April 26, 2008

The Mist (2007)

Gloriously delicious!! The whole 'interdimensional gate to hell' thing was a bit stretching it but thankfully it was merely a MacGuffin and didn't have much bearing on the plot. Performances were great however and the effects worked out nicely for what they were supposed to achieve. That CG tentacle at the beginning looked a bit iffy but the rest of it was great, especially the 'queen' at the end, which unlike in Aliens managed to be menacing without actually engaging the characters. Ending was a nice touch too, bit too Greek-tragedy but worked really well overall. Marcia Gay Harden excels as the religious nut and her 'fate' is particularly delicious too. Was craving for a good King adaptation and this one's it.

April 25, 2008

Funny Games (2007)

Haneke's shot-by-shot remake of his own 1997 film is strong for the most part. Performances are great and the whole 'we're 2 crazy rich fuckers who kill other rich fuckers' theme is well conveyed throughout. I guess what bothered me was that this film was touted as 'really disturbing' and 'disgusting' and yet I didn't find it more disturbing than let's say Caché or Irréversible certainly not more than Miike's Ôdishon which I liked much more anyway. I guess it mainly disturbed the rich fuckers that watched it and that were scared of kids existing that are willing to break into their expensive summer houses and take 'em hostage. Overall I enjoyed it, especially the score, even though it felt a bit forced. Oh yes, and may I borrow some eggs?

There Will Be Blood (2007)

Excellent. DDL shines here. PTA's direction is excellent as well. More importantly however I really enjoyed the theme of anxiety and alienation so amazingly interpreted by Day-Lewis. It is not often that you hear the protagonist in a film claim that he hates most people and he does not want anyone else to succeed. But even though Day-Lewis' character has a borderline sociopathic personality that is verging on psychosis, I feel that his sentiments are not only shared with those of characters in Anderson's other films, but also with most people in real life. The fact that this behaviour throughout the film does not lead to Plainview's demise (in fact he is increasingly more well off as the film advances) despite his deteriorating mental state only makes it so much better. The little religious bit was a nice touch too. I hated Paul Dano ever since his little mute crybaby emokid performance in little miss sunshine, and I love to hate him even more in here. I was quite exhilarated to see Day-Lewis put him to shame twice, once physically bitchslapping him in the mud when he dares ask him for money, and the second time spiritually, essentially proving to him how much of a whore he is and how much his religion really is worth. In that respect Paul Dano fit the part perfectly. I like Anderson's work and I think he is one of the great under-appreciated directors of our times. His movies might seem uneven but one can argue that this is their strength. Very good.

Rambo (Rambo IV) (2008)

rehash of the 'story' in Rambo 2... and Rambo 3.. and come to think of it Rambo 1 as well, but primarily Rambo 2 and 3.
Rambo yet again is off to rescue prisoners from a camp in the jungle, except now he's older, more wise and there are no pesky russians to interfere. Quite possibly the weakest Rambo of them all. I hope they make another though. Stallone is never too old to do his Chretien impression. Oh, and also... random killing and pointless death always makes me feel warm inside. I say we've waited long enough, next up: Rambo V: Rambo in Space (or Rambo Resurrection, both work)

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007)

Great crime melodrama with amazing performances. Hoffman and Hawke excel in the leading roles, and Finney and Tomei are great in the supporting. There is some powerful stuff here, especially all the family relationships and their breakdown, the feeling of an omnipresent dread and an imminent doom, suppression of emotions and the explosion of thereof - everything you would want in a great movie. There are many amazing scenes here, Hoffman and Tomei as she's leaving, Finney as he finds out the truth about his wife's murder, Hoffman and Finney as they confront each other at the funeral and many more. The actual plot is nicely written, but it really is only a canvas for the different characters to interact on. Overall almost pitch-perfect as far as thrillers go.

