Monday, April 23, 2012

"None Of Your Bones Are Broken."

Now and then, you come across a movie that's pure atmosphere. Maybe the plot is alright, maybe the characters are barely there, but it's the tone of the movie that really comes through. Always very stylized, very artsy, with a high chance of a masquerade ball thrown in there somewhere. Sleeping Beauty walks a tightrope between drama and art film, leaving me straddling my own opinions about it. The main premise runs something like this: Lucy (Emily Browning), a young woman who entertains life with a mechanical precision, decides to take on an unorthodox job for the money. Her job description is this: she takes some sleeping tea, falls asleep naked, and lets men "enjoy her company" for the night. The next morning, she wakes up without any recollection of what's happened. The most interesting part of the job is that it comes with a stipulation: the men who purchase her for the night can't penetrate her. Which means she gets a cast of extremely interesting characters--an elderly man who just wants to hold someone, a sadomasochist who needs to bark at something pretty, and so on. 

To be honest, I'm still having a hard time wrapping my head around exactly how I feel about the movie. From what I'd heard about it, I was preparing myself for some sick sexual abuse. What I got in return was something more disturbing--a main character completely numb to her body. I've seen Shame. I can handle that whole "ugly sex" theme. Violation. Degradation. But the strangest part was how open Lucy was to the concept. She didn't seem to have any real qualms about giving her body up for free. Instead, she seemed to use her body as currency on a regular basis and overall had succumbed to her situation. Lucy was less of a main character and more of a prop, without any real intent or motivation of her own. I'd like to give the script (and Emily Browning) the benefit of the doubt and say this was intentional on the movie's part. Which made it a fine art film with striking social commentary, but at what cost? The sacrifice of a potentially engaging and sympathetic main character. All in all, I'm glad I watched this one, but you'd have a hard time getting a straight-answer from me about it. I will, however, say this: the clients who purchase her for the night? The most fearless actors you've ever seen in a long time. Check this one out solely for the old man. Homeboy's got talent. 

TV Trauma: The River.

THE RIVER (2012)
If it wasn't obvious, I'm scrambling to do a massive, massive A-To-Z catch up. With that said, a little something different this time around. The River is a miniseries that came out this year, and when I say miniseries I mean "had a stellar first season with the promising possibility of a second, but since when has TV ever followed through on their best shows?" The thing was, I didn't really expect myself to get sucked into The River. The plot seemed a little cliché at best--when a wildlife expert with his own TV show goes missing, his family trudges through the Amazon to find him. And, of course, in order to fund their adventure through the Amazon, they've made a deal with the producer to go "Big Brother" on them and film every step of their journey. Sounds like a lot of familiar horror movie techniques working at once, right? Wrong. The River was refreshing, clever, and one of the best shows I've seen in a long time.

What really sells this show is its command of suspense. And you know what, maybe a less gullible viewer would've been able to call out all the twists and turns before they happened. But the script is really, genuinely good at slowly building tension. We're going back to the days of Hitchcock, that good, old fashioned suspense that creeps up behind you with an outstretched silhouette of a hand. Instead of relying on clever CGI and shock-value, The River has a solid story. Plus, it made me jump in my seat more than once, and anyone who has watched movies with me will tell you that's a hard feat to accomplish.

Not only do we have a great script, but we have a great ensemble cast. There wasn't a single person I wasn't at one point rooting for in the movie. The characters are all likable, complex, and very, very human. From the claustrophobic camera man, to the even-tempered bodyguard, to the mildly possessed but beautiful mechanic. Our main characters were the family members themselves--Lincoln Cole, played by the underrated Joe Anderson who you might know from Across The Universe, and Tess Cole, played by the intense Leslie Hope. And, of course, the missing man himself, Emmet Cole, who was pulled off by Bruce Greenwood. If the tense, frightening situations don't hook you in, the characters will. There were rumors of a second season, but I highly doubt that will happen. Still, I'm not all that chuffed about it--the first season was a solid, tight miniseries without any fatty, extraneous bits. It didn't wear off its welcome and kept a clean, fresh feeling. If this is all they have to show for it, they already have more than most TV shows can boast. If you haven't seen this one, I highly recommend checking it out. 

Vampire Porn Goes Viral.

