The Beat My Heart Skipped
A remake of a 1978 James Toback film, Fingers, this film is about a street tough who wants to explore his artistic side with the piano. Some great scenes and all around interesting feel to the whole endeavor.
The timing of Vaughn and Wilson is impeccable. Fun stuff.
Jeremy would be a great krumper.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin
The world needs more Seth Rogen!
John Pierson has done some interesting things. As a producer, he was a key figure in the rise of independent cinema. His book Spike, Mike, Slackers, and Dykes was pretty good and his IFC show Split Screen was beloved by millions - or at least one Balgavy.
I was very excited to see this film about how Pierson took his family to Fiji to play free movies for the natives for a year. Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Stevie) documented the last month of the experience. Parts of this film were incredible. It was great to watch movies bring so much joy to the people on the island and to see their reactions to different movies. But Pierson is pretty obnoxious. And there was so much annoying family drama with their 16-year-old daughter that it became quite grating. However, his 13-year-old son was a highlight of the film, he was hilarious as he sparred with his dad about how well certain films would be attended. He is definitely more pragmatic and realistic than his dad.
And the opening sequence of the Piersons getting married at Film Forum definitely captured my imagination. They had their names on the billboard of the theater and they had to be out by 1 pm for the first showing of the day. They also had Buster Keaton’s Seven Chances playing at the wedding. At the end of the film, Pierson shows Keaton’s Steamboat Bill Jr. to the crowd. It is a magical movie moment watching the crowd react to such an amazing cinematic achievement. I guess I wanted more of this kind of movie transcendence. As one of the missionaries on the island questioned, “Is he here for the people or is he here for John Pierson?” The whole thing felt like a stunt at times just to add to the Pierson myth but it made for an interesting movie.
Land of the Dead
I don’t think George Romero has any idea how to make a movie that doesn’t feel like it was made in 1978. This film felt like it was from that era. This was a good thing. I liked a lot of the aspects to this film -- that the zombies weren’t all super bad, some of them had personalities, and they learned things as they went. It was fun in a zombie kind of way. It was interesting to see zombies move so slowly again after the lightning quick ones from the past few zombie flicks.
Other than the fact that the digital video aspect of this looked terrible and the filmmaker’s narration was pretty annoying, this movie is well worth seeing. It is sad to me that a good documentary like this will not be seen by as many people as it should be. Network television doesn’t have the courage to broadcast this kind of film. Hell, they even get in trouble for trying to show Saving Private Ryan.
For the most part, the soldiers are not partisan in their beliefs. They are there to survive and to try to make sense of what they are doing. They are young, naive, courageous, smart. They are fascinating to listen to as they expound on why they joined the military, joke about the crappy protective armor they are given (“The shrapnel will stay inside of you instead of going through you”), and showing off their rapping skills.
Chop 45 minutes out of the Skull Island section and this movie would be great. Man, those two hours dragged. And I don’t care what anyone says, the dinosaur special effects looked really really bad when humans were in the same screen. But the last thirty minutes, or once Kong arrives in New York, are amazingly exhilirating. The simulated New York of the 30’s was incredible. Give me thirty more minutes of that and I would have been very happy. Hell, I could have watched Kong on top of the Empire State Building for three hours. As it stands, the New York part feels merely like the coda rather than the centerpiece of the movie that it should be. Still, the New York scenes coupled with the tender moments between Kong and Ann Darrow save the film and almost make me forget the ridiculous length.
I left the theater thinking how kick ass it would be if Spielberg were to direct the next movie in the Bourne series. This was good but as Alex J. pointed out, I expected to leave this movie drained from all the moral implications of the whole thing. Instead, I just felt like I got a cool action movie. At times, it felt like The Conversation and that is clearly not a bad thing.
War of the Worlds
Once again, Steven Spielberg has come close to making a great movie. Instead, he delivers another decent one. While much better than The Terminal, War of the Worlds still qualifies as a disappointment. Frank Rich points out some interesting things about the political agenda of the film. Some of the parallels to 9/11 and Bush's war on terror are interesting and well done. And as Jim pointed out, the feeling of utter terror that you can't do anything to protect yourself and whether you survive or not is pure luck captured the craziness of 9/11 quite well. The pacing of the first hour or so was amazing. I was honestly scared a few times -- when the ground starting collapsing from the imminent rising of the sleeper cells, the pulverizing chaos wrought by the terrifying killing machines, and the passing train on fire. The action scenes were stupendous. It is such a treat to watch a filmmaker who knows how to shoot a great action scene especially after sitting through the jarring Batman Begins.
With all of these great things going for this film, it is sad that once again, Spielberg shoots himself in the foot. The Tom Cruise trying to prove himself a good father was painful to watch, the Tim Robbins character was insufferable (although his line about occupations always fail was a great one), and the ending was silly and abrupt.