No Country for Old Men (2007)

I'm so glad that after the recent 'misses' from the Coens they finally come up with something worth my while. Their deadpan deep-south tale of drugs, money and pure evil is nicely portrayed in this adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel. Sure this thing isn't for everybody. If you're expecting something fast and exciting where all the ends are tied then maybe you should wait for Vantage Point or something. If you just lap up the abandoned expanses and decaying gas stations and motels in the scorching Texas sun then this is right up your alley. Sure you get your fill of obese motel desk-ladies with too much makeup and 50's pompadours or old gas station attendants with dirty blue jeans overalls, but you also get so much more. It's really about the interaction than about the action (which btw doesn't lack at all). It's also about how a murderous psychopath with a bad hairdo and some exotic weapons interacts with the relatively simple (though not dumb) inhabitants of the southern state. I could call it a carefully constructed character study, but that's way cliché, so I'll just stick to calling it a really nice Coen bros film - something that I've been craving considering their more recent stinkers like Ladykillers and Intolerable Cruelty (well, Intolerable Cruelty makes for a pretty good airplane movie, but then again anything competing with screaming babies and grumpy flight attendants is gonna be a good airplane movie). Overall nice job - I liked it despite others in the theater which seemed to be expecting something completely different.

4 luni, 3 săptămâni şi 2 zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) (2007)

It's amazing to me that the '80's-communist-Romania-abortion-movie' is somehow more insightful and much more to the point than anything coming out of the so-called indie-movie scene in today's America. I guess it just comes to show that no matter how progressive you think you are, there are some things that are still taboo. This is not to say that Mungiu's work is anything close to your boilerplate abortion-movie (if that exists). I found it had much more in common with things like The Lives of Others or The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, in that it dealt much more with people's behaviour and their ways of dealing with the system they live in. It was filmed with such urgency that despite the subdued nature of the events, you constantly get this frantic feeling that something is about to explode. When the movie reaches its eventual apex (The amazing dinner scene at Adi's parents) you get the impression that a seemingly normal (for Romanians) dinner scene is the most unbearable thing you've ever gone through (and come to think of it those dinners are like that anyway, but it's particularly unbearable when you've been practically raped "with consent" a short hour prior). The cinematography is brilliant, thanks in part to the decrepit nature of the communist-ravaged urban landscape (which is preserved in all its decaying glory to this day - due to its historic significance, no doubt). It's great to see such great things coming from Romania - and I'm not saying this just because I was born there, but I am thankful that I was or else I am sure I would have missed many of the small cultural-references which would have otherwise surely been lost on non-Romanian audiences. Overall great work.

Rendition (2007)

the feelgood movie of the summer. I kept waiting for the part where Saddam pops up out of nowhere like a jack-in-a-box and they all start doing the CanCan but alas no such luck. Oh well at least there was Peter Sarsgaard there to be his usual squinty-self. Also, it's always nice when movies get away with shit like "We have a saying - beat your woman every morning. If you don't know why, she does." and everybody in the cinema laughs, including the girls, instead of having a bra-burning riot erupt in a flurry of hairy armpits. Overall a good setup for this winter's upcoming hit "Charlie Wilson's War". It's a Tom Hanks/Julia Roberts comedy about the beginnings of the Taliban.. so.. it should be good.

You Kill Me (2007)

Formulaic and cliché yet nevertheless enjoyable. Liked the dark, suicidal mood of it all. Kingsley is great as always, and Leoni, Pullman, Farina and Hall all provide wonderful supporting performances. Wilson provides the gay comic relief, thankfully more bearable than his butchered-nosejob-postop brother. It's easy to lump this one among the many other hitman-comedies, and I tried not to, since I liked it, but it fits the bill nonetheless. Could have used a little less cliché jokes and more exploring of the desperate deadbeat excuse of an existence of the leads, as I found that much more fascinating than the whole 'I kill people for money and that's why I'm so great' shtick. Overall fun little dark-humor romp. Could have been better, but could have easily been much-much worse.

Michael Clayton (2007)

Clooney's corporate corruption odyssey is wonderfully subdued and masterfully crafted. Gilroy does well in his directorial debut, though perhaps due to the fact that he's directing his own script and has an amazing cast to work with. Swinton is as wonderful as always, despite the extra weight and Wilkinson and Pollack are great as always. The story is not much of a shocker, basically your standard corporate-corruption class-action-lawsuit deal, but the treatment is exceptional. Also if you're into lawyer crap or Tilda Swinton like I am you'll lap this stuff up like a kitten from a milk bowl. Yum!

