Thursday, November 25, 2010

What the Fuck?: The Smurfs

The Smurfs



















Is Columbia Pictures serious.  Why in the hell would anyone want this?  Let's be honest about something here,  this was a shitty cartoon.  Don't believe me?  Watch it again.  It's garbage.  The animation is lame, the plots stupid and don't even get me started on how a feisty outdoor cat couldn't round up a bunch of these blue turds for lunch.  Also, the surest way for me not to want to have anything to do with your movie is to blast a one hit wonder rap song that's been dead for twenty fucking years.  Hey, Columbia Pictures, 1991 one called to remind you of the last time anyone wanted to hear Wild Thing by Tone Loc.  This is bullshit.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Red Hill

Red Hill


















Red Hill is a decent twist on the revenge movie genre.  If I can call that an entire genre, yeah, I guess you can.  I won't give a lot of the plot away but you don't really understand the revenge seeking character's motivation until the end of the movie.  I think that was kind of a mistake because after an hour of spree murders I was pretty confused and wasn't sure if I wanted to finish the movie.  I also couldn't tell if the movie was set now or in the seventies or if it was just back country Australia.  I guess it doesn't really matter.
This movie had some horror elements to it as well mostly slasher film similarities.  Initially it would seem that the burn scarred aboriginal killing machine had no supernatural powers but he seems completely indestructible.  At one point someone empties a hand gun at him to no avail.  I didn't get that.  Another time he is in a horrific car accident and emerges without a scratch.  It was more frustrating in this case because I was supposed to buy everything else in the movie at face value.
Ryan Kwanten, who plays Jason Stackhouse on True Blood, is the young cop who has just moved to town and took no part in the initial incident that has the killer so up in arms.  He is spared a number of times and ultimately gets to the bottom of the story.  I thought he was pretty good.  I thought I might not be able to separate him from his more famous character but it wasn't an issue.  I guess the accent helped.  I have to give this a so so rating with my hand dipping to either side.  Which is better than me giving the movie a faux jerk off motion with my hand.  But not as good as a legit thumbs up.  It just isn't as good as the last Australian revenge movie I watched, The Horseman.  What is it with Aussie's and crime movies these days?  I suppose it's better than those ridiculous comedies I was suckered into watching in the early 2000's.

Monsters

Monsters


















I saw this movie during the day at the Loft.  I can't remember the last time I did that.  Maybe never, I'm not sure.  Because of that I was hoping I'd get to see it in the big theater but, alas, I did not.  It would have made the experience a little more enjoyable because Monster is, at times, a beautiful movie.
Unfortunately the camera work doesn't balance out the stilted acting performances by the leads.  There is something really uneven and unnatural about the male lead.  It doesn't help that the actor's name is Scoot McNairy.  Seriously, is that from a Pynchon novel?  What a stupid name.  I would've been more forgiving if this had been his first film, which I thought it was the whole time I was watching Monsters, but he has over forty credits on IMDb.com.  Whitney Able was more believable in the female lead but still seemed really awkward.
Gareth Edwards could've overcome their performances fairly easily by just giving us less of them.  I found I didn't need any back story on them at all.  If it had been filmed with a more documentary style with the camera working just as a sort of eavesdropper following them on their trip back to the US I would have really  loved this movie.  I didn't need to know that Sam didn't want to go home to her fiance or what she was doing in Mexico.  I didn't need to know that Kaulder had an illegitimate kid that doesn't know he's actually his dad.  What do I care?  It would've been enough for them to be two people trying to get home.  It's the film's great flaw.  Edwards does a great job with the camera, capturing some of the really amazing sections of Mexico.  He imbues much of the film with a real Mexican vibe and feel.
Apparently this film was made for 15,000 dollars.  I'm pretty amazed by that.  The monsters look pretty good too.  Edwards does a good job showing them to us in glimpses and sideways angles.  They actually are scarier when we don't get to see the entire creature.  Though in the pay off scene at the end of the movie the creatures still look good when we get a full view of them.
As with every monster movie I'm left with a lot of scientific questions.  These creatures are huge, 100 meters tall they tell us, what are they eating?  Blue whales are like thirty meters long and I'm pretty sure are the biggest animals that ever existed.  Those things eat like 7000 pounds of krill a day.  I suppose you could argue that, since they are alien life forms, that our sun's radiation does something to them to make them that big.  I'm also not sure why they are so aggressive.  They seem to like to pick up cars and throw them around. If they were eating the passengers it would make sense but they just sort of randomly kill people and leave them there to rot.
Obviously there are comparisons to be made to another recent alien invasion movie, District 9.  I have to say that the movies have a radically different feel and have different intentions.  I still think District 9, despite some of the issues I had with it, is an amazing feat of film making.  I don't think Monsters is quite on that level.  District 9 had a solid cast with many believable performances.  The only actors I bought in Monsters were the Mexicans helping them get home, whom I assume were not actors at all.  District 9 looked like it cost 100 million dollars to make while only costing thirty.  Monsters looked like a movie that should've cost a million to make.  Edwards did an amazing job with his budget.  I'd almost be willing to watch a making of featurette on a dvd but I'm just not that kind of person.  I'm impressed by Gareth Edwards and Monsters and look forward to what he might do next.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Movie Goer Actor Hall of Fame: Warren Oates

