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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Midweek Update febw4! Plus: Robocop 2014 REVIEW!

Hey y'all, how's it going? Me? I'm alright. Taking a mental vacation from the horrors of our country's economy. Drinking lots of iced tea. Getting scratched by cats. I watched a couple movies already, a few more to get through for the February Project. I also went to the theater and saw the new Robocop, and I thought I would do a full review right here for you guys to read.

Robocop (2014):

Starring - Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Batman, Abbie Cornish, Samuel L. Jackson, a lot of cool people.

The US uses robots to enforce the world everywhere except on the homeland. The American people will not accept a technology they cannot relate to. Enter Robert-cop, the man with the plan! Wait, no, sorry. Alex Murphy is attacked and left for dead, giving OmniCorp a fresh body with which to integrate their technology, making the first human/robot hybrid enforcement officer! And yes, they call him Robocop. Because it’s catchy.

There has been A LOT of hatred for this movie on the internet since its release. Not just by the usual web fans boys, ready to crucify anything resembling their childhood that isn’t exactly how they imagined it, but by critics. I know a lot of people don’t put stock into critics’ opinions any more, but I certainly do. So, I walked into this movie expecting it to be lousy. What I got was actually quite entertaining. It’s longer than it needs to be and it does sometimes meander on details that seem to be distracting from the action, but otherwise I can hardly fault the movie. I didn’t watch it while constantly comparing it to the original; that would have, of course, resulted in disappointment because the original is a gory, funny masterpiece of cinema that shouldn’t be compared to any other movie, not even its own sequels. Robocop 2014 is heavy on story, making this into an origin-story that unfortunately will probably not get any follow ups. I want more though. I want to see more hopping around action scenes, more gooey looking body horror special effects, and an R rating next time (pretty please). I could total be wrong about this movie; I even have evidence to the opposite of my opinion. A couple of older people sitting behind be kept talking during the movie and eventually they BOTH feel asleep. I don’t think they liked it as much as I did.

What I Liked:
-Pretty good special effects. I didn’t see an obnoxious use of computer magic where practical would have served better. I just had a lot of fun watching Robodude shoot a bunch of other robots and ride around on his cool motor bikes.
-The cast. I named a bunch of them up top, but there were a lot of other great people in it. Jay Baruchel plays a good imitation of the asshole from Die Hard who tried to negotiate with the terrorists and called Hans “bubbie”. Jennifer Ehle is a OmniCorp corporate officer who is cold, calculated, evil. Jackie Earl Haley is in a role as a weapons specialist, but who cares about that. I did not recognize Haley because he was not being a scary creep job. This is a guy who has played Rorschach in the Watchmen movie, Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare remake, and a sexual deviant in Little Children. He was practically normal in this movie. Unless he humped Robocop off screen. It could have happened.
-As I said earlier, I liked the story. Robocop’s wife and child actually play a factor in the plot. OmniCorp is not just a bunch of cartoon villains. Samuel L Jackson’s character is a cartoon, but it is perfect for the plot.
-Sam Jackson gets his own like section, because his stuff was so fun.

What I didn’t like:
-The length. The movie is longer than it needs to be. Although I cannot quite key down what scenes I would shave off in the editing room. Maybe some of the board room stuff, but I don’t know. I liked seeing all the OmniCorp employees and Gary Oldman chat it up.
-The side villain. Of course, OmniCorp is not the only threat in RoboCop’s life. Crooked cops and crime lords are out there, ready to get in Robbie the robot’s way. This is where I couldn’t help but compare it to the original movie. Kurtwood Smith is an amazingly evil villain in Robocop 1987, not afraid to get his hands dirty and outright challenging the hero to come after him. He rules the city, and you can see why the city might need a robotic police substitute to take on such an evil, powerful force. The villain equivalent in the 2014 Robocop doesn’t even bear mentioning. He is merely a stepping stone in the plot and is taken out way too easily.

What I hated:
-old people who sit behind you and talk constantly no matter how often you shush them, like fucking children.


If you are coming into this movie expecting a summer blockbuster caliber action flick, you will be disappointed. This is an interesting Sci-fi action/drama, on par with something like Minority Report. See it in the theater if you want, waiting to rent it won’t hurt you either. I liked it. I’d watch it again.

Other movies for this week include another 2014 release, and one of the best movies I've ever seen. I'll tell you all about them on Sunday!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

February Week 3: Post-tease

What a damn week. Remember how excited I have been about that new job? And how I was sure I had it? Nope. It fell through after 3 weeks of running around to interviews, filling out tons of paperwork, making plans for my future, being happy. Well, happier than I have been. I hate being unemployed. I've been working since I was 16 and it is a core factor in my confidence. Sigh. I can't describe how shell shocked I felt when I got the phone call saying the job had disappeared into the ether. It still feels like a bad dream. Life goes on, and so must I. I will keep writing and living and watching movies. This week, I saw a couple of stinkers. It was actually kind of refreshing. When you spend a lot of time browsing the Criterion collection, you tend to forget that bad movies exist. Next time I'd like to narrow it to just 1 bad movie, but I'll take what I can get really. Since I watched a few that are still in theaters, I thought I would use the original format of the blog to talk about them. If you like it and want me to see some more still in theater movies, let me know! I'd me happy to put up content about them right after I watch them.

