05 November 2013

3 Nov- "Don't waste my time"

In Time (2011)
dir. Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, 1997)

Justin Timberlake (The Social Network, 2010)
Olivia Wilde (Cowboys & Aliens, 2011)
Johnny Galeki (Hancock, 2008)
Matt Bomer (Magic Mike, 2012)
Ray Santiago (Accepted, 2006)
Alex Pettyfer (Magic Mike, 2012)
Brendan Miller (Accepted, 2006)
Yaya Alafia (The Kids are All Right, 2010)
Cillian Murphy (The Wind that Shakes the Barley, 2006)
Toby Hemingway (Black Swan, 2010)
Melissa Ordway (Ted, 2012)
Abhi Sinha (The Social Network, 2010)
Amanda Seyfried (Red Riding Hood, 2011)
Emma Fitzpatrick (The Social Network, 2010)
Vincent Kartheiser (Rango, 2011)

I watched In Time because I was looking for a fast-paced and somewhat silly action movie to while away the evening, also, my fella hadn't seen it yet. We were not disappointed.

Still, I couldn't help but imagine Andrew Niccol meeting with the producers and pitching his idea, "You guys! You know how they say 'time is money'? What if time was money?!" and the producers were like, "Run with that idea, Andy! But make it like an old-time gangster movie, too!" and Andrew Niccol did it, because money is money.

First of all, everyone in the movie itself acts as if this time/money thing is very novel, and not as if society has been carrying on this way for generations. The number of time puns is appalling and also delightful (as long as you love puns, as I do)

For example:
"Don't waste my time," said after a large amount of time is gifted to the protagonist
"You've taken years off my father's life," said to the protagonist after he wins a large amount of time in a poker game
"I'd say 'your money or your life, but since your money is your life," Said while the protagonist executes a heist
"I'm going to clean your clock," said as a thug threatens another person. Also, their gang is called the Minute-men.

On top of this, the scenery and costumes are overtly styled in a manner reminiscent of 1930s gangsters, with Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried acting the parts of Bonnie & Clyde running around robbing "time banks" and driving black Lincoln Continentals.

The antagonist is the typical Jaubert-style cop (timekeeper) played by Cillian Murphy. Murphy does his best with the role, but it's still a cliche characterization, in the tradition of The Fugitive's Lieutenant Gerard, or the aforementioned character from Les Miserables. Like any of those characters living a black and white world of law-abiding morality, Murphy refuses to support the protagonists even as he detests the actions of the film's villain.

So what can I say? In Time provides the veneer of novelty while playing out a trite concept with the same reassuring tropes we've already seen over and over again. It was fun.

04 July 2013

4 July - "A toast to the end of the world"

Independence Day (1996)
dir. Roland Emmerich (The Day After Tomorrow, 1996)

Will Smith (I Am Legend, 2007)
Jeff Goldblum (The Big Chill, 1983)
Bill Pullman (Sleepless in Seattle, 1993)
Randy Quaid (Brokeback Mountain, 2005)
Robert Loggia (Big, 1988)
Mary McDonnell (Donnie Darko, 2001)
Vivica A. Fox (Batman & Robin, 1997)
Margaret Colin (The Devil's Own, 1997)
James Rebhorn (Cold Mountain, 2003)
Harvey Fierstein (Mrs. Doubtfire, 1993)
Adam Baldwin (Serenity, 2005)
James Duval (The Doom Generation, 1995)
Lisa Jakub (The Beautician and the Beast, 1997)
Giuseppe Andrews (American History X, 1998)
Bill Smitrovich (Iron Man, 2008)
Mae Whitman (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, 2010)
Harry Connick Jr.  (New in Town, 2009)

Independence Day is not my favorite fourth of July movie (that would be this one) but it is still a pretty good one. I think we can all agree that the best scene is when the dog leaps out of the way of the explosion, and that it is very inspiring when Bill Pullman tells us that the fourth of the July will no longer be an American holiday, but a day when the whole world will celebrate it's Independence Day (that's the eponymous moment).

