Tuesday, March 27, 2007
So a serious Adam Sandler movie, huh? I’m game. The whole movie tilts on whether you will accept him in this role or not. There is no movie if you just dismiss him without a second thought. This is like a combination of all his best acting talents, mumbling to himself, an occasional spurt of violence, and just overall awkwardness. You know what? When it came time for me to me emotionally involved with his character, he had done his job. I believed him during all his breakdowns from the quiet storytelling to the slow build into a violent outburst. It was very nice to see him pull this whole thing off. Now of course it helps that instead of Shooter McGavin or Rob fricking Schnieder, the story is being told through the viewpoint of Don Cheadle. If I were to hazard a guess Don is a slight improvement in costar. Don is a man that can do anything that is required. This time around he is portraying a kind of quiet revolt over his life. Watching him enjoy hanging out with the clearly insane Sandler makes you wonder just how much his own life annoys him. At the same time one of the detriments of the movie is Jada Pinkett Smith as Cheadle’s wife. Her entire character exists just to show up and aggravate Don over the state of his life. It is a waste of her talent; I am fairly certain she could have done more than cook and clean and nag which is borderline something bad and should be labeled with a word ending in -ist. The only other negative is the whole sexual harassment plot, which was just laughable. Not funny laughable, no we were not that lucky expect for the scene with the footstool, just time-wasting awful. Still there were plenty of nice performances outside of the leads. The main one I want to point is Donald Sutherland. He appears for all of 5 minutes and still was able to outshine everyone else. Gotta love that Sutherland gene and how it projects power in any character. There was a lot of good here.
Yeah, this is an easy recommendation. There is just one simple caveat, I want Adam Sandler to succeed hence in my eyes he has. Whether or not it would hold up in a court of law, well there are many things I say that would crack under cross examination. Don’t be surprised when I turn states’ evidence. Reign Over Me was a nice diversion from the usual. It may have been downright depressing but it sill was well worth the price of admission.
8 out of 10
Monday, March 19, 2007
- Se7en (10)
- Zodiac (9)
- Panic Room (9)
- Fight Club (9)
- The Game (8)
- Alien3 (5)
Scoring Average: 8.34
That is pretty damn impressive director's resume. I do have to say that it is a little disappointing that after 15 years there are only 6 movies and Alien3 sadly counts for 1. But from what I can gather quality takes time. And that 8.34 average is going to be tough for anyone to beat with at least 5 movies under their belts. David Fincher easily earns his place as one of my favorite directors of all time and definitely is at the top of the list for the people I want to see directing right now.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
The idea that this movie was initially cast with Nicole Kidman in the lead seems like somebody’s idea of a joke. She would have been able to cower and act scared but not project the strength that Jodie Foster’s characters always have. It is this strength that makes Panic Room. There is an air of believability to all of Jodie Foster’s actions, from the pissed off estranged wife scenes through the terrified hiding and finishing with the sledgehammer swinging. The woman can pull off anything. Anything I tells ya. It is really disappointing that it has taken 20 years for Forest Whitaker to get the press that he deserves. Ghost Dog is the goddamned man. I am always excited to see Forest and, yes, that does include the cinematic classic Light it Up. For Panic Room, it would take some serious searching to find a better man to portray a sympathetic home invader. You throw in a braided Jared Leto and a ski-mask wearing Dwight Yoakam as his cohorts and all the bases are covered. Leto brings the humor, Yoakam brings the menace, and Forest brings the glue. Before moving on, I don’t want to skip past Kristen Stewart. She is funny throughout the movie as the smart-aleck daughter but her real talent shines as she slowly slips into a diabetic seizure. Now every one of these reviews since Alien3 has had the same structure, I praise the actors then I praise David Fincher. If you haven’t figured out by now, Fincher knows how to get the best out of his cast and knows how to shoot his movies. On top of the basics that he excels at, he always tries something new in his films. At multiple points here he swings the camera around up and down floors and over and through furniture so that the viewer is reminded of size of the place and how long it would take for people to move around. Fincher also excels at showing the sheer brutality of the violence that takes place. The highlight is the absolute mauling that the husband receives, up to and including the visible fracture of his arm. To finish up on the director, it is nice to see that with a lighter story he was willing to edit it down to a less than two hour running time. It is nice to see a director not overstay his welcome just because he has made movies work with running times approaching two and a half hours.
