Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - 2008 Tour

They'll be in Dallas on August 27, 2008 at the American Airlines Center. Go here to buy tickets. Click below for the rest of the dates and venues.

05.30.08 GRAND RAPIDS MI Van Andel Arena
05.31.08 AUBURN HILLS MI The Palace Of Auburn Hills
06.03.08 Toronto ON Air Canada Centre
06.05.08 PHILADELPHIA PA Wachovia Center
06.08.08 BRISTOW VA Nissan Pavilion
06.10.08 BURGETTSTOWN PA Post-Gazette Pavilion @ Star Lake
06.11.08 HARTFORD CT New England Dodge Music Center
06.13.08 BOSTON MA TD Banknorth Garden
06.17.08 NEW YORK NY Madison Square Garden
06.18.08 Newark NJ Prudential Center
06.21.08 DARIEN CENTER NY Darien Lake Performing Arts Center
06.22.08 CUYAHOGA FALLS OH Blossom Music Center
06.25.08 LOS ANGELES CA Hollywood Bowl
07.02.08 CHICAGO IL United Center
07.03.08 NOBLESVILLE IN Verizon Wireless Music Centre
07.08.08 CINCINNATI OH Riverbend Music Center
07.09.08 Atlanta GA Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park
07.11.08 Charlotte NC Charlotte Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
07.12.08 RALEIGH NC Walnut Creek Amphitheatre
07.15.08 SUNRISE FL Bank Atlantic Centre
07.16.08 TAMPA FL Saint Pete Times Forum
07.19.08 Denver CO TBD
07.20.08 OMAHA NE Qwest Center Omaha
07.22.08 Kansas City MO Sprint Center
07.23.08 MINNEAPOLIS MN Target Center
08.09.08 Winnipeg MB MTS Centre
08.11.08 Calgary AB Pengrowth Saddledome
08.12.08 Edmonton AB Rexall Place/Northlands Park
08.15.08 GEORGE WA Gorge Amphitheatre
08.16.08 GEORGE WA Gorge Amphitheatre
08.20.08 GLENDALE AZ Arena
08.22.08 IRVINE CA Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
08.23.08 San Francisco CA TBD
08.26.08 SELMA TX Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
08.27.08 DALLAS TX American Airlines Centre
08.27.08 DALLAS TX American Airlines Centre
08.29.08 Woodlands TX Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

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Rambo – B/C- = C+

In theaters. Rated R.

After helping the Taliban kick the Russians out of Afghanistan in Rambo III, John Rambo has spent his last few years in war-torn Burma (also known as Myanmar), catching snakes to sell and serving as a river guide with his boat. When a group of naïve Christian missionaries from Colorado ask him to go upriver to deliver medicine, he balks but the female in the group gets to him and encourages him to engage in life and try to help people. Of course the village gets ravaged and the missionaries are taken prisoner. Mercenaries are hired to rescue them and Rambo takes them upriver. Of course, the plan will go awry and Rambo will have to kill lots of people. (Dudes, click below for the rest)

As an actor, Sylvester Stallone doesn’t give himself too much to do, but has carved out 2 very distinct iconic characters. Rocky is heart and soul and Rambo is blood and guts. The fact that they are so different has to count for something. The rest of the actors are sufficient without being distracting or particularly memorable. Stallone is a better writer than a director which is why Rocky Balboa is a better film than Rambo. Not a lot of dialogue is needed here. Some of Stallone’s directorial choices are routine (like the dream sequence) and it’s difficult to distinguish the geography of the characters during the rescue sequence. His best choice is to go to the extreme with the war crimes and violence, although he did pull some punches with the abuse and rape of women (thankfully – he’s got to sell some tickets after all). Making it this violent (4-5 times as gory as Saving Private Ryan - seriously) makes it both memorable and unexpectedly potent, shedding light on the war crimes being committed in Myanmar (and no doubt Iraq).The movie brings up important issues without even realizing it. Violence is always the answer here - and unavoidable. Even the pacifist Christian doctor who threatens to turn Rambo in for murder early in the movie kills during the climactic battle. Peace through violence is unlike anything Hollywood has released in the past several years. For better or worse, this movie will be played in the Army barracks like Girls Gone Wild at a frathouse. The futility of religion is also shown, but some would argue that no one would have been saved without the persistence of the missionaries. Blessedly, the film avoids the speechifying that made the wrap-ups of First Blood, and Part II (especially II) unravel. It also uses a team instead of Rambo going solo – also an improvement. It’s quite a rush – my adrenal glands give it an A. But my testosterone-soaked brain is still running things - for now. Dudes: B Ladies: C-

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Vampire Weekend – Self Titled - B-

[Guest Review - Appraiser] Released 1/29/08.

The new hot thing from New York doesn’t sound so new. The highly anticipated debut from the Manhattan quartet may bring a new vibe to the young indie music lovers out there, but it won’t sound like new material to some. Vampire weekend have put together a well constructed easy to listen to pop album. One would have to admit the songs are catchy, clever, and enjoyable. They just don’t sound original. It’s a hodge-podge of classic artists, such as The Animals, The Kinks, Blondie, even Herman’s Hermits. This is an 11 song, 34 minute cd that is great background at a party, but certainly lacking in artistic merit. Buy this album if you enjoy the 3 minute pop song, which I do. Just don’t mistake it for the new sound coming from New York, because it certainly isn’t “new”. Listen here.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Favorite Scenes - Bottle Rocket

Props to this site for being the most comprehensive and professional fan site I've ever seen. Worth a visit for even a casual Bottle Rocket fan.

Outside of Bob's house. Dignan rides into the driveway with a scooter.

Anthony: Dignan?
Dignan: Had any time to think?
Anthony: Yeah, I've done a lot of thinking.
Dignan turns off scooter.
Dignan: We're still holding your position open for you.
Anthony: Yeah, I wish you wouldn't do that, and you know...
Dignan: C'mon, go for a ride.
Anthony: C'mon Dignan. It's too small for the both of us.
Dignan: No it isn't. Jump on, man. I'll give you a pump
Anthony: Where'd you get this?
Dignan: I got it from a fr...

Futureman and Clay pull up in their SUV (click below for the rest of the scene)

Futureman: What the hell you wearing?

Clay: Yeah

Dignan: It's a jumpsuit.

Futureman: Clay, look at this guy. [listen]

Clay: He looks like a rodeo clown.

Futureman: He looks like a little banana. Where you from, anyway, man?

Dignan: I'm from around here.

Futureman: This guy used to mow our lawn.

Clay: No shit.

Futureman: Yeah, he was great, clipping the hedges, sweeping up, mowing the lawn. Laughing. What was the name of your little lawn mowing company?

Dignan: The Lawn Wranglers.

Both laughing hard.

Futureman: Let's go. Keep up the mowing, kemosabee.

They leave.

Dignan: It was, it was, it's landscaping not just mowing.

Anthony: Ah man, don't listen to that guy.

Dignan: I don't know. Sometimes I'm not always as confident as I look. [listen]

Anthony: Did you see what he had on?

Dignan: Yeah, pretty cool. All right, well...starts his scooter engine.

Anthony: Wait a second. Dignan, wait a second.

Dignan: over engine. What!

Anthony turns off scooter.

Anthony: Goddammit, I'm in.

Dignan: What?

Anthony: I'm in.

Dignan: I knew you'd be back

Anthony: Three conditions: 1. You mastermind the plan. 2. Bob's on the team.

Dignan: disgusted. Let's here the third one.

Anthony: You gotta get me one of these jumpsuits. [listen]

Dignan: You like these?

Anthony: Yeah

Dignan: Done. Deal. All right. You're doing the right thing, Anthony.

Anthony: Yeah, I know I am.

Dignan: All right, I'll see you later on.

Anthony: Need any help.

Dignan: No, I think I got it.

Anthony: Okay

Dignan manually rolls the scooter away.

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Van Halen Concert - January 26, 2008

At American Airlines Center in Dallas.

As a generic 'alt-rock' guy, I still retain a healthy appreciation for good old fashioned rock and roll. The spectacle of David Lee Roth's reunion with Eddie and Alex Van Halen (and Eddie's son, Wolfgang, on bass) plus the fact that I got my firm's tickets in our luxury box coaxed me into an unlikely Saturday night.

Click below for more Diamond Dave.

