Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Adventures of Tintin

The Adventures of Tintin

In our younger days, my brother and I went through a period of time being semi-obsessed with both Tintin and Asterix and Obelix. There was something appealing about the utter Euroness of them both. The exotic settings and adventures certainly played to my youthful sensibilities. And probably the budding hipster in me loved that nobody else had them and we could keep their mythologies to ourselves. I still consider the Tintin cartoon to be one of my all time favorites and was pretty disappointed to learn of its adaption into a big screen feature.
The fact that both Stephen Spielberg and Peter Jackson were teaming up together on this one only intensified my apprehension. I have real problems with both directors. Why Spielbergian hasn't become an adjective for overwrought schmaltz is beyond me. And though they may have been fun at the time the Lord of the Rings trilogy is now laughable to watch. In fact, Peter Jackson directed one good movie, Heavenly Creatures, a long time ago. But Jackson didn't direct Tintin, Spielberg did and it's his fault that it wasn't very good.
The Adventures of Tintin begins with Tintin buying the model of an old ship at a flea market. Obviously this model ship will be the crux of the mystery and it is soon revealed to be so as an American detective offers him more than double what he paid for it. Sensing its worth, Tintin refuses and the game is afoot. If the movie had spent more time following Tintin as he uncovered the mystery of the ship then I might not have had so many problems with the movie. After a short period of time we learn that there are three models of the ship each containing clues to the location of the actual ship that sank to the bottom of the ocean full of treasure. What ensues is basically a jumble of implausible action sequences that finish out the film. By the end of the movie I basically felt bombarded by flat blocks of bland color palatte struggling to form 3D images. The end of the movie completely flops.
But Tintin wasn't totally without charms. I'm a big fan of Jamie Bell and he did a good job capturing the essence of Tintin and Andy Serkis was great as Captain Haddock but the real star of the movie to me was Snowy. I'm guessing they didn't dress a real dog up in one of those idiotic looking suits so I'm going to have to give the animators credit for that one. For a fan of the series there are many subtle references to other story lines and the spirit of the world created by Herge was definitely in tact throughout the film. The inclusion of Thompson and Thomson was fun and their interplay provided some of the funniest parts of the film though their role in the story was minimal.
I have to say that the animation didn't look as bad as I thought it would. In part because I thought it was going to be virtually unwatchable. I don't really understand why animators are trying to make things look more and more lifelike. I've always thought the wonder of cartoons was that they weren't lifelike at all. Things can happen in cartoons that don't in real life. Physics can be suspended. But if animators want to continually make things look more and more real then I'm going to suspend my belief less and less.
So, though I think it doesn't quite work overall, fans of Tintin or younger movie goers should find enough to  enjoy but I wouldn't pay full price for it and I don't think the 3D added much to the viewing experience. I'd wait for DVD.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Top 15 Movies of 2011

I saw a lot of movies in 2011, but even I missed a few. Ones I didn't get a chance to see but might have included on this list: Melancholia, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Shame, The Artist, The Skin I Live In, The Interrupters, Pariah, A Dangerous Method, and Week End.

In general I like Muppets. Puppets, ehh, but Muppets, great. One of my earliest memories is watching The Muppet Show at my great-grandmother's house while eating those little candies with the strawberry printed wrappers. I wasn't sure how this addition to the oeuvre would fair but was pleasantly surprised by it. Sure the voices are a little off and there was scarcely any Rowlf but I still had fun and that's what this movie was all about. I could, however, have done without the Chris Cooper rap number. 

How many movies have you seen about a teenager desperate to lose his virginity? Plenty. That's how many. But Submarine offers an actual refreshing take on the tired old coming of age trope. Directed by Richard Ayoade, Submarine is charming and warm. It's sort of a grittier, more realistic, British version of Rushmore. If that makes any sense. Every performance is great but I especially liked Noah Taylor as the father of the love starved protagonist. Submarine also reinforces my theory that you should see every movie with Paddy Considine in it.

Brendan Gleeson is one of my all time favorite actors. He's weird looking and fat which are big selling points for me. It doesn't hurt that he's an amazing comedic actor that steals every scene he's in. He doesn't disappoint in the Guard. He sort of comes off as a cross between Georges Simenon's Maigret and Abel Ferrera's Bad Lieutenant. He's amazing. Oh, and Don Cheadle is in it too but I'm not going to subject you to any of my depraved "Cheadle-ing."

I'd call it a fitting end. Which is more than you can ever really hope for with something of this magnitude and scope. I didn't really grow up with any of the books or anything like that but I did love them in my own way. I was really glad they got the movies on track after the first two disasters and I'm totally pleased with how it all played out.

Attack the Block felt like SF Goonies or maybe a clever update of Monster Squad. It's just a fun movie. They way they handled the special effects, minimal, frightening, combined with the like-able young cast will make this movie a cult classic.

Win Win features Paul Giamatti at his schlubby best as a down on his luck lawyer that moonlights as the high school wrestling coach. It's ultimately a feel good sports movie, but the performances by Giamatti, Amy Ryan and especially Bobby Cannavale make Win Win one of my favorites of the year. Tom McCarthy, who also directed The Station Agent, has a way of capturing the tension of real life loneliness and isolation that few directors can touch. 

If Tilda Swinton doesn't win an Oscar for this movie then the Oscars can go fuck themselves...again. I didn't see a more riveting performance by an actor all year. I read this book a long time ago after my mom checked it out from the Bookmobile and it was pretty good but I didn't see this movie in it at all. Lynne Ramsey is a real cinematic genius. If you aren't familiar with her work, become familiar with it ASAP.

I'm not going to say this is the best samurai movie of all time or anything but it certainly is the best of the more modern smattering of them. 13 Assassins is the best film in its genre of the last ten years. I will go on record with that. Takashi Miike should be doing this instead of doing anything else at all. I know we all loved those creepy incest scenes in Visitor Q and the weird birth scene in Gozu but come on, if he can do this he should cool it with the other. 

Elizabeth Olson was so good in this movie. Seriously, she almost single-handedly makes up for me ever having laid eyes on her older, uglier, twin sisters. This movie is creepy and disturbing in a way that just sort of seeped into my skin without even realizing it. The director, Sean Durkin, did such an amazing job withholding images and ideas while still managing to place them in my consciousness. And another commanding performance by John Hawkes who's really starting to get the attention he's deserved since Deadwood. 

Michael Shannon is probably my favorite actor working today. I've never seen a less than exceptional performance from him. Take Shelter is his second collaboration with director Jeff Nichols. They previously teamed up on the little seen but amazing Shotgun Stories. Take Shelter might have missed the psychiatric mark a couple of times but the mounting dread and intense visuals more than made up for it. Jessica Chastain was also quite good and, I must say, my new film crush. 

