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Step Up (2006)
Great dancing & soundtrack... fun teen dance movie.
Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan are hot hot hot. Absurdly pretty, and they can both dance. While a teen dance movie was not my #1 choice, it was a pretty enjoyable film. No big surprises, but it fulfilled what it set out to do with admirable skill and pace. The 'white-boy hood' character threads were well executed by the extremely handsome Tatum- as the 'White Hood Kid' can be a character that is very hard to swallow and easy to play terribly. While there is lots of dancing, there is not so much that the whole film feels like a support structure to display dancing, which would bore me to tears. Mario is interesting to watch and has good arcs. I have a crush on Rachel Griffiths so I'm biased there, but one of the few faults in the movie is her character evolves unrealistically... she develops into a place of compassion from one of hate without much to make that change. All and all, a surprisingly fun movie.
Discreetly overdirected with unquestionable skill, but was it entertaining?
Firstly, Uma rules. Damn she's good. There are about 12 notes (an octave, good for her) that she just nails. Love her. And Bryan Greenberg, is pretty good (and pretty). Jon Abrahams is Jon AbraHams, consistent, cocky, he plays that guy well. I want to say 'stop with the fedora' bit, but, realizing I'm just being a jerk, he wears them well. Fedoras look cool when you run a major hip-hop label (good luck, but seriously- good luck). Ben Younger makes interesting choices- keeping his actors on the slow play, then rushing in. Low key, highly compressed sound design and funny pseudo-subtle color timing flares. Really nice breaths in the narrative taken with exterior shots and art house sound recording (interior/exterior sound gags). Directorial, but well played. It's heavy handed in the referential department, in a self-serving pat on the back "I know who so and so is" kind of way, which makes punk ass critics feel good about themselves. Smart but annoying. Oh man, I almost forgot, Meryl Streep is Gibraltar. She could play Screech and it would be brilliant, although her performance was (suprisingly) uneven. She wavered between heebtastic and waspalicious at times. Maybe that's intentional, she's that good, but i dunno. All in all, this is another Ben Younger film which will be seen many times over many years. His films are never disposable- they all have life... pop... resonance. He's not a brilliant director... yet, but it will be great to watch him develop. I hope he takes a path that leads him into work that is made to entertain, stories told to the viewer through the film, not the director. God forbid the Hollywood Machine lets him go self indulgent bananas and we end up with another Paul Thomas Anderson droid. I'm just sensitive to feeling the directors breath on my neck when I trying to watch a damn movie, that's all. If you like film, see it, and probably in the theater. It's nicely shot, and the title sequence deserves better than the living room screen (even if it is a 50" plasma). One more thing- the Uma boob tease is brutal, just brutal. I found myself longing something terrible to catch just a glimpse of areola.
Layer Cake (2004)
Nice shots, over directed, lazy writing.
Another tepid cookie cutter drug themed referential caper form the boys on that island near France. While people liked it a lot, and I got a cool hat in Sundance from a hot chick that said "Layer Cake" (which I wear on cold days snowboarding although I took a black sharpie to the yellow lettering), this movie is a prime example of style over substance. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but unless you are Raymond Chandler, keep the voice over to a minimum. And watching people say what that are going/ are about to/ or just did makes me crawl (yes, I began a sentence with "and", blarga). Have actors do something- do anything- but tell me what they are doing. Some fun performances though. There are a few interesting shots, but I wanted to see a movie- not be persuaded to purchase a car or perfume or a particular brand of beer. And on the ranting note, stop using songs from "Let It Bleed" for lazy montages. Scorsese did it, Herzfeld made it funny, and now it is done. Stay away. The movie is oddly frontloaded with visual effects but it almost seems like they ran out of money for opticals after the second reel. I wanted to like this movie, I really did. Regrettably, it pretty much sucked. I know I'm in the minority, but it was lazy and uninspired. Sorry.
The Comeback (2005)
Embarasssingly bad. HBO has its first unmitigated failure
Wow. I just saw the first episode and I feel as if I've watched Nicholas Nickleby twice. Backwards. Tepid jokes, consistent discomfort. I saw a tape of a pilot Linklater shot for HBO which was total genius, but this is what HBO chose. Whatever. Anyway, Lisa Kudrow delivers an unimaginable litany of poor jokes in bad situations. There is also a long list of interesting cameos, all delivering performances that make Hayden Christensen look like John Hurt. I wonder if HBO is committed to airing all the episodes they shot. I'd rather listen to Larry Merchant pontificate about obscure Chinese eyeball tonic. Honestly, I'm angry. I want my half hour back. Dreadful.
The Perfect Man (2005)
I can't believe I liked this film as much as I did.
OK. I'm a Caucasian male in my 30's, there is no reason this film should appeal to me. So, I had the opportunity to see it last night. It has been a long time since I've been so pleasantly surprised in a movie theater. Firstly, the performances were great- Duff and Locklear (I never liked her before, but she's funny and beautiful and delivers... crazy) were dynamic and interesting. Noth is kind of irritating, but I guess some people find him sexy. Anyway, what on the face is a silly small tale is in fact a movie of surprising depth about relationships, the fear of solitude, and familial interaction. Who the hell knew a director of pulpy TV stuff had this in him? I'm considering that perhaps I was emotionally available or vulnerable, but objectively, the film-making is consummate. It looks great- like a big 80's comedy, nice and vivid and bright. So, don't fight if you are taken by a wife/daughter... you will be nicely surprised.
