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Beautiful Noise (2014)
Worthwhile watch for those who appreciate this music genre/movement
I finally got around to watching my DVD of the "Beautiful Noise" documentary directed by Eric Green - and while much of it was what I expected, it was still great to hear the artists behind the music I've loved for so long discuss their influences, the scene they got lumped into and how their bands folded up shop, so to speak, as well as the current resurgence and interest in this type of music.
I question how useful or entertaining this doc will be for the uninitiated to this style of music. For the rest of us, it's a great walk down memory lane, and with interviews from rock luminaries like Billy Corgan and Trent Reznor, a validation of what we've known all along.
But my favorite part was the interviews of Kevin Shields and Alan McGee inter-cutting between each other as they talked about the recording process of MBV's "loveless" (they are basically ripping each other a new hole about the whole experience by recounting how, basically, they thought the other person was disrupting their lives, and in McGee's POV business). This just goes to show that history is determined by those who write it (or talk about it in this case).
Personally, the most important outcome of watching this documentary was that it made me pull out all of my shoegaze/dreampop CDs to rip them into FLAC format so I could revisit it all during a long trip I have coming up.
If you get a chance to see "Beautiful Noise", by all means do: the artists are interviewed in intimate settings where one gets the sense they were able to relax and really reflect upon the music they've made and their larger cultural impact. It was definitely worth the wait for this doc.
Captures the essence of the "Parker" character
I've read some of Richard Stark (a.k.a. Donald Westlake) 'Parker' books and this movie pretty much captures the essence of the character. This is not Shakespeare folks. The morality is pretty black and white in these books and Taylor Hackford and the screenwriter captures what this character is about very well. The only thing I found awkward in this movie were the flashbacks in the first third -- but that's a screenplay structure issue, not directing issue. Acting-wise, thought everyone did very well with their roles. No, there's not a lot of depth to anyone, except for perhaps Jennifer Lopez's character who makes it clear she's stuck in a dead-end life post-divorce and needs an out. All in all, a very good, entertaining crime thriller. I won't remember this years from now, but it entertained me and kept my attention throughout. And aside from all this, Stratham makes for one good badass! If you like this, definitely check out "The Bank Job" that he starred in: he really shows his acting chops in that one.
U2 3D (2007)
A must-see for U2 fans.
I'm a long-time fan since 9th grade (1983 when "War" was released).
I've always believed that rock and roll is best experienced in smaller bars, clubs and theaters. But when "Achtung Baby" came out, I got tickets anyway to the Zoo TV tour in 1992 at Madison Square Garden. While I enjoyed that (the roar of the crowd, the excitement of your fellow fans, and the manic energy of the band) I was all the way up in the nosebleed seats and felt a little removed. And frankly the sound wasn't the best (boomy, kinda got lost up in the ceiling). Sure, they had the jumbotrons to broadcast big images of the band, but it's just not the same as being at the front of the stage in a club.
"U23D" brings the best of both worlds together: you see the immense scale of the stadium audience, but you also get to see the band up close and personal on stage. The filmmakers did a great job capturing the energy and enthusiasm of the South American stadium crowds and the unique bond this band has with its fans.
What struck me about the particular performances captured for this film were "Bullet the Blue Sky" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday": Bono has this tendency to editorialize during some songs and it can come across as preachy at best and forced at worst. Here though, he works in a custom version of "When Johnny Comes Home" to great effect during "Bullet" that really moved me ("Doesn't matter what he's seen or where he's been as long as Johnny comes home").
During "Sunday Bloody Sundy" Bono points to a "Coexist" head band someone in the crowd gave him and points to it and says "Muslims, Jews, Christiansit's all truewe're all children of Abraham. Abraham, speak to your sons." It made me sad because somehow I don't think there will ever be peace in the Middle East. And the superiority that some Evangelicals here in the U.S. have over other religions will probably never go away either. How long must we sing this song, indeed.
Sonically, I wish it had been a little louder, but it still sounded very good. My wife, while she enjoyed it, found herself feeling like she was still observing a lot of other people having fun at a concert. But I felt like I was there.
If you're a U2 fan, you gotta see this before it leaves the IMAX theater near you. It's definitely worth every penny. I'll probably see it one more time before it goes....
The Kingdom (2007)
Simplistic action movie: don't expect to learn much about Arabic culture
Saw this last night at a preview screening here in L.A. Overall a positive response from the audience.
This is a typical "Americans as fish-out-of-water" trying to solve a crime in Saudi Arabia. Technically and acting-wise this is a good movie. It moves along at a fast clip.
But don't expect to walk out knowing much more about Arabic or Muslim culture walking out of the theater. And it does not cover why the U.S. has such a weird relationship with Saudi Arabia: we espouse democracy elsewhere in the region, while funneling billions of dollars to S.A., which is anything BUT a democracy -- riddle me that Batman? Wait, I know: we need their OIL! (this is made dramatically clear during an opening montage, which was very well done).
The last half hour is a revenge fantasy for most Americans -- but for me personally the last few moments of the film redeemed the entire exercise: violence begets violence. Military force alone will not solve our problems in the region, and that alone is a lesson worth learning for the majority of Americans that will see this film.
28 Weeks Later (2007)
narrative lacks focus, but still worth seeing at the theater
I really enjoyed 28 DAYS LATER and in general I'm a huge fan of the apocalyptic it's-the-end-of-the-world genre.
The first 20 minutes of 28 WEEKS LATER had me hooked, but after the story moves to the Green Zone in London, with the family split up, the narrative loses focus and the film suffers for this.
And the goal of the kids traveling with the American sniper and medic left me with a big "so what?" - so they need to get to the stadium - why? What's the point? Escape from the city? What about the rest of the American military personnel? Did they all leave? (None of this is explained).
