Wednesday, November 19, 2008
In what might be the biggest week ever for the illicit file sharing side of the nets another of next week's new set drops... er... drops.
Guns N' Roses, 808s N' Heartbreak & Day N' Age all debut in the next week, just in time to be the last CDs Circuit City will ever sell and most of those 3 are all out & about.
The big question is, who takes #1 on the charts (and where is the magazine cover detailing it)? Actually it will likely be Tom Jones, his fanbase still buys albums.
(Review to follow when its not 4 in the morn.)
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Skipping the title track, we've all heard it by now...
- "Shackler's Revenge" (METAL! and TECHNO! - meh)
- "Better" (Second Single - better than the first, is that a 303? and whats with the Linkin Park sound?)
- "Street of Dreams" (Power Ballad!)
- "If the World" (Flamenco & Funk?!? YES! - best track on the set)
- "There Was a Time" (This one was leaked last year and its a big improvement, the rerecorded vocals are a huge improvement over the strain of the first take and the whole thing no longer sounds like a Chili Peppers reject.)
- "Catcher In the Rye" (Classic rock thing happening here - very 70's, very Queen - Edit: HA turns out Brian May was brought in on this one for a sec)
- "Scraped" (a chorus of strange howls, i think Axl recorded 2 vocal takes of this then badly spliced them along with effects and overdubs)
- "Riad N' The Bedouins" (I just can't get past the awful lyrics)
- "Sorry" (another power ballad, i like this one, lyrically axle still being a twat though)
- "I.R.S." (This'll be a single - catchy w/ great licks)
- "Madagascar" (NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!)
- "This I Love" (decent if a little too indulgent)
- "Prostitute" (album closer, Lyrics: "It Seems Like Forever and A Day, If My Intentions were Misunderstood, Please Be Kind, I've Done All I Should..." A little too on the nose but the track rocks)
There is sooooooo much hubris in this album, sometimes it works often time Axl's christ on the cross pose is just painful and when he compares himself to MLK its just wrong. But everything that has been leaked to date sounds much worse than this final product so hats off to that last polishing. Now off to get my Dr. Pepper!
Thursday, November 06, 2008
The film opens on a group of young kids playing at an aerial dog fight in the streets of Berlin. One of them is Bruno (Asa Butterfield), the son of the above mentioned Officer played by David Thewlis. He comes home to find that his father has received a promotion and that there is to be a party to celebrate later that evening and that they are soon going to leave the city as the promotion comes with reassignment to a rural location. When they arrive we realize that it is the running of a concentration camp that Thewlis his been charged with but he and his wife (Vera Farmiga) try to keep this from the young boy. As the child tries to make sense of the new situation he finds himself in and to alleviate his boredom he sneaks out of the house and through the woods to the edge of the camp where he befriends Shmuel, a small boy of the same age who is hiding in a corner of the camp on the other side of an electrified fence. They grow to become friends although there is a disconnect in their experiences. Bruno, fed by childhood innocence, propaganda films, a strict nationalist tutor and the blind love of his father believes that the people in the camp are living a life of hard but enjoyable work while the horror of the place, written all over Shmuel face, cannot be adequately conveyed to his friend by his young mind. Bruno is forced to grow up quickly in this environment even to the point of questioning the goodness of his own father, especially after his mother finds out the true secret of “The Final Solution” and deteriorates into an almost catatonic state.
Mark Herman’s film is as stark in its set design as in its affecting story line with a haunting quality that constantly unnerves the audience. Based on John Boyne’s novel of the same name, the story takes quite a few liberties with historical accuracy but due to the power of material, much like the Bruno himself, we look on with a child’s eyes totally engrossed in the tale being told. And not one of those eyes is dry when the film reaches its ultimate climax where the eerily calm home life of Bruno is finally contrasted with the frenzied confusion and shocking conditions of life inside camp and Bruno see for the first time what has been hidden from him. This is not a Disneyfied fairy tale like The Kite Runner or a piece of life affirming Oscar bait but a profound tragedy that will leave you in solemn silence but with an appreciation for the brave talent who decided that this is a tale that should be told.
Friday, October 31, 2008
The film gets off to a bit of a shaky start as Smith’s first act is just littered with unclever and over abundant uses of various expletives. Smith has a tendency to layer it on thick when he can’t find any pop culture references to riff on for 6 pages and this happens quite often here. The dialogue isn’t sharp but just as you start to get annoyed the leads arrive at their high school reunion and we meet Justin Long (playing a character named Brandon) doing his best Harvey Fierstein impression as a gay porn actor and beau of superman himself, Brandon Routh (playing a character named Long). And for the next hour or so this is a pretty good film. Smith keeps the plot on a steady pace, the jokes funny and the characters that matter developing. The addition of an Apatow alum cast (Long, Elizabeth Banks, Seth Rogen, Gerry Bednob, Craig Robinson) helps with the natural chemistry and the two porn actresses in the cast (Traci Lords & Katie Morgan) pull off their roles adequately. Then something strange happens – Smith goes meta. Or at least tries to. When the inevitable second act bottom-out happens the film jumps 3 months and Craig Robinson’s producer shows up to find Rogen so he can tell him that “the film has no ending.” Charlie Kaufman can pull this type of thing off without seeming hackneyed… Smith cannot, so for 3-4 scenes the film just falls flat on its face but once again the ultimate resolution is saved by the strong bond between the characters and the chemistry between the actors as Banks and Rogen get all sappy and live happily ever after – under cut of course by cursing and a naked Jason Mews… I don’t mean Mews was improperly sniped… I mean he may have been I just tried not to look… I mean I’m sure the doctors did a fine job on him as a baby… I should just stop talking.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
The final season of the EZ1 boxoffice game for 2008 starts soon - follow the link to sign up and play. The winter game is run not by Eddie but by Jana and has several unique aspects including the presence of Limited Release titles and poetry based "hints" to each price change. Sign up at http://www.ez1productions.com/.
