Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Shooter (2007) dir. Antoine Fuqua

Many of us grew up as fans of action movies - those of you who didn't go put on something frilly and make me a turkey pot pie - and as an action movie fan I was kind of pumped about Shooter. It's pretty standard if you're familiar with the genre:

Elite US military bad-ass sees his best friend die in front of him during a mission gone wrong. Fast forward three years - our hero is living in the middle of BFE alone with his dog. One day government agents show up and ask for his help. Only he can stop an attempt on the President's life. Elite bad-ass does the job because he has sworn to protect what America stands for even he doesn't like who's in charge - he's a patriot. Then on the day of the "thwarted" assassination the President gets lead poisoning and the elite bad-ass gets framed, gets shot, escapes, has to rely on training to stay alive. Gets healed up, gets some allies, goes after the corrupt government officials and the evil Senator backing them.

Sure we've seen it before but this was exactly what I was expecting and exactly what I wanted to see. Movies like this are one of my cinematic comfort foods. A great movie to kick off a long day of Saturday afternoon watching.

The acting was pretty satisfying. I'm a big Marky Mark fan and will pretty much watch anything with him it. Danny Glover was a great sleazy "You can't touch me, I know people." Black Ops bad guy. Ned Beatty really made the movie for me as the corrupt Senator. He kind of reminded me of Noble Willingham's Sheldon 'Shelly' Marcone from The Last Boy Scout.

You're not missing much if you wait until this is on DVD or if you can sneak into a matinee. Definitely enjoyable.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Marie Antoinette (2006) Dir. Sofia Coppola

Marie Antoinette is one of the best films in years. I have loved all of Sofia Coppola's films since her beginning and this one is no exception. The film is brilliant eye-candy and takes a unique perspective on the ill-fated queen of France. Coppola has a wonderful way of (and I need to tread lightly here) giving her films a feminine perspective without abandoning her male viewers (I speak specifically about her almost sexualized appreciation of Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation and of Kirsten Dunst in The Virgin Suicides and Marie Antoinette.) Coppola's characters are not incredibly wordy which gives the actors she uses the ability to exude the character's persona without distraction. I personally have trouble accepting Kirsten Dunst when she talks too much >.<

Costumes and sets are a whirl of Baroque Sorbet. The soundtrack is an odd assortment of mostly New Romantics (i.e. Adam & the Ants, Siouxie & the Banshees, The Cure, New Order, etc.) which is rather haunting and surprisingly fitting at the same time. The film slows towards the middle to accomodate the story which is not a detriment to the film whatsoever. See this movie. From the moment "Natural's Not In It" by Gang of Four kicks in at the very opening you are in for a visual and aural treat.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Host (2006)

We managed to score some passes for The Host - conveniently on a Tuesday night. I only knew a bit about the movie from the preview and a bit of hype from and aicn and a couple of other sources but all in all just figured it was going to be a Korean monster movie. It was a Korean monster movie but it was definitely more of a school of nature striking back at man a.k.a. "What have we done?" instead of booga-booga gonna eatcha monster.

Basically it's the story of a charming disfunctional family versus a big gnarly genetic mutant river monster. I can understand the comparisons to Jaws but in my opinion it was more like Close Encounters of the Third Kind - as far as creepiness, fear of the government, and feel. I enjoyed The Host but honestly feel that I missed a majority of the references, jokes, satire, and social commentary simply because I am not South Korean. According to the sites I've checked out The Host has broken Korean box office records.

Bong Joon-Ho's interview with Cineaste is an interesting read and makes the movie a bit more enjoyable. I do think it's interesting that The Host is considered an anti-American movie. I understood that the American military doctor was the bad guy. The fact that the beginning of the movie/beast creation was based on fact - a guy was ordered to pour a massive amount of formaldehyde down the drain into the Han river lends the movie a certain creepiness. This doesn't strike me as anti-American though - shifty government scientists have been fucking up nature and mankind in our horror movies for decades.

