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.

Thursday, June 12, 2008 Theaters

There are two movies opening tomorrow that deserve special mention. First is 'The Incredible Hulk.' Who can't help but be excited about the next film from the director of 'The Transporter,' and 'The transporter 2!' Louis Leterrier (did I mention he was French?) directed this second Hulk movie after Ang Lee's 2003 box-office disappointment starring Eric Bana. Rumors of fights and feuds between Marvel, Leterrier, and Edward Norton (who was brought on not only to star, but to re-write large portions of the script) may have already tainted this movie for fans. Norton skipped the publicity tour because of the negative lime light. Both Leterrier and Norton released short, completely unbelievable statements about how blown out of proportion the rumors are and what pure joy it was working with each other and Marvel on this project.

This movie is particularly important to Marvel as it's one of only two movies it will release this year (the first being the mega-hit 'Ironman'). Despite all of this, early reviews of the film have been hopeful. This coupled with the fact Norton rarely fails to deliver provides hope for Hulk fans, and non-geek theater-goers a like. Here's one of the many trailers released:

The second film is 'Baghead.' I know a lot less about this film. It's directed by the Duplass brothers. Whoever they are. Apparently they had a hit in the festival circuit in 2005 or something called 'The Puffy Chair.' But it obviously wasn't that big of a hit since no one's ever heard of it. What I do know, is that it was a hit at this year's Sundance Festival. I also know it has a rating of 100% on Click here to read the reviews at RT. While all the reviews are positive, they use what seem like conflicting words to describe the movie. Such as: horror, sexual, scary, political, charming, funny, sweet, warm, and innovative. Frankly, they had me with the first two words, but the last few do add intrigue...

This film is not being widely released, so unless your near a large city with a decent arthouse theater, you might not get to see this one until it's on the bottom shelf at your nearest blockbuster, probably hidden under the 700 copies of the latest Lindsey Lohan movie they ordered. If you do have the opportunity to see it, be prepared for a different type of film making. Nick Schager from Lessons of Darkness describes it as a "semi-improvisatory film making approach, capturing authenticity in their cast's fumbling gestures, half-spoken lines, and stumbling advances.' Still though, the trailer makes it look pretty promising.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Candy Mountain

Wandering through the billions of Youtube videos never fails to endlessly entertain me. It also never fails to make me feel a little sad thinking about the people that spend so much time making these videos that, without some stroke of luck will probably be lost among all the others.

After I get sad thinking about all these wasted efforts, then I get really sad that I can spend hours entertaining myself this way. I start wondering if there is some more productive way I can spend my time, like alphabetizing my DVDs by director. Or making my own Hot 100 list since Maxim's was clearly created by a group of of men/women attracted to the androgynous underdog. It's at about this point that I start to shut my laptop...and just then, I find something like this:

Or this little diddy that Ben showed me:

That's when I get happy again.


Yesterday I went to Salt Lake to hang out with a friend. When I got downtown, my 'Low Fuel' light turned on. I drove a few more miles until I was afraid of running out of gas. That actually happened to me a few months ago. I literally ran out of gas. You know, like when you have to walk to a gas station with a container, buy a gallon of gas and walk back to your vehicle? I've never run out of gas, ever. But it happened (all except walking, because I called a friend to drive me the four blocks to the gas station). I blame it on the gas prices. Never have I feared 7-11 so much.

So I stop at the nearest gas station and end up paying more than 4 dollars a gallon.
This is bull shit. Yeah, yeah, yeah, some countries have been paying 6 dollars a gallon for a while. So what? I wasn't buying gas in London, or in Paris, or where ever else the average per capita income is like, a billion dollars. Filling my tank at these prices costs over 100 dollars. But hey, at least Iraq is on the road to true democracy (is that why we went there? Or was it Saddam? Or was it the WMDs? I'm confused). Thanks Bush. I owe you one.

During our trip to Vegas two weekends ago, Ben was introduced to the game of roulette. That game is bitchin'. It really is a lot of fun. When we got back, Ben bought all the stuff to make our own table, and we spent about 4 hours making it. This is pretty much what my roommates and I do now. We each buy in using our bottomless savings of imaginary money. What if one of us runs out? No problem, we never run out of chips representing imaginary money. We use a random number generator, or an online roulette wheel to generate our numbers and bet on Lady Luck to win even more imaginary money. Sometimes I pretend my chips are worth 50 dollars each while everyone else's chips are only worth a dollar. It makes me feel like I'm at the high roller table. Does this make me a wanna-be elitist? Maybe. They're my chips though, so back off. After we've lost months worth of imaginary income to 'the house,' we start brushing up our blackjack skills (of which, we really have none). Is it actually possible to win at blackjack? I'm sure it's not. I could pay tuition for years with all the imaginary money I've lost at that game. But I guess that's why it's called gambling. In this picture are my friends, Mindy, Cen, and Bark (names have been changed to protect the liberal sinners).


Sorry, just wanted to make sure Big Brother knows we're conforming.

Finally, I move to Radiohead. In their continuing conquest to be the best and most innovative band around, Radiohead released a few months ago. The band released the separate stems to 'Nude,' a single off their latest album, 'In Rainbows,' and allowed listeners to remix the song and upload it to this site. Visitors voted on their favorite mixes and the polling closed on June 1st. All 2252 remixes are still up on the site. Go listen to them. They're great.

With Radiohead's permission, Amplive remixed seven of the 'In Rainbow' tracks. These tracks are available for download for free here.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Have you ever wondered how many pints of milk you will drink in you life - and what that would look like? Or how many liters of tears you will cry? Have you ever wondered how many times you’ll have sex - and with how many people?