What movie was that...?

23 December 2011

Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol

directed by Brad Bird

Is the story earth shatteringly mind blowing? Are you kidding? Is this the end all be all of action films? Don’t make me laugh. Is it a shit ton of fun to watch Brad Bird’s highly entertaining foray into live action? Hell yeah! I was more excited to see this fourth installment than I was to see John Woo’s sequel, and way more excited than I was for the the J. J. Abrams threequel, and Brad Bird (Ratatouille, The Incredibles, Iron Giant) did not disappoint. Bird blends fun, taught action and, dare I say whimsy in meticulously dazzling form that belies the attention to detail that only an animator possesses. And Jeremy Renner kicks all kind of ass as black belt analyst Brandt, number cruncher with ninja moves who carries a secret like a champ. Renner is the master of the slightly unpredictable, and I was so happy to see him out rock an aging Tom Cruise. Simon Pegg is a stellar replacement for the Ving Rhames “techie guy who mostly does computery stuff,” but before I even attempt to dissect the most fun Mission Impossible yet, I need to ask the question, “Who the hell cares?” When I sat down, I knew I wasn’t sitting down for bloody Shakespeare, but I will say that Bird’s lens, especially when watched in glorious IMAX immensity, was poetry. Go see it and have a little escapist fun, why don’t you?

PS Yes, I absolutely made sure to get to the theater extra early so I had a prime seat for viewing not just the film but the Nolan teaser for The Dark Knight Rises. Christopher Nolan is the Jerry Bruckheimer that Jerry Bruckheimer wishes he could have been, a daring filmmaker who makes consistently intricate, thoughtful, sophisticated and entertaining moneymakers for the masses. And the beauty of Nolan is that, betwixt such action blockbusters as The Dark Knight or Inception, he still finds time to give the world such gems as The Prestige. Pardon my gushing, but it is deserving, though I have to admit that the teaser left me wanting, and not in a good way. Let's just hope that this teaser is just a bit of Prestige style slight of hand, and I just wasn't watching closely.

11 December 2011

Northfork

directed by Michael Polish

I have long pondered the best way to articulate how captivated I was by the delicate, lyrical and poetic quiet that builds like a magnificent tidal in the marvelous Polish brothers film, Northfork, and I have finally given up. This doesn’t mean that the film isn’t breathtaking in its own surreal way, it just means that I don’t dare sum up this film with mere words. I was in college when this film premiered, and I remember being so caught up in the film that I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days after, weeks even. The tale of a territory in Montana forced to relocate due to the construction of a new dam is at once folkloric and profound, a piece of Americana infused with fairytale, allegory and sheer washed out beauty that will attach itself to part of your psyche in ways you never imagined. Even now, eight years later, I am struck by a landscape, an inflection, a moment in eternity that brings me inevitably back to Northfork. Perhaps it’s a personal thing, but even if you strip that away, the film is magnificent. The film also features a young Ben Foster in one of the first roles that truly shows his capabilities. A wonder to behold, Northfork is a must watch.

05 December 2011

Pearl Jam 20

directed by Cameron Crowe

Perhaps it’s because brilliant director Cameron Crowe was there since the beginning, taking in the Seattle music scene with uncanny foresight. Perhaps it’s because Crowe is a music fanatic, a true audiophile enamored with music the way we, good reader, are enamored with film. Perhaps it’s because Pearl Jam just kicks ass. All are true, and the documentary commemorating one of the finest bands of my generation on their 20th anniversary is a no frills celebration of a group of men who compromise nothing in order to realize their art. Crowe merely catalogs the group’s trajectory, from Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament’s first group, Mother Love Bone, and its disintegration following the tragic death of lead man Andrew Wood, to Pearl Jam’s present place among the absolute greats. In between, a young Eddie Vedder grows from a shy West Coaster into the voice of a generation as he blends his style with that of Gossard and Ament. Cameron Crowe is a strong director, and the true mark of a strong director is when he can fade into the background and let his subject matter shine. Nothing flashy, nothing showy, just a wonderfully edited love letter to a band all of us can’t help but know. I particularly loved the footage of Vedder and former Soundgarden (who kicks ass, too!) frontman Chris Cornell romping and wrestling onstage (during the Temple of the Dog days) in a kind of Whitmanesque celebration of reckless, life lusty youth.  PJ20 is a solid, classically awesome doc that leaves you feeling awesome at the end of it. I watched this doc in the middle of the night foolishly thinking I could simply go to sleep afterward. Not the case, my friend. The afterglow kept me up into the not so wee hours of the morning, and I savored every minute of it. 

04 December 2011

1999 (a Cassius music video)

directed by Alex & Martin

Of late, I have been reminiscing about electronica's glory days, when Amp was on MTV, and people actually knew of artists like The Chemical Brothers and Air and Aphex Twin. Those days, the Salad Days as they are known, are gone, but fragments of this wonderful time have clung to my memory like hugs from the past. Derrick May's Strings of Life, or Sophie Ellis-Bexter's dreamy voice on Spiller's If This Ain't Love, and this gem from the end of the millennium. Directed by Alex & Martin, 1999 is one of the catchiest Cassius tracks, and the video is phenomenal to say the least. The montagery is sublime, as is the wonderful madcapness of Dead Man plowing through the video's trajectory like a dream, and the amazing color palette all come together to rock the senses and send the mind back a decade or so. Fantastic stuff, this.

Wonderful

01 December 2011

Team America: World Police

directed by Matt Stone and Trey Parker


Low brow lunacy, dick humor, and puppets may render the satire of Team America: World Police hard to uncover, but genius satire, no matter the costume, is still genius satire. And leave it to the kings of contemporary intellectual critique disguised as basement level crassness, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, to craft a tale so pointed and telling that, to sit in an auditorium full of “regular folks” as they jeered and hollered was enough to make me cringe. The same idiotic Southpark fans too stupid to get the joke flocked to Team America and laughed for all the wrong reasons (America’s ignorance of the Middle East, America’s bigoted portrayal of all Middle Eastern people as “dirka dirka” speaking Jihadists, America’s lust of ‘involvment’ in beeswax that isn’t ours, etc), and I couldn’t help but feel the wave of joy at Parker and Stone’s success mingled with the sharp sting of realizing that the joke proved, potentially, too successful. I felt the same effect in 2006 as morons all across this fair nation piled in to unwittingly laugh at their own ignorance in Sascha Baron Cohen’s amazing fake doc, Borat, but in 2004, Team America lambasted all sides evenly, skewering conservatives, liberals, idiots and intellectuals with a scorpion tail of comedic commentary. Plot time: A team of elite American freedom fighters must stop North Korea’s evil plot to destroy the world. The film is filled with so much wrong that it reaches a level most satires can only hope to achieve, the level where the morons being lambasted are laughing riotously, unwittingly, at their own expense.
Funny note: In college, I remember sitting in one of my literature classes (English was my major, btw) the Monday after this film premiered, surrounded by hipsters and pretentious douche bags as they ridiculed this film for its low humor and the infamous sex scene. When it came time for me to chime in with my two cents, I told the teacher that I thought it was one of the most important films of the year, and perhaps the decade. The class braced themselves to join in with the teacher in mocking me, but my teacher, in all his infinite wisdom, agreed, and ordered the film be viewed as homework! Take that, pretentious Donnie Darko watching, David Lynch loving film geeks. Fuck yeah!