30 September 2011

October Movie WIshlist

I realized that I hadn't done one of these in a while, probably because I've got plenty on my backlog of movies to watch on Instant Netflix and then a whole 'nother list underneath that of movies I can't watch on Instant Netflix but have to wait until I finally decide to quit netflix once and for all (I don't know why they had to go and make it difficult for me to get my DVDs in the mail like old times)

Movies I Definitely Want to See
1) Dirty Girl
This movie looks funny and a bunch of my favorite actors are in it: William H. Macy, Mary Steenburgen, and Milla Jovovitch.

2) Blackthorn
This is about an old and worn-out Butch Cassidy, he makes friends with a Mexican guy. I do like the westerns.

3) The Big Year
Jack Black, Steve Martin, Owen Wilson. I'm thinking the tried&true latter actors will balance out the hit&miss former. This could be really funny.

4) The Woman
This one is about a family who takes in a feral girl or possibly a zombie. It looks like a who's-the-real-monster sort of situation, a sort of monstrous-human dichotomy myth. (I like the way that sounded!)

5) Martha Marcy May Marlene
This is a thriller about a woman who runs afoul of a cult and they play all sorts of tricks with her head. Very psychological.

6) Anonymous
This is the one about Shakespeare's real identity

Movies I'm Not So Sure About
a) The Ides of March
As are most people, I'm totally smitten with Ryan Gosling and support his every venture. The political movies rarely do it for me though. I try to get into it, but if you see the kind of movies I watch, you'll notice a few genre-biases.

b) Fireflies in the Garden
This movie looks a bit feely for me, but I will probably end up seeing it on my own and they crying about it.

c) The Skin I Live in
This movie looks freaky. In a way it reminds me of postmodern feelings like in the movie Fahrenheit 451 or maybe even A Clockwork Orange. It could be great or awful.

d) Texas Killing Fields
Another movie about women being murdered. I've seen this already on SVU.

e) The Three Musketeers
I love the Musketeers, but this movie seems so unnecessarily steampunk. So I'm not sure.

f) In Time
I like this idea because it's very literal.

g) Sleeping Beauty
I'm often disappointed by fairy tale adaptations, but I keep coming back for more.

Movies I Don't Want to See At All
i) Real Steel
This movie appears to be about Rock 'em Sock 'em robots. I would much rather see a boxing movie about Hugh Jackman than sit through a visual assault of CGI.

ii) Footloose
Not starring Zac Efron, apparently. I watched the trailer and it seemed like there might have been a pretty neat opportunity for some social commentary, specifically on the rise of extreme conservatism. But I guess that doesn't sell tickets.

iii) Trespass
I'm usually the first person to stand up for Nick Cage, but I can't abide him in thillers or action flicks. It seems to me like this movie was tailor-made for Harrison Ford, or at least Dennis Quaid.

iv) Paranormal Activity 3

v) The Rum Diary
I still haven't haven't read anything by Hunter S. Thompson. Character failing.

29 September 2011

28 Sept - "One man alone cannot fight the future"

X-Files: Fight the Future (1998)
dir. Rob Bowman (Elektra, 2005)

David Duchovny (Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead, 1991)
Gillian Anderson (The Last King of Scotland, 2006)
Martin Landau (City of Ember, 2008)
Mitch Pileggi (It's Pat, 1994)
Blythe Danner (1776, 1972)
Terry O'Quinn (Young Guns, 1988)
Armin Mueller-Stahl (Eastern Promises, 2007)
Lucas Black (All the Pretty Horses, 2000)
Michael Shamus Wiles (Conspiracy Theory, 1997)
Jeffrey DeMunn (The Green Mile, 1999)
Tom Woodruff (Hollow Man, 2000)
John Neville (The Fifth Element, 1997)
Gary Grubbs (JFK, 1991)
Steve Rankin (Men in Black, 1997)
Michael Krawic (Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, & Blonde, 2003)
William B. Davis (Behemoth, TV 2011)

The first X-files movie fits in between the fifth and sixth seasons, so in my quest to complete the complete 9 season series, this was a critical step. When we last left our heroes, the sinister Syndicate had conspired to destroy the X-files and put a stop to Agents Mulder and Scully's quest to uncover the truth about a vast government conspiracy against the American people. The concerns mostly a particular part of the show's mythic arc that I've been having trouble with. You see, there's this stuff called "Black oil," because that's what it looks like, which infects a human body in order to control it. This has something to do with an impending alien colonization and Russian and the U.S. are in a biological arms race to create a vaccine. Until the virus mutates and starts feeding off of human bodies in order to gestate big ol' alien monsters (Alien- style) that pop out of their tummies. The movie also goes deeper into the projects with bees that have been broached in the show, but while when bees on the TV show were carrying a variation of the smallpox virus, in the movie they infect Agent Scully with some sort of alien virus. Much like the show's story arc where Mulder has to race to deliver the cure for Scully's brain cancer, Mulder has to race in order to deliver the cure for this new biological foe. Which reminds us all of how scary viruses really are, as expressed by movies like The Andromeda Strain, Outbreak, or that new one I haven't seen yet, Contagion (plus any zombie movie post-28 Days Later).

