Monday, February 28, 2011

Trailers for Movies that Look Good


Oliver Sherman

Putty Hill


Hall Pass

Hall Pass

The Oscars were so boring last night that I decided to go to a movie.  Why did I go see this one?  It was at the right time and I think Jason Sudeikis is funny and I have a soft spot for Owen Wilson.  I didn't know anything about it when I went in.  For instance, I didn't know it was a Farrelly Brothers movie.  Which would've been the first sign that I would not like this movie.
There's only one Farrelly Brothers movie that I like and it's There's Something About Mary.  Every other film they have ever made is pure and utter garbage.  I could go on and on about how terrible I think their movies are.  I mean I could pick apart every offensive scene and performance.  How they are imbecilic at worst and sophomoric at best.  To be clear, I don't find them morally offensive, I find them comedically offensive.
And Hall Pass is no exception.  There is a lot of talent in this movie, the aforementioned Wilson and Sudeikis, as well as Stephen Merchant, JB Smoove, Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate.  For some reason, Joy Behar is in it.  And she's terrible.  So are Fischer and Applegate.  I really like Jenna Fischer as Pam but I've yet to see her tackle anything else she's been even slightly capable of handling.   Applegate can be good but here she just isn't.  Nobody is, they all sort of flounder through it.  Wilson and Sudeikis look like they're in some sort of Christian comedy with their bad clothes and childish reactions to everyone and everything around them.
Nobody would ever accuse the Farrelly Brothers of being subtle but even a hint of it would have been nice.  I mean, at one point we're treated to possible the ugliest actor ever, this guy, taking a shit in a sand trap at a golf course.  Seriously, he's squatting with his pants down in a sand trap and there's a pile of turds in the trap.  Upon witnessing the travesty, Owen Wilson exclaims, "Aw, c'mon, man!" which is exactly what I wanted to say to the Farrelly Brothers about fifteen times during the movie.
I wish I could tell you more about the movie but I can't because I walked out.  I could only take an hour of it.  I went home and watched Uncommon Valor on Netflix.  Which, if you haven't seen it, is about Gene Hackman's mustache going to Viet Nam to rescue his POW son.

The Green Hornet

The Green Hornet

This movie sort of surprised me.  It wasn't necessarily what I would call a good movie but I have to admit it was sort of fun.  It's not something I'd recommend to anyone but I will admit to having enjoyed it.  If you stack it up against other movies of it's ilk, TV adaptations of old shows or even super hero movies, it's a solid entry into the former category and about average in the latter.
This movie is full of actors whom either I don't like or don't get in their roles.  Tom Wilkinson has a small role as Seth Rogan's father and I"m not sure what he got out of the movie or what he even brought to the table.  Edward James Olmos (From here on out known as EJO) has an even smaller role as the editor in chief of the newspaper that Seth Rogan's character owns.  In one seen EJO wears what appears to be simply a blazer with the sleeves removed.  When I commented on it Lauren responded with, "That's what they call vests."  Somehow Lauren always manages to slip in a line funnier than any in the movie.  I still think it was a weird vest to be wearing because it had a lapel but whatever.  Maybe these roles were larger initially or something, I don't know.
I have a pretty serious love/hate relationship with Seth Rogan.  He was amazing in Freaks and Geeks and the first couple of Judd Apatow movies he was pretty solid.  He has a tiny role in Donnie Darko that is pretty great  Everything else has sort of turned me off.  I'm just not into the simpering oaf as a movie character.  It also looks like he might give you a damp handshake.  Here is as annoying as ever but it fit the character better than some of his other roles.  I wonder why he lost so much weight to be in this movie, it clearly would've been funnier if he were chubbier. 
Christopher Waltz plays the bad guy with the bad hair cut.  Why do people in movies have haircuts no one has in real life?  I don't know why I'm supposed to believe that the most powerful drug dealer in LA has a shitty white guy Caesar.  I think he's probably a fine actor but I really could not stand Inglorious Basterds and don't understand at all how he won an Oscar for it but that's the Oscars for you.  He plays a meth kingpin in this movie and even though almost everything I know about the hierarchy of meth dealership is from Breaking Bad I'm pretty sure that it's a laughable conceit.  He also has a double barreled gun that is just stupid.
Cameron Diaz plays the female lead and you know what?  I like Cameron Diaz.  I know I talk a lot about stuff I don't like on this blog but I'll tell you know up front and totally real, I like Cameron Diaz.  I think she can act and be funny and that it's a unique skill set for an actress these days.  Who else has it?  I don't think there's an actress that can range from totally silly to totally serious the way she can.  I'm sure some of you disagree but I don't give a fuck.
The real winning performance in the movie though is Jay Chou as Kato.  He is a great foil for Seth Rogan.  His weird ESL doused enthusiasm is refreshing.  Even though he came off really cool, he accomplished it by playing Kato as sort of a nerd who knows he's really in charge of the situation.  Without Chou as Kato the whole movie falls apart for me.
I'm not going to bore anyone with a plot synopsis, there's barely one to follow which shouldn't be much of a surprise.  But if you have nothing to do on a Sunday afternoon it's probably worth a rent after it comes out on DVD.