Death Sentence (2007)

Dumb fun and lots of violence. Sortof like that ole 90's action flick that they don't seem to make anymore, except better. Small social commentary tucked away somewhere in there as well, but who cares really as long as we have Bacon blowing off a guy's hand with a shotgun. Predictable and formulaic yet still somehow enjoyable. Definitely a guy flick. Preferably a dumb, vengeful, chauvinistic republican guy, though will work well with others who can see it on the other level of just plain dumb fun.

Eastern Promises (2007)

It's no Videodrome or Naked Lunch but it does the trick as far as the yearly Cronenberg fix is concerned. It has more in common with his more recent stuff. The parallels with History of Violence are imminent so just think of it as a post-soviet Russian-mob version of that. The performances are great as expected and the Russian accents are surprisingly convincing considering the main actors are American, French and German, with the closest thing to Russian being Stepan's character, who's Polish. It's very quiet and subdued until it jumps to shockingly extreme violence. Oh yes, and there's also a full frontal, flailing penis, sauna fight-to-the-death towards the end. Good times.

Rocky Balboa (2006)

Stallone's tribute to himself, the franchise and the fans is an adequate and surprisingly appropriate finale to the franchise. I had to re-watch Raging Bull right after to remind myself that there are better boxing movies out there. This is not to say that Rocky Balboa is anywhere near Scorseses' genius, but as far as boxing movies go, it certainly is somewhere up there. It has a sort of melancholy to it mixed with this simplistic motivational speaker-type writing that while not the deepest thing in the world, I found it worked in this context. If only we'll be so lucky with Stallone's next self-congratulating project - John Rambo. The trailer has him decapitate a guy with his bare hands within the first few scenes so it's bound to be good

Stealing Beauty (1996)

Bertolucci's Tuscan vacation, much like its central character, is beautiful to look at but is ultimately of not much substance. He's far away from his heavier work in Last Tango in Paris, The Last Emperor and even The Dreamers (which I consider a return to Bertolucci's roots as compared to this). The story seems to revolve around everybody and their mother trying to pop Liv Tyler's cherry. When they're not cherry picking, the characters seem to be in a constant state of drinking, dining, partying and throwing flat and simplistic statements about love, philosophy and art ("I think it would be great, youknow, to just sit around all day and express yourself."). Other than Irons' performance and Tyler's beauty, the cinematography is the additional saving grace of this film. I like Darius Khondji's previous work in the early Jean-Pierre Jeunet films and although this film is widely different than his later work in Se7en and Panic Room, he still provides us with a marvelous look at the Tuscan landscape and Tyler's features. Overall flawed but nevertheless enjoyable if you just relax and let it flow over you like a light summer breeze.

The Good German (2006)

Soderbergh's homage to 40's noir filmed with 40's technology is but a mere shadow of what it tries to emulate. While it did remind me in spirit of films from the era, it was still painfully obvious that this was nothing more than Soderbergh and Clooney playing with their little film toys and was made more for their own pleasure than our own. The score was reminiscent of Citizen Kane and the plot of Casablanca, it nevertheless felt forced. Maguire's casting was something that's beyond me, as he felt like a fish out of water in this serious adult film, and his little attempt of violence and evil felt as fake as his so called 'period-inspired' acting style. The one highlight among the performers is Blanchett, which seemed to channel Dietrich, albeit barely able to keep up, which is only normal, seeing how Dietrich is one of a kind. Cinematography was alright. It did remind me of those old 40's films, but it was still obvious that it was filmed recently despite Soderbergh's attempt to convince us otherwise. I think the fact that it was filmed in colour and that they sometimes used green-screen had something to do with it. I'm pretty sure that the film stock would have been different than the one in the 40's, and they might have achieved better results if they just used some heavy digital filtering in post. Then again, I'm not exactly a film editor so I can't really speculate, but something just felt 'wrong' to me. Overall I was glad I saw it. I'm not the biggest Soderbergh fan, and out of his various 'homages' I think the only one I truly enjoyed was the Oceans series, although that may be since I'm yet to watch the original. Solaris was a mere shadow of Tarkovsky, as much as The Good German is a mere shadow of Wilder/Curtiz/Huston.

Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

Perhaps the most accessible of acclaimed anime director/writer Satoshi Kon's work, Tokyo Godfathers is a heartwarming Christmas story, a detective mystery adventure, an action thriller, a comedy, a comment on society and a film-noir all in one. More light-hearted and less ambiguous than Kon's usual work, the film manages to be thoroughly entertaining without being cheesy or too childish. This is definitely not anime for kids, as it deals a lot with the more underground aspects of Tokyo society, but it manages to humanize the main characters and make us care about them to the point of being on the edge of our seat by the time the film is in its last 20 minutes. The ending is nicely wrapped up as well, and it could even work as a tear jerker for the more sensitive audience members. It is not anywhere near the psychological rollercoaster ride of Perfect Blue or the psychedelic extravaganza of Paprika, but it nevertheless has Kon's signature all over it. Kon once again proves that there is more to anime than mechas and tentacles, and along with Miyazaki provides another building block towards a veritable auteur-cinema in anime.

Notes on a Scandal (2006)

Brilliant masterpiece with amazing performances by Dench as the crazy psycho bitch cat-lady and Blanchett as the emotionally wrecked dyke-bait that gets caught dipping her hand in the young-schoolboy jar. Bill Nighy shines as well in supporting performance of the deadbeat older husband that appropriately explodes when needed as the emotional storm escalates. Overall very good atmosphere à la Little Children, and a very disturbing yet very effective feeling of 'stranger trying to infiltrate your life more than you'd like'. Think Robin Williams' character in One Hour Photo channelled through an elderly British schoolteacher's admiration for a young perky bohemian colleague. The whole thing is narrated by Dench's voice corresponding to her journal, which is basically the journal of an obsessive yet very eloquent psycho stalker. Thoroughly enjoyed it as it unravelled at a nice pace and the ending was, I found, only natural, but deliciously disturbing. This isn't the feelgood movie of the year but it sure is a much needed dose of psychological candy for the rest of us.

Sunshine (2007)

There has been a draught in good serious sci-fi lately. So when I learned that Boyle was making a new film in the vein of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solarys, I knew I had to see it. The last good thing in terms of sci-fi I saw was last year's Children of Men, though it was more of a post-apocalyptic odyssey than a self-exploratory space-journey à la Solarys. There is of course Soderbergh's 2002 remake, but that had the disadvantage of being compared to the original, which rendered it flawed by default, because no matter how great Soderbergh's work is, he would have to work very hard to emulate Tarkovsky, and even then, it will still only be an emulation. This is not to say that Sunshine is perfect when compared to Soderbergh's Solaris. The film has its flaws, no doubt, the ending being the major flaw of them all, but it has its good points as well. Visually it's very reminiscent of Kubrick's work and atmospherically it has many things in common with both A Space Odyssey and with Solarys. Boyle did a good job in creating a believable and interesting future spaceship and the camera lavishly lingers over the immense structure floating through space towards the sun. Slow spinning antennas that whoosh in a deep rumble as they go past the camera might not be the most realistic sound but it gives the effect of experiencing something immense that is slowly floating away in space towards its destination. Other nice visuals are the scenes in the viewing room where they get to filter the sun's light just enough to make it look visually interesting when they have a conversation and give the characters red outlines as a huge image of the sun looms in the background. I also liked the scene of Cillian Murphy recording the video for his relatives on earth. The contrast of his almost unnaturally blue eyes with the fluorescent green of the background form the video gives the image a very interesting quality, perhaps an overly artistic one, though one that I found pleasing. Perhaps the only visual negative I could find were the golden spacesuits that look more like those old diver suits than space suits, and which I found much more effective in the shots filmed from the inside, with the little visor giving a sort of claustrophobic feeling. If I had to compare it with more recent sci-fi I would have to draw parallels with things like 1997's Event Horizon or 2000's Mission to Mars, though it is far superior to both of those. That said, I cannot say it was perfect. The so called plot twist at the end is largely to blame, though I'm not sure I can think of anything better than what writer Alex Garland came up with. Perhaps something less specific and more spiritual like the ending of Solarys, with more questions and loose ends than we're left with at the end of Sunshine. Overall I would say it was worth its 1:48 running time and it provided a much needed serious sci-fi fix for those of us that think sci-fi shouldn't be all explosions and lasers.

