper as Feck, who, well, I'll let you discover that for yourself. It’s a heavy film, shocking and grotesque, but it doesn’t give in to exploitation, instead glimpsing a world of unnerving ambiguity concerning real life that presages such film as Gus Van Sant’s Elephant or Michael Hanecke’s The White Ribbon. Hunter’s film will remain a strange and uncomfortable portrait of self deluded youth who see reality as a game, as something to be manipulated, but strong performances and emotional direction strengthen this film into a classic, however cultish it may be.

FYI: I can hardly contain myself, for I will have the exquisite pleasure of meeting the one and only Crispin Glover in downtown Detroit. He will be gracing Motown with his presence during the month of December, performing a live accompaniment to his slide show and film event at The Burton Theatre. Hope to see you there.

11 November 2010

(Hey You) What's That Sound? (a Les Rythmes Digitales music video)

directed by Evan Bernard

Plotwise, Evan Bernard’s music video for (Hey You) What’s That Sound? is nothing innovative: a keytar packing rocker struts the streets and zaps passersby into totally rad dancers. We’ve seen it before (hell, the Black Eyed Peas video for Rock Your Body is that exact same, albeit futuristic, premise), but music video pro Bernard knows how to homage like nobody’s business. Let’s also take into account that this video is over a decade old, which makes it way ahead of this back to the 80s trend. Frankly, I’m not thrilled about a serious return to such fashion, but when it’s as tongue in cheek as this, you can’t help but smile. Les Rythmes Digitales is the musical creation of Stuart Price, who has quietly produced some of the finest pop music of the 2000s under various titles, but I am partial to his retro techno album, Darkdancer. It’s nostalgic, but also very good, and Price understands that music that wants to have fun can’t take itself too seriously.


07 November 2010

Enter the Void

directed by Gaspar Noé

Just after the moment of CGI conception, when the screen went dark, a voice in front of me in the auditorium whispered “Thank Christ.” Soon after, a collective groan emanated from the crowd as the screen came back to life and Gaspar Noé’s newest endurance test, Enter the Void, continued for what seemed like a small eternity.

I’m not sure why Noé feels compelled to so severely test his audience, but anyone interested in seeing his films need to be forewarned: You will need to steel yourself, and you need to realize that Noé’s filmic eye never flinches. Ever. Enter the Void demanded of me and, apparently, the audience, the maximum possible amount of effort to stay focused, so much so that when I emerged from the theater and into the brisk night air, I felt like a political prisoner back on native soil for the first time in a long time. Hypnotic at times, truly horrific at others, the same phrase rings true for Void and Noé’s other bruiser, Irreversible. Too much, too much, too much. I saw a lot of potential in Irreversible when it came out 8 years ago, but what I observed as undisciplined in Irreversible, I realize now is simply indulgence on Noé’s part. The reason for that collective groan is due to Noé’s biggest misstep, his refusal to edit himself in terms of storytelling, and camerawork, and that makes his films so hard to bear. I’m all for creative license and showing us something new, but you have to think a little about your audience, Mr. N. Add to the fact that the vocal work of Nathaniel Brown, whose face we rarely see in the film and so have to rely on his voice to fill in the gaps, is sub-par, flat and only emotive in the most abstract sense. The actors we can see don't fare much better, except for a few inspired moments from Paz de la Huerta and Olly Alexander.

My brother asked me how the film was, and I told him I wished I had a film version of a mine canary that I could send before me into movies like this, just like old school miners used to do to determined the toxicity of the air. If such a thing existed, the poor little guy would surely have been a corpse after this 2 and a half hour filmic waterboarding.

To Mr. Noé’s credit, however, I will say that the high points of this film are nigh untouchable, such perfection that I had a hard time getting my brain around it until after the fact. Hell, even if you buy a ticket and simply watch the best opening credit sequence (which play in its blistering entirety before the film begins) I have witnessed in years, you will get more than your money’s worth.

Funny aside: For those of you who will refuse to heed my advice and will go to see this film anyway, think about the young man one row in front of me. He arrived a little after I did, during the trailers, with 2 women and another man. When the film ended and the lights came up, the young man said aloud that, of all the films he could have brought his mother, his sister and his sister’s boyfriend to see, he sure was glad it this one. Thanks, Gaspar!

04 November 2010

For All Mankind

directed by Al Reinert

If you thought Apollo 13 rocked, then you need to brace yourself for Al Reinert’s hauntingly elegant and mesmerizing doc about the Apollo missions, and where Reinert’s doc shines is in its ability to frame the entire space race (the US side, anyway) as a unified experience. Brian Eno’s stellar score seems to permeate everything, and when you watch a 2 hour doc that somehow manages to glean from over 6 million feet of archived (and unseen) NASA footage a sense of purpose, of explorers setting forth into the ether in the pursuit of knowledge, you honestly feel as if you have experienced something profound. The narration comes from OG astronauts and original mission control recordings, but it’s the vastness of space itself that plays the most enigmatic and alluring character. It was For All Mankind that, for a long time, sparked a question I used to ask all my friends, family and even strangers. Each astronaut was allowed to bring with them into space an album of their choosing. Some brought country music, some classical, and I always thought that there would be something deeply personal about selecting a particular album to experience in the most unique way possible, so my question is:

What album would you bring with you into space?

03 November 2010

It's Kind of a Funny Story

directed by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden

Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden’s tale of a suicidal teen who checks himself into a NYC hospital is admiral in its attempt to appear fresh and not generic, and in some respects it succeeds. Fleck and Boden scored big time with Half Nelson, a film that featured one of Ryan Gosling’s finest performances (which is really saying something), and in Funny Story, Fleck and Boden manage to get a fantastically underplayed performance by Zach G (which was almost as good as his role in Into the Wild). And it doesn’t hurt that two of my all time faves, Jeremy Davies and Viola Davis, grace us with solidly solid performances. Keir Gilchrist is good as Craig, but I couldn’t help but wonder if deep down, deep deep down, someone really wished that they could have cast Justin Long in the lead. The film stumbles in places and falls into the “it’s a psych ward movie, so we have to have that guy who won’t get out of bed and the guy who shouts things in the hall, right?” trap, but I give Fleck and Boden bonus points for attempting a film that tries to be earnest. For me, the verdict is still out on Emma Roberts and her acting prowess, but I am still excited to see what Fleck and Boden have in store for the future. 

02 November 2010

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

directed by Alfonso Cuaron

Note: Let’s just assume you know the Harry Potter story, its characters and at least have a general idea of the plot. If for some bizarre reason you do not, then I am not sure how you have an internet connection in your cave that is allowing you even read this.

Instead of going through a boring old review series about every Harry Potter film and why geeks like me (as well as literature geeks, like me) enjoy them so, I am going to focus on the third installment and explain why, in terms of story, visual style, and casting, HP 3 is the strongest of the series.

Let me preface this review by stating that I had not begun to read the series of books upon HP 3’s release, instead planning to have my cake and eat it too by enjoying the films first, then reading the series and finding the books to be even more richly detailed. I couldn’t take it, however, and have since consumed the books in the fear that I might have the ending ruined for me. But I digress…

Christopher Columbus was the perfect choice for helming the first two HP films (which, in many ways deviate from the total package of the HP story, what with underage wizardry being performed and such), and his youthful, energetic style got on well with Rowling’s story of a young wizard’s first years at a magical prep school. Changing directors for the third film was, whether on purpose or by necessity or whatever, another perfect choice as it happens at the both the pivotal time in the HP story, but also at a pivotal time in the main characters’ lives. The kids are 13 at this point, official teenagers, that time in life when things begin to change (I mean perceptions of the world, you pervs. Get your heads out of the gutter.) for young people. Cuaron showed with Y tu mama tambien that he deeply understands the subtle complexities of youth (though Luna and Bernal were a bit older in the wonderful Y tu mama tambien), and his eye brings a romantic edge to the series that sets the tone for all that comes after it. Harry and crew begin to understand that people are not as one dimensional as they had once thought, from Snape to newcomer Sirius Black (a pitch perfect Gary Oldman), Azkaban prison escapee who Harry thinks is out to get him. And HP 3 also gives us the new Dumbledore, played from then on by Michael Gambon (who replaced the late Richard Harris). At the time, and until I read the books, I greatly resented Gambon’s blatant disregard for Harris’ gentle and quietly confident portrayal of the Hogwart’s headmaster, mad that he didn’t even attempt any kind of continuity. I realize now, however, just how perfectly Gambon understands Dumbledore. Gambon has a strut and a pomp that would be repellent if not for his charm and self-aware coolness. It’s like the kids all crossed that invisible developmental threshold in HP 3, and the wizened, soft spoken genius they knew had become a real person, bold and slightly arrogant,  yet still attractive. Read the books and you will see what I am talking about. In terms of the original cast, Emma Watson (who has always been one of the series’ strongest talents) shines as Hermione, as does Ruper Grint, whose droopy dog comedic timing rivals some of his adult counterparts. HP 3 also gives the kids and the audience a taste of proper defense against the dark arts, as well as a magnificent addition to the cast roster in the form of David Thewlis (whom I love so very much, btw). Thewlis is Lupin, the teacher with a dark secret and possibly questionable alliances, and his guidance helps Harry to defend himself against the Dementors, creatures that feed on sadness. This is another element of Rowling’s story that I love and that comes at a perfect time in the story’s arc; that real defense against dark magic requires mental strength over simply properly reciting a spell and waving a wand.

