Saturday, June 28, 2008

archive -- American Psycho


Directed by Mary Harron.
Starring Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Cara Seymour.

For me American Psycho joins a number of films in the past year that nail my experience(s)/mindset.
The other films on this list?

Fight Club
American Beauty
Magnolia

It has been said by more than one person that the books I read are all the same. Sometimes the speaker will qualify--
the books aren't about the same thing, but the "tone" and "outlook"(bleak) are the same.
I found that all of the films listed above had similar themes, similar outlooks, etc, but in my deconstruction the endpoint is hope.

To American Psycho, pointedly: the "eighties" (the actual main character in American Psycho, not the lead "role") was my time in the corporate world.
I remember showing off my business card design. I remember nouvelle cuisine, audiophilia, and yes, Huey Lewis and the News.
American Psycho is black comedy in the vein of Natural Born Killers, without that film's air of voyeurism.

I'm tempted to read the book!

Could this body be the next Batman?

Kung Fu Panda


Martial Arts? Animation? Panda? How can this possibly work?
Wonderfully.
It may not be "the Incredibles" or "Wall E" but it is a fun film for everyone, not just boomers and their late born spoiled children!
I don't want to sell this short by comparing it to two of the best big budget animations, but I found little to offend my "delicate sensibilities" and a lot to recommend. I prefer a theater filled with excited children to a bunch of rude texting teens anyday.
Recommended.

The Incredible Hulk


The "Incredible Hulk" arrives with some baggage. It is not a sequel to Ang Lee's fine film, but a "redo." One could derive the rest of this review by simply deconstructing that sentence, but I'll elaborate. Let's pretend the baggage doesn't exist.
Starting there, the Incredible Hulk impresses. Origins are dealt with quickly in the title sequence, but it will be awhile before we see the Hulk big and green. Norton does a fine job with the human Banner half of the Hulk, though I would not say that he has channeled Bill Bixby -- the TV Hulk -- which was part of the intent. This human half Hulk has more in common with the "The Ultimates" Hulk, a more rounded, less sympathetic portrayal.
Tim Roth impresses before the CGI takes him out of the picture. William Hurt does a less blustering more tortured General Ross than the comics I remember, but he is a delight to watch. The action sequences are fine green eye candy. A couple of them are inventive, and there is some nice "Parkour" chase stuff sprinkled throughout.
However -- this Hulk is not even 25% better than Ang Lee's, and that is the line I drew in the sand. Remakes -- like "Batman Begins" and "Casino Royale" must exceed what has come before, particularly when they start with the stated -- we can do better. "Batman Begins" did it, "Casino Royale" did too, for it's Bond audience.
Go to this one if you didn't like Ang Lee's, enjoy your Hulk Smash -- otherwise go to Hancock!

Wanted


Unlike "Tomb Raider" the image above is the only deliberately prurient shot in the film, and it is very short. This is a nihilistic comic book action film directed by the crazy guy that brought us such delight with "Nightwatch" and "Daywatch". Blood is the fluid most oft displayed, but the action sequences are nearly "Ultraviolet" impossible and require a supreme suspension of disbelief.
The movie opens with one of these pieces, and by the time the human propelled flight ends you will know whether you should stay or not.
I stayed twice.
That being said, there is a mean streak at work here and in the source material. I might add that the comic book origins have been watered down like "The Golden Compass" -- without the film spoiling that evisceration caused, but still changing things as only a nervous Hollywood can.
Recommended.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Thursday, June 12, 2008

archive -- Pitch Black




Directed by David Twohy. 2000
Starring Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser.
Anticipation and expectation once again collided with reality.
An hour long special on SCI FI, Into Pitch Black, created an intricate picture of
the Vin Diesel character, Riddick. Glimpses of the planet, hints of plot: I was
hooked.

Movie opened in space, camera tracks inside ship. Best image of the whole movie:
Riddick in chains and horsebit, blindfolded but awake during cryosleep.

Crash land into "Alien in the Desert".
The good:
Vin Diesel
Zeke (character)
Landscape Camera
Bang for buck special effects
Pace
Bad:
Coincidence
Stupidity
Lack of character development

Verdict:
Try to ignore the real obvious plot problems, get your head spun around for a couple
of hours. This is bad science fiction, not horror. Bad science fiction beats Teen Comedy
in my book EVERY day.

archive -- End of the Affair




Directed by Neil Jordan 2000
Starring Ralph Fiennes, Julianne Moore, and Stephen Rea.

