Monday, May 31, 2010

DVD and Blu-ray Releases 6/1/10

Alice in Wonderland - #
Charley Varrick - *
Grace of My Heart
Life - #
Once Around
Red Baron - #
The Stranger - #
U2 - 360 at the Rose Bowl - #
The Wolfman - #

Click below for this week's Blu-ray releases

About Last Night/St. Elmo's Fire
Absolute Power
Air Force One/In the Line of Fire
Bad Boys
Crossing Over
The Enforcer/Sudden Impact
Every Which Way But Loose
The Fifth Element/Gattaca
First Knight/A Knight's Tale
Heartbreak Ridge - *
Kelly's Heroes/Where Eagles Dare - *
The Man with No Name Trilogy - *
Pale Rider
The Rookie
Space Cowboys
War of the Worlds - *

# - also on Blu-ray
* - Doctor approved

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Happy Memorial Day

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Song of the Day - 1901, Phoenix

I'm about a year late with this one, but the great riff and so-so lyrics are worth a listen.

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Weekend Box Office: 5/28-5/30/10

2 of the seemingly worst Memorial Day releases ever were unleashed on an unsuspecting public. These are dark times for popular American cinema. And I've run out of Iron Man 2 Scar-Jo pictures.


1. Shrek 4: 43 mil / -39% / 133 mil
2. Sex & the City 2: 32 mil / NEW / 46 mil
3. Prince of Persia: 30 mil / NEW
4. Iron Man 2: 16 mil / -39% / 274 mil
5. Robin Hood: 10.3 mil / -45% / 83 mil
6. Letters to Juliet: 5.9 mil / -35% / 37 mil
7. Just Wright: 2.2 mil / -49% / 18 mil
8. Date Night: 1.8 mil / -40% / 93 mil
9. MacGruber: 1.5 mil / -64% / 7 mil
10. How to Train Dragon / 1.0 mil / -46% / 213 mil

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dennis Hopper, RIP

A legend is gone.

My favorite Hopper scene ever (from Hoosiers)here. Hopper discusses his performance here. The NY Times's AO Scott discusses the film here.

My favorite Hopper scene (other than "Pabst", of course) from Blue Velvet.

Both of those films came out in 1986. Not a bad year for DH.

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Recent Viewings

Crazy Heart

Jeff Bridges's overdue Oscar was certainly deserved as he mumbled, sang, and scratched his way through Bad Blake's journey to sobriety, success, and adulthood. As his romantic interest, Maggie Gyllenhaal is perfectly fine as the starstruck lady with her priorities in line. Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall add a lot to the film as once and future acquaintances of Blake. The only misstep the film makes is Blake's ill-fated neglectful trip to a bar and the temporary loss of a child. It takes the easy way out instead of dealing with real problems and never really shows any balls (like The Wrestler or even Coal Miner's Daughter). But it's a minor complaint in this thoroughly likable film. Great music, great performances, and a pitch-perfect ending. A-

The Road
Unbelievably bleak and grim and depressing as hell. Viggo Mortensen couldn't be better as the father guiding his son through a post-apocalyptic grungy wasteland. While gangs of cannibals look for them, they struggle to find food and not have their stuff stolen. If you can get through the house where live people are stored for food, the second half becomes a highly intellectual treatise on humanity itself. And the emotional ending is an out-of -nowhere knockout that left me shattered. I'm not sure I'll ever watch this again, but I'm a better human being for having seen it. B+

The Messenger

Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson are terrific both separately and together as members of an Army casualty notification team. The interactions with grieving families are devastating - all the more so because writer-director Oren Moverman stages the scenes without cutting, allowing the actors to do their thing. But, after some great scenes with Steve Buscemi and Samantha Morton, later notifications feel sadistic and repetitive. Moverman tries to advance the story when Foster begins seeing Morton, but the screen chemistry just isn't there (like it is for Foster and Harrelson). Unlike The Road which starts slow and finishes strong, this one becomes less interesting as it goes along. B

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Friday, May 28, 2010

It's Complicated - C+

On DVD and Blu-ray

A divorced couple of 10 years (played by Alec Baldwin and Meryl Streep) is at their son's graduation in New York when they just happen to meet at the hotel bar and hit it off, going all the way. Trouble is, back in LA, he's married and she just started a romance with her architect (Steve Martin). All of the complications and ramifications (especially on their kids) are barely evaluated in this well-acted adult comedy that ultimately takes itself too seriously . . .

