Thursday, September 16, 2010

mooooovies (#8) (playing catch-up)

The Ghost Writer (dir. Roman Polanski, 2010)
Anyone hoping for an Auteurist reflection on Polanski's legal flare-ups (are those people out there? I'm prolly just strawmanning) probably won't find much here, but it's definitely a solid thriller that falls apart in the last act (fucking Google) but is still totally worth it. MacGregor is fine, but Brosnan is great whenever he shows up as either a patsy or a master conspirator who's losing it or both. Olivia Williams is great too and Tom Wilkinson comes in at the end to grab a scene with his teeth and take it the hell away from Ewan. Finally, the score is ill.

Leaving Las Vegas (dir. Mike Figgis, 1995)
A few Sundays ago I went to a bar at 11am to watch Liverpool play, then took a cab to a different bar to watch the Bears play, then went home and roommate Sarah wanted to watch this one, which she had on Netflix. I hadn't seen it since the first time I saw it, at which point I was probably way too young to see it. The fact that Nic Cage won an Oscar for this amazes me, cynical Oscar obsessive that I am, because he's really not holding back any of his ridiculousness. The exchange about whether Ben is drinking as a way of killing himself or killing himself as a way of drinking is awesome in how the movie acknowledges the line's cleverness and dismisses it at the same time.

The 19th Wife (dir. Rob Holcomb, 2010)
Of course we were gonna watch a Lifetime Mormon Murder Mystery, though we probably could also have predicted that it might get boring after a while. It did. I'd rather be watching Big Love for my LDSploitation kick (though we are watching TLC's Sister Wives tonight).

Piranha 3D (dir. Alexandre Aja, 2010)
Aja is a talented dude (even Mirrors had like 2 good things in it) and it's nice to see he can do horror-laughs as well as tragic murder/rape/burning alive scenes. This was pretty much exactly what I wanted it to be, and Jerry O'Connell is surprisingly hilarious as Joe Francis. The only disappointment is (SPOILERS, but not ones that should make much difference ) that the main character doesn't end up leaving Jessica Szohr (not any more fun here than she is on Gossip Girl) for Kelly Brook. Elizabeth Shue is suitably heroic.

Greenberg (dir. Noah Baumbach, 2010)
I don't think the advertising for this accurately portrays how much of an asshole Ben Stiller's character is. So, for a while, I avoided the movie, thinking, though I don't know why I was being so pessimistic, that they gap between what the movie would expect me to feel for the character and my actual opinion would be huge. It turns out, Stiller's Roger Greenberg is a monster of a character prone to ill-timed freak-outs and being completely inappropriate, and he's not all that charismatic or charming, but Stiller plays him well enough to allow some empathy. and Rhys Ifans and especially Greta Gerwig are king-sized in this. Looks pretty too.

Catfish (dir. Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, 2010)
Whether it's faked or not (and if I had to bet money I would bet that at least some of it isn't exactly on the up and up), I'm kind of split on Catfish. On one hand, it does have an interesting subject (the one the fillmmakers "stumble upon", not the protagonist, who is not at all interesting) that raises some good questions about what we do with reality in the virtual space. On the other in hand, the more I think about the movie the more I think that the filmmakers could do better with it. The visual style that constantly reminds you that the movie is about the internet could go, for one. But the worst part for me is the narrators and how, once they find a subject that is obviously more interesting than their original subject (co-director Ariel Schulman's little brother Nev), they can't pull back a little and take themselves further out of it. I would still probably recommend this, but it would probably be better as a short subject that cuts a lot of the stuff with Nev out of it.

Kick-Ass (dir. Matthew Vaughn, 2010)
Kick-Ass has an oddly similar problem to Catfish, in that if it dumped it's main character for a movie about the endlessly more entertaining Hit-Girl and Big Daddy (the latter played by Nicolas Cage, so obviously he's awesome), it would probably at least stand a chance. As it is, I really disliked most of this. I've never read the graphic novel this is based on and I haven't read Wanted either, so maybe it's just a coincidence, but I think after these two movies it's safe to say that if you're adapting a Mark Millar book for the screen, you should probably just find a way to cut out the voice-over narration.

The Town (dir. Ben Affleck, 2010) (SPOILER below)
I had pretty high expectations for this after Affleck's excellent Gone Baby Gone, and I'm happy to say that I liked it a lot. The acting is the best part, especially from Jeremy Renner as a little pitbull of a man and Affleck as a local-boy-makes-good-makes-bad-tries-to-just-even-out. Blake Lively is a pleasant surprise too, more or less playing a younger version of Amy Ryan's Gone Baby Gone character as filtered through J-Woww. There's a good car chase, the heists are well-staged, and while Affleck is playing with a lot of types here, the characters work. Just like in Good Will Hunting and Gone Baby Gone, the concept of neighborhood is a major theme here, and I really dug the kind of optimistic fantasy of the ending, which has it both ways as Affleck's character is forced/able to leave the neighborhood but is still able to contribute to the neighborhood by donating money to build a new hockey rink. Considering the harsh moral decision at the end of Gone Baby Gone, it caught me off guard in a good way. If Ben wants to keep adapting crime novels or Boston novels or whatever, let 'em do it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

mooooovies (#7)

Machete (dir. Ethan Maniquis and Robert Rodriguez, 2010)
A few weeks after The Expendables comes another long-awaited B-action movie and on the whole this one is probably a little better. Everyone here is king-sized, Michelle Rodriguez (once finally revealed in the eye-patch/leather ensemble) making as striking of an entrance as Trejo. But Trejo is great, no doubt about it; just like the Expendables wins by focusing on the faces of Stallone, Rourke, Lundgren and co., Machete makes the most of every wrinkle in his face (along side his comic timing, which is awesome, but not nearly as awesome as Cheech Marin, who is as funny here as he has been in a while). Also, the way Jeff Fahey's (villainous) character eats Mexican food at lunch ("pass the salsa") without comment is a better than anything in (the bad) Crash or Babel by far. (okay so the deaf club scene in Babel was pretty great).

the Crazies (dir. Breck Eisner, 2010)
It's kind of a sum-of-its-parts Horror Movie (let's see if I can make this work), by which I mean that the overarching concept isn't revolutionary or super-interesting (it is a remake, and I haven't seen the original but don't really know anyone who loves it), but the horror scenes themselves are so well done that it all works wonderfully. American Horror movies (dramas too obvi) have been mining the terror of rural Americana for almost half a century, but Eisner uses the grey landscapes more effectively than I've seen anyone do in a while. Farm equipment and (especially) a car wash are also used well, and hey, I guess I do pretty much like Timothy Olyphant.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

This movie is probably going to be terrible, but...

...what is it about the framing of this shot (from the trailer) that makes me almost sure that Carrie Mulligan is about to get hit by an oncoming truck?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Givin' you more of what you're funkin' for

52. Funkadelic - "One Nation Under A Groove" (Warner Bros., 1978)

Perhaps the clearest statement of the part of the P-Funk ethos that sets out to unify everyone into one groove nation (and maybe the clearest statement of that by anyone, it's certainly not an ideal limited to George Clinton), "One Nation Under A Groove" is the kind of sloganeering that gives sloganeering a good name. I would say that if you only had to hear one P-Funk song it would be this one, but if you hear this song and don't feel like looking further into the catalog for more bass lines, harmonies, and total-body grooves like this one, we have fundamental differences, you and I. The 12" version is 11 and a half minutes long and about 8 and a 1/2 minutes in, when the synth-bass groove starts changing it up under the chorus, is when it goes from next level to that other level.