Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

World Trade Center on Miami Vice

Season 2, Episode 1: "The Prodigal Son"

Twin Towers are visible throughout the 2 part episode, including the climactic shootout at the ground level plaza.

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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday, January 2, 2012

Quick Hits on 5 Movies

1. Source Code - B. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as a tool of the military used in an experimental program for data extraction. He can travel back in time to repeat the 8 minutes prior to a bomb exploding on a train in order to try and find the bomber. Not exaclty mind-blowing, but I didn't mind the existential dilemma and the acting was good from a quality supporting cast (Jeffrey Wright, Vera Farmiga, Michelle Monaghan). A nice little 96 minute film.

2. Girl With a Dragon Tattoo - B+. My first reaction to hearing the news that David Fincher was remaking the original film, I was disappointed because I felt like it was a waste of time and a Fincher film. Even though I enjoyed the Fincher version very much, I still feel that way. Doc's review is right on. I loved the sound and score of the film, and the last hour was electric.

3. The Help - B+. I expected to hate this mommy book club film, but found it surprisingly touching and interesting. Great performances all around, especially from Jessica Chastain (exact opposite of her Tree of Life character). Plenty of cringe-worthy message moments and female stuff I just don't get, but it is definitely worth your time.

4. Warrior - B+. Priest raved about this one, and even still I had low expectations. I loved the darkness and its resistance to cliches. The uniqueness of the ending and the real damaged people on display were a treat. I was riveted.

5. The Change-Up - B-. Director David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers) does the classic changing places film with Jason Bateman as the sturdy father/lawyer and Ryan Reynolds as the loser bachelor guy. After they switch places, they have to play each other's roles. This one was roundly panned, but I laughed at several of the jokes. Not bad.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - A-

In theaters, Rated R for everything

David Fincher received unwarranted criticism for male chauvinism for 2010's The Social Network. But there's at least 3 great female characters - 2 lawyers and Rooney Mara's Erica Albright. Fittingly, Fincher's next film contains the greatest pop culture heroine since Marge Gunderson: Lisbeth Salander - the unforgettable tattooed, pierced, violent, bisexual computer hacker with a photographic memory. And Fincher chose Mara to play her - obviously appreciating her tough-talking, no-nonsense style. But she does plenty more than talk this time around . . .

If you've read Stieg Larsson's book or seen the original 2009 Swedish film, you'll remember journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig this time) losing a court battle and his credibility because of unproven allegations about a rival. He's hired by a rich family's patriarch (Christopher Plummer) to investigate a girl's disappearance 40 years prior. Eventually, Blomkvist enlists the help of Salander and the 2 uncover many horrific crimes involving rape, torture, murder, Nazis, child abuse, racism, and Old Testament justice.The cold Scandinavian feel of the original film is replaced by that distinctive Fincher feeling. While the original had the element of surprise, Fincher's stark visuals (the camera attached to Lisbeth's motorcycle, the slow approach to the houses, a clock subtly showing that Craig is enraptured by Plummer's story, etc.) easily compensate. Mara is surprisingly great both with emotion and accent. My favorite moment in the film is the look on her face when Craig says, "I want you to help me catch a killer of women." (see top photo) Craig is relaxed and natural - and just as good giving the opposite performance of James Bond - more passive, cerebral, and weathered. I loved the way he frequently tinkered with his glasses to help himself think.

The supporting cast (including 1980s bad guy Steven Berkoff, the noble Christopher Plummer, ER's Goran Visnjic, the still-beautiful Robin Wright, and Swedish native Stellan Skarsgard) is superb - some giving career best work. Steven Zaillian's script is excellent though lacking the Aaron Sorkin one-liners - which is fine since the film is supposed to be more deliberate and thought-provoking. The music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross lacks the melodies and originality of The Social Network but is perfectly appropriate for the pitch black subject matter and frozen landscapes.

The major flaws are an ill-advised opening credits sequence (which was way too James Bondish) and the film's uneven pacing - by trying to include the entire book, the film lacked fluidity and contained too many tangents and characters to keep straight. Though I imagine that will be remedied with repeat viewings. And I plan a lot of them. A-

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol - C+

In theaters. Rated PG-13, 133 minutes. Trailer.

Despite being somewhat of a film snob, I've generally enjoyed the Mission Impossible series, so the addition of Jeremy Renner and the direction of Brad Bird (The Incredibles) made the 4th installment seem promising. Unfortunately, this film is really just a boring slog with a few cool action scenes and very few funny lines. The plot is typical and the stunts and gadgets way too unbelievable for me, and the storyline involving Renner and Ethan Hunt's (Tom Cruise) wife is way too underdeveloped. Some of the scenes (especially the sandstorm) are cool, and Cruise is a magnetic star, but it is not entertaining enough to make up for the lack of plot or character development.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christopher Hitchens, RIP

I still remember seeing him for the first time in 1998 on Hardball with Chris Matthews. It was a pivotal moment, as I found someone that spoke to me in a way very few people ever have. He had plenty of faults and bad arguments, but we're all better off for being able to listen to his arguments.

On religion.

Best of everything else.

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Young Adult - B

In theaters. Rated R, 96 minutes. Trailer.

Charlize Theron stars as a shallow, damaged, and beautiful woman (Mavis Gary) battling depression and looking to her high school sweetheart to make her happy. The film is written by Diablo Cody and directed by Jason Reitman. I love dark films and unvarnished renderings of damaged people, but this one didn't deliver nearly as much as I thought it would. Theron is great in a dense and interesting role, but Cody and Reitman leave her floundering in a story that just wallows in her pain, with scene after scene just reinforcing her character. The trailer has most of the funny stuff. Weird movie.