On our way to dinner in Victory Park, the crowd was lined up and ready to go. We made our way in around just before 9:00pm and made it just in time for the triumphant pyrotechnic entrance of the band, with DLR waving a huge red Van Halen flag as the band started into "You really got me". Once Dave strutted down with the band in his sequined circus coat and started doing his kicks and swirls I couldn't help from laughing in disbelief. He's a great showman and really is funny and entertaining to watch.

The band was tight and DLR's voice was actually pretty good, even the "Ow's". The big problem I had was....I only knew about 6 of the songs, as my main exposure to Van Halen was the Sammy Hagar era. I didn't enjoy it all that much for that reason. Panama was great, as was Jump and Runnin with the Devil. There was a DLR solo acoustic set, a 7 minutes drum solo and a 7 minute Eddie Van Halen guitar demonstration. The drum solo was pointless, but I'm glad I've been to at least one concert that had one. I thought they were going to do stuff from their whole catalogue, but apparently DLR won't sing any 'red rocker' songs.

All in all, a pretty good concert. Loud rock and roll and masterful guitar work is fun to listen to, but better if you know the songs.

01. You Really Got Me (from Van Halen, 1978)
02. I'm the One (from Van Halen, 1978)
03. Runnin' With the Devil (from Van Halen, 1978)
04. Romeo Delight (from Women and Children First, 1980)
05. Somebody Get Me a Doctor (from Van Halen II, 1979)
06. Beautiful Girls (from Van Halen II, 1979)
07. Dance the Night Away (from Van Halen II, 1979)
08. Atomic Punk (from Van Halen, 1978)
09. Everybody Wants Some (from Women and Children First, 1980)
10. So This Is Love? (from Fair Warning, 1981)
11. Mean Street (from Fair Warning, 1981)
12. Pretty Woman (from Diver Down, 1982)
13. Drum Solo
14. Unchained (from Fair Warning, 1981)
15. I'll Wait (from 1984, 1984)
16. And the Cradle Will Rock (from Women and Children First, 1980)
17. Hot for Teacher (from 1984, 1984)
18. Little Dreamer (from Van Halen, 1978)
19. Little Guitars (from Diver Down, 1982)
20. Jamie's Cryin' (from Van Halen, 1978)
21. Ice Cream Man (from Van Halen, 1978)
22. Panama (from 1984, 1984)
23. Guitar Solo (incl. "Women in Love" intro, "Cathedral", "Eruption")
24. Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love (from Van Halen, 1978)


25. 1984 (from 1984, 1984)
26. Jump (from 1984, 1984)

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Original review here – which I basically agree with. I think my viewing suffered from great expectations.

The Good, Part I: Jennifer Garner (in a superb performance) is the only character in the movie that actually resembles a real person. It’s just a movie, you say? This is not a Wes Anderson movie where the lead character is only required to put on a school play. You’re dealing with abortion, adoption, teenage sex, teenage pregnancy, and divorce.

The Good, Part II: I prefer Jason Reitman’s reliable direction to Diablo Cody’s inconsistent writing. Several shots of Juno walking against the crowd are nicely done, the perfect visual for her situation. The glances between Jason Bateman and Garner are a great touch, and it’s nice that Reitman took so much time with the faces (best scene: Garner feels the baby move). (click below for the Bad and the Ugly)

The Bad: Diablo Cody doesn’t have the first clue how to write for a male. 1) J.K. Simmons would not have responded to the news of his daughter’s pregnancy in such a cavalier manner by cracking jokes. And a blue-collar former military man certainly would not have embraced the guy who knocked up his daughter after her traumatic delivery. Bullsh!t. 2) After all the lawyer stuff, Jason Bateman would have never shown a 16 year old an R- or X-rated horror movie, and he would have been much more cautious about being alone with her.

The Ugly, Part I: Not sure which line of dialogue I disliked the most. It may be Rainn Wilson’s forced confrontational exchange ("This is one doodle that can't be undid, home skillet"- where's Dwight Schrute's mace when you need it?). Or maybe it’s Allison Janney ripping on doctors (there were cheers in the theater – hey, folks, we walk amongst you – sometimes in a T-shirt and jeans sans stethoscope). Ms. Janney’s character just ripped the ultrasound technician (by the way, Diablow, it’s sonographer or ultrasound technologist) for exceeding her boundaries (which she clearly did and would probably be fired for). Ms. Janney then wants to tell the doctor what to do – we can do that, if you like – do you want your stepdaughter and her baby dead? At least then you could get your Weimaraners.

The Ugly, Part II: Maybe I was set up to dislike the movie by the previews of Fool’s Gold, Definitely Maybe, and Made of Honor. Geez, I can’t find my knees. Now I know how many slippery pratfalls I can see before I lose the will to live (4).
Intellectual honesty time: After all this, it sounds like I’d give Juno a D but it is a good movie. Much, much better and more accomplished than so much indie crap. Ellen Page is likable and Michael Cera does his usual great stuttering thing. Some of the lines are funny and it’s certainly unique dialogue. I like new voices in movies but it’s overcooked. And given the $100 million box office and the 4 Oscar nominations, I was expecting much more, not just better than Junebug. B

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street B+

Sweeney Todd is a bloody, funny, dark songfest that surprisingly manages to hold itself together. More surprising, it also gives Tim Burton his most focused film since Batman as he examines revenge and its ability to tear a man apart. In his filming of this Sondheim stage musical of the same name, Burton brings his keen visual eye and usual drab palette of emerald tones, grays, and black to rainy 19th Century London.

Burton regular Johnny Depp is predictably good with a surprisingly strong voice in the title role. Todd was a young barber with a wife and infant daughter when he was falsely imprisoned by the lecherous Judge Turpin (Alec Rickman). Having escaped prison after fifteen years, Todd returns to London hoping to recover his family. When he finds his wife gone and daughter Johanna (the beautiful Jayne Wisener) a ward of the judge, he’s engulfed in hatred and revenge, first funneling his emotions towards the judge, but soon extending his wrath to all humanity. Equally strong with a more difficult role is fellow Burton regular Helena Bonham Carter as café owner Mrs. Lovett. She takes Todd’s customers and grinds them into meat for pies, but it’s Todd himself she’s after, determined to turn him back into a twisted version of the family man he once was.

Some have said There Will Be Blood is the oddest film of the year, but for my money this treat is. While the dark palette and excessive blood spray eventually get old, the macabre laughs never stop coming. I could have used a couple less songs (always the case with me and musicals) and a little more back story, but this is still dark fun with an unexpectedly potent ending. B+

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

27 Dresses C+

In Theatres, Rated PG-13, 107 Minutes

27 Dresses isn’t the worst romantic comedy I’ve seen in the last few years- not by a long shot, actually- it’s just every romantic comedy I’ve seen in the last couple years. There’s not an original scene in this beauty. You’ve got the sing-a-long (My Best Friend's Wedding), the unrequited boss love (The Holiday), the multiple wedding dance montage (Wedding Crashers), the overlooking of the obvious choice in the spotlight of infatuation (Teen Wolf comes to my mind, but the list is endless), and on and on. The “novel” twist here is that the single girl who’s been in a million weddings (okay, 27) and is obsessed with weddings herself is the main character not her best friend.

So, why isn’t this the worst romantic comedy? For starters, Katherine Heigl is the marriage-obsessed girl in the sing-a-longs, dance montage, and boss love. She’s been propping up and pulling off crap storylines as the least consistent character on Grey’s Anatomy for years. Beyond being Golden-Era-Hollywood gorgeous, she has comic chops, impeccable timing, and the ability to make you sympathize with her even when she publicly destroys her little sister (an entire tributary that seems forced). The object of her unspoken infatuation is eco-friendly boss Edward Burns (She’s the One. What happened to his career?). Unfortunately, her sister the model (Malin Akerman, The Heartbreak Kid) comes to town and sweeps Burns off his feet before Heigl can tell her the score. Meanwhile, newspaper wedding columnist James Marsden (Cyclops of the X-men franchise) sees a story of unbridled corporate greed in Heigl’s wedding obsession and writes the story then falls in love with her (the rip-off with the best pedigree- Roman Holiday). Toss in Judy Greer reviving her role as the salty-mouthed, over-sexed best friend from 13 Going on 30 and just push play.