Separated from the hype, this is still a good movie. Heath Ledger was the heart of this film while Jake Gyllenhaal provided a lot of nice posing. The audience has to fill in the dots about what these guys really mean to each other because it isn’t realy fleshed out in the film. Ang Lee is more interested in the effect their relationship has on these men’s lives outside of their occasional time spent on Brokeback Mountain. Well done subtle touches are occasionally offset by showy shots (fireworks anyone?) but nonetheless the film is still worth seeing.
A return to form for Woody Allen or merely a Crimes and Misdemeanors ripoff? How about somewhere in between? There is so much to like about this movie. It looks great. It doesn’t feel like a Woody Allen movie for most of it (no jazz, no whiny Jews, no Upper East Side) and even the plot device ripping off Crimes and Misdemeanors is forgivable. Whereas that film uses its main plot point as a device for a discussion on religion, ethics, and morality, this film uses it to trigger the fun and to hammer us (again and again) with the role of luck or lack thereof in one’s life.
The first hour is crisp and entertaining. The next half hour (or the Scarlett Johansson whines segment) is bad, bad, bad. Allen clearly didn’t know how to move his movie from Plot Point A to Plot Point C gracefully and this middle section is poorly written and not believable. But the last half hour is amazing! Fun, interesting, and more clever than Allen has been in years.
I read a review that likened this film to Love and Death, not perfect but very good. That film marked Allen’s shift from silly films to his better period of films starting with Annie Hall. Maybe this film signals a shift from the Melinda and Melinda type bullshit to the next good phase of his long career. Mitch said that Allen is already shooting his next film in London, also with Johansson. Maybe the old codger just had to get out of New York to find his voice again. This is the first Woody Allen film I’ve seen since 2001. Up to that point, I’d seen every one of his films except for one. I’m excited to get excited about his movies again. I’m looking forward to his next film for the first time in years. It was great seeing this at a packed theater in Manhattan - to feel the buzz of the crowd desperately wanting to welcome Woody back to the world of relevancy. Sometimes people have to leave home to be able to return triumphantly to the fold. Hopefully, this is Allen’s return home.
The first 3/4 of the movie were fantastic. Cillian Murphy is so incredibly creepy. But then the ending became formulaic and completely implausible. Still, the first 3/4 were so good that I can forgive the last bit.
Memories of Murder
Eerie Korean police drama. It is nice to know that every society has crappy looking police stations.
This was a box office sensation in Germany. It is an interesting film about destructive personalities and culture clashes. Lots of drugs, lots of Turkish music, lots of violence. Good stuff.
Japanese kids stuck in an apartment with no parents and their everyday pursuit of survival. I was interested in this but it makes me very curious about how much of this is based on truth and how much of it isn’t.
Kings and Queen
The latest film from the director Arnaud Desplechin who directed one of my favorite films of the past ten years (My Sex Life (Or How I Got Into An Argument) and it is a good one. He has directed a number of films over the past few years and somehow I have missed them all even though some of them like Esther Khan are supposed to be good. This film reunites two of the main actors from My Sex Life. They play ex-lovers but we don’t find that out at first. Instead, we see their two characters leading completely separate lives. As the film develops, we find out more and more details to fill in the gaps. It starts off strong and continues to gain steam. An intricate, low-key, good film
A State of Mind
North Korea may be an incredibly sad and hard place to live but for us foreigners who get to observe the madness, it is quite fascinating. This documentary focuses on two girls as they prepare for the 2003 Mass Games. These are the crazy spectacles that involved thousands and thousands of gymnasts and children with placards that together tell the story of the Dear Leader. If you have never seen footage of these demonstrations, this film should be a must see. It is amazing how indoctrinated every single person seems to be. Obviously, they would be afraid to tell what they really think on camera, but it seems that these people have been so completely brainwashed that they believe what they are spoonfed.
Pride and Prejudice
I can’t believe that 1. I saw this movie and 2. I liked it a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t plan on going off the Jane Austen deep end but this was a good movie. Too many of these films seem to be more about the costumes and evoking another era instead of letting the setting help tell the characters’ stories. This film did not make that mistake.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
This film is so much fun. Tim Burton doesn’t try to recreate the Gene Wilder film. Instead, he chose to be more faithful to the book. The Oompa-Loompas are great, the colors are perfect, and Johnny Depp manages to capture the essence of the character from the book instead of trying to recreate Wilder's portrayal. It has been years since I've read the book, but there were times during the movie that I felt like I was eight years-old tucked into bed and reading it. The glass elevator stuff was always my favorite stuff from the book and the movie captures the wonder, magic, and bizarreness of it all.
I wasn’t a huge fan of director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s most acclaimed film (Mysterious Object at Noon) but I decided to give his latest a shot anyway. This one is split into two parts -- the first part is a burgeoning friendship between two men. One has a huge crush on the other but the object of the affection is merely a cocktease. The second part is a mostly dialogue free segment based on a Thai folk legend about a shaman who can transform himself into different beings including but not merely relegated to a tiger. The two actors from the first segment play the hunter and the hunted again, but this time literally and with changing roles. Tropical Malady is sometimes very very slow in the second half, but it is still quite a thought provoking film about human desire.
2 days ago