Saturday, August 30, 2008

Tell No One (Ne le dis à personne)

As of August 31st, I will no longer be posting here at blogspot. But come and see me at my new place over at, and update your feeds to Thanks!

If you look up this film, you're bound to read its tag line: Eight years ago, Alex's wife was murdered. Today... she e-mailed him. You may also come across words like 'thriller' combined with words like 'intense.' If I had that information before going into the theater, I would have written off Tell No One (Ne le dis à personne) as some action flick with poor acting and worse scriptwriting. It is anything, but that.

The film is based on the book of the same title by American author Harlan Coben. I haven't read the book, but with a screenplay this complex, I must read it's source material, and is now definitely on my TBR list. No One comes from director Guillaume Canet (My Idol, J'peux pas dormir) who is one of France's highest paid, and lusted after actors.

While Canet has a small role, he directs an all star cast that oozes with talent. The opening scene introduces us to Alexander Beck (François Cluzet), and his wife Margot (Marie-Josée Croze) at an idyllic, deserted lake. After laying together on the dock, Margot decides to go back to the house. Once out of view, Alex hears a scream, when he goes to check on her, he's hit in the head with a bat and falls unconscious in the water. It then cuts to 8 years later. Alex had been investigated in the disappearance/murder of his wife, but had been cleared of suspicion until some new evidence re-opened the case. He also receives a mysterious coded e-mail which leads him to a video that suggests his wife may not be dead, that the unrecognizable body they buried under the name Margot was a fake.

From that point on there are twists, and turns, and police chases, and serial killers, and conspiracies. However, although it sounds sensational, it doesn't feel that way at all. The film isn't based on these factors alone, it's based on its characters, and thanks to dedicated development we can relate and suspend our disbelief with almost no effort. While the film runs just over two hours, it certainly doesn't feel that way. Canet masterfully keeps his cast, his characters, his plot, his camera angles, and his vision in check and the result is mesmerizing and engaging. It's clear Canet took some cues from recent successful French and European thrillers like unendingly disturbing films Cache and Voorloos (The Vanishing), but he takes those cues and makes them his own.

Rottentomatoes: 91% - Cream of the Crop:95%

Although this is not an official Lit Flicks Challenge entry, it would be the perfect candidate since it's based on a book...and I saw the movie! That's all it takes folks to be involved. The challenge starts September 1st, so sign up here, and check back soon! After all, you're probably reading books, and watching movies anyway, why not win prizes for doing so?

Friday, August 29, 2008


As of August 31st, I will no longer be posting here at blogspot. But come and see me at my new place over at, and update your feeds to Thanks!

Sometimes mixing three of my favorite things isn't a good idea. For example: going to movies, sleeping, and toast: not a good combination. But in the case of Rushmore, it worked really well. Wes Anderson, Bill Murray, and Jason Schwartzman mix real nice.

Having finally watched this film, I've now exposed myself to Anderson's entire oeuvre (yeah, I know it's only 5 feature length films, and one short film, but still...). All were a hit except for that one misstep, 'The Life Aquatic,' and we'll pretend that never happened.

Rushmore was written through a team effort from Anderson himself and his college buddy Owen Wilson (which explains the Luke Wilson cameo). The film follows Max Fischer (played by Jason Schwartzman) and his overly ambitious endeavors at his prep school, Rushmore. This is Schwartzman's first film, and has since entertained us with his hilarity in movies like I Heart Huckabees and Sophia Coppola's Marie Antoinette. At Rushmore, Max befriends Herman Blume (Bill Murray), the father of some of his fellow classmates, and falls in love with elementary school teacher Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams). The three promptly fall into a quirky love triangle in classic French New Wave style.

I like to think of Wes Anderson as a sort of Tim Burton on Prozac. Not to say Anderson is any less original than Burton, but he has a totally original, distinctive, and pleasing style. His more recent projects The Darjeeling Limited, and The Royal Tenenbaums follow in the same suit.

Rushmore is hilarious and doesn't depend on the crassness and potty humor trend that comedies seem to be following these days. Murray and Schwartzman make a great team and I wish they'd work together again, (Side note: although they both haven't actually been in the same film together since, they both went on to star in films directed by Sophia Coppola who is Schwartzman's cousin. Once again, proof that all the things I love are interconnected).

I've heard this film described as a 'boy movie.' But it's not true. This film is for everyone!

Rottentomatoes: 86% - Cream of the Crop: 76%

Rated R for language and brief nudity.

(If you decide to buy this film, be sure and get the Criterion Collection edition, and read the blog 'Stuff White People Like' about Wes Anderson films.)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The House Bunny

As of August 31st, I will no longer be posting here at blogspot. But come and see me at my new place over at, and update your feeds to Thanks!

Yeah, I saw it. So what? Sometimes there's nothing else out there except a Ben Stiller movie that's getting decent reviews but you hate him so, so much you've vowed never to see another of his movies again. So yeah, I saw The House Bunny.

Bunny comes to us from director Fred Wolf (who also wrote and directed 2008's Strange Wilderness, which received the dubious honor of a 0% rating on rottentomatoes...). The story follows Shelley, a Playboy bunny kicked out of the Playboy mansion when she turns 27. Without any direction in her life, she stumbles into the world of college sororities and fraternities, decides to become a house mom, and whips a bunch of misfit co-eds into slightly prettier, more shallow versions of themselves.

This film would be a complete loss if it weren't for it's star Anna Faris, who is completely hilarious. Even though they beat some of the funnier jokes to death, her comedic timing is pitch perfect, and I laughed out loud almost every time she opened her mouth (at least until the last 30 minutes when the film just completely falls flat on its face). It's really a miracle what she can do with such a shite script. She is the only reason (if there are any) to see this flick.

Wait for the DVD on this one.

Bitchin' Stars: * out of ****

Rottentomatoes: 40% - Cream of the Crop: 29%

Rated PG-13 for sex-related humor, partial nudity and brief strong language.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Being John Malkovich

As of August 31st, I will no longer be posting here at blogspot. But come and see me at my new place over at, and update your feeds to Thanks!

I'm ashamed that it's taken me so long to see this fantastic film, directed by Spike Jonze. I'm not sure what my hesitancy was in watching it, except for some bad memories of John Malkovich in that 3 musketeers movie from when I was, like, 10. Anyway, this movie blew me away.

Spike Jonze started out as a music video director. Directing videos for Bjork, the Beastie Boys, and others, he developed quite the style, which is immediately evident with his direction in Being John Malkovich. Some directors that make the Jump from music videos to film put all their effort into style, and let the content (plot lines, character development, etc.) slide (unfortunately, Tarsem falls into this catagory, even though The Fall is one of my favorite films this year). Fortunately for Jonze, Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation) wrote one helluva script that leaves you completely satisfied and yet wanting more.

