Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Eyes On... January 1-20

Most of my posts really concentrate on one of two things: "LOST" or movies I've seen recently. The movies I write about, though, are usually more current, since they're the ones you're more likely to watch.

But I watch a hell of a lot more TV and movies than this, so I figure every couple weeks, I'll post about what I've been watching. Maybe you'll even want to check a couple of these things out.

The Lovely Bones (2009)
Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Saoirse Ronan

I already posted a review for this one, but I wanted to draw your attention to the review Roger Ebert wrote (click here). I was not as horribly offended by the film as he was, but I could see why he felt this way. Death impacts us each in such a variety of ways, so it only makes sense that Peter Jackson’s film would do the same to movie critics.

Dead Alive (1992)
Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Timothy Balme, Diana Penalver

It wasn’t my intention to watch two Peter Jackson movies in one week, but it was certainly enlightening. In 1992, as an indie New Zealander filmmaker, Jackson made the ultra-gory horror/comedy Dead Alive, which my friend Bryon Wilson told me was originally called Brain Dead in New Zealand. Now, he’s making serious films like The Lovely Bones that don’t even have the balls to show the very death the film is supposed to be about. It seems that fame and age have taken their toll on Jackson’s abilities.

Dead Alive is in the vein of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series. It’s about a momma’s boy who is forced to put his entire life on hold when his mom becomes a zombie after being bitten by an infected monkey at the zoo. The story is a silly rite of passage for a man who needs to cut the apron strings – and cut he does. The violence in this film is of the comic horror variety. Waves and waves of gore roll and steam all over the place along with a shitload of other bodily fluids. In other words, it’s a fun time.

And you will walk away with a quote for your daily use: “I kick ass for the LORD!”

Extract (2009)
Director: Mike Judge
Starring: Jason Bateman, Ben Affleck, Mila Kunis

I’m betting Mike Judge wishes he could have this one back, kind of like a home run hitter who takes a huge swing, thinks he has a home run, then sees the ball peter out near the warning track. Extract was a mediocre movie from a good director, similar to Zach and Miri Make a Porno for Kevin Smith.

Jason Bateman plays another version of his Michael Bluth character on the classic television show Arrested Development. This one is named Joel and he owns an extract flavoring company, can’t get time to fuck his wife, and is ready to sell out to General Mills when things get even worse: a factory accident neuters one of his employees. Cindy (Mila Kunis), a low-level con artist, enters the picture to get her hands on the employee’s settlement money. Meanwhile, Joel is so discouraged by his lack of sex life, and hot for Cindy, that his bartender friend (Affleck) suggests he hire a gigolo to see if the wife would cheat on him.

The movie feels like two or three different movies with the same characters, and it feels pretty pointless about halfway through. A part of me feels like my dissatisfaction was because I wanted to recapture the same feelings I had for Judge’s masterpiece, Office Space, and wasn’t giving this one a fair chance. Then I realized how much I enjoyed the follow-up to Office Space: Idiocracy. So, Extract just plain wasn’t good enough. It had it’s moments, especially those involving Ben Affleck’s character and the gigolo, but overall didn’t inspire a need to see it twice.

Taking Woodstock (2009)
Director: Ang Lee
Starring: Demetri Martin, Liev Schrieber, Emilie Hirsch

Forty years after Woodstock – the defining cultural moment for the Baby Boomer generation – people are still thinking and talking about it. That’s pretty groovy. Ang Lee’s film, which tells the story of how Woodstock came to White Lake, NY in the Summer of ’69, is free-spirited and fun, much like the festival it’s about.

The movie’s free spirit gives us some great moments (like the first appearance of Liev Schrieber as Vilma, a transvestite former marine/event security), but also undermines the point of the movie, which is how peace, love, and understanding are the things which bring generations together. Demetri Martin plays Eliot Tiber, an interior designer who reluctantly agrees to return to his parents’ broken down El Monaco Hotel to help them get out from foreclosure. The best parts of the movie focus on Eliot’s tenuous relationship to his parents and how the presence of the Woodstock festival change both his and their attitudes toward themselves and each other. Unfortunately, Lee’s direction gets so caught up in showing the hippy culture that the revelations Eliot has towards the end don’t seem significant enough.

