Friday, November 13, 2009

Zombieland (Ruben Fleischer, 2009)

The finale of Zombieland fittingly takes place in a theme park, which I can only imagine is the writers and director acknowledging the no-thought-required good-time nature of the proceedings. It may never be very deep – no one is confusing this film with one of George A. Romero’s social commentary zombie flicks – but it’s still a helluva lot of fun regardless. Our reluctant hero and geek survivor, known as Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), has developed a rule set for how to endure in an America overrun with the living dead. When in doubt, he heeds his regulations, such as “Beware of Bathrooms” and the “Double Tap” (never leave any doubt about a kill). On his way west, he hops a ride with Woody Harrelson’s badass zombie killer Tallahassee (in a sly concept, everyone in this movie is referred to by the city they’re headed to so as to avoid making too many human connections). Eventually their little twosome will encounter a couple of sisters, Wichita and Little Rock, and they’ll form an at times double-crossing, makeshift family dynamic that results in a cross country road trip to Pacific Playland as an expedition for Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) to get one last look at the adolescence she’s missed out on. There are a number of flaws and not a whole lot of what can be called “plot” but this film, one which boasts numerous slow motion kill shots of zombies to open and even a “Zombie Kill of the Week” moment, has nothing but entertainment on its mind. And it delivers, giving Woody Harrelson a cowboy hat, a gun and a ceaseless desire for Twinkies, a hilarious cameo appearance and throwing Jesse Eisenberg into another one of his virginal fawning over the tough, indie girl roles (see: Adventureland). Maybe it could have benefitted from an extra 15 minutes of storytelling – its 82 minute runtime is pretty sparse – but still, it’s a blast… and usually one straight to a zombies head.

A Perfect Getaway (David Twohy, 2009)

Very no-frills escapist filmmaking, director David Twohy must have been on a short leash following the disaster of The Chronicles of Riddick and abandoned his sci-fi roots for a more mainstream thriller with lots of beautiful people and a beautiful Hawaii locale. And for what it is, this whodunit storyline that tries to play around with genre conventions goes down easily enough. We’ve got two couples (Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich and Kiele Sanchez and Timothy Olyphant) in Hawaii on vacation who cross paths as a couple of murders take place on the island they all came from. The murderers may or may not be following them… or may or may not be among them. It’s a fine hook. Unfortunately the film also commits a handful of cinematic crimes, not the least of which is congratulating itself via its own self-referential dialogue on its clever plot twists ahead. Twohy might as well have planted signs in the ground. Also the director doesn’t have faith in the audience to go with his twist, doubling back in the third act to try and reestablish characters in hopes of making some sense of his finale. In fact in the third act, things seem to veer off course completely as suddenly we see bulging muscles and characters acting differently than they had been all the way ‘til then and even on their own, presumably without an audience watching. It’s as if the cameraman himself is in on trying to trick us by only allowing us to see what he wants. It all comes off as a bit of a sham. Timothy Olyphant again gives you shades of darkness and humor and comes out best among the cast. I tend to like him in films… but most of the time the average material he’s working with just makes me want to go back and watch “Deadwood” again.

Friday, September 4, 2009

(500) Days of Summer (Marc Webb, 2009)

One of the characteristics that I most appreciated about Marc Webb’s debut feature (500) Days of Summer was its adherence to depicting a relationship unto itself in all its highs and lows, from courtship to break-up and maybe back again. There’s no infidelity that leads to a huge blow-up, no manufactured drama to push the plot forward. One day Tom Hanson (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zooey Deschanel) are together and the next they’re not. And it’s largely left up to the characters and the audience – through indicators, sure – to decide why. The film is told in an out-of-order presentation, as we flip back and forth through their connection (Summer refuses to label it a relationship) with the help of some unfortunately mood-indicating title cards. And what should be shocking for a romantic comedy these days, it gets a lot of the moments right without relying on a high concept (see: The Proposal) to throw these characters together. There’s a wonderful segment chronicling the high, on-top-of-the-world feelings a relationship can instill in you, amplified to comic effect, but even that is crammed alongside a mood of sick desperation after a breakup and a depression where you can’t even get the resolve to roll out of bed… and sometimes don’t. Then there are the cute moments of flirtation… and the “what the hell happened?” instances where you’re buying Jack Daniels and Twinkies in your bathrobe and no one at work has seen you for a week. The film might be a little too cutesy and plotted for its own good, with Tom overly reliant on his apparently know-it-all, been-there-before kid sister and the 500 days set-up in itself, but there’s a surprising amount of depth here and it’s a real rarity to see the encapsulation of a romance done so well. The film is emotionally impactful and heartfelt and before you know it, it’s Autumn.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bruno (Larry Charles, 2009)

