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Sorry about no Simpsons Movie review (probably funny, but just a long version of an episode). But this seemed cool. Go to this site to make yourself a Simpson: http://simpsonizeme.com
You just have to upload a picture of yourself. Mine is to the right.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
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Posted by Lawyer at 11:15 PM
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In theaters. Rated R, 108 minutes.
Sunshine opens ominously and doesn't lighten the mood for 108 minutes. The Icarus II is a spaceship headed toward the dying sun with a massive nuclear bomb onboard - the plan is to reignite it in order to save mankind. If it sounds like Armageddon, but with the sun instead of an asteroid, that's because its the same basic plot. Sunshine, however, turns out to be a visual tour-de-force with a mood and mystic overtones that I enjoyed.
Director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Millions, 28 Days Later) is at the top of his game conquering the sci-fi genre. The crew features several usual characters, with standout performances by Cillian Murphy (bad guy from Batman Returns) and Chris Evans (Flame-guy from the Fantastic 4 movies) as a jaunty physicist and duty bound 'flyboy', respectively. I typically don't like sci-fi movies, but the existential issues and reality based dialogue saved this one from the junk pile.
The relationship of humanity with the sun is a subtle backdrop for the film, with the character's being fascinated and some worshipping the sun. The tone of the film is heavy, because the characters know they are sacrificing themselves for the mission, and the modern instrumental music used is pitch-perfect for maintaining the mood. The first hour is great, an A-, but the last 48 minutes is a B because Boyle couldn't sustain the philosophical feel and import to the film in the third act.
The movie owes a debt to 2001: A Space Odyssey and Alien, the former for its visual framework and Hal-like computer voice and the latter for its claustrophobic space feel. The visuals dictate that this one be seen in the theater, maybe even an IMAX.
Viewing note: Standing next to generic bluetooth guy at the urinal after the movie, it was apparent that he and his similarly situated buddy in the stall next to him both hated the movie because "nothing happened". Question of the day: Why would anyone need to be wearing a bluetooth at 9:30 on a Saturday night (let alone ever)?
1. The Darjeeling Limited. The new movie from Wes Anderson (Rushmore, Bottle Rocket, Royal Tennenbaums) starring Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman and Adrien Brody as 3 estranged brothers that come together for a spiritual journey through India: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NcFBOsfoWxU
2. The Dark Knight. The new Batman movie with Christopher Nolan directing Christian Bale as Batman and Ennis Del Mar as the Joker: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgOi9sXSY6I
3. Drillbit Taylor. Owen Wilson stars as an ex-military man hired by 3 geeky high schoolers for protection. From the Knocked Up gang: http://movies.aol.com/movie/drillbit-taylor/26638/main
4. Elizabeth - The Golden Age. Sequel starring Cate Blanchett, Clive Owen and Geoffrey Rush: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meCoQ2u_oV0
Posted by Lawyer at 9:55 PM
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1. Islands in the Stream - Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. Say what you will, this is a great song. Dolly and Kenny are underrated singers and songwriters (although this is a Bee Gees classic), and this captures all of the cheesy romance of 1983 with style (not that it needed to be captured). A classic.
2. Take this Job and Shove It - Johnny Paycheck. No song sums up how I feel after filling out another TPS report or IT Feedback survey than this one. Favorite Line: "My woman done left, and took the reason that I been working for."
3. Big City - Merle Haggard. This is Merle's best and it is always song #1 on my list of songs to listen to on a road trip. It captures the best of 70's country and the sense that living in a big city sucks. Best verse: "Been working everyday since I was twenty. Haven't got a thing to show for anything I've done. There's folks who never work and they've got plenty. Think it's time some guys like me had some fun. Turn me loose, set me free, somewhere in the middle of Montana. And gimme all I got comin' to me, And keep your retirement and your so called social security. Big City turn me loose and set me free."
4. Family Tradition - Hank Williams, Jr. Old school country is so much better than what is out today, especially the wet rat, Kenny Chesney. I replace the vices in this song with all of my family's bad habits, and it makes it genius. Best verse: Lordy, I have loved some ladies and I have loved Jim Beam and they both tried to kill me in 1973 when that doctor asked me Son how did you get in this condition I said hey sawbones I'm just carryin on an old family tradition. So don't ask me Hank why do you drink? (Hank) why do you roll smoke? Why must you live out the songs you wrote? Stop and think it over Try and put yourself in my unique position If I get stoned and sing all night long It's a family tradition!