Movies Seen:
American Hustle
Take Aim at the Police Van!
In Secret

American Hustle (2013):
When I saw this movie the first time I very much enjoyed it. Imitation Scorsese it may be, it is still super fun with cool costume design, great music and fantastic acting. I expected some of the sheen to wear off with a second viewing, but I think I might have enjoyed it just as much, if not more. It turned into one of those situations where you are anticipating the next scene, and you smile like crazy, and you turn to look at your girlfriend and she’s smiling too. Very specific to people with girlfriends, but you can imagine other characters in this scenario also. Let’s go old school JDTMovies for this one.

What I Liked:
-Heist movie. Heist movies have a special place in my heart. Sitting on the edge of your seat waiting to see who gets away with what, is one of the best movie-going experiences in my opinion.
-Great music. They mixed up the music from the era all over this soundtrack. I normally don’t like it when a film uses a piece of music to force a feeling onto the audience, but this movie does such a good job. Based on previous reviews, does that make me a hypocrite? Maybe.
-Acting. I mean, c’mon. You put this much talent together in a room, you are going to get something great. Of course, it takes a masterful hand like O. Russel to make it all into the magical soup it is. My favorite performance in the film goes to Jeremy Renner. I’ve seen this guy do a bunch of action roles, but my favorite are his lower key stuff, a la The Hurt Locker. In this movie, he plays the MOST likable person on the planet. He sells that shit. So freaking GOOD.

What I didn’t like:
-What can I really complain about? I guess it’s a little long… that didn’t really bother me though. I dunno.

What I hated:
I got nothing.


Obviously I love this movie, but it’s not perfect. I am at a loss to narrow down the imperfections, but I know they are there. You should see it, we should see it, let’s go see it.

Take Aim at the Police Van! (1960):
This might become my new thing, because I have now seen 2 of these Japanese noir movies from the 60’s and they were both excellent. Let’s have a little synopsis, see if I can peak your interests! Take Aim at the Police Van follows Tamon, a prison guard/sharpshooter who is assaulted during a prison transfer, leading to the murder of a couple of prisoners by unknown assassins. After being suspended from the job, Tamon begins searching for answers, following a recently released prisoner into a web of thugs and corporate conspiracies. Were the targets random? Are the claims of the recent parolee just the dreams of a moron? Should he hook up with the sexy boss lady? All of these questions and more are answered with style. I loved this movie. Modern day movies seem to be able to hold my attention less and less, and American noirs and their goofy acting are a complete turn off for me. There is something natural and tragic about these Japanese noirs that is riveting. Every character has their motivation and when they all come to a close at the end of the movie, it is so sweet. A perfect dessert of a movie, the kind that’s made out of fruit so it is simultaneously delicious and healthy!

Ugetsu (1953):
A cautionary tale, Ugetsu is here to tell you that greed is actually a bad thing, a bad thing that will make you do stupid things. Yes children, it’s always better to stomp out your dreams, especially during a civil war where men are constantly roaming the countryside looking to rape and/or pillage wherever they can. SPOILER Doing anything to remove yourself from your current financial status could result in A) Falling in love with a ghost which leaves your wife to be murdered by bandits, or B) Becoming an important military figure at the cost of your wife ending up a prostitute, who may want to strangle you to death. No good, me amigos. I’m staying away from those CA Scratchers, although I don’t have a wife, or military ambitions, or know any local hot single ghosts looking to hook up.
This movie launched an interesting discussion between Sarah and I on what defines a ghost. Does a ghost need to appear to living people or could it be only among other dead and still be considered a ghost? Are the characters in Defending Your Life ghosts in heaven and the dead in Wristcutters ghosts in purgatory? What about the characters who appear to Chris Wilton in Match Point, or are they just figments of his subconscious? Are you a ghost? Would you tell me?
In conclusion, Ugetsu is a very good movie. Love, Joel.

Austenland (2013):
I suppose I should give more than a single word in my review. When we began watching Austenland, I was expecting it to be a somewhat bad but ultimately harmless rom-com. Lowered expectations firm in hand, I was still caught off guard by the… shitiness of this movie. I like Keri Russell and Bret McKenzie, I even enjoy seeing Jane Seymour and Jennifer Coolidge on occasion. None of these actors display any sort of chemistry together. I don’t know if there was a lot of adlibbing going or if all the dialogue came from the page, either way it was mostly terrible and impossible for the actors to make work. The music WAS HORREDOUS; so bad that I had several moments where I had to place a pillow over my head in order to make the pain stop. I know the song Betty Davis Eyes is famous and well liked, but the scene it was used for in this movie was such a gigantic WTF IS GOING ON moment, that if I ever here it again I may start screaming as if having a ‘nam flashback. Bad movie! Go to your cage! Lastly, going back to the lack of chemistry, I don’t know who thought Keri Russell and the Mr. Darcy character worked well together, but these two had nothing in the form of sparks EVER. I feel so bad for the actors involved in this movie. It is a big pile of shit.