The film holds together pretty well for awhile largely due to the impressive performances of Baldwin and Streep. I actually prefer her better here than in her recent Oscar-nominated caricature performance in Julie & Julia. They feel like real people who've experienced a lot and their relationship is well-explored. Martin plays it much more subdued and honest than usual, thereby turning in a good (if castrated) performance. As their future son-in-law, John Krasinski has some very good moments keeping the knowledge of their affair to himself.But they're all undercut by writer-director Nancy Meyers (The Holiday, Something's Gotta Give) who delivers a lifeless, confusing, and humorless third act. The set-up is pretty good, but the ending makes enjoyable characters needy and pathetic (Baldwin) or shrill and selfish (Streep). Their children are woefully underwritten, making supposedly heartfelt scenes with them almost meaningless. And Streep's friends (including Rita Wilson and Mary Kay Place) - used well in 2 early scenes are completely forgotten by the end. OK for awhile, but you get the feeling Meyers didn't know where to go with it halfway through the writing process. C+

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Josh Ritter on NPR

Interesting interview and song can be heard here along with a contextual article and a video for "Curse". Priest and Europpraiser are trying to drag me onto this bandwagon...

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

New Arcade Fire!

Doc and I both love some Arcade Fire, so I was pretty pumped to see their first single "The Suburbs" off the album by the same name had dropped. You can hear it here or hear the b-side, "Month of May", here. Not sure I know what I think just yet, but "Month of May" is definitely the hardest rocking song they've had to date.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Song of the Day - Interstate Love Song

By Stone Temple Pilots

I haven't heard much worth posting on their newest album, but you can't take this mid 90s classic away from them. Great harmonies and a terrific lead guitar.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

DVD and Blu-ray Releases 5/25/10

Dear John - #
The Road - #

True Blood: 2nd Season - #

Click below for this week's Blu-ray releases.

City of the Living Dead
Seven Swords
Spartacus - *
Stagecoach (Criterion) - *

# - also on Blu-ray
* - Doctor approved

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Song of the Day - Brassneck

By The Wedding Present

Audio isn't the greatest on this link. And the video is obviously dated. But this Brit-pop-rock music, with its strong driving rhythm and terrific chords is something I revisit every year. Sounds much better on I-Tunes and CD.

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

World Cup Commercials

An odd source of entertainment, but great nonetheless:

1. Alejandro González Iñárritu's Write the Story for Nike

2. Fifa's commercial. Awesome marriage of soccer with U2 - Dentist may faint!

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Weekend Box Office: 5/21-5/23/10

Shrek 4 won the weekend but it's sum was low due to the underwhelming third installment. Audiences must have felt the same as Lawyer about MacGruber whose take was surprisingly low. The top 10 is rounded out by a Bollywood release.


1. Shrek 4: 71 mil / NEW
2. Iron Man 2: 26.6 mil / -49% / 251 mil
3. Robin Hood: 18.7 mil / -48% / 66 mil
4. Letters to Juliet: 9.1 mil / -33% / 27 mil
5. Just Wright: 4.2 mil / -49% / 14.6 mil
6. MacGruber: 4.1 mil / NEW
7. Date Night: 2.8 mil / -26% / 91 mil
8. Nightmare on Elm St.: 2.3 mil / -51% / 60 mil
9. How to Train Dragon / 1.9 mil / -63% / 211 mil
10.: Kites: 1 mil / NEW

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MacGruber - D+

In theaters. Rated R, 99 minutes. Trailer.

The latest Saturday Night Live sketch to be made into a movie is the recurring 1 minute MacGyver spoof, MacGruber. On SNL, the MacGruber sketches are almost always hilarious, with their laugh out loud scattalogical loopiness.Starring Will Forte and Kristen Wiig with Ryan Phillipe in support, the film delivers on its promise of no story or plot but is sorely lacking in the laughs that should make up for that. There are probably as many laughs in the film as there would be in 3 MacGruber sketches, and I've come to expect more from Forte, Wiig and their writing team. Click below for more on MG:

The film opens with MacGruber holed up in some sort of self-induced exile, after faking his own death following the murder of his wife at their wedding by Dieter von Cunth (Val Kilmer). Cunth has now obtained a nuclear bomb and the USA needs MacGruber to stop him. MacGruber reluctantly agrees and assembles a team to go after the bomb. After many trials, they succeed in stopping Cunth and Vicki and MacGruber get married.

I feel like this could've been funny if the writers had explored MacGruber's backstory or taken another angle that allowed the character to do more talking. The best parts of the film are his weird interactions with normal people, especially talking about his past. The writing is lazy and relies too much on f-bombs and unfunny sex jokes to make it work. I went in expecting a dumb comedy with lots of laughs - this is just dumb.

I will admit that the miata, the 80's soundtrack and the fact that he always removes his Blaupunkt car stereo every time he gets out of his car are all funny.

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Song of the Day - She Wears a Smile - Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights

These guys are the new biggest deal in town in Dallas. I suggest listening to She Wears a Smile and Pardon Me.

