Posts Tagged ‘movies’

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Le Scaphandre et le Papillon

December 8, 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is the (mostly) true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a successful Elle magazine editor who one day finds himself completely paralyzed with “locked in syndrome,” having suffered a stroke. He eventually learns to communicate using eye blinks and writes a moving and well-received memoir.

In addition to being a good story, it’s always fascinating to watch actors portray people of vastly limited physical (or mental) capabilities. Mathieu Amalric does a terrific job playing Jean-Do, so if you are also drawn to these kind of performances you won’t be disappointed.

It’s even got Max Von Sydow as Jean-Do’s father. I loved the scene where (in flashback) Jean-Do shaves his aging father. (DE razor and a brush, of course.)

Olatz López Garmendia plays his physical therapist. She gives a good performance, but it was her face more than anything that intrigued me, perhaps because of all the close-ups. I was surprised, however, at how difficult it proved to determine her name. The film’s wikipedia entry has a link for her, but there is no article on her at the other end. Popping the names of the female actresses into a Google image search resulted in a variety of images–many of which were of the actress who played the speech therapist, or of women not associated with the film at all. I think I finally got it figured out, though:

Here she is (left) alongside Marie-Josée Croze (or is it Anne Alvaro?) who played the speech therapist.

Is it always this hard to confirm who’s who in a foreign film?

In any case, I had been avoiding this film for a while, thinking it was going to be “pretty heavy,” or perhaps even “a downer.” If you’ve also been in this boat, don’t worry: it wont depress you for the rest of the evening. Go rent it.

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It’s alright, it’s okay!

December 3, 2008

American Movie, a documentary film directed by Chris Smith, won the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival. That much you can read for yourself. Here’s what Wikipedia doesn’t say.

It’s about coming of age lower middle-class in in the suburban Milwaukee area. It’s about having vision and single-minded determination. It’s about being a loser and not really realizing it. It’s also about the indiest kind of independent filmmaking.

The weird part is that I’ve met one of the guys in it. And a very good friend of mine is visible onscreen for a few frames, though he doesn’t have a speaking role. It was him, in fact, who lent me his copy of American Movie a few years ago. (I still haven’t returned it. Sorry, Charles!)

American Movie is funny, sad and totally mesmerizing. If you can’t abscond with a friend’s copy, rent it.

Mark: Do you think this is a little bit cathartic for you?
Mike: Uh, very cathartic, Mark.
Mark: Do you know what cathartic means?
Mike: No.

I would really, really like to know if Mike made his money back on Coven. Perhaps the success of American Movie helped? Where are these guys now?

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Seen any movies lately?

December 2, 2008

I have.

  • Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. With names like Stanley Kubrick, Peter Sellers and George C. Scott how can you go wrong? It’s beautifully shot, wonderfully acted and bitingly satirical. In spite of the fact that it’s older than I am, this movie still holds up really well. Oddly, the younger folks in the room disagreed: dumbest thing they’d ever seen.
  • Code 46. It’s tough to be in love when you’re in a gritty but high-tech future which relies heavily on genetic profiling. Even when you’re Tim Robins. This movie had so much going for it that it should have hit it out of the park, but somehow I kept feeling that something was missing. It was sort of like a well-made shoe that isn’t laced up tight enough. It was pretty good, but it was no…
  • Gattaca. It’s tough to pursue your dreams when you’re in a 1940s-themed future which relies heavily on genetic profiling. Even when you’re Ethan Hawke. This is just a brilliant movie. If you haven’t seen it, you should. Jude Law is fantastic, Uma Thurman is almost pretty, and you even get a nice cameo by Earnest Borgnine!
  • Whoa, I forgot one more. Firewall starring Harrison Ford. For those of you expecting a repeat of one of his Tom Clancy thrillers, forget about it. For those of you hoping to see ol’ Indy brawl through a batch of bad guys, forget that, too. (The bit with the blender was pretty hardcore, but by itself it won’t satisfy.) In fact, forget the whole movie: it’s formulaic and doesn’t boast any terrific acting performances, either. Even Virginia Madsen’s hotness doesn’t redeem it.
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Wall-E and Tropic Thunder: Disappointing

November 25, 2008

What these movies have in common is that they didn’t live up to my expectations.

