Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Pride & Prejudice

by Colin
Wow, that was unexpected. I was home at my parents' house for Memorial Day, and we ended up watching a movie that we thought everyone would enjoy at least a bit: Pride & Prejudice. I found the movie on the whole to be really enjoyable, but for me the real shining star was director Joe Wright, making his feature film debut. I would easily call it the best debut by a director that I've seen in a long time. I don't know how he did it, but the film features a dizzying number of extended long takes that last for minutes on end. And these aren't your garden variety long takes; these are sprawling scenes that involve dozens of characters doing very different things. At one point in the commentary track, Wright notes how he originally wanted to do one (elaborate) scene as a montage, but then he glibly notes how he decided how he decided instead to just do one long tracking shot that makes frequent shifts in who we are following.

And perhaps the most amazing thing is that on the commentary track, the guy is completely self-deprecating, noting all of the mistakes he made. Overall, the commentary track itself is a real treat, as he pulls no punches. And on the track, he displays an encyclopedic knowledge of film history, noting how a wide variety of films and directors inspired ceratin shots in the film. The bottom line is that this guy has the goods. I can't wait to see his next film, which the imdb currently lists as an adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel Atonement, which will also star Kiera Knightley.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Gone With the Wind

by Jackrabbit Slim

I rented Gone With the Wind over the weekend. I believe it is the third time I've seen it. The first time was when my grandmother took me during a re-release during the 1970's. She had seen it a number of times and it was a favorite of hers. I then rented the video version about twenty years ago. I may have seen parts of it during television airings since then.

It is, without reservation, a magnificently made film. The photography, script, editing and direction are all exquisite, and it certainly deserves its reputation as perhaps the greatest movie of all-time, if only for the sensation it created. There are, however, some disturbing things about it, particularly it's attitude about slavery.

Now, I know the film was made in 1939, and no one was going to make any money in those days making movies where blacks were treated as equals. But I think this attitude needs to be addressed. The novel, which I have not read, is, I understand, Margaret Mitchell's method of trying to invoke the memory of a civilization past--the "moonlight and magnolias" era of the ante-bellum South. That's all well and good, but that was a civilization that was created on the backs of slave labor. As I watch the opening scenes, I relish the prospect that these spoiled, horrible people are about to get their just desserts. The film keeps that romantic vision alive, depicting zero scenes of the cruelty and horror of slavery. We are told that the O'Hara's "darkies" are treated well, and they remain loyal to a fault. But wouldn't have been nice if Big Sam, instead of trying to quell the Yankee invasion, had run off and joined the Union Army?

Rhett Butler, a wonderful character, almost seems to exist outside of the film. He is the only person who seems to know the situation, and is a realist of the highest order. He's also the only character who treats Mammy with any respect. I suppose the way he was written was the only way the film could have taken a more modern sensibility. Thanks, also, to producer David Selznick, who removed all instances of the "N" word which were in the novel. If that word had been peppered through the script, I don't know if the film would be so loved today. It might sit on the shelf next to Birth of a Nation, as a film classic that nobody wants to watch anymore.

My grandmother, who was from southern Ohio, talked about how terrible the Union Army was to the South during Sherman's march to the sea. From where I sit, it was entirely appropriate. So even today this film can provoke thought and debate.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Paper Clips

by Count Olaf

I just saw this move last night after putting it in my Netflix queue an eternity ago. Someone suggested it in the forums back at Hollywood Elsewhere and I immediately became interested and dropped it in the queue right away. It was delayed forever and then released and recalled last year finally to be released again this year.

This is not a deep movie and doesn't get far below the surface for any length of time, but for what it is, it is a great lesson. It shows ignorance does not equal intolerance. It shows the wisdom of a principal who wanted to teach her non-diverse student body about intolerance, injustice & evil. She sent her Asst. Principal to a diversity conference in the big city and he came back with some ideas. They decided to do the Holocaust as a study. Then the kids came up with the paper clips idea (borrowing from Norway) soon after.

It's amazing to watch these kids go to work. It gives me some hope that they're not all stoned-out slackers skating by. Maybe that's just in California...but there's still hope in the rest of the country. And these kids are genuinely interested in finding out about someone different than themselves. It's not that they are intolerant - they just don't have a clue. It was telling to hear one student say that he couldn't believe that some people grew up not knowing their grandparents. Others said they could not believe the atrocity of destroying those who weren't like you. It made them want to find out their prejudices and get rid of them. Some teachers literally break down before you when confronted with their own prejudices.

It moved me to see the German couple so moved. To see the principal, teachers, parents & students hear the survivors' stories for the first time and just fall apart. It warmed my heart to know Middle School children in Tennessee still think of Tom Bosley as a celebrity (haha).