The script was fresh, entertaining and wickedly funny. One of my favorite parts follows:
"Excuse me, are you John Malkovich?"

"Yes, I am."

"Wow, you're really, uh, great in that movie, where you play that retard."

"Oh, thank you very much..."

"I have a cousin who's a retard."

"...oh, thank you."

"Yeah, so, um, as you might imagine, it means a lot to me to see retards portrayed on the silver screen so... compassionately."

"Well thank you very much, I appreciate that. Good night."

Read here for more memorable quotes from the movie. If I can't convince you to see this movie, those quotes will.

All the players are remarkable. Cameron Diaz isn't even recognizable as Lotte, the frumpy wife animal-lover, that believes she's transgendered, once experiencing lovemaking with a woman from Malkovich's point of view. There's her husband Craig (John Cusack), who just wants to share his artistic vision with the world as a puppeteer and resents his wife for wanting children. There's Craig's co-worker Maxine (Catherine Keener, who is the true star of the show) who falls in love with Lotte, but only when she inhabits Malkovich. I've always felt the Academy has snubbed Catherine Keener, but they finally recognized her fantastic performance in this movie with a nomination nod. Craig discovers a small door in his office that serves as a portal to the conscious of John Malkovich. Because he's in love with her, Craig shares this with Maxine who decides to rent out the experience afterhours to those who want to be somebody else. And finally there's John Malkovich who is, as always, (except that musketeer movie) tremendous.

I can't praise Malkovich enough. It is endlessly entertaining, and I gaurantee you will lose yourself in it, if you only give it a chance.

Rottentomatoes: 92% - Cream of the Crop: 92%

Rated R for language and sexuality.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Dead Girl

I don't know why, but as I perused the aisles of Blockbuster the other night (aisles that I have practically memorized), this DVD just happened to catch my eye. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's a subconscious fascination with the morbid. Anyway, I picked up The Dead Girl and was astounded at the list of what I consider to be A-list actors, and at the fact I'd never even heard of this 2006 release.

When I saw Brittany Murphy listed, my mind made an inaudible, 'Ahhhh' (Ahhhh in the bad, disappointed way, not like the Ahhhh you make when you see puppies). But then I continued to read: Toni Collette, Giovanni Ribisi (okay, he's questionable), Rose Byrne, James Franco (who only won me over last week with his performance in Pineapple Express), Josh Brolin, Marcia Gay Harden, and several others. Then I asked ChaCha what it got on RottenTomatoes and was pleasantly surprised to find out it received 74%. This resulted in a renting. An ensemble cast like that had to at least be interesting.

The film is made up of several vignettes with simplistic titles like 'The Stranger,' 'The Mother,' 'The Dead Girl.' Each vignette varies greatly in interest (often connected to the acting talent of the main players), although all are disturbing in there own way. In the same vein as Robert Altman's Short Cuts and P.T. Anderson's Magnolia, each seemingly unrelated story ends up being related, in some way or another, to the discovery of the body of a dead girl. I definitely can't say that all parts of the film are worth watching, but some definitely are (particularly the section with Rose Byrne).

Writer/director Karen Moncrieff doesn't have much experience writing or directing (to date, she's stuck mostly with TV, including directing an episode of Six Feet Under). But still there's something to her direction, the film definitely has some shining moments. The Dead Girl failed to achieve it's lofty ambitions (I'm pretty sure the limited release on December 29th meant she had award season dreams), but deserves respect for it's attempt at originality.

Rottentomatoes: 74% - Cream of the Crop: 63%

Rated R for language, grisly images and sexuality/nudity.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lit Flicks Challenge from

My sister has a ridiculously well run book review blog at She's created a bitchin' challenge/blog festival that you should all participate in. Since she reviews books and I review film, we decided to collaborate and review the following subjects: books made into film, films made into books, film about books, books about film...really any subject that combines literature and film, hence the title of the challenge 'Lit Flicks.' And we want you to participate!

Check out all the information here. There you'll find all the rules and regulations, as well as information about how to get in on all the giveaways and activities we'll be hosting from now until Oscar month (February).

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Movie Madness!

My good blogging buddy Jen is hosting Movie Madness at her site Go over there, check it out and participate in the celebration of movies!

And don't forget I'm moving my movie reviews to my very own domain name. Check it out at

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Brideshead Revisited

It's difficult to compare this movie to the novel it's based off of when I've never read it. But if the film is similar to the book, I think that I'll probably pass on it (no offense to Evelyn Waugh). There is so much content shoved into this 1 hour and 40 minute film, I never really quite understood what direction Julian Jarrold wanted to go.

The first third of the film was incestuously and erotically charged (a la The Dreamers by Bernardo Bertolucci). The story follows Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode) as he begins his studies at Oxford. While there, he becomes friends with the flaming homosexual Sebastian (played ever so creepily by Ben Whishaw), who happens to be royalty, and the son of Lady Marchmain (the wickedly talented Emma Thompson who may have, with this performance, joined the ranks of royal British actresses like Judi Dench and Helen Mirren). Sebastian has a sister, Julia (Hayley Atwell). Between the two siblings is something odd, and disturbing. While Ryder experiments with Sebastian, he also becomes involved with Julia. And it's really really weird.

Then the movie quickly changes pace (don't take this to mean the pacing is quick, it's not, it's very very slow). It's as if Evelyn Waugh decided to stop writing about homoerotic skinny dipping in the estate's pond, and decides to pontificate on her feelings about the church... You see, Ryder is an atheist (no, not agnostic which would be more acceptable, but atheist) who is living in sin with a man, but wants to marry Julia, which Lady Marchmain, the extremely pious and self-righteous Catholic simply can't put up with.

As the rest of the plot unfolds, the piousness of Lady Marchmain and her children's fear of disappointing her ruin life after life, and there's sub-plot after sub-plot that just sort of loses the viewer. Is this about sex (can it really be about sex with a PG-13 rating)? Is it about the evils of the Church of England and Catholicism? Is it about something deeper? I can't tell!

It's not that the movie isn't beautiful. Filming locations are remarkable, giving it such a grandiose, and beautiful feel, that you can't help but be transported back into that time. The real pride of the film is in the acting. Emma Thompson (as mentioned before) steals the show and every scene she's in. The younger actors shine as well. Matthew Goode, who has shown us his talents in bigger films like Woody Allen's Match Point, and lesser known indies like The Lookout, proves he can carry a film as the leading man.

While this movie isn't fantastic, I'd suggest a viewing, given the fact the pickin's are kind of slim right now. Maybe Waugh fans will catch lots of meaning that I managed to miss. Do watch the trailer though, it's great!