A portrait of jealousy in brown,black and rain.

40 years later, even through the camera lens, Graham Greene's self-loathing is palpable.

It is hard to feel sympathy for the man, he wants us to stare at jealousy and understand it's
power to destroy love, and life. Neil Jordan paints it black.

The cuckold, his wife and her lover.

Painful to watch; civilization straining it's layered linen and wool in a time when to "let it all hang out"
was simply out of the question.
Recommended.

archive -- Magnolia


Directed by PT Anderson
Starring William Macy, Tom Cruise, Philip Baker Hall.

"How come there's no 10 o'clock show?"
"The movie is 3 1/2 hours long sir."
So I sat in the front row so I could stretch my legs.

The movie opens "Bond style", a few minutes of action, then credits, then into the film proper.
The few minutes of action were 3 short "films", all shot in wildly different styles.

After the credits the camera began throwing images at us as the narrator continued. He stopped. The camera
did not. After about twenty minutes of the camera pouring information straight into my hind brain I leaned to my partner and said,
"if he can keep up this pace for 3 hours I'm going to pop." It was like a moving "Run Lola Run" jag.

Of course it is not all that fast, and we soon settle into solid story(ies)telling. Multiple characters, same general location, same day.
Variable weather titles break the action up into chapters, or movements. We've seen similar technique, "Go", "Pulp Fiction", "Happiness".

Well, this is the film "Happiness" should have been, and is just as ambitious. Sure, we all have the scenes we'd like to trim out, but who are we?
I had written some painters a while back about the size of their canvas. Cristo is the only one who responded, with the point that if I was orbiting the planet his scale would seem just right.

Our themes here? Guilt, regret, forgiveness, aging. Why would a young, charismatic guy develop a mysogynistic self help system called Seduce and Destroy? What sends a man into that kind of rage?

"It's in my bones, I'm fucked. "

"It is dangerous to confuse children with angels."

These people careen through the day mindless of the connections, watching a quiz show developed by a dying old man, hosted by a dying man, turning parents into monsters and kids into freaks and in the end we slip the shoes on and pull the strings taut and who would have guessed how well they fit?

Great cast, worked well together. Some of the "notes" of this symphony seemed more phony than symphonic, which hurt the film, like Spike Lee's hammy acting in Summer of Sam. Sure, they pulled you out of the frame, but there was way too much greatness there, and in this film, to make it fatal.

Have an early supper, catch this film. Spend a few days looking inward at the heart of darkness, stare the beast down.
Oh yeah, buy the soundtrack!

archive -- Supernova





Directed by Tommy Lee (aka Walter Hill)
Starring James Spader, Angela Bassett.

One quick question: What kind of dimension-jumping ambulance can't bring the wounded to a hospital?
I'll back up:
In order to travel multiple light years in minutes instead of decades all living crew must be in protective chambers.
This ship has exactly enough chambers for the crew, and no one else! They jump multiple light years and have to leave the patient(s) where they find 'em.

But enough about plot!

How about zero gee sex!

But we cut the movie into a short pg13 version!

Ok, what about cool spaceships!

Babylon 5?

Star power! Angela Bassett, usually hotter than Georgia asphalt, the best part of Strange Days, limps through this role on ice. Spader is decent as the new guy freshly off some future drug addiction and also second in command. Oh wait, we talked about plot already!

What happened? Making movies takes a lot of time and money. The SFX guys worked hard, the actors did there best but nothing gelled. I wanted to like this movie, like I wanted to like Event Horizon.

I enjoyed the time in space, on the ship and off, and I guess I still don't value my time and money enough.

This is a solid "B" movie, I think the new term is straight to video. If you're a sci-fi nut go ahead. You've seen worse.

Maybe the Dvd version will be put back together.

archive -- The Hurricane



A picture only review from www.valiscafe.com. Movie bred a little controversy, and an older guy at the T-Star through me this tidbit:
The shells from the crime were in the Hurricane's car. This is not in the film, which I enjoyed!