Since I reviewed Interview With The Vampire, I felt obligated to review this one as well. Even though I am aware that it is entirely unfair of me to review this bad boy, since I have read the book by Anne Rice, Queen Of The Damned, and therefore I hate this movie's undead, beating heart. My hatred is blind and complete. I have absolutely no idea how this movie holds up as a movie, that is, on it's own two legs without the knowledge that a much better book came before it. For all I know, this could be an excellent vampire movie. But here's the thing--if you want to go ahead and make your own vampire movie, fine by me. Hollywood is happy to oblige more bloodsuckers. However, if you're going to do a translation of a book, for the love of God, read the source material. I'm looking at you too, Troy. It barely follows the plot of the book, the characters are all turned on their heads, and worst of all, the director doesn't even know how to pronounce major character's names. Not even kidding. Listen to the commentary, he calls the very French Louis "Lou-IS." And my brain all over the walls.

Am I being petty? Completely. But let's look at the facts: enter our main character and hero, Lestat. The self-absorbed Brat Prince of the vampire world. Great. So they've switched up his backstory, but I get it. He has a complicated, incestuous past, and you want to keep him on the sexy side. Fine. But then they go and cast pretty-boy Stuart Townsend, who has a hard time acting his way out of a paper bag. I will give him credit where credit is due--his role as Dorian Gray in The League of Extraordinary Gentleman? Great. I was one of the few people that actually enjoyed that movie. Probably because I was just tickled by the irony of the fact that Dorian Gray was a lot more like Lestat than Queen Of The Damned's Lestat ever was. 

Moving on--Aaliyah, who played the man-hating ancient Queen Akasha, was actually one of the few enjoyable parts of the movie. She's got that whole vampire swag going on, so I can appreciate that. And she's just as campy and creepy as she needs to be. Fine by me. But then we move to the next in line female protagonist--Jesse Reeves, played by Marguerite Moreau. Jesse was an annoying little Mary Sue in the books, and she's an even more irritating annoying little Mary Sue in the movie. And she ruined a perfectly good gay romance. There is nothing I like about Jesse. The last actor I'll mention is Vincent Perez, who played Lestat's...maker (it hurts me just to say that), Marius. Aaliyah aside, Marius was the best part of the movie. Hands down. He was completely insane and flamboyant in all the right places. You go, Vincent Perez. The long and short of it is this: I hated this movie. But only because I have very fond memories of the book. My suggestion to anyone who isn't familiar with the book would be to probably see the movie first. And then you can tell me if it makes a good movie on its own, or you can join me in ceremoniously burning the DVD and scattering its ashes. 

"We Thought You Was A Toad."

Ah, the Coen Brothers. That name is really all you need to say and I'm running to the theaters with my ticket in hand. The Coen Brothers have yet to make a movie that's really bored me to tears. Sure, some are better than others. Some are cleaner than others. But no matter what, they have a knack of making movies that really stick with you. O Brother, Where Art Thou? is a translated version of The Odyssey, featuring three convicts who break out of prison in the 1930s and run away to find an alleged treasure. They meet various folks along their journey, including a man who sold his soul for the guitar, a one-eyed con-man, and Baby Face Nelson himself.

I'll start off with the actors and just say they're all fantastic. George Clooney plays the articulate ring-leader, Everett, and he nails the role. I mean, he's George Clooney. He's always a pleasure to watch. Then we've got the extremely underrated John Turturro, who just looks like he belongs in the wrong end of a jail cell. And Tim Blake Nelson, also underrated, is something of a comic relief as the convict with a heart of gold. It helps that they have a great script to work with, delivering brilliant lines of dialogue one right after the other. Is O Brother, Where Art Thou? problematic as a movie? Sure, the acts don't quite jive, the narrative jumps around a little too much, some solutions are just too "convenient." But have I seen it so many times I can quote it? Yes, yes, I have. If that's not the true testament to a good movie, I don't know what is. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I'll Take The Breast Meat.

PRIME CUT (1972)
Named in Empire Magazine as one of the 20 Greatest Gangster Movies You've Never Seen* (*Probably), Prime Cut happens to also be one of the strangest movies you've never seen. The plot runs something like this: a Chicago mob enforcer is sent to Kansas City to settle a debt with a cattle rancher who not only grinds his enemies into sausage, but sells women as sex slaves. Or at least, that's what IMDB tells me. Right. Still with me? Imagine this: an underground barn event with rows and rows of pens, around which ranchers are auctioning off their meat. Only their "meat" doesn't have anything to do with farm animals--naked women lay drugged up in the pens instead, waiting to be sold. If that doesn't catch your attention, I don't know what will.

