Thursday, December 31, 2009

Favs of the 00's

I've created a pictorial list of my favourite films of the decade.

Enjoy!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

1 Year, 342 Movies, 12 Months of Production, 7 Minutes.

jumpin' on the bandwagon

Since all the cool kids are doing it, I thought I'd throw up my favourite movies of the decade. In absolutely no order at all:
  • Hero (2002) - stunningly beautiful with the added bonus of Jet Li and some pretty nifty martial arts choreography
  • The Kill Bills - just plain fun.
  • Helvetica (2007) - it's a documentary about a typeface. Could I be any more of a design nerd?
  • Mirror Mask (2005) - Neil Gaiman + Dave McKean = deliciously and darkly surreal.
  • Tideland (2005) - really fucking disturbing, but poetic and haunting. Really haunting. Like, I'd like it out of my head now haunting.
  • Coraline (2009) - another worlds-within-worlds story, the kind that Gaiman does so well.
  • Shaun of the Dead (2004) - zombies and Brits. What's not to like?
  • Bubba Ho-Tep (2002) - an ancient Egyptian zombie and Elvis. What's not to like?
  • Planet Terror (2007) - more zombies. What's not to like?
  • Crank (2006) - Two words: Jason Statham
  • XXX (2002) - Two words: Vin Diesel
  • Long Way Round - (2005) - Two friends ride their motorcycles around the world. Worth it for the Mongolian/Russian legs of the journey. Made me want an adventure and sparked the trip to Alaska.
  • Stardust (2007) - another Gaiman story. Sensing a trend yet?
  • Casino Royale (2006) - It's Bond. What more can I say.
  • Bollywood Hollywood (2002) - I have a soft spot for Bollywood movies.

Top Of My Head 30

Well, I COULD look at that list of movies made in the naughts, but instead I'll see what films I've seen that may have been in the past decade that I liked. Also, I'll try to keep it to 30, because 20 ain't enough. In no particular order:

1.- Banlieu 13 (District B13) - Parkour kick-assery
2.- Dogville - Chalk outlines and brilliance
3.- The Bothersome Man - Norwegian film you haven't seen but should
4.- O Brother, Where Art Thou? - My favourite Coens movie ever
5.- Two Soliders (short) - 20 minute tearjerker
6.- Iron Man - Loved X2, Batman, and others, but this was my fav of the superheroes
7.- Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story - Funny as hell, every time
8.- Kung Fu Hustle - Looney Tunes + The Matrix = awesomesauce
9.- The Lord of the Rings series - As close to how you envisioned it as it could be
10.- Monsters Inc. - My 2nd favourite Pixar film behind Toy Story 2
11.- I ♥ Huckabees - Existential and nihilistic comedy
12.- Adaptation - Pretty meta, and I'll watch anything written by Kaufman
13.- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - Kaufman again, and Jim Carey's finest role
14.- The Road - Bleak, harsh, and beautiful
15.- Before Sunset - Best intelligent date movie ever.
16.- Waking Life - Trippy, philosophical, great
17.- Match Point - Woody Allen tenses up his audience with adultery. Nothing funny here.
18.- The Darjeeling Limited - Wes Anderson is growing on me. Need to see that Fox film.
19.- Synechdoche, New York - Kaufman allowed to direct = mind trip
20.- Pontypool - Best zombie movie of the decade. If you like words.
21.- Chacun Son Cinema - Short films about the love of cinema.
22.- Honeydripper - Sayles + Alabama + music = gold
23.- Donnie Darko - Time travel as a metaphor. Avoid the director's cut at all costs.
24.- Hot Fuzz - I like it more than Shaun of the Dead.
25.- Requiem for a Dream - I don't know if I could ever watch this a second time. Brilliantly disturbing.
26.- Kill Bill - Tarantino makes his samurai movie. Way to go Kiddo.
27.- Inglourious Basterds - Tarantino makes his WWII movie. A melange of fantastic.
28.- Little Miss Sunshine - Dysfunctional families are still families.
29.- Moulin Rouge - I still have Roxanne stuck in my head
30.- No Country For Old Men - A man, some money, a killer, a lawman = classic
31.- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl - The most fun pirates have ever been
32.- A Mighty Wind - Improv folk music comedy - My favourite of the Guest films
33.- Big Fish - One of the most poignant films about father-son relationships in recent memory
34.- Almost Famous - a GF said, "trust me, you'll like this." She wasn't lying

Okay, so it's 3234. I couldn't bring myself to whittle it down any more. I could have added a dozen more.

*In fact, I added 2 more because I realized I'd forgotten two of my favourite films of the decade!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

20 Best Movies of the Decade: Part Deux

Well, sorta Part Deux. It's like those sequels that have a different director, writer and cast, but keep the franchise name. Like that. Wow, Julius Goat's link to that wikipedia page with all the movies made this decade at once made me feel like I have not seen enough movies and reminded me of the disaster Chris Carter made of the X-files franchise, which then reminded me that given all the horrible, horrible movies I've seen, I've definitely seen quite enough films. But here are the best of the best of the best of the aughts! I think I only overlap with Julius Goat on two, so wow, those two must really be teh awesome. Oh, and this is not in any order...well, maybe some vague alphabetical order.

1) 28 Days Later (2002)

2) 30 Days of Night (2007)

3) 3:10 to Yuma (2007)

4) Akeelah and the Bee (2006)

5) Bend It Like Beckham (2002)

6) Capturing the Friedmans (2003)

7) Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)

8) Dogville (2003)

9) The Departed (2006)

10) The Fast and the Furious (2001)

11) Hairspray (2007) (Zac Efron in the hizzouse!)

12) Iron Man (2008)

13) Legally Blonde (2001)

14) Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

15) Pitch Black (2000)

16) The Princess Diaries (2001)

17) Saw (2004)

18) Shaun of the Dead (2004)

19) Spider-Man (2002)
19) Spider-Man 2 (2004)

20) There Will Be Blood (2007)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

20 Best Movies Of The Zeroes

At the risk of stating the obvious, we're at the end of a decade. Time for lists! Here's the best movies I saw that were released from 2000 - 2009. Obviously, this shouldn't be taken as a definitive list. I reckon that if I had seen all the movies of the decade (or, you know, even a quarter of them), the composition would be altered, possibly significantly.

I made this list by going to the Wikipedia page for all movies of the decade and quickly scrolling through, jotting down favorites as I went. I wound up with a list of about 35, which I whittled down to here.

If you haven't seen some of these . . . well, you ought to.

Come on now, FilmChawians. I've shown you mine. Lets see your'n.


1) Mulholland Drive (2001)

2) Waking Life (2001)

3) Children of Men (2006)

4) Spirited Away (2001)

5) The Lord of the Rings (2003)

6) The Fog of War (2003)

7) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

8) Memento (2000)

9) 25th Hour (2002)

10) Dogville (2003)

11) Caché (Hidden) (2005)

12) The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

13) The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)

14) There Will Be Blood (2007)

15) Brick (2006)

16) No Country for Old Men (2007)

17) Donnie Darko (2001)

18) Dancer In The Dark (2001)

19) Gerry (2002)

20) Zodiac (2007)

Spanning the Videostore Shelves...

If you are anything like me, and I assume you are or aspire to be, you'll spend your upcoming days and weeks off avoiding your loved ones and watching TV and movies. Here are reviews of some new to DVD and not-so-new to DVD, flicks that I can recommend. Or unrecommend. Ready...set...


Up

The most overhyped movie of the year, by far! This movie got such strong word of mouth praise that I almost saw it in the theater. But when I went, I missed the 3 o'clock showing by 15 minutes and there wasn't another showing till 7. Dude, if I had paid 13 dollars to see this...this...movie in a theater, heaven help all those who convinced me to see it. Look, it's okay. But it's implausible on EVERY level, which is fine if the movie is asking you to suspend belief a la Terminator, instead, Up goes out of its way to be as realistic as all get out, but then: ooh, look, his house is flying and oh, the fat kid's on the porch and not DEAD, which is what he would be. I didn't believe any of the characters. Why would the bird leave her children to follow strangers. It's pretty to look at though. I find the villan and the wife to have been the most interesting characters and the ones we learn too little about. Boo. I expected more. Don't you make that mistake!

Buffalo 66

People have been telling me to watch this movie ever since I became a diehard football fan. I don't know why. The mom in the film does tell her son she wishes she'd been able to watch Buffalo in the Championship, instead of being off birthing him, but it quickly becomes clear that's because she doesn't like her son. Or her life really, it's not an overenthusiastic love for the Bills. Hell, she schedules dinner in the middle of the game and gives her son the only seat at the table with a view of the television. Not too fannish, in my book. Instead, the movie is about profoundly unhappy people who live in Buffalo during the Winter. I'm not sure who the target audience is. The cast is mostly unknown, except for a bizzarely blond Christina Ricci, and well, if you're already unhappy what would you want to watch this movie for? And if you are happy why would you want this movie bringing you down? Best I can tell, this movie is for when you're too sick to do anything more than collect movies from the mailbox, stick the in the DVD player and crawl back to your couch.