Friday, September 26, 2008
I just want to know what Jerry Bruckheimer did to piss Spielberg off so badly as to assure his virtual banishment from the action spectacular producers’ club? This is something that JB’s name would have been all over 3 years ago – hell, so was his boy Bay’s Transformers – but instead the Exec credit on both of these (as well as the last D.J. Caruso/Shia Labeouf pairing Disturbia) goes to Mr. Hollywood himself. And like the man about town this film is all oohs and ahhs with almost nothing left to say.
That said… those instinctual squeals of delight are totally real and totally worth it. The extravagance of the set pieces that aren’t edited beyond recognition are combined with an edge of your seat plot that is meticulously lifted piece by piece from so many better sources (visuals too) are tossed in an orgy of suspense and explosions that despite your mind saying no, your eyes give into again and again. The only thing worth singling out for any specific memory is Billy Bob Thornton’s performance as a counter terrorist agent as he is given all the sweetest lines in the film and wouldn’t you know it delivers ‘em with that silver-tongued glee we expect from a man in his uniform. The rest of the cast is a bland group of pretty faces, even when you know they’re capable of so much more (Rosario Dawson… hello!) but it works here because it’s not about them or their characters or their feelings. It’s about the sport of it all which the film has in spades. That is until the climactic (and literal) money shot. There’s some drivel that comes after when you realize the whole experience was meaningless and that now the film wants to cuddle a bit while you just need to kick it out of room.
Yes, Eagle Eye will leave you feeling dirty and ashamed but that’s not until after. While the ride is in progress there’s really nothing going on but the sheer enjoyment of the whole thing.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Starting out in North Jersey (as all nights in Manhattan do) we are introduced to Norah – a brunette who seems indefinably uncomfortable in her private, single-sex school with a group of blonds who are nicely movie-plastic. She is in love with the desperate ex-boyfriend of classmate Tris whom she’s never met but knows only through a series of mixtapes that he has sent (and which Tris heartlessly trashes) over a six month period. This, of course is Nick, reluctant arbiter of taste and the straight bassist in a queer-core band struggling to come up with a name. Being in mourning still, he rebuffs his bandmate’s when they try to get him to come out for the evenings gig.
When an announcement is made on a radio station that the uber-cool and mysterious band Where’s Fluffy? (yes, their name is part of their gimmick) will be playing one of their infamous sets somewhere in the city that night though, everything swings into action for your typical night in the city romp as people meet, separate, lose cell phones, miscommunicate, get tired, get drunk, have sex, fall in love, get jealous, make mistakes and figure it all out before the first NJT train of the morning leaves Penn Station. Did I mention this is all set to the swirlingly warm tones of the most lauded indie tracks of the day?
The film really is a trainspotter’s dream. They name drop every lauded rock venue in two boroughs (cuz there is no need to ever go to Queens, The Bronx or SI) and the ever present soundtrack changes from minute to minute during the night that one has to be an astute trainspotter to keep up with it all. The story itself is rather conventional and Cera (Nick) shows once again that Apatow (who, for the record has nothing to do with this) is a genius at type casting but not so great at finding “actors.” Still when you fit the part you fit the part. The one person I’m happy to say has impressed me quite a bit in the performance department from said machine is Jay Baruchel who, after a strong turn in Tropic Thunder, takes on a seedy struggling musician in the mold of Julian Casablancas who is trying to use the other casting stand out, Kat Dennings’s (Charlie Bartlett, 40 Year Old Virgin) Norah, as a way to get a record deal for his Zion Fire Rock outfit. Also of note on the comic relief front are Norah’s bff Caroline played by Ari Graynor who provides the bulk of the B-story as she gets wasted and then gets lost by the super-gay bandmates Rafi Gavron (Breaking and Entering) and Aaron Yoo (21, The Wackness, Disturbia) who try to take her off Norah’s hands so that Nick can get the rebound started. (Yoo btw, is almost 30 and is still playing a kid in HS – take that Luke Perry).
While not earth shattering N&NIP is a nicely crafted piece of escapist fluff and if this is you kind of scene or, more likely if you’d like it to be Mr. Minnesota blogger, then I would say to rush out and see it like 8 times while you listen to the leaked soundtrack on your iPod. For everyone else – how do you feel about Before Sunrise light?
Monday, September 08, 2008
They've been trotting out a few of the tracks on the road recently and I'm totally boutabout 'em.
Peep the first ever live performances of "Sex on Fire" & "Manhattan" from the APW fest last month.
