Monday, December 31, 2007

Hostel (2006)

Hey, isn't this movie supposed to be hateful?

I let the marketing and editorializing keep me away until now, and watched it expecting to stop it well before the end.

All of the hand-wringing was way off-base: Hostel is really just a well-constructed little thriller. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

What the hell. Recommended.

Friday, December 21, 2007

I Am Legend (2007)

With a different script -- and maybe Josh Brolin instead of Will Smith, and the mood of the first half hour maintained throughout -- this could've been great.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

No Country For Old Men (2007)

Brilliant, then not.

The Beat That My Heart Skipped (2005)

Remember Fingers, a James Toback film from the seventies starring Harvey Keitel?

Neither do I. And now I've forgotten this French remake I watched a couple months ago.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Before The Devil Knows You're Dead (2007)

The opening scenes may lead to you believe you're in for a dirty good time, but don't be fooled.

Prepare to suffer.

The Lives of Others (2007)

I don't know...for most of its running time, this feels like an Afterschool Special about the Stasi. A bit simple. And are the actors playing characters who've grown used to keeping their reactions tamped down...or are they just not very expressive (not good actors) to begin with? Then comes the coda and, I promise you, your eyes will well up.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Triplets of Belleville (2003)

The pathos is undercut by the eerieness, the eerieness is undercut by the humor. Really one of a kind.


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Thursday, December 6, 2007

P2 (2007)

Another genuine B movie?: a thriller, no one in it, no one went to see it, gone before I had the chance. I'll bet it's good.

Dark Water (2005)

Not truly scary -- but moody and good-looking.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Battle Royale (2000)

An entire class of Japanese students is dispatched to a remote island and ordered, under threat of death, to kill one another.

Completely engaging nonsense.

Snakes On A Plane (2006)

Proof you can't set out to make a bad movie.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Vacancy (2007)

Why aren't more thrillers 1)modest; 2)smart; 3)short?

They should teach this movie and Red Eye in film school.

The Good Shepherd (2006)

Robert DeNiro directed this fictionalized version of the career of James Angleton, the mastermind of the Bay of Pigs, played in the film by Matt Damon.

In look and in structure, DeNiro seems to have fashioned the film after "The Godfather Part Two", and it suffers only in comparison to that masterpiece.

Too short at three hours long.


Friday, November 9, 2007

Ace In The Hole (1950)

Kirk Douglas plays a former big-city reporter doing time at the Albuquerque daily when he stumbles on his ticket back to New Yawk: a man trapped by a cave-in at a roadside attraction.

Douglas manipulates the situation – even undermines the rescue operation – for his own glory.

Written and directed by Billy Wilder, and possibly darker than Double Indemnity or Sunset Boulevard.


Friday, November 2, 2007

Strummer, Movies

Today's New York Times' review of the new Joe Strummer documentary by Julien Temple reminded me that I have yet to see Alex Cox's Straight To Hell (above) co-starring the Clash and Elvis Costello and I forget who-all.

Anyone ever seen it?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Blood Simple (1985)

A splatter-movie art movie. The director, Joel Coen, wrote the screenplay with his brother Ethan, who was the producer; they made the film independently, but it's a Hollywood by-product. A Texas roadhouse owner (Dan Hedaya) wants to have his young wife (Frances McDormand) and her lover (John Getz) murdered; he hires a killer, a good-ol'-boy private detective (M. Emmet Walsh) who takes his money and double-crosses him. The one real novelty in the conception is that the audience has a God's-eye view of who is doing what to whom, while the characters have a blinkered view and, misinterpreting what they see, sometimes take totally inexpedient actions. Joel Coen doesn't know what to do with the actors (they give their words too much deliberation and weight), but he knows how to place the characters and the props in the film frame in a way that makes the audience feel knowing and in on the joke. His style is deadpan and klutzy, and he uses the klutziness as his trump card. It's how he gets his laughs—the audience enjoys not having to take things seriously. The film provides a visually sophisticated form of gross-out humor; the material is thin, though, and there isn't enough suspense until about the last ten minutes, when the action is so grisly that it has a kick. M. Emmet Walsh is the only colorful performer; he lays on the loathsomeness, but he gives it a little twirl—a sportiness. The grimy, lurid cinematography is by Barry Sonnenfeld. With Samm-Art Williams. (Pauline Kael)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Dead Girl (2006)

This is one of those self-consciously "literary" films - you know, a collection of (in this instance)five segments connected in some cosmic way. Here, in each vignette, a woman somehow connected with the discovery of a murdered woman's body has a very literary epiphany...But let's roll with it: Toni Colette is the woman who finds the body (strange, but okay); Rose Byrne,the sister of another long-missing girl, has become an M.E. (really? well...okay); Mary Beth Hurt is the wife of the murderer (she does...what? I don't get it); Marcia Gay Harden is the murdered girl's mother (this was good); and then, Brittany Murphy stomps onscreen as the soon-to-be dead girl, and makes everyone else looks foolish.

The Good German (2006)

Where's Claude Raines when you really need him?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

13 Tzameti (2006)

13 Tzameti would work as a silent movie. Nearly everything you need to know is conveyed in images.

This is the thriller Unknown (below) wanted to be.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Unknown (2006)

Somebody came up with a terrific conceit for a B-movie -- the pitch probably went UsualSuspects/Memento/Twelve AngryMen/ReservoirDogs/Cube/Saw -- and then apparently let a couple of bright high school kids write it and shoot it.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Sherrybaby (2006)

Maggie Gyllenhaal is always the best part of any movie she's in (see Criminal, or Mona Lisa Smile)

Sherrybaby is all her show, and she doesn't hit a wrong note.