Julie and Julia

Absolutely terrific movie! Meryl Streep just might be a god among men. She becomes Julia Child, like totally! I love her feisty competitive spirit. You can see the joy on her face as she cuts onions, the pain in her eyes as she sees babies that she'll never have being pushed down the street. I didn't particularly care for Stanley Tucci as her husband. He seemed too much Stanley Tucci playing a role, but Meryl makes it work! She's so the awesomest! But the movie isn't just about Julia Child. It's also about Julie something or another. A blogger trying to cook all of Julia's recipes in one year. This role is played by the ubiquitous Amy Adams. Oh, does she capture the pain of blogging! Posting and not getting comments. Frowny face. Having her mother wonder why she's wasting her time with this blogging nonsense. Shruggy face. But in the end, she, like Julia Child triumphs and becomes a...um...moderate star! Huzzah! I don't cook, so I couldn't really relate to that aspect of the film, but I understand a drive to compete in a male dominated world and the desire for comments. So...yay!

Pelham 123

Okay, the absolute dang best part about this movie is why the Number 6 train is called Pelham 123, but now I can't remember the reason for the life of me! Dammit! Help! If anyone else saw this movie or remembers, please comment the answer!! Arrgh. Um. It's Denzel and it's Travolta, but they both look weird. Denzel is fat and Travolta is rocking that weird cartoon supervillan pencil thin mustache/beard thing. There is no nuance in either of their performances. Travolta bad. Denzel good. Even the passengers are hackneyed stereotypes. The white mom pulling her son to her, but the boy wants to see! And the tough guy black guy. Blah. Boo. There wasn't even a redemptive explosion. Skip!

Incendiary
Michelle Williams has a British accent! And stuff happens. Um. There's a huge bombing and her husband is on the bomb squad. Oh, and she's having an affair. And, it turns out that what she thinks she knows, may not be the whole story! And did I mention she has a British accent? This movie is good. It's sad, which is fine, cause whenever I see Michelle Williams I think of Heath Ledger and it makes me sad.

GI Joe: Rise of Cobra
I loved the cartoon as a kid and I was excited to see the movie, however, all the bad reviews made me wait for the DVD. I was pleasantly surprised. The action is top notch. The lead is a hottie and watching France get hit is mad cool. I HATED Marlon Wayans' black buffoonish character. UGH! Fucking Hollywood. And I HATE the NATO aspect. GI Joe is the great fucking AMERICAN hero, turd faces! We don't have headquarters in Africa and there ain't no Morrocans on the squad. Unless they've naturalized. All in all, though: Me likey. So now you know. And...um...that's half the battle.
GO JOE!

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Yawn. The trailer for this movie is so good! Exciting, suspenseful, captivating: essentially, everything the movie is NOT. The movie is slow, boring, predictable...British. Blah. No need to see this one ever.

Mama's Boy

Stars Diane Keaton, who will do anything for a paycheck. Not kidding, I bet if they offered her a role in American Pie 14 as a GILF, she'd take it and not bat an eyelash. Also stars the Napoleon Dynamite guy. This flick is a horrible, unfunny mess of nonsense poop. It's too late for me, save yourselves! If you're desperate to see a movie about an adult man living with his mommy, rent Stepbrothers.

Henry Poole is Here
This movie stars the dark haired Owen brother. He buys a house and the visage of Mary appears in a water stain on a wall. He has just been diagnosed with a terminal illness and doesn't believe in God. Thus, conflict! The neighborhood wants to enshrine his house, he just wants to be left alone. Eh, it's okay. Like if you've already seen everything else and it's down to this or Mama's Boy. Go ahead and see this.

The Proposal
Again, Ryan Reynolds is my guy! And I love him in this movie. Sandra Bullock as the tough as nails boss who has to marry her sycophantic assistant or be deported to Canadia is also delightful. It's your typical love/hate romantic comedy where...surprise, turns out they really love each other after all! But you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll sing bad rap songs along the way!

Angels & Demons
How come the people writing these mystical codes in ancient times are never specific? Can't they just be all "third cobblestone, 30 degress South of the city square." No, it's always "this bird neither sees nor flies, but its beak holds the key." And then it'll turn out that the bird isn't a bird, but is actually the tomb of Cardinal Bird!
Eyeroll. It's also fairly unbelieveable that Tom Hanks figures out every code correctly, in the right order, but aw shoot, he's one minute too late! One wonders why he doesn't just skip ahead to the last clue, so he can get a jump on the killer instead of being one step behind for the whole movie! Um...the deaths are bloody and gruesome, so that's a plus. But for the most part, if you liked the Da Vinci Code, you should probably just rent that again.

Craft
1990s teen flick about three social outcasts who play at witchcraftery. Yeah, that's a word...now. But when the mysterious transfer student Sarah Bailey enrolls at Blah blah blah High, inexplicable things start to happen and the trio discover she's the key that unlocks their magical powers! They exact revenge on their enemies, make their wildest dreams come true and altogether rule the school! But, oh no, have they gone too far? Will there be consequences? Yah huh. Indeed: There. Will. Be. Hell. To. pay! Hah! I'm so good! Or I read that on the movie poster for the movie when I was a kid.
Good. Definitely good.


Shrink

I have a Kevin Spacey thing. It used to be much more diehard, but then he broke my heart with a string of duds which included K-Pax and Pay It forward, and well, I can barely look at his stupid sell-out face now. Insert hippie "it used to be about the art, man. I loved you!" rant here. But, I was sick, bored...so... In this Spacey plays the shrink. He counsels famous people. They are rich, but neurotic. Some take drugs. What they don't know, is that their shrink is also spiralling down the drain of mental illness. His wife has killed herself and he's been self medicating with pot he buys from that kid that plays Landry on Friday Night Lights. Spacey's father is also a shrink and decides the best way to get his son out of his self-pitying funk is to refer a patient to him that has real non Hollywood problems. Enter teenage black girl whose mother just died. She's been cutting school and acting out and maybe, tried to kill herself, she doesn't want to go to a shrink, but Spacey draws her out of her shell through their shared love of movies! Everything is going well, until one of Spacey's patients catches wind of the girl's story and decides it'd make a good movie! Oh no! But will this unforgiveable betrayal turn out to save them all? Will it? Um...probably, it was very boring and I was on medication. So I can't be sure.

Four Christmases
This movie is supposedly named after the fact that the starring couple: Brad and Kate, have to spend Christmas with both sets of parents who are now divorced and have new step partners. However, it might as well be named for the fact that it feels like four actual years have passed between the opening bar scene and the closing hospital scene. Yarf. Dear Reese Witherspoon, I expect this garbage from Vince Vaughn, NOT YOU. Clean up your act, young lady. Also, Kristin Chenoweth, Unless there is singing involved, I don't want to see you in another movie. You are a TV/Broadway star, dammit!

Orphan
I love good scary movies. I LOVED Orphan. The cast was perfect. Even the little blond girl character in the flick that I typically roll my eyes at for two hours, was great! I don't want to give any of it away, so suffice to say, it's about a family that welcomes a new member from an orphanage and how their lives change. Four thumbs up! But it is scary in parts, so Kelly, can you handle it? Michelle can handle it? Beyonce can you handle it? What? Doesn't everyone bust into Destiny's Child lyrics at the end of a movie review?

Terminator 3 or is it 4?
So Christian Bale, huh? That little boy grew up to be Christian Bale? Ok. I'll bite. Which reminds me, what's up with Bale's mouth, it's like his teeth are too far back to hold up his lips! Anyway, so we're in the future again. And um, Skynet is still trying to kill John Connor (what up with that, by the way? How come he doesn't have his father's last name?)This time, instead of going back in time after his mother, the robots hatch a plan to kill his father in their own time! John Connor must find his dad - now a teenage boy- and protect him before Skynet finds him. Meanwhile, Connor's father Reese is leading the rebellion in California where he meets a stranger and they, along with a little girl, fight robots. There are lots of really cool robots. Personally, I think the robots were too cool. I was so rooting for them! But that might be because of Bale's weird lip thing. If that's the future look of men, let the robots have the planet!

The hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy
Skip it. Seriously. Read the book, it's funnier and more entertaining. This flick is terribly cast. Horribly edited. Blerrgh.


Star Trek
I've never seen any Star Trek stuff. Not the original show, not any of the spinoffs and not any of the previous movies. So I wasn't sure I'd "get" this movie. But I did. I thought it hanged together well. I like the conflict between Spock and Kirk. (I thought the use of Leonard Nimoy was cheesy, like they panicked about trying to start the franchise over from scratch and so, clung to the security blanket of old Spock. I would have preferred to see old Kirk!) Um...as for the story...it starts fast and fun; then lags, then picks up again in the last 45 minutes. But I was entertained. Oh, and I Loved the Run, Fatboy, Run guy being in it! He's always a treat.

Funny People
This movie is a brilliant combination of all the things I love about Adam Sandler (have seen all his movies…yes, even the terrible pudding/terrorism survivor ones) and none of the things I hate about Seth Rogen and that fat guy he always acts with…or is Seth Rogen the fat guy who acts with the other guy? Whatever, they didn’t irritate me this time. The standup bits were funny. I LOVED all the cameos and the story way doesn't go how you think it will! I was surprised at every turn. Just superb!

Night at the Museum 2
Hey! Look it's Amy Adams again! She's like the modern day Reese Witherspoon. In everything! Oh, and there's the fat guy from Seth Rogan movies. Irritating. And Ben Stiller! Sucktacular. The movies is dumb. A steady, unending suckfest. Even Hank Azaria and cool special effects couldn't save this film from itself and it's retarded premise. Yah, the New York Musuem of *Natural* History is going to replace all the exhibits with holograms. Sha. Boo. Boo. BOO!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Stepfather (1987)

'The Stepfather' (1987)* * * *

A few weeks ago a new horror film called The Stepfather took its turn on one of the screens down at the local metroplex. You might have seen the poster, featuring a couple of fists menacingly holding a necktie, with the caption “This fall, Daddy’s home.”