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Songs of the Day

Two pop gems (really, I can't listen to either enough):

1. I Gotta Good Feelin' - Flo Rida. The artistry these days is in the production, and this one is firing on all cylinders.

2. My Heart's A Stereo - Gym Class Heroes, featuring Adam Levine. Try as I might, I can't deny Levine's talent. This is a brilliant fusion of a pop hook and a catchy, interesting rap song.

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Song of the Day - Tick of the Clock

By The Chromatics

A short version is on the Drive soundtrack. The longer, better version is here.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Favorite Lines

The Big Lebowski"Mr. Treehorn treats objects like women, man."

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Snap Judgments - a Quick Review of 5 Movies

Friends with Benefits

It begins superbly as Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis bounce dialogue off each other like a modern, vulgar His Girl Friday. Woody Harrelson and Patricia Clarkson provide excellent, hilarious support as her mom and his best friend. But then director Will Gluck (Easy A) tries to get the film to mean something and drags in Alzheimer's disease. And the film becomes exactly what it claims to detest during the cheesy singin' and dancin' finale where Timberlake woos her back. Still, can't wait to watch the first half again. B

A Better Life
An illegal Mexican immigrant (Demian Bichir) gets his truck and equipment stolen and goes looking for it with his son. That's the entire 98 minutes. Despite the good performance by Bichir, (especially great in a late, tearful farewell scene), the movie doesn't address any of the issues readily available to it. It comes closest when the son asks what's the point of so many poor people having children. But the father (hence the writer) won't or can't answer. I need another liberal guilt message movie like I need another mortgage. C+

30 Minutes or Less

Danny McBride and Nick Swardson strap a bomb to pizza delivery guy Jesse Eisenberg's chest to force him to rob a bank. He enlists his best friend (Aziz Ansari) to help him. Eisenberg is horribly miscast and seems to be in a different movie than everyone else. Lots of stupid people do stupid, mean-spirited, unfunny things. And the script leaves enough loose ends to hang itself 10 times. Cruel, misogynist crap. And sorta racist. It would be an F but it's only 83 minutes. D

Kill the Irishman
In 1970s Cleveland, a mob war has Danny Greene (Ray Steveson) smack dab in the middle - and he proves very difficult to kill. Despite the interesting true story, writer-director Jonathan Hensleigh can't elevate the material past cheap Goodfellas knock-off (which he seems to acknowledge when Paul Sorvino shows up toward the end). It's nice to see great actors like Christopher Walken, Val Kilmer, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Bob Gunton get tough-guy parts, but the film just sits there and you're left thinking how great they were in prior films. The amateurish special effects don't help matters. C

Your Highness

Danny McBride and James Franco are brothers who team up to save a maiden (Zooey Deschanel) from an evil wizard in the Middle Ages. Your overall take on the film will depend on how much you enjoy McBride's incessant vulgarity. His anachronistic one-liners are actually funnier than in modern era films - but occasional restraint and subtlety would be nice. The special effects and bathroom humor are embarrassing. And the gore is way overdone. C-

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Song of the Day - Don't Be Shy

By Cat Stevens

This one is always worth a revisit.

Don't be shy, just let your feelings roll on by
Don't wear fear or nobody will know you're there
Just lift your head and let your feelings out instead
And don't be shy, just let your feelings roll on by
On by

You know love is better than a song
Love is where all of us belong
So don't be shy, just let your feelings roll on by
Don't wear fear or nobody will know you're there
You're there

Don't be shy, just let your feelings roll on by
Don't wear fear or nobody will know you're there
Just lift your head and let your feelings out instead
And don't be shy, just let your feeling roll on by
On by, on by.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

I Melt With You - C

Rated R for language and drug use

4 college friends (now each 44 years old) meet every Spring Break in Big Sur for a week of relaxation and reflection. Richard (Thomas Jane) is a professor struggling to find inspiration for his second novel. Ron (Jeremy Piven) is a wealthy stock broker in trouble with the SEC. Jonathan (Rob Lowe) is a doctor who sells prescription drugs to addicts. Tim (Christian McKay) is tortured by the death of his boyfriend and sister who both died in an automobile accident when he was behind the wheel. A pact they made 25 years earlier will result in disastrous consequences . . .

For the viewer. What begins as an interesting discussion of adolescent naivete and real world adult problems descends into overblown depravity and despair. Early on as we get to know the characters, the natural charisma and great performances of the actors keep things interesting. Director Mark Pellington uses the beautiful landscapes well and expertly chooses songs to support scenes. Then, his music video origins get the best of him as the second half overdoes it with the shaky camera, quick cuts, and inappropriate close-ups. But the music is still good. So there's that.The biggest problem with the film is the lack of a single likable character. The college buddies take more drugs and drink more booze than everyone in Boogie Nights, Goodfellas, Blow, and Leaving Las Vegas combined. Seriously - enough to kill a herd of rhinoceroses. You certainly can't relate to them and will probably feel they richly deserve the miserable lives they have. By the time it finally ends, it's a relief, not a release nor epiphany. C

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Song of the Day - Paradise

By Coldplay

I've always had a soft spot for their melodies and sentimental lyrics. This one is a return to form after the last album's letdown.

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