(Also with Danny Trejo!)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Lady Vengeance (2005)

Vengeance is hers: I'll never get those two hours back.

You Kill Me (2007)

Ben Kingsley and Tea Leone have some nice scenes together early on – as they flirt, they take turns reacting to each others’ clever lines by suppressing a laugh – but the shaggy-dog mobster storyline is too shaggy by half, and Phillip Baker Hall and Dennis Farina are thrown away.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Long Good Friday (1979)

London gang boss Bob Hoskins is finalizing a development deal that will make him and his associates wealthy and legit - once they secure some big money from the American Mafia - when he finds himself a target of some bloody acts of revenge.

Hoskins is great playing a guy absolutely dumbfounded to discover that, after a decade of graft-induced peace and prosperity, someone could have the nerve to try and muck up his big deal.

He shakes off his daze once the machetes come out, and rediscovers his inner gangster...but he also finds out that prosperity has left him a step too slow.

(Be forewarned: The synthesizer 'n' saxophone score has not aged well.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

3:10 To Yuma (2007)

Director James Mangold made a terrific Western years ago. It was set in New Jersey, and the title was Copland.

If there were acting awards that meant anything, Sylvester Stallone would have one for Copland.

3:10 To Yuma is not in the same league.

Although it features some fine acting, little in the movie makes sense, right from the beginning.

And if you disagree, remind me never to rob a stagecoach with you.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Shooter (2007)

It's a bad idea to seek conventional medical attention for a gunshot wound when you are the subject of a nationwide manhunt. Most movies that introduce such a scenario elide the real complications that would ensue.

Shooter is dumb in a lot of ways, but all I ever want from a flick like this is something I haven't seen before, and an action hero spending half an hour trying to treat a wound is nothing if not unique.

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Woods (2005)

Lucky McKee, director of The Woods and of the superior May, would seem to be a real rarity among horror directors: one who actually likes women.

The Family Stone

I didn’t believe a minute of The Family Stone, but I watched two-thirds of it, because hey! Rachel MacAdams, Craig T. Nelson, Claire Danes. All appealing in anything.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Rush Hour 3 (2007)

The villain and his minions capture Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker and lead them down into the Paris sewer. The villain tells a vaguely menacing anecdote about the sewers, then offers them one last chance, tell me where the girl is and you live -- something Jackie Chan isn't about to agree to: his eyes narrow, his jaw sets.

Chris Tucker beams: "You got a deal! Thanks for showing us the sewer!"

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum

“Engage the asset,” evil David Strathairn intones on two occasions in The Bourne Ultimatum, and each time there follows a sequence of near-identical ciphers answering the phone and snapping into action in the anonymous room where they’d been zoned out in front of the TV; it’s a sly joke that’s niftier and chillier the second time around.


Friday, July 27, 2007

Monday, July 23, 2007

Spiderman 3 (2007)

There are about seven different storylines and none are resolved in a satisfying manner, which makes it seem closer to the comic book I remember than the two previous movies.

Most importantly, it looks better.

No Country For Old Men (2007)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Where The Sidewalk Ends (1950)

As it turns out here, the sidewalk ends at the curb, not the gutter.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Knocked Up (2007)

During the very funny Knocked Up – an amiable blob of a comedy – Kristen Wiig, in the course of two brief scenes with a shape and snap the rest of the movie lacks, nearly walks away with the picture, and makes it look easy.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Evan Almighty (2007)

The new kiddie film Evan Almighty, which appears to be a comedy about a flood, received a positive review in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Harsh Times (2006)

Mean Streets retold in present-day Los Angeles, with the U.S. government standing in for the Catholic Church. Recommended.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Accepted (2006)

"This generation's Animal House!" says one blurbist, and he's probably right, in a way.

Rated PG.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Proposition (2007)

Weird, nearly shapeless Aussie Western penned by Nick Cave, who's read his Cormac McCarthy.

Ray Winstone (left) is great as usual.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Knocked Up (2007)

This looks funny, but -- two + hours?
Maybe they should cut the Battleship Potemkin sequence.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Aura (2005)

Art-house noir from Argentina.
An epileptic taxidermist (really) gets a chance to live his fantasy of committing a heist by inserting himself into someone else’s scheme, and of course he doesn’t know the half of what’s really going on.
The proceedings are so hushed that every curse is like a gun going off, and every gunshot like a bomb.
The corners don’t all meet up as they might pretend to in an American product, but this one’ll stay with you. Recommended.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Melinda And Melinda (2004)

So bad, you question every happy memory of watching a Woody Allen film.
Did Annie Hall suck this bad too? you find yourself thinking.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Smokin' Aces (2007)

Forty minutes of exposition, twenty minutes of gunplay, another twenty minutes of exposition (feels like) that renders the original forty minutes moot. Run credits.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Pretty Poison (1968)

I waited 28 years to see Pretty Poison, so chances were pretty slim that I wouldn't be disappointed.
Tuesday Weld is great in it, though.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Vacancy (2007)

I haven't seen this (yet), but Christ that's a beautiful poster.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Shopgirl (2006)

Claire Danes is so radiant in this movie that Steve Martin and Jason Schwartzman come off looking not so much callow or stunted as brain-dead. You keep waiting for someone fully alive to show up and take her away to a more interesting story.

Art School Confidential (2006)

The scorn on display in Zwigoff's previous film, Bad Santa, was liberating and had focus - - I'm oversimplifying when I ask, Who doesn't hate Christmas? - - but I have no idea which side he's coming down on, or even what the sides are, in this film. It's all scorn. Skip it.