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Song of the Day - When You Were Young, The Killers

A modern classic from what's probably the best band of the 00's. Great video too.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Summer Catch - F

On DVD (2001). Rated PG-13, 108 minutes. Trailer.

A bout of insomnia led me to a movie I hated, but couldn't turn away from. Summer Catch tells the story of a pitcher/lawnmower (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) as he tries to make it on his hometown minor league team (he does!). Along the way he falls for a rich girl (Jessica Biel) whose dad doesn't want her to date a gardener but (spoiler alert!!) love overcomes and they end up together. Throw in Matthew Lillard as a horrifying re-tread of Tim Robbins' Wild Thing, Beverly D'Angelo's sad re-tread of Susan Sarandon and Brian Dennehey as the salty manager with a heart, and you have a movie that earns every bit of the F I gave it. The climactic scene (after a no-hitter by Prinze) at the airport is one of the funniest things I've watched this year.

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Song of the Day - Feelin' Satisfied

By Boston

Off their lesser known second album, this one has the great harmonies, the overproduced guitar, and the ridiculous lyrics that rival their best stuff.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Song of the Day - Peace Frog

By The Doors

I've listened to many of their songs many times, but this one is the only one I can never turn off. Especially love the band coming in together at around the 2 minute mark.

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Need to See it Again

Jim Sheridan getting it right. Daniel Day-Lewis's incredible talent not being wasted (I'm looking at you, Rob Marshall). AO Scott continuing his excellent film review video series.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Song of the Day - I Can Change

By LCD Soundsystem

New album out today. Nice driving rhythm here with some interesting lyrics about a relationship on the ropes.

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DVD and Blu-ray Releases 5/18/10

Extraordinary Measures - #
Invictus - #
The Messenger - #
The New Daughter - #
The Spy Next Door - #
Valentine's Day - #

Click below for this week's Blu-ray releases

Carlito's Way
9 Songs
Walkabout (Criterion)

# - also on Blu-ray

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Woody Allen on Aging

From Cannes this week:

"There is no advantage in getting older. I'm 74 now. You don't get smarter, you don't get wiser, you don't get more mellow, you don't get more kindly...nothing good happens.

"Your back hurts more, you get indigestion, your eyesight isn't as good and you need a hearing aid. It's a bad business getting older, and I would advise you not to do it if you can."

And don't believe what you see in the movies, he added. "[Getting older] doesn't have a romantic quality. You know, elderly characters in movies like 'Gramps' or 'Pop' or 'the backstage doorman' or something. Better to be younger and get the girl."

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Song of the Day - Release, Pearl Jam

A 'deep cut' off of the band's first album, Release still has it 19(!) years later. "I'll ride the wave...where it takes meeee".

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Weekend Box Office: 5/14-5/16/10

Iron Man 2 topped 3 newcomers including the latest Ridley Scott-Russell Crowe collaboration. Letters to Juliet (with Amanda Seyfried) and Just Wright (with Queen Latifah) probably had zero crossover audience despite both being romantic comedies. How to Train Your Dragon and Date Night are still holding well.


1. Iron Man 2: 52 mil / -60% / 212 mil
2. Robin Hood: 37 mil / NEW
3. Letters to Juliet: 13.4 mil / NEW
4. Just Wright: 8.3 mil / NEW
5. How to Train Dragon / 5 mil / -24% / 208 mil
6. Nightmare on Elm St: 4.6 mil / 50% / 56 mil
7. Date Night: 4 mil / -28% / 87 mil
8. Back-up Plan: 2.3 mil / -54% / 34 mil
9. Furry Vengeance: 2.2 mil / -50% / 15 mil
10. Clash of Titans: 1.2 mil / -52% / 160 mil

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Odds and Ends

1. Surprisingly funny/cool trailer for Jonah Hex - starring Josh Brolin, with John Malkovich and Megan Fox.

2. Song of the Day - Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way. GREAT country song from Waylon Jennings (love the "somebody told me...") From the Crazy Heart soundtrack.

3. Great trailer for Adjustment Bureau - looks cool and deals with free will, chaos theory and life. Starring Matt Damon, Emily Blunt and Terence Stamp.