Rottentomatoes: 68% - Cream of the Crop: 69%

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

This movie blows. I'm embarassed I paid $8.25 to see it. I'm embarassed I invited a good friend, and my brother-in-law. Admittedly, we went for the sole purpose of poking fun, but nevertheless... I'm embarassed for Brendan Fraiser and Jet Li's CGI-ed face that morphs into a three headed dragon, and even more embarassed for the yetis representing Jesus taking mortally wounded Fraiser to a pool of magical water where a bath (or baptism-you say tomato, I say toe-mah-toe) saves his life.

The most entertaining part of this movie is that people actually don't understand why Rachel Weisz didn't reprise her role for this third installment. Hahahhahahahahahah.

Don't go see this movie. Go see Mamma Mia, or that movie about girls that share pants.

Rottentomatoes: 9% - Cream of the Crop: 10%

James Taylor

In a rare deviation from the usual pedantic ramblings about films no one really cares about, I'm going to mix this blog up.

I'm not sure how to review concerts. I don't know much about music unless it's obscure Canadian post-rock bands, or misunderstood Icelandic geniuses.

What I do know, is that the James Taylor concert on Monday was bitchin'. Cindy gave me an early birthday present and we witnessed the musical deity play for a hearty two and a half hours at the outdoor Amphitheater in Kaysville. Never have I been so entertained by a 60 year old man scatting blues songs making jokes just like my dad ('...I was abroad for a year. Wait, that didn't come out right...). Plus, hearing the music I grew up on live was more meaningful than even the Celine Dion concert I attended last year (and she even sang 'My Heart Will Go On').

All this magic was preceded by a wickedly delicious (okay, not delicious, but hilarious) and entertaining dinner at Hooter's (please visit our local Hooters on the corner of State St. and 7200 S. in Salt Lake, business seemed a little slow).

What a bitchin' night.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Beat My Heart Skipped

France's 2005 thriller De Battre Mon Coeur s'est Arrete (The Beat My Heart Skipped) is one of those movies you just shouldn't miss. It's a shame that subtitles will scare away so many from such a fantastic film.

Based on the book by Tonino Benacquista, directed by Parisian Jacques Audiard, this movie seems to come out of nowhere and grab you by the balls. The first time I saw this movie was in 2005, the year it was released, but a recent re-viewing reminded me of just how bitchin' Heart is.

The plot follows our protagonist Thomas Seyr, as he follows in his bastard of a father's footsteps making money in shady real estate deals. Some may term these deals 'criminal,' but hey, this is France, they let 12 year-olds drink and smoke. It becomes clear he has a history of studying the piano (obviously due to his deceased mother) and an opportunity presents itself to 27 year-old Tom to take up the piano again, possibly to a professional level, or continue on his current path of crime.

His father (who makes Tom often do his dirty work) manipulates his son into believing he must choose between music and family. The occasional shitty best friend and love interest make appearances and play their parts as well. The plot may sound simple enough, but Audiard is to directing what Thom Yorke is to post-rock. Audiard makes this movie so compelling you can't take your eyes off the damn screen, and you won't want to either. All performance are first-rate, making some scenes pretty difficult to watch because they're so believable (lead Romain Duris is freakishly gifted).

The cinematography is brilliant, the camera movements, angles, the images captured in each shot make on-screen poetry. All this is coupled with one of my favorite soundtracks ever. It's a masterful score that puts the icing on the cake, mixing classical ranging from Rachmaninoff and Brahms to Bloc Party to Telepopmusik's 'Breathe,' creating a feel and atmosphere you won't be able to forget. Tom reminds us in the film, 'it's not about making money, it's about art.' And Audiard never forgot that.

While the film's not rated, be prepared for elements. No nudity (sorry pervs), but language and violence would probably warrant an R rating from Fascist censor Nazis at the MPAA.

Rottentomatoes: 85% - Cream of the Crop: 78%

Finding a decent quality trailer for this film on YouTube was kind of hard. So I posted a couple, one in French that I think has better editing, one with writing at least in English (you can pretend it's that deep voiced guy that says stuff like, 'In a world, where nothing else matters...), and one where a guy put a bunch of the film's scenes to a Radiohead song that I liked. So, enjoy!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Going to see X-Piles wasn't a complete waste of time. Well, the 100 minutes of tense music, enthusiastic Mulder and perpetually skeptical Scully was a waste of time, but the trailers before hand provided some very interesting prospects for the near future. Of which the most promising is Blindness.

This movie seems to have everything going for it. Literally, everything. It's directed by Fernando Meirelles. The man we can thank for the near perfect City of God, and the 2006 Oscar favorite The Constant Gardner. This Academy Award nominated director knows his stuff, if you don't believe me, watch either of the two previously mentioned movies, give me a call, and I'll say I told you so.

Blindness is based on the book of the same name, written by Portuguese Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago, the plot follows a city wide epidemic causing blindness in 90% of the population. The city's ultimate and immediate goal becomes containment of the infection. Those afflicted are quarantined to an abandoned mental hospital, where they are left with meager food rations and no contact with the outside world. Left completely to their own devices, a sightless, savage society is formed based on greed and brutality. Power is left in the hands of those that control food and supplies. Left to their own devices, this 'society' quickly devolves and loses it's humanity (a la Lord of the Flies).

The cast offers an endless supply of some of the most talented actors in Hollywood today. The Julianne Moore (Magnolia, Boogie Nights, Children of Men) plays the wife of a Mark Ruffalo (Zodiac, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) who's infected. She follows him to the quarantined hospital, keeping her sight a secret while leading/protecting the underdogs. The film also stars the wickedly talented Gail Garcia Bernal (The King, Babel), Sandra Oh (Hard Candy, Sideways), Danny Glover and scores more. Check out the full cast here.

Blindness is set to be released September 26th and while it's not yet rated, if it stays true to Saramago's novel, it will most likely be rated R. Check out the official movie site at

Check out the following trailers and teasers as well (some of which feature the ridiculously awesome original score to Danny Boyle's Sunshine).

Official Trailer #2

Official Trailer #1

Teaser Scene 1

Monday, July 28, 2008

X-Piles: I Just Didn't Believe

It's hard to review a film you completely didn't care about in the first place. I never watched the TV series, and I think I caught about 85% of the first film on TBS. If truth be told, I only watched this movie because I had a short window of time that needed to be filled and neither Mamma Mia! nor Space Chimps had times that fit my schedule.

