Monday, August 30, 2010

mooooovies (#6)

Dude, Where's My Car? (dir. Danny Leiner, 2000)
Watched this on Saturday night with roommate Sarah and friend Petey, trying to take a drink every time they said "dude", "shibby", or "continuum transfunctioner", which I would imagine is, at worst, the second best way to watch this movie. One thing that seemed drunkenly apparent was that Ashton Kutcher was like ten times more entertaining than Sean William Scott (this might be because of the screenplay, I noticed Kutcher once in a while getting to say something that sounds like it makes sense, and then undo it with something incredibly stupid, whereas SWS just has to be dumb right off the bat). Either way, a Saturday night well spent. And Pete passed out before the movie ended.

The Time Traveller's Wife (dir. Robert Schwentke, 2009)
We decided that this was going to be better than the Emmys, and in the end that was probably the right choice (of a set we limited to two for no real reason). It gets a bit repetitive after a while, but it's not that bad, and the melodrama is at least focused on two very likable people. Bana's affability almost became a joke around the hour mark, actually, but what can I say, I like the dude. Honestly, the fact that it's a sci-fi movie very clearly targeted at the Nicholas Sparks audience is almost enough to make me like it on principle, and while it could be a little clearer on some of the details, it's still not a bad little movie.

I'm not a common tart

I apologize that it has taken me so long to let all 4 of you know about Ost & Kjex's Cajun Lunch, one of my favorite albums of the year, and a treat for those of us who were close to giving up on the possibility of "quirky" as an adjective without a negative connotation. It's basically a house record with white-boy falsetto singing and lyrics mostly about (and sometimes from the point of view of) cheese, but it's well produced enough for all that to work. "The Yellow Man" is like the fifth different favorite song I've had on here, but it's the current one so it's the one I'ma use here. The drum programming is kind of bonkers, I think, in the way the hi-hats and sparely-used snares manage to hypnotize while not upstaging the (endearing, I think) vocals and then go kind of kitchen-sink interesting with a minute and a half to go. Cop this shit.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

mooooovies (#5)

The Beat That My Heart Skipped (dir. Jacques Audiard)
I should note that I watched this in two parts about 3 weeks apart, but I enjoyed this Audiard crime flick almost as much as his Oscar-nominated Un prophète. Like that movie, The Beat... focuses on the development of a young criminal, in this case a not-completely-legit real estate broker named Thomas Seyr and played by Romain Duris with a great nervous grin. Seyr's never altogether realistic dream is to escape a life of shady business to follow in his mother's footsteps as a concert pianist.

The way Audiard, who also co-wrote the movie, uses music is a great variation of a kind of cliche in which a troubled urban character is calmed and refined by art. Seyr never seems as nervous terrorizing squatters as he does trying to get his Bach piece right. Overall, it's an interesting portrayal of the difficulties of changing one's life, more specifically reconciling what one really thinks one wants (concert pianist like yr dead mom) with what one is used to (crook like one's dad, played here by Niels Arestrup, who is good but doesn't quite steal the show like he does in Un prophete).

The Brood (dir. David Cronenberg, 1979)
I'm going to slowly work my way through all the Cronenberg I haven't seen in the fall, I think. I guess it would be spoiling to say who the villain here is exactly, but the way his/her psychological damage is manifested is awesome. The colors, the blood, Oliver Reed's menace, the terrifying children, yes this is very good end-of-the-70s horror.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Then don't fucking come here, motherfucker!