(I'm completely in love with this one)
along with oldie "Milk"
They somehow shoehorned 20 tracks into their "opening" slot before Radiohead took the stage and sounded phenomenal. If the KoL swing by your town (and even if they don't) on the current tour pick up tickets - you won't be sorry.
Also props for making the first single free for all.
Kings of Leon - "Crawling"
(and to 12mc for still hosting)
And in case you need more they Kings are putting up a series of home movies via their YouTube Channel all month (well until the "actual" release date.)
Friday, July 11, 2008
The film opens with a flashback of John Hurt (killed off in the previous installment) telling an adolescent Hellboy a bedtime story about a war between Men and the creatures of myth (Goblins, Trolls, Elves, ect). The visuals that accompany this story are not of the same motif as the rest of the film but instead they are rather like a CG version of a Quay Brothers film with wooden figures and mechanical gears propelling armies toward each other. The story then jumps ahead to present day and Jeffery Tambor’s Tom Manning upset that Hellboy doesn’t listen to him. He is the cause of so many of these wrong notes in the film’s first hour. Also Abe Sapien is back but the voice of David Hyde Pierce is not – this is not a good thing. So the story unfolds though too many coincidences and there are some action scenes including one in Diagon Alley!! There are some great references to John Landis and Jim Henson and some overly overt ones to Universal creatures (Frank specifically). There is a love story that never feels right and a bunch of relationships that are fairly unbelievable. On the other hand the action scenes are nearly perfect as is one scene in the middle of the film where Hellboy and Abe break into song! The ancillary creatures are stunningly rendered (as the fantasy world of Pan was) and final battle is a seamless blend of CG and live action that isn’t edited to death.
I wanted to like this film, I really did, but del Toro once again fails to connect as a storyteller. Throughout the film he either coaxes the wrong notes out of his actors or edits the wrong takes into the film. It must be all that time spent in his own imagination that gets in the way of him getting the human aspect of his films right. Guillermo del Toro is an utterly hopeless filmmaker who needs to be kicked out of the director’s chair and restricted to a creature house so that we can all enjoy his visual tour de force stylistics without sitting through his failed attempts to hang them on his lackluster scripts. Feel free to leapfrog George Lucas on the way.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Friday, June 27, 2008
The film opens with a helping of Matrix set up and a McAvoy voiceover telling us all about how much his life sucks stuck in his office job and how his dad left a week after he was born. This could be the guy we just witnessed get blown away after jumping through plate glass across the Chicago skyline and killing 4 assassins on the opposite building. This trite and badly staged intro is made more surreal due to the fact that this is the first time we’ve seen Mac putting on an American accent. In fact the whole first act of this film screams “set-up” and brings you out of the film. However, it becomes a little more worth it when Fox (Jolie) shows up and the bullets rain and rubber is burned. Even more so after Gibson (Mac) wakes up the next day with a attitude that actually feels believable (the whiney kid bit at the outset feels more like a role for Hayden Christiensen). One of the best scenes in the film occurs when he finally gets fed up at work and gives his tormentors their due. After which he is scooped up by Fox and his assassin’s training begins.
The Fraternity, (a little too on the nose) as they are called consist of a gunsmith named Gunsmith (Common), a knife guy, a healer and they're all lead by Morgan Freeman (Sloan, or Ra’s al Guhl). Gibson is told that his father (indeed the dead guy) was one of the worlds greatest killers and that he has inherited some of his “powers” that just need to be harvested in order to kill Cross – a rogue member who took out daddy and a lot of other frat boys. What follows is an extended montage wherein we are introduced to the world through our hero and he is broken down so that his skill level can be built up. We are also introduced to the great power the Fraternity believe in… 1000 thread count sheets!! They were started by weavers who discovered the secret of binary code in their weaves and thus decided they should kill people (Cross for some reason questioned this).
This all sounds completely ridiculous and it is. The comic the film was based on pretty much stole from a whole lot of other yarns (pun intended) and what wasn’t stolen is the least believable stuff but is all just a place to hang the action. And what fine action it is. Timur Bekmambetov brings a lot of his creative techniques that made the Night Watch films so great but tones it down just a bit and it really fits perfectly. The set pieces are expertly staged and never (ok once) feel like a Michael Bay looky-what-I-can-do moment. As the killing starts an the chance is joined our cardboard characters pursue Cross around the world but just when you think things are gonna go in a different direction the Empire Strikes Back leading up to the big finale with a V for Vendetta round the room bit and a lot of exploding rats (Willard maybe?)
Once Mac gets going he’s actually an ok action star though he might need a few more improving montages before he can take on Bale or Jackman. Freeman uses his persona to good effect here especially in the final act where he gets some big lines and even bigger laughs. Jolie as I said earlier had very little dialogue despite a large amount of onscreen time but they way she exudes confidence eliminates the need for words. This is a fun summer spectacular and as such the brain should be left in the Abby Normal jar on the shelf but as far as summer blockbusters go this bests all but Iron Man so far this year.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
(Listen to the classic theme)
Friday, June 13, 2008
Thursday, June 12, 2008
I did however win tickets to the free live show up at MSG on the 23rd (jealous?) which as of yet has not been bumped. This means it should be a nice little productionless fan/band/jam in the most famous arena in the world. When checking the inbox today I found this:
This is your order number for your pair(2) of tickets to the Free Coldplay show
at Madison Square Garden on June 23rd, 2008.
