Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Psychedelic dude

A Scanner Darkly
Rating 7.4

Richard Linklater (director) is known for avant garde filiming. This one reminds me of Waking Life, not because of the subject matter, but because of the filming style. It's animated in a very realistic way that I found a tad annoying. The subject matter reminds me a bit of David Cronenberg's Naked Lunch.

A Scanner Darkly is the film version of Philip K. Dick's prophetic 60's novel of the same name. It is set in California eight years in the future. A new drug called Substance D has everyone addicted, and a group of undercover detectives are trying to seek out the distributors. Reeves plays both one of those agents, and one of the addicts. He can be both without being found out, because the detectives' identity is concealed by these suits they walk around in called "scramble suits". The suits allow them to blend in with society. Reeves is torn between the two sides he is on, wondering if it's the drug that's making him think this way or society. Linklater does a wonderful job of illustrating the trippy side effects of the drug through the miracle of animation.

My favorite character was Charles Freck played by Rory Chochrane. A pitiful, paranoid addict, his thoughts are narrated and animated wonderfully. Robert Downey Jr. plays a hilarious crazy dealer who talks a mile a minute. He seems to always play similar characters.

The cast is full of other edgy risk takers, including Winona Ryder (where has she been?), Keanu Reeves, and Woody Harrelson.

If you are into freaky animation and futuristic weirdo films, you'll love this one.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Wowwee wow

Borat:Cultural Learnings of America Make Benefit for Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Rating: 8.5

I admit I am biased when it comes to this movie review. I love British comedian Sascha Baron Cohen. I admire the unabashed brazenness of his parodies. He will do anything, and I mean anything to bring his point home and get the laugh. Borat Sagdijev is one of the five characters he does pretty regularly. (You may have heard of his other famous character Ali G.)

In the movie, Cohen portrays Borat as a Kazakhstani journalist who has been commissioned by the government of his country to travel to America and learn as much as he can to benefit his beloved impoverished backward nation. In doing so, he becomes sidetracked when he encounters a photo of Baywatch star Pamela Anderson. He decides from then on to abandon his mission, and travel to California with his portly producer Azamat (Ken Davitian) in order to meet her and force her to marry him.

Along his journey, he encounters people from all walks of American citizenry. He meets with a comic coach. He has dinner with a group of Southern socialites. He encounters a trailer of drunken frat boys and decides to join in on their intoxication. We know now from the various lawsuits, that some of these people weren't entirely aware of what they were getting into when they signed on to be featured in the film. I'll leave that up to the judge to decide.

The second most outrageous scene (the most outrageous is too outrageous to describe) involves Borat singing his version of the national anthem in front of a rodeo audience in Texas. His version is more of a made up Kazhakstani national anthem to the tune of the American one. As a result, he is made to leave the state.

The whole movie is outrageous, mostly because it points out the egocentricity of many Americans. Despite the complete idiocy of Borat, nearly everyone he comes in contact with seems to attribute his behavior to him not being from America. He is treated with kindness is just about every situation until he pushes things just a little too far and they start to get wise that he may not be all there.

The movie is controversial to say the least. But, despite the controversy, Borat seems to have garnered the critics' attention. Cohen has been nominated for a Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy or musical and there is even Oscar buzz.

The DVD will surely be in high demand amongst the teenage male audience, which probably makes this the first movie in that category to be nominated for an award based on its merit. One thing is for sure. This is not the last you'll hear of Borat.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Lucky Number Snorefest

Lucky Number Sleven: I watched it; I wept.

Unreliable narrators. Nattering, un-clever dialogue -- it worked for Pulp Fiction but not here. Quirky-just-to-be-quirky sets. A plot "twist" unworthy of being Keyser Soze's hillybilly step-cousin.

There is nothing lucky about this film apart from the fact that you can borrow it from the library for free. Be forewarned that this may be a case where time is more precious than money. You will not get those two hours back again.

Tom Cruise is back again....

Mission Impossible III
Rating: 6.0

Tom Cruise is back again as undercover agent Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible III. This time, he is attempting to lead a normal life, and is engaged to Michelle Monaghan who plays Julia,who bears a striking resemblance to Katie Holmes.

Philip Seymour Hoffman is the bad guy. He plays a good bad guy, I have to say. He has this calm way about him that suggests his ability to tear you to pieces. Cruise is trying to get a hold of "The Rabbit's Foot" which is something bad that might end the world. Hoffman will do anything to prevent him from getting it. Of course Julia gets captured when things go awry, and Hunt has to try to rescue her and foil Hoffman's plans of world domination.