Lee Marvin stars in this flick as Nick Devlin, the law man who's going to save the day. His archenemies just so happens to be Gene Hackman, the evil slaughterhouse operator called Mary Ann. Because nothing inspires fear and intimidation like a bad guy called Mary Ann. But who are we kidding? Sure, Lee Marvin is the man, and Gene Hackman is fantastic as always, but this movie is really all about the young, half-naked Sissy Spacek. Damn. Is all I can say about that. The ultimate prognosis? This movie isn't for everyone. But if you don't mind a movie with a little camp and color...I'd check it out. If for no other reason than this: an epic chase involving a crop harvester, the woman action house, Sissy Spacek's bod, and everything else that makes this movie completely and utterly shameless. My verdict? Thank god for the 70s.

Monday, April 16, 2012

"Never Fear, Brooklyn Is Here."

NEWSIES (1992)
There is really nothing I don't like about Newsies. It's an underdog story. It's got great choreography and musical numbers. Christian Bale looks like a baby. And best of all, it's set it the best place on earth. New York City. Represent! Newsies is a period piece based off the newsboy strike of 1899. In short, a bunch of young newsboys are tired of getting shafted by the big, bad businesses and go on strike to prove their worth. Complete with ridiculous accents, clever one-liners, and cigar-smoking orphans. It's fun, it's creative, and it's a hell of a catchy tune. Not to mention, it's an epic story. When I say "epic" here, I don't mean, "Whoa, dude, that gnarly wave was epic." I mean it's got the full-on battle with the police, the dance numbers filled with swinging, tapping extras, the whole nine-yards of a grand, musical epic. 

The most impressive part is probably the fact that this movie is chockfull of young faces, yet none of them are annoying. We don't have Anakin Skywalker acting like he's in some cereal commercial. They're all likable kids, not to mention extraordinarily talented. If you're a fan of Christian Bale, you've really got to see him sing and dance his ass off in this one. It will be two hours put to good use. As for the rest of the cast, while the kids are epic, there aren't a lot of names anyone's going to be quick to remember. But we do have a couple well-known adults here, such as Bill Pullman, who I've had a soft spot for ever since Spaceballs (1987). Really, I know he tries to be known as "the president in Independence Day", but he will always be Lone Starr to me. Next up, Robert Duvall makes an appearance, and everyone just loves seeing his face, no matter what role he's in. As for the movie itself, my only real complaint is a contrived romantic subplot thrown in the midst of all that singing and dancing. But I suppose we had to get some boobs in there, or else this would probably be classified as an LGBT film. All in all, excellent movie. So excellent that they've taken it to Broadway, 20 years later. You can bet I'll be waiting in line for that one. That's all I've got for this one, kids, now put an egg in your shoe and beat it. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

"The Profile Doesn't Fit The Profile."

I just rewatched this movie after having put it down since...well...probably sometime around 2002. And, damn. I forgot what a good movie it was. It's a good, solid movie. Period. It's not just the good actors. Or the insane characters. Or the wild plot. It's the ambiance of the film. The little details. It's the docked boat our heroine sleeps in, the decrepit house the two students work out of, the battle scars under a turtleneck. It has the plot of a Law & Order episode with the undercurrent of an old murder mystery novel. In short, it's everything I enjoy. The main plot runs as such: two bored and morbid students kill a woman just because they can. A detective with a dark and violent past becomes invested in the case when the details start to feel a little too personal. So far so good, right? 

The interesting thing about this movie is it doesn't take the easy way out. It's not a standard whodunit. We know right off the bat who the murderers are. Case closed. The real meat of the movie is in watching the various characters battle with their own demons. The guilty conscience, the paranoid reflex, the itch of things buried right under the skin. And maybe I'm giving Murder By Numbers a little more credit than its due for pure nostalgia reasons. Sure, the ending's a little over the top, it has its campy moments. But there's very little I love more in the world that dissecting the psyche of truly fucked-in-the-head people. Kids who murder because they that's an uncomfortable subject. It's something that makes you squirm the entire movie. Murder without rhyme or reason is just something that doesn't sit well with anyone, and this movie doesn't ever let you off that hook.

