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Films, television, videos, or other visual media that's currently caught my eye ...

Friday, March 05, 2010

Alice in Wonderland (3D)

I saw Alice in Wonderland in 3D at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin today. If you haven't seen the film, and want to avoid spoilers, you may want to wait to read this until after you've seen the film the first time, and before you see it the second.

I was impressed with the film's visual style, acting, and -- most of all -- characterization. There are "people" in this film in the most unexpected places. Be sure to watch the dormouse (Barbara Windsor), and listen to the bloodhound, Bayard (Timothy Spall) for some of the more important statements in the film. They are not throw-away.

Of course, it's a Tim Burton film, so of course is it has acting from Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and music from Danny Elfman. And of course they are brilliant (if you like each of them -- which I do -- and I seem to have blessedly moved past my "I'm done with owning everything Danny Elfman phase"), but the film has a panache, an inpretentious importance, and a kind of fantasy fun.

And the film is fun, and strikes a weird balance between importance and diversion. The denouement is soulful, Anne Hathaway's meta-commentary performance on being royalty is subtle brilliance (and not heavy handed), the climax is rallying, and the fallout feels "right".

It's a movie that could be about fighting fatalism, more than a bit about accountability, and a great take on "what could have been", and "what is".

Your mileage may vary.


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Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Book of Eli

(I'm going to be as vague as I can with any details on this film, but it's hard not to say anything without treading into *spoiler* territory. You have been warned.)

I had no expectations for The Book of Eli, other than I wanted to see it because it starred Denzel Washington, had Gary Oldman, looked to have striking visuals, and was from the guys behind Dead Presidents and Menace II Society.

In essence, the film is an different take on a missionary journey in a post-apocalyptic world. Washington portrays Eli, a drifter (a "walker") with a holy purpose, who is at cross purposes with a barren world; a struggling, devolved society; and the intent of his own mission.

The movie is tough. While not particularly gory, it is at times brutal, and briefly visually (and less briefly, thematically) unsettling.

Eli is front and center in the film, but shares time with the town baron he battles (portrayed by Oldman), a tag-a-long foil (Mila Kunis), the underrated Ray Stevenson (Oldman's lieutenant), and even a pleasant surprise performance from Tom Waits.

The cast is solid, with my only criticism being a meta one for Kunis (would someone that attractive really exist in a post-apocalyptic brothel?).

I'm surprised the film hasn't spun up more controversy on both sides (but maybe I'm just not paying attention). It has the potential to make Judeo-Christians uncomfortable with its portrayal of their faith, and the anti-religious expecting the non-religious post-apocalyptic film it's being marketed as irritated at the content (one couple did walk out muttering during my viewing of the film).

It's a worthwhile film I strongly recommend, if for no other reason than the discussions it could possibly engender (the top-notch acting and cinematography are extra perks).

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Sunday, January 10, 2010


I caught a matinee of Daybreakers yesterday at the Alamo Drafthouse Village (avoid the brunch scones), and find it a good, worthwhile film.

It's a newish take on vampire lore (not unique to the film, but not as tired as a lot of genre conceits), stylish and at times gritty, and it did a good job of sucking me in (ahem).

The basic premise is that it's the future, vampires are the dominant population, and humans are facing extinction as they're farmed or hunted for blood. But blood's running out, and unless a substitute is found, vampires face their own extinction as they devolve into brainless animals.

Vampire fandom aside, I'd watch Ethan Hawke or Willem Dafoe just sit and drink coffee, so I was likely to enjoy this movie just because of them. The hard-working Claudia Karvan makes a great muted romantic foil, and I appreciate that she's strong and sexy without being overbearing or slutty (both in-character and in the film).

Despite my enjoying the film, I do have to say it is amazingly uneven -- on pretty much every front (other than the acting, with the possible exception of Sam Neill, who plays up the whole "evil corporate entity"" role way too stereotypically).

By "uneven", I mean from the pacing to the focus on the mythos to the cinematography to the dialog.

Pacing ranged from staid and thoughtful to frantic and music video-like. The film didn't feel like it knew what to do with the mythos -- here was this great take on a modern vampire utopia, complete with the mundane versions of non-vampire living (commuting, getting coffee, etc.), that was at first set up and explored, and then thrown out to focus on serial happenings.

Ironically, this caused the film to lose a bit of its humanity, as it bulleted through plot points, at the expense of the relationships and exploring the societal impacts of this whole system.

The shooting is great, though there are some marquee moments in the film I found jarring, because you can almost see someone working hard to pose the actors and setup the shot, for the sake of it looking "bad-ass", at the expense of authenticity (and frankly, I almost laughed out load when I saw them).

At the same time, there are some great nods to traditional vampire tropes (staking, etc.) that are put in in surprising, fun, and non-obtrusive ways.

Overall, a worthwhile flick, at times unnecessarily gratuitous, but, overall, a good movie to add to your queue.

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Tropic Thunder

I had not scene Tropic Thunder. Last night, I fixed that.

It's easy to dismiss films of this genre as low-brow tripe -- and that's partially the fault of how it was marketed -- but it's a good film with solid (and at points amazing) acting.

The cast includes Jack Black, Ben Stiller, Steve Coogan, Bill Hader (SNL), Nick Nolte, Christine Taylor, Robert Downey Jr., and Tom Cruise -- the latter two of which put forth amazing, unexpected character roles. I recognized these two in the role, but a surprising number of people don't.

And for those folks that are in the biz, I think you'll enjoy all of the in-jokes and industry self-effacement.

Lotta fun, lotta great real-world (limited CGI) war effects, and fun DVD "special features".

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Thursday, October 08, 2009


So, every once in a while, I watch a move, read a book, play a game, or shoot a film that makes me very, very happy.

Zombieland did that to me tonight.

In the game space, we talk about "Triple-A" games, where the sum total of the experience is stellar, even if there are minor miss-steps in some of components (graphics, gameplay, design, hook, basics, etc.). And a really amazing AAA game wouldn't have any miss-steps.

Zombieland is amazing triple-A.

I don't want to spoil the movie, but there are zombies. Lots of them. Filling the land. Creating a zombie land.

And the various trailers do a good job of showing the film for what it is -- a survival horror comedy film.

But not flick, which is why I'm glad it falls outside of the summer throwaway popcorn diversions, but before the slasher shocktaculars of this Halloween.

And not the stuff underneath that multi-genre classification.

Firing on all cylinders, Zombieland is fun, funny, horrific, heartfelt, and polished -- not an easy combo, by any stretch -- and it doesn't fall into the tropes that horror films can fall into (cartoonish titillation, overly cheap startles, etc.).