There’s nothing here that will surprise you, except for the overly-syrupy voice over at the end which has to make even post-feminists blush, but it’s largely palatable and pretty harmless (so long as you single guys are prepared to actualize your dearies entire life and every unmet dream). C+

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80s Horror/Science Fiction Movies

For various reasons, I found myself revisiting 3 “horror/sci-fi” movies from the 80s this past month which I hadn’t seen in >15 years. The results were predictable: John Carpenter’s movie was much better than Lewis Teague’s and Jack Sholder’s. Who the hell are those last 2 guys? Exactly. (Click below for Alligator, The Hidden, and The Thing)

Alligator (1980) – John Sayles (!) was hired to write this Jaws ripoff where a giant alligator terrorizes Chicago. I love Robert Forster, one of my favorite character actors, but he’s a little out of his depth as the lead here. He’s the all-too-familiar world-weary cop who seeks revenge on the alligator after it kills his partner. Michael V. Gazzo (Frank Pentangeli in Godfather II) is the chief of police demanding results. The special effects are lame and the plot is both familiar and predictable, but what else would you expect from this classic B-movie set-up? The movie is perhaps best known as the movie referenced in E.T. Who can forget the way Drew Barrymore says, “Alligators in the sewer.” C+

The Hidden (1987) – One year after Blue Velvet, Kyle Maclachlan plays an FBI agent on the trail of the serial killer, but the killer seems to be changing forms. It’s nearly the exact same plot as Fallen (1998), but since that movie had a bigger budget, a better director, not to mention Denzel, Walter Sobchak, and Tony Soprano, it’s a bit better. MacLachlan and Michael Nouri know not to take the material too seriously and the movie is successful with its humor and solid action scenes. How can you not love a movie that has a car drive through a plate glass window being carried across the street? B-
The Thing (1982) – After wreaking havoc on a Norwegian team of scientists in Antarctica, an alien life form makes its way to the American camp. The monster/thing can assume any appearance and inhabit a human without any external manifestation (unlike Invasion of the Body Snatchers – where you could easily tell who the Pod People were). On the surface, the movie is classic horror-movie stuff where you don’t know who will get killed next. But the movie goes much deeper, creating a sense of isolation and a perfect claustrophobic atmosphere.
The character development is the best I’ve seen in a horror movie and the paranoia that fills the group is palpable. The wintry scenes, white outs, and black outs are expertly done by director Carpenter. And the cast – all male – is first rate - led by Kurt Russell, but including Wilford Brimley, Donald Moffat, Keith David, and Richard Dysart. The movie is a bit gory for my taste, but it serves the story rather than existing for itself. And Ennio Morricone’s score is perfectly understated, increasing the dread factor. Ridley Scott’s Alien may still be my favorite horror movie (Aliens is more of an action movie), but this is a close second. A-

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Friday, January 25, 2008

1 Year Old

Today is the one year anniversary of the start of this blog. Interesting facts for the year: 386 posts; 9,031 unique visitors; most visited posts: Pearl Jam Chicago review, Cloverfield review, Charlie Wilson's War review, American Gangster review, Pop Portrait of a Priest, and Top 20 Albums.

Thanks to Doc and Priest for a good year and here's to many more.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Devil and Daniel Johnston - A-

On DVD (2006). Rated PG-13, 109 minutes. Trailer.

A Sundance hit in 2005, The Devil and Daniel Johnston is a documentary about the man/boy folk singer Daniel Johnston. Daniel starts out as a normal gifted kid in West Virginia, but through his strict Church of Christ upbringing and personal demons, he becomes tragically afflicted with manic depression. Through an incredible series of events involving a traveling carnival, a portapotty, a fight and a compassionate Church of Christ in Austin, he ends up working at a McDonalds in Austin and living in a rathole apartment. He records his music on a cassette recorder and gives tapes out to people, including the local indie rag, the Austin Chronicle, which names him 1985 folk artist of the year and 1985 songwriter of the year. Click below for the rest of the review and links to some of Johnston's songs.

After his zenith in 1985, he started taking acid and smoking pot, and his depression took hold. Through a series of misfortunes he ended up in the Texas State Hospital in Austin. During this time Kurt Cobain wore a shirt with his album cover on it, and he became semi-famous. Sonic Youth tried to record with him, but he was unable to keep his demons at bay during the session. He now lives, medicated, with his parents in Texas, and play shows around the country.

As with any documentary, finding a good subject is half the battle, and Daniel is the ultimate in documentary subjects. The story is well told, and the music is used to powerful effect. The weirdest part are the 'dental' interviews with the Butthole Surfers' Gibbie Haynes.

Daniel now sounds and looks a little like a sloppy Frank Black, with a childlike and angelic voice, fragile and urgent as it conveys his inner demons and desires. His voice most closely resemebles the Violent Femmes' Gordon Gano, but with a slight lisp. Some might say he is just a weirdo, but I really enjoy his music and have bought the cd with the music from the movie from his store (the music is also available on Itunes). Listen for free to "True Love Will Find You in The End" (in the trailer above), "Casper the Friendly Ghost", "Devil Town" (performed by Once's Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova), and "The Sun Shines Down on Me."

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tom Cruise Parody Video

Jerry O'Connell in a Funny or Die Parody of the Tom Cruise Scientology video. KSW!

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Razzie Nominations

As a counterweight to the Oscars, the Razzies are nominations of the worst in film. I'll leave it to Doc to assess this list.

Nominees for Worst Actor

Jim Carrey - THE NUMBER 23
Cuba Gooding, Jr. - DADDY DAY CAMP and NORBIT
Eddie Murphy (as Norbit) - NORBIT

Click below for the rest of the list.

Nominees for Worst Actress

Jessica Alba

Logan Browning, Janel Parrish, Nathalia Ramos & Skyler Shaye

Elisha Cuthbert

Diane Keaton

Lindsay Lohan (as Aubrey)

Lindsay Lohan (as Dakota)

Nominees for Worst Supporting Actor

Orlando Bloom

Kevin James

Eddie Murphy (as Mr. Wong)

Rob Schneider

Jon Voight

Nominees for Worst Supporting Actress

Jessica Biel

Carmen Electra

Eddie Murphy (as Rasputia)

Julia Ormond

Nicolette Sheridan

Nominees for Worst Screen Couple

Jessica Alba & EITHER Hayden Christensen (AWAKE)

Any Combination of Two Totally Air-Headed Characters

Lindsay Lohan & Lindsay Lohan (as The Yang to Her Own Yin)

Eddie Murphy (as Norbit) & EITHER Eddie Murphy (as Mr. Wong)
OR Eddie Murphy (as Rasputia)

Adam Sandler & EITHER Kevin James OR Jessica Biel

Nominees for Worst Remake or Rip-Off

Are We Done Yet?
(Remake/Rip-Off of MR. BLANDINGS Builds his Dream House)

(A Rip-Off If Ever There Was One!)

Epic Movie
(Rip-Off of Every Movie it Rips Off)

I Know Who Killed Me

Who's Your Caddy
(Rip-Off of CADDY SHACK)

Nominees for Worst Prequel or Sequel






Nominees for Worst Director

Dennis Dugan

Roland Joffe

Brian Robbins

Fred Savage

Chris Siverston

Nominees for Worst Screenplay

Screenplay by Geoff Rodkey and David J. Stem & David N. Weiss

Written by Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer

Written by Jeffrey Hammond

Screenplay by Barry Fanaro and Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor

Screenplay by Eddie Murphy & Charles Murphy and Jay Sherick & David Ronn

Nominees forWorst Excuse for a Horror Movie






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Heath Ledger, RIP

Heath Ledger was found dead today in his NYC apartment. A great actor, a sad death. Info here, here, here and here. Bizarre here.

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Oscar Nominations Announced

Best motion picture of the year
“Atonement” (Focus Features)
“Juno” (Fox Searchlight)
“Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.)
“No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage)
“There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax)
Click below for the rest of the list.

Performance by an actor in a leading role
George Clooney in “Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.)
Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax)
Johnny Depp in “Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (DreamWorks and Warner Bros., Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
Tommy Lee Jones in “In the Valley of Elah” (Warner Independent)
Viggo Mortensen in “Eastern Promises” (Focus Features)

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Casey Affleck in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” (Warner Bros.)
Javier Bardem in “No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage)
Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Charlie Wilson’s War” (Universal)
Hal Holbrook in “Into the Wild” (Paramount Vantage and River Road Entertainment)
Tom Wilkinson in “Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.)