Director Chis Carter brings us this second feature length installment in the X-Files (and final hopefully?). Both Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny reprise their roles and Scully and Mulder. After the four year hiatus, the sexual chemistry between the two is still as strong as ever (why can't they just be together?), and their performances never miss a beat. They share exactly one on-screen kiss in I Want To Believe and one awkwardly filmed scene that shows the two in bed (not too much is shown...Scully was just not in the mood)

The boring part of this film is that even though some slightly mysterious events lure the two out of retirement, their involvement in the case doesn't advance the investigation at all. The film gets really creepy when, get this, the pedophile psychic leading FBI teams to frozen, severed limbs hidden in the Virginian wilderness starts to cry BLOOD! It's sooo weird. Can't you hear the theme music now?

Two thirds of the way through the movie, all creepiness comes to a screeching halt, and Carter apparently started taking his cues from made-for-TV movies and it's difficult to stay focused for the remaining 20 minutes or so.

Granted, I don't know enough about X-Files to say whether or not the cult following will enjoy this or not, but I can pretty much guarantee the average viewer will be somewhere in between bored and underwhelmed when viewing this movie.

Rated PG-13 for violent and disturbing content and thematic material.

Rottentomatoes: 35% - Cream of the Crop: 27%

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tuesday's Meme...about Film!

This is NOT a MySpace survey, or anything similar. This is simply a number of questions that will help you understand my movie choices and reviews. Any resemblance to a networking website chain-mail survey is purely coincidental.

Name a movie you’ve been meaning to see forever: The Graduate is definitely one I've been meaning to check out. But I'm always attracted to the the outer wall at Blockbuster with all the seductive new releases...I'm also working to view the entire works of Stanley Kubrick, and Andrei Tarkovsky (but I need to take both of these directors in small installments).

Steal one costume from a movie for your wardrobe: That tux that James McAvoy wears in Atonement was dope. I'd only to get use it when I'm invited to upper-class meals in 1930s England, but still....

Your favorite film franchise is: The non-pretentious answer is probably James Bond. I was a fan of the Pierce Brosnan dynasty, but the new Daniel Craig era has ushered in a sexier, more orgasmic reign of Bond that keeps me coming back for more. It also helps that the first 'new' Bond girl was the goddess Eva Green. The pretentious answer is Lars Von Trier's "Golden Heart" trilogy in which the heroines remain naïve despite their actions (the trillogy includes Bjork's Dancer in the Dark,

Invite five (living) movie people over for dinner. Who are they? And Why would you invite them?

Angelina Jolie - Mostly because I'd like to discuss the living conditions of refugees, her work as a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN, and to ogle her.

Edward Norton - Because he's brilliant, and most like the most talented actor in Hollywood right now (Daniel Day-Lewis doesn't count as part of the 'Hollywood crowd' because he's so pretentious). His movie choices have never failed to disappointment, although I haven't seen the Woody Allen musical he starred in in the early ninties...

Noah Baumbach - The Squid and the Whale and Margot at the Wedding spoke to me more than most recent contemporary films. He's got a terrific voice.

Sophia Coppola - Her films The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation capture something completely unique in my opinion, and picking her brain would be terrifically interesting. Also, embarassingly enough, I thoroughly enjoyed Marie Antoinette (but don't tell anyone I know).

And Lastly...Paul Thomas Anderson - Someone with the ability to masterfully direct films ranging from Boogie Nights, Magnolia (one of the best movies ever), Punch Drunk Love, and There Will Be Blood, must have some sort of impressive genius that I would love to discuss.

What is the appropriate punishment for people who answer cell phones in the movie theater? There is no appropriate punishment. These people shouldn't be allowed to visit that theater for a very extended period of time after this infraction. They should also have some sort of fine imposed on them that is roughly equal to 3 days pay. For a college student, that's like $60 bucks, for Bill Gates, it's probably $6,000,000 bucks. People in all tax brackets should be equally afraid to disrupt my moving going experience.

Choose a female bodyguard: Carrie Anne Moss. Did you see her in action in her bitchin' leather suit in The Matrix? She frightens me, and turns me on, it's the perfect mix.

What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever seen in a movie? Remember the scene in Se7en when they cover the 'Lust' scene? You can see the clip here, it's kind of bad quality, but not too graphic. The patron of the prostitute was forced to kill her in a ridiculously awful away. The actor who plays the unfortunate patron forced into murder deserved award nominations for his convincing portrayal of a man who's lost his mind because of what he was forced to do. That scene will stay with me 'til the day I die. The last time I saw that film (2003) it messed me up, and messed me up real good. Second would be the amount of claustrophobic, edge-of-your-seat intensity I felt throughout the entire film The Descent. That movie is really, really scary.

Your favorite genre (excluding "comedy" because that doesn't even count as film): Drama would be hands down. The complexities of realistic human drama provide more than just entertainment, but an insight to society, and sucks the viewer into a world outside of their own. And THAT is what makes great film.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Dark Knight

I will no longer be posting here at blogspot. But come and see me at my new place over at, and update your feeds to Thanks!

There’s not really much left to say about ‘The Dark Knight.’ It was a fantastic film. But everybody knows that. One visit to TDK Rottentomatoes page will reveal critic after critic falling all over themselves to praise this film almost to no end, calling it a classic, comparing it to Scorsese’s ‘The Departed, and De Palma’s ‘The Untouchables,’ and giving it Oscar buzz like the year was already over and we already knew what the holiday season will bring.

I enjoyed the film, a lot. I’ll probably go see it again. Heath Ledger was haunting and brilliant in his performance, the action was endlessly entertaining (the more elaborate scenes were filmed in IMAX). But I left the theater feeling slightly underwhelmed. This isn’t Christopher Nolan’s fault, who deserves such high praise for reminding us that high-budgeted, big studio movies can be more than just mindless drivel. It wasn’t the actors’ fault (the cast was stellar; let’s thanks the folks with Scientology who mind-controlled Tom Cruise into forbidding Katie Holmes from reprising her roll as Rachel, Maggie Gyllenhaal is a better actor than Holmes will ever be.). But I daresay it was the fault of the studio who previewed this film so much to critics, so far in advance, that I’ve been expecting a damn near perfect film since mid-June.

The studio really couldn’t care about this side effects of building such rapport. They already have their great reviews, they already have (according to early estimations) the highest grossing opening weekend of all time. So no one was really hurt I suppose.

I’ve had a few such experiences, when a movie is built up so much that I feel a little let down (I know someone who is definitely not me who was underwhelmed upon his first viewing of ‘The Godfather’ due to this very reason).

Of course, all this media fanfare about the movie doesn’t make the movie itself any less well made. The two and a half hours literally flies by as you’re mesmerized by Aaron Eckhart as Two Face, Michael Caine as Alfred, the twisted love triangle between Harvey Dent, Bruce and Rachel, and all the other goodies that Nolan used to weave this masterful web. My one other qualm with TDK is this: Where’s Christian Bale? It’s granted that this was Heath Ledger’s moment to shine (even more so with this being his last performance) but Bale is wicked talented, and definitely needed more screen time. He’s the reason ‘Batman Begins’ was so revitalizing for the franchise, he should have been given more opportunity to show his acting chops.