Michael Seresin’s cinematography is totally boss, and the John Williams score rocks the house. And it doesn’t hurt that Rowling’s time travel excellence is stellar enough to have every geek fawning over her even more (magic and time travel? Be still my pocket protector!).  The series turns a corner with HP 3 with regard to both style and content, but it is Cuaron’s talent as a director that help to make this shift almost tangible, yet still in keeping with the series as a whole. 

01 November 2010

Office Space

directed by Mike Judge

It’s high time I get back to being productive, and speaking of being productive, one of the most cultishly beloved business comedies of all time goes by the name Office Space, which is definitely Mike Judge’s finest filmic achievement (though I do have a soft spot for Beavis and Butthead Do America). Office Space tells the story of Initech drone Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston, rocking desert dry comedic timing), computer geek and cubicle jockey who hates his life so much that each new day is the worst day of his life. His only joy comes from fishing and imagining a life where he can enjoy the luxury of sloth, but when a chance encounter with a hypnotist (I know, the convention is trite, but you have to be okay with it to be on board with the film’s spirit) help Peter to relax and show his true colors. When outside “consultants” arrive to help Initech streamline its operations, Peter and buddies Michael (David Herman is a perfect pillar of crazed, geeky pissedoffedness) and Samir (Ajay Naidu is a token delight) devise a Superman 3 style plan to rip off Initech and get administrative style revenge. Jennifer Aniston is always wonderful, and she breaks her Rachel Green type (which was a great character for a great sitcom) to fantastic effect as low key waitress Joanna, object of Peter's desire and general ray of sunshine upon the film's happenings. Hats off to Gary Cole, who takes corporate smarm to hilarious and almost poetic heights as Bill Lumberg, boss and general source of all the world’s evils, and Stephen Root will simultaneously split your sides and creep you out as Milton (whose character’s short film was the seed from which sprouted the Office Space flower). Judge’s film is a wonderful time capsule film that expresses the amiable frustration many Gen Xers felt at the time. Think American Psycho, minus the coke and the mutilations.
Trivia: Before Office Space, Swingline didn’t even make a red stapler. Judge painted it red for the film simply to make it distinctive, but the response was so great that Swingline started manufacturing one, and it is now their most popular model. Keep that tidbit in the old noodle; you never know when you’ll have an entertainment question for the win in Trivial Pursuit. BTW, if that situation ever arises, please let me know.

24 October 2010

Bang Bang Bang (A Mark Ronson & The Business INTL music video)

directed by Warren Fu

Warren Fu's video for Bang Bang Bang is a cornucopia (wow, BC. Way to work the word cornucopia into a review) of retro-futuristic fun and hip hop freshness glossed to high 80s sheen. From the uber-hip Asian talk show (avec French subtitles!) to the interstellar side scroller, Fu takes it to next level and the result is spectacular.  The video is like a commercial for what can be achieved with musical giants and After Effects, and anytime I get a chance to see Q Tip on the mic I am a happy camper.  The video is great fun all around, Enjoy.
Mark Ronson & The Business INTL "Bang Bang Bang" from Warren Fu on Vimeo.

23 October 2010

Bullitt

directed by Peter Yates

Steve McQueen was, is and will always be one of the most effortlessly, enragingly and intoxicatingly cool actors ever to grace the silver screen, and that’s not even a debatable issue. From The Great Escape to The Towering Inferno, McQueen’s personae is as iconic as they come, and his turn as the hard boiled ass kicker Frank Bullitt, charged with protecting a key witness for 48 hours, is perhaps his finest work. Peter Yates directs the hell out of the film, and those San Francisco car chases are out of sight. And McQueen did his own effing driving for the film! Shit, he just even more awesome! Steven McQueen’s magic on camera rivals that of Bogart, Clooney, Newman and Bronson, and virtually anything that plays to his strengths is bound to be classic.

Confession: I have to admit, however, that I did not like The Thomas Crown Affair, and liked the unfortunate remake even less (I’d rather go to the dentist than re-watch that soulless update). I apologize if I have offended you McQueen die-hards out here, but let’s be honest with ourselves. Don’t be blinded by your love. Pour example, I adore Charles Bronson and think he is one of cinema’s finest presences, but it doesn’t excuse Death Wish 3 and 4. Or 5. Or Family of Cops (all of them). But I remember The Mechanic, Once Upon a Time in the West, The Dirty Dozen and The Great Escape, also with McQueen- hey, it just came full circle! That’s what I so love about film. You can digress and veer, but you can always find your way back to the point. That’s the magic that makes sprawling, eight hour conversations about one film (that’s really about hundreds of films) possible.

20 October 2010

The Beach

directed by Danny Boyle

I remember sitting in US history when my friend Danny sat down with a mile wide grin on his face. He regaled to me an article he read about poor little Leo (yes, THE Leo) getting mocked out of a movie theatre when the trailer debuted for his new film, called simply The Beach. This was back when Leo, the dreamiest dreamboat, was struggling to overcome the Titanic juggernaut that very nearly rendered him uncastable. Luckily, Leo D (that’s his Jersey Shore name) had the chops and the determination to claw his way out of the typecasting pit and become one of the finest actors of his generation. For some reason, the films snobs and know it alls of the IMDb universe have seen fit to cast disparaging ratings The Beach’s way, which is tragic because Danny Boyle’s film is great in many respects. John Hodge’s script of Alex Garland’s wonderful novel tells the tale of a young traveler named Richard who, after hearing the story of a fabled paradise off the coast of Thailand, sets out to find “The Beach” with new friends Francoise and Etienne. I won’t get into any more detail, but I will tell you this, film lover: It’s okay to love films like The Beach. Don’t be ashamed! And I will tell you what I told my brother when, after a few beers, he told me that he also likes The Beach, but he didn’t know why. “Well, I know why,” I said. People love The Beach because it is an entertaining film that speaks quite clearly to my generation of restless searchers, but people also love The Beach because we love the idea of the beach, of a place that represents perfection, where blissful solitude and idyllic camaraderie coalesce effortlessly. Hell, I don’t even like hot weather and yet I felt drawn to that place, felt a yearning for that place, felt in my heart a need for that place. The cinematography is lush and dynamic, the soundtrack is fantastic and the acting (Tilda Swinton is magnificently scary, and Robert Carlyle is out of control good) is top notch. Boyle’s film stays with you, a moment that can last forever, and all you too cool for school film hipsters out there can just go sit in a dark room and watch Donnie Darko if you disagree. You can even borrow my copy of the DVD.

BTW Happy B Day, Mr. Danny Boyle! I love you!

19 October 2010

Milk

directed by Gus Van Sant

Gus Van Sant films are remarkable in that every one of them (bar the unfortunate remake of Hitchcock’s classic thriller, Psycho) find a way to draw you in, to sync your pulse with the film’s, to fuse your rhythms with that of the movie until you find yourself completely consumed, a part of the filmic organism. In Gerry, Van Sant utilized two of my generation’s strongest and (in Casey Affleck’s case) underrated talents to their fullest in a film that garnered the absolute minimum of critical acclaim (it deserved so much more), and in Elephant and Last Days Vant Sant painted quietly shocking portraits of youth snuffed by alienation. My Own Private Idaho, Good Will Hunting, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Under the Bridge music video. These films swim with the melancholic need to make a connection, and in Milk, Van Sant tells the story of a man who strove to make that connection at any cost. Harvey Milk was stubborn, outlandish at times, and even shrewd, but he fought for what he believed in with a tenacity that is admirable no matter what wing of the political spectrum on which you find yourself. Sean Penn is astounding as Milk, channeling the first openly gay politician with gusto and verve, while supporting talents like Alison Pill, Emile Hirsch and Diego Luna bring such intoxicating life to a world on the cusp of a revolution. But it’s Josh Brolin who will floor you with his chillingly complex portrayal of Dan White, whose now legendary Twinkie defense with have you reeling. Van Sant and talented screen writer Dustin Lance Black refuse to vilify White, however, instead saving their venom for singer turned propagandist Anita Bryant (who, interestingly enough, plays herself, as Van Sant uses archival footage for her and her alone) as she spouts anti gay absurdity to the masses. Maybe Black and Van Sant felt compelled to let Bryant speak for herself, but the result is enragingly genius. Milk’s story is still improbably relevant here in the old US of A, which makes me sad more than anything, but Milk’s story, in the hands of a master like Gus Van Sant, bristles with the conviction and the drive of the man himself. Don’t let another day go by without giving this film an earnest viewing.

PS If you’re in the mood for something supplemental, peep the excellent doc The Times of Harvey Milk, directed by Rob Epstein. The doc garnered an Academy Award in 1985, but you all know how much I credit I give the good old Academy (I can’t help but sense a too obvious attempt to appear hip). It is something, nonetheless, and if nothing else, Times gives us a glimpse of the real Harvey Milk, the man and the myth.