Sacha Baron Cohen claims his anti-Semitic Kazakhstanian alter ego Borat Sagdiyev is used as a means to lower the guard of interviewees and expose their own intrinsic racisms or indifference to racism. What then does Bruno, his homosexual Austrian character, expose? The irritating, effrontery with which Bruno conducts himself ruins any chance of garnering a real reaction or anything that can be considered social commentary towards homosexuality, leaving nothing but sketch after sketch of people staring aghast at his repellant buffoonery. This is most evident in the scene where Bruno tries to seduce Congressman Ron Paul. As soon as Bruno drops his pants, Ron Paul goes running for the door and the “I can’t believe he just did that” aspect of it doesn’t hold up. Even on Cohen’s “Da Ali G Show,” Bruno always seemed like a superfluous character, best taken in small doses and used mostly to show the superficiality and hyper-self-seriousness of the modeling and fashion world. But that’s a very limited target, and in the film it’s largely ignored in favor of Bruno’s narcissistic aims to become famous. This is largely used as enough reasoning to subject his interviewees and – by default us as his audience – to uncomfortable, upsetting situations and a whole lot of unnecessary frontal male nudity. When the film is working it is genuinely funny, but that occurs from time to time only when Bruno takes a back seat to his “guests” and allows their views to come through (such as in the hunting scene, the talk show scene, Bruno’s conversation about his attempted conversion to heterosexuality and his interview with the parents of child models). Otherwise, it’s a huge misfire. And Cohen doesn’t seem to know who or what he’s trying to target. In or out? Ish don't think so.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009)

While talking up Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino regularly mentioned setting out to make a “men on a mission” movie. The Basterds mission? The simple, depthless goal of killing as many Nazis as possible… in all sorts of torturous and barbaric ways. The trailers themselves all but guaranteed this as “The Jewish Revenge” movie. Thankfully then, this is not the Basterds movie and the movie has considerably more on its mind. Instead Inglourious Basterds more rightfully belongs to Shoshanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), a Jewish woman hiding out in France running a movie theater during the Holocaust, and Col. Hans Landa (the astonishing Christoph Waltz), named after his wartime specialty as “The Jew Hunter.” Landa is among Tarantino’s best creations, a villainous Nazi investigator with a gleeful attitude and a genial manner, he’s all the more creepy and off-putting because of it, and the horrible things he’s capable of unleashing at any time. Any time this character is on screen, Tarantino conducts a master class in building suspense simply through dialogue and the fear of the unknown. The best moments here regularly revolve around some sort of sit down conversational scene. The more problematic areas of the film, as I feared, come from the Basterds themselves. They’re a renegade group of thugs, as they would need to be to be dropped into occupied France and start slaughtering Nazis left and right. The problematic part is more to the point Tarantino wants you to enjoy the slaughter, baseball bat bludgeonings, scalpings, swastika forehead carvings, he’s personally handing out vengeance for WWII. As he’s said himself, this is no doubt a propaganda film but it’s also regularly a sadistic one, and offers the audience far too many opportunities to cheer the massacre. The film is told in five chapters and eventually the stories of Shoshanna and the Basterds converge as they both plan to destroy the movie theater screening a Nazi sniper’s propaganda film Nation’s Pride with the Fuhrer and his highest officials in attendance. There are moments of brilliant filmmaking, storytelling and scriptwriting scattered throughout and I’ll admit the film lodges itself into your memory (I’ve had more cravings to see this film again in theaters than any other 2009 release outside of Public Enemies). As usual, Tarantino’s love of film is found in every moment (hell, he even uses film as a weapon and a film critic for a hero) and the technical aspects are never less than tremendous and ingeniously clever. The performance Tarantino gets out of Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine is also more than noteworthy for its humor and commitment. If it weren’t for Waltz, Pitt would be receiving a lot more notices. This all leads to a finale so dizzyingly outrageous, it took me two days to realize it’s really nothing more than an audacious, juvenile prank. It’s both the best and worst of Quentin Tarantino… and to me that’s still pretty damn good.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Away We Go (Sam Mendes, 2009)

