Friday, February 29, 2008

Trailers: Step Brothers (2008)

This actually might be kind of decent.

Review: Semi-Pro (2008)

What can you say about a movie like Semi-Pro...

The obscure-sports-parody genre is so so so so overdone. I think everybody got tired of it after Dodgeball... Didn't they?

Not everyone, apparently. Here's the formula (in case you missed it):

The local (usually somewhere unexpected--in this case; Flint, Michigan) [Sports team or venue] needs saving, so we're going to band together and give it our all to show them we're not a bunch of losers.
But nobody really knows how to play. Add ex-professional (see: Woody Harrelson, ex-Championship winning Celtic player with a bum knee) to show them how it's done.
The dealbreaker="The Man" offers incentive if team (and or venue) and shape up and prove them wrong.
Enter: Montage of team doing great, add 4-5 newspaper article headlines.
Then something bad happens. Oh noes!
Turns out, you can't be saved after all.
But wait, we're a team! We're going to show them we can do this. Hell, we'll go out with a bang. We're going to give it our all. Go team! Hurrah!
Big game: We're losing. Hope seems lost
Oh wait nevermind we won.

I didn't even have to see the whole movie to know how this was going to turn out.

I did however like Woody Harrelson's character (sort of) and there is some pretty good supporting acting from Will Arnet. And one more thing: Why is Will Ferell in ALL OF THESE?

So how was this movie? I'll say Watchable.

Grade: C-

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Something Funny: Lord of the Rings by George Lucas

Because I'm feeling a bit lazy today, something I found a year or so ago. It's still funny.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Random News: The Results

For those counting: Bourne Ultimatum-3 oscars, Juno-1 oscar.

Other than that I think the Oscars went as smoothly and as predictably as anyone could've imagined.

A brief rundown of how I felt:

First off, I was very confused about the order of these awards. From what I can recall, every ceremony has kicked off with the Best Supporting Actress award. Well, that was actually more in the middle of the ceremony. Also, the last three awards given were Actor, Director, and Picture. What makes Best Actor so much more important and epic than Best Actress?

Also on that note--before Best Actor was the Best Original Screenplay award, which seemed conveniently built up on. Sigh.

Other than that, I was quite pleased with the results.

No Country for Old Men
--Yep. We all know how I feel about this one. Very pleased indeed.
Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
--Again. The best choice. This award was not only for this movie, but for their stream of classics they've pushed out through the years.
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
--Helen Mirren announced this before she even opened the envelope. I thought it would've been funny if it had actually been Johnny Depp. Day-Lewis dedicates awards to sons, not Heath Ledger.
Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose
--Cate Blanchett's reaction to her winning was priceless! I think everybody in that room was as ecstatic as she was. This virtual unknown french actress (who I only know from small roles is like, two films) was so happy and so sweet up on that stage. I'm really glad she won. Now I just have to see the film...
Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
--Ah, he is probably the coolest guy I have or will ever see in this business. I'm blown away by Señor Bardem.
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton
--I was sad that Cate didn't win (but admittedly, nobody had a lock on this award), however, Tilda Swinton's speech was pretty good. I wish I could work with George Clooney, so I could make fun of him from the stage.
Diablo Cody, Juno
--She cried. I cried. For different reasons, of course. She won. Can we get over her now?
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
--Yussss. I'm glad that the Coens pretty much dominated the awards show (besides editing, mixing and cinematography). This was really their year.
--Didn't see it, but I'm sure.. I'm absolutely sure it's great.
Taxi to the Dark Side
The Counterfeiters (Austria)
''Falling Slowly,'' Once
--Oh my god. I was legitimately thrilled for this to win. "The little movie that could", as so aptly described by Colin Farrell, really did, and boy were those two happy. Glen Hansaard has the coolest accent. He says stuff like "Tanks" instead of "Thanks". Good choice, academy.
--This score? Beautiful. If it wasn't going to be There Will be Blood, I would've wanted it to be this.
Sweeney Todd
--I think I called this. Didn't I? I think it would be a terrible shame for a movie based on a play NOT to win for best art direction.
There Will Be Blood
--Spot on. This movie? Bloody gorgeous.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
--Ha! I called this one too!
The Bourne Ultimatum
--Damn, I didn't see it. But, it's one of those movies, I guess.
La Vie en Rose
--The transformation from turning the french rosette Cotillard into the withered Edith Piaf was seamless.
The Bourne Ultimatum
--*see film editing
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Golden Compass
--Um, sure!
Peter & the Wolf
Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets)