Hugo earns a place on my list by virtue of making me believe that 3D movies can work. I was deeply impressed by the way Hugo was filmed. Martin Scorsese proves once again that his perhaps the greatest director of all time.  

Look deep into those eyes, feel your heart beat faster and faster, that's right, you're in love with Ryan Gosling. Don't worry, we all are. Except Lauren. Who just claimed he was distinctly not awesome as a person. But Drive has more than the pitter patter of Gosling infatuation. Bryan Cranston, Carey Mulligan and Albert Brooks are all masterful. The only thing about Drive that doesn't work is Ron Perlman. He's just over matched and working too hard. 

Since the early 90's it has been a crap shoot which Woody Allen you were going to get every time a new movie came out. Is it going to be Mighty Aphrodite or Small Time Crooks? Luckily the last couple of years have seen a few more hits than misses. Vicky, Christina, Barcelona was fantastic and now Midnight in Paris tops even that film. It's so nice to see him at the top of his game. Him and Owen Wilson.

2. The Trip

To bed, for tomorrow we rise at 9:00 for 9:30! I've watched this movie four times already. Can't get enough of it. Can't get enough of the, Coogs.

Any time Kelley Reichardt comes out with a movie you can pretty much place it at or near the top of my list. I literally cannot wait to see what she does next. I idly think about it sometimes. Every performance is fine tuned and riveting. The danger these travelers in is pervasive and growing as the movie churns along at an admitted snail like place. Despite being shot in the wide open expanse of Eastern Oregon, Meek's Cutoff is so closed and intimate. Easily my favorite film of the year.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tree of Life

Tree of Life

Terrance Mallick directed my favorite movie of all time, Badlands.  In many ways, it's been downhill since then.  Days of Heaven isn't as good as Badlands, The Thin Red Line isn't as good as Days of Heaven and even though it has its moments, I tend to forget that The New World even exists.  That's all four of his previous movies in both descending and chronological order so, unfortunately,  Terrance Mallick does have something in common with Kevin Smith besides a beard.
Except I think I really liked Tree of Life.  I think.  I knew what it was before I went to see it.  I can't imagine going into that movie having no clue what was going to happen.  There's sort of two movies going on, it struck me as very literary.  There's the emergence of life happening from the big bang to the birth and dominance of dinosaurs and there's the emergence of the main character within himself and in his family.  A lot of the movie is extremely vague, Sean Penn's parts in particular.  He has almost no lines in the entire movie and spends most of the movie existentially grimacing in an office building.  Awesome, right?  Kind of.
The portion of the movie that deals with Sean Penn's memories of his childhood are supremely done and are perhaps the single best collected depictions of childhood captured on film.  There are other great ones. I really like the movie George Washington for the same reason and David Gordon Green is pretty unabashed about his love for Mallick.  The weight of these scenes permeate the film.  The movie has the feeling of a memory that's so vivid, you aren't sure if you read it, remembered it or watched it. 
But at the same time I was fairly bored by the ending of the movie and some of the sort of galactic commentary that it was providing.  I'm not sure why Mallick felt the need to completely construct and deconstruct something right in front of me.  I'd rather do the deconstructing myself.  I'm not so base a film goer that I can't handle severely non linear films but I have to admit that they often feel like tricks designed to infer weight and heft to a film that perhaps lack real strength.  That isn't the case with Tree of Life but I just found it all a little distracting.  I know Terrance Mallick has made some real art but he just didn't completely convince me he can still do it today.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Rocky IV

Rocky IV

I'm back, now that my class is over, the blog is coming back full force, or half force, I don't know, we'll see what kind of force I can muster when it's 115 degrees outside.  Anyway, today is the 4th of July and I'm watching the most American of movies, Rocky IV.
Some people might say there are more representative examples of American movies.  It's obviously not the best or even a relatively good film.  Even among the Rocky movies it isn't the best, it isn't even one of the two best.  But it is so intensely Pro American that it is a perfect movie for the 4th.
Rocky IV came out in 1985, firmly rooted in the Cold War and Reagan-y Russkie shit.  The plot is as inane as you might imagine.  At the beginning Rocky is living high on the hog, after defeating Clubber Lang at the end of Rocky III, he has parlayed his successful boxing career into a huge mansion and comfortable life style.  He's so fucking rich he buys Pauly a robot for his birthday.  Does Pauly want or need a robot for his birthday? No and no.  Do we want to see Pauly get a robot for his birthday? No, no one cares.  Soon the existence of a Russian super boxing freak becomes known to our friends, Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed.  The now retired Creed feels compelled to challenge Ivan Drago, played with resounding aplomb by Dolph Lundgren.  Rocky counsels against it but, like most of us after receiving counsel from Sylvester Stallone, he decides to do the opposite.  Appollo sets up an exhibition match against the Red Manimal (my own better nickname for him) because he feels a dire need to represent America.
The exhibition match is one of the most ridiculous depictions of a sporting event ever captured on film.  First of all, it's an exhibition match which means, what?  It means it doesn't fucking count.  So why is Apollo arriving on some sort of floating stage dancing around with James Brown singing Living In America.  The only thing good about that song is what Weird Al Yankovic did to it, Living with a Hernia is one of his serious Jams.  Drago just stands in the ring while Apollo makes a fool of himself.  Then he kills him in the second round.  Literally.  Drago rains blows upon his head and face unchecked by any defense whatsoever.  In between rounds, Apollo implores Rocky to not throw the towel in no matter what.  So he doesn't and the only friend he's ever had dies because Rocky is stupid.  I'd like to take a second here and point out that just before Apollo takes the last of the beating that ends his weird life, the referee tries to intervene and stop the fight.  Drago flings him aside callously and returns to pummeling Apollo's life force from his body.  First, how is that not a criminal act? And second, how was he ever allowed to box again?  Who sanctioned the next fight?  No boxing organization would ever let that happen.
Well, Rocky decides to fight him instead of trying to have him arrested and sent to prison.  But he has to fight him in Russia for some reason, probably because Drago is a murderer and there's obviously no extradition in Russia.  Rocky takes his team to Russia and, in one of the all time greatest montages, he begins to train by running in the snow and lifting rocks in a net.  Drago, of course, is using all of the hyper modern secret science techniques that we were all afraid of in the 80's.  It's supposed to demonstrate America's gumption, no nonsense determination, and ingenuity that got us to the top.  Really he just looks like an idiot chopping down an old growth tree in the middle of someone else's country.  How American.  During the montage, Drago repeatedly hang cleans around 500 pounds which would put him in the Olympics every year and he punches a machine that says the power of his punches is 2150 pounds per sq inch.  So, you know, twice as hard as Mike Tyson.
Just before the fight starts, Drago delivers my favorite line in all of the Rocky movies, "I will break you."  I cheered when he said it this time.  By cheered, I mean said, "Awesome," quietly to myself.  So the fight is basically exactly what you expect.  Rocky takes about seventy blows straight to the dead, meat filled dome and then starts fighting back.  At one point, Drago claims he isn't human and that he is, in fact, "a piece of iron."  I think what he probably meant was that he had the personality of a piece of iron but something might have been dropped in translation.  At some point towards the end of the fight, the Russian crowd begins chanting for Rocky.  That's probably the most unbelievable part of the whole movie.  Obviously, America, I mean Rocky, wins the fight and American dominance is restored to the fictitious boxing world.  Then he gives a speech where he claims to have been "thinking" during the fight.  That's a laugh.  Then the movie ends.
This viewing of Rocky IV was enhanced by Lauren's insistence that, in this installment of the Rocky saga, Dustin Hoffman should have been cast as Rocky.  She offered no reasoning but I had to concur that I would have enjoyed watching Dustin Hoffman cut a giant tree down.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Everything Must Go

