Monday, June 30, 2008

Ice Princess


iceprincess
Originally uploaded by Hot Rod Homepage
I am not ashamed to admit that I watched Ice Princess yesterday. I am not ashamed because it was on the Disney channel, and I was straightening my hair so it’s not like that was my purpose.

I do like Michelle Trachtenberg as I am a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan and she played the only series late comer in TV history that I actually forget is not in the first few seasons of the show, and I enjoyed her in Euro Trip, so I was interested in seeing what she’d do in another harmless kids movie.

This is a very odd movie in concept. Casey (Trachtenberg) is a high school senior interested in getting into the physics program at Harvard and with some encouragement from her uber-feminist, college professor mom begins a scholarship project where she’ll break down the physics of figure skating. In a desire to make what she’s learning personal Casey begins to take classes herself only to uncover a hidden talent that she must hide from her mother who thinks that figure skating is an affront to feminism.

Perhaps the oddest thing to me in this movie is Tina Harwood, the ice rink owner, former figure skater turned coach played by Kim Cattrall. This character is Casey’s encourager until she nearly bumps her daughter out of regional’s so she sabotages her by tricking her into wearing new boots on the ice and mangles her feet causing her to take a spill mid-program. Then after Harwood’s daughter drops out of figure skating out of disgust with her mother and desire to pursue something she actually likes Casey asks Harwood to coach her.

All in all, I know this is a movie I would have loved if I were a kid still. It would have filled my head with fantasies and I would have thought about it every time I managed to go ice skating. Despite the oddness of the story, it isn’t a bad movie, it’s just not that entertaining if you’re over the age of 11 – or a boy.

Director: Tim Fywell
Writer: Hadley Davis
Casey Carlyle: Michelle Trachtenberg
Joan Carlyle: Joan Cusack
Gen Harwood: Hayden Panettiere
Tina Harwood: Kim Cattrall
Teddy Harwood: Trevor Blumas

Tina Harwood: Look, I'm sorry, but when the CIA wants to learn new dirty tricks they observe figure skaters and their moms.

Iron Man


Sharp-dressed man XD
Originally uploaded by bluesteel1981
Feel free to make fun of me, I saw Iron Man yet again. No matter how much I see this film it entertains me.

However, this was the first time I’ve seen Iron Man knowing that Stan Winston is gone from filmmaking forever and that made me pay even more attention to the effects in the film.

I am still amazed that most of the Iron Man suit was practical (meaning a piece on set that actually worked, not CGI). Winston and his team found a way to make Iron Man mobile and present, and still look completely real and blend with CGI when necessary. It’s true that money solves most problems in movies, but that being said very few people in the effects industry would have even opted for making a working Iron Man suit as well as using CGI.

What grows on me more as well is Robert Downey Jr.’s performance. This is a flawed character that grows a conscience and it never once feels forced or fake. Downey makes a fantastic character feel believable and real, and I would rank his performance as Tony Stark up with Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne – both actors bring a much needed sense of depth and reality to what most people would write-off as “comic book characters”.

This may be the last time I see Iron Man on the big screen, but you can rest assured there will be another review or two once the film is out on DVD.

Agent Phil Coulson: I'm Agent Phil Coulson with the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.
Virginia 'Pepper' Potts: That's quite a mouthful.
Agent Phil Coulson: I know. We're working on it.

JAWS


Play Mountain
Originally uploaded by Kiel Bryant
I have an irrational fear of large bodies of water & sharks; for this reason (among others) Jaws terrified me as a child. In fact I’ve completely blocked the first time I saw the film out of my memory. The second time I watched the film I was a teen and my brothers sat on either side of me, holding me down so I had to watch. Even then, I disliked the film because it scared me. I don’t remember quite when it happened, but somewhere between that viewing and film school I grew to appreciate Jaws as a well made movie, this led to me being able to view the film more and eventually buy it on DVD.

Now I genuinely think that Jaws is a filmmaking masterpiece; a film that shows what a genius like Spielberg can do, and how to make a truly terrifying picture. The film still works on my irrational fears, but I know that this is not why the film scares me, it scares me because it is masterfully crafted and executed.