17 October 2010

Rebel Without a Cause

directed by Nicholas Ray

James Dean is one of my all time favorite actors. Period. (Ugh, did he just do one of those things where he spells the word period, then punctuates it with a period and uses it as a sentence? What a pretentious asshole… ) Dean acted as if his life depended on it, and he acted as if he didn’t give a shit about what anyone else thought about his acting. What a strange dichotomy. Aside from Elia Kazan’s classic East of Eden, Dean’s best role takes the form of his Jim Stark in Rebel without a Cause, starring the wonderful and dazzling Natalie Wood and the subtle and complex talent of Sal Mineo. Considering how inexplicably homophobic we are as a country right now, in Two Thousand and effing Ten(!), then imagine how much more performances like Mineo’s meant back then? No condescension and no indulgence, just youth, angsty and enraged at a world that didn’t get it. Rebel sums up the Molotov cocktail of youth in a way that rivals modern attempts on the subject. Dean hates his out of touch parents, Wood’s parents thinks she’s a tramp, Mineo’s home is broken. We see these things in Rebel through some kind of Technicolor veil and claim it’s too out of touch, too old fashioned, but these themes and cores never change. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is filled with all the same elements as Rebel, with all the same elements as My So-Called Life, with all the same elements as Kids (an overrated film, in my opinion, but worth watching), the same emotional extremes, confusion and naively intense preconceptions about the world that fuel the desire to changes things, to rage against the structure of soul killing precedents set forth by our parents. Adding blood and cussing doesn’t make it more real or more accurate, and when you have a cast as fine as Rebel’s (even the supporting cast is phenomenal), you really just need to let the camera capture their talents. Elia Kazan understood this when he let Marlon Brando and Rod Steiger have it out in the back of that car in On the Waterfront (which is deserving of every praise it ever receives). All you young film lovers would do well to see films like this, because as much you may think things have changed and improved, there are some things that never do. Hell, go back and watch Baz Luhrmann’s very well conceived film, Romeo + Juliet while you’re at it, or go and read Shakespeare’s play again. There are few things as poignantly stinging as revisiting a relic that somehow cuts to the core of your experience and the perfect melancholy it can produce.

15 October 2010

The Thing

directed by John Carpenter

John Carpenter can make a seriously badass film when he actually wants to take himself seriously. His filmic high points are equally distributed across the spectrum, ranging from genre defining perfection (Halloween) to ludicrously splendid (They Live!, Big Trouble in Little China), but Carpenter’s shocking and riveting film about paranoia and isolation is superbly relevant even today. Yes, it’s a rather loose adaptation of the 1951 film of the same title (the film Danny is watching in Halloween, btw), and yes, Bill Lancaster’s script bristles with those Cold War anxieties we all know and love, but there is something else embedded in the sci-fi as social commentary tale. A group of scientists, in the tundra wasteland of Antarctica, unearth something buried deep in the snow, and as the alien horror infiltrates the ranks, trust deteriorates and a battle of wills ensues. It’s the threat of an Other invading from within, the old Red Dawn fear that gun stroking Tea Partyers would have you believe could be happening at this very minute, and that’s why we need our damn guns, Mr. Obama! I kid, and irrational town hall psycho talk aside, The Thing is shocking and disturbing, but it’s the human drama that unfolds throughout the film, the distrust and the tense paranoia that strikes the most frightening chord. The soundtrack is amazing and the cinematography will give you chills. If only some kind of equation existed that somehow proved all this…

If:
Kurt Russell = awesome
John Carpenter’s films ≥ most other films
(Beards + mutant dogs) (Wilford Brimley ÷ Keith David) = something I definitely want to see
Therefore:
John Carpenter + Kurt Russell(Wilford Brimley ÷ Keith David) + a beard + a mutant dog = something awesome I definitely want to see that is probably way better than most films out there.



That’s airtight math with which you cannot argue, my friend.

14 October 2010

Black Mags (a Cool Kids video)

directed by GL Joe

GL Joe’s video for the first Cool Kids single, Black Mags, is just what the duo claims to be themselves: cool. Stark black and white. Badass, flashy (you know what I mean) animation interspersed with fresh close-ups and lo-fi abstractions (Chuck Inglish’s background during some of his verse) make for a stylishly minimalistic statement. And like pics of the Chicago hip hop pair posing in front of Irocs like the LLs and N.W.A.s of yore, Joe’s video says “yes, we’re as cool as all fuckin’ get out. And if you don’t think so, then you obviously don’t know what cool is.” The Black Mags video, like Tony Alva’s skate ads in the 70s, is more than simply a video, it’s an attitude. This video came out a few years ago and made all things hip hop hipster cool, things like bikes and pagers and The Bad Boys (my Detroit folks know what I’m talking about), which belies Chuck’s background (he moved from Motown to Chicago to work with Mikey Rocks). At first, the two wanted to just keep releasing singles, like the old school rockers, but the fans yelled loud enough, and The Bake Sale finally graced the world. The album is solid in every way, and The Cool Kids, like Lupe Fiasco, are a breath of fresh air for the hip hop community. For a minute it was getting pretty scary, but never fear, cause The Cool Kids got the situation locked up, with some gold ropes and beepers.

Black Mags, ladies and gentlemen.

12 October 2010

Marwencol

directed by Jeff Malmberg

Marwencol is the 1/6th scale WWII town built by Mark Hogancamp after he awoke from a coma. Marwencol is the place where Hogancamp goes to live. Pure and simple, and so much more. The synopsis alone should be more than enough to intrigue you, but if you need a little more, please check this trailer out.

 

P.S. Do not discount Malmberg simply because he worked on such tripe as The Hottie & the Nottie. Hey, a brother's gotta eat. A line from the very good film Hollywoodland sums it up: Sometimes, an actor gets to act, and sometimes he has to work. The same goes for editors, directors, and professional arm wrestlers.

11 October 2010

Detroit Wild City

directed by Florent Tillon

Detroit Wild City, directed by the shy and thoughtful Florent Tillon, showcases a filmmaker with a poet’s eye. This poet’s vision, however, proves too ambitious, and Detroit Wild City falls into the trap of trying to be about everything. It’s meditative, quiet, and visually stunning at times, reminding me often of the mesmerizing Andrew Douglas doc, Searching for theWrong-Eyed Jesus (those dolly shots, wow. Nice work, Mr. Tillon.), and Tillon has definitely given me cause to be excited for his future endeavors. Tillon looks at Detroit from a true outsider’s point of view, much like how Leone saw the American West, and the result is not as enragingly pulpish as Chris Hansen would have you believe (his little expose about Detroit shoved every negative stereotype down America’s throats, and I wanted to punch the tv). Instead, Tillon focuses on Detroit’s existential predicament, perceiving from the wreckage a new frontier from whose ruins anything can grow. Much more contemplative than the Palladium Boots mini doc, Detroit Lives (I will take a positive doc about Detroit any day of the week, however unremarkable), Detroit Wild City ponders the very essence of self destruction, self reliance and self resilience that have come to define a city that has seen its share of hard times. But like Larry Mongo (owner of Café D’Mongo’s) says at the end of the doc, “People are coming back here. Kids with imagination. Kids who aren’t afraid to throw out the old rule book. And it’s exciting.” I couldn’t agree more, Mr. Mongo. Tillon’s work is as dazzling as it is haunting, a filmic jumping off point for my fair city. If you can find it, watch it.

Detroit Ville Sauvage will be screening at the Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM) and the International Documentary Film Festival in Copenhagen (CPH:DOX). And by the by, Detroiters lamenting the lack of things to do downtown, there will be one last showing of DWC this Wednesday (the 13th) at 9pm at The Burton. Hook ‘em!

The trailer:

DETROIT WILD CITY - BURTON THEATER TEASER from florent tillon on Vimeo.

10 October 2010

Strictly for my F.A.N.B.O.Y.S.

Wow, BC. A Tupac slash Tron Legacy joke. I hope someone shuts you down.

In all seriousness, this one sheet is tremendous. Disney released it to calm the angry geek mob that began forming outside since Disney pushed back the release of the film's soundtrack. Ta da!


I think I just peed a little. Not much longer now, guys and gals who are as excited as I have been for the past 4 years. We shall have our sequel. But let's get one thing clear: I will not be engaging in any kind of discussion of grand Tron continuity errors, plot hole disputes or general timeline and/or thematic inconsistencies from the first film to the second. That would be like telling a fairy I don't believe in it.