From the overall gimmick to the VO narrative to the text special effects, the movie's a treat.

The one thing that I thought was a miss-step -- overdone gruesomeness in the first act of the film -- is actually a factor of production and narrative. First, gory, detailed effects are expensive -- use them early to get the affect you want, then cheat them later. Second (and more importantly), even though this is a comedy survival horror film, it's a survival horror film. The audience needs to get that this situation is bad, and not "pristine - get - shot - by - stormtroopers - with - lasers" bad. It's messy, gory, scary bad. Done and done.

OK. No more. See the film. If you're of age. And not overly squeamish.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Just finished X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

I'm a comic book fan. Look, I know you need to make changes to adapt IP from one medium to another, but why these changes? Not all of them felt necessary or additive.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Inglourious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino pulled off a(nother) good one.

I need to write more, but I'll wait until the film's had its run for a while, and see if I come back to it. Don't want to spoil it for anyone.


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Saturday, August 22, 2009

District 9

I've been looking forward to District 9 for a long time.

Helmed by director Neill Blomkamp, and produced by Peter Jackson, District 9 9 is the big-screen realization of South African independent director Blomkamp's Alive in Joberg.

I've watch Blompkamp for a little while now (though most people seem to know him as the Halo insterstitials director), and I am so stoked his short film has gotten big-screen commmercial play.

The film is pretty true to original, with the budget to do the stuff Blomkamp wasn't able to do before. This is one of his strengths -- despite being a wunderkind storyteller / director / visual effects wizard trapped in a mortal body, and despite being able to pull off effects he has no right to pull off without a budget -- he doesn't try to show what he shouldn't show.

Lesson to folks making films: Take a page from Mr. Blomkamp. Too many films fall over because they're trying to show something they're not equipped to show -- actors who can't get their emotionally, special effects that don't come together, too obviously cheated locations that rob the moment of import, etc.

I don't want to say a bunch about the movie, because I don't want to give stuff away, and if you don't know about the movie, going in fresh will be a ton of fun.

Be warned -- this is not a "popcorn summer movie". This is a sci-fi genre film that's not about the sci-fi; that's just set dressing for the important stuff. And it's pretty important stuff.

Oh, and while not a comedic movie by any means, the documentary trope gives some great moments, and there's a particular funny moment I found funnier -- and have put that item at the bottom of this post, so as not to spoil it for those purists among you.

Sharlto Copley is stunning in the lead role, and keep in mind, his only two acting credits are District 9 and the original Alive in Joburg. It's the kind of acting to which I aspire.

While the film was great, and did a great job of holding onto original vision while being commercially accessible, it was a bit heavy-handed at the very end. Uncharacteristically so. Kind of like, "Wow, that's kind of ... hey, wait, oh, now it's obvious, and I was already there!"

For now, here's the Alive in Joberg precursor film (but checkout for the high-quality version with far far superior sound).

Now, if only they would give me a Tetra Vaal film; or even Tempbot:

Spoiler(ish) from District 9: A sci-fi weapon trope is the gravity gun ("grav gun"). There's a brief, not overdone moment where a grav gun is used to unexpectedly grab and launch a large pig, killing a man. It's wicked fast, slickly executed, and not telegraphed.

Now let me ruin it for you.

The man was killed because ... (wait for it) swine flew ...

(It's hilarious! It's topical! I slay me!)

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Saturday, July 18, 2009


Saw Brüno last night.

Too-short summary: More gratuitous than Borat, with less plot.


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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Hangover

I went to see The Hangover as a throw-away evening, and was pleasantly surprised.

The movie was funny, fairly intact on the narrative side, and had some laugh-out-loud moments.

My only criticism is that while good, actors Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, and Rob Riggle didn't feel like they were acting that much -- or at least acting out of the type they've nailed very well. Maybe Helms was.

The same may be true for Bradley Cooper, but I'm sadly not familiar with him. I do now want to catch up on more of his stuff (and am now looking forward to his role in the A-Team reboot), thanks to this film.


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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Prince Caspian (Blu-ray)

I finally got around to watching Prince Caspian on Blu-ray last night.

The film does well, even if it isn't the emotional powerhouse of the first Narnia film (nor the commercial one, grossing roughly half of its predecessor's box office earnings).

Caspian is a tougher book with which to follow The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but arguably a needed setup for following films.

Titular hero Ben Barnes does a solid job (though his accent seems a bit inconsistent in the more emotional moments), and I hope to see more of him in the follow-up film, and in other projects.

And while Warwick Davis will always be Willow to me (and Wicket), I'm impressed with the amount of work he does, how hard he works, and his diversity in roles (and people probably don't remember his previous tie to the 1980s TV incarnation Narnia franchise).

I'd really like to see more of Anna Popplewell (who portrays Susan Pevensie, and has an absolutely stunning on-screen presence), and William Moseley (High King Peter Pevensie). Though given the nature of the Narnia storyline, this will have to be via other film vehicles.

Long-time actor (and first-time villain) Sergio Castellitto makes a convincing baddy, with the boudoir scene being his most powerful.

I thought Pierfrancesco Favino (General Glozelle) was ridiculously underutilized in the film, and now I'm going to have to run out and grab a few of his French films to see if I'm right.

The next film in the series is allegedly The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which will make (I think) for a far better film than Caspian (think Jason and the Argonauts(ish), which could be tough, given that film's possible relaunch in the same 2010 year as Dawn Treader).

Again, Caspian is a great film, the Blu-ray transfer is solid, and I hope more people will start liking or disliking the Narnia films based on their own merits (and those of the talent), without liking / hating them just because they're pro- or anti-christian.


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Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Dark Knight

It's been too long since I've posted a micro review of anything on the visual front, but Christopher Nolan's revisited take on Batman has been rattling around my head since opening night, and I need to jot down a few thoughts.

My opinion? Not to overstate it, but The Dark Knight is arguably not only the best comic book movie to date, but one of the best movie movies to date.

Nolan takes -- and deconstructs -- the comic book genre more than he did with Batman Begins, showcasing an appropriately gritty, costly version of the genre's tropes.

The Dark Knight is alternately a heist movie, a mass serial killer film, a psychologically thriller, a morality play, and -- while it might even be a comic book flick -- it's thankfully not a tights flick.

What makes it good?

Well, there's story; the brilliant, wave-upon-wave story from the Nolans (Chris and Jonathan) and David S. Goyer, making the nearly 3 hours fly by in an exhausting rush. "Wave-upon-wave", because there are at least three instances where it feels the film could be escalating to its climax, only to build on that moment and ratchet the intensity up, yet again. There are sub-plots that don't get lost amidst the movie's spine. And, unlike Spider-Man 3, all of the baddies showing up in this film don't get lost amidst each other. And there's the whole genre diversity thing I mentioned earlier.

