Saturday, March 31, 2007

Monday, March 26, 2007


"Shooter" had a ton of potential, and delivered on much of it.
I will confess to having read a few of the novels, "Hot Springs" and "Havanna" and "Pale Horse Coming". "Pale Horse Coming" always struck me as terrific material for a movie...I have not read "Point of Impact". The novels I have read are about Bobby Lee's father, Earl.
The movie opens well, real well. Terrific camera, big sound, the whole 9. Continues for a bit, builds momentum again and takes never look back. This is fantastic for the next hour, until we get to the last act which, of course, involves a half naked hot hostage and the inevitable exchange.
I had had a terrific time until then. Like an old Bronson film, or an Eastwood. Oh Well.
The politics are in line and right off the front page. We all know about Blackwater? We all agree a privatized army without oversight can only happen in the most paranoid of films and the United States. This army is deployed not just in Iraq, but at least 9 other countries. What do we have to worry about though, the government has only lies to us(and our allies)to protect our interests.
I sure wish the gifted director Antoine Fuqua had found a way around the cliches to drive these points home. There are valid, thoughtful ideas presented in this film that get lost amid the pyrotechnics.
Recommended, with those caveats.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The 10th Victim

The paper he is showing her reads, in 4 languages, "I am a victim".
She is Ursula Andress, at the top of her game, he is Marcel Mastrontoni, very skilled but very distracted. Yes, this is the remake of "Mr and Mrs Smith", which starred the equally good looking Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Oh wait, this came out in the 60s. And it is set in the future. Still. And the story was written by Robert Sheckley, not a hollywood hack sipping a decaf Americano pitching Pepsico.
This movie is prescient black humor, starring two scenery chewing leads who never get in each others way. As old as this film is it has homages of it's own, to Fellini and Dr No and probably a dozen others.
That is no match for the number of films that owe this one, to include the aformentioned Smith's, Running Man, Battle Royal, Logan's Run, et cetera et cetera...
Yeah, it watches like another groovy 60's show, but man oh man does it hit the target. Except for the bad fights, poor sound and loud red blood '60's films are generally fun to watch.This one is even better.
The one hand to hand fight is pretty well choreographed, the sound is fab--yeah, look at the picture above--those are two sax players on black cubes playing the soundtrack in full view.(apparently there is Something About Mary)..and there is no blood.
There is plenty of smarts, charisma and great dialog throughout. Like Bladerunner 20 years later it drops you in and explains nothing directly. Sublime and Recommended.

Friday, March 23, 2007

"Across the Universe" Jitters

I saw the preview for "Across the Universe" in front of "Dreamgirls" and was blown away. The trailer for this musical got me excited, so much so I looked for it on the web right after "Dreamgirls" -- which I enjoyed thoroughly, btw.
The trailer was nowhere to be found, for about a month...
Eventually the trailer was released. My movie buff friends watched it and made fun of me for wanting to see a chick flic. I scratched my head trying to figure out how this was a chick flic, but ultimately I didn't care, the trailer was fantastic! Surreal, 1960s stuff, ratcheting emotions, psychedelics, just about perfect...
There are rumblings in the press about the director taking her name off of the picture. Apparently the studio head recut the film, without her consent. It appears he didn't need her consent per the contract, but nonetheless..
I am thinking of "The New World", and "Brazil" and am worried. I don't need my films to have "commercial appeal", and oddly enough, I figure Julie Taymor would provide a better film experience than the director of "Christmas with the Kranks".
Call me Crazy.