The ending is rather inconclusive, and segues directly into season 6 of the TV show. All in all, the movie achieved more plot development than would be possible in any single episode, but we are left with little expansion into the greater mythology than the introduction of non-human beings who feed upon humans. One of the greater questions raised in the program is whether there are, indeed, actual extraterrestrials, or whether the government has some even more sinister agenda. At this point, I think the aliens are pretty clear, but what their intentions are, and what the intentions of the Syndicate are, have yet to be answered.

Does this mean that I'm a nerd?

28 September 2011

25 Sept - It's so important to be popular

The Bling Ring (TV movie) (2011)
dir. Michael Lembeck (The Santa Clause 2, 2002)

Austin Butler
Yin Chang
Jennifer Grey (Red Dawn, 1984)
Tom Irwin (The Haunting, 1999)
Scott Klace (The Pursuit of Happyness, 2006)
Spencer Locke (Spanglish, 2004)
Wendy Makkena
Renee Olstead (13 Going on 30, 2004)
Blake Robbins
Sebastian Sozzi (Choke, 2008)
Shawn Smith (Down in the Valley, 2005)

It seems like I'm watching all my movies with my buddy Cora these days. On Monday she invited me over for wine and a Lifetime channel movie. This is based on a true story, I guess. It's about some teenagers who go on a crime spree robbing celebrity's houses. There is one guy in the gang, pictured, he has social anxiety and the Asian girl is either in love with him or is crazy. He meets a girl and she totally flips.

So the way they frame it up is that these kids are social outsiders, but by becoming criminals they suddenly feel accepted, popular, important. It's sort of like saying that society is responsible, for idolizing these celebrities to the point where normalcy is insufficient, or worse, extraordinary is the new normal and the whole universe is filled with nobodies.

Aside from that tepid analysis, this was just a hammy Lifetime movie. We've already decided to watch next week's movie, too. It's called Girl Fight.

27 September 2011

24 Sept - "We'll just send them to Madagascar"

Europa, Europa (1990)
dir. Agnieszka Holland (The Secret Garden, 1993)

Marco Hofschneider
Julie Delpy (Broken Flowers, 2005)

Last week my neighbor/bff asked me to go with her to the German club's movie night and this was the selection. The funny thing was that I thought this movie was hilarious, it thought it was like a comedy, but my poor neighborette did not share my mirth. She's German, so I guess it's like a too-close-to-home thing for her.

So it's a German war movie, and the kid here is Jewish, and he gets separated from the rest of his family, and he has to pass as a non-Jew in order to not be murdered. It doesn't seem like a comedic premise, but bear with me. Sometimes I'm worried that I might be sort of racist sometimes. I try not to be that way, but I think in this case I have a valid argument. I wasn't the only one in the room who was laughing.

The first point of humor is that Solly (Solomon or Solek) keeps getting left behind by whatever group he's tagging along with by a very narrow margin, this inevitably leads to him narrowly escaping demise, also by a very narrow margin. For example, Solly gets separated from his older brother due to a mix-up with some boats, but then his boat lands on the wrong shore and Solly gets taken up by some Bolsheviks and put into a communist orphanage. but then when the school is destroyed Solly gets left behind by the other orphans. At another point Solly (alias Peter) is told that he's going to have to provide some documentation about being German, and all is almost lost, but then the building is blown up and the administrator dies, problem solved!

It is also important that this is a very sexual movie, and the sex is treated very comically. On his train ride to the Hitler Youth School, an older woman seduces Solly (in the dark, of course!) fawning over his dark hair and the fact that he shares the same birthday as Hitler. "Mein Furor!" she exclaims in the throes of passion. To further emphasis the irony of  stereotypes, Solly has a dream sequence in which he and Hitler are hiding in a closet together. "He's Jewish too," Solly's dead sister explains, "that's why he hides it with his hands." "Don't tell them I'm here!" the cowering Hitler moans.

