Reviews written by registered user
|10 reviews in total|
this one took me by total surprise! i'll be damned if i can recount (or
follow) the plot, but i know that it involves oil, rival gangsters,
public surveillance, time travel, terrorism, rebel teenagers, possibly
evil horses, and an area in Budapest known as "the district." sharply
written and wittily drawn, it also features cameos by a host of
international luminaries, from Osama bin Laden to the pope -- George W.
too! (spouting lines like: "Our agents were mislead while they were
decidedly un-PC and deliberately "primitive" (particularly in its animation style, recalling everything from The Adventures of Prince Achmed to South Park), this will easily appeal to gamers, hip-hoppers, and fans of Adult Swim, but should also be given a chance by any other regular film-goer/lover.
watching this, i was reminded of something Ralph Bakshi said: "The art of cartooning is vulgarity. The only reason for cartooning to exist is to be on the edge. If you only take apart what they allow you to take apart, you're Disney. Cartooning is a low-class, for-the-public art, just like graffiti art and rap music. Vulgar but believable, that's the line I kept walking."
my guess is, Bakshi would be plenty impressed by The District.
the "teen movie" certainly lends itself to stylized dialogue (see: Heathers, Clueless, Brick), but unlike in those films, Juno finds its footing rather awkwardly. the first ten minutes or so are patience-testing as the patois is established, and too often veers into hipster-posturing. but once the "adults" show up, things brighten considerably. the ever-reliable J.K. Simmons and Alison Janney are perfectly cast as Ellen Page's parents and provide most of the film's most effective moments. (Page continues to display an impressive promise.) there are funny moments/lines through-out, some nice bits of film-making (my favorite being the sequence of the busticated mini-van driving past a series of upper-class suburban manses), and a great soundtrack (extra points awarded for using Buddy Holly's obscure gem "Dearest"). the crucial flaw for me was the fact that Juno was the only complete character in the movie most of the surrounding characters (despite how well-played they were) amounted to little more than sketches, and without them being fleshed-out more thoroughly, the movie ultimately felt solipsistic. i had other, more minor qualms as well (for example, i definitely felt the abortion/choice issue was handled rather glibly, and several of the pitfalls of the amerindie-whimsy trend were far from avoided). but overall, it's an enjoyable picture i don't understand the ecstatic reception it's receiving, but i do think it's worth seeing.
when i first heard that Tony Kaye who, let's remember, first made the scene as a self-proclaimed "hype artist" was releasing a documentary about abortion, i was understandably skeptical. turns out my apprehension wasn't necessary. this is a level-headed, even-handed analysis of a difficult and complex subject. regardless of where you might fall on the spectrum of debate, this film will raise questions that deserve reflection. and, needless to say, this is an issue which warrants attention and discussion at the heart of the issue are some of the most fundamental questions about life; surrounding the issue, however, are myriad paradoxes, contradictions, and dilemmas... if the details and gray areas seem unresolvable, how does one contend with the big picture? the speakers assembled represent the range and nuances of the debate well; some of the images are graphic but integral; and for the most part the irrationality and unhinged emotion that often cloud this subject are avoided. i wonder about the use of B&W, both from a theoretical standpoint (the obvious point that this is not a B&W issue, for instance or is that meant ironically? but also the fact that some footage from primary sources had to be manipulated into B&W which might raise some thoughts about documentary technique) and from an artistic standpoint (B&W often providing a feeling of remove between viewer and image, lacking the immediacy of color... although, with this subject, perhaps making use of this sense of remove is a wise choice). this is a film which deserves to be seen which also deserves to be widely shown in schools but will probably never find a large audience. and i'm only speculating here my guess is that most of those audience members will be primarily from one side of the spectrum.
completely mis-marketed as an Omen-type horror film, there's a lot more going on in this one than in most of the recent similar scary fare. first things first: there's no supernatural hoo-hah. (ah, so refreshing.) it's an unsettling, strangely plausible horror film... seemingly made especially for parents. a few plot elements bothered me, and i felt there was one misstep (involving a Dave Matthews song, btw!), but overall it was an effective chiller. Vera Farmiga as the increasingly imbalanced mother and Celia Weston as the holy-rolling but genuinely concerned mother-in-law are both excellent, and Sam Rockwell delivers another compelling and subtly idiosyncratic performance. George Ratliff, who directed the engrossing and discomfiting 2001 documentary, Hell House, shows promise as a narrative filmmaker.
heart-breaking but unsentimental, profound and deeply moving, Sarah Polley's directorial debut is a stunning piece of work. anchored by two extraordinary performances a revelatory Gordon Pinsent and the exquisite Julie Christie (who, in addition to delivering a gripping, fiercely intelligent portrayal, also sports an impeccable Toronto accent) the film depicts a married couple dealing with the cards that life's later stages deal. in other hands, this material could easily become melodramatic and mawkish, but Polley adapts Alice Munro's short story with an honesty and depth of understanding that doesn't allow for unearned or inauthentic sentiment. it's a brilliant film, but it's also, unfortunately and nonsensically, one of the few films i know of which seriously and maturely grapple with the questions and issues of a couple growing old together. (the only other films that immediately come to mind are Carl Franklin's adaptation of One True Thing and Leo McCarey's absurdly neglected Make Way for Tomorrow).
