Thursday, September 10, 2009

"9" - Gets About A "7"

I will give this film props for being unusual and interesting in its look and approach to story telling. Basically a post apocalyptic tale of a band of little mechanical puppets trying to survive in a barren oppresive world!

The films director Shane Acker teams up with producer/director Tim Burton to deliver this grim tale of hope. The animation and art direction definitely have the Burton stamp upon it, in his typical gruesome but endearing style.

The storyline is based around a various collection of hand made creatures who are only known by the number on their backs. A dying scientist apparently puts his collective mind and spirit into these puppet like creatures, in an attempt to correct the mistakes he made, which caused the ultimate distruction of civilization.

The characters are charming and entertaining, and not surprising the voices for them are provided by some of Hollywoods best. Elijah Woods provides the voice of the hero and the film's namesake. His ninja-esque partner is voiced by the lovely Jennifer Connelly. John C. Reilly, a veteran comic genius plays "9's " friend "5", in a "Sam Gamgee" sort of way to Wood's " Frodo Baggins". Almost an homage in itself to " Lord of the Rings" !

The rest of the talented voices are provided by cinema legends Christopher Plummer, Martin Landua and Crispin Glover. As interesting of a cast as you could find, but it suits the film well.

It is a fun film, full of action, adventure and laughs, but lacking a bit in compelling story telling. But I suppose you can't have everything! But it works well as film for adults and kids alike. A good all around movie, sort of like the Muppets meet the Terminator! Definitely worth seeing in the movies and possibly owning on DVD. I will be eager to see what sort of extras they throw in with the mix?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Taking Woodstock - On A Strange Ride

Well, all I can say about the film is that is slightly entertaining! I can't blame Ang Lee for this. He has directed some great movies like Broke Back Mountain, and Sense and Sensibility. And the film flows well, just not in any particular direction.

You would think from the title that is some comedic portrayal of historical events. But it isn't. It also is not really about the concert itself, it is not even really about the town of Bethel, NY. ( Which if you weren't aware of this fact, is where the concert actually took place. Woodstock was the original spot chosen, but by the time event promotions were under way, the town backed out. )

The film is basically about a Jewish family who ran a seedy run down motel called the "El Monaco". Supposedly based on the true life story of Elliot Tiber, played by Comedy Central's Demitri Martin, who inadvertently opens the door for the concerts promoters, by putting them in touch with the now infamous Max Yasgur and his farm.

In all fairness the performances were solid, Demitri busts his acting cherry in a very convincing performance as Eli, a young Jewish man who seems torn between old school family values, and yearning to experince the rest of the world for himself.

Imelda Staunton, who by now needs no introduction, delivers a hilarious performance as Eli's paranoid and oppressive Russian mother, who cuts corners to save money anyway she can, while being the iron handed dictator of this run down empire.

Sadly, Eugene Levy who is a comic genius, who generally plays annoying passive aggressive characters is only minorly factored into the story line at the beginning , as Max Yasgur, and then once the concert plans are under way is virtually not heard from again.

The rest of the film's cast pretty much blends into the background as does the plot of the film, with a few exceptions. Liev Schreiber delivers a rather intriguing performance as Vilma an ex- Korean War marine. Vilma who is now a transvestite, is there to give a counter balance of Zen wisdom to Eli's overwhelming plight in the middle of this maelstrom that is the organizing of this cultural extravaganza and trying to deal with his demented parents.

Jonathan Groff who has basically down very little other than a few Soap Opera episodes, plays the legendary producer of Woodstock, Michael Lang, the ultimate hippie Zen master. He delivers a compelling performance, but again , since the film is not about the concert itself, you see very little of him, except to occasionally punctuate the fact the Eli's is a long and fantastic journey.

But I suppose that if you were there or even alive at the time, you might get a little sentimental nostalgia for this trip down memory lane, but otherwise I would suggest the use of psychedelic substances. The film has it's moments, but I would recommend watching the actual movie that was made from the actual concert footage, which is available now in a few anniversary formats.

I would say wait for it on DVD, and even then, just rent it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sunshine Cleaning - Life Can Be A Messy Business

This is a very daring film that deals with a very sensitive issue of what happens behind the scenes when someone dies. The darker side of life that only a certain group of people ever have to see.

It is never easy to deal with a loved one dying, but even harder still is when they depart in a way where they leave a horrific mess. It is tragic and disturbing, and well.... messy! And it takes a very dedicated type of person to take on the job of cleaning up the after math.

Right off the bat I applaud the director Christine Jeffs, for taking on this daring story about two sisters, who at the ends of their proverbial ropes are trying to find a way to make ends meet. And oddly enough decide to start their own Bio-hazard Removal Business. The comedic aspects that make the story charming, is that two sisters have no clue what is involved in the process and sort of bungle their way through the learning process.

Amy Adams plays the older sister, Rose Lorkowski who is a single mom, and who at an early age was responsible for taking care of the house and her younger sister Norah, played by Emily Blunt, when their mom commits suicide. Amy does a remarkable job with this role. Rose must struggle with her own inadequacies as a single mom and provider, and deal with her dead beat family.

Adams has been known in the past for her roles as portraying a sweet innocent person, who is usually helpless and mousy in demeanor. The perfect helpless heroine. And she does it very well here despite the more edgier and more unseemly landscape to the story. And yet manages to keep every thing together, with a little help here and there.

Emily Blunt is well suited to play emotionally unbalanced characters who you can't help but want to love and care for, and she delivers it here in her usual effortless style. As Norah, she adds a certain comic relief and at the same time a certain raw vulnerability to the relationship between her and Rose.

The relationship between the two sister is strained by Rose's need to be responsible and successful at anything, and Norah's need to be a free spirit who can't face the tedious side to being a functioning responsible adult. Adding to the dysfunctionalness of the family dynamics is their father played by Alan Arkin who is a romantic loser who dabbles in hustling everything from popcorn snacks to van loads of fresh shrimp.

So needless to say the theads that hold them together as a unit are very thread bare. And together they barely make a functioning unit, and yet through the adversity they seem to find strength in one another. And the occasional unexpected hand from Winston played by Clifton Collins Jr. ( Star Trek, Last Castle) , the one armed chemical clean up shop owner, who helps the two sisters learn the ropes in a strictly regulated and competitive field or Bio-hazard Removal.

The under belly to this all is that death sometimes brings out the best and worst of us, and each person reacts to it differently. But inescapably there is a beautiful and ugly side to life and death.

Christine Jeffs did a great job finding the humor in bleak situations, and managed to respectfully walk the line without crossing it! A very poignant look at death and family relationships. Definitely worthy of a look or two!

Funny People - Serious Issues

Well gotta hand it to Judd Apatow and Adam Sandler, for delivering another soon to be middle of the road cult classic. This film is not what you would expect it be judging by the title. It has some great laughs but deals with some pretty heavy duty human issues about life, death, love and the meaning of life.

