Friday, September 28, 2007

A Political, Drunken Tangent

Bill O'Reilly is Satan's bottom!!!!! His unjust intolerance is at times funny but he must be stopped. The fact that millions of Americans actually watch and listen to his hateful views is disgusting! This isn't an issue of Democrat or Republican of conservative or liberal or religious or atheistic, it's an issue of humanity! It's sad and dismaying knowing that a man of such hateful values is corrupting the airwaves!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Eastern Promises

Director David Croenberg follows his masterpiece A History of Violence, with a companion piece also starring Viggo Mortensen, solidifying an apt director\muse kinship-- I hope they work together forever, they seem to bring out the best in each other. Eastern Promises is set in London, but like Violence deals with the same of themes of duality and moral ambiguity. Both films are subversive and stylish, made even more remarkable since Croenberg made them with big studio money, proving, I suppose, that big business and art can come together to bring a different and solid good time at the movies.

Eastern Promises starts with a randon act of violence that grasps us to furthur delve more, like A History of Violence, and while this film isn't nearly as satifying it's still a thrilling and involving mystery. The story centers around a midwife named Anna (Naomi Watts) who comes to the rescue of a baby born to a 14-year old Russian prostitute who died during delivery. Investigating through a diary left behind Anna becomes involved with the Russian mafia, and it's underbelly. Mortensen plays Nikolai, the driver of the mob boss' son Kirill (Vincent Cassel) and his father Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl.)

Working from a solid script by Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things), Croenberg brings another provocative, intelligent, mature piece of filmmaking that enriches an already impressive filmography (he's arguably the most consistent filmmaker of his generation,) and gives Mortensen another juicy character to delve into-- it seems fitting to say that Mortensen has become a real artist under Croenberg's spell. In a scene already of legend, Nikolai nakedly and weaponless battles an enemy family in a sauna-- it's powerful and intense. In another, Nikolai's body is examined and tattoed. and this artisan is laying his soul on the line as if to say I give you my body.

Watching Eastern Promises it made me think of if Croenberg could make such a smart, subservise film under the studio system, why can't everyone else? I furthur thought about other true artists making their own creations within the restrains of big budgeted terrains-- Alfonso Cuaron made his Harry Potter his own, Spike Lee did his best work is in nearly a decade with Inside Man, what if Wes Anderson, sputtered out with too much artsy-ness was a director for hire a while, or maybe David Lynch; just an idea-- on the flip side maybe Michael Bay should, just as an experiment, make a film for under one million dollars-- just for fun. Eastern Promises--- B

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

For Your Consideration


I've said a lot about Once, and emphatically call it the best film I've seen so far this year. It's tiny, but lovely, it would be awful nice if the warm and fuzzy members of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences looked at this film-- they would assuredly we awed. It's small but personal, passionate, and lovely-- like a contemporary Brief Encounter. The nearly wordless, but eventful Once is full of small moments, but director Joe Carney infuses a sense of dirty beauty between the meeting of would-be lovers known only as he and she. And musicans Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova make wonderful, somber poetry. Once is an easy film to miss, but if enough of you Hollywood folks watch it, you fall for it. This is one of those little, tiny films that manages to get into your skin and in that beautiful filmic way stays there, only making you happier for the experience of watching it.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Across the Universe

What can one say about a movie that packages the entire decade of the 1960s, all the turbulence and madness, pastes a love story over it while breaking out into Beatles songs every few minutes. I exclaim, "Yeah!" I've read a lot of the criticism and a lot of the articles written about final cut bickering between director Julie Taymor and Sony Pictures, and I don't care-- what's on screen is an artful and sometimes beautiful expression that left me, at least, with a smile on my face. Here's something different and ambitious and silly, but nonetheless different. The film goes into Hair-like tendencies every once and a while, but I didn't mind because a minutes later one of my favorite songs started to play. This isn't meant to be a defense (it's not a great movie, and i don't necessarily disagree with the film's detractors), but Across the Universe, not unlike Moulin Rouge, is so utterly unabashed with romanticism and so eager to please, the infectiousness of it won out over logic-- which is what is so wonderful about movies sometimes.
The story starts out with a boy named Jude (played with charming dishevelment by British newcomer Jim Sturges) on an American quest to meet his real dad and along the way he finds Lucy (the sweetly angelic Evan Rachel Wood), a young American (already a survivor after losing her first love in Vietnam.) It's your basic boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back plot, but who cares-- the tenderness of the acting and the way they play it straight wins you over, and like a good Beatles song, who cares if it's a bit corny sometimes. The first half plays like early Beatles, cheery and a little too innocent, but as the film darkens, the songs do as well.