I did not see this new film, although I’ll admit I was somewhat curious about it because of my familiarity with the original 1987 version, starring Terry O’Quinn (of Lost fame). From what I’ve read, reviews of the remake have been mixed, with some actually heralding it as a decent little thriller. I had two friends see it -- one thought it was dreadful, while the other gave it a lukewarm “it was all right” kind of response. I may eventually check it out when it arrives on DVD.

Like I say, I was intrigued by the appearance of this remake since I had seen and appreciated the original version. I even wrote an academic essay about it a couple of years ago for a film journal in which I focused on one particular aspect of the film I found especially interesting. Unfortunately, I cannot point you to a copy of the essay online, but if your library gets Literature Film Quarterly, check out Issue #3 from 2006 and you’ll find my article.

I’m not going to offer a full-fledged review of the movie here, although I will point you to a recent Onion A.V. Club piece that does a good job highlighting the 1987 film’s best qualities. But let me share with you this one facet of The Stepfather that I thought was worth investigating in my essay.

From what I understand, the remake essentially follows the original in terms of its plot (with a few differences in the characters). In the 1987 version, a not-bald Terry O’Quinn plays a real estate agent named Jerry Blake who has recently married a young widow, Susan (Shelley Hack), who has a daughter, Stephanie (Jill Schoelen). They appear to have an ideal life going, although Stephanie ain’t too sure about her stepdad who seems almost too excited about his father-husband role. “I swear to God it’s like having Ward Cleaver for a dad,” she tells a friend.

'The Stepfather' (1987)As the somewhat shocking opening sequence had revealed, Stephanie has good reason to be suspicious of Jerry. As is eventually explained, Jerry is what might be called a “serial stepfather,” who has more than once courted and married divorcées with children, then, when they fail to live up to his Leave it to Beaver-inspired ideas of the perfect American family, he kills them, adopts a new identity, finds another family to join, and starts the cycle anew.

The film was apparently based on a real-life story, with Donald E. Westlake, the hard-boiled detective novelist, having penned the screenplay. In my article, I highlight the “hard-boiled” aspects of the film, promoting them above its “horror” or “slasher” qualities -- partly because of Westlake’s involvement, but mostly because I saw the plot uncannily resembling a passage from Dashiell Hammett’s 1930 novel The Maltese Falcon.

The passage is an anecdote told by the protagonist, detective Sam Spade, to Brigid O’Shaughnessy, the book’s femme fatale. The anecdote, sometimes called “The Flitcraft Parable” by Hammett scholars, has nothing to do with the novel’s plot, but does afford some insight into Spade’s character. Hammett’s, too.

The story is about a man named Charles Flitcraft who works as a real estate agent in the northwest. One day Flitcraft goes to work and never comes home, and five years later Spade ends up getting tapped to try to find him. Nothing about Flitcraft had suggested that he would suddenly leave a good job, a loving wife, and his two children, so when Spade finally finds him living under a different name, working as a car salesman, and having started a new family, the detective is curious to learn why he did what he did.

Flitcraft tells Spade how on that day five years before he had been walking to lunch when he passed by a building under construction. A large beam suddenly fell on the sidewalk next to him -- a few feet over and he’d have been killed. Flitcraft experiences a sort of revelation, and at that moment decides all of his preconceptions about life and its meaning were invalid. So he takes off, but after a couple of years finds himself essentially living out the same life he had led before -- work, wife, children. “I don’t think he even knew had settled back naturally into the same groove he had jumped out of” before, speculates Spade.

To me, the parable has always stood as a provocative “existentialist”-type fable about how we tend to make meaning of our lives, but how that meaning-making gets affected by external influences, thus landing us over and over again into “the same groove.” The Flitcraft parable is given a murderous twist in The Stepfather, but I think a lot of the same existentialist questions are raised by the film, too. There are numerous other parallels between the anecdote and the film I mention in the essay as well, all of which help me make the case that the Hammett story might have provided some inspiration.

I also think the original film has a lot going for it in terms of how it problematizes the whole idea of so-called “traditional family values” -- a hot topic, politically, back in the late 80s and early 90s. In a footnote to my essay, I said I thought The Stepfather was much more interesting in the way it problematized that “ideal” vision of the family than did the much more popular Fatal Attraction (released later the same year), a movie which instead essentially reinforces the ideal.

Sorry to be so suggestive here and not explain fully my argument or this latter point, but I didn’t want to rewrite the entire essay. Check out that Onion A.V. Club article for more insights on the original Stepfather, and if you happen to find my Literature Film Quarterly article and read it, I’d love to hear whatever feedback you might have.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Flu plus Netflix subscription equals Film Chaw posting again!

I was felled by the flu a couple of weeks ago. So, naturally, I did what I always do in times of immobility and suffering, I watch lots and lots of movies.
Bad movies.
Bad. Gracie suggested that I sign up for Netflix so I could just stream movies straight to my computer.
Okay.
Sounds like a plan. The first movie I chose was:

The Passengers (2008) With Anne Hathaway, Patrick Wilson, Andre Braugher.
Fine, FINE, I ADMIT IT. I LIKE ANNE HATHAWAY! Enough with the torture. Please put down the waterboard. I have suffered enough. Mostly thanks to watching "The Passengers." This movie is dark. Seriously. Filmed in somebody's basement dark. Oh, also it's about a plane crash, so the subject matter is dark too. Here's the problem. There is too much "acting" required for this movie to work...particular with Anne Hathaway at the helm. She's more of a quirky physical comedy Princess Diaries/Bride Wars mishaps, pratfalls, love story kind of "actress." Get Smart is pretty much as far as she should ever go in a "serious" role direction. (Yup, hated that Rachel wedding movie. Poop.) So here she's a therapist charged with helping the survivors of a plane crash come to grips with their lives as plane crash victims. She then finds herself fighting with the creepy airline guy and then ON TOP of all that her patients start disappearing! Oh no! See what I did there? I made this movie sound exciting. Made you care. Worry even! Except it's not, you won't and you shouldn't. And then there's a whole twist at the end that just points and laughs at you for having sat there watching for two hours. Save yourself. It's too late for me.

After that mess of a movie, I decided to go in a daring exciting mysterious direction: Sci Fi! I picked a movie about time travel. I have this whole fantasy about time travel where I go back in time and help the Patriots win Superbowl 42. Or place a really big bet on the Giants. I go back and forth.

Primer (2004) starring and directed by Shane Carruth

I fell asleep after ten minutes. When I woke up, I put on the movie:

The Nines (2007) Directed by John August. With Ryan Reynolds, Melissa McCarthy, Hope Davis.

Yes, yes, I like Ryan Reynolds. I don't know how or when it happened, but I swear I used to mock him as the two guys, a girl and a pizza place guy and now...somehow I've seen all his movies. Go figure. But I hadn't seen this one. This movie is weird. But good weird. It's set up like Pulp Fiction, in that it has three, non consecutive stories that all come together in the end. Sort of. The first story is of a Hollywood actor (Reynolds) who goes out of control, with the drinking and driving and crack smoking, until he's put on house arrest. Hope Davis is the strange neighbor who tries to seduce him into breaking house arrest, while Melissa McCarthy is the funny tough-as-nails agent who tries to keep him on the straight and narrow. Or at the very least house arrest compliant. She loses the battle and he bolts from the house...the next story is of a TV writer (Reynolds) who designs a show for Melissa McCarthy - she plays herself as the Gilmore Girls star that she actually is in real life. Here, Hope Davis is a producer trying to get him to ditch the plump McCarthy for a thinner, more Hollywood pretty actress. Again, Davis wins the battle, but things don't quite work out for the writer... The last tale is of a husband (Reynolds) and his wife McCarthy and their little deaf daughter (the little sister of that famous little blond girl that's in everything). They are lost in the woods, the husband goes for help and he encounters...HOPE DAVIS! Crazy! Look, I said it was weird. But good weird.

So as I am streaming and watching the movies, I am also tweeting my Netflix adventure. When I come back from the Nines, I see all these messages mocking me for not finishing Primer and insinuating that I wasn't smart enough to understand it!
How. DARE. THEY?!!
This is where I should mention that I almost drowned when I was 7 cause some boy said boys were better swimmers than girls, and while I couldn't swim, I also couldn't let that stand. So I accepted the challenge, figuring I would run really fast along the bottom of the pool and beat him. Lifeguards fished me out about 6 minutes later as I gasped for air in the middle of the pool. Long story short I put back on that damn Primer movie! Ha! Doubt my intellectual prowess will you?

Primer (2004) starring and directed by Shane Carruth (Take Two)

So this movie is about four techie guys who sit around around trying to come up with a money making invention. One day, two of the four realize that some crap they invented for some other purpose would actually work to send them back in time! Huzzah. Then they proceed to do the most boring things ever done with the power to time travel in the history of stories about time travel. I'm NOT EVEN exaggerating A LITTLE. They do some stock market scam for a few thousand dollars, then decide it's wrong, so they try to go back in time to stop themselves from going back in time. Or at least that's one guy's plan, so the other guy has to go back in time to stop that guy from stopping them from going back in time. Dude. Kill me. This movie is horrible and dumb and like agreeing to a swim race when you can't swim, it will only end with your body floating in a pool. Or something. You want to watch a good movie about time travel? Two words: Back to the Future. (Shut up, everyone knows "to" and "the" don't count as words.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Spread (2009)

Spread is a film starring Ashton Kutcher and Anne Heche (among other lesser-known actors) about a Hollywood hustler and ladies man who comes face to face with his own hustler mortality. I first learned of the film through Howard Stern, who mentioned that it was surprisingly good. He also mentioned the abundant nudity, including some impressive full frontal nudity by Anne Heche (actually, not entirely "full", but a whole lot shown anyway). After watching the movie on my iTouch over the course of a week in 15-20 minute spurts (um, that's time units), I was actually very impressed. The movie has a fair bit of sexuality, but even moreso, it has some great acting by its principal cast, a surprisingly refreshing pace, and a strong story.

