27 May 2012

27 May - "Always count your bullets, senoritas"

Bandidas (2006)
dir. Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg

Penelope Cruz (All the Pretty Horses, 2000)
Salma Hayek (Desperado, 1995)
Steve Zahn (That Thing You Do! 1996)
Dwight Yoakam (Wedding Crashers, 2005)
Sam Shepard (Black Hawk Down, 2001)
Gary Carlos Cervantes (Scarface, 1983)
Joseph D. Reitman (Lady in the Water, 2006)
Daya Fernandez (Minority Report, 2002)

Bandidas is a comedy about two oversexualized Mexican women, one who is from a wealthy family and knows about archery and horseback riding and etiquette (Hayak), and one who is from a poor family and is rough-and-tumble (Cruz). At first they hate each other because Hayak is snooty and Cruz is ill-mannered, but when a land-baron has both of their fathers murdered, they team up and become friends instead. Steve Zahn plays a nerdy detective and although the ladies engage in a rivalry for his attention, he ends up with a white woman from the good ol' U.S.A. instead. This was an amusing movie, but it was also racist and sexist and it's important to acknowledge that sometimes we find ourselves amused for all of the wrong reasons.

17 May 2012

2 April - "You are the epitome of everything I have ever looked for in another human being."

Chasing Amy (1997)
dir. Kevin Smith -Mallrats (1995)

Ethan Suplee Desert Blue (1998)
Ben Affleck - Dazed and Confused (1993)
Casey Affleck - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
Jason Lee - Dogma (1999)
Dwight Ewell - Party Girl (1995)
Joey Lauren Adams - Mallrats (1995)
Guinevere Turner - American Psycho (2000)
Carmen Llywelyn - Never Been Kissed (1999)
Matt Damon - Mystic Pizza (1988)
Welker White - Dead Poets Society (1989)
Ernest O'Donnell - Clerks. (1994)
Brian O'Halloran - Clerks II (2006)

I'm almost positive that this is my second-favorite Kevin Smith movie (Clerks - obviously). It's about comic book artist Holden (Ben Affleck) who falls in love with fellow comic book artist Alyssa and is undetered by the fact that she is homosexual. With perseverance, he succeeds in winning her heart, surprise! The catch comes when he learns more about the sexual misdeeds of her past, and is unable to accept her for her past. The irony is not lost on the supporting characters, who altogether scold Holden for rejecting the woman he loved because he couldn't condone the person she had been, even though she had completely changed herself to be with him.

The difficult question that always sticks with me after I watch this movie is whether Holden is supposed to be a villain or not. Of course you could say that in true Kevin Smith form there aren't any real villains (except in Dogma) but only these schlubby man-children trying to establish a coherent purpose as they bumble through their mundane lives punctuated only by comic book references and the recollections of women they've banged in the past (but rarely turn up in the course of the movie-story itself). But I repeat the question: is Holden an unlikely hero for winning Alyssa's heart and then tragically losing it, or is he a villain for discarding her hard-won affection?

16 May 2012

1 April - "That wasn't one of my first instincts "

Law Abiding Citizen (2009)
dir. F. Gary Gray

Jamie Foxx - Toys (1992)
Garard Butler - The Ugly Truth (2009)
Colm Meaney - The Commitments (1991)
Bruce McGill - Elizabethtown (2005)
Leslie Bibb - Iron Man 2 (2010)
Michael Irby - Flightplan (2005)
Gregory Itzin - Adaptation. (2002)
Regina Hall - Danika (2006)
Christian Stolte - Stranger Than Fiction (2006)
Annie Corley - The Cider House Rules (1999)
Richard Portnow - Kindergarten Cop (1990)
Viola Davis - The Help (2011)
Michael Kelly - Did You Hear About the Morgans? (2009)
Dan Bittner - Adventureland (2009)
Brooke Stacy Mills - Hairspray (1988)
Brian Anthony Wilson - The Happening (2008)

I didn't like this movie at all. I don't even have anything good to say about it. It's about a guy who's wife and daughter are murdered, but through legal whateverness one of the guys who did it gets a light sentence because he cooperated with the rest of the investigation. The Gerard Butler character is so pissed off that he goes totally batshit crazy and orchestrates a complicated scheme to get back at the justice system. What I particularly dislike about this movie is not even the ambiguous morality, its the lack of a clear division between anti-hero and antagonist. My friend Cora clearly was in the anti-hero camp. She said that the point of the movie was to figure out how Gerard Butler was achieving these heinous murder-plots. I thought that was horrible to watch because most of the people that Butler's character killed were only tangentially related to the incident which pissed him off so much in the first place. He wasn't fighting for anything, and that made him a bad protagonist to root for. On the other hand, he makes a fatal error in the end and blows up, making Jamie Foxx the "winner" of the story and Butler the "loser." But even in that perspective I don't think any clear statement about the evils of either the justice system or the evils of vigilantism was made. And the grrrwehatecorruptlawyers trope induced in my the repulsive horror of what those ideas mean to people who really believe in them. Batman is pretty cool, but in the real world I don't condone vigilantes.You can't just go around killing people. Do I even have to say that?