Doors are scheduled for 7:00pm. Showtime is scheduled for 8:00pm You will learn your seat locations when you receive your tickets in the mail. Tickets will be mailed via US Mail - Delivery Confirmation. Tickets will be mailed on or before June 13th, 2008. They will be mailed from Musictoday in Crozet, VA. You will receive a white bubble padded package in the mail. Be on the lookout!
You will also receive a shipping confirmation email on the day that your tickets ship. We know we've told you before, but we're going to tell you again.
DON'T SELL THESE TICKETS.
We're watching and we'll catch you. Trust us!
If you can't make it, email or call us. We'll find some other fan who
will go in your place.
Thanks again. We'll see you at the show!
Ya just have to laugh at this. Not sure who is behind the watching but i'm keeping my blinds closed till next Tuesday just in case. I don't plan on selling these but I fear they might catch me in some kind of compromising position (NSFW). Can't wait for this and the eventual "big show" when the tour stops by the Wac... wait minute - they are playing at the Wachovia center. Wachovia/WatchOvaYa... I feel like Agent Mulder, or Nic Cage in those Indy rip off movies.
Bonus MP3: Bloc Party vs. Coldplay - Hunting for Witches In My Place
Thursday, May 29, 2008
“Competition in academia is so vicious because the stakes are so small.” That quote (credited to everyone from Woodrow Wilson to Henry Kissinger) pretty much sums up this film about a cut throat struggle for a corporate grocery store manager position in the Chicagoland area. Unfortunately this one should have either been a whole lot funnier or a whole lot more vicious. With a cast featuring Seann William Scott, John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer and Fred Armisen one would expect the former and there are some really funny moments. More of the film though, feels like a first draft of a Mike White screenplay teetering on the dark comedy edge but with characters who aren’t really flawed enough to make for solid schadenfreude.
Scott is the assistant to Armisen’s manager at the outset and when a new store opens up in their chain Armisen says he’s a shoe-in. The wrench in the works come a few days later in the form of Reilly (in his lovable loser mode), another AM who has transferred from a sister company in Canada in order to try for a new life with his Scottish immigrant wife played by Lili Taylor. This makes for some truly awful accent play that seems to change from scene to scene. They both apply for the job and the rest of the film takes place as they compete for the spot. It starts out and simple competition and then things get a little nastier and the characters for frustrated at every little thing that goes wrong. The whole thing ends in a kind of bland détente that fails inspire enjoyment. Scott and his on screen fiancée Jenna Fischer though have great chemistry and it’s a shame that they don’t have more of that screen time together.
Chicago has never looked worse on film. This isn’t a criticism, there are certain parts of cities that are just not photogenic (the Philly shown in Unbreakable) and when filmed in flat lighting it does add to the drabness of the whole piece. But even the scenes downtown aren’t anything to write home about. Poster isn't bad though.
I'm not sure why they lead the trailer with one of the worst swing and a miss jokes in the film - the black apple bit. Over all this one is more rotten than fresh and I can’t recommend seeing it in the theater. A slow Saturday afternoon on cable? Sure.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Didn't love it, didn't hate it. Twas a fun, serviceable summer blockbuster but lacking the charm of Ark. When Karen Allen finally appears after an hour or so it feels right again but the plot is unwieldy and really only serves to backdrop the action scenes. (Jungle chase = cool).
Ford settles into the roll much better than Willis did last year - he's not really changed which is good. LaBeouf is eh... early on but when his plot line really kicks in he shines as well. Hurt, Winstone & Broadbent are criminally underused and Blanchett is just so-so (where is the leather outfits that were promised?)
Oh, and Spielberg finally nails an ending – more than that the beginning shot is hilarious as the Paramount logo (vintage 1981) literally fades into a mole hill. Giving an initial wink to just have fun and go with it. I’ll recommend the same.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
The EZ1 is also running the Pick 5 and Movieline games which will start in June and If you join the boards there is a "summer survivor" lounge game starting soon as well. All there are based on your Box Office prediction prowess, take a little less time commitment (you're spening time reading this blog anyway) and you can even compete against avid player and BO pundit/film reviewer the Weekend Warrior (aka Edward Douglas) from ComingSoon.net.
Browse around and have fun!
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Let's start with the return of N*E*R*D! The Neptune boys are back after a 4 year hiatus with their pocket protecting entourage and they have a nice funky new single that drops today. You can buy it at iTunes or if ya wish download it right there:
N*E*R*D - Everyone Nose (All the Girls Standing In the Line for the Bathroom)
Video is not yet out but you can see a sneak peek as well as some behind the scenes clips:
Catch 'em on tour at Kanye's Glow In the Dark Tour.
Next up is a triple hitter from Welsh rockers People In Planes. Out to conquer all media with the first single off their sophomore set (Due 6/24) they have tossed out a assault on your eyes, ears and index fingers. The track about suffering in silence comes with with a stylish video from the Walter Robot directing team:
Of course they are giving away the anthemic piano rocker away on their website:
People In Planes - Pretty Buildings (The b-side acoustic version is available as a 2-fer-1 deal on iTunes.)