The film stars Ashton Kutcher, principally, and whereas he showed some acting chops in films like the Butterfly Effect, his acting reached a new level in Spread. He played a character that would seem like an easy fit: a would-be somebody who has resigned himself to hooking up with slightly older, successful women as sort of a long con to live the amazing lifestyle he wishes he could earn on his own. He also has left a trail of younger, naive L.A.-newbies in his wake, who he cons for sex by acting like the owner of the high-flying lifestyle he's conned off of the rich cougars.

We first meet Kutcher's character as he's working a party. By all appearances, he looks like a guy who has it all, but we learn quickly that he is homeless, as he decides to run a long con on Anne Heche's successful older woman to earn himself a bed, some new clothes, and an overall fantastic lifestyle. Kutcher's character narrates some of the aspects of the con, which adds both a clever styling to the film and an insight into what makes Kutcher's character tick.

After successfully infiltrating Heche's home, we get a decent amount of hot sex scenes. I never found Heche terribly attractive, but she's clearly aged well, and looks stunning as she enjoys her younger man. Heche has numerous nude scenes and all are more than impressive.

Of course, if that was all there was to the movie, there wouldn't be much. Kutcher's character meets a new love interest and the story takes a turn. Whereas it could easily seem out of character for Kutcher the hustler to suddenly change his ways, Kutcher handles it extremely well and takes you along his journey of change. I don't want to give too much away, because the way it plays out is rather interesting and surprising, and the ending does a nice job of wrapping up the story without being too "Hollywood" or forced. In fact, the ending in and of itself is a revelation, but that's all I feel comfortable saying.

If you are looking for a date movie, Spread is probably a good bet. There's Ashton Kutcher for the chicks, several naked chicks for the guys, a love story of sorts for the ladies, and several naked chicks for the guys. It'll also probably help set the mood. And if that doesn't work, there's always chloroform!

What's Important At Home?

I'm a bit of a tech lover. I'm not a first-adopter by any means. I'm quite content to let new technology go through a couple cycles to work out the kinks and lower the price before I jump in. But once I commit to adding to my technology hoard, I go for quality and value.

So over time I've built up my home theatre setup. Every time I upgrade something, I'm swept up in the excitement and start running through my movie collection.

My most recent purchase was a 50" plasma beauty. Speaking subjectively, the image produced isn't noticeably better than the 34" widescreen 1080i CRT I had in that place before, and standard-def TV is actually a touch worse at times, but it's bigger, and better-looking.

But the TV has never been what's impressed me the most in a setup - it's the sound.

I've had a 7.1 system for a while, but wasn't able to utilize it properly until early this year when I updated my receiver and added a Blu-ray player. And it was the biggest thing I noticed.

Same with friends who have sat on my couch to watch. They may politely comment on how great the picture looks, but in reality it's a minor step up from an upsampled DVD. No, the big moment is when something happens behind them and the right, or they snap their head to follow whatever the hell just shot across the room, or they feel the floor rumble as something goes boom.

And I can't count the number of times I look behind me to see what's going on in the kitchen during a baseball or hockey game, only to realize it's the guy behind the mic at the stadium clapping.

Yah, it's the audio that sells me on home entertainment. Theatres push their 17 speakers, but I find the surround aspect in a theatre gets lost in the space. At home, it's more intimate, and somehow more real. I'm not about to stop seeing the big sci-fi/action epics on the giant screen, but they hold a whole different appeal at home now.

So what's important to you at home? The big screen? The crisp picture? The solid colours? The sound? Or the fact you can pause to go to the bathroom and then refill your popcorn on the way back?

Friday, November 13, 2009

2012 -

Well... I just came back from watching 2012. I happened upon the movie by taking my 11 year old daughter and two of her friends to see Amelia. Fortunately, they are of age where "dad" isn't allowed to stay with them on nights out.

So why they watched Amelia, I went and saw 2012. By myself.

The first two hours lived up to all the hype. The special effects were awesome. The story line was believable. There was very serious, contemplative aspects to the plot. There was also very timely placed humor. All of which made for a very enjoyable movie.

Unfortunately, the film was 3 hours long. It was in this last hour that, for me, the movie fell apart. It became almost ridiculous. The goings on made it feel like a sci fi movie more than a human survival story.

All credibility in the film makers integrity was lost. It just seemed that they were reaching for an ending. An ending that would have been made a 100 x's better if everyone had just died. For me, the point of an end of the world movie is that the world ends. All of it. not just the earth itself, but all of it's inhabitants.

My recommendation? Must see. But not until you have nothing better to do on a rainy, boring, Saturday night in the dead of winter. Which is about how early I see this movie being released to DVD. My apologies to Goat for previous entries :)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Your Sporadic Dose Of Awesome

Let's be clear, here. The Beastie Boys' classic hit Sabotage makes everything better by a factor of 12.47.

Proof.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Character Interactions (XKCD)

You read XKCD, right? Why not?

Today's comic attempts to graph character interactions in movies. As usual, it has some of the funny in there. Especially if you've seen Primer.

Go forth and read!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!



For the month of October I've done a Halloweeny post each day. Here's the movie-related posts - none are reviews, just screen shots and some videos.

I hope everyone has a spooktacular Halloween! I'm off to the poker tables with Dawn Summers.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Blogrolling: The Film Experience

For this Monday's addition to the blogroll, I bring you the hardest working man in film blogdom: The Film Experience (Nathaniel R., proprietor).

Nathaniel is obsessed (along with his stable of contributors) with movies, Michelle Pfeiffer, actresses in general, and the Oscars, though not necessarily in that order. He's currently running an ongoing First/Last "guess the movie" series, where he posts an opening element (such as first line or first image) and a closing element, and invites you to guess in the comments. I'd guess that there aren't many out there more thoroughly embedded in what is being written out there about movies, so his links section is a wealth of interesting nuggets -- criticism, news, videos, services, and miscellanea -- for movie nuts. His end-of-year Film B*tch Awards are the most entertaining of their kind. And seriously, the Oscar prognostication stuff is legendary in its scope and magnitude.

Therefore, for ongoing and engaging conversation (and obsessive? maybe) commentary on the topic of movies, The Film Experience is in the FilmChaw must-read list. Welcome to the blogroll.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mad Movies - Friars Club Comedy Film Festival

The Friars Club Comedy Film Festival has long come and gone and work has pretty much gotten in the way of my reviews of the movies I watched. So I figured I'd cheat a bit and grab the descriptions from the film festival website and then just give my ratings. Most of these films won't get a major release so your chances of seeing some of them will probably be limited to Netflix. Not that big of a deal because of all of them, A Serious Man, is the only one I'd highly recommend.

A Serious Man

A Serious Man

A Serious Man is the story of an ordinary mans search for clarity in a universe where Jefferson Airplane is on the radio and F-Troop is on TV. It is 1967, and Larry Gopnik (Tony Award nominee Michael Stuhlbarg), a physics professor at a quiet Midwestern university, has just been informed by his wife Judith (Sari Lennick) that she is leaving him. She has fallen in love with one of his more pompous acquaintances, Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed), who seems to her a more substantial person than the feckless Larry. Larrys unemployable brother Arthur (Richard Kind) is sleeping on the couch, his son Danny (Aaron Wolff) is a discipline problem and a shirker at Hebrew school, and his daughter Sarah (Jessica McManus) is filching money from his wallet in order to save up for a nose job.

While his wife and Sy Ableman blithely make new domestic arrangements, and his brother becomes more and more of a burden, an anonymous hostile letter-writer is trying to sabotage Larrys chances for tenure at the university. Also, a graduate student seems to be trying to bribe him for a passing grade while at the same time threatening to sue him for defamation. Plus, the beautiful woman next door torments him by sunbathing nude. Struggling for equilibrium, Larry seeks advice from three different rabbis. Can anyone help him cope with his afflictions and become a righteous person -- a mensch -- a serious man?

This movie asks a lot of questions and if you are familiar with the Coen Brothers, you know they're not the best at answering questions. Darkly funny and visually beautiful like most Coen Brother films - I give this one 4 out of 5 slices.

4 slices

I've just picked up The Dude Abides The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers - I'll do a book review when I've finished with it.

Holy Water

Holy Water

Four bachelors in the Western Irish village of Killcoulin’s Leap, tired of women and life passing them by, decide to make their fortune the old-fashioned way - by stealing it. But when their simple plan goes awry, the sleepy town awakes to find itself the center of an international story, descended upon by reporters, police and a hard-charging American S.W.A.T. team led by a tireless boss (Linda Hamilton). The men scramble to cover their tracks in a town where no one’s business is private but find that once the town basks in the limelight, there might not be any turning back.

A fun Irish caper film (a la Waking Ned Devine). What can I say, I like Irish men so I enjoyed this film. I've given it 3 out of 5 slices. Also, it won the award for the best feature film at the festival.