4. For those in big cities - keep an eye out for Banksy.

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Snap Judgments - a Quick Review of 5 Movies

The Fourth Kind

An Alaskan psychologist (Milla Jovovich) discovers 3 of her patients are experiencing identical, horrific nightmares and that it may be the result of alien abductions. Documentary video and audio footage is edited together with reenacted footage very well by director Olatunde Osunsanmi. There are many creepy and shocking moments which will last with you for months. It also makes you confront which type of filmstock (video, 16 mm, 35 mm, etc.) is more "real" to you and why that is. Unfairly overlooked, you'll enjoy every one of the 98 minutes. Just don't research the backstory too much, because then you'll feel cheated. B

It doesn't know if it wants to be a gritty POW drama, a budding relationship lovefest, or (as its title would suggest) a fraternity exploration. Its 105 minute running time doesn't give enough time to do any of it well. But the performances are outstanding which was expected from Natalie Portman and a humorously relaxed Jake Gyllenhaal. Tobey Maguire is surprisingly great as the presumed-dead POW who comes home to find everything different. Director Jim Sheridan chose his material better this time out (last film - Get Rich or Die Tryin'!), but he's much better at making personal (In America) or Irish (My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father) stories. This whole affair seems a bit detached and too faithful to the original Danish film. B-

Paranormal Activity

In this low budget thriller, a couple investigates strange night-time occurrences by placing a video camera in their own bedroom. Comparisons to The Blair Witch Project are appropriate given the bad acting and the low-rent visuals. There are some genuinely creepy moments but credibility is strained when the film bends over backwards to get the duo to stay in their home when they really should have run far, far away. OK the first time, but I doubt there's anything to gain by an encore viewing. C+

Serious Moonlight
A successful lawyer (Meg Ryan) discovers her husband (Timothy Hutton) is cheating on her with a younger woman (Kristen Bell), then bounds and gags him in their vacation home to force him to fall back in love with her. The characters have no likable traits and the action is more suitable for the stage with basically one location. Does anyone really wants to see an unhappy couple fight for 90 minutes? The best scene is the last where there's a nifty little twist. Directed by Cheryl Hines! D+


Nimrod Antal is the most unpleasant director ever. It's hard to make Laurence Fishburne, Matt Dillon, and Jean Reno completely detestable, but Antal achieves this feat after doing the impossible and making me hate both Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale in his last movie Vacancy. In Armored, security guards decide to steal their own payload, but their most recent addition (Columbus Short) has second thoughts. Stupid characters, stupid violence, stupid plot, stupid dialogue, and the worst cinematography ever. Up next for Antal - Predators - you've been warned. D

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Daybreakers - B-

On DVD and Blu-ray.

In 2019, vampires rule the earth but humans and more importantly human blood needed for vampires to survive and thrive are rapidly dwindling. Without human blood, vampires devolve into winged, rabid monsters who attack other vampires. Ethan Hawke plays Edward, a vampire hematologist in search for a substitute for human blood. He's sympathetic toward humans and when he runs across a few, they decide to show him a potential cure for vampirism, which started from virus-transmitted bat bite. He meets Elvis (Willem Dafoe), a former vampire who was able to convert back to his human form, and they decide to confront Edward's former employers . . .

After some disappointing and overcooked turns in What Doesn't Kill You and Staten Island, Hawke gives a surprisingly touching and believable performance in a complex role. Dafoe has some redneck fun spouting some "hillbilly" lines, relishing in his comic relief role. But his face is far too angular to believe he's from the hinterlands. The rest of the cast is filled with mostly Australians (most notably Sam Neill as a shadowy executive) because the film is written and directed by Australian twin brothers Michael and Peter Spierig. They have a terrific sense of style both in sets and costumes but also in camera placement and cinematography. If they can shake their ridiculous film-geek obsession with gore and blood, they have tremendous potential.There are story structure problems (What happened to Neill's daughter?) and some lapses in logic (Why couldn't the vampires figure a way out to "farm" humans sooner?). And the film references The Matrix too heavily, but does strike some unique concepts. For horror and futuristic fans (i.e. those without a "lawyer" moniker), you could do a lot worse than this. I drew an economic parallel with the current non-working, non-taxpaying populace sucking the blood out of the country with wasteful entitlement programs. Almost a B, but its quick ending and predictable third act was somewhat of a letdown. B-

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Exit Through The Gift Shop - B+

In theaters. Rated R, 87 minutes. Trailer.

As an ardent fan of famed street artist Banksy, this film shot to the top of my most anticipated films of 2010 as soon as I heard about it. Semi-directed by Banksy, the film tells the story of Thierry Guetta, an eccentric Frenchman living in LA. Guetta falls in with the 'street artist' scene in the early 2000s through a family connection, and is soon hanging with several of the artists and filming their ephemeral late night exploits. His stated goal is to do a documentary about the street artist scene, but he has no such skills. Banksy gets entangled with him and turns the tables on him, sending cameras to document Guetta's foray into the art world under the name Mr. Brainwash and making the documentary about Guetta instead of Banksy. Click below for more on ETTGS:

The film features interviews with street artists Shepard Fairey (most famous for the arty Obama Hope poster), Space Invader, Swoon and a hooded Banksy. Given Banksy's penchant for trickery and irony, its hard to say if the whole film is a hoax or what he's trying to say. Taken at face value (which I do), it feels like a somewhat mean-spirited apology for unleashing Mr. Brainwash on the art world and an aggressive protection of Banksy's reputation (he allowed a quote of his to be used for a Mr. Brainwash show, but it was mistaken as a postive quote). It also serves as a classic send-up of the art world, mocking those that flock to Mr. Brainwash's show and actually by his crappy, derivative art.