The story of Jaws is simple. Chief Brody has just moved with his family to small Amity Island in search of a more peaceful existence than New York where he felt that he could never make a difference as part of the police force; Amity is a small town that relies on its summer tourist season, and the majority of the residents need profitable summers to exist the rest of the year. All is good on the island until right before the peak of the summer season a girl is killed in a shark attack, and rather than admit that the people of the island are in danger the town mayor refuses to let Brody close the beaches and hunt the shark which of course leads to more deaths before the town goes insane with greed trying to hunt the shark for money and finally Brody is allowed to do what he was attempting all along and hunt the shark without interference.

When Jaws was released in 1975 critic Roger Ebert wrote that Jaws is “a sensationally effective action picture, a scary thriller that works all the better because it’s populated with characters that have been developed into human beings”; this is probably the best description of why Jaws works that I have ever read, and it truly gets to the core of the remarkable talent of the filmmaker behind the movie.

No one can deny that the actors are amazing; there is no bad performance in the film no matter how large or how small. An entire essay could be written on the scene in the belly of the Orca where Hooper, Quint & Brody discuss their scars. However, I will save that topic for another viewing and instead move on to what no one expected from Jaws - Steven Spielberg.

Until Jaws Spielberg was only known for directing tv episodes, Duel, and Sugarland Express. People in the industry thought he was competent, but no one saw him as a directing force to be reckoned with. Spielberg did what so many filmmakers would not have the patience for; he made a film on the water, not in a tank like Cameron did with Titanic, but in the water at Martha’s Vineyard. The entire cast and crew were on separate boats for a majority of the film trying to tame mother nature, a mechanical shark and lighting conditions to get a good shot. Then the opening sequence of Jaws came on screen and by the end of the film people knew the name of Steven Spielberg.

Jaws is a classic. It’s over 30 years old now and I would not replace the rubberized mechanical shark with CGI any day.

Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Peter Benchley & Carl Gottlieb
Chief Bordy: Roy Scheider
Matt Hooper: Richard Dreyfuss
Quint: Robert Shaw

Brody: I'm tellin' ya, the crime rate in New York'll kill you. There's so many problems, you never feel like you're accomplishing anything. Violence, rip-offs, muggings... kids can't leave the house - you gotta walk them to school. But in Amity one man can make a difference. In twenty-five years, there's never been a shooting or a murder in this town.

Wanted


Wanted
Originally uploaded by jankoraseta
Let me start by saying that I know nothing about the comic book Wanted is based on. I couldn’t tell if it was a faithful adaptation, or a incredibly loose one.

That being said I enjoyed Wanted when I was in the theatre; the action is fun, James MCavoy is entertaining and I didn’t hate Angelina Jolie. However, the more I think about the film the more I dislike it.

What completely pulls me out of the film the more I think about it is the very premise. A few thousand years ago a group of weavers formed a society of assassins called “The Fraternity”. This is literal shuttle and loom weavers, not the name of some cool, covert group that calls themselves “weavers”. I was a bit confused, and later found out that this is not in the comic book at all.

On top of this it is explained that the assassins are not assassins for hire, but get their orders from “the loom of fate” – a giant weaving loom and when threads are examined it gives a code that translates into names and this orders a hit. I’m sorry, does this mean if I were to examine my carpet I’d find a hidden code that could spell doom for the fate of the world? I don’t get it, I think it’s dumb and again, I found out that this is not in the comic book.

Wanted is the typical tale of an average Joe who wants to be more and finds out that he is, it’s buried in his lineage. What follows is an entertaining if typical tale of intrigue, double crosses and mindless action. It’s not that it’s not enjoyable – it’s just a little thin.

Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Writers: Michael Brandt, Derek Haas& Chris Morgan
Wesley Gibson: James McAvoy
Sloan: Morgan Freeman
Fox: Angelina Jolie
Pekwarsky: Terence Stamp
Cross: Thomas Kretschmann
Gunsmith: Common
The Repairman: Marc Warren
The Exterminator: Konstantin Khabensky
The Butcher: Dato Bakhtadze
Janice: Lorna Scott

Wall*E


Wall-E Rubik's
Originally uploaded by The Wall-E Builders
Pixar has the market on making some of the best films that come out every year, not just the best animated films, but the best films. Ratatouille, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Toy Story and every other Pixar film raise the bar for what is expected out of an animated film in terms of story and advancement of technology. Wall*E is no exception to Pixars standard of excellence.

The film centers on Wall*E, the last working clean-up robot on an Earth that has been abandoned by its inhabitants hundreds of years ago. Being alone for so long has evolved Wall*E from just a robot into a robot with a personality; he has a pet cockroach, he’s created a home in an abandoned truck which he has decorated with Christmas lights, and odds and ends that he’s found and he collects things that fascinate him from the rubbish he cleans and organizes including rubber duckies, spoons, forks and replacement pieces for him in case he is damaged. However, Wall*E is lonely and longs for companionship. Finally a robot probe named Eve is sent to Earth for a mission and Wall*E falls in love, and follows her back into space and discovers the human survivors.

Wall*E had some of the most spectacular animation I’ve seen yet from Pixar. There were times I could have sworn Wall*E was a miniature and not animation he looked so real. Unlike Happy Feet, Wall*E manages to blend moments of live action film into the film seamlessly so they do not stand out as glaringly outside the animated realm. I may not be sure why they chose to do so, but it worked visually.

The funny thing about my response to Wall*E is that my favorite part of the film is actually the end credits. I’m not saying that I didn’t like the film and was glad to leave. The end credits sequence was one of the most creative I’ve seen in a long time as they both continue the story of what happens after the “end” of the film and do so by showing the evolution of art from cave drawings to drawing with pixels.

My only problem with Wall*E is that it is essentially a message movie about the environment. However, the message is not slapped in the audiences face the way it is in a movie like The Happening so it is easier to swallow.

Director & Writer: Andrew Stanton
Wall*E, M-O: Ben Burtt
Eve: Elissa Knight
Captain: Jeff Garlin
Shelby Forthright: Fred Willard
Ship’s Computer: Sigourney Weaver

Friday, June 27, 2008

Desperado


Desperado
Originally uploaded by rooomy
I’m pretty darn sure that the first Robert Rodriguez film I ever saw was Desperado - and I watched it on VHS in full frame. But it didn’t matter. I was hooked. There is something about Rodriguez to this day that remains fresh, original and unlike anything you see coming out of Hollywood. His films are invigorating. Once I got older and stopped pretending film wasn’t my life I realized how truly remarkable Desperado was.

Desperado is Rodriguez’s second feature film, but his first made in Hollywood with a budget. In one rapid move Rodriguez went from El Mariachi where he used friends and favors to make the film, to having Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek as his stars in the sequel. The film, and the back story of how it was made, are simply amazing.

Desperado picks up a few years after El Mariachi and is the second part of Rodriguez’s Mexico trilogy – which Quentin Tarantino has called Rodriguez’s Man With No Name trilogy.

The film itself picks up an undisclosed amount of years after the events in El Mariachi, but just enough time to allow the legend of the Mariachi’s vendetta against the crime lords in Mexico to spread and ruminate, creating a sense of terror when his name is mentioned. Everyone is on the lookout for a mariachi dressed in all black carrying a guitar case, terrified that they’ll be his next target.

Our mariachi has gained several teammates or allies so to speak in the second installment including a sidekick played by Steve Buscemi who has my favorite scene in the film; his job is to lay down the mariachi lore in each town Mariachi goes to and he enjoys his embellishment. This is how the film is opened to audiences as so many people did not have the opportunity to view El Mariachi before the release of Desperado; Buscemi enters a scummy bar operated by Cheech Marin and Buscemi delivers an over-exaggerated firsthand account of having to survive the Mariachi’s attack at his last bar. A tremendous scene.

Mariachi’s other allies are Campa & Quino: two other trouble makers with guitar cases as well. Campa is played by Carlos Gallardo who was the actory that portrayed Mariachi in El Mariachi. These two show up just in time to help Mariachi destroy the town and the criminals in it.