And finally just to make sure you can't escape they've rejiggered an addictive flying game (naturally) from Net-Games with the track. Head over to play Metro.Siberia Underground: People In Planes Edition and see how far you can get. Got to past 2000 on my 3rd try.
Now, in their promotional tour they played an in-studio set in Chicago. Here is the first track from that set:
People In Planes - Mayday (Maidez) [Live in Studio at Stray Dog Recording Co. for BFN Networks Podcast]
Click here for the other full podcast episode with 2 more live tracks and interviews.
Kewl, that should keep ya busy for a bit. Enjoy!
Monday, May 12, 2008
USA 1955, 90 min
I couldn’t very well start this final weekend of the festival with anything else but Violent Saturday. The film played as part of the Noir Series but it really was more a heist film than a noir. Directed by Richard Fleischer (20000 Leagues Under the Sea, Fantastic Voyage, Tora! Tora! Tora!, Compulsion) this forgotten film centers on a gang (including Lee Marvin) who make their way to a small mining town in order to rob the town bank. We see them plot their deeds and also are treated to seemingly meaningless slice of life segments from different people in the town including the peeping tom bank manager, a librarian purse-snatcher, a young girl who works in the pharmacy, a wealthy mine owning couple with marital difficulties and a family with father/son issues. As the plot unfolds, mainly in the light of day, they all become key parts along with an Amish family who lives out of town on a farm which will serve as the robber’s hideout and scene of the final climactic shootout. The patriarch of this family? None other than Mr. Ernest Borgnine!
This is a recently remastered print in brilliant De Luxe Color, but the real shine on this gem comes from the film’s snappy dialogue. The audience was left chuckling quite a few times as sly insults are were hurled amongst the various flawed characters – whether they be real city criminals or the strange small-town peccadilloed folk. The film in not available in any format currently (a VHS was made sometime in the 80s) but the print source is listed as Criterion so I’m eagerly awaiting a shiny DVD release from the boys over there. If this one comes by your local festival or retrospective theater though, get a ticket right quick, you won’t be disappointed.
Son of Rambo
USA 2007, 95 min
Another Sundance hit (2007 vintage though) finally makes its way to Philadelphia accompanies by 3 grey suited security guys with night vision. A semi-autobiographical story from Garth Jennings and his Hammer & Tongs team, Son tells the story of creative but gullible Will. Living in Hertfordshire, UK (‘bout an hour north of London), he has grown up in a fundamentalist family who forbid TV & film viewing. When he sees First Blood for the first time it kicks his mind into high gear and he teams up with Lee, another outcast though in a totally different way, to create their own film in which Will is the titular son and is on a quest to spring his “father” from prison. An exotic French exchange student who has the British kids wrapped around his finger gets wind of the film and wants to play a role catapulting the boys to instant popularity and straining their relationship.
This is cute, smart and has a ton of heart and should do well with audiences… IF it weren’t being released at the beginning of May. Seeing as how it garnered the highest price ever paid for a Sundance film I’m really questioning Paramount’s release strategy on this one. It screams for an August buzz garnering platform release ala Little Miss Sunshine. I do hope people will seek this one out.
South Korea 2007, 122 min
Wow, its been a while since I’ve written anything on this and the mediocre films have rapidly left my memory. From the festival website I am reminded that this is a revenge tale about twin brothers (orphans?). We start in their childhood when one decides to rob a mobster. In chasing him down they end up catching the twin – thus the previously good twin becomes part of the criminal element while the previously bad twin becomes a cop. When they finally meet years later the criminal is now the titular legendary assassin with a price on his head but his brother is gunned down a few feet away. The twin of course assumes his identity in order to track down his killers and struggles to make people believe that he is not Soo but his brother. Once again the fault of the film is the fact that people get shot, stabbed, beaten, and even have their throats slit and yet somehow still stay alive. This comedic superhumanism really takes you out of the film. In fact up until the final (painfully elongated) showdown it’s a decent if not overly compelling yarn with good performances but the amount of blood and hobbling in the final minutes had the audience laughing at the screen.
Nothing to Lose
Netherlands 2008, 88 min
Of course films like this tend to stay with you. Nothing to Lose is a dark tale of a mentally unstable man, Johan who escapes a criminal mental institution in Holland along with a friend by kidnapping a doctor. They go on the lam and when things turn south they split up. Johan kidnaps another young girl and set out to find his mother who he hopes will prove that he did not murder his father and sister. Along the way the director’s deft hand reveals details that change your perceptions of the characters and what they may or may not have done all coming to a final chilling climax that will have you on the verge of tears.
The film won the Best Picture jury prize for the film festival though it also finished pretty far down in the audience balloting and it’s not surprising why. What is surprising is that this is based on a series of real crimes that happened in the Netherlands due to a very lenient penal system. The director Pieter Kuijpers was on hand to reveal this in his Q & A after the screening. He also revealed that the film’s star Theo Maassen is actually one of the top stand-up comics in the country but that he cast him in order to throw off expectations. For his part Maassen is brilliant as the troubled and desperate Johan, the strongest single performance of the fortnight. This is not a film I’d watch over and over but is it a strong statement and a searing indictment of the Dutch prison system. Sadly one woman at the Q & A didn’t hear what he was saying stating that they were lucky to have the system that they do in comparison to that of this country.
