Monday, August 31, 2009

DVD and Blu-ray Releases 9/1/09

Bring It On: Fight to the Finish - #
High Crimes - #
Sin Nombre
State of Play - #
Sugar - #

Brothers and Sisters: 3rd Season
CSI: The Ninth Season - #
Desperate Housewives: 5th Season
Heroes: Season 3 - #
Rescue Me: Season 5, Vol. 1
Supernatural: 4th Season - #
Two and Half Men: 6th Season

Click below for this week's Blu-ray Releases

Braveheart - *
Fire and Ice
The Girl Next Door
Gladiator - *
M*A*S*H - * (Doc's pick of the week)
Monster – *

# - also on Blu-ray
* - Doctor approved

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Weekend Box Office - 8/28-8/30/09

R-rated violent films took the top 4 spots. Inglourious Basterds's drop was surprisingly low, obviously benefitting from a positive word-of-mouth.

Weekend total / % Change / Cumulative total

1. Final Destination: 28.3 mil / (-)
2. Inglourious Basterds: 20.0 mil/(-47%)/74 mil
3. Halloween II: 17.4 mil / (-)
4. District 9: 10.7 mil / (-41%) / 91 mil
5. G.I. Joe: 8.0 mil / (-34%) / 132 mil
6. Julie & Julia: 7.4 mil / (-16%) / 71 mil
7. Time Traveler’s Wife: 6.7 mil / (-31%) / 48 mil
8. Shorts: 4.9 mil / (-24%) / 14 mil
9. Taking Woodstock: 3.7 mil / (-)
10. G-Force: 2.8 mil / (-31%) / 112 mil

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The Goods - C-

In theaters. Rated R, 89 minutes. Trailer.

What a cast - Jeremy Piven, Ed Helms, Buster Bluth, Kristen Schaal, Ken Jeong, Will Ferrell cameos, Craig Robinson, Ving Rhames, and more. How they signed onto this movie, I'll never know (but it probably has something to do with producers Adam McKay and Will Ferrell). Don Ready (Jeremy Piven) is a mercenary car salesman with a team of salespeople that travel the country as free agents helping car lot owners sell their cars. Ben (James Brolin) is the aging owner of a family dealership in Temecula, California who calls in the team to save the dealership. There are about 20 funny minutes enveloped by another 69 minutes of cinematic throw-up. Click below for more on the funny stuff:

The film's plot plays out as you would expect, with a small dramatic arc related to selling all of the cars on the lot and then one of the dumbest, most ridiculous 'romantic' subplots in cinematic history between Piven and Ben's daughter.

Remembering that the film is terrible, there are some really funny parts: Brolin's running gay comments are all hilarious, the old racist veteran is funny, Ken Jeong is really funny (watch out for his eyes during the Japan talk), Ed Helms as a member of a 'manband' called BigUps is great, nice cameo from Alan Thicke, and Rob Riggle as a 10 year old with a pituitary problem is funny. Piven was almost visibly struggling with several of his lines (they were so stupid) and his character is nothing but a dumbed-down Ari Gold. The film has several witty one-liners that must have been ad-libbed because the script is horrific. Should be a D, but I laughed too much, so it got bumped up.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Oasis Breaks Up

A day late with this. Liam and Noel Gallagher got in a fistfight backstage in Paris and cancelled the show 1 minute before their set - Noel has left the band. For all the details, go here. For some old DLP Oasis love, go here.

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The Burning Plain - B

On Video on Demand (In theaters 9/18). Rated R, 111 minutes. Trailer.

The Burning Plain tells the non-linear story of Sylvia (Charlize Theron), a woman living in Oregon in pain and without solace. She appears fine on the surface, but is clearly on the brink of a breakdown or worse as she recklessly carries on her life. The film also flashes back to the story of Gina (Kim Basinger), a mother cheating on her husband and her kids with a Mexican man (Joaquim de Almeida - aka the Mexican Phil Hartman) and the story of a Mexican cropduster and his daughter. The film packs a strong emotional punch but has too many uneven spots and irrelevant scenes to rise above a B. Click below for more on BURNING:

As you can tell from the trailer, there are 3 seemingly divergent storylines that are actually connected. Charlize is shown as Basinger's daughter, being torn apart by her mother's indifference and infidelity. This leads to unintended tragedy and an unrequited pain in Charlize's life. The film is resolved nicely as the storylines converge realistically in a satisfying manner.

I love Guillermo Arriaga's nihilistic and gritty view of the world. Three of his previous scripts, Amores Perros, 21 Grams (A), Babel, have been made into great movies by collaborative director Alejandro González Iñárritu. The two had a falling out and this is Arriaga's first directorial attempt. He gets big points from me for the scenes with the ocean outside the restaurant - the raging seas framing Charlize couldn't be a better (or more obvious) metaphor. Mostly, though, I am just on the same wavelength as Arriaga - his stark perspective and keen eye for the realistic impact of people's actions remains his biggest draw.