More important to me, I'm a fan of those too-few films showing "The Clean Win is a Lie."

The short version is this: Big stuff, important stuff, comes at a cost.

There's a truism that says if I say "yes" to something, I'm saying "no" to something else. It follows that the bigger the yes, the bigger the no. The bigger the stuff, the bigger the cost.

There are people who are heroes, and they make sacrifices. So, it likewise follows that if there were a world with super heroes, they make would super-sacrifices.

The Dark Knight showcases this better than most films (independent of genre).

And, of course, there's the acting.

Christian Bale, the already beyond ridiculously inspirational actor who woke the world up in American Psycho, delivered an emotionally brutal performance in El Maquinista, has had five films released between Begins and The Dark Knight.

Then there's Gary Oldman, who's bringing depth and cost to Batman's Gordon, and Michael Caine, who makes Alfred more than just a comedic button.

Morgan Freeman, who could read a phone book and keep me rapt, far from faxes in his performance as the additive cast member Lucius Fox, Wayne's confidant and tech supplier.

Aaron Eckhart, D.A. and more, with a storied career of his own, has perhaps his defining moments within this film. Gripping and tragic.

And that brings us to the greatest and most tragic part of film.

Heath Ledger redefines the Joker, bringing the insane, Alan Moore / The Killing Joke brutality of the Crown Prince of Anarchy to the big screen (Cesar Romero this is not). Ledger also pulls off the not-insignificant feat of bringing character acting to a marquee role. The mannerisms and idiosyncrasies are distinctly what he brings to his portrayal of the Joker. With all due respect to Jack Nicholson, this is the Joker, and Ledger's performance will either keep everyone away from ever touching the role, or elevate it as the role to beat, and provides a tragic exclamation point to the senselessness of Ledger's death.

So, yeah, I like the film, and not just because of the genre -- but because it's a a great film, and a fantastic vehicle for a bunch of talent in front of and behind the camera.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007


On one hand, I'm at a loss as to what to write about Beowulf, the recent all-CGI film from Robert Zemeckis. But that's not going to stop me from figuring out what to say on the fly.

But before I over think it (and take you with me), I genuinely enjoyed it. Overall.

And I think it's important for the film to do well.

The film is based on the Old English epic poem (author unknown) created sometime between the 8th and the 11th century.


At least it follows the framework of titular hero Beowulf fighting Grendel, Grendel's mommy, and a dragon. And it's well-extended by writers Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary, the former of whom I'm a big fan.

Why's the film important to me?

Because it's pushing technology in a big way to further narrative.

Beowulf is the next foray in "performance capture", the evoluton of "motion capture", technology used to capture realistic movement and translate it to animation. Unlike the coarse-grain capture of MoCap technology, performance capture aims to catch the nuanced movement of film acting. And it aims to put quality acting back into animated films -- not replace the actors (an active agenda of some film makers).

Zemeckis, James Cameron, and Steven Spielberg are all working on their versions of performance capture technology. A film like Beowulf is gutsy, because it pushes technology when it may not be received well commercially. Think about how Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within tanked at the box office, caused the shut down of that studio, and set back CGI-only development for arguably 5 years. (By the way, I actually like The Spirits Within.)

Beowulf is probably a more accessible mass market offering (no Japanese animist philosophy), and it is pretty well done, though there are some miss-steps (let's just say, "Naked fighting is laughable", and go from there).

And the production qualtiy is a bit uneven. I saw the film opening night on IMAX 3D. And while it's probably true the film was "designed with IMAX in mind", it wasn't designed exclusively for IMAX; so it does a bad job of violating some of the IMAX rules (no quick pans), and some of the 3D implementation is gimmicky ("Throw the coins at the audience!"), rather than servicing the film, and ends up getting in the way of the film.

You can also see (as in a lot of animated films or video games), more time was spent in some places than others (Angelina Jolie is lovingly crafted; but I thought some of the king's tarts look a little Shrekish). That said, there is some amazing detail (Beowulf as Geatly appropriate nose hair), and some of the fine grain movements -- emotions in and around eyes, the layers of fluid in the eyes, etc. -- are incredibly well done.

All told, I found this to be an enjoyable film, with some good narrative devices and some deeper themes (with some possibly unfortunate agendas).

I plan on seeing Beowulf again, but on the traditional screen, to see if it translates even better. And to see if the naked fighting is any less distracting.


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Monday, October 22, 2007

30 Days of Night

I caught the first showing of 30 Days of Night last week, the vampire flick based on the Steve Niles comic books from IDW Publishing.

Like the comic, this is solidly mature fare -- and really well-executed.

Great tone, scenes, and characters make the translation from the source material.

Writers Niles, Stuart Beattie (Collateral), and Brian Nelson ("Earth: Final Conflict") turned out a solid script, and music video director David Slade turns out a tightly shot horror flick that feels more substantial than Underworld (a horror flick that feels like a music video; and I like that film).

Josh Hartnett surprised me in this role -- the guy is connected and authentically emotive, and fun to watch. Ben Foster is an actor's actor in this film, having gone from chisel-buffed, clean-shaven, squeaky clean Angel in X-Men: The Last Stand to the dirty, creepy, Cajun-infused and Renfield-like "The Stranger" in 30 Days of Night. Very impressive.

I also liked Mark Boone Junior, one of those constantly hard-working actors you see and go, "Oh, I know that face."

The vampires in the film are less fleshed out than the series, but Danny Huston and newcomer Megan Franich are stellar as the iconic vampires from the print run.

On the technical side, I need to watch the film again, but there were some weird interactions that felt like they were cheated way too much toward the camera than to the onscreen conversant. I noticed this in at least two Hartnett scenes, and maybe more.

On the content side, this is rough stuff. And while I like the trueness of the translation of the books to film, I am concerned that more and more of the rules of horror films (no harm to children and animals) are being violated. Not sure what that means on the slippery slope front.

Be that as it may, if you're not the queasy side and you like good vampire flicks (it's been dry for a while), I highly recommend 30 Days of Night.

And if you're not familiar with the book series, I envy the newness of the franchise for you.

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Shoot 'Em Up

I caught the local matinee premiere of Shoot 'Em Up yesterday, New Line's latest vehicle for Clive Owen.

The good is it's actually a great vehicle for Paul Giamatti, who does a phenomenal job as the hitman linchpin who's the foil (and provides the manpower fodder), for Owen's constant bang bang shenanigans. Giamatti is one of my character actor heroes, and I put him up there with John C. Reilly, and William H. Macy, Pepe Serna, and Joan Cusack -- hard- (and constantly) working, amazingly talented character actors.

