Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Swamped Thing

Just started classes at North Texas University last Thursday and time is at a minimum throughout the week, so to compensate I'll be scrapping formal reviews for more off-the-cuff reactions and commentary on the films I see.

I will still be filing as much as always - that won't change - I just can't afford to spend 1-2 hours writing reviews anymore, even though it's something I really enjoy. The new "impromptu" review style will debut sometime in the next two days when I see Anton Corbijn's The American and Daniel Stamm's The Last Exorcism.

Monday, August 30, 2010

We're F****** Matt Damon

Movie City News' Noah Forrest brings up a good point in a week old 8.22 post that I've been thinking for a while now but haven't really said out loud and that is that Matt Damon seems grossly under-appreciated in terms of awards potential and serious acting chops.

Forrest uses Steven Soderbergh's The Informant! as his launching point, claiming that his Oscar nomination should have come from that film opposed to Clint Eastwood's Invictus and I completely agree.

It also goes back to films like The Departed and The Talented Mr. Ripley in which Damon gives, in my estimation, two tremendous performances that were largely ignored - the former saw Damon excluded from almost any awards season participation despite the fact that it won big at the 2006 Oscars.

Jake-Neytiri Anti-Climactic Scene

I didn't go see the 171-minute Avatar this weekend, but I know many people who did and when confronted about the big Jake-Neytiri sex scene, it wasn't a big talking point. ("Oh yeah, I don't know, not much, etc.")

And then I saw a quote from James Cameron this morning where he attempted to downplay the additional scenes beforehand: "Just so that we correctly manage people's expectations," he explained carefully, "it does not change our rating at all. I would call it more of an alien foreplay scene. It's not like they're ripping their clothes off and going at it."

Listening To...

Beach House, the moody, electronic pop duo and this song off of their new iTunes EP, "White Moon". I love it, apparently Beach House aficionados don't. I'll have to listen to their earlier stuff.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Blu-ray Catch-Up: Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)

A competently made yet dopey teenage fantasy, Percy Jackson & the Olympians makes no mistake of its intentions - the resemblance to the Harry Potter series both in form and in content is downright blatant.

Yet without half of the imagination, charm, alliterations or jumbled folklore of its obvious influence, it's disappointing to discover that the film rather rudimentarily indulges in the mythology of the pre-disposed variety, simply adding a twist that the Greek gods once partook in a little mortal awakening, leaving overly tan, blue-eyed demigods waiting to be exhumed by the hands of destiny.

Chris Columbus (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) was an obvious, safe choice to direct - his handling of potentially troublesome visual effects appears professionally seamless for the most part - but this fantasy just doesn't have a discernible personality or pulse.

From its awkward humor to its mugging supporting performances from the likes of Uma Thurman, Pierce Brosnan and Rosario Dawson, Percy Jackson simply lacks the charm and the British class of J.K. Rowling's multi-million dollar adaptations - what it does have is a bad Vegas drug experience...no, seriously. [C-]

Blu-ray Catch-Up: She's Out of My League (2010)

A lively supporting cast and two likeable leads ultimately can't save this blabbering and preachy romantic comedy that's equal parts endearing and offensively bland. It covers all of its bases as a part of the aftershocks still rippling through megaplexes courtesy of Judd Apataw - a gaggle of curly-haired dim-witted friends, post-adolescent aloofness, manscaping jokes, etc.

It would all be fine if it wasn't so effortlessly clichéd and insufferably obvious in its message of self-confidence above insecurity, an attempt to outwork the audience's suspicion that this girl would seek-out and attach herself to this guy.

It's a bit of shame if only because relative newcomer Alice Eve is so appreciatively refined and grounded, even going so far as to acknowledge the desperate awkwardness of her rail-thin boyfriend (an endearing Jay Baruchel) on their first few dates. Inevitably, the material sinks below her and the film concludes in a shower of underlined poignancy and mawkish formula. [C]

Blu-ray Catch-Up: From Paris With Love (2010)

Pierre Morel's Paris-set spy-thriller is high on absurd terrorist plots and low on substance, but overall it's a pretty good time when it isn't playing things too close to the chest.

John Travolta, who played a similarly-styled short-haired killing machine in Tony Scott's The taking of Pelham 123, is actually much better here thanks to favorable material which allows him to play off of his moral ambiguities and always altering spy motivations.