Evidence that sometimes the people responsible for the trailer should be allowed to re-cut the movie, every joke and edit work far better in the preview than they do in the actual film. Away We Go simply proves director Sam Mendes has no sense of humor… and no touch for it. It's also one of the worst written films I've ever seen. Ever. Everything is written in capital letters, with the quirk ramped up to 11 and its Juno-envy in prominent display. But this film is nothing like Juno, it never provides us with the characters or heart that film had. The ridiculously simplistic story is that Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph) are taken aback when Burt's parents decide to move to Belgium a mere month before their child is due. Having no life to call their own (they apparently lived for no other reason than to provide a grandchild for Burt's parents); they go out on a cross-country expedition to find a new place to live. But each scene is the same as the one before it, with Burt and Verona encountering a new eccentric couple at every stop (everything about this film is written to remind you it’s eccentric). No, it's not enough that Verona has a strong heart-to-heart with her sister, she has to do it in a bathtub in the middle of a showroom. It's not enough that Maggie Gyllenhaal's character requires you to remove your shoes and wear slippers… they have to look like a court jester would have objected to them. Or that Jeff Daniel's character bought a strange statue, it's gotta cost him $10,000.00 and he should also make an ass of himself trying to explain why he bought it. Also, Burt and Verona are such fake, constructed characters they never appear to be real people. They have no purpose, no heartbeat. Mendes thinks it's simply enough to point his camera at some eccentrically dressed characters and it's funny because Burt is stretching and wearing funny clothes and - look! - he stumbled and fell down! Revolutionary Road had just as many laughs.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Laurel Canyon (Lisa Cholodenko, 2002)

At this point, Hollywood has to be getting tired of dressing up this story in different duds. Another emotional and sexual awakening tale for a stuffy, bookish woman (Kate Beckinsale) and her too-serious beau (Christian Bale, fittingly), every last plot development for this film is easily guessed as soon as the major characters are introduced. Beckinsale plays an uptight woman named Alex who’s essentially a fuddy-duddy (you can tell because she wears glasses and talks about her dissertation on genomics). She’s engaged to Sam (Bale) but becomes seduced by the power of music and inviting nature of fun when they move into Sam’s mother’s place in, of course, Laurel Canyon. Sam’s mother, Jane (Frances McDormand) is a sort of rebellious screenplay creation, a sassy, pot-smoking record producer who’s romancing her lead singer as they put the finishing touches on their latest CD and is just likable enough to be able to goad Alex out of her hang-ups. Hookups are hinted at and then happen, new relationships build and fall apart, but the only thing of any interest actually occurring is the strained mother-son connection between Sam and Jane (thanks largely to its two actors instilling something deeper there than is actually written). Seeing Sam’s refusal to give in to his mother’s lifestyle as a rebellion against her and all she represents, Bale and McDormand find an interesting storyline worth examining… too bad it’s buried under the typical Hollywood hokum.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Up (Pete Docter & Bob Peterson, 2009)