Friday, July 18, 2008


Now, I know a lot of people really like Will Smith. Who wouldn’t, with mega rap hits like ‘Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It,’ and fan pleasing blockbusters like ’MIB 2.’ But it seems to me that he has a bit of a Messiah complex. And his big studio cronies will pretty much do whatever he wants because a movie starring Will Smith has like, a 50% percent chance of being in the top 100 high grossing films ever (see: I Am Legend, Men in Black, Independence Day, etc., etc.).

Hancock seems to be just an excuse to let a Smith be Superman. Another movie where he saves the world! But not the Superman we all know, this is the BET version, complete with horrible one-liners and everything! Remember on the trailer where the little kid tries to alert Hancock to the bad guys, and he responds, ‘Whatchu wan? A cookie?’ That’s about as good as the scriptwriting gets…sorry Smith fans.

Hancock is directed by Peter Berg (the guy you can thank for bitchin' hits like 'Smokin' Aces' and 'Corky Romano'). Even coupling the actions scenes with chart topping hits like, ‘Move bitch, get out the way’ fail to bring any sort of emotion to the viewer. Now, not everything was so bad, Jason Bateman plays Ray, the guy without character flaws who just wants to save the world and believes so much in Hancock that he uses his PR skills to change out Los Angeles sees him (I’m not sure why though, the sober Hancock is even less fun than drunk Hancock. His comedic timing is spot on, just like all his other endeavors (bring back Arrested Development!) .

Charlize Theron plays Ray’s wife Mary, who spends a lot of time gazing at Hancock with a worried look…might she have something to hide?! We all know she has the chops to deliver a solid performance, but maybe she was as bored with the script as I was and played Mary with such lackluster, I was actually entertained at how little she seemed to care.

There are some plot developments, twists we’ll call them (although they’re not really interesting enough to be called twists, more like little bends in the plot line) that aren’t completely obvious, but aren’t really engaging either. If you’re dead set on watching this movie as most Smith fans will be, see this while it’s still in theaters, I shudder to think how even more deeply underwhelming it will be on your 32′ TV.

Rottentomatoes: 37% - Cream of the Crop: 38%

Remember: I'm moving my blog to, so go over there! And change your links or bookmarks. Thanks!

Monday, July 14, 2008

I'm Back

After a brief hiatus, I'm back in the blogosphere. I had surgery last week and chose to not try and write anything coherent while under the influence of various drugs meant to ease my pain.

Also, I've started a website outside of the world of blogspot. It's definitely a work in progress, but I'm going to post my reviews there as well as here for a while. Check it out if you get a chance:


God knows I really wish I remember watching this film. As it were, I can't remember very well since I had just had surgery and was enjoying (perhaps a little too much) my oxycodone prescription when I saw 'WALL-E.'

Maybe it's for the best as I'm usually a naysayer when it comes to animated films. I didn't so much enjoy 'Toy Story' or 'Monsters Inc.' I did like 'The Incredibles' a whole lot. That movie was great. It's this hit-and-miss record that made me nervous to pay money to see PIXAR's latest.

I do remember enjoying myself. I remember vague references to 'E.T.' and Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey.' I also remember a whole lot of fat humans. Even through my hazy, pain-killer high, I saw the ruthless satire of an indulgent society bent on ruining earth in favor of watching some sort of screen (tv, computer, iPod, etc.). Had I not been so relaxed, I probably would have been annoyed at PIXAR judging me, but at the time it seemed fitting, deserved, and terrifically entetaining. I remember laughing at WALL-E and his comical adventure that eventually returns all the fatso humans back to earth to clean up the mess they left.

So, yeah. I probably wouldn't have enjoyed this movie without my Percocet, but it was vastly entertaining. You haven't been this endeared by a robot since...ever.

Friday, July 4, 2008

From the Library: Enduring Love

Occasionally I will be reviewing films from my DVD library. This--is the first.

'Enduring Love' is one of those movies that will stay with you long after the credits finish rolling. This is in large part thanks, no doubt, to Ian McEwan, the author of the book from which this film is adapted. Anyone familiar with McEwan's work recognizes the power of his written word. His book 'Atonement' also inspired the 2007 Oscar contender. Scriptwriter Joe Penhall (who wrote the script for this fall's much anticipated 'The Road) is credited with 'Enduring Love's' adaptation.

'Love' is directed by Roger Michell (The Mother, Notting Hill) and was released in 2004. He wastes no time showing is talent at creating raw energy and suspense. In the first scene of the film, a quiet meadow is disturbed by a hot air balloon with two passengers ripping through out of control. The only witnesses (including Joe, played by Daniel Craig, and Jed, played by Rhys Ifan) rush to the aid of these two, attempting to pull the balloon down to safety. Just as the task is almost accomplished, a burst of air takes sends the balloon airborne again. The group of men hanging on to the basket hang on as long as they can, but each drops to the ground as they raise higher and higher. All, except one man, who clings on as they float higher and higher. Eventually he drops from a terrific height to a gruesome death.

It's from this magnificently shot scene that the movie starts its story line. You see, Jed feels that he and Joe share an intense, personal, and erotic bond having shared this horrible experience. He quickly shows signs of obsession, showing up in Joe's life in all the strangest places. He insinuates himself deeper and deeper into Joe's life, bit by bit, showing up at odd moments and then shadowing him with a persistent desperation Joe cannot understand or escape.

The film is shot beautifully. It's worth the price of a rental if only for the opening sequence. Daniel Craig performs solidly along side Bill Nighy (who, despite his small role, can't help but steal the scenes he's in) Joe's girlfriend Claire, played by Samantha Morton, is just as entertaining to watch. However, none of these performances compare to the disturbing portrayal of Jed by Rhys Ifan. It's been a long time since I've been so creeped out by character in a film. The subtleties of his performance will haunt you.

Admittedly, the film loses control of itself as it goes along. It seems that during the last 20 minutes, somebody decided to just stop trying and resort to a level that insults the intelligence of the rest of the film. All in all, the film has some strikingly beautiful moments and certainly deserves at least one viewing.

Rated R for language, some violence and a disturbing image.

Rottentomatoes: 59% -- Cream of the Crop: 58%

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Visitor

It's difficult to summarize 'The Visitor.' When you say it's about a lonely college professor learning to play the drums, it sounds like lame. When you say it's about immigrants and their plight, it sounds lame. Yet 'The Visitor' is anything but lame.

