Monday, December 27, 2010

True Grit

True Grit

Sometimes a movie comes along and you get exactly what you expected.  This is one of those times.  When I heard that the Coen Brothers were remaking this I was pretty excited.  I'm a big fan of the novel and the original is one of John Wayne's best. So, needless to say, I expected something great.  And I pretty much got it, I'd call it near great.  I don't think the Coens did anything revolutionary though.  It wasn't as striking as their last couple of movies and I felt them going through the motions in a few spots.  I'm also not sure why both movies refused to shoot this movie in the region where the book was set.  In this version at least they acknowledge that they are supposed to be in Arkansas.  It just doesn't really look like Arkansas, at all.  I've always felt like the novel was more of a Southern one instead of a Western one but both movies have a distinct Western feel.  The Western in film has a much greater tradition than Southern films which exist sort of nebulously (Try and think of five off the top of your head).  Ultimately it isn't too big a deal I suppose.  The ending kind of slipped away from them too.  I felt like there was a great point to end the movie but they pushed it a bit further and the ending felt forced.  I was pretty let down by this because their last two good movies had two of the best final scenes in recent memory.  But still I loved the movie.
The main question I had going into this movie was would Jeff Bridges be able to put the movie on his back and carry it the way John Wayne did?  I'm not the biggest John Wayne fan.  But in the right role, he works.  And sometimes the role is so perfect he becomes mesmerizing.  True Grit is one of those times, so is the Searchers and The Longest Day.  Jeff Bridges is a different sort of actor.  Seeing a second take on the role makes me think there isn't a lot of room to wiggle on this character and that John Wayne was actually better than I remember him being.  I'll probably watch it again soon to confirm my suspicion. 
The other performances in the Coen's version far outshine those in the original.  Matt Damon was especially fun to watch in the new one.  Just about everything he said cracked me up and Hailee Steinfeld was great as Mattie.  Also Barry Pepper as Lucky Ned Pepper steals every second he's on the screen.  They're precious few but he makes the most of them.  The only weak link to me was Josh Brolin.  It's such a small role that his presence sort of distracted me.  He also uses a weird muppet voice.
True Grit secured a spot on my ten best of the year and didn't sully the Coen Brother's fine reputation which it had the potential to do.  Although with this movie being as good as it is, their next one will surely be a dud.  They've never put three great movies together in a row.  They almost achieved it recently but Burn After Reading (it came out between No Country and A Serious Man) was one their worst.  Also Fargo and Lebowski was followed by O Brother, Where Art Thou? which I seriously cannot stand, and preceded by Hudsucker Proxy which I should've liked more than I did but was kind of a mess.  We'll see if they can keep it together next time out.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Fighter

The Fighter

When I first heard about this movie I was really excited.  I'm a well known Mark Wahlberg apologist but this movie actually appeared to be good.  I had the hopes that all of the acting talent in the movie would push it past the average sports movie cliches.  I'm not entirely sure that it did.  I'm not even sure it's much better than the last sports movie that Wahlberg did, Invincible.  I know that it was a Disney movie and by it's very nature (Disney plus sports movie) it should be schmaltzy and uplifting but I thought it was pretty good.  And The Fighter is really no less schmaltzy and uplifting.  It just has better performances.  Although there was a lot of "acting."
A lot of people are hailing Christian Bale's performance as remarkable.  I couldn't get past the fact that I was watching him act.  I just felt like I was watching Christian Bale play Dicky Eklund and not simply Dicky Eklund on the screen.  I suppose he is pretty good but I thought it was a little over the top.  It was Melissa Leo who really acted the shit out of her role.  She was amazing as their mother.  It was a comparable performance to the one she delivered in Frozen River.  Amy Adams was good too.  She has a bigger range than I think she has shown us and I bet she's an Oscar winner before too long.  But most of the movie rests on Wahlberg's shoulders.  He handles it well enough.  He actually looks like a boxer.  The role doesn't offer him too much to work with but he does it capably.
The highlights of the movie were definitely the boxing scenes.  They are the most realistic I've seen in a movie.  The Raging Bull and Killer's Kiss scenes were more stylized and probably better but these felt more like a boxing match.  And Wahlberg looks like he can actually box.  I remember the fight at the end of the movie where he wins the belt (no surprise even if you aren't a boxing fan) and it was a good replication.  After watching this movie I started thinking about Rocky and my theory that the only reason anyone really likes the movie is because he loses in the end.  Sylvester Stallone's whole career is based on that decision.  Good move, Sly.  Except now we're the ones suffering.