As for the actors, this is a throwback. All your favorites of the 2010s before they really hit the jackpot. Ryan Gosling, looking like a baby. All you Notebook fans, check this one out. You will sleep with one eye open. Then we have Michael Pitt, who has always been around by somehow just recently seems to have come into the public eye with Boardwalk Empire. Also looking like a baby. Finally, we've got Sandra Bullock. I know what you're thinking--gag reflex. But I'm one of those people who was actually rooting for her in her earlier years. Let's face it, she had that tomboy with an attitude and a quick tongue down pat. So long as she was playing the rough and tumble characters, I was there with her. Lately, yes. I've avoided her like the plague. But Cassie Mayweather is a hardass on a mission, and there is little I want more in a female detective role. Plus, watching her tumble around with her partner in crime because she has some inner demons to burn is brilliant. She's just a straight up fully fleshed character, and Sandra Bullock pulls her off brilliantly. Lastly, I have to give a shout out to Chris Penn. Because he's in this movie, even if it's only for a couple minutes, and that makes me happy beyond happy. You go, Nice Guy. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

"Tonight's Not Over Yet."

You know the story. Marriage. Love. Temptation. What is it about affairs that Hollywood loves so much? Still, despite having an all too-familiar plot Last Night is a surprisingly subtle movie about dancing on the tightrope of loyalty. The married couple in question get in a fight the night before the husband, Michael (Sam Worthington), has to go on a out of town business trip with an all too-tempting business partner (Eva Mendes). His wife, Joanna (Keira Knightley), is left to her own devices...which just to happen to fall in line with an old flame (Guillaume Canet). Despite the fact that it's worn and tired ground, Last Night is unexpectedly refreshing. It's a very genuine look into these four characters' lives and never takes sides, giving both husband and wife the opportunities to rise and fall to the occasion. 

Ironically enough, one of my favorite bits of this movie is, in fact, the dynamic between the supposedly doomed couple Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington. They have excellent chemistry together and pull off a beautiful, yet believable domestic couple. Not to mention, their fight is probably the most well-written piece of the whole film. As for the supporting cast, Eva Mendes always leaves a little to be desired (but that's the point of her, no?), while Guillaume Canet plays an excellent charmer (or is it just the accent?). Overall, the script it concisely done, and running a neat 90 minutes it's able to take what it came for and catch the next flight out in the morning. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

"That's it. More. That's Right! I Want More!"

KEY LARGO (1948)
Everyone's had that moment. When you're watching an old movie and the thought runs through your mind: "they just don't make movies like that anymore." That's what Key Largo is. One of those solid, excellent movies that you will be hard pressed to ever see the likes of again. If there was one thing cinema did well up until about the 70s, it was this: stage play adaptions and murder noir. With that in mind, Key Largo really has everything good going for it. The film revolves around Frank McCloud, a WWII veteran who has come to a hotel in Key Largo to pay his respects to the family of one of his fallen war buddies. However, all hell breaks loose (doesn't it always?) when a storm comes through and traps the friends inside the hotel. Along with a band of gangsters waiting on a "special delivery." It's the perfect recipe for a little violence, a lot of excellent script writing, and some wonderful shadows and ambiance. 

And let us not forget the stars. Humphrey Bogart, of course, delivers a solid performance. You can tell when the man's in his element, and this is certainly it. Not to mention the lovely Lauren Bacall, who does a beautiful damsel-mostly-in-distress. The two play off each other wonderfully. But my favorite performance has to fall on the shoulders of Edward G. Robinson, who plays the gravelly gangster Johnny Rocco. If you want to know why people are typecast, this is it. He's short, he's vile, and he's a mean, ruthless gangster machine. If I saw this man on the street, I would probably run very quickly in the other direction. Lastly, I have to give a shout out to the outrageous old folks--Lionel Barrymore and Claire Trevor. Bring it. Key Largo is a straight up classic--if you haven't seen it, what are you waiting for? A stormy night and a nefarious crowd? 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"Clever Girl..."

