June 2009 - Posts
I've been waiting for this trailer for a while now. It's the first film written and directed by
Ricky Gervais from
The Office and
The Invention of Lying is a comedy about a world where no one lies - everyone is 100% percent honest all the time. The twist is the protagonists discovers that you don't have to tell the truth all the time.
Ricky Gervais has yet to let me down in the comedy department, including his awesome shows, podcast and first film lead in
Ghost Town. I'm really looking forward to this one.
Check it out.
While flipping through my news feeds this morning, I came across a story announcing the
Academy Awards would be doubling their best picture category from five nominees to ten
. The story sights TV ratings for the ceremony are in the gutter, and they are trying to bring in more viewers. I tend to agree with that assessment, but I think it's a bad move.
First of all, the academy has a hard enough time picking five good movies in a year, let alone ten. Come on, I mean if Crash
can get nominated AND win, don't you think they're already having problems? Seems to me it will open the door for more movies that don't deserve Hollywood's top prize.
Secondly, the problem isn't that people don't want to watch the academy awards - it's that they don't have four free hours to watch it. Do they think making the show longer will increase viewership? Why should I watch four hours of show for 20 minutes of action? Have they heard of the internet? I can get a full nights sleep and catchup on the highlights next day in
I don't mean to bad mouth the academy. After all, they tend to get it right most of the time. It just seems to me they are trying to solve a ratings problem the wrong way.
I don't know how you feel about HBO original series, but I think they've hit it out of the park with shows like
Flight of the Conchords
East Bound & Down
Curb Your Enthusiasm
. It looks like they're trying to top themselves yet again with the new comedy series
Bored to Death
, starring Jason Schwartzman
Schwartzman plays a writer who decides to moonlight as a private detective on the basis that he's read many novels about it. I'll reserve judgement until I see an episode, but the trailer
shows some promise - and it doesn't hurt that it also features Zach Galifianakis
(which I still really need to go see) and
In the late 1960s, a generation of filmmakers were entering the industry fresh out of film school. This was a new phenomenon, and one of the influential personalities of this group was John Milius - a classmate of George Lucas’ at USC, co-writer of Apocalypse Now with Francis Coppola, and producer of films by Steven Spielberg and Paul Schraeder. Mr. Milius is one of the few outspoken conservatives in Hollywood, something that separates him from his more acclaimed friends, and is a gun fanatic (he is on the board of directors for the NRA and requested that a portion of his payment for writing Jeremiah Johnson should be in antique weapons). The character of Walter Sobchak in the Big Lebowski is based on him to some degree. Although more well known as a writer, his talent as a director can be seen in such films as Conan the Barbarian, Big Wednesday and The Wind and the Lion.
This film opens in 1904 Morocco, and the country is hardly a picture of political stability. An American home is attacked by a band of insurrectionists, led by Mulai Ahmed er Raisuli (Sean Connery). They kidnap two children and their mother Eden (Candice Bergen), and Raisuli demands a ransom for them from the Sultan, intentionally attempting to provoke an international incident and start a civil war. Yet Eden is not about to be pushed around. She never lets an opportunity pass when she can beat him at chess or tout the heroics of her President to him.
In the United States, Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Keith) is running for re-election and uses the incident to exhibit America’s new military power. His Secretary of State, John Hay (John Huston) is not a big fan of the idea, but Roosevelt sends in the Marines to either free the Americans from their captors or to force the Sultan to pay the ransom. As the story continues Roosevelts' admiration for Raisuli grows when he begins to appreciate him as a worthy adversary.
The story is partly based on the Perdicaris Incident. But Mr. Milius took liberty with the historical account and crafted a fine adventure story. The film is full of beautiful and majestic shots of the coastline, the sand dunes and men riding horseback. There are guns and swords galore. Connery is fantastic as the charismatic brigand. Bergen is not equal to the task of playing opposite Connery, but her performance doesn’t hurt the movie as a whole. Mr. Milius, who is a TR devotee, wrote plenty of great lines for Keith, who’s turn as one of our most enigmatic presidents is superb. If you have a large television, you will enjoy this all the more. I watched it on a big screen in one of Klipsch’s listening rooms with the HD Theater 500 and it was fantastic. Here you can listen to the director himself try to sell you on the film.