Vagabond (1985):
Imagine you have no home. Got it? Ok, good. Now imagine you travelled all over the place having no money. Still with me? Good. Now, lastly, imagine you were an asshole. How far do you think you would get? Maybe it’s different in France. I’ve been there once, and my girlfriend did get pushed out of the metro before. Vagabond follows a young woman who seems to come out of nowhere and proceeds to touch the lives of many people, who are seen talking about the mysterious woman in short interviews, and eventually watching as she succumbs to her inevitable fate. I like movies from this era as they have a brown-ness to their color scheme that I find comforting. The titular vagabond is a snotty asshole who apparently smells bad, yet people seem to fall all over themselves trying to either help her or just motivate her to do something other than slack off. The very first scene of the movie features this young woman’s body being discovered in a ditch, and I can’t really say I feel sorry for her. It isn’t about that of course. It’s more about the small effect even a momentary contact with someone can have on your life. Is that what it’s about? Ehhhhhhh, never mind. The movie was a lot of wandering and dialogue, the feeling of emptiness and listlessness throughout. It was sad and true, but not very interesting. Just another page in my film education.

In Secret (2014):
The first movie I have seen in 2014, this movie has set the bar pretty low for the rest of the year. In Secret, based on the novel and play Thérése Raquin, is a gothic style cautionary tale about the dangers of sex. Sex with men with large side burns, which is in style now days I believe. BEWARE ALL YOU MEN. You’re ladies are all lusting after hairy goofballs. Once again I find a movie with actors I am excited to see on screen (Elizabeth Olsen, Oscar Isaac, Jessica Lange) in a movie not worthy of their abilities. I cannot tell you how many times I found myself laughing at this movie during scenes that were supposed to contain gravitas, and instead contained only awkwardness. Break down:

What I Liked:
-Tom Felton is great in this. I haven’t seen him in anything since the Harry Potter movies and I hardly recognized him without Malfoy’s signature sneer.
-I like a lot of the scenery. You could see where the money went if this movies cost any large sum.

What I Didn’t Like:
-The pace of this movie was all over the place. The beginning was boring, then they move to Paris and it begins to pick up. Except that it doesn’t, the editor decided that in order to show time passing one must only insert scene after scene, one hit after another at a break neck pace. It doesn’t matter of the scenes have anything to do with one another, we have a story to get on that screen! Get the bear! We need a scene with the bear! I don’t care if it was symbolism. There were things that could have been cut, and other things that could have been drawn out.
-Sarah said that she thought Oscar Isaac and Elizabeth Olsen had a good chemistry, but I couldn’t see it. I don’t think it’s their fault. Like I said, everything was rushed though.
-I think American Horror Story has ruined Jessica Lange for me a bit. She can’t be in a role like this where she becomes mad with grief. I cannot take it seriously.

What I Hated:
-All I could see was wasted potential.

If there is some sort of longer director’s cut that may come out in the future, I might actually consider rewatching this. As it is, it is not very good. Very middle of the road.

My mom asked me where I was finding these movies she had never heard of. I get most of them off of Hulu, a couple from Netflix. Speaking of mom, I have next month's blog project ready to go! It can be found right here at the March Film Project list! Still working through February's project, but I have nothing but time on my hands. Again. Thanks for reading my whiny blog. I appreciate you guys more than you know.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

February Week 2: Terminator 3: Post of the Machines

So, on Wednesday I said I have a new job! I may have been premature about that. I am hoping that my excitement will not be crushed by rejection, but I am PRETTY sure I will get the job. All the interviews and stuff didn't stop me from watching a ton of movies obviously. Sarah and I are getting back into a movie groove after a few weeks of pure television time. Have you watched Lost Girl? It is super good. Seasons 1-3 are on Netflix. Things are looking up anyway, and I intend to keep writing this time no matter the circumstances of my life. Unless, you know, someone sets off a huge EMP, burning out all the electrical devices for the untold future and bringing our world back to a new stone age. Even then, I'll just switch over to plays and carve my reviews in a tree.

Movies Seen:
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
A Woman is a Woman
Dallas Buyers Club
Q Planes
Rabindranath Tagore
Le Cercle Rouge
The Way, Way Back

Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011):

What is it about Mission Impossible movies? They keep pumping them out, and none of them rise above mediocre. I am actually a big fan of the first movie, although I can’t really explain why. Number 2 and number 3, not so much. Ghost Protocol, in my opinion, has only one thing going for it over the others and that is its sense of humor. I don’t know if that’s due to the screen writers or Brad Bird’s directorial efforts. Either way, it works really well compared to the droll super-serious 2nd and 3rd movies. Action is all well and good in an action movie, but I can get that almost anywhere and in more entertaining flavors than Ghost Protocol. No, once again, if you’re going to sell me on a film, I have to like the characters. The characters are almost blank slates in this movie, but the jokes make up for that big time.