Rare Exports

Rare Exports

I don't know, man, I guess, whatever.  That was my exact reaction after seeing this one.  It started off okay but pretty much took a shit two thirds of the way through.  Maybe it was all just too Finnish.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Killer Inside Me

The Killer Inside Me

Jim Thompson adaptations are always difficult sells to me.  There is something about his writing that is really hard to capture on film.  The Sam Peckinpah version of the Getaway is probably the best.  Or maybe the Grifters.  But neither really achieve the level of scum that Jim Thompson novels do and I think both play it really safe with the material.  Then there is The Killer Inside Me (The new one, there's an older version I haven't seen with Stacey Keach in the lead role).
I think Michael Winterbottom is the first director to get the look right.  The idyllic setting and scenery of this movie is the only balance to Lou Ford's violent misogyny.  Unfortunately it can't outweigh it by any stretch of the imagination.  The novel, which I read years ago, is interesting because of how far you delve into the head of the character.  You realize pretty quick that you are dealing with a sickening narrator and you keep reading in the manner of a car accident, so gruesome and unceasing.  In the book you cannot get away from Lou Ford, he is unrelenting.  In the movie he is simply there on screen, he is not alive the way he is in the book.  This is what the movie lacks, access to the killer inside of Lou Ford.  At one point he says to a friend, "I'm always standing with my legs on both sides of the fence," or something to that effect but you don't buy it because you can't see it.  Winterbottom's only real attempt to capture it is the sort of meek narration that Lou Ford provides and a few flash backs.  It isn't enough.  You need to be immersed in the character for it to work.  Otherwise he is just a misogynist psychopath.
The other issue with being separated from the character Lou Ford is that the women in the movie seem to continue to faun over him as he beats them.  In the book you know you are inside of him and you would expect a character such as Lou Ford to believe such a thing.  In the movie however they just seem like helpless women, especially Joyce played by Jessica Alba, who can't help it.  It sort of gives us a dim view of Michael Winterbottom's feelings toward women.  It doesn't seem intentional however, just an unfortunate by product of adapting the novel to film.
Casey Affleck is pretty amazing in the role however.  I don't think any of the folly of the movie falls on is shoulders.  He is scarier to me than Christian Bale was in American Psycho.  In fact, I think the Killer Inside Me makes American Psycho look particularly cartoonish.  The scenes of brutality against the two women characters are shown full force.  They are particularly hard to watch.  When I heard they were making this movie I wondered about those two scenes and how they would handle them.  I didn't expect they would do it like this.  They are real terrifying scenes and to think of a man actually doing this to a woman makes me feel sick.  I didn't get any of that with American Psycho.  I think Casey Affleck is one of the small handful of actors making good choices in films these days.  He was great in The Assassination of Jesse James as well as Lonesome Jim and Gerry.  He's also the best part of Good Will Hunting because he masturbates into an old baseball mitt (offscreen).

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Ten Unintentionally Funniest Movies from 2001-2010

The Room

Perfect failure.  My favorite parts are the shots of him sitting at a weird angle on the couch.  Everything in this movie is abject ridiculousness.  It's almost too much to take.

The Wicker Man

Cage at his best.  The depravity of the ineptitude surrounding this film is astounding.  If you thought Cage was laughable in something else, you need to see this.  It makes Next look like The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Cold Creek Manor

There is a scene in this movie where a variety of snakes invade the house and sort of surprise the family at every turn as they try to get away.  The best part about it is that all of the snakes are different species.  Somebody collected all these different snakes and planted them in the house.  They must have robbed a specialist pet store.  Priceless.

The Happening

You can almost see the actors apologizing to each other as they say their lines.  Lemon drink?  Are you serious Shyamalan?  I guess you are.  Thanks for this atrocity which is horrible by your standards.  After it came out you said it was supposed to be that bad.  Yeah, right.