02 July 2013

2 July - "Why don't you like my spots?"

I Heart Huckabees (2004)

dir. David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, 2012)

Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore, 1998)
Isabelle Huppert (Time of the Wolf, 2003)
Dustin Hoffman (Hook, 1991)
Lily Tomlin (Krippendorf's Tribe, 1998)
Jude Law (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, 1997)
Mark Wahlberg (Boogie Nights, 1997)
Naomi Watts (Eastern Promises, 2007)
Kevin Dunn (Almost Heroes, 1998)
Tippi Hendren (The Birds, 1963)
Said Taghmaoui (Hidalgo, 2004)
Jean Smart (Youth in Revolt, 2009)
Jonah Hill (Megamind (voice), 2010)
Isla Fisher (Rango, 2011)
John Rothman (The Devil's Advocate, 1997)
Talia Shire (Rocky, 1976)
Bob Gunton (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, 1997)
Saige Ryan Campbell (All I Want for Christmas, 2007)

I Heart Huckabees is one of those comedies that finds its humor in the absurdity of situations rather than jokes or physical comedy. The protagonist, played by Jason Schwartzman, hires a duo of existential detectives to discover meaning behind His coincidental encounter with the small Sudanese man three times in one day. As is the way with existential crises, however, the investigation rapidly spills into other aspects of his life, mainly the collaborative project between the protagonist's environmental organization and Wal-Mart-esk Huckabees superstore to preserve a patch of wetlands from development. Brad, the Huckabees representative for the wetlands project, sees this as a good PR move, but soon he and others around our protagonist are drawn into existential dilemmas of our own. The characters address the big questions, what am I? And why am I here? with the humor stemming from the absurdity of these personal dilemmas manifesting very tangibly and publicly in day to day life. 

I've seen I Heart Huckabees several times now. I find it to be more accessible than many other indie comedies, which are often so dark that they hardly merit being called comedies (as in Sunshine Cleaning). This is the exception, the tone consistently remains light even as the subject matter becomes heady. Great cast, too.

01 July 2013

2 July - "I'm the thief you tried to cheat"

The Saint (1997)
dir. Phillip Noyce (Clear and Present Danger, 1994)

Val Kilmer (Batman Forever, 1995)
Elizabeth Shue (Leaving Las Vegas, 1995)
Rade Serbedzija (X-Men: First Class, 2011)
Henry Goodman (Notting Hill, 1999)
Alun Armstrong (Braveheart, 1995)
Evgeniy Lazarev (Iron Man 2, 2010)
Tommy Flanagan (Braveheart, 1995)
Pat Laffan (War Horse, 2011)
Malcolm Tierney (Braveheart, 1995)
Tony Armatrading (Eragon (voice), 2006)
David Schneider (28 Days Later..., 2002)
Emily Mortimer (Transiberian, 2008)
Velibor Topic (Robin Hood, 2010)
Barbara Jefford (The Ninth Gate, 1999)
Julian Rhind-Tutt (Stardust, 2007)
William Hope (Sherlock Holmes, 2009)
Roger Moore (voice) (The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977)
Richard Cubison (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, 2007)
Michael Byrne (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, 2010)

If you like terrible action movies, as I do, The Saint is not one to miss. Notable mainly for Val Kilmer infinitely amusing disguises and accents. The romance is ridiculous, although Elizabeth Shue's character is charming, in her own way. If you discovered that the poetic South African who seduced you was actually an international thief, would you be delighted to see him again? And if the  woman you seduced and then thieved surprised you at the airport, would you exclaim with a smile, "You found me!"?

I think it's the earnestness of the lead actors that makes one bad action movie delightful and another just boring. If I feel like the actors aren't having fun, aren't even trying, then I don't see any point in trying to get into the story either. The Saint is a ridiculous mess, but it's is a sincere mess.

30 June 2013

30 June - "There are no second chances here. This is the last chance house"

Double Jeopardy (1999)
Double Jeopardy (1999) Poster
dir. Bruce Beresford (Black Robe, 1991)


Tommy Lee Jones (Small Soldiers, 1998)
Ashley Judd (Flypaper, 2011)
Jay Brazeau (Watchmen, 2009)
Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek into Darkness, 2013)
John Maclaren (The Day After Tomorrow, 2004)
Annabeth Gish (Beautiful Girls, 1996)
Michael Gaston (Hackers, 1995)
Gillian Barber (Jumanji, 1995)
Daniel Lapaine (The 10th Kingdom (TV mini-series), 2000)
Roger R. Cross (The Day the Earth Stood Still, 2008)
Keegan Connor Tracy (White Noise, 2005)
Dave Hager (Lincoln, 2012)
Spencer Treat Clark (Gladiator, 2000)