Well after this I was scheduled to see an animated film called Film Noir that updates the genre in a really interesting looking style. However since an old college roommate was in town for the night I ditched that and drank the night away!!! (This lead to the missing of even more films on Sunday but more of that in the next chapter) .
Friday, May 09, 2008
The all to familiar lines reinterpreted 5 or so times during this film and running during the closing credits had a dozen or so hipster kids dancing in the IMAX isles and singing along as their nostalgia trip was aided by a little Wachowski LSD. Of course like most trips you start out with awe and anticipation and close with rapture as the destination finally comes into view 2.25 hrs later but there sure are some stretches in the middle when you’re about to fall asleep.
But let’s gush for just a bit. I spent the first 20 minutes of this film totally slack-jawed by the candy colored eye feast that sat before me. A solitary Speed sits in the locker room then cut to the track and real life in cartoon motion begins. The film flits between several differing timepoints in an ADD firestorm of editing techniques that would leave Michael Bay speechless. Collage, CG, 2-D, rotoscoping, wipes, slo-mo, ect. The Wachowski’s throw a kitchen sink of fun at you in all colors of the rainbow. Oh and the sound, much like a race track wipes from side to side along with the edits. Finally things settle down and we start to follow a single plot line. Unfortunately this is where the film get’s mired in its own story. The whole thing deflates to the kind of long windedness that had so many pissed at the Matrix sequels and it lasts for a good hour until we finally se a second race. For some reason the Ws like their baddie’s talkative which kinda kills their menacing powers. Roger Allam hams it up the way the villain in a summertime kid’s flick should but they have him saying too much and the main crux of the story he tells Speed which partially motivates him the rest of the film rings hollow especially as it feels like it is not justifiably paid off with comeuppance for all involved. I think the film would’ve moved along much better if this thread was totally abandoned. To add some action in this wasteland they dream up an imaginary fight that Spritle and Chim-Chim have with a couple villains on TV which really feels out of place but does show their effort in bringing Manga style animation to an unanimated feature. One of the most interesting things is how they incorporate Manga backgrounds and video game concepts. At one point while Speed is flying through a track he is remembering a record his brother previously set – they show this via a shadow car that can be seen in many racing games that shows where you are in comparison to a previous time and it’s a fantastic lift.
(Watch the first 7 minutes of the film)
Of course you gotta have a big finale – and we get 2!!! There is a penultimate multi-day rally race with a big ninja fight in the middle that really gets things going again and then the final race begins. Just when you don’t think there are any visual tricks left that could impress you Speed flies down the track at colors mix, characters collage and action blends into an orgasmic explosion that just has to be seen… then Speed drinks milk.
For their part the cast is decent in their intentionally over the top roles. Sarandon is completely wasted and Hirsch starts off pretty good but eventually falls as I feared he would in to uber-earnest territory which mirrors the tone of the film which starts out a family flick but then has some cursing (actual and bleeped) in the last 30 minutes or so which slightly hit the wrong note. Despite that dragging middle and unevenness of the whole thing this is really something that has to be seen on the big screen – preferably the biggest one available… IMAX!
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
aka: Bangbang wo aishen
Taiwan 2007, 103 min
Two of the most challenging films of the festival came on Friday night. The first, Help Me Eros is a Taiwanese take on the Contemplative Cinema of Béla Tarr, Theo Angelopoulos, current period Van Sant, ect. The films are meant to give you time to process and read what you may into them while the film is running as well as long after. But the problem with contemplative cinema is that it is very culture specific and the meditations and queues that are there to pick up are often lost on people who don’t know that culture and thus the contemplative aspects are seen more as space in which to fall asleep. This neon poem to Taipei is filled with loneliness and sadness and life that is soulless but plot queues, while interesting are alien to me.
The plot that the film floats about involves and man who has lost millions and is now holding onto the last vestiges of his previous life – an ultra modern home atop a sweet shop and a mighty impressive pot plant. Having also lost all his friends he pawns off pieces of his life to buy water and sweets at one of the most bizarre establishments I’ve ever seen – a drive though neon candy shop with a stripper poll and girls in skimpy outfits. He falls for one of 3 girls working there but ends up getting high and fornicating with all of them… in very visually memorable ways. His love interest, obviously pissed, destroys the plant and his depression spirals further out of control to the point that he buys 50 thousand dollars worth of lottery tickets. In the final scene he disappears but bills rain down from his window.
Its brilliant looks may entice some while the poetic meditations on life will suit others and some may put up with it to see the more titillating aspects of the film but on the whole this is a very art-house film. If you appreciate any of the directors mentioned above though seek this one out.
Mexico 2007, 75 min
This is Gael García Bernal’s directorial debut and its not that interesting to tell the truth. Bernal plays the lead Christobal, the teenage scion of an upper-class Mexican family. He is down at the family’s vacation house with his friends for a weekend and there are a bunch of class issues and drugs and jealousy and swimming and daddy hating and barbecue. It’s fairly melodramatic and very well trodden territory (you can actually see people coming of age!) but at least it’s also short and well acted.