The ending also felt tacked on -- I really expected that the last third of the film had started when they took off from Wembley Stadium. The film must have tested so well that Fox wanted the opportunity to make a sequel -- but I can't wait to read the French subtitles for "Pardon Monsieur, but I must bleed on you NOW! GRRRRRRRR!"
Joking aside, what this movie does extremely well is create the spooky atmosphere of a civilization at ground zero and what it would be like to start over from scratch. Sure, it's set in London, but I could see the same situation applying to Los Angeles, New York or any other large metro area in the world.
This is not an up-with-people movie -- and if nihilistic blood and gore is not your thing, stay far away. If you enjoyed the first film, there's enough here to recommend seeing this on the big screen (they obviously had a bigger FX budget for this film and it shows during the fire bombing sequence). The storytelling itself is just not as strong as the first film.
October Sky (1999)
Great coming of age story about believing in yourself
Just watched this on cable again after seeing it so many years ago. It still stands up; along with BREAKING AWAY, it's a great coming-of-age/boy-faces-realities-of-adulthood story.
The entire cast is great, but Chris Cooper is pitch perfect in the his role.
Recommended to parents looking to get their teen-aged children interested in science. Also provides a great morality tale about believing in yourself when just about everyone around you is a nay-sayer.
Great movie - highly recommended.
Six Degrees (2006)
too bad it didn't last
Along with "Brothers & Sisters", "Six Degrees" was one of my favorite new dramas of fall 2006.
Great cast all around, but really enjoyed the work of Campbell Scott (the come-back photog) and Hope Davis (recent widow of journalist killed in Iraq).
Aside from the acting, the writing was fresh and the acting superb. The show was also shot in NYC, the real city, not the Warner Bros. or some other studio's backlot, adding a secondary layer or realism.
I guess people are more interested in the latest "Survivor" and other reality garbage. Too bad it didn't last.
Children of Men (2006)
our society through a looking glass
I haven't written a review on IMDb in quite some time, mostly because nothing I've seen has moved me to do so. But I am into dystopian sci-fi and I was familiar with the work of PD James -- coupled with the fact that the director had directed arguably the darkest of the Harry Potter films, and, well, I knew I had to see CHILDREN OF MEN.
I walked out of the theater exhilarated, shocked, and somewhat depressed thinking about the story's implications.
If you enjoyed 28 DAYS LATER, you'll probably like this...but this is the superior film IMHO, as this one has more heart and makes you think. 28 DAYS LATER is basically a survival film, where as CHILDREN OF MEN works on many levels.
The picture the director and his crew created is very plausible -- and that's what makes this unsettling. Even though it's set in the UK, as an American I found it easy to imagine a similar situation here. There are scenes in this movie that really upset me and I couldn't help but think, "please, this can't happen!" -- namely the "refugee" detention area scene with the visual homage to the lone hooded figure from Abu Ghraib.
And yet I couldn't help but think there are narrow-minded, redneck jerks in the U.S. who would love to have such border check points and shuttle off "law breakers" (read: anyone who's not their brand of Christian, white and doesn't speak English) to refugee cities on the coast as depicted here in CHILDREN OF MEN.
This is where we could be in 10 or 15 years if certain people have their way with the "law" as they see it and if we let the environment deteriorate past the point of no return. Get your red-orange-yellow-green terror alert machines out folks, 'cause we're going to need them to give us some vague sense of safety when everything else has gone to hell! Action scenes: astounding, you-are-there. The bluntness of the violence will be off-putting to many, but this is not escapist DIE HARD-like action fare where when the bad guys get shot they just magically disappear...and that's a good thing.
When we live in a time when the average citizen knows more about Tom-Kat and other celebs to the point that they're so out of touch with reality, it's refreshing to know that a mainstream movie studio like Universal will still release thought-provoking work like CHILDREN OF MEN.
Do yourself a favor and skip everything else at the multiplex and start your cinema-going year right and see this!
If you lived in California during the 2000 blackouts, you MUST SEE THIS!
As has been posted by others, this is a very-well made documentary and it held my attention throughout. The DVD extras are also very well done.
I live in Los Angeles and remember the rolling blackouts during 2000. All Californians _must_ see this movie: your blood will boil as this film lays out how Enron raped us for $30 billion dollars, never mind the retirement savings of so many people they squandered.
California's energy "crisis" was a grand manipulation by Enron. It was NOT all Gray Davis's fault: true, he locked the state into long-term wholesale contracts at inflated prices when we was still in office, but he did that to avoid future rate hikes, which to him at the time looked not only possible, but would be astronomical -- so in context, he made the right decision at the time.
This film also serves as a fascinating psychological profile of Jeff Skilling -- this guy is a pathological liar, and deserves to rot in hell for he did (along with Fastow, Lay and all the traders heard in the movie taking joy and glee at fires burning power lines/transformers -- the inmates in the asylum, as it were).
Watch and be amazed and disgusted at the same time.
The Island (2005)
put LOGAN'S RUN, THX-1138 and FORTRESS in a blender and you get THE ISLAND
I'll just come out and say it: I'm NOT a Michael Bay fan. Of his films, only THE ROCK would I consider a great popcorn movie. But this is an entertaining, well-made and (for a genre pic) well-acted movie. There's still the typical over-the-top action sequences (at one point I felt like I was in the Halo video game) and the shaky-cam does get tiring at times. And let it be said the story is highly derivative of LOGAN'S RUN, THX-1138 and FORTRESS. But given the recent news coverage of stem-cell research and cloning, the story resonates. I swear, this is the first Michael Bay movie that made me think -- is this a sign of the apocalypse?! ;-)
If you like sci-fi with some action throw in, you'll probably enjoy this.