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No, it won't make my top ten of the year or whatever. But I'd be lying
if I said this wasn't one of the most entertaining experiences in a
theater I've had in a long time. I have my nitpicks as a fan about the
concert itself (what, The Memory Remains over playing Wherever I May
Roam in full? And Hetfield being in his fifties necessitates some
songs, though not all thankfully, tuned a little lower for his vocal
range). What counts and what was impressive is the production value is
spot on, the music video approach with the "story" I dug (really, is it
any more silly than what we saw Beavis and Butthead covering back in
the day? or Song Remains the Same for that matter, which this trumps),
And it was just a lot of shameless fun.
I found myself laughing several times, not even cause anything was hysterical (though I'm glad to see Bane is back and now on horseback!) but because it doesn't kid itself as to how bad ass it is, or tries to be. The band is solid as ever and its mostly loaded with stuff from the 80s - if anything is cheesy and does go too far it's the statue from and justice for all playing during the song being performed being built on the stage, and the "drama" they try to put into the stage show, which is a bit much considering what else they're doing with DeHaan in the film - and there's nary a fault in musicianship. Hey, you can even hear the bass now on those justice tracks! Even the 3d made the experience more enjoyable, for the bits that Nimrod Antal used it for and for it being not too obtrusive either. Go see it on a big screen if possible with good sound, and try to resist the urge getting up and just trashing all around and acting like a maniac.
This was a pleasant surprise. As a sort of prequel to the film Young
Thugs: Innocent Blood, which was a memorable but disjointed tale of
teenage waste and wanton self-destruction, I wasn't sure what to
expect. But what Takashi Miike delivered was a rather sweet elegy to
youth, though still packaged as a "crime movie" on the cover. It's
really not that at all, but more like Miike's Radio Days, or a form of
Stand by Me (though Radio Days came more to mind, especially as it
deals more with sometimes-funny sometimes-not family dysfunction). It
follows two of the characters from the first film, Riichi (mostly
Richii as I could tell) and Isami, as they meet as adolescents and
become friends, collaborating on a model of the Apollo 11 pod.
What I loved about the film was that Miike doesn't shy away from showing how a kid IS affected by what he sees around him, whether it's something small like watching/listening to a softly spoken conversation with his teacher on the phone with her husband (who doesn't treat her very well as we see, and Riichi is sure to give him a piece of his mind, no violence though), or something more blatant like the decay of the marriage between his mousy but loving mother and his powder-keg of a father who flies off at the handle at the drop of a hat (but is he really a mean guy or just crazy? I'd say more the latter). In this environment Riichi absorbs so much, understands some of it, and he doesn't really know he's growing up but he is in smaller ways.
Miike shows a great natural attention to how boys talk and think - being that he was around the age of these kids in its 1969/1970 setting at the time, he knows at least what was on TV, hair-styles, even what was in the kinky strip clubs and porn magazines (that's a very funny bit I should add, where Ishima's brother is masturbating to an old 60's melody) - and it helps add to the dimension of the story. This is a somehow more mature work from a director who just a year before made the "official" version of the Young Thugs saga. But really, you can watch this on its own, it doesn't set up anything important or too memorable outside of personalities that come back in the second film, and there is a keen attention paid to how to move the camera at just the right time, or keep it still to emphasize a good emotional point.
Strong acting, heartfelt writing, a dynamic sense of time and place, and even a bit of political satire thrown in - somehow, someway, and good- for-him, Riichi's father gets caught up in some disturbances in the streets, facing off like the glorious madman he is against the police and their fire-hoses as shown in TV footage - it's one of the director's best straightforward comedy/dramas, and shows what he could do outside of straight genre work. And a little Ennio Morricone music goes a long way as well.
Ray just wants to go to medical school. More than that, he has a great
opportunity at hand: he's got a big chance with a paper he's writing to
be selected as one of the ten interns for the Surgeon General in DC.
But there's a hitch, an annoying and bib and personal one: his mother,
a depressive, has broken her leg quite badly and is in bed and needs
help to do basic things: go to the bathroom, take a shower, have meals,
etc. So Ray's father, a traveling salesman (and a louse, which we see
in snippets though sadly the rest of the family never quite knows about
if suspects), tells Ray he has to do this, no one else can help, and it
will be about a month. So much for the internship, right? Could he make
it? But what about those showers? And lotioning the legs and the
under-the-cast area? And those little touches of the forearm. Mom,
you're trying to seduce me(?) Um... are you?