Pixar continues to expand what we consider kids movies to be. They steadfastly refuse to adhere to any sort of genre rules, which helps to keep their films feeling fresh. Last year with Wall-E, they made half a silent film and a love story about robots, and with Up there are again long stretches of observation over action. It’s also another love story, told from childhood to an elderly age and a beautiful examination of the adventurous spirit, how life can interfere in your plans for yourself and the need to fulfill a promise to someone as a means of getting closure. Those are some heavy themes to be throwing into my cartoon for kids and Pixar’s films are all the richer and everlasting for it. I don’t think it’s perfect, although I think things about it are perfectly done (Carl and Ellie’s relationship for one, Carl and Russell’s friendship for another). Like Wall-E though, the best of Up takes place within its opening hour and then it finds it harder to sustain. But it’s hard to quibble about minor plot points and characters when something is so joyous, wonderfully told and manages to tug at your heart just right.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Hiroshima Mon Amour (Alain Resnais, 1959)

A technical marvel and an otherwise confounding film experience, Hiroshima Mon Amour seems to me to be exactly what it was originally commissioned to be… a short documentary of the atomic bomb stretched into a feature by a director not entirely sure of what they wanted to accomplish from it.

The first 15 minutes or so play out in much the same way I recall the short film La Jetee doing so, with constant transient bits of narration interspersed on top of some unsettling footage. It's a discombobulating burst of fleeting thoughts and feelings about the holocaust and the dropping of the atomic bomb upon Hiroshima during World War II that toys with the notions of memory and perception.

Alas, fifteen minutes into the film the pseudo-documentary atmosphere is dropped and we find out the narration was all unpleasant pillow talk between two lovers, a French woman referred to simply by the name of Elle (Emmanuelle Riva) and a Japanese man called Lui (Eiji Okada). They both admit to being "happily married" but get caught up in a passionate affair with one another… although the acting would never let you know it.

All we get from their relationship is Lui's fascination with Elle's backstory, their willingness to fall back into bed with one another, and Elle's view that this affair too will pass and its memory forgotten. There is no chemistry between the two leads which ultimately gives no credence to their infatuation with one another. The two have known each other only a day and their actions toward one another always seem hollow, lonely and emotionless. I was never able to buy into their desperate form of love, a reaction that kept me at arms length from the rest of the film.

It isn't until the film moves into flashbacks that the story carries any emotional weight (outside of the admittedly horrifying opening 15 minutes). When Elle starts to recall a previous affair she'd had with a German officer during WWII, finally there is a spark of true feeling. Riva's performance picks up and it was immediately recognizable just how powerful and innovatively Resnais' used flashbacks throughout. His ability to show the importance and solemn nature of the memory on Elle with just a momentary, inaudible clip was astonishing. It's not surprising that IMDb attributes Hiroshima Mon Amour as the, "film [that] pioneered the use of jump cutting to and from a flashback, and of very brief flashbacks to suggest obtrusive memories."

There are also some astonishing shots and vivid images Resnais captures. He introduces the characters in narration before ever showing them, and even as we're introduced he unveils them slowly, only in extreme close-ups of the lovers' embrace. Plus just the idea of mixing a love story around the setting of Hiroshima and World War II is in itself shocking and a bit off-putting. He's definitely innovative in a way not even Truffaut's The 400 Blows can approach, but I found it in the end to be an exercise in style, someone with a very strong grasp on the technical aspect and impact of filmmaking but not necessarily the emotional components of it.

There's a separate reaction culled from each of the different sectors of the film. The atomic bomb documentary opening is effective and unnerving. The flashbacks to Elle's German affair likewise are successful in establishing the despair Elle has at the officers' death and her own horror at the memory slowly seeming to slip away from her. But the love affair doesn't result in anything more than a tie between the two, a connection between Hiroshima and France outside of the war and a link to allow her story to unfold. There are unconvincing parallels drawn between the German officer and Lui, but they don't fit and I wonder how well the parts of the film fit together as a whole.

