Monday, October 24, 2011

The Tree of Life - A

On DVD and Blu-ray, Lawyer here, Priest here

Jack O'Brien (Sean Penn) is a success in the modern world but still haunted by the death of his little brother in the late 1960s and his tough upbringing even earlier in Waco, Texas. The majority of the film takes place when Jack is around 11 years old (and played by Hunter McCracken). His father (Brad Pitt) is a tough and critical, sometimes intentionally, as he tries to prepare his sons for a cruel world. His mother (Jessica Chastain) prefers her 3 boys to follow the Sunday morning teachings of grace, forgiveness, and love. Interspersed with the modern day scenes and the childhood memories are breathtaking visuals about the beginnings of the universe, earth, and man.

Combining the origin of the earth with the origin of a single man solidifies man's insignificance to nature as director Terrence Malick's central theme - prevalent in all of his films. His style is unmistakable - multiple narrators, often with a Southern accent; stunning cinematography in natural light; nature upstaging people; and striking use of music (less so here by Alexandre Desplat, but the classic musical choices are inspiring - especially this, this, and this). As in all of Malick's films, the plot is an afterthought - each film preferentially gets by on mood and tone.Many will find the film confusing, pretentious, boring, or all of the above. There are flaws - including too many close-ups for my taste. And you get the feeling hundreds of alternative editing choices could have been made without much difference in the final product. Brief snippets are seemingly from Malick's childhood memories and serve little purpose other than to prompt evaluation our own memories - and why they're remembered. Pitt never really pulls of the piano enthusiast portion of his character but is otherwise brilliant. The beach scene is labelled "Eternity" on the Blu-ray, with the final chapter being labelled "Was it a Dream?". Both are possibilities and there doesn't have to be one answer. It recalls the doozy finale of 2001: A Space Odyssey as it goes off the deep end with symbolism, imagery, and challenging (often clandestine) themes. But it feels a bit anti-climactic after all the real world greatness that precedes it.As someone who's tried to reconcile religion and science their entire adult life, the film couldn't have a better starting point. But it's the personal moments that hit the hardest and closest. Being excited when your overbearing, stern father leaves on a trip. The trauma of moving to a new town when you're young. The death of a childhood acquaintance - and your awkward response. How the outdoors feels when you're free to roam with friends. And on and on. I've gotten many things out of the film both times I've seen it and will be revisiting it often. It's a rare and mighty film that can help you come to terms with your past while encouraging you to become a better person (and father) in the present. A life-changer. A

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Tree of Life - Excellent Analysis

So, before Doc formally expands on his A for Tree of Life, here is the breakdown from Matt Zoller-Seitz on the film. Here is a link to the previous Malick film studies he has done.

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Zooey Deschanel, the Rangers, and America

Here is a video of Zooey Deschanel's rendition of the Star Spangled Banner from last night's World Series game. Keep watching for President George W. Bush's first pitch to Nolan Ryan.

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DVD and Blu-ray Releases - 10/25/11

Attack the Block - #
Captain America - #
Father of Invention - #
A Little Help - #
A Serbian Film - #
Shaolin - #
Tom & Jerry Golden Collection - #
Winnie the Pooh - #
Wrong Turn 4 - #

Click below for this week's Blu-ray releases

The Conversation - *
Dazed and Confused (Criterion) - *
The House by the Cemetery
Identification of a Woman (Criterion)
Island of Lost Souls
Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy - *

# - also on Blu-ray
* - Doctor approved

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Weekend Box Office: 10/21-10/23/11


1. Paranormal Activity 3: 54 mil / NEW
2. Real Steel: 11.3 mil / -31% / 67 mil
3. Footloose: 10.9 mil / -30% / 31 mil
4. Three Musketeers: 8.8 mil / NEW
5. Ides of March: 4.9 mil / -31% / 29 mil
6. Dolphin Tale: 4.2 mil / -33% / 64 mil
7. Moneyball: 4 mil / -26% / 64 mil
8. Johnny English Reborn: 3.8 mil / NEW
9. The Thing: 3.1 mil / -63% / 14 mil
10. 50/50: 2.8 mil / -34% / 29 mil

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Tone Remains the Same

Clearing the pictures off the laptop.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bad Teacher - B-

On DVD and Blu-ray, Rated R, 92 minutes

Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) is a middle school teacher because of, as she puts it, "shorter hours, summers off, no accountability". When her rich fiance breaks it off, she's forced to downsize her life and look for a new man. She thinks a breast augmentation will help and starts to save and steal money to afford it. In her classroom, she's terrible - mostly showing movies (like Stand and Deliver and Lean On Me). She finds the gym teacher (Jason Segel) funny but he doesn't have enough in the bank account. A new substitute teacher (Justin Timberlake) has rich parents but he's goofy, dense, and easily influenced. Another teacher named Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch) becomes her rival in many ways when Halsey breaks too many rules to count . . .