Great Britain, France 2007, 89 min
The final film of the night was to be Irina Palm but the print was apparently lost in transit (I’m assuming USAir was to blame). Instead it was replaced with this film directed by Asif Kapadia (The Warrior, The Return) and staring Michelle Yeoh and Sean Bean. The title refers to the lands above the Russian Arctic Circle for which special benefits are given to those who chose to work there. Yeoh plays a native woman whose village was attacked by some of these men. She flees for parts even farther north with the only other surviving member, an infant child. Together they live as survivalists in the harsh climate avoiding all human contact. When Yeoh discovers a man come down from a glacier (Bean) her nurturing instincts get the better of him and she brings him into their camp and nurses him back to health. The now grown infant and adopted daughter falls for him and they make plans to leave all leading to an unexpected showdown that will leave you speechless.
Part horror film, part psycho-drama and part travelogue with hints of an environmental message the scenery is the real star of this film reflecting the seeming openness but hidden dangers in the characters and well as their relative stoic silence. Yeoh gives one of her most powerful performances to date as the damaged, protective survivalist who becomes jealous of her ward and the new interloper. Much like Mother Nature when something new emerges to throws off the balance she moves to bring things back to a natural equilibrium.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Great Britain 2008, 74 min
Thursday was doc day at the festival with the only 2 docs on my list playing at opposite ends of the city. Interestingly enough, I started with The End. This is a doc about the life and death of London’s notorious East End as told by the men who lived and “worked” there. The filmmaker is the daughter of one of the leading criminal entrepreneurs. After realizing that he life was so different from most other peoples she decided to take stock by shooting this film (this is based on the Q & A after, she isn’t a character in the film) and was able to get privileged access to these usually tight lipped men. The film is shot in grainy black and white which adds to the chilling effect of the conversations with these (current and) former cockney gangsters and the music fits the mood perfectly as well with a DJ Shadow style melancholy [stream]. From their conversations you learn that their story is much like that of any community with a thriving organized criminal element: working class upbringing, family loyalty, ethical codes, being there for your mates, ect. These are tough guys but they are also family men and they all share a sense of loss because this neighborhood and community no longer exists. 2/3 of the way through the film one of them takes a walk through the current East End which has turned into an open air bazaar as peoples from the middle-east and the Indian subcontinent have replaced the white population. There is a sense of loss but its really not racially motivated as one might think but it’s the idea that the life that these men knew and grew up in is now gone forever and that they are really the last cockney gangsters that will ever be. Most have moved on to decent sized estates outside the city (thanks to ill-gotten gains with one man proclaiming "Crime Pays!" while showing off his posh digs) while a few others are actually hiding out from authorities. This film serves as an outstanding document of a culture that has since passed, for better or worse, from the land. Oh and the strong accents are thankfully subtitled.
There was a Q & A with the director and producer of the film – unfortunately the first for me of the entire festival – which was very enlightening. The film stands on its own but some of the details and back story of these characters was nicely fleshed out afterward. I hope they do a commentary track if this eventually gets a dvd release.
Milk In the Land, Ballad of an American Drink
USA 2007, 90 min
Thankfully the previous film was a scant 74 minutes which left ample time even with a Q & A to get down to Old City for the start of the next film, a startling documentary on the history of Milk in America. The filmmakers obviously have an agenda as this film while not explicitly anti-milk (though it talks with people that are) is definitely anti-corporate dairy farming. The film starts detailing the history of the American dairy industry – cows were kept in New York City as a way of disposing of left over grain from whiskey distilling so people could get swill milk year round… though it killed quite a few people. It goes through the growth of the industry as a replacement for breast milk that was not being produced by middle class urban dwelling women (corsets), the breeding of cows that would produce year round and in great quantities and how the Dairy Lobby grew to national importance and scandal under the Nixon administration. They also visit a family farmer in Wisconsin who advocates drinking raw milk over the pasteurized store bought version. Surprisingly little is mentioned about rBGH or Monsanto.
Frankly looking at all that sloshing chalky liquid made me a little queasy and outside of cereal and coffee I rarely drink the stuff. However, I found many parts of the film fascinating especially where it digresses into the effect this drink has had on American culture from the religious to the hobbyists and how these people in turn affected its pervasive spread to our refrigerators and tables.