I don't think that The Host will do well in American theaters, not because of the anti-American sentiment but because we like our monster movies loud, violent, scary, and hardcore. The Host has too many head-scratching moments that get shrugged off because of cultural differences. I recommend the movie to any of you folks who are Asian cinema fans or fans of a more sophisticated monster movie. Of course there's already talk of The Host being remade by Hollywood so if you want to wait and see something stupid, loud, and generally crappy then just be patient.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Crank (2006)

Crank was, is, and will continue to be a totally bizarre, retarded, and utter blast of a movie. I didn't see this movie in the theater because, well, Transporter & Transporter 2 sucked. I mean sucked something unholy. Worse than bad exploitation anime. Jason Statham rules and I'm a big fan and enjoy his mugging and at times pure mean amounts of violence but his movies suck.

I don't know why I rented Crank - it was just one of those movies that I put in my netflix queue and then one day it arrives and I go, "What the fuck? When did I decide to rent this? Was I drunk?" So Sunday - I didn't have anything to watch so I threw it in.

Crank kicked ass. Ridiculous? Yep. Violent? Hell yep. T&A? Check and check. Techno/punk/LA rap? Indeed. Crazy camera work/lunatic angles/hyper kinetic editing tricks? You betcha. Crank had everything except Lou Diamond Phillips - now that would've been off the chain. Dwight Yokam was in it and I'm a big fan of his acting career so that was double plus good.

This is the kind of movie that is so absurd and insane that you have to just jump into it and drill some holes in your head and give in. Actually Crank might make for an acceptable double feature with The Big Hit.

American Hardcore (2006) Dir. Paul Rachman

I owned this book immediately after it was published. I coveted the way it was put together, almost as an anthology of punk rock show fliers. Steven Blush (author) essentially published his entire collection of hardcore memorabilia including photos, album covers, zines, etc. I feel that it gives a wonderful illustration of both the politics of the time and the DIY mentality.

With such a love for the book, it is difficult to approach the film objectively. To me, the essence of the book is screaming, snarling, bleeding youth which the movie quickly dispenses with by interviewing aging scene contributors like Tony Cadena (Adolescents), Al Barile (SS Decontrol), and of course a greying Henry Rollins (Black Flag).

As an introduction to what was happening in punk rock during the early to mid-eighties, I think that the film will turn on alot of kids that think bands like My Chemical Romance are punk. To people who have had a couple of kids, watch sitcoms and have otherwise completely forgotten their roots, I think the film will be a fun walk down memory lane with alot of, "Oh my God, I had completely forgotten about those guys."

Obviously, the film cannot go near as in depth as the book and leaves out alot of very important factors that the book addresses (The Misfits, Dead Kennedys, Necros, Youth Brigade, etc.) Another obvious point is that much of the archival footage looks bad and sounds worse. I realized about a third of the way through the film that they had taken live footage and edited the studio album recordings over it. In my opinion, it would have been alot better to use many of the outstanding photos in the book to illustrate points in the evolution of hardcore and have them narrated by some interviews.

All in all, a watchable and entertaining film for anyone interested in hardcore period.

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IQ 32 (Midwest Fuck You)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Casino Royale (2006) dir Martin Campbell

Anything I say cannot convey how awesome this movie was. I will say that whatever reservations I had about this movie that made me not see this in the theater I was completely and totally wrong and I apologize for anything bad I said about this movie.

Wait, no one thing: I will continue to say that Casino Royale has a pretty crappy opening song. That's not to say that it's awful - it works with the credits. The song just sucks. I would've gone in a more trip-hop kind of way but hey that's me.

So except for the sucky opening song this is an awesome Bond movie. I actually like James Bond again. I think this movie made me renew my love of action movies again.

I'm buying this when I have the $$$. The two-disc "special edition" is not worth it. The second disc are some crappy making of documentaries and a made-for-TV special Bond Girls Are Forever. Not worth the time.

300 (2007) dir. Zach Snyder

300 is one of those movies that seems to have split audiences and me. Audiences love this movie. I did not. Apparently I should have liked this movie: sword & sandal action, monsters, action, Frank Miller, and a whole bunch of woo! I'm more of the opinion that 300 was nothing more than sound and fury signifying nothing.