This movie is laughable at every turn.  Don't believe me?  Watch it.  I love it when Brad Pitt yells, "Sack of wine!"  I don't remember the context.  As if there were any contexts in this movie outside of it being a movie.


My mom and I went to see this once when I went back home to visit.  It was so bad she made us walk out because I was laughing too hard.  J. Lo's name in this movie is Slim which is all I should have to tell you before you run over to Casa and rent it under an assumed name.

The Butterfly Effect

Ashton Kutcher is brilliant in this movie.  Especially when he has no arms.  There is a scene where he tries to pick up a granola bar with his fake hand and it just crumbles.  Much like your will to see another Ashton Kutcher movie after you see this one.

Bangkok Dangerous

Honestly this could have been just a list of Nicolas Cage movies but I held back.  It does seem like this one doesn't get enough credit for how horribly funny it is.  You probably haven't seen it.  Watch it.  You'll laugh.


This is the movie that taught me that that old adage:  "Hip hop can't take you to places ballet can," was all wrong.

Grizzly Park

Grizzly Park is one of the true gems Sean found at his local Red Box.  I only wish we had watched the movie with the commentary which is supposed to be even funnier than the movie.  If that's even possible.

The Ten Intentionally Funniest Movies of 2001-2010 (In No Particular Order)

The Boss of It All

You might not expect it from Lars Von Trier but he fucking nails this one.  It is quite possibly my favorite of all of his films.  It is probably the highest concept comedy on the list.  There aren't a lot of extremely funny moments but the whole movie comes together better than any other movie on the list.

Wet Hot American Summer

This is the movie on the list that diminishes the most after every viewing.  Luckily I've only seen it three times.  Most of the stuff from the State people has sucked pretty hard, with the exception of Wainy Days, but this is probably the best they've had to offer.

The 40 Year Old Virgin

This is the only one of the Apatow movies that I really think is funny.  When he refers to a woman's breasts as "bags of sand" it kills me every time.  Nothing in this movie really touches Freaks and Geeks though.  Or even Undeclared.  I'm glad Apatow is going back to TV.


Ben Stiller is weirdly on in this one.  I have to say, taking into account all of his films, in a consensual setting, no one looks less fun to have sex with than Ben Stiller.  He totally mastered the awkward sex scene.

Tropic Thunder

This movie barely made the cut because of how much I hate Tom Cruise in it.  However, the ratio of times Robert Downey Jr spoke and times I laughed is outlandish.  Everything he said cracked me up.  Jay Baruchel is really funny in this one too.  Danny McBride has some good stuff too.  There's a lot to like, though I bet Lauren hates this movie.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

I think this movie marks the last time Val Kilmer was still Val Kilmer.  Have you seen him lately?  He looks like George Costanza's over stuffed wallet.  A lot of people haven't seen this movie for whatever reason but I think you should .  Val Kilmer is fucking hilarious in it.

In Bruges

I was really surprised by this movie.  Normally I can't stand Colin Farrell but he's great in this.  Ralph Fiennes kind of steals the show though.  The first scene in this clip is one of my favorites.  It's a little weird out of context but it really kills in the movie.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

It was hard to decide which of Wes Anderson's movies was the funniest.  I finally decided on this one because it basically made me happy the whole time I was watching it.  There aren't a lot of movies that I can say that about.  Not many at all.


Everyone knows I love Nicholas Cage movies.  This movie has two scoops of Cage plus Chris Cooper, Meryl Streep, Tilda Swinton and Maggie Gyllenhaal.  It also has one of the sharpest scripts of the last twenty five years.  Somehow it seems drastically underrated.

Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle

Some people think it's a funny pot movie.  I think it's a funny movie about trying to find a semi-mythical restaurant.  Priorities, I guess.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I Hate You: Dan Ackroyd

I hate you, Dan Ackroyd.  Or should I call you by your full name?  Comedy Poison Dan Ackroyd.  God, you are a billowy bag of bad jokes.  I don't think you have ever been funny.  To be perfectly honest you almost ruined Ghostbusters.  Seriously, almost ruined it.  You're specifically the reason I haven't watched it since I was a kid.  You make me want to fucking puke.  I hate your old Saturday Night Live sketches like they were new Saturday Night Live sketches.  Some people might hail your work in dramatic roles such as Driving Miss Daisy or My Girl as quality performances.  If that's truly the case I deliver a quality performance everyday around ten o'clock depending on how big a bowl of cereal I eat in the morning.  I will grant you the concession of The Great Outdoors where you played an unfunny, pompous, pathetic asshole.  I guess maybe it wasn't much of a stretch.  Everything you touch turns to fetid vomit.  As proof of this I offer your entire career as evidence.  I wish there was a word for how an actor's face can appear on screen for just the smallest hint of a second and the whole movie turns into a piece of garbage that should have never been conceived of in the smallest incarnation let alone released and viewed by millions of viewers.  Oh, wait, there is, Dan Ackroyd.  Flap your jowls somewhere else, Ackroyd, I'm not interested.

Chronicles of Narnia: Something or Other

Chronicles of Narnia: Something or Other

Have you ever been eating a sandwich and thought it tasted funny so you keep tasting it, trying to place why it tastes so funny only to find out that the reason it tastes funny is that it is made out of farts, that you are eating a fart sandwich?  That's what this movie is like.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Childhood Favorites: Can't Buy Me Love

Can't Buy Me Love

My brother and I have seen this movie at least 50 times.  That's conservative.  I can literally look at the picture above and see the rest of the scene play out.  And, when I see them, I still call collared shirts with the sleeves cut off Designer Originals.  I know a lot of people have seen this one a few times since it was filmed here in Tucson but as kids we basically had no idea Tucson existed.  I also never connected the fact that it was filmed in the same city as another childhood favorite, Revenge of the Nerds.  I have noted, however, how odd it was that I ended up moving to the town two of the most cherished films of my youth were made.  I wonder where Porky's was filmed.
Anyway, everyone knows what this movie is about, if you don't, watch the trailer.  What I love about this movie, and eighties teen comedies in general, is the earnestness.  They were funny, but the actors didn't know they were in comedies.  Teen movies today are almost universally tongue in cheek and they suffer from it.  I'm not sure how the director, Steve Rash, bumbled into making this movie.  He did make The Buddy Holly Story which isn't bad but if you look at the rest of his catalog it makes you want to puke.  I mean, he directed this.  I'm also not sure how they were able to pay enough money to use a Beatles song in the movie.  I guess those were different times. 
There are so many things to love about this movie.  Probably my favorite parts of the movie concern Ronald's, played by Patrick Dempsey, relationship with his former best friend Kenneth, played by the always amazing Courtney Gains.  He had a pretty great run, if you ask me anyway, in the late eighties with roles in Can't Buy Me Love, Colors, The 'burbs, and Memphis Belle.  The scene in the arcade after Ronald has sort of come to his senses is one of the great nerd confrontations in all of cinema.  Kenneth just keeps repeating the phrase, "You threw shit on my door." In reference, of course, to Ronald's ill fated Halloween prank pulled with the guy who would become Gerardo and that other guy who would go on to always play a cop in which Ronald did actually throw shit on Kenneth's door.  I always thought that was a particularly assholey thing to do. When you're supposed to just light the bag of shit on fire and run away, Ronald for some reason gives it a fast pitch softball toss straight into their front door.  What a scamp.  The movie also features, albeit in a small role, consummate character actor, Max Perlich.  I love that dude.  I could go on and on but probably you should just watch it again.  But remember to be prepared, that nerd you suddenly realized is actually cool, yeah, the one that just went from totally geek to totally chic, might just be pulling a "Ronald McDonald Miller Scam" on you.

