Friday, September 25, 2009

The Informant!

The Informant! is about Mark Whitacre, a biochemist that became a VP at a Fortune 500 company and when he told what he thought was a white lie to keep the company from giving up on his project the company involved the FBI. Once the FBI was involved Mark felt the need to reveal his lie and tell the truth – his company participates in a worldwide industry conspiracy to create price fixing and secure their profit margin. Thus begins the tale of one of the most convoluted, confusing, true stories in the history of the FBI.

I love Steven Soderbergh. Since I first saw Out of Sight I’ve believed the man is a genius. However, I think The Informant! might be his first movie that I am truly disappointed in. The entire time I was watching The Informant! I felt like something was off; the pacing of this film just didn’t feel like it was completely thought out or finished. It felt rough, like the look and concept were not totally meshing with one another. The Informant! is based on a true story so I understand that Soderbergh and his people were somewhat limited with what they could do in terms of changing the time period, etc. but I’ve come to expect more polish, crispness and wit out of his comedies. Instead, this film felt dated and laboring.

Part of what turned me off of The Informant! was actually the main character of Mark Whitacre himself. While Matt Damon is a skilled actor, this is a character who is the dumbest genius on record, and who is almost completely unsympathetic. Whitacre narrates the film with his stream of consciousness thoughts and while that should be funny and endearing it manages to cross the line into insipid and annoying. At one point in the film I actually groaned when the narration started up again.

Whitacre’s wife Ginger is played by Melanie Lynskey. Most people know her from Two and a Half Men where she plays Rose, Charlie’s stalker. However, the project I remember her most from is Heavenly Creatures. I think Lunskey is a fantastic actress and I am glad she got a chance to work with Soderbergh; while I don’t think she’ll get the boost from The Informant! most of the stars in his other works have gotten, it is still an excellent thing to be able to say you’ve worked for someone like Soderbergh.

While I don’t think The Informant! is completely without merit it is not a film I will be adding to my DVD collection. I just think if I have to listen to Mark Whitacre question how polar bears hide their noses with their paw or the many uses of corn I may have to scream. If I want to watch a quirky FBI comedy I will just pop in Burn After Reading.

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Scott Z. Burns
Mark Whitacre: Matt Damon
Ginger Whitacre: Melanie Lynskey
Agent Shepard: Scott Bakula

Mark Whitacre: Polar bears cover their noses before they pounce on a seal. How do polar bears know their noses are black? Did they look in the water one day, see their reflection and say, "Man, I'd be invisible if it wasn't for that thing."

Beauty & the Beast

Who doesn’t know the plot of Beauty & the Beast? Though the Disney tale varies in form and minutia from the archetype, it is still the same basic story. The beautiful girl meets the cursed prince who has been turned into a beast and switches places with her father who was to be the beasts prisioner. The beast needs the girl to fall in love with him to end the curse and yet how do you get the girl to see past the exterior?

Disney’s Beauty & the Beast was the first time I remember having a visual in a film just awe me. At the time it came out I was a kid fascinated with art and the ballroom scene between Belle and Beast was one of the most stuffing animated sequences I’ve ever seen. To this day the chandelier, the movement of her dress and the realism and fluidity of the scene just make me melt a little.

What’s funny about this is that the ballroom scene is not my favorite scene in the film. My favorite scene is when Belle runs away and is attacked by the wolves and Beast saves her, then she saves Beast by using Philipe (her horse) to take him back to the castle and mend his wounds. The fight they have is well written and very real as they bicker over whose fault it is that she ran away. Belle is a sassy, strong & intelligent woman and one of my favorite Disney Princesses.

This is a great film. For those that don’t remember, not only were many songs in Beauty & the Beast nominated for Oscars, but this is one animated film that actually broke in and was nominated for Best Picture.

Directors: Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Southland Tales

Richard Kelly makes some of the coolest yet unexplainable films I have ever seen, granted my experience with him extends only to his two feature films but let me tell you Southland Tales is quite the trip. I had a very enjoyable time watching Southland Tales, but I can still tell you I have no idea what it was about.

The film opens with a quaint family filled birthday party in Texas that is being filmed by one of the children a the party when suddenly a bright flash is seen and a bang and a nuclear bomb has been exploded, an act of terrorism that starts the dystopic future that prevails in Kelly’s version of America. Due to WWIII and being cut off from the Middle East our nation is looking for alternate fuel sources, and has just unveiled a thermo dynamic system off the coast of California. Meanwhile, actor Boxer Santos has disappeared and his politician father-in-law is frantically looking for him as it is an election year. Combine this with Boxer’s porn star girlfriend, a terror group called the Neo-Marxists & an overbearing Big Brother government and you have Southland Tales.