The R-rated dialogue is often hilarious. Diaz clearly loves playing the antithesis of her movie star persona. And indeed, part of the humor lies in the shock value of watching Miss Rom-Com curse and slut it up in front of the kids. The supporting characters are pretty good - especially Phyllis Smith (TV's The Office) as an agreeable confidant and John Michael Higgins as the dolphin-loving principal. Director Jake Kasdan keeps a light, humorous tone and successfully makes the audience side with the drug-abusing, vulgar, promiscuous opportunist over the hard-working, dedicated, honest educator - no small feat.

And therein lies the problem - you're supposed to be happy that Halsey overcomes Squirrel so completely at the end. But that is morally problematic at best. The screenwriters want to have it both ways - and Halsey's abrupt "redemption" at the end can't hide the fact that she's probably done irreparable damage to many students. But it's just a movie - and funny enough until your brain starts to analyze it. B-

The Wire alumnus: Deirdre Lovejoy - wasted as a concerned parent of an excellent student - a far cry from her accomplished and shrewd prosecuter Rhonda Perlman.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Melancholia - B+

Coming soon (Currently OnDemand). Rated R, 135 minutes. Trailer.

Danish Director Lars Von Trier has courted controversy lately with pro-Hitler comments in Cannes this past May and the genital mutilation, misogyny and overall weirdness of his previous film, Antichrist (including this famous demon voiced fox...). Despite all that, I was intrigued by his new film, Melancholia, because of its doomsday focus and 'normal' narrative. Starring Kirsten Dunst, Stellan and Alexander Skarsgaard, Kiefer Sutherland and Charlotte Gainsbourg the film is split into two parts, each focusing on a sister. Kirsten Dunst's Justine is the focus of the first chapter as her bizarre behavior ruins her own wedding. Gainsbourg's Claire is the focus of the second and much stronger chapter which focuses tightly on the family dynamics as a planet hurtles toward earth and may or may not collide with earth. Click below for more on MELANCHOLIA:

The title sequence of the film is set to Wagner and features a series of beautiful but odd stills and moving photos that don't really make sense in advance of the film, but let you know you're in store for a visually beautiful and challenging couple of hours. The first chapter at the wedding is hard to watch without knowing that Justine has visions of the future and that she is afflicted by Melancholia. There are several interesting frames and lots of insightful extended family explorations that are worth watching.

The second chapter reveals the real threat of annihilation and informs the first chapter as Justine's irrationality is explained. Throughout this portion of the film, the visuals are stunning and the music provides a mood that both ominous and hopeless.

Von Trier is a visual alchemist and this film does not disappoint. I found its commentary on the futility of life in the face of the end of the world to be very thought-provoking.

This is not for everyone, but I found myself thinking about the day after and really enjoyed it.

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Just Because

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

DVD and Blu-ray Releases - 10/18/11

Bad Teacher - #
Batman: Year One - #
A Better Life - #
Clone Wars: Season 3 - #
Monte Carlo - #
Pearl Jam Twenty - #
Peter Gabriel: New Blood - #
Pirates of the Caribbean 4 - #
Red State - #
V: Second Season - #

Click below for this week's Blu-ray releases

Cape Fear
The Crow
The Goonies
The Guns of Navarone - *
Willy Wonka & Chocolate Factory

# - also on Blu-ray
* - Doctor approved

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Weekend Box Office: 10/14-10/16/11

There were less choices in the 80s so even the mediocre films feel like "classics" since you saw them a dozen times on TV. Now that the 80s kids are running things, unnecessary remakes are a monthly event. This weekend there were 2 and hopefully the moribund box office returns will red light future endeavors. The slogan (This is Our Time) for the Footloose remake is hilariously un-self-aware. No, it was Kevin Bacon and Chris Penn's time. Get your own ham-fisted triumph-over-suppression flick.


1. Real Steel: 16.3 mil / -40% / 52 mil
2. Footloose: 16.1 mil / NEW
3. The Thing: 8.7 mil / NEW
4. Ides of March: 7.5 mil / -28% / 22 mil
5. Dolphin Tale: 6.3 mil / -31% / 59 mil
6. Moneyball: 5.5 mil / -26% / 57 mil
7. 50/50: 4.3 mil / -24% / 24 mil
8. Courageous: 3.4 mil / -30% / 21 mil
9. The Big Year: 3.3 mil / NEW
10. Lion King (3D): 2.7 mil / -41% / 90 mil
11. Dream House: 2.5 mil / -44% / 18 mil
12. Contagion: 1.8 mil / -38% / 72 mil

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

An Influence

Joan Allen gets approached in Manhunter . . .