So, see the film for Giamatti. The other stuff, notably "Owen's constant bang bang shenanigans" -- isn't there.

The film's short. So short (120 minutes), and so hyped, that it's supposed to be about non-stop action. The brakes are put on repeatedly for heavy plot exposition and (worse) heavy-handed political statements about gun control and parental correction. The ironic juxtaposition is nice, though.

The film is over the top. But not in the fun/ridiculous way I was expecting. It felt gratuitous for gratuitous sake.

Worth seeing? For me, for Giamatti, yes. But Owen and Monica Bellucci have better stuff out there.

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Friday, August 24, 2007


I watched War at its local premier today, and to be honest, I liked it. It's more Hard-Boiled than The Transporter, and kudos for them trying a bunch of things in the film.

It's a plot-heavy film, and any time you try to mix Chinese Triads and Japanese Yakuza -- and genuinely try to get it right -- you're taking on a lot.

There's also a bunch of interpersonal stuff the film works pretty hard to flesh out, which gives those relationships a sense of depth -- not much, but more than I would expect for a shoot -em up, and I appreciate it.

There's a twist I didn't see coming. I'm still playing with how believable I think it is, but I'm good with it right now.

Devon Aoki makes a relatively brief appearance as Kira, and does more than she did in Dead or Alive (DOA).

And I should preface any criticism of the film with the fact that -- at least from the IMDb entry -- it appears this is an effort from a bunch of first timers (writers Lee Anthony Smith and Gregory J. Bradley, and director Philip G. Atwell, at least as far as a theatrical foray goes). This is a great "first attempt". Of course Producers, Cinematography (Pierre Morel), Production Design (Chris August), and the Editorial Department are not first-timers, so that helps immensely.

But like I said, the film is plot-heavy, and it's story- and action-light.

I'm glad I got to see Aoki do more. But I would have like to see leads Jet Li and Jason Statham do more. Jet Li gets a better chance to show his acting chops in Unleashed (Danny the Dog) , and I enjoyed Jason Statham more in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

And where the plot was thick, there were way too many "tell, don't show" moments where some dialog put the brakes on forward motion so we could bridge a couple of happenings, or get some back story. Dead giveaway that something else needs fixing.All that said, it's an enjoyable couple of hours, and I recommend it.

As far as other good stuff, there are some fun cinematography techniques in the film. I particularly enjoyed the one particular pan from location to location, and from day to night. They pulled it off well.

The audio's great, too. On the music side, there's a neat little bridge from what I think is a Yangqin or Guqin (could be a Pipa) to a more modern, rocking musical rendition. It's well done, with the traditional music continuing to flow underneath in a cool way. Just way too brief.

And Saul Rubinek rocks.

As far as meta-criticism, I wish they'd stop breaking rules. Like the "don't kill kids and pets" rules. There are those that tell me those are outmoded restrictions. But I wonder what the slippery slope is.

Finishing on a positive note, I think this is the first time I've been aware of all of the trailers shown before the movie are for films for which I'm sooo excited: 3:10 to Yuma; 30 Days of Night; Hitman, Shoot 'Em Up; The Dark Knight; Good Luck, Chuck (the last just because I want to see if they can pull off stretching the gag for an entire film).

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007


I saw Sunshine Monday, and I can't recommend it enough.

It's a Danny Boyle film, and it's almost two films -- or two genres (maybe sub-genres) in one.

Can't clarify that without giving stuff away, because it's one of those great films to go into not knowing anything about.

Acting is solid and not overdone, with good stuff in particular from Cillian Murphy (Capa), Hiroyuki Sanada (Kaneda), way too little dramatic Michelle Yeoh (Corazon), and Chris Evans (Mace). For Evans in particular, I'm glad he's got this movie in the same year as the Fantastic Four sequel, Rise of the Silver Surfer. Sunshine stretches him more, and he gets to do some gutsy, important stuff. Good for him.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Spider-man 3

Just saw Spider-Man 3.

I have lot to say on the pro and con side, but they're pretty specific spoilers, so I'll hold off.

I enjoyed it, though I like it least out of the trilogy. But I liked it better than Superman Returns.

And I understand now why no has tried to do a musical dance number in the middle of a comic book summer blockbuster film. Everyone else please take note.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007


It's no secret I'm a Transformers fan. Mainly old school Generation 1 (especially Season 1, and the first half of Season 2), but Beast Wars was a bit o' the shizzle, too, from a quality perspective.

So, what about the new Transformers movie? I went to see it. On July 3rd. I'm that much of a fan.

Actually, it's pretty amazing.

I'm such a fan, and grateful to have a quality live-action movie, that my quibbles are just that -- quibbles.

Hey, it's a Michael Bay film, so don't expect great emotional depth. But expect great action, some humor, and some heart -- which the movie delivers in spades.

The Autobots and Decepticons themselves are pretty slick, and very believable. And the shot framing does a fantastic job of making them feel more "real". There aren't many gratuitous "he, look at our awesome giant robots!" moments. It's more tightly clipped, which makes the action frenetic, gives a sense of scale, and creates some "mini movies" throughout the film ("war movie"; "teen movie"; etc.).

And there's some good fan service moments throughout -- subtle, and not overdone. Let's just say "Witwicky", "cannons", and "energy sword", so as not to give too much away.

There's an anti-fan service moment or two, which (from previous public comments from Michael Bay) makes me wonder if he is thumbing his nose a bit at fans. Kind of a "Hey, this is Michael Bay Transformers, Be-otch!" (That's probably not fair; he probably doesn't say, "Hey".)

Another form of fan service comes from Megan Fox, who, while doing a good job in the film, to felt seriously out of place. Hey, I like movie high school much more than real high school, but this almost felt like "adult high school". And she needs new headshots.

For more on the acting front, Shia LaBeouf rocks it, and delivers lines that could easily come off as unbelievable. I enjoy watching him in general, and from watching him on Jay Leno interviews, I'd say he's well-cast in this film.

I also really like supporting actors Josh Duhamel (who totally sold me as Captain Lennox), and Kevin Dunn and Julie White (LaBeouf's mom and dad; stay to watch the credits).

And voice work? Peter Cullen, the original Optimus Prime? I shivered when I first heard his voice. Shivered.

I wasn't overly keen on Rachael Taylor (and am at a bit of a loss at her billing over actor's / roles like Jon Voight, Dunn, and White, which sounds like a law firm), and while I like John Torturro, his scenes in the film are overlong, and don't add to it; they could have been clipped a bit.

Other quibbles?

