Monday, May 26, 2008

R.I.P. Sydney Pollack

Spot on in Michael Clayton, Eyes Wide Shut and damn near everything else...
Directed a movie that actual changed the course of my life: "Absence of Malice".
That wasn't hyperbole -- that film ended my budding journalism career. Track that one down, it is still relevant today!
We lost a powerful talent today. Reflect for a moment.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Two stylized blue pics in a row...must be birthday weekend! Actually I wanted Liotta's mouth open, and the hot chick lounging next to him in the frame..but oddly enough, I didn't get the press kit!
"Revolver" is a couple years old, just now hitting DVD. It was directed by Guy Ritchie, and Luc Besson appears in the credits. This movie was maligned by the press -- Ebert wanted the film burned as for him it was insultingly bad. Wow. Marrying Madonna does have its perks!
I enjoyed the film immensely, but it should be clear that saturated colors, bass driven soundtracks and Chess as a motif are headshots for this reviewer. Toss in a slice of anime in tribute to Tarantino's tribute and all you would need to completely satisfy me would be a gorgeous female assassin. Oh wait, there is one of those too!
I mention Besson, because this film, billed as "thinking man's action", dovetails very nicely with "Angel A", Besson's psych piece, (also maligned, by the hipper than thou, fwiw). Both of these films take different routes to understanding and undoing the self-destructive tendencies of their protagonist. The commentary track pulls the curtain back entirely, stating that the movie is all about "transcending the conceptual self."
Their is plenty of action, not too much torture(for these desensitized and pro-torture times[what, you thing being human gets you something if you are not a citizen? Damn liberal!]) a smattering of gratuitous nudity, and some superfine silk robes. What's not to like?

Sonny Rollins Saxophone Colossus

A jazz classic. With Rollins blowin', Max Roach on the drums, Tommy Flanagan playing piano and Doug Watkins on bass, it is absolutely magic listening. I have owned this disc before, but lost it long before moving out here to Kansas. A good friend sent me this, as my "real soon" migration to Costa Rica brought the opening track, "St Thomas," to mind for her.
She was right, it fits.More Rollins!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Bullet and Brain

How different would my life be if I had not stumbled across Anthony Wong's soulful performance in "Beast Cops" so many years ago? I most certainly would still have had Chow Yun Fat, Tony Leung, Maggie Chung and Michelle Yeoh, but Anthony Wong can make nearly anything watchable. Thankfully "Bullet and Brain" has plenty of other redeeming qualities.
Bullet and Brain are the trade names of a legendary pair of hit men. They have retired, but also left some "get out of jail free" cards -- and the hot granddaughter of the dead Triad boss is calling them in for protection.
Throw in the stiff rookie cop with kung fu chops, the 3 days to retirement police chief and the blonde, ambitious, disrespectful lieutenant in the Triad and there you have it: HK Action! Make no mistake all of those elements are there -- like horses and cowboys in westerns I suppose -- and this is an enjoyable 1.5 hours of genre action, with a side of Anthony Wong.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Speed Racer

At brunch just prior to viewing I was reminiscing about "Speed Racer", one of the cartoons I watched as a sprout, and mentioned the ultrafast race around hairpin turns up a mountain in the rain. It was in there. The jump sound was in there. Racer X -- who used to make your heart stop every time he hit the screen -- is finally unmasked!
The one doubt I had was the kid and the monkey and they were fine.
This movie is 2+ hours of head spinnin' color and sound, like the end of 2001 except in color. Bright color.
I like serious movies, I do. This one wasn't, it was just the most fun I've had a live action animated film for kids since "Spy Kids". You adult types? Stay home.
Please compare and contrast Christina Ricci's roles in "Speed Racer" and "Black Snake Moan", 5 page minimum, single-spaced.

Dynamite Warrior

Thai action comedy. "Tears of a Black Tiger" Anyone? This is one each kick ass crazy mystical rocket riding martial arts film. It is a slice of another culture. Watched this on DVD and, like "Ong Bak" before it, I was blown away.
Slapstick humor pervades the film, black slapstick humor. Great action sequences, rockets and virgin menstrual blood mix together to right wrong, defeat evil and unleash the buffalo.
This movie has food I want to eat, clothes I want to wear and a whole host of peeps that can stand on one foot, solid as Sears, for as long as they have to. Camera movement is good, editing good, but the budget --enormous for Thailand no doubt-- is thin far as film stock and processing go. Those of us watching these films over the years can see through this, but "Fearless" and "SPL" have spoiled us with bright clear pictures and dynamic sound. The humor is not as postmod as "Tears", but the fighting is absolutely authentic, and the guns are few and far between.
This is fast paced fun.

"Is that enough human justice for you?"

It is hard to stay pissed at a show this good.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Slippery Slope

More politics, rather than reviews. I am well aware that I have very limited access to the truth with regard to "official" anything. The overt manipulation of the media by this administration is poo-pooed and dismissed by my conservative friends with a "you think it started with Bush?" offhand response.
The NYT column I am linking to here discusses things that will never come fully into the light, just like much of our history. Bob Herbert's OP-ED "Seeds of Destruction" deserves a few minutes of contemplation before you rush out to see "Iron Man" again.
The United States cannot lead the planet to a more civilized place without first getting itself in order. That starts with a sense of decency and fairness that belies "survival of the fittest" and "winner takes all". I think that teaching the pitfalls and fallacy of applying Darwin to everyday decisions might go along way towards reaching the goal of a compassionate sustainable existence.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Iron Man

Okay, need to go a little deeper than that.
Robert Downey Jr and Director John Favreau get it right. Soundtrack, in spite of Carmike Cinema's best efforts to destroy the viewing experience, was pop good. If Spiderman ushered Superheroes back in, the restart of Batman sealed the deal. Comic book movies are here to stay.
There are enough "geeks" in the mainstream to sustain this kind of entertainment. The times are so fantastically scary a good vs evil show with tech at the center becomes a triumphant feel good for a country just waiting for a regime change.
By the way, in case that is interpreted by a hyperpower as a cry for regime change? Please let me state now that I have no gold tub for your soldiers to bath in after their mission is accomplished.
I might use this space to talk about the cinema schizophrenia that demands absolute realism from it's historical fantasies (10,000BC) but lets the most improbable Iron Man stunts (and these bastards) off scot-free..
There is a "perhaps" involved I think.
Next viewing: 5 hours. Please assume that I will be once again asking management why AC-DC sounds louder from inside my car on the streets of St George than it did at the all digital, 1/2hr of TV commercials, second ticket price hike in six monthes -- oh wait! Hard Drives are made of corn.
I'm not saying the gun sounds were as weak as Halo 3's, I'm saying the sound was sculpted nearly as carefully as ILM made the suit, and deserves to be heard.
Recommended (in spite of this insanity) and even this.