I got a little sense of patriotism - proud to know this goes on in America, etc. But I was also excited to see the international response and helpfulness of the German couple. We've got a lot of good still out there and you can even see it through the 1,600 person strong community of Whitwell Tennessee.

The site of the school memorial:

Friday, May 26, 2006

Opening in Dallas, 05/26

by Brian
The Proposition (trailer): Been anxiously awaiting this for a while, after many great reviews, including two from Nick (here and here). Also, I’ve been kicking around the idea for a while that Emily Watson is the best actress working today.

X-Men: The Last Stand (trailer): Normally would have been at the top of the list, but despite the OK from Chris, the Ratner hatred barrier isn’t yet broken. Actually, I should say “Ratner resistance barrier”, since I’ve actually never seen one of his movies, and therefore don’t hate him.

Clean: This has apparently been kicking around the film festivals of the world for two years or so, and now is being given a theatrical release by Palm Pictures, who doesn’t have a website for it. Anyway, Maggie Cheung won Best Actress at Cannes – in 2004 – for her role here as a junkie single mom. Also with Nick Nolte, who’s been pretty great in recent years.

Lemming: Another movie with no website, this time from Strand Releasing. It’s a French film about a troubled relationship, which apparently somehow revolves around a dead rat in the kitchen sink.

Somersault (trailer): Apparently a big-time critical hit in Australia, but I don’t really know much else about it, to be honest.

Keeping Up with the Steins (trailer): I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this trailer a few times, but I just don’t remember it. I’m sure it has its moments but it seems boring.

The Lost City (trailer): Directed by and starring Andy Garcia, and featuring Bill Murray and Dustin Hoffman. The film’s gotten horrible reviews, and I’m a bit wary of a film that rails against Castro by showing how much fun the rich folks were having before he took over. Certainly there must be better critiques of Castro than that.

Sir! No Sir! (trailer): Documentary about Vietnam vets who opposed that war. Normally the films at the bottom of this list are bottom-of-the-barrel trash, but there’s nothing like that coming out this week. But, I know almost nothing about this film, and the subject doesn’t really seem interesting or timely, so it ends up in this spot. Tough luck, really.

X Men 3

by Chris
I really wanted to hate it, but I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this movie. I think it might be my favorite of the X-Men films, it's just hard to break through the Ratner hatred barrier enough to really rave about it. It doesn't take itself too seriously and does a nice job of tying up the trilogy. For a standard-fare action flick with minimal emotional resonance, you could do much worse.

On a side note, reactions to the Snakes on a Plane trailer were incredible. Among the laughter, hoots, and scattered applause I overheard some great tidbits:

"Is that a real movie?"
"That is the stupidest thing I've ever seen."
"This will be the greatest movie ever."

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Lost Season Finale

by Jackrabbit Slim
Discuss amongst yourselves.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


by Brian
So, it seems that the premiere of Sophia Coppola's Marie-Antoinette at Cannes was disastrous. Why am I not surprised?

Sometimes, you can feel critical resistance to a film building, and this was one of those times. I don't know how it happened, but somehow Lost in Translation turned out to be a very divisive film, and I get the feeling that the knives have been out for Coppola ever since the 2003 Oscar nominations were announced.

I'm not saying that the cold reception to Marie-Antoinette isn't justified - how would I know? - but I'm not taking this initial response very seriously, either. I did like Wells's review, though. It's a classic I'll-pan-it-now-but-lay-the-groundwork-for-changing-my-mind-down-the-road kind of piece.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Trailers Galore

by Nick
Superman Returns - Don't know if Brian is still in 'shutdown-mode' a la Batman Begins, but for those of you still harbouring doubts over whether this will be watchable, well, watch this. A much better (edited, at least) trailer than the last one.

District B13 - Saw this film last year. If you don't want the entire plot spoiled, don't watch this trailer. Not that there is much plot to spoil, and it's unimportant really, since the real enjoyment to be had here is in its amazingly choreographed parkour-inspired action- and martial arts-sequences. Some of the best since Ong-Bak. But I'd still recommmend waiting for the DVD. This one goes down best with beer, friends and popcorn.

The Devil Wears Prada - Why don't they do trailers like this more often? Just take a scene, maybe two, that say all you need to know about the picture (which should be easier than it apparently is), make it around two minutes long.. ta-da. Also, this is a pretty amusing scene. Film looks fun, in a Legally Blonde kind of way (surprisingly enough, even to myself, one of my favorite guilty pleasures).