To me, they didn't quite add up. So while I was enthralled in Resnais' touches on the film, the narrative of it kept me from really relishing it. I read that Leonard Maltin compared Hiroshima Mon Amour to The French New Wave's version of Birth of a Nation. Maybe it is. Maybe the techniques and innovations of this film went on to compliment many another pictures, but there's a lot of issues taken with Nation's narrative as well, regardless of the originality of it.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The 400 Blows (Francois Truffaut, 1959)

While not the first example of the French New Wave, The 400 Blows really is the film that gave the movement its legitimacy. It brought director Francois Truffaut a Best Director prize at the Cannes Film Festival and received international acclaim that shone a light on France's new group of critics turned directors (from the Cahiers du Cinema). As is typical of the Oscars, it rewarded a film it didn't quite understand with a single, simple nomination for Best Screenplay.

While some of the things that comprise the New Wave Movement stood out to me (the long, tracking shots of Antoine running at the end of the film, the use of profanity and the focus on individual), so many of these stylistic choices have been copied to no end since that it didn't stick out as unusual or as groundbreaking as it may have in the time it was released. Which strikes me as somewhat strange, since the methods of a film like Citizen Kane do still feel surprising and easily observed (this is most likely due to the fact that I'm more familiar with the American cinema that Citizen Kane was a departure from, whereas I'm completely unfamiliar with the French cinema that The 400 Blows and this entire movement is a response to).

So what struck me about The 400 Blows, a film that I liked a great deal, was its strength of character and the manner with which director Francois Truffaut presents it, or as his own characters declare coming out of a film, "It has depth!"

The film is an acknowledged autobiographical tale of a 12-year-old Antoine, in the Truffaut role, a boy that has problems and a knack for drawing the ire of his teachers and parents (most notably his mother). After getting caught cutting school and lying to his professor that his mother dying was the reason for his missing class, Antoine starts to believe he can no longer live at home and ventures out to live on the streets and to become a man. Eventually this leads him to steal his father's own typewriter and attempt to pawn it off, only to fail and get caught whilst trying to return it. That proves to be the final straw, landing Antoine in the correctional school that his parents had threatened and he had left home trying to avoid.

It's not radical storytelling but the power of the film comes from its characterizations, how these people are presented.

While Antoine is a troublemaker and even the film's French title means "to raise hell," you can also easily see it's not his intention. The first time he gets in trouble at school, he's caught drawing on a provocative calendar that a number of boys before him had passed around, only for Antoine to be the one to get caught.

His friend Rene is really the reason for him to miss school as well, goading him into leaving his notebook behind and spending the day at the fairgrounds instead. Plus, Rene is the one who tells him to forge a note, which Antoine fails to be able to do, and in a panic exclaims that his mother died as a way to stop his professor's snarky comments. His decision to do so also seems like a clear act of revolt against his mother for having seen her kissing another man while he was cutting school the day before.

The professors also resent Antoine for not finishing his homework, but Truffaut plainly shows Antoine attempting to do his homework on numerous occasions only to be interrupted by his parents because of dinner and to send him on errands.

So Antoine is obviously a complex kid. He's not a saint by any means, but he's also not the hell-raiser that people believe him to be. It isn't until Antoine faces a life on the streets that he begins to do things really morally lacking - first stealing a bottle of milk, then money from his grandmother and ultimately the typewriter.

But he's also dealing with parents that don't really know how to handle him.

His father seems like a goof, friendly and well-meaning but slight and easily ignored. He doesn't amount to much and that seems to be one of the reasons his wife is cheating on him.

Whereas his mother treats him as if he were an errand boy, sending him to pick up flour for her, fetch her shoes and take out the garbage. She also overreacts, constantly yelling at the boy "for no reason" as he would state later. The boy is not nurtured at all, and mother and father are routinely playing off one another, arguing and taking shots at Antoine and using them against one another. His mother even spends the money that was meant for sheets for Antoine's bed, so the boy is forced to continue sleeping in a sleeping bag. After his first attempt at running away results in his parents snapping him up at school the following day, his mother starts to react differently towards him. Washing him, kissing him and allowing Antoine to sleep in their bed but it's still evident she doesn't know how to truly care for him. She even goes so far as to bribe Antoine into doing well in school, and in Antoine's attempt to make his mother proud he plagiarizes a story, is caught and subsequently runs away again.

