Archive for October, 2010

My Top Ten Movie Monsters

October 28, 2010 1 comment

Everyone knows that I do love my lists. Therefore, along with the usual reviews and banter that I post, I will also be featuring the occasional list, either of an individual facet of films, the best work by a filmmaker, the best performances, films by genre, or whatever else I think up. It should be a pretty good time.

So I thought hard about what my first of these additions would be, and I figured it fitting that with the upcoming release of Gareth Edwards’ extremely low-budget flick, the aptly titled “Monsters,” I shall make a list of the greatest monsters that I’ve ever seen displayed on the big screen. Obviously, as with any list that I might compose, I have not seen all of the potential candidates for ranking. Yet, hopefully, I will be able to put together a competent showing.

Some guidelines for this list. Animals, unless outrageously oversized, are not counted as monsters by me. I can’t stand it when people refer to the birds in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” or the shark in Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” as monsters. It’s just the reality that those creatures are not monsters, but rather normal animals, that add to the terror that those films present. Also, there shall be no metaphorical monsters. Neither global warming rearing its head in “An Inconvenient Truth” or the evil, psychotic forces driving Anton Chigurh in “No Country for Old Men” will make the cut.

Also, no vampires, no ghosts and no zombies. Mostly because I consider them to still be human, living or dead, and portraying humans as monsters kind of negates the point.

Before we get to the finalists, here are the five runners-up after the jump:


Read more…

The Dark Knight….what?

October 27, 2010 1 comment

So, I’m in the crowd of a great many people who are closely following the next chapter in Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise (and not just because it is filming in Chicago and I am hoping to work on it). Therefore, I thought it right to post what I’m sure many have already read: the film has a title.

The bad news is that it’s probably one of the most unoriginal and, you know what, just plain dumb titles I’ve ever heard. “The Dark Knight Rises.” What? They just added a word to the title of the last film. Maybe it’s true. Perhaps the Dark Knight really does rise in this movie, but surely you can come up with a better way of saying that.

The good news that came with this announcement is that as far as the new villain goes, it will not be the Riddler. I am personally pretty pleased with this for the reason that I have trouble imagining a way of portraying this character without some severe overlaps to the now legendary role of the Joker. They need to go in a completely different direction with this final villain (or villains) However, I have faith that with Tom Hardy potentially filling that part, they shall prevail.

“Medium Cool” Mini-Review

October 27, 2010 Leave a comment

So, now that this blog has officially been up for nearly a month, one thing that I have learned is that I cannot write a review for every film that I see. It is simply too daunting of a task and I want to write as many posts as I can. Therefore, I will only have full reviews for films that I see in the theater. For all other films that I watch for the first time in the comfort of my own home, I will provide a mini-review of several paragraphs, outlining my likes and dislikes. That will give me a chance to give my opinion and rating of the film without minimizing the amount of films I write about.

I caught the film “Medium Cool,” directed by all-star cinematographer Haskell Wexler, earlier today. Many filmmakers have been accredited with bringing about the so-called “American New Wave” in cinema, such as Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Mike Nichols and Bob Rafelson. However, not many of them truly capture the essence of its French predecessor, using the concept of cinema-verite, as well as Wexler does in this feature.

Haskell Wexler is mostly known for directing various documentaries during the 1960s and 70s and he brings that absolute feeling of reality and historical truth into this semi-narrative film. The movie follows the life of a news cameraman (Robert Forster) during the raging riptide that was 1968, ending during the  explosive 1968 Democratic Convention. Throughout the film, his character asks the question of how far is too far in regard to reporting the violence in human life and his journey takes him to some wonderful and dark places.

This was a film that really paved the way for the docudrama as a genre. It’s shot almost entirely handheld and carries a very realistic tone in both its writing and direction. Certain scenes of the film indubitably shine, in particularly one where Forster’s character ends up interviewing a group of semi-militant African-Americans, nearly against his will. The opening is also quite a stark introduction in which Forster and his audio companion make sure they get all the coverage they need of a fresh car accident before considering to call an ambulance. (featured below)

However, the film gets very much bogged down by the self-importance of its own style, and in doing so, forgets to really tell an interesting story. The film really doesn’t have much of a plot structure, but rather just tries to follow individuals and have that serve as a story. Needless to say, it does not. Yet, if the film’s intention is to carry you away in its whirlwind of reality and historical voyeurism, it certainly does that. “Medium Cool” is impacting and memorable and is certainly a dish of something different, even if viewed in today’s filmmaking climate.

