Sunday, September 26, 2010
In no particular order:
* Inception- One of my picks for best movie of the year
* Kick-Ass- I'm not sure how I missed reviewing this movie. Oh yea, I saw it on vacation. The point is, if you haven't seen it yet, "What are you waiting for?!". Heck, my Mom liked this movie and that's saying a lot. Regardless of how you feel about superhero movies or comics, "Kick Ass" will blow your expectations out of the water. It's a film about growing up, standing up, and yea; kicking ass.
* Never Let Me Go- Another pick for movie of the year
* Iron Man 2- I don't think I really need to say anything about this one but I will. Dear Hollywood: This is how you make a blockbuster. See also: anything by Christopher Nolan. That is all.
* Shutter Island- People either loved or hated this movie as I've come to find out. I loved it. Sure, I figured out the twist before the half way mark but I didn't care. The relationship between Scorsese and DeCaprio is one that I hope continues for a long time. They really pull the best work from each other. Strong supporting characters (I heart you Mark Ruffalo and am confused why you are playing The Hulk; but then I was surprised when Edward Norton did it and it turned out alright so lets just see) propel this movie from good to great.
* The Switch
* Repo Men
* The Extra Man
* 44 Inch Chest
* The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
* Date Night
* The Last Airbender (see: Predators for review)
* Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightening Thief (see: Girl w/Dragon Tattoo)
* The Crazies
* The Wolfman
* Leap Year (see: Splice)
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Many reviewers have quibbled over the revelation of the "twist" that comes much sooner in the movie than the book, but I think that's nonsense. What works in a novel would often appear slow and dull in a movie. If anything, I think it helps engage those viewers who come into the film with a naivete not unlike the characters in the film. That being said, I'm not about to ruin the surprise for anyone!
"Never Let Me Go" is the story of Kathy (Carey Mulligan); or really the story of how she grew up at a boarding school, Hailsham, and the close friends who share her journey in both body and soul. Ruth (Keira Knightly) has been her best friend since they were children, however she is an unusually spoiled girl who takes advantage of Kathy's kindness. In the middle of all this is Tommy (Andrew Garfield) who goes with Ruth while secretly longing for Kathy. The story is entirely from Kathy's perspective though we at no point doubt the sincerity of her narration. Separated for years, she reunites with Tommy, but is it too late?
The beauty of the book, and indeed the movie as well, is that while the subject matter may be science-fiction the actions are incredibly realistic. Book shelves and movie houses view sci-fi as something involving aliens or supernatural powers (clearly fantasy). It seems most of what you find is now Fantasy, with Science Ficiton going the way of the buffalo (or a Philip K Dick novela). Wikipedia defines science fiction as "dealing with the impact of imagined innovations in science or technology, often in a futuristic setting. It differs from fantasy in that, within the context of the story, its imaginary elements are largely possible within scientifically established ... laws of nature". It is in this truest sense of the word that "Never Let Me Go" resides. I can't imagine seeing it in video stores sharing the same space as "2001: A Space Odyssey" or "Star Trek". Instead, it focuses on the reality and questionable humanity of science and human beings.
Mark Romanek's primary art is music video and it is with that knowledge that he captures the subtle emotions that his actor's give him. Where other director's may be more comfortable with quick cuts or master shots, Romanek lingers. He creates truly unsettling images of nothing more than a face, albeit a face in pain. The soundtrack is sparse and subtly supports the loneliness our characters feel.
Mulligan and Garfield give subtle and pained performances that are certainly deserving of nominations come award season. In a particularly brilliant scene, the trio embark on a road trip to see an old ship stranded on the beach. Tommy has never lost the curiosity of his youth and runs to the ship while Kathy and Ruth watch. He crawls over the bow all gangly arms and legs; pausing only to catch his breath, grinning from ear to ear. In the context of the film, the scene becomes even more haunting as the inevitability of their situation bares down on both them and the viewer.
Although I had read the book and therefore knew what the outcome of the story would be, I found myself close to bawling towards the end of the film. I can't remember the last night a movie effected me on such a primal level. In particular, I think I began to lose it when Kathy and Tommy, now together, search for a way to maintain their relationship in the face of certain desolation. It's impossible not to be moved. I loved this movie, but I'm afraid to watch it again. The next time I won't be in a packed movie theatre with the shame and embarrassment of actually crying out loud to keep me in check. It's a pain that feels so good yet is scary as hell. On the path to "completion", what is our purpose?