A Woman is a Woman (1961):
Here is the Netflix description for A Woman is a Woman: Striptease artist Angela (Anna Karina) is desperate to have a child, but her boyfriend, Emile (Jean-Claude Brialy), isn't as anxious. Although he cares for Angela and wants to keep their relationship going, he's not ready for that kind of responsibility. Instead, he suggests that she get together with his buddy Alfred (Jean-Paul Belmondo) -- a proposal Angela ultimately accepts, to Emile's shock and dismay. Frenchman Jean-Luc Godard directs.
I just… I have a lot of problems with that description. Basically, Sarah and I wanted to watch something French and we had been eyeballin’ this movie on our My List for a while. Jumping in feet first into a movie with almost no prior knowledge has worked out pretty well in the past, with only a few occasions where I was assaulted visually and mentally. I can’t say this movie was offensive to me, but I sure wish I had known a little more background on it before we watched it. What we got here, is a French New Wave Comedy. Which means incoherent dialogue, musical cues that abruptly start and stop, and references that are extremely timely to the world in the 60’s. Or maybe that’s not what it means, that was what was going on here though. I’ve seen a few French New Wave movies, and honestly the only one that really got to me was 1 or 2 Things I Know about Her, another Godard film. So maybe I’m just not a French New Wave guy? Back to A Woman is a Woman. Entering this movie based solely on the Netflix description was a bit of a mistake. Although the plot described does play out for the most part, the movie is not about the plot. The movie seems to be about how flighty people of a certain age and financial situation were in that time. She wants to have a baby, he doesn’t, she threatens to sleep with another person to have the baby, he challenges her to do so. In-between all that is a lot of goofiness, which was enjoyable some of the time but mostly had me scratching my head. This, I believe, is not the movies fault but my own for not researching the movie beforehand. On the other hand, you shouldn’t have to do that to enjoy a movie. It’s a flaw, it’s there, and it’s still a decent movie as a window into the movement. I just wish we had had more fun watching it.

Dallas Buyers Club (2013):
This is my guess for Best picture Oscar for the 2014 ceremony. It’s got all the Academy wants! Period piece? Check. Issue movie? Check. Strong lead performance? Check-a-roonie! Obviously Matthew McConaughey is the best part of the movie, with Jared Leto in a strong second. What we have here for reals though, is straight up Oscar bait. The movie is just edgy enough to side on the common sense issue of being, say, anti-AIDS, while touching on other more controversial bits like homosexuality and transgender stuff without giving a firmer judgment than tolerance. Insert some tragedy and some feel good scenes, boom, send me the check. What we really need, is a buddy detective TV show where McConaughey and Leto play the same characters, but sans AIDS and solving mysteries! I’m writing the spec script right now. You know what the real problem with this movie is? You put Steve Zahn in there, and you hardly use him! Steve Zahn is a national treasure. In the detective TV show, he will be the tough but fair chief, who occasionally has to go into the field to assist his crew. Oh yeah, this thing practically writes its self.

Paisan (1946):
One of the most eye opening moments for me in my cinema education was when I saw Umberto D in a film class. I had never seen anything like it before, with its long unedited shots and brilliant acting, showing simple tasks like opening all the windows in a room and through shear cinematic magic making them fascinating. I later saw The Bicycle Thief (or Bicycle Thieves, whatever) and got more of this glorious film style. Italian Neo-realism, coming into vogue towards the end of the Second World War, showing how life had become for the people of Italy. Really getting out there on the streets and using non-professional actors for starring roles, BLOWING MY MIND. Paisan is another one of these types of movies, with one problem compared to the others: English speaking actors. I don’t speak Italian in the slightest, so perhaps the Italian actors come off as crappy as the American actors (or ADR providers) do, and I’m just not aware of it. It’s totally possible. Other than the first vignette though, everything else about this movie is great. And you know what? The first one is still great despite crappy English language acting. The movie takes place during the American invasion of Italy, showing 6 different stories of tragedy, that range from unrequited love to religious tolerance to fighting against the Nazis. It is an amazing piece of cinema, and I am not fit to review it, but there it is. I can’t wait to see more.

Q Planes (1939):
This was another little British gem like Obsession, where a mystery is afoot and a humorous police officer must use his wit and will to poke his nose into everyone’s business and get to the bottom of the case! I wish there were a series of films featuring Major Hammond, working hard to annoy everyone and still get his man, or men, or lady. Q Planes (or Clouds Over Europe) is a mystery/comedy about disappearing experimental planes and the man who loved them. Wait, no, Lawrence Olivier’s character is just upset that his pals keep disappearing while taking these flights. Turns out, there’s a ship with a special beam gun that can knock out a plane’s engine from the ocean’s surface! I don’t know if they explained who the ship belonged to or how they made that weapon, but you know what it doesn’t matter. This movie was so much fun. Everyone was doing that fast 40’s style talking you hear being made fun of on occasion, and usually I find that incredibly distracting, but here it worked. The up-sped tempo kept the quips coming and the movie just flew by (like a plane… I’ll just go now). Excellent movie, found in Hulu’s Criterion collection.

Rabindranath Tagore (1961):
A nice little 60 minute docudrama about a man named Rabindranath Tagore, someone I had never heard of. He was a poet and spiritual leader a la Gandhi in India. In fact, he and Gandhi were pals! This was obviously a passion project for the director, and it doesn’t concern its self with being entertaining. It was rather entertaining to me, but I have become a bit of a history buff in my old age. The movie features many reenacted scenes, and they are just fine for that purpose. I learned a little about the man, and now I want to learn more. Job done.