It's when the action ceases to crackle and the plot takes a turn towards solemnity that From Paris With Love oversteps its boundaries and forgets what got it to where it is. It's dim-witted and structurally trying (wait, so what's going on here?) but it finds enough smooth terrain to ultimately recommend. [B-]

The Best John Carpenter Themes/Soundtracks

The films and soundtracks of John Carpenter are very near and dear to me. Growing up with his films and now recently re-discovering them, they are the perfect encapsulation of his era, whether it be the 70's slasher, the dystopian action film or the early 80's wave of supernatural horror, his films and their themes defined his time.
These are simply my favorite theme/soundtracks from his films, but they must by composed by him. (Therefore Ennio Morricone's The Thing theme is ineligible.) So let's start the countdown:

This is kind of a bluesy, jangly Western theme that Carpenter wrote for his 1988 horror/dark comedy They Live. You've got a harmonica and a saxophone in there playing over a crunching bassline - pretty effective.


A gothic mixtape, this theme is a simple synth track played over and over again accompanied by random effects and start-and-stop rythms - it captures your attention immediately.


Taking a break from the familiar theme of Michael Myers, Carpenter hits a home run here with a moody, atmospheric electronic track. At times, it sounds like Elliot Goldenthal's work on Public Enemies.


It starts of slowly before erupting into a simple, repetitive pulse, but I love the slowly building synths that come and go in the background. Perfect.

5. "THE FOG"

It's Halloween lite, but this track really accentuates the film without overdoing it. A creepy, salty seaside urban legend with a theme to match it. I love how it's essentially a showdown between dueling keyboards.


Without hesitation my favorite Carpenter film, this schlocky 80's black magic actioner doesn't have a defining theme that I really wanted to feature, but the soundtrack has many standouts, including my favorite piece, "Abuction at Airport".


This one's rather simple, but it really grows on you. It's like an 80's anthem to me - I see Snake Plissken's eye-patch with an American flag behind him right now.


It's probably one of the most recognizable movie themes of all-time and some would argue, like me, that it really makes the film. Alot of the numbers on the entire soundtrack are eerie as well, but this is one hanting melody.


The former may have reached movie theme immortality, but if you ask me, John Carpenter's best score is this stunning synth show from Assault on Precinct 13. It's the perfect musical accompaniment to the film's themes of trust, redemption and survival against insurmountable odds.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bigger Breathless

So I finally went and saw the new 50th anniversary restoration of Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless the other day and it was just wonderful. The print (which was astonishingly better than that Fox Lorber DVD that I've seen) was apparently approved by cinematographer Raoul Coutard.

There was only one other person in the theater on a Tuesday at 11:30am, so I didn't exactly get that crowd reaction that I was hoping for, but I was glued nonetheless. Words cannot describe how much I love Jean Seberg in this film, or how I love the endless cinematic references, the way it acknowledges and plays with American film noir, the philosophical tangents.

There's one line I especially love when Seberg is interviewing the author near the end of the film and in response to the question, "what is your grand ambition in life?" he calmly mutters, "I want to become immortal...and then die."

It's the kind of off-hand, philosophically-charged wedge that Godard likes to throw in his films - the story of the painter who paints his wife so accurately the living version ceases to exist brought up near the end of Vivre sa vie comes immediately to mind.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Darabont Does Zombies

AMC's highly anticipated series "The Walking Dead", from director Frank Darabont has its first trailer and it looks like the pilot will play out exactly like 28 Days Later. Where the show goes from there (just a six-episode first season is in order) is anybody's guess, really.

It will be interesting to see how a familiar cinematic premise plays out for the long haul on the small screen. I'll be honest, nothing in this 4:35 minute trailer looks surprising or a significant notch above standard genre fare.

Monday, August 23, 2010

What in the Devil?

I can't wait for Drew and John Erick Dowdle's Devil (Universal, 9.17) to come out, not because I'm looking forward to seeing it, but because I don't know if I can tolerate seeing that trailer in theaters just one more time.

I did some mental sifting and I've recalled five separate occasions in which the trailer has annoyingly played before my show. Once before Inception, once before Salt, once before The Other Guys and once more for both The Expendables and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

Has anyone else encountered this? What other trailers have been played ad nauseum this summer? I've also had scuffles with Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (4-5 times).

Guns of Anarchy

Walter Hill's Streets of Fire ('84) is a self-appointed glam-rock fable - like an 80's music video interspersed with street-gang hoodlum and switchblade, machismo intimidation.