My enjoyment of this particular David Fincher film may be out of proportion with the rest of the movie going audiences along with the critics. Everyone flocks to Se7en and Fight Club, as well they should, but there is just something about Panic Room that I can’t ignore. The damn thing just works so well. You got Jodie and Forest delivering as usual. You have Jared Leto and his sweet braids. Plus one of my favorite combos severed fingers and blue flames. I am not ashamed to say I love this movie.
9 out of 10
If I am going to take time out of my day to expound upon Fight Club, I will always start with the 2 actors at the top of the bill. Although these may not be the best performances of Brad Pitt or Edward Norton’s respective careers, silver medals are not out of the question. The Tyler Durden character is another in a long line of over-the-top Pitt performances. It may not have been as crazy as Snatch. or Twelve Monkeys but not many sane people, acting or otherwise, could pull off that shaved head and feathery vest combination. The man just commands the screen whenever he appears. As for Norton, this isn't Derek Vinyard from American History X but he is just as believable as a man who has clearly lost his mind. His desperation throughout the movie mirrors my own when I attempt to comprehend the plot. Although the 2 big name actors carry the movie with ease, Helena Bonham Carter still needs a little praise thrown in her direction. It is always fun to see her show up because she always comes with a unique look and memorable mannerisms. The lady can smoke a cigarette like nobody’s business. Also Meatloaf with what the dialogue so cheerfully describes as bitchtits. Extolling the virtues of the acting could go on forever but we’ll cut it off here and move on to Fincher. I love his visual style. Everything from the tricks he uses to show the straight from the Ikea catalogue apartment to the Tyler Durden subliminal shots all the way to the sheer brutality of the fight scenes. The man knows what to do with a camera and keeps improving his game.
A quick explanation about my feelings towards the overall plot of Fight Club is probably necessary. The story is original and has a make or break twist at the end. Sadly, I fall in the break camp. I just don’t buy it. Explain to me the mental state of the first group of followers who decided that the guy beating the shit out of himself seems like the fella to take orders from? And why the hell would you let him behind the wheel? Finally the climatic scene is hilarious. A man can put a gun in his mouth, pull the trigger, kill his alter ego, somehow only blow a hole through his cheek, not pass out and in fact stand up and talk. Just move the hell along.
Although I may find parts of the storyline laughable and not as deep and meaningful as some believe, Fight Club is still well worth the price of admission. In fact I could only be so lucky to have all movies be powerful enough to aggravate me at this level. The combination of Fincher, Pitt, and Norton was hitting on all cylinders. Until the point arrived where I actually had to rationalize the plot, there have been few movies that entertained me to this degree.
9 out of 10
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Whenever these movies appear, I wonder if Michael Douglas is comfortable with the fact that most of the world believes he is this type of guy in real life. These characters are way too natural for him. Let’s list off the characteristics shall we, rich, sarcastic, bastard. Check, check, and check. The gang’s all here. Even though he is the protagonist, it is still fun to watch him twist on the hook trying to figure out just what in the world is going on. The way his annoyance is portrayed or his sarcasm keeps showing up is great. This is made even better by having Sean Penn show up to play one of his manic characters. Although he has only 3 scenes, each of those 3 scenes are fun to watch while he bounces around off Douglas. I do have to say that this was a pretty shit birthday gift. In the end they hug and the rich bastard learned a lesson but was this really something you would give someone you love? The whole plan was to get the man to kill himself and this is a good thing? What is wrong with you people? I highly doubt that I need money to disconnect myself even further from the world. I am doing quite all right on my own and definitely do not need some sketchy company screwing with my life so that I see how poorly I am living it. That being said, Fincher makes it work. He is able to film these ridiculous situations without leaving reality. The scenes where all the people in the hospital disappear and the where Douglas is locked in the back of the cab and driven into a lake are the highlights of what could have come off as absurd but came off great on screen. It is because Fincher was able to make each scene work that the whole movie flies by and keeps you wondering what is real and what is not.