Denmark 2007, 90 min
The final film of the night was this Robert Rodriguez/Guy Richie inspired genre flick from Denmark. I should’ve caught another doc. The story within a story within a story is that some film school kids are making a fiction piece based on the legend of a heist gone awry so they meet a seedy character in a bar who starts telling the yarn. At some point the party is crashed by another man with a story to tell and some people in the story also… well you get it. The big question is “where’s the money?” and the resolution to this question contradicts everything that transpired in the 85 minutes of set up. Also people get shot, beat with pipes, kicked in the ribs thrown through hard objects and just keep on fighting. Most of the characters are just annoying and some do things in back to back scenes that completely contradict each other. And unlike either of the two that this movie cribs from the director, Shaky González, has an awesome name but no visual flare. The look is ugly, under lit at night and flat during the day. The only interesting thing about this is the fact that the lead actor looks exactly like David Beckham so when he gets the crap beaten out of him it’s kinda funny. Worst film of the fest. (Apparently there is an epilogue after the closing credits that explain some things - I didn't know this and didn't stick around at the time)
Friday, April 18, 2008
Segel plays Peter, a well to do musician who scores the TV show that made his titular girlfriend (that sounds dirty) a star. After 5 years together she breaks up with him and he become a wreck… well more of a wreck than he was before. Peter is a schlub with a big heart who is overly sensitive to everything but his own shortcomings. In order to clear his head he goes to a Hawaiian resort that Sarah had always talked about… surprise she’s there as well and with her new lover, an English rock lothario. Hijinks ensue. In fact, I think this was how the first 40 minutes of the script was “written.” There is almost no story and everything is improv. While this is par for the course for the Apatowniverse, first time director Nicholas Stoller’s sloppy handling of it took me out of the film. Yes, its mostly funny but you can only take so much of Paul Rudd looking into the camera and running lines before it gets old. You could see the improving which is not a good thing. Still when the story gets back on track after what seems like forever it turns into a decent romcom. Mila Kunis is actually good in this (I usually can’t stand her voice) and Segal plays his role like a well worn sock. And there are a lot of laughs but more dead jokes than I’m used to from this crew. If the beginning of the film was tightened up and focused more on story this would be close to the top of the Apatowniverse films but as it is its middling at best.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
The Other Boy
aka: Der andere Junge
Germany 2007, 91 min
The kid’s aren’t all right in this German look at the troubles of suburban teens. Paul and Robert have grown up together as their parents are close friends but as the boys aged they became very different people. Paul is tall, smart, confident and good looking and Robert… um… isn’t. Unbeknown st to the parents Robert is the target of Paul’s bullying. One day Paul goes too far with tragic results and his parents are forced to betray their own friendships in order to protect their son. Things get tense all around as the police close in and tragedy gives way to tragedy.
This is a slow and tense film that the write-up in the festival program likens to a combination of Clark’s Bully and Haneke’s Caché. Like the later film its approach too setting up tension comes from lingering shots and a sparse soundtrack though not quite as effective as Haneke’s mesmerizing film as the plot is a little predictable. Boy plays out like an episode of Law & Order: SVU with a European art house aesthetic… turns out this is not a bad thing though.
Eye In the Sky
aka: Gun chung
Hong Kong (China) 2007, 90 min
I included this in my fest schedule because it was produced by Johnnie To, director of Exiled – best film of the 2007 festival and staring Tony Leung. Unfortunately not THAT Tony Leung, who knew? The Hong Kong Actors Guild needs to arbitrate this one stat.
This is a mentor/mentee story in the surveillance group within the Hong Kong police department, the… er… eyes in the sky if you will. The first scene of the film features “Piggy” (the new blood – everyone has an animal code name) boarding a trolley and observing as several suspicious looking men board and leave the train. One is her boss, Dog Head, and as we later find out this was her entrance exam. The other is the shadowy figure behind a team of jewelry store thieves who are actually pulling off a heist at the same time. This becomes her first case as the inevitable baptism by fire starts. This film is chock full of Yin-Yang: details of both the cop’s and the criminals surveillance methods, a scene during the exam is repeated for real later in the film and Piggy’s Sophie’s choice of sorts between work and life on 2 occasions are among them. The camera work is also evocative of the surveillance theme with a lot of dutch angles and shots from up above or far away. This is a solid procedural yarn and well worth the time.
aka: The Wackness
USA 2008, 110 min
Well, I had initially planned on seeing Roman de gare which looked really good but upon logging into my email earlier in the day I saw a message that blew the lid off of what the mystery film was going to be (thanks PFS). So I changed plans and took up with this Sundance smash. I’m SOOOOOOOOO glad I did.
The Wackness is a coming of age – check that – to paraphrase Roger Ebert, this isn’t a coming of age film, this is a coming of age film’s wet dream of itself. Set in Manhattan circa ’94 the film uses some combination of soft focus, over exposure and digital filters to achieve an enticing nostalgic, dreamy look. This is the final summer before college for Luke Shapiro who is the ultimate outsider. He is from a family with financial troubles but goes to school with upper-class kids. He is the school pot dealer so everyone knows him but he’s friends with no one. With most of his customers jetting off to summer in wherever he’s left with his fantasy girl, Stephanie (Olivia Thirlby) who’s parents are in anything but marital bliss. It just so happens that her father Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley) is one of Luke’s best customers but as a psychologist he pays in sessions. As Kingsley’s marriage crumbles he latches onto Luke and they become friends and confidants as he tries to hide a growing relationship with Stephanie. The film is filled with colorful characters including Method Man as a Rastafarian drug king and Mary-Kate Olsen as a hippie who makes out with Kingsley in a phone booth (weird) who all add to the atmosphere
This is writer/director Jonathan Levine’s second feature but seems to be set to debut before his first (All the Boy’s Love Mandy Lane) which has been sitting in the can for 2 years now. He turns in a pitch perfect pop culture dumpster dive through 1994 and characters that have rightness and truth about their motivations and reactions, and lead actor Josh Peck offers up a substantial leap from his character on Nickelodeon.
My only issues with the film are the over use of Giuliani’s NYC clean up as a reference point and the cringworthy delivery of the titular line by Thirlby “Me, I see the dopeness. But you, you just see the wackness.” Other than that this was the best film of the festival and the best of the year so far.