When writing a review of Jurassic Park, it's tempting just to write the word DINOSAURS over and over again with a plethora of exclamation marks and call it a night. But Jurassic Park is so much more than just a dinosaur movie. As if it needed to be more! Really. We all would have been plenty happy with watching dinosaurs run around and eat people for a couple hours. You know you've watched those re-imagined dinosaur specials on The Discovery Channel. But here we have flesh-and-blood human characters, a strong script, solid acting, and a soundtrack that will go down in history. Between the swell of the human, the awe on the character's faces, and the vast landscape as they settle their helicopter down onto the island, there's a moment when everyone watching turns into an ecstatic child. Steven Speilberg, you've done it again. 

I could go on about the actors. About how Sam Neill delivers, and Laura Dern is a badass, and Jeff Goldblum is hilarious and classic. About how Richard Attenborough gives us an amazing John Hammond, and Samuel L. Jackson makes a wonderful computer nerd, and even the children are likable. Or I could talk about how epic the music is, how timeless, how John Williams owns it. Hell, I could even mention how awesome the dinosaurs are, how even the special effects stood the test of time. But the real magic of this movie is the beating, bleeding heart of it. All of the characters have very real, very emotion motivations and aspirations. But it's the awe and wonder they feel in the presence of such awesome creatures like the dinosaurs that really brings us back to what's important--nature is a beast. Life will find a way. And dinosaurs are awesome. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"Still whining, Louis?"

A confession. I'm a big Anne Rice fan. And when I say "I'm a big Anne Rice fan", I mean "I'm a big fan of her early work, before she rediscovered religion and subsequently fell off her rocker". Not to say there's anything bad about rediscovering's just that Anne Rice manages to put a psycho crazy spin on everything she does. That aside, Interview with the Vampire is a genuinely good book. It's got a truly creepy gothic tone, it deals with complicated moral issues, and the vampires don't sparkle. If you want a good gothic novel--Dracula style--I'd highly recommend picking Interview up. As for the rest of the series, well, it's enjoyable, but it's also a fascinating peak into the steady decline of Anne Rice's sanity. All that said, I was reluctant to see the movie. Especially with Tom Cruise's name tagged along in it. The skeptic in me told me to stay away, but the curious cat in me had to check it out. And let me tell you: worth it. Ten times over. 

The real master in this movie is Neil Jordan. Hands down. He collaborated with the author to get a good script, and then he delivered. Lord of the Rings aside, Interview with the Vampire has to be the best book-to-movie translation I've ever seen. Forget the fact that he alters a couple scenes--that's expected in these kind of deals. What is really impressive is the fact that Neil Jordan manages to translate the tone of the book. The rich, gothic, New Orleans atmosphere. He nails it. Completely. I've seen movies that have managed to do relatively good successful translations of book-to-movie by simply keeping in as much of the book as they can. And sure, I can respect that. But to capture the actual ambience of the book? The heart and soul of the narration? That's a heavy rabbit to pull of the hat, and Neil Jordan makes it look easy. 

Lastly, of course, I have to give props to the actors. I don't know what it is--maybe it's Neil Jordan being awesome again, maybe it's the 90s, maybe it's just the material--but every one of these actors literally disappears inside their roles. Brad Pitt. Huge name, right? You'd recognize him anywhere. Well, maybe not playing the brooding Louis, with his hopeless, passive attitude towards life and his mournful green eyes. Even Antonio Banderas, despite his accent that always sticks out like a sore thumb, blends in completely with the velvet drapes and haunting candelabras. But, amidst all that talent, there are two actors that really steal the show. Tom Cruise and Kristen Dunst. The last two names you would expect on that list, right? Well, let me put it this way: Kristen Dunst was about 10 at the time, and I still think it was the best role of her career. She's one frightening and manipulative little girl. And Tom Cruise as Lestat? Homeboy nails it. Does it help that the character is narcissistic, arrogant, and controlling? Probably. But it's more than that. Tom Cruise plays the colorful and vibrant exterior of the well as the damaged and insecure interior. The chemistry between Cruise and Dunst is killer. Literally. To wrap this bad boy up: if you're looking for a vampire movie with a little less sparkle and a little more awesome, check this one out. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Move Aside, Chris Hansen.

