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Discussion in 'Movies' started by Travis_S, Jan 3, 2006.
1/2 - great film
- worth a look
1/2 - meh
anything else is bad.
William Eggleston in the real world -
Well as a photographer I found this docu on one of the best color photographers of all time to be utterly fascinating, Made a great double feature with Whisper of the Heart too, since so much of that film's gorgeous animation is of the mundane and beautiful everyday.
Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story - To produce a film from the "unfilmable" Brit lit classic "The Life & Opinions of Tristram Shandy" (famous for containing a good deal more of the opinions than life as the author repeatedly gets sidetracked and never advances himself beyond childhood), director Michael Winterbottom takes the approach of making a movie about filming a Tristram Shandy movie. Steve Coogan stars as Shandy, or rather as his father since Tristram himself only appears as an infant, and also as actor "Steve Coogan".
While the period scenes include a number of humorous bits, it is the making of portions where the film really shines. Coogan is pulled in all directions at once battling to make sure his "co-lead" Rob Brydon doesn't steal the film from him, having his shoes altered to appear taller, hitting on a comely PA (who happens to be a Fassbinder expert ) despite his girlfriend visting the set with their child in tow, and having to kowtow to a tabloid journalist who is blackmailing him by threatening to expose a previous affair.
Brydon (a Brit TV actor I wasn't familiar with) milks laughs as well with his constant kvetching over whether his teeth are too white and his fear that his lust for actress Gillian Anderson will prevent him from acting in scenes with her. Anderson gets a few shining moments in her small role playing herself, brought in at the last minute when the filmmakers decide to include an additional character from the novel.
The movie they're making seems to be in pretty bad shape; a low budget affair with a seemingly amateur director at the helm. When they screen the dailys, the actors are aghast at the quality of the battle scenes while the producers argue whether they should spend money to refilm them or just cut them altogether. Taking a cue from Hollywood, they do both.
The film can be seen to channel Day for Night in its allusions to a film shoot as one big dysfunctional family. While the film gets a little too smug at times in wearing its cleverness on its sleeve, it pays off with moments like Coogan explaining to the script writer that Father Shandy should be seen holding the infant Tristram so that the audience will have sympathy for the character and forgive his previous transgressions, then in a later scene we see Coogan changing his own child's diaper and singing to the baby, giving the audience a chance to see the "real life" Coogan character in a different light. His comedy style is a little to deadpan at times for my liking, but he delivers a number of terrific lines and holds the film together.
While I'm not prepared to announce this as "the first great film of 2006", I laughed more during this film than anything I saw from 2005 with the possible exception of The Squid & The Whale. Any film with the line "Fear Eats The Soul has more truth in its title than most entire films" is A-ok by me and this humorous and intelligent film is a good deal better than 'ok'. A strong comeback from Winterbottom after the problematic Nine Songs. - B+
Updated my list with the clever satire Thank You For Smoking, the somewhat-humorous but ultimately morose Friends With Money, and the efficient but forgettable thriller The Sentinel.
Inside Man - Spike Lee's latest joint about "the perfect bank robbery" really serves as a character study or even police procedural moreso than as a traditional heist film. We generally follow the point of view of a police negotiator played by Denzel Washington, sinking his teeth into the best material he's had to work with in years. While not really supplying the sort of excitement and suspense one associates with this type of film, it more than makes up for with dramatic fireworks and it's portrait of the multi-ethnic makeup of a modern metropolis.
With a strong ensemble cast, Lee's tightly controlled direction, and the talents of cinematographer Matthew Libatique, Inside Man is an intelligent, yet crowd-pleasing film; even if it suffers a bit from "too many endings syndrome". - B+
V For Vendetta - A rather limp film version of what had been one of my favorite comic book stories (10+ years ago when I used to read them). I appreciate the setting and the "future Earth" scenario. Natalie Portman is quite good in the femal lead. Beyond that, I found nothing of interest in the direction, technique or progression of the story which often proceeds in fits and starts with a number of uninteresting or predictable detours that offer too little payoff. I never really found myself engaged in the story and was ready for the film to be over well before it was. And once again could any modern action director watch The Adventures of Robin Hood or even Fist of Legend? Why even bother to have fight choreography if one is going to film the scene so tightly that the action never registers? - C+
Updated my list with the uneven Art School Confidential, Mission Impossible: III (the best of the franchise), and the first great film of the year (and one of the best of the decade), United 93.