The Game is a good stop in between Se7en and Fight Club for David Fincher. Although it may not compete for the top spot, it is a quality film that even holds together on the second viewing after everything has been revealed. And it may be the same Michael Douglas character, but it is the same Michael Douglas character done well. It may not be the best idea in reality but The Game works as a movie.
8 out of 10
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
When I read 300 in comic book form, I wondered how this could possibly be a 2-hour movie. Literally the book begins on the eve of battle and ends at the end of the 3-day battle. There were a handful of quick flashbacks but nothing that would stretch past a few minutes. Yet by manufacturing a storyline for the Spartan Queen and a hell of a lot of slow motion during the fights scenes, hey, we got ourselves a feature film. The best parts of the dialogue were all direct rips from the pages of the book. Every speech Leonidas or Dilios gave on screen were nearly word for word and that is not a bad thing, they were great words when read and they are even better when spoken. Although I have no problem with the constant rousing of the troops, it did reach the point of overkill. Seeing one every 10 minutes means that none of them end up having the power similar to ones in Braveheart or Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Still it is fun to hear “this is where we fight; this is where they die” or “belly your breakfast because tonight we dine in hell.” Also where the fight scenes were done through a few panels in the book, Zack Snyder was able to create several memorable extended Spartans in action moments. I am very interested to see how a few of them were filmed. Of all the actors, Gerard Butler and David Wenham dominate the screen. Raise your hand if you thought Terry Sheridan was the best part of Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life … you damn liar. As for the rest of these dudes, where the hell do you cast this many actors with 60-pack abs? Was that computer generation? I feel very insignificant. Damn you 300. I mentioned earlier about creating a B plot for the Queen that had no basis in the book; I did not mean this as a negative. I understand that it helps round the movie since without it the whole thing is one long fight scene. Plus without it there is no McNulty in a toga. I am not going to stand in the way of Dominic West outside of The Wire. I did feel that the climax of the Queen’s story undercut some of the power of what Dilios is doing at the end of the movie but I can live with it. I can live with a lot of what happened during this movie and much of it involved the Oracle.
So 300 exceeded my expectations. That is becoming a regular occurrence this year. It is definitely more fun to be saying that as opposed to once again I have been let down by this piece of gutter trash. This is just a movie that is easy to watch. No heavy lifting, no dead space, just action followed by action followed up with some more action, then topped off with some action. I really can’t complain.
8 out of 10
Sunday, March 11, 2007
I am not even sure where to begin. Should I talk about the meticulously crafted plot that was able to conceal the twist until it was time for the reveal? Or maybe the steady hand of Morgan Freeman grounding the movie with his realism? Or if you prefer I could talk about Brad Pitt finding the perfect notes to complement Morgan and Spacey? Or speaking of Kevin Spacey, how about one man producing John Doe and Keyzer Soze in the same fricking year? Actually I would like to kick things off with David Fincher. He is the director and all so he deserves some credit for the final outcome. I think that everyone who knows me knows that I love my movies dark and dank. If there is one thing that Fincher made sure of it was that Se7en was damn sure dark and dank. He used all the tricks of the trade to get the desired effect; pouring rain, minimal lighting, muted colors, speaking in hushed tones, weird leather bondage sex, heads in boxes, you know, the usual. Also with all the movies that have soared past the 2-hour mark for no other reason than director ego, Fincher still brings it home in 2 hours and some pennies. Of course no everyone one is gifted with a perfect script. It is annoying to say something like this but it is rare to see a truly original ending like the one seen in Se7en. A serial killer who was never caught but turns himself in only so he can enact his final 2 kills is incredible. And if this has been done somewhere in an earlier movie, I would love to see that version because it is just great storytelling. Moving on to the acting side of the equation, I have to start with Morgan Freeman. Much like everything the man does, it is impossible for me to picture this film without Morgan as Detective Somerset. The specific mannerisms, the intelligence, the world-weariness, these are the things that he embodies whenever he is onscreen. While Morgan is the anchor, Brad Pitt gets to grow throughout the story which makes his decision at the end even more powerful. The emotions that he shows throughout the film are incredible. Of course the final scene may be the best work he has ever done, you can see his mind coming to the decision to shoot John Doe. Plus … “What’s in the box?” Classic. Last but not least is Kevin Spacey somehow delivering on the buildup for the John Doe character. He doesn’t even show up properly until the last act but still is able craft the best scenes of the whole movie. Honorable mentions go to Gwyenth Paltrow, R. Lee Ermey, Richard Roundtree, John C. McGinley, and all the corpses for pitching in when their numbers were called.