I will also say that a lot of this movie revolved around the protagonist's penis. Of course, when you're a fellow trying to pass as gentile, your dick is a big liability. Solly worried about his a lot, and by a lot I mean maybe a little bit more than any other pubescent boy. He is upset because this means he won't be able to sex it up with his girlfriend, but it turns out that she's a super-Nazi and dumps him because he isn't Aryan enough.

On the other hand, this movie does have a somber theme. Especially near the end when Solly has to face other Jews again, and explain why he is strong and rosy-cheeked while they are emaciated with loved ones dead on the ground. Solly survived, but is he a traitor? When he meets his brother again they both pee on the ground side by side, unashamed to display their true selves to the world. It was a fitting ending.

24 September 2011

17 Sept - "Well, anybody can look happy in a photograph"

Desert Blue (1998)
dir. Morgan J. Freeman

Casey Affleck (American Pie 2, 2001)
Richmond Arquette (Scream 3, 2000)
Daniel von Bargen (The Silence of the Lambs, 1991)
Sara Gilbert (High Fidelity, 2000)
John Heard (Home Alone, 1990)
Kate Hudson (How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, 2003)
Michael Ironside (Top Gun, 1986)
Christina Ricci (Mermaids, 1990)
Rene Rivera (Disturbia, 2007)
Peter Sarsgaard (Garden State, 2004)
Liev Schreiber (voice) (Party Girl, 1995)
Brandon Sexton III (Welcome to the Dollhouse, 1995)
Ethan Suplee (Mallrats, 1995)

So the main reason I watched this movie was that there's this song on the soundtrack that I really like. It's by New Zealand singer/songwriter Bic Runga, and it's called "Lonely Lola Cherry Cola Girl." It's not on any of her albums. I managed to get a digital copy of it back in college, I don't know how. I wanted to imbed it in this this article, but I can't find it on the youtube. I'll imbed a different song, just for fun.
I like this song because it's about unrequited love, which is old hat, obviously, but then in the chorus she goes, "something good will come OUR way" which makes me think that things are going to look up not just for the singer, but for the object of her affection. That makes me think that things aren't going so hot for the other person either, which is sad but also reassuring. This is a good segway into the film analysis.

You mught notice a teenaged Kate Hudson up there on the cover, she plays a young TV actress who, while on a road trip with her father, gets quarantined in the small desert town of Baxter following a truck accident and a mysterious death. The trick is that this movie isn't really about that character, but it's really about Blue Baxter, son of the town's recently deceased founder, as it takes this monumental interruption to everyday life to make him come to terms with the impact of his father's death. The town's other teenagers, Casey Affleck, Christina Ricci, and Ethan Suplee, also grapple with the insidious revelation that not all dreams can come true, of course, some dreams are bigger than others. There's a cute little bit where the kids are sitting around a bonfire and Kate Hudson asks something along the lines of, 'If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do?" and of course they all start making out in pairs.

In other respects, this was a lot like any other lightly comedic, independent film about young people coming of age. I don't think it was anything particularly marvelous, but it was okay, I guess.

19 September 2011

13 Sept - "I keep the bees and the bees keep me"

Robin Hood (2010)
dir. Ridley Scott (Alien, 1979)

Mark Addy (A Knight's Tale, 2001)
Eileen Atkins (What a Girl Wants, 2003)
Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth, 1998)
Russell Crowe (Rough Magic, 1995)
Ned Dennehy (Jane Eyre, 2011)
William Hurt (Tuck Everlasting, 2002)
Danny Huston (The Warrior's Way2010)
Oscar Isaac
Matthew Macfadyen (Death at A Funeral, 2007)
Simon McBurney (Jane Eyre, 2011)
Gerard McSorley (Braveheart, 1995)
Lea Seydoux
Mark Strong (Sunshine, 1999)
Max von Sydow (The Exorcist, 1973)
Bronson Webb (Atonement, 2007)
Velibor Topic (London Boulevard, 2010)
Kevin Durand (Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, 1999)
Ralph Ineson (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, 2010)

Oh Wow! Lots of back-links in this cast! Although I'm surprised I haven't written about any Ridley Scott movies yet. All well, something to look forward to. I watched Robin Hood the other night with my neighbor/new best friend, and we both agreed that Russell Crowe is very, very much hot shit. By that I mean that he can shoot those arrows straight into my heart, because I've already be slain. Sure, he has his detractors, and certainly this movie did not do wonderfully in terms of revenue, but I've always loved movies like this: set in the middle ages, browbeaten hero triumphs over injustice. I love it!

