Thanks to some rain and a bad pair of shoes, I was pretty cold throughout The Iron Lady. That seemed appropriate, though, at least at first, given the dreary British landscape and political history I thought I was going to witness. Meryl Streep playing Margaret Thatcher! Dowdy British men fighting against women in power! Read more »
Archive for January, 2012
I expended a lot of friend-capital convincing my companions to go see this movie. This involved doing impressions of Mark Wahlberg saying “No es bueno” in his tough-guy doofus voice, as shown in the preview. Unfortunately, this was all for naught, since the movie is totally mediocre. Not good enough to be enjoyable on its own merits, not quite bad enough to laugh at.
Turns out the movie is a remake of an Icelandic film, Reykjavík-Rotterdam. I’m guessing the original is better. Or at least I hope it is. Anyways, the plot of the Marky Mark version centers around Chris Farraday, a home-security installer who used to be really good at hiding contraband while working on massive freight ships. He’s worked his way out, but due to his stone-cold stupid brother-in-law, he comes to owe money to Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), a local gangster. Ribisi is truly, startlingly bad. Worst of all, you can tell he thinks he’s doing a good job.
Other things that keep Contraband from being good, believable, or bearable Read more »
I was in New York this past weekend, and had the good fortune to catch the Bresson retrospective at the Film Forum. The movie I saw was Pickpocket, a tale of crime, sin and sexual longing. Being such a full-fledged film dork, I’m slightly ashamed to admit this was the first Bresson film I’ve seen. But if I understand his legacy correctly, Pickpocket was in line with his other great works: deliberately paced, layered of morality, beautiful and slightly mysterious.
In the film, Michel (Martin LaSalle) starts stealing wallets and purses to support his existential lifestyle, which features lots of diary keeping and sick-mother-ignoring. Read more »
There is a pattern in movies that disappoints me every time, something I’m still trying to get used to: the bad second half.
Hopscotch is a good example. I had never heard of this movie: directed by Ronald Neame, released in 1980. My friend bought it for me because of the cover: Walter Matthau at a typewriter, looking disheveled with a cup of coffee.
It turned out to be a spy movie. Now I’ve always had problems with James Bond. Mostly because I don’t identify with the man. Does he have B.M.s? Probably, but they look and smell like ice cubes. Does he have emotions? Sort of, sometimes he does. Does he drink beer with a straw? Definitely not, what a stupid question. James Bond’s just not my type of man then. But a spy like James Bond played by Walter Matthau? Amazing.
I was so excited at the beginning of the movie. Matthau’s Miles Kendig is irresistible; he is in love with a beautiful Austrian woman with a dry sense of humor (Glenda Jackson); he never carries a gun; and he is very, very smart. After Kendig loses his position as an international spy, he decides to write a memoir, a tell-all, mostly to torment his old boss (Ned Beatty). Kendig sends it, chapter by chapter, to all the people all over the world who should not be reading it. So, as a result, he’s on the lam.
At every turn for the first half of the movie, I was charmed, surprised, and laughing out loud. Then came the second half: predictable, unending, spotted with scenes that flat-out didn’t work.
Why does this happen so often? Read more »
Basically, it’s a mess that’s never boring, but the director is Steven Spielberg and he gets to do whatever he wants like have WWI stop and both sides ignore their differences to save the war horse and then the owner of the horse – temporarily blind – does his special hand whistle to get the horse to come to him, and guess what? the British army parts like the red sea to let the horse come back to his man. A little bit later an old man who has lost everything – including all his money – shows up with a unexplained shit load of money; he’s traveled to England from Germany, and he buys the war horse in an auction because it meant everything to his deceased granddaughter. But then he gives it to the blind homo-erotic guy because, why not? it’s only all his money and the horse that his dead granddaughter loved. And that’s going to be the end of the movie, wait almost, there’s going to be a long shot of the horse with a pink sunset behind him. That’s not even good Spielberg. That’s bullshit.
Oh and it’s one of those movies that the whole time it felt like a book. It was adapted into a play, which my mother thought was magic. I told her, “Don’t see the movie.”
In “My Week with Marilyn” actress Michelle Williams delivers a revelatory performance as Marilyn Monroe. Of course portraying Miss Monroe, a 20th century icon presents a unique challenge. This film, “My Week with Marilyn” is based on the “Diaries” of Colin Clark, a British filmmaker who at 23 served as 3rd Assistant Director on the film “The Prince and the Showgirl” of 1957. That film starred Marilyn Monroe and Sir Laurence Olivier. The film of Clark’s “Week with Marilyn” takes place in 1956, and the period detail of this picture is spot on.
Colin Clark was the son of the eminent art historian Sir Kenneth Clark; Colin, the younger of two sons was educated at Eton College and Christ Church Oxford. In the film “My Week with Marilyn” Clark, as portrayed by another Etonian, Eddie Redmayne serves as a sort of go–between for Olivier who is portrayed by Kenneth Branagh. Read more »
Okay. I liked this movie. Is that such a crime? Is my opinion no longer valid? Maybe. Maybe you liked The Descendants. A lot of people did. Including the founder of this website. And now I’m basically telling you I liked Jack and Jill.
“Which one is Jack and Jill?”