5. Always on My Mind - Willie Nelson. The red haired stranger has several classics, but none better than this. Tenderly explaining his infidelity and outlaw ways, I am sure this one drives his ex-wives crazy. Even the Pet Shop Boys version is decent. Runner Up: Whiskey River (no better live song).
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On DVD (1988). Rated R, 120 minutes.
As a general rule, I can't stand Victorian-era period pieces, but Dangerous Liaisons is an exception. Set in 17th century Paris, this film follows the demented exploits of Marquise DeMerteuil (Glenn Close, in a nominated performance) and Vicomte DeValmont (John Malkovich), two gilded and jaded friends and lovers that enjoy ruining the lives of others.
The Marquise loves Vicomte but chooses not to reveal her love and instead challenge him to accomplish several painful conquests. His first conquest is the nubile future wife of the Marquise's ex-husband, Cecile (Uma Thurman, in a revealing performance). The central conquest for the Vicomte is Madame DeTourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer, in a nominated performance). She is a beautiful, married, and virtuous woman, and for that the Vicomte finds her to be a great conquest. Through his attempts, however, he actually falls in love with her. He ultimately chooses his reputation as a 'player' in Paris over his true love, and he unravels as a result.
This film was nominated for best picture, and Director Stephen Frears (The Queen) does a remarkable job at pacing the film so that it doesn't get bogged down (a la Amadeus, etc) in 10 minute operatic scenes that mirror the action or unnecessary period detail vignettes. The screenplay features relatively modern dialogue and sensibilities. I thoroughly enjoyed the film because of Malkovich and Close. Their morally bankrupt characters were refreshing (except for the depravity) and their mocking of the earnest hit a little close to home.
Worth seeing, even if you hate the period piece.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Hoop Dreams (1994) – A heartbreaking film that captures the hopelessness and disheartening existence of an inner city ghetto. The only way out for Arthur Agee and William Gates, the two subjects of the film, is basketball. Talent is not enough. Luck and other external forces like poverty, bad parenting, and precocious responsibilities can hold you back. The astonishing commitment and patience of the directors is demonstrated over a 5 year course as life happens to the 2 athletes. It’s amazing how fast 3 hours flies by watching this. The commentary on the DVD is funny and informative.
The Thin Blue Line (1988) – All of Errol Morris’s films are worth watching, but this one is my favorite. It involves the case of Randall Adams, a man on death row in Dallas who was convicted of killing a Dallas police officer in 1976. The circumstantial evidence was shaky and the police were pressured to swiftly solve the case for political reasons. Their only other suspect (David Harris, the actual murderer) was too young to execute. Morris’s reenactment of the crime was groundbreaking at the time as was the use of a score (by Philip Glass). A frightening example of the abuse of power and misuse of the judicial system.
Note: This film was not eligible for the Best Documentary Oscar because of its scripted content. 14 years later, Michael Moore won Best Original Screenplay by the Writer’s Guild of America for Bowling for Columbine, which went on to win the Best Documentary Oscar.
Posted by Doctor at 6:49 AM
Friday, July 20, 2007
1. Into the Wild (releasing September 21)- Written and Directed by Sean Penn, starring Emile Hirsch with Vince Vaughn: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikPZdpGDmOg
2. Sunshine (released today)- Directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNZwrgFo3GE
3. Fred Claus - Longer trailer than previously posted: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMC0zuVeTIg
4. The Walker (releasing this fall) - Written and Directed by Paul Schrader (Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, American Gigolo, Affliction): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ffkyMbAioQ
5. Untitled JJ Abrams Movie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQWFOgvPE20
6. Bee Movie: Jerry Seinfeld's new kids project (this one has the priest/doc mancrush in it): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vm8EuE36rZA
Posted by Lawyer at 9:39 PM
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Set in Turkey, this movie is about the difficult break-up of college professor Isa and his much younger TV director girlfriend Bahar. They break up at the beach while on vacation but he obsesses about her over the following months. He has a short fling with a former girlfriend before tracking Bahar down.
To say it’s leisurely paced would be a compliment. Turkish actor/writer/director Nuri Bilge Ceylan spends many minutes on the girlfriend’s face (played by his real life wife). Dude, we get it, you think she’s pretty. His other directorial touches are hit or miss. Before the break-up, while sleeping on the beach, she dreams that he smothers her with sand. Subtle. Did they teach that on the first day or the second day of film school? His use of the changing seasons as a metaphor for the complex feelings in all of us is nice, though. The use of snow is beautiful.