Warren Oates is a titan of my film and acting aesthetic.  He could do virtually anything and I would watch him, glued to the television.  I'd watch him make a turkey sandwich for half an hour.  I only own one actor's biography and it's his.  Warren Oates is a legend.  He is the quintessential 70's actor.  From the Wild Bunch to Two Lane Blacktop, Warren Oates could do no wrong.  Even his supremely campy turn with Peter Fonda in Race with the Devil is solid gold.  Most people have probably only seen him in Stripes or the Wild Bunch but he was so much more.  He was an excellent Dillinger.  He was in that Twilight Zone where the army guy sees weird light over the faces of men that are about to die.  He was in a fucking Lost in Space.  And he was in the best movie ever made, Badlands.  My favorite role of his though is probably Cockfighter.  He doesn't speak for almost the entire movie and you barely notice.  It's an amazing film, directed by Monte Hellman, based on a Charles Willeford novel.  He is just so stunning and captivating in the role, all without diaglogue.  If you can't recall if you've seen a movie with him in it or can't remember his performance I urge you to check it out.  Watch one of his movies and just watch him.  You'll know what I'm talking about.  Welcome to the Hall of Fame, Warren Oates.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1













I had a lot of trouble with the last Harry Potter movie.  I thought it was just outright bad.  The six book is one that gets lost in the shuffle a little bit even though it's the book where Dumbledore dies at the end. (Spoiler Alert!)  I thought the movie was really clumsy and boring.  So while I'm always ready to watch a new Harry Potter movie, I wasn't as excited as I could have been for this one.
Perhaps that's why I enjoyed it so much.  The first half of The Deathly Hallows book contains some of JK Rowlings best writing.  I didn't remember a whole lot of the plot details while watching the movie but I do remember thinking that she had started to be able to really capture the nuance and relationship dynamic of the three lead characters.  The director, David Yates, handles this part of the book really well I think and the actors are definitely up to the challenge.  I couldn't decide which of the three was the better actor, I think they all have the opportunity to do some really fine work.  Perhaps Daniel Radcliffe is at a slight disadvantage but it looks like he is picking roles in direct contrast to these in order to shake our idea of him as Harry Potter.  Emma Watson will probably have the easiest time of it.  Rupert Grint might be screwed, though I think in some ways he has been the better actor throughout this series of films.
This film marks the first time that you can really feel the weight that is placed on Harry and his friends to succeed.  The stakes finally feel legit enough to actually be scared for the characters.  In previous films, the atmosphere as been a little too light hearted I think.  The initial books were more light hearted as well, perhaps because all three were under the protective eye of Dumbledore and therefore there was an element of safety to them.  But in this film you can grasp the enormity of what Harry, Hermoine and Ron have to do to defeat Voldemort.
I suppose a lot of people might take issue with this film as it may seem a little boring and full of exposition.  But what do they want?  From reading other reviews online it seems like critics forget this is only half a story and it is supposed to make you immediately want to see the next movie.  That's how Lauren and I felt immediately after seeing it.  I consider it one of the most successful entires into the series.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Trailers for Movies that Look Good

Source Code












White Material












Brighton Rock

What the Fuck?: Yogi Bear in 3D

Yogi Bear in 3D











What the fuck?  Lauren and I saw the preview for this abomination before Harry Potter the other night.  We were aghast.  Well, I was anyway.  But not at the trailer necessarily, at the general laughter that spread across the theater as the trailer concluded.  C'mon people, stop encouraging this shit.  I thought we learned our lesson with Garfield.  Or Garfield 2 even.  Jesus F. Christ.