The final sidekick that Mariachi is given in Desperado is Carolina played by Salma Hayek. At the beginning of the film she is a bystander while Mariachi is being attacked and he saves her life; Carolina reciprocates the favor as Mariachi is wounded in the exchange and she doctors him up. Banderas and Hayek are delightful to watch in the film; their chemistry is palpable and they bring almost an aura of Grant & Hepburn from The Philadelphia Story to the film.

For those of you that have never heard him sing, there is a musical number in the film and yes Antonio Banderas can sing.

Like him or not there is one thing that you have to admit about Robert Rodriguez: the man is the stuff of Hollywood legend. He will be remembered for decades after he stops making films because of how he got his career and went about making his films. He is a revolutionary individual.

Director & Writer: Robert Rodriguez
El Mariachi: Antonio Banderas
Carolina: Salma Hayek
Bucho: Joaquim de Almeida
Short Bartender: Cheech Marin
Buscemi: Steve Buscemi
Pick-Up Guy: Quentin Tarantino
Navajas: Danny Trejo
Campa: Carols Gallardo
Quino: Albert Michael Jr.

Buscemi: So, I'm sitting there. And in walks the biggest Mexican I have ever seen. Big as shit. Just walks right in like he owns the place. And nobody knew quite what to make of him... or quite what to think. There he was and in he walked. He was dark too. I don't mean dark-skinned. No, this was different. It was if he was always walking in a shadow. I mean every step he took toward the light, just when you thought his face was about to be revealed... it wasn't. It was as if the lights dimmed, just for him.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

El Mariachi


This weekend I watched a pivotal independent film for the first time - El Mariachi. This is the film that put Robert Rodriguez on the map, that she shot across the border on money he raised from being the test subject in medical experiments, and shot with luck, friends, and no crew.

Knowing just the pieces, and the basic back story (Rodriguez was a 23 year old film student when he made this film) any sane human being would have believed that what Rodriguez was going was a giant waste of time and money instead of the industry revolution that it was. Rodriguez used real people, not actors. He wasn’t able to record synchronous sound, but recorded most of it later. He didn’t have the time, money or resources to pad his squibs so when his actors were “shot” the pain on their faces was real. Anyone would have told Rodriguez (and did tell him) that this project was doomed to failure, but Rodriguez managed to prove everyone wrong.

For those of you that haven’t seen the film here’s the concept.

A young Mariachi comes to a small Mexican town looking to find work as a Mariachi and follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, he goes door to door from cafĂ© to restaurant looking for work with his guitar case in hand. The problem is that this small town is home to Moco, a drug dealer & criminal who is being hunted down by Azul, his former partner who he ratted on and got sent to prison – and tried to kill. Azul is out for revenge on Moco and has just landed in this small town; he too goes place to place exterminating Moco’s men.

The only one that has ever seen Azul is Moco and he describes him as wearing all black, and carrying a guitar case loaded with weapons. Unfortunately, this is the same description for our Mariachi only his guitar case carries a guitar. A case of mistake identity ensues that leads our mild mannered Mariachi into a world of criminals and corruption and takes his guitar playing dreams from him.

The concept his pretty far out, but just grounded enough by performance, location and action that it works. This movie is very real, which is probably attributed to the fact that most of the scenes were shot in one, maybe two takes, giving the actors little chance to over analyze and rethink they’re reactions. And it’s original enough to attract attention. Everything that is Robert Rodriguez is present in El Mariachi.

I had the privilege of hearing Tarantino and Rodriguez speak prior to the release of Grindhouse. One of the things Tarantino said is that Rodriguez has succeeded at creating what was Francis Ford Coppola’s original vision for his company American Zoetrope; Rodriguez has managed to form a filmmaking system separate from Hollywood where the artist reigns supreme and creativity is not diminished. This all started with a little ambition, $7,000 and El Mariachi.