Southland Tales is narrated by Pilot Abilene, an actor and soldier who watches over Malibu and deals drugs. Abilene was one of my favorite characters in the film and I am really coming to respect Timebrlake as an actor – he does a dang good job. My favorite sequence in the film is a musical sequence to “All These Things” by the Killers, which is used when Abilene is on a high. Watching the sequence makes me hope that Kelly might one day do a little more with the musical genre, it was beautiful.

I can’t recommend this movie to everyone because I know it would drive quite a few people nuts. However, if you liked Donnie Darko or just want to try a very unique but artful film then give Southland Tales a try. Kelly is a unique artist and I want him to be supported.

Director & Writer: Richard Kelly
Cyndi Pinziki: Nora Dunn
Starla Von Luft: Michele Durrett
Krysta Now: Sarah Michelle Gellar
Boxer Santos: Dwayne Johnson
Vaughn: John Laraquette
Serpentine: Lai bing
Bart Bookman: Jon Lovitz
Madeline Frost Santos: Mandy Moore
Dream: Amy Poehler
Nana Mae Frost: Miranda Richardson
Roland Taverner: Seann William Scott
Baron Von Westphalen: Wallace Shawn
Simon Theory: Kevin Smith
Private Pilot Abilene: Justin Timberlake

Cyndi Pinziki: Nothing an eight ball, a porn star and a tattoo parlor can't handle.

Star Trek

James T. Kirk
Originally uploaded by bluesteel1981
Proudly I can say that I have seen Star Trek in Imax twice. I saw it that way opening day (Thursday at Seven PM) and when Paramount made a deal with Imax to have a special rerelease of Trek in Imax this month I had to go.

I can still say I love this movie. Also, the more I see this the more I am certain that Chris Pine is the perfect replacement for William Shatner as James Kirk. I love Shatner and his Kirk is a character that I liked as a kid (growing up in a Trekkie home) and have grown to love since I began to rewatch the original films. Pine has the perfect blend of wit, charisma and cockiness to make Kirk the character we remember from Shatner and yet change it to be his own. Pine gave up a role in the eternally cursed production of White Jazz to take on Star Trek and I hope that he is very glad he did.

JJ Abrams is set to produce the next Trek installment; but I hope that he decides to step back into the directing chair at least once more for this series. In the end, camera flares or no camera flares, Star Trek is a great film and his approach helped make it so.

Kirk: You know, traveling through time, changing history... that's cheating.
Spock: A trick I learned from an old friend.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Usual Suspects

Bryan Singer
Originally uploaded by Jack Bloom
I have a short list of perfect films, and The Usual Suspects is one of the films on that list with movies like Annie Hall and Double Indemnity. There is not one thing about the Usual Suspects that I would change.

I truly think that The Usual Suspects may be Bryan Singers hallmark film; the man is quite talented and has a bright future ahead of him so I may be wrong, but I don’t see how The Usual Suspects could be topped.

If you haven’t seen this film you need to see it, and you need to see it as soon as you can.

Dave Kujan: Do you believe in him, Verbal?
Verbal: Keaton always said, "I don't believe in God, but I'm afraid of him." Well I believe in God, and the only thing that scares me is Keyser Soze.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Lookout

Chris Pratt was the golden child in high school; one night when showing off for his girlfriend and two friends he causes a horific car crash that changes his life. Several years later Chris is dealing with the brain damage he suffered, unable to form short term memories and instead of living the high powered life his upper class family lives he works as a night janitor at a local bank and lives with his blind friend Lewis. Chris is bitter about the life he lost, a fact that former classmate Gary Spargo uncovers and exploits as he convinces Chris to assist in the plot to rob the bank where Chris works.

The Lookout is Scott Frank’s directorial debut, and I have to say that I want him to make another film. From the initial tragedy that occurs on screen you are hooked on the world and the care-free narcissistic character that is Chris Pratt. The world he is around changes into a dark, angry and dangerous one coolly and quickly and Frank handles it with the finesse of a director that knows exactly what he’s saying and completely understands his world. Frank makes the audience as deeply tied to this world as Pratt, Spargo and Lewis.

I must also share my love of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. While I had the obligatory teen crush on him when he was on Third Rock from the Sun I have to say he disappeared from my radar until he blew in with a rush of greatness with Brick. Since Brendan, Gordon-Levitt has continued to embody amazing characters in equally unique and amazing films and Chris Pratt is one of the best. Gordon-Levitt is a very talented actor, and I can’t wait to see what stories his career takes him to.