There are lots of explosions, and attemts to kill Hunt. Of course, he is able to survive just about anything, including an explosive charge being implanted in his skull. I am not an action flick fan, and I really don't like Cruise ever since his arrogant public rants against psychiatry. However, I must say he does play a good secret agent.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

A Robert Altman classic

Short Cuts
Rating: 9.0

Remember when this first came out? I just rewatched it, and was reminded how good it is. Altman had a flair for creating seamless masterpieces. Short Cuts tells the stories of several different characters who lead separate lives, but cross paths at some point in the movie. There is pain. There is comedy. There is betrayal, disgust, amusement, revenge, a whole range of emotions are displayed in these characters lives. Some have more redeeming qualities then others. Some are not completely revealed until the end. Death is never far away. It hangs over the entire town. It all unfolds beautifully wrapped in a meandering jazz soundtrack. It's a lovely long cinematic wonder.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Speed, seduction and cerulean blues.

If you watch Casino Royale expecting your daddy’s James Bond, you’re in for a kick in the…well, let’s just leave that forceful cinematic moment unspoiled.

Casino Royale opens with a noir-themed peek into how Mr. Bond received his “00” status. After several jaw-dropping moments of hand to hand combat – no explosions, tired jokes or gratuitous CGI – you realize you are in for the real deal. An unctuous villain reminiscent of Arnold Toht from Raiders of the Lost Ark, a footrace of feverish, balletic proportions and glimpses into Bond’s relationship with the chilly and impeccable “M” all contribute to the far-reaching appeal of the story.

The women and locations in this film are still hauntingly gorgeous although they are mere afterthoughts and distractions on the way to the real beauty: the action. Gritty and immediate, this vision of James Bond offers less gadgetry to get the job done (apart from a series of increasingly drool-worthy cars as the movie progresses), relying instead on moments of quick thinking and simple brute force to power the character through various obstacles.

The royal flush in this game, however, is Daniel Craig himself. The so-called “blonde Bond,” Craig powers this newest offering from the 007 franchise with a unique approach. Though no less charming than Bonds past, Craig offers a modern take on the secret agent man. If Sean Connery was a sly wink and Pierce Brosnan an enigmatic smile, Daniel Craig is an unwavering, steely gaze, perhaps the most powerful technique thus far from the Bond bag of tricks.

While some unnecessary exposition during the titular poker game and some groan-worthy dialogue end of the film briefly interrupts the flow of the narrative, the overall effect of Casino Royale is breathtaking and solid. Highly recommended.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

A Must-See

Party Girl (1995)
Rating: 8.8

RRPL only owns this one in VHS, but it must be seen. Parker Posey plays Mary, a raver in NYC who is directionless in life. She has her own loft (She has no job, lives in Manhattan, but has her own amazing place......only in the movies), a wonderful collection of quirky vintage clothing (again, only in movies), and spends her time attending and planning raves. One fateful night of partying she winds up in the slammer and calls her godmother Judy, to bail her out. Her godmother works as head librarian for the New York Public Library, or what I'm guessing is one of their branches. When Mary stops by the library to thank her, she is chastised for being irresponsible and immature. Mary decides to prove herself to her godmother by taking a job as a clerk at her library, and, lo and behold, she takes to it. Meanwhile she falls in love with a felafel vendor after helping him find information on something. They break into the library and have sex in the stacks after hours, and she gets in trouble for it. This kind of throws a wrench in her godmother's belief in her. She is left trying to figure out if she should pursue her dream of becoming a librarian.

Of course the movie library still has a card catalog, and the workers look bored out of their minds, but whatever. This movie is special, and definitely a must see for all librarians who are young at heart. The soundtrack is pretty good too.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

You Me and Dupree..a little better than "eh"

You, Me and Dupree
Rating: 5.4

Another Kate Hudson date movie. This one isn't as much of a snoozefest as the other one (How to Lose a Guy....) Mostly it's due to the enjoyable presence of Owen Wilson. Kate Hudson and Matt Dillon are newlyweds who decide to allow their best man Dupree (Wilson) to live with them until he gets on his feet. Wilson plays the same character he always plays, the laissez-faire freeloader with a good heart. Of course, he winds up staying way too long and causing all sorts of problems for the well meaning couple. What makes this movie so enjoyable are the situational laugh fests. Like when Dupree hooks up with a Mormon school librarian who turns out to be more permiscuous than a hooker. (Try to overlook the overused librarian profiling there.) Or when Dupree decides to distinguish himself as best man from the other groomsmen at the wedding by wearing a button with "BM" on it. Comedic gems like these make the movie pretty darn funny. The plot, however, is as thin a piece of book tape.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Inside Man...a Spike Lee Joint