I would recommend this movie to any and everyone. It is a landmark in cinema as the book was to the publishing world. Dealing with universal themes of growing up, falling in and out of love, living up to responsibilities, and the acceptance of fate; it is sure to cause a cavalcade of emotion in any view. Bring a tissue. Actually, make that three or four.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Released in 1997, "Nowhere" tells the interconnected stories of a group of teenagers living in Los Angeles. The action takes place in the 24-hours leading up Jujyfruit's party. The main character is Dark (played by the amazing and frequent contributor to Araki's films, James Duval). He is the quintessential existentialist; always worrying about the future, life, love, and himself. He's in love with Mel (Rachel True, "The Craft") but she's only in love with sex and she doesn't care where she gets it. Dark is equally confused when his masturbatory fantasies are invaded by new kid Montgomery (Nathan Bexton, "Go"). Dingbat (Christina Applegate- one of the best in the cast) is looking for love in all the wrong places. Egg (Sarah Lassez) falls for the charms of a famous heartthrob. Alyssa (Jordan Ladd) appreciates the kinky side of life with her boyfriend Elvis. Her twin brother Shad and his girlfriend Lilith (Ryan Phillippe and Heather Graham) fancy themselves anarchist's in the same vein of "Natural Born Killers". Cowboy (Guillermo Diaz, "Chappell Show") is looking for his drug addled boyfriend (Jeremy Jordan, "Never Been Kissed"); and a very young Mena Suvari is looking for the party with her boyfriend (and Mel's brother).
Cameos abound with Gibby Haynes of rock band Butthole Surfers plays jujyfruit; Rose McGowan (also in Araki's "The Doom Generation"), Traci Lords, and Shannon Doherty are a trio of Valley chicks; Christopher Knght and Eve Plumb from "The Brady Bunch" play some parents (Araki seems obsessed with the Brady's, referencing them in several films); John Ritter is a televangelist; and Beverly D'Angelo is Dark's mom.
[side note: In my dream film where I pay homage to everyone I've ever loved, this recurring theme of casual, big name cameos will appear. As will direct references to this movie and "The Doom Generation". I love him that much.]
I don't remember exactly when I first saw this movie but I think I sought it out after watching "The Doom Generation". It introduced independent cinema to me in a totally new way. Previously, independent meant "Pulp Fiction" and "sex, lies, and videotape". Now, there was a filmmaker doing it for himself and showcasing subject matter I was more familiar with. Life isn't a John Hughes movie much as we wish it were. Instead actions have consequences. Sometimes it means your car gets high jacked by a trio of crazed hackers. Sometimes you stick your head in the oven. Sometimes you can't decide between two guys and wind up losing both of them. Sometimes it means you end up alone.
Araki has been the face of gay independent cinema for years, a title he would happily relinquish. A member of what a "New York Times" critic dubbed the New Queer Cinema, Araki was one of the first to address gay, bisexual, straight issues in the same breath. Furthermore, these characters where not ostracized from their peers. They were represented in a positive light free from cliche or stereotype. Actually, it might be more fair to say they were just as fucked up as any other character in the film! Blame it on my fairly young age or naivete, but it's hard for me to remember that this is a new concept; that gay culture was addressed in a derogatory tone. In an interview with the "Montreal Mirror", he says "I like to be thought of without any kind of adjective attached to it. A gay filmmaker, a Gen-X filmmaker, an Asian-American filmmaker--I'd just like to be thought of as a filmmaker. I don't make films to be thought of as a spokesperson or to toe any politically correct line. I approach films in the way a musician approaches music. It's just my means of expression, my chosen medium." However, it's impossible not to think about how his own experiences have influenced his "chosen medium". That being sad, I appreciate such a personal filmmaker who refuses to talk about his personal life. He's said all he has to say- It's on the screen.
This movie is not for the faint of heart or prudes. It is a hard "R" and you will either love it or hate it. Unfortunately, it is not available of DVD so head to your local indie movie store or you can catch it on IFC. It's showing September 26th so check your local listings.