Lake Placid

directed by Steve Miner

Steve Miner (easily my favorite recurring director of Dawson's Creek episodes. And no, I am not ashamed of my affection for The Creek.) is the kind of director who is more interested in making movies than making art, and sometimes that works to his advantage. In Lake Placid, the cheeky, I don’t take myself that seriously, let’s have some fun style of Miner’s pays off like a champ, and it doesn’t hurt when you have a star cast bringing their A game to a goofy sci-fi horror gem of a plot about a giant crocodile prowling a Maine lakefront. Bridget Fonda is fiery and fabulous as paleontologist Kelly Scott, who gets sent by her ex slash boss (a bone dry Adam Arkin. I heart him.) to investigate some strange goings on, where she meets surly Sherriff Hank Keough (a great Brendan Gleeson) and Fish and Game officer Jack Wells (Bill Pullman, rocking his patented slightly confused face). When goofball mythology expert and croc fanboy Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt rules) turns up, the group set out to find said predator and ruins its day. The film is a good old fashioned monster flick that just has fun with it. Think Deep Blue Sea minus Sam Jackson, or Snakes on a Plane minus Sam Jackson, or Anaconda minus- well, if Sam Jackson was in Anaconda, then think Anaconda minus Sam Jackson. And plus, where else are you going to hear Betty White say “If I had a dick, this is where I’d tell you to suck it”? Priceless.

08 October 2010

Infinity Guitars (A Sleigh Bells video)

directed by Phil Pinto

If Trent Reznor, Jack White and M.I.A. all got together and decided to open a dance club in Hell, it would sound pretty much like the blistering musical debut from Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss, aka Sleigh Bells. Sleigh Bells, that’s like calling an AK 47 a purring kitty. Miller’s nuclear grade guitar riffs rip through blown out hip hop beats guaranteed to move tectonic plates, and Krauss vocally swaggers through the shit storm like Ahab on the hunt. An album that begs to be listened to at an unreasonable volume, Sleigh Bells captures what has been in my heart for the past few years, articulated in the form of industrial grade badassery that will peel the paint from any club and knock the rearview mirror off any ride. Too smart to be a joke, and too influenced by all the best that music has to offer (Beastie Boys, Thin Lizzy, Hardcore music, Led Zeppelin, the aforementioned), Sleigh Bells kicks all the right asses and looks cool doing it.

The video for the single Infinity Guitars, directed by Phil Pinto is, somewhat disappointingly, nothing spectacular, a mere opportunity for Krauss to strut through an alley with a varsity jacket and a baseball bat. Miller rocks the denim and the pissed off look, and when the pair meet up, explosions ensue and high school kickassedness is achieved. It reminds me of when I first heard Nada Surf’s Popular, or The Big Three Killed my Baby by The White Stripes (an influence on Miller, to be sure), and Miller’s musical philosophy of louder equals more awesome is spot on. I couldn’t agree more. Is the video itself noteworthy? No, but the song is too good for that to matter. I can’t wait for the sophomore Sleigh Bells album, and those of you living close by their recording studio had better start bomb proofing your homes.

Sleigh Bells "Infinity Guitars" from Phil Pinto on Vimeo.

07 October 2010

Paranormal Activity

directed by Oren Peli

I have mad respect for a film that can scare me the old fashioned way, by actually effing scaring me. And while the individual scenes in Oren Peli’s awesome Paranormal Activity may not be as terrifying as, say, The Descent (Neil Marshall’s indispensable horror classic), the film is so strong because it works as a cumulative scare, building tension and creating suspense that still has me wide eyed all the way to its crescendo, even when I watch it at my house. The acting is credible (though I still take issue with Katie’s tame reaction when she sees that photo), and the tension is realistically taught. And now for the inevitable Blair Witch Project comparison, which I need to say, for the record, is absolutely not an insult, for I thought that The Blair Witch Project was a breath of fresh air for the horror genre and a style that has been oft copied but never truly realized. Obviously, the style of the two films is similar in the sense that it is a faux documentary style that seeks to add a level of realism to the terror, but where The Blair Witch Project directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez acted flaky in order to build a mystique about their film, PA floated around the film festival circuit (with no secret about it being fictional) for some time before finally getting the distribution funds it justly deserved. Myrick and Sanchez also had the pleasure of being the architects of something new, innovating something we hadn’t seen before. For those of you who spent the last year in a cabin typewriting manifestos to the government, PA is a film about a young couple who investigate the strange occurrences in their home by placing cameras in the house and setting up sound recording equipment to capture the goings on. I said it about The Blair Witch Project and I will say it again about Peli’s masterwork: A horror film that can still keep your eyes glued to the screen and feeling so deliciously uneasy is onto something pretty excellent, especially when that film rocks zero gore, no psychos, no crazy ways for the characters to die and no visible villains. I just hope that PA 2 isn’t a total blight, like The Blair Witch Project 2 (ugh, what trash).

06 October 2010

Catfish

directed by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost

Is this thing real? Are the Schulman bros and Henry Joost monsters? WTF does the title mean? I won’t spoil anything for you (except that the title is explained in the film), but I would urge you to scope out this entertaining and somewhat inspired “doc” about a NYC photographer named Nev Schulman, who befriends an 8 year old girl named Abbey on Facebook after she sends him a painting she made of one of his photos. The plot thickens when Nev begins an online relationship with Abbey’s cute older sister, Megan, all the while being filmed by his brother, Ariel. I am so torn between my desire to discuss this film and to withhold so as to not spoil anything for you, good film lover. Perhaps telling that it conveniently opened around the same time as David Fincher’s generation-defining film, The Social Network, I had my own host of speculations about this film before I even sat down in the auditorium, but I did go in blind about the plot (other than what the trailer gave away), and I would highly recommend you do the same. Afterward, we can talk. The Schulmans and Joost spin a quietly mesmerizing tale that leaves you with something to think about. And it’s very possible that Nev, Rel and Henry are the catfish of their own story.

A fleeting thought: Catfish are bottom feeders, like carp, sucking up food from the scum. This is due to their anatomy, which makes them negatively buoyant, but fisherman (aka those in the know) will tell you that catfish meat is some of the cleanest and tastiest around. The point? I don’t know, but simply put: a catfish is a bottom feeder, not by choice but by design, and their insides are surprisingly pure. Why don’t you meditate on that little riddle, and while you’re at it, go see this effing film.

One more fleeting thought: Joaquin Phoenix should be suing Nev Schulman’s chest for likeness rights.

01 October 2010

The Social Network

directed by David Fincher

David Fincher is back in the saddle after the truly shameful misstep that was Benjamin Button (I dare you to argue that point with me, all you delusional Fincher fanboys), and he sinks his teeth all the way into the frosty story of my vacuous, self interested, self undulgent, self important generation. Facebook co creator Mark Zuckerberg calls much of the film “sensationalized,” but scriptwriting genius Aaron Sorkin spins a stinging tale of a golden calf lusted over by Ivy League yuppies, well intentioned students and one outcast hell bent on making himself the warm little center around which the rest of the world huddles, and Sorkin makes use of legal records and testimonials to flesh out this tale of an ego driven dystopia. The cast is phenomenal, from Justin Timberlake’s geek turned rock star portrayal of Napster’s Sean Parker (as slick shit as they come) to Armie Hammer’s wonderful turn(s) as the Winklevoss twins, who allege that Zuckerberg jacked their website idea for his own, to a razorish Rooney Mara, who plays Erica. The film, however, belongs to Andrew Garfield, playing Eduardo with cerebral naivety, and Jesse Eisenberg, who sheds his Michael Cera shtick and cuts to the core everything that gets in his path. Fincher excels when dealing with the obsessive desire of outsiders to get the attention of those in the loop, those just outside their grasp, and Trent Reznor’s underplayed and tense soundtrack mixes beautifully with Jeff Cronenweth's (who is familiar with both Fincher’s and Reznor’s styles) richly textured and ominous cinematography to create a film that, sadly, sums up a generation. I couldn’t help but think about Oliver Stone’s Wall Street (the original, not the watered down sequel), how his film came to represent a time and a culture of ravenously materialistic money whores who stopped at nothing to achieve their sordid dreams. If you simply the replace the word “money” with “attention” in that previous statement, you have a good summation of The Social Network, a film that will come to define the Gen X egomania, the antisocial attention grubbing that is turning us all into arrogant, awkward little shits. Wow, I feel like one of those racists who always preface their bigoted declarations with “I’m not racist, but…”

Btw, if you have to says things like “I’m not racist, but,” or “I’m not gay, but,” or “I’m not sexist, but,” etc, then you are absolutely, 100% those all of things. And if you are prefacing statements thusly, then you’re probably an asshole, too. Geez, what a Zuckerberg thing to say, BC.

30 September 2010

The Big Hit

directed by Che-Kirk Wong

Those of you idiots out there watching Crank and thinking “Man, I wish there were more movies like this!” need to glimpse the Chuck Berry version of filmic madness, known as The Big Hit, starring an up and coming Mark Wahlberg and featuring vacuous storytelling combined with renegade filmmaking. In fact, if Neveldine and Taylor were old enough to mutate this film in the moral vacuum that incubated Crank 2, then The Big Hit could have very well been the Slackers of its time. The film also rocks a totally ridiculous Lou Diamond Phillips and Antonio Sabato Jr., and Ben Ramsey (who is writing Luke Cage, btw) crafts an absurdly absurd tale of a pushover hit man who lets his easygoing demeanor get the best of him. Wahlberg shines in an early role that capitalizes on his Dirk Diggler naivety in Boogie Nights (one of his best performances, btw) and Phillips has way too much fun as the baddest, most sparkly shirt wearing guy (and this is way pre-Jersey Shore, folks) in the room. The Big Hit is one of those films that I nearly walked of when it first premiered, exclaiming to a friend just how fucking ridiculous the movie was, but now, after nearly a decade has passed, I can look back with nostalgia colored glasses to appreciate a film that was, for lack of a better term and in relation to such contemporaries as Crank and Crank 2, ahead of its time. 