Dead Man's Shoes - Don't think I've talked about this one, but it's a small gem. A Brit low-budget thriller from the master of Brit low-budget, Shane Meadows, this is a thriller done as thrillers should be done, closer to horror than action. With a ferocious turn from Paddy Considine - who does his best so far here (trivia: him and Meadows are old pals from school) - this is a film that's slowly grown on me, grander and grander each step of the way. A down-and-dirty revenge flick that starts crawling under your skin.

Trailer's a bit crap, though. Don't recommend watching it.

Pan's Labyrinth - Okay, this looks friggin' great. What I can see, at least. It's in this really maximized Flash-format. But looks like Del Toro just progresses after Hellboy. Oh, and it's in Spanish. But maybe that's a good thing. It is to me.

The Lake House - Or 'What's the Frequency, Keanu?' Seriously, is this a remake? Old radios, old postboxes.. Ah, yes... but wait, of a Korean movie? Both released in the same year. Very spooky.

This reminds me of the title of a Philip K. Dick novel; "Now Wait For Last Year." I bet some production assistant will think of just that, and then buy the property so that they can remake it into a rom-com about lately arrived mobile text-messages (practically time travel as well) when they make the direct-to-dvd sequel to this remake.

Sometimes it's hard to say what is most confusing. The paradoxes of time travel, or what was going on in all those studio-executive heads when they greenlighted all these fucking remakes.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Opening in Dallas, 05/19

by Brian
Down in the Valley (trailer): I think Edward Norton is one of the great actors working today, so it’s good to see him again. This is his first major role since … The Italian Job, three years ago?

The Da Vinci Code (trailer): Topic for discussion: Ron Howard is the most overrated director in all the land. Wells called this his worst movie since Far and Away a few weeks ago, and the thought of a movie worse than Howard’s version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas made me gag.

Water (trailer): Indian film about an 8-year-old widow, which apparently caused quite a stir in the homeland. I’m always up for movies with a strong sense of social justice, and I’ll see this if I get the chance (i.e., if it doesn’t leave town after a week).

Kinky Boots (trailer): Although I’m interested in the development of Chiwetel Ejiofor’s career, I nonetheless have to point out that this movie looks like an incredible chore to sit through. I feel like we’ve been down the “stodgy old Brits forced to loosen up” avenue of humor way too many times, when really The Full Monty was enough.

The Big Buy: How Tom DeLay Stole Congress (trailer at official site): Once upon a time, there was an evil man named Tom DeLay, who was very corrupt, and indeed, stole Congress. Then after years of unrestrained power grabs and unfathomable corruption, he was indicted 8 months ago. Which means this documentary arrives in theaters about 8 months too late. Plus, since even his supporters boast that DeLay is a complete dickhead, I can’t imagine that this documentary has anything in it that could be news to anyone.

Over the Hedge (trailer): And the winner is … Pixar!

See No Evil (trailer): I'm all for putting pro wrestlers in movies. After all, where would we be without the important contributions of Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Dennis Rodman, or that guy who played Bane in Batman and Robin? But at least use pro wrestlers that I've heard of. I mean, who in the hell is "Kane"?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Lost, May 17th Episode

by Jackrabbit Slim
Discuss in comments.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Quick Takes

by Brian
Lonesome Jim: Previously reviewed here by Colin a while back, and I mostly agree with his review. I will say, though, that I didn’t understand for a moment why the Tyler character wanted to spend more than five minutes with the Affleck character. There’s a rather typical element of male fantasy at work here; no matter how big of a loser you are, there’s always a beautiful woman out there waiting to get the chance to sleep with you. So, I think it would have helped if Affleck would have been able to make his character show, in some small way, some kind of endearing quality instead of being simply a dazed idiot moron the whole time.

Game 6: A good performance by Michael Keaton, but not a whole lot else to recommend this. I felt that the tone of the screenplay was probably a lot different than the tone of the film turned out to be. There are a lot of wacky events and characters here, but director Michael Hoffman plays it straight, and the result is kind of jarring.

Brick: I really loved this, and I think it justifies its own review instead of being stuck in a Quick Takes column like this, but all of my efforts to write one have made the movie sound ridiculous. It’s a fantastic and unique film, and if you still have the chance to see it, go.

Hard Candy: Another film that I’ve been wanting to write a full review for (for different reasons than Brick), but haven’t gotten around to it. I’ll just say that it’s hard to be effectively edgy when you abandon all semblance of character halfway through, making your 14-year-old sadist about as unsettling as Chuckie in the Child’s Play series. This is a pretty stupid movie.

Friends with Money: There are a few scenes in this movie with a husband and wife screenwriting team. They read their script aloud to each other, and argue about what dialogue makes sense and what doesn’t. I kept feeling that Nicole Holofcener should have done the same, because the characters in this movie say and do a lot that, well, just don’t make no sense. Also, I’m not sure I grasped a point.