Spanking the Monkey, a technically and writerly masterstroke (no pun intended) of a debut from director David O. Russell, is simply a sick twisted f*** of a movie made by a man who, at the time at least, was probably a sick twisted f*** as well. You wanna know what this is? Here's a pitch: Young Charles Manson (who Davies later played) does his Mom. There. Go see it. It delivers on that but it's so much more a psychological mind-bender, but told without too much flash and panache - this isn't Three Kings, for example, it's more low-key and low-budget, which adds to the disturbing elements being directed just like a regular indie film from the 90's. And it does try to add a little levity - or more of a typical quirky/awkward sub-plot where Ray may or may not get into a sexual relationship with a high-schooler (no, believe me, this is the more normal part of the movie, awkward kissing and juxtapositions with the dog as well).
But be warned, sorta: this is billed as a 'comedy', and it is in the sense that I chuckled a few times. But the character interactions, Davies performance (and here, more than anything else I've seen him outside maybe Rescue Dawn) looks like he's about to explode or cry or both at any moment, and just how Russell takes a very direct approach to the psychological issues at hand, not sugar-coating how much he and his mother need help and we feel for both of them because it's so honest even in its absurdity, make it essential viewing for those looking for subversive American cinema from the 1990's, or ever really. It would be in Amos Vogel's book if it had been made in the 60's or 70's, you mark my words! That it was made for (relatively) so little and looks pretty polished is a further credit (this won the Audience Award at Sundance 94 - the year Clerks was there, to give perspective).
The Spectacular Now is a coming-of-age drama mixed with young love
story about Sutter (Miles Kelly, an interesting, uncynical young find
who can communicate a lot of different sides to this character without
coming off too fresh or overwrought) who starts off obnoxious (but in
the way that is believable to the way that teenage boys can get
obnoxious) and in the wake of a failed relationship meets a good, sweet
girl, Amy, and a natural relationship unfolds in their senior year of
High School. While this is going on, he has a problem with alcohol -
which extends to Amy - and about a past history that Sutter has to
confront with a dead- beat father.
The film that is very well written (based on a book but having that same quality in the dialog and story turns that speaks to their intelligence at navigating conventions) without being show-offy, and performances that feel raw and sensitive and try to avoid a lot of clichés (or that Hollywood way of showing teenagers "like we think they are" as opposed to how they are closer to life), and a strong dramatic story about young love and overcoming the flaws in yourself.
It's not perfect, and has a few little things with the alcohol element to the film that irked me (which is much bigger than what you may realize seeing the trailer, much more actually, it's really a companion piece with this director's previous movie Smashed which is also about boozing), but its real and honest and that's so rare to find in a teenage story like this. Woodley has a long career ahead of her, and has that great distinction of being naturally pretty, dramatically intuitive, and yet is not SO pretty that you can't accept her as a cute teenager girl (or... dare I say Mary Jane in the next Spiderman movie?) Go see it - it's not top 10 of the year great, but it's great in the ways that matter for a story like this.
An on-the-ropes secret service man. A president who wants to see big
changes. Villains who just will not let that happen (and may or may not
have profit motives, it is a Die Hard knock-off first and foremost).
And lots of explosions, bloody deaths, and wild turns of surprise and
suspense all about the destruction of White House and the swift erosion
of political order. Sound familiar?
As with 2012, a rating that is reflected mostly or at least half ironically. It's a well-made action film, one where you can tell what is going on at all times (not much hand-held, or at least the thing ala Man of Steel that feels pointless), and is dumb as a box of rocks. But it's a fun box-of-rocks movie, and unlike it's close counterpart, Olympus Has Fallen (seriously, some parts of the plot are just telegraphed from one film to the other, villains entrance strategy, double-crossing inside character, and the ultimate goal of the villains involving nuclear launch strikes), but this one kinda has a more (albeit insanely) liberal slant to it - a black president who wants to get ALL troops out of the middle east in order to make total peace, and crazy right-wingers and white supremacists having NONE of that noise jack. Which in a way makes it more awesome.
If Olympus has anything really over Down, it's the hero factor, where Gerard Butler showed he can act and carry an action movie not suffused in CGI, while Tatum, though not totally useless (he plays well off of Foxx, who comes off as the real bad-ass of the film, glasses and nicotine gum and all), is just not that strong of a dramatic actor. When he has dumb-fun lines to say, and it's a Roland Emmerich movie so they do come around a lot (i.e. the rocket launcher in the car during the white house lawn chase), he can deliver, but when he has to react to, say, his character's daughter having a gun to her head - which seems to happen quite a lot - he can't quite get to that dramatic level the movie asks for. But, again, this isn't exactly a full-bloodied character piece (albeit James Woods is always dependable, and good to see being so formidable in the first time in a while), and Emmerich knows it.
Much your popcorn, sit back, and take in a ride that knows how to push a fantastical political thriller for all its worth, implausible (and predictable) twists and all. At the least you will have more entertainment as far as getting into decidedly cartoonish action than a Man of Steel or even Star Trek from this summer.