April 24, 2008

Transylvania (2006)

The latest Gypsypalooza from Romani-afficionado Tony Gatlif is nothing to write home about. While the film has its good moments, it is ultimately flawed overall, and will only appeal to hardcore Gatlif fans, Asia Argento fans and other Romani aficionados who need their yearly gypsy fix. Sometimes I wonder why is it that our only option for any serious cinema concerning the Romani people is Gatlif's work. But then I digress and realize that the more a film approaches mainstream the more it diverges from a work that will be true to the gypsy experience. In this respect Gatlif's work threads the line between authentic gypsy representation and quality cinema. Unfortunately, it doesn't do either one justice. At times in the film you get the impression that the gypsies are romanticized to a point of making their lifestyle appealing to the viewer. This is not to say that Transylvania is the biggest offender in this respect, I can think of many other films that represent them using worse clichés, but sometimes you get the impression that gypsy life is all one big song and dance party. As for the filmic language, Céline Bozon's cinematography nicely captures the natural beauty of Transylvania and shows off the various locations in the small country villages which gives it an almost fairy-tale like quality. If there is one other saving grace aside from the location in this film, it is Asia Argento's performance, which at times seemed to channel Monica Vitti's performances in those old Antonioni films, conveying so well that feeling of alienation and anxiety. A particularly charming moment in the film is the scene in which Argento rides the old man's bycicle and sings the Bandiera Rossa then eventually speeds up and screams at the top of her lungs 'Bandiera rossa la trionferà - Evviva il comunismo e la libertà!'. The dialogue being partly improvised, it is conceivable that this was Argento's contribution, which makes it particularly charming considering Romania's communist past and its absolute irrelevance to her gypsy adventure, adding an extra little layer of meaning to the film and the state of gypsies in Romania, albeit perhaps an unintended one. Other than that, her co-star Birol Ünel is solid, although at times he reminded me of a eastern-euro version of Chuck Norris, which unintentionally detracted from the seriousness of his role. I think Gatlif could have ended up with a better film if he went all the way down the art-house path instead of trying to satisfy both art-house and mainstream audiences. All the elements were there, it's just too bad that he didn't assemble them differently.

We are the Strange (2007)

Who cares that it doesn't make sense as long as it looks good. I bet that's what the director, along with the people who let him play his little film at the various festivals, had in mind when making/watching the film. To be honest, there are much worse things out there, and despite this little feature being far from perfect, I must give the guy credit for achieving this sort of thing on his own on basically no budget. If you look at any stills from the movie it will look amazing. As the tagline says - "Monsters, Inc. meets The Nightmare Before Christmas inside of a retro Japanese video game." - one would be inclined to agree looking at the stills alone. The sound is nicely representative of this as well, being reminiscent of oldskool mods and demos/intros from the 80's/90's. Lots of bleeps and distorted lo-fi samples, but amplified, HD-ed and 5.1-ed, which makes every 8-bit stomp rumble through the cinema speakers and through your body. Overall it is an interesting and commendable feat, though unfortunately not for everybody. I can't say that it's good, as at times it became tiresome and repetitive, but for what it is I say it's a worthy achievement. Maybe with some re-editing and more streamlined continuity + narrative structure and revised dialogue it might work better, but then again, I'm not one to expect the creator's artistic vision to change. I just got the impression that he himself was not sure of what he was going for and knew more what he wanted it to LOOK like than what he wanted it to BE.

Drawing Restraint 9 (2005)

So let's say you had 144 minutes to kill on a Sunday and just HAPPENED to come into the possession of a copy of Matthew Barney's latest magnum opus starring his girlfriend Björk - Drawing Restraint 9. To be honest I've never watched any of Barney's stuff except a few clips from his 14 minute sequence of Destricted - 'Hoist'. If you never heard of Destricted, you probably never will, suffice it to say that Barney's sequence involves big heavy industrial machinery, lots of mouldable matter, bodily fluids and various parts of the male anatomy. In that respect, Drawing Restraint 9 is not different. Aside from being on a much larger scale and being much longer, it also has the advantage of having Björk's music as soundtrack. I loved the aesthetics - from the grandiose aerial shots to the amazingly composed tableaus to the over-the-top costumes. If you can, it helps to see it on a big screen. It would be unfair to talk about the plot, or lack thereof, seeing how it's not really that type of film. Some of the 'acting' seemed a little cumbersome at times and some of the costumes looked like they were good on paper, but once someone tries to walk in those bone fish-fin-shoe-flip-flops all wrapped in fur and strapped with a seashell on their back you realize that costume was really not made for movement. Overall I liked the way it looked and really that is enough for me to like something. It's not perfect, and very much not for everybody, but for what it is, that is a hardcore arthouse flick that is so niche it didn't even make it to DVD, I can say it was well worth my 2 hours and a half.