Guetta and the street artists make fascinating subjects, and Guetta's life gives the film a decent narrative. The scenes showing Banksy and the other artists in action are really cool and worth the price of admission. Banksy's pieces appeals very strongly to me because of its social commentary and razor sharp wit. Its crazy that a guy doing graffiti may go down in history as the most celebrated artist of our time.

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DVD and Blu-ray Releases 5/11/10

Daybreakers - #
Edge of Darkness - #
Legion - #

Click below for this week's Blu-ray releases

The Edge
Hang Em HIgh
High Anxiety
History of the World Part 1
The Karate Kid - *
The Karate Kid Part II - *
M - (Criterion) - **
The Magnificent Seven - *
The Man in the Iron Mask
Marked for Death
Robin Hood: Men in Tights

# - also on Blu-ray
* - Doctor approved

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Song of the Day - Driven Under, Seether

Classic rock gem from one of my favorite bands. From 2:35 to 3:45 is my favorite 70 seconds of music of the last few years.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Kick Ass (Cannot Rate)

Kick-Ass is to Iron Man as indie comics are to Marvel. Not nearly so shiny. Not nearly sleek, with A LOT less money on the graphics, the marketing, and the presentation. And, along with that, a lot more freedom to tell the kind of story the artist wants to tell, and to tell it as down-and-dirty as he likes. Aaron Johnson is a 16-year-old loser who hangs out with his nerdy friends at comic books shops when he isn’t ogling is English teacher, getting rejected by his hottie locker neighbor (Lyndsy Fonseca), or surfing the web and engaging in the activities that tends to incite in adolescent males. To his credit, he decides to inject his life with a little more excitement so he orders a wetsuit and starts administering vigilante justice as superhero Kick-Ass. Problem is, he can’t come close to living up to his name. This leads Fonseca to take him in as her gay best friend, easily my favorite sub-plot as she invites him over for sleepovers, waxing parties, and general drive-a-straight-kid-crazy activities. He’s about to give up on the whole super-hero enterprise when a cell phone video of an attempted mugging intercession goes viral, making him a youtube phenom while getting the attention of local crime boss Mark Strong.

Enter Chloe Moretz (kid sister from 500 Days of Summer) as Hit-Girl and Nicolas Cage as Big Daddy. While Kick-Ass is doing a bit of vigilante justice, Hit-Girl shows up, drops the “C-word” and starts slicing and dicing gangstas while Cage supervises from a scope across the street. Seems Big Daddy has been training the 12-year-old to avenge her mother’s death in knives, guns, hand-to-hand combat, and sword play. Cage is his pre-plugs loose-canon, nut-job best, but there’s something a bit sickening about watching a father unload a clip on his little girl to show her the beauty of Kevlar. The rest of the plot goes more-or-less like you might think. Johnson gets in over his head, Hit-Girl and Big Daddy help him out, but compromise themselves in the process, hard-core, Matrix-inspired fight scenes ensue, and Johnson gets the girl.

There’s a lot to like in here. The fight scenes really are phenomenal. The set-up is original, believable (well, until the father-daughter act kicks up), and highly entertaining. The dialogue is fresh and funny, just nailing the angst of nerdy-smart-high-schoolers who know their days are coming. But there are some places I can’t go and the violence and sexualizing of a 12-year-old girl is one of them. This thing is a pedophiles dream like nothing since Natalie Portman in Leon. Moretz runs around in super-hero outfits when she’s not in a school-girl one. She gets shot, punched, beat, and thrown down so hard at one point you think she must have broke her back. She’s 12, mind you. She’s not an adult trapped in a 12-year-olds body or a Small Wonder-style robot who happens to appear 12. She is a pre-pubescent little girl fashioned by her father to be a killer who drops the C-word, violent impales men, causes a 17-year-old to say “I’m going to wait on that girl”, and generally is treated like an adult. The Japanese, leaders in the fetishization of everything, having been playing with this (and much more disturbing) uses of girls for a while in their anime. They generally assume that, if kids aren’t hurt in the production, no worries. But, they’re wrong for that. What’s more, they aren’t part of the most violent developed culture on the planet where this type of behavior towards children is far too common. For this reason, I can’t rate this movie nor endorse it.

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Iron Man 2 - B

In theaters. Rated PG-13, 125 minutes. Trailer.