Archive -- Stuart Little



Wow! A review with a review from the ol' Valiscafe.com site!
Directed by Rob Minkoff.
Starring Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie and the voice of Michael J. Fox.

"Please pass the gravy."

With that line George Little dodges his parents gentle pressure and underlines the basic problem of having a mouse as an adopted brother.

Colorize a Tim Burton film, add SOTA (state of the art) animation, and squeeze a "Little" house into Manhattan.
Fabulous sets and locations; a Surreal skew on the Big Apple

Ignore natural and physical laws.
Mouse adoption, cat co-operation, crossing the street in New York.

Put Duracell batteries into the toys.
To run the radio and lights of the Roadster across the city and back.

Give George a basement bedroom, complete with train set straight out of Track 29--and a model building table!
To build the boat and a wooden RC controller overnight!

Did I mention two loving parents?

Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Iron Giant, Toy Story 2, Stuart Little. I'm not sure what is driving the current bonanza in animation but please continue.

Getting a single ticket for Stuart Little @ 9:20 pm is like buying a condom in a drugstore--b4 Aids made it ok!
So get your friends to go with you.

Archive -- Anna And the King




Another www.valiscafe.com picture "review".
I brought Ray and Hazel to this film as I was blown away by my first viewing and thought everyone should see this beautiful place. Then there were the beheadings..

archive project -- Eye of the Beholder

My old site was valiscafe.com, hosted by a good friend TR who has since moved to more siliconized pastures. He leaves the site up for historical value I suppose. It was a much more ambitious undertaking than this blog, and consumed a lot more time.
Pauline Kael's "5000 Nights at the Movies" is a staggering work for sheer breadth. My reviews have thus far been scattered across 3 blogs, 2 sites and one long out of print magazine. I will be slowly transferring early reviews to this site...which is not to say I plan on publishing the pile, but nothing wrong with consolidation. Those posts will be marked as archival, and let me apologize in advance for rough edges of the older posts, this opening post is a case in point.
My review of "Eye of the Beholder" had links to other reviews, and the following pics!





Yes, I enjoyed the film thoroughly!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Chocolate <--M &Ms in Thai!

Some kick ass martial arts Thai style. Let's take a look under the hood:
Homages to: Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Tony Jaa, David Bell, check.
cool tattooed women with scars, check.
ladyboy assassin squad, check.
guns, swords, blocks of ice, parkour, check.
What is not to love?
Rush out and find this please. Yes I liked Iron Man. Sure, Forbidden Kingdom had Li and Chan, but this is Muai Thai!
No budget, all heart and knees and elbows and one riveting flic!
Recommended!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Round Black Ghosts


This is a cool Dubstep collection. I have owned it for awhile, but it took several at volume listenings to really feel the disc. First impression was oh..the tempo is too fast...as it was late at night and I was looking for dark journey inside my skull, not a spine based trip. The next spin was at brunch while I multitasked in the kitchen. Much better.
The record is not "drum n' bass" tempo stuff, just not dubbed out honey...which, of course, is my "easy listening." To enjoy this record you will need a system with some bottom, and a time when you have not been beaten up all day by the stresses of "real life." Given those two conditions this will prove to be a hot disc for your edge electronics ears.
Recommended

The In-Kraut Vol 3

What a fun series -- though I only have this one! Swinging music made whole and fresh..
A bunch of covers including "Whole Lotta Love" -- all recorded by German Artists in the late sixties and early seventies. Some engineer has made magic happen, these tracks sound fresh and clear as if they weren't 35 or more years old!
We will be wearing this one out at brunch...

Last Hero In China

Jet Li as Wong Fei Hung, reprising a role from "Once Upon a Time in China". This is the same character Jackie Chan plays in "Drunken Master 2", and yes, Jet Li does a version of "Drunken Boxing".
The action is fast and furious and wire enhanced..
The humor is misogynist and slapstick and nearly unwatchable because of it...
However, the biggest criticism other reviewers have talked about is Jet Li in a chicken suit. I have to wholeheartedly disagree. Not only did it fit the film, it was a fantastic way to show how various Kung Fu styles were adapted.
This is a younger Jet Li than the guy in Fearless, and it is great to see the action!
Recommended