You know the lecture. We've all heard it at one point in our lives since the invention of the world wide web. "There's nothing but perverts and pedophiles out there. Beware." And so parents do their best to monitors their children and sleep easy to the sounds of Chris Hansen on Dateline. Everyone's out to kill our children. If it's not the internet, it's the strangers we talk to and the man on the side of the road sticking his thumb out. I don't know about you, but I've always thought the only person more frightening than the hitchhiker with a hockey mask is the driver who's willing to pick up a hitchhiker with a hockey mask. Hard Candy falls somewhere along those lines. It follows the journey of a 14 year old girl (Ellen Page) who decides to finally meet face-to-face the 32 year old photographer (Patrick Wilson) who has been chatting her up on the internet. To say any more than that is really to spoil the brilliance of the movie. What I will say is that what plays out is an intense cat-and-mouse game that would probably put Patrick Bateman to shame. 

The real brilliance of this movie is in the acting. The concept itself is fantastic, but it's the actors who really turn it around. Ellen Page is not the soft little thing you remember from Juno. She's got a multitude of sides to her, and she plays them all with a chilling deadpan brilliance. As for Patrick Wilson, I can't help but like the guy. Between Watchmen and The A-Team, I'm sold. Sandra Oh makes a brief appearance, but for the most part the entirety of the movie focuses completely on the two leads. They not only play off each other fantastically, but are also excellent in their own right. One of the great things this movie has going for it is good, old fashioned suspense. It's the monster behind the curtains that never really shows its face. It's the very visceral feeling of dread as you watch the characters spiral further and further out of control. If you've got a taste for tension and it's been an hour since your last meal, I'd definitely suggest checking this one out.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

I Wanna Breach Your Firewall, Baby.

GAMER (2009)
Some movies are best when you really don't know what you're getting into. Gamer is an excellent example of ignorance is bliss. This movie was supposed to be a good date night pick: Gerard Butler for my lady, explosive action sequences for me. Win-win. Never mind that I had the sneaking suspicion in the back of my head that it was probably made for 14 year old boys and it was probably going to end with the hero growling the words: "Game over." The result was...not quite what I had expected. Instead, I got a future, dystopian society with gladiator style fights with a cyberpunk twist. Hello? How did things suddenly get so awesome?

The world is brilliantly done. In this world, everyone is hooked into their own virtual realities. Except virtual reality is...well...real, and the people on the other side of the screen are being forced by mind control to perform lewd and sometimes deadly acts. Think reality TV with guns. In many ways, you can pair this movie off with Hunger Games. But that wouldn't be quite right, because while Hunger Games delved into serious societal and political issues, Gamer was just a lot of campy fun. The fight scenes are fun, the world is epic, and Gerard Butler is everything you want Gerard Butler to be. The noble hero man with a lot of muscle and a little snark in him. Ludacris is in it as the computer hacker/rebellion leader. I really just enjoy his face, so that cameo made me happy. But the one who really steals the show is Michael C. Hall. Playing--what else?--a psychopath. But here he's a psychopath with a lot of money and some tap dance lessons. He's campy, he's sadistic, and he's just plain insane. But so, so much fun to watch. As usual, he steals every scene and owns the camera. If you have absolutely no desire to see this movie, consider it. Consider it solely for Michael C. Hall. Damn, man. Work it. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

"What Kind Of Devil Bird Chirps At Night?"

If there's anything I hate worse than a Matthew McConaughey movie, it's a Sarah Jessica Parker movie. If there's anything I hate worse than a Sarah Jessica Parker movie, it's a poorly written Sarah Jessica Parker romcom with Matthew McConaughey. It was as though someone in Hollywood decided to take everything I hate and crammed it all into one unwatchable 90 minute mess. Failure to Launch is about an unmotivated slacker, Tripp, who lives at home with his parents. Just by his name alone, we can already tell he's going to be obnoxious. The thing is, I don't always hate Matthew McConaughey. I was one of the few people that actually enjoyed Sahara (2005). And I thought he was great in Tropic Thunder (2008). It's just that awful cheesy smile he reserves for the worst kind of romantic comedy that grates on my every nerve. Sarah Jessica Parker is something else. I've never liked her, I never will. It doesn't even have anything to really do with her acting, it's just an irrational gut feeling of revulsion every time I get when I see her. Kind of like a gag reflex. Between the two of them, it was hard for me to watch this movie from between the spaces in my fingers.