Unstoppable

Unstoppable















Sean and I saw Unstoppable last week.  As you might have already gathered, it's an out of control train movie.  It follows this formula:  (cliche + cliche + cliche + cliche)Denzel Washington = Bad but somehow watchable film. Denzel just makes people enjoy things.  He has an easy laugh and a big head and people just trust him.  I suppose that's why, as of this posting, Unstoppable has an 85 percent tomato rating.
Anyway, I won't bore you with any details from the movie, my favorite parts had nothing to do with any of the characters or the plot and only one of them happened on screen.  The latter being, I'm assuming, a chance shot of a beaver scampering across the train tracks as the renegade train barrels toward the audience.  He is just there, sort of cavorting across the screen.  I'm hoping it was kismet.  If Ridley Scott added him (or her) with CGI or something he's a total prick.  It is a really coincidental Freudian pair of images.  The beaver hurrying to get out of the way of the massive oncoming train.  I mean he might as well have inserted a cartoon of a giant penis chasing a little vagina across the screen.  I'm probably the only one who noticed it though.
 My other favorite thing that happened was during the previews.  Sean and I almost always try to sit in the front row on either hand side of the theater.  It's just a good seat, no one sits in front of you and you can put your feet up on the rail.  This time there was an older woman in a wheel chair sitting directly below us in the handicap seats with a friend.  Seemed normal enough.  After the first trailer, which was the bad ass new trailer for True Grit,  she turned to her companion and loudly stated, "I don't think so."  As if her husband of forty years had just asked her for anal sex.  I'm serious, it was dripping with vitriol.  Sean and I both convulsed in a fit of the silent laughter reserved for the special occasions of someone else's public shortcoming.  I can't remember what the next trailer was but was also something I was anticipating seeing and it was met with the same supreme distaste, "I don't think so."  Two more trailers were shown though and neither meet such a harsh response.  After each one Sean and I looked at each other and wondered silently what her criteria might be for enjoying film.  After the movie I heard her say to her companion, "That was great."  I was left puzzled by a person who thinks the new True Grit looks like something she couldn't scrape off her shoe fast enough and subsequently thinks Unstoppable was "great."  But that's one of the reasons I love going to the movies.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I Hate You: Robin Williams

I hate you Robin Williams.  Seriously.  Why are you like that?  For a long time you had the "coked up" excuse but now?  What gives?  I'm serious, what happened in your life that you turned into a spastic in a gorilla suit that you seem to be unable to remove.  What?  That's just your body hair?  Disgusting.  I often wonder from how far away I might be able to smell you.  I mean, you look like you smell....real bad.  Like the inside of a turtle shell.  Or the wet suit of a really fat guy who spent the day having fun and scuba diving.  I think you probably smell like middle school wrestling mats but don't have the balls to confirm my suspicions as I'd like to continue to be able to smell and taste food.  Have you ever made me laugh?  No.  Have you ever made anyone I know laugh?  I hope not.  There is one movie of yours that I find oddly hilarious.  It's called Club Paradise and it's only funny because it basically has the entire cast of SCTV in their primes supporting you and it's only funny for forty minutes.  Plus Peter O'Toole and Jimmy Cliff.  Nothing you say in the movie is funny.  All of the good lines are taken by Eugen Levy, Rick Moranis and Andrea Martin and you expect me to believe your character was a fireman when he was clearly a level 2 sex offender.  I hate you.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Movies, That If You Haven't, You Need to See

This is England

Recently Revisited: Dune

Dune















The other night I mentioned to Lauren that I had probably seen Dune only once or twice.  Though there is the distinct possibility that my dad took me to see it in the theater, I don't remember.  She was aghast, it being one of her very favorite movies to watch repeatedly.  I told her it was also my least favorite David Lynch movie which may or may not still be true, I'm not sure.  I never finished Inland Empire so I think that has to technically be my least favorite.  The next night we watched it, thanks Netflix, and I have to say that I think it was better than I originally thought.
Dune is known for being a huge flop, check out this review by Roger Ebert.  He really rakes it over the coals. I'm not going to champion Dune for being some sort of cinematic masterpiece but I don't think it's that bad.  He fairly compares it to Star Wars and it does come up short in that regard but at this point I was comparing it to other David Lynch movies.  It made for kind of a fun watch, looking for spaces to find David Lynch in the movie.  Not the actor just his style.  Although how funny would it have been if Gordon from Twin Peaks showed up during basically any scene in the movie.  The mind boggles.  Also I didn't know Big Ed from Twin Peaks was in it at all.  That was fucking awesome.
Watching this movie again I was also left to wonder, why is it that David Lynch is the only director who can get a decent performance out of Kyle Maclachlan?  Seriously he sucks in everything else.  He will always have a place in my heart for his role in Showgirls though (a movie my dad and I definitely saw in the theater).
I did have to keep asking Lauren questions about why the characters were doing the things they were doing and I did get seriously grossed out by the fat guy's disgusting boils but I liked the movie nonetheless.  I just sort of liked the odd pageantry of it.  Yeah, the special effects sucked and the acting was fair at best but there is something about it that I just kind of got into.  I still have to say it's the worst David Lynch movie I've finished watching though.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Last Train Home