Charlize is great in a tough, exposed (literal and figuratively) role - same for Basinger. Worth watching.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Summer Movie Releases - 8/28/09

Final Destination

And now the weekend I was dreading as I began this weekly post previewing upcoming movie releases. I've only seen a few minutes of one the Final Desinations on cable and they looked like they were having a great time killing young people in creative ways. Congratulations on making money in one of the most depraved ways possible.

Halloween 2

John Carpenter's original film is genuinely tense and thought-provoking (but unfortunately spawned the slasher genre). Rob Zombie "directs" his second Halloween film after a moneymaking reboot. If the trailer is any indication, there are lots of jolts from the sound design and lots of dumb movie characters. There really hasn't been an interesting "horror" film since the Scream series ended.

Taking Woodstock

Ang Lee uses Woodstock as a backdrop for a coming of age story. I've been sick of baby boomers shoving this event down our throats since I was a kid. It's a shame that Lee is wasting his time with such thin material. He has been great and hopefully will again. Mixed reviews at best. Liev Schreiber appears in drag in case you were tempted to see this at all.

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Pearl Jam/Cameron Crowe

Pearl Jam has a new video out for The Fixer, directed by Cameron Crowe. Here is a behind the scenes look at its filming. I like the song, which is extremely 'pop music' for PJ. New album to be released September 20.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

HBO Sunday Night - 8/23/09

Entourage: No More Drama
Season 6, Episode 7

Eric starts his new job which brings the glourious return of Bob Saget. Drama begs for his job (great perf, Mr. Dillon). Vince's place gets broken into and someone steals his dirty undies. Kate Mara is a nice addition as Eric's secretary (Did Wahlberg use his Shooter connection?). A perfectly enjoyable, relaxed episode with some OK one-liners (Lloyd's response to Eric's "gift" to Ari). But not nearly enough Ari to be great. B

Hung: Thith ith a Prothetic, Episode 8

There's really something special going on with this show. The major characters become increasingly sympathetic with every episode. Tanya, looking for love in all the wrong places and Ray, longing for the "glory days" of his youth. Even the side characters are incredibly developed with just a few scenes, most notably Jemma, where you can see an entire life of romantic disappointments and heartbreak. Great music, great writing, great performances - people may have been expecting a wacky sex comedy, but the casting of Thomas Jane and Jane Adams should have been an indicator that the creators of the show were going for something much more substantial - they got it. B+

If you haven't been able to get into Hung yet, I'll raise a red flag when it's released on DVD.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My 5 Favorite Bruce Springsteen Songs

All apologies to Doctor, but I have a love/hate relationship with the Boss. Dancing in the Dark makes me homicidal, while The River breaks my heart. Anyway, here are my 5 favorite Bruce Springsteen songs (in no particular order):

My Hometown. As someone with 4 generations of family that has lived in my part of Texas for nearly 50 years, I have a strong connection with this song. Best version is sung with Vedder, but I can't find a legal link.

Atlantic City. A haunting and visceral song. American songwriting at its best.

Glory Days. I know, I know, not a cool pick. But, I can't help but succumb to thinking about moments in my life as the Boss paints the pictures. Worst video of all time.

The River. Ditto my Atlantic City comments. "and for my 19th birthday I got a union card and a wedding coat".

Streets of Philadelphia. A moody, serious song with great music and lyrics.

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Top 500 Singles of the Aughts

It seems a little early, but Pitchfork has released its Top 500 Singles of the Decade. It's a tad indie-rock heavy (and Eminem has NOTHING in the Top 100 but a collaboration with Dre), but you can listen to every song, and these lists were made for arguing. Check it here.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

New Trailers

Inception - Crime/Mindbender from director Christopher Nolan starring Leo DiCaprio, Michael Caine, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Cillian Murphy.

Avatar - Supposedly revolutionary film from James Cameron. Never have understood the hype for this film or its trailer. It looks neat for a sci-fi movie. Again, fantasy film is a crappy genre.

Youth In Revolt - Michael Cera stars in a funny coming of age story with a Cera bad-boy doppelganger. Looks funny.

Wolfman - What!? Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins and Emily Blunt star in this likely horrible remake. Funny to see the dogfaced boy from Pee Wee's Big Top (Del Toro) grow up into wolfman.

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More New Radiohead

The band is being coy about whether they're about to release an EP entitled Wall of Ice, opting instead to release two songs in 2 weeks, the previously mentioned Harry Patch (In Memory Of) and last week's These Are My Twisted Words (listen at that link, download for free here).

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New Curb Your Enthusiasm

Its been too long. The 7th season begins Sunday, September 20. The season will revolve around trying to organize a Seinfeld reunion and will feature all of the Seinfeld cast. Preview 1. Preview 2.