Le Cercle Rouge (1970):
This movie took me 4 days to watch. FOUR. FREAKING. DAYS. I kept getting interrupted during this movie and only this movie, which is kind of amazing because there were plenty of movies I got through just fine, sans interruption. Sigh. In the end, I don’t think I got the pleasure out of the movie I should have. Le Cercle Rouge is a slooooow burner. So I got to see a man released from prison and another man escape from a train, and then I had to wait a while. Then I saw these men meet up and the police officer start to work, then I had to wait a while. You get the picture. The cinematography amazing, gorgeous, and other adjectives that mean really good. I would love to see the movie projected. And you know how much I love characters, so I am happy to say that there are 4 different dudes with motivations, backstories (all inferred masterfully), and scene stealing moments. One cop, one FORMER cop, and two thieves all heisting around. Fantastic stuff. There is a scene where one of the characters is going through the DTs, and giants insects and lizards are appearing around the room. I mention this because I need to know what kind of bugs those were, as they were TERRIFYING. I want to wax on poetic about the cinematography and the strong straight lines scene throughout the film, but I don’t have the words. I can’t help but think the director must have had the obsessive nature of Kubrick to get some of the seamless shots seen throughout the movie. I’m going to see more of the director’s work and then revisit Le Cercle Rouge later.

Sada (1998):
I can’t even… the words are not here for what I witnessed. Why haven’t more people seen this movie? Why aren’t people singing its praises from the rooftops? Sada is a movie about a real woman from Japan who strangled her lover to death and then cut of his genitals and carried them around in her bag until she was caught by the police. Wait, where are you going? No, no, come back, I’m not done yet and you aren’t done either. This movie was amazing. The story of Sada has been told many times apparently (there is a famous movie also based on her story called In the Realm of the Senses) and I imagine has reached an urban legend status in some circles. This movie starts off like Romeo and Juliet with one of the characters introducing the audience to the story, essentially tell us that before we judge we must listen. Then it switches to a rather horrifying rape sequence, which I believe was somehow supposed to be comical? I don’t know, it was comical, but the subject of rape is not. EVER. That scene set a strange bar for the movie from then on. It went through the genre of musical, art film, rom-com, sex farce, and romance, not to mention a little kung-fu tossed in. I cannot possible represent the glory of this crazy chain of genre shift with words, you have to watch it. I watched this amusing farce of a movie, fascinated by all the changes and camera movement, and acting of course, and then something I could never have expected happened. Towards the end of the movie, Sada turns into one of the most romantic films I’ve ever seen. It’s insane and wonderful. I think I have typed myself into incoherence, I’m sorry if that comes out on the page here. So FREAKING good.

Convoy (1978):
Kris Kristofferson is one of the coolest dudes to ever grace the silver screen. His mere presence in a movie is enough to get me excited for a viewing. He has a charisma that oozes off the screen, and that charisma smells like diesel. Convoy is a road/action movie, consisting of a ridiculous battle between cops and truckers. When the main cop is played by Ernest Borgnine, you know you have some something special. I can’t say this is a good movie, not even particularly exciting. What makes this special is that old Joel T standby: Character. If you were to compare the roles in this movie with any modern action movie, you would see the depth of Convoy’s characters. I can’t tell you anything about Shia LeBouf’s character in any of the Transformers movies, but I can tell you about the Rubber Duck’s ex-wife and kids, his motivations for running, his devotion to friendships made on the road, etc. That makes Convoy special, and everything else is at least entertaining for the most part. Would I watch it again? No, probably not. Am I glad I watched it? Totally.

The Way, Way Back (2013):
The Way, Way Back is an 80’s period piece coming-of-age tale, about a young man who is being pummeled with too much change, as all teenagers are at different points in their lives. What’s that? What do you mean it’s not an 80’s movie? Well, yes, I know there was an iPod and a cell phone at one point, but Pac-Man and REO Speedwagon and Station Wagons? Come on. Ok, it turns out that the movie was originally intended to be a period piece, but the budget wouldn’t allow for that, so they changed it to take place in modern times, SLIGHTLY. I don’t usually like coming-of-age movies, because Hollywood has a formula and they like to pump those suckers out, but this movie is better than those even if it does fall into some of the trappings. For the most part, unrealistic characters were left out of the movie, usually inserted for comedy relief. Of course, watch the movie and you’ll see Allison Janney and Jim Rash hamming it up, so it does not escape the troupe completely. Sam Rockwell is amazing, but he usually is. The young actors are not annoying, and that’s all I ask from young actors. The music is good, but it falls into the problem where the queuing up certain tracks is used emphasize certain scenes in the movie. Not just emphasize, but force the viewer into feeling. A particular part that annoyed me was when young Duncan first comes upon the water park, a song proclaims “Is this coincidence or connection?” UNNECCESARY. You need to win the audience over with your script, not force their emotions by pumping out the mood music. I got a lot of laughs out of the film on the whole. It’s a first time film for directors Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, so I am excited for further works from them. As a last note, Steve Carell plays a total asshole in this movie, and he does a fantastic job.