Monday, February 21, 2011



There are a lot of uknowns in regards to the film Unknown.  Let me run a few of them down for you.  First, it is unknown why any of the events in the film are taking place.  If you kindly suspend your disbelief that there could possibly be a large scale public attempt to assassinate a botanist in a manner where the collateral damage is definite and the magnitude of said damage is impossible to calculate then, by all means, proceed to delve into the miasma.  The second unknown is why anyone would have us believe that January Jones is a skilled, identity shifting assassin.  The only role I've ever seen her nail is bored housewife.  Another Unknown is whether or not the writer or director did any research into traumatic brain injury.  The whole plot hinges on a TBI, as they're called in the biz, and it just doesn't seem like they had any idea what they were doing with that plot point.  Hitting your head and easing the blood flow to the brain a little bit would not, probably, under any circumstances, force an assassin to "believe his cover" was his true identity.  Did that guy who fell off the stage playing Spider Man go through a period where he thought he was Spider Man?  I don't think so.  Probably the biggest unknown in Unknown is whether there is a movie goer in America whose chief cinematic dream was to see Liam Neeson go balls deep in Aiden Quinn during the final fight scene.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Illusionist

is told so wordlessly that no subtitles are given, even though it is a French film. The story unfolds entirely through the films animated visuals, which are gorgeous--especially the cityscapes, which show Edinburgh shrouded in darkness and fog, illuminated here and there by streetlights. It is not a difficult story to follow, though the story is presented in such a different way from most films, that it may take some minutes to get used to. That the story comes from an unproduced script by Jacques Tati comes as no surprise.

Although THE ILLUSIONIST is animated, it bears Tati's stamp. The humor is gentle and lighthearted. The gags are almost entirely visual. Like Tati, director Sylvain Chomet does a nice job of giving tertiary characters something to do, so that your eye is constantly being pulled from background to foreground. The editing is nice too. A scene will abruptly end a few seconds before you expect it to, adding to it's punch. For instance, in the scene on the train when a mother in the background unexpectedly slaps her child, the scene cuts before we see the child's reaction, before we even realize what has happened, giving the scene a crisp quality and adding to the humor (the fact that this act of child abuse is animated no doubt adds some levity). This is not to say that the film is briskly edited. Scenes are allowed to breathe and the shots are long and stationary, as if the action is taking place on a stage.

The story unfolds quietly. It draws you in and, before you know it, you are involved with these muttering characters. The film ends with an emotional impact that I didn't expect (and the score in these final scenes is particularly haunting). Though the relationship between the illusionist and Alice is more resonant of father-daughter, the metaphor works nicely for all types of love. It does seem, from time to time, that magic not only exists, but that it's the best possible explanation for the mysterious things in life.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Eagle