28 September 2010

True Grit trailer

I'm nearly as excited for this as I am for Tron Legacy! A non sequitur: I just love Dead Man's Bones. I'm normally not a fan of live versions of songs I love, but DMB just does it so well. Give us a live, acoustic (or whatever the hell it is you do in Name in Stone, In the Room Where You Sleep and Pa Pa Power), or improntu album, pretty please with sugar on top.

PA PA POWER - DEAD MANS BONES from Noaz Deshe on Vimeo.

Restrepo

directed by Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington

Sebastian Junger (who wrote The Perfect Storm, btw) and Tim Hetherington (cinematographer of The Devil Came on Horseback) join forces to tell the tale of Second Platoon, Battle Company, 173rd Airborne Brigade, stationed for 14 months in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan, a location dubbed by CNN as “the deadliest place on earth.” That’s a bold statement, CNN, especially when locations like Liberia, The Sudan, and Texas (where one of the primary industries is lethal injection) exist in the world. But the Korengal Valley is no joke, a desolate, isolated place where the Taliban forces lurk like monsters in the mountains and engage the soldiers multiple times a day. For 14 effing months! Studies have been done about soldiers forced into prolonged, ultra-intense combat situations, soldiers like the 101st Airborne division on which the stellar series Band of Brothers was based, studies that show how situations like this can severely jack you up forever and ever. Try to imagine being engaged in sudden firefights 3 to 4 to 5 times a day, and try to imagine how, after over a year, the loss of friends and fellow soldiers may affect you. Junger and Hetherington film the shit out of the experience, and they make damn sure to withhold any opinion they may have about the war, instead documenting, in the purest sense, the singular and excruciating experience of being a soldier charged with defending the edge of the map. Why is it called Restrepo? Watch the film for an answer to that query. But steel yourself, because it won’t be easy.

Happy B Day, Burton Theatre!


For those of you who haven’t taken my advice, you need to hook em on downtown to the Burton Theatre for a dose of filmic truth. I’ll be baking a cult film cake to celebrate The Burton’s 1st B Day this weekend, and all you assholes better be in attendance. To commemorate the milestone, The Burton will be featuring some gems from the past year’s lineup, gems like Bronson, Taxidermia, The Room, and Robocop, among other filmic treasures. If you are like me and you find yourself wishing that some local theater played the kind of awesome cinema that you just don’t find in the burbs, cinema that throbs with the illicit pulse of the pulpish, the cultish and the badassish, then The Burton is your kind of place. It seems to be that time again, that time when I remind all you cinephiles out there that if you live in Detroit, you are just minutes away from a filmic treasure trove.

Without further ado, the old refresher course of the amazing and singular experience of watching films at The Burton:

Metro Detroiters, if you’re like me, you regularly find yourself scanning the movie section of the newspaper, or scrolling down theater websites and saying to yourself “I wish there was something else out there to watch. Something strange. Something indie. Something that really cooks.” Well, look no further, because The Burton has heard your call, good reader. Armed with excellent proprietors, a perfectly fitting location (the old site of the Burton International Academy) and a uniquely surreal venue, The Burton Theatre is pleased to present Detroiters with genuine art house atmosphere and art house cinema. I remember my inaugural voyage like it was yesterday. As I pulled into the parking lot for the first time, I noticed a sign, festooned with Christmas lights, on a fence that read “Burton Theatre, Enter Here,” and an arrow pointing around the corner of a massive brick school. I made my way down the narrow path and around said corner, and happened upon another sign that beckoned me around yet another corner. I began to suspect that strange things were afoot at the Circle K, but as I navigated my way to the entrance, I found myself walking into the dark floored, white walled setting of various childhood night terrors (I mean that in every excellent way, of course). After purchasing my ticket from the small, barred, closet-like alcove that serves as a box office, I made my way up the stairs and into the auditorium, which is one of those wood floored, all-purpose rooms that all of use ate lunch in slash went to gym class in slash watched the school talent show in if we went to elementary school in southeast Michigan. As I sat down and waited for the show to start, I listened to others munch popcorn (that’s right, they have a concession stand) and chat, I realized just how lucky I am to have a theater in my town that not only loves the art of film as passionately as I do, but that seeks to excite others as well. So many other so called art theaters (I’m looking at you, Main and Maple) seem complacent in with their niche crowd of elderly cinephiles and college aged hipsters, but The Burton seems to quiver with excitement, as if founders Nate Faustyn, Jeff Else, Matt Kelson and David Allen still can’t believe that they get to do what they do. If you’re one of those weirdo, Russian animation loving, obscure doc watching (is he just describing himself, or making fun of me?) film geeks, come on down. But don’t worry, all you skinny jean clad, beard and sweater types, you’re invited, too. So are you, middle aged guys with Great White t shirts and sunglasses at night. But not you, lone drunk guy who chomps and spits popcorn out all over the place (please, just stay home). Everyone else, come on in. Have a seat in the auditorium, which is a frankensteined mash up of Detroit’s artistic, architectural and aesthetic history (those light fixtures came from a church). Follow the creepy trail that leads to the men’s room for a game of pool whilst you relieve yourself. Yes, there’s a pool table in there. Just make sure you’re back in time for the righteous trailer reel.

In addition to showing excellently independent cinema, simply experiencing The Burton is a conversation topic in itself, a true filmic experience that only works to reinforce the magic, the energy, and the joy of film.
The Burton features ample, lit parking adjacent to the building itself, and very reasonable prices to indulge in its wares. The lineup belies the owners’ true favorites; horror and classic exploitation films, but rest assured, there really is something for everyone. Located on Cass Avenue in the Cass corridor, The Burton is a tremendous asset for all you film nuts out there. Please, support your local film lovers.

27 September 2010

Walk the Line

directed by James Mangold

Just before his used his celebrity to mess up a classic western (even though you were truly amazing in 3:10 to Yuma, Mr. Ben Foster), James Mangold managed to make a stellar biopic about rock n roll’s Man in Black, the one and only Mister Johnny Cash. Country may have claimed him as one of their own, and they may be right, but Cash was as rock n roll as they come, the whitehot, drugged up voice of the underdog and the criminal. In Joaquin Phoenix Mangold found the closest thing to a reincarnated Cash that one could find. Allegedly Mr. Cash himself said that Phoenix was the only actor fit to play a filmic version of himself, and holy shit was he right. Phoenix even does his own singing, which is as hauntingly accurate as Sam Riley’s stage presence in Anton Corbijn’s Control, and as amazing as he is he can’t hold a candle to the true grit and refreshing loveliness of Reese Witherspoon, who plays June Carter with all the charm and hardened wit that seem to define the iconic songstress. Phoenix acts as if his life depends on it, every time, and supporting cast talent like Robert Patrick (wow) and Waylon Payne, who’s portrayal of The Killer himself, Jerry Lee Lewis, is Duvallian in its complexity, only add to power of the story.

PS Pretty Please, JP, if you ever decide to freak out and give another gonzo performance, try to cut a Cash style album instead of the truly awful rap you vomited up in I’m Still Here. My stomach can’t take a Complifuckincations part 2.

26 September 2010

Cop Land

directed by James Mangold

One of the single best westerns of the past two and a half decades takes the form of an NYC slash New Jersey cop drama that features a cast so chock full of talent that it puts a Tarantino film to shame. James Mangold’s Cop Land is so quintessential in its perfection that you almost see the iconic western giants in his writing, as if he was channeling Burt Kennedy or Leigh Brackett. Sylvester Stallone channels a wounded Robert Mitchum and gives the second best performance of his career (there is no possible way to top Rocky) as Freddy Heflin, the sloppy tub of a sherrif in charge of Cop Land (aka Garrison, NJ). When city cop Murray “Superboy” Babitch (Michael Rapaport is never less than perfect. Ever.) goes missing after a dubious traffic incident, Internal Affairs agent Moe Tilden (Robert De Niro) looks to Freddy for help. Lame duck Freddy has a bum ear and a dim bulb demeanor that may threaten to gum up Tilden’s op, but the way Mangold unfolds his tale is careful and astounding. Sure, Mr. M has made some shit since then, but he also made Walk the Line, which kicked effing ass (starring everyone’s favorite actor turned jackass, Joaquin Phoenix). The ensemble cast in Cop Land fills in every possible gap to create a feeling that the film could have been based on a true story, and the pseudo throwback fashion, cars and references make the film even more realistic. And Annabella Sciorra can melt even the hardest heart with simply a smile (I just swooned a little). Cop Land is a true blue American western classic that any film lover should be proud to own.