The absence of a conflict resolution (was there even a conflict to begin with?) made me feel like I had only seen half of a movie. This wasn't a story, it was just a bunch of stuff that happens. I've seen movies about dudes with misdirected anger before, but Gerard Butler lacked the compelling interior logic of a character like Hannibal Lector. I say, if you're going to make an anti-hero, go all the way. It works for Dexter. But if you're going to waffle in-between you aren't going to accomplish anything meaningful.

12 May 2012

26 March - "Fancy me a heroine"

The African Queen (1951)
dir. John Huston (The Unforgiven, 1960)

Humphrey Bogart - The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Katharine Hepburn - Little Women (1933)
Peter Bull - Dr. Dolittle (1967)

The African Queen is set in Africa during WW1. When Germans take over a village where a missionary and his sister are staying, the missionary dies of fever and despair and his sister, Rose, is left on her own to find a way to survive and get home. She teams up with Bogart's lowbrow character Charlie Allnut, but this odd couple ends up having more in common than they thought when Rose develops some spunk and decides that the pair of them need to take their little steamboat (the title character!) to liberate Lake Victoria from a German warship blocking English ships from entering the interior.

09 May 2012

25 Mar - "I still like to laugh, but not at myself."

Don't Bother to Knock (1952)
dir. Roy Ward Baker

Richard Widmark (How the West was Won, 1962)
Marilyn Monroe (River of No Return, 1954)
Elisha Cook, Jr.  (The Great Gatsby, 1949)
Anne Bancroft (Great Expectations, 1998)

Don't Bother to Knock stars Marilyn Monroe as a young woman losing her grip on reality as she babysits the child of hotel guests while being courted by a licentious lout from across the courtyard who soon discovers he's bitten off more than he can chew. The main character delicately treads the line between fantasy and reality, anger and keen sadness. Ultimately, however, this movie isn't really about Monroe's character, it's about a unresolved romance between Jed, an airline pilot with zero attachments, and Lyn Lesley, a lounge singer who wants to be more than his sometimes fling. As Jed's courtship of Monroe's unstable character turns dark, the subsequent character growth is what allows him to return to Lyn with his whole heart after the alarming climax.

04 May 2012

4 May - "It doesn't hate or even care. It just happens"

Doomsday (2008)
dir. Neil Marshall - The Descent (2005)

Jason Cope - District 9 (2009)
Jeremy Crutchley - The Poseidon Adventure (TV 2005)
Rhona Mitra - Sweet Home Alabama (2002)
Bob Hoskins - Hook (1991)
Alexander Siddig - Reign of Fire (2002)
David O'Hara - Cowboys & Aliens (2011)
Adrian Lester - Case 39 (2009)
Nora-Jane Noone - Ella Enchanted (2004)
Malcolm McDowell - Easy A (2010)

Doomsday was an odd movie about a quarantined section of Great Britain that had been walled off because of some sort of virus, and then a special-ops team has to go in there to figure out why people are still alive in there after years and years. As is to be expected, without law, order, and electricity, society devolves into a tribal-esque, post-punk, Mad-maxy mess of biker gangs. I watched this back in May and I don't even remember what the essential conflict was, let alone how it was resolved. Verdict= unmemorable.

01 May 2012

1 May: "Do you have a name honey? Good, because we already picked one for you"

Burning Palms (2010)
dir. Christopher Landon

Rosamund Pike - Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Dylan McDermott - The Mistress of Spices (2005)
Shannen Doherty - Girl Just Wanna Have Fun (1985)
Zoe Saldana - Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Nick Stahl - Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
Robert Hoffman - She's the Man (2006)
Paz Vega - Sex and Lucia (2001)
Lake Bell - It's Complicated (2009)
Adriana Barraza - Drag Me to Hell (2009)
Victoria Patenaude - The Last Exorcism (2010)
Jason Brooks - Star Trek (2009)
Victor Webster - Must Love Dogs (2005)
Kate Albrecht - Princess Diaries 2: A Royal Engagement (2004)
Cici Lau - Legally Blonde (2001)
Colleen Camp - Valley Girl (1983)
Tom Wright - Troop Beverley Hills (1989)
Dimitri Diatchenko - G.I. Jane (1997)
Jon Polito - Highlander (1986)

A disturbing collection of cinema vignettes set in L.A. Most of the themes-drug abuse, illicit sexuality, narcissism and apathy-remind of a Brett Easton Ellis novel. However, it doesn't quite achieve the put-togetherness of a Grand Hotel-style movie (that's when there's a bunch of intersecting storylines) because apart from two stories featuring Shannon Dougherty as a psychiatrist with a terrible accent, there is zero overlap in the plotlines. Overall, Burning Palms was fun to watch in a i don't want to admit that i'm fascinated sort of way, because the humor was alarmingly dark and totally sick. I probably won't watch it again but I imagine that I'll bring it up in casual conversation fairly often.