What movie was that...?

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.