Overall this was a pretty good ceremony, although the musical numbers made it tough, as well as the Honorary Oscar speech (I know they can turn on the music for them. They just don't).
Seth Rogan and Jonah Hill--Best. Presenters. Ever.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Random News: The Spirit Awards

Juno was the top winner at this year's Independent Spirit Awards, nabbing three awards including Best Feature. The hit comedy, which is also the highest-grossing of the five Oscar nominees for Best Picture, also won awards for Best Female Lead for star Ellen Page, who professed her adoration for director Jason Reitman, and Best First Screenplay for ebullient writer Diablo Cody. Winning two awards each were two films also up for Oscars: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which received Best Director for Julian Schnabel (clad in his requisite pajamas) and Best Cinematography, and The Savages, which took home Best Screenplay honors for Oscar nominee Tamara Jenkins and Best Male Lead, in a bit of a surprise, for Philip Seymour Hoffman. The supporting awards went to a very pregnant Cate Blanchett (I'm Not There) and an absent Chiwetel Ejiofor (Talk to Me), while Once was named Best Foreign Film, Crazy Love received Best Documentary, and The Lookout won Best First Feature.

Hosted by first-timer Rainn Wilson of The Office, the Spirit Awards also bestowed I'm Not There with the first Robert Altman Award, honoring the outstanding director, casting director, and ensemble cast of an independent film; director Todd Haynes paid homage to late star Heath Ledger as well as his acclaimed cast. In between award presentations, there were songs performed -- some parodies, some not -- as it rained outside in Santa Monica and Javier Bardem, who presented the Best Director award, became the object of affection for host Wilson. You can check out photos from the Spirit Awards, courtesy of WireImage.
I guess I shouldn't say I'm surprised by Juno winning best feature, but it was in category wtih some pretty good films. Most notably, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and I'm Not There.  Not surprised either about Ellen Page winning OR Diablo Cody. But yay for Cate Blanchett as best supporting female. 

I just hope that the big ceremony tonight doesn't bring me as much stress.

--also, I'm disgusted at how amazingly cute Ellen Page looks in that outfit.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Review: Be Kind, Rewind (2008)

I always loved making movies at home with a big camcorder. Using whatever worked to create the illusion we were trying to achieve; it wasn't easy, but it was fun. 

I felt that way about Be Kind, Rewind, the newest from the ultra-fine director Michel Gondry. In an increasingly digital world where editing movies is as quick and simple as tying your shoelaces, this film takes you back to a time when it was work for people to make home movies. 

I thought this film--about the classic run-down VHS-only neighborhood dollar rental store--was entirely too clever. When a mission to sabotage the local power supply goes horribly wrong, Jerry (Jack Black) becomes magnetized and accidentally erases every tape in the store. 

While the owner (Danny Glover) is out of town, Mike (Mos Def) and Jerry have no other option to appease their customers and let them borrow the movies they want. But since they don't have the original copy, they have to shoot their own. 

What works best here is the dynamic between Jack Black and Mos Def. Their pairing is unlikely but dammit, it works. Mike is whiny and spazy and anxious all the time. Jerry is paranoid and weird and silly. 

The two create organic 20-minute versions of classic films such as Ghostbusters, Driving Miss Daisy, 2001: A Space Odyssey, etc... 

Then there's the classic story of: The man wants to tear down the store because it's an architectural nightmare. It's been condemned and they need to move shop. Oh noes! Luckily, they have a plan. They're going to rent out their movies for $20 and use the money to buy off the contractors. 

It's a little tired, but the endless antics from Black, Def and the rest makes up for it. 

The ending is ambiguous. But I think that works. It's not always important to know how things will turn out, or what will happen to the characters. The movie is really about strengthening a community and an underdog video store. 

Ironically, this film will only be released on DVD and Blu-Ray. Whoops.