Ceylan has obviously watched a lot of Ingmar Bergman films with his camera angles and pacing. But the plot feels like Woody Allen (think Manhattan or Hannah and Her Sisters) – without the humor. It may only be that the Turkish culture is changing or modernizing into ours, but some common ground should be acknowledged in times like these. B-
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
After the Wedding (2006) - Nominated for Best Foreign Language film a few months ago, this Denmark drama stars Mads Mikkelsen as a Dane working in an orphanage in India. He is summoned back to Denmark by the orphanage's sponsor. The film takes unexpected twists when he gets there and nothing is as it seems. The film continues to surprise right up until the last scene. Mikkelsen played the cartoonish poker-playing bad guy in Casino Royale last year and displays great depth and humanity here. One minute he's (literally) busting James Bond's balls, the next he's teaching orphans. Crazy world. A little long and the songs suck, but there are great moments of raw emotion here. B
Night at the Museum (2006) - 250 million bucks in North American money can't be wrong, can it? Of course it can. Ben Stiller is a divorced loser trying to prove worth to his son. He won't be able to see his son regularly unless he's employed. He takes a job as the night watchman at the Museum of Natural History. Everything comes alive after hours and Stiller must follow certain rules to survive. The special effects have been done to death and Stiller's mugging grew tiresome 4 movies ago. Worst of all, Ricky Gervais is wasted and Carla Gugino keeps her top on. C (for Crap)
Bridge to Terabithia (2007) - Two uncool rural pre-teens create a magical world in the woods behind their homes. Bullies at school get their comeuppance, parents realize they've been too harsh, and rays of sunlight are stolen from church and used to kill really horrible "special" effects. If you didn't like Chronicles of Narnia, you'll really hate this. C-
Spoiler alert - The lead female pre-teen falls to her death shortly after saying she didn't think non-believers will go to hell if they are good. Hmm. Have fun with Hitler and Stalin, sweetie.
Old Joy - (2006) - Every year a really terrible movie ends up on dozens of critics' top ten lists. Old Joy is about two old friends who get together for a camping trip. One is a hippie environmentalist wacko with a creepy gay stalker streak. The other has sold out to the man by getting married and working at a regular job. What a bastard. The "film" was apparently shot on a VCR camera made in 1984. I'd give it an F, but it only wasted 76 minutes of my life. And the dog was pretty cool. D
Venus - (2006) - Peter O'Toole plays the dirtiest old man in film history. He meets a teenager and uses his status as a legendary actor to remain close to her. I'm sure that was quite a stretch. O'Toole is very funny here and it's sometimes startling how profane he gets with his friends. The movie is watchable enough but not spectacular. Director Roger Michell showed some flair with Changing Lanes (2002), but goes through the motions here. B-
Sunday, July 15, 2007
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In theaters. Rated PG-13, 120 minutes.
Rescue Dawn is a story of survival and the triumph of will. The film tells the true story of Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale), a US pilot shot down in Laos during a top-secret bombing raid. Writer/Director Werner Herzogg (a widely known German auteur and the director of the documentary Grizzly Man (B)) structures the film in three acts: First the pre-mission setup, mission, shoot down and transport to a POW camp, Second the camp experience and plans for escape, and Third the struggle for survival in the jungle.
The Second act, set entirely within a small rattan compound in the jungle, shows the bonding and gallows humor that must occur in such a situation. When Dieter arrives, he learns that the other captives (notably Steve Zahn (Out of Sight, Reality Bites) and Jeremy Davies (Saving Private Ryan)) have been there for up to 2 years and are either broken (Davies) or nearly broken (Zahn). Zahn's performance is phenomenal. his eyes communicate the character's desperation and hunger, while his overall manner exhibits the impacts of such harsh treatment and fragility. He should be nominated for this performance. Davies is strong as well, playing the paranoid and rail-thin weak link in the group's escape plans.
The escape, orchestrated by the ever-dynamic Dieter, ushers in the rewarding Third act. The jungle, the vegetation, the leaches, the snakes, and the natives all play a role in wearing down Dieter and Zahn to within inches of their death. The relationship between the two men (Dieter as big brother and caretaker and Zahn as helpless) is powerful and authentic. The rescue scenes are stirring, even for a jaded guy like me.
Herzogg is a 60-something German native, so his perspective on the Vietnam war and conflict allow the film not to get bogged down on typical Vietnam fare like playing 'Fortunate Son' or having some weird drug-induced interlude. This film focuses on Dieter and his determined and upbeat approach to his captivity and pursuit of rescue.