Friend Sarah informed us last night of the curse-filled trailer to the next in MTV's series of RW/RR Challenges, which have, despite the excellent Back to New Orleans season of Real World, been for the last few years consistently much more entertaining than the Real World itself. The preview gives no indication that this season is gonna be any less entertaining. But I would like to draw attention to the logo, which is well... least somewhat confusing in what it signifies? Maybe I'm just more sensitive to this because I'm Eastern European (and love fonts) but why the Cyrillic Яs combined with the Bio-hazard imagery? Not that I don't think it would be cool to set a whole season of the Challenge in an abandoned but still highly radioactive Chernobyl reactor, but this is set in Prague (they use the Roman alphabet with some vowel accents there). Obvi "nuclear meltdown" is easy shorthand for tempers flaring and that's fine (again, can't wait for this shit), but the specifics of this logo are mad silly, no?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

mooooovies (#4)

The Expendables (dir. Sylvester Stallone, 2010)
It's not fair, really, from a critical standpoint. How could I not like this? Jet Li fights Ivan Drago here. Many modern action movies aim for intertextuality by referencing shots, quips, and cliches, but bringing together so many iconic actors (of so many iconic characters) to do an action movie is a whole different thing altogether.

There are things here that are not so good, the foremost of which is the CGI blood. I wonder what the price point difference is between CGI blood and physical fake blood, and whether it gets bigger for something that necessitates as much blood as this movie does, because this shit looks terrible (the fire isn't so good either).

For the most part, though, Stallone knows how to direct this kind of movie. He spends a lot of time on faces, which is awesome when the faces are so iconic. A speech delivered by Mickey Rourke, for example, is a-ok in its content, but the tight (blue-lit) close-up on his face is fascinating. I would imagine that if this movie sounds like a good idea to you, there is no reason you won't enjoy it (do I even need to say that Statham is great?).

Symbol (dir. Hitoshi Matsumoto, 2009, no US release yet scheduled)
Symbol is partly about a man that wakes up in a mysterious all-white room but it's not a horror movie. Instead, it's a (seemingly) absurdist existential comedy. The story of the man (played in kiddie pajamas by Matsumoto) is cross-cut with the (seemingly) unrelated story of an aging Mexican Wrestler getting ready for a match he is not expected to win (pro wrestling is competitive here). It's kind of hard to describe what happens without spoiling a major development that is presented with awesome cross-cutting about 3/4ths of the way into the movie, but let's just say that the scope of Matsumoto's story expands greatly towards the end.

Even before that revelation, however, I was having a lot of fun. The parts with the man stuck in the room, flicking little switches (which are actually little cherub penises) that make seemingly random objects appear and disappear are a great send-up of a style of video-gamey logic in which completely unrelated tasks eventually lead to a reasonable goal. Symbol really strikes me as quite a brilliant, original work and it's really worth going out of your way (internets) to see.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

YMD Summer Jams 2010 #final

Young Jeezy - "Lose My Mind (ft. Plies)"

The end of summer is near, so it's our duty to rectify the mistake of not yet writing about the song I've most enjoyed hearing blasted from car stereos in Bushwick and Beyond.

Much like Gucci's "Wasted" last year, "Lose My Mind's" most immediately gratifying feature is Plies absolutely ridiculous verse in the middle of it (it even has "white girls fun, cuz all them swallow" to rival last year's "I don't wear tight jeans like the white boys, but I do get naked like the white boys"). And I'm still not 100% on whether the hoes call Plies "fantastical" or "Fantastico" (I rap along with the latter) but it's an amazing line either way.

But much like on "Wasted", I realized after a few listens that I like the main rapper's verses as much or more than Plies'. There's the endlessly quotable "goons got goons/rooms got rooms" couplet (actually, it does that a disservice to quote that without the "house stupid-dumb-big" doesn't it?) that ends the first verse, but even that isn't as good as Jeezy's final one, on which his flow gets as playful as ever ("my nickname in the A: strapped up shorty" stuck in my head 24-7) over the lurching monster of a beat. The Recession is one of my two or three favorite rap albums of the last decade and while this isn't as amazing as the first single off of that one (few things are), it has me very very excited for Thug Motivation 103.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

mooooovies (#3)