Director, Writer, DP, Editor & Producer: Robert Rodriguez
Mariachi: Carlos Gallardo
Domino: Consuelo Gomez
Moco: Peter Marquardt
Azul: Reinol Martinez

Monday, June 16, 2008

Stan Winston


The thing about watching a movie is that you have to believe what is happening on screen. Film is a collaborative medium and everyone has a hand in this from the director to the P.A.’s – if one part is off it doesn’t work.

They importance of make-up and effects has been part of the filmmaking process since Dr. Calagari opened his cabinet. Through the years technology upped the ante for what a filmmaker can pull off in a film. Miniatures, rear screen projection, pyrotechnics, break-away walls, and puppets…Moses parted the Red Sea, Jason fought an army of skeletons, a cyborg could fight an apocalyptic war against mankind.

Then computers came on the scene and suddenly everything changed again. A terminator could be made of liquid metal; Harry Potter could mount a flying broom and play quidditch. However, in the midst of all this there was a call to scale back the computers, and keep the illusions in film “Real”.

In the midst of all this Stan Winston never wavered. Before the computers came, and right until the day he died he never wavered. Stan Winston was the great. He was this generations Ray Harryhausen. His effects were so great that they ceased to become illusions – they were real. He made the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, the aliens in Alien, the T-100 in Terminator. He broke the boundaries of where physical effects could go. In a day and age where it’s cheaper and easier to use a computer he made the real magic happen.

The last Winston film I saw was Iron Man. Most of the effects in that film were practical, Favreau insisted on it and Winston made it happen and he made is seamless.

Stan Winston was a legend while he lived, and he becomes an immortal great in his death. He will be missed.

The Incredible Hulk


Hulk 02
Originally uploaded by sdimbert
When Ang Lee’s version of The Incredible Hulk came out a few years ago I didn’t really have a problem with it, but I also didn’t think it was a phenomenal film. Quite honestly, the Hulk is just not a character that floats my boat. I enjoy it, but as stated before I’m more of a DC girl than a Marvel girl. However, I was quite intrigued when I found out that Marvel so quickly wanted to restart the hulk – there was longer between Batman & Robin and Batman Begins than Eric Bana’s & Ed Norton’s incarnations of the Hulk.

This incarnation of the Hulk story picks up roughly where the Ang Lee version left off, but it is not a direct sequel. The beginning credits speed through the Hulk back story, laying out the origin of his powers, and relationship with girlfriend Betty and her father who commissioned the experiment that went awry to give him his abilities. Where the film actually begins is in South America where Banner has been hiding out, attempting to research a cure for himself and trying anything he can to avoid a Hulk “incident”. As usual, this fails and Banner must flee to a new location avoiding being caught by General Ross.

What this movie has that the Ang Lee version lacked, is a genuine interest in Banner as the man and as the Hulk. Nothing against Eric Bana, but Norton latches onto the turmoil of the character in a way that Bana never did.

As is rumored to become more and more common in the Marvel film universe this film also ties into the rest of the Marvel world, alluding to Nick Fury, S.H.I.E.L.D. and even contains a cameo by Tony Stark who is met with perhaps my favorite line “you do wear the most interesting suits” by a defeated General Ross.

The only thing that really hurts The Incredible Hulk is merely the fact that it was released right after Iron Man. Iron Man was a near perfect film, and it is almost impossible for any comic book movie to be as good. That’s not an insult to The Incredible Hulk, it’s just an unfortunate release schedule as they are released by two different studios.

Director: Louis Leterrier
Writer: Zak Penn
Bruce Banner: Edward Norton
Betty Ross: Liv Tyler
Emil Blonsky: Tim Roth
General Ross: William Hurt

Betty Ross: The subway is probably quickest.
Bruce Banner: Me in a metal tube with hundreds of people in the most aggressive city in the world?
Betty Ross: Right. Let's get a cab.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Happening


The Happening - 06
Originally uploaded by MyCine
M. Knight Shyamalan is one of my favorite directors because no matter what he does he is one of the few filmmakers that can still surprise me, and make me react to his films and not because of his films. Despite the critical blasting it received, I loved Lady in the Water; I thought it was fanciful & brilliant and the scene where Cleveland talks about how he lost his family nearly makes me cry.