Overall, this is the best film of the year so far for me, displacing Once. The score is by Klaus Badelt(Miami Vice, The Thin Red Line), and is excellent without being over the top. Bale is good in the film, and I think he's a likely Oscar nominee for best actor, but I am keeping my powder dry for that category for now.
Posted by Doctor at 9:17 PM
Saturday, July 14, 2007
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On DVD (2005). Rated PG, 82 minutes.
Street Fight is an Oscar nominated documentary about the 2002 Mayoral election in Newark, New Jersey. The race pitted two black democrats against eachother: the 16 year incumbent, Sharpe James, against the first term city council member, Cory Booker.
The 66 year old James is an old-time corrupt politician, while Booker is a 32 year old Yale educated lawyer. Their styles and campaigns couldn't be any different, and the conflict the election reveals is a picture of how the new generation of black leaders is being held back by the old generation. Ultimately the thuggish and corrupt tactics prevail and James wins re-election.
Those of you who know me will understand why I watched this one. For me the film was riveting, but I wasn't blown away. The filmmaker, Marshall Curry, has a fascinating and layered subject, but leaves some of the side stories and poignancy of the election out.
The first 10: http://dlpreviews.blogspot.com/2007/06/20-movies-i-like-better-than-anyone.html
Election (1999). Written and Directed by Alexander Payne, the starkness of the dialogue and frank treatment of Mr. McAllister (Matthew Broderick) are so strong that I love this movie. Reese Witherspoon is great as the insipid and driven Tracy Flick.
The Castle (1997). This little seen film is a Waiting for Guffman-esque comedy with a heart. The struggle of a man to keep his 'castle' from an eminent domain action of the Australian government is chock full of quotes we still use at our house "This is going sssstraight to the pool room", "Ah the serenity". This is a must-see.
My Left Foot (1989). The first of Director Jim Sheridan's collaborations with Daniel Day-Lewis is a powerful story of family, adversity and inner-demons. Brenda Fricke (as Christy Brown's mother) and Hugh O'Connor (as the young Brown) both put in delicate and underrated performances. The scene when Christy writes Mother is one of my top 10 movie scenes of all time.
Hands on a Hardbody (1997). This documentary is set in the parking lot of a Longview, Texas auto dealer. The film tracks the contest (whoever keeps their hand on the truck the longest wins the truck) and the contestants. The Director, SR Bindler, stumbled onto a goldmine with this one. The Texas culture and bizarre and poignant people involved make for a classic. At the time of his death, Robert Altman was working on a fictional adaptation of this.
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985). Tim Burton's directorial debut was a revelation to me at 9, and still holds up after all these years. Written by Paul Reubens and Phil Hartman, the film is goofy but biting and its sensibility is moral and admirable. This is the one film I can't wait to watch with my kids (I've already cheated a little and watched the opening breakfast sequence with them). Favorite line...Frances: "Pee Wee, Listen to reason." Pause. Pee Wee puts his hand to his ear. Frances: "Pee Wee!". Pee Wee: "Shhhh. I'm listening to reason."
Love Actually (2003). For some reason, I cannot get enough of this. Hugh Grant is at his finest as the single and self-aware Prime Minister and Keira Knightley does a great job as the object of unrequited love. I can't stand the Liam Neeson storyline or the Colin Firth storyline, but the others make it all worth while. One of my absolute favorite Christmas movies.
Rushmore (1999). Wes Anderson's films all take place in the present day, but he creates his own reality. In Rushmore, a 15 year old competes with a brilliant Bill Murray for the affections of a teacher. The soundtrack and screenplay are impeccable, and this was shot when Wes hadn't made it yet and couldn't get lost in the details of the set wallpaper. Murray's performance and the unique but clever story combine to make this one of my favorite movies. Favorite lines: "Oh, are you?", "Q: Were you in the sht? A: Yeah, I was in the sht.", "Harvard's my safety."
The Breakup (2006). Panned by most critics, I thought this was the funniest movie of last year. The relationship and the fighting involved were very real and well done, and the interplay between Vince and everyone else in the film is classic. Favorite lines: "Elephant Hog", "jumping, dancing sprite", "Band of Brothers, you should watch it", "come Gary, on the kick drum, come come!"