“Oh, it’s the one where Adam Sandler has a twin sister and she’s played by Adam Sandler?”
“You saw that?”
“Yeah. On a date.”
You know why I liked this movie? I’ll tell you. Because Adam Sandler played Jill, the twin sister, so well, so thoroughly, I thought of her as a woman. I was not taken out of scenes because I was thinking it was Adam Sandler in a dress and a wig. Even in scenes featuring her muscular thighs: I believed the character, full on. And I believed in her, too. I liked her, and I would have liked to talk to her. My friend (who despises the movie though he has never seen it) said it was supposed to be mean spirited towards Jill. I didn’t feel that way. I thought it was an affectionate and, more importantly, an honest portrayal of a funny, lonely, adorable woman from the nice part of the Bronx.
By the way, everything else in the movie – the male Adam Sandler character, Al Pacino, Katie Holmes, other side characters – is bad and not worth talking about.
Finally, the movie begins and ends with supposed real twins talking about what it’s like being twins. This did not sit well because a) all those couples in When Harry Met Sally… are actors, and b) because we know the whole movie is using green screens constantly, so how do we know it’s not one person multiplied?
A French movie directed by a Frenchman, starring French movie stars, produced by the Weinsteins, The Artist was a big hit at various festivals this past year. It’s a silent movie about the end of silent movies, and it features a cute dog very prominently. Some people might be bored to tears by this movie, but personally I loved it. The music’s great, the performances are spot-on, and even the dog thing works. There’s something refreshing about seeing actors emoting with dramatic facial expressions, and not being barraged by mediocre dialogue and distracting soundtracks. So far this is my favorite Oscar bait of the season.
A Dangerous Method is a new movie directed by David Cronenberg about Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and intellectuals having sex. Viggo Mortensen plays Freud, Michael Fassbinder is Jung, and Keira Knightley stars as Jung’s patient, mistress and protege. The movie opens with Knightley being rushed to an Austrian mental hospital, apparently beset by sexual mania and a severe underbite. Under the care of Dr. Jung, she discovers that her illness is related to her love of being spanked, something he eventually helps her with.
The movie is based on a non-fiction account of Freud and Jung’s friendship and falling out. This historical accuracy is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, the film does recreate an exciting scientific time, as Victorian values were being underminded by these pyschological pioneers and their theories on Oedipal complexes and anal fixations. On the other hand, I sort of wanted more of a melodrama, with a true love triangle and maybe some leather-glove-face-slapping. Also, since this is a Cronenberg (The Fly, Videodrome, eXistence) film, I was slightly disappointed that no one sprouted new appendages from their stomachs or had sex using or turned into slime-covered aliens. I guess he was going for a straight period piece, and not a historical sex saga/sci-fi hybrid. Pity.
That being said, the film is entertaining and the leads all pull their weight. My friend thought the dialogue was stilted, but I didn’t (until she pointed it out). Above average oscar bait.
In the buzz surrounding Young Adult, the Diablo Cody movie starring Charleze Theron, there was a fair amount of hand-wringing over whether the protangonist was too unlikeable. Or more specifically, whether audiences would connect to Mavis (Theron), a 30 something babe who ghost writes Sweet Valley High-type books. Maybe I’m not a proper barometer of mass-appeal, but I like movies better when the main character is unlikeable. This can backfire, of coarse. You have to be willing to spend ninety-plus minutes with the person. But far too often, you get the distinct feeling that Hollywood hero and heroines are whitewashed of their faults, until they are bland potatos stumbling towards pre-packaged epiphanies. Thankfully, that’s not the case in Young Adult.
In the movie, directed by Jason Reitman, Mavis descends upon her Minnesota hometown, hell bent on winning back her high school boyfriend Buddy (Patrick Wilson). The fact that Buddy is happily married with a newborn kid means very little together. Somewhere along the line, Mavis has started to believe the true love and destiny claptrap that fills her books, and in her mind, Buddy and her are “meant to be together.” With this mindset, his whole life, his wife, his kid, are only minor problems that together they can overcome. Shacked up in the local Best Western, she starts spending a lot of time with local sadsack Matt (Patton Oswalt), a dork who she systematically ignored in high school. In a lot of ways, Oswalt saves the movie. Mavis is a sassy, mean and funny main character, but she can only really express her feelings with Matt as a foil. They spend a lot of time drinking in bars, and Matt isn’t afraid to tell Mavis she’s nuts to her face.
I saw this movie in the suburbs, and found myself laughing much harder and more often than the rest of the audience. Much of Cody’s humor balances between endorsing and criticizing Mavis’ hyper-critical ways. She looks down her pretty nose at all these suburbanites with their boring, happy families and weekly dinners at Chili’s. Speaking of Chili’s, director Reitman continues his knack for stuffing his movies to the gills with product placements. While Up in the Air felt like a 2 hourlong American Airlines ad, Young Adult tries to have it both ways, featuring countless fast food chains that the main character mocks and thinks are charmless, but eats at anyways.
All in all, I found Young Adult much more compelling than Cody’s previous hit, Juno. Whereas Juno often felt smug and aggresively twee, Young Adult is funny and cringworthy, a comedy that not afraid to go all in with its train-wreck heroine.