The disc was released in 2004. Sound is in Dolby Digital 5.1, the visuals in widescreen. Extras include a commentary by Mr. Milius in which he discusses his love of riding motorcycles and hunting... among other things.
Certainly, a great adventure film of the last few years would be Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Other historical films with a whole lot more added for drama and action would be Kingdom of Heaven and 300.
New trailers just came out over lunch, and on the pile are Martin Scorsese's
new film Shutter Island
and the post apocalyptic, glad it finally has a release date, The Road
. Both look very dark and had my heart rate up in just under 3 minutes. Check 'em out.
After graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1950, John Cassavetes began acting in theater. He would go on to appear in many television productions and Hollywood films, but his work as a writer and director of independent films is what makes up the bulk of his enduring legacy. His works have an improvised quality to them by making use of a hand held camera to achieve a truthfullness he found lacking in most films. Many deal with troubled marital relationships and feature his wife, actress Gena Rowlands. I have never been interested in these (Faces, Shadows, A Woman Under the Influence), but may reconsider after seeing his lone film in the gangster genre, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. Mr. Cassavetes expressively reveals much about his characters and allows his actors so many unique moments in a film which is otherwise structured in a conventional fashion.
Cosmo Vitelli (Ben Gazzara) is not a winner. But that doesn't stop him from gambling. In the first few moments of the movie, the owner of a hole-in-the wall topless joint repays a substantial gambling debt. To celebrate his freedom from the loan shark, he picks up three of his lovely employees in a limo for a night out. After giving them each a corsage (ever the suave gentleman) they go out for drinks and... a little gambling.
By evening's end Cosmo owes the house $23,000. He meets with the gangsters running the place (which include Cassavetes' regulars Seymour Cassel and cult figure Timothy Carey). After a discussion in which he promises to repay the debt he leaves and takes the girls home. It isn't long before the underworld figures show up at his club to collect, giving him an option that will free him of his debt - the mob wants him to assassinate a local Chinese bookie. After some persuasive interchange, he finally agrees. Cosmo sets out alone to do the deed and become free again. But of course, the task will not be that simple.
As previously mentioned, Cosmo is a loser. His whole life is dedicated to a lowly topless club. The people there serve as his family. The girls perform ridiculous routines with the laughable master of ceremonies, Mr. Sophistication (Meade Roberts). The setting is not remotely erotic, only sad and embarassing. But Cosmo is a professional, dedicated to giving his audience a "good" show. He is a mess, yet constantly has a positive disposition. His earnestness makes him endearing to the point that we care what happens to him as he heads down the street to the bookie's house. Gazzara gives a wonderfully nuanced performance. The film has points where it lags a little, but its virtues outweigh its flaws.
The best way to view this movie is on the disc from the Criterion Collection, part of a five part collection of Cassavettes titles. It is a new transfer with widescreen image and surround sound, including the 135-minute cut as well as the tightened 108-minute version (which is the version I reviewed). Both were edited by the director in the 1970s.
Several films in the 1990s made wonderful use of Cassavetes regulars Seymour Cassel and Ben Gazzara. Mr. Cassavetes progeny have directed several films as well. Nick has directed The Notebook and Alpha Dog. Zoe wrote and directed Broken English. Alexandra made the superb documentary, Z Channel: A Magnificant Obsession.
So you should go see Up
. It's awesome. I'm not kidding. You don't have to be a kid or even own one, just go see it.
Much like it's Pixar predecessor Wall•E
, Up reels you in quickly with amazing visual story telling and minimal dialogue. Within the first 10 minutes you can't help but have an emotional connection with these characters. If the begining doesn't make you want to cry, I'm guessing you're a robot or you have the governor's daughter tied up in your trunk.
Up has adventure, grandeur, perfecting pacing, talking dogs, stunning visuals and a boat load of heart. It's easily the best film of the summer so far, and will likely make my list for top films of the year.