What Truffaut does is get the childhood moments exactly right. I love how Antoine feels like every bad decision he makes, every mistake is the end of the world. I loved the musical score, the accompanying freedom and earnestness of it. There's a sense of wonder to the music that echoes Antoine's look at life.

Truffaut is not trying to condemn these parents either though. His father seems likable enough and his mother, while easily frustrated, does seem to care for Antoine. There's a moment in the middle of the film when the family all goes to the movies where they could be any other happy family in the world.

It's really a fascinating film. When the film gets to the correctional school, it starts to look at the punishment those kids go through there, but the most interesting scene to me was Antoine's interview with a psychiatrist. It's a revealing moment when we find out Antoine has lived most his life with his grandmother, only being given back to his parents when his grandmother got too old to care for him. We also find out that his mother had originally wanted an abortion and his grandmother talked her out of it, and that Antoine knows his dad is not his real dad. It's even more psychological trauma this boy has been dealing with, things that don't define him as a human being but noticeably makeup his constitution.

That type of observation is what makes The 400 Blows so wonderful, so surprising and so profound.

Or as they say, "It has depth!"

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Philadelphia Phillies 2008 World Series Champions!

The first world championship I've experienced in my life! Thank you Phillies!


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Lethal Weapon 5

now being discussed on the boards...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Recent Watches: October 2008

Last month I opened a message board for "The Film Script" which I hope will enable everyone to chip in and throw up their own topics of their own volition. I've enjoyed the different and less formal format for posting and have posted a number of topics thus far, which I will obviously continue to add on to.

I will continue to use the "The Film Script" blog as a means for posting reviews and corresponding topics to show what's going on on the boards (as I did with the De Niro post).

So, make your way over to the message board and chip in now with your Recent Watches, as I will. I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone has been watching.

now being discussed on the boards...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

De Niro Comeback?

now being discussed on the boards...

Monday, September 29, 2008

RIP Paul Newman


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Grand Opening

Since I can only assume the "anonymous" person that wants Film Script world domination and a message board to coincide with the blog has to be none other than my Film Script co-creater Ty, I'm here to announce The Film Script's very own message board... has opened.

I found a free host that I'm happy with, threw up a banner and a post and got the ball rolling. I really hope everyone uses the opportunity to talk about whatever's on their mind and bring up a wide variety of topics. The best part of this site has always been the back-and-forth debate and I'm looking for ways to increase that.

For now, at least head over there, register and see what's up.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Blog vs. Message Board

I just wanted to post this and see if you guys would prefer a change of format. If I were to change the site over to a message board, do you think that would spring more conversation and make it less formal? That way at any time someone could post a topic of conversation or anything really that they wanted to discuss. We could keep the replies as short or as long as we'd like and get more threads going than I am capable of doing on my own with the blog.

All this is probably just because I'm too lazy to continually update the site, but I am also looking at ways to keep up the conversation and keep the topics more up-to-date.

Let me know whichever you prefer, or if you even have a preference.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What I'm Watching Now

"It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"
Season 4 Premiere, Eps. 1 & 2

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Quite Possibly the Worst DVD Cover of All-Time

Even for what I presume must be a no budget, direct-to-DVD dump this cover is horrendous. They cut the bird straight out of the shot, it's completely off-center, the font is dull and lifeless and not even Matthew Perry can muster more than an, "I can't believe my career has fallen this far since Friends" smirk.

Honest to God, I thought it was a nature channel production on first glance.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Forums: Topic IV

Topic of the Week:

What's the Most Messed Up Movie You've Ever Seen?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Must See Movie of the Month: September 2008

This is the first time where many titles competed for the "Must See" distinction for the month. I could make a case for any one of my notables, especially Miracle at St. Anna (which I prophesized a Best Picture nom) and Choke, the first Chuck Palahniuk adaptation since Fincher's brilliant Fight Club. It's a good month for movies. A good lead in to the fall movie season... but I couldn't pass on last year's Best Director and Best Picture tandem, the Coen Brothers, back to their varied, usually hilarious, and slapsticky style with Burn After Reading. And with a cast as good as Clooney, Pitt, Malkovich, Jenkins, Simmons, McDormand and Swinton, who can blame me?