The film was about a half an hour too long, and would have been better serviced with a little tightening. Let's say "Torturro", "police station", and "Anthony Anderson" (no hate; just from the perspective of the film).

And much as I love (love) Peter Cullen's voice (and my upcoming voice demo has a couple of tributes to him), there was a bit too much "telling", violating film's "Show, don't Tell" rule. Ironic, for a Michael Bay film. And I don't think Optimus would be big on making sure he was all covered in a multicolored flames paint job. What was that about?

And the product placements are (for the most part) pretty unobtrusive, but there's one SD card placement that made me laugh out loud at its blatant obtrusiveness.

Finally (probably), they're little mini Decepticon, which I think is a bastardized version of Frenzy. Less robot bird and too Gremlins. And his vernacular expletives took me out of the moment.

But my quibbles are quibbles. The show rocked, I'll see it again, and probably get the 4-hour extended cut on DVD.


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Saturday, June 16, 2007

DOA: Dead or Alive

I'm disappointed.

I went to out of my way to catch opening night of the limited release DOA: Dead or Alive last night, planning to see the worst video game movie ever made. My buddy and I actually rushed to the theater because we were running late -- and ended up being 2 of 5 people to see the film.

I had appropriately low expectations, because while I watched Jaime Pressly talk up the action and fun of the film on The Tonight Show last year, she months later backpedaled about the film having "lost its way", "not being all it could have been", etc. -- also on the Tonight Show. When one of stars distances from a film, that's rarely a good thing. And video game movies don't have a great track record. And really, the Dead or Alive game franchise has kind of a gossamer-thin film premise.

Thing is, the film doesn't suck that bad. Sure, there's no plot of which to speak, and the whole thing is contrived to get more and more shots of the titular DOA girls (wow, I can't believe I stooped so low).

And Pressly, despite her balkings (and fans' rantings; that's got to be a frightful demographic), I think is well-cast as Tina, the pro-wrestling fight tournament contender.

Less well-cast (surprisingly to me), is Devon Aoki (Kasumi), who not only doesn't look the part, but where her deadpan demeanor worked so well in Sin City, it came across as wooden in this film.

Strong actors in the film are actually lesser known folks. Steve Howey (Weatherby) does a great, mostly non-overacted job, and I'm encouraged to see a talented actor (who I think does so well on Reba) taking off (and I hope TV comedy The Beast does well for him).

The other surprise in DOA is Sarah Carter (Helena Douglas). She's got a smile I'd call "infectious", and if you're into the acting process, watch her closely as she reacts -- not acts -- in her onscreen moments. A lot of those good moments are with Howey, which might or might not be coincidental. Of course, if I were to watch Skinwalkers, I might change my mind.

It's a shame Robin Shou (Pirate Leader) has such a minor role. He rocked as Liu Kang in the first Mortal Kombat, is a solid martial arts actor, and does a great job in his minor role.

I think Eric Roberts (Donovan) does a good job, but is miss-cast (does he watch the film and say, "That hair! What was I thinking?"). But, he's great in other stuff (like Heroes; and I am looking forward to him in The Dark Night).

The choreography in the movie is pretty good (for the main actors; the extras, waving their weapons needlessly in the air to purposely miss their targets, are laughable). And there are some good cinematic moments (the cutting back and forth between the fight scene between Holly Valance (Christie Allen) and Carter is surprisingly well done, and feels like it comes from another film.

Of course, there are way too many "I-don't-think-that-was-intended" laughable moments in the film. The "extreme ass cam" (during the above fight) made me laugh out loud.

More frustrating, is there are some basic film making things to which they could have paid attention to make the movie tighter. Like not insulting the audience. Example: When revealing a critical character, flashing back to the scene where he was introduced, having another character shout, "[name]! My [relationship]!", all while cutting back and forth between the present and the flashback. Insulting.

And there are missed opportunities. There could have been some clever stuff done with the DOA fighters not using weapons (and triumphing over those who do), that would have been a nod to the video game's Itagaki.

All that said, it's not the worst video game movie. It's not as good as the first Mortal Kombat (but better than the second); it's better than Super Mario Bros. and Street Fighter; and (I'm told), it's better than every Uwe Boll film. Heck, comparing it another film from this summer, it's better than Ghost Rider (though, admittedly, I had expectations for that film, and none for this).

Oh, and for those looking for fan service, realize that while all of the fighters are in the film, most of the non-busty have brief roles or cameos. And if you're looking for more titillating fan service, you're better off with the Dead or Alive 4 video game cutscenes, or the over-the-top Dead or Alive Extreme 2 game.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Hot Fuzz


It's been almost a week, and I'm still laughing about Hot Fuzz, the spiritual successor from the guys behind Shaun of the Dead.

I had low expectations for a funny, but throw-away film, based on the U.S. trailers for the film, which make look almost like a live-action Team America: World Police.

Not to take anything away from that film, but Hot Fuzz is way different, and (for me) way better.

The trailers I've seen are selling the film at a disservice, because this is one hip, hilarious, smart, and tightly acted / written / edited film.

Simon Pegg (Sergeant Nicholas Angel) is top-notch, and is a prolific writer / actor the likes of to which to aspire. He plays a believable hard-nosed / -assed cop officer, and rarely can be seen wearing "look how funny my writing is" on his sleeve (there is a moment, though; the first "By the power of ..." is gold, and the second is contrived).

Nick Frost (PC Danny Butterman), Pegg's rotund subtly faux bumbling partner in the sleepy hamlet to which Angel's been reassigned, is so amazingly committed to his character and actions, he's a real joy to watch.

And Timothy Dalton gives me probably my favorite performance of his since The Rocketeer. The way this guy can act and have fun with himself is impressive.

Perhaps the strength of the film is its ability to pull off the ludicrous, making me laugh because it's ludicrous, but it doesn't feel unreal. That and being able to pull off the humor and the grotesque side-by-side.

Not to give anything away, but the plot twists in the film feel organic to the genre; the "genre" being an Edgar Wright & Simon Pegg film. Almost reverse Scooby-Doo, in a way. Whatever. Brass tacks: I didn't feel jerked around.

I heartily recommend the film. It's a tight, hilarious, surprisingly high-caliber offering for an early summer kick off for action and comedy fans.

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Friday, March 16, 2007


In the interest of full disclosure, I'm a Frank Miller fan.

So, I was going to see 300 the day it opened. I didn't know I was going to see it twice.

Visually, the film is impressive. It's a pseudo period adventure / war piece, and there's a commitment on the visual feel (borne from the original graphic novel) that's cohesive and compelling.

Scenes are almost frame-perfect from the original work, which comes off well for the most part -- though there are a couple of miss-steps where something that looked "super badass" in the book comes across a bit flat in the movie (the Persian duplicity reveal and the corpse tree in particular stand out to me).