This is silly. This is ludicrous. This is like 80's-style Troma comedy
here. Very stupid, a lot of juvenile sex jokes and oggling at breasts
(which, at one point, turn into hamburgers for the starving Jackie Chan
character, Ryu Saeba, the 'City Hunter'), and it finally reveals its
plot about or more than halfway into the movie as a (intentionally?)
lame die-hard ripoff only this time on a cruise ship and a casino where
wacky musical numbers and James Bond-esque card games ensue.
Yes, it's all of these things. Plus it's a Jackie Chan movie, a classic- style Chan flick. Which means all put together, it's a tall glass of guilty pleasure shake with a side of HOLY CRAP JACKIE CHAN CAN DO THAT?!
The movie knows exactly what it is from the start as Ryo explains how he is taking care of a little girl that was left to him by a dying friend (already its silly as the dying man speaks normal one second, dying next), and then the girl grows up. Yeah, she's a character, but that's not the sorta story here. Loose as possible, and a lot of twists happen so that it gets to that cruise ship: Ryo is hired by a guy to bring his daughter back home. She sneaks on the ship, Ryo follows, and wackiness ensues with a bunch of terrorists (many of them in red jumpsuits not unlike the Foot from Ninja Turtles), and the main bad guy is not even a take on the Die Hard villain but rather the Die Hard II villain, complete with solo work-out in a bedroom. Holy biceps and pectoral muscles Batman!
This whole thing with City Hunter, down to its name which does get a theme song and ala Black Dynamite, is a live action cartoon. But if you're in the mood for it, if you just wanna wind down with something that does not take itself seriously for a nano-second, this is where you can go. Oh, and while the Jackie Chan action isn't there completely from start to finish, when it finally gets into it in say the last twenty, twenty-five minutes, it's approximately what you'd hope for: daring, high-flying, magical really. What could this guy NOT do for his art?
A minor film from Pixar, but all the same massive fun, lots of creative
monsters and exacting detailed animation, and on a more concrete level
it actually does something I have never seen in a Pixar movie, almost
as if they were smuggling this in under the radar in one of their
franchise efforts: for the first time we have a story without a very
Yes there is the d***ish jock (voiced aptly by none other than Nathan Filion) and the serpentine dean (Helen Mirren, nuff said), but really there is no 'big bad' here, no Sid or super computer or bear that smells like strawberries. The enemy here in as least pretentious a way it can be put is failure. both the main characters Mike and Sully have to face this their own ways, with Mike facing the potential failure of just not being scary, and Sully as not living up to the Sullivan name (hes a bit of a legacy you see).
The heart of this movie is in part in the usual way of Pixar taking a formula or just straight up another movie (Toy story 3 was a prison break out flick, bugs life seven samurai, this time its revenge of the nerds and back to school) and how the underdogs get inspired against all odds. But the other chunk of heart and where it struck a chord with me was that its about what happens when you go to college: you're faced with great possibilities and even greater challenges, based on what you put up for yourself, and it will make you (un?) prepared for the rest of your life.
Some stretches of the film I wasn't sure what would happen next just due to what one characters morality would effect on another. Yes, monsters university is silly kids stuff, maybe more-so for kids than anything aside from the cars series (not to say this film doesn't have some sophisticated jokes amid the 'aw mom!' stuff with one of the frat members at O.K., you just have to listen close). And its only a little better in terms of some parts of its story than Monsters inc. At the same it also does another incredible feat I only realize now typing this: this is one of the rare prequels you can see without necessarily the original.
The filmmakers set up this world from the get go, what getting a scare means (or in the real world, what you are good at.. or not) and taking it from there. hell, just writing this out I like the movie more. It's not great, but within its dimensions it sets out winningly what it wants to do, which is more than can be said for other films this summer. Its vibrant, colorful, and has something to say and, again, without the basic black-and-white good and bad guys aside from genre conventions. 8.5/10
Another trek into the rich and 'famous' by daughter Coppola...
Terrific (at times) direction, with some subtlety, and some wonderful, patient and striking cinematography from (the late) Harris Savides. But the substance is just so dull. MAYBE if the movie had been with Emma Watson's character as the protagonist, as opposed to the Rebecca character and the boy Sam, who are as acted and written just dull as dishwater, and then you have the 'Secret' church with Leslie Mann, then we'd have a pitch-black satire. She's the most interesting if only based on a scene all too late in the film where we see her interviewed for Vanity Fair, we see how with Watson's and Mann's acting and the writing in that one scene, so much a richer story that could be told at least in a social commentary sense.