More so the empty shallow superficial life of a celebrity comic/movie star George Simmons played by Sandler. Adam Sandler has not shied too far from doing his old school humor, but over the years has been diving into more serious roles with marginal success. My favorite role of his to date being Spanglish, which was a very funny and heart breaking movie at the same time. Same goes for Reign Over Me where Adam played a widower of 911. It gave him some room to stretch his dramatic chops, but sort of feel short of being interesting.

Judd Apatow to date is known for three things. First is giving Seth Rogen a career. Second doing relatively light weight comedies. Thirdly giving his wife Leslie Mann, ( a beautiful funny and talented actress ) a consistent roles in all of his movies. Now it seems he is going make movie stars out of his kids as well. And to be honest his daughters add a certain comedic balance and harmony to the films. So well done there.

But it can be assumed that the darker side of this comedy was fueled a bit, or constructed for Adam Sandler, who seems to be taking on the darker roles with an interesting mix of fatalistic humor and childlike innocence and charm.

Seth Rogen also is starting to construct a reoccuring everyday kind of guy who is always at the short end of the stick, and yet manages to soldier on to acceptance of middle ground by the end of the story. He has adeptly managed to develop a likeable character that is not afraid to cry, and still be someone what crude and blunt with his humor. Sort of the next generation of comic.

The film deals with the Life of George Simmons, who must now decide how he wants to face the next few years of his life, in light of the fact that he is afflicted with a potentially life threatening disease. Though he has gained the world through his successes, he has lost his soul, his sense of self, and the illusion that any one cares about him. A hard reality to face alone.

So under the pretense that he is being hired to be his assistant, Ira Wright played by Rogen helps George come to terms with his short comings as a person, and helps him be a better man, albeit quite reluctantly.

The chemistry seems to work very well between the principle characters, despite the fact that the Apatow clan has become a tight fuctioning unit over the years. It only further proves that they are onto something when they can make it work by bringing talented outsiders in like Jason Schwartzman ( who provides some original tunes for the soundtrack) and Eric Bana, who seems able to ease himself more and more into the shoes of a comic actor as well.

The movie is very well scripted, casted and perched perfectly between very funny and very cathartic. May not be the most amazing movie you ever saw, but I am sure you are guaranteed to like it!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Inglorious Basterds - If Dreams Can True

Quentin Tarantino just keeps getting better and better with each film he makes, taking violence and dark comedy to new levels. This project reportedly was ten years in the making, and I guess good things come to those who wait.

This is just a brilliant bit of fiction, based on some true events surrounding the plots to kill Adolph Hitler and bring the down fall of the Third Reich. The film is both hysterically funny, and morbidly compelling! Not to mention extremely violent and graphic.

Brad Pitt delivers a funny performance as Lt. Aldo Raine the leader of the Jewish American Guerilla Squad that goes into German occupied France to kill as many Nazis as possible. But funnier still is the part of the German blood hound sent abroad to sniff out Jews in hiding Colonel Hans Landa played by Christoph Waltz. He is a keen minded detective lacking in scruples but possessing a great deal of perception and cunning. He is the type of person, you can't help but hate and like at the same time.

The cinematography and art direction on this film were fantastic, not to mention the gruesome special effects, true to fashion Mr. Tarantino pulls no punches with the gore and violence. But the sets and filming locations, were epic as they were beautiful to look at, when they weren't exploding or being coverd in blood!

The story was deliverd much like the Kill Bill story line, with the plot broken down into well delineated chapters. The cast was well chosen, including some noteable supporting actors like Diane Kruger ( National Treasure) Daniel Bruhl ( Joyeux Noel, Bourne Ultimatum) Til Sweiger (Replacement Killers, Driven, King Arthur) Eli Roth ( Southland Tales, Deathproof, Grindhouse) and Julie Dreyfus ( Kill Bill). All pooling their craft to make this a great success. Even Mike Meyers makes a brief appearance in the film.

All in all, a very gruesome movie, which is what you expect from Mr. T. I was impressed how he was able to tell several different stories involving WWII from the different perspectives of the characters within, and tie it all together in the same sort of compelling way that Guy Ritchie does in all of his movies. But served up in Tarantino fashion with killer tunes in the soundtrack that accent the mood of the individual scenes, and pull you right into the nitty gritty-ness of moment.

It is disturbing at times, and yet great fun! Highly recommend seeing this at least once, maybe even a second time to make sure you saw what you thought you saw the first time. And I am sure if you are an avid collector like myself this will be in your permanent collection.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bottle Shock- A Harmonious Blend of Life

It is wonderful in my mind when you get to see Alan Rickman in a film where he gets to play a good guy. He is after all more well known for his bad boy performances in such cinematic classics as Robin Hood- Prince of Thieves and Diehard. But over the years Rickman has played a variety of serious and comedic roles, probably my two favorites are his portrayal of Colonel Brandon in Jane Austin's "Sense & Sensibility" and the beloved alien science officer/ actor Alexander Dane in " Galaxy Quest".

Alan delivers another brilliant performance in this true to life tale of two men, Steven Spurrier a British wine critic and sommelier in Paris, who travels to California's Napa Valley in 1976, and Jim Barrett the owner and vintner of the legendary Chateau Montelena vineyards, played by Bill Pullman . Pullman is another underated great actor who can bust a serious dramtic move, just as easily as he can do a comedy role. Together, they make this a charming and funny film.

Balancing out this dynamic duo is Chris Pine of recent "Star Trek" fame. He has a devilish smile and a layed back attitude towards things, that makes it hard not to like him as a person and as an actor. Chris takes on the role of Bo Barrett, Jim's son, who appears as a lazy irresponsible drifter, but turns out to be the impetus and driving force that keeps the vineyard from the brink of destruction. The relationship between father and son is well played out by the well turned in performances of Pike and Pullman, very convincing and very endearing.

The story is based on the true events when in 1976 Steven Spurrier invited 12 American Vineyards to participate in a blind wine tasting challenge against the top wine makers of France. In a shocking upset, the Americans took the top honors in two categories, which opened the doors and changed the world's impression that the French were the sole experts on winemaking.

Rounding out the cast are Freddie Rodriguez ( Six Feet Under) as Gustavo a mexican farm hand who has a wealth of experience and wine flowing in his veins, Rachel Taylor (Transformers) as the gorgeous intern that lends a helping hand to creating a legend, and one of my all time favorite character actors Dennis Farina who plays Maurice, Spurriers neighbor and aide de comp.

It is a definetely a must see, and if you are a wine enthusiast I recommend buying the DVD or at the very least checking out the extras. The offer up some great background about the Montelena Chateau vineyards, and a pretty extensive explanation of what goes into making a great wine.

It's a fun film, with great passion about a little vineyard on the brink of failure, that ended up making history!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

District 9 - A Fine Line

Neill Blomkamp, a native of Johannesburg, South Africa and a reknowned special effects artist, hands us this summer time thriller a little raw and under done.

You can tell his special talents lay in the special effects department, and not so much in the story telling area. The film has a raw and edgy film style both in the cinematography aspects and editing, which fuels the adrenalin pace of the action. But it lacks a higher purpose for being. The basic premise is that an alien ship runs out of gas in our lower atmosphere, and the occupants are slowly dying. For some strange reason , that is not explained, we literally download them into ghetto style prison camps. And apparently the aliens put up with this arrangement for 20 years.