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Cate Blanchett in “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” (Universal)
Julie Christie in “Away from Her” (Lionsgate)
Marion Cotillard in “La Vie en Rose” (Picturehouse)
Laura Linney in “The Savages” (Fox Searchlight)
Ellen Page in “Juno” (Fox Searchlight)

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Cate Blanchett in “I’m Not There” (The Weinstein Company)
Ruby Dee in “American Gangster” (Universal)
Saoirse Ronan in “Atonement” (Focus Features)
Amy Ryan in “Gone Baby Gone” (Miramax)
Tilda Swinton in “Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.)

Best animated feature film of the year
“Persepolis” (Sony Pictures Classics): Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud
“Ratatouille” (Walt Disney): Brad Bird
“Surf’s Up” (Sony Pictures Releasing): Ash Brannon and Chris Buck

Achievement in art direction
“American Gangster” (Universal): Art Direction: Arthur Max; Set Decoration: Beth A. Rubino
“Atonement” (Focus Features): Art Direction: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
“The Golden Compass” (New Line in association with Ingenious Film Partners): Art Direction: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
“Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (DreamWorks and Warner Bros., Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount): Art Direction: Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
“There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax): Art Direction: Jack Fisk; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson

Achievement in cinematography
“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” (Warner Bros.): Roger Deakins
“Atonement” (Focus Features): Seamus McGarvey
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (Miramax/Pathé Renn): Janusz Kaminski
“No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage): Roger Deakins
“There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax): Robert Elswit

Achievement in costume design
“Across the Universe” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Albert Wolsky
“Atonement” (Focus Features) Jacqueline Durran
“Elizabeth: The Golden Age” (Universal) Alexandra Byrne
“La Vie en Rose” (Picturehouse) Marit Allen
“Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (DreamWorks and Warner Bros., Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount) Colleen Atwood

Achievement in directing
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (Miramax/Pathé Renn), Julian Schnabel
“Juno” (Fox Searchlight), Jason Reitman
“Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.), Tony Gilroy
“No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage), Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
“There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax), Paul Thomas Anderson

Best documentary feature
“No End in Sight” (Magnolia Pictures) A Representational Pictures Production: Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
“Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience” (The Documentary Group) A Documentary Group Production: Richard E. Robbins
“Sicko” (Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company) A Dog Eat Dog Films Production: Michael Moore and Meghan O’Hara
“Taxi to the Dark Side” (THINKFilm) An X-Ray Production: Alex Gibney and Eva Orner
“War/Dance” (THINKFilm) A Shine Global and Fine Films Production: Andrea Nix Fine and Sean Fine

Best documentary short subject
“Freeheld” A Lieutenant Films Production: Cynthia Wade and Vanessa Roth
“La Corona (The Crown)” A Runaway Films and Vega Films Production: Amanda Micheli and Isabel Vega
“Salim Baba” A Ropa Vieja Films and Paradox Smoke Production: Tim Sternberg and Francisco Bello
“Sari’s Mother” (Cinema Guild) A Daylight Factory Production: James Longley

Achievement in film editing
“The Bourne Ultimatum” (Universal): Christopher Rouse
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (Miramax/Pathé Renn): Juliette Welfling
“Into the Wild” (Paramount Vantage and River Road Entertainment): Jay Cassidy
“No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage) Roderick Jaynes
“There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax): Dylan Tichenor

Best foreign language film of the year
“Beaufort” Israel
“The Counterfeiters” Austria
“Katyn” Poland
“Mongol” Kazakhstan
“12″ Russia

Achievement in makeup
“La Vie en Rose” (Picturehouse) Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald
“Norbit” (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount): Rick Baker and Kazuhiro Tsuji
“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” (Walt Disney): Ve Neill and Martin Samuel

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
“Atonement” (Focus Features) Dario Marianelli
“The Kite Runner” (DreamWorks, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment and Participant Productions, Distributed by Paramount Classics): Alberto Iglesias
“Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.) James Newton Howard
“Ratatouille” (Walt Disney) Michael Giacchino
“3:10 to Yuma” (Lionsgate) Marco Beltrami

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
“Falling Slowly” from “Once” (Fox Searchlight) Music and Lyric by Glen Hansard and: Marketa Irglova
“Happy Working Song” from “Enchanted” (Walt Disney): Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz
“Raise It Up” from “August Rush” (Warner Bros.): Nominees to be determined
“So Close” from “Enchanted” (Walt Disney): Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz
“That’s How You Know” from “Enchanted” (Walt Disney): Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz

Best motion picture of the year
“Atonement” (Focus Features) A Working Title Production: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Paul Webster, Producers
“Juno” (Fox Searchlight) A Dancing Elk Pictures, LLC Production: Lianne Halfon, Mason Novick and Russell Smith, Producers
“Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.) A Clayton Productions, LLC Production: Sydney Pollack, Jennifer Fox and Kerry Orent, Producers
“No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage) A Scott Rudin/Mike Zoss Production: Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
“There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax) A JoAnne Sellar/Ghoulardi Film Company Production: JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Lupi, Producers

Best animated short film
“I Met the Walrus” A Kids & Explosions Production: Josh Raskin
“Madame Tutli-Putli” (National Film Board of Canada) A National Film Board of Canada Production Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski “Même Les Pigeons Vont au Paradis (Even Pigeons Go to Heaven)” (Premium Films) A BUF Compagnie Production Samuel Tourneux and Simon Vanesse
“My Love (Moya Lyubov)” (Channel One Russia) A Dago-Film Studio, Channel One Russia and Dentsu Tec Production Alexander Petrov
“Peter & the Wolf” (BreakThru Films) A BreakThru Films/Se-ma-for Studios Production Suzie Templeton and Hugh Welchman

Best live action short film
“At Night” A Zentropa Entertainments 10 Production: Christian E. Christiansen and Louise Vesth
“Il Supplente (The Substitute)” (Sky Cinema Italia) A Frame by Frame Italia Production: Andrea Jublin
“Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets)” (Premium Films) A Karé Production: Philippe Pollet-Villard
“Tanghi Argentini” (Premium Films) An Another Dimension of an Idea Production: Guido Thys and Anja Daelemans
“The Tonto Woman” A Knucklehead, Little Mo and Rose Hackney Barber Production: Daniel Barber and Matthew Brown

Achievement in sound editing
“The Bourne Ultimatum” (Universal): Karen Baker Landers and Per Hallberg
“No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage): Skip Lievsay
“Ratatouille” (Walt Disney): Randy Thom and Michael Silvers
“There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax): Matthew Wood
“Transformers” (DreamWorks and Paramount in association with Hasbro): Ethan Van der Ryn and Mike Hopkins

Achievement in sound mixing
“The Bourne Ultimatum” (Universal) Scott Millan, David Parker and Kirk Francis
“No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage): Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter Kurland
“Ratatouille” (Walt Disney): Randy Thom, Michael Semanick and Doc Kane
“3:10 to Yuma” (Lionsgate): Paul Massey, David Giammarco and Jim Stuebe
“Transformers” (DreamWorks and Paramount in association with Hasbro): Kevin O’Connell, Greg P. Russell and Peter J. Devlin

Achievement in visual effects
“The Golden Compass” (New Line in association with Ingenious Film Partners): Michael Fink, Bill Westenhofer, Ben Morris and Trevor Wood
“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” (Walt Disney): John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson and John Frazier
“Transformers” (DreamWorks and Paramount in association with Hasbro): Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Russell Earl and John Frazier

Adapted screenplay
“Atonement” (Focus Features), Screenplay by Christopher Hampton
“Away from Her” (Lionsgate), Written by Sarah Polley
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (Miramax/Pathé Renn), Screenplay by Ronald Harwood
“No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage), Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
“There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax), Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson

Original screenplay
“Juno” (Fox Searchlight), Written by Diablo Cody
“Lars and the Real Girl” (MGM), Written by Nancy Oliver
“Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.), Written by Tony Gilroy
“Ratatouille” (Walt Disney), Screenplay by Brad Bird; Story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird
“The Savages” (Fox Searchlight), Written by Tamara Jenkins

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Monday, January 21, 2008

2007 Top Ten-Priest

For the purposes of this top ten list, I am considering films that were first released in the United States in 2007. I say that because one or two of the films on my list were released in some countries in 2006, but, at least as determined by, they were all first released in the U.S. this past year. So, without further ado,
1. No Country for Old Men
2. The Lives of Others
3. Michael Clayton
4. There Will Be Blood
5. Zodiac
6. The Bourne Ultimatum
7. Atonement
8. Gone Baby Gone
9. Deathproof
10. Waitress

Other favorites from this year considered for this list include: Juno, 3:10 to Yuma, Knocked Up, Once, Hoax, and Breach. It is only fair to mention that there are a number of films which by all accounts are stunning but that I haven't yet seen. These include Before the Devil Knows Your Dead, The Savages, The Assassination of Jesse James..., American Gangster, and Into the Wild.