A transpositional experiment: If the film were to be made as a traditional western 50 years ago, who would have been cast in the key roles?
Freddy Heflin:
1997-Sylvester Stallone
1960-Robert Mitchum

Moe Tilden:
1997-Robert De Niro
1960-John Wayne or Randolph Scott

Ray Donlan:
1997-Harvey Keitel
1960-Lee Marvin (though I would have loved to see JW give a bad guy turn just once, and this would have been some role to chew on.)

Gary Figgis:
1997-Ray Liotta
1960-Eli Wallach

Murray Babitch:
1997-Michael Rapaport
1960-Michael Rapaport (you didn’t know? MR can travel through time at will. He’s that good.)

Liz Randone:
1997-Annabella Sciorra
1960- Who else? Claudia Cardinale

21 September 2010

Hollywoodland

directed by Allen Coulter

Allen Coulter’s movie about old Hollywood and its myriad players is a quietly riveting piece of film. Adrian Brody is stellar as down on his luck private eye, Louis Simo, disgraced snoop for hire who is charged with uncovering the murky truth behind the alleged suicide of George Reeves, television’s Superman (and the gold standard for the comic hero to this day). As Simo makes his way through the star studded jungle, Coulter unfolds the tale of Reeves and his struggle to reconcile his desires with his professional image. Hollywoodland is solid filmmaking, and the story is enthralling and earnest. Diane Lane is a fragile and sincere revelation as Toni, wife of Eddie Mannix and sugar mama to Reeves. It’s old Hollywood sans the nostalgia, yet respectful of the tracks it laid for us. It’s too bad Coulter has since been submerged in television, and it’s too badder that he resurfaced to the world of film with the tacky pap nightmare, Remember Me (ugh). Despite such atrocities as Gigli, Bounce, Daredevil, Paycheck, yeesh, I’ll just stop there, but my point is that even though he has done some things that are less than good, Ben Affleck has the ability to gives us performances like the one he delivers here, and he has the ability to knock us out with his directing talent. Give The Town or Gone, Baby Gone a watch for evidence of Affleck’s tremendous talents. 

20 September 2010

The Town

directed by Ben Affleck

When he wants to, Ben Affleck can put on one hell of a show. Good Will Hunting (acting). Armageddon (acting, and I dare you to disagree, haters!). Hollywoodland (acting, with a vengeance). Shit, even Kevin Smith was onto something when he (through his iconic Jay) declared that Ben was the bomb in Phantoms (he was right, and Liev Schrieber was also spectacular in that b film gem). He also had a kickass name in Phantoms, btw. In Gone, Baby Gone, Affleck showed us that he could very well have the directing chops necessary to go places. In The Town, BA is totally BA both behind the camera and in front of it, creating a realistically tension filled crime drama that vehemently resists cliché (until the end, which I can forgive). Affleck is bad friggin ass as Doug, brains behind a gang of robbers that don’t fuck around. When one of his crew nabs bank manager Claire (the ever amazing Rebecca Hall) as a hostage, it’s up to Doug to track her every move and see if she is a liability. The problem is that Doug develops a thing for Claire that threatens to implode the crew and his chances to get out of Charlestown. Jeremy Renner is a gritty, glowing mess as Jem, who will hold court in the street before doing another stint in the clink. Renner can rage internally like no one’s business (see The Hurt Locker, immediately), a true joy to watch onscreen, and Affleck regulars Slaine and Titus Welliver make tremendous acting look effortless. Peter Postelwaithe and Chris Cooper should be proud of their Duvall-esque turns in The Town, making very much of very little, and holy shit, Blake Lively! You need to show us more of that, all the time. Affleck even co wrote the screenplay with Peter Craig, and it seems that, while little Affleck may have inherited the stronger acting gene, Benjamin Geza (yep, I just middle named BA) here has the crazy directing skills that demonstrate all the qualities of an already strong filmmaker who will only grow stronger with time.

P.S. Is “Go fuck yourself” the official saying of South Boston?

19 September 2010

Affleck lets the cat out...

Well, Casey Affleck spilled the beans, and he can say all he wants about it not being a quote hoax, unquote, but he is spot on about one thing: JP does give the performance of his career, which is truly saying something. I knew it. Hell, we all knew it wasn't real, because the possibility of all those close to him allowing this to happen would have been absurd, frightening, and just plain mean. Phoenix is apparently back to looking at scripts and future prospects, and personally I'm glad to have him back in the game. Let's just hope that JP doesn't go all Heath Ledger on us. What? Come on, don't give me that "too soon" face, you jerks!

The beans Affleck spilled:
Awkwardback, the sequel:

16 September 2010

The Fighter (the new David O. Russell film)

I'm excited. O. Russell and Wahlberg make a great team.

The Fighter, due out in December.

Azur et Asmar

directed by Michel Ocelot

Michel Ocelot’s fairy tale is a winner in a lot of ways: the story is charming and earnest, the animation is so lush at times that it completely overshadows the elements of the film that lag a bit, and it is captivating, pure and simple. Ocelot has delved into a variety of animated mediums, from silhouette to cutout to traditional, so it stands to reason that Ocelot would utilize the ever improving realm of computer generated imagery at some point. The fairy tale is a whimsical and heartfelt story of two boys raised by an Arabic woman named Jenane, Asmar’s mother and nurse to son of nobility, Azur. The boys bicker and quarrel like true brothers, and even after time and geography have put the boys in very different places, they both long to achieve the same goal: to free and wed the Djinn Fairy of their mother’s tales. Ocelot goes for a more realistic approach instead of the often cartoonish depiction of humans found in even the finest CGI works (The Incredibles, for example), which pays off at points, but seems odd in others. But that doesn’t matter when such lavish detail in the form of the bird with the rainbow plumage, Jenane’s home and the Djinn Fairy’s fortress wash over you like candy coated dreamscapes. In some ways it is as moving as Iranian visionary Akbar Sadeghi’s animated masterpiece, Malek Korshid (Wholphin, Issue 1. Watch it now.), and anything that Michel Ocelot endeavors to complete will more than likely be something worth watching, Azur et Asmar ranks up there with his amazing Kirikou and the Sorceress. Get in the zone before you check it out.

15 September 2010

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

directed by Oliver Stone

Mr. ‘Heavy-handed motifs, imagery and theme’ himself, Oliver Stone pummels us with the significance of time (look at all those clocks!) in his long anticipated (has it really been that anticipated?) Wall Street sequel. Money Never Sleeps finds iconic Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas finds the slick shit core of his former award winning personae) loosed from the clink with a new book in tow that, get this, predicts the market crash of a few years ago. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the film takes place in 1998, and the script by Allan Loeb and Steven Schiff bets the bank that we are all still raw about said crash. This bet is probably a safe one, and a tidy little stock market drama chock full of complicated, fast spoken jargon, fancy suits and evil corporate types will make for a crowd pleaser no matter how you slice it. What is noteworthy, however, is Shia LaBeouf’s remarkable performance as Jacob Moore, engaged to Gekko’s daughter (Carey Mulligan did very much with very little in this boy’s club of a film) and enamored with Gekko’s smooth operations. Nice work, LaBeouf. You just showed us that you got chops, kid. I won’t give anything away, except that all involved gave excellent performances that hit all the targets, especially Eli Wallach and Frank Langella. Josh Brolin shakes off the dim bulb Dubs routine from W. (yuck) and intimidates like a champ as the worse guy in a room full of bad guys. If you loved you some Wall Street, then this sequel has got your name on it. Just make sure you wear a helmet to protect yourself from all that symbolism Stone tries to hit you over the head with.

Machete

directed by Robert Rodriguez

If there’s one thing we can all learn from Robert Rodriguez’s second obivous foray into the grindhouse realm, it’s that RR knows what works and refuses to deviate. He’s like Chuck Berry or Little Richard when it comes to blood and guts action extravaganzas, so much so that I was surprised that I didn’t see at least one leg fling gundown, in the spirit of El Mariachi, Desperado, From Dusk til Dawn, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, and so on. Shit, I think I even remember one in The Faculty. Doesn’t matter, because RR knows how to entertain an auditorium of bloodthirsty twenty-somethings. Other critics clutching at straws have tried to find some sort of commentary on social policy, political vision and dystopian predictions of our nation’s future, which is as ridiculous as saying that Hot Tub Time Machine was a philosophical musing on existential causality. There’s no moral here, cousin! There’s just good, old fashioned ball busting, blood spattering and, you guessed it, machete wielding fun that will captivate the delinquent in all of us. Doesn’t hurt that cult slash B film icons like Jeff Fahey commit to roles that seem as developed as blueprints sketched on a cocktail napkin during a bender. Danny Trejo can still scare the shit out of me even in his 60s, and wow, did Michelle Rodriguez just not annoy me for once? Now that’s achievement, RR.

Official Stance: It’s no Planet Terror, not by a long shot, but what the hell? RR has a formula, like Maroon 5, and it hasn’t failed him yet. If it’s substance you seek, go back and watch QT’s Death Proof for your fix of the thinking person’s grindhouse film. I will, however, be disappointed if RR actually makes the sequels he promises during the closing credits. 