The main character Wikus Van De Merw played by Sharlto Copley is appointed to relocate the aliens further away from civilization to another holding area. Copley gives a really fantastic performance as the naive Inspector Clouseau like official who spear heads the relocation efforts, and is soon thrusted into the role of super hero.

In the beginning Wikus is this gung ho bafoon who ends up getting himself into a world of trouble when he allows an alien compound to come in contact with his face, which as you will soon find out changes not only his life, but his perceptions of the aliens and the race of people he belongs to!

The film does have some strong underlying moral issues permeating the plot, but basically it just a non stop roller coaster ride of special effects and unbelievable action beats. But again, I will say this the effects are well done, and quite gross and disturbing at times.

The real glue that holds the film together is Wikus who must help an alien father and his son, in order to help himself get back to his own wife and family. In the process Wikus finds out how barbaric and exploitive we really are as human beings, and how intolerant we are to those who are not like us. You end up identifying more with the aliens than you do with the humans, by the time the story is over. Which I assume was the point in the first place.

There are some poignant moments to the film, but over all it is more a horror/action thriller. It is sort of a hodge podge mix between Aliens, The Fly and E.T. In some cases it is so silly, that it is hard to take it seriously. Especially towards the end when our hero dons an alien exoskeleton device right out of the Transformers and plays Rambo fighting off an overwhelming army of bad guys, while E.T. and his son try to "Go Home"!

It is not a horrible film, like I said the effects are fantastic, as is the compelling performance by Sharlto Copley, but the plot sort of goes all over the place, and the point gets lost somewhere in between. But since this is an adaptation of a graphic novel/comic book, it fairs as well as other such attempts. Definitely worth a look.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Henry Poole Is Here - Swimming In Spirituality

This is a sleeping giant of a film, that deserves a giant wake up call. It has the potential to launch a few rising stars and revive the careers of some cinematic veterans.

Luke Wilson, who has the good looks and acting chops to be a leading man, hasn't really had the opportunity to shine in many of his roles. But in this film directed by Mark Pellington ( Arlington Road, Mothman Prophecies) Wilson is given the center stage spotlight. Henry Poole (Wilson) is a man troubled by news that he is about to die.

As sort of personal gesture to himself, Henry decides to return to the neighborhood where he grew up, in order to put his personal affairs in order before he departs. His plan was to buy the house he grew up in, but must settle for a neighboring house down the street. Which becomes the blessing and bane of his remaining life. Shortly after moving in, the realtor has a wall outside his home re-stuccoed, and a rather remarkable phenomenon occurs soon after in the form of a water stain.

A nosey, neurotic and very spiritually misguided neighbor Esperanza played by Adrianna Barraza, discovers the stain in the stucco and becomes convinced it is the face of God. She begins a crusade to convince Henry it is a miracle and a sign from God. Henry wants nothing to do with God, miracles or his wall being turned into a shrine. Thus becomes the basis for this spiritual divided plot.

Sort of poised in the middle of this ecclesiatical conflict are two characters, a level headed priest played by George Lopez and Henry's next door neighbor ( Radha Mitchell) whose daughter is withdrawn into herself, and unwilling to speak a word to anyone.

These characters one by one slowly draw Henry out and force him to at least accept the fact that faith can be a powerful thing. The more he resists the more the miraculous and unexplainable seem to plague him and force him to see the light.

It is a very profound and touching film, and Luke Wilson delivers a rather heartfelt performance. As does the rest of the cast. George Lopez is starting to reinvent himself as an actor, and I am certain this film will do for him and Luke Wilson , what Pulp Fiction did for John Travolta and Samuel Jackson.

But the most surprising performance comes from the little girl Millie played by Morgan Lily. It is amazing how a young actor such as Morgan can deliver such powerful performances at such a young age. But I see great things in her future, and I would predict she is someone Hollywood will be keeping a close eye on.

And to balance this stirring film out is yet another killer soundtrack, including the memorable song "On an Ocean" by Lisa Gerrard, which was featured in Ridley Scott's epic " Gladiator". I would recommend renting this and at the very least buying the soundtrack. It is a very light hearted and moving film.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Strange Beginnings In The Middle Part II

Okay speaking of fun, the second film is simply just a huge goof for all involved and if I ever get the chance to ask anyone who was involved in this epic blunder of a film, I will certainly not hesitate to ask.

Knightriders, directed by George A. Romero, yes of Night of the Living Dead fame, is a rather strange tale of fantasy and fiction. It's star lead is a very young Ed Harris, who though he had hair was showing signs of the trademark receeding hairline. The story is about a troop of traveling performers who joust on the backs of iron steeds. Okay, let me say this with as straight of a face as possible. They get dressed up in armor, and joust like in Medieval times, on armor plated dirt bikes. Not sure who the target demographic was for this film, or even if they even had one specifically? But this is not something you could get away with bringing to the table of a major studio today, without a large pile of cocaine involved!

Now granted I am a geek, I love Renaissance festivals, and motorcycles. So obviously I am a bit jaded. But how George Romero got roped into doing this movie is beyond me? And if you pay close attention you notice that Stephen King also appears in this film. Somehow, I can't help but feel someone lost a bet and was taking all their buddies down with them.

But never the less the film's only real other brand name star in this is Tom Savini, Hollywood's original bad boy! He plays Morgan ( which is sort of the Mordred) to Ed Harris' "Billy" (which is obviously meant to be seen as King Arthur). The film is basically about stuntmen who have a desire to pretend they are knights, jousting for honor and glory. Which is fine, but the story ends with Ed Harris sort of becoming lost in the part. That is to say he takes the whole "pretending he's King Arthur" just a little too seriously.

Meanwhile this film is backdropped against small town America as the troop travels across the mid-west doing carnivals and impromptu shows. Ironically meeting up with some awnry bikers along the way, that think they are a bunch of idiots. But righteousness prevails, and the ability to hold a lance while riding a dirt bike as well.

Again I am not sure how anyone was sold on this being worth the trouble to shoot? I am sure Ed Harris will not be happy that I am bringing this film up. But from a retrospective look back at what passed for entertainment in the early 80's, it's kind of a hokey goof to watch this film. And lord knows there are plenty films that were way sillier than this. I am certain Lea Thompson and possibly Tim Robbins are trying very hard to forget "Howard The Duck"! What a fowl movie that was!

But again "A" for being uniquely weird, and helping to epitomize what a weird time the 80's was film making. And as a small side note it also stars a very cute under rated actress named Patricia Tallman, who got her main notoriety in the showbiz game as a stunt women. She is of course well known by the sci-fi geeks for her various roles in the Star Trek franchises and her big role in Babylon 5 as the lovely Psi Corp telepath Lyta Alexander.

Strange Beginnings in the Middle Part I

These are just two of my favorite rather bizarre cult classic films in my collection, that I thought I would discuss today! They are rather strange departures for both the actors and directors, and just a prime example that just about any zany idea will be turned into a movie, if the right producer gets their hands on it.