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Best of 2007 and Oscar Nominations

Tomorrow morning the Oscar nominations are announced. In that spirit, I am reissuing my Oscar nominations and my updated top 25 film list for 2007 (and asking Doc and Priest to give at least their top 10 in a separate post):

Top 25 Films of 2007:
1. There Will Be Blood
2. No Country For Old Men
3. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
4. Michael Clayton
5. Once
Click below for the rest of the list and my Oscar nominations.
6. 3:10 to Yuma
7. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
8. Knocked Up
9. Charlie Wilson's War
10. The Bourne Ultimatum
11. King of Kong
12. I'm Not There
13. Zodiac
14. Gone Baby Gone
15. American Gangster
16. Lars and the Real Girl
17. Rescue Dawn
18. Atonement
19. Juno
20. Away From Her
21. Sicko
22. Things We Lost in the Fire
23. Eastern Promises
24. Sunshine
25. Into The Wild

Oscar Nominations:

Best Picture:
There Will Be Blood
No Country For Old Men
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Michael Clayton

Best Director:
Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood)
Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country For Old Men)
Sidney Lumet (Before the Devil...)
John Carney (Once)
Andrew Dominik (Assassination of Jesse James...)

Click below for the rest of the list-
Best Actor:
Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood)
George Clooney (Michael Clayton)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (Before the Devil...)
Josh Brolin (No Country For Old Men)
Benicio Del Toro (Things We Lost in the Fire)

Best Actress:
Julie Christie (Away From Her)
Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose)(on Priest's review)
Ellen Page (Juno)
Nicole Kidman (Margot at the Wedding)
Marketa Irglova (Once)

Best Supporting Actor:
Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men)
Tommy Lee Jones (No Country For Old Men)
Casey Affleck (Assassination of Jesse James)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (Charlie Wilson's War)
Steve Zahn (Rescue Dawn)

Best Supporting Actress:
Marisa Tomei (Devil Knows You're Dead)
Kelly MacDonald (No Country For Old Men)
Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone)
Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton)
Cate Blanchett (I'm Not There)

Original Screenplay:
Lars and the Real Girl
I'm Not There
Michael Clayton

Adapted Screenplay:
No Country For Old Men
There Will Be Blood
Charlie Wilson's War
American Gangster

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Ten - C+

Just released on DVD, 96 minutes, rated R

Not really a movie but a collection of skits in the same vein as Kentucky Fried Movie or Amazon Women on the Moon. Except the 10 stories here are based (frequently very loosely) on the 10 Commandments. It’s kind of like Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Dekalog reduced for the celebrity upskirt generation. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if the skits are funny enough and hit their satirical marks. As you might expect, the results range from embarrassing to quite funny. (Click below for the rest)

The interlocking stories are all introduced in one way or another by Paul Rudd, standing in front of 2 stone tablets. He also turns up in the adultery sketch, a brief ripoff of the late 80s- early 90s Woody Allen style. It’s surprising how many actors are willing to send up their image. The overly serious Liev Schreiber is funny as a cop and a man obsessed with CT scanners in 2 different stories. Former “it” girl Gretchen Mol is great in 2 sketches, but Jessica Alba annoys. Given her off-screen troubles, the casting of Winona Ryder in the “Thou Shalt Not Steal” segment is the most inspired casting choice in recent years. She’s very funny – and remains a pretty terrific actress. But as long as she’s banging a ventriloquist dummy instead of not banging Daniel Day-Lewis, she’ll probably never receive her third Oscar nomination.
My favorite sketch was “Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Wife” where a prisoner (co-writer Ken Marino) who’s already someone else’s bitch is lusted after by another inmate (Rob Corddry). Best line (by Corddry – in a deadpan delivery): “I can’t look at you without fantasizing about shoving you up against a wall in the laundry room, punching you in the mouth, and then raping you – without your consent, of course.” It’s impossible to succinctly describe each individual skit, but each is well-paced and goes places you’d never expect. Close to B range, but not nearly enough satirical bite, way too much homophilia, and a terrible end credits song make it difficult to recommend. C+

Note: If you don't mind reading subtitles, Kieslowski's 10 hour The Dekalog (made for Polish TV in the late 1980s in 10 segments) is a satisfying dramatic meditation on the 10 commandments.

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Cloverfield - B

In theaters. Rated PG-13, 90 minutes. Trailer.

Cloverfield is a post-modern monster movie. It is a sort-of Blair Witch Project/Godzilla/September 11 mashup that is enjoyable, if inconsequential. As promised on the flier taped to the door of the theater (at right), the film is all filmed on a handheld camera being manned by a person fleeing the creature attacking New York City. The setup for the film is that the government 'found' the camera and footage in Central Park, and then it begins.Click below to keep reading "Cloverfield".

There is a long sequence at the beginning showing a generic group of young professionals having a party and working through love life issues, etc. Then something attacks the city and all hell breaks loose. The initial destruction sequence is eerily similar to the footage of the aftermath of the collapse of the Twin Towers, complete with people rushing into convenience stores to avoid a cloud of debris. From then the group keeps moving and tries to escape and figure out what is happening to the city.

The creature is revealed in pieces throughout, with a full shot at the end. There are smaller 'creatures' that come with it, and attack humans viciously as they make their way through the city. Its origins are speculated at by the civillians and the military personnel, but never definitively placed. The dialogue feels like Heroes, Lost, or any number of 'cool' TV shows that I can't stand, but the acting from the anonymous cast does a good job of making it work.

The film is interesting for its new approach and concept, but limited by that same concept. There isn't time for character development or much meaningful dialogue. There is some exploration of the impact of such a traumatic attack on life and living in the moment, and the 9/11 images and general feeling are there in spades. For a tiny instant, the film poses an existential dilemma: without any future, should we only live for the present?

Viewing note: I had no problems with motion sickness at all, and neither did my beloved. Appraiser and Mrs. Appraiser didn't fare so well, on the other hand.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

I'm Brian Fellow

Tonight's airing of The Best of Tracy Morgan on Saturday Night Live reminded me of one of my favorite sketches, zoologist Brian Fellow. Watch here.

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Oswald's Ghost - B+

Released on DVD Tuesday. Unrated, 90 minutes. Trailer.

The cloud of the assassination of John F. Kennedy has been over Dallas for nearly 45 years. In that time, the event has become the most controversial historical event of modern American history. Oswald's Ghost is a documentary that examines the event and the debate between the conspiracy theorists and the Oswald as lone gunman believers.

This film had its theatrical premier at the Texas Theater in Oak Cliff, and was aired on PBS last week to coincide with its release on DVD. As a lifetime Dallas guy and history enthusiast, the Kennedy assassination has always fascinated me, prodding me to read Case Closed in high school and skipping school to hang around the grassy knoll on the 30th anniversary and meeting the man handcuffed to Oswald when he was shot (the white hat, in photo above). Click below for the rest of "Oswald's Ghost."

The film does an admirable job of remaining undecided on the conspiracy/lone gunman issue, and shows each of the players on both sides for who, and what, they really are. The style of the film reminded me of Fog of War, and the multiple interview subjects (including Sen. Gary Hart, Dan Rather, and Mark Lane) all offer interesting perspectives. The Warren Commission and LBJ are shown trying to do the best they can, and the big media of the 60's reporting it all as given, which gives reason to some to think 'conspiracy.' Oliver Stone and Jim Garrison are discussed as are the shreds of 'evidence' and theories that have been speculated about for nearly 5 decades. My favorite part is the debate featuring Arlen Specter, now a US Senator defending his magic bullet theory.