Aguirre: The Wrath of God, and Invincible: Rare DVD viewings for me, as I’ve decided to try to catch up on Werner Herzog’s films. Of the two of these, I liked Aguirre better; it’s more mysterious and chilling, plus the commentary track is awesome. But they’re both fascinating.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


by Jackrabbit Slim

Yet another childhood memory that will certainly be ruined. I'm sure many of you have read reports that Underdog will be turned into a feature film. I've read that it will be part CGI animation/part live-action, which makes it sound suspiciously like the feature film version of Scooby Doo. Jason Lee will voice the super-hound (Nothing against Lee, who I enjoy on My Name is Earl, but he is no Wally Cox), while Amy Adams will presumably play Sweet Polly Purebred. Peter Dinklage is also in the cast, possibly as Simon Barsinister, which would be good.

When I was a lad in the '60s, I loved Underdog cartoons. I'm not sure if they've been prevalent in syndication so that the younger generations have seen them. I have no idea how they would hold up to my jaded, cynical, adult eyes, but I have fond memories of some of the episodes, such as the one where the planet of cats stole all the cows from Earth so they could have a never-ending supply of milk, or the one where Underdog had recurring back pain, and finally figured out it was because a sword was stuck down the back of his uniform.

Another bit of nostalgia becomes fodder for the multiplexes...

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Inside Deep Throat

by Professor Wagstaff
Documentary looking at the impact of the release 'Deep Throat' in 1972 in America, a cheaply made hardcore sex film (which even the director said wasn't any good) that, because of various factors became a cultural phenomenon. The more the government tried to suppress its showing, the more popular it became.

This is a fascinating subject that the film doesn't make full use of - mainly because it's unfocussed in its agenda and tries to cover too many topics. An example of this is how the star of the film and her tragic fate afterwards - Linda Lovelace - is largely ignored. Indeed, her life probably would've been enough for the film to be based upon. There's some fascinating footage of her in the 1980s after she's released a book totally regretting her involvement in the porn industry. On one talk show, she appears with feminist Gloria Steinem who decries the fact that Lovelace was totally exploited and unable to speak for herself while within the porn industry, while Steinem is doing the very same thing herself. But the film really doesn't explore this, or other aspects of her life.

The weakest aspect of the film is the mafia connections the film had - it's done in a half-hearted and confusing way and it would've been better if the film had excised this aspect altogether. Frankly, I was bored by this section of the film.

Still, despite itself there's much of interest in here. Like how the Nixon adminsitration conducted a study into the impact of pornography in the late 1960s. When the results based on scientific data showed that pornography didn't have a negative impact, the administration (obviously not getting the results they hoped for) junked the results. Then in the 1980s, the Reagan administration did another investigation which ignored scientific data and instead relied on anaecdotal personal testimony - this time they got the negative results they wanted about pornography. Again, if they'd attempted to concentrate on purely on this aspect it probably would've been a more satisfying film.

I think the underlying weakness of this film was shown by one comment I read that the main interest of the filmmakers on this film wasn't its socio-historical impact or the fate of its stars, but the fact that it reportedly was the most profitable film ever made. And that's reflected in how the directors construct the film - having various celebrities and experts talking about the significance of the film just for the sake of it and just randomly going from one issue to the another without exploring them properly.

Overall, an interesting film that, if it had been better directed and more disciplined, could've been a gem.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Opening in Dallas, 05/12

by Brian
Movie I’ve already seen:

Poseidon: Thought it sucked. My full review is here.

Others, in order of interest:

Art School Confidential (trailer): I was a big fan of Terry Zwigoff’s Ghost World, less so of Bad Santa. This looks like something in between, returning to source material from Daniel Clowes but more of an emphasis on broad humor.

Wah-Wah (trailer): Strong contender for the worst title of the year award, but it’s got a strong cast and has gotten decnt reviews. Looks kinda boring, though, and melodramas with great casts about affluent Brits seem to come and go without ever making much of an impact.

Goal! The Dream Begins (trailer): Soccer movie from the director of Judge Dredd and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, so you know it’s got to be good.

Gilles’ Wife (trailer): French soap opera about a woman whose husband is having an affair with her sister. I’m so glad this is finally coming out. Not because I want to see it, but because I’ve had to sit through the trailer every time I’ve seen a movie at the Angelika for the past six months or so. I’m weary.

Just My Luck (trailer): I read somewhere, don’t remember where, that this is Lindsay Lohan’s first “grown-up” role. My, my, we’ve sure come a long way since Jodie Foster had to play a child prostitute for Disney products to get a grown-up role, haven't we?

