Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Having Fun at an Audition

Michael Cera gets fired from Knocked Up

I love shit like this. Michael Cera (see "Superbad" post below) blows his top in a mock audition for "Knocked Up." Funny stuff.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hot Fuzz

The boys were sent to the video store with instructions to rent one DVD for two ninety nine and buy the first Jason Bourne movie if it happened to be available. They came back with three DVDs, one purchased (not the one I asked for), all for twenty six bucks. Their mother flipped her lid and sent them back to the store. They came back again with two movies rented. It was all rather comical.

So we sat around a fine home-cooked meal and watched this British police comedy. It is brilliant! High levels of action, unexpected twists and turns, and dry wit throughout. It is one of those movies where the main character is the only one who isn’t crazy in some way, and he’s questionable – so it’s believable in its way, but thoroughly hilarious. The direction and timing are outstanding too, using a lot of quick takes that merge scenes in creative ways that have you going “Wha-?” just in time for the next push. Also has its macabre side, and special effects fitting for any slasher film, and a delightfully evil Timothy Dalton ingesting the scenery as one of the many loons driving the main character round the bend.

Short version: Nick Angel is an over-the-top London cop who gets shifted out to the burbs because his arrest record is embarrassing the rest of the force. He discovers the perfect village maintains its reputation through the actions of its sinister neighborhood watch committee. The story never slows down or fails to get more and more absurd. It is just splendid all the way through. We were howling.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Bergman and Antonioni

I just realized no one posted anything about the fact that Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni died on the same exact day a couple weeks ago. Two of the best, ever.


Some of my team and I were able to slip around the corner and go see Superbad this afternoon. I laughed my ass off. It was crass as hell, but as far as "high school rejects just wanna get laid" movies go, this was really, really funny. Lots of great acting, and a great script, but the highlight for me by far was Michael Cera. Anyone who's ever watched the most excellent Arrested Development knows him as George-Michael. His comedic timing is out of this world, and his character is absolutely believable as a slightly awkward high school senior who's horny as hell but still governed by a conscience. The movie pulls no punches with the over-the-top gags and language, but for this movie, it all works. A funny, funny way to spend part of a Friday afternoon!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


I knew going in it was a Mel Gibson production about the Mayans and that the dialog was in Mayan with subtitles. So I more or less expected a blood-soaked docudrama. What I got was a surprisingly good movie.

It took very little time for the subtitles and the “primitive” settings, under the power of the story, to transform into normality. The people and families of the village were like people and families everywhere – loving, quarrelsome, hard-working, their days filled with personality conflicts, moments of peace, and the teasing of children. But the disasters to come, as warned of in the title, were foretold in a subtle way by an old storyteller relating ancient tribal parables of the one creature, Man, who is never satisfied. I found the scene strangely moving.

The story is an adventure of capture and strange lands, of horror and a capricious mercy, of escape and pursuit, of loss and reunion. Good stuff. Go see it. From here, just a few of my own strange observations. May or may not include spoilers, don’t know yet. I’m just going to assume you’ve either seen it or don’t mind.

One wee detail really got to me. Got to me so much I hit the pause button and leapt out of my chair to wave my arms in front of my family and point it out. Our hero had been delivered at the last instant from the infamous Mayan sacrifice by a total solar eclipse. No, that’s not very original, but so what. Here’s the thing. Late that night, we see his wife and child, back home, awaiting his return, in the leaf-dappled shadow of a full moon.

Yeah. Guess I wasn’t supposed to notice.

I loved the inventive variety of costume and body-decoration the producers put the Mayan characters into, especially those in the great city, from the priests to the laborers. All classes were represented, all of them believable because all of them seemed to belong. Loved it.

We saw that the Mayans were suffering from failed crops and the appearance of having somehow poisoned their own environment, and were delving deeper and deeper into their peculiar depravity, feeding the blood-lust of their great god Kukulkan, to correct it. Of course that wouldn’t work, but I’m not sure what the lesson was supposed to be (if any). How did this essentially stone-age culture poison their environment? Dug too deep for building blocks and released some subterranean deposit of malodorous minerals? Tossed too many rotting human bodies into the water supply? This and the plaintive prayer of one of the captured village women to a favorite goddess, “Mother of Mercy” among other names, coupled with Mel Gibson’s well-known conservative Catholicism, led me to suppose there was some deeply Catholic allegory being presented here that I, at least, was doomed to miss.

Which makes the scene towards the end of a boatload of grim-faced men bearing down on the strand with crosses and swords and Bibles in hand rather more unsettling. Meant to be, of course.