This film is written and directed by 'The Wire's' Thomas McCarthy, and despite his inexperience in directing, this film will move you. The story follows widow Professor Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) as he ventures into Manhattan to his rarely used apartment to attend a conference there. When he gets to his apartment, he finds that a young couple (who happen to be illegal immigrants) has been living there without his knowledge for a few months. Vale allows the young couple to stay at his place and consequently gets involved with their immigrationn and deportation issues (damn the ICE!).

Now usually, heartfelt, human-rights-message movies put me to sleep. They usually are so preachy, it's like being hit in the head over and over for the entire length of the movie. With 'The Visitor,' it's not so much that way. Instead of shouting his cause from the rooftops, McCarthy chose to let human interactions tell the story. The characters are flawed, but decent people, people you could seeing living next door to you, people you could see yourself being friends with. And because McCarthy let's the characters' action speak for them, you will actually become emotionally involved with their plight.

Both the acting and direction are of award caliber. Richard Jenkins deserves a special mention here. You've probably seen him before, his IMDB page is very impressive (my favorite is his role as the cynical, dead father on HBO's Six Feet Under). But he performance in 'The Visitor' is eerily good. Even though this only his sophomore effort, McCarthy shows a maturity that lead you to believe he's spent a lifetime behind the camera. 'The Visitor' will leave you wanting to see more from this promising director.

Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

My Blueberry Nights

Released today on DVD is the film, 'My Blueberry Nights.' This is the first feature length English-feature film of Chinese director Kar Wai Wong. The film begins by quickly introducing us to Elizabeth (Norah Jones), our quiet, soul-searching protagonist and her cheating boyfriend. Jaded by the city that served as the backdrop of her boyfriend's betrayal, she leaves on a country-wide journey searching for...well, that's not really clear (and not really that interesting).

Her quest brings her into contact with various interesting encounters and people, including restaurant worker/love interest Jeremy (Jude Law), lonely and angry wife-of-an-alcoholic (Rachel, Weisz), and a gambling addict with daddy issues (Natalie Portman).

While the adjectives sure sound interesting, the story isn't so much. It seems that Wong tries to make up for this fact by using all sorts of unusual camera effects, such as blurred vision, overexposure, and slow motion that apparently is meant to add to atmosphere.

Despite these shortcomings, the cast is able to shine. The performances of Weisz, Law, Portman and even Norah Jones (for whom this is her film debut) are above par and allow you to forget that the story isn't that interesting.

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material including violence, drinking and smoking.

Rottentomatoes score: 47%, with Top critics: 30%

Monday, June 30, 2008


Nothing sounds more tedious than listening to an aspiring artist tell the story of trying to make it in the world as an artist. This was the purpose that drove Joachim Trier to create this clever and poignant film, 'Reprise.' The film follows two best friends Phillip and Erik as they submit their novels to be published. One's is accepted by a publisher, one is not. And each is left to face with the consequences of celebrity, or lack thereof.

Knowing the pretenses of the film, my expectations were not high at all. Not to mention I'm hesitant of Scandinavian films altogether (the film and it's director are Norwegian) thanks to Lars Von Trier (Dancer in the Dark). But I was quickly impressed by the style of Joachim and the quick pace 'Reprise.' If I had to relate him to a more mainstream director, I'd call him a pessimistic Wes Anderson. Trier deftly uses ironic narration, flashbacks and fantasy scenes to develop characters in a similar way to Anderson.

Joachim co-wrote the film as well as directed. The writing doesn't waste words. It's fresh and concise and never fails to impress albeit sometimes unapologetically misogynistic. At one point, one of the characters calls women “under-stimulated, bourgeois retards” who can only distract the anointed, august men from their lofty projects of ambition, if not literature. That noted, women in the film play an equally important part as our male protagonists.

The film doesn't exactly break new ground, but it's thoroughly enjoyable, quick-paced and will actually inspire a little introspection.

Playing at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.
Filmed in Norwegian with Subtitles.

Rottentomatoes score: 89%

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Bring your appetite for graphic war violence when you watch Sergei Bodrov's latest epic 'Mongol.' The movie is the first of a trilogy that follows Genghis Khan from his birth in 1192AD 'til his death. This first installment follows partly history, and partly fable and explains how Genghis rose to power. The film supposedly follows the most respected scholarly accounts of the Khan's life.

'Mongol' was Kazakhstan's official entry in the Best Foreign Film catagory for 2007and won a nomination. The scope of the film is so wide, that some of the war scenes required 1500 horses and riders. Several of the locations where the film was shot were so remote, that the crew had to build roads in order to access them. Bodrov's insistence on such extravagances paid off. The cinematography is breathtaking. Rogier Stoffers (Bad News Bears) and Sergei Trofimov (Night Watch, Day Watch) deftly take control of the camera and make on-screen poetry with shots that will blow you away.

Bodrov shows Genghis (known as a youth as Tedmujin) in a different light than how he's usually perceived today. The film shows Genghis almost as a philanthropist, and dedicated family man. This first film follows closely the love affair between the soon-to-be ruler and the love of his life and father of his children. Believe what you will about the larger than life character from history, but 'Mongol' is quality escapism: an exotic saga that compels, moves and envelops us with its grand and captivating story.

Playing at Broadway Centre Cinemas.
The film is in Mongolian and subtitled.

Rottentomatoes score: 88%

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Taking a Quick Break

I only watched one movie today, and it was so boring I didn't even finish it (sorry 'Life Aquatic' fans, it's just not that good of a film).

So I'm taking a break to show you this little video clip masterpiece. In response to the Radiohead contest of remixing one of their latest singles, 'Nude,' one of the contestants made this video. Be sure to watch the whole thing, it takes a while to really get going.

Big Ideas (don't get any) from James Houston on Vimeo.

According to the creator, he only 'grouped together a collection of old redundant hardware, and placed them in a situation where they're trying their best to do something that they're not exactly designed to do, and not quite getting there.'

Each part of the song is performed by the following hardware:

Sinclair ZX Spectrum - Guitars (rhythm & lead)
Epson LX-81 Dot Matrix Printer - Drums
HP Scanjet 3c - Bass Guitar
Hard Drive array - Act as a collection of bad speakers - Vocals & FX

I feel so uncreative and boring after watching something like this.

Tomorrow I'm going to Salt Lake to watch Sergei Bodrov's new film, 'Mongol.' Review to follow.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Who wouldn't want to belong to a secret fraternity of assassins where Angelina Jolie is your personal mentor? That sentence alone explains why this movie will be a huge success. It's every man's wet dream.

Directed by Timur Bekmambetov, this film is his Hollywood debut. Born in Kazahkstan, he directed the wildly popular films 'Night Watch' and 'Day Watch' in Russia. Wildly popular, only in Russia that is. As 'Wanted' started I was reminded of Bekmambetov's distinct style from the Watch movies. It was then that I got a sinking feeling in my stomach, worried that this was going to be as fragmented, unbelievable and incomprehensible as his previous two successes. But as the film went on, I realized that with the a whole lot of Hollywood money and some A-list actors, a director's talent can really shine.