12 years have passed. I hope anyone who happens to read this has already seen Se7en. But if not and you are looking for my wisdom to sway the vote, you are wasting your time reading this. That time could have been spent watching the movie. Or better yet you could re-watch the movie if you had lied to me about whether or not you had seen it. I love ever piece of this film and no matter how many times I watch it there is no decline in quality. In fact it is one of the last masterpieces of the 20th century.
10 out of 10
Saturday, March 10, 2007
When it comes to the Alien franchise each discussion begins and ends with Sigourney Weaver. Although this is nowhere near here best performance of the 4, it definitely is the baldest performance. If I were to make a list of things that are badass in movies, a female who shaves her head then proceeds to rip shit up would be near the top of the list. This also is the movie where Lt. Ripley ends the story by plunging herself into molten lava, more badass. Look there is a reason why Ripley is one of my favorite film characters of all time. As for Fincher, he can’t be blamed for the incomprehensible story and the fact that the special edition adds a half hour of footage makes it seem like he had no control over the final product. But his name is in the credits so his hands can only get so clean. Still I have to point out even in a bad movie he creates one of the most famous shots of the franchise when Ripley cowers against the wall and the alien leans into frame with both of its mouths brushing against Ripley’s face. Good stuff. The chase through the corridors also includes some nice camera tricks, so the whole thing wasn’t a waste.
I said the whole thing wasn’t a waste; that still leaves significant portions of refuse that I had to sift through. Outside of Roc Dutton, all non-Ripley characters are mere window dressing. They all look and dress the same with there only reason for existence being to die horribly. I couldn’t tell you who is who. Even with Dutton’s character, it is fun to hear him sermonize once maybe twice but not every single time he is on camera. I am not even going to make an attempt to explain the story. The first movie was an actual full story, the second one had a decent story but great action, by the third they just decided action would be enough. It is not. People versus aliens only means slasher flick not best movie of the year. To top off the crap, this was early 90s CGI so when the alien is running through the corridors it is just laughable to see it onscreen. Who doesn’t love Sega Genesis graphics?
Alien3 was definitely a stumbling out of the blocks for David Fincher. Of course we now know he survived, but sadly we also know that the franchise did not. It is very disappointing to see since the Ripley character with Sigourney at the helm is so strong. That was all thrown out the window so that she could get knocked up by an alien that didn’t even have the common decency to wake her up to perform the deed. That is just lacking in chivalry. The smart thing to do is just treat the Alien franchise as 2 all-time great movies with a bunch of cheap knock-offs years later that can easily be ignored.
5 out of 10
- The Game
- Fight Club
- Panic Room
- Zodiac (done)
Let's get a move on.
Thursday, March 8, 2007
- Black Snake Moan
- Smokin' Aces
- Reno 911!: Miami
- Ghost Rider
I am absolutely floored that after a little more than 2 months of 2007 there are already 3 movies that I truly enjoyed. That is opposed to the 0 that I had at this point last year. Oh 2007 how I love you so ... far. Yeah I'll still leave you without warning 2007; don't get complacent.
I have constantly been impressed with David Fincher’s work. This time around he kept me engrossed in the chase for the zodiac killer even though there was little to no action involved. It was all about the people whose lives were affected by investigating the murders. And, man, there are actors falling out of the woodwork here. The highlight as usual nowadays is Robert Downey Jr. I don’t know how he pulls these characters off each and every single time but he does not disappoint here. Just the nuances to the way he moves or how he speaks his lines helps show Paul Avery’s descent into paranoia. That and whatever the hell the thing is called that he was wearing around his neck. I want one of those (searches wikipedia) neckerchiefs! Using attire of the neck as a segue way, Mark Ruffalo was unafraid to have himself filmed while rocking the bowtie. I love old school neckwear. On top of that, he was constantly eating animal crackers while on the job … so do I! I love animal crackers. Ruffalo may have played the main detective but Anthony Edwards, Donal Logue, and Elias Koteas all get there chance to play the dogged investigator. Each one also throws in just the right amount of humor to lighten the story when necessary. Other names like Brian Cox, Philip Baker Hall, Clea DuVall, and Chloe Sevigny are sprinkled throughout story to keep things lively. This is a classic bombastic Brian Cox performance; I will never get tired of those. I know I have listed everyone else already but Jake Gyllenhaal is in no way overshadowed. His character may have been the most difficult to portray since the movie is told through his eyes but he is not very heroic. In fact he nearly destroys his family over his obsession to find the killer after everyone else has given up. Still Jake is able to show both Robert Graysmith’s odd nature and his slide to near madness. Oh yeah and Kate and Marie Warner’s father used to own a San Francisco newspaper, good for him. There is nothing bad here.