And of course, as Jaguar Paw turned the party of hunters pursuing him into a hapless crew of city boys he was in turn pursuing, I was unable to keep from shouting, “It’s Rambo of the Jungle!”

Which reminds me, the leader of that party was ba-a-ad. He had the face and manner of a warrior, a man, a loving father and a true and pitiless professional. His outfit was the best. If a mountain lion ever comes around here and I kill it with my bare hands and boil the flesh off the bones, I’m thinking Halloween costume contests, man.

For all its Gibsonesque manly manliness, I really enjoyed this film. The drums that beat incessantly while people ran and ran and ran through the forest kept beating in my head for hours afterward. In fact I took them with me on my next run and while in the park bagged a disc golfer with a poisoned dart.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

She is a...hairhopper

Bad move this weekend. Late Saturday night (in a fit of insomnia) I re-watched Saturday Night Fever. John Travolta in all his tight-panted, long limbed glory. Oh, and the dancing was good.

Today, we caught a matinee of Hairspray, so not as absolutely-John-Waters-fabulous as the 1988 movie of which the musical was based of which the movie was based, but a fun time none the less. But up on the screen, the Tony Manero of a just 24 hours previous became Edna Turnblad, no where near as divine as Divine.

I think an ovary dried up right there in a theater.


Science blog Neurophilosophy has an article on the psychology of the films of Alfred Hitchcock.

Repression is one of the Freudian concepts which recurs in Hitchcock's films. According to Freud, "the essence of repression lies simply in the turning something away, and keeping it at a distance, from the conscious". Freud believed that traumatic memories, usually of childhood events, are repressed by the conscious mind; this is a defence mechanism which keeps the ego free of conflict and tension. These memories remain hidden in the subconscious, and manifest themselves in the neuroses and psychoses of the individual, when something induces the momentary retrieval of a repressed memory, triggering a neurotic or psychotic episode. One aim of Freudian psychoanalysis is the retrieval of these repressed memories from the subconscious, in the hope that confronting them will cure the patient's neuroses.
Most of us were probably first exposed to the general ideas of Freudian psychology in Hitchcock films, and they're still valuable tools in understanding the concepts.

Great endings

Entertainment Weekly has on their website a photo show of what they call "20 Perfect Movie Endings." Some predictable (Vertigo), some less predictable (Rushmore). If you don't feel like clicking & reading, here they are (I don't think they're ranked):

Sixteen Candles
The Sixth Sense
Dr Strangelove
Cinema Paradiso
Rocky II
Before Sunset
The Seventh Seal
Gone With the Wind
Brokeback Mountain
The 400 Blows
About A Boy
The Searchers
Big Night
Facing Windows
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Thoughts? Agreements? Omissions?

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Departed

I'm going to see this again, it was so good. Real good. The acting was tough, believable. Even though it was nothing like real life as I've experienced it, it was believable. I've never been anywhere near Boston and her Irish mobs and Irish cops so it could have been total bullshit but what do I care, it was believable. Tense, too, never knew what was going to go down next or just who was scheming what and where with whom.

Am I supposed to write a real review? Synopsis? Who's in it? You can get that anywhere. All's I'm telling you is it was good. Real good. And I think it was the first movie I'd seen where someone fell out of a tall building and splashed when they hit. *evil chortle*

Okay. Martin Sheen was good, as usual, and Alec Baldwin, well, you know. But Jack Nicholson, what a role for him. And Leonardo DiCaprio, for an Us Magazine regular he really can act. Matt Damon's no slouch, either, he's tops in certain types of roles. My hero, though, was Mark Wahlberg, just for being the right kind of asshole. And of course Vera Farmiga, who has amazing eyes. Oh, and eagle-eye props to Kristen Dalton for wearing a dress that fit really, really well.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Ocean's Eleven

Brad Pitt poses and George Clooney smirks in a caper film that tries hard to be stylish and has more holes in its plot than a rusted-out cheese grate. The movie does redeem itself slightly with a couple of explosions, but the other requirement for keeping my attention while Hollywood pretty-boys play to the camera was thoroughly missing, i.e. a fine or at least attractive female performer. There were a lot of fine clothes and a beautiful casino in this film, but I don't recall a single shot of a single attractive woman. The entire caper was run by men and the casino was run by men, so the casting director made up for this testosterone overload by selecting for the female part Hollywood's Least Interesting Woman, a wide-mouthed stick-figure who mostly stared emptily from within the folds of her ugly costumes. Anyone, absolutely anyone with more acting talent than Britney Spears would have been a better choice than Julia Roberts. Even Cameron Diaz would have been an improvement, and that is a painful admission indeed.