The film "Flesh and Blood" is just a weird movie about disgruntled employees taking matters into their own hands, and the price they pay for their wild indulgences. Okay let me explain, it is vaguely about a band of brigands led by Rutger Hauer of Bladerunner and Lady Hawk fame. It takes place roughly in Western Europe around 1501. After campaigning, the war weary soldiers are promised booty and plunder and are denied this by the lord they were fighting for in the battle. Angered these mercenaries go on a tear to plunder the surrounding countryside.

The film is directed by Paul Verhoeven the man who brought you such classic films as RoboCop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Showgirls, and Starship Troopers. Granted it is one his first commercial films, but somehow he lures fellow Dutch countrymen Rutger Hauer, who was already a celebrated actor, to appear in this rather uniquely depraved tale of debauchery. Not saying it was Hauer's down fall, but not sure that it helped his career any either.

The film also stars Brion James who worked previously with Rutger in Bladerunner. James also has had a rather interesting career as a character actor in tons of tv shows and films. Stranger still is the appearance of Bruno Kirby of City Slickers, When Harry Met Sally and Good Morning Vietnam acclaim. Not sure how he ended up in it either, but never the less there he was playing a brigand in the film. I give this film merit for it's casting alone!

The real appeal to this epic lost gem, is Jennifer Jason Leigh of Fast Times at Ridgemont High acclaim. Who doesn't help her career any by breaking free of the morally loose characters she portrays. She puts herself, all of herself if you take my meaning, out there in this film. Walking about in the altogether, no strategic camera angles or props to cover her assets.

The film is just this hedonistic lust driven tale, that goes absolutely no where, has no point, and yet has some interesting scenes and performances by it's cast. Not that this film got any kind of props by the industry, but it gets an "A" for effort in my book for at least having the balls to be strange and daring. And that in itself can be entertaining. It is like if you tried to make Ladyhawk into a porno and threw in the plague for good measures! Silly but fun.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Knowing - Do You Really Want To Know?

WARNING! Spoiler Alerts!

This latest film by Alex Proyas, who brought us such existential classics as "The Crow", "Dark City" and "I, Robot" brings us another thriller about the end of the Earth.

Nick Cage plays John Koestler an MIT Astrophysicists who discovers a list of numerals that was left behind in a time capsule that was buried a half a century earlier at his son's school. By a strange set of circumstance, he is able to decifer that these numbers are predicited world disasters.

The rest of the film is trying to find out where these prophecies came from, and what do they mean.

This film has been taking some serious hits from critics. And I am not entirely sure why? It is not a horrible film, I have seem much worse from some celebrated directors like M. Night Shyamalan. His latest film "The Happening" is another apocalyptic based movie of super natural powers disrupting life on the planet. That was a disappointing movie, more so because of the ending.

But I think this film has amazing potential for what it tried to do, not what it actually achieved. The ending is a little hokey and wrapped up with a pretty bow. But it raises the existential question about the nature of the universe. Is everythings a random set of circumstances or is there some divine force governing things?

The story was suspenseful and gripping for the most part. The special effects were certainly well done. The acting even by the young actors was top notch. The young girl played by Lara Robinson did a phenomenal job play a duel role in the film.

Nick Cage and Rose Byrne ( 28 Weeks Later, Sunshine and Wicker Park) gave believable performances, portraying single parents trying to make sense of this bizarre series of events and doing their best to protect their kids. So there is purpose and motivation to the story. So what more do you want?

But I guess the writer crosses a line and attempts to assert a possible view of how and why the inevitable apocalypse might unfold. May not be your cup of tea, not sure it is mine. But in my mind doesn't necessarily make it a bad film. Just not giving the answers to the questions, that you might have hoped for.

All in all the film was entertaining. As to whether or not the ending was plausible, ask Michael Bay if he cares if his film "Armageddon" was believable or not? I think it was a good film, it makes you think about the universe, life and meaning to it all. It is worth a look.

The DVD offers some behind the scenes views and interpretations from the cast and crew.

Push- With a Little Give and Take

This latest film by Paul McGuigan of "Wicker Park and Lucky Number Slevin" acclaim does a fair job with a growing genre of film, the sci-fi/superhuman movie.

Seeing how there are now a bunch of these films scattered about it is hard to come out with and an interesting let alone unique story line. But "Push" seems to be able to stand on it's own.

There have been some films that touch upon the mutant/superhuman/ genetically engineered genre that have sunk while others swam. "X-Men" was certainly a hard act to follow, and a few in my opinion were able to bring anything new to the table, like "Eagle Eye" or "Wanted". The film "Jumper" was a good movie in it's unique plot, and "Push" was sort of a distant cousin to it, mutants being pursued by covert government agencies.

I did find it slightly amusing that like "Jumper", "Push" had a black actor ( Djimon Hounsou) playing the lead agent, not unlike the role played by Samuel Jackson in the former. But otherwise that is were the similarities ended.

"Push" is based in a semi-real conspiracy theory world or psychic and telekinetic powers being harvested in people through the use of labratory drugs. And basically trained mutants are used to track down and subdue the rogues. So nothing new there really.

The performances were decent enough, not the top of the shelf crew as far as actors go, but I would say every one in the cast is someone with strong box office currency. Chris Evans of Fantastic Four fame, delivers more or less the same sort of acting he does in all his other films, falable hero with the charming smile and humorous disposition. Camilla Belle is someone who really should be making Oscar winning movies, seems to prefer doing these sci-fi/horror based films. And Dakota Fanning seems to be riding in the wake, acting-wise as well. She delivered a rather endearing perfomance and has the chops to carry a film. I hope to see her in future projects.

Not really sure why Djimon is not knocking out more serious roles either. He was awesome in "Amistad", "Gladiator" and "The Four Feathers", but I guess there is only so many films you can make with in intense angry black men, and Denzel and Sammy J, seem to be scooping them up! But Djimon is a gentle soul, and good things I hope come to those who wait.

The film is a fast pace adventure filled with plot twists, and seriously cool special effects as far as the fight scenes and mutant powers go. It had the potential to be really bad, with the storyline going all over the place. But all in all I would say cast and crew did a decent job, at least the story had a theme and an ending which is more than I can say for some films I have seen. Maybe not a must own on DVD, as it has few special features worth noting. But definitely worth a look as a Netflix rental.

A final note there is an actor with a very brief role named Joel Gretsch. I first became aware of him in Legend of Bagger Vance. He has great personality and looks, and yet he seems destined for these little cameos in films. Another career I will be keeping an eye on.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Progress, Profits and Predictabilities!

I have had this discussion with a few folks over the years, about the decline in going to the movies versus watching films of DVD. And I guess it is inevitable that now we have movies that go straight to DVD almost immediately and some that are made specifically for home viewing. (And I am not refering to the adult entertainment variety.)

But I recall as teenager, looking forward to a film's release, especially films like Star Wars, or Indiana Jones and actually waiting in line for hours to buy tickets to the very first showing! And many of these I saw more than once in the theaters. I think I saw "The Empire Strikes Back" a half a dozen times.