I am tired. This was a pretty good week. I hope you liked what you read. If you have any movie suggestions or things you want me to talk about, please drop me a line on Twitter or Facebook, or right here on the blog. I will leave you with one finally bit. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

February Week 1: The Odd Post of Timothy Green

This was a week of pretty relaxing fair. I rewatched more movies than I have in a long time. It's not that I don't like to rewatch movies, I just have so much catching up to do! I love having that insurmountable task always bearing down on me. I can never be bored as long as movies are being made.

Films Watched:
Short Term 12
Shakespeare in Love
The Importance of Being Earnest
In the House

Short Term 12 (2013):

There’s something special about Short Term 12, and I can only narrow it down to the way it kept defying my expectations. Not in a “what a twist!” kind of way, but something milder, more subtle. I have no experience with group homes or parents that are terrible, but I felt a connection to each protagonist in the movie as if I knew them personally. That alone is wonderful. Every turn in the story, every character development had me going “Huh. I like that they went that way.” I’m sure some people saw a bunch of the story coming, but I wasn’t really looking that hard for imperfection, just enjoying the ride on one of the most critically acclaimed movies of last year. The movie is funny and sad, heartwarming in a way that most dramedies seem firmly aimed at while this movie just coasted its way into the zone. It is 100% a good movie. I would say great, but I want a rewatch before I decide that.

Obsession (1949):
Thrillers, man. I can’t get enough of them. A good thriller is the same for me as a great standup comedy special. You sit back, you take the ride, and when it’s over you are left smiling. And thinking, of course, it has to leave you with something to ponder. Obsession (or The Hidden Room, which I think is a much better title) starts off all prim and proper, slow burning to who knows where. I don’t remember if Dial M for Murder was a play before this movie came out, but in any case these 2 productions have a lot in common. You see, murder is not about passion, not if you want it done right. No, a thinker very carefully considers all his or her options, weighs pros and cons and the like, and then only after a plan has been meticulously scrutinized and worked to the very last point may it begin to take place. Where I found the film version of Dial M for Murder rather boring, Obsession picked up after its initial confrontation scene in a direction I couldn’t predict. You take a little mad science, add a dash of Columbo, and of course a cute puppy, and we have a winner. One of my favorite little tidbits in the movie was a scene where in order to show the passage of time, the protagonist picks up a blank crossword puzzle, which fades into a completed crossword. Pretty cool. I recommend this title if you want a nice little thriller. It can be found on Hulu.

Shakespeare in Love (1998):
Back in the day when I saw this movie in the theater I didn’t know shit about movies. What I saw was a pretty period piece with witty dialogue and a slightly cheesy love story, but it could have been worse. Now I know about Oscar bait. Now I know about the actual time period and the mysterious man called Shakespeare. Now I know these actors up and down like I was each of their agents. So this time around I got to nitpick where I wanted to, and you know what? The movie isn’t that bad. You get yourself a loud enough score, some bombastic feel good moments, and a lot of costuming and scenery changes and most of the time now days, you’ve lost me, but not here. I was not entirely charmed by the dialogue, but I did find it amusing for the most part. Gwyneth Paltrow pretending to be English, Judi Dench pretending to be English, Sandra Bernhard, not in this movie. I just like typing Sandra Bernhard. And I guess Judi Dench is actually the most English woman alive, which is why they always cast her. What I’m saying is I don’t hate this movie, even if it kept coming right to the edge of my patience for what I expect from Oscar bait. I think the only reason I liked the recently review Memoirs of a Geisha better is because I had not seen it before, and I had seen this at least 4 times before. You’ve heard the phrase “Familiarity breeds contempt?” I believe that only to be true when the familiar is flawed in a way that eventually cannot be overlooked.

The Importance of Being Earnest (2002):
These are the kinds of movies that Sarah and I watch when we want to relax. Something not heavy, playful and fun, with at least an appearance by Tom Wilkinson or Rupert Everett. The Importance of Being Earnest is 100% delight. The amount of fun being had by the cast is actually reflected on the screen, with snarky, charming characters created by Oscar Wilde portrayed by what I can only assume are the ideal actors for each of their roles. Hell, even Reese Witherspoon playing British didn’t bother me. You know that’s crazy right there. Film may contain far amounts mistaken identity, fairy tale fantasies, adorable old people, and Judi Dench. Again. It’s just a good time all around. I wish Rupert Everett and Colin Firth were my friends in real life. Those dudes seem pretty cool. We could totally play Cards Against Humanity and have a roaring good time.

In the House (2012):
To call this a thriller almost feels misleading, but there is not really another way to put it. It is a thriller, because you don’t and can’t tell where the story may be going. Imagine yourself in the main character’s situation, Monsieur Germain Germain, reading a story by one of your students and becoming helpless in your desire to see where it goes. Would you make the same decisions he did, endangering your career and your reputation? Like him is you self-worth questionable and therefore a worthy sacrifice in pursuit of something special and unique. If you had a student with an undeniable talent, bursting with potential, how far would you go to encourage him or her? These are the kinds of questions I long for in a good thriller, and In The House being as superbly crafted as it is, held up to my demands even after a second viewing. It’s well paced sense of humor and mystery is kind of spectacular, and I can’t really think of a movie to compare it to. Maybe the movie Swimming Pool by the same director, Francois Ozon. Swimming Pool is sometimes too silly for my taste though, where as In the House finds its sweet spot early on, and sticks with it the entire way. I will say that after my first watch, I found the ending to be a little out of left field, but after my second I figured out that I had just missed a few pieces that all came together in the end to fit in this almost perfect, beautiful crafted feature.