What the Fuck?: The Beaver

The Beaver

Ricky posted this trailer on my Facebook page.  I had so many questions but only one would come out, "What the fuck?"  I was positive it was a joke for for the first half of the trailer and then I thought, "Wow, they sure are making a comprehensive joke trailer with a lot of famous people in it."  Then I realized it was real.  I'm so confused.  Probably more confused then I was by this thing Amy posted.  I feel so bad for Jodie Foster who for some reason also directed this movie.  I feel bad for everyone involved and everyone that sees it which is probably going to me because this looks so fucking terrible and weird it has cult classic written all over it.  I also can't believe after all the, totally deserved, trouble Mel Gibson has been in for calling his girlfriend a cunt and that he decided to star in a movie with a stuffed beaver puppet.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Breathless 50th Anniversary

Breathless 50th Anniversary

There isn't a lot more to be said about Breathless.  1960 is quite a year for films:  Pscyho, La Dolce Vita, L'Avventura, The Apartment, Spartacus, Eyes Without a Face, Peeping Tom, Shoot the Piano Player, Our Man in Havana and Hiroshima, Mon Amour being the ten best not counting Breathless.  All of these other films still feel like 1960.  Breathless doesn't.  It feels as real and alive as it must have in 1960.  I guess it's just undeniably cool.  I had also forgotten how funny it is.  Watching it reminds me of being from a small town and moving to a big city.

Trailers for Movies that Look Good

Everything is Going Fine

What the Fuck?: Guy Eating Popcorn So Loud I Can Hear It

Hey, man, what the fuck?  Why can I hear you eating popcorn three rows away?  Does your mouth have odd acoustics that amplify the munching of popped corn kernals?  No?  Yes?  Which is it?  Why can I hear you?  It's kind of making me sick.  It's definitely making me not want to eat my own popcorn.  Why is the bag holding your popcorn making so much noise as well?  You have got to be doing this on purpose.  Do you get off on crinkling paper snack bags?  Are you on some pervert shit over there?  Seriously.  I mean seriously, what gives?  Why is it everyone but you can enjoy their popcorn demurely and without notice by anyone else in the theater?  You're going at that stuff like some kind of Viking hell bent on the destruction of popcorn bags everywhere.  I don't understand.  Why can I hear you eating?  I'm trying to enjoy this Kurt Russell movie and all I can hear is you twisting and ripping your popcorn bag in half while you try to get at the last edible morsel of corn like a starving stray dog.  What the fuck?

(Incidentally I found this photo on a stock photo website by google searching "man eating popcorn" and its title is Asian Man Eating Popcorn on Sofa with Remote Control.)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Trailers for Movies that Look Good

Paths of Hate

In Our Name

Mrs. Peppercorn's Magical Reading Room

127 Hours

127 Hours

I was a little worried about this movie.  The trailer is pretty bad.  I have some confidence in Danny Boyle.  Shallow Grave, Trainspotting and 28 Days Later are all really strong movies.  Sunshine was almost brilliant but suffered from a horrid third act and the rest of his other movies are throwaways.  I'm also up in the air about James Franco.  He was amazing on Freaks and Geeks and great in Milk.  And he has a cameo in Wicker Man?!?  But a lot of his work is garbage.  Also, why was he on General Hospital?  And why did he write a book of short stories?  More accurately why did he think we would want to read a book of his short stories? He seems kind of interesting in real life but I've yet to see him be really riveting.
While I'm not sure I'd call his performance in 127 Hours riveting, he was quite good.  He really captured the goofy and annoying spirit I've seen Aron Ralston depart in interviews.  The movie is basically James Franco in one place for the entire movie but Boyle breaks up the monotony with images of what's going on in the character's head.  Franco handles it well, I bought him entirely.  Some of the action before Ralston gets stuck in the canyon was a little corny, meeting a couple of hikers and showing them a good natured good time, but once he slips and the rock falls on his arm the movie really picks up pace.
The whole time watching the movie, I knew the scene was coming.  The scene when he has to cut of his own arm with a cheap version of a Leatherman tool.  Boyle builds it well and by the time the scene arrives I was seriously squirming in my seat.  When he has to break the bones in his arm I felt a little sick.  When he gets to the nerve I dry heaved a little.  That scene is the real climax of the movie.  Afterward though, he has to repel down a sheer cliff with one arm and almost dead.  That's almost as amazing.  Obviously there is a live life to the fullest vibe in this movie, a lot of seize the day undertones but it isn't overpowering and it's tempered with Ralston's own acknowledgement of his stupidity in not letting anyone know where he was going.  Later I think Aron Ralston climbed a bunch of mountains and shit with some kind of ice axe instead of an arm which is bad ass in some ways and totally dorky in others.