This had a lot to do the times I was living in and the limited technology. We waited in line because at the time, these films were on the cutting edge of technology and entertainment, as far as movies went. And we saw them many times, not just because they were good. but because we had no way of knowing if we would ever see them again? This was before the days of syndicated cable networks, Home Video,DVD's and now BlueRay.

Sadly, those days are gone, and I can't help but feel we as a society are a little more jaded than we used to be. Now before a film comes out we can download screen savers, trailers, photos, songs, and interviews on our computers and even our cell phones! We rent dvd's and the discs themselves have previews and commercials for other things. World has become way too accessible, and again as I have lamented we are not coming together as much in the real world as we once did.

Now you don't even have to go to a theater to catch the latest film, to keep up with the "in crowd" you can download a quick thumbs up or down from a website, to get the "411" and skip the movie all together. And you don't have to wait long before it is delivered to your door either on cable television or by Netflix in the mail. And further still you can "watch instantly" on your computer through down loadable streaming.

Money is still being made by the promoters, studios, and hopefully the actors and crews. But somehow it seems like the original magic has diminished quite a bit. I remember treating a trip to the theater as a big social event. Now it is something you do to kill time. Although I would imagine that for kids, it is still a prefered escape to get out of the house. But I am disturbed by how many of them are texting away on their cell phones in the theaters, which begs the question why did you go to movies in the first place?

Even in most households I would assume that "movie night" has become less of a thrill. People are so used to "multi-tasking", that television in and of itself is becoming just ambient background noise, while we "twitter away" or search on the web for other things! We have become a wee bit over sensitized. We are flooded now with a steady flow of visual and audio stimuli thanks in part to the great world wide web and the blazing advances in electronics technology!

I even think that Hollywood is getting a little too saturated and running out of things to make films about. I used to complain back in the day, " How many Police Academy movies do we really need?" And now I laugh, because for more than a while , they have been making movies based on some loveable TV shows going as far back as the 50's and 60's. With limited success I might add. They have done Bewitched, The Brady Bunch, Lost in Space and now I shudder because there is a Gilligans Island movie in the works! Oh the humanity!

Might as well make a "Happy Days" film! Wait, they did it was called "American Graffitti"! But seriously they made a few Gilligan films, that failed! Do we really need one more? Most of those classic television programs are great in a nostalgic sort of way. But please leave them alone and get back to work!

And it is not so much that I blame the machine or progress so much. Hollywood has been cranking out "B-movies" for ages. So it is par for the course to have 10 films come out every two weeks. With one being good and the other nine being questionable. It just seems that we are less entertained, and in some cases we are less motivated to watch films. And I would hate to live in a world where movies became either redundant or non-existent.

I also get into a rant about the excessive use of "CGI" and again I have nothing against the industry or the folks that do all the hard work to bring us such great special effects in films, I just don't think it excuses the writers, the directors or even the producers from delivering an entertaining story line or plot.

It is something I touched upon earlier about soundtracks, where music is relied upon too often to spice up the more boring moments of a film. Just because a blockbuster film has something blowing up every five minutes does not make it an exciting movie. We still need to have our minds and imaginations stimulated, not just our senses.

Some where we have traded in waiting in a movie line for a bottom line. But all is not lost, there are still some great movies being made, and there are still people like me who enjoy seeing a blockbuster movie with a packed audience to feel the energy and be part of the experience. And I hope for all future generations that never fades away. There is just nothing like seeing a great film on the big screen.

Although I will confess that having a large High Definition Flat Screen and a bodacious digital surround sound system is a close second at times. And I do love being able to watch my favorite films over and over again at my own leisure. Ah the times they are a changing! Pass the popcorn!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Public Enemies

The problem with doing films based on true events, let alone historical events, is that your ending is pretty much set in stone for you. Very little wiggle room. Because basically you are surviving solely on the merits of your performance.
And alot of people won't go to see a film like Titanic, because they know in advance that the boat sinks. And in the case of this film if you know even a little American history, John Dillinger gets shot.
Now going into this film I had a fairly decent understanding about the man, or at least I thought I did. I knew he was a ruthless killer and a flamboyant personality. And that he died in a hail of gun fire, betrayed by his girlfriend, outside a movie theater in Chicago.

And I won't spoil much for you but it seems some liberties were taken with the story line. Which is fine, the film was enjoyable. Not overly exciting, but enjoyable. And this is due in greater part to the performances of Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard and of course Johnny Depp.

The gunfighting scenes with the roaring Tommy Guns, was alot like the fire fights in Star Wars, lots going on, bullets flying, but seems to take forever for someone to get hit. So even that got a little old quickly.

The story was limited, and the characters were a little two dimensional, you never really get a good look into what makes these people tick? You are given quick little explanations, and then wisked away into prolonged series of events that is basically bewildering and somewhat pointless.

You are never really sure from beginning to end why you are watching this? Or what the point the director Michael Mann was trying to make with this rather lengthy movie? Was John Dillinger a likeable misunderstood hero, or a ruthless killer?

And equally confusing is the position of purpose behind the way the FBI was portrayed in this film, are we to believe they are inept ruthless kilers as well? Or bungling idiots on some sort of vendetta to prove themselves to a sceptical society? It was all sort of sketchy at best.

Johnny Depp, Chistian Bale and Marion Cotillard delivered superb performances, as did the support cast. Lots of support cast in this, though not much shine time for any of them including some fairly big names like Stephen Dorff, David Wenham, Giovanni Ribisi, James Russo, Rory Cochrane and Billy Cruddup.

So all I can say, is don't believe the hype, it's an entertaing enough film, don't rush out to see it if another film grabs your interest. It is worth catching on DVD.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Movies about Music

This is a fun little category, that will lead to other posts I am sure. But keeping in the scheme of things, these are movies worth watching and owning the soundtracks to, great tunes and films.

Across the Universe- A rather unique approach to musicals, featuring the Beatles music. A trippy ride through the lyrics of the Fab Four.

The Commitments- This is a fantastic cult classic about a soul band in Dublin Ireland, trying to be the next big group after U2 and Boontown Rats to make it out of the slums. The band was put together for the sake of the film, but actually toured around the world briefly while promoting the movie. The soundtrack is amazing. The group covers such classic artists like Smokey Robinson, Wilson Picket, Percy Sledge, Marvin Gaye and many, many soul music legends. A seriously must own DVD and CD!!!!

8 Mile- A decent film starring Eminem, Kim Bassinger and Mekhi Phifer. Featuring Mr. M's tunes and other prominent rappers like 50 Cent, Obi Trice and Macy Gray.

Music & Lyrics - A charming romantic comedy starring yet again, Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore. About an 80's Popstar has-been getting a chance to revive his career. Features singing by Hugh and Drew, which is surprisingly good, and a relatively unknown actress/singer Halley Bennett.

Once- Glen Hansard of The Commitments fame, stars in this delightful little film about a struggling street performer/muscian, who meets a girl who inspires him to reach for his dreams.
The songs are all original tunes written and performed by Glen and his friend and co-star Marketa Irglova. Brilliant film and a serious must own soundtrack.