But for the most part, scenes flowed well, and didn't feel too disjoint -- which is a danger considering their self-contained "wow" moments.

The actors were strongly committed, which makes for a great performance, with Gerard Butler (Leonidas) in particular surprising me with his performance, though Lena Headey's (Gorgo) refreshingly strong character portrayal was nice, too. Dominic West (Theron) was sharp in his political portrayal, and Vincent Regan (Captain) is a shamefully underrated actor, who gave perhaps the most powerful, humanizing moments in the film.

The only real downside to the film (for me) was they included the text-heavy narration throughout, which became a little grating. Not so much because it violated the "show, don't tell axiom" (which it did), but because I'm not sure for which accent David Wenham (Dilios) was trying, but it certainly didn't work (as an aside, dialects are all over the map in this film).

Overall, 300 is a powerful, visually impressive film, and the few missteps don't detract from the overall impact of the movie.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2007


I know I said I'd do this, but I got behind.

A couple of weeks ago, I watched a film I won't name and was so bad I almost wanted to take a Brillo pad to the eyes and pipe cleaners to the ears (and not the pansy-ass craft kind; the real, metal ones that work). It was worse because I'm a fan of the franchise. I shall not name the flick, hoping it goes back to whatever circle of hell spawned it.

Fortunately for me, last week, I saw Pineapple. Because of the content, it should have had the same effect. But it didn't.

Which is a testimony to solid execution on the film's part.

What's the film about?

Wrong question.

What happens in the film is Andrew (Steven Chester Prince), struggling with a broken marriage, unwillingly estranged daughter, and clean from his past addictions, falls back into those addictions. And falls hard.

What the film is about is kind of open.

The acting is pretty good throughout. Steve Prince (full disclosure: He's my coach) is solid and genuinely engaged throughout. Most of the rest of the cast is as well, though there is some rockiness in a couple of line deliveries. I can't tell if this is from editing, but in at least two instances it felt like they started with a line without having built the precursor conversation in their head.

Scream queen Eliza Swenson ("Crystal") does a mostly fantastic job, and Skye McCole Bartusiak ("Alex") blew me away (that's one talented kid).

This is a tough film about which to talk in detail for a number of reasons.

First, it's pretty layered in its duplicity, so to say too much would create spoilers. I can say for the most part the film pulls off the redirects subtly and well, so I was surprised by most of them. One of the big ones was obvious to me shortly into the film, and another, when the first clue was dropped, I thought was the reveal (and made the right conclusion), so the "real" reveal at the end was a bit anticlimactic. Most importantly, however, I never felt like I was given a red herring to divert my attention from the truth (that's just insulting when films do that).

Secondly, this film deals with some rough stuff. Hard core addiction, addict stripper love interest (with lots of on-location scenes, and, uh, friends), domestic violence, and broken families are all portrayed honestly and brutally. This is not kiddie or family fare, but it's important stuff.

Despite the rough content, the film delivers very well. I think films have merit by nature of having been made, and when they hold up a magnifying glass to very real (even if very dark) reality, that's an incredibly important and needed side-effect.

Someone involved with the film said reviews had been all over the map, because "people who have life experience get the film, and people who don't, don't."

This is generalization that falls apart for a couple of reasons.

First, living people, by definition, have life experience.

Secondly, even if what he meant was "People with this kind of life experience get the film", there are lots of other reasons for folks to like or dislike the film.

Like I said, it's pretty tough content. For some people, that can be too much of an off-put to support the film. I also know folks who have come out of the backgrounds portrayed in Pineapple, and because of where they are in the healing process, they don't want a detailed reminder of what that was like.

And people like me, blessed with not having that background, still gets the film, and think it's important, because it reminds me of what people have gone through or are going through. A film that builds empathy is pretty big deal.

I say the film is very much worth seeing. For me, it's kind of like Se7en -- a great, tough film that (because of content) I won't see all that repeatedly. But I'm glad I saw it.

UPDATED: I'm so embarrassed I forgot to talk about the music, because it's a massively well-done part of the film. The score is from Brian Vander Ark (lead singer for The Verve Pipe, and the writer behind one of my favorite songs, "The Freshman", and new fav "Another Good Man"; uh, neither of which are in this film). There's also stuff from Smackola (dIRTy WoRMz), who's a key character in the film, and Vehicular, and Alpha Rev (including Casey McPherson).

This is freaking amazing musical talent, and even more so for an indie film.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Borat!: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

I just watched Borat!: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

I have probably never laughed so hard at so many inappropriate things in one sitting.

And then sitting out in the parking lot reliving the highlights for 20 minutes. My cheeks hurt.

Don't see this film if you're easily offended. Don't see this film if you're moderately offended.

Oh, but I'm glad I did ...

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Snakes on a Plane

I caught a matinee of Snakes on a Plane yesterday, and it's a rollercoster ride.

That is to say, it's got its ups and downs, highs and lows, and some of them are pretty low.

I mean, the premise is whack. And while I knew that going in, just how whack surprised me. Like how they justify the whole premise really stretched my willing suspension of disbelief. Could have been done a little better, I think, and the believability of the climix could have been improved with only two slight tweaks.

That said, this is an engaging film. Think a bigger budget, tighter acted Lake Placid (which I really liked), but stretching the bounds of reality even more than that flick. Yeah, more.

It doesn't help that as a kid I was really into zoology, and yesterday's movie-going buddy is a veterinarian. Which meant we laughed out loud at places the film makers probably didn't intend. Big scary dramatic startling moments.

But there's good stuff in the flick -- some well-done comedy and irony, and moving, well-completed heroism -- not empty sacrifice, and it had a cost. Nice to see that, and I didn't expect it.

On a side note, I am, however, disturbed by a trend in movies and video games lately. An unspoken rule that's being broken.

That rule is, "Don't endanger or do violence to children" (another version of that rule is, "Don't endanger or do violence to furred animals"; which sucks for the snakes).

They're breaking this rule more and more lately, and I'm starting to get pissed off by it (The Hills Have Eyes, Dead Rising, etc.). It's a rule. Follow it.

Of course, at least this film follow's through on the rule's corollary: "Those who do violence to children/furred animals shall die."

Hmm ... Technically, it's writers John Heffernan, David Dalessandro, Sebastian Gutierrez, and director David R. Ellis that broke these rules. Beware the snakes, boys.

Anyway, worthwhile popcorn flick -- a good ride, with some surprising and fun nuggets, and the acting's not bad.