Who else wants to see it and what are your "must see's" of the month?

Other Notables:
The Duchess, Miracle at St. Anna, Blindness, Choke, The Lucky Ones

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Traitor (Jeffrey Nachmanoff, 2008)

Struggling against itself and its own genre limitations, Traitor ends up ensnared in its own contradictions. It’s a confounding film, at once seeming to want to appeal to the viewer as both fresh and familiar. Traitor adheres to the formulas and sequences of well-established genres including the prisoner sequence, spy and action movie clich├ęs, even the revenge storyline… but implanted in a politically current plot about a potential suicide bomber and attack on U.S. soil. That should have been relevant and hot topic enough to forego the usual by-the-numbers trappings, but there’s so much retread in the script, so much that’s been done before, that it leaves little hope for star Don Cheadle (himself a refreshing choice as an action star) to save it. Cheadle does his best Bourne imitation, quite convincingly coming across as the smartest man in the room, and even wills some of these set pieces into working far and away better than they should. But the film is submarined by its own unwillingness to take untraveled paths. Every action sequence has been done before, and better. Every relationship seems like repeats. In the end, it’s just all so uniquely… conventional.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Guillermo Del Toro, 2008)

A fluid continuation of the original, Hellboy II: The Golden Army sees director Guillermo Del Toro back reteaming with his hand-picked star Ron Perlman and the duo picking up where they left off in ‘04. Once again Hellboy is dealing with his lot in life and his ongoing role as savior of the human race, all the while being relegated to lurking amongst the shadows and avoiding human interaction. On top of which, Hellboy now has newfound relationship issues with his girlfriend, the fire-starter Liz. The tone, atmosphere and expert craftsmanship of Del Toro are plainly visible – even if some of these creatures tend to resemble Pan’s Labyrinth rejects – but the storyline is a bit of a letdown, leaving Hellboy toiling away at issues he already dealt with in the first. The story leaves little room for the character to grow and while the action is extremely well orchestrated, the heart of Hellboy II lies in scenes such as the one where Hellboy’s laying around with Abe, ruminating on his love life and public image with a beer in hand and a bud to open up to. For some reason there’s something memorable about a Buick-sized Devil and an amphibian man singing “Can’t Smile Without You” into a couple empty cold ones. These are the scenes that make it good to have him back, but next time let’s give him some more room to grow.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Recent Watches: September 2008

This is the month I get back to rejuvenating "The Film Script." No more 7 post months, guaranteed. And I'll start it how I always start it, with a forum for discussion on everyone's recent watches.

The forum's open.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Oscar Picks

We’re down to the last third of the year and recently the question was posed to me for the first time this year,

“Do you have any early Oscar ideas?”

Welcome to the Fall Movie Season, where the studios try to pretend as if the previous eight months of the season weren’t just about making money and throw out their prestige pictures with aspirations of golden statuettes.

With the exception of the outliers like Seabiscuit and Gladiator from years past, this is the season where Oscar nominations are born.

So, I’ve gone through the recent Entertainment Weekly’s Fall Movie Preview and picked out the biggest films of the season and I’m asking everyone to make a few picks. A couple acting nominations, a couple directing nominations, maybe a documentary or two…

But everyone has to pick their 5 Best Picture Candidates. Then we can see who came the closest when the nominations are announced this coming January.