The Boss of it All (Direktøren for det hele) (2006)

Lars Von Trier's latest following Dogville and Manderlay is a comedy? Must be his way of ridding himself of the omnipresent depression throughout his films and (lately) throughout his life. Claiming that for him to make this is analogous to a serious artist making pop music, the result is nevertheless not quite pop enough. Granted, he devoted a lot less effort to the cinematography (in fact he did not use a cameraman and instead used a computer program called Automavision to do the work for him), so the framing is a bit off at times, and there are some (intentional?) jump cuts that give it a not-so-mainstream feel. Despite this, it's no Dancer in the Dark (though arguably of equal comedic value) but it's not exactly a 100% copy of 'The Office' either (in fact Von Trier did not see 1 episode of the show before making the film). It has some drawing-attention-to-the-fact-that-this-is-a-film elements à la Brecht, but in the end it has a pretty standard narrative and some usual comedic devices. It contains some nice themes about morality and loyalty and emotional appeal (that get deconstructed), and the way it ends is a nice touch as well. Sure it can be said this is the intellectual man's comedy (as opposed to something like Office Space) but it still works as a comedy for everybody else as well. Even though this isn't exactly the typical Von Trier stuff, it's fun nonetheless, and supplies a nice little snack for your Von Trier cravings until his next one.

Once (2007)

It's a nice and charming little indie musical featuring Irish Rock band The Frames' singer Glen Hansard. I never listened to any of The Frames' music before, but they're this sort of Irish version of Coldplay but not really, which is not necessarily a bad thing. As with any musical, you need to be at least a little receptive to the style of music in the film. Personally I don't terribly mind the whiny-rock à la Coldplay, so the film worked for me. Cinematography was really minimalist, filmed entirely in digital and a lot of times without permits for the locations, which shows that you can still make a decent feature without a budget. The ending was bittersweet, and I was glad that it wasn't your typical Hollywood happy ending. There were some clichés at times, like the weekend-recording-studio montage sequence, but overall it worked fine. It's a nice little gem of a movie well worth the 85 min running time.

Hot Fuzz (2007)

It's a refreshing change from the usual comedy bs that Hollywood dishes out. I liked the fast editing and high-contrast tones not usually found in a comedy. I think the reason most comedies blow these days is that their audience is treated like infantile imbeciles that need to be spoon-fed every joke in order for them to 'get it'. I'm not saying this one is particularly intellectual or anything, but it's very cinema-aware. I liked how it referenced Hollywood buddy-cop flicks like Bad Boys (II) and Point Break (and many others too, some of them almost shot-by shot recreations). Considering Wright's previous flick Shaun of the Dead (which I also enjoyed and was a spoof of zombie flicks) this one is just a natural progression. And when I say spoof I don't mean blatant recreation of familiar scenes the way the '... Movie' franchise does, but rather reference them while integrating them in the plot in a believable (as believable as it can get in a spoof) way. It's really hard to do good comedy and this one gets pretty close to achieving that goal.

Inland Empire (2006)

So I was a little worried about the new Lynch. His latest shit was out 6 years ago and all he did in between were some shorts for his website (downloaded a copy of the Rabbits shorts and while they were a nice little entertaining piece, it seemed more like Lynch was playing around in his sandbox while waiting for something that was worth his time to materialize). Now he puts out Inland Empire and its all shot in digital and he's distributing it himself AND he's including clips from Rabbits in it. So of course I'm like 'oh shit, I hope he didn't just make another 30 episodes of Rabbits and call it 'Inland Empire''. But then looking at the cast reassured me a little (just a little, since Rabbits itself also had a pretty amazing cast considering its nature, though they were all inside Rabbit suits). And then it started, and it was great. All the usual Lynch stuff was there, the curtains, the lights the Laura Dern and the Justin Theroux... it was like a Lynch retrospective all compressed into one movie. The fact that it was filmed in digital was a little disorienting at first, and I guess it's normal since Lynch held out for the longest time before succumbing to digital (though I think he did a pretty good job in adapting to the medium) but in the end I got used to it. It's not an easy film, and it makes sense that he would produce/distribute it himself without having to worry (too much) about big studio execs, but it really is a must for any Lynch fan. It is not a commercial film at all (not in the sense that Mulholland Drive was anyway if you can call that one commerical) but rather more suited to arthouse audiences. In the end I get the impression it really makes no difference who it's targeted at or if it's targeted at anyone at all. Lynch does what he wants and what he likes and this is the result.