Recommended viewing: Also by Greg Araki The Living End, The Doom Generation, Mysterious Skin. Also Mallrats, Donnie Darko, All Over Me, Empire Records,
Sunday, September 19, 2010
In “Happy-Go-Lucky”, we are introduced to the world of Poppy (well deserved Golden Globe winner Sally Hawkins); a cheerful and charismatic primary school teacher. She skips through life, unable to regulate the thoughts coming out of her mouth and always on the lookout for a good laugh. Some of the best scenes take place during her weekly driving lessons with Scott (prolific English actor Eddie Marsan); as she slowly peels back the layers of his abrasive personality until he crumbles before her eyes. Poppy is unaware of the effects she has on people, or maybe more truthfully, is unconcerned with how she effects people. She moves to the beat of her own drummer and if you don’t like it you can leave. What I loved so much was how everyone can identify with a character or some aspect of the film. We are all looking for the same things and make the same mistakes along the way. Sally Hawkins is a revelation. Listening to Leigh talk about the casting process I don’t envy his casting director. He wants to find someone who already imbibes some of the major qualities of the character; then he encourages them to express themselves to the fullest limit. A must see.
Sad sack Lou’s (Rob Corddry) suicide attempt succeeds only in bringing the old gang from high school back together: Nick a former rock wannabe (Craig Robinson in an hilarious performance), Adam (John Cusack) who is self obsessed and lonely, and his geek nephew Jacob(Clark Duke of “Kick Ass”). Off they go to try and cheer each other up to the same ski resort they partied at 20 years ago. Unfortunately, the place has fallen on hard times (“Look at all the cats!”). In a bit of movie ridiculousness, their hot tub lights up and transports them back to 1986 and the height of their “coolness”. It’s fun to see Cusack relive the world and films that made him famous in the first place and Duke does a great job of explaining time travel and trying to keep the adult children in line. I wish I had seen it in a group; perhaps it would have been better. Still, it’s a good rental and a nice trip down memory lane, even if those memories are covered in leg warmers and scrunchies.
Date Night- 1 star- I don’t even want to talk about it but I have to. Ugh. I prefer its German title: “Gangster fur eine Nacht”. That sounds like a movie I want to see! Director Shawn Levy (“Night at the Museum”) tries his hand at more adult fare while keeping the training wheels on. Adults are not interested in the same antics as children, I promise you. Steve Carrell and Tina Fey’s Phil and Claire are the most bumbling duo who should be sterilized to prevent them reproducing any further. Finally taking some time out for themselves, they head into the city to enjoy dinner at a fancy new restaurant. When they can’t get a table, they take the reservation of a couple who have not shown up (a reoccurring joke based on this falls flat every time). Next thing you know, they are being escorted into the ally by a couple of thugs (don’t worry, they go willingly) and held at gun point. Seems the reservation they took was for a couple of low level criminals being hunted by the mob. Still with me? The funniest thing that happened all movie was when one of the gangsters (Common I think. I really want to see him in that new Queen Latifah movie. He is my new Taye Diggs. Sorry, I got off track…). Anyway, one of the gangsters turns his gun sideways to make a point and Carrell yells out “Kill shot! His gun is turned sideways! That’s a kill shot!” That was funny. It annoys the ever loving daylights out of my when I see an actor turn their gun sideways. Where was the weapons expert that day? Dear Hollywood: NO ONE WHO KNOWS GUNS WOULD DO THAT. IT COULD JAM. IT ALSO WEAKENS YOUR ACCURACY. A TRAINED MONKEY (not to mention the cops, military personnel, and marksmen you have doing this action) WOULD NEVER DO THIS IN REAL LIFE. PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY, STOP. Also, please do not see this movie.
PS- Dear Marky Mark, I really respect you as an actor now. I know the sides they must have sent you for “Date Night” were hilarious; your scenes were some of the better. However, please read the rest of the script. This was not good. I’m not even going to get into “The Other Guys” yet. Just, please go back to what your good at: Scarring the shit out of me.
Friday, September 17, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
* Hosting trivia at my neighborhood bar went so well I'm doing it again- twice! I've been rushing to prep a game for the 29th, then I have another one the week after. At least I decided to theme my October stints around the greatest holiday ever (Halloween!!!!) so that game is practically done. I'm also hosting karaoke there on the 30th. I'm going to be exhausted. Wish me luck!
* Overheard: "Cuz I like a mouthful of honey". I'm not sure why this was hilarious or why I thought it was dirty, but I did.
