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Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

Black Dahlia: Awful awful awful

We were down in LA this weekend for a wedding where there was a 5 hour “break” between the ceremony in the morning and the reception in the evening. We all wanted to go see a movie (in our formal wear), and someone threw out “The Black Dahlia” as a possibility. We tangentially know the original author (who also wrote LA Confidential, a fantastic film), and someone in the group had read the original book and said it was quite good. However, because all of us ignored the fact that we materially dislike every single actor with a lead role, I should have been wary.

Awful. Awful, awful, awful. “I haven’t seen a movie that bad since Matrix Revolution.” Halfway through I wanted to get up and go see another film (I don’t know why I didn’t say anything, so did everyone else). There was maybe one decent scene in the whole film, but the other 115 minutes were unwatchable. You’ve been warned.

On a tangential note, another film were were considering was Hollywoodland. Someone complained “ick, its got Ben Affleck”, to which I responded, “yeah, but he gets killed!” (This is unfair actually as I like Affleck’s movies usually). When leaving the first travesty of a film someone mentioned, “well, I’ve heard that Hollywoodland is even worse.” The masochist in me for two seconds considered going to see Hollywoodland then because I just can’t imagine a movie being much worse.

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I’ve been remiss in writing a lot here lately, my apologies. I figure the best way to rectify this is to continue with some more utilitarian posts about recent rants/raves, so as to keep up this blog’s usefulness as a social collaborative filter. To start with, let me offer three quick movie reviews:

  • Pirates of the Caribbean – Dead Mans Chest – When Lex and I went to the first installment of this series we came away mightily impressed. We had pretty much zero expectations because this was after all, a movie based on a ride. Johnny Depp was able to turn Captain Jack Sparrow into one of the more memorable characters pieces in recent film history (which he does quite often), and the store/pace were good. So, this of course gave us high hopes for the second, which we definitely shouldn’t have had. Every time I go to a movie with high hopes I come away disappointed. The second was long, overplayed, and not much more than a simple setup for the third. The special effects were of course quite good; but these days, who cares? There were a couple of good lines in the film, but two thirds through I was looking at my watch wondering when it would be over (warning, its also long).
  • Clerks 2 – From the “a few catchy lines does not a movie make” department, Clerks 2 was another sequel I had to see based on the strength of the original (cripes has it been 10 years?!?). I didn’t actually have super high hopes for this one, as I think Kevin Smith has been on a downward curve since “Chasing Amy”; although I quite liked “Jersey Girl”, the least Kevin Smith of his movies. I saw the main actors and all I could think to myself was “do I look like I’ve swelled that much in 10 years?” There were definitely a couple of funny moments/lines (always room for more Jay and Silent Bob), but there were way too many looooooong periods of not much going on, and some very bad musical interludes. Definitely wait for video on this one.
  • Lady in the Water – Finally, something to restore my confidence in film! (And yes, I know that the previous selections were my own fault) I’ve liked every one of M. Night Shyamalan’s movies since “The Sixth Sense”. “Signs” scared the heck out of me (I like subtle thrillers more than in-your-face horror), and “The Village” was great (if not a tad predictable). “Lady in the Water” is, as all of his movies are, a study in characters, and there are some great ones here, played by a fantastically off-beat cast. There’s not much I want to say about the story itself other than if you liked (most of) his other films then I would highly recommend this one.

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Henry and Hustle and Flow

For date night last night Alexis and I were going to go see the syrupy sweet “Must Love Dogs”. I like Diane Lane and especially John Cusack, but I hadn’t heard anything good about the movie. Luckily, we were going to the over-commercial but often-surprisingly-independent AMC Bay Street in Emeryville and at the last minute decided to see John Singleton’s “other” film, “Hustle & Flow” (I call it his “other” film because he was actually the producer on H&F, while his latest big-budget “Four Brothers” also opened this weekend). This was a very good movie and I’m happy we made the switch.

The only actual press I’d seen on the film so far though was on my favorite new movie show, “Rollins Film Corner”, where Henry Rollins (yes, singer/poet/actor/general badass Henry Rollins) pretty much assaults the camera every week with his opinions on film and sometimes culture and interviews some of the more interesting but less celebrated names in Hollywood: Crispin Glover, Michael Madsen, Rob Zombie). You can catch Rollins’ diatribes on Friday nights on IFC, during their Indie Fridays. Henry’s show usually bookends a fantastic small film on the late end, with the always great “Dinner For Five” starting off the set.