Black Book (Zwartboek) (2006)

Verhoeven's latest is a Nazi sex romp set in the Netherlands. I guess it's the natural progression for someone with things like Robocop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Showgirls and Starship Troopers in his repertoire. The fact that Carice van Houten looks like a Dutch version of Christina Aguilera and Verhoeven puts her through all sorts of crazy adventures (like hooking up with random dude on a boat while being bombarded by Nazi planes) only makes it so much better. And then all the psychological drama from the dichotomy of her Jewish family being killed before her eyes and her falling for the local SS commander was a nice touch as well. Considering the fact that cinema is pretty well saturated with WWII stuff, it's refreshing to see something that can still keep you interested despite the subject matter. Sometimes it seems like the cheery van Houten carelessly prances around in revealing dresses and seductive smiles among the various bombs and underground resistance fighters like occupied Holland is her own little private playground. This is not to say that Black Book is perfect, but I think it might be caught in an unfortunate period in time where WWII movies just don't work anymore. Maybe when people look at Verhoeven's work as a whole later on in history, it will be better appreciated. For now, this is just a nice little fun and sexy Nazi Germany WWII flick which is a good refresher from the usual big action high drama stuff that trickles out of Hollywood or HBO.

Black Snake Moan (2007)

SLJ in a wifebeater taming Xtina Ricci's nymphomania by chaining her to a radiator while singing the blues already had me hooked. The fact that the characters were well fleshed-out, the performances above-par and the locations making you feel like you stepped into that dusty sunbaked deep south Tennessee town in the middle of nowhere just made the deal even sweeter. Even JT managed to strike the right balance between redneck and pansy to make his presence bearable. Overall odd enough to make it interesting. Oh and Ricci's hot too

Transformers (2007)

Well, once you throw out plot (the classic McGuffin) and acting (the classic Shia LaBeouf and some CG bots), you're basically left with a few nicely made action sequences loosely linked together by kids nostalgia of an 80's cartoon show. As long as you throw all expectations out the window, this one actually kicks ass. Of course, it helps to like Transformers or to be a guy, but it's not absolutely required to enjoy. At some points I got lost in the flurry of metal and fire and car chases, but I really didn't mind being lost. All the standard Bay trademarks were there, sunsets and helicopters and all. Overall I enjoyed it. Could have been a little shorter and they could have developed the bots' characters a bit more, but hey, why am I complaining about duration or character development in a 2 hour Michel Bay commercial? It's good for your action orgasm fix. It's dumb, its fun and it's probably the best anybody could have done with the franchise.

April 23, 2008

Sicko (2007)

Ahh yes here's the latest batch of flagrant leftist propaganda courtesy of our fat friend with the little hat. I liked the part about Cuba and the part about the guy running the biggest anti-Michael Moore site. The rest was a big collection of sob stories played to the sound of a sad piano interspersed with the occasional news clip or Bushism. It was entertaining at times but I'm slowly getting the impression that Moore just keeps making the same movie over and over again. I'm not sick of it yet, but I could see how it could get old. It's not that I'm expecting this to strike a note with an audience of a different political view than the one expressed in the film, but you have to wonder as to the value of a film that can be so easily deemed worthless by the mere fact that you have a different ideology than the filmmaker. Then again I guess everything has an agenda and you can't please everyone, so it works on that level. Still, I'm suspicious of something that makes things this easy to agree with. I bet it wouldn't have been as entertaining if it displayed both sides of the story so I'll give him that. It also makes me feel better for not living in the States so... extra brownie points there too.