Director & Writer: Scott Frank
Chris Pratt: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Lewis: Jeff Daniels
Gary Spargo: Matthew Goode
Luvlee: Isla Fisher

Gary Spargo: My old man used to say to me, probably the only thing we ever really agreed on, was that whoever has the money has the power. You might wanna jot that down in your book. It's something you're gonna need to remember.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How I Met Your Mother: Season One

Ted Mosby is a 20-something architect living in New York with his best friends Marshall & Lilly. When Marshall & Lilly finally get engaged Ted and their friend Barney are left as the single people of the group, which is fine for womanizing Barney but makes Ted realize he wants to find Ms. Right. Enter Robin Scherbatsky, a local reporter who Ted falls for instantly and pursues endlessly, all the while future Ted narrates the tale to his two teenage children so that he can fill them in on the magic and the mystery of how he met their mother.

What perhaps is the best thing about season one of How I Met Your Mother is that the writers manage to take a pretty strange concept, a father narrating his past for his kids, and not only make it intriguing from episode to episode but each episode manages to advance the characters, but be alternatively dramatic and side splittingly hilarious. Unlike a lot of sitcoms How I Met Your Mother has a story to tell, and it uses each and every season to advance that story further, leading up to the eventual and reveal of Ted’s wife.

I love each and every character on How I Met Your Mother but I must say that the show has given me an entirely new appreciation and respect for Neil Patrick Harris. Barney is everything I as a woman should hate about men; he uses women, treats them as objects, is lude and far too vain and greedy. However, Barney is executed by the writers, director and Harris in a way that makes him completely and utterly endearing and hysterical. I find myself saying “Suit up!” in real life.

I cannot wait to find out who Ted’s wife is. But I am sure the journey until we get there will be amazing, and I cannot wait to see where the writers take us.

Director: Pamela Fryman
Ted Mosby: Josh Radnor
Marshall Eriksen: Jason Segel
Robin Scherbatsky: Cobie Smulders
Barney Stinson: Neil Patrick Harris
Lily Aldrin: Alyson Hannigan

Barney: It's gonna be legend-... wait for it... and I hope you're not lactose intolerant because the second half of that word is DAIRY!

Friday, September 11, 2009


Joel owns his own company making extract and is bored with life; he and his wife have lost the flame of their relationship, he’s tired of owning his business, and he hates his neighbors. All of this changes when there is an accident on the factory floor and the factor gets a new temp, Cindy who is looking for a way to cash in on the award the accident victim will be getting. Joel and all of his male employees and friends are soon obsessed with Cindy and Joel is even convinced by his best friend Dean to pay someone to have an affair with his wife so that he can have a guilt-free affair with Cindy. As in any Mike Judge comedy, nothing goes as planned.

I have to admit that I am one of the many people that went out and saw Extract because I adore Office Space. I did enjoy Extract but not nearly as much as I enjoyed Office Space; what I am trying to figure out now is if I adore Office Space so much because of how many times I’ve seen it or because it’s a better movie. It is quite possible that with more viewings all the nuances of Extract will be just as funny to me as all the quirks of Office Space are.

Perhaps it’s my stage of life, but while I enjoyed all the characters in Extract, I just couldn’t relate to any one of them. Their lives are nothing like mine yet, and though this normally wouldn’t keep me out of enjoying a movie, Judge makes the kind of comedy that tries to be an exaggerated slice of life and this was in no way my life. I’m not married, a stoner, a scam artist or a business owner. I however am single, an office employee and a former member of the retail world so I totally understand Office Space.

What I did adore about Office Space was Ben Affleck. Yes, heckle me all you wish but I am a fan of Affleck – I think he’s highly underrated and needs to be used more, especially in comedy. Affleck plays Dean, a bartender, minor drug dealer, and wannabe pimp. He was one of the funniest things about Extract and I would have loved to see him on screen more.

I also have to give props to Jason Bateman. Bateman is the current king of subtle comedic acting and he excels at deadpan humor and “mundane” characters. I want to see Bateman do more as every role I see him in is memorable and entertaining, right down to his character in State of Play.

While I was not immediately desiring to add Extract to my DVD collection, it is a fine film that will undoubtedly become a favorite with Judge fans and the audience that will slowly discover it more and more when it comes to DVD.

Director & Writer: Mike Judge
Joel: Jason Bateman
Cindy: Mila Kunis
Suzie: Kristen Wiig
Dean: Ben Affleck
Brian: JK Simmons

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Mission

Based on a true story of Jesuit missionaries in South America, The Mission tells the tale of Rodrigo Mendoza and Father Gabriel. Rodrigo is a former slave trader who slays his brother in a fit of jealousy and eventually, through the efforts of Father Gabriel and the mission he started becomes a Jesuit priest himself. Father Gabriel is dedicated to improving the lives of the Indians in the area both by showing them God and keeping them from being kidnapped or traded as slaves.