It's got a tough-guy zombie performance from Michael Paré as Tom Cody, a notorious local who comes home to visit his sister and then rescue his ex-flame, a pop-singer named Ellen Aim, played by an 18-year old Diane Lane.

By all means, it's a pretty slight and silly film, but fans of Walter Hill's The Warriors ('79) and 80's VHS culture (like me) will eat it up. The soundtrack, featuring Fire Inc. and Ry Cooder, is a cheesy gold-mine.

Short Review: The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2010)

I'll just stick with a rather informal review of J Blakeson's The Disappearance of Alice Creed, an effectively gripping and grisly British kidnapper that's exquisitely photographed and composed with flair that ultimately holds together rather well for this sort of thing.

It's very committed and down-with-the-details scummy - bathroom breaks, dehydration, changes of clothes, etc. - and ever-changing in the motives and morals of its characters, including the victim herself, played by Gemma Arterton (Clash of the Titans, Prince of Persia). It's all very worthy of respect and admiration, like a sensible and level-headed reply to the twisted mass-market thrillers produced by James Wan and Eli Roth.

Yet for all of its readily apparent feats and twisty-but-not-too-twisty revelations, I didn't really enjoy it all that much, or at all frankly. It's too cramped and grimy and high-pitched - a lot of screaming and yelling and sobbing and "give me the fuck-ang keys!!" or "what the fuck'a you doin'!?"

I liked the ending, which duly alters the film's title, but I couldn't really stand to watch Eddie Marsan after about twenty minutes or so - that vice-grip gaze and ferocious spittle and razor-teeth, yikes! I respect the film to a point and what it's doing and going for meets my modest approval, I just don't really want to sit through it again. [C+]

Ramona and Roller Skating

One of the things I liked about Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was that Mary Elizabeth Winstead's Ramona, with her neon-colored hair, long legs, peculiar wardrobe and fancy for roller skating, is like a character pulled right out of Jet Grind Radio.

There's one scene in particular where she's wearing these aviation goggles on top of her head and suddenly the reference just slapped me across the face.

Both Jet Grind Radio (Dreamcast; released in 2000) and its sequel Jet Set Radio Future (Xbox; released in 2002) were two of my favorite games growing up. Essentially free-skate graffiti-art racers, they were some of the first cel-shaded video games I can remember and they always had these goofy yet catchy soundtracks that I can still remember to this day - I believe I still have a copy in my closet.

Friday, August 20, 2010


I'm off to see Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless sometime this week during its 6-day run at my local art-house theater. Rialto Pictures is releasing a new "restored print" for the film's 50th anniversary this year. Can't wait to see it on the big screen.

Which brings me to a brief discussion of my favorite Godard films, which would go something like this in order of preference: Contempt, Band of Outsiders, Alphaville, Breathless, Vivre sa vie, Pierrot le fou and Made in U.S.A with Week-end bringing up the rear. (To be honest, I'm not really a fan of those last two).

I haven't seen Le Petit Soldat, A Woman is a Woman, Masculin, feminin, Two or Three Things I Know About Her or anything after La Chinoise for fear of being drowned in all of his esoteric political and philosophical musings.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

Although it teeters on overkill, Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a manic send-up of video-game culture wrapped in a coming-of-age romantic comedy and also likely the most visually convulsive and daringly unhinged movie-going experience since Speed Racer.

Beginning with a chic, trendsetting 8-bit Universal logo, the film is an outlandish nerdgasm - a battle-of-the-bands arcade button-masher with a cool, hair-shifting Jet Grind Radio chick waiting at the finish line. It's the next logical step in the evolution of Nintendo-cultured entertainment, combining influences old and new and delivered with a few jolts too many, and then some.

Jumping from Super Mario Bros. to Guitar Hero to Viewtiful Joe, there isn't a gamer from the ages of 10-35 that won't get a kick out of the endless references, the deadpan nerdspeak and the swift, joystick fighting scenes - necessary battles between Scott (Michael Cera) and his new girlfriend's (Mary Elizabeth Winstead's) seven evil exes.

Each fight is an exhiliratingly-captured confluence of Street Fighter and Naruto and Wright has fun with his split-screens, his jump-cuts and his level-hopping scene-to-scene transitions. Maybe even a little too fun as a few trigger-happy intertitles and a brief musical interlude would suggest.

