Friday, September 26, 2008

Eagle Eye (Review)

Wham, bam, thank you ma’am.

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

Choke (Review)

Let me get this out of the way first. Choke is my favorite Chuck Palahniuk novel. There was no way a rookie actor-turn-director was gonna take the material and do anything interesting with it the way Fincher did with Fight Club. The best I was hoping for was that it would be a serviceable adaptation that got the source material right without leaving too much of the dark comedy on the floor. Surprisingly Clark Gregg (also playing Lord High Charlie) went slightly beyond not ruining the film in heightening the emotional tone between both Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell) and his mother (Anjelica Houston) and his (main) love interest (Kelly Macdonald). All three actors are strong in their roles but none more-so than Rockwell who ability to suck you in with his loser charm is once again in top form. Despite the stronger emotional bonds though, some of the frenzied sexual absurdism is lost in the adaptation, giving the film a much flatter tone than the novel. However I find that this works in a way similar to Garden State while not getting overly somber or maddeningly cutsey as that one did (BTW this was also filmed in a certain national armpit). Gregg allows the humor and wry titillation to undercut his dramatic moments just enough that the film never loses its steady pace or Palahniuk's cynical world view and leaves enough of the novel intact that those looking for an insider moment or two will feel all warm inside.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (Review)

Glamorous indie rock and roll, New York is thy name. This aspirational film for hipster kids everywhere paints a portrait of overly talented and highly connected high school kids with fake IDs running amuck in NYC over one shimmering night of comically tumultuous coming of age set to some of the finest music the kid down the street insists is the best thing ever (on his blog). Welcome to Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.

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

Kings of Leon Leaked All Over My Internets

So uh... yeah Only By the Night seemed to pop up last night whilst scanning the 'sphere. I know, I couldn't believe it either! Rest assured the kids will begin rapidly sharing tracks post haste. The actual release date is 9/23 and the iTunes pre-order comes with a CSS remix of The Bucket which I'm anxious to hear.

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.)