Fateless - Just when you think everything has been said in a film type/genre that needs to be said, along comes a film which changes your mind in a flash. Based on Nobel Prize winner Imre Kertesz's novel about Jews in World War II Hungary, Fateless tells the story of György Köves, a boy of around 14. Because Hungary was a member of the Reich, Jews were relatively safe until late 1944, when they were quickly rounded up and sent to the concentration and death camps.
In the early portions of the film we see György's parents selling their factory because the father has been called up to a forced work brigade. Some think this is a harbinger that they will suffer the same fate as Jews in other countries, while others hold firm to the belief they are safe. Meanwhile György would rather think about his pretty neighbor. But his life is changed forever when he is pulled off a bus by a local police officer and, after a nervous scene in a crowded police station, is put on a train headed North.
The first hour or so of Fateless contains these and other scenes which feel familiar to anyone that has seen a few films about the subject. But while one knows that György is headed for hardship and possible death after his train stops, nothing can prepare the viewer for what is to come. For in the starkest possible manner, drained of all sentiment, and after awhile, even hope, we see György's horrific experiences. We watch this boy waste away before our eyes. And the film doesn't let up, there are no pauses for moments of beauty or photographic flourishes; only the grim reality of György's world where he has barely the strength to crawl through the mud to the latrine and the death of his bedmate means he might get a little more to eat that day. The emotional intensity of the film is overwhelming, amplified by the knowledge that there were thousands of György's and even allowing oneself to wonder if death would not be preferable to this experience.
Even when the camp is liberated, it is not a joyous moment but a mournful one. The film takes a misstep here, taking the viewer out of film's world by featuring a "star", Daniel Craig, as an American GI who offers György a chance to emigrate. But once he leaves, and György heads back to Hungary out of loyalty for his home, our knowledge that Hungary would be controlled by the Soviets for the next 45 years leaves us feeling that György has made a terrible mistake. The film will darken still further when he finally makes it home, though by the end it is not entirely without hope.
According to IMDB this is the most expensive film ever made in Hungary and the first to use Panavision. Certainly no expense was spared in re-creating the period detail and authenticity of the film. Directed by longtime Istvan Szabo cinematographer Lajos Koltai, the photography is exemplary. The score by Ennio Morricone is another in a long of his moving and mood-enhancing compositions. In short, this is a film worth seeking out. - A-
updated with Cars and xmen
Sorry Brook and Adam, I've been lax at helping out with these yearly release threads. Usually its mostly us 3 doing all the bumps.
I just added my first 8, all theatrical. My list is still on this page at the top so I won't bother with the scores or reviews right now.
Added - Davinci Code, Thank You for Smoking, Inside Man, The Break-Up, V for Vendetta, X-Men 3, Over the Hedge and Cars.
Superman, Scanner Darkly, Pirates, MI3 and a few others are on my agenda for next week.
I haven't been keeping up my end either. Haven't updated 2006 or 2005 as far as putting in reviews in quite awhile. My 2006 film list is close to up-to-date. I'm sure the '05 list is now aways behind.
I've been to the theater appalling little in '06. Not sure that's going to change anytime soon as Hollywood isn't delivering much I can't wait until DVD to see and the state of foreign film distribution has sunk to almost nill between the cutbacks at Sony Pictures Classics and other Studio Indies and the Brothers Weinstein stifling Wellspring.
Mission: Impossible III (2006) - Dudsville. Everything about this picture seemed to be simply going through the motions. The story is a reworking of True Lies, complete with Florida Keys bridge attack and covert op during an expensive ball. Maybe action movies have passed me by as I found nothing in the film thrilling or exciting. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is completely wasted in a rote villain role. I had hopes of an Alan Rickman/Die Hard turn based on the trailer, but that was the best we got. The screen comes alive whenver Hoffman has dialogue to deliver, but he is barely in the movie and doesn't receive a single scene independent of Cruise or one of the IMF team. Still I would have rated this as "average" were it not for the truly awful ending. - D
X-Men III: The Last Stand (2006) - The foundation that Bryan Singer constructed with the first 2 X-Men films, especially the excellent X2 (for my money the best of the 'superhero' comic book films), cracks here as director Brett Ratner and the screenwriters concentrate on action and cramming as many of the characters into frame as possible. A degree of the strong character flavor that was the series' hallmark remains, but is cramped by the relatively short running time. This also means the political-social themes are short stacked and here feel like little more than an excuse for big budget FX scenes. I liked the film because I enjoy these characters (at least those from previous films, the "new" characters are all poorly drawn and executed), but without Singer at the helm the film is a shadow of what X2 promised. - B-
Akeelah and the Bee - A rousing, crowd-pleasing film with an inspiring message. Akeelah follows the sports movie template, but the social realism of the setting more than offsets any of the cliche or slightly cloying elements of the story. The lead actress gives a charming performance and is ably helped by a supporting cast includling Angela Bassett, Lawrence Fishburne, "Booger" from Revenge of the Nerds (as the school principal no less!), Crabman, and a cast of kids that act like kids. Recommended for anyone. - B+
Pirates of the Caribbean - an enormously entertaining film with a host of problems but it overcomes it byi occasionally tapping the charms of the first movie (and I'm not referring to the references to the first movie, but the handful of new scenes that are in its spirit. If there's a problem its that Will's honor and status as the noble hero are taken away so he can have a 'deep' relationship with a new character and it also limits his chemistry with Elizabeth. But holy shit that waterwheel set piece is BRILLIANT.
Monster House - See it in D cinema, it's a great experience. Also, by far the best film I've seen this year.
I think you and I are in complete agreement on POTC2. Major plot problems abound but the sheer joy of the film overcomes them. Can't wait to see it again but I'm afraid the plot problems will overwhelm the film once the excitement of the first viewing wears off.
Just updated with my fourth movie of the year. I vowed to be more active in going to see movies in 06 but nothing has really excited me this year *shrug*
The character of Superman is an anachronism, conceived more than 50 years ago when the world was a much different place. How would Supes be updated for a modern audience? A lot here feels familiar because some elements of Donner’s movie have been reworked for Singer’s version. Instead of being invirgorated, most of them feel forced, as if the opportunity to tip the hat to the earlier version was too tempting to pass up even if it meant the film suffered for it. In this return to the big screen (is it a remake? A sequel?) all the joy has been sucked out of the world’s most iconic comic hero. From humble and down-to-Earth (figuratively), he’s become complex, austere, God-like. It has been a long while since I watched the old films, but isn’t there a scene where Superman flies through the air carrying the American flag? Look, I’m not American, but I love that scene. It was stirring because it defined the outsider wanting so desperately to fit in and be accepted. Singer’s Superman spends more much screen time grappling with internal dilemmas and *yawn* domestic issues. This is supposed to be escapism, dammit! Routh was adequate and Kevin Spacey looked as bored as I was. Despite the exhililirating scenes (there were a few) I would have liked to have seen more of the ‘super’ and less of the ‘man’.
A few more updates, up to 12 films now but all in the theater. I only saw 28 last year in the theater and I'm sure I have 15-20 more in me this year with October and Oscar season both coming. Previous 2 years I got 40 in, so maybe I can push for past 28 this year and get back on track.
Anyway, my latest
8.5 of 10
I reviewed it in the official thread. I liked it more than most I guess, and I thought the plane rescue was one of the best action scenes in the last decade.
The Devil Wears Prada
9 of 10
Haven't reviewed it yet but Streep was outstanding and the general flow of the film was nicely consistant and avoided stepping too far into the sappy traps of nice hero/mean boss type of films. Some lessons are thrown in, but mostly crap things continue to go on in the world and our hero just gets a little less naive about it.
A Scanner Darkly
8.5 of 10
I reviewed this in the unofficial discussion thread. Perhaps a better use of Linklater's rotoscope/painted film method than Waking Life was. A bizarre story of drug addicts mostly carried by their hilariously confused addict conversations.
7.5 of 10
Seems like each time out with these characters Smith does something different with them (Jay and Bob I mean). There was Clerks, then Mallrats (the cornball, glossy, fun romp comedy), Chasing Amy (the poignant love story), Dogma (the philosophical/religious picture with serious moral questions fed to us with comedy), and Jay & SB Strike Back (ie, the buddy road picture ala Hope/Crosby).
Clerks 2 is the "sequel picture" to me. He uses lots of those ideals, as a story it is a GREAT reason for a sequel, and mostly tries to recapture the first. However he also takes on the musical AND the movie parody genre. The musical bit is great, the parodies are pretty good but are a lesser form of humor than his original stuff. Silence of the Lambs and Butch Cassidy/SK done in the Kevin Smith world are hilarious, but I also felt myself wishing Smith would just bring out some more original material.
Good, but not great. The weakest of the J&B films to me, but far superior to Jersey Girl.
Haven't quite gotten to writing up Pirates, but it pretty much boils down to a fun ride with highly enjoyable characters.
Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School
This romantic film about missed opportunities and second chances, is structured around a dual storyline. A lonely baker (Robert Carlyle) stops to help a car crash victim (John Goodman). The dying man tells the baker his life story about a girl he secretly loved and how they planned to meet at the MHBD&CS 40 years later. His dying wish is that the baker go in his place and find the girl. The baker, still hurting from the death of his wife, decides to attend, and finds the 2nd chance that the dying man never received.
MHBD&CS has the making of a good film. Its tried & true romantic storyline involves a large cast of recognizable and enjoyable "faces". In addition to Carlyle and Goodman there's Mary Steenburgen, Marissa Tomei, Danny DeVito, Sean Astin, David Paymer, Donnie Wahlberg, Camryn Manheim, Ernie Hudson, Adam Arkin, and Miguel Sandoval. While using the hoary "dance reinvigorates a man's life" chestnut, Carlyle pulls off the role, making us care about him, and Tomei is even more charming as the romantic interest. There's also a good deal of humor mined as Carlyle's "dead wives support group" chums (Paymer, Arkin, Hudson, Sandoval, Astin) join the school and receive their own surprises.
The problem lies in the dual story structure. The accident victim's retold childhood simply interrupts the enjoyment of the present day story. The cast of young actors simply doesn't hold interest in situations we've seen play out in dozens of other films, the way the veteran cast in the present does. The material is also darker and a good deal duller, lacking any of the humor or spark of the present cast and leaving one wishing for Carlyle and Tomei or almost any of the other characters to have more screen time. There's a scene where Steenburgen also undergoes a change of character, but no explanation is given as to why this takes place; a scene that could have helped the film. MHBD&CS two halves simply don't make a whole, turning what could have been a low-key, entertaining romance into a missed opportunity. - C+
Why We Fight
Eugene Jarecki's documentary, its title taken from the famous Frank Capra WWII series, posits that we are now experiencing just what President Eisenhower warned the nation about in his "Military Industrial Complex" farewell address. Jarecki uses loads of statistics, newsreel footage, and talking heads to discuss the theory that America is increasingly controlled by interlocking groups of people for whom war is just good business. The film provides startling facts from credible sources and provides many depressing implications for the future of our country.
However, I found that the film tripped up when it ventured away from politics and economics to try to put a human face in the film. Getting into the personal backgrounds of some of the commentators and telling the story of the father of a Sept. 11th victim who had his son's name put on a bomb being dropped in Iraq. This material dilutes the focus of the film, and takes screentime away from points that could have been explained further. Indeed some of the deleted scenes included on the DVD, should have been in the film. Still, for anyone interested in the subject matter, the film is compelling enough to merit a look. - B
SUCKS. It can never decide if it wants to be a straight romantic comedy or a cheezy parody film, thus it fails at both. Despite Alyson Hannigan's game performance in one idiotic situation after another, the film is terribly unfunny and just plain terrible. - F
I'll step aside and let Roger Ebert speak for me as I agreed with this comment and found it laugh-out-loud funny: "I confess to a flagging interest in the struggle between the forces of Light and Darkness. It's like Super Sunday in a sport I do not follow, like tetherball."