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DVD and Blu-ray Releases 8/25/09

Adventureland - #
Duplicity - #
Fighting - #
Goodbye Solo
The Informers - #
The Last Days of Disco (Criterion)
Rudo y Cursi - #
Sunshine Cleaning - #

Click below for this week's TV and Blu-ray releases

Californication: Second Season
House, M.D. – Season Five
NCIS: Sixth Season
Life: Season Two
One Tree Hill: Sixth Season
Scrubs: Eighth Season
Smallville: Eighth Season - #
Thirtysomething: First Season
Wiseguy: First Season

Children of the Corn

# - also on Blu-ray

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Inglourious Basterds - A-

In theaters. Rated R, 152 minutes. Trailer.

Just when I thought there was no more mileage in the World War II genre, Writer/Director Quentin Tarantino unleashes a bloodspattered revenge fantasy film allowing Allies and Jews the benefit of seeing their wildest dreams come to life. In 1944 Lieutenant Aldo Raines (an inspired Brad Pitt) leads a covert group of American and German Jews on an Apache-like mission in France whereby they kill and maim German soldiers in horrific manner in order to scare them and end the war. The film tells us about this group and adds a few other wild storylines in classic Tarantino fashion. Click below for more BASTERDS:

The film begins with a 20 minute scene on a French dairy farm whereby Nazi Colonel Hans Landa (a guaranteed nomination for Christoph Waltz) aka "The Jew Hunter" interrogates the man of the house regarding local Jew protection. We then move on to the Basterds, with Pitt leading the rag tag crew (BJ Novak, Eli Roth, etc) as they wreak havoc on Germans in horrific manner, including lots of graphic scalpings. The third plot is that of a beautiful young Jewish woman that owns a cinema in Paris. The fourth plot involves Winston Churchill, a very British Mike Myers and a film critic turned soldier turned double agent. Through happenstance, the youn Jewish woman's cinema is chosen as the place for Herman Goerrings next movie premiere, and then all of the storylines converge in a fantastic climax. That's all the plot I will give up, as I can't say much more without ruining things.

Tarantino's gift for dialogue and scene structure is on display throughout the film, especially with Landa. Many of them are thick with anticipation, but there are a few duds along the way. I found the scene in the basement bar to be too long and tedious, but the finale was great, as was anything involving the film critic character. I could have watched that character for hours.

The basterds' killing and carousing is routinely hilarious, with Pitt delivering a basketful of instant classic one liners. It is also cathartic and a big guilty pleasure - they are living out the ultimate fantasy revenge plot on one of history's great villains, which certainly appeals to my lesser angels. There is a lot of cartoonish gore, and 3 or 4 scalpings shot at close range that I closed my eyes on. At times the group feels like a wartime Oceans 11, especially at the Goerring premiere as they talk with Landa. The storyline involving the Jewish woman owning the cinema was also very enjoyable, but I felt like QT left some potential greatness on the table here, failing to explore her character more. She and Landa are the two intellectuals of the film, with each of them connected from start to finish.

Some (including Manohla Dargis at the NY Times) have been offended by QT's lack of respect for the horrors of WWII and the use of certain offensive references to the Jewish people. I think they're overanalyzing the film and missing the underlying assumptions held by the characters. No one is trivializing anything - this film doesn't try to heal wounds or give Schindler's List competition for the touchstone film of the genre. This is a fun, interesting and (at time) poignant film that will certainly be one of my favorite of the year. I love inventive, riveting filmmaking even if it has flaws.

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Weekend Box Office 8/21-23/09

Weekend total / % Change / Cumulative total

1. Inglourious Basterds: 37.6 mil / (-)
2. District 9: 18.9 mil / (-49%) / 73.5 mil
3. G.I. Joe: 12.5 mil / (-44%) / 120.5 mil
4. Time Traveler’s Wife: 10 mil/(-46%) /37.4 mil
5. Julie & Julia: 9.0 mil / (-25%) / 59.3 mil
6. Shorts: 6.6 mil / (-)
7. G-Force: 4.2 mil / (-39%) / 107 mil
8. Harry Potter 6: 3.5 mil / (-32%) / 290 mil
9. The Ugly Truth: 2.9 mil / (-36%) / 82.9 mil
10. Post Grad: 2.8 mil / (-)

Quentin has his biggest opening to date and the movie looks well-loved by the online geeks, making $100 million a possibility. District 9's drop is not too bad. And $5 million for each Bana butt cheek.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Summer Movie Releases - 8/21/09

Inglourious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino's take on WWII mission movies is getting surprisingly good reviews, especially Christoph Waltz as a Nazi officer. Violent, talky, funny, tense, unforgettable - sounds like a Tarantino movie. Brad Pitt stars as the leader of a group of Jewish-Americans hunting Nazis.

Post Grad
It's depressing to see Michael Keaton, Jane Lynch, and Carol Burnett play second, third, and fourth fiddle to something called Alexis Bledel, who allegedly is on a TV show called "Gilmore Girls" and has allegedly starred in both parts of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Depressing.

Baader Meinhof Complex

In 1970s Germany, terrorists try to fight off the new fascists, American imperialists, of course. Bruno Ganz (Hitler in Downfall) shows up as a police chief sympathizing with the radicals. This Oscar-nominated film is said to be authentic and unpredictable. In limited release. I'm there.