Oh, and another of my inspirational, in-it-for-the-long-haul actors, Lin Shaye, does a good, important job in the film. She's been doing this gig for 30 years. More power to her.

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Miami Vice

I caught a matinee of Miami Vice the day it opened, and I really liked it.

I like Michael Mann. Quite a bit (Heat is still one of my most-like films, and Collateral positiively surprised me). The guy does it all -- Writes, adapts to screenplays, produces, directs -- and does it all well.

The film has Mann's fingerprints all over it -- in a good way. The pacing is slow, but good slow, yet not "deliberate" slow. Maybe "focused" or "determined" slow. I don't know how to describe it, but it worked for me.

There's also some cool gritty shaky cam work that slides into steady cam in slick, fluid ways.

The film does a good job building the characters, which keeps them from being boring, and really raised the stakes for me and my investment in the film. Which also made me care more when something happened to them.

Though billed in trailers as a "sexy summer action film", Mann's use of sex is interesting and well-done -- intimate, but not gratuitous, and build believable character intimacy (again, raising the importance of the relationships).

I wonder how cool it was for Mann to do this film, given he Executive Produced the original series.

And Jamie Foxx? What has he done right? Not one, not two, not three, but freakin' four Michael Mann films -- The Kingdom (written by Mann) in 2007 and Damage Control (directed by Mann) in 2008.

Good thing Foxx had Jarhead at the same time he had Stealth, otherwise all he'd have is stuff like Collateral, Ray, Any Given Sunday ... Oh. That's right. He's talented.

Miami Vice is a good film. I recommend it.

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Superman Returns

I'm a comic book geek. And an Actor. And I like watching movies.

I was not going to miss seeing Superman Returns.

But I was surprised by just how geeked out I got when 70s-esque movie credits spun onto the screen, and the first time the update of his own John Williams Superman theme played during the film.

Overall, a very good film. With caveats.

Director/Producer/"Story By" guy Bryan Singer does an amazing job of fitting the film into the original films' canon, deftly sticking it between Superman II and Superman III, almost seemlessly. Almost.

Singer's good at putting heart into the super heroics, which is arguably what sets X-Men and X2 apart from X-Men: The Last Stand.

Parker Posey gave perhaps my favorite overall performance of the movie. She is so engaged with her character. As an actor, it was a lot of fun to watch.

Kate Bosworth suprised me as Lois Lane. I could not see her in the role until I saw her in the role, and she plays it well. My quibble would be she goes through some heavy physical punishment in the film with little effect, which made it unfortunately a bit laughable.

Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor is phenomenal and devious and creepy, without being cartoony. Just like Gene Hackman (without being Gene Hackman).

Brandon Routh does a passable Man of Steel, and an even better "doing-Christopher-Reeve-doing-Clark-Kent", which does make the former role seem a little off.

And really, though the match to the actor that did the original role is pretty amazing, it took me out of the movie at moments, and reminded me that -- for me -- Christopher Reeve is Superman.

Also, though Singer does an amazing job of fitting so much into the canon, he introduces some elements that are so huge their not showing up in Superman III would be weird. But maybe he thinks like I do that Superman Returns is the direction the franchise should have gone after the second film, rather than the, uh, Richard Pryor route (absolutely nothing against Mr. Pryor).

And, though I say Routh pulls off Superman, there is some pretty heavy-handed dialog that came across stilted, and produced a "huh?" factor that probably wasn't intened. Maybe it helps if you remember Superman is "The Last Son of Krypton." Maybe.

Overall, Superman Returns is a good flick. Didn't hit me as hard as the Spider-Man treatments, but still really enjoyable, and a solid super hero film.

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Must Love Dogs

I finally got around to seeing Must Love Dogs, with Diane Lane, John Cusack, and Christopher Plummer.

I'm a big John Cusack fan, and only slightly less so of Diane Lane (and only slightly less so, Christopher Plummer).

Must Love Dogs is a good flick. Not real deep, and it's a comedic drama (or dramatic comedy), so it's not quite the grins and giggles depicted in the previews (which is fine with me). It's more Lane's movie than Cusack's, but it's got a lot of heart, does a good job showing the pain and awkwardness of post-divorce dating, and has some good relational dialog (a particularly good scene between Lane's Sarah Holan and Plummer's father (Bill) characters was unfortunately cut from the film, but is available in the DVD extended features).

I'm also incredibly encouraged by Dermot Mulroney, who works hard, often, and solidly in every film in which I've seen him (at least since Young Guns). I could do that.

The movie has a couple of hokey sentimental moments that detract from the story, but they're brief, and at least are entertaining in their own right.

Overall, a worthwhile film, if only from the top-notch caliber of talent.

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Monday, May 08, 2006

Yours, Mine & Ours

I'm a Dennis Quaid fan. And I'm a Rene Russo fan. I'm not a huge fan of Yours, Mine & Ours.

I mean, the film was cute and all, but way too crammed, and by nature of having 16 kids involved, not a lot of character development, and not an ensemble piece. Plus, there are some kind of offensive stereotypes.

There are bright moments, and some clever scenes, but this is a bubble gum and popcorn movie. Fun, but ultimately flavorless. And my leave you gassy. Look, metaphors aren't really my thing.

I did like Sean Faris, and there's one almost Tom Cruise Taps freeze frame moment that surprised me.

Not a movie I'll ever likely watch again ...

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Friday, May 05, 2006

Mission: Impossible III

I caught a matinee of Mission: Impossible III today.

Best. M:I. Ever.

Seriously. This is an incredible film. Not just summer blockbuster incredible. It's got heart.

For me, the second (John Woo) Mission: Impossible II was lacking (and I'm a Woo fan) and it was the first (Brian De Palma) Mission: Impossible that I considered the best.

Until now.

M:i:III is amazing. We're talking new levels of intense for the franchise. Not just in action (and not over-the-top-huh? intense that M:i:II was), but in emotion and relational scenes, too.

Director J.J. Abrams is able to bring some of his Lost and Alias sensibilities to the silver screen.

Feel how you want about Tom Cruise and how gorgeous you think he is (or how gorgeous you think he's not), the Oprah thing, or Scientology -- the guy is a brilliant actor. Watch Collateral and M:i:III, then sit in the dark and muse about the brilliance that is Cruise as an actor.

And I'm glad Keri (Felicity) Russell is back -- and she's good (and believable) as an IMF agent.

Michelle Monaghan? Wow. I was in love. Scenes with her and Cruise felt authentic, and at times, important.

Philip Seymour Hoffman is brilliant. We're talking Bond-villain brilliant. But not cartoony. A joy to watch. Creepy joy.

I'm a Ving Rhames fan. And he doesn't disappoint in this film.