I'm not even sure that I bought Michael Cera in this role, or more specifically, that his wild crush Ramona would have anything to do with him or his basement dwelling dweebsters, but to occupy oneself in inaccuracies as it pertains to our world would negate the idea behind a film like Scott Pilgrim - a handy, hilarious fusion between video games and reality. [B]

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Classic Rewind: The Fallen Sparrow (1943)

Richard Wallace's The Fallen Sparrow ('43), a hot-button wartime spy thriller about a Spanish Civil War survivor who comes back to New York to investigate the death of his friend, is elevated by its post-war anxiety and Nazi paranoia.

John Garfield, in a standout central performance, plays Kit McKitrick, a soldier who manages to escape a Nazi prison camp with his life and a desirable artifact intact. Upon hearing of his best friends "accidental" death, he goes back home and finds himself either in the middle of a wartime espionage ring or a downward spiral into mental instability.

Written by Warren Duff, a part-time collaborator with Jacques Tourner (Out of the Past, Experiment Perilous), The Fallen Sparrow is, either by design or happy coincidence a convoluted maze of Nazi suspicion, secret guilds and beautiful dames.

You're constantly working through the facts in your head ("Who was that who got killed? Now how does she know him?"), but by the last shot, a wonderful scene involving a switch on a plane headed for Lisbon, the big-picture settles in and the fog lifts on this undervalued gem. [B+]

Trailer: My Soul to Take

Wes Craven's My Soul to Take (Rogue Pictures, 10.8) might be a passable high-school urban legend slasher flick, but this trailer is just wretched. It's mostly the pseudo-alternative rock music, but the fact that this is yet another horror film to make the jump to 3D pretty much assures that it will be full of phony jump scares and manufactured visual gags.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Trailer: Black Swan

Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan (Fox Searchlight, 12.1) will debut in a few weeks at the Venice Film Festival before heading off to Toronto, and as things stand, it's certainly one of the heavyweights this upcoming awards season.

After seeing the trailer, I'm both elated and skeptical in regards to the dark, biting psychological overtones to this thing, which looks like a return to form of sorts for Aronofsky after his excellent low-budget character sports-drama The Wrestler.

The thriller/horror elements are a bit surprising, but knowing the filmmakers, I think this material is in safe hands and I'm very much looking forward to an all-out career-defining performance from Natalie Portman.

Scary Resemblance

I finally got around to watching Shakespeare in Love ('98) yesterday and I was caught off-guard by Gwyneth Paltrow's odd resemblance - when she's attempting to pass as the boy actor Mr. Kent - to Radiohead's Thom Yorke.

Oddities aside, the film isn't the disaster that crashed the Oscars in '98 that most believe it is, but it isn't great, either. It's too dainty, too cloying and too carefully sculpted, it reminded me of Becoming Jane ('07), which was a mostly fictional account of Jane Austen's early life that far too snugly represented the inspiration for her life's work and her writings.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Review: The Expendables (2010)

Trying to recapture the glory days of whatever you wanna call those addictive, testosterone-fueled, clumsily plotted and glamorously sleeveless action films of the late 80's and early 90's, Sylvester Stallone seems to be the one remaining gym rat still willing to throw a punch.

It may be the same punch, the same moves, the same fight, but with The Expendables, I believe the 64 year-old actor/director has made a full-on high-energy nostalgic trip through rogue federal agents and Third World locales that, through its dim-witted plotting and gloriously mindless execution, is (whether the filmmakers or the action stars know it or not) a hilarious send-up of all that is (and was) so enjoyably bad about the 80's.

Looking like a mash-up of Commando, The Specialist and The Dirty Dozen, any attempts the film makes to humanize its stock of slightly-aged beef is a bit dull and clumsy, yet once the action kicks up, The Expendables is such a lively and gratuitously explosive brawler that it would seem easy to become offended if it weren't so much fun.

Stallone obviously has limitations behind the camera with his awkward missteps in-between set-pieces and his flat and off-kilter exchanges of dialogue, but once the ball gets rolling and the adrenaline pumping, the film becomes noticeably more distinctive. He's also certainly not one of these spatial composers on the battlefield a la James Cameron or Kathryn Bigelow, but what he lacks in coherence he makes up for in pure, unadulterated glee in the dismemberment of his foes.

