Tag Archive for 'movies'

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Shoot the Weather-people

OK, so I spent the weekend in Albany, at an interstate Courtyard by Marriott, because I met my parents there (half-way between Boston & Buffalo). I went swimming, shopped at the monstrous Crossgates Mall, and saw The Recruit.

This was all fine. Until I had to decide what to do about the coming storm…

Albany Dan was coming back from New York, and I wanted to go out and have some drinks… so we checked with the Weather Channel, and they seemed to think that the storm wouldn’t start pounding New England until the afternoon, monday. LIARS!

I left Albany at around 11am, and immediately ran into the shit on I-90 East… I mean, do you people plow your roads in New York State? There never was a problem with visibility– only with the road surfaces. So it was 25-40 MPH all the way into Our Fair City. I got in at 4:30pm, a full 5.5 hours later! eek.

Sorry if this comes off as a teenaged rant, but Weather-people must be hanged!

Holiday Movies Roundup

Ok, I have no desire to truly review all of the movies that I’ve seen in the past few weeks, especially given Tbone‘s new and detailed reviews. But I would like to quickly say a few things about a few movies:

Lord of the Rings
Review: A+

Simply put, the best movie of the year. Viggo Mortensen should be a star the likes of which we haven’t seen since Harrison Ford. Peter Jackson did a much better job the second time around, and I am only looking forward to the third film.

Catch Me if You Can
Review: A

I know I’m nearly alone when I say that Spielberg (or Leonardo Dicaprio, Tom Hanks, too) doesn’t really do much for me, but Catch Me is a fun film. From the opening credits, to the musical score composed by John Williams, you can tell that you’re in for a ride.

I don’t see what’s so great about the dumpy-looking Tom Hanks in this film, but Leonardo Dicaprio is great, and the story is irresistible.

Gangs of New York
Review: B-

Chalk this one up as the disappointment of the year. Of all the holiday movies, I was most looking forward to Martin Scorcese’s realist Gangs. One tiny problem: Marty can’t make movies like this very well– he should stick to the grit of modern-day new york.

The recreated streets of antebellum New York are eye-popping, Daniel Day-Lewis is extraordinary in his role as Bill the Butcher, but it’s the direction and editing that screws everything up. Take the over-the-top symbolism when Leo’s chracter tosses a bible into the river as he leaves on his quest for revenge… Or, the muddled editing during the first nativist/irish gang fight. Save it for the DVD, folks. Maybe then we can see the full Director’s cut.

About Schmidt
Review: A-

The plot is simple, and unresolved at the end, but Schmidt was the most suprisingly good movie of the holidays. Despite some critic’s reviews, I thought Jack Nicholson was the most sincere character on the screen. I didn’t feel as if Jack was giving us the wink wink treatment throughout. Dermot Mulroney, though he got the laughs, almost soured the film, but Kathy Bates provided enough of a counter to Jack’s WASP persona to make the whole thing interesting.

Wish i had more interesting observations…. but hey, I’ve got other fish to fry.

Radio Cure

Review: A
Wilco FilmI enjoyed reading Tbone’s review of the Wilco movie, I am Trying to Break Your Heart, and I’m glad to see someone else writing reviews on Suckahs.

It’s odd that a band like Wilco can generate so much buzz in the industry and among critics, yet remain a band with a small (but very dedicated) following. Despite some video rotation and buzz in 1994 on MTV, who sold Wilco in 1994 as an alternative-country act, they never really broke out. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is, in every measurable way, an extraordinary album. Yet, why can’t I stand to listen to it?

I think I have one thing in common with frontman Jeff Tweedy in that I enjoy intellectualizing music– of course, I do so with my big mouth and keyboard, and he actually does it. The most striking thing to me in the film, however, was hearing Wilco play some of the Foxtrot stuff live. How strange– On the album you’ve got these spare arrangements with tons of work put into tape loops, sound design and just plain NOISE. He articulates a desire, in making the album, to take completed songs, and turn them inside-out and deconstruct them. But, when playing live, the songs are reconstructed into more coherent compositions.