The film takes no time getting started with an opening scene that will glue you to the edge of your seat. The body count starts from the first minute of the film and grows quickly and steadily, so be prepared for some graphic violence.. The special effects are wickedly impressive. Even though the trailer made 'Wanted' look like a rip-off of 'The Matrix,' it's not, and you'll be impressed and left wondering, 'how'd they do that?'

James McAvoy plays Wesley Gibson and is a little out of his element it seems after 'Atonement' and 'The Last King of Scotland,' (we'll overlook that whole 'Penelope' thing) but it's obvious he's knows what he's doing and delivers a bitchin' performance. Angelina brought her A game and sizzles as the sexy Fox, Wesley's assassin mentor. The sexual chemistry is palpable and climaxes in one of the most most erotically charged kissing scenes to which I've ever had the opportunity to be a part of.

The action is non-stop and you'll never get bored. This movie is eye candy for action junkies everywhere. My every expectation was met.

Rottentomatoes score: 73%

In Bruges

Out on DVD this week is 'In Bruges.' It was selected as the opening night film at this year's Sundance Film Festival, and rightfully so. It's wicked dark, and deliciously funny. The film follows two hitman, Ken and Ray, as they hide out in the medieval town of Bruges after a hit. Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes give outstanding performances.

The film is directed and written by Martin Donagh and is his directorial debut. His writing is fantastic, as it's to be expected since he's a Tony award-winning playwright. Even though he's award-winning, the language is pretty rough. Hilarious, but rough (the 'f-word' and it's derivatives are heard an average of 1.18 times a minute in this 107 film). Check out some of the more memorable quotes here. I'd type some of them here, but rumor has it my mom frequents this blog every once in a while. Plus, we all know Big Brother is always watching. Be warned though, the memorable quotes page would definitely be rated R if those hypocritical blowhards at the MPAA had anything to say about it. While the film, is hilarious, it's also pretty tragic and deals with some dark issues (i.e. child murder, suicide, drug use, the belittling of midgets). Don't let that deter you, just be prepared.

Rottentomatoes score: 79%

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Fall

Tarsem Singh finally released his 2nd movie, and it's now showing at the Broadway Theater in Salt Lake. His first film, 'The Cell,' starred Jennifer Lopez and Vince Vauhn (that just sounds like a recipe for mind-numbing failure) and was released in 2000. Admittedly, I've never seen 'The Cell,' but it met with mediocre reviews.

'The Fall' was released May 9th, after 4 years of filming and 2 years of sitting on the shelf waiting for...I don't what for. A distributor? The main complaint of critics of 'The Fall' (and of 'The Cell') is it's fragmented and/or shallow plot. I'd have to agree slightly with this assessment, but also I think, who cares? This is one of the most visually stunning movies I've ever seen. And I think this was Tarsem's point.

It was filmed over 4 years, spanning 18 countries. Tarsem wrote and directed the movie, as well as paid for it out-of-pocket. Filmed in such magnificent places as Istanbul's Hagia Sophia, the look is pure beauty. Tarsem insists there are no special effects in the film, that all the remarkable is scenery looks just as it's shown. This is truly a feat of location scouting. Remember how visually stunning '300' was? Picture that, multiplied by 15, but without the special effects or depending on graphic violence and spattering blood to fill the voids. The acting left a little to be desired, but did I mention it was visually stunning? So much so, you can forgive all the other shortfalls. Catinca Untaru plays the cute, young, Romanian immigrant and steals the show with her acting abilities. More impressive still, is that she doesn't speak English and memorized the way her lines sound, but didn't understand what she was saying.

One critic said, sure it's beautiful, but a coffee table picture book would have served the same purpose. This is simply not true. Yes, focus was centered around how the film looked, but Tarsem knows how to pull at emotional heart strings, couple dramatic scenes with dramatic music, as well as keep a little humor in the picture. Fortunately, some of the right people liked the movie. Included in these are David Fincher and Spike Jonze who use their names to endorse the film in the beginning. They might be the soul reason this movie is released in theaters at all. Fincher described his impression of the film as being, "what would've happened if Andrei Tarkovsky had made The Wizard of Oz." I'm sure he meant that as a compliment, but if you've seen a Tarkovsky film...well, I promise this movie isn't as boring as hell.

While it's rated R, there's no nudity at all (just a few men in loin cloths) and no profanity. With the exception of a moist bundle of flayed corpses, the film’s mild fantasy violence scarcely warrants so restrictive a rating.

Check out seven other clips of the film here.

Rottentomatoes score: 53%

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


How the hell am I supposed to eat oranges for breakfast when the combination of citrus and toothpaste tastes like an infant threw up in my mouth? This seems too cruel a joke.

Reason To Not Have Kids, #1

Have you ever seen that show, 'Tom and Kate Plus 8?' Is it just me or do those two hate each other and resent their children? They never look into each others' eyes, and each confessional segment seems like a bout of stinging jabs and low blows about the other's parenting style. That's a feeling I could conceivably understand, resentment. I have a few friends that have been tricked into an early bird marriage by an untimely impregnation of their girlfriends. But, that poor Jon guy. First twins, and then without warning a litter of like, 14 or something? Watching that show set my having kids back about 30 years.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Tired Old Tricks

Do you know what plot device is really getting old?

A small group of people does something bad for personal gain.

Pressure or guilt only torments one of the group.

That person brings the whole group down by turning themselves in.

Come on. What's the fun of watching a movie like that, hoping the group can get away with their devious little scheme when you can always spot that guy. That guy, the one with the melancholy face, maybe he sweats or talks to himself. He just can't enjoy in the things everyone else can. And instead of doing the decent thing and offing himself so the others can enjoy it, he won't be happy 'til they're all in jail, or offer up some other sort of penance.

This pattern has been noted in several movies I've watched recently. These include Woody Allen's 'Cassandra's Dream,' and Danny Boyle's 'Shallow Grave.' At least I hope this happens in 'Shallow Grave' because I'm half way through it and it already seems kind of predictable. Fortunately, if I'm wrong, I can go back and delete this part of the blog.

Speaking of Danny Boyle. His movies are pretty much awesome. I haven't seen his entire body of work, but what I've seen is good movie making.

Works of note:

Now I'm no Sci-Fi fan. Not at all, but this movie is ridiculously good. Featuring stellar performances by Rose Byrne and Cillian Murphy, this film explores what could happen if the Sun started dying. The plot line sounds ridiculous, but Boyle really makes you believe it could happen. Be warned the last third of the movie gets a little out of hand. The onscreen imagery is art in and of its self. Boyle has announced he'll never return to the Sci-Fi genre which sucks, because he could truly convert me. Rottentomatoes score: 75%.