But what else is here is just the most empty tale ever - yes, it's empty people in real life, probably, but it's a movie, give us just something more to chew on than the abyss of partying, trying on shoes and clothes, bragging, more trying and breaking in, etc etc etc. When you stare too long at the vapidness of the rich, the vapidness stares back at you. This isn't to say some small touches in the film aren't appreciated, such as making the male character Sam's sexuality low-key, in fact early on it being unclear as to where he would be in those terms (and I give credit to Coppola on that, no question about it, and the actor can work for that). But at the end of the day... who cares?
Even as an executive producer (well, one of 200!) I can look at this
from a distance, somewhat. It's entertaining, sometimes very funny, but
also a bit unfocused. I wish it had a little more about the change from
VHS to DVD and how now DVD is becoming "dead" due to VOD. But the
collections are fun to look at, the Quadead Zone story is epic, and you
can tell they all either love what they are collecting, or are, at
worst, the kind of people you might WANT to watch on Hoarders.
The highlight though for me is the gentleman who has such a collection in his basement that it has become a video store, complete with a crappy old computer, magazine from twenty years ago to tell you what is good or not, and sections delineating this or that film (surprise, he doesn't like drama). On a personal level it bugged me just slightly that the film doesn't have any other video collectors except the horror-hounds (or maybe some collect porn, though I'm sure they hide that - or maybe not, I dunno, I'd need to look through the film again with a fine-tape comb). Are there other collectors out there than JUST horror? Or maybe horror and sci-fi and genre stuff is just where the fun collections are at. Why just have stuff like Ingmar Bergman films when you can have basically home movies that have cool covers? Some of these folks love movies that are featured I'm sure. Others? A stamp collection might be the same thing.
But I say these criticisms with affection. I too am a collector, not to THIS extent that we see with these subjects - one of whom, I must admit, is to the point of possible madness as to pay over 1,000 for a single tape. I will want to watch this again though to soak up some of the titles and the anecdotes. I'd be curious to see what folks who aren't in the "Know" think of all of this; the screening I saw the film was loaded with fellow VHS collector-geeks, some of whom wanted to trade and buy tapes right there. A collector never sleeps, really. Whether someone will actually WATCH Tales from the Quadead zone after they plunk down a month's rent, I am sure I still don't know. As a look at a handful of people holding on to and praising a supposedly "dead" format, it's charming, mostly harmless, featuring crude animations and the "look" of VHS which is appreciated, and has some bite. If it had a little more about the format itself, not just about the collectors, then it would be truly great.
Barbara Kopple's American Dream you a painful but honest on all sides
look at what labor unions have to go through when they go into strike-
mode, and how corporations, starting in the 80's, say the unions flaws
in negotiating as a means to get in to change things for their benefit.
It's that kind of movie though that doesn't discriminate in a key way -
I think if you're pro-union or anti-union even, you can get something
out of this take by how Kopple presents everything. The characters here
all want what's best, but it's not so simple as'let's negotiate a
contract'. Sides become fractured, tempers get flared, and a 'labor
consultant' arguably muddies the waters early on in the negotiating. By
the time it gets to be many weeks into the strike, some of the folks on
the picket lines get desperate, cross and go back to work, and the
sides become even more fractured.
It's about the Hormel meat-packing district, but the staying power of the film is this: it could be anywhere. Is it just about if wages decrease by two dollars, or four dollars, or about something more when it comes to bargaining, the rights of workers, and who is really in control? The interviews and perspective are in large part on Lewie Anderson, who probably has the most common sense as we can see it (or rather in comparison with the Consultant Ray Rogers, who is technically a corporate guy as well), and how he has to approach the union and the chief committee about where to go with Hormel - and of course the flaws are there, like rewriting the contract that has forty years of bargaining in it for the rights of the workers.
This is not to say that, for the warts-and-all approach Kopple takes, that she is on the side of the corporate masters at Hormel. We see one of their spokesman, who is a down-the-line party guy, talk to the camera(s) with the candor that one expects from such a corporate man about dealing with the union leaders (maybe not as villainous as, say, a Roger Smith from Roger & Me, but what is). But it's mostly there, in those halls and on the picket lines and in those smokey, emotional offices that Kopple takes her sights and tells this story. How it becomes a tale for almost everyone (not to say that, probably, those who have worked in unions or know people who have, that makes up a good lot of Americans, will connect deeper with it) is that it's not about complex legal wrangling. It's about what people do when pushed up against a wall, and put themselves into a war.
It is a complicated tale to tell, that is without easy answers, but by the end you can't say you don't see how things did not turn out well, especially with the greater picture (albeit not shown really or at least on the level of the 'smaller-but-bigger' picture the director paints) that the country was in at the time, and still are. What happens to these Americans, all hard workers, when faced against corporate pressures, and then other workers are brought in across the picket lines. What happens to society?
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