In the Name of the Father (1993). Besides the fact that I saw this with Doctor in the theater along with 3 other future doctors at the time, this is the rare movie that can stir me up. The father/son relationship between Pete Posthelwaithe and Daniel Day-Lewis is the core of the film and shows that relationship in a raw and meaningful way. The feelings and performances in the last scene are intense.
UHF (1989). This Weird Al Yankovic movie still makes me laugh. Some of the gags are really stupid, but some are genius, like Conan the Librarian and Michael Richards' first film role as the Forrest Gump of Janitors, Stanley Spadowski. You can't beat the show "Wheel of Fish."
Thursday, July 12, 2007
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On DVD (2003). Rated PG-13, 116 minutes.
The Fog of War explores Robert S. McNamara's (US Secretary of Defense 1960-1967) impact on the world through a 2003 interview and archival recordings and footage. Widely villified and blamed for the war in Vietnam, McNamara is a controversial figure in recent US history. In this film he essentially makes the point that he, along with all humans, is fallible, and morality and ethics are not clear cut when you lead the largest and most powerful military force in the history of the world.
I was most struck by the humanity and fragility revealed in the film. Many people assume that high level leaders, such as McNamara or presidents or senators, are super-human and have some special insight or magical ability. The truth of the matter is, they're just smart folks that fate put in those positions, just like you or I. The recordings of McNamara talking with Kennedy and Johnson about the Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam are scary and revealing. They don't know the answers and aren't sure about the outcomes.
One of the highlights for me was McNamara's discussions on the dangerous intersection of nuclear power and human fallibility. He discusses in detail how close we really were to nuclear war in Cuba, and seems generally convinced that such a conflict is an eventual certainty. Another highlight was his discussion of whether he was responsible for the firebombing of Japanese cities during WWII (when he was an adviser to the Pacific theater general). He gets into the 'greater good' and asks the question why something is moral only if you win; he hypothesizes that had the US lost he and his commander would've been guilty of war crimes for the firebombings. Is killing 100,000 Japanese civilians in one night morally justified if it helps the US win the war?
The film also underscores the randomness, chaos, and inter-relatedness of seemingly small events in the world. McNamara talks at length about how LBJ only started bombing on North Vietnam after an erroneous report of a bombing. The filmmakers play the audio from the boat captain that reported the false torpedo attack, and it is amazing to think that an error by a couple of sonar techs on a boat in the Pacific ushered in a conflict that killed more than 50,000 Americans and tore apart the most powerful country in the world.
This is a must-see for anyone with even a passing interest in history and ethics.
Favorite lyrics: Better jump down a manhole/Light yourself a candle/Don't wear sandals/Try to avoid scandals
Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright – A perfect early song about a young relationship break-up.
Favorite Lyrics: I ain't sayin' you treated me unkind/You could have done better but I don't mind/You just kinda wasted my precious time/But don't think twice, it's all right
Visions of Johanna – Lost love this obsessive and depressing has never been this beautiful. Replace “Johanna” with anyone or anything and you’ve got a timeless message.
Favorite Lyrics: The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face/Where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place
Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn) – For those who think Dylan never had any pop sensibility, I point to this one.
Favorite Lyrics: Come all without, come all within/You've not see nothing like the mighty Quinn.
Favorite lyrics: I’ve been double-crossed now for the very last time and now I'm finally free/I kissed goodbye the howling beast on the borderline which separated you from me.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
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On DVD (2006), 120 minutes, Rated R.
Wanting so badly to make statements on the complex nature of male-female relationships, forgiveness, and redemption, Breaking and Entering ultimately feels like one long apologetic from Jude Law for cheating on Sienna Miller. Jude plays Will Francis, long-time (10-year) boyfriend of Liv (Robin Wright Penn) and surrogate father to Liv's troubled daughter from a previous relationship. Will would like to marry, but Liv can't let him in. Meanwhile, the downtown London architecture firm Francis is partner in is repeatedly burglarized by local youths. He hides and chases one home one night to his mother (Juliette Binoche), a seamstress. Smitten, he starts bringing her pants to hem, then begins a liaison with her. Her son ultimately recognizes Will from pictures in Jude's laptop, which he still has from the robbery, and outs him to mom.
Relationships, of course, are tricky, but there's nothing that strikes true in this film. Will's actions are, well, creepy and non-sensical. And where is the woman that refuse to marry Jude Law after ten years (but want to stay in the relationship, mind you) when he's successful, loving, and caring towards her troubled child? And when is cheating okay, anyway? Leave. You're not married. In the end, the relationships all seem hollow and unreal-- making any solutions they pretend to point to the same. C-