Sometimes all sizzle and no steak is just fine. Such is the case with Iron Man 2, the much aniticipated follow-up to its wildly popular original (review here). Snarky comments, knowing narcissism, cool toys, great action scenes, and attractive female co-stars with just enough plot to get us through it. Robert Downey, Jr. is back as the cocksure Tony Stark, now thriving as Iron Man but suffering from the side effects of the energy core that keeps him alive. Ivan (Mickey Rourke), the Russian son of the man who helped Stark's dad create the technology behind Iron Man is out to seek vengeance for his father's dismissal. Click below for more on IM2:

Ivan surprises Stark with a similar 'power suit' with whips at an auto race in Monaco. Stark's chief competitor, Hammer Industries (led by a spot-on ridiculous Sam Rockwell) springs Ivan out of prison and has him work to create rival Iron Man suits. Stark struggles with his mortality, his relationship with his deceased father and his self-destruction. Scarlett Johannson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle and Samuel L. Jackson all appear at varying intervals to provide straight men and women for Stark's schtick.

But, who cares? I love the action sequences and the AC/DC. Usually I hate CGI and loud, summer movies, but Director Jon Favreau has repeated his ability to make these sequences fun, thrilling, and somewhat realistic. I particularly loved the Monaco scene and the fighting scene in the white corridor with Favreau and Johannson. Cheadle is a massive upgrade over Terrence Howard, who he replaced.

This is an empty calorie meal, but it sure tastes good.

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Song of the Day - Forever Young, Jay-Z and Mr. Hudson

Another great JayZ song, good grief. This is a remake of the Alphaville classic (featured in the Napoleon Dynamite dance scene).

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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Random Notes

1. Excellent essay on being a Gen-Xer. Many prescient comments from A.O. Scott.

2. Neil Young on a solo tour. Dates in Dallas, Austin, Houston in June. Not to be missed.

3. INCEPTION TRAILER. Yikes. I've watched it 4 times already - my most anticipated movie of the year just got more anticipated. Looks epic - let the top 100 of the teens begin. Written and directed by Chris Nolan (Memento, The Dark Knight) and starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

4. Winter's Bone Trailer. Drama about the Ozarks could be good.

5. Casino Jack Trailer. Documentary about Jack Abramoff from Alex Gibney looks great.

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Weekend Box Office: 5/7-5/9/10

Iron Man 2 kicked off the start of the summer movie season with a huge bang, taking the wind out of everything else. Romantic comedies and kids' films were relatively spared. The other major new release of the week - a shameless Mother's Day ploy - flopped. Most mothers would rather spend the weekend with their own babies.


1. Iron Man 2: 133.6 mil / (-)
2. Nightmare on Elm St: 9.2 mil / 72% / 49 mil
3. How to Train Dragon: 7 mil / -36% / 201 mil
4. Date Night: 5.3 mil / -30% / 81 mil
5. Back-up Plan: 4.3 mil / -40% / 29 mil
6. Furry Vengeance: 4 mil / -40% / 12 mil
7. Clash of Titans: 2.3 mil / -61% / 159 mil
8. Death at Funeral: 2.1 mil / -49% / 38 mil
9. The Losers: 1.8 mil / -69% / 21 mil
10. Babies: 1.6 mil / (-)
11. Kick-Ass: 1.5 mil / -67% / 45 mil
12. Oceans: 1.5 mil / -42% / 16 mil

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The Box - B

On DVD and Blu-ray

In 1976, a financially strapped couple (James Marsden & Cameron Diaz) have a box with a button dropped off at their house by a freaky burn victim (Frank Langella). They get $1 million if they push the button but a stranger will die if they do. A brief discussion of a person's responsibility to mankind as well as the collective good vs. individual success follows. When their decision is made at the 30 minute mark, you'll wonder how writer-director Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko, Southland Tales) will fill the next 90 minutes. Quite well as it turns out . . .

Midway through at a library, Marsden has several strangers following him around while Diaz arrives separately and independently for different reasons leading to some edge-of-your-seat moments. The big mystery is slow to unravel and when it finally does, the film loses momentum as it becomes predictable. Kelly's attempts at meaning and depth are noble but he's just much, much better at the geeky superficial tricks. His musical choices are terrific as usual. Not just source music like Derek and the Dominoes's "Bell Bottom Blues" playing at a banquet but the original score music (by the trio of Win Butler, Regine Chassagne, and Owen Pallett) which creates a terrifically creepy mood while giving great homage to Bernard Herrmann.Kelly also nicely takes his time developing the characters and seems to be channelling Kubrick both in dialogue delivery and pacing in the early scenes. Marsden and Diaz are surprisingly good as the doomed couple. Not surprisingly, the film eventually starts feeling like Donnie Darko both in tone and substance. Southland Tales was undone by being too complicated and ambitious and Kelly couldn't keep all the juggled balls in the air. He gratefully and gracefully keeps things simpler this time out. B

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Song of the Day - Still the Same

By Bob Seger

A couple of great chord changes during the verses and some accepting, insightful lyrics about one that got away highlight his best song. Things make more sense in retrospect.