Grade: A-

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Rant: Juno

With the Oscars just days away (and I'm not ashamed to say that I'm SO excited that it's actually going to happen) I need to talk about a blight to the film industry that has somehow slipped its way into everybody's heart:


I will admit. I ate up the craze just like everybody else did at first. I saw the trailer and thought it looked cute. I was way excited to see a movie about a regular, sassy girl with some salt in her veins, just like me. 

Then the hype got even worse, and I started to think "Well...Maybe this isn't going to be as good as everyone thinks" and I started to see it for what it was.

Juno is too sassy for her own good. She's sarcastic and she knows it. She's so, so, so, so, SO pretentious. A hamburger phone? Oh my god, how ingenious. Honest to blog!
Let me just put this out there: I hate Diablo Cody. With every ounce I hate her. I don't care if she's local. She used to strip. Whoopdedoo. She also used to be a columnist for a publication I hate. She wrote a movie that tries too hard to be what it is.

A quirky indie comedy with laughs and heart and sharp wit. 

Let me just say again. A hamburger phone.

That is so kooky!

The inexplicable cameo by Rainn Wilson saying things like "your ego is preggo" and "what's the prognosis fertile myrtle?" made me roll my eyes so big I got dizzy. 

"That aint no etch-a-sketch. This is one doodle that can't be un-did, homeskillet"

Honest to blog.

Then there's the soundtrack. If I ever hear Kimya Dawson's boyish and whimsical voice again I will cry. Her songs that hammer indie into your head is enough to make anyone gag. So why is this movie so popular?

I wish I could say that people like Juno exist but I don't think they do. Nobody talks like she does. Nobody has a quirky obsession like Michael Cera's Paulie Bleeker does (red tic tacs? who thinks of this crazy stuff!)

I didn't hate Juno. The movie itself was actually alright in my honest opinion. It's what the damn movie has become. It's a monster, eating up all the attention that should go to well-deserving and amazing films like No Country for Old Men or There Will be Blood. (Not to say those two films are widely recognized as great.) 

It's nominated for FOUR Oscars. I understand Ellen Page for best actress and Diablo Cody for screenwriting but director? picture? Ugh. I hate Juno.

If this film hadn't tried so damn hard, I might actually like it. But thanks to the many many fans and support from film critics and naïve film-goers, I'm forced to hear every day about the little engine that could--and did--and probably will do for a long, long time.

Thanks Juno, for destroying my soul.

Random News: Jason Statham is in a new gangster film.

What else. 
I'll admit when I first saw the poster for it I wasn't too interested but then I watched the trailer and I was sold. The british gangster movies pull me in. The movie seems something like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" but with a woman thrown into the mix. 

I love British anything, so I'll be seeing this regardless of how good it looks. 

Random Notes: Heath Ledger doll revealed

From Cinematical:

"The image comes from The New York Post, who revealed it along with a quote from the Ledger family: “Heath was very proud of his work in the film, and his family is aware and supportive of Warner Bros. and its partner’s plans for the movie.” Mattel will sell two versions of the doll, with both hitting toy shelves this May (two months prior to The Dark Knight landing in theaters on July 18)."

I think this doll is a tad odd. I'm totally going to get it, but I don't know. Seems like they could've put more work into it. You think?

From what I read, they're not planning on making dolls for any other characters from the movie. Which is odd.. It's almost as if they're cashing in on Heath Ledger's untimely death.

No.. That wouldn't happen.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Random Notes: Total Promo

I got this totally awesome t-shirt today promoting the upcoming Michel Gondry film; Be Kind Rewind. The shirt itself isn't too interesting, but it has fun little details, if you'll examine:

The little masking tape is printed on and if you want you can write your name in. I'm still deciding whether or not I want to.

Know why this shirt is awesome?

Because it's straight from Jack Black's back. Alright so it actually isn't but it's basically the same thing as in the movie. So yes, this shirt is awesome. I'll be sure to wear it when I go and see it.

Review: The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)

Children. are. FEARLESS.

When I saw the poster for this movie I thought "wow, it's Pan's Labyrinth for kids". 

When I saw the movie I thought "wow, it's Pan's Labyrinth for kids". 

Although the books came a good few years before Pan's Labyrinth was made, I still think this film drew a bit from the former. 

All that said, it's films like these that make me wish I lived a more interesting life. Where can I find a house that unlocks all kinds of goblin doom and I can have adventures with my siblings AND mom? The answer is cinema.