The Invention of Lying (dir. Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson, 2009)
This was on HBO On Demand so I watched it on a Sunday night not expecting much, and I don't regret it. It certainly has many funny moments and Jennifer Garner does a very admirable job playing a character who is required by the plot to speak almost entirely in dialogue that would normally be obvious subtext (that's a way to look at this movie, I guess: a society without lies is a society without subtext?). The tone here sometimes edges from surprisingly sad to boringly sad though and, well, is it wrong to ask a comedy to be slightly, I don't know, nerdier? That is to say, if you're creating an alternate reality, shouldn't it be a little more detailed? Everything we know about this reality in which lying hasn't been invented seems to suggest that history for the most part has played out exactly the same as it did in our reality (except for/despite the absence of religion). This might be too much to ask, I dunno.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (dir. Edgar Wright, 2010)
Not being nerdy enough is certainly not a problem for this one and it totally exceeded my expectations, which were basically that I would enjoy some of the form but would be super-turned off by the story. I was happily only half right. From the initial 16-bitty Universal logo, Wright's synthesis of video game and comic imagery is totally fun, full of witty sight gags and useful transitions and characterizations (PS though, with regards to using video game stuff in movies, let's not forget Crank: High Voltage, which does it in a completely different spirit but just as successfully). And my fear that I would find Scott Pilgrim himself to be somewhat of a turd wasn't off, but with pretty much every other character calling him a turd at some point it totally didn't bother me like I thought it would. Basically, the Seven Evil Exes thing was a much more complex metaphor for relationships than I expected it to be (haven't read the books obvi) and this was really fun. (Also there's a scene of Scott Pilgrim talking to himself that made me wonder, who's gonna have the balls to pull the trigger on the Michael Cera/Jesse Eisenberg buddy movie?).

I should probably be spreading these out better.

Do you remember we were sitting there by the water

(song starts 30 seconds or so into this YouTube)

By the time I had even heard about this leaking it was #1 on iTunes, such is the power of our Taylor. It's encouraging to hear her writing specifically about being a young adult ("yeah we've got bills to pay" and a line about cohabitation!) with the same skill that she wrote about being a high school kid. The "you made a rebel of a careless man's careful daughter" is super-entertaining verging on annoying, almost in an Elvis Costello way, but I've grown to love it. Yet again Taylor takes a cliche and makes it beautiful.

So basically after a week or so with "Mine" (and, truth be told, a walk home from Greenpoint to Bushwick the other night listening to it on repeat) I couldn't be more excited for this album.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Quick word on poor M. Night Shyamalan and stock

Saw Scott Pilgrim this morning (liked it ok, review to come), but funnier than almost anything in the actual movie was what happened during the trailer for Devil. Not having heard of it yet, I was enjoying the preview, thinking that it was something I might be interested in, and then came the magic words "a new nightmare from the mind of M. Night Shyamalan" and I, along with like 8 strangers in this movie theater full of like 17 people, audibly groaned (and then laughed heartily at the fact that we had all groaned together). Poor M. Night.

mooooovies (#2)

Howard's End (dir. James Ivory, 1992)
This was the first Blu-ray I watched on New Roommate Sarah's Blu-ray player (after the HDMI cable came in the mail I basically just bumped up the highest movie in my Netflix queue available on Blu-ray). The first shot, of Vanessa Redgrave walking around the titular, err, End, is maybe the best thing in the movie visually, but it never goes too far downhill. Emma Thompson is A+ great, and I found myself quite selfishly concerned with her Liberal, middle-class character's fascination with the Upper Class as it parallels my love of all things set in beautiful English country estates. I assumed (having never read it) that the book gives a few of the key plot elements (Margaret and Ruth's friendship, Henry and Margaret's courtship) a bit more time to breathe and, perhaps oddly, that assumption being available actually did a lot to make me accept how rushed those things seemed in the film.

Green Zone (dir. Paul Greengrass, 2010)
Greengrass is one of my favorite directors and I liked parts of this a whole lot, but I'm conflicted about it on the whole, mostly because of Brian Helgeland's screenplay and how much it spells things that it has very clearly illustrated out in the dialogue. For example, when, during a climactic scene, an Iraqi character tells an American character "It is not up to you to decide what happens here", it seems a bit much, considering how much a) the theme of how American involvement affects the local people we are "liberating" has been hammered home in the movie b) how much it has become part of the Iraq narrative in general. But then again maybe I'm wrong on point b.