That Thing You Do- A rather curious and fun film by Tom Hanks, dealing with the musical phenomenon of One Hit Wonders. The tunes were written for the film and the four male actors learned to play their respective instruments to give it an authentic look and feel. Based in the 60's pop music explosion.

Walk the Line- The brilliant homage to Johnny Cash starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. Shows the real life struggles of country music legend and his struggles with inner demons, and how he was saved by the love of his soul mate June Carter. Chilling perfomances, and great music. Great film, and a great soundtrack!

Movies with Killer Scores

These are just films that are classics in their own rights and their soundtracks make great background music for relaxing or setting a mood.


Chariots of Fire


Far and Away

The Holiday

Interview with A Vampire

Robin Hood Prince of Thieves

Rob Roy

Stranger Than Fiction

Movies with Killer Soundtracks

These are just a quick selection off the top of my head, of films you should watch or at the very least listen to the soundtracks. Some you will not find a soundtrack for, and if you are a fanatic, like me, you are compelled to track down the individual artists to get the tracks. But in any case here are some of the afore mentioned films....

About A Boy- It's a cute film starring Hugh Grant, not an amazing film, but it has a cool soundtrack featuring "Badly Drawn Boy".

A Lot Like Love - Another passable film, you are not watching this for Ashton Kutcher. But is has a semi-naked Amanda Peet, and an awesome soundtrack. Highly recommend buying the cd on this one.

Bright Lights Big City- A rather strange film based on the story by Jay McInerney, starring Michael J. Fox. The tracks are hip Pop tunes from the mid 80's.

Bull Durham- A great undiscovered film in my mind, starring Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins. No available soundtrack that I know of, but some really great tunes that suit the film, and the scenes that they are in, well!

City of Angels- A decent movie, either you love it or don't. Nick Cage and Meg Ryan. But undeniably, a killer soundtrack, featuring the Goo Goo Dolls. A must own cd.

Clerks I & II Kevin Smith is just a hip guy when it comes to picking tunes for his movie soundtracks. Not sure if he ever puts out soundtrack cd's, but he definitely turns ya on to some great tuneage!

Garden State- Zach Braff's directorial debut, starring the lovely Natalie Portman. The soundtrack includes a lot of hip bands including the Shins. Another worthy disc for the collection.

Get Over It-This is a rather unfortunate sophmoric comedy, stuck between being a crappy film and a decent movie. The soundtrack is funk-a-licious. Some great tunes! CD is definitely better than the film.

High Fidelity- A great cult classic starring John Cusack and Jack Black. Some awesome tunes of this including, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, The Beta Band and a whole lot more!

Highlander- The ultimate cult classic film, with no soundtrack tied to the film. But Queen who did all of the songs took it upon themselves to release the very special album "It's A Kind of Magic". Which contains all the tunes from the soundtrack.

I Am Sam - A brilliant movie starring Sean Penn, and featuring a soundtrack with Beatle tunes covered by various musical genius in their own rights. Definitely a must own CD.

Juno- Hopefully everyone knows about this blockbuster cult classic starring Ellen Page, but if not check it out, and buy the soundtrack a lot of cool and innovative tunes on this CD.

Notting Hill- Another Hugh Grant comedy starring Julia Roberts. Great sound track that includes such brilliant artists like Elvis Costello and Bill Withers.

Pump Up The Volume - A teen angst sort of 80's film with the counter culture legend himself Christian Slater. But the soundtrack is chock full of some deep, moody classics.

Serendipity- A beautiful movie starring Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack. Fantastic soundtrack featuring Nick Drake and other really wonderful artist. Another must own CD!

Ten Things I Hate About You- Not a great movie, certainly not watching it for Julia Stiles. But you do get to see Heath Ledger sing! The tunes are very 80's retro, Cheap Trick and Nick Lowe covers by 90's hip bands. Got so serious toe tappers on it.

Tin Cup- Another Kevin Costner classic, makes watching golf fun!!! The soundtrack is great featuring Chris Isaak amongst others. Worth a watch or a listen.

Venus - A rather bizarre film starring Peter O'Toole and Jodie Whittaker, a tender relationship between a teen age girl and a dirty old man. Sadly no soundtrack, but highly recommend picking up Corrine Bailey Rae's album. Contains three of the tracks from the film.

Beat Movies and Movies with a Beat

Many things go into making a great or memorable movie, great story, great acting, great action. Now a days I have issues with directors and producers, that rely too heavily on CGI or special effects to help cover up a boring plot.

But before special effects grew from it's infancy, the thing that made crappy films decent, and good films great, was their soundtracks. But music can only do so much. Case in point, Star Trek the Motion Picture.

I don't think there is a soul alive, not connected to this monumental piece of cinematic crap, that would disagree what a horrible film this was. And it fell to the unfortunate hands of Jerry Goldsmith to try and cover the stench, which is why the film opens with roughly twenty minutes of exterior shots of a plastic model, while Jerry and an orchestra thunder away.....yawn!!!

Now there are several different types of movies with what I call "Killer Soundtracks". There are muscial movies, obviously, and there are movies about music. There are even epic movies with fantastic musical scores. But the movies I love the most, even if they are commercial flops are films with "Killer Soundtracks". Some pictures are epic and have great tunes, case in point 'Forrest Gump" or "The Big Chill" and some are cult classics like " Pulp Fiction" or "Saturday Night Fever".

But universally, good music seems to cover a multitude of sins, and make some films or in some cases some scenes unforgettable. I can't listen to Tom Petty's " An American Girl" without thinking about " Silence of The Lambs". This is the kind of idealistic song selection that I feel deserves some recognition. It sets the mood and the moment, and if done correctly strikes a chord in our minds, and becomes immortal in film history.

So without further ado, here are three lists, not all encompassing, but lists of some films that help illustrate my point. And they are as follows...

Movies with Killer Soundtracks

Movies with Killer Scores

Movies about Music

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Monty Python and The Holy Grail ( Fun Facts)

Did a little digging around the trivia pool for this film learned a few interesting bits.
First and most funny, is that Terry Gilliam started out directing this film, and due to a very mutual disagreement between he and the cast, decided to walk off set and take a nap under a nearby tree.
Terry Jones took up the directorial mantle from that point onward. Which is why they both have director credits.

Reportedly the UK band Pink Floyd was so enthralled by MP's humor that they donated proceeds from their "Dark Side of the Moon" album to help pay for the filming of the "Holy Grail"!

The inspiration for the "Killer Rabbit" scene in the film is actually based in some artistic reality. In several churches through out England, " A knight running away from a rabbit" is actually a symbolic device used to denote cowardice! Notre Dame has three medallions with this theme as well.

The scene with the "Black Knight" was initially played by John Cleese, but then after his first leg gets cut off, Cleese was replaced by a one legged silver smith/ local actor. Which helped greatly for the no-legged scene as they only had to dig a small hole for his one leg.

The representation of God in the film was actually a photo of a 19th century cricketer W.G. Grace.