Tribeca roundup

by Colin
My wife was busy with volunteering at the Festival, and I was busy making some final edits on publishing my latest legal article (about 55 pages), but we did manage to see 3 films at the Tribeca Film Festival.

I'm Reed Fish

Recent films about quarter-lifers returning to their small town roots such as Garden State, Elizabethtown, and Lonesome Jim have belied the argument that you can’t go home again. I’m Reed Fish turns this recent trend on its head, as small town DJ and go-to guy Reed Fish (Undeclared’s Jay Baruchel) has his life thrown into chaos when childhood chum Jill (Schuyler Fisk, Sissy Spacek’s daughter) returns from a 4 year stint at UT-Austin. That life includes his impending marriage to Kate (Gilmore Girl Alexis Bledel), with who he shares a childhood tragedy but not her enthusiasm for wedding planning.

In their feature debuts, director Zackary Adler and writer Reed Fish nail the nuances of small town life. Victor Rasuk plays Reed Fish’s goofy radio sidekick as basically the opposite of his cocksure character in The Lords of Dogtown, and DJ Qualls delivers another surprising performance after his terrific work in Hustle & Flow.

All in all, this is a sweet, little film with a very odd narrative choice in the middle that makes you question what your watching. Being a fan of Charlie Kaufman, I kind of dug it, but I could see a lot of people being perplexed by it. I would say that this one might be a good film to Netflix, but I’m not sure it’s worth the price of a ticket

Follow My Voice: With the Music of Hedwig

Moulin Rouge often gets the credit for jump starting the recent resurgence of movie musicals that might have died with The Producers, but for my money Hedwig and the Angry Inch was the more memorable musical of 2001. Watching Katherine Linton’s compelling Follow My Voice: With the Music of Hedwig, I soon realized why as composer Stephen Trask tells us that Sleatter Kinney, my favorite active band, was very much on his mind in creating the film’s iconic songs.
Follow My Voice tracks the recording of a Hedwig tribute album by the likes of Sleater Kinney, Jonathan Richman, Rufus Wainwright, Yoko Ono, and Cindy Lauper, to raise money for the Harvey Milk High School, the country’s first LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Tran, Queer) high school. Actually, that sort of reverses things, as the focus is primarily on four Harvey Milk students, with the recording of the songs underscoring their lives.

I commented to my wife that the doc was basically the best episode of MTV’s True Life ever. Angel Santiago is most similar to Hedwig, a transgendered teen battling with her parents, who refuse to acknowledge her chosen life as a woman. Rapheal Ramos is a gay teen who faced extreme homophobic violence before entering Harvey Milk, Mey Bun becomes a model, and Tenaja Jordan is a refugee from that wicked little town of Staten Island.

The bottom line is that if you enjoyed Hedwig, you should really dig this film. If you haven’t seen Hedwig, move it to the top of your Netflix queue.

The Treatment

In the 1990's Chris Eigeman made a procession of great films as an uber-neurotic New Yorker is classic films by Whit Stillman and Noah Baumbach. And while I would have loved to have seen Eigeman as, say, Jeff Daniels’ even more pretentious professor rival in The Squid and the Whale, I was more than happy to see him as a therapy-dependent high school teacher in the New York Narrative Award winning The Treatment.

Ian Holm plays his psychiatrist as sort of the id to his character in Garden State, and he constantly goes over the top with some really amusing comments that had the audience in stitches. Famke Janssen both looks great and delivers probably her best performance as the widow Eigeman’s character falls for.

The film is very much a New York film in the Woody Allen vein, making great use of Upper West Side locations. And the story is nicely scattershot, mixing in the previously mentioned relationship with some pretty good father-son stuff and even a Hoop Dreams-esque side story that, to a degree, informs the rest of the film. I’d label this one a must see if and when it gets a release.

In Case You Missed It

by Count Olaf
Here is a copy of that 7-minute X3 preview I taped from the local FOX station last night (RapidShare, 75mb, avi w/XviD codec)....

I don't know. Something about it just seems....cheesy. Can't put my finger on it. Perhaps it's just too weird to see the Beast and hear Dr. Frasier Crane.

I'll still be there opening evening, however.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Battered wife syndrome?

by Nick
So Chris was the first one to break the unspoken embargo, unless someone here's been posting under an alias.

Not that I blame you, bro, I was feeling the temptation as well. Much as many of us disagree with Wells, everyone here still reads him, I presume.

How many other people feel like posting, or have posted? While everyone will do as they wish, does anyone think we should have some kind of modus operandi, rules of engagement, for the blog at large?