The young lovers make a pilgrimage to Manhattan and start the impoverished hippie\activist dream-- he's a cartoonist, she's on the anti-war movement, made even more personal by the draft call of her slacker older brother Max (Joe Anderson.) Other friends in toe are a Janis Joplin-like singer Sadie (the wonderful Dana Fuchs), Hendrix-like Jo-Jo (Martin Luther), and pre-sexual revolution lesbian Prudence (T.V. Carpio-- who sings probably the loveliest and saddest version of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," I've ever heard.) There's plenty of bizarre cameos as well like Joe Cocker as a pimp singing, "Come Together," Eddie Izzard's Mr. Kite freak, Salma Hayek as a quintet of singing nurses, and most bizarre of all, Bono playing the Timothy Leary-like Dr. Robert, in the loopiest, yet almost transcendental version of "I Am the Walrus."

And that's the thing about Across the Universe is that even if one my call it kitsch or a homogenization of the decade that changed everything it's still a joyous and exciting film. Visually arresting, sometimes a bit too arty for its own good-- the masked women falling into the ocean sequence I still don't understand, but it looked cool, the minutes long, somewhat overly stylized LSD trip, Mr. Kite's circus, G.I. Joe like army recruiters followed by scared draftees carrying the Statue of Liberty, singing,"It's Too Heavy," it's all good, because this movie is more about a feeling then a time or a place. The fact that me, a 23-year-old knew every song in this movie proves the power of a Beatles song, even the simplest, especially the simplest.

My only real criticism about Across the Universe, and this may have something to do with a supposed battle over the final cut, was that in a way I wanted more-- some of the craziest, most loony moments seemed to stop abruptly then segue into a more conventional movie until the next song began. One key scene, a moving montage expressing the Civil Rights Movement, with a young boy beautifully singing, "Let it Be," played and lingered for a few minutes, almost bringing me to tears, than stopped, I wanted more, but maybe that just means there's a kick-ass director cut on the way.

In the end though this movie brought a smile to my face. In a world with anger and war and sadness it's refreshing to watch an ambitious movie (even one that falls on it's face a whole bunch of times) that earnestly, but not manipulatively puts a smile on your face. Maybe love isn't all you need, but it's nice to think that way once in a while. B+

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Invasion

Decidedly so, I ventured into The Invasion with very low expectation-- this is like the fifth remake of The Invasion of Body Snatchers, and well, while in vogue with current Hollywood, very often silly. But then I thought, this might be a great time to delve into the story again. These film have always worked as allegories of their respective time-- the first one was really about Communism, and now, I thought, would be an ideal time to tell a story set in modern time, the time of Bush, the time of the Patriot Act, war on terror-- how one can easily settle into a life of vacant pleasantness and conformity and become outraged, even violent, when others concede. I might just work, I believed.

However, under the not very watchful eye of director Oliver Hirschbiegel and writers DAve Kajganich and Jack Finney, this is the first Invasion without any sort of meaning whatsoever. There's ideas of meaning, but none actually there, it's utterly inept. The trouble starts when a meteor crashes down and glob of sorts starts making the human race act all funny, or not funny. Nicole Kidman plays Dr. Carol Bennell, a psychiatrist with a penchant for putting patients on medication, even her own son-- again maybe there's something there, about the mind altering effects of placing medicine on people, without actual consulation-- there's something, but no, The Invasion is all about sleek art design and slight monotone horror thrills. Daniel Craig, ripped of all of his charm, plays Dr. Ben Driscoll, ally to Carol and saving the human race. Both Kidman and Craig seem painfully miscast-- I just kind of felt bad for them actually. C-


In hindsight, it's wasn't a bad investment on Paramount Pictures side to invest $70 million on this loopy warped fairly tale, but rather a bad decision to take a fairly decent, entertaining movie and market it so blandly. Everytime a commercial or preview came on, I just felt this nagging and dishearting feeling that this can't possibly be as dumb as there making it out to be. Thankfully it's not. Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake) directs this adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Charlie Vess' novel and spins an endearing and fun piece of cinematic fluff, filled with princes and fallen stars and witches and flying pirates, oh my! There's a sweetness to Stardust, and while the film may not reach the height of fairy tale comedy like The Princess Bride, it's still something slightly different in this dreadful summer of end of trilogy movies-- rest assured that Stardust probably has more creative spark, however disposable, that Spider-man 3, Ocean's Thirteen, and Shrek the Third combined, and lost many stars ago.