Graham Chapman, unbeknownst to his fellow cast mates was suffering greatly due to his alcoholism, and during the filming of the "Bridge of Death" scene had to be replaced by the 1st A.D. for the shot. Chapman was suffering from the DT's and since they were in a remote filming location, there was no alcohol around for miles!

And lastly due to refusal by the Scottish Department of the Environment, permission was denied to shoot at many of the chosen locations, so most of the varying castle shots were all filmed at Doune Castle. The closing scenes at Castle Aargg were shot at the recently rebuilt Castle Stalker.

I can't imagine there are too many folks out there that have not seen this hilarious classic. But if there is I highly recommend you watch this film and more succinctly buy the DVD. Make sure you get the Special Anniversary Edition. There are oodles and scads of extras on it. Terry Jones and Michael Palin revisit many of the filming locations, recant tales from the experinece of getting some of the more dangerous shots, and share private off screen jokes.

There are other really cool features like the lyrics to all the songs, great interviews with the cast, some extra Terry Gilliam goodies and a whole lot more. If you are an avid collector or just a fan of Monty Python, this is a must own!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Joyuex Noel- War and Peace

This is a great adaptation of the true events that occured on Christmas Eve during World War I along the front lines of Europe, where enemies called an unofficial cease fire in honor of the holiday.

It is a well done effort by French writer/director Christian Carion. There are not many well known actors in this film other that the romantic leads played by Diane Kruger, who you may know as Abigail Chase of the National Treasure film franchise and Benno Furman a talented actor, who like Kruger, was born in Germany.

Though Furman has done mostly foreign films, he did star in a rather interesting movie with Heath Ledger called " The Order" or as I like to call it, " A Knight's Tale 2", because it has three of the principle actors from Brian Hegleland's film in it, Ledger, Shannyn Sossamon and Mark Addy.

Though the characters played by Kruger and Furman are more or less fictitious, they are for the sake of this story the catalyst for the unexpected truce. Both are opera singers, Furman a drafted private in the German army, and Kruger his love come to entertain the men on Christmas Eve.

Music ends up becoming the universal language and bond of humanity that brings the opposing sides together on the holiest of nights.

The story and the true events that it is based upon, are enough to make this film interesting, but what makes this even more endearing are the little details and re-occuring gimmicks and gags.
Pay close attention to the cat (Felix) and the French Lieutenant's aide de comp Ponchel and his alarm clock. There are a bunch of comical and poignant references strewn about the story line, which add just the right amount of comic relief when needed, and also add a bit of irony towards the end when consequences are met in the light of post truce realities.

Overall, it is a very entertaining and introspective look into warfare and how civilized men deal with it. And how propaganda is raised in order to justify the killing of other races. And the icing on the cake is the musical score, which is very chilling and at the same time uplifting!

No real extras on the DVD, other than a post production interview with the director, but for the true film buff and collector, I think is a film you will watch again and again.

Terry Gilliam - Deals with the Devil

The reknowned animator and director of Monty Python fame, Terry Gilliam has completed his film "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" and currently is presenting it at foreign film festivals this summer. Reportedly will begin to appear in theaters around Europe at summers end. Hopefully reaching the United Stated shortly there after.

Gilliam has had a brief history of production curses that has halted one of his films "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" for many years now, and the dark shadow that has passed over the filming of "Dr.Parnassus" in regards to the untimely death of Heath Ledger during principle production. Gilliam was able to finish the film, and release it with the blessing of Heath's family. Ledger played one of the incarnations of the character named "Tony", which is also shared by actors Colin Farrell, Jude Law, and Johnny Depp.

The main role is played by veteran actor Christopher Plummer, who makes a deal with the devil played by the mysteriously funny and foreboding singer turned actor Tom Waits. The story is a basic Faustian Fairy Tale, where the good doctor makes his deal with the devil to gain immortality, but as usually when dealing with the devil, it comes at a price.

So many centuries later, the Doctor is touring with his travelling troop of players, entertaining the crowds, and giving them more of a show than they expect.

This promises to be yet another captivating tale of dark and depraved humor courtesy of the creative genius that is Terry Gilliam's imagination. The man who brought you such classics as
"Monty Python and the Holy Grail", "Time Bandits", "Brazil", "Adventures of Baron Munchausen", "The Fisher King", "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and "The Brothers Grimm", which also starred Heath Ledger.

It may not be a box office blockbuster, but it should attract the usual fans and cult followers. And much in the way the recent film tribute to Bob Dylan "I Am Not There" where several actors, including the late Heath Ledger got crack at playing the folk singer, it should be interesting to see how the combined efforts of Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Johnny Depp play out in the making or breaking of this role.

And if for no other reason, you get to see Heath Ledger in his final role!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Being There- A Chance Viewing

I thought since I brought this film up with the 1900 review, I would talk about this delightful if not bizarre little gem of a movie. "Being There" stars Peter Sellers, as this sheltered simpleton, who predating Forrest Gump, manages to find his way into interesting situations.

Though this was not the last released film, it was reportedly the last film Sellers did, which makes the ending even more appropo. And given the hardships the man endured in his personal life towards the end, it is somewhat poignant. Apparently it took Sellers nine years to make this picture happen, and fortunate for us he did!

The story is about a simple man, named Chance played by Sellers, who spends his entire life in servitude to a wealthy man as his gardener. He tends to the plants and the flowers with a Zen-like rapture, and this is all he knows other than his love for watching TV. But this all comes to a crashing end, when his employer dies, and Chance is unexpectedly turned out into the streets.

As he wanders the lonely harsh streets of Washington DC, still trying to comprehend what has happened to the world he knew, he ends up stumbling into great fortune in the form of a limousine, that unfortunaely hits him. Inside is the wife of a very influential man, Eve played by Shirley MacLeane.

Guilt ridden she takes him to her home, where he is introduced to her husband an advisor to the President and a wealthy corporation owner. Both Eve and her husband Ben mistake his nonsensical blatherings about horticulture for being Zen like proverbs of profound wisdom.

They become enthralled with him and Chance finds himself in the center of great power. Like a lamb lost in a wolves den. And yet in typical "Fortune Favors The Foolish" kind of way, Chance is uplifted above it all, in more ways than one, and placed in a position of power. ( Oblivious of course to the fact that he is even there in the first place!)

But again much like Forrest Gump, he spews out simple truths, so simple that they are revered in a morally bankrupt world of business and politics as sermons from a prophet. And yet you the audience see that he is merely talking about how he tends to his garden. But like Forrest said, "Stupid is as stupid does!" The people he meets become instantly enthralled with him and mistake him for something he is not, which is...someone who should be giving advice.

But he speaks with such assured earnestness, that they assume he is speaking in metaphors about life, and they in turn each conclude a different meaning to his words. And great hilarity ensues! Including a very controversial scene with Ms. MacLeane in the bedroom.

But all done in good fun. And though there is some lighthearted moments in this film that make you laugh, there are some incredibly tender moments in this story that make you think!

The ending will make you either laugh or cry or both! A must see!