This is an awesome adventure film for kids. There is actually some pretty sophisticated stuff going on, and a stellar double performance from Freddie Highmore (of Finding Neverland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fame.), who plays his own twin brother. His two performances were so different that it took me 20 minutes at least to realize it was the same person. Although I do miss that small child with the crackly british accent I know so well from the Johnny Depp-Kate Winslet vehicle. Ah well.

The one thing I didn't find so enchanting was the rating on this one. It's PG but there is some heavy violence (for a kid's movie) going on here. I'm thinking that it's going to make kids think they can stab or blow up things. They can't. I think this should at least have gotten a PG-13 rating. Would that have been so horrible? 

Another problem I had was the CGI. And there's a lot of it. Seeing as how this is the fusion of two worlds-the one we know, and the one we don't-all the fantastical creatures are computer generated, and let's just say it was painfully obvious. But maybe that's unfair. I think the movie was fun without being goofy and serious without being heavy and sentimental without being sappy. 

Grade: B+

p.s. SOLID voice work from the great Seth Rogan.

Random News: Heath Ledger lives on?

Heath Ledger whose death has been proclaimed as accidental drugs overdose will live on a new plastic doll. The late actor is having his role of Joker in one of his latest big screen projects "The Dark Knight" being immortalized in the form of a toy doll.

Heath's family has approved the release of the Mattel action figure to go with the upcoming movie "The Dark Knight." "Heath was very proud of his work in the film, and his family is aware and supportive of Warner Bros., and its partner's plans for the movie," a family spokesman told the New York Post.

A range of Heath's Joker dolls has been revealed by toy giants Mattel just one week after the Aussie star's funeral. Two versions of the doll will hit stores by May. One which comes with a rocket launcher will be sold for $7.99 and the second which comes with a toy knife, will be sold for $10.99.

Heath had finished playing the Joker in the forthcoming Batman film "The Dark Knight" when he was found dead in his New York apartment back on January 22 by his housekeeper and a masseuse who had arrived for an appointment with him.

"The Dark Knight", which is of superhero-action genre, is slated to be released July 18 later this year.

I am SO getting this.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Shelf Life: V for Vendetta (2006)

I first saw this film at a preview screening in March 2006 and thought it was pretty cool. It's interesting, stylized, and best of all British. When I watched it again on November 5 of that year, I couldn't believe that it was the same movie. I thought it was more than pretty cool. I thought it fantastic. 
"Adapted from David Lloyd's graphic novel of the same name, "V for Vendetta" tells the story of Evey Hammond and her unlikely but instrumental part in bringing down the fascist government that has taken control of a futuristic Great Britain. Saved from a life-and-death situation by a man in a Guy Fawkes mask who calls himself V, she learns a general summary of V's past and, after a time, decides to help him bring down those who committed the atrocities that led to Britain being in the shape that it is in."
Along with the movie being just plain awesome, I received a pack of four postcards from the screening, all with original and stylish art:

Every time I see the movie it continues to move me. The last scene, stocked with powerful symbolism is one of the best endings to a movie I've ever seen. Really fine performances from Stephen Rea and Hugo Weaving. And I guess Natalie Portman too, but I don't like her much as an actor and as a person, so whatever. 

The fact that there are several small stories within the bigger picture makes it possible for multiple viewings.

The Wachowski Brothers seem to always have one more thing up their sleeve.

If you haven't seen this, I urge you to do so soon.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Birthday Time: Simon Pegg


Simon Pegg is my favorite actor. He co-wrote and starred in my favorite film of all time, Shaun of the Dead

Not only that, but he co-wrote and starred in my favorite t.v. show of all time, Spaced. So, I guess I owe him a lot.

Many happy returns.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Review: In Bruges (2008)

The very moment I heard of In Bruges I wanted to see it. In my years of developing my own movie taste, I've always loved the British Gangster genre. Naturally, this seemed right up my alley.

When it came time to see it, I was surprised--in the best way. I figured it would be all crass humor and violence aplenty. I don't mind either of those things, and I got them, to a certain extent. The movie is really more of a drama with comedic elements. Incredibly dark and heavy, it deals with moral issues that caused me to have flashbacks of Cassandra's Dream...