The Eagle

I have to admit to having exaggerated hopes for this movie.  The director, Kevin McDonald, directed The Last King of Scotland which I really enjoyed.  As well as State of Play which I watched on a train from Portland to Seattle once and found myself weirdly getting into it despite the presence of both Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck.  That's a lot of lunky, meatheaded acting going on but he managed it pretty well.  I also love swords and shields movies.  They always disappoint but here's hoping.
Unfortunately, Channing Tatum, in the lead role, proves too much of a lunky meathead to overcome in the Eagle.  Seriously, Lauren leaned over to me in the middle of the movie and said, "This guy is such a lunkhead.  I had to concur wholeheartedly.  He was fucking terrible.  Though, to his credit, it's not like he was good in some other movie and now here he is disappointing us.  And I seriously doubt if he'd turned in an amazing, affecting performance he could've saved the movie.
There are problems from the get go.  When the main character, whatever the hell his name is, shows up in his new command post somewhere in Great Britain it seems remarkably casual.  All the actors have American accents.  But not just American, dumb, lackadaisical American accents.  The soldier who was acting in command is like, "Uh, hey man, here's the keys, and you have to pay the guys.  Oh, and the toilets don't work.  Haha, later."  We find out that his dad was in charge of some legion that was overcome North of Hadrian's Wall and lost some big gold eagle standard that apparently meant a lot to everyone in Rome.  I find it hard to believe that the people running the Roman empire cared that much about it.  We're led to believe it is a huge travesty though.  But I could've lived with all that.
What I couldn't take was the depiction of the Romans as protagonists, fighting a good fight.  Why would we want to watch the oppressor oppress?  How could they expect us not to want to side with the indigenous Britons?  By making all of them seem like bizarre, uncivilized savages that's how.  It was pretty offensive.  It reminded me a lot of old westerns, you know of the Cowboy and Indian school of film making.  The Roman characters are all sort of cast in our image, making it easier for us to follow and root for them. 
Yet, throughout the movie Jamie Bell's character, a native Briton slave, gives us reasons not to side with the Romans.  He continually points out their murderous, rape and plunder ideology, even giving a detailed account of his own father forced to murder his mother so as not to be raped by the invading Romans.  And then he follows him blindly on a fool's quest even though he could have just ridden off on his horse whenever he wanted after the get North of the wall.  It was like they were telling us one thing but showing us another throughout the movie.  I wasn't sure what the director wanted us to think.  I found Jamie Bell's character to be unrealistic at best.  Even though his performance was probably the best in the movie.
Then there was a host of continuity problems that I don't even want to get into.  As well as Donald Sutherland playing, weirdly, almost the exact same role he played in The Mechanic and some other hammy acting.  There was one saving grace in the movie though, the cinematography.  The images of England were amazing.  If the director had removed all of the dialogue from the movie I might have enjoyed it.  But he left it in since that sounds like a movie a crazy person would make. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011


CARLOS, the latest from Olivier Assayas, starts off strong. Like MESRINE, I found myself liking the first half of the movie, the origin story which shows the criminal's humble beginnings, the most. There is something fascinating in watching such characters develop, choosing a darker, bloodier path at every turn.

A pivotal scene, in which Carlos shoots three police officers and a fellow member of the FPLP to avoid arrest, is skillfully handled. You just know it's going to go wrong and wait for the scene to erupt into violence. Before long, Carlos is assembling a squad of terrorists and, guns blazing, taking hostages in the infamous OPEC raid. This story arc takes up a good bulk of the three and a half hour film. This is fortunate, because it also proves to be the most exciting sequence. As the terrorists seek asylum, flying a plane from one country to another, you realize the extent of the danger they have put themselves in. Dare I say it? Yes, you really do feel for the plight of the terrorists. This is a mark of quality filmmaking. Carlos, played by Edgar Ramirez, exudes charisma and you find yourself rooting for him in spite of the atrocities he commits.

Unfortunately, I found that the movie lost some steam after the OPEC incident. The care Assayas had put into it, the slow, deliberate pacing, quickly vanished. All the action thereafter was falling. Characters showed up and left with only a modicum of screen time. Incidents which would have been fascinating to see play out on screen were merely alluded to in dialog. The last half an hour seemed rushed and ended abruptly.

This is most likely due to the fact that the cut of CARLOS I had seen was the two and a half hour theatrical release. Originally a five and a half hour miniseries that aired on French television, some serious editing was done in order to chop it down to a reasonable run time for theaters. Unfortunately, the theatrical cut suffers for this. The last half of the film feels like a series of bullet points rather than a story.

That said, I enjoyed the movie a great deal and am looking forward to the day I can watch the miniseries in its entirety. I left the theater feeling I had been robbed of seeing some great scenes. It's a shame they had to cut it down so much. I'm a sick enough person that the thought of seeing a five and a half hour movie in the theater is thrilling.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Trailers for Movies that Look Good

Cold Weather

This just looks like a flat out good movie.  I'm totally excited.  I don't think I've seen a great low budget American movie since Primer.

Winter in Wartime

Winter in Wartime is a Dutch WWII movie.  Those are usually pretty good.  The last one I saw was Flame and Citron which was severely underrated.  This one was nominated for an Oscar or something.  Plus the Nazis loose in the end.

Even the Rain

In this movie it appears that Gael Garcia Bernal attempts to use his smoldering good looks to solve a water crisis in Bolivia.  I'm sold.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Trailers for Movies that Look Good

Drive Angry

There is no doubt I'll be there opening weekend.  This is the Cage I've been waiting for.  And was that actress wearing cut off mom jeans?  I think she was.  How bad is this going to be?  So bad I may see it twice.  Is Cage funnier when he freaks out or when he tries to play it cool?  I don't know.  I hope this one offers up instances of both.