The most revelatory theme of the film for me was the prospect that people that believe in conspiracies are just weak minded, and need to believe something bigger than them exists. The truth is, a goofy marksman with something to prove pulled off a near miraculous feat and changed the course of history. Are the September 11 attacks any less implausible or unbelievable? Of course, there are several people that claim that is a conspiracy too. Worth the rental.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Fun With Thetans

Please take a few minutes to watch the Tom Cruise Scientology recruiting video. I couldn't make this up if I tried - he sounds like Frank TJ Mackey, Maverick and Jerry Maguire all lumped together. As a bonus, here's a picture of 'founder' L. Ron Hubbard.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, Cain’s Ballroom, Tulsa, January 16

Alt Country’s reigning king was in Bob Wills country Wednesday night, and Adams did the old Playboy proud. Cain’s Ballroom is a godsend to Oklahoma, guaranteeing that we continue to get great acts, and, seating just under 2,000, that we’re close enough to really see them. I was accompanied by brother-of-Priest for this show, and we were both excited. Due to work and bad traffic, we didn’t get to Cain’s until 7:30. To our surprise a solo singer with an acoustic guitar was already on stage (the show wasn’t set to start until 8:00, and with no opening act). The sound was similar to Adams’, and, figuring it was a local recruited to open at the last minute, we headed for the merch table. T-shirt in hand, we made our way to the floor when we were floored by just how much the guy sounded (and looked) like Ryan Adams. As we took seats, the guitar picker started a hilarious dialogue about being an out-of-work comedian trying to make it in the music business, then headed into the next tune. As everyone but me and my brother had realized, this was Ryan Adams doing a five-song acoustic set of previously unreleased material. And we were buying shirts….

The “real” show kicked off at 8:00 sharp with Beautiful Sorta off Cold Roses, Adams first album with the Cardinals. They followed with Peaceful Valley then Goodnight Rose off the next two Cardinals albums, respectively, before doubling back to the title track from Cold Roses. The band, which Adams considers himself a member of, not his backing band (their label sees Ryan as the draw and refuses to let them release without his name in the title), was sharp from the beginning. Adams handled lead and rhythm duties, as well as playing an upright piano and a Hammond. The other band members provided two more guitars, drums, and a slide guitar. It’s only fair for me to mention that I’m more of a Ryan Adams fan than I am a Cardinals one. Adams’ songs range from slow blues to mid-tempo slide-guitar dominated country to punk-tinged Rock. My favorite numbers are from the first and last category, while this concert was heavy on the middle.

The first set continued with Mockingbird off Gold (good) and a searing version of rockabilly standout Shakedown on 9th Street (off Heartbreaker, my personal favorite). Other standouts included The Rescue Blues, Wildflowers, and Stars Go Blue (no, kids, not written by Tim McGraw), which he described as being inspired by dating actresses in New York, something he didn’t suggest (allusion to Parker Posey? Winona Ryder?). The sixteen song set ended at a disappointing 9:20, but, after a five minute ovation for an encore, the band came out and smoked through ten more songs, finally pulling the plug at 10:40. This was my favorite portion of the show, which featured improvisation and extended jams on several songs. After starting back in with Easy Plateau, they headed into Jacksonville City Nights standout The End, which Adams dedicated to his “a**hole dad” (who Adams never knew). The opening line “I don’t know the sound of my father’s voice, I don’t even know his name…” was made that much more poignant with the revelation. Other standouts from the encore included Halloween Head (one of my brother’s favorites), and final duo Sweet Caroline (another favorite) and Oasis cover Wonderwall (for which Adams received a Grammy nomination in 2004).

Overall the show was like a Ryan Adams album, rambling and disjointed at times, but marked with moments of undeniable genius and haunting beauty. Adams can sing a heartbreak better than anyone in the business and can handle an axe with the great ones. His howl was undeniable on songs like Hard Way to Fall and Stars Go Blue, but it’s the urgent poignancy he brings to his lyrics that suddenly catch you like a razor that made this show a triumph. Overall, he churned through 31 songs and sang for over three hours. A great show. For a full playlist click here

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

There Will Be Blood - A+

In theaters. Rated R, 158 minutes. Trailer. Script.

After two viewings and 8 days to think it over, I was still wrestling with this one last week when it finally clicked: this is a film for the ages, so stark and original as to draw comparisons to Raging Bull, Citizen Kane, Godfather 2, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The repeat viewing helped put everything in perspective, and I think it will just keep getting better.

The opening shot of the barren landscape with the ominous electronic chord playing is an ode to 2001: a Space Odyssey. The above ground monolith is replaced with the below ground monolith: oil and the greed that comes with it. Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) is in constant servanthood to the greed within him. Click below to keep reading There Will Be Blood.

After adopting an orphaned baby as a calculated move to help him buy up oil land, he finds success and ends up in a town called Little Boston after buying the Sunday ranch. The sale of the ranch is contentious because of the son of the owner, Eli Sunday, a phony preacher that tries to compete with Daniel for dominance in the town. The remainder of the film revolves around the reslationship between Daniel and Eli and Daniel and HW.

The acting, direction, cinematography and score are all among the best of the last decade, and in Day-Lewis' case, of all time. The one weak point in the film for me was Paul Dano, who I did not enjoy as Eli Sunday. Compared with Day-Lewis, it would be hard for anyone to standout, but I just was not impressed by the performance. The scenes with the fire and the gusher are nothing short of astonishing, and the sequence setting the pipeline is gorgeous and expertly paced, culminating in a great shot of Daniel in the ocean washing over the camera.

While most reviews deem Plainview a monster, I find him to be a sympathetic character. PT Anderson gives only small snippets into his past through his 'brother from another mother' that comes and visits him. The pain he feels after his brother departs is genuine and speaks to the human that lies beneath all of the hatred he has built up 'little by little.' The final scene with HW is heartbreaking, as Daniel sits in his Citizen Kane mansion and lashes out at HW because of the distance between them, not knowing how to be a human. He sleeps on the floor in the bowling alley, cooking his food on the floor and wearing old, holey boots. He is not comfortable in his extraordinary mansion, and only feels at home fighting for his life.

The competition between Plainview and Sunday for the town, one offering God, the other money, is well done and complicated. The relationship goes south quickly after HW's accident, as Daniel reels from his inability to communicate with the one person on earth he has feelings for. Plainview seemingly stops at nothing to needle Sunday and his father, favoring and protecting the daughter at every chance. Sunday's one moment of triumph comes when Plainview has to 'repent' in order to get the rights to put the pipeline through a crucial piece of property, and he forces Daniel to declare that he has abandoned his child, over and over. The sequence is heartbreaking and powerful, as Plainview's guilt comes through in one of the most well-acted scenes in film history. Sunday, too, will have a similar self-denial in the pursuit of money involving the same tract of land, in the final scene of the film.

Many reviewers have dismissed the final scene (just like with No Country For Old Men), but I found it to be a fitting end to the story. The acting is again amazing, with Plainview's homicidal ranting and Sunday's snake-oil deals being spun. The set decoration takes a symmetrical cue from Kubrick and the final line speaks to Plainview's life: "I'm finished."

Anderson explores several themes with this film. The most well developed is the impact of greed and ambition. The very things that make someone a success (ruthlesssness, dissatisfaction, and hunger) are the same things that keep that person from happiness and real emotional connections. Religion is dealt with through Eli, but the believers were not portrayed negatively at all. Though not explicitly stated, I think Magnolia's theme of 'you may be through with the past, but the past isn't through with you' is manifested through Daniel's behavior and hunger.

In the final analysis, this is one for the ages. Like other films in my pantheon, it surveys a tortured male soul and father/son relationships with depth and and unflinching perspective.

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The Orphanage - B

In theaters. Rated R, 98 minutes. Trailer.

I don't like scary movies, roller coasters or flying on an airplane. Call me a ninny, fine. Since this scary movie was produced by Pan's Labryinth director Guillermo Del Toro and promised not to be gory, I decided to lift my policy against scariness and give it a try.

Starring Belen Rueda (The Sea Inside), this movie tells the story of a barren couple that adopts an HIV positive boy (Simon) and moves into the orphanage on the Spanish coast that Belen grew up in. Once they move into the orphanage, Simon starts talking about his imaginary friends and strange things start to occur. At a party, strange things happen and Simon disappears. Click below to keep reading the Orphanage.

The remainder of the film is mixed with scares and the desperation of a grieving mother. The movie is not gory, except for one jolting moment, and actually deals with some serious questions about loss, belief and love. No new ground is broken on any level, and for the Hostel and Saw crowd, this is probably referred to as 'your grandma's horror film.' The prospect of dead children and their ghosts is for some reason very unnerving, and first time director Juan Antonio Bayona does a good job of creating tension for the last half of the film (including a great night-vision sequence with a medium). I enjoyed it and the plausible story and ending. Together with Rueda's strong performance, this is worth a rental.