14 September 2010

Jurassic Park

directed by Steven Spielberg

At least there are some JPs out there that remain reliably stellar throughout the years. Steven Spielberg spared no expense when he decided to blend classic live action effects, advanced stop motion techniques and uber modern CGI to bring to life the best dinosaur film ever, Jurassic Park, which is on par with Jaws in terms of sheer extraordinary entertainment value and enjoyability. A crew of experts trapped in a wildlife preserve with dinosaurs hell bent on munching up some human flesh. What’s not to like? Jeff Goldblum perfects his so very Goldblumy delivery as Ian Malcom, chaotician and ladies man who thinks the whole operation is a rape of the natural world. Sam Neill is stoic and reliable as Dr. Grant, the guy we can all root for and the character who “learns the most about himself” throughout the film. Jurassic Park rocks, from the great John Williams score to the badass special effects (the CGI in the film still holds its own!) to the amazing story itself, penned by wiz of the modern sci-fi drama, Michael Crichton (RIP). And look, another righteous Sam Jackson role! Whether you’re 8 or 48, Jurassic Park will always do the trick, a family favorite that has no rival in terms of content, style and scope.

13 September 2010

I'm Still Here

directed by Casey Affleck

While big brother Ben has mad skills behind the camera, Casey Affleck’s directorial debut is less than award worthy. In fact, if the film is as real as Affleck’s doc subject Joaquin Phoenix claims it is, then Affleck may need to think about straightening out his priorities. I’m Still Here chronicles the recent tragedy that is Joaquin Phoenix’s (JP, if you want to throw around his hip hop name) professional career, and Affleck (Phoenix’s bro in law, btw) apparently seeks to stitch together the actor’s worst possible moments to punctuate the flaming wreckage of his “career move.” It’s no secret that Phoenix announced a few years ago that he was retiring from acting to pursue his true passion, rap music (trust me, your facial expression right now pales in comparison to Sean Combs when JP plays him his demo), but despite rumors and allegations that the move was all a hoax cooked up by the duo, Phoenix vehemently defends his actions throughout the film. Add strangely humorous and perfectly ridiculous interactions with other Hollywood pros to the mix (especially Ben Stiller and Edward James Olmos), and you end up with quite a problem for old JP. The problem is that, if the film is a joke meant to lampoon celebrity egomania and vacuous Hollywood culture, Andy Kaufman style, then it falls short because it’s far too inside of a joke and inconsistent in terms of taste (the hookers, the Anton as rat sequence). At least with Kaufman the joke was, however convoluted it may have been, perceivable. In I’m Still Here, it’s too over the top, and Phoenix staunchly denying the hoax claims renders the whole point essentially moot. How can he come back now and say “Ha ha. We got you,” and more importantly, who will care? This brings us to the more frightening possibility (of which I was and still am skeptical) that it is serious, in which case Affleck, instead of documenting this tailspin, should have acted like a good brother in law and tried to help JP by bringing him back to reality. Because let’s face it: Phoenix sucks as a rapper, and I cite both the gem he played for Combs called (I assume) “Complifuckincations,” or the hook from his Miami show in which he spits “After all these years, I ain’t scared. Never fear, I don’t even fear fuckin’ fear.” Maybe it’s denial, but I still thought I spotted an ironic glint in JP’s eye every now and again, but it still doesn’t change the fact that whatever Affleck and Phoenix hoped to say with this film has fallen through the cracks in a doc that, like the possible hoax, went on for too long with, ultimately, nothing to show for it. The one sheet kicks ass, though.

Hoax? Or filmic black box recording the final days of a great acting talent crashing into the metaphorical mountains? What do you think? (I made to sure to specify that I am speaking metaphorically, Mr. P, so you don’t get confused.)

09 September 2010

Wall Street

directed by Oliver Stone

Most Oliver Stone films are, well, perhaps vehement is the word I am looking for. Like it or not, Stone’s supercharged zeal and fire and brimstone filmic suspicion reached its zenith in such paranoid treasures as JFK, Alexander and Natural Born Killers, but a chance to see an early Oliver Stone flexing his optimism takes the form of Wall Street. Charlie Sheen broods like a champ as Bud Fox, aspiring yuppie and fanboy of Mr. Gordon Gekko (a slick shit and badass Michael Douglas). Gekko has made millions by moving money all over the universe, but whether it’s legit is the tough question that Bud must grapple with. It’s an 80s yuppie movie from the 80s, complete with a wired John C. McGinley and James Spader, and Stone tries really hard to give the film an uplifting arc, but he seems out of his element when he tries to wax hopeful. Delicate has rarely been a term used to describe Stone’s films, and his weakest films tend to be the ones where he tries to “understand” or “sympathize” with a person or concept (such was the case with the wildly vanilla W.). I have been watching and thinking about Wall Street for some time now, waiting with bated breath for his long overdue sequel. Shia LaBeouf better be practicing his version of “I was doing any better, I’d be guilty.”

08 September 2010

Blade

directed by Stephen Norrington

Some motherfuckers are always trying to ice skate uphill. Thus spake Blade, unleashing one of the most stellar lines in film history, right up there with “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid,” or “Rosebud.” Most of David S. Goyer and Stephen Norrington's film is less than classic, but the concept is novel enough to keep you in your seat. A modern vampire film in the spirit of The Lost Boys and Near Dark, Blade was based on the comic of the same name, a comic about a vampire-hunting vampire. Yes, it’s very Dexter-ish, I know, but Wesley Snipes finds in the title character the role he was made for, even better than his turn in Demolition Man. Kris Kristofferson looks like a Predator with its helmet off, but he kicks ass as Whistler, vamp hunter and father figure to Blade. And you can’t spell B movie without the letters D O R and F, and another F. Steven Dorff has made even the cruddiest crud just a bit less crappy, from The Gate (in which he stabbed the hell out of that eye hand he developed) to FeardotCom (ugh) to Deuces Wild. When he and Christian Slater shared screen time in Alone in the Dark, it was like two B film Jedis battling each other using only the force. But I digress… Blade plays a vampiric hybrid, unaffected by sunlight and not immortal, yet possessing the superhuman strength of his blood sucking relatives. Unfortunately for him, Blade shares the same lust for blood. Uh oh, he’s like Ryan Gosling from The Believer, minus all the swastikas. Blade is awesome because it goes for it, just like Daybreakers did, and just like The Lost Boys did. All aspiring filmmakers want to make the next Maltese Falcon or Vanishing Point or The 400 Blows, but hell, I’d be happy with a Blade under my belt any day of the week. 
BTW: Is it true? is Stephen Norrington going to be directing a remake of The Crow? And is Nick Cave really going to pen the screenplay?

07 September 2010

Slackers

directed by Dewey Nicks

In the hands of Dewey Nicks, David H. Steinberg’s twisted tale of academia gone berserk is so overwhelmingly genius that it simply dwarves all other contemporary comedies until the last 30% of this decade. Slackers is the kind of film that is too far ahead of its time, so much so that it is misunderstood, then forgotten for too long before its relevance can be truly appreciated. The Cable Guy? Zoolander? Yeah, buddy. Devin Sowa is Dave Goodman, who, along with buddies Jeff (a fantastic Michael Maronna) and Sam (Jason Segel is straight up amazing) make a living out of scamming the system. But when Dave gets the hots for Angela (James King), her screwball stalker, Ethan (one of Jason Schwarztman’s very best roles) has few tricks up his sleeve to gum up the works. I remember another critic likening the movie to a David Lynch film, and surely the talking penis puppet sing along sequence doesn’t hurt the comparison, but the bottom line is that Slackers is a comedy from the future, sent back like Michael Biehn in Terminator to save humankind from a world of bland humor. If you missed this tragically snubbed comedy classic, then give it a shot. If you vaguely remember it, then go refresh that ass. If you love it as much as me, then congrats, mon ami, because you have truly exquisite taste.

Note: Let’s just recap a few of the other comedy gems that came out the same year.
Austin Powers: Goldmember
Mr. Deeds
The fucking Tuxedo
Van Wilder
The New Guy (wtf?)
Sweet Home Alabama
I won’t go on… But do you see what Slackers was up against? Of course it was lost in the shitty shuffle. Imagine, if you will, Slacker’s reception as being the exact opposite of when Michael J. Fox played Johnny B. Goode at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance.

06 September 2010

Escape from L.A.

directed by John Carpenter

John Carpenter has long been a master of the ridiculous, and his films are the cream of the B movie crop. Big Trouble in Little China. Vampires. They effing Live! If Carpenter made it, then it probably kicks a ton of ass, and it may even be an A movie classic (like Halloween, pour instance). Perhaps his most ridiculous, and therefore most inspired film may very well be the sequel to his epically awesome Escape from New York. Kurt Russell rocks the eye patch one more time and answers to the name Snake Plissken. Snake has to rescue the First Daughter and retrieve a detonator that could totally fuck shit up on a global scale. To make sure he does the job, the Feds plant some wickedness inside him that will ghost his ass in 9 hours if he can’t get the job done. How can he turn down an offer as sweet as that? Probably the high point in the film (beside the full court shootout) is when Snake encounters a cosmic hippie, played by the iconic Easy Rider, Peter Fonda. Escape is always righteous, and always stupefyingly entertaining.