Five Minutes of Heaven

In 1970s Ireland, IRA and Britain are in the midst of a civil war. Murders occur and sentences are served. 30 years later, people will meet up again and deal with their past. Liam Neeson stars and Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall) directs. In limited release. I'm there.

My One and Only

In 1953, Renee Zellweger leaves her philandering husband (Kevin Bacon) with their 2 kids and tries to find a new man. In limited release. I'm not there.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

World's Greatest Dad - D

In theaters 8/21/09.

Another HDNET movie premiere, and the worst so far. Actually they've gotten progressively worse. See here, here, and here. Robin Williams plays Lance Clayton, a divorced single father who teaches poetry at the local high school. He always wanted to be a famous (and rich) author, but hasn't been able to get any of his 5 books published. Kyle, his teenage son is a rude pervert (a douchebag, as his own father calls him at one point) who uses internet porn when he isn't throwing misogynist statements around. When Kyle dies (Michael Hutchence style), Lance writes a fake suicide note, pulls his pants up, and moves the body. Then he writes a fake diary that inspires the whole high school and gets the fame he always wanted.

Needless to say, writer-director Bobcat Goldthwait has an impossible time with all the sudden tonal shifts. He rips off Magnolia shamelessly during a montage, and relies on shock words and situations for his comedy. Most movies start off with a good idea and then fail to reach their full potential. This one starts as a disastrous idea that only gets worse with the film's overacting and predictability. Williams is OK until his embarassing breakdown on a faux-Oprah show. Kyle (played by the kid from Spy Kids) is intentionally annoying. Cameos from Goldthwait and Bruce Hornsby don't help. The worst scene ever is near the end, after Lance confesses his many lies in public, then strips to the nude and jumps into the school's pool from a 10 ft. diving board. Thanks for the underwater full frontal male nudity. All the while, the excellent Bowie-Queen collaboration "Under Pressure" plays. Anyone want to see the movie about the dad who uses his son's accidental death to become famous? Anyone? D

For a better use of "Under Pressure", check this out, one of my all-time favorite trailers.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

5 More Songs From My Pantheon

I have previously posted 5 songs that are in my 'pantheon', which is the general designation my all-time favorite songs get. Here are 5 more.

Wonderwall - Oasis. Love the melodies and wall of sound in the chorus. This song is college to me.

Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana - Pietro Mascagni. This piece, which plays over the opening credits of Raging Bull (linked to above) and the closing credits of Godfather 3 (go to 2:45 and watch - great montage of the Godfather series, one of the best parts of a mediocre film), will be played at my funeral. It is at once tragic and blissful.

Click below for the next 3.

Karma Police - Radiohead. Phew, for a minute there, I lost myself. The last 2 minutes of this song are like church for me. Not to get too over-dramatic, but to me the song highlights the human condition and the chorus (stated above) is an ironic statement on the tenuous grip we have on our lives and how we don't really have control. Prefer album version, but this live version is worth linking to.

Landslide - Fleetwood Mac. Beautiful music and poignant lyrics - it gets me every time. Speaks to my melancholy tendencies. Also enjoy Smashing Pumpkins version.

Ruby Tuesday - Rolling Stones. I've recently begun to appreciate this song for how great it really is (and all of the Stones' catalogue for that matter. You win, Doc). The song is perfect in 2 of my favorite films, The Royal Tennenbaums (original version, starts at 3:44) and Children of Men, performed by someone with a cool accent.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New Trailers

1. Gentleman Broncos - The director of Napoleon Dynamite directs Jemaine Clement in Napoleonic farce about a home school kid and his rivalry with a famed sci-fi writer. Napoleon + Conchords = In.

2. Tron Legacy - Looks cool. This is for Priest, too.

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Time Traveler's Wife - C-

In theaters. Rated PG-13, 107 minutes. Trailer.

I was tricked by this trailer, which utilized a great song ("Broken" by Lifehouse) and good editing to make it seem like a decent romantic drama. Instead it was a plotless exercise devoid of character development or thought-provoking sequences. Eric Bana does great work with bad material, and Rachel McAdams continues her streak as the best romantic actress out there. Click below for more on why Eric Bana's butt is haunting me:

The premise of the film is that Eric Bana has a genetic disorder that causes him to time travel uncontrollably and randomly. He marries a woman (McAdams) and the film tells the story of their life, as impacted by his disorder. All the estrogen boxes are checked (first kiss, wedding, birthing scene), but none of the brain boxes are. We are thrust into their love for eachother, without ever seeing any real evidence or explanation of it, which is a major flaw. I didn't root for them to work it out, because there was no real rooting interest. There is a weak attempt to develop Bana's character, but it is not effective and really is just a distraction from the film. The usually genius Ron Livingston is wasted in a generic hipster friend role that adds nothing.