Win Win

In some ways this movie looks a little trite but I'm excited to see actual wrestling in a movie.  Almost every movie or TV show that thinks it should, for some reason, include a scene of high school wrestling gets it completely wrong.  Oddly, one of the best wrestling scenes I've ever seen in a movie was in Rushmore.  Both the Station Agent and The Visitor were very good and I expect this to be equal to those two at least.  And Bobby Cannavale is always funny.


This one could go either way.  Guillermo Del Toro's name as producer doesn't really mean too much to me, though I don't think he would help produce something he didn't find enjoyable.  It could be a real thriller which don't appear very often.  We'll see.


 This movie just looks amazing.  I can't wait.

Movies of My Youth: Wildcats


Wesley Snipes has a huge penis.  You know how I know?  I've seen the movie Wildcats at least twenty times and it makes a cameo appearance about half way through.  No lines, it's just a sight gag.  There are several other penises featured but only one is famous.  Actually, Woody Harrelson's penis might be in there but Snipes pipe is so big you can't really focus on anything else in the scene.  Seriously, for a second you think, god, that guy has skinny wrists and then it dawns on you and your own penis shrinks back in fear.   But alas, Wesley Snipes penis isn't why I remember this movie so fondly.  It's Goldie Hawn's boobs.  Just kidding, but seriously folks.
Wildcats is a football comedy about a female football coach at an inner city high school.  This movie is almost exactly the same as The Bad News Bears.  Which isn't that weird since it's the same director. Goldie Hawn plays the coach who loves football because her dad loved football and he died or some shit.  She accepts the coaching position after the head coach of the rich prep school she works at won't hire her for an assistant coach position.  The coach is played by Bruce McGill and, guess what, he's an asshole.
So begins her long odyssey of convincing a bunch of good for nothing hooligans that football is worth playing and she can show them how.  She has a hard time juggling their lack of desire to be coached by a woman and the two young kids she is raising mostly alone.  Her older kid is Robin Lively whom you might know from another classic childhood favorite, Teen Witch.  At one point she dies her hair green in an attempt to "look punk."  But really this movie was made in 1986 and she should've gone with more of a hardcore look.
So surprise, surprise through a number of contrivances she turns the rag tag bunch into a decent football team.  But she needs a quarterback still.  Enter Mykleti Williamson as Lavender "Bird" Williams.  The dude is 29 and he looks it.  His character is the kind of person who could sell you a watch from inside his Columbine style duster.  But apparently he's an awesome quarterback and they convince him to play on the team.  It's unclear whether he actually goes to school or if he's just from the neighborhood and they let him play.  Regardless he turns their team around and it's all set up for a grudge match against Goldie Hawn's former school and that asshole coach I mentioned earlier.
Guess what happens in the end.  Go on, guess.  C'mon, just guess.  Ok, fine, they win the game thanks to some real football know how.  That's the main difference between this and The Bad News Bears.  They win in the end.  I've always wondered if they lost in the end would more people like this movie.  Probably not because I bet most people still can't sit through the first hour of the movie to get to the final game.  I don't think I mentioned it before, but this movie is generally regarded as being terrible.  On it only gets 5.5 stars.  That's shitty, Ron Runnie Ron gets a 6.1 if that tells you anything.  I find Goldie Hawn charming in this one though, full disclosure, I have a huge crush on Goldie Hawn of the past.  From the seventies to the mid eighties I don't know if there's an actress I feel crushier about.  Maybe it lasts to the early 90's I'd have to do some research because at some point she just sort of vanishes from my memory.  Maybe around the time of the Banger Sisters.
This movie was directed by Michael Ritchie who mad a few of my favorite movies of the 70's:  The Bad News Bears, Smile, and Semi-Tough.  Plus Downhill Racer.  Unfortunately Wildcats sort of marks the downhill part of his career.  Though he does go on to direct The Golden Child.  Eric and I used to watch this with amazing regularity.  It was a classic Saturday or Sunday afternoon HBO staple.  Of course what I really love about this movie isn't that it's a football movie or Goldie Hawn or Wesley Snipes's penis, it was watching it with my brother and the shared joy we got from watching this movie when we figured no one else cared about it all.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Four Lions

Is it too late for me to get a blurb on the above poster? I think I'd like to go with "Not Funny." And this comes just days after I posted a review in which I said something to the effect that carrying unstable explosives automatically makes for good cinema. How quickly FOUR LIONS came around and made me eat those words. If you even watch two seconds of the linked trailer, you'll see that the sight gag that opens the preview (and the movie as well) is culled right from THIS IS SPINAL TAP's Stonehenge bit.

My main beef with the movie is that ninety percent of its jokes fall completely flat. It just isn't funny. The theater was pretty quiet, with the exception of one old woman who whooped loudly at every joke they threw our way. And throw them they did. It seemed that they were hoping to get laughs through the law of averages rather than quality writing.