Not that I think Wells will ever engage in the talkbacks personally. He'll just bask in the glow of having achieved a high count of clicks/comments, as per usual.

Can I also be the first to say that while I've been waiting for Wells to start with the blogformat for ages, it looks ugly as shit right now. Like Wired grown too big for its breeches.

One Evening in Malmö

by Nick
The appropriately named Turning Torso. Or as the Malmö people call it "uählskåadä Töohrsoohn".

Not that it will impress any of you, but standing at 190 metres, this is the tallest apartment building in Europe, and most people of Malmö are a somewhat proud of that.

King Charles X Gustav. Died 1660. Historians still debate whether he was mad or a genius.

Anyway, thanks to him the south of Sweden speaks Swedish(... kinda), and not Danish. Most Swedes - north and south - still debate over whether this was for the better or worse.

This duck was absolutely fearless of me. Don't know if I was supposed to be flattered or insulted.

(Due to my lack of html know-how, the rest of the pic's have been moved to another blog temporarily.)

Click here to see the rest.

UMPC a non-starter?

by jaydro
A while back Nick posted about his search for a laptop replacement, enthusing over the possibilities of the recently-announced UMPC. Still thinking about that UMPC, Nick? Here's David Pogue's NY Times review:

A Big Question Unanswered by a Tiny PC

and the somewhat scary follow-up:

Microsoft’s Sinking UMPC Ship

(NY Times registration required, I assume, sorry. And I hope those links work for a while....)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


by Brian
That there's any positive reaction at all to Poseidon is really quite amazing to me, and Jeffrey Wells's continued enthusiasm for it boggles the mind. It's the worst movie I've seen this year. Admittedly, this isn't saying just a whole lot, since I skip a lot of movies that I suspect would be worse. That said, though, I think it's easily on the level of previous years' chores like Fantastic Four, The Island, or The Day After Tomorrow.

For an action movie, it's extremely dull, easily the most boring movie Wolfgang Petersen has made. Every single action scene unfolds exactly as you would predict beforehand, robbing the film of any kind of surprise or even suspense. And there's nothing here that we haven't seen before in a million other action movies - how many times have we seen people in an enclosed area that's filling with water while they gasp for breath in an ever-shrinking space between the water line and the ceiling? Who wants to bet that they find their way out at the last second? How is such a scene supposed to be the least bit exciting? Especially the second and third times you see it in the same movie?

It’s also extremely lazy in a narrative sense. Apparently the screenwriters couldn’t be bothered to come up with any kind of plausible plot points, so instead they just have shit exploding for no good reason at regular intervals, which then spurs the next crisis, and the next regularly scheduled character death, etc.

I suppose I should acknowledge that I am grateful that the filmmakers don’t waste any time with cheap sentimentality. That said, though, even as archetypes these characters are embarrassingly thin. Schumacher It Girl Emmy Rossum and Richard Dreyfuss both try and utterly fail to make something out of their characters; Kurt Russell and Josh Lucas are at least smart enough not to bother, and play off of their established screen personas. It’s not good work, but they keep their dignity.

Still, it’s hard to care about characters that the filmmakers don’t even try to make interesting. As such, I don’t understand Wells’s reference to the movie’s “most startling scene”. In circumstances where you felt like you were watching something approximating real people, this scene might have had some effect. As it is in the movie, though, it doesn’t feel like gritty survivalism, as it would in a better movie, because who cares about that guy anyway? Plus, you see it coming a mile away anyway.

So, long story short … don’t bother. And don’t be suckered by those who will tell you that this is something it’s not: the special effects are nothing special, the action is not exciting, and the short runtime does not make it actually feel short.

The Downside to the Democratic System?

by Nick
I wonder if they can go any further down. Or if it even matters.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Knight Rider

by Jackrabbit Slim

Hasselhoff Skien Comes to Big Screen
Tuesday May 9 11:44 AM ET

The Weinstein Co. has picked up the feature rights to the '80's series Knight Rider from show creator Glen A. Larson.

By Mark Umbach,

Everybody's favorite TV actor, well, at least Germany's favorite TV actor, David Hasselhoff, must be so proud. The actor, who recently found out DreamWorks will be bringing an adaptation his Baywatch to theatres, will soon see another of his characters brought to the big screen. Indie shingle The Weinstein Co. has picked up feature rights to Hasselhoff starrer Knight Rider from show creator Glen A. Larson, and the company now has an eye toward adapting the series for the big screen.

Hasselhoff spent the mid-'80s cruising around the small screen as Michael Knight, with his talking car KITT, in the cop series Knight Rider. The show centered on an injured cop who had been left to die. He is nursed back to health by a mysterious millionaire who gives the cop a new name, face and all sorts of high-tech gadgets, including his car KITT, to help fight crime.