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

DVD and Blu-ray Releases - 10/11/11

Bones: 6th Season - #
Chuck: 4th Season - #
Green Lantern - #
Horrible Bosses - #
Judy Moody - #
Tree of Life - #
Zookeeper - #

Click below for this weeks's Blu-ray releases

Aspen Extreme
The Bad Seed
Camp Nowhere
Dark Night of the Scarecrow
Disorganized Crime
The Family Man
Four Feathers (Criterion) - *
Indian Summer
Maniac Cop

# - also on Blu-ray
* - Doctor approved

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Ides of March - B+

In theaters. Rated R, 102 minutes. Trailer.

Ides of March tells the consultant/campaign manager side of a week inside a close presidential race. George Clooney directs himself as the candidate and Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei and Rachel Evan Wood as his surrounding cast. Gosling is the lead character, playing an up and coming media consultant that has bought into Clooney's governor for president character. This film could have been called swimming with sharks; it portrays the cut-throat nature of high-stakes politics, especially among the campaign staff and media. Click below for more on IOM:

Golsing is a true believer that learns the dark arts of campaigns, adapts, and comes out a hardened (and successful) operative. As he deals harshly with a bad situation, he quickly feels the same treatment and he is all the more hardened for it.

The film is bathed in gray and it informs the general cynical mood of the film. There are no good lessons to be learned here, as human nature plays out in the big time.

All of the actors are at the top of their game here, with PSH being extra-special. Clooney's candidate gets a little annoying as he spouts Clooney's personal Democratic views with such fervor. This is probably an A- for me just because of my special predisposition to politics.

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Weekend Box Office: 10/7-10/9/11


1. Real Steel: 27.3 mil / NEW
2. Ides of March: 10.4 mil / NEW
3. Dolphin Tale: 9.2 mil / -34% / 49 mil
4. Moneyball: 7.5 mil / -38% / 49 mil
5. 50/50: 5.5 mil / -36% / 17.3 mil
6. Courageous: 4.6 mil / -50% / 16 mil
7. Lion King (3D): 4.6 mil / -57% / 86 mil
8. Dream House: 4.5 mil / -45% / 14.5 mil
9. What's Your Number: 3 mil/ -44% / 10 mil
10. Abduction: 2.9 mil / -48% / 23 mil
11. Contagion: 2.8 mil / -42% / 69 mil
12. Killer Elite: 2.2 mil / - 56% / 21.6 mil
13. The Help: 2 mil / -34% / 163 mil
14. Drive: 1.8 mil / -45% / 30 mil

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

DVD and Blu-ray Releases - 10/4/11

African Cats - #
Fast Five - #
Ken Burns: Prohibition - #
Scream 4 - #
Bored to Death: 2nd Season - #
The League: Season 2 - #
The Walking Dead: 1st Season - #

Click below for this week's Blu-ray releases

Almost Famous - *
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
The Cider House Rules
Cinema Paradiso - *
Dead Alive
Harakiri (Criterion)
Jackie Brown
Last Exit to Brooklyn
Life is Beautiful
The Lion King - *
Pee-wee's Big Adventure
Pulp Fiction - *
Salo (Criterion) - ^
Space Jam

# - also on Blu-ray
* - Doctor approved
^ - Crap Alert

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Weekend Box Office: 9/30-10/2/11


1. Dolphin Tale: 13.9 mil / -27% / 37 mil
2. Moneyball: 12 mil / -38% / 38 mil
3. Lion King (in 3D): 10.6 mil / -52% / 79 mil
4. Courageous: 9 mil / NEW
5. 50/50: 8.6 mil / NEW
6. Dream House: 8.1 mil / NEW
7. Abduction: 5.6 mil / -49% / 19 mil
8. What's Your Number?: 5.4 mil / NEW
9. Killer Elite: 4.92 mil / - 47% / 17.5 mil
10. Contagion: 4.91 mil / -42% / 65 mil
11. Drive: 3.3 mil / -43% / 27 mil
12. The Help: 3 mil / -31% / 159 mil

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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Song of the Day - Mighty to Save, Hillsong (!)

Sure, I love the shock value of posting praise choruses as a song of the day. But, this chorus (my second post from Hillsong) is really, really good (especially 2:00 to 4:00). Almost makes me wish I wasn't burdened with my belief system.

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The Thin Blue Line - B+

On DVD (1988). Rated PG, 103 minutes. Trailer.

As a cinephile and a Dallasite, it is sad that it took me this long to watch Errol Morris' The Thin Blue Line. The documentary tells the story of the wrongful conviction and near execution of Randall Dale Adams by the Dallas County District Attorney's office in the 70's. Morris does a masterful job of presenting the facts in a reasonable and fact-based manner (Michael Moore should take notes) and the stunningly depraved attitude of the DA (their mantra was that any prosecutor could convict a guilty man but it took a real prosecutor to convict an innocent man). Worth your time - the film led to Adams' release and the Oscar for Best Documentary in 1988.

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