Consider summary of the movie on Netflix:
U.S. Defense Intelligence Agent Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) doesn't want to hear what Army Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) has to say about not finding the weapons of mass destruction -- evidence that could launch a war -- he's been sent to Iraq to unearth...
Considering that the movie starts with the invasion of Baghdad and then moves on to Miller and co. looking for the WMDs, "evidence that could launch a war" seems a bit of an odd way to put things. So maybe the story of what happened in Iraq in 2003 does bear repeating and hammering into the ground. And maybe I just wish it was done in a way that didn't introduce it very clearly in the subtext and then hammer it into you again in the dialogue.

Matt Damon is reliably great here, btw, and Amy Ryan does a decent job looking conflicted as the Embodiment of the Failings of the American Press. Also, the colors in the night-time action scenes are absolutely gorgeous, which actually made me feel a little weird in retrospect.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


The Kids Are All Right (dir. Lisa Cholodenko, 2010)
The moment I keep coming back to when thinking of this movie's appeal involves Julianne Moore's character being asked why she and her wife would enjoy male gay porn and, before being interrupted, actually trying to answer that question honestly. I was shocked, mostly because "why do you guys watch gay porn" (or however it was phrased) was a good enough punchline that I didn't expect it to be followed by something even funnier. This one is super-successful as a dramedy in that the laughs and the drama come from basically the same place, the brilliantly written and acted characters.

Inception (dir. Christopher Nolan, 2010)
I enjoyed it, but I couldn't help being a little disappointed (not based on my expectations coming in but rather on how cool some parts of it were and how boring I found others). I think the way time works in dreams is a brilliant conceit, and man, if you decide to heavily use Edith Piaf in a movie featuring an actress best known for playing Edith Piaf, that's gonna win you points from me nine times out of ten. But now that I think about it, I probably actually cared about the Leo love story here even less than the one in Shutter Island and, aside from some of the hotel stuff, the actual action here was kind of boring, no? And that one dream that was a kinda shitty Golden Eye level? And Ellen Page's boring-ass character? Tom Hardy's dope tho and on balance I still think there's more to like here than not. Plz no sequel.

Dead Ringers (dir. David Cronenberg, 1988)
I'm not quite sure why it took me so long to see this but wow oh wow was it not at all disappointing. At the risk of hyperbole, everything Jeremy Irons does here is brilliant, and ok, I guess most contemporary stories are in some way explorations of identity, but the ones Cronenberg gets are especially vivid and interestingly explicit with respect to this theme, no? Oddly, the scene in which Bev's "instruments" are exhibited as art, much to his chagrin, made me think it could be interesting to watch this with something like Dr. 90210 or Nip/Tuck, to see if we could possibly compare how "Artist" has become part of the myth of the Plastic Surgeon to anything here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

PROJECT RUNWAY (you're not really reading this)


While we were all watching Jersey Shore, one of our old favorites returned with a ridiculously long premiere. The contestants have potential, Kors, Tim Gunn, Heidi, and Ninagarcia are back in our lives, and an hour and a half is probably too long for this show. But what got me interested enough to write about the first episode of Project Runway season 8 is a new and interesting specimen in our collection of the many wonderful ways that Reality Shows break down reality.

The narrowing down of a group of hopefuls to a group of actual contestants/cast members in an Episode of the television show is nothing new. Before the days of cast lists and whole plots of seasons leaking instantly on the internet, MTV used to do that for seasons of the Real World in a casting special. Top Chef does a quick-fire that eliminates someone right away all the time. But never have I seen such reiteration of the concept of "we're not on the show yet" by people who are very obviously on the show. They're at the apartments, they're doing a challenge, and while a challenge in which more than one person gets eliminated isn't the norm on PR, it's certainly not unheard of.

So how does one process being told that the people competing on the television show you're watching are not really competing on the television show you're watching?

With Tim Gunn, all things are possible.