Only one Criterion feature this week. I'll get back at that next week, once again assuming I'm not running around to job interviews and such. I much prefer the prospect of having money though. How was your week and what did you watch? Drop me a line on facebook or here on the blog. @jdtmovies on twitter. Thanks for reading this week! You guys are the bomb.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

January Week 5: Postbusters

What a week, what a week. I told you I was going to be watching some depressing cinema, but I did not expect it to carry over into my life. I had a job opportunity go to the wayside and I admit I had too much of my hopes stacked behind it. So when it disappeared, most of those hopes had nothing holding them up. I'm doing better now. Had 2 interviews since that happened, so things are actually looking up again. Phillip Seymour Hoffman's death also hit me kind of hard. I mean, how is he going to continue making fantastic movies when he's dead? So sad. I hope everyone else's week has been going well. What about that Superbowl huh? I heard the birds beat the horses or something like that. I didn't even get to watch the movie trailers, I was too busy playing cards and eating snacks. Anywho, it's February, which means it is time to move on from the January film project. I did pretty good considering the amount of movies I had on the list, 29 out of 44 titles. Most of the titles I missed out on were from the Great Cinema collection, so those aren't going anywhere anyway. February's project is substantially smaller , so I should be able to breeze through it. If you have any movie recommendations, please drop me a line on either twitter or facebook. I would love to get some suggestions.

Films Watched:
Who's that Knocking at my Door
Roger Dodger
I've Loved You So Long
My Fair Lady
Pride & Prejudice
Brokeback Mountain
All That Jazz
Grave of the Fireflies

Who’s that Knocking at my Door (1968):

After my experience and reaction to Wolf of Wall Street, my friend Jose and I thought it would be interesting to go through the Scorsese directed library, excluding shorts and documentaries. I don’t know how often a first full length feature comes out as something a director could be proud of, but this is one of them. Who’s that Knocking at my Door wears its influences right on its sleeve, flaunting the French New Wave style around like it was a second skin. Black and white, dialogue heavy (although sometimes indecipherable, I don’t speak Goomba), out of sequence scenes, good good stuff. This was in no way a perfect movie, but it was up there, 4 out of 5, B+, that good. I am really looking forward to the rest of the journey down Scorsese lane. I hear Goodfellas is pretty good.

Roger Dodger (2002):
This movie was acquired during the fall of one of the major chains of video stores. Hollywood Video, we hardly knew thee. Roger Dodger had been touted as a fine film on Filmspotting, the best film podcast in my opinion. I figured it wouldn’t hurt as a blind buy for 3 bucks. Unfortunately I can’t say I am a fan of this movie. Campbell Scott’s character is just a gross old man pretending that he understands what women want and laying his wisdom down for Jesse Eisenberg. He’s probably the same age I am actually; maybe I’m a gross old man. This was filmed during the time where realisism meant shaky cam, and whenever the poor camera man with Parkinson’s they hired got to calm down and use a tripod I thanked the high heavens. There were some pretty cool and creative shots though. The characters would be talking to someone or listening to someone talk and suddenly we would get a close-up on their hand fiddling with a napkin, or their lips slightly curving into a smirk. I liked that, it gave the characters a touch of real that was actually sexy at times. And the movie is almost all about sex, so sexy should be a factor on occasion. Get rid of Campbell Scott’s character, you have my interest. I could watch attractive women listening to Jesse Eisenberg stumble through come-ons and genuine moments all day. One last note: Teaching a kid that smoking is cool: Not cool, never cool.

 I’ve Loved You So Long (2008):
I was very much into this French movie, which was another acquisition from the previously mentioned Hollywood Video. It was nicely paced, great dialogue and the characters were as real as I could want. Kristen Scott Thomas does a brilliant job portraying a woman rejoining society and her family after a long stint in prison. She keeps her emotion stuffed down below the surface, completely unsure of what dangers and pratfalls will befall her due to the nature of her crime and the alienation from her family. And as time in the movie progresses, you watch her begin to warm up, smile more often, and eventually have conversations like any other person would. It really is quite a remarkable transformation. Her performance is the best part of the movie. Where the movie lost me was in the 3rd act. We know Thomas’ character was in prison for killing a child and we know her family disowned her for the most part. With the way her character evolved, I thought it would have worked perfectly well if we never found out why she did what she did. For some reason though, the makers of the movie decided that we needed to see she wasn’t just a cold hearted murderer, even though I am pretty sure anyone watching to that point would have already been firmly on her side. Someone thought, we've seen her be emotional to a point, but what we really need is a BIG confrontation and then it’ll be a twist! Ooooo. A mistake. I still quite enjoyed the movie despite that bit of failure.