The show ran from 1982 through 1986 on NBC and earned Hasselhoff the People's Choice Award as Favorite Male Performer in a New Television Series for the show's first season.

No casting decisions for the feature have been made, but David Price, who brought the idea to The Weinstein Co., will be a co-producer.

The Weinstein Co. recently picked up the feature rights to TV's Welcome Back, Kotter as a star vehicle for Ice Cube, and they are also developing The Equalizer for the big screen. One can only hope that the studio does a better job with Knight Rider than was recently done with the likes of The Dukes of Hazzard and Bewitched, to name a few.

So, presumably Hasselhoff need not apply. Casting ideas? Should William Daniels be awakened for this?

I presume, also, that this film will be a turd.

Saturday, May 06, 2006


by Nick
(no spoilers)

Went to see this yesterday.

Theater was pretty full (was a bit after nine), despite a barely existent advertising campaign. Trailer that got the best response seemed to be Pirates 2, got all the the chicks in the theater buzzing. Least talk was for the Superman teaser, which got more of a 'what?'-response from the people I was watching with. Wonder what they'll think of the trailer.

Film itself was pretty decent. Guess you could say it's best of series so far, but in more of an overall sense. First film had some great sequences but got fouled by a plot that tied itself unto silliness. Plot is almost credible this time - as far as these things go - if you're willing to disregard Cruise being more indestructible than the GI Joe action figures I beat (slammed/ wrenched/ blew up/ burned/ threw) around with when I was six.

Two stand-out sequences in the film, one near the beginning and the one on the bridge glimpsed in the trailer. Both well done, got the juices flowing. Also good to see Cruise finally coming around to realizing that the charm of the old series was seeing a team executing impossible missions together.

Big delight was Philip Seymour Hoffman as Owen Davian. First believable über-villain since.. don't know when. Very cool. Like everyone says he deserved a couple of extra minutes.

Main problem was Cruise. Been a big fan for a long time, and disregarding media hoopla, his newfound (be it by him or us) 'joie de vivre' comes through all too much here. Don't remember the Ethan Hunt from MI:I being this intensely grinning. Would be interesting to hear others view on this.

Other cast was all right. Good to see Rhys-Meyers after Match Point, looks like he's loosened up. Also nice to see Billy Crudup as something other than his usual hippie.

Film sped by fast, was surprised when it ended. Didn't feel like the two hours it is, probably the best thing one can say about a film like this.

Good action film.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

J.J. Abrams helming Star Trek XI

by jaydro
This is probably old news to some people, but I just heard last night that M:I3/Lost/Alias dude J. J. Abrams has been announced as the director/writer/producer of the Star Trek XI movie, to be about Kirk and Spock's early days. A similar concept had been kicked around about fifteen or more years ago for a movie or TV series.

Looking up his résumé, I realized I had forgotten that Abrams had done Joy Ride. I've never watched Alias, and Lost isn't enough to make me excited that he's done M:I3, but that's probably M:I2's fault more than Lost.

I hate to admit that lately I've been enjoying G4's airing of Star Trek 2.0, wherein the original series is screened with a wide frame containing silly things like counters for drinking-game events, "Spock Market" stock values, and live chat, but I watch it at single-arrow fast-forward on TiVo just to read the trivia banner crawl. It's no great shakes, but they're pointing out lots of tidbits that I surprisingly didn't know. And of course I watch their promo ads with the animated action figures--they really crack me up. (Confession: Star Trek 2.0's trivia crawl is where I first heard the J. J. Abrams news.)

Lost May 3rd Episode

by Jackrabbit Slim
Discuss here. Don't read the comments if you don't want to be spoiled.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Opening in Dallas, 05/05

by Brian
As always, in descending priority:

Mission: Impossible III (trailer): Two reasons for this being at the top. First, my girlfriend saw it several weeks ago and said it was very good. She felt pretty much the same as me about the first two (hated the second, so-so on the first), and she also predicted that I would loathe War of the Worlds in similar circumstances last year, so I believe her. Second, as we'll see, there's very little to choose from this week.

Mountain Patrol: Kekexili (trailer at official site): I don't really know anything about this; I had a chance to attend a screening last night but passed it up. And I find that the feeling of vague disgust towards National Geographic's March of the Penguins only grows with time. With that experience in mind, though, I have to say that there are worse things than sitting through a documentary with the kind of beautiful footage that this doc probably has. Plus, I'm obviously very much against Tibetan antelope poaching.

The Promise (trailer): Word on this has been just short of disastrous, with a 21/24 rating from Rotten Tomatoes. We've seen so many of these Asian martial arts dramas, and I think that particular party ended already. They've become at least as much of a cliche as any kind of CGI-fest that Hollywood puts out.