Everything Must Go

I've always been pretty big fan of Raymond Carver but I've never felt like his stuff translates to the screen very well.  He is sort of John Cassevetes in short story form already and it just doesn't seem like it can come back onto the screen.  Short Cuts is pretty great but I give the majority of the credit to Robert Altman and Julianne Moore's bottomless scene.
Everything Must Go is based on one of the Carver stories that I, actually, have not read.  He's, Carver that is, frequently funny so I didn't rule out Will Ferrell as a possible stand out in this role.  I find Ferrell funniest at his most subtle.  I had to assume that he was going to pull it way back for this role and he did.  But I'm not sure he completely pulled it off.  The movie is pretty slow and Ferrell is in pretty much in every single frame so it's a lot to carry.  I give him a lot of credit for putting himself out there.
Ferrell plays basically the same guy who is in every Raymond Carver story.  A slightly too smart for his own good drunk with both lady and work troubles.  In this case, he gets fired from his job by one of the guys from It's Always Sunny (that's got to sting) only to arrive home to find all of his belongings on his front lawn and his wife absent from their home.  He then decides to live on the lawn for as long as the police will let him.  I won't give to much of the plot away because not all that much happens.
The best scenes are with a little kid from the neighborhood who happens to be played by Notorious B.I.G.'s son.  They play off each other well as Ferrell teaches him theories on sales while hocking all of his junk off the lawn.  Ferrell isn't as sure of himself in scenes with his new neighbor, played by one of my favorite actresses Rebecca Hall.  Ferrell is pretty convincing when playing drunk but he isn't as able at playing a drunk.  His performance is good but I was left wanting a little bit more from him.  I guess that's the most you can hope for with Will Ferrell though.  It's a better performance than the one he delivered in Stranger Than Fiction. 
Everything Must Go sort of solidifies his position near the top of the list of contenders as "The New Tom Hanks."  Why everyone is yearning for this I'm not sure but people sure seem to be.  He's got to be ahead of Adam Sandler whose jaunts into drama have been choppy at best.  Is he a better dramatic actor than Jack Black?  I don't know.  He's certainly no Steve Martin or Bill Murray though.  Of course, the best performance by a comedian in a dramatic role is Richard Pryor in Blue Collar.



I have one vivid comic book related memory.  When I was a kid, maybe eight or nine, there was a horrible, violent ice storm in my home town.  The power was out for, I think, a week.  We had to sleep in my dad's shop for most of the time.  My dad took me and my brother to the Town Crier (Later, after I grew up a bit, my dad and I used to go to the very same Town Crier and laugh at all of the off brand porn magazine titles.  My favorite:  Shaved Snizz) to get some comic books to see us through the long power outage.  I wish I could remember what the comic was that because I was pretty entranced by it.  It was a sort of Conan the Barbarian type thing.  It may have, in fact, actually been a Conan comic.  I don't know.  What I do know is that it had a whole bunch of cuss words and exposed boobs in it.  And we had to eat all of the ice cream, nine year old awesome.
Fast forward through periodic bouts with X-Men comics until Marvel started putting movies out.  I've seen all of them.  And they've been almost all terrible.  I suppose the X-Men movies are the best of the lot, perhaps if I didn't think Spider-Man was a complete wiener, then I might have liked those but I do so I didn't.  I'm also not a huge fan of the Batman movies but I have to say that they are definitely raising the bar for future endeavors in the genre.  Most are half good at best and that's where I was with Thor.
Thor was never, even in my amateur forays into comics, that intriguing to me.  He's a Norse god with a big hammer that can fly around and nobody else can pick up?  Um, OK, but why does he hang around with those lame Avengers?  I could take or leave him.   But I have to say, Chris Hemsworth, the actor playing Thor, is great in this one.  It's one of the most likeable performances in a superhero movie to date.  Unfortunately, he's playing opposite a completely flat, over matched, lost appearing, Oscar winning actress.  What the fuck, Natalie Portman?  Seriously, that was garbage, no it was worse, it was rubbish. 
The best parts of the movie feature Thor and Odin yelling at each other.  Odin is played by Anthony Hopkins and, as usual he's great but you're kind of left wondering what the hell he was doing in the movie.  I can't remember the last role he was in where I though, yeah, this is perfect for Anthony Hopkins.  The combination of Hemsworth and Hopkins make the movie worth seeing for simple summer fare.  But the rest was pretty much in shambles.  Asgard looked like the set of an 80's space porno and Thor's buddies are all pretty hammy.  The plot is spotty and barely functional and I'm not sure why they went with all the comedy in the middle of the movie.  Not that it was completely unfunny.  Kat Dennings proved able in the wisecracking side kick role and Hemsworth got tons of laughs from me immediately after waking up in the hospital after crash landing on Earth.
Obviously, Thor has it's issues but I think it's a successful Marvel movie.  I'd put it just above the Spider-Man and Hulk movies but below the X-Men (Not including Wolverine, gerf) films.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


I saw INCENDIES at two in the afternoon on a Friday. The theater in which I saw it has five hundred seats in it. I counted fourteen people at my particular showing. Why is it then that two people should walk in and sit right next to me? I mean, they didn't even leave the customary one-seat gap that is common courtesy in a theater not filled to capacity. They sat right next to me. I sighed, stood up, and walked about seven seats farther down and sat again, furious. What kind of sick human being does that kind of thing? I had to take a second look at them just to make sure it wasn't somebody I knew playing a joke on me. Nope, no one I know, just a couple of middle-aged ladies. I was wondering if this was going to affect my enjoyment of the move or even color my review when, would you believe it, the same two women got up from their seats and moved closer to the center. They sat only one seat away from me! Did I mention that there are literally five hundred seats in the theater and fourteen people? I'm sure I did because there is no reason to sit anywhere near another human being in such conditions. The one-seat courtesy gap is not courtesy at all--it's a downright invasion of personal space. "Jesus Christ," I hissed. I stood up again and moved way the hell down the row of seats, to the opposite side of the theater from where I had originally sat. What kind of monsters behave this way? I wished I had a large coke to dump on their heads. I do not want to smell you, or hear you whisper, or listen to the bovine way you chew your popcorn. I still would rather see a movie in the theater than watch it at home, but it seems that every time I leave the house something like this happens. This is at the locally run, independent art house theater, mind you. It's a foreign film with subtitles. I guess the clientele there is a much a bunch of apes as they are anywhere else. I may as well go out and see the new PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movie for the experience I had.