* Jennie's word of the day: Falafel. Clearly she was hungry when I spoke to her and it made me hungry because I have falafel at home! Yummy, delicious, falafel.
* My buddy created this hilarious video dedicated to bartenders everywhere. It is the funniest thing I've seen in forever!
* Life has been pretty hectic, but I'm working on a lot of projects right now. I promise to post more soon!
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Thirty seemed so far away at the time; so full of possibility, a mile stone. By the time I was thirty I would have a career, a decent apartment, and get ready to settle down. I would have been to Europe at least once and had two serious boyfriends. I based my life's dream on my parents. Both were in their early thirties when they met, fell in love, and started popping out kids.
Now, on the eve of my 29th birthday I realize I haven't experienced any of the above. I live in Murderville with my longest relationship, my cat Yuli. I have a job but no career or prospects. The only thing I have is the promise (or prediction) that I will quit filling my lungs with delicious imported smoke within the year. I'm starting to think I didn't know what I was talking about.
On the one hand, this could be the start to completing my wish list. Maybe if I follow through the rest will fall into place. The realist in me starts yelling every time I think that. Do I really believe my life will turn around if I do this one thing? Come on!
On the other hand, smoking is the one constant in my life. Sad, I know, but true. It's been helping me self-medicate for years and never lets me down. It is the best cure for stress or heartbreak, to cool off after sex, or as an excuse to take a break at work. I spend more time outdoors, much like your neighborhood postman- come rain or shine! It makes me happy. Sure, it may kill me. My family hasn't had a lot of luck in the smoking department, but for every sad story there's a George Burns or Dorothy Parker looming around the corner.
[side note: Everytime I think or hear George Burns, my brains 1st thought is this, then this, then this.]
Maybe I'll end up miserable, bored, and snacking on Cheetos.
Maybe my love life would improve. I always seem to be drawn to non-smokers, but I think part of that is the back of my brain telling me, "Do it! It will be easier to quit when you're 30 if he doesn't smoke as well". Kind of selfish now that I think about it, but what the heart wants…
It's not that it defines me. I think if you asked any of my friends, "smoker" would be far down the list of qualifying characteristics. They're more likely to say I'm crazy or bitchy or smart or funny or interesting. Maybe they'll say I'm attractive in that unconventional way. Eventually, they may say I'm a smoker but really, how often does it come up?
As I get older and more depressed by the events of my life, it's hard to imagine the equally depressed young girl who took up smoking in the first place. We are so different from one another but the same. Sounds like something Camus would go on about. Of course, I'm pretty sure he smoked.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
* Wednesday I filled in for my friend and hosted trivia at the local hang out. He was kind enough to write most of the questions, but I filled in my own media. The game is simple: 5 rounds, 3 traditional trivia questions, 2 with media (like movie stills, song clips, etc), then a bonus sheet (always hard: identify this landmark from a satellite picture, word puzzles, etc). As the walking-talking-IMDB, I did two rounds of movie stills and the bonus where you identified the movie from the poster. I had no idea how difficult it was until I started seeing the answers! Still, many teams did very well. It was so much fun I'm going to start filling in more regularly. I've been spending this week coming up with questions and finding new movie stills.
* Jennie's word of the day: Berserk- both a noun and an adjective! n- 1. an ancient Scandinavian warrior frenzied in battle and held to be invulnerable 2. one whose actions are recklessly defiant. adj- frenzied, crazed. Every time I hear this song I think about the movie "Clerks". "Would you like to making fuck, Berserker!"
* My new favorite line from a movie: "He was institutionalized for being such a nerd" -Jeff Goldblum in "The Big Chill"
* Did anyone see Venus Williams outfit for the US Open the other day? It looked like lingerie. The bodice and skirt were sheet mesh with sparkly spider webs. Awful and distracting. I couldn't find any pics of it online but I did find this:
What the frak?
* I'm not sure how I came upon Cracked, but they have a series of "After Hours" videos that discuss movies ad nauseum. The link above leads to the "Top 5 Movie High Schools it Would Suck to Attend" and it is hilarious!
* Hyperbole & A Half tells us all about the "Four Levels of Social Entrapment" . So true!
* Finally, here's something funny to lift up your day. I am literally itching with anticipation of my upcoming two days off. Can I leave work now?? Please?
* not sure where I found this.