My Fair Lady (1964):
One of the themes of my movie watching this week seems to have been movies featuring main characters that are unlikable assholes. Henry Higgins is a total dink. This wouldn’t be such a big deal, except at the end of the movie we are supposed to feel bad for him because Eliza has left and might never come back and he’s sad. He’s a huge dick head! Eliza should find someone else to chill with. Ok, that’s my plot complaint. Let me see what else I’ve got. I like some of the staging for the movie, but a lot of these big musicals put to screen have the problem of not mixing up the staging at all. If this had been the stage production, it would make perfect sense to feature long scenes in large rooms without a lot of movement. But the medium of film is all about motion and so many of the scenes come off as stale. Let’s examine the horse derby scene. During the opening number many of the people on scene are moving around holding their heads high and missing running into each other, showing how prim and organized high society is. The cinematographer for some reason thought that singling out 2 or 3 individuals at a time and having them move was a better idea than watching all the movements play out simultaneously, where no doubt on a stage it is choreographed down to beautiful swimming-like movements. Instead the whole scene felt awkward and stilted. I think my favorite part of the movie were the extras, who did their best to look like a bunch of free loading goobers. Fat lady laughing from the upstairs window, I salute you. I also enjoyed all the homosexual under(over?)tones throughout the film, but I’ve been told I may be seeing things that aren’t there. All I know is that if I sang a song about how women would be better if they were more like men, I’d get some cocked eyebrow looks.

Pride & Prejudice (2005):
I did not like what I saw but I got what I expected. Sarah warned me that this movie wasn't any good, but I had a little hope that it might show some merit for its existence. After all, it’s in our collection, so there must be something to like right? Unfortunately, I think attachment to the material is its only reason for its place on our shelf. The vitriolic language spewing from my mouth in the first 10 minutes of the movie would have made Ron Jeremy blush, as I found myself being rushed through one of my favorite stories, finding no nuance or poise. I can say that I enjoyed many aspects of the set design and the cinematography, but the costuming was too hip for my taste.  This was a slam bash version of Pride and Prejudice that someone in Hollywood knew they needed in order to keep their pocketbooks firmly lined with cash, and they got their cash cow didn't they? What’s that? There’s a cantankerous older British woman role? GET JUDI DENCH ON THE PHONE! I felt bad watching how bored Donald Sutherland looked. Perhaps he was directed to be an unexcitable old man, but as far as I could tell he was in it for the pay check. And since this is an early role for Ms. Keira Knightly, I will excuse her lack of nuance, but I still hold out hope that one day she will learn that leaving your mouth open is not the same thing as acting. What a showboaty piece of trash this movie was. 

Brokeback Mountain (2005):
I like sheep. You put a bunch of sheep at the beginning of your movie, chances are you have already won me over into a 3 star review. They are so cute and wooly! This film also had the raw performance power of Heath Ledger in it, and he was absolutely the star. His quiet and downtrodden cowboy had so much soul, mere words cannot do it justice. I can’t say Jake Gyllenhaal clicked the same way for me. I think he did a perfectly passable job, but his performance was in no way as transcendent as Ledger’s. Despite my praises, I still don’t think this movie had the impact on me it would have had 8 years ago when it came out. I enjoyed the scenic vistas and the quiet moments between friends, but I didn’t finish the movie feeling like I had just witnessed a masterpiece. Brokeback Mountain may just be too much of a cultural icon for me to look past right now. When I told a friend I watched it for the first time, I immediately got asked about anal sex and my opinion of the movie’s portrayal. Fact is, I didn’t think the sex was particularly graphic, and I had been told to expect feeling uncomfortable. I have seen much worse things on screen than the very short scene of love making in this movie. Misconceptions aside, this is a well-paced and well-acted movie. You can’t ask for much more.

All That Jazz (1979):
I know what you’re thinking. The movie is called All That Jazz right? How good could it be? Holy guacamole this movie is something else. Roy Scheider is quickly becoming one of my all-time favorite actors, and this film firmly cements him in the top 10. Playing a man overworking, oversexing, literally working himself towards a heart attack; the chaos of his life manages to seem all over the place crazy while also having a psychotic order maintained only by his desire to maintain being something, somewhere, someone. The review for this movie could just read sex sex sex sex sex sex sex, as that really does seem to be the central theme to Scheider’s character, through dancing and talking and just, being. The movie contains so much raw energy and you watch as it is forced through the grinder, producing an over the top spectacle which is efficiently and seemingly effortlessly translated to pure, delightful cinema. I can already tell this is a movie I am going to be adding to my Movies Watched 10+ Times list eventually. I hate to use some many buzzy tag line sentences, but the experience really was overwhelming.

Grave of the Fireflies (1988):
The fact of the matter with this review is, I’ve been struggling to put my feelings about this movie into words. And I can’t. It is heartbreak incarnate. It is one of the saddest films I have ever seen, and on a week like I had, it was twice as potent as it should have been. As a Studio Ghibli film I can’t say I was particularly blown away by the animation, but the storyline more than makes up for that. Sad sad sad.

I know, I know. That last review is a bit of a cop-out. You go watch that movie and try to be pithy about it. I am off to movie watching land now, know as the living room. I'll see you all in a few days. Thank you so much for reading.