I’m not going to go too far in depth here as to the story of The Happening because I respect Shyamalan’s right to try to surprise his audience – that’s how his films work. However, while I liked The Happening I have issues with it because it is a message movie, and it does not try to hide it. That being said, The Happening is one of the only message movies that I may own someday.

The Happening is Shyamalan’s first R rated film. It feels and is told very differently than any of his other films; death abounds and you see it happen. The entire premise of the film is based around people committing suicide in mass quantities, at the same time, without explanation. A sizable body count and amount of gore is expected.

What shocks me greatly, and makes me respect Shyamalan more is that after being introduced into the concept of the film, after the first jarring suicide I knew what was coming and yet it was still tense and terrifying. You knew when a character was going to commit suicide, and how they were going to do it, and the 5 seconds that led up to that suicide were scarier because of it – the fright was not diminished. Yet, there was not an overdone amount of gore like so many filmmakers would do in today’s film market.

The thing that actually shocked me in a not so good way was the acting in the movie. I love Mark Wahlberg, Zoey Deschanel & John Leguazimo; but together they did not work. Wahlberg & Deschanel had no chemistry, and the pair had no chemistry with Leguazimo who played Wahlberg’s best friend. The actors seemed very stilted, and well…directed…not very natural at all.

Even through what I didn’t like about the movie, I do have to say I think the goods out weigh the bad and this is a heck of a movie to go see.

Writer & Director: M. Knight Shyamalan
Elliot: Mark Wahlberg
Alma: Zoey Deschanel
Julian: John Leguazimo
Jess: Ashlyn Sanchez
Mrs. Jones: Betty Buckley

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Lawrence of Arabia


BHF March Challenge #8
Originally uploaded by Olivander
There are several classic films that I somehow missed seeing early in my life. I didn’t see The Wizard of Oz until I was 19, Casablanca until I was in my first film classes, etc. Until last night I had never seen Lawrence of Arabia. Honestly, when I was young I was never interested in the film and when I finally gained my appreciation for classic cinema everyone told me that Lawrence of Arabia was a sight to behold on the big screen and I really didn’t want to see the spectacular visuals on (at that time) VHS. Lucky for me a theatre nearby did a flashback screening of the film so that I would not be subjected to watching what was originally shot in 70mm on my 13 inch tv screen.

I do believe that Lawrence of Arabia is one of the best character studies I have ever seen. If I were still in film school I could probably devote an entire paper to the character arch of Lawrence and how we can visually see him change through cues in the film, and how the character emotionally changes as well (but I’ll only bore you with a brief synopsis here). Lawrence is a character that goes from being an idealist, to a believer, to a man without a country and all the while he is praised by all and still this does not satisfy him because he cannot become who he truly wants to become.

At the beginning of the film we see Lawrence racing through the English countryside on his motorcycle where he meets (what I later came to feel) a sad death compared to his heroic life. At his funeral dignitaries, reporters and officers swarm out after it ends each giving their own heroic opinion of Lawrence to newsmen and each other though most freely admit they didn’t actually know him. Finally, reporter Jackson Bentley is asked his opinion of Lawrence and of course he tells the reporter the typical heroics of Lawrence; once the reporter leaves Bentley remarks that Lawrence was “the most shameless exhibitionist since Barnum & Bailey” and is berated by another attendee of the funeral who did not know Lawrence. This is perhaps the best set up for any character in the history of film save Keyser Soze.

The film cuts from the funeral into the longest flash back of all time and straight into Lawrence’s career with the British Armed Forces in Arabia. He is first sent on special assignment to seek Prince Feisal, and on his way he begins to show that he is not an ordinary soldier. From there his career as a soldier takes a different path; he convinces the Prince to give him 50 men and they will do the impossible by crossing the bleakest section of desert and taking a Turk occupied Aquaba, convincing mercenaries to fight with them on the way. On the way to Aquaba he proves himself to be more Arab than British to the Arab soldiers and proves he can do the impossible – they take Aquaba. He no longer wears his uniform, but the Arab robes given to him by his most trusted Arab ally Ali; it is obvious that he both sympathizes with and wants the best for the people he is actually fighting with – the Arabs not the British.