I was half entertaining the idea of leaving my review of INCENDIES as the above paragraph. I did cool down enough to enjoy the movie. I don't have a lot to say about it, actually, though I would recommend it with a couple words of caution. First of all, at two hours and ten minutes, it's too long. I found myself editing the movie as I was watching it. There's a lot of fat to trim. Twenty minutes could easily be cut. Second, and this is completely related to the first, I do not think that we need to cram music videos into movies, so that we are forced to listen to entire Radiohead songs over static camera shots of desolate landscape that does nothing to advance the story. This happened, I think, three times during INCENDIES. There's nine minutes that can be cut right there. Am I alone in that I don't go to the movies to listen to music?

The negative tone of this review might give some the impression that I didn't like INCENDIES. I liked it a great deal, actually. The sense of mystery is strong, the performances are good, and the resolution is surprising enough to justify what seems to be a weird structure. So, if you are made of tough enough stuff to withstand the thousands of depraved individuals that make up today's average moviegoer, I recommend you go to a theater and check it out.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Meek's Cutoff

MEEK'S CUTOFF has a way of keeping you at a distance. I thought at first that I wasn't going to like this movie. It seems nothing more than a series of shots of a wagon party wandering a desolate strip of the American landscape. There is no dialogue for the first several minutes of the film. This is something I usually applaud if it's handled well and the visual storytelling is compelling enough to hold my interest. Here, however, the pacing was so slow, the plot so difficult to extract (the only clue we are given is when one of the settlers etches the word "lost" into a fallen tree), and the dialogue so sparse that I was beginning to prepare myself for ninety minutes of art-house frustration.

But something happened along the way. The scraps of dialogue we are given--many of which are from a faraway vantage and difficult to hear--begin to take the shape of a story. Meek, the guide, is a pompous buffoon who has gotten the party lost. Their water supply is dwindling and the hope of finding water diminishes with each passing day. Complicating matters are sightings of a Native American who, according to Meek, is a member of a savage and bloodthirsty tribe.

Before you realize it, a story has taken shape and a compelling one at that. Meek takes a Native American prisoner and much of the dramatic tension comes from opposing viewpoints on what to do with him. Meek says he cannot be trusted and must be killed right away. Some in the party feel that he can be used to lead the party to water. The clashing over the prisoner becomes the bulk of the story. Emily Tetherow, played by Michelle Williams, is the least afraid of the Native American and, to Meek's frustration, treats him humanely. She brings him water and food and mends his broken moccasin.

The tension among the party seems that it will come to a violent end, but MEEK'S CUTOFF plays against many of the traditional Western tropes. The ending is ambiguous, the journey is slow, the landscape is arid to the point that I found myself wishing for a glass of water. This is a film that rewards the patient. So see it. And be patient.

Monday, May 16, 2011



I am unabashedly into Kristin Wiig.  So the fact that this movie was actually the funniest movie to come out so far this year is just sort of an added bonus.  Basically what's going on is this:  Maya Rudolph is getting married and wants her best friend, Kristin Wiig, to be her maid of honor.  Wiig, of course, can barely get her life together and the added pressure of planning the wedding spins her life out of control.  There's so many hijinks and shenanigans in this movie it's hard to keep track of all the hilarity!
The funniest stuff all involves Wiig who wastes none of her screen time.  There are a few others that really shine too.  John Hamm is real funny as Wiig's super handsome fuck buddy.  He doesn't have too many lines but he makes every one of them worth the price of admission.  Also, Chris O'Dowd, who plays Wiig's cop paramour, was particularly good.  I found the other bridesmaids to be average at best.  I just didn't find Rose Byrne that appealing as the woman who supposedly has everything Kristin Wiig doesn't.  But she was adequate.  The other three were kind of boring, one is a goody two shoes, one is a fat tomboy, and one is a mom who hates her kids and marriage.
What separates Bridesmaids from other recent comedies is the consistency and intelligence of the jokes.  They go for more than sight gags, which you might not think from the trailer.  There is time allowed for jokes that take longer than twelve seconds to tell which is shockingly rare in American comedies.  It does make the movie oddly long at just over two hours.
I highly recommend you catch Bridesmaids in the theater or at least the cheap theater.  You won't be disappointed and you'll find your self somehow laughing at a shit joke.  No kidding.  I couldn't believe it while it was happening (me laughing at the joke that is).

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Kuroneko (1968)

At some point in my movie viewing, I happened upon a clip from an old Japanese movie. A samurai is standing near a small body of water when a bloody female corpse appears. Perhaps this clip was part of a documentary on horror or Japanese cinema. I remember someone recounting the nature of ghosts in Japanese culture versus that of those in the West. In American films, a ghost will seek to harm you and may even kill you. Japanese ghosts, though frightening, do not typically attack the individual they are haunting. Rather they appear as a reminder of a past injustice. I have wanted to see this elusive movie ever since. I don't even recall that the title was ever translated, but there was one word that stuck out: Kuroneko. Black cat.

Imagine my utter joy when I discovered a movie titled KURONEKO was available for streaming. I was also elated when I learned that it was directed by Kaneto Shindo, who helmed the excellent ONIBABA. I wasted no time in beginning the movie. Right away I was suspicious that I was not watching the elusive movie I had for years been searching for in my distracted lazy way. KURONEKO is in black and white and the clip of the samurai near the body of water I remembered as being in color. By the end of my viewing, no such scene appeared. It wasn't a total loss, or even a loss at all. KURONEKO is a chilling little ghost story.

I've got to assume that KURONEKO is an exception to the rules of Japanese folklore. The mother and daughter pair of ghosts are certainly out to do more than remind samurai of the wrong they have been dealt. They are much happier when they are seducing these unsuspecting swordsman and tearing out their throats.

Gintoki, a powerful samurai warrior returning from a prolonged battle, is given the charge of killing the ghosts (apparently in Japanese culture, ghosts can be killed by physical means). Matters are complicated when Gintoki discovers that the duo are identical to his missing mother and wife.

There is a particularly effective scene toward the end. Gintoki has cloistered himself in a room for seven days in order to observe a ritual to ensure the demise of the ghost of his mother. On the sixth day, a voice comes from outside his locked door, trying to convince Gintoki to open the door and let her in. Gintoki has a rather long conversation with the voice, who claims to be there to perform a rite as ordered by the emperor and that Gintoki is bound by law to open the door. Of course, we know that no such order was given by the emporer and Gintoki is highly suspicious. But, in the case the voice is not lying, to refuse the emperor's word and not open the door would be met with a severe punishment.