Wall-E was cute in its way, but it wasn’t terrific. Why did I expect terrific? Because I’m spoiled by the high quality animated films produced by Pixar, Dreamworks and others over the last decade. And I don’t mean box office totals or animation techniques. I mean good stories. Ones that don’t insult the intelligence of adults or children. Ones that have solid character development and interesting plots. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but the plot Wall-E finds himself embroiled in (a fat, stupid, lazy and space-faring humanity waiting generations for signs of vegetation in order to reclaim a garbage-strewn earth) seemed somehow insulting, joyless, and–worst of all–boring. It wasn’t a bad movie. I think I just went into it with higher expectations.

Tropic Thunder simply wasn’t that funny. I’ll admit that there was some amusement in watching Tom Cruise play an influential Hollywood asshole (what a stretch that must have been!). And I’ll further admit that Robert Downey Jr. as a white man playing a black man was probably worth the rental fee all by itself. No, the problem here wasn’t Downey, Cruise or Jack Black–it was Ben Stiller.

I don’t like Stiller, that’s no secret. But he not only starred in this film, he directed it and even has a writing credit! I honestly believe that it was his “professionally annoying” shtick ruining the film on several levels. Plus, there were plot holes big enough to drive a HumVee through. (A guy with no hands and a movie director are able to single-handedly saturate with remote movie cameras a vast area of jungle that only hours later is too filled with armed drug thugs for our heroes to navigate without risking life and limb. Yeah, I’ll buy that.)

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Earth Versus the Spider

November 17, 2008

After a busy weekend, I sat my pajama’d self on the couch last night to watch a movie. On a whim she’d rented Earth Versus the Spider starring Dan Akroyd.

I can only marvel at this film’s consistent awfulness. Not only does it have noticeable trouble figuring out what kind of movie it wants to be, but it’s dialog moves the plot forward so lamely that it was absolutely painful to watch sometimes.

A few more minutes in and I found myself wondering about Dan Akroyd’s career. Has he really fallen this far since Saturday Night Live, the Blues Brothers and Ghostbusters? Maybe the director was Akroyd’s nephew or something and he felt obligated to be in it when asked? Whatever the case, his performance was anemic and he looked like shit, having put on like 50 pounds since I last saw him on screen.

Please do not rent this movie. Not even to be cute. Not even to laugh at how bad it is. It doesn’t even succeed as an unintentional parody of some other better movie. It just sucks that bad.

I think it may even have been worse than Next with Nicholas Cage and Julianne Moore.

PS. Ah, I can see over at the first link, IMDB, that EvtS was never released in theaters. Apparently it was one of those made-for-cable jobs. I guess that goes some distance in explaining it’s thoroughgoing terribleness.

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James Bond: Moody BAMF

November 14, 2008

You know I liked the last James Bond movie, Casino Royale, so I guess you won’t be surprised that Karen and I are going to the Rosebud tonight to see the newest 007 effort: Quantum of Solace.

I liked Casino because it was different stylistically from previous efforts. Gone is the over-reliance on gadgetry. And the violence–while still spectacular–is now weighted with realism. Also, Daniel Craig makes a wonderful Bond. He’s not the smirking, suave “lounge lizard” (thanks LG) of my childhood. Instead, he’s a moody BAMF. This transition has, in my opinion, rescued the franchise from oblivion.

If Quantum of Solace continues in this positive direction it may just leave me shaken and stirred.

Sorry, couldn’t help it.

Hey, I wonder if the Rosebud will make me a Vesper?

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1408

November 3, 2008

Last night Karen and I watched 1408 starring John Cusak, a movie apparently based on a Stephen King story.

Cusack gave a solid B performance. He plays a guy to which a lot of horrible things happen, so there’s quite an opportunity to pull out all the stops and Cusack does so. In the film he plays Mike Enslin, a author who specializes in writing about haunted hotels. Enslin doesn’t really believe in the supernatural, but that changes when he checks into room 1408 at the Dolphin hotel in New York.

Samuel L. Jackson plays the hotel manager, who tries in vain to talk Enslin out of staying in the room. I always enjoy watching Jackson on screen, but I wish his scenes had been shot differently–more dramatically–with more really tight closeups. It felt like some scenes could have been made more tense and suspenseful that way.

1408 will probably not satisfy hardcore scare freaks. It had a few seriously creepy moments, but nothing that would make it unenjoyable for people who aren’t typically fans of the horror genre. “Watchable” is the word that immediately came to mind.

Definitely worth a rental if you’re looking for some name-brand, moderate-scare movie watching.