GRADES:           B+           * * * * / * * * * *           8.0 / 10.0

“Jackass 3” Review

October 24, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s kind of difficult to write a review on this. It’s unnerving just to figure out how to classify it. I guess that the only real option is to call it a documentary, for it is documenting real life. Even if the reality of the film is simply a bunch of idiots performing idiotic tasks. But even after proper classification, does this film function as a movie should? The answer is no. However, against all odds, I have this to say: I don’t care.

I have been a more or less in-the-closet fan of the Jackass phenomenon since it first appeared on TV, and it goes without saying that the film does not offer anything more than a 90 minute long episode. As a sequel, it’s nothing more than an amped version of the one prior. Yet, there really isn’t anything more that you can ask from this film, as long as it keeps everyone in the theater either laughing at the top of their lungs, gagging into their popcorn, or both.

Some of the highlights include a tooth being pulled via a string tied to the bumper of a Lamborghini. Two men enjoy a game of tetherball, using a hive of killer bees. A toy train set volcano that turns out to be a man’s ass hemorrhaging with shit. Many, many innovative stunts performed with superglue. Let’s not forget, of course, the man being launched a couple hundred feet into the air, via bungee cords, while strapped into a “port-a-potty” filled to the absolute brim.

Actually, the most enjoyable skit, and probably one of the best additions to the franchise, was the opening credits shot with the Phantom HD Gold Camera. This was based on the ingenious credits implemented in the hilarious “Zombieland,” with various types of zombie kills in super-slow motion. Now, I saw “Jackass 3” in 2D, because people who know me know that I simply couldn’t give two shits about any dimension more than 2. However, the film’s use of Phantom footage is far superior than any dimensional work on display, in my opinion. Seeing a person’s face getting hit by a 40-pound halibut at 1000 fps is truly a phenomenal sight.

With all of the backlash that does seem to come to these films from people who find it ridiculous or obscene, I had a bit of a revelation while watching this. At the end of the day, it really is just a matter of degrees that separates these boys and their shenanigans from the classic show “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” That parcel of separation is the mere fact that the “Jackass” fellows are doing the stunts intentionally, which does, undoubtably add a level of stupidity to the events. However, if a man were to “accidentally” get nailed in the crotch by a 2×4, it would be an instant classic segment. If someone were to “slip” and fall into a full port-a-potty, it would win the episode’s grand prize.

That being said, the biggest difference between the two venues, besides the intentionality and the extremity of the stunts, is that Jackass is just funnier by about ten fold, and that is the absolute bottom line. With all of the comedies released in a given year, I don’t think anything tickles my funny bone more than the insanity and stupidity of these gents. And for that reason I have seen every movie, and will continue to see them until Knoxville and Co. are gray in the hair and not even physically able to hit a ping pong ball with their…..well….yeah.

GRADES:            B             * * * 1/2 / * * * * *             7.0 / 10.0


“Valentine’s Day” Review

October 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Not a whole lot to say about this film, so let’s keep it short and sweet. All in all, it’s about seventeen different chick flicks combined into one, as if one wasn’t enough to begin with. They’ve managed to cram every sappy and cliched plotline from other cheap romantic comedies and micromanaged them into bite-sized form. You have a woman in love, who doesn’t realize there’s another woman. You’ve got two strangers meeting on an airplane. You’ve got a guy who meets a girl who has a mysterious double life. You’ve got a budding young teenage romance and an elderly couple trying to hang on to theirs, along with many, many more. All these plots and all of these people, and what do you get? A candy-coated mess of a movie.