Hoot (trailer): Kids protecting endangered owls. Now, owl habitat destruction doesn't push my eco-liberal buttons quite like Tibetan antelope poaching, but I'm still against it. More discouraging is that this is a kids' movie directed by a guy whose experience is mostly in TV sitcoms, but it has to be better than that other movie adapted from a Carl Hiaasen book, doesn't it?

An American Haunting (trailer): My biggest problem with this, aside from general dislike of the cheap horror movie trend, is that far too often I've had to deal with the ads on various websites. Anyone else experience this? The ones with the annoying fright sting that sounds like a steroidal version of the "Law and Order" thunk-thunk every time you roll over it with the mouse? Things like this just make me SO ANGRY THAT I JUST WANT TO AAAARRRHHHHHH!!!!!

One Last Thing... (trailer): The next, far lower-profile simultaneous theater/DVD release from Magnolia Pictures and HDNet, about a terminally ill teen whose last wish is to meet a spoiled-brat supermodel. This one looks far less interesting than Bubble ever did. Note of interest: Sunny Mabrey, who plays the model, is also in Snakes on a Plane.

Summer Storm (trailer): It seems that every week there's a specialized release that I've never heard of. Summer Storm is this week's, about a Tibetan antelope poacher who realizes that he has feelings for his boyhood friend, while overly metaphoric storm clouds gather on the horizon. Could he be ... (cue ominous music) gay?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

New Superman Returns Trailer

by Brian
Can be found here.

Strongly discouraging. Did no one tell Kevin Spacey that he's not doing a Bug's Life sequel? Are there really that many people in the world who are saying, "You know, I liked the 1978 version, except that Gene Hackman just wasn't hammy enough."

Ugh. My interest level just dropped about 40 percent.

Monday, May 01, 2006

United 93

by Brian
I saw United 93 yesterday, and in a lot of ways it's really quite stunning. After watching Bloody Sunday on Saturday (more on that in a bit), it's apparent that director Paul Greengrass is a master of this kind of lean, documentary-style approach.

One of his decisions that has the greatest payoff is using a lot of the air-traffic controllers and FAA types play themselves. Most of these people are not talented actors, but their presence lends a kind of authenticity that was apparent even though I did not know who they were until after the film. And that decision by Greengrass is representative of the movie as a whole: honest and real, with none of the Hollywoodization that the film’s critics feared. And the contribution of the actual people involved is a direct rebuke to the “Too-sooners”, whose numbers and passion were almost certainly greatly exaggerated but who nonetheless generated a ton of press.

And the film succeeds on a purely visceral level like few films I can think of, which is all the more impressive because it’s directed with an integrity few action films can afford. Like I said, the film eschews most of the conventions of Hollywood movies; almost every shot in the movie is limited to the point of view of its characters. Greengrass uses no gimmicks, no fancy camera effects, nothing to take us out of the moment. There’s no buildup and no payoff, just an unbroken chain of events. No doubt this is some of the boldest filmmaking we’ll see this year.

And yet ….

Thinking about it afterward, I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing. Because there’s no character buildup, there’s naturally an emotional detachment from the people in the plane. I think the movie is almost a little too straight-forward for its own good in this regard. It’s clearly evident that the filmmakers feel a great deal of empathy for these people, but it was also evident that Mel Gibson, for better or worse, felt a great deal of empathy for his subject in The Passion of the Christ two years ago. Sometimes directors’ attitudes just aren’t enough. Don’t get me wrong, this is obviously a superior film to Passion, and I understand that this is completely in keeping with the aim of the film to put you on that plane.

However, in the end, I question that aim. In Bloody Sunday, Greengrass uses the same style to put us in the middle of the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry, Northern Ireland, in 1972. That film benefited greatly from James Nesbitt’s performance as MP Ivan Cooper. We see very little of the events outside of the buildup to the civil rights march and subsequent massacre, but even in these scenes Nesbitt is able to create a character; we see him passing out flyers advertising the march, dealing with the press, trying to calm the more militant factions of the town, etc. It’s not much, but it’s enough to give the film an emotional center, and it feels no less honest than anything else in the film.

United 93 is, I think, missing that center. We don’t need to see much about these characters – I hate obvious sentimentality as much as the next cynical asshole – but we can’t relate to people we don’t know. This is unquestionably a deeply respectful and tremendously effective film; I don’t want to make this sound like a negative review, because it’s not. But I can’t help but feel that the sum of this movie amounts only to a top-notch virtual reality thrill-ride, and isn’t there more to what happened on that plane than that?