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BAFTA Nominations

The "British Oscars" will be handed out on February 10. The nominations:

“American Gangster” — Brian Grazer/Ridley Scott
“Atonement” — Tim Bevan/Eric Fellner/Paul Webster
“The Lives of Others” — Quirin Berg/Max Wiedemann
“No Country for Old Men” — Scott Rudin/Joel Coen/Ethan Coen
“There Will Be Blood” — JoAnne Sellar/Paul Thomas Anderson/Daniel Lupi
Click below for the rest of the list.

“Atonement” — Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Paul Webster, Joe Wright, Christopher Hampton
“The Bourne Ultimatum” — Frank Marshall, Patrick Crowley, Paul L. Sandberg, Paul Greengrass, Tony Gilroy, Scott Z. Burns, George Nolfi
“Control” — Orian Williams, Todd Eckert, Anton Corbijn, Matt Greenhalgh
“Eastern Promises” — Paul Webster, Robert Lantos, David Cronenberg, Steve Knight
“This Is England” — Mark Herbert, Shane Meadows

Chris Atkins (director/writer) — “Taking Liberties”
Mia Bays (producer) — “Scott Walker: 30 Century Man”
Sarah Gavron (director) — “Brick Lane”
Matt Greenhalgh (writer) — “Control”
Andrew Piddington (director/writer) — “The Killing of John Lennon”

“Atonement” — Joe Wright
“The Bourne Ultimatum” — Paul Greengrass
“The Lives of Others” — Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
“No Country for Old Men — Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
“There Will Be Blood” — Paul Thomas Anderson

“American Gangster” — Steven Zaillian
“Juno” — Diablo Cody
“The Lives of Others” — Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
“Michael Clayton” — Tony Gilroy
“This Is England” — Shane Meadows

“Atonement” — Christopher Hampton
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” — Ronald Harwood
“The Kite Runner” — David Benioff
“No Country for Old Men” — Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
“There Will Be Blood” — Paul Thomas Anderson

(nominations announced on Jan. 4)
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” — Kathleen Kennedy, Jon Kilik, Julian Schnabel
“The Kite Runner” — William Horberg, Walter Parkes, Rebecca Yeldham, Marc Foster
“The Lives of Others” — Quirin Berg, Max Wiedemann, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
“Lust, Caution” — Bill Kong, James Schamus, Ang Lee
“La Vie en rose” — Alain Goldman, Olivier Dahan

“Ratatouille” — Brad Bird
“Shrek the Third” — Chris Miller
“The Simpsons Movie” — Matt Groening, James L. Brooks

George Clooney — “Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis — “There Will Be Blood”
James McAvoy — “Atonement”
Viggo Mortensen — “Eastern Promises”
Ulrich Muehe — “The Lives of Others”

Cate Blanchett — “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”
Julie Christie — “Away From Her”
Marion Cotillard — “La Vie en rose”
Keira Knightley — “Atonement”
Ellen Page — “Juno”

Javier Bardem — “No Country for Old Men”
Paul Dano — “There Will Be Blood”
Tommy Lee Jones — “No Country for Old Men”
Philip Seymour Hoffman — “Charlie Wilson’s War”
Tom Wilkinson — “Michael Clayton”

Cate Blanchett — “I’m Not There”
Kelly Macdonald — “No Country for Old Men”
Samantha Morton — “Control”
Saoirse Ronan — “Atonement”
Tilda Swinton — “Michael Clayton”

“American Gangster” — Marc Streitenfeld
“Atonement” — Dario Marianelli
“The Kite Runner” — Alberto Iglesias
“There Will Be Blood” — Jonny Greenwood
“La Vie en rose” — Christopher Gunning

“American Gangster” — Harris Savides
“Atonement” — Seamus McGarvey
“The Bourne Ultimatum” — Oliver Wood
“No Country for Old Men” — Roger Deakins
“There Will Be Blood” — Robert Elswit

“American Gangster” — Pietro Scalia
“Atonement” — Paul Tothill
“The Bourne Ultimatum” — Christopher Rouse
“Michael Clayton” — John Gilroy
“No Country for Old Men” — Roderick Jaynes

“Atonement” — Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
“Elizabeth: The Golden Age” — Guy Hendrix Dyas, Richard Roberts
“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” — Stuart Craig, Stephenie McMillan
“There Will Be Blood” — Jack Fisk, Jim Erickson
“La Vie en rose” — Olivier Raoux

“Atonement” — Jacqueline Durran
“Elizabeth: The Golden Age” — Alexandra Byrne
“Lust, Caution” — Pan Lai
“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” — Colleen Atwood
“La Vie en rose” — Marit Allen

“Atonement” — Danny Hambrook, Paul Hamblin, Catherine Hodgson
“The Bourne Ultimatum” — Kirk Francis, Scott Millan, Dave Parker, Karen Baker Landers, Per Hallberg
“No Country for Old Men” — Peter Kurland, Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff
“There Will Be Blood” — Christopher Scarabosio, Matthew Wood, John Pritchett, Michael Semanick, Tom Johnson
“La Vie en rose” — Laurent Zeilig, Pascal Villard, Jean-Paul Hurier, Marc Doisne

“The Bourne Ultimatum” — Peter Chiang, Charlie Noble, Mattias Lindahl, Joss Williams
“The Golden Compass” — Michael Fink, Bill Westenhofer, Ben Morris, Trevor Woods
“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” — Tim Burke, John Richardson, Emma Norton, Chris Shaw
“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” — John Knoll, Charles Gibson, Hal Hickel, John Frazier
“Spider-Man 3” – Scott Stokdyk, Peter Nofz, Kee-Suk Ken Hahn, Spencer Cook

“Atonement” — Ivana Primorac
“Elizabeth: The Golden Age” — Jenny Shircore
“Hairspray” – Nominees to be confirmed
“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” — Ivana Primorac
“La Vie en rose” — Jan Archibald, Didier Lavergne

“The Pearce Sisters” — Jo Allen, Luis Cook
“Head Over Heels” — Osbert Parker, Fiona Pitkin, Ian Gouldstone
“The Crumblegiant” — Pearse Moore, John McCloskey

“Dog Altogether” — Diarmid Scrimshaw, Paddy Considine
“Hesitation” – Julien Berlan, Michelle Eastwood, Virginia Gilbert
“The One and Only Herb McGwyer Plays Wallis Island” — Charlie Henderson, James Griffiths, Tim Key, Tom Basden
“Soft” — Jane Hooks, Simon Ellis
“The Stronger” — Dan McCulloch, Lia Williams, Frank McGuinness

THE ORANGE RISING STAR AWARD (voted for by the public) — nominees announced on Jan. 8
Shia Labeouf
Sienna Miller
Ellen Page
Sam Riley
Tang Wei

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Hell Date

This isn't really a 'guilty pleasure,' because I don't enjoy it as much as I watch it with a puzzled look on my face. The show airs on BET, and the premise is that people sign up to go on a TV date with someone compatible with them but the show does the opposite and sends them on a date with an actor trying to push all of their buttons. I don't get all the jokes or understand a lot of what is going on, but that's part of the 'fun.' The best part, which I rank as one of my top 10 all-time pop culture signs of the apocalypse (#1 is the Baywatch episode with a midget father storyline, complete with a midget ballad) is the 'reveal' moment of the show, which involves a midget dressed as the devil that comes out and yells Hell Date! and dances around. Go here to watch an episode.

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Golden Globe Awards

Last night the Golden Globes were announced in the worst way possible, a E! show style presentation by Billy Bush. Not that the 'presenters' were that bad, it was just a horrible situation. In any event, the winners are below. No big surprises, except for Atonement's win, which may revive its waning Oscar chances. New nemesis alert: Julian Schnabel...the uber-gay cocky 'artist' that wears yellow sunglasses and always shows chest hair.