The filmmakers chose to have Bana time travel nude, so every time he goes to a new time he shows us his butt ("Banal"....rock me). His predicament is ridiculous and is used to no effect to show the power of love or anything else. A dumb film.

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HBO Sunday Night - 8/16/09

Hung: Episode 7
“The Rita Flower, or, the Indelible Stench”

Ray (Thomas Jane) gets some mixed signals from Jemma and tries to be his own pimp. Tanya (Jane Adams) meets Pierce (Joshua Leonard) in a bar and he tries to get her to write poetry again, leading to a meeting with her mother (Rhea Perlman). The addition of Perlman is nice, deepening Tanya’s character, but Leonard struggles to find footing with his character’s implausible set-up. The best scenes from the show so far have been between Ray and Tanya, and this episode was no different with Ray’s reaction shots at Tanya’s front door when Pierce is talking about eggplant. His confused and disapproving looks were hilarious . . .

But Tanya was front and center for this episode and the poetry stuff (mostly an internal cathartic thing) didn’t resonate. Given its premise, it’s surprising the show hasn’t got as sexually explicit as this episode before, which may be uncomfortable for some viewers. B

Entourage: Season 6, Episode 6
“Murphy’s Lie”

People making stupid choices is one of my pet peeves and in this episode, we had 3 (count ‘em!) out of 4 members of Vince’s crew doing that very thing. Vince allows a college girl to videotape him while they do it. Eric lets his new relationship unravel by lying to her (I can’t believe anyone – George Segal, in this case, would want to hire him if he wasn’t smart enough to realize that she knew the truth about Sloan right away). Worst of all, Drama roughs up his boss and commits career suicide.

The writers didn’t help anything early on by doing the same scene twice when Ari and Eric reconcile with their respective ladies. What was so great about last week’s episode - Fore (minimal plot, all character, great guest stars) went down the drain. Gary Cole was even severely wasted. Jeremy Piven was the only bright spot (as per custom the past few years) as Ari, spouting profane insults, promises, and declarations his usual aggressive, confident, hilarious way. C+

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Monday, August 17, 2009

One for Priest

I still haven't seen District 9 yet, but since Priest seemed to like it and Minority Report, I though he might like this.

And a German website has some movie stills of Shutter Island here.

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DVD and Blu-ray Releases 8/18/09

Bridge to Nowhere
Dexter: 3rd Season - #
Gossip Girl: 2nd Season
Hannah Montana The Movie - #
Hardbodies Collection
Husbands (Extended Cut)
Last House on the Left - #
The Last Starfighter - #
Sons of Anarchy: Season One - #
Spring Break
Surveillance - #
These Old Broads
The Simpsons: 12th Season
Tyson - #

Click below for this week's Blu-ray releases

Go - *
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
Kagemusha - (Criterion) - *
Playtime - (Criterion) - *

# - also on Blu-ray
* - Doctor approved

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

District 9 - B

In theaters. Rated R, 113 minutes. Trailer.

A gritty modern day science fiction film, District 9 is entertaining and at times thought provoking. After a huge spaceship arrives and hovers over Johannesburg in the early 1980's, humanity sends in a team that discovers aliens (looking like a mix of a cricket and a human) and then colonizes them in a fenced area (District 9). Analogies and symbolism fly all over the place, but the filmmakers keep it on the level and thankfully don't try to neatly resolve them all during the film. As a noted eye-roller at the whole sci-fi/fantasy genre, I was very skeptical, even with Lord of the Rings helmer Peter Jackson producing the film. Click below for more DISTRICT:

The film opens in a pseudo-documentary/investigation of events that have already occurred involving Wikus Van De Merwe, who was in charge of the eviction and relocation of the aliens (called, derisively, 'prawns') from District 9 when the process went haywire. We learn that since the colonization of District 9 there have been escalating problems between the prawns and humans. As a result the government decides to relocate the prawns to a new area, but have to serve them all with eviction notices pursuant to NIO (basically the UN) regulations. The government turns to Multi National United (MNU) a huge shadowy Halliburton-y type para-military organization/corporation to handle the move.

Wikus is chosen as the director of the effort and is the film's main character and protagonist. His character is instantly sympathetic as an affable guy with a slight edge. As he explains the interactions of the humans/prawns and leads the eviction process, his initial prejudice/disregard for the prawns is evident. His heavy-handed tactics are at odds with his congenial disposition - until he stumbles upon an intelligent prawn ('named' Christopher Johnson) and his son and has an unfortunate interaction with a substance created by the prawn. This interaction renders him a valuable commodity and forces him to seek shelter and assistance from the prawns, Christopher in particular. The remainder of the film has the two of them working together against MNU as their goals become intertwined.

The subject of how the prawns should be treated/regarded is a major theme, but isn't explictly discussed. They aren't human or from our planet, but they are intelligent and aren't (initially) overtly hostile. So, what rights and protections should be imparted to them? Human rights? Citizens of South Africa? Animal rights? The film shows that society has basically pushed the decision off and ended up giving them something approaching United Nations refugee rights. It is the most interesting piece of the film, and draws parallels with refugees, Guantanamo, immigration, racism, and diversity. To the filmmakers credit, these parallels are simply intrinsic to the story, and I didn't find it to be overtly political.