You always won everytime you placed a bet
You're still damn good
No one's gotten to you yet
Everytime they were sure they had you caught
You were quicker than they thought
You'd just turn your back and walk

You always said
The cards would never do you wrong
The trick you said
Was never play the game too long
A gambler's share
The only risk that you would take
The only loss you could forsake
The only bluff you couldn't fake

And you're still the same
I caught up with you yesterday
Moving game to game
No one standing in your way
Turning on the charm
Long enough to get you by
You're still the same
You still aim high

There you stood
Everybody watched you play
I just turned and walked away
I had nothing left to say
'Cause you're still the same
You're still the same
Moving game to game
Some things never change
You're still the same

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Friday, May 7, 2010

The Pacific - B+

On HBO Sunday Night

There hadn't been a "real" war in over 2 decades when Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan and Terence Malick's The Thin Red Line were released within 6 months of each other in 1998. Not only were the first class directors in top form, they were complete, perfect opposites with one going for the guts and one going for the head. War movies haven't been as popular since 9/11 with audiences more in the mood for the fantasy worlds and escapist superhero movies. This may explain the muted response to the HBO miniseries The Pacific, which has attempted to merge elements of Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line. There's just so much horror in the real world that no one needs any more of it from the TV . . .

The series follows the stories of 3 specific marines as they fight from Guadalcanal to Okinawa. First is John Basilone (Jon Seda), the Medal of Honor receiving hero of Guadalcanal who's sent home to raise money for the war effort before training troops and returning to Iwo Jima. Next is Robert Leckie (The Departed's James Badge Dale), a novelist and poet, observing and reporting (and fighting). Last is Eugene Sledge (Jurassic Park's Joseph Mazzello), another author who we follow from boot camp to Iwo Jima. The choice for 3 (at least) stories to follow (that never merge) gives some separation between the characters and thus the audience. Things were different in Band of Brothers where we bonded better with the characters as they bonded with each other. Maybe that's the point, but it leaves things scattered and detached.

If you haven't watched the first 8 episodes, you've missed some startling, fierce battle scenes, great acting, and the occasional insightful remark from the characters. There are also important history lessons that should be known by all, not just History Channel freaks. Basilone is rightly celebrated and nobly portrayed, even more interesting in some ways when he has to deal with his newfound celebrity. Leckie's sad, quiet eyes allow the viewer to reflect and gauge how they would respond. Sledge's descent from wide-eyed patriot to distraught, battle-hardened veteran is something to behold. I can't wait for the last 2 episodes but I can't say the first 8 were always pleasant, with brutal violence, suicides, evidence of castrations, and men clinging onto their souls. If you've made it this far, you'll see it through. If you're interested in history and challenging TV, you'll seek it out. If you've got too much stuff going on in your life right now, you're not alone. I'll take the bitter horse pill of reality over the ice cream headache of Iron Man 2 every single day of the year. B+

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

2012 - C

When the stars align on the winter solstice (Dec. 21) of 2012, the earth's core begins to melt which results in the earth's crust shifting drastically. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis ensue, potentially leading to the destruction of the human race. Good thing some crafty astrophysicists predict it and prepare the major governments and billionaires of the world. If you've seen any of Roland Emmerich's previous films (Independence Day), you know he can destroy national landmarks as good as anyone. But you're also in for forced relationships, unsympathetic characters, and crappy dialogue . . .

2012 is no different, except this time, we get a lesson on how Christianity is stupid and Buddhism is awesome. His last disaster movie (The Day After Tomorrow) already established the white people suck and third world countries are superior and Emmerich definitely stresses that point this time out as well (don't call us, we'll call you, Haiti). E.G.: at the end, the survivors have to start civilization again in Africa. The visuals are pretty astonishing, especially the escape from LA where John Cusack drives a limo before flying in a private jet. The CGI has definitely improved over the past few years, with the faux-oceans much more convincing than in, say, The Perfect Storm. But it ultimately signifies nothing and only lays the foundation for Emmerich to throw some left-wing sucker punches.Cusack looks bored, as does Amanda Peet and George Segal. Oliver Platt sinks his teeth into his villainous right-wing, private industry character. Woody Harrelson has some fun playing a crazy, radio-transmitting wacko in Yellowstone National Park. Somehow, Chiwetel Ejiofor retains some dignity while spouting both Emmerich's pseudo-science mumbo jumbo and his liberal platitudes. Wish Emmerich was half as good a writer/director as Ejiofor is an actor. C