'28 Days Later' is truly the scariest zombie movie I've ever seen. This also stars Cillian Murphy. It's pretty darn graphic, but so worth it. You'll be terrified. But in the good way, like when you walk out to your car at night and think, 'maybe, just maybe there are zombies out there.' I know I've been posting a lot about zombies, I promise I'm not a horror freak. Rottentomatoes score: 88%. Oh, and if '28 Days Later' does it for you, check out '28 Weeks Later.' Boyle didn't direct, but he did a bunch of second production stuff to keep the terror just as awesome.

Unlike the first two, 'Millions' was the family-friendly, feel good movie of 2004. I know the term 'family-friendly' usually conjures up 'cutesy-poo animated features aimed squarely at the younger set,' but this isn't the case. It's rather unlike Boyle's more dense, and darker movies, but it's just as brilliant. The actors are relatively unknown, except for Daisy Donovan (remember that reality TV show 'Daisy Does America?'). It's charming and engaging, and you should give it a chance, even though it's PG. Rottentomatoes score: 88%.

Should you enjoy these movies, you should definitely check out his most critically acclaimed piece, 'Trainspotting.' And now that 'Shallow Grave' is over and delighted me with it's rebellion agains the formuliac, check it out too. In all cases except for 'Millions,' know that Boyle's movies definitely earn their R rating.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Disappointing Friday

This is not a good week for movies. Not a good week at all.

So disappointing in fact, I don't really have a desire to write about it.

Only two movies open today in wide release. Steve Carrell's 'Get Smart' remake of the 1960s sitcom and Michael Meyer's 'The Love Guru.' Good lord.

'Get Smart' is getting pretty mediocre reviews. And based on that boring trailer and the rumored kiss between The Rock and Carrell, this movie is not worth seeing. If you care about this movie, you can prepare yourself by reading these reviews.

And...'The Love Guru.' 0% from rottentomato top critics. Not good. This is not good. The most entertaining part of this movie is reading Rafer Guzman rip it to shreds, and explain why if you like the movie, you're a gross 10 year old. Poor form, JT. Poor form, Jessica Alba.

There is hope for next week, a lot of hope:

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Underwhelming Hulk

I saw 'The Incredible Hulk' last night...

It wasn't horrible. It wasn't terrific, it just was. The film surpassed my expectations of Leterrier's talent (yes, I was expecting to see something closer to 'The Transporter 3'). But the script failed to meet my expectations of Edward Norton's talents. It's annoying to wonder how much of the film was lost in the Norton/Leterrier/Marvel fued. Could it have been the movie that you can see just below the superficial surface of the movie? Leterrier says yes, and that the full movie will be available on the DVD.

Now I don't want to be too hard on the Hulk. It was great watching Norton perform. His knowing smile that seems to suggest he enjoys losing himself in the monster is wickedly entertaining. His co-star Liv Tyler is kind of a drag though. I'm not sure how she keeps getting this roles. Did you see 'The Strangers?' Bleh. At least they had some sexual chemistry. Which contributes to the funniest scene in the movie, as Bruce Banner is starting to get it on but has to stop mid-hump for fear of getting 'too excited.'

All things considered, I was entertained. I'm not a comic book fan, I had no previous allegience to the Hulk (only to Norton), but still, the chase scenes, the explosions, all good enough to watch at least once.

Monday, June 16, 2008

George A Romero's Diary of the Dead

I'm not a huge horror fan. Freddy, Jason, little Asian girls that have weird eyes or come out of walls, they do nothing for me. I do however enjoy the few really well done horror movies that I've seen. These includes Neil Marshall's 'The Descent,' and Danny Boyle's '28 Days Later' to name a few. But even if you don't particularly like the genre, who can resist a zombie movie from the grandfather, nay, the god and creator of the zombie genre itself? George Romero released the fifth chapter of his Dead series, 'Diary of the Dead,' last year. You certainly don't have to be familiar with the Romero zombie cannon to enjoy this.

Filmed on an extremely modest budget of approximately $2,000,000, the film ran the festival circuit with showings at Sundance, Toronto, Vienna, and several others. Critics seem to like it. Rottentomatoes gives it a 61% approval rating, and a top critics rating of 67%. Those reviews are here. Respected critics such as Peter Travers of Rollingstone claim 'Diary' is a 'leader in the scare pack.' My first viewing of this film was at the Sundance Film Festival in January of this year. It's now available on DVD so I rented it to enjoy a second time. This time I saw the movie in a different light.

There are several aspects of the film that are excellent. For one, it's filmed gonzo style, like 'The Blair Witch Project,' or 'Cloverfield.' It's extremely effective in adding realism. The plot follows a group of film students as the dead start to wake up and attack the living. All shots are filmed with hand cams giving it the feel of a documentary. The students take a road trip from Pittsburgh to Pennsylvania where the majority of the group comes from. Unlike most zombie movies, there's no back story. No one tries to explain how the undead are walking the streets, they are just trying to live through this horrifying experience they don't understand. The actors are unknowns, unrecognizable which helps the realism as the viewer can see himself in the story.

But as the movie goes on, it gets more and more self-indulgent and preachy. Romero condemns those that are obsessed with filming and/or watching the suffering of other people. Clips of real world events are thrown in (Darfur, the Iraq War) to hit the point home and the dialogue frequently turns to how disgusting it is that one student refuses to set his camera down, even to help his super bitchy girlfriend when she's shaken up because her 13 year old undead brother attacks her. Those unaffected by the the zombie disease tie up the zombies and torture them for fun, and we hear the narrator do a voice over, 'are we worth saving? You tell me.' WE GET IT. Yeah, we like to film stuff, to watch people suffer, that's why I have CNN, MSNBC, MSNBC Headline News, FOX News and TMZ. That's why I spend hours surfing Youtube. As one of the character reminds us, 'For you, if it's not caught on film, it didn't happen.'

What happened to the subtle metaphor? Why does Romero feel like he has to spell it out for us? Look! They're torturing innocent zombies. Since those people represent us...we must be guilty too! Thanks Romero! I get it now. Youtube is evil and I should spend more time raising money for Rwanda.

Despite the tired political and social commentary, the movie does have it's flashes of ghoulish inspiration. The opening news sequence is down right disturbing. The run in with the deaf Amish man Samuel, who enjoys blowing up the oncoming zombies with his homemade dynamite is pure entertainment. There's a reason great writers and directors like Quentin Tarantino and Stephen King recognize Romero as a master, but this film isn't one of those reasons.