I love a movie that has both the story and the casting to allow talent to shine through. David Fincher has shown the ability to make those films throughout his career … lets just sidestep Alien3 for now. Zodiac delivered to a level I was not expecting, I may have hoped to see one of the best movies of 2007 but I had sincere reservations. Well once again I was proven to be an idiot, nothing new there. Find the time, spend the money, and don’t commit serial murders.
9 out of 10
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
This makes two in a row for Craig Brewer. He is fast becoming a director who I will anticipate his next movie from the moment I read about it. Coming off something as surprising as Hustle & Flow you would expect either a disappointment or something safe, Black Snake Moan is neither. Once again we get an unconventional story that borderlines on offensive. Well let’s say soars past the borderline in a rocket ship. Then again I never worry about being offended. The success can be traced to two reasons. First Brewer knows how to shoot the south. Just like how Hustle & Flow exuded a heat wave, this time around the story takes place in some backwater village that I believe exists somewhere in a red state. He also found maybe the best possible people to play the main characters, Sam Jack and Christina Ricci. Sam is always versatile, whether or not the movie is worth is skill is another matter for another time, so you could bank on him delivering as the broken down blues-man. On the other hand the amount of talented actresses who would cavort around for nearly the entire movie in just her panties and either topless or for all intents and purposes topless could not have been numerous. Thankfully Christina stepped up and stripped down. Not only can she pull off running around in an outfit that consists of white panties and football shoulder pads, she is able to play the scenes where Sam tries to cure her nymphomania as believable instead of, well, how you say, oh yeah, pornographic. I also want to throw out a couple of quick mentions to the preacher played by John Cothran Jr. and dead seriously the convincing work done by Justin Timberlake. Shut up, he brought sexy back; what have you done? All of the performances definitely deserve to be applauded. I also must give points for the nice odd ending. It may not have been a perfect movie but it delivered for me.
So it goes like this, if you are just too damn puritan and stuck up to deal with the fact that three of the prominent characters are Christina Ricci’s breasts and panties then move on, if not see the movie. Actually see it fast because it will be disappearing from theaters within a couple of weeks. Sadly it was just a bit exploitative for the bulk of the movie-going public. Never cared for the majority myself. Well I liked Black Snake Moan and I hope it finds an audience somewhere.
8 out of 10
One of the main positives for me is that even after over 10 years have passed, I always like to be reminded of The State. Reno 911! has always provided me with that reminder since nearly half the cast is filled with veterans of The State. Did there really need to be an extended episode shown in movie theaters? My guess would be no, but since I was not polled one has been filmed and distributed. Not only has a movie been made, but also it is a very profane movie with plenty of nudity and non-censored questionable actions. Hooray for R ratings! You know what? Hooray for a random walk-on by The Rock. That was a thoroughly pleasant surprise with a thoroughly pleasant swift exit. Thanks for showing up!
Even if you were the type of person, like me, who does not blink in the face of constant dirty jokes, this movie is relentless in its attempts to shock you. The overall problem is that the batting average is just not that high. And worse the jokes that were funny weren’t that funny and the amusement of seeing regular guests like Patton Oswalt and Nick Swardson just doesn’t cover up for the lackluster final product.
If you like the television show, you will like the movie. If you have never seen Reno 911! or at least The State you are screwed. I cannot possible recommend this to someone that doesn’t even have at least an idea of what they are getting themselves into.
5 out of 10