Inside Man
Rating: 7.3

In the latest of Spike Lee's creations we find Denzel Washington playing a NYC police detective with a checkered past. (Are there any NYC police detectives who don't have a checkered past?)He is being investigated for check fraud. Despite this, his boss decides to send him to negotiate an extremely dangerous hostage situation. Several Manhattanites are being held hostage in a bank robbery. The robbers (one of them is the dreamy Clive Owen from Closer) have decided to blur the boundaries of physical identification by forcing the hostages to dress like them in painters overalls and masks. Smart. You don't find out exactly what they are after until a little into the film. Not the money. Turns out the bank president has something very valuable and potentially damning stashed in the bank's vault. Jodie Foster plays this super gutsy power broker he hires to somehow fix things. But, the robbers know about it too. When a glitch in the operation causes the robbers to bail, they escape by releasing the hostages, and walking out along with them in a smoke screen. With everyone in costume, the police are left figuring out who the bad guys are by interviewing each and every one. Now it's clear why this is a Spike Lee film. When good and bad mix together it's pretty interesting who seems suspicious and who doesn't. The whole story is told by one of the robber's from his cell, so you know they figured it out. But how? Why is he calling it the perfect crime? There are a lot of unanswered mysteries that slowly reveal themselves. It's a little too long for me (189 minutes, which is probably not that long for most.), but it makes you think. I like that.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Daniel Clowes is a genius

Ghost World
Rating: 9.98

Daniel Clowes is a genius. How's that for a compliment? He really really is. Ghost World is basically the story of two female friends, played by Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansen (right at the start of her popularity) who are trying to figure out what to do with themselves after high school. They are anything but mainstream, but even that description seems too cliche. They are also growing apart as friends, as Enid (Thora) is the more, um, weird and detached of the two. She hooks up with Steve Buscemi, who is more than twice her age, and even weirder and more detached. The results leave her questioning where she is going and what she is doing. Don't we all. The best part of this film are the side characters. Like the guy who likes to hang out at the local Kwiki Mart drinking a 40 and practicing his nun chucks. Hilarious. The book is not an exact adaptation of the wonderful graphic novel it's based on, but, regardless, it's a must see for anyone who finds humor in the minutiae of everyday life.

Art School Confidential
Rating: 7.0

This one's not as good as Ghost World, but worth seeing. Anyone who's attended art school, dated someone who has attended art school, or even hung around an art school knows that there is humor in the whole "I care not for society therefore I rebel." attitude. Turns out people are the same, no matter what school you attend.

Jerome is a freshman at some nameless art school. He encounters drawing class model Audrey and becomes obsessed with her pretty early in the film. He feels she is his muse, and uses her to create what he believes is beauty. However, no one else seems to notice, and instead the school fixates on the popular guy's lame creations of pop art knockoffs. Meanwhile there's some guy on the loose who is strangling young female students. Soon Jerome decides to use this backdrop to play into the absurdity of what is recognized as art, with some predictable consequences. Like Ghost World, the side characters make the movie interesting. For example, John Malkovich is Jerome's self absorbed art teacher. And My Name is Earl's Ethan Suplee plays Jerome's flim student roommate who is obsessed with making a documentary of the serial killer. It's especially worth watching if you enjoyed the graphic novel.

Warning: There is nudity. Not that it matters, right?

Be afraid! Be very afraid!......of global warming

An Inconvenient Truth
Rating: 6.0

OK, this isn't one to choose for your Friday night date movie, unless you and your date are both AL Gore fans. An Inconvenient Truth is basically a documentary about the threat of global told by Al Gore. The film is mostly Gore speaking to an audience about why they need to act NOW about this crisis. Now, you may or may not be an Al Gore fan. But the evidence he presents sure does make it hard not to be scared for the future of our planet. The one thing he neglects to speak in length about is what exactly we can do about it. He spends a lot more time explaining the new temperature graph or chart he has on the screen. For that reason, I didn't find his movie that satisfying. However, it's hard not to rate it over 5, since it is such an important topic.