The story centers around Tristian (Charlie Cox), a workerbee pining for the beautiful, but contemptious Victoria (Sienna Miller.) As the two picnic in the valley of their village chugging on wine, a shooting star is scene blazing above. As an arrangement to marriage, Tristian declares he will get that star if Victoria's hand be willing; Victoria, ever the indulgent one agrees. As it's soon discovered the star is actually a pretty little lass named Yvaine (Claire Danes.) Complicating matters, Yvaine is also being sought by a nasty little prince Primus (Jason Flemyng) trying to retrieve a family heirloom and cement his kinghood and a brethren of witches lead by Lamia (a wonderfully sinister Michelle Pfeiffer) set on feasting the star's heart and restoring her beauty. While thwarting above said evil-dooers, Tristain and Yvaine start to falls for each other, but like The Princess Bride, the love story is the fun part, it's the machinations and twists of popular texts we've all grown up that make it fun. Nobody really cared the love shared by Westley and Buttercup. Along the way the two meet up with Captain Shakespeare (Robert De Niro), a flying pirate with a fierce reputation and fabulous secret.

It's a fun film, and sadly one that floundered at the box office, but one I really think will have a second life on DVD-- there's to much to enjoy here, nothing deep, but lot's of enjoyment. The performances work for the most part-- Michelle Pfeiffer is absolutely perfect, famously recalling the last time she was a villian (Batman Returns-- Catwoman would be proud), and puts great umph into all her line readings, you want her to win, despite her evil meglomania complex, and after Hairspray marks the grand return after a sad semi-retirement. Robert De Niro seems far more relaxed her playing it mostly for laughs. Danes and Miller are fine, the only weak link is Cox, who seemed rather emotionless the entire time, he kind of looks bored a lot. But flaws and all, Stardust is a crowdpleasing, swell time. B

The Simpsons Movie

I realize this movie came out like a thousand years ago, but now that I can actually write about it, spare me that one indulgence. As a Simpsons geek since has far as I can remember (literally the show started when I was all but six), I ventured into the theater with excitement and trepidation-- would this be the zenith experience of all time, or an invaluable waste that damaged my entire eighteen year geek obsession?!?!? To my delight the film was hilarious from start to finish and stated true to The Simpsons motto of if it's not broke, don't fix. Nothing earth-shattering, like an enlongated episode, but that's all we wanted, wasn't it?

The beauty of the show (and the movie) is that nothing really changes to the lives of Homer, Marge, Lisa, Bart, and Maggie, yet sight gags and political and social commentary can be gathered through the lives of this normal nuclear family. The story goes as follows-- Homer accidentially dumps toxic waste into Springfield Bay and single-handedly makes the town the most polluted city in America; President Schwartzenegger, puppeted by others puts the town in an enclosed dome. Homer and gang move to Alaska; Lisa falls for an young environmentalist, and Bart anguishes father issues and embarks on Ned Flander's more nurturing attentiveness. Not much, but lots. No other entertainment enterprise in history is more subversive than The Simpsons, and yet it's all one big-hearted laugh. The irony is that as much humor and sly jokery put into The Simpsons, jokes on politics and religion, is that it's all spent on Rupert Murdoch's dollar. You got us there!

And yet the movie has a heart, as the show always does, most evident in a moving monolouge spoken by Marge about the commitment and absolution of a marriage-- it's a scene that very real and geniune, and perhaps one of the most heartfelt speeches on the subject in modern movie history, not because it picks at the heartstrings, but because underlying the gaiety is a story show about a family. Bart's feelings of Homer as a father ring true as well, maybe Ned's nurturing nature are a better influence than Homer's constant buffonery?

So for a movie that that opens laughing at it's audience for the stupidity of paying for something one could get for free every week at home, The Simpsons Movie does do it's own name proud, to this geek's delight. Plus everyone loves Spider-Pig-- admit it! B+

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

My Deepest Apologies

As of late my computer has been dead, so my blog, my love has been deeply neglected. I deeply apologize to my adoring public.


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