KURONEKO is definitely worth a watch, particularly if you are a fan of Japanese cinema. The black and white is gorgeous and the camerawork is typical of that particular era in that the compositions are relentlessly stunning. Though this turned out not to be the movie I had been looking for, Shindo's direction did not disappoint in the slightest the high hopes I had.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Nude Nuns With Big Guns

Things sure have started to slow down here on The Movie Goer so its time to turn around my lackluster attempt to be a film critic and give everyone a glimpse at a seriously awesome little flick I was fortunate to see (it was the world premier even!) at the Arizona Underground Film Festival last year. I mentioned in a previous post about the film festival that Nude Nuns was one of the most bad-ass films I have seen on the big screen and after watching it a second time I still stand my ground and would go so far to say it was the #1 film at the festival (which was hard to narrow down, a little Tucson secret for y'all: if your not a pussy the Arizona Underground Film fest will rock yer socks and was a great time last year).

Being fairly new to the "nunsplotation" genre of film I was pretty mixed on this one, I mean, I have sought out some pretty bizzar-o movies over time but the whole nun thing never rang my bells. I have only seen one video store ever dare to have a Nunsplotation section (Le Video, San Fransisco) which I have a picture of because the huge dork in me figured this is the furthest you can break down a genre without getting out-of-control pretentious and wanted to remember it.

Nude Nuns With Big Guns is basically about a bunch of nuns who have been forced to give into a life of producing heroin, factory line style, for a band of villains who get their orders from higher up priests from across the land; it seems everyone out in this remote desert landscape is in on things. One of the nuns (Sister Sarah, played by Asun Ortega who is ,dare I say it, one very sexy nun) gets put through a round of very strong forced heroin trips and while coming out of these claims God came to her and let her know her higher purpose in life.

Man, I am getting a heaping of guilt rush just writing this, *flashbacks to Sunday School as a child* ....ahem...anyways

Sister Sarah then explains this to an old man who is taking care of her and while he attempts to rationalize the effects of the drugs she was forced to inject she stands firm to the fact that God talked to her and instructed her to kill all who sin in his name. This old sage/vato like man then bestows upon her the weapons of holy order as she proceeds to tell him "I will have to show no mercy, even to someone, who shows mercy to me" then shots him in the face.... Fuck Yeah. This scene ended up being one of the best in the movie, very reminiscent of Sergio Leone right down to the Ennio Morricone like score and would rank way high up on the bad-ass meter as would this entire movie.

Sister Sarah is on a high risk mission from God and is kicking serious gory ass along the way. She also gets caught up in a pretty hardcore relationship with another nun which brings into play some nun lesbian scenes. There are also a gang of ruthless villains that tactically use rape as a means to scare the truth out of people , which, I thought was a bit much after one time but these villains are pretty mean dudes and rape apparently seems like a good option several times over. I guess this movie may push it a bit far for most people, rape and nuns in combination does seem downright wrong in print so bring your dark sense of humor for the whole movie or reader beware.... there are also lots of drug use , nudity and guns in this one as well; you're pretty much guaranteed to go to hell after a viewing of Nude Nuns With Big Guns but its so bad-ass and over the top in a very stylized way that even the artsy prick in you can still enjoy a trashy little gem. Also, hell is not real, so don't worry about it.

Shit like Machete and icons like Tarantino should tip their hats to Nude Nuns as its probably not going to get noticed much which is very unfortunate as it is the best out of the newer "grindhouse" type movies being made. Sure, you must be in the mood for a trashy sort of romp through underground cinema but just relax, stop being such an asshole and let the good times roll with this one.

A side note:
Grindhouse has a 7.9 on imdb and Nude Nuns has a 3.9; those numbers should be flipped as this is just another example how most people who vote on IMDB are complete idiots and should just refer to The Movie Goer for all future movie analysis.

The short that opened for Nude Nuns With Big Guns was titled Thy Kill Be Done, which was another excellent nunsplotation type film. What a great way to present a feature film: show a somewhat related short beforehand! Another good idea played out at the Arizona Underground Film Festival. Here is the trailer for The Kill Be Done and good luck finding this one.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Win Win

Win Win

When I was in middle school I was on the wrestling team.  Why?  I don't know.  I was pretty terrible and stuck at the 160 weight class while only weighing about 145.  I won a few matches here and there including a third place finish in the city championships in 7th grade but I was not really built for it.  My brother was good until he grew too much and wasn't strong enough to compete in his weight class.  I think that's why he quit, maybe he quit because the coach was an asshole.  That's a distinct possibility too.  I tell you this only so you know that I know a tiny bit about actual wrestling.  A real smidge.  But I know enough to tell you when wrestling on television or in a movie is dreadfully inaccurate which is almost always.  A list of movies with decent scenes of wrestling is really small.  I can barely think of any.  The scene in Rushmore is actually fairly accurate.  Oh, isn't there a scene of wrestling in Born on the 4th of July?  I feel like I've seen Tom Cruise straining under the force of another man, being pinned down by a bigger stronger opponent, breathing heavily, red in the face, yearning for some sort of release.  Or was that in some other kind of movie?  Anyway, the pinnacle of wrestling in movies has always been Vision Quest starring Matthew Modine.  I'll always have a soft spot for this movie, I've even read the book it's based on, but there is a new greatest wrestling (I'm not counting pro wrestling obviously, in that case the best wrestling movie of all time is No Holds Barred) movie and it's called Win Win.
Paul Giamatti plays a struggling attorney and high school wrestling coach named Mike Flaherty who can't seem to win at either one.  His practice is falling apart and his team is terrible.  Luckily, he married way out of his league.  Amy Ryan plays his wife, Jackie, who stays at home with the kids.  One of his last, precious few, clients is an older man suffering from the early stages of dementia named Leo, played by Burt Young.  In an effort to basically steal 1500 dollars a month from him, Mike decides to become his legal guardian.  He's is supposed to leave the old dude in his house as per his wishes but he sticks him in an old folks home so he doesn't have to bother with him.  Unfortunately, Burt Young's estranged daughter's son, Kyle, shows up at his now vacant house looking to stay with him which really puts Mike in a bind.
The kid that plays Kyle in the movie delivers a pretty strong performance.  The part is really written very well.  I don't think he strings more than two or three sentences together even in his big scenes.  Which, if you've ever spoken to an average 16 year old kid is pretty much what you get.  A lot of sullen single word respones and a lot of mumbles.  He doesn't talk like he's 25 expressing feelings he might have but would have no idea how to articulate.  I really appreciated that bit of screenwriting.
Mike and Jackie let the kid stay in their basement and enroll him in school after finding out that his mom is in a drug rehab facility.  Eventually Mike finds out that, as a freshman, the kid got second place in the Ohio State Championships.  So the kid starts wrestling for him.
The wrestling scenes are very accurate and fun to watch.  There is an especially great scene where Kyle has convinced one of the worst wrestlers on the team that he's ready for a match.  He isn't but it's fun to watch him try.  I've defintely seen some terrible matches just like that one.
Bobby Cannavale and Jeffery Tambor play Mike's assistant coaches.  Tambor is hilarious as Coach Vig.  Nobody can act as brilliantly put upon as Jeffery Tambor.  I think he has an amazing tour de force performance in  him.  He is sort of overshadowed by Bobby Cannavale in this movie though.  Cannavale plays Mike's longtime friend, Terry.  Cannavale is one of those actors who always cracks me up.  He hasn't failed yet.  Sometimes he is in some pretty crappy indie stuff but he always makes me laugh.  He is in top form in Win Win.
The movie gets complicated when Kyle's mom shows up and wants to take both Kyle and Leo back to Ohio.  She's an inept mother and a money grubbing daughter who nobody wants to be around.  This is the main conflict in the movie.  It's handled believably and honestly.  I won't tell you how it ends because for most of the movie it could go either way.
Every performance in this movie is pitch perfect.  It pretty much revolves around Paul Giamatti's excellent turn as Mike.  Amy Ryan is very good too.  Their relationship seems very real, it's not perfect but you get the feeling that they really love each other and are used to making things work.  Sometimes I think Giamatti gets extra acting credit for being ugly and out of shape.  But that's not really true.  He really is one of our best actors.  This is also the third gem in a row for Tom McCarthy whom you may know from the 5th season of the Wire.  He's previous two directorial efforts were The Station Agent and The Visitor both of which I really loved.  Go see Win Win even if you aren't into wrestling.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