There’s quite a few issues with this piece of cinema. A big one is the film’s overwhelming sense of predictability. In every single case, it seems obvious to the audience how every story will be resolved. You know who’s going to break up, who’s going to make up and who’s going to hook up, and usually it’s just not at all exciting. The acting, for the most part, is stale and dissatisfying. Jennifer Garner, Topher Grace, Jamie Foxx and Julia Roberts more or less just meander through their lines. The “Grey’s Anatomy” stars are completely flat. Ashton Kutcher is his usual douchebag self. And the combination of Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner is perhaps the worst acting couple in recent film history. The only highlights were perhaps Anne Hathaway with her energetic variety of personalities and the always lovely Shirley MacLaine as a guilt-stricken grandmother.

Another noticeable flaw is the film’s quite poor use of editing. A story with this bulky of a plot needs a lot of fine-tuned editing to keep a fluid motion. The structure of “Valentine’s Day” is jumbled and clunky, and without the help of solid cutting, it seems completely uneven, as well. The different stories don’t melt together in a rhythmic fashion and the momentum is almost completely lost in the shuffle. Also, the film makes some very strange attempts at parallel editing which don’t accomplish the point of the technique. Instead of intercutting two scenes at a steady rhythm and matching intensity, they simply have two things happening and cut them together in an increasingly awkward manner.

Overall, the biggest flaw is that in a film such as this with many different stories and boatloads of characters, they need to feed and feed off each other as well as exist in their own right. Don’t get me wrong, this film certainly does intertwine it’s characters, but it just does not do it well. If you were to cut this film into pieces and have each story work as an individual film, quite simply put, they would not do so.

None of the stories follow a solid three-act plot structure. None of them are meaty enough in substance and conflict in both story and characters to act as individual tales. When the characters interact outside the boundaries of their inherent stories, those stories are damaged and lose their relevance. When you look at films that successfully accomplish the crisscross method (“Magnolia,” “Short Cuts,” hell even “Crash” does it better than this film) each character, or group of characters, is interesting enough to practically have an entire movie based on just them, and therefore, the whole structure is the better for it. In the case of “Valentine’s Day,” instead of getting a pretty, ribbon-tied basket of delicious treats, you’re handed a flattened box of sloppy, melted, old chocolate recently bought at the local convenience store. In essence: a mess.

GRADES:            C-             * 1/2 / * * * * *             3 / 10.0


NEW “The Fighter” Trailer

October 18, 2010 Leave a comment

So, about a month ago, Paramount Pictures released it’s trailer for David O’Russell’s “The Fighter,” which chronicles the true story of boxer Mickey Ward. The preview did not excite me at all. It seemed like a sappy, Rocky-style, baity piece of boxer fare, nothing really new or interesting. However, last night, a new trailer was released during the season finale of “Mad Men” which greatly changes the tone of the film. It appears to be more of a dark character piece with a lot of internal conflict working with the leads. I’m officially stoked.

“TOY GRIT” Mash-up = Amazing!

October 14, 2010 Leave a comment

I will be getting to some more reviews, shortly. But I found this today and it is absolutely hilarious. One never really can get sick of trailer mashups, and this one of the 3 “Toy Story” movies to “True Grit” is absolutely priceless. Watch this. You won’t regret it.

List Coming Soon!!!

October 11, 2010 Leave a comment

So probably a big reason for many to keep visiting my blog will soon become available. That’s right, the list is coming. I am currently tweaking a few things on page 2, to make it easier to find something in a read-only form.

For those who know what my list is, you will soon be able to access it and pick my brain any time you want.

For those who don’t know about it…whoa daddy, you’re in for a ride.

I’m actually downsizing this initial releasing. The Tommy Awards and my All-Time Bests still need a lot of work of updating before they become public. However, the actual ranked list and an alphabetical listing will be up, hopefully in the next few days.

Stand by and keep checking back…..cause we are just getting started……

Categories: Musings

Trailer for “The Way Back”

October 11, 2010 Leave a comment

So, not so long after Peter Weir’s “The Way Back” kicked off its Oscar campaign, the UK Guardian released the trailer for this epic film. I think that after viewing this, despite the  minimal amount of buzz accumulated in the U.S., I will have to update a few of my predictions. I already had it down for Supporting Actor and Cinematography. From the look of it, it may definitely be in line for Best Picture, Best Director and Editing. If it rides a good wave, perhaps Adapted Screenplay and Score, as well.