The action sequences are great, with Bride finding them too graphic. I did not, and I typically a 'gore-wenie'. Lots of cool fire fights and alien weaponry, along with a bumbling Wikus to get involved in all of it. The overall film is as realistic as a film like this could be (who am I to say there is no other life in the universe?) and avoids taking the easy way out of several situations. New director Neill Blomkamp uses some creative camera work and quick editing to the give the film a gritty feel and fast pace.

The film ends on an extremely sequel-riffic note, with Wikus fully integrated into the prawn lifestyle as he pines for his wife.

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Weekend Box Office - 8/14-8/16/09

Made for only $30 million, District 9 is hugely profitable. Funny People, made for $75 million, is sinking like a stone - only in its 3rd week and tied for 10th place.

Weekend total / % Change / Cumulative total

1. District 9: 37 mil / (-)
2. G.I. Joe: 22.5 mil / (-59%) / 98.7 mil
3. Time Traveler’s Wife: 19.2 mil / (-)
4. Julie & Julia: 12.4 mil / (-38%) / 43.6 mil
5. G-Force: 6.9 mil / (-30%) / 99.0 mil
6. The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard 5.4 mil (-)
7. Harry Potter 6: 5.2 mil / (-50%) / 284 mil
8. The Ugly Truth: 4.5 mil / (-33%) / 77.5 mil
9. Ponyo: 3.5 mil (-)
10. (500) Days of Summer / 3.0 mil (-19%) / 18.0
11. Funny People: 3.0 mil / (-62%) / 47.9 mil
12. A Perfect Getaway: 2.8 mil / (-53%) / 11.5 mil
13. Bandslam: 2.3 mil / (-)
14. The Hangover: 2.1 mil / (-38%) / 266 mil
15. Orphan: 1.7 mil / (-50%) / 38.4 mil
16. Transformers 2: 1.6 mil / (-47%) / 397 mil

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Summer Movie Releases - 8/14/09

District 9

Alien refugees are forced to live in South Africa and tensions rise with the local humans. A heavy-handed deliberation on race relations? Maybe. But the visuals (from first-time director Neill Blomkamp and producer Peter Jackson) look excellent.

The Time Traveler’s Wife

Eric Bana suffers from a rare (I'll say!) genetic defect that forces him to travel through time. Rachel McAdams plays his love interest. Based on a best-selling book, this thing is dripping with estrogen. Bana gets the summer versatility award with this, Star Trek, and Funny People.

It Might Get Loud

3 guitar players (Jimmy Page, Edge, and Jack White) hang out, play guitar, and get interviewed in director Davis Guggenheim’s documentary. The tri-generational approach is interesting, looking for some commonality. Guggenheim got the Oscar last time out for An Inconvenient Truth.

The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard
Jeremy Piven is hired to save a car dealership from bankruptcy. Ving Rhames and David Koechner go along for the ride. Looks somewhat funny, but the reviews are through the floor, making this a video rental – in 10 weeks or so.


Hand-drawn animation Japanese director Hayao Myazaki has never really worked for me. The animation is just not as great as the elitist critics insist. And the stories are always too strange for me to relate to. Don’t expect this to be any different. I didn’t bother with his last one (Howl’s Moving Castle), but found most of Princess Mononoke OK.


Teenage pop band rivalry where ex-boyfriends and girlfriends try to get even. For those of you who can’t wait for High School Musical 4. With Vanessa Hudgens and Lisa Kudrow.


Ashton Kutcher plays a high-end LA gigolo who meets his match when he meets his female counterpart (Margarita Levieva). Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, language, and pervasive Kutcherian douchebaggery.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

New Radiohead Song

Lead singer Thom Yorke posted the lyrics to a song about Harry Patch, the 111 year old last surviving soldier from World War 1, and included some interesting comments along with a link to the song. Click below for the Yorke comments and link to the song.

Harry Patch (In Memory Of)

'i am the only one that got through
the others died where ever they fell
it was an ambush
they came up from all sides
give your leaders each a gun and then let them fight it out themselves
i've seen devils coming up from the ground
i've seen hell upon this earth
the next will be chemical but they will never learn'

Recently the last remaining UK veteran of the 1st world war Harry Patch died at the age of 111.
I had heard a very emotional interview with him a few years ago on the Today program on Radio4.
The way he talked about war had a profound effect on me.
It became the inspiration for a song that we happened to record a few weeks before his death.
It was done live in an abbey. The strings were arranged by Jonny.
I very much hope the song does justice to his memory as the last survivor.

It would be very easy for our generation to forget the true horror of war, without the likes of Harry to remind us.
I hope we do not forget.

As Harry himself said
"Irrespective of the uniforms we wore, we were all victims".