So check them out. Hustle and Flow is one of the better movies I’ve seen this year; great story and fantastic acting.

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Sith

I got around to seeing Revenge of the Sith this weekend. I guess I wasn’t too late, but it was weird to me how much my priorities had changed from the first films, which were, I’ll admit, somewhat seminal in my early life. After the disappointment of the last two films, I can’t say that I was holding high hopes for this (last?) installment.

My lack of faith was not resolved completely by this movie, “it wasn’t completely awful”. In fact, from the 146 minutes there was at least 80 minutes of really good film in there. In particular, Ewan McGregor was fantastic, the effects were great, and what they did with Yoda was really impressive. I made it a point to see this in a digital projection theater, and was lucky enough to go to the Cinerama Dome down in Hollywood, so the ILM magic was well-presented.

All-in-all, I think George Lucas is a horrible director. He wouldn’t know good acting if it slapped him in the face, and this really shows with the awful line delivery in any of the episodes he’s directed versus Empire and Jedi, which had professional talent at the reigns.

I am of course going to review the Clone Wars animated series to pick up some back story and watch them all again at some point, but I rejoice in the fact that I have three unedited original copies of the first trilogy, on LaserDisc, in widescreen. My childhood memories of the original films will forever be intact in some form (now I just need to figure out how to re-master them on to DVD).

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Some Kind of Story

Over the weekend I watched last year’s documentary, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. I’m not necessarily the biggest Metallica fan out there, but like any guy who went to high school in the 80s or 90s, I’ve got a few riffs burned in my memory somewhere or the other. The movie is definitely worth watching, regardless of how you feel about the music or the band because the story about the people is interesting and the documentary is well done.

I actually think that documentaries are becoming one of my favorite styles of film. Regardless of my interest level in the subject, a talented documentarian can draw me in and make a very interesting ninety minutes or so out of tidal current blooming or duck migrations for all I care. I really enjoy the new style of an immersive story line that usually doesn’t even have a narrator pointing out the plot but instead just letting the subject speak for itself.

I caught a discussion with Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me fame on Henry (Rollin)’s Film Corner today about this very subject (yes, its on IFC). His view was that documentaries are one of the few unbiased forms of media left out there because most other modes for production are so corporatized. Nowadays a filmmaker can get a top of the line camera and editing setup for about five grand, then distribute their films over BitTorrent or any of the other free distribution mechanisms, and if the buzz catches on then the Internet will spread the word of mouth better than any independent press did before. The result is a viable vehicle for people to tell these stories to the wider audience that was so difficult to access before.

Spurlock’s fantastic dive in to the greasy world of McDonald’s nutrition is aa example of the renaissance of documentaries in action. Even though the corporate behemoth tried to shut him down in every market they went to, the film was so widely viewed that McDonald’s actually gave up the whole concept of “Super Size” on their menus just a couple of months after its wide-scale release. That’s a pretty powerful result for a movie that was produced for about what I can finance on my credit cards.

Now I know we’ve long had entire TV channels dedicated to documentary purposes like Discovery and Animal Planet and what not, but I wonder how long until we get a channel that highlights only the best that the world of documentaries have to offer?

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The Station Agent

One of my pending Netflix films I took with me on this trip was The Station Agent, which I have to say I quite enjoyed. Its a small film and a relatively simple story, but its well done and very enjoyable to watch. If you’re looking for something mellow some evening you might want to check it out.

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Went to see The Motorcycle Diaries the other day and really enjoyed it. The cinematography was well done, the story well written, and the acting exceptionally good. I didn’t think that the plot did a very good job of trying to merge the stories of the journey, the friendship, and the political awakening, but it was a good film none-the-less. To be honest, I don’t think you could cover all those things in one coherent film. From reading a few of Che’s (later) works, I think the transformation in his young thinking was just a bit of a stretch, there just wasn’t enough time in the movie to focus on “letting the world change you.” Also have to say Gael Garcia Bernal did a fantastic job with the impassioned monologues.

On a separate note, a new show premiered on Bravo last week called “Long Way Round”; a documentary of a full circumnavigation of the globe by Ewan McGregor and a friend on motorcycles. The first episode this last Thursday was great. Even though it didn’t cover anything but the initial months of preparation, I’ve got high high hopes for the adventures to come. If you don’t get Bravo it looks like they will be releasing on DVD some time in the near future. This is the kind of reality TV I can really get in to!

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