The real tragedy of this movie is that the supporting cast isn't that bad. Justin Bartha just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. His comic timing is always spot on, even in subtle ways like The Hangover. Knowing that, it's a little painful to watch him downgraded to slapstick humor. Not that I have anything against slapstick, it's just...hard to watch when it's not really his style. I even enjoyed Zooey Deschanel, even though she only plays...Zooey Deschanel. But she had great chemistry with Justin Bartha and the few redeemable moments of this movie happened within the small subplot of their relationship. In short, those two are the reason why this film has a star at all. Also, a shout out to Bradley Cooper, just because it's fun to watch him alongside his Hangover compadre without them running around like headless chickens going "what happened?". But really, Hollywood. What happened? 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Greatest Social Climber Since Cinderella.

EVITA (1996)
One thing you probably don't know about me: I have a very large soft spot for musicals. Blame it on New York and the proximity to Broadway, but there you have it. Another thing you're going to need to know is that I practically grew up on Evita, so like many movies we see and idolize as young kids, this one has a place in my heart. But how could it not? Madonna. Jonathan Pryce. Antonio Banderas (and this is the 90s, so you know he was good). And the music! Even daydreaming about it and I know it'll be stuck in my head for the rest of the week. Oh, right, the plot. That. Here's the thing--I don't know anything about Evita Duarte. Or Argentina in the 1940s. So for all I know, this could be political mashed potatoes. However, Evita still makes a damn good movies about a strong female protagonist with less than savory means of getting exactly what she wants. Love her or hate her, Evita is a compelling character, and Madonna holds her own playing the manipulative leader. Which is impressive, considering the fact that on the other end of the boxing ring stands Antonio Banderas, playing none other than Che Guevara. It's a cast of powerful characters and powerful actors, neither of which are bound to leave your memory any time soon. 

The thing about Evita is that it's an old-school musical/movie. Which means this: they don't pepper in a couple songs here and there when it seems like a good time to sing. The music to dialogue ratio in this film is like putting an elephant up against a mouse--it's just not a fair fight. Some might like that, other might find it out of place--I personally am a sucker for musical movies that don't stop singing. Lastly, I have to give a shout out to Jonathan Pryce. From Brazil (1985) to Carrington and somehow he still lands roles like "the old, boring dad in Pirates Of The Caribbean." He's an extraordinarily talented and underrated actor, and definitely holds his own in Evita. Not to mention, he's got a gorgeous voice. So, if you're looking for a little music in your life and want to learn some history while you're at it, I highly recommend checking this one out. Just don't put it on me if you wake up rolling your rs. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"And That's The Double-Truth, Ruth."

As a (now former) resident of New York, I can tell you that nothing brings out the beast of the city quite like a sticky summer day. Add a cast of troubled characters, the smog of racial tension, and a city full of short tempers and you've got a recipe for disaster. Do The Right Thing is an early Spike Lee film that demonstrates exactly how racial hatred can slowly eat the soul straight out of a neighborhood until it is left with nothing but bare bones and smoking debris. More than that, it's about the genuine, salt-of-the-earth people who get caught in the crossfire of battling ideals.

I've spent a lot of time studying the tug-and-pull of the "Martin Luther King Jr. vs. Malcolm X" arguments, and I'll always be hard pressed to say exactly where I fall between the two. Luckily, Spike Lee shares a similar unease and battles it out all while telling a good story. Political messages aside, it's just a good movie. Period. The characters are colorful and crisp, the dialogue hits you with a poetic beat, and it's the perfect blend of art and real life. After all, you can't get to the real truth of the matter without a little fiction, and Do The Right Thing is a perfect example of just that. Spike Lee, Danny Aiello, John Turturro and so many more are fantastically cast and really bring their roles to life. Plus, it has my man Samuel L. Jackson as the smooth talking Mister Señor Love Daddy. I'm sold. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Made-For-TV Audiobook.