Recently the Today program played the song for the first time and now it is available to download from our website.

Please go here to download the song

The proceeds of this song will go to the British Legion.

To peace and understanding.


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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

HBO Sunday Night - 8/9/09

Entourage: "Fore"
Season 6, Episode 5

The best Entourage episode of the season began (and ended) humbly enough with Eric and his new girlfriend Ashley getting along great until Sloan intrudes. In between these bookends were priceless situations and dialogue as the guys participate in a celebrity golf charity event. Everything guest star Mark Wahlberg did was gold and guest star Jeffrey Tambor was almost as good. My favorite moment was Ari (Jeremy Piven) beating the bag Lloyd is carrying with a golf club. And for a change, there were 2 great camera movements (both involving Eric and a golf cart) and some very strong editing choices that advanced the story. Too bad the least likable guys (Turtle and Eric) were given the well-worn events of not being able to carry through with your insult and saying another’s girl’s name, respectively. B+

Hung: Episode 6
"Doris is Dead" or "Are we Rich or Are we Poor?"

Hung continues to defy expectations, with Ray (Thomas Jane) unaware of where Jemma (Natalie Zea) is taking him (and us) early on, then somewhat surprised at his feelings toward the end. The basketball speech he gives to his players is not exactly verbatim to the “perfect” speech Billy Bob Thornton gives in Friday Night Lights, but it’s awfully close. But there’s so much under the surface and it was great to see Tanya finally meet Ray’s kids and his ex. The subplot of Ray’s ex (Anne Heche) and her new husband losing lots of money isn’t working nearly as well as everything else, but hopefully it’s leading to something great. B+

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Monday, August 10, 2009

DVD and Blu-ray Releases 8/11/09

17 Again - #
Alien Trespass - #
Almost Heaven
Fierce Light
I Love You, Man - #
London to Brighton

Click below for this week's Blu-ray releases

About Last Night…
Blue Thunder
The Class
Cutthroat Island
The Ninth Gate
St. Elmo’s Fire

# - also on Blu-ray

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Worst of the Worst

The Spirit F

Bestowing the title “The Worst Movie I’ve Ever Seen” on a film is not something I enter into lightly. So, understand it is with significant forethought that I announce my successor to No Where to Run, a film that’s held that honor since its release in 1993. (Cue the trumpets) without further ado, I give you The Spirit. It is awful. It is horrendous. To deem the dialogue nonsensical is to rob the plot of the only word worthy of describing it. I’d give you the rundown, but I’m still not sure I understand what was (supposedly) going on. So, I’ll just list what was wasted or destroyed in this monstrosity: The last shred of dignity clinging to Samuel L. Jackson’s career. Any question as to who actually directed Sin City (Robert Rodriguez or Frank Miller—both credited). Miller “directs” this mess, and while I don’t think the world of Rodriguez or Sin City, at least it hung together. A quadrilateral of babes: Eva Mendes. Scarlett Johansson. Paz Vega. Jamie King. Dan Lauria’s performance (actually pretty good). A decent allusion to Vertigo. The fledgling leading man career of Gabriel Macht. And, finally, roughly two hours of my time. It’s not that I’ve never seen films that had worse plots or worse acting or worse direction. But I’ve never seen a movie with this amount of talent that cost this amount of money that takes itself this seriously remain this awful.

The Mutant Chronicles C

In direct contrast to The Spirit, The Mutant Chronicles knows it’s awful. It revels in it. If you’re tempted to forget, it’ll create a particularly horrendous scene to drive the point home. There is talent to waste in this film as well—in particular John Malkovich and Ron Perlman—neither a stranger to slumming for a dime—but they’re having gleeful fun, daring you to take it seriously. The plot is apocalyptic zombie goo set several hundred years in the future, with odd religious and sci-fi overtones. Thousands of years ago an alien machine that turns corpses into mutant zombie killers (with claw-like appendages) was implanted on earth. It’s been reawakened, with certain death awaiting all of earth’s inhabitants who don’t get a golden ticket on a spaceship off this rock. Ron Perlman plays a priest with an ancient prophetic book who’s looking for a few brave soldiers to turn the machine off. The opening sequence was all that was released for a trailer last year and is over-the-top violent fun in a way only B horror flicks are. To be honest, grading it at all isn’t fair since it never asks you to take it even moderately seriously. I certainly can’t recommend it, but it seems disingenuous to mark it lower than a C since it is exactly what it sets out to be—sci-fi trash. C

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Weekend Box Office - 8/7-8/9/09