Friday, March 16, 2007

City of Lost Souls

Takeshi Miike needs little introduction may be a true statement for longtime readers of my blogs, but, as I am discovering, many people do not know him past the haunting "Audition"...
Movie nights have met with mixed success thanks to a freeform mood based schedule of events. This is a shame, as the collection will bear more fruit with a little prior planning. Rather than catch the one we missed out here in the sticks I can program intros to directors and genres.
To this end I screened "City of Lost Souls" a 2000 film that followed "Audition".
City of Lost Souls has a cast that includes Brazilians, Chinese, Japanese and Russians. This is an action comedy that hits the ground running. This haste is calculated, as are cool set pieces all through the film. As an example, when Lucia is drinking herself stupid in the other room half the frame is taken up by a doorway..and her face is framed in a mirror on the other side of the doorway.
This gangsta love story features both the Yakuza and a Triad gang. Conflicts resolved over ping pong and cockfighting, but who will get the girl? The girl is Michelle Reis, remembered (dreamingly) from that Won Kar Wei film "Fallen Angels". She is the femme fatale here also, love interest and flamethrower all rolled into one pretty sweet package.
Miike has many skills, fetishes and ideas, all of which are on display here. Every corner of the film has been massaged, from blocking to music to camera movement. The cast is terrific, breathing life into would could have been just another dwarf brushing his teeth with cocaine scene..or a duel to the feathered death in bullettime.
This is an accessible, ADD edited film that is a terrific introduction to the Miike canon.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Mission

This is not DeNiro's Mission.
This is a Johnnie To production from 1999. It stars both Anthony Wong and Simon Yam, two of my favorite Hong Kong actors. It is a Triad film, in the tradition of Takeshi(s) --both Beat and Miike-- in varying degrees.
I had gotten tired of gangster movies in the US until The Departed revived the genre...but am still in discovery mode overseas. The other Johnnie To film I enjoyed was "The Election", a superb Triad piece..
The Mission is about 5 super cool guys and their considerable skills. Oddly enough this is a nearly mute character study, with tons of edges and flourishes that will reward the patient viewer. It is certainly no "Election", but well worth the effort to find.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Dust to Glory

This is a Documentary.
The subject is the Baja 1000.
The actors are not acting. They are all insane.
This is their story, shot with handhelds, helicopters and helmet cams. Watch the madness as it sits atop suspensions designed to withstand the lunar surfaces and marvel at the fact that all of these racers escaped with their lives!
This is a corner of our world that most of us don't even know about. This race has been going on since the 1960s and breeds some special warriors..kinda like Sparta, without the loinclothes.
I was glued to the screen, even during the slow bits, of which there are few.


How to parse this one?
Let's see, three image title pic, so let's follow that layout: experience, film, subtext..
Tense moment 5 hours before showtime: did Justin get to the Box Office in time? Yep, 2 screens sold out, but we got the tix. Arrived at theatre 30 minutes early, got in line at the back end of the snake. Dammit. Ended up in the second row...too close. We had great center channel, but the bass broke behind us. Hoping for a better seat on second viewing(tomorrow). Picture was projected sharp, and focused.
300 was a visual tour de force. Who needs reality when you have the minds of Frank Miller and Lynn Varley to plunder? Like Rodriguez before him Snyder has attempted to capture the magic of the graphic novel. There are, of course, inherent risks in doing this, since not everything translates across media. Bringing Miller's world, steeped in Kirby and Frazetta, is certainly worth the time and expense.
Prior to the film I had a discussion about the timing of this film, mired as we are in "the war on terrorism" alternately called "operation iraqi freedom" or Viet Nam Redux, or as I tend to think of it "The Occupation of Iraq". I dismissed the whiners, this was a movie without political subtext, to be enjoyed from my fanboy interior without reality pushing in. Impossible to do when the audience is 75 percent soldiers.
What is clearly not the case is the amount of identification with the Spartan "freedom fighters" that should be applied. Spartans were defending there land against a hostile occupying force--not taking a pre-emptive strike at an underarmed, undeclared enemy. The pro-war sentiment overrode this reading and instead of leaving sobered these guys were elated by the film. I do fault the film here, the stakes are too high to bury our heads in the sand and make gorgeous revisionist films that whip up aggression. This film is clearly fantasy/fantastic, but I was unable to be transported out of the here and now.
I am no terrorist sympathizer, nor a Republican, but if you took out the President for "past human rights violations" and rolled a tank down my street? I'd fight back.