The Mission is a movie that has been recommended to me for years and I only just now got around to netflixing it. I am glad that I did. It is a visually, artistically and thematically beautiful movie that I think any cinema buff should see. There is not a bad characteristic to this movie from the performances and direction to the scenery – everything is incredibly well put together and marvelous to behold. The Mission is a film made by a director that knows what he’s saying and how he needs to accomplish it, something that is always a great thing to watch.

If there were any flaw in The Mission it would have to be that it is one of those movies that feels long. At only a hair over two hours, the actual running time is not long, but when you watch the film you feel like you are living with these characters at the mission and it feels like you are spending a great amount of time inside it. I was quite shocked to see the actual running time of the film.

Over the past decade or so I’ve watched Robert DeNiro in everything from Meet the Parents to Taxi Driver and I have to say that The Mission was the first time I have seen him in a period piece, or doing a serious role where he is not an insane character. I know I have many more DeNiro films to watch but I do adore this man’s talent and love to watch him work. He fit better in this world of God and Indians that I thought he would, and as always he meshed very well with his fellow actors.

I don’t know if The Mission would be added to my DVD collection, but it is a film that I am glad is now in my film vocabulary.

Director: Roland Joffe
Writer: Robert Bolt
Rodrigo Mendoza: Robert De Niro
Father Gabriel: Jeremy Irons
Fielding: Liam Neeson

Gabriel: If might is right, then love has no place in the world. It may be so, it may be so. But I don't have the strength to live in a world like that, Rodrigo.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Inglourious Basterds

Somewhere out there are audience members that were underwhelmed by Inglourious Basterds - but I have yet to meet them. In my experience so far everyone I know that has seen Inglourious Basterds has not only loved the film, they’ve raved about. Through some cinematic miracle Quentin Tarantino expanded with this film to appeal not just to his core audience but the mass market. As great as Kill Bill was, this is Tarantino’s masterpiece.

What I love most about Tarantino is that he loves movies, he not only shows this by the care in which he creates films but he constantly references films directly and indirectly in his own works. With Inglourious Basterds this reflexive style of filmmaking has finally come to its apex – his characters directly interact with the world of cinema. Lt. Hicox is a former film critic, Bridget von Hammersmark is a German actress, Shosanna owns a cinema, Pvt. Zoeller stars in a movie about his war exploits and Goebbels is in charge of the German film industry! Movies are all over Inglourious Basterds and this time not just for the hard core cinema buff to catch. An example? In Pulp Fiction Jules & Vincent open a briefcase and though we never see the contents it emits a bright glow – this is a direct reference (if not the exact shot) from a strange little film called Kiss Me Deadly. I’ve seen it, but I doubt most of you have. Instead of just doing something obscure like this in Inglourious Basterds Tarantino has a character mention Charlie Chaplin & The Kid - with this film he wants the audience to see his references instead of hide them.

Please don’t think the whole reason I loved this film is because it’s a movie about movies, or just because I like Tarantino. I adore the entire cast in this film. Every actor hits their performance out of the park and makes the film better for it. I cannot wait to see this film again and again.

Lt. Aldo Raine: You said it was in a tavern.
Lt. Archie Hicox: It is a tavern.
Lt. Aldo Raine: Yeah, in a basement. You know, fightin' in a basement offers a lot of difficulties. Number one being, you're fightin' in a basement!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


I think I need to see Scent of a Woman. You might think this is an odd way to start a review on Chaplin but you know I’m a bit eccentric and I swear relevance is coming.

I need to see Scent of a Woman because I want to see why it was so applauded; I need to see the performance of Al Pacino. Pacino is an incredibly talented actor who deserves much acclaim, and I need to see this performance because he won the best actor Oscar for it. I need to see it so I can figure out if he should have won over Robert Downey Jr, because to this day I cannot watch Chaplin without marveling over the sheer amount of talent, care, and the complete transformation that happens on screen. I need to see why Downey didn’t get the Oscar, because if he didn’t get it Pacino must just about melt the screen in Scent of a Woman.

Movies about movies hold a special place in my heart, and Chaplin is one of the best. The fact that the film is a true story, an excellently done one at that makes it all the better. I love that I can see the history of the industry in Chaplin and how mixed with our nation and world’s cultures the movies really are. The fact that Chaplin is an excellently made film just makes it all the better.

Mack Sennett: Now I know this is all new to ya, but remember something, we're all new. This is not an ancient industry. This whole place here is built around speed. Start the story, start the chase. I get bored easy.
Rollie Totheroh: How much you reckon Mack? Couple yards of Mabel?
Mack Sennett: Hmm, yeah. Nah, make it three. But don't go thinking we sacrifice quality. I never make more than two motion pictures a week, but I'll spend up to a thousand dollars on each of 'em if I have to.