Surprisingly, the trailer doesn’t seem to showcase Ed Harris much at all. Perhaps, his part is not as meaty as one would hope. I guess we shall have to wait and see which direction the wind blows. Those who don’t know much about this film should definitely give this a look-see because it’s about to become a major player.

Sorry about the low quality, but the trailer is not very widely available, yet. Enjoy.

“You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” Review

October 10, 2010 Leave a comment

There’s no denying that Woody Allen is perhaps one of the most innovative and influential American filmmakers in the last quarter century, maybe of all time. Some of his films have changed the face of the way we view sex, love and the different sides of people, among other topics. However, I think it’s safe to say that this master is starting to lose his touch.

Shortly before seeing the film, someone asked me what it was about. I responded that I didn’t really know, but it’s Woody Allen so it’s probably about relationships. If the shoe fits, apparently. The film is, in fact, about a married couple, played by Naomi Watts and Josh Brolin, and Watts’ newly divorced parents, Anthony Hopkins and Gemma Jones. Both couples attempt to explore their lives inside and outside of their marital vows. Watts is tempted into a not-so professional relationship with her employer (Antonio Banderas), while her husband draws inspiration from the gorgeous muse who lives across the street (“Slumdog Millionaire”‘s Frieda Pinto). Seeking a fresh new start, Hopkins remarries a sultry ex-prostitute and his former spouse attempts to acquire romantic insights from a fraud of a fortuneteller.

Obviously, this is not one of Allen’s finest features. However, even the worst films of this man can stand as an achievement over the much cinematic work being done, these days. The story is a solid one, blending the pros and cons of each relationship, never passing over certain fantastic details which bring life to the characters. In many ways, the story is about the hypocrisies of marriage and the absurd ironies that the characters hold for their significant others. Allen still has a way of letting his stories unfold in an eloquent and timely manner.

The performances are good ones. Naomi Watts definitely shines, as she always does, and Brolin holds his own with his character’s matching frustrations. The standout, perhaps, is Gemma Jones, who’s absent-minded search for romance and redirection is always a joy to watch. Anthony Hopkins, however, really seems to have lost touch with his own greatness. For the last decade, he has, for the most part, floated through his films (“Beowulf,” “All the King’s Men,” “Fracture”). He’s simply there, no more, no less.

One thing that really stands out in the film is it’s fine use of contemporary costume design. The characters are, more or less, color-coated. And not only the harsh reds that always surround Frieda Pinto’s burning essence of sexual passion. Naomi Watts is always cloaked in somber tones of white, black or gray. Jones wears faded colors, such as a pastel blue or beige. And in nearly every scene, Brolin is almost entirely encased in brown or tan. In one shot, we even notice that the inner padding of his muddy-colored jacket is bright red flannel, and it disappears when he zips it up, when Pinto’s erotic overtones disappear from his life.

In spite of the fair amount of praise that I seem to bestowing on this feature, the truth is that it is not that great of film, quite simply because it is not an original work. It seems nowadays that if Woody Allen does not try something outlandishly different from his normal techniques (“Match Point,” “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”), he ends up just combining the plots of his former films into a sloppy concoction of recycled genius. The synopsis should be listed like more of a recipe:

“For tonight’s screening, we will be serving up a mixture of ‘Hannah and Her Sisters’ and ‘Husbands and Wives,’ with a dash of ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors’ for a garnish.”

In sifting through the remnants, the overall film loses not only its originality, but its significance and appeal, as well. The story becomes flat and the characters less interesting. By the end of the film, the conclusions may not seem predictable, but after the fact, they’re less impacting for you’ve seen them before. By no means should Woody Allen give up and stop making films (and even if he should, who’s gonna tell him?). However, he needs to keep thinking outside of the box or he’ll be the one needing a fortune teller to figure out what happened to his career.

GRADES:            B-             * * * / * * * * *             6.4 / 10.0