Last Train Home



















This is easily the most affecting movie I've seen all year.  I felt so sad and demoralized (yes even more than usual) after seeing it that I felt like I needed to change multiple aspects of the way I live.  It is basically the story of a family but also of a country and culture.  The parents in the film left home when their kids were very young to work in a factory in one of the bigger cities.  Subsequently their children never really grew to love them or even know them.  It creates a strained dichotomy to say the least.  They are only able to travel home once a year for the Chinese New Year and it is a struggle even then.  130 Million Chinese travel to the country from the cities every year at this time and it is the largest migration of human beings in the world.
The work the parents do, sewing clothes in a factory, appears brain numbing and crushing.  The camera's let us peer very intimately into their lives.  I was surprised and impressed by the camera work.  Despite the film's subject matter, it is one of the more beautiful movies I have seen in a long time.  Their children live in their village on a farm with their grandmother.  It seems like it would be fun to me but I'm not a seventeen year old Chinese girl (yet).
As the film progresses the couple's oldest child, the aforementioned 17 year old, drops out of school and goes to work in a factory and then a nightclub in a different big city.  It is heartbreaking to watch the family crumble after her decision.  She seems so insolent and unwilling to look at what her parents are doing for her.  At the same time, I remember being 17 and wanting me own place in life.  However, my family's situation wasn't nearly as dire and my decision to drink Colt .45 behind the Kwik Shop across from my high school didn't carry nearly the consequence.
Watching this movie at first made me want to never by any products made in China.  I'm not sure if that is possible, even with my thrift shop lifestyle.  But on closer inspection it made me wonder if we all started doing that, would happen to these factory workers and their families.  There's no way they could return to an agricultural system at this point.  We seem locked in together.
The best compliment I can think of to give this movie is that if it were not a documentary I would have enjoyed it just as immensely.  The director, Lixin Fan, was able to give us all sides of each main character as well as deeper insight into Chinese culture.  I really can't speak highly enough for this film.

I Hate You: Renee Zellweger

I hate you Renee Zellweger.  Your attempt to make up for your lack of acting "chops" by scrunching up your face and squinting with you eyes bothers me to no end.  It is possible that you are a perfectly nice person in real life.  I will grant you that.  But I suspect you are the type of friend that everyone makes fun of behind their back despite being a famous movie star.  I've hated you in so many movies I went to IMDb.com and counted them.  It's 16.  And that's just the movies I've for some reason seen.  I didn't even count Dazed and Confused since you were uncredited.  But I did count Reality Bites even though I don't remember you in that movie at all.  I'm just banking on the fact that you made a sour face while someone was acting next to you.  I'm ashamed you played Beatrix Potter.  I find Lauren's cat more convincing when he tries to trick me into feeding him again than I've ever found you in any performance.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia













This is one of those documentaries that falls into the "Look at the Crazy" category.  And these people are crazy. Crazy scary, or scary crazy I can't tell which.  I'm hard pressed to decide on what is the scariest part of this movie.  Every character is terrifying.  Every single member of this family bothered me on some deep human level.  I'm glad it's only an hour and a half long because I'm not sure I could take more.  Though I could watch endless clips of them trying to order mozzarella sticks at Taco bell
At one point one Kirk White does a few lines of oxy in her hospital room immediately after giving birth to her baby.  The baby is subsequently taken away to her dismay.  She does agree to go into treatment to get her baby back but admits that she'll just start back up as soon as she is out.  Though by the end of the movie she has been clean for three months and granted visitation rights.
The party they have before she goes into rehab is pretty fascinating, four or five women with really deep voices (seriously one of them, Sue Bob, has a voice deeper than Dr. Girlfriend's from the Venture Brothers) doing weird "sexy" dances with each other in the parking lot of a bowling alley.  I've frequently heard oxycontin referred to as Hillbilly Heroin but never have I seen a slang term so vividly come to life.
The White's do, however, have their good qualities.  They are at times a fiercely loyal family.  The family matriarch, Bertie Mae White took in over thirty orphans and raised them as her own.  I suppose you could ask to what end, but that's not something I'd do or anyone in my family would consider doing.  It is actually pretty touching when Jesco White tours his family cemetery.  I don't know that the White family is that different than a lot of other backwoods West Virginia coal families are but they've been singled out due to D. Ray White's prominence as a mountain dancer.  A tradition which Jesco mastered and was featured in The Dancing Outlaw.  These are people who have the deck continually stacked against them, as do most of the poor people in this country but as D Ray and Bertie Mae's oldest daughter says at the end, "At least people know who the fuck we are."

King of Pastry

Kings of Pastry













Lauren and I got to the theater for this one a little late and had to sit on one of the couches up front.  The weird couple who came in right after us had to do the same.  The lady, who was exactly the kind of person you'd expect to see at a movie about French pastries, kept going, "Oh, that looks good." and "Mmmm."  and "I'd eat it that, wouldn't you eat that, honey?"  Her husband didn't say a word the whole time.  He just sat there and put off a driver's ed instructor vibe.  It was a little distracting but a little great because now I'm writing about it in a blog.
Kings of Pastry was actually really good.  I enjoy documentaries quite a bit but lately I have been noticing a sort of troubling pattern.  Documentaries are recently falling into two categories:  Look at the Crazy and Look at the Sadness.  Some documentaries can do both, Manda Bala and Paradise Lost come to mind, and be better for it.  Most feel one note and boring.  Kings of pastry belongs in neither category.  It tells the story of someone doing something interesting which is what I want documentaries to do.  I will still watch the other sorts but this is the sort of documentary I really enjoy.
It follows three chefs preparing for the MOF which is an incredibly intense pastry competition in France.  Winners of the MOF are renowned throughout the world as master craftsmen.  Maybe only four or five are awarded the honor every four years.  There were a lot of images of grown men crying in this movie which really walks the fine line of touching and pathetic.  In this case you can see the pressure these chefs are under and understand why they might cry.  But why are the judges crying?  That was pretty funny.  (The worst case of pathetic grown men crying occurs in Anvil, which I hated.  It was all man tears and fanny packs)
Overall this is a pretty heartbreaking movie.  The amazing yet ugly sugar sculptures are so fragile and handled with such care that I almost felt like covering my eyes with my hand every time they started working with them.  At one point, one of the contestant's sculpture shatters and there is a collective gasp from the audience unlike anything I've ever heard in a movie.  It's definitely my favorite part of the movie.
D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hedgedus do a good job building tension and letting it ease out without bursting. Pennebaker was the dude who made both Don't Look Back and Monterey Pop as well as a whole bunch of other music documentaries and Kings of Pastry is a nice addition to his oeuvre.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Movie Goer Actor Hall of Fame: John Cazale

John Cazale only appeared in five movies.  All of them were seminal, amazing films.  He never made a bad movie or even so much as a simply decent movie.  He was in Dog Day Afternoon, The Conversation, The Deer Hunter, and The Godfather I and II.  Every single performance is riveting, scene stealing and Oscar quality.
Oddly, in forty percent of his roles he was named Stan.
He died of bone cancer soon after filming for The Deer Hunter finished.  At the time he was engaged to Meryl Streep.
Obviously it is hard to forecast what kind of work he might have done in the future but I think it's safe to bet he would have put in some solid work in the eighties.  He probably could've at least scored a supporting role in Cruising since he and Al Pacino were extremely good friends.  Welcome to the Movie Goer Hall of Fame, John Cazale.

I Hate You: John Travolta



















I hate you John Travolta.  You are loathsome and offensive to my eyes.  Your head is far to big for my enjoyment.  You are both comedic and dramatic poison.  Any time I see your name attached to a project I know that it is not only not worth my time or effort but it was also a complete waste of time and effort for all of those involved to the most minute detail of said project.  I will accept your performance in Saturday Night Fever as the dim witted boob who doesn't want people to touch his hair and your three minute cameo in A Thin Red Line but nothing else.  I hate you John Travolta.  I'm not even going to bother with the Scientology bullshit.