Overall, though, it’s a fun movie, and worth watching, if only to see Liev Schrieber in drag.

Casino Royale (2006)
Director: Martin Campbell
Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green

I’ve never been a huge Bond fan. I liked Dr. No and Goldfinger, but didn’t much care for Octopussy, and didn’t watch a single Timothy Dalton Bond film. So, it wasn’t until recently that I finally watched Casino Royale, and that was really only because I Quantum of Solace came as a part of my Playstation 3 combo pack when I bought it back in August last year and I have this thing about watching sequels without seeing the first part. Fortunately, James Bond movies are usually stand-alones, but most of the stuff I’ve read on-line suggests that Quantum of Solace is a sequel, building on plot points and character development from Casino Royale.

What was my verdict, though? I loved Casino Royale! Loved it! It was pretty flawless. Daniel Craig is likable and rough as Bond. He seems to be the perfect choice for the role. Eva Green was foxy as Vesper Lynd, and I genuinely liked the twists in the confusing love storyline the writers worked in there. What made this movie great, though, was the incredible poker game. When I’m watching action/espionage films, I expect choreographed fights and chase sequences, but not suspenseful poker action! It was like I was watching the Paul Newman classic, The Hustler, all over again. The game was the thing. There were still some really cool action scenes here, but I will always remember watching Bond lose a hand that I thought he’d won and thinking: Fuck!

The Squid and the Whale (2005)
Director: Noah Baumbach
Starring: Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg

The Squid and the Whale is a movie I loved, but never want to see again. It was that effective in painting the horrible effect of a family separation that it made me squirm all the way throughout. Maybe it’s because the ink on my divorce finally dried back in August, and the film brought back all sorts of memories, but nonetheless, Noah Baumbach’s masterpiece is not pleasant. It’s as unpleasant as the museum exhibit its title is named after.

The Berkman’s, Bernard and Joan (Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney), are both writers whose ego-centric natures have finally eroded their marriage. He’s living in the afterglow of his past success but incapable of accomplishing anything in the present. She’s finally getting notoriety for her work, and cheating. In the middle of this are their two boys, Frank and Walt (Owen Kline and Jesse Eisenberg), who suddenly have to learn to live in two homes with parents that behave like overgrown adolescents. Mom’s fucking Frank’s tennis instructor (William Baldwin), and Dad wants to fuck one of his students (Anna Paquin). Meanwhile, Frank, the youngest, masturbates and smears his spooge on shit at school, and Walt lies about writing Pink Floyd songs at the school’s talent show.

This is a film about how people deal with fear: of love, of success, of the future, of failure. Noah Baumbach’s script is intense, funny, and cuts deep. Suffice to say, I loved it. But I’ll never see it again.

Gabriel Iglesias: Hot and Fluffy (2007)

There's not much to say here except that Gabriel Iglesias is hysterical! He's makes it fun to be fat (or, shall I say, "fluffy").

City of God (2002)
Director: Fernando Meirelles

Starring: Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino, Phellipe Haagensen

Simply put: one of the best movies I've ever seen, and easily in my top 5 all-time favorite crime films. City of God is a masterpiece. It captures the flavor of a locale, populates it with the most interesting characters, and tells a story that is enlightening, fulfilling, and inspiring.

It is the story of Rocket, a wannabe photographer, who tells of his experiences in Cidade de Deus, where he has witnessed a legacy of criminal activity. The people he knows, from his brother's hoodlum friends to Lil Ze, the child who grows into the slum's dangerous Kingpin, are so well drawn that by the time the movie is over, you will remember their names.

I loved every moment of this movie.

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