Action scenes: B+
Rest of film: D-

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - B+

In theaters. Rated R(!), 152 minutes. Trailer.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a Swedish film based on a crime novel by Swedish author Stieg Larsson. Equal parts psychological thriller and classic mystery novel, the film was the quicket 152 minutes I've ever spent. It tells the story of a fallen high-profile reporter's investigation into the decades old disappearance of a scion of a wealthy family. He is aided by an enigmatic and strange young girl with a talent for computers, research and vengeance. Click below for more on the most popular movie in the history of Scandinavia:

The film begins with reporter Mikael Blomkist losing a libel trial and getting hired by the patriarch of Swedish conglomerate The Vanger Group to investigate the 40 year old mysterious disappearance of a niece from the family's private island on the Swedish coast. We are also introduced to the enigmatic Lisbeth Salander, a hacker for a high-end security firm. Her goth looks and curt manner stand out in conventional Sweden, especially in her interactions with the firm's clients. One of her subject is Blomkist, whom she is so interested in she chooses to track his computer on her own time, ultimately helping with his investigation and joining him on the island.

Lisbeth is a riveting character, balancing a look I don't find appealing with a magnetic aura. Her character unpeels like an onion throughout the film and your perceptions of her change with each revelation. She is subjected to some of the worst treatment I've seen on film in 2 of the most uncomfortable scenes I can remember. Don't worry though, she gets her revenge.

Blomkist is interesting enough, and the Vanger family plot unravels like an oldtime mystery thriller with its Nazis, secrets and sadistic conclusions. This feels like a 90 minute film and there are important revelations and scenes throughout. That's all I can reveal about the plot in good conscience. There are several moments that the film reminded me of both Zodiac and Seven, which is interesting because I read after I saw the movie that David Fincher is considering adapting the film for US audiences (please don't David).

I bought into the film, especially Lisbeth's character and found it much more engaging than the major critics (EW, NYT, NY'er). There are several small scenes (archives, computer guy, parade picture research) that are really great and intense. The film has something to say about men and Europe - I viewed it as an interesting comment on the supposedly superior societies of Scandinavia since there is so much depravity shown. I found the bookends of the film pretty weak, especially the beginning - had it been better, we'd be looking at an A-.

Worth your time - be aware that there are 2 very rough sexual scenes that will be uncomfortable for women.

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DVD and Blu-ray Releases 5/4/10

Hamlet (2009) - #
Leap Year - #
Nine - #
Tetro - #
Tooth Fairy - #

Click below for this week's Blu-ray releases

Doctor Zhivago - *
Escape from LA
K-19: The Widowmaker
The Notebook
Saving Private Ryan - *

# - also on Blu-ray
* - Doctor approved

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Cool Guy Terrorist?

Worst guy ever.

At least Khalid Sheik Mohammed didn't have a bluetooth.

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Monday, May 3, 2010

Oceans - C+

In theaters. Rated G, 84 minutes. Trailer.

Since only about 5 G-rated movies come out per year, my brood made our way to Oceans this weekend, lured by the lush trailer and Disney brand. The film delivers on several stunning visuals (not exactly hard to is the ocean) but the narration and 'storytelling' is sorely lacking. I found it to be aimless and without any story. One odd note is that I did enjoy the sound - the filmmakers somehow managed to get the sound of the marine creatures ambling around the ocean floor.

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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Weekend Box Office: 4/30-5/2/10


1. Nightmare on Elm Street: 32.2 mil / (-)
2. How to Train Dragon: 11 mil / -30% / 192 mil
3. Date Night: 7.6 mil / -27% / 74 mil
4. Back-up Plan: 7.2 mil / -41% / 23 mil
5. Furry Vengeance: 6.5 mil / (-)
6. The Losers: 6 mil / -36% / 18 mil
7. Clash of Titans: 6 mil / -33% / 154 mil
8. Kick-Ass: 4.5 mil / -52% / 42 mil
9. Death at Funeral: 4 mil / -50% / 35 mil
10. Oceans: 2.6 mil / -57% / 13.5 mil
11. Last Song: 2.3 mil / -39% / 59 mil
12. Alice in W-Land: 1.5 mil / -34% / 330 mil

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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Insane Clown Posse Reacts to Ridicule

The endlessly entertaining video from the horrifying 'horrorcore' rap group Insane Clown Posse has been ridiculed widely, including on Saturday Night Live and right here on DLP. I never imagined that the whole thing would lead to a front page story in the Arts section of the New York Times. Nevertheless, here is the article, which made me aware of the fact that the much revered SNL parody commercial for Kickspit Underground Rock Festival is actually based on the infomercial for 'The Gathering', an annual concert for ICP fans- ALL 14 MINUTES IS MUST WATCH if you like the Kickspit commercials. ICP has provided me more laughs in 2010 than anyone else.

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