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Legend of 1900

This is a great little hidden gem of a film by Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore, and stars Tim Roth, whom I feel is a genius at his craft and yet somehow, very underrated. This movie is right up there with another great unknown classic "Being There". ( Which starred the comic genius Peter Sellers, and was also his last film. )

I mentioned these two films together because their themes are similar, though their story lines are different. They are about characters lost in their own worlds, and somehow unaffected by the world around them, and yet would be lost should they venture out beyond the comfort zones of what they know.

In Legend of 1900, a wandering minstrel play by Pruitt Taylor Vince, a very likeable character actor, and herald to Roth's character, begins this tale literally at gun point to relay a rather remarkable tale, about a man that never existed, one Danny Boodman T.D. Lemon Nineteen Hundred.

Vince plays trumpeteer Max Tooney, who made a living playing in the dance band aboard the ocean liner S.S. Virginian, travelling across the Atlantic ocean between New York and London. And on his first trip across he meets 1900 in a rather remarkably choreagraphed scene that would have rivaled the grace of Fred Astaire and the comedic genius of Buster Keaton. Tooney is treated to the ride of his life aboard a grand piano as it rolls about the ballroom dance floor as the ship is tossed about by a great storm. All the while serenaded by the lilting sounds of 1900's playing.

1900 you find out was orphaned aboard the ocean liner by his mother, travelling to America, hoping to make a new start for herself. But it isn't long before he is adopted by the ever funny and charming Danny Boodman Sr., played by the equally charming Billy Nunn, a mechanic aboard the ship. And soon 1900 takes to his true calling in life,which is the piano.

The remarkable story behind 1900 is that since he has never placed a foot upon land, he technically doesn't exist in anyplace in the world but on this ship. And he gains an amazing perspective on life and the world, through the eyes and stories of every passenger he meets during his travels. 1900 manages to have quite a few adventures while on board, including a rather memorable and thrilling musical duel with the jazz legend Jelly Roll Morton, played by the rather intense and menacing Clarence Williams III.

This film is charming, funny, poignant and sad all at the same time. Tooney relays the story to an old pawn shop owner, who magically seems to own the only recording of 1900's sweet playing, and now Tooney's trumpet, which he just hocked.

As the audience you learn that in present time, the Virginian is due to be scrapped, and while Tooney tells his tale , you wonder as does the shop owner, what happened to 1900? Did he ever depart the ship? The ending is bitter sweet, and very cathartic.

Tim Roth delivers probably one of the best performances of his life, as does Vince who plays off of his character very well. This is a must see movie, and if you are a fan of Tim Roth, or just great story telling, a must own DVD. I also recommend checking out the Peter Seller's film "Being There".

Farewells to Farrah, and the King of Pop!

Sadly we say goodbye to two very noteable Pop Culture Icons from the 70's and 80's.

Michael, despite his excessive eccentricities towards the end of his life, was a talented singer and song writer, and that is how I will choose to remember him! And he did star in The Wiz so technically he was an actor as well. Definitely enjoyed his music videos back from the Thriller days! Hopefully he is finding some peace now!

And a teary goodbye to the most beloved Angel- Farrah Fawcett. She was a heart throb to many, and also for a time Mrs. Steve Austin - The Six Million Dollar Man (Lee Majors) . She was indeed a huge part of Pop Culture, and will be greatly missed. Will always remember her fondly in "Logan's Run" wasn't her best or biggest role, but she looked hot! And of course she will be remembered by many as Jill Munroe of the ever popular television show "Charlie's Angels ".

And also a quick mention, and farewell to television legend and Pop Culture icon, Ed McMahon, the beloved side-kick for so many years of the Johnny Carson and the Tonight Show. Guess I won't be getting sweepstakes junk mail from him anymore. Hiiiiyoooooo... and rest in peace sir!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Little Hero, Big Surprise!

This is a fantastic film, directed by Andrew Stanton ( Finding Nemo, Monster's Inc.) He hits another one out of the park with this brilliant and so loveable tale, of a post apocalyptic service bot WALL-E ( Waste, Allocation, Lift, Loader- Earth Class) who discovers the first signs of life on Earth, other than his beloved pet coachroach!

But more than this, it is a love tale between the charming WALL-E and EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) a robot who is sent to earth to scan for lifeforms. Which is ironic since she seems quite bent on shooting anything that moves and asking questions later. And yet the two make a very cute couple!

The great thing about this film besides the oustanding animation and effects, is the endless string of jokes and gags strewn about the film. I find the more you watch it, the more you discover. I have seen this a bunch of times, and I find that you always seem to catch something you missed before.

The android characters are all fully animated in their expressions, it is amazing how much the animators are able to convey with simple gestures and movements. Brilliantly done. The film takes you from the lonely desolation that is WALL-E's world, to the outer reaches of outer space to hook up with the AXIOM the life support vessel that contains the remaining human population. The ship is Captained by the funny and talented Jeff Garlin who has pretty much the biggest speaking part in the film. Another small homage and gag is the ship's computer, the voice is supplied by the lovely and talented Sigourney Weaver. ( A humourous homage to her role in Galaxy Quest.) Another classic Disney film.

This is a must own on DVD, besides having the opportunity to watch this classic Pixar film over and over, there are some incredible extras in the Special Features. Including extended scenes and an animated short featuring another WALL-E cast member BURN-E.

Overall, the film is filled with stunning imagery, funny homages to other great films and Pop Culture icons, great laughs, and a feel good love story between two droids! It's a "can't miss" classic!

Year One- Small Fun!

Year One is the latest film by comedic legend Harold Ramis. The man still has the chops for humor, his writing skills are sharp as ever, but to be honest hasn't really directed anything hysterically funny since Groundhogs Day.

But when you have written so many masterpieces like Stripes, Caddyshack, Animal House and Ghostbusters, you don't have to make as big a wave in comedy with each film you work on. Resting on well earned laurels is acceptable.

This film has the potential right off the bat to be a laugh riot, but ended up being a nothing more than a mild public disturbance. The cast is well chosen with Jack Black and Michael Cera, and a few other well known character actors like Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria, David Cross and the ever larger than life Vinnie Jones.

The cast is good, the jokes are passable and the premise was again, worth the making of the movie. The problem is in the dismount. The film starts out with the comedic odd couple as cavemen of sorts, bumbling their way through life in almost an ode to Mel Brook's History of the World style of events, that ends up witht the duo in a Babylonian-esque realm fighting for their lives.

Black and Cera are a great team, Jack with his maniac baffoonery and Michael with his dry whiny straightman persona. The pair launch their way through one light hearted disaster after another, suffering little or no real consequences , while trying to rescue their friends. A simple enough plot.

The problem occurs when the film just sort of ends with a Rocky IV kind of ending. Bad guys lose, and hero makes unrelated altruistic speech at the end. I blame Stallone! Not a laugh riot, but there are a few really funny gags sandwiched in between.

I would like to see Jack Black and Michael Cera work together in the future, I think their chemistry made this film more succesful than it really deserves to be! And I do love Harold Ramis' body of work, but the best I can say about "Year One" is you might get a laugh or two, when you rent this on DVD in six months!