A truly underrated gem.
With "Wolf", the master Mike Nichols slyly disguised a profound, spiritual and existential masterpiece as a commercial Werewolf film. The deft frame is suspended within Nichols' standard interpersonal journeys- love, career, loss, etc. and beneath that lies a glorious story of human choice. "Wolf" is a film that forces one (Jack Nicholson) to reassess themselves in the face of colossal wavering factors- love, health, career, family. Perhaps it is very personal for me as I was raised by wolves, but I really love this film, particularly when explored as a metaphorical vehicle. Ennio Morricone's score is unquestionably one of the finest compositions of the final decade of the 20th century. Not simply genius or inspired- a work that rises above other greats. That good. Brilliant amazing genius. Thanks for reading.
The best of the six films.
I have just come from a screening of Episode III and I am very, very happy to report that it is perhaps the crown jewel of the Star Wars saga. The story is seamless, elegant and beautiful. Unquestionably the darkest film in the series- by a tremendous margin. The violence assumes a humanity which makes the film far more tangible and visceral than others in the series (eg.. when a ship is destroyed in space, you see the flailing pilot drifting in space...). The romance between Annakin and Padme is simply perfect. There are moments of dialog that would certainly tarnish a lesser film, but the delivery, the look, all makes it not only compelling but, as I sat in a room with other nerdy counterparts, i teared up. A few times. Wow. The action is nonstop. The pacing is perfect- it breathes when it needs to. The look is the finest projected image I have ever seen. I saw it at the Mann Village in Westwood, CA through their DLP digital system. The clarity, colors, vibrancy- the image quality has a presence that I've only seen from old school projectors which burned carbon 'silver' sticks. Lucas supports his narrative wonderfully with his use of light (the ship you recognize from Episode IV) and dark. The production design makes this amazing turn towards the end of the film where the shapes and colors are right in line with Episode IV- the last two films were so different from the first three... but somehow through light an geometry, the familiar hexagons and squares from the first Star Wars are all there. All the creatures and fun oddities are there for purpose- there are no 'Jar-Jar Binksy' character which take up screen time so the merchandising have new items in the pipeline. Which is not to say that there aren't amazing ships and creatures- as this is a perfect ending to the technology demonstrated in the bar scene on Tattoine in Episode IV- a complete technological revolution in storytelling, but all the soul is there. There are all kinds of deep images- glimpses of the Millennium Falcon, the evolution of Boba Fett, which are there but not addressed directly. Further examination is going to have to happen as the mythology of Star Wars is so succinctly completed in this film. Hayden Christensen delivers and then some. His acting is indescribably better in this installment. His conflict inspires sympathy and makes Darth Vader an even greater villain, thereby making everyone else that much better (Han, Luke, Amidala, etc.). The only thing I didn't like about the film is that now I have to buy the newly released DVD's of the other films so I can study the mythology which is now complete.
Sin City (2005)
Brilliance. Another masterpiece from one of the great artists of our time.
Rodriguez has done it again. There are so very few movies made that show such a dynamic range of deep craft and passion. From the basics- story and performance- to the minutae of production design and inside jokes, this masterpiece is pure joy to watch. Films of this quality are tragically rare. The intertwining of 3 key stories from the Sin City novels was seamless. And and extra hurrah to the production of elegantly bowing out of the DGA's constraints and allowing 3 world class storytellers (Rodriguez, Tarantino and Miller) to all have their hand in the direction. With any luck, the success of Sin City will ensure that Watchmen will get made (fingers crossed- get to work Hayter, Levin and Gordon!).
Hopefully there will be a 5 hour DVD.
Thanks and praises to all who helped bring this masterpiece to the screen.
The Matador (2005)
Best buddy comedy in a long time
I had the opportunity to see this film at the Sundance Film Festival. What a joy. Seeing Brosnan all vulnerable, Kinnear in full ha ha yet with lots of heart.. it rocked. So now I hear Miramax is going to distribute it in the USA. Hopefully they will sell it as a big movie and not some weak art house opening. Man it is funny. And this movie looks great. It just looks huge. The colors are wonderfully vivid (except in certain scenes where they need to be dark, location stuff, you'll see- avoiding spoilers...). The music is great. It was by a margin the best film I saw at Sundance. Rush and see this at the first chance you get.
A Walk to Remember (2002)
A beautiful, powerful movie.
This film was such a wonderful surprise. While I was expecting a moderately lightweight piece of teen fare, the film came in with truly profound depth, impeccable performances, solid direction and good pacing through a difficult story. Mandy Moore is a certifiable superstar. And Shane West is really good, and a big surprise was Lauren German, who is not only a very good actress, but so beautiful it is pure joy to watch her. The religion elements of the story are effectively interlaced into the narrative without feeling like the viewer is being force-fed a theological viewpoint. And bring tissues- this one is a real tearjerker which leaves you feeling uplifted and optimistic.