Although the essential premise, that having been framed and convicted for the murder of her husband Ashley Judd as Elizabeth Parsons can now hunt down and execute her two-timing, death-faking husband without fear of legal repercussion, is inherently flawed (they could still charge her with a multitude of other offenses), the idea is still a fun one to explore. Double Jeopardy may be near the top of the list as far as my favorite movies go. Of course, that it is basically a female-driven version The Fugitive doesn't hurt, replete with Tommy Lee Jones' Travis Layman being essentially the same as his Lt. Samuel Gerard.

Ashley Judd lends her own flair, however, and adds herself to the delightful group of leading ladies who can reasonably pull of the character of a mom-who-kicks-ass. Tommy Lee Jones, in turn, complements but doesn't overshadow, and is totally comfortable in his familiar space of a crotchety official who gradually begins to believe in the mission of his adversary.

Also, when Parsons surprises her incognito husband at a bachelor auction: delightful!

29 June 2013

29 June - "The bat's stubborn refusal to expire is driving us insane"

Batman Forever (1995)
Batman Forever (1995) Poster

dir. Joel Schumacher (Twelve, 2010)

Val Kilmer (Heat, 1995)
Tommy Lee Jones (Double Jeopardy, 1999)
Jim Carrey (Peggy Sue Got Married, 1986)
Nicole Kidman (The Golden Compass, 2007)
Drew Barrymore (Poison Ivy, 1992)
Chris O'Donnell (The Three Musketeers, 1993)
Rene Auberjonois (The Patriot, 2000)
Joe Grifasi (13 Going on 30, 2004)
Pat Hingle (Hang 'em High, 1968)
Kimberly Scott (Love and Other Drugs, 2010)
Debi Mazar (Collateral, 2004)
Michael Gough (Sleepy Hollow, 1999)
Jon Favreau (Iron Man 2, 2010)

Some will say that there's little to be gained in watching the '90s Batman franchise films, especially once Michael Keaton cut out of the picture, and while Batman Forever lacks the Tim Burtonyness of the earlier two films, it's still a delightful colorscape which balances the gloom and dourness of the perpetually distopian Gotham City with the neon light show of its villains, Tommy Lee Jones as Harvey Two-Face and Jim Carrey as The Riddler (also known as every Jim Carrey character from the '90s).

12 June 2013

12 June - "Philosophy failed. Religion failed. Now it's up to the physical sciences."

Flatliners (1990)

dir. Joel Schumacher (Batman Forever, 1995)

Kiefer Sutherland (Twelve, 2010)
William Baldwin (The Squid and the Whale, 2005)
Oliver Platt (X-Men: First Class, 2011)
Julia Roberts (Mary Reilly, 1996)
Kevin Bacon (X-Men: First Class, 2011)
Beth Grant (Rango, 2011)
Benjamin Mouton (Basic Instinct, 1992)
Kimberly Scott (Batman Forever, 1995)
Julie Warner (Tommy Boy, 1995)
Patricia Belcher ((500) Days of Summer, 2009)
Jim Ortlieb (Home Alone, 1990)
Angela Paton (Joe Dirt, 2001)
Ingrid Oliu (Stand and Deliver, 1988)

I'm not sure what genre to categorize this as. It may just be a tame horror movie, but you may just want to generically slot it under suspense or drama. When in doubt, do as my friends at Vision Video do, and put on the drama shelf. The premise is that a group of medical students--and I would love to know where they filmed the creepy, converted-seminary hospital scenes--kill and then resuscitate each other into order to explore the phenomenon of near-death experience. They discover that experimenting with brain-death gives them quite a scare, and each character (except for Oliver Platt) is forced to face the wrongs they have committed in the past.

As I said, this movie has remarkably lovely (in a spooky way) sets which feel as if they are heavy with symbolism but probably aren't (just like a Wes Anderson movie). The character development is subtle but effective, you feel as if you know enough about each person by knowing very little. It's the kind of conservative scriptwriting that I find most appealing in movies. I think this is a greatly underrated movie, especially for it's now-they're-super-famous cast and delicate subject matter. The tone remains clinical even as the symptoms begin to defy a clinical explanation.