Best Motion Picture (Drama): Atonement
Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama): Julie Christie - Away From Her
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Drama): Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood
Best Director: Julian Schnabel - The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
Best Motion Picture (Musical Or Comedy): Sweeney Todd
Click below for the rest of the awards.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy): Marion Cotillard - La Vie En Rose
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Musical Or Comedy): Johnny Depp - Sweeney Todd
Best Performance by an Actress In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: Cate Blanchett - I'm Not There
Best Performance by an Actor In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: Javier Bardem - No Country for Old Men
Best Screenplay: Ethan Coen and Joel Coen - No Country for Old Men
Best Animated Feature Film: Ratatouille
Best Foreign Language Film: The Diving Bell And The Butterfly (France, United States)
Best Original Score: Dario Marianelli - Atonement
Best Original Song: Guaranteed - Into the Wild TV

Best Drama Series: Mad Men
Best Actress in a Drama: Glenn Close - Damages
Best Actor in a Drama: Jon Hamm - Mad Men
Best Series (Musical or Comedy): Extras
Best Actress (Musical or Comedy): Tina Fey - 30 Rock
Best Actor (Musical or Comedy): David Duchovny - Californication
Best Mini-series or Movie: Longford
Best Actress in a Mini-series or Movie: Queen Latifah - Life Support
Best Actor in a Mini-series or Movie: Jim Broadbent - Longford
Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Mini-series or Movie: Samantha Morton - Longford
Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Mini-series or Movie: Jeremy Piven - Entourage

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Your Picture with Slash

For $300 you can get your picture with the members of Velvet Revolver, including Slash, Scott Weiland, Duff McKagan, and others. The Dallas show is Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at House of Blues.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008


With the Cowboys and Colts losing today, it’s officially the end of the football season for me. Not only will hours of my life be saved in the following weekends, hours weren’t wasted today since I spent the whole weekend in the hospital working. I thought I’d rattle off my favorite football movies.

North Dallas Forty (1979) – Based on the novel by former Dallas Cowboys receiver Peter Gent, this stars Nick Nolte as a veteran football tight end who’s struggling with the ever-changing and unpredictable world of pro sports. It’s perhaps a little too one-sided where Nolte can do no wrong and the coaches (including G.D. Spradlin- Senator Geary in Godfather II) are pure evil - hell-bent on winning at the risk of the athletes’ health. And Nolte’s love interest annoys, but it’s still smart, well-acted, and fascinating. Bonus points for having Sugarhill Gang’s “Rappers’ Delight” at the party scene. (Click below for more)

Jerry Maguire (1996) – More of a sports’ agent movie, I suppose. But football is used well, especially football’s frightening potential to suddenly end careers, lives, and families. Tom Cruise has only been better once (Frank TJ Mackey) and is fun here, shoplifting Renee Zellweger’s pooty. Great script by Cameron Crowe with numerous memorable and quotable lines. Like North Dallas Forty, it’s a great behind-the-scenes look. The Longest Yard (1974) – not the crappy Adam Sandler remake. This one has Burt Reynolds in the lead playing the incarcerated ex pro football star. He's forced by the warden to play fixed football games against the prison guards to win the warden extra money and prepare his team for another league. Reynolds has rarely been better. It's easy to see why he was the #1 box office star of the 70s after watching this. Favorite scene: Reynolds throwing at the groin.Friday Night Lights (2004) – The movie is inaccurate (Odessa Permian’s last game in 1988 was not the championship game but only a semifinal), but the emotions and motivations are true. This is my favorite Billy Bob Thornton performance. Even Tim McGraw is impressive, placing his ring on his son's finger at the end of the game. Favorite scene: I've seen a milllion "halftime" scenes, but Billy Bob talking about being “perfect” is the very best.Guilty Pleasure: The Best of Times (1986) – Robin Williams dropped the ball Kurt Russell threw to him in their last high school game. 20 years later, they try to redo the game. Williams panders, still searching for his persona. Russell is overly earnest – it’s like they’re in 2 different movies. If it’s so bad, how come I can quote so much of it?

Special mention: The musical score (by Jerry Goldsmith) of Rudy (1993) – near the top of the list for great scores in mediocre movies. Hey, that gives me an idea for another post.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008


1. Great montage of the good 2007 films. I am a sucker for these. Hat tip, Hollywood Elsewhere.

2. Interesting story about the boy that plays HW in There Will Be Blood.

3. Column on taking kids to the movies, by NYTimes chief critic, A.O. Scott. I don't really agree with him, but its an interesting take.

4. Lengthy article about TWBB and cinematographer Robert Elswit.

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The Future is Unwritten: The Joe Strummer Story B-

124 minutes, In selected theatres, Unrated

This documentary on British Rock/Punk band The Clash’s Joe Strummer is a solid primer on one of the seminal acts of the 80’s but never transcends the subject matter. Perhaps the ardent will find nuggets of information here, but director Julien Temple’s (music videos) decision to employ endless snippets of interviews with fellow rockers, love interests, and affected stars (Johnny Depp? John Cusack?) while at times meaningful, veers dangerously close to VH1 territory. Surprising, the most interesting information concerns his pre-Clash days at home and then leading a hippie collective squatting in abandoned buildings in London. Perhaps this is because, thanks again to VH1, we know how the Rock ‘n Roll band bio goes: buzz as they play local gigs, record label, U.S. tour, drugs, girls, “questionable” album, big U.S. tour, fighting, new band mates, dissolution, reunion gig. Strummer’s post-Clash days are surprising for their lack of much real output. While the film wants to suggest that Strummer’s death cut short a resurging career that was entering a second artistic high, that seems a bit optimistic. B-
And here is the rest of it.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Writer's Guild Nominations

Original screenplay
"Juno," written by Diablo Cody, Fox Searchlight
"Michael Clayton," written by Tony Gilroy, Warner Bros. Pictures
"The Savages," written by Tamara Jenkins, Fox Searchlight
"Knocked Up," written by Judd Apatow, Universal Pictures
"Lars and the Real Girl," written by Nancy Oliver, MGM

Adapted screenplay

"No Country for Old Men," screenplay by Ethan Coen & Joel Coen, based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, Miramax
"There Will Be Blood," screenplay by Paul Thomas Anderson, based on the novel "Oil" by Upton Sinclair, Paramount Vantage
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," screenplay by Ronald Harwood, based on the book by Jean-Dominique Bauby, Miramax
"Into the Wild," screenplay by Sean Penn, Based on the Book by Jon Krakauer, Paramount Vantage
"Zodiac," screenplay by James Vanderbilt, Based on the Book by Robert Graysmith, Paramount PicturesAnd here is the rest of it.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Acoustic Greatness

This site has several high quality acoustic performances from 'alternative' artists such as Seether (highlights - Fake It and Jessie's Song), Chris Cornell (highlights - all of it), the Plain White T's and others.

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There Will Be Audio


I drink your milkshake.

Hat tip, Hollywood Elsewhere.

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Radiohead Tour (!)

Radiohead announced today that they'll be embarking on a US tour in 2008, and the cities they'll be visiting. They left out the dates and venues, but we'll get that in due time. For now, the cities are: Atlanta - Boston - Charlotte - Chicago - Cleveland - Dallas - Houston - Indianapolis - Los Angeles - Miami - Montreal - New York - Philadelphia - San Diego - San Francisco - Santa Barbara - Seattle - St. Louis - Tampa - Toronto - Vancouver - Washington, DC.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Shoot 'Em Up - C

In the opening scene, Clive Owen is minding his own business when a pregnant woman runs by followed by a gunman trying to kill her. After dispatching of the bad guy with a carrot (yes, the vegetable), Owen delivers the baby and severs the umbilical cord with a bullet. (Not quite as impressive as his first obstetrical experience in Children of Men). The mother is then murdered and he must find nourishment for the baby. In Children of Men, the future has no babies or children. In Shoot ‘Em Up, Owen is apparently living in a future where there is no baby formula or cow’s milk. He must find breast milk. Good thing he frequents a whorehouse and knows a lactating hooker (Monica Bellucci) who satisfies men with a breast milk fetish. (After emesis, click below for the rest)

In many ways, Shoot ‘Em Up is the Tarantino-spawned fraternal twin of Smokin’ Aces. While that one is the nihilistic, angry brother who takes himself too seriously, this one is the class clown who doesn’t know when to give it a rest. It’s wall-to-wall action from one clever set-piece to another. But the plot makes absolutely no sense and only serves to (very loosely) connect the action scenes. While that may be enough for some viewers, the excellent cast may leave others disappointed. In one of the DVD special features, writer-director Michael Davis complains some critics dismissing his film as cartoonish. Probably shouldn’t have your lead character eating a carrot and saying, “What’s Up Doc?”
After being superb in Children of Men, Inside Man, and Closer, Clive Owen is simply miscast as the greatest assassin alive. A terrific dramatic actor, it’s depressing to see him wallowing in sub-Schwarzenegger quips. While I’m not a charter member of the Monica Bellucci fan club, I’m still a member. But here’s she’s merely wallpaper. As the lead bad guy, Paul Giamatti is clearly having a great time chewing up the scenery (and cashing the paycheck). Can’t wait for something more substantial next time. Early on, Giamatti says, “F@ck me sideways”. Sideways – now that was a good movie. This one kinda sucked. C

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