Of course, I don't need to have women in it to enjoy a film, no indeed. Only for a semi-stylish caper flick was this one lacking in that ingredient. Imagine a James Bond with nothing but men and, I dunno, Julia Roberts. Makes you sick, doesn't it? But apart from that, there were three fine actors who comported themselves wonderfully. Andy Garcia had clearly learned from his mentor Michael Corleone how to trust no one and operate a huge gambling operation with ruthless efficiency. Elliott Gould was nearly perfect as an overdressed elder of the Jewish mafia who had been shoved aside by an upstart Italian and wanted revenge. And Carl Reiner was a delight in every scene, playing his double role with total conviction, managing to be both humorous and awe-inspiring in every go.

Nothing against Pitt and Clooney. Their banter was delivered well enough and they're handsome fellows, and I'm sure they're quite popular. Clooney made a great film in OBWAT (YKWIM), and Pitt, well, I've heard of him a lot so he must be somebody. But was this thing entertaining? Well, sure. I'm just glad I rented rather than bought it.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


Rocky owns a restaurant, Adrian is gone from cancer, and their son is all grown up. Late middle age is the opening theme for this movie, the tendency to look backwards, and an assertion that if the fire still burns within, you have to let it burn.

Rocky’s son was concerned that his father’s mid-life crisis would hurt him, hurt his dignity. But mostly he was afraid that it would make his own identity crisis even worse. His father set him straight. Told him he’ll never have his own life if he blames others for keeping him from it.

Rocky Junior turned around quickly and became his father’s biggest supporter. Steps, son of the new girlfriend, also turned out to be a nice uncomplicated addition to the cast. The new girlfriend, Marie, brought no complications either, only her simple supportive wisdom. (“Hey. Fighter’s fight.”) Even Rocky’s irascible brother-in-law Pauly was drawn into the story’s single stream. Towards the end of the film, nothing and no one mattered at all anymore but the final fight itself. So I guess the fight is what it was really about.

I found the opening scenes very moving. The director seemed to be in love with Philly at dusk in the cold seasons. Rocky’s visits to Adrian’s grave were sad and loving, in a simple sense, not too sentimental. The open-air market where Rocky stocked up for his restaurant was given the attention of a documentary. Rocky took repetitive turns through old memories and old scenes, reminders that on the one hand we can easily get caught ignoring the present by reliving the past, but on the other that as we get older, the future sometimes just hasn’t got a lot left in it. Maybe that’s just me. At any rate, there was a lot going on, but the end of the film left nearly all of it hanging, unresolved.

So was the fight really the point? The adversary was not the most likable boxer, but he turned out to be a decent sort. The venue was the usual over-flashed Vegas resort. The struggle in the ring was portrayed as an incredible display of courage by this somewhat crazy ex-champion, but those of us who’ve never gone toe to toe have to take their word for it. Fighting to the edge of consciousness while following strict rules in a ring isn’t very rational to me. But neither I guess is any sport, where survival skills are altered and morphed into pure contest. So to take the blows and still rise to take more, rather than run off to get better weapons and allies, is regarded as a mark of heart and heroism.

All right, I can dig that. But when it was over, and all those stirred-up emotions had been flattened somewhat by the predictable ending, I was left wondering what the point was. Sure, Rocky was in fabulous shape, and I can see benefits of being in similar shape when I’m pushing sixty myself. Rocky still had “something in the basement” that he had to get out one last time, and I can relate to that as well. But did he? Will he now be satisfied? Will his relationship with his son be healed? Will he find new love so he can move beyond Adrian? What about everyone else, Pauly, and Steps, and Punchy the dog? They were like decorations at this point. Why even have them?

The film was one ending scene too short. What that scene should be, I don’t know. But I still give Stallone a lot of credit. Rocky is not terribly smart, but he’s very likable, he has a undeniable sort of wisdom, when he could be pathetic (re-telling the same old fight stories to the same old customers at his restaurant) he isn’t, quite, he’s just doing what he thinks people want him to do. He’s consistent and believable and likable, and he’s got hella inspiring biceps, so I give Rocky Balboa an overall thumbs up.

(Blockbuster’s got this $1.99 per movie thing going on this week, so there may be more to tell. But already I feel like a schmuck burning up a whole evening to watch a movie, so I don’t know if I’ll get around to the six or so others that we brought home.)