News Flash! Nicholas Cage Arrested.

Nicolas Cage was arrested the other day in New Orleans.  He was there filming a movie.  It seems as though he got shit faced drunk and had a pretty heated argument with his wife about which house it was they were renting.  The police were called when the argument intensified.  Apparently Cage was insistent that the house they were renting was the one they were arguing in front of, which it was not.   What isn't mentioned in any of the stories and what I'm kind of dying to know is, how wrong was he about the house.  I mean, if it's a couple of doors down and all the houses look the same in that neighborhood, I could maybe see not being quite sure which one you've been staying in.  Especially if you got fucking hammered the way you can get fucking hammered in the 'Nola.  I get the feeling though that he was in the wrong neighborhood in the wrong part of town.  I'm also pretty positive that his wife knew exactly what house they were renting.
So by the time the police show up, Nicolas Cage has been witnessed attempting to drag his wife to a waiting cab by the arm.  She wouldn't get in and the cab driver wouldn't leave.  Apparently Cage just sat there in the cab then while everyone else just waited until the cops showed up.  He was then arrested for domestic abuse and disturbing the peace.  I guess he was also running around punching cars.  I bet it was the classic Cage freak out that's been missing from the last few Cage movies.  I also wonder if some wiseacre cop tried to slip this image in as his mugshot down at Central Booking:

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Netflix Dare: Sinners

SINNERS wants to be two things at once, the television show MIAMI VICE and the movie GOODFELLAS. The opening credits feature a wah-drenched guitar wanking over a calypso drum machine beat playing over shots of Miami beaches complete with boats and bikini-clad women. Then we are treated not to a voiceover, but a talking head doing his best imitation of Ray Liotta. This is intercut with gratuitous shots of men jumping away from explosions while firing guns. At the end of this, ahem, homage to Scorcese the talking head poses a question. "Sinners. Who the fuck ain't one?" Well, I'm happy to report that SINNERS does succeed in being two things at once. A steaming pile of garbage and a rancid vat of mule scat.

I think the movie is called SINNERS because all the actors in it look like porn stars trying to make a stab at a non-pornographic movie. The movie itself makes about as much sense as the in-between scenes in a porno. SINNERS is about fourteen different characters. Sinners, if you will. After about forty minutes, keen viewers will be able to extract two main characters from the jumble. Rizzo, a shlub mafioso type, is the talking head featured right after the opening credits. His longtime friend is a Rambo-type living a life of seclusion complete with tai chi and spear fishing in a tropical paradise.

It's an incomprehensible mess. The plot is so thin that it is constantly padded with non sequitur scenes of guys getting shot or a pair of tits. The sound is so bad that the characters are either impossible to hear or that the voices are totally fuzzed out from overdriving the microphone. And remember when I told you that SINNERS wants to be two movies at once? I lied. It wants to be at least forty-nine movies. I have compiled a short list of the many, many directions in which the movie tries to go. Give SINNERS a play and see if I'm not right--if you have the stomach.

19 minute mark: "At The Water's Edge" sounds suspiciously like "Under The Sea" from THE LITTLE MERMAID. Enough redundant footage of a boat to make even Robin Leach queasy.

20 minute mark: TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE . . . note the synth punching up the "scare."

21 minute mark: Wallowing in a dim room alone with a voiceover talking about mental instability is more than a little reminiscent of APOCALYPSE NOW.

24 minute mark: THE BLUE LAGOON

29 minute mark: Camera in trunk shot from Quentin Tarantino's . . . well, take your pick.

32 minute mark: The romcom of your choice.

33 minute mark: THE RED SHOE DIARIES.

33 and a half minute mark: LAST TANGO IN PARIS.

Is it just me or does the the Lilith Fair sounding song at the 34 minute mark say "apply your lip action?" Great lyrics from this tender ballad.

36 minute mark: Perhaps the actor playing Rizzo isn't as bad as I thought. He can do a piss-poor Ray Liotta and a piss-poor Joe Pesci. A nice bit of dialogue here: "Hey, did you forget who you're talking to? This is the Rizzo. The Rizz, baby."

36 minute mark: WAYNE'S WORLD. I didn't know the line "and monkeys may fly out of my butt" would work in any other movie.

47 minute mark: Shot of character running shamelessly ripped off from FORREST GUMP.

50 minute mark: Sleazy nightclub scene complete with cage dancers taken from perhaps the greatest bad movie of all time, ONE MAN FORCE. Only this time it looks like the club is set up in some dude's basement.

1 hour 9 minute mark: RESERVOIR DOGS style Mexican standoff.

1 hour 23 minutes: Assassination of clergyman a little reminiscent of THE GODFATHER PART 3. And this movie sucks almost as hard as THE GODFATHER PART 3.

Fortunately for me, SINNERS was bad enough to be at least somewhat entertaining. I would even say that it's so bad it's good, though most of the enjoyable parts take place in the first half. The last half an hour got to feel a little bit like slow torture, but it could have been worse. I could have been dared to watch JACK again.