So there's Others and some are bad and some are good and they are locked in an eternal struggle yadda, yadda, there's vampires and flashlight weapons and special powers and of course a "chosen one" ultra-powerful Other, and sometime within the first 15-20 minutes I just stopped caring. It's slickly done, my wife really enjoyed it and is ready for the sequel...I couldn't be more meh. - C
Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Lots of fun and entertaining large scale action sequences are the order of the day with Captain Jack Sparrow's return to movie screens. While the film lacks the "new car smell" of it's predecessor, Johnny Depp is everybit as charming and comedically inventive in this sequel. Director Gore Verbinski keeps the film moving with action, slapstick, and tension, correctly using his effects to increase the scope and danger in scenes, but without overwhelming the audience. If there is a complaint is that the lovely, talented (and don't tell my wife but future Mrs. Kennon) Keira Knightly is given so little to do. Some of her dialogue and appearances seem to serve no purpose other than to provide her additional screentime (waitaminute! what am I complaining about?!). The film also feels a touch on the long side, but then again, since I enjoy the characters and the story being told, too much is definitely preferable to too little. A month ago I was wondering if I could appreciate Hollywood action films anymore; thoughts that Dead Man's Chest cured me of. - B+
V for Vendetta -
I would really love to like this movie more, but it's a bit convuluted and unclear and the vmask is just a bit dull to watch at times. I love when he's quoting I love the elegance of that. I think there's too much exposition/story scattered throughout the film to really draw a compelling narrative arc. pretty rough what V did to E-V :p The film doesn't really make me feel anything either way for or against it, the way a truly effective film like Fight Club or Pleasantville can. For the record I love Fight Club's nonconformist message of how we're controlled by commerce (I don't have to agree with the ends) and dislike how Pleasantville demeans the fifties into something negative that can be simplistically solved with sex. The world of V doesn't feel complete, it feels like trappings of but not a completely repressed and controlled society.
It's a gorgeous film though, and Natalie Portman and the Detective give wonderful performances, especially Portman.
That shot of all the people near the end pouring through the streets, that was awesome.
but in the end, isn't this a less interesting variation on Soylent Green because it was moved away from the detective story and into a superhero?
They should have tightened and focused the story more, interwove V's progression through the year with the detectives unraveling the secrets of the past. Cut out entirely Stephen Fry, except maybe showing the clips of his talk show, but even those can be tossed. Instead have Evie captured as she's running away from the cardinal. Move the old lady to later in the film, have her death be very near the fifth of november. clarify the continuity of the experimentation, V, the virus release and subsequent vaccine because I'm still confused. I think it could be a much more effective movie than it is, but it's confusing because the mileau and exposition is so poorly enunciated.
Did remind me of the fake bird flue scare they keep trying to drum up, but no worries everyone, a vaccine for a disease that doesn't exist and whose effectiveness is in questioned is being bought to the tunes of billions of dollars. I'd say more about certain politicians with financial interests in the companies profitting in the hundreds of millions of dolalrs off of this vaccine but it'd probably violate htf rules.
Lady in the Water -
I really liked this movie, though I almost feel bad for liking it because in many ways this is a bad movie (and the movie is aware of that) but that's okay it's part of the goofy easy-going charm of this fanciful world the story takes place in.
Narfs and Scrunts and Tatugas Healers and Guardians and Hordes oh my.
I think I was most surprised that this is about equal parts fantasy and comedy with a small dash of scares thrown in.
She's the Man -
This film has a really good time with itself and hits all the standard beats of crossdressing comedy movies. It's hard for me to get through these films the first time until I know how they go (comedy involves putting characters you like in awkward situations and that makes me nervous and edgy until its revealed how they get out of it), but I imagine I'd like it more on a second go. Very fun opening credits sequence, and Amanda Bynes is every bit as adorable and charming as her early tv work suggested, and she looks great in this film when she's a girl. She doesn't have the face to pull off a convincing high school senior boy (her lines are too good, soft and round, but the sideburns actually do a lot) but she does a good job with making a voice that could probably be a boy. She would make a convincing freshman. There are some terrific sequences and moments in the film but its not a great comedy, it is a very strong and enjoyable piece of work. A weakness is the underwritten and antagonist boyfriend and his team, they're so sexist it's pretty ridiculous and out of step with the rest of the movie, this is also true of a supporting character Eunice, it's not of a piece with the rest of the humor.
Inside Man -
One of the best of the year but not an all time great. Just a fun twisty heist thriller that's quite enjoyable to watch and try to decode. Denzel is great but Jodi Foster steals the movei