So here are the Fall movie titles. If you think a movie from earlier in the year will garner a nomination, feel free to include it –

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Road
Burn After Reading
The Soloist
Body of Lies
Miracle at St. Anna
Ashes of Time Redux
Gran Torino
Pride and Glory
The Brothers Bloom
Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Quantam of Solace
Revolutionary Road
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist
The Lucky Ones
Synecdoche, New York
Seven Pounds
Marley & Me
The Spirit
Four Christmases
What Just Happened
The Duchess
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Lakeview Terrace
Elite Squad
Rachel Getting Married
The Women
Yes Man
Righteous Kill
Eagle Eye
Role Models
The Secret Life of Bees
Bedtime Stories
How to Lose Friends & Alienate People
Ghost Town
Sex Drive
My Best Friend's Girl
An American Carol
City of Ember
The Express
Soul Men
Nights in Rodanthe
The Burning Plain
The Wrestler*

*no set 2008 release date

Friday, August 22, 2008

Resurrecting the Champ (Rod Lurie, 2007)

A pleasant, modest story that just spends too much time awkwardly stumbling around like its protagonist, Resurrecting the Champ is about a sportswriter (Josh Hartnett) who uncovers a former heavyweight fighting contender now living on the streets. Nicknamed “The Champ” and long believed dead, the writer sells Champ on the story idea as a potential return to glory for the browbeaten pugilist and a chance to again be a celebrity in the community, but is clearly more interested in parlaying the story into his own high-end magazine job and chance to climb out of his famous father’s shadow.

Samuel L. Jackson throws his Caveman’s Valentine dreads back on to play Champ and adopts an exasperated, gasping-for-air voice that echoes the hardships of his character. He’s out of touch, maybe a little bit crazy and walks around as if he’s shimmying into the ring, always up on his toes. But he’s also genuinely endearing, disarmingly funny and easily the best reason to watch Resurrecting the Champ.

Unfortunately the film is a bit sloppy, and supporting star Alan Alda nails it when he throws some of Harnett’s news copy back at him and tells him, “It lacks personality.” It could be considered an extended commentary on Hartnett’s character in the film as well. Plus, there’s pacing problems. The film revolves around moral ambiguities, mostly about father’s trying to impress their sons, and doesn’t quite know if it wants to be an uplifting feel-good story or not, and ends up choppy and lurching towards the end.

Jackson makes it worth checking out, but it’s no return to glory for “The Champ”.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Must See Movie of the Month: August 2008

Again, I couldn't choose just one. Two potentially great comedies in the course of two weeks? No idea why these two comedies that basically target the same demographics would open only a week apart, but I'm not complaining...

Who else wants to see it and what are your "must see's" of the month?

Other Notables:
Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Hamlet 2, Traitor, Babylon A.D., Swing Vote

In the Screening Room - Joseph L. Mankiewicz's All About Eve

Session 022 - All About Eve

Who saw it and what are your thoughts on it?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

RIP Bernie Mac


Saturday, August 9, 2008

Reactions to The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)

Post reactions, highlights, drawbacks, best/worst moments, or whatever else you feel needs saying.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Recent Watches: August 2008

I suppose there's no reason we have to rely on Brian for EVERYTHING here...! :)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

On My Honeymoon

Sorry I was unable to post something about this before I left, but with the last minute wedding details and preparation, I just didn't have time. Anyways, just wanted to let everyone know that I'm currently on my honeymoon and I'll be back sometime late next week. So my Dark Knight thoughts and other posts will have to be held off until then.

In the meantime, keep the forums going. I look forward to reading everything when I return.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bad Idea of the Day (#2)

How do we feel about THIS lovely lady:

Being cast in the same film opposite THIS lovely man:

The film is Nine directed by Rob Marshall and co-written by Frederico Fellini. Thoughts, impressions, predictions? Oh and while we're at it how 'bout we take a gander at some of the other cast members, shall we?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bad Idea of the Day (#1)

As reported by
Dark Horizons & The Sun, "Tom Cruise has been asked to reprise his role as cocky fighter-pilot Maverick in a Top Gun sequel. It's been twenty-two years since the first film in which Cruise played a Navy pilot trainee and now a sequel script has apparently been penned. 'The idea is Maverick is at the Top Gun school as an instructor - and this time it is he who has to deal with a cocky new female pilot' a source tells the paper."

Seriously, is Tom Cruise getting this desperate for a hit?

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