Carrington is not a movie. It may look like a movie, it may talk like a movie, and it may quack like a movie, but it is not a movie. If you treat it like a movie, you'll get impatient, bored, and confused. Its a novel masquerading as a movie. Carrington traces through the lives of two prominent members of the Bloomsbury Group, a sect of British intellectuals in the early 20th century. It follows the story of Dora Carrington (Emma Thompson) who falls in love with author Lytton Strachey (Jonathan Pryce). One problem: Dora is considered something of damaged goods to be a virgin at her age and Lytton is gay. Their marriage is unorthodox from start to finish as they continuously invite others into their house and bed, yet anyone would be hard pressed to find two people quite as devoted to each other as Dora and Lytton. 

The actors hold their own--Emma Thompson is fantastic and plays beautifully off of the brilliant Jonathan Pryce. The script is untamable, but carries a lot of compassion for its main characters who you can't help but fall in love with. As a film, Carrington doesn't hold up well. It's too long, there's not enough plot, and it has the apperance of being all over the place. However, once I settled into the fact that it was more of a novel than a movie, I was able to let the characters run free at their own pace. I put it down for the night when I felt it wearing a little thin, then picked it up and resumed the next day, ready to explore the next chapter of these characters' lives. In short, Carrington is bit of a tedious movie, but a stellar audiobook. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Fassbender Snuggles A Bear Cub For 2 Hours.

A good reprieve from American Psycho, no? A Bear Named Winnie delves into the origins of the bear that inspired Winnie The Pooh, a bear named Winnie who was adopted by a World War I army veterinarian, an ultimately won over (most of) the infantry. In short, A Bear Named Winnie is what happens when you feel like doing your history on Michael Fassbender and realize that this one is an instant watch on Netflix. I'm assuming the target audience encompasses young children and their tired mothers looking for a little more eye-candy than The Hunchback Of Notre Dame has to offer, so with that in mind, I'm fully aware that I fall outside this movie's spectrum. However, I have to give it points for trying. Credit where credit is due, there have been worse movies for children dedicated to animals, which can be summed up in "animals do silly animal things for 90 minutes straight." At very least, this movie has a World War I backdrop. Which makes for good bromances and vague moral queries. It also makes for a hardass commanding officer antagonist, who is always over the top but necessary for movies like this.

The highlight, of course, is the bear, Winnie, and Michael Fassbender. The movie really could have been called Fassbender Snuggles A Bear Cub For 2 Hours and I would've been satisfied. Winnie herself is an adorable, lumbering thing and watching her wrap Fassbender in a bear hug sends me into spasms of irrational glee. It doesn't help that Stephen Fry makes a brief but always welcome cameo. Overall, the movie is a happy-go-lucky feel good animal film that never gets too campy nor too Old Yeller style dark, and while it might run a little longer than it has to, it's an entertaining watch for children, Fassbender fanatics, and anyone who stays up at night dreaming about burrowing their face into a mountain of warm bear fur.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

"I Have To Return Some Videotapes."

If there's anything I love more than a good bloodbath, it's a murderer lecturing about Huey Lewis and the News before cheerfully slicing an axe through his coworker's head. American Psycho gives us the story of Patrick Bateman, a wealthy New York banking executive who wants nothing more than to wear the best suits and go to the best restaurants and own the best business cards. And if he can do it while slaughtering everyone around him, all the better. It's incredibly dark, never skimps on the blood stains, and is riddled with black humor. The frantic comedy is, above all, what makes this a woefully addictive movie, not to mention the namesake for this blog. With its high body count, twisted humor, and scathing social commentary, it's really everything I want out of a movie. 

Above all, I have to give Christian Bale credit where credit is due for this one. He's churned out some great roles over the past twelve years, but I'd still be hard pressed to find anything that tops the fearlessness with which he dives into Patrick Bateman's spit-shined shoes. I don't know what he's channelling, but it comes across as a mix between Jim Carrey and crack cocaine. His energy is through the roof, but he's more than dancing on his toes--it's the subtle expressions that really nail the character, the desperation with which his psychotic inner demons cling for some kind of control seem ever present in his painfully self-aware mask. As for the other characters, he definitely has a terrific supporting cast. Willem Dafoe can't seem to shake his detective's badge, but who would really want him to when he pulls it off so damn well? Jared Leto pulls off a great sleazy business man, and even Reese Witherspoon, a hit and miss (and mostly miss) actress delivers a great, solid performance, no doubt courtesy of the brilliant script. If you've got a sweet tooth for the unapologetically morbid, I highly recommend this bad boy.