There is a sense of disappointment in Stallone's willingness to conform his 80's disasterpiece into a semi-approachable modernized take (fountains of CG blood gush out of his victims like busted pipes and there seem to be too many actors who used to call a wrestling mat their home), but overall, the effect is masterfully sleazy, raw and flat-out mean - if nothing else, it will tide us over until Machete comes out. [B-]

Poster: The Town

Every marketing aspect of Ben Affleck's The Town (Warner Bros, 9.17) is reminding me of The Dark Knight. It's the bank robberies, the masks, the blue-steel filters, the SWAT trucks, the police uniform that Jeremy Renner wears in the trailer, everything.

Of course Christopher Nolan is thought to be a stylist bearing the marks of Michael Mann, so naturally, The Town also resembles Heat.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Holmes and Addiction

Sidney Lanfield's The Hound of the Baskervilles ('39), the first of fourteen films starring Basil Rathbone in his seminal role as Sherlock Holmes, concludes with the following line: "Oh Watson - the needle!"

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's writings on Holmes dallied with drug use, and the last line is a sly, stealthy nod to when Holmes would inject himself with morphine. How on earth they slipped it past the censors is unknown.

The film, which I saw for the first time, isn't quite as good as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes ('39) in my mind (which has co-stars Ida Lupino as the pleading client), but these foggy top-hat mysteries have their place. They aren't as fun or playful as William Powell and Myrna Loy in The Thin Man, but they're good; solid.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Poster: The Tempest

This snazzy one-sheet for Julie Taymor's The Tempest (Miramax, 12.10) kinda makes me wanna go see it. The conceptual design is nothing new, but it works anyway and it engages the viewer. Taymor (Titus, Across the Universe) isn't exactly a slam-dunk, not by a long shot, but I'm excited to see the trailer.

Of course, the film is based on William Shakespeare's play of the same name, which for me, will always be traced back in some shape or form to Fred M. Wilcox's Forbidden Planet ('56), a goofy, top-of-the-line science-fiction space traveler based on "The Tempest".

Short Review: Restrepo (2010)

Sebastion Junger and Tim Hetherington's Restrepo is a viscerally charged, startlingly personal down-in-the-trenches war documentary about a small combat team stationed in the heavily contested terrain of the Korangal Valley in Afghanistan.

Beginning with the insurgence and ending with a well-earned trip home, the filmmakers expertly balance hard-edged combat realism with communal peacemaking counsels and brutish roughhousing with quiet, layabout sing-a-longs.

Like a vice, Restrepo wraps itself around its characters until they reach a sense of desperation, angered and cramped by an enemy that seems relentless and yet evasive and indefinite. In fact, by unintentionally concealing the enemy, the frustration mounts both in the viewer and the subject.

The film has drawn much attention for its strictly apolitical viewpoint, foregoing overt statements in favor of a loving, appreciative and brave documentation of a soldier's battle for survival and a grueling depiction of man's struggle between fear and aggression. These men aren't concerned with the bigger ideas and for ninety minutes, neither are we. [B+]

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Classic Rewind: Adventures of Don Juan (1948)

Perhaps the last notable Errol Flynn swashbuckler, Vincent Sherman's Adventures of Don Juan, with its massive budget, behind-the-scenes frailty and poor box-office performance signaled the beginning of the end for its legendary action star at Warner Bros.

Yet for all of the negativity regarding the turbulent, endless production and inevitable career-killing outcome, fans of the golden era swashbuckler will find this one to be a drastically underrated adventure - witty, acrobatic and romantically inert, but containing some of the best sword fights ever put on screen.

Harry Kurnitz and George Oppenheimer's script is surprisingly satirical as the filmmakers have fun with the title character's sexual appeal and the usually testy relationship between Spain and England. (At one point, a certain British heiress shouts, "Stop being so...so...Spanish!")

And Flynn, as the notorious womanizer, is surprisingly in-form, showing no signs of his reportedly outrageous on-set drinking habits and chronic illnesses. He's still as dashing as ever here despite the red tan, the soul patch and the earring.

And what the film lacks in a compelling female lead (Swedish-born actress Vivica Lindfors is no Olivia de Havilland), it makes up for in good old sword-clashes between tyranny and oppression.

The action culminates into a grand staircase showdown which features a gravity-defying leap from ten steps high performed by one-and-done stunt maestro Jock Mahoney - it would have been all too fitting had Flynn performed the leap to the bottom himself. [B]

Monday, August 9, 2010

More Green Lantern

Shooting on Martin Campbell's Green Lantern (Warner Bros, 6.17.11) just wrapped up yesterday, but now word comes down of Michael Goldenberg being hired to pen the script for a sequel.