Netflix Dare: Nightmare Alley

 Nightmare Alley

Let me tell you something about this movie, I wish that a horse would kick me in the nuts so I could say, "Shit, that wasn't so bad."  This movie is unparalleled in its ineptitude.  Seriously, there's bad movies and then there's the movies that bad movies get together to watch and laugh at.  This is one of those movies.
The movie begins with me wanting to immediately turn it off and do some yard work or something.   Or it starts with a couple of assholes talking about something indecipherable.  I think they are talking about some sort of concert they went to but also it sounds like they are making fun of people that are exactly like themselves.  Then a bum gives them a comic book and stabs one of them.  And we're off!
This "movie" is seven short "films."  Trust me when I tell you that each one is legitimately harder to watch than the one that preceded it.  Trust me when I tell you that watching this whole movie will make you want to kill yourself.
Do you want me to describe one of the films?  There's no way I could possibly do most of them remote justice.  There's one where a woman is sunbathing near a pool and a great big fat guy lumbers up next to her and sits on the adjacent chaise lounge.  When I say great big fat guy, I'm talking Refrigerator Perry fat.  After he retired.  Anyway, he finds a convenient bottle of baby oil and, no questions asked, applies some to the woman's leg.  Instead of screaming and running away, she turns to him and says, "Oh, you're cute, why don't you come up to my place," or some dumb shit like that.  
Right here I want to stop and let everyone know that this movie is full of fat people.  I'm not a skinny dude at all but even I felt comfortable calling most of these people fat.  There's seven little films and every single one of them has a portly component.  Also, there are a ton of ill fitting jean shorts in this movie.  A ton.  Nobody's jean shorts are even close to what you'd call ill fitting.  That implies some level of fit.  There isn't a pair of jean shorts in this movie that had any business being on anyone's body whatsoever.  I hope the commentary track on the dvd has some interviews with the costume designer because I'd love to hear what they were thinking.
So this fat guy, who is wearing the most ridiculous of all the shorts (and no shirt), follows the woman up to her apartment   She pours them a couple of beers in some sort of novelty glasses but is rudely interrupted by her husband who is fat but not as fat as the original fat guy whom we've by now been introduced to as, I'm not making this shit up I swear, Luigi Orosco.  Say that name out loud, to yourself.  Was the very next thought you had, "That's the stupidest name I've ever been asked to believe is an actual name?"  I thought so.  So the woman's husband yells at her and she hits him on the head with some sort of frying pan.  Then she calls up Luigi and invites him back over for dinner.  She then serves Luigi her husband's head and one of his hands on a platter.  That's it, that's the end of the story.  It only lasts about five minutes which is the best thing about it.  
Between every little vignette some asshole shows up and says something you don't understand or makes references that don't make any sense.  He looks like this:
There is some sort of rubber prosthetic mask covering his face which makes it hard for him to move his mouth.  I'm pretty sure he was just opening and closing his mouth randomly which probably made it impossible to synch up the dubbed voice.  They could have at least tried though.  He is an obvious rip off of the Crypt Keeper of Tales from the Crypt fame and this movie is pretty much an attempt at some sort of Creepshow knock off.  I don't think I've ever seen a movie fail on so many different levels simultaneously.  Bad dialogue, bad plot, bad acting, bad cinematography, bad lighting, bad costumes, bad music, bad title sequences (normally not worth mentioning but they were terrible, laugh inducing even) make for one of the most arduous film viewing experiences of my life.  Good work, Silencio, but lets see if you make it through your dare.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Your Highness

Your Highness

What a piece of shit.  Not even a piece, it's not even good enough to be a fully formed piece, it's diarrhea.  Every single actor in this movie deserves to be taken down a peg by some sort of low level service person.  Every nice thing I may have ever said about James Franco I now take back.  127 hours sucked.  I'll take a shitty movie from Natalie Portman, I guess, but Zooey Deschanel is digging a pretty big hole with this one.  Danny McBride wears out his welcome with me in this movie.  Completely wears it out.  I don't want anything from him ever again.  I won't be seeing anything with him attached in any way.  This movie is that putrid.  I hold him responsible on multiple levels since he both wrote and starred in it.  It seems like he and Franco are both playing retarded people.  Seriously, I think Franco and McBride are both playing someone with mental retardation.  My big question with the movie though is what's with all the gay jokes?  It's like 80 percent of the jokes.  In the 80's you might have had a movie with a couple of random gay jokes but this is like they found a movie to mask a whole bunch of really unfunny homophobia jokes.
That leaves me with David Gordon Green.  I guess it probably is fun to do movies with your friends.  I mean, I bet these guys had a ball filming this thing.  But Green made one of my all time favorite movies, George Washington, and a couple of decent follow ups before he saddled us with this garbage pile and the equally unfunny Pineapple Express.  What the hell is he doing?  The only reason I didn't walk out of this movie is that I was feeling a little depressed and this felt like a suitable penance for everything I had one wrong in my life.  It wasn't, it was too much.



I'm going to come out and say it, I loved Hanna.  It's an art house thriller!  It's the best of both worlds!  Normally movies trying to straddle this line flop because they're too slow, removing the thrill.  Hanna is far from slow, even when the camera stands still your finds movement in the carefully wrought settings. It is, in my favorite shitty critic parlance, a non stop thrill ride.
Saoirse Ronan is great again, I've never seen her falter, though I haven't seen The Lovely Bones.  I totally bought her as the genetically engineered teenager out fighting skin heads and army men.  But I also bought her as the sort of Kaspar Hauser feral girl who knows multiple languages but can't turn off a television.  This movie does not work with out her.
The supporting cast is great as well.Olivia Williams and Jason Flemyng are subtle and skilled in their small roles as the parents of a family that befriends Hanna while traveling in Morocco.  Olivia Williams is especially good here.  She's just a role or two away from an Oscar nomination I think.  My favorite though was Cate Blanchett's top henchman played by Tom Hollander.  He goes with sort of a femme tennis pro for the role which I thought was fucking hilarious.  He has two idiot neo-Nazis as under henchmen who aren't that good at anything which is actually probably a more accurate depiction of henching.
Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett are both decent as the second and third leads.  Honestly I think they are overshadowed by the strong supporting performances.  Eric Bana is pretty interchangeable these days, I don't see all that much in his acting to separate him from a lot of actors but he isn't bad.  Blanchett is solid as usual as the villain.  She plays some sort of high ranking CIA operative, though I'm pretty sure the CIA is never explicitly mentioned, who exhibits both obsessive compulsions and a shoe fetish.  Both of which are ultimately her downfall.
The plot is fairly simplistic and not worth discussing at length.  There were a few holes in the movie but they weren't continuity holes so it didn't bother me that much.  Saoirse Ronan's and Joe Wright, they made Atonement together, are a great combination.  A lot of people are comparing this movie to Run, Lola, Run but I think this is better.  I haven't watched Run, Lola, Run since it came out and I bet I watch this one pretty regularly.  It's got that repeat viewing feel.  It's also infinitely better looking than Run, Lola, Run.  The scenes in Finland and Morocco are mesmerizing.  Go see Hanna, it's one of my favorites of the year so far.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Ten Books I Wish Had Movies