A moment to beg: Please, please, please, Mr. C. Please make another Escape from film before Kurt Russell is too old. Send him back in time to the present day, and just call it Escape from Detroit. The plot: Snake must help a young exotic dancer with sensitive info about the corruption of the city’s political body escape from the Manoogian Mansion before the mayor has her axed. I can guarantee that our old friend Mr. Kilpatrick would love to act as an expert consultant on the subject matter, and Michigan’s tax incentives for filmmakers have never been better (hint, hint).

05 September 2010

Happy B Day to you, Mr. Herzog.

A few happy folks wanted to send you birthday wishes.


Just look at all those smiling faces. We love you, Mr. H. Never change.

The Perfect Storm

directed by Wolfgang Peterson


If being sick makes you more susceptible to getting all weepy at sappy sentimentality, then keep that Kleenex box close at hand. Just make sure that if you are rocking the lotion infused tissues designed to prevent your nose from wanting to kill itself, avoid getting that lotion in your eyes. It stings. But have something ready to soak up those tears as you abandon rational thought and feast your wounded heart on this testament to the Romance of the sea. Wolfgang Peterson has made enough legitimate classics (Das Boot, In the Line of Fire) to make this film seem better than it really is, and the cast deliver top notch performances. George Clooney is superb as Billy Tyne, captain of a fishing boat that gets caught in (you guessed it) the perfect storm. You can almost see weatherman Chris McDonald’s thoughts as he watches the storm on his meteorological computer at the news station. “Look at that storm. Look at how perfect it is.” John C. Reilly is fantastic as Murph, and Mark Wahlberg rules as Bobby. John Hawkes rocks as Bugsy, as does Diane Lane and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio . And the always amazing, always underrated William Fichtner nails the role of Sully. Listen, it’s based on a damn true story, that’s why all the names are so ridiculous! If you need a little pick me up after this tear inducer, be sure to journey back to Peterson’s strange children’s film, The NeverEnding Story, featuring a stunningly topless sphinx-esque sculpture that shoots lasers from its eyes. Remember the proportions on that thing? Remember watching that scene with your family and thinking “I’m totally getting away with this!” I guess we had to learn about the fairer sex somewhere. Don’t get caught staring, Atreyu.

04 September 2010

Get a load of this...

I am simultaneously horrified, disgusted, and oh, so overjoyed that we live in a time when something like this is possible. It's a real feast for the senses, this gem. Long live Rutger Hauer.

Here it is. The, get this, trailer for Hobo with a Shotgun!

Thanks, little brother.

Twister

directed by Jan de Bont

Jan de Bont is most well known for his cinematographic achievements, most notably the 80s section of his CV. Cujo, Die Hard, Flatliners (ok, that’s a 1990 film, but it has all the usual 80s suspects and thematic trappings), de Bont knows how to work the darkness. I can forgive Speed by virtue of Twister, but there’s no excuse for Speed 2: Cruise Control. For shame, Mr. de Bont. Anyway, in Bill vs. the Tornado, my favorite used car salesman slash actor, Bill Paxton, plays Bill Harding. Old Bill is smitten with Star from The Lost Boys (that’s Jami Gertz) and has a cushy weatherman gig all lined up, if he could just get his kind of flaky, storm chasing junkie ex (Helen Hunt, on the verge of annoying me, as always) to sign the divorce papers. Sprinkle in an early Jeremy Davies, an intensely ridiculous (and believable, btw) P. H. Hoffman, a nerdy Alan Ruck, a half dozen cyclones and shoot, you got yerself a dang old picture show. If you are jonesing for a few “aw shucks” Paxton style quips, or just need to see another film where Cary Elwes is a pompous ass, then Twister has got your number, baby. If you’re looking for a little remedy for that under the weather feeling that has you in bed with a hot water bottle and a thermometer lodged in an orifice, Twister is just the thing for those cosmic aches and pains. Take one and call me in the morning.

03 September 2010

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

directed by John Hughes

Certainly not the same kind of sick day you may be having if you’re horizontal on the couch watching this John Hughes gem, but it sure as hell is the sick day you wish you could be having. The voice of grown up Simba is superb as Mr. Bueller, the coolest kid school with the hottest girl and the most neurotic bf. The trio lives it up in downtown Chicago, all the while being pursued by the wily principal Rooney (Jeffrey Jones, who was awesome in Ravenous, btw). It’s a quintessential Hughes teen film (are there any other kind?) chock full of all the things you never experienced but wish you had. Mia Sara is sublime as Sloane, and Alan Ruck is phobia addled perfection as Cameron. The soundtrack is totally boss, and even minor characters like Jennifer Grey and Charlie Sheen share an electricity that endures.  It’s so choice.

02 September 2010

Independence Day

directed by Roland Emmerich

Roland Emmerich’s star spangled sci fi treat is certainly not shitty, but let’s not be so hasty and say it a monument to film perfection. It's definitely his best gluttonously insane budget action spectacular, it’s totally awesome, and the cast brings their A game. But film has some shaky elements in it, elements that I am more than willing to overlook, especially when I’m curled up beneath three blankets and sucking on a Halls with mentho-lyptus. This tale about hostile ETs coming to our world hoping to fuck some shit up (and on our damn holiday!) is thrilling, funny, engaging, and an all around crowd pleaser. What’s not to like? ID4 came out when Will Smith was the undisputed king of the summer blockbuster, and supporting talent like Judd Hirsch, Vivica A. Fox, Mary McDonnell, Bill Pullman, Randy Quaid and Brett Spiner fill out their characters beautifully. Shining brightest of all is Jeff Goldblum, whose uniquely splendid delivery, perfected in the truly classic Jurassic Park, crystallizes to enormously entertaining effect in ID4. Hell, even that fake Keanu Reeves older brother type was okay in my book. This film is a winner no matter how you slice it, and it will always perk you up when you need it most. 

01 September 2010

Total Recall

directed by Paul Verhoeven

My recent bout avec influenza has got me thinking of all those amazing filmic comfort foods that we devour during our sick days. I’m not talking about the fake voice calling the boss so you can hopefully catch a glimpse of Miley Cyrus at Panera Bread kind of sick day. I’m talking about the body feels like you got stomped Rick James style by the Murphy brothers and you have to post up on the couch with pills and water kind of sick day. And it’s days like that when we all need our comfort films, shit great cinematic treasures that warm us up like chicken soup. One of the finest examples of such filmic fare is Paul Verhoeven’s sci fi spectacle, Total Recall, complete with a host of ridiculous mutants, aliens, government secrets and an Arnold smack dab in the middle of the mess. Schwarzenegger is Douglas Quaid, a regular Joe construction worker with Mars on the brain and Sharon Stone in the bedroom. Quaid heads to a company called Recall to have a virtual vacay uploaded into his melon, and that’s where things go batshit. Virtual memories? Mars? Vacays? It sounds so futuristic! Verhoeven’s films seem shockingly similar to one another, that slick slime sans a conscience kind of vision that permeates Robocop, Basic Instinct, Starship Troopers and this fair gem. I’m indignant that this film can boast of being nominated for an Academy Award (it was just for sound, but still), but it is, sadly, one of The Governator’s finest “serious” roles. For some bizarre reason, I personally like Arnold in his comedic films, like Twins and Kindergarten Cop, as shitty as both of those films were. Total Recall does, however, satisfy that sick curiosity inside us all that asks, “what if Arnold’s eyes got even bigger?” And poor Ronny Cox. How far they fall. Total Recall is perfect for a sick day, the first half of an Arnie double feature with Commando or The Running Man. Good medicine.

27 August 2010

Disturbing Behavior

directed by David Nutter

David Nutter’s name is synonymous with many things TV. The X-Files, The Commish, ER, 21 effing Jump Street, Nutter’s resume reads like a list of television shows that spark copious amounts of nostalgia. But nothing stirs up such nostalgia like Nutter’s feature, Disturbing Behavior, starring an in her prime Katie Holmes (back when she wasn’t annoying), a budding Nick Stahl (excellent) and a pre awesome James Marsden (I love you, Mr. M. I just didn’t realize it then. Desolee). Marsden plays Steve Clark, new kid in school and semi traumatized teen in need of some friends. When local reject and general snarky youth Gavin (Stahl) shows him around and introduces him to Rachel (Holmes), Steve starts to realize that things in Cradle Bay may not be as they seem. The movie is awesomely crappy, and even now, just hearing Harvey Danger’s classic anthem song, Flagpole Sitta brings a smile to my face. This is a film that was a crap classic when it came out, and now that time has passed and I have had time to really romanticize this movie, the film is that much sweeter. It’s not good because it’s a good film; Disturbing Behavior is good because, if you’re like me, that summer in ’98 was one of those summers that conjure up fondest memories of irresponsible partying, gonzo craziness and magical recklessness, and the passage of time has only worked to make this film even more inextricably linked to those things. Always a good choice.