Part of me wonders how many people in the audience actually enjoyed it. It seems like the type of movie that left-leaning people will be expected to find funny because of its controversial subject matter--I expect many people will alter their opinions in order to feel not left out from the hordes that are singing its praises. I do applaud the filmmakers for having the courage to push the envelope and make comedy out of a subject many would consider taboo. I also think that the acting was good, given the material. They did their best. The main faults of FOUR LIONS begin on the written page, and later in the cutting room. I suspect that very little was left on the floor.

The movie is overlong, or it feels overlong at just over 100 minutes. Part of the problem is that it is unfocused. They time spent in a terrorist training camp is over in the first half hour of the film and seems to be just a vehicle for gags. The other problem is that the climax of the movie feels interminable. It is long. It feels like they are trying to make every possible critique of terrorism and counter-terrorism that they can, and tack some gravity and sentiment on there to boot. It feels heavy handed and may have been more successful if they just stayed in the shallows the whole way through. After that they throw two more lengthy scenes at you. And then, as if you hadn't seen enough, the credits are peppered with scenes that didn't make the main bulk of the movie.

I can't say that I found the trailer particularly enticing, but a couple of glowing reviews had pushed me to check it out in spite of my gut feeling. I feel let down. Failing to deliver on the promise of laughter should be considered a form of terrorism.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What the Fuck?: Liam Neeson Will Fight You.

When did Liam Neeson start fighting people in movies?  I guess it was that first Batman.  But why?  It's an odd career choice to, at fifty, start beating people up in movies.  I haven't seen his new movie yet but he obviously beats somebody up with the same moves he used in Taken.  I'm just curious why.  Taken was ok.  I didn't really buy him beating up a bunch of dudes half his age even if he used to be in the CIA or whatever.  I'm not sure but I think retired CIA agent vs current Armenian thug is a tougher match than was presented in that film.  He cut through those dudes like Tony Jaa in a class full of yellow belts.  Is this really the best we can do?  Why is Liam Neeson doing all this stuff?  I'm pretty sure we haven't seen the last of Liam Neeson kicking ass and I'm unclear how I feel about it.  I'm not even going to bring up the Star Wars movies because for the most part I'd like to forget they even exist.
And on another note, did he really piss his pants as this picture would have us believe?  I kind of hope so.  I found it on some blog that claimed it was true.  But that's a blog, who reads those anyway?

The Mechanic

The Mechanic

Action movies.  I've never really known how I feel about them.  At their best they are thrilling, tense and harrowing.  At their worst they are also a pure joy to witness (Oh, the abject failings!).  But in the middle there is a wide expanse of unwatchable garbage.  These days most action movies are also science fiction movies.  There are precious few straight action movies being produced (probably the last good ones were the first two Bourne movies).  There's also so few good straight up science fiction movies being made but that's a whole other post.
The seventies was a great decade for action movies.  The technology was in the right place.  They had real explosions, real car chases, and stunt men kicked ass.  One of the underrated gems of the seventies is a little watched Charles Bronson vehicle called the Mechanic.  Bronson is great in it but I could never really except Jan Michael Vincent (in any context) so I thought an adaptation wouldn't be a bad idea.
And it wasn't.  The remake of the Mechanic is a decent action movie.  Jason Statham is probably the only bankable action star in my book at this point.  The fact that we're still letting Sylvester Stallone make shitty action movies at 60 should be proof enough that there is a dearth of action stars available for mass consumption.  Statham is acceptable, he at least looks like he can do action things.  Every performance of his is remarkably wooden.  He has never really delivered dramatically for me but at least he has recognized that fact and put himself in roles where he doesn't need to do so.  Besides, who else do we have for these types of movies?  Matt Damon?  C'mon.  In the remake, the role previously played by Jan Michael Vincent is played by one of my favorite actors, Ben Foster.
Ben Foster is one of the few actors whose movies I will see no matter what they are.  I like that he has focused on smaller interesting roles, he's quickly becoming a go to character actor.  Also, he is my brother's man crush (we're all allowed one, right?).  He is a huge upgrade over the sloppy Jan Michael Vincent.  Donald Sutherland also appears in a small role as Statham's mentor and Foster's dad.  I also love Donald Sutherland.  Have I told all of you that I met him once?  Probably.  I know I tell Lauren every time we see him in a movie, or so I've heard.
Anyway, a lot of shit explodes, there are some neat gadgets and cool fight scenes.  That's all I wanted out of this movie and it was pretty much all I got.  So I have to say I enjoyed it.  Especially when you compare it to other movies of this ilk coming out recently.