Anthony Hopkins' psychedelic, enigmatic, comic, meta-cinematic headtrip is an engagingly personal vision of film-making from the inside out. its relentless visual and aural audacity and experimentation will no doubt leave some viewers bothered and bewildered, but, unlike say Tony Scott's Domino or Joe Carnahan's Smokin' Aces, here all the technical gimmickry and razzle dazzle is thematically justified by the strange and elusive story. here the hyperbolic stylizations constantly reveal subtextual nuances and narrative asides (like Oliver Stone when he's on his game... in fact, i can imagine some crass marketeer coming up with a tagline of: "If Oliver Stone and David Lynch teamed up to remake Fellini's 8 ½, it might look something like this..."). written, directed, scored by, and starring Hopkins, this is an uncompromised auteur's statement, and he's enlisted a strong group of supporting players to aid in the effort. (the cast includes John Turturro, Jeffrey Tambor, Christian Slater, S. Epatha Merkerson, and a cleverly hilarious bit part by Kevin McCarthy; the crew includes DP Dante Spinotti and editor Michael R. Miller.) it's film-making that never holds you by the hand, that tempers its darker and more uncomfortable moments with humor, wit, and bits of the absurd, and that's the type of film-making that suits me just fine.
a nihilistic snarl of a film -- like 'get carter', 'pick-up on south street', and 'taxi driver.' relentless in its bitterness, but innovatively made and intriguing to watch. acts as a missing link between the great WB gangster movies of the 30s/40s (angels with dirty faces, the roaring twenties, the public enemy, 1932's scarface), the fevered noir nightmares of the 50s, the raw verisimilitude and downbeat atmospherics of the new Hollywood 70s heydays, and the more recent revisionist mob treatments (goodfellas, donnie brasco, etc.) -- also with more than a few passing similarities to the key works of cassavetes and fuller. with a caustic (at times almost parodic) voice-over delivered in 2nd person featuring bon-mots like "he was the type that thought he was a gentleman if his shoes were shined. you could kill him right now with pleasure." oh, and as an extra treat, it's a holiday movie. merry Christmas!
how incredibly depressing to watch such a brilliant man saying such
ignorant things. maybe he could be somewhat forgiven if his new
material was actually funny.
by now his trademark verbosity and mind-boggling referential skills are so well established they can no longer carry his routines like they once did... and so it comes down to the subjects of the jokes. and that's where the trouble really lies. a joke about the only problem with the war in iraq is the fact that soldiers are being forced to follow the rules of engagement? a series of jokes about his doubts on the existence of global warming? jokes about howard dean, robert byrd, and anyone else who hasn't toed party lines? has bill o'reilly begun writing material for him?
there was a brief period -- say, early to mid 90's -- when miller seemed poised to step into the stand-up pantheon and take his place among the greats (richard pryor, lenny bruce, bill hicks, et al), but apparently somewhere along the line the devil showed up early to claim his soul. now he's become a pathetic jester for the fox news set.
here's the odd remake that far surpasses the original. while craven's
1977 flick does sustain a raw & gritty queasiness (a result of a good,
archetypal horror premise mixed with a willingness to take things too
far mixed with no budget), the execution is lacking, the premise is
under-explored, and the campier and cruder aspects eventually overwhelm
the whole affair. the re-make, though, attains an even higher level of
tension and horror. a sense of hopelessness pervades the entire
nightmare, the gore is more gruesome and believable, and the terror is
more unrelenting. and like 'godzilla' or 'night of the living dead',
the socio-political underpinnings keep the movie from becoming just
another run-of-the-mill genre pic.
(on the opposite end of the spectrum from the omen remake. that was bad. just bad.)
Relying on commentary by those in-the-know, 'america's secret warriors'
paints a frighteningly candid portrait of the practices, history, and
power of the CIA. levin avoids sensationalizing or over-simplifying,
and raises more questions than he answers -- as a good documentary
should. the final shot of a 747 taking off while the voice-over
describes the fears of the imminent blowback created by the USA's
involvement in the middle east is truly chilling.
marc levin is one of the most important documentarians today (see: soldiers in the army of god; gladiator days; the last party; the protocols of zion -- also slam). the discovery channel produced and presented this program. the night it aired, levin apparently received several phone calls from the likes of dick gregory and oliver stone, all saying "great job. now watch your back." discovery channel only aired the program once, and although it was released on video, it went out of print very quickly.