On the upside:

300 does complete justice to Frank Miller's work. Personally I'm a Sin City kind of guy - both comic and movie. 300 definitely looks like the comic and nice work guys.

This movie will do exceptionally well with women. Hot dudes in leather underwear being heroic and kicking ass with added ogle appeal. It's not off-puttingly gory - for those ladies who would normally not watch anything with gore. The female character is strong and possibly the most interesting character in the movie.

It's a sword and sandal action movie. When's the last time they made one of those?

Thanks to Bart & Sarah we got to see this at the IMAX in San Antonio at the Palladium Theater. The theater experience was surreal that it really gave it a "Blood & Circus" feel.

On the downside:

There have been a good number of reviewers who have panned or been hard on 300 because they call it a video game movie. If they meant they wanted to skip every cut scene in between action sequences then yes I agree. Painful over acting or under acting or sometimes barely acting, vapid plot, cardboard characters - I didn't care at all about any of the characters, a barely rousing narrator - hey Faramir no wonder they like your brother better, silly splatter pixellated gore, and a general grainy pixellated "style", over blown frenetic and at times absurd score. Not so much bad as boring which in an action movie is even worse.

All in all:

Part of the reason that I am so disappointed by this movie is because I expected it to kick ass. I wasn't expecting Babel or whatever preachy drek is considered top shelf. For all intents and purposes I got what I was expecting but it ended up being a poor imitation of a genre I love - guys against all odds. I'm sticking with movies like The 13th Warrior and for what it's worth I'm glad Pathfinder is coming out next month.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Black Snake Moan (2007)

No need to mince words here: Black Snake Moan is not what you are led to expect from the posters and trailers. This is not the Southern Gothic exploitation movie some reviewers have called it. It starts off in that direction but about two-thirds of the way through switches gears and shifts into a piss poor message of hope movie.

On the upside Black Snake Moan is great to look at, the music is scorching, the acting is solid, (Samuel L. Jackson gets to act for once) and even skeletal Christina Ricci has a great rack. The first half of the movie is great and moves along nicely no fuss, no muss. And then it falls apart. My biggest problem is with time. There just seems to be an absurdly short period of time for everything to happen. This makes all that transpires seem trite, forced, and undermines the rest of the movie. If characters had the chance to develop a believable rapport, been able to really dig into their characters, then Black Snake Moan could have been Old Testament powerful.

Maybe I'm missing something but in the end Black Snake Moan was about as thrilling as a muzak version of a Stevie Ray Vaughn song.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Prestige (2006)

Christopher Nolan makes pretty cool movies - Memento (2000), Insomnia (2002), Batman Begins (2005), & The Prestige (2006) are cool. They've got a great look, decent scripts, and are generally interesting to watch. That being said I didn't think that The Prestige was all that great. It was good but...

1) I didn't care or like or dislike or really feel anything for the characters. Two rival magicians and the stunning woman they both love and the greatest trick in the world. Okay, sounds good. Throw in Michael Caine and David Bowie? Bonus! Maybe I wasn't giving Jackman, Bale, and Johansson a chance. Note to Johansson: you're gorgeous and - when not trying - a really endearing actress. When you put on a terrible Brit accent and try to act it's just kind of painful to watch.

2) The Prestige would have made a great graphic novel adaptation of the novel. Steampunk just works better as a graphic novel than a movie. It's just too difficult a genre to translate i.e. Steamboy or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

3) The surprise ending is heavy handed and spoiled the rest of the movie for me. Amanda liked it and I'm sure that there are plenty of you out there who dug it. Our differences are what make us all special.

On the upside:

1) Magic is neat.

2) Michael Caine and David Bowie were in the movie.

3) It was beautifully shot and Scarlett Johansson wore corsets.

4) Magic is neat.

Oddly enough watching The Prestige really made me want to watch The Illusionist (2006) even though it has Ed Norton in it. We'll see.