It might be tempting to suggest that the album is more a reflection of Tweedy’s work, while the live stuff is the result of the whole band. But having seen the film, it’s clear that every member of Wilco was integral to it’s recording, including Jay Bennett, who later gets kicked out of the band for basically being a pain in the ass. As a character, he’s both obnoxious and sympathetic.

I suppose when you take any experimental album on the road, (with the exception of maybe Kid A), you can’t capture it the same way in a live setting. And, to be honest, I am happy for it. I loved what I saw in the film’s performances, and I can’t wait to see them play live.

Far From Heaven

Review: A+

Julianne Moore has always represented something peculiar to me– an actress who get all the best roles, but rarely convinces me that she’s worthy of that right. Case in point: Her accent in the Big Lebowski was downright irritating, have you seen the Shipping News(?), and the deal was sealed when she stepped into Jodie Foster’s shoes in Hannibal.

Yet people run around saying that she should be a nominated for 4 best-actress oscars every year.

Well, let me temper my anger, because I’ve just watched Todd Haynes’ masterfully written and directed Far From Heaven, starring Moore and Dennis Quaid.

This film is a study in 1950s realism and atrifice, from the opening credits and music score, to the hidden worlds of gender roles, sexuality and race. If you want to know the basic story, you can read Wesley Morris’ Globe review here.

I agree with Morris’ assertion that Moore is absolutely incredible– warm, determined, and natural, in a way I’ve never seen before. And the film, despite its setting and time period, is a genuine and sympathetic story, treated untypically without much irony. Haynes seems hell bent on re-reconstructing the 50s narrative in this tone, while including those nasty little issues that have always been either swept under the rug, or lambasted as virulently as the Taliban.

One thing that struck me as odd, while watching Far From Heaven, was that the Dennis Quaid character was given little of the sympathetic energy. What does it say that the gay Haynes has little to say about a closetted homosexual masquerading as a hetero Organization Man?

The crux of the story lies with Moore, and my two cents are that Julianne has earned herself a truly deserving oscar nomination.

Punch Drunk Love

Review: A+

This film is being sold in trailers as showing a radically different Adam Sandler… I believe Roger Ebert said that he couldn’t look at an Adam Sandler movie the same way after this.

Well, I don’t think it’s a totally new character for Sandler, but I agree that Punch Drunk Love both refines and expands on the funny nice-guy he’s played in the past, while offering a new tarnished dimension.

Sandler’s character, Barry Egan, is a shy, slightly obsessive-compulsive, easily-spooked business owner, with 7 annoying passive-aggressive sisters who constantly pepper him with insults and drive him to violent “freak-outs”, we are told, since childhood. He’s definitely got avoidant issues.

Anyway, Barry sells wholesale bathroom supplies out of a warehouse in the Valley east of Los Angeles, and spends a lot of his time thinking about how to turn Healthy Choice pudding into thousands of frequent-flier miles. Stay with me! It’s odd, yes…

As the story continues, one of the sisters introduces Barry to a friend of hers, played by Emily Watson, and a very strange romance ensues.

I’m not go anymore into the plot or story, so if you’re inclined to learn more, check out A.O Scott’s review in the Times.

What I’m interested is this thrown-about idea that this is a totally new Adam Sandler– I don’t think it is. Barry’s life, from the beginning, is one of strange unease. Sandler is quite good at communicating the dread of social and professional relationships in Barry’s life, and that feeling is underscored by a creeping cinematography and beautifully disorienting sound design. You get the sense that his co-workers don’t know quite what to make of him, and his sisters and brother-in-laws are frequently violating his privacy, dignity and confidence.

Again and again, Barry is pushed so far that he schizophrenically explodes from his usual shy withdrawal, to violent outbursts– just the kind of bipolar outbursts that Sandler employed in his less-than-intelligent outings (Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, the Wedding Singer… kind of interchangeable, no?).

Punch Drunk Love’s hero is the same kind of likable nice-guy the girls can feel good about, yet the slapstick violence usually found in his movies is far more psychically charged here, and in the end I’m not left wondering Isn’t Adam Sandler an odd choice for that role?… he’s perfect.