I'm looking forward to watching Mission: Impossible III again. You should go see it. Now. Go.

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Spies Like Us

I caught Spies Like Us on network TV today.

Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd were and are so gifted, and this flick took me back to the pop fun and cold war stress of the 80s. I was also struck by the film's subtle us of sex, which was more fun and titillating in 80s films than many of today's films -- where it's abrubt, pervasive, and less fun.

And I'm a huge fan of Bruce Davison (Ruby), one of the most prolific "non-A-list" actors. Spies Like Us, X-Men/X2, and nearly 150 others. What an amazingly talented, hard working actor. I'll take a career like his ...

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Friday, April 07, 2006

Lucky Number Sleven

I saw Lucky Number SLeven, which opened today.

This is a good flick, with top-tier actors and acting (Josh Hartnett, Lucy Liu, Morgan Freeman, Bruce Willis, Sir Ben Kingsley, Stanley Tucci), this is a twisting film with fun characterization.

This is one of those films that's hard to talk about without giving stuff away. I don't read reviews of films I'm going to see before I see them, because I don't want my response to the film colored. I recognize the hypocrisy in my writing about stuff I see. I take responsibility for that. Besides, you choose whether or not you want to read my ramblings.

Anyway, though I'm a fan of all of the actors above (Stanley Tucci's career? I'll take it!), this is Hartnett's, and Liu's movie. Hartnett as a guy who lacks any worry (or any preocupations, really), and Liu as I've never seen her (and arguably with her own personality disorder) are a lot of fun to watch. Their chemistry and authenticity rock, and the editing makes several of the deeper connection moments really nice.

"That lip got you that nose."

It's not a happy film, but it's a good film.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Curious George

I caught a matinee of Curious George the other day.

Y'know, I went saw Mike Judge speak a few weeks ago, and he was bemoaning the fact that all of these big names and big stars are doing voice over work for movies. His point was he watches an animated film for escape, and hearing a recognized voice being itself -- rather than a character -- pulls him out the movie.

Now, I'm biased, because big stars doing voice over makes it harder for me to do voice over, but aside from that, Curious George is perfect example of what Judge was talking about.

I'm a Will Ferrell fan. I'm a Drew Barrymore fan. I was not a fan of this movie.

The movie wasn't about George the monkey. It wasn't even about Ted ("The Man in the Yellow Hat"). The movie was about Will Ferrell.

I didn't go to see a Will Ferrell movie -- I went to see George.

Oh, and I freaking paid through the nose to see the film, even thought it was a matinee. I feel like Regal and Carmike and Landmark and the like are summarily killing the movie going industry...

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Jumping off Bridges

I saw jumping off bridges as part of SXSW this afternoon.

Hard for a bunch of reasons, not least of which it feels a bit ... off ... to offer any critique about a film that's got tough content that's based at least partially on real events.

It's a good little film. Director/Writer Kat Candler is talented and daring. Bryan Chafin fights through a tough role. Rhett Wilkins has one of the strongest performances, and Michael Emerson has a great, understated, nuanced pathos and bravery at the same time. Glen Powell Jr. took me out of the movie a few times, but I don't know if it was his performance or that he's a ringer for my cousin.

The story is compelling and important.

For a bunch of reasons it wouldn't be appropriate for me to discuss in this forum, it was tough content for me on a bunch of fronts, and I can't say much more about the film.

But it is worth seeing.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

V for Vendetta

I went to the V for Vendetta regional premiere last night, as part of the SXSW Festival.

I was really nervous about this treatment of Alan Moore's amazing 3 episode comic book series, started in 1981 -- mainly because of what "They" did in the movie treatment of his The Leage of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Not that that film was terrible, per se, but it missed the point of Moore's deep literary writing across his TLEG series, and turned it into a less-than-compelling "me-to" action/monster flick for 2003. I mean, "Alan Moore has led the field in intelligent, politically astute (if slightly paranoid), complex adult comic-book writing since the early 1980s" (

V for Vendetta, however not only didn't suck -- it was amazing.

What happens in V is that in a future London (as imagined in the early 80s) a fascist, totalitarian government reigns, and one person -- donning a Guy Fawkes mask and known only by the moniker "V" -- stands in opposition to the oppression.

What the film is about is so much more.

There will be those that will try to use it as an artistic stick with which to beat the current administration, but those doing so will be doing the material (and the administration) a disservice, and miss the bigger point. The film is not a political or activist film. It's a warning. Or a call to action (which, to me, is different than "activism" in its current incarnation).

It's a rally cry around concepts like what makes Guy Fawkes Night important. It's a warning about your accountability, my accountability, for not letting us become a totalitarian state.

In the original series, "V" is a terrorist, but one who is more about motivating and empowering people to change, rather than single handedly making that change. There is an emphasis on action in the film that's a bit disproportionate to the original series, but it may help it at the box office, and to me doesn't compromise the deeper stuff.

I enjoyed seeing the Brothers Wachowski do something with material other than The Matrix, and with something that's not a 3-film arc. And it's cool to see James McTeigue come to the forefront as a director for the first time, and deliver so solidly.

The cast and acting is phenomenal, with Natalie Portman (Evey) delivering a compelling (and I suspect emotionally demanding) performance. Stephen Rea (Finch) and Stephen Fry (Deitrich) are top-notch.

And Hugo Weaving ("V")? I'm going to go with "masterful" on this one. To pull off the twisted and complex character that is "V", and be engaging -- through a non-moving mask -- is one of the real treats of the film. Man -- Elrond, Agent Smith, and now "V"? Good for him!

The effects and editing are incredibly tight, and they actually pulled off some of the comic book signature moments perfectly -- not an easy thing to do.

There are a couple of minor glitches, but they don't detract from the whole film. There's a jarring continuity/edit problem at one particularly important dramatic moment, and there was one part of the climax I thought had a timing mismatch between two of the elements. Again, not enough to break the film.

So, to summarize -- The film didn't suck, it was really good, and is (arguably) actually important.

"Remember, remember, the 5th of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot;
I know of no reason,

why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot."

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Monday, March 13, 2006

The Cassidy Kids

I saw the The Cassidy Kids premiere as part of SXSW.

Check out my other blog for details:

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Sunday, March 12, 2006


I picked up the Clerks 10th Anniversary Edition DVD.

I'm somewhat motivated to watch/rewatch Kevin Smith's stuff after seeing him speak on Monday.

Weird -- never thought I'd think there was something "comforting" about watching "Clerks".

Almost "The Breakfast Club" comforting.

And the 3-disc DVD is a treasure trove o' goodies -- for fans of the film (or Kevin Smith's), or students of independent film.

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Adam Creighton: Headshot

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