After every major mission he approaches the British General and asks to be reassigned; but he has made his own bed by proving the impossible possible and the General simply promotes him every time and sends Lawrence back into the field, filling his head with tales of how he will be a household name and a national hero and Lawrence returns to the Arabs more resolute than ever that the British will not replace the Turks as Arabia’s governors.

In the beginning Lawrence is happy among the Arabs; he identifies with them and is told more than once that he is “practically Arab”. As the film progresses his love for the Arabs becomes more and more bitter as he continues to realize that though he is better suited for the Arab culture than the British he cannot ever truly be an Arab and though he tries he knows he can no longer truly be British. By the end Lawrence is finally sent back to England and it becomes final to him: Lawrence wants to belong in the desert with the Arabs, but he cannot just as he cannot pretend to be excited about going “home”.

Steven Spielberg has been quoted as saying when he begins a movie he always watches four films: The Searchers, It’s A Wonderful Life, Seven Samurai and Lawrence of Arabia. Having now seen Lawrence of Arabia it is easy to spot how this film has influenced Spielberg to become the director that he is today.

Director: David Lean
Writer: Robert Bolt
Lawrence: Peter O’Toole
Prince Feisal: Alec Guinness
Sherif Ali: Omar Sharif
Jackson Bentley: Arthur Kennedy

Prince Feisal: Well, General, I will leave you. Major Lawrence doubtless has reports to make upon my people and their weakness, and the need to keep them weak in the British interest... and the French interest too, of course. We must not forget the French now...
General Allenby: [indignantly] I've told you, sir, no such treaty exists.
Prince Feisal: Yes, General, you have lied most bravely, but not convincingly. I know this treaty does exist.
T.E. Lawrence: Treaty, sir?
Prince Feisal: He does it better than you, General. But then, of course, he is almost an Arab.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Kung Fu Panda


Kung Fu Panda
Originally uploaded by kenlu.
When my brother first suggested going to Kung Fu Panda I was reluctant. I did not want to sit in a theatre on a Friday night surrounded by kids who would be giggling, throwing popcorn and whispering through the entire movie. I'm a movie snob, I like certain conditions and I know it. However, my brother's cold and convienient showtimes prevailed so we went to see Jack Black portray a Panda.

Kung Fu Panda made me laugh so hard I cried at least once in the film. This is a kids movie, but it's trying to be a tried and true kung fu movie - the only thing missing is David Carradine.

Po the panda (son of a goose mind you) works in his father's noodle shop while longing to join the "furious five" kung fu masters that protect his city. He is the geekiest of geeks about kung fu and yet knows that it's something he can never do...until he is selected as the dragon warrior by old maser Oogway at the Jade Palace and must train to bring out his potential and save everyone from pending doom at the hands of Tai Lung.

The traditional cast of characters include the other five warriors voiced by everyone from Jackie Chan to Angelina Jolie and the struggling master Shifu voiced by Dustin Hoffman. These individauls do not want Po there and all (except Jolie's Tigress) are eventually won over to Po. What follows is the kung fu movies you remember watching as a kid, but this time it all makes sense to any age as the humor is just as important as the kung fu.

My favorite character was probably the aged master Oogway who spouted such phrases as "yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift, that's why they call it the present" and managed to make these sound like they kind of fit in a kung fu movie.

I do reccomend this film, I would just reccomend that you avoid having so many little kids in the theatre if you're picky about your theatre enviroment like I am.

Director:Mark Osbourne & John Stevenson
Writer: Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger
Po: Jack Black
Shifu: Dustin Hoffman
Tigress: Angelina Jolie
Tai Lung: Ian McShane
MOnkey: Jackie Chan
Mantis: Seth Rogen
Viper: Lucy Liu
Crane: David Cross
Oogway: Randall Duk Kim
Commander Vachir: Michael Clark Duncan

Tai Lung: What are you going to do, sit on me?
Po: Don't tempt me.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang


extra ntf 11.8
Originally uploaded by sean's jawns
I have an irrational love of film noir. Tell me a film is noir influenced and I will probably see the film no questions asked. In light of this it is no surprise that one of my favorite films of the last few years is Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

This neo-noir is written and directed by Lethal Weapon scribe Shane Black, and is the directorial debut of Black; it stars the supremely talented Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan. From its use of narration, flash backs, criminal themes, and dark humor it is instantly obvious that this film loves and respects the noirs that came before it (even using Raymond Chandler book titles as headings for parts of the film), but wants to create its own off-beat take on the genre.