With all of the bad buzz surrounding this thing out of Comic-Con - what's up with the costume? Where's the footage? What's with all of the mustaches? - this is a surprising announcement almost a year before the first film will hit theaters. This is not Superman, it's not Batman - it's a wild-card. I guess it doesn't hurt to get the script process rolling, but it's certainly unusual.

Stanley Kubrick Posters

As a self-proclaimed Stanley Kubrick nerd, I'm a little disappointed with these mock posters by Brandon Schaefer posted courtesy of /Film.

The Clockwork Orange doesn't do anything for me (I prefer the original artwork much more), and The Shining is a neat idea, poor execution (the title doesn't stick out enough and it's just flat-out ugly) but the 2001 has something, it looks like a paperback cover for the Arthur C. Clarke novelization.

The Dr. Strangelove is the best and the Lolita is probably the least spectacular of the bunch.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Review: The Other Guys (2010)

Adam McKay's The Other Guys predictably and inauspiciously features the writer/director's go-for-broke comedic style of crude dialogue, silly tangents and a peculiar fascination with musical interludes. His latest certainly brings plenty of laughs - especially in its first sixty minutes - but the longer this buddy-cop comedy lingers, the more desperate, tedious and itchy it becomes.

McKay, who reached legendary heights with 2004's Anchorman before settling on mid-level (Talladega Nights) and flat-out putrid (Step Brothers) fare, is a director who clearly pulls no punches and isn't afraid to inject his films with a good dose of absurdity - the problem is that he doesn't know when to reel it in. Thus, The Other Guys is like the result of a drunken game of darts - there a few bullseye's, but also some that are waywardly wedged into the adjacent wall.

The film begins on a fast-paced fury of criminal activity and the cops who so glamorously relish in putting them down. In this particular case, it's the dream-team duo of Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Danson (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), the East Coast version of Tango & Cash if they started off liking each other.

As they're off saving the day and getting the babes, sitting idle behind a desk and gnawing at each other are detective's Allen Gamble (Will Ferell) and Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg). One is obsessed with breaking through into the limelight while the other is obsessed with staying out of it.

Our unlikely partners soon find themselves in the middle of a multi-billion dollar scheme involving a snobby investment mogul (Steve Coogan) which McKay and co-writer Chris Henchy exploit to express their views on everything from Enron to Ponzi to AIG bailouts, but also to turn our heroes into financial age Robin Hoods, ridding the world of corporate thievery one bad guy at a time.

The plot, however, is too inane to become invested in and instead, the second-half of The Other Guys is just a cut-and-paste assortment of clip-length jokes and ideas (like a misfired freeze-frame drinking session set to The Black Eyed Peas "Imma Be") that makes for an extraneous plod to the finish line.

The film does feature wonderfully integrated location work, fitting New York City right into its wonderful ensemble cast and picking up the action with ease thanks to producer Patrick Crowley (The Bourne Trilogy) and his crew who bring a zesty flavor of destruction to these oh so silly proceedings.

There are some wonderful recurring motifs that I loved including Mark Wahlberg's Terry Hoitz thinking every bad guy is somehow involved in a well-connected drug cartel or Michael Keaton's Captain Mauch quoting TLC, but mostly The Other Guys, as funny as it can be, is too undisciplined and too reckless to fully enjoy for its near two-hour running time. I really liked these guys, I just got sick of them after a while. [C+]

Trailer: Unstoppable

If Tony Scott's Unstoppable (20th Century Fox, 11.12) is anything like The Taking of Pelham 123, it'll be a big pile of busted parts and screeching brakes and scrap metal. Ever since Enemy at the State, Scott has been devolving into a tirelessly visceral director - the satellite-gizmo imagery, the slightly grainy aqua-green tint, the whirling dervish camera movements, the hyperactive editing, etc, etc.

I'm sure Denzel Washington will make a few phone calls to his wife and kids and then save the day and bring home a carton of milk all the while admiring the talents of the new young conductor played by Chris Pine.

I don't want to hate it, I'm just inclined to believe that I will. Fortunately for Unstoppable, it doesn't bear the tag of being a completely useless and extraneous remake and thus might actually have a surprise or two up its sleeve, but I wouldn't count on it.


I wrote a pilot review of FX's new series "Justