The Hills Have Eyes; V for Vendetta; The Inside Man; Lucky Number Slevin; Thank You For Smoking

•August 2, 2006 • Leave a Comment

More “half ass” catch up reviews…

 

The Hills Have Eyes is a remake of a 1977 classic by “Master of Horror” Wes Craven. This remake is gory, shocking and never boring. Even in the first act, where nothing devastating has happened, the interaction between family members is entertaining. It was honest and funny and eerie because you know this innocent group has the worst imaginable horror in store for them.

 

V for Vendetta was written by the Wachowski’s, the Masterminds behind the Matrix trilogy. This comic action satire is sharp and funny and grandiose. The man behind the mask deserves special mention here as he is most recognizably Mr. Smith from the Matrix. Hugo’s performance as V is vaudevillian, vivacious, virtuoso and vibrating with vigor, verve and a vagary for volleys of a vast vocabulary.

 

The Inside Man is a bank heist film with a twist. The twist here is the director, Spike Lee. Instead of forgettable performances from the meaningless side characters this film gets its life from the many colorful New York quintessential characters that occupy the background of this film, playing perfect compliment to good performances from Denzel, Clive and Jodie.

 

Lucky Number Slevin is one of my favorite films so far this year. It is a stylish mob against mob flick starring Josh Hartnett, Lucy Lu and a few other familiar faces. The brilliance in this film is the dialogue. This film makes Hartnett sound like Bogart and despite an obvious concluding twist this film provides a lot of fun in between.

 

Thank You For Smoking is another in the string of best films so far this year. This one is written and directed by son of Ivan Reitman, (Ghostbusters director) Jason Reitman. This is a spin story on a spin doctor, not unlike Levinson’s Wag the Dog. Great cast, great dialogue, this story, about a tobacco lobbyist who juggles his job, family and image wins on charm and savvy.

Memoirs of a Geisha; Munich; Brokeback Mountain; New World; MatchPoint

•July 25, 2006 • Leave a Comment

The half ass “catch up” reviews…

 

Memoirs of a Geisha, one of the few books out there I’ve actually read, was originally set to be directed by Steven Spielberg and instead fell in the hands of Rob Marshall of “Chicago” fame. The book as it reads is very cinematic. It seemed like it would take a fool to screw up its adaptation. The fool, Rob Marshall. This is a fine film and entertaining, but pretty flat and no where near the journey it deserved to be.

 

Munich is the film Spielberg gave up on Geisha to direct. This film was the best of all the nominated films for best picture last year. The others: Good Night and Good Luck, Brokeback Mountain, Capote and the winner an oddly enough the hardest for me to remember, Crash. The story everyone was familiar with was the kidnapping and botched rescue of the Israeli Athletes. The story of this film focuses on the vengeance sought out by Israel on those responsible. The film is a beautiful tale of evil begetting evil and in the end violence should be learned as inappropriate measure.

 

Brokeback Mountain, the most talked about picture of the year has given us yet another adjective for the word “gay.” When you feel the need to express that something you observe is “gay” now may say “Brokeback” and not feel as much like a bigot. The film is based on a short story and this explains why the story felt a little stretched to me. The performances were extraordinary and this was a wonderfully tragic story, but I fell victim to the advertising on this one. A great love story is what it was called and I don’t deny that they may have been in love, but the fact that they were in love was not the focus of the story. The focus was on the backlash of admitting who they were to themselves and the rest of the world and for that it was a great movie, however not a great love story.

 

New World is the story of John Smith and Pocahontas as told by the point of view of Pocahontas, which might explain the very earthy feel and pacing to this movie. To many this has proved boring, but for me the level of authenticity given to both parties in the story made for a completely engaging and well told epic which took Pocahontas from her land to the “new world” oversees.

 

Match Point is Woody Allen’s best effort in over a decade. From the setting, to the intensity this is by far the furthest thing from a Woody Allen movie I’ve seen in a Woody Allen movie. The story follows the very kind and respectful, Chris, who meets a wealthy young man, who introduces him to his sister. From there a relationship of convenience begins and a lustful obsession with another woman will take Chris to his very end, where he is reminded of these great words… “it is better to be lucky than good.”

The Squid and the Whale

•June 18, 2006 • Leave a Comment

Samuel Goldwyn Films presents a film written and directed by Noah Baumbach. Running time: 88 minutes. Rated R (for strong sexual content, graphic dialogue and language).

 

I was hoping to watch this film a second time before reviewing it, but in the interest of getting through the seemingly insurmountable list of make up reviews to write I’ll just go ahead and write something.

 

This film is the work of Noah Baumbach, who started in the mid-nineties with an Eric Stoltz and Parker Posey flick called Kicking and Screaming, not to be confused with Will Farrell’s soccer coaching comedy. The next time I heard of this guy he was co-writing The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Wes Anderson’s film about the hunting of a mythical shark for the soul purpose of enacting revenge for the death of a friend.

 

This film is a look at divorce through the eyes of a couple different kids. One of them regards his father as an intellectual giant, who was taken for granted by his idiot mother. The young son is the mother’s boy who jealously guards his mothers name by renouncing his father.

 

The film paints some very tough characters and fatal traits that parents pass on to their children and ends with a very touching realization (as most films should) that finds the young man somewhere in his darkest and most vulnerable memory linking him to one of his parents and The Squid and the Whale.

The Family Stone

•June 18, 2006 • Leave a Comment

Twentieth Century-Fox presents a film directed and written by Thomas Bezucha. Running time: 102 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for some sexual content including dialogue and drug references).

 

In the neighborhood of family comedies I was expecting good things from this film. And I mean family comedies in the sense that it looked like a comedy about a certain family, not that it is rated accordingly for little creatures like children. The preview was funny and quirky and made me think of one of the greatest holiday films around, Home for the Holidays. That film had its mix of humor and drama, but remained very consistent to the material and the characters. This film on the other hand felt dry and forced at every turn.

 

This is not a bad film, but it does suffer from noticeably bad editing and such dramatic u-turns into the overly melodramatic that can send you into a shock of uncomfortable silence. The cast does everything in their very capable hands to make this a watchable and charming film, but despite the best efforts of Rachael McAdams, Luke Wilson, Sara Jessica Parker, Diane Keaton, and even Coach Craig T. Nelson.

 

Worth a look and even a second thought but it won’t make the exclusive holiday cut that already includes Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, Mixed Nuts and It’s a Wonderful Life.

King Kong

•June 18, 2006 • Leave a Comment

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Universal presents a film directed by Peter Jackson. Written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Jackson. Based on a story by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace. Running time: 187 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for frightening adventure violence and some disturbing images).

 

The problem with this film lies in the first hour, where so much time is spent with this filmmaker, that looks like Jack Black, and his struggle to get a movie made. It’s not exactly boring, but for an audience that already knows that the movie is about a giant ape and his accent up the Empire State Building it can go on a bit too long. However, if you should stay awake past the first hour and make it to the island you are in for some of the most exciting action scenes this side of a Steven Spielberg film.

 

Peter Jackson first met acclaim with a little piece called Bad Taste. This led to Heavenly Creatures, a true story about an intense friendship among two young girls, who conspire to kill the mother that tries to come between them. I haven’t seen either of these films, but his next film I did. The Frighteners is a scary film that looks like a comedy. When I first heard of this film I thought it would be more like Ghostbusters than anything else. It turned out being visually haunting with an unnerving story about two lovers who are out to break Ted Bundy’s murder spree record just for the sake of being the best. It was the quality of this film that led me to believe that I would love the Lord of the Rings films, though I did not. But Kong on the other hand, is exciting and funny and contains some of the best action scenes and special effects I’ve ever seen in the movie.