Weekend total / % Change / Cumulative total

1. G.I. Joe: 56.2 mil / (-)
2. Julie & Julia: 20.1 mil / (-)
3. G-Force: 9.8 mil / (-44%) / 86.1 mil
4. Harry Potter 6: 8.9 mil / (-50%) / 274 mil
5. Funny People: 7.9 mil / (-65%) / 40.4 mil
6. The Ugly Truth: 7.0 mil / (-53%) / 69.1 mil
7. A Perfect Getaway: 5.8 mil / (-)
8. Aliens in the Attic: 4.0 mil / (-50%) / 16.3 mil
9. Orphan: 3.7 mil / (-50%) / 34.8 mil
10. 500 Days of Summer: 3.7 mil /(+34%)/12.3 mil
11. The Hangover: 3.4 mil / (-35%) / 262 mil
12. Transformers 2: 3.0 mil / (-36%) / 394 mil
13. The Proposal: 2.9 mil / (-42%) / 155 mil
14. Ice Age 3: 2.6 mil / (-54%) / 188 mil
15. The Collector: 1.5 mil / (-59%) / 6.6 mil
16. The Hurt Locker: 1.3 mil / (-34%) / 9.0 mil
17. Public Enemies: 1.0 mil / (-61%) / 95.5 mil

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

In The Loop - B+

In theaters. Not Rated, 106 minutes. Trailer.

"You don't believe it, I don't believe, but it is a useful hypocrisy." This line, spoken during an argument in the meditation room at the United Nations, encapsulates the irreverent tone and fallen worldview of British political farce In the Loop. The film follows a pathetic and sniveling UK government minister as he gaffes his way to facilitating a declaration of war (along with the United States) on an unnamed Middle Eastern enemy. Along the way the staffers and superiors in England and the United States colorfully and masterfully eviscerate each other and deliver line after line of deliciously caustic wit. Click below for more LOOP:

Stephen Foster is the diminutive and bumbling UK government minister who is heckled at every turn by Malcom Pluck, the Tarantino-ish bile spewing spin doctor for the Prime Minister. After his amorphous comments about a war excite the press, he continues to throw fuel on the fire while his female and male aid struggle to keep him happy and advance themselves. On the other side of the pond, two high level US State Department bureaucrats are at war over the potential war, and their aids spar mercilessly as their superiors make idiots of themselves. James Gandolfini also stars as American general George Miller, an anti-war non-soldier that comically huffs and puffs througut the film.

There is minimal character development and only a sketchy plot, but the film works anyway because of its ability to provide a venue for such a cynical and crass (but realistic) worldview. Those that are in charge are idiots and they make decisions arbitrarily - while not entirely true, it also isn't too much of a stretch. Not for those that are sensitive to crude language.

Here a couple extremely NSFW clips: Clip 1; Clip 2.

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New A Serious Man Poster

It's looking like a great fall for movies. The Coens, Scorsese, Jonze, Cameron, Peter Jackson, Eastwood, Soderbergh, and Wes Anderson are all releasing major films. And that's not even counting the stuff not quite on radar yet. I've already got 3 A-'s for this year (Up, Public Enemies, The Hurt Locker); I only had 5 all of last year. The Coens A Serious Man is looking surprisingly strong. Click below for the fantastic poster.

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Friday, August 7, 2009

New David Gray

After a torturously long wait, singer-songwriter David Gray is back with a new album next month and a brief North American tour. The first single off the album is Fugitive, an instant favorite. The tour information and single can be found here (nothing in the southwest, natch).

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The Hurt Locker - A-

In Iraq 2004, Sergeant Will James (Jeremy Renner) leads an Army bomb squad which also consists of the doubting newcomer Specialist Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) and a rational, by-the book Sergeant Sanborn (Anthony Mackie). James is new to the team and his aggressive, unpredictable style is unsettling. Their differences will be set aside in the heat of battle when lives are threatened. The 3 lead actors are relatively unknown, with only Renner sorta recognizable from The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. There are no preconceived notions about the actors and they give realistic, interesting performances. The 3 familiar actors (Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, and David Morse) essentially have single scene extended cameos. They’re all memorable and exciting, and all provide some needed levity to the proceedings (especially Morse).Finally, we have a great Iraq War film, partly because it almost completely avoids politics, sticking to a tense film about what the men and women are going through over there. Unlike Three Kings which was filmed in Arizona, The Hurt Locker used Jordan as its filming location, and this gives a more authentic feel. Director Kathryn Bigelow paces the film beautifully and gives us one great action scene after another. Each one is unlike anything you’ve seen before. The scene of the year occurs when the guys are pinned down by snipers and Sanborn and James set aside their differences. Eldridge gets to redeem himself and Capri Suns are used for nourishment, implying the guys are just kids inside. Genius. Add some sand to the guys’ faces and some top-drawer cinematography and you have an instant classic scene.Renner is in nearly every scene and gives a remarkable performance, much more than a one-note adrenaline junkie. He’s just as good in a quiet scene with his infant son. The title comes from a box he keeps under his bunk and shows just how unusual, and yes, crazy, someone must be to do what he does, to like it, and to keep doing it. As unique as the film is, it’s can’t quite break completely from convention as some of the minor developments (the colonel doctor, some of the quick kills) are easily telegraphed. But these are minor quibbles in this first-rate film which is and will likely remain the defining Iraq War film for years to come. It may rise to a full "A" on 2nd viewing. Best film of the year so far. A-

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