These are books that I think could make great movies.  They aren't necessarily my favorite books.  I don't think most of my favorite books would make very good movies (The Movie Goer?).  These are books that moved me visually or that were told in a simple enough manner that, cinematically, they could be added to in a way that improved the story.  And a couple of them would just make fucking kick ass movies.  Here are ten books that I think would make great movies:

The Terror by Dan Simmons is both a fucking monster book and a fucking a monster book.  It's set against the backdrop of two British ships attempting to find the Northwest Passage.  It is ostensibly a horror novel that would have been just as scary without the monster.  I've never felt so cold while reading a book.  Great pacing, despite its size, and great characters allow the Terror to transcend the genre in ways even The Passage by Justin Cronin could not.  This movie would be perfect for someone like Guillermo Del Toro or Joe Wright to direct.

Apparently, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is in some sort of state of development.  It isn't listed on but I found a couple of other hints that a script was in the works.  Obviously there are many chances to fail in undertaking this large, intricate book.  It could be the greatest fantasy movie ever made.  Or it could be instantly forgotten.  So much would depend on the director's savvy in creating the world in which this book takes place.  I think it could be done.  I would love to see Anthony Hopkins chew the shit out of the role of Mr. Norrell.  Just chew it up and spit it the fuck out, Anthony.  Do it!   C'mon Hopkins!

Black Hole is the only graphic novel that I've ever read and really loved.  It's a pretty heart breaking bildungsroman.    I think this could be a live action movie.  I would want them to use make up and animatronics though, no CGI bullshit.  But it could also go animation, kind of the way they did Persepolis.  Charles Burns is partly responsible for Dog Boy from Liquid Television after all.

Have you ever read this book?  No?  Go pick up a copy and give yourself twenty minutes, you'll breeze right through it.  Abel's Island is the story of an Edwardian (I'm guessing) dandy mouse who is separated from his loving wife by a terrible flood.  He is left to his own, rather limited, devices on a small island in the middle of a raging (for someone mouse sized, that is) river.  It is legitimately harrowing for little Abel.  It is one of the most remarkable books I've ever read, I mean I'm just crazy about it.  I feel like it deserves the Fantastic Mr. Fox treatment.  In fact, I sincerely wish Wes Anderson had done this movie instead though I really love FMF.

This is a book that Lauren turned me on to late last year.  I'm not a huge SF guy but lately I've been venturing deeper into the genre.  This book is pure genius.  It's something I wish I could've read when I was much younger and still shaping the way I think about the world.  Visually this could be a most stunning movie.  The planet, called Winter, that the story takes place on is a geological wonder and the complicated gender of the Gethians could create interesting roles for both male and female actors.

I Look Divine is a book that I read on accident.  I thought I was picking up a Jonathan Coe novel that I had never seen before.  When I got home and noticed my mistake I decided to read it anyway and proceeded to do so in one evening.  I thought it was, quite simply, amazing.  Unfortunately it's pretty much a lost novel.  The story concerns the death of one of a pair of gay brothers.  The narrator, the older brother, is both disgusted by his younger brother's opulent lifestyle and in awe of the grandeur of his personality.  It's a homage to loving someone you really can't stand.  If this was cast right it could be a seriously good film.

The true beauty and wonder of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's story telling will probably never be able to fully blossom through the medium of film.  That's why I think his non fiction account of a sailor ship wrecked at sea could actually be his novel most ripe for adaptation.  I know Ang Lee is making The Life of Pi and that could be good but I think this would've been the better option.  And I kind of get a movie boner thinking about Gael Garcia Bernal playing the sailor.

Matthew Sharpe is one of my favorite under the radar authors.  He's so under the radar that he had a book come out and make it all the way to the trade edition before I even realized it had been released in the first place and I run a book store.  The Sleeping Father is his best.  It is also his simplest and most urgent novel.  I would love his acclaim to spread wider though it's admirable that he's deciding to stay with the small press publisher he's been with all along.  Someone like Jason Reitman or Tom McCarthy could do this justice.

Mieville's style muddled and a little inept at times.  But this idea is really cool.  It's basically a police procedural set in a city that exists in the same space as another city.  The people living in each city have to unsee what is happening in the other city.  I would really like to see what Charlie Kaufman or Spike Jonze (or both of them together!) could do with a concept like this.

This is a book I discovered on my dad's book shelf as a kid.  It's the story of a genuinely good man who, through economic circumstances, is forced to keep his liquor store open on Sundays.  When he is held up and subsequently shot to death, he, of course, descends straight to hell for that egregious discretion.  This is the beginning of the book, the rest of it takes place in actual hell.  Here I wouldn't mind some really adept CGI, if there's anyone doing really good CGI work.  Or shit, animate it Henry Selick style.

Sidney Lumet, R.I.P.

So long Sidney, thanks for all the Social Realism. Thanks for Dog Day Afternoon, 12 Angry Men, Serpico, The Anderson Tapes, The Verdict,  and Network.  I wish it wasn't too late to find out your secret.  The secret of how to get a decent performance out of Treat Williams (Prince of the City).    I guess it's also a bad time to bring up The Wiz and what you thought you were accomplishing there but let's not start doing that.  Seriously, thank you Sidney Lumet you made some of the greatest American movies.  And you gave Philip Seymour Hoffman that nude sex scene in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead which made me sort of self conscious about what I look like doing it.  But still, thanks.

Friday, April 8, 2011

I Saw the Devil

Jee-woon Kim's latest is a step in the right direction. I couldn't make it through his previous effort THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD. It just felt too much like I was watching a Bugs Bunny Cartoon. I SAW THE DEVIL has a much better title going for it and at least a tiny bit of character development.

In all honesty, I didn't react too strongly to this one. Some of the murder scenes are difficult to watch. Min-sik Choi turns in a convincing performance as the killer. His creepiness is enough to make you rethink his coolness in OLDBOY. The shots are well composed, the action is well-directed. All in all, it's a solid little revenge flick.

There are some things I'm not so crazy about. At two hours and twenty minutes, it feels a little long. There is also a rather long stretch in which Min-sik Choi's character lays low with another serial killer who has developed a taste for human flesh. This felt somewhat silly to me. I was unaware that serial killers pal around with other serial killers. Perhaps they belong to the same union. Maybe they met on Craig's List. I don't know. What I do know is that it took an otherwise serious movie into the realm of camp. If it were cut out entirely, it would do a lot for pacing.

It's good, not great and not for the squeamish. It's better than a lot of what's out there at the moment and worth a watch if you've got a free evening.