3 slices


Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Undead

Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Undead

Julian Marsh (Jake Hoffman) is an out of work ladies' man living in his dad's medical office. Forced to find a job, he begins directing a bizarre off-Broadway adaptation of Hamlet. When his best friend Vince and his ex-girlfriend Anna (Devon Aoki) are cast as Hamlet and Ophelia, Julian sees a chance to win her back from her new lover, a rich, sleazy tycoon with reputed links to the mob. Instead, Anna falls for the playwright, Theo Horace, a suave, but pale Romanian. When Vince mysteriously dies, Julian is approached by a secret society with an incredible story: Theo's play is actually his autobiography. He is a 2000-year-old master vampire, obsessed with destroying the Holy Grail, which the secret society is charged with protecting.

Fun indie flick - I give it 3 out of 5 slices. During this film I sat a couple of seats behind Sean Lennon, who wrote the music for the film. This is the closest I will ever get to The Beatles. Also, they had goodie bags for us which included a t-shirt, which I'm not going to wear. If you live in the US and would like to have this t-shirt (size M), email me at madloona at gmail.com. First person to do so gets the shirt.

3 slices


Serious Moonlight

Serious Moonlight

After she arrives at her country home for a romantic weekend getaway, things don't go exactly as planned for high-powered Manhattan lawyer Louise (Meg Ryan). First, her husband of 13 years, Ian (Timothy Hutton), tells her that he's leaving her for a younger woman (Kristen Bell). Then, one thing leads to another, and pretty soon Ian finds himself held captive by an oddly cool Louise who explains that she won't release him until he professes his love for her and commits to working on their marriage. And that's when things REALLY start to go wrong. The unexpected arrival of an opportunistic young gardener (Justin Long) and Ian's impatient mistress only serve to complicate the crisis even further, while somehow forcing Louise and Ian to reckon with their past and realistically deal with their future.

Ugh ugh ugh. I'm being generous when I give this 2 slices. I wanted to like this movie - it was written by Adrienne Shelly (writer and director of Waitress and who was tragically killed in 2006) and directed by Cheryl Hines - but I guess I'm just not suited for romantic comedies. I can't believe imdb has a rating of 8.6. Ugh.

2 slices


Artois the Goat

Artois the Goat

Lab technician Virgil Gurdies embarks on an epic quest to create the greatest goat cheese the world has ever known, and reclaim the heart of his beloved Angie. A felonious German baker, a grave-digging hermit, and a tiny white goat color this journey of love, destiny and dairy products.

The goats were cute. I don't like cheese (except for mild varieties that are melted) so I was glad this movie did not come with Polyesters' Smell-O-Vision cards.

Anyway, if you like cheese, goats and fake German accents, then add it to your Netflix queue. My rating - 2.5 out of 5 slices.

2 slices


Miracle Investigators

Miracle Investigators

Veteran miracle investigator Father Dominic and his rookie partner, Father Justin, determine the authenticity of miracles and bust the spiritual criminals who dare disagree. But this time they're up against forces that even they haven't seen before, and Dominic and Justin will have to work together if they're going to solve their toughest case yet...

I loved this short. Nothing like seeing some priests kicking ass martial arts-style so this one rated 4 out of 5 slices. I tried to find it online but no luck - there is a trailer on their website.

4 slices

If you are truly bored here's a link to my photos from the opening night of the film festival.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Blogrolling: Deep Focus

For this week's blogrolling entry, I bring you the film criticism stylings of Bryant Fraser, whose site-turned-blog-turned-site has been keeping it real for at least ten years already. Fraser's MO is to write long, thoughtful pieces (you rarely get a one-paragrapher from this guy) about a few movies a month, with a fairly equal mix between first-run films and older classics.

Enjoy. Deep Focus.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Monsters Vs. Aliens

* *

The monsters were the winners.

The losers were the aliens. And me.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Hawk is Dying (2006)

This is a gem I found flipping through the channels one night. I had never heard or read anything about it, but knowing that Paul Giamatti played the lead character, I was motivated to watch.

I think Giamatti is a genius. His depictions of characters that he has played has gone beyond expectations for me and I always appreciate his ability to totally elevate a film.

Anywho, Hawk is a story about a guy who lives in Florida and delves into Falconry which becomes an obsession. Obsessions are usually not healthy, but in this story it helps him deal with a tragedy. A tragedy which is not the motivator for his obsession, but one which turns it from hobby to obsession.

They way he deals becomes an issue with those closest to him and on the surface you almost start to think that he is crazy. A lesser actor may not have been able to pull this off and leave the viewer in a state of frustration and boredom.

Giamatti's performance is underscored by his ability to convince you that his struggle would be unbearable without delving into his passion. Not only as a distraction but as a sort of therapy. He does this not only through words, but by action. His obsession transcends his initial attempt to avert boredom and the mundane and becomes a vehicle to cope with the issues so seemingly missed by others in his life, surrounding the tragedy. This seems to be more of a struggle for him than the actual loss they all experience, although you see him move from frustration, anger, and sadness as he tries to deal, and figure out what really is at issue.









Michelle Williams also stars as a psychology student. I won't give too much away , but this film is beautifully shot allowing you to experience the emotions through a wonderful character.

This is definitely a film worth your time.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Brazil


* * * * *

Written in 2004 and not updated for 2009 because I am lazy. Brazil is still a masterpiece. George Orwell's seminal distopian novel "1984" still weighs heavily on our collective minds. It can hardly help it by now, having deposited numerous words into the collective lexicon – most notably "Big Brother" (signifying a highly intrusive, personally invasive, and politically omnipotent authority figure) and "doublespeak" (signifying . . . well, just listen to any politician, really. For a fine example, listen to George Bush explain this week's reason(s) we actually went into Iraq). Orwell's novel continues to be a valuable warning to those who value human liberty and dignity, yet the details of the story seem less and less apt the further the actual year 1984 sinks into the fuzzy past. What had been, to the author, some random future time has now become two decades outmoded, and the drab gray sameness of a totalitarian socialist planet seems less and less likely in our post-Cold War global society.

Which brings us to Terry Gilliam's own distopian masterpiece, Brazil. Released one year after Orwell's chosen date; this is brilliant film in its own right, but it can also easily be viewed as a pungent revision of the late author's premonitory notions, a "1984" for the post-"1984" set, if you will. Set in an unspecified random future time (2024, let's say), this is a vision of a world in which humanity has been superceded not by a totalitarian socialist regime, but by a totalitarian capitalist one. What's interesting is how similar the two visions become in the end; the only real difference is that the people seem less aware of their enslavement in Gilliam's world, anesthetized as they are by creature comforts, by TV, by wealth, by plastic surgery, by fashion. Meanwhile, the gears of bureaucracy just keep grinding up humanity with a regularity just dull enough to make it seem natural. The disturbance of stormtroopers that burst in through the ceiling to kill neighbors, or into the shopping mall to 'disappear' malcontents, are a necessary price to pay. You see, there are terrorists out there; the general populace is quite terrified of them, and they are more than willing enough to allow any government-sponsored injustice to occur as long as it keep them away – and just so long as the injustice is discreet, and doesn't stand in the way of consumer spending. The slogans of this world are "We're All in This Together", and "Suspicion Breeds Confidence". Everything – everything – exists in a large central database. And brother, if it isn't in the database, and filed on paper in triplicate, in proper form, than it don't exist.

The greatness of Brazil is that Gilliam gets all the important details just right, like the way his surreal fillips make this off-kilter environment not seem so bad during the first reel - the better to jar you from your complacency when the horrifying and tragic occurs. Our hero is Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce), and he's plenty complacent when he comes to a housing project to deliver a reimbursement check to the widow of wrongfully-murdered Harry Buttle. A bug was smashed onto the printout ordering the capture and murder of the 'terrorist' Harry Tuttle, you see. Typos can be costly. Sam feels like he's doing a good thing. He's really putting himself out there to deliver the check, plus he's solving a paperwork nightmare for his pathologically helpless boss (Iam Holm, excellent as always). The whole thing has been fairly lighthearted, a little warped, kind of funny.

The Widow Buttle is staring, catatonic, out the window when he arrives. She looks dumbly at the check. Then she whispers: "What have you done with his body?"

Sam, confused, isn't sure what to say. This is more a paperwork muddle to him. The idea of a body hasn't really occurred to him (or to us). He mutters some platitudes, but is cut short when she unleashes one of the most raw and anguished lines in cinematic history: "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH HIS BODY?", then collapses in horrible, racking sobs. Just like that the gears are shifted. Gilliam's garish wallpaper is ripped away, and the rot in the ductwork behind the drywall is fully exposed.

Sam runs away from this; he's not your traditional hero. Ineffectual, deluded, at turns self-satisfied and self-loathing, his only redeeming feature is that he wants nothing to do with his world, he only wants to escape into his dreams, where he imagines himself an armored hero flying through the clouds, saving his one true love. When the Buttle's upstairs neighbor turns out to be his (literal) dream girl, it draws him deep into the heart of the machine. The machine is full of plenty of Gilliamesque tomfoolery, of course, as befits the gonzo animator for Monty Python – a particularly funny moment involves two men in different offices who fight over the desk that they 'share' – but Mrs. Buttle's barbaric howl echoes down these Kafkaesque corridors, and finally catches up to Sam, as another tragic scream is suddenly silenced. Ultimately, Gilliam's vision is more optimistic than Orwell's. 'They' got all of Winston's mind, but Sam is ultimately able to find some small escape – though I hesitate to tag as 'optimistic' an ending that suggests that only in his dreams can a man be free.