Important to note is that this is not the classic Robin Hood legend, but rather a sort of prequel to that story, which is fine, because in my opinion that Robin Hood story was perfected by this guy:

Am I right?? I think so.

Other highlights include Cate Blanchett playing a pretty ballzy and not-so-maidenly Marion, plus a restrained and slowly developed romance that was pretty hot. I also liked the trio of Robin Hood's sidekicks, Little John, Will Scarlet, and Alan Adale. Except that I remember that Robin Hood had a Moorish friend (This is in Kevin Coster's version as well as Men in Tights and I think I read it in a book too) but there weren't any black characters in this movie, which I think is silly. The diversity is already canonized! It's like the work is already done for you, entertainment-cinema complex! Maybe it would have been too much of a strain to include a strong minority character AS WELL AS a strong female character. Young white males will only suffer so much of that nonsense, right?

As to why this movie didn't do so well. I think it has partly to do with marketing, partly to do with everyone remembering how piss-poor some other recent middle-ages set movies have been (I guess I'm thinking about Kingdom of Heaven, King Arthur (2010), etc.). They probably should have pushed the renovated storyline a little bit harder, because I think everyone's pretty satisfied with the whole archery-contest, Sheriff of Nottingham story.

There's also what appears to be a social commentary in there, but I've never been too good at analyzing that sort of theme.

05 September 2011

4 Sept - "everything that eats meat likes dead buffalo"

Appaloosa (2008)
dir. Ed Harris

Jeremy Irons (The Mission, 1986)
Timothy V. Murphy (National Treasure: Book of Secrets, 2007)
Luce Rains (3:10 to Yuma, 2007)
Boyd Kestner (G.I. Jane, 1997)
Ed Harris (The Truman Show, 1998)
Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises, 2007)
James Gammon (Major League II, 1994)
Timothy Spall (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, 2010)
Renée Zellweger (Empire Records, 1995)
Ariadna Gil (Pan's Labyrinth, 2006)
Rex Linn (Cutthroat Island, 1995)
Lance Henriksen (Dead Man, 1995)
Charlene Adams (Cowboys & Aliens, 2011)
Maria Bethke (Terminator Salvation, 2009)

This was an odd western, and most westerns are sort of odd. My first reaction was that maybe the whole murder and bringing the lawless rancher to justice was a red herring, and maybe the movie was REALLY just about Renée Zellweger's character acting sorta slutty. But of course that doesn't explain everything. So then I thought maybe, in the tradition of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, this was a buddy movie, about the tacit and unshakeable friendship between Ed Harris's character and Viggo Mortensen's character. When Renée comes onto him, Viggo says, "We aren't with each other, we're both with Cole."

Jeremy Irons, who played the villain, was an underdeveloped character, especially considering that Irons is the elite of acting quality. Come to think of it - Jeremy Irons character in this movie was an awful lot like Daniel Day-Lewis's character in There Will Be Blood, they even looked kind of alike if you don't see them side by side.

This movie was more along the lines I expected from Cowboys & Aliens. It was also a better performance than I expected out of Renee Zellweger, who is almost always irritating. However, she pulled off a desperate and worn-out widow quite well. Maybe someone should cast her in A Streetcar Named Desire.

04 September 2011

27 August - "I didn't think people could dance around here. I thought they were all stiff."

Maria Full of Grace (2004)
dir. Joshua Marston

Catalina Sandino Moreno (Paris, Je T'Aime, 2006)
Monique Gabriela Curnen (Lady in the Water, 2006)

The last two movies I watched were both duds, so I decided to take a safe bet and picked a well-reviewed Spanish-language film; because I'm all about those. Unlike the last two movies - this was neither inane nor irritating.

The plot is that Maria, a seventeen year old living in rural Columbia, takes a job as a drug mule only to realize that the glamorous world of trafficking has a seedy underbelly.

The really compelling aspect is that Maria seems to be the only self-aware character in her world. Everyone else moves along with a status quo but Maria refuses to submit to normative behavior and she gets punished for it. When she accepts the mule job, it's partly because she needs the money and she's in a position of weakness, but mostly it's because she doesn't want to work on the flower plantation anymore. That's important, because it means that she's not a passive character - she isn't getting shunted around by the plot, she's making choices.

When the shit hits the fan one of the other girls dies because the drugs leaked into her belly and they cut her open to get the rest out. That's when Maria realizes that their bodies are valueless to the dealers and she steals the drugs and makes her friend Blanca run away with her. So really this is a story about self-actualization, wherein Maria struggles to achieve self-reliance against everyone who is trying to take away her autonomy. Her very body is turned into an object of transport but her goal is carry no one's burdens but her own.