Emily Watson plays Lena, the adorable woman who, for some unknown reason, falls in love with Barry. Lena is interesting as well, because she too vacillates in a slight schizophrenic manner from a shy sweetheart, into a woman who aggressively goes after the man she wants. Unfortunately, she is one of the less developed characters– I really don’t understand why she wanted to meet Barry in the first place. Loneliness? But Watson is amazing on screen.

There is a tortured and sentimental nature to Barry, but Sandler and P.T. Anderson never make it seem contrived or false– have you seen Robin Williams or Chris Rock in dramatic roles? I mean, seriously.

Simply put, this is a very good film.

Red Dragon

Quick review: B+

Red Dragon is enjoyable, even though Anthony Hopkins’ performance is ridiculously irrelevant and even caricatured.

Edward Norton, Emily Watson and Ralph Fiennes all turn in their usual excellent performances. Watson shines as a blind love-interest for the crazy serial killer, creepily played by Ralph Fiennes, who shows off his uncut member on film for the thousandth time…

Norton does the laid-back intensity thing so well– whereas fear almost seethed from Jodie Foster in her encounters with Hannibal, Norton looks almost bored by the old man.

And who wouldn’t be by now? Hopkins himself seems to be phoning in performances recently– he’s plainly awful in this past summer’s bomb Bad Company, where even Chris Rock couldn’t keep me from wanting to BOOOO.

Maybe they should let someone else play Hannibal?

Igby Goes Down

Review: A-

I was excited last week when I walked into my neighborhood coffeehouse, and saw a stack of free movie passes on the counter. As it turns out, the free movie this time around was one I was looking forward to watching… Igby Goes Down.

I really liked this movie– it’s brutally funny, despite the drugs, sex, and a jeff goldblum crotch shot (with his boxers on, mind you).

When we were in New York City last, around the 4th of July, when it was 100 degrees, we all went to the Sunshine Cinema to see the Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, an amusing film that stars Jodie Foster as a nun, and involves coming-of-age hijinks. My point is, that I was pleasantly suprised at Kieran Culkin’s performance.

And he’s only better here– this time as a Salinger-type reject, raised in a dysfunctional (yet welathy) family, wiith an ice-queen of a mother in Susan Sarandon, an eccentric Jeff Goldblum as his Godfather, and Claire Danes as a fuck buddy.

The film meanders between flashbacks and the present, following Culkin’s rich-boy character as he gets kicked out of schools, drops out, and heads for New York. His life there is one of poverty, drugs, and, he achieves, eventually, some kind of truth.

I have to say that it is a nice companion to the Jenifer Aniston movie, The Good Girl, and it’s undeniable to say that Holden Caufield is still alive and kicking in 2002. Both are great films.

Here’s a question though– what’s with all this fascination with rich, dysfunctional families?? Should we blame Wes Anderson?

The Chelsea Hotel

Ethan Hawke has made a film called Chelsea Walls [WEBSITE] [VIEW TRAILER]. Jeff Tweedy of Wilco fame did the soundtrack, and the movie stars Uma Thurman, Kris Kristofferson, Vincent D’Onofrio & Natasha Richardson.

The Chelsea Hotel used to be grand, the place to live for New York City artists. Mark Twain, Thomas Wolfe, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix; they all passed through the hotel’s halls. Still, even though the iron facade has become rusty, new dreamers come every day, hoping to be inspired by the ghosts of the past.

The film looks like the typical artsy-talky wankfest that I usually have to beg someone to accompany me to… still, the visual style in the trailer is intriguing, as is the casting choices. In the end, even if the film can be reduced to a beat-era homage where artists suffer in their poverty to achieve a sort of beauty, I think it would be interesting enough to see just what’s in Ethan Hawke’s head… he seems to be an intelligent guy.

Shallow Film

ho ho… pretty fun weekend– saw ‘shallow hal‘ on friday night. not so bad.

Also, going to see Bill Press (the liberal on CNN’s CrossFire) speak on his book tour at Borders… I hope he speaks and takes questions, because i haven’t got the $25 to purchase his book. isn’t life exciting?