Maybe this is because it was the second film in a week I saw Colin Farrell in. He played essentially the same role, except 10 times funnier. I honestly had no idea he was any good at acting. But by god, he is. Playing a hit man whose first assignment goes terribly wrong, he is sent to Bruges to await instructions from his boss. The trouble is, he hates Bruges. The only joy he finds is making fun of midgets and doing drugs and going to the pub. 

Aided by Brendan Gleeson, his fellow hit man and essentially his babysitter, it becomes an eloquent, poetic buddy film. 

The soundtrack is what threw me for a loop. It consists mostly of tranquil pianos and sweet solo violins. Along with the gorgeous cinematography of the Belgian town, you'd think you were looking at a classic drama--hardly the work of an amateur filmmaker.

The filmmaker in question--Irish Playwright Martin McDonagh--has made just one other film; an Academy Award winning short called "Six Shooter". His experience in the theater, though, helps him find a suitable and sensible voice for his characters. The writing is a strong point, but it's not for just theater lovers.

It's so refreshingly Un-PC. If you're easily offended by...Everything, don't see this. The film is beyond offensive, but it's great. I don't mind, so I loved it even more. At last, someone who just don't give a shit.

Overall, I would say it's a black comedic british gangster film with heart. Colin Farrell's boy-like conscience makes him such a unique character, and Brendan Gleeson's father-like presence helps their relationship and makes the whole experience sublimely enjoyable.

Ralph Fiennes co-stars (oh, and he's funny as hell).

Grade: A

Monday, February 11, 2008

Review: Cassandra's Dream (2008)

Woody Allen is not well-known to me, so I apologize if this review is a tad under-educated. 

That said, I don't need to be a Woody Allen fan to know if I liked a movie or not. Anyway, 

Cassandra's Dream is about two brothers (Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell) who need money, so they go to their very rich uncle Howard (Tom Wilkinson). He agrees to help them, if only first they'll help him--by killing a former associate who is going to spill some very bad information on Uncle Howard.

And there you have it. A moral dilemma. They don't want to, but apparently they're just scared little babies, according to Uncle Howard, who takes a sudden turn in demeanor so extreme it's laughable. 

I had trouble with the dialogue. Mostly when said by McGregor and his on-screen love interest. The problem with McGregor is that he sounds awkward on screen. The problem with the woman? The lines are just weird.

"Being rescued is one of my wicked dreams"

Come. On. The film has a few comedic elements, where you're not sure if you're supposed to laugh or not, but there are some moments where it's funny by accident. 

I thought that the execution of building tension was flawless. I was wringing my hands the whole time, when the two brothers are about to "cross the line" as it were, and never return. 

The one performance I did like a great deal was Colin Farrell, who surprised me. His turn as a drunk, scared shitless hitman was spot on and made me feel awful for the things he felt awful for.

Overall, a film that was decent enough, but like I said, I don't know Allen well.

Grade: B-

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Review: Persepolis (2007)

Hip hop Persopolis. 

First of all I thought the trailer for this made it look amazing. I guess because there was no story, and just the animation and music was all that got to me. But that was in a trim 2 minutes. 
Persepolis is based on the auto-biographical graphic novels (there should be a faster way to say that. auto-biographic novels?) by Marjane Satrapi. 


"Poignant coming-of-age story of a precocious and outspoken young Iranian girl that begins during the Islamic Revolution."

In this cheeky slice of life tale told by a bitter Iranian-turned-French woman, it isn't quite as enjoyable as it makes itself out to be.

But first, I will say that the animation was very new and interesting. It's certainly a refreshing look, far from the new age of 3D animation (and nothing but). Also, the soundtrack it spine-tingling and catchy. Maybe too catchy? Anyhow, it matched the movie perfectly and is definitely the finer point of this film.

Other than that, there was no real story. It's a girl who is being moved around in life. She falls, she gets back up. She meets a boy, they break up and she's heart broken. She tries to kill herself, then she decided to conquer life instead. That kind of circular story-telling makes me dizzy, and frankly, not too interested in what happens next, because will it really matter?

As I said earlier, the trailer led me to believe that this film would have a happy ending, where she finally gets out of this repressive situation and lives, goddammit, lives! Well, she doesn't, and she's the same, sad, mopey person. And why do I care? I don't know.

Persepolis is up for the Best Animated Film Oscar. 

Grade: C+