 

My only complaint would be the amount of time the film takes. As talented a filmmaker Peter Jackson is he seems to lack some kind of sensor in his head that allows for hour and a half to two hour films.

 

On a personal note…coming from Phoenix, Arizona I would often frequent a theater called the Cine Capri when I was young. From Batman Returns to Starship Troopers and each rerelease of the Star Wars Trilogy and finally with Titanic I saw great films on the biggest screen in the state, complete with golden curtains and mildew stained seats. This theater was torn down after the theatrical run of Titanic and like Jesus Christ finally resurrected so far out of the city I don’t think it’s actually in Phoenix anymore. But I got to see Kong on that very King sized screen and feel a bit nostalgic doing so. Thank you Dan Harkin for rebuilding this shrine to the most holy ritual I engage in.

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Rumor Has It…

•May 17, 2006 • Leave a Comment

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“I’m not drunk, I just think you’re better off just renting The Graduate.”

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a film directed by Rob Reiner. Written by Ted Griffin. Running time: 96 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for mature thematic material, sexual content, crude humor and a drug reference).

 

This is the story of the real family behind the book that became a movie and the movie that became legendary. This movie presumes that there was actually a guy that slept with a woman, then fell for the daughter and slept with her too. The movie also presumes that Jenny Aniston is the granddaughter of the first woman and the daughter of the other.

 

This character exclaims “Go to the video store and get me a copy of The Graduate!” And from there we have Jenny looking for the actual Dustin Hoffman character, who incidentally looks a lot like Kevin Costner. You can guess what happens next (this is a comedy) Jenny finds Costner, gets drunk and sleeps with him only to realize that because of her age and considering where her mother was all those years ago and more importantly who she was with, Jenny might have very well just slept with her father.

 

This movie was directed by one of my idols. Rob Reiner is responsible for several favorites of mine, including When Harry Met Sally and the Princess Bride, not to mention Misery, A Few Good Men and This is Spinal Tap. But recently Rob has been not so lucky. The Story of Us with Bruce Willis was ok and had potential, but the ending lacked any bravery of any kind and fell flat. The same is true with Rumor Has It. It chickens out of an interesting and disturbing situation and does so with such stupidity that I was just left in my seat completely detached from this film. This film is worth seeing, but only to remind you of how good Rob Reiner used to be.

Ice Harvest

•May 17, 2006 • Leave a Comment

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Focus Features presents a film directed by Harold Ramis. Written by Richard Russo and Robert Benton. Based on the novel by Scott Phillips. Running time: 88 minutes. Rated R (for violence, language and sexuality/ nudity).

 

This movie finds itself in the unique home in which the Coen Classic Fargo resides. It’s funny, it’s dark, violent and unrepented. It’s all these wonderful things that people no longer feel guilty for enjoying so why I ask does Blockbuster Video only order 4 copies for rental. That’s right 4. Not 40 or fuck even 14. Four copies for the 5000 active customers that come into my store once a week and all of them, minus 4, are asking me to look in my magical drop box for a copy, which I assure them would take an act of God, to be available.

 

It doesn’t help matters either when I say to the customer, who didn’t get what they wanted, that “it’s a really good movie too, it’s too bad it isn’t here.” They love hearin’ that shit.

 

This movie was directed by Harold Ramis, whom most of you know as the nerdy Ghostbuster Egon Spengler. But believe it or not he is also responsible for writing the original Caddyshack, Animal House and directing such classics as Groudhog Day, Vacation and Analyze This.

 

I recommend you see this film, but I also recommend a couple thousand “Hail Marys” before going to Blockbuster to find one.

 

Ps.

 

I haven’t even mentioned that this movie also gives you the roles you want to see each of its stars in. Billy Bob as the foul mouth bad man, Connie Neilson as the beautifully 1940s femme fatale, Oliver Platt as the happy drunk and John Cusack as the slightly sad yet sympathetic guy who just wants to get outta town.