The first way Kiss Kiss Bang Bang breaks ground in neo-noir is by its use of the narrator in Robert Downey Jr. (Harry). Instead of idly narrating the story to himself or another character in the film (think Walter Neff’s character in Double Indemnity) Harry speaks directly to the audience breaking the fourth wall*, commenting on not only what you should be paying attention to as it’s probably important to the story, but degrading his own talent at narration. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a reflexive film; its techniques draw attention to the fact that it is a film that you are watching, and is indirectly about the process of making a film.

Harry comes to Hollywood where all his troubles begin because while fleeing the scene of a crime he hides in an audition for a crime drama and gets the part. He is then flown out to Hollywood to screen test, and while taking detective lesions from “Gay” Perry (Val Kilmer) he becomes embroiled in a murder mystery involving his producer’s daughter and his high school sweetheart turned actress’s kid sister.

This film is a funny, thrilling, yet tongue-in-cheek love affair of all that makes film noir memorable and fabulous and should be seen by anyone that wants a good laugh, great acting or just a great crime film.

Writer & Director: Shane Black
Harry: Robert Downey Jr.
”Gay” Perry: Val Kilmer
Harmony: Michelle Monaghan
Harlan Dexter: Corbin Bernsen
Dabney: Larry Miller

Harry: I peed on the corpse. Can they do, like, an ID from that?
Perry: I'm sorry, you peed on...?
Harry: On the corpse. My question is...
Perry: No, my question. I get to go first. Why in pluperfect hell would you pee on corpse?

Harry: Wow, I feel sore. I mean physically, not like a guy who's angry in a movie in the 1950's.


*The 4th Wall is a term used in theatre, film and tv referring to the imaginary barrier between the audience and the world of the characters.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sex & the City


WTF is she wearing?
Originally uploaded by nariposa
Of all the big movies coming out this summer Sex & the City was the one movie that I was interested in but had no idea what to expect. I was a fan of the tv show (though I came in late as I do not have HBO), but I was unsure if or how Sex & the City would translate to the big screen. The good news is that it does translate, and does so while staying true to what made the show such a landmark.

Honestly, there are a lot of people who have given Sex & the City flack through the years for being too rude & crude; however, to take a different tack with the same argument I think these critics are ignoring the actual point of the show which is the friendships that are the biggest part of it. The movie, like the show, centers on Carrie but does not short change the other women involved; even though their lives have changed considerably as characters in the ten years since the show began Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte remain as current and colorful as the outfits they wear and they still remain the truest of friends.

This is a movie that does not shy away from the fact that with age these women have changed, their lives have become more complex and nothing has gotten easier. Love and life are the forefront of the story, and all that matters is that you remain loyal to the people that care about you through thick and thin.

The film is directed by Michael Patrick King and shockingly he manages to keep the film on a delicate balance that reminds the viewer of the tv show, but showcases the beauty of the Big Apple in a way that only a theatre screen can do. I was pleasantly surprised at the skill he uses in the crafting of this film as he has only previously directed episodes of the series and the tv series The Comback.

In all, the film is fun, moving and memorable which is more than you can ask of a tv series-turned-film.

Director & Writer: Michael Patrick King
Carrie: Sarah Jessica Parker
Samantha: Kim Cattral
Miranda: Cynthia Nixon
Charlotte: Kristin Davis
Mr. Big: Chris Noth
Harry: Evan Handler
Smith: Jason Lewis
Steve: David Eigenberg
Louise: Jennifer Hudson

Miranda Hobbes: The only two choices for women; witch and sexy kitten.
Carrie Bradshaw: Oh you just said a mouthful there sister.