For a nearly twenty-year old movie to reflect the times -- right down to the state-sanctioned torture justified by anti-terror -- so distinctly is an eerie sensation. For it to be done with such style and nerve in astonishing. I'd say that this is one of the greatest films of its decade, but it feels more like it belongs to ours.

Addendum to 2012 Debate From jjok

Artistry and entertainment play a large role in deciding if a movie is worth it.


Me?


Show me the tits.


Till next time, make all your movies have boobs


-jjok(link yerself mofos)

Good Christ!

No offense meant in the title to any of you bible thumpers out there or fellow hypocritical Catholics.

My point in the previous post that has caused such debate was missed... and invalid really because in all honesty I never really read past the first line in Goats original post. Heck, I might not have even read past the title.

However, given it's due course (the retort that is), I think it's funny the response posts to this little "spat" in movie blogging land.

Let's take some cold hard facts first and put them into perspective.

1) Movies don't always have to be entertaining to be watch worthy. It's all about the viewer really and their tastes, their wants, and their needs for that matter.

2) Not everyone will agree on what movie makers should value most. Artistic integrity, special effects, current day plot themes, adhering to historical facts, developing characters, whatever.

3) Movies fall into categories - Dramas, comedies, Thrillers, horror films, and animated films.

4) Fuel is gay (If you don't know this one, take my word for it. It's a fact)

My response (after admittedly reading line one, possibly only the title) to Goats original post was purely based on angst that my thought was this wasn't only a personal blog for contributors to spew their thoughts and feelings on movies for themselves, but as a medium to suggest films to the readership. That being said, his thoughts as he put them down on virtual paper were merely quick and decided as if to say, this particular movie wouldn't be worth your time. As seen from his perspective based on what he likes and values in a film. That's not really fair to him, and I apologize. You Pric.

However, to me that's just pure vanity. For there are people out there that will like to see this film for what it is. Pure destruction utilizing a current day plot theme, the best in special effects, and some really cool action. It will deliver what it promises. Yes, I am still pointing the finger at Goat because it works to blame someone for my post. :)

Mr. Crim writes a post, I guess trying to be humorous and witty about this whole thing not really saying anything at all. The only part I did take out of it was his "Why this movie will be different" section.

He states that it will get people thinking. Um... No... it won't. People are already thinking, and it will take all thought out of this process for them. They aren't thinking if the world will end. Most are sane people ensconced in reality. One persons vision on HOW the possibility of the world ending would happen is very cool though. See the viewer won't have to think about it. They won't have to use their own imagination and dream up ways of how this might go. They will go to the movies and see how others view it. In a very entertaining and spectacular way.

Then he writes a disclaimer that you if you don't know what he was trying to get at, he did his job. Just like you will be when you walk out of that movie.

*SIGH

Um... NO.... again. See this movie isn't meant to stimulate your intellect. It's not meant to get you thinking about conspiracy theories or possible ways civilization will continue on after a global event. It's meant to get your ass to pay $12, sit down with a $10 tub of popcorn, and watch the destruction of earth in a very cool and awesome way. That's it. There will be no dialogue worthy of Oscars, there will be no scenes showing undying love and sacrifice. It will be one big joke of a plot line trying to bring you to the most awesome scenes of the depiction of the end of times.

My guess is you'll be walking out the movie theater going, "HOLY SHIT! Did you see that wave!!!" w00t!" while picking popcorn and skittles out of your teeth and drying the spilled coke off of your Texas Longhorns sweatshirt with a napkin.

HOP writes about integrity. he kinda takes both sides in his argument, (stupid lawyers [*ducks]) and delves into something about integrity. My disclaimer is that I really didn't read all of his post either. I'm into speed reading now and miss alot of pertinent points (*ducks again) but I did think I picked up on his disappointment in lack of film integrity. Let me tell you, the only integrity this film will need is that of making sure the viewer gets everything they expect from this film. That is to suggest the most awesomest way something and anything can be destroyed!

That, is why this movie will be a success. People don't care about the end of the world because deep in the back of their heads, they know, or at least hope, that it can't happen during their lifetime. We've been disappointed so many times before.

A movie like this can only do one thing. Bring you to a reality of how one person (or a team of persons) can depict on screen an event that you can't fathom happening. See? No thought required.

Now go out and earn that $12 so you can be entertained

Locked out from Duey's Vaults 001: Your total will be $20.12. (Not including tips)

Since I lost my key to the vaults, I won't have any movie to review this time around. What better than to jump in on this 2012 war!!! Why should we end this war now when we, along with govts, know that wars make money!!? We have a major opportunity to get this blog off the ground. Lets go people!!

There is a message in this blog somewhere. I won't give it to you directly. If I did, this post wouldn't have any "artistic and/or intellectual value". We saw both sides of the argument. We heard from the height and we heard from the width. My side to this argument? My side of this argument will be the volume side........but with no depth whatsoever. Strictly the entertaining side. Be patient........... be very very, patient.

My Not So Key Points

1. Why make movies at all when we are all gonna die anyway in 2012?

2. I have never seen 2012. I have never seen a movie with John Cusack(Yes i have). I have never seen a movie by Roland Emmerich. I have never heard of Roland Emmerich(Yes, I have...but it doesn't help my argument.) But what I do know, is that people in the 13-18 age group already think this movie is awesome....therefore.......I already know the movie sucks ass.

3. You all really think I want to watch my state of Colliefornia crumble into the ocean instead of crumble economically!!!?

4.Truth is now stranger than fiction. Why are we watching movies? I'll answer that with another question. Doesn't it seem like that these days a fantasy movie would consist of a normal family, doing normal things, eating normal food, and making normal wages and not have so much death and destruction?.

And Apparently Humor Can be Mistaken for Anger

I can't even get through my own post without reading it and realizing it comes off as very stand-offish and angry. Wow I need to cool down. Here's an action clip to help us relax.


Ahhh....... who cares what they were chasing or doing or killing. It made me feel good. I feel better. Action scenes make us feel good. Don't they? Like Porno? Maybe movies like 2012 are the pornos of intellectual artistic films, no?

Why this movie is different

This movie is different because its actually getting people thinking. What the hell IS going on? 2012 is only 3 yrs away. And alot of smelly stuff seems to be hitting the fan. Y2k was a prophecy that someone came up with....3 months before it happened. Look what happened with the freaking out there. 2012 prophecies have been around for thousands of years...like...longer than the bible. People are freaking out...but on the inside. No one knows exactly for sure why they are freaking out or why they suddenly twitch when 2012 is mentioned in the mainstream media. I'm only 28 yrs old and I remember a time people were labeled just a little loony to be talking about that wacky tobaccy.

So will the movie 2012 be the warning that actually prevents 2012 from happening?? Hahaha thats so funny!! What a stupid time paradox that could be!! But guess what........It's not.

You know why? Because just like The Day After Tomorrow, the shit just happens. No one knows why. No one can do anything about it. The earth decides one day to just kill everything and we are in the way. Maybe they could of came up with something that we could prevent in 2012. But I'm sure Roland just has the characters wake up one day and everything is going crazy!!

"OMG its 2012!!"

"I know man...we knew all this stuff was gonna happen"

"I know, I know!!!! 2012 man!!!"

"Yeah man...we've been warned for thousands of years man!"

"CRAZY!!!! So why didn't we stop it if we were warned?"

"Dude, cause the Govt knew nothing about it."

"Well it's not like any of us...tried...to do anything about it."

" Well the....dude...my sister had her wedding this week. I was busy getting all the kinks ironed out and I had a couple back payments on the credit card I had to work off."


Disclaimer:
You have reached the end of this post. If you don't get the point of what I was trying to say....that was the point I was aiming for. How you feel right now is how you will feel after watching 2012. No matter how cool the "graphics" are, or how good the actors "act", you will still be scratching your head when you walk out the theater.

For some extra reading material on fate and time paradoxes read this interesting article on the Large Hadron Collider.




Monday, October 12, 2009

The Great Debate of 2012

If you've been following along here at FilmChaw, you'd know that Julius Goat wrote a post on the absurd filmmaking shown in the recently-released trailer for the John Cusack movie, 2012. Riggstad recently responded by making the point that the film is not meant to be intellectually stimulating, but rather as a money maker.

This all goes back to the question of whether films should have intrinsic artistic value or if it is acceptable to make a movie for the sole purpose of making money. That question can be posed to the actors, the screenwriters, the studios, the directors, etc.

Riggs is correct that not all movies have to be intellectually stimulating, but I do think that films should have some intrinsic artistic value, even if that value is in being a broad comedy or a mindless disaster flick.

All that said, there is a huge leap from "making a blockbuster studio movie" to making a movie solely because of money. And it isn't really about money, anyway. It's about integrity.

For instance, as a blogger or blog reader, we all know blogs that have content that actually adds something to the blogosphere, whether it be insightful or personal or trivial, it is at least entertaining. But there are other blogs that are really just advertisements or actually post advertisements as content. To suggest that it is wrong to parce out a worthwhile blog filled with content and a blog filled with just advertisements is absurd. The same is true for movie: there is value in movies that serve a purpose whether it is to advance a viewpoint, make someone laugh, or help the audience escape from their mundane existence; there is much less value (if any) in soulless films that are merely there to make a buck.

Now, of course, art is subjective. I am a comic book geek but couldn't stand Transformers and have as of today not seen Transformers 2. Transformers to me was complete claptrap. It was all CGI and explosions with poor writing and worse acting. Even the robots sucked. So to me, Transformers was a worthless film, clearly made merely for money. But someone else may've seen the film as a thrill ride, and in that context may have found the film worthwhile. But could either of us rightly argue that the only thing that mattered was how much money the film made? I suppose we could argue that if we were discussing the economics of the film industry and filmmaking, but what we are really hopefully discussing is the content.

I'm with the Goat. 2012 looks like a mess. It might be really entertaining or have some real insights, but I wouldn't bet on it. That trailer says a lot. It shows that its a movie about the destruction and not the characters. Now, CGI development can, in a way, be its own value. Think of Jurassic Park. That really advanced the CGI technology and got accolades, some of which were unwarranted, as a result. But the CGI in 2012 has been done before in films by 2012's director, Roland Emmerich. He's the same guy who produced the disaster flick (with a terrible story) The Day After Tomorrow, mega-box-office-bomb Godzilla, and even Independence Day (a film that fits into that CGI development group with Jurassic Park - great effects that make the movie, terrible story and acting).

I should also add that 2012 is in no way certain to be a box office smash. In fact, I expect it to fail pretty miserably based on the public's reaction to the film so far. Goat isn't the only guy slamming the absurd trailer. There is also a lot of backlash since the disaster porn seems to intentionally reference 9/11 in a way that makes people uncomfortable. John Cusack is hardly a big time draw at the box office, so I expect this film to probably lose money, given its probable bloated budget.

Jump in on the fun. It's not just about 2012, but whether films should have intrinsic artistic value. Think about the biggest blockbusters that were clearly made for money. Do some have intrinsic value and others are clearly just a moneymaking scheme? (I'm looking at you, most sequeals). In the end, both Goat and Rigg are correct, but they are arguing two very different things. A film can be a good financial move for a studio, but that does not mean that it should be held on a pedestal. Because in the end, isn't film really just art. It might be pop art or indie art, dark and forboding or light and carefree, but its meant to be shared and enjoyed with a group of people, and that, to me, means that it should have some value other than the ability to get people to pay $10 at the theatre.

Like Movies actually have to have some sort of "talent" to be entertaining - SHEESH!

I read a recent review here and laughed a little. Actually I rolled on the floor, and once idle in the prone position hit the floor with wide gaping slams of both fists because I couldn't take the laughter. Yes, it was that bad... or good.

What I am referring to is Goats destruction of 2012 starring John Cusack. I mean, he starts his post out with "the upcoming terrible movie 2012". He hasn't even seen it yet. That's what makes me laugh. I know, vague... but I'll get to that.

I get that there are those of you out there with some sort of inclination that movie going must stimulate the intellect and give you some sort of material to spew among pages (such as this blog) your thoughts so that others may see you as intelligent. But some movies aren't made for that. Some movies are made to make money (actually all of them), and you aren't a better person because you won't see it. It doesn't make you smarter, and it certainly doesn't separate you, intellectually, from others either.

Spouting off in comments that you can't wait to "not see this" is pretty effing stupid as well. It's almost as if you are accusing others who do want to see it of being dumb. The bottom line is this movie will be a huge block buster. It won't matter how stupid the premise is. It won't matter how bad the acting is, and it certainly won't matter how much you think the actors have sold out.

The bottom line is, it's a genius movie. Here's why. One, the movie makes no assumption that it's an academy award winner. It's a mindless stream of special effects chronicling the demise of human civilization based on current events and the history of the Mayan calendar. Of course it's supposed to be STUPID. Everyone is interested in how the world ends. It's been like that forever. Every generation has their apocalyptic scenarios. This alone will ensure masses of the population, world wide, will plop down $12 to go see this ridiculous movie. I know I will. Cuz I love this type of shit. Destruction by waves, planes flying through buildings that seem to keep getting higher right before they fall. California falling into the Pacific. Mindless action at it's best. I especially like the Woody Harrelson part where he plays the "I told you so" nut case.

The story behind the plot is mind numbing (in a bad way). That is some organization that eludes to the fact that they know this is going to happen. The government knows about this as well and have decided to do nothing about it. Pure Genius. Or not. See the purpose of this movie is not to stimulate your intellect or make you think about life, or even impress upon you the jewels within humanity by utilizing a character with downs syndrome. The redemption in this movie isn't strung together by some war hero coming home and realizing that it wasn't his fault. The purpose is to make money. The genius part is by exploiting something that everyone is thinking about, that everyone is reading about, and that everyone is watching. Yes, watching. The history channel, Nat Geo, Discovery channel, they all have multiple shows on this "phenomenon" getting ratings that would make fox news green with envy when they air.

So the studios, in their efforts to make the stock holders happy, must put out a movie like this. It's really a no brainer. Please tell me you aren't that shallow, that intellectually snobbish to tear at people for going to see this film.

My point is, you can't critique anything on something that it's makers had no intention on providing. Now, if you want to do that, let's make a comparison.

2012: Seeking Closure is a movie in production. Again, this movie is about the end of the world based on the Mayans prediction that the world ends on December 21, 2012. But this movie goes about it by chronicling several stories of personal anguish and how they go about rectifying their issues before the world ends. Here's a clip:






I don't have much information to go on with this movie because it is still in production but I think its intent is clear. That is, to provide a movie that details how people will find redemption and peace in their lives with their loved ones and themselves BECAUSE the world is ending.

If you want to rip that one, go ahead. Of course I'm not sure that you can. I will, because who the f%@# cares about how you are feeling, or how you are going to find redemption. I mean JESUS, the world is ending. How gay is that plot line? Let me live like a douchebag, and then FINALLY decide to do something about it cause I have to. No more "pity me, need me, love me in all my imperfect ways". The bottom line is, if the world is ending, I'm all about finding a way to survive. I think most humans will be that way, and the fact that you gave me the clap, or failed to show up at a meeting because you were snorting a line will seem pretty goddamn irrelevant.

Don't judge Q-sack for being a sell out. His recent past in movie making hasn't been stellar. My guess is he's looking for a pay day. I for one will be helping with that cause.


Authors note: I get why the Goat made his post, and I am not ripping his opinion. Just poking fun at some hypocrisy because I know Orville Redenbacher will increase sales as he rents this movie On Demand or via netflix over and over and over again. :)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Blogrolling: The Man Who Viewed Too Much

I think it's time we started linking to the larger filmosphere around here. There's a true wealth of film criticism laboring out there, practically unsung, and doing marvelous work on behalf of movies as art.

I'm going to start with a guy who actually "made it", as much as you can "make it", in the world of movie blogging. As The Man Who Viewed Too Much, Mike D'Angelo has been reviewing movies online now since the mid-nineties, back when "Teh Internets" was "The Information Superhighway." He got noticed, he wrote for Entertainment Weekly, he wrote for Esquire, and these days he can be found on the Onion's AV Club.

His site's a bit frustrating (since he actually is the rare bird who gets paid professionally to do this, his stuff gets linked to his various employers, who's constant reshuffling makes for many broken links), but he's got a strong voice, stronger opinions, and a very clear, thought-provoking writing style. I'm a fan. Oh, and he's a poker player. Every once in a while, that leaks out -- like the time he played Phil Hellmuth.

He also keeps up a blog, Listen Eggroll, where he holds forth on stuff, primarily to bring us updates on the Skandies, a long-running poll of like minded cinephiles, online and otherwise, to determine best-of-year awards for performance, direction, acting, etc. It goes twenty deep, so it can spread the love further than your average critic's award shin-dig. Over the years, I've found the Skandies to be a far better indicator of quality than the Oscars. If it is highly rated in the Skandies, in other words, seek it out.

Right now, they are counting down the top 20 of the decade, as well as performances. So check it out and count down through the week.

11. Before Sunset
12. Silent Light
13. Kill Bill, Volume 1
14. The Werkmeister Harmonies
15. Irreversible
16. Zodiac
17. Ghost World
18. The Man Who Wasn't There
19. Trouble Every Day
20. Gerry

I love this list so much, because (1) it reminds me of little-lauded movies (like Gerry) that I greatly admired and had nearly forgotten, and (2) there are movies on here I've never seen and wouldn't consider if not for this list. My odds of seeing The Werkmeister Harmonies, for instance, just increased by 873%.

I'll try to grow this by one a week.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

TIFF Review - Mother

So TIFF has been over for weeks now, and I'm just wrapping up my reviews. Perhaps it was burnout, or a busy schedule. Or maybe it was that my final two films didn't wow me enough to get the word out as quickly as possible. Likely, it was a combination of all these factors.

Mother (Madeo) is the latest from director Bong Joon-Ho, who brought us The Host a couple years ago. Where his previous film was about a giant tadpole terrorizing a dysfunctional Korean family, this effort focuses on a murder's effect on a mother and son.

Do-joon is a man-child. A young man with a slight mental disability, he's lived under his mother's skirt his entire life. She constantly watches over him, to the point where he has grown annoyed with her overprotective nature and starts lashing out.

A murder in a small town always creates interest. Leaving the body for all to see is obviously the product of a depraved mind. But could Do-joon really have done it? Or is he just an easy target who was in the wrong place at the wrong time? The police believe the case closed, but his mother refuses to accept that her son could be guilty. She sets out to prove his innocence, with the entire town against her.

As with any murder mystery, everything is not as it seems. Secrets about the murdered girl come to light, unknown witnesses are revealed, and red herrings are thrown to the audience and then dismissed.

I found myself frequently wondering where the movie was going. Joon-Ho's choices make him seem like a novice revisiting familiar clichés that interrupt the flow of the story. Suspects become allies, friends become adversaries, and the path of investigation takes some confusing turns. The attempt to show a mother unravelling swings between working and overreaching. The moments of tension and intelligence were sometimes offset by periods of apathy. I grew increasingly disappointed as the movie progressed.

Until the end.

The story takes an unexpected series of turns, well hidden by the familiarity that had so bothered me to that point. How far will a mother go to prove her son's innocence? Does guilt from past misdeeds lead to perpetual overcompensation? At what price does freedom come?

Mother could benefit from some further editing to improve its pacing. The final payoff, however, is worth the minor inconvenience of the flawed moments. Certainly not my favourite of the fest, but I don't regret having chosen it.

Set The Controls For The Center of the Dumb

I've seen it now. Extended clips from the upcoming terrible movie, 2012, which is about the end of the world and will make 13 billion dollars. I'm sad to report that John Cusack, who is often awesome, has lent his likeness to this obvious steamer of a movie. I refuse to believe it's him. I'm assuming it is a CGI construct made of leftover Cusack parts, and that's why he looks like he's sort of melted a little. Let's just call him Q-Sack, OK?

Here's the clip:



So, here is the ground is sinking very fast into . . . I don't know, nothing? Something? It's sinking. And it's sinking exactly as fast as a limo can drive. Because they are in a limo. Outrunning the earth collapsing. Which is chasing them. Don't blame me, I didn't do this to you. It's all in the clip there. Then a building collapses in front of them. So they drive the limo through the building. The Q-Sack has rented an airplane, which is still being held for him even though its the end of the world, because let's not pursue that line of reasoning please, and luckily his ex-wife's husband (who will for sure die a Heroic Death® so that Q-Sack can be Reunited With His Family®) knows how to fly. Sort of. He's a flight student.

They fly away from the collapsing earth just as Call-ee-for-nee-ah collapses into the ocean. And there they are, in a little two-prop, flying over the new ocean, which extends for . . . I don't know. Forever?

They breath a sigh of relief. (Phew! We're alive for the next however long this thing can go on however much gas it has!) Your brain eats a sad pie made of pixels and illogic and dies, huddled in the corner like a poisoned labradoodle. You can't expect less, because this is from the "filmmakers" that brought you that turd biscuit "Godzilla" and tried to convince you that an iMac could quickly and easily install a computer virus into an alien spaceship. So now we get to figure out how Q-Sack and family actually survive this planetary cataclysm.

And yes, it's a planetary event. Because in the trailer? The monk who is ringing the gong gets eaten by the Mountain of CGI Water. That would be the Himalayas, which is only the highest point of elevation on earth. If THAT is underwater, then . . . um . . . physics. So really, unless you are capable of flight to another inhabitable planet in that two-prop, who are you fooling, Q-Sack? Who? Who?

This is it, Pollock. It's done it. It's broken through. It's what all the other spectacle movies have been moving toward. It's the apotheosis of The Big Dumb.

It's "Explosion! The Movie", from the makers of "Fart! The Movie" and "Skinny Man Pretends to Be Fat Old Woman! The Movie" and "Punchline You Recognize From Another Movie! The Movie" and "Die Hard on a Die Hard."

Honestly, I don't mind big flashy entertainment, but just try. TRY. Try to make sense, just a little, Hollywood. Just because you can write a movie on an Etch-a-Sketch doesn't mean that you should.

Monday, October 5, 2009

TIFF Review - Kamui

The Legend of Kamui is a classic Manga from the 1960's and 70's. Yoichi Sai has brought the first of these tales to the screen in Kamui.

The tale is of Kamui, a low-born ninja in the days of feudal Japan who grows tired of being forced to kill women and children as ordered by his clan. He seeks to escape, but to escape the ninja is to die. While on the run, he encounters a fisherman who has committed a crime against the local Lord. Together they escape to the fisherman's village by the sea.

Kamui softens as he gets to know the local people, and discovers a secret that one of them has hidden for years. The fisherman's wife is aware of where Kamui comes from, and fears the destruction he could bring to their lives.

I suppose it's obvious by now I didn't really care much about the plot. I chose this for one reason - Ninjas. That automatically gives this a leg up on non-ninja movies. These aren't your dad's ninjas though. Black face masks and strings with poison running down them aren't particularly common here. No, the ninja in this tale are more akin to mercenaries and rogues, following the laws of their clan. All the ninja are outcasts from society. They still kick ass in several ways however.

Sadly, the choice to go with computer assistance in the fighting effects is a detriment here. The director is a big fan of the big-budget American effects films, and was hoping to replicate them here. But the effects are amateurish in comparison. Where Hollywood's nearly passed the uncanny valley in CG action scenes, this movie is rife with distorted figures and overly-fake attempts at realism.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon visualized fantastical martial arts with wires and grace, but Kamui uses cut-and-paste layers and odd warping of people to simulate jumps and landings. The sharks (yah, ninjas AND sharks... and pirates too for that matter) look particularly shiny and seem to change size as needed. It might have benefited from a more artistic take on these scenes. If you can't afford CG or wire-work that doesn't distract from the film, then you should go whole-hog. Animated fight scenes, trick editing and camera work, any number of alternate methods could have been used.

That said, when the fight scenes DO work, they work fairly well.

Yoichi Sai commented that he refuses to alter his movies for North American audiences. This is obvious from the painfully typical overacting I've seen in other Japanese films. There's always the "ugly" guy trying to win the affections of a girl, and he's often portrayed as seemingly autistic. In this case, the character fits the mold as usual. The other incredibly obvious trope is the overdone temper tantrums. For minimal reasons, fully grown people will start flailing and stomping like a petulant child, and storming off like a 10 year-old in a school play pretending to be angry. The conniving Lord's wife is a mess of sneers and evil grins that are comical in their execution. Subtlety is reserved for the stars as they stand stoically determining what path they'll take, and the main players actually seem capable of acting without overacting.

Kamui is a decent movie, but the worst of the fest for me so far. It's funny at times, the fights are solid, and would have been quite impressive if they didn't rely on bad CG so much, and the story is easy enough to follow. The central figures are all well done, but are handicapped by the overzealous and poorly-acted third-tier characters. It could have been so much more though if the director had picked one direction or the other instead of going halfway. If you lack the budget for FX, and you're going to have performances that could be melted into a nice fondue, then you should throw away ideas of big-budget worldwide success and make a fun movie that revels in its flaws instead of pretending they're perfectly acceptable, therefore accentuating them.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Squid And The Whale, The

* * *

Jeff Daniels gives one of the best performances of his career as Bernard Berkman, a New York intellectualist, former literary golden boy gone to seed, and goldurn paterfamilius of a rapidly disintegrating family in this merciless bildungsroman from writer/director Noah Baumbach. Watching the parents (Laura Linney plays mother Joan) divide their children up like prized furniture is bracing enough without the knowledge that they are based not-so-loosely on Baumbach's real family. It's sort of hard to imagine what sort of dark chunks of pysche this fellow had to dredge out to bring such a sharply-realized vision to life, and impossible to think what it would have been like to be the parents in question watching this film -- if indeed they watched it. (I don't know about Baumbach's real father, but it's easy to see Daniels' Bernard nodding sagely through his thicket of whiskers and damning it with faint praise by way of passive-agressive defense). Few movies have so incisively shown the corrosive effects of self-regard. What's not clear is what it is all in service of. Divorce sucks. Selfish monsters make bad parents. And? But never mind, see this for the ensemble performances, and that of Daniels in particular.

It's a story of glimpses of pain, castaway shivs, little wounds that bleed out slowly but work their poison in deeply. At the center of it is the relationship between Bernard, who once published a well-received novel and is trying as hard as he can not to recognize that this was all he had in the tank, and his son, Baumbach stand-in Walt (Jesse Eisenberg), into whom he pours his own legend. Walt's too-slow realization that his dad is not all, or even most, of what he makes himself to be, makes up most of the emotional development of the story -- after the divorce leaves the entire family in emotional shambles, that is. It's not particularly fun to watch, especially as youngest son Frank starts to spiral down the drain, indulging in extremely underage drinking and punitive masturbation.

Not that Bernard is the sole problem. Joan (Linney is very good, as usual, and very underused, as usual) is also too caught up in her own issues of boredom and affairs to pay much attention to her kids, though her relationship with tennis pro Ivan (Billy Baldwin, actually . . . good? in this) is ultimately seen as a positive and healthy thing, though that's mainly by contrast. Joan may have to shoulder some blame and take some lumps as a caregiver, but it's Bernard who's the real piece of work.

He's not just a writer, he's The Writer. In his tweeds and his studiously unkempt beard and his bearish athleticism, he's the parody of the apotheosis of Twentieth Century Writer, and in order to keep at bay the self-loathing that would inevitably result if he allowed the discrepancy between image and reality to seep in, he shields himself in a pillowy armor of self regard; thus everything is filtered through the prism of himself. Every game of tennis or ping pong must be a crushing victory. Never mind that the opponent is your wife or your nine-year-old. Even minor gestures of affection -- like making the boys keep old dad company as he circles around their house looking for a parking spot -- are demanded as fealty and couched only in terms of what he himself needs. It's no coincidence that the marriage is over exactly when his wife herself publishes a successful book. Her dalliances were tolerable. Her success in his chosen battlefield is not.

Daniels makes all this clear with consummate skill, never overplayed, always with the ever-thinning veneer of professorial charisma. He's clearly not a dumb man; but he's not a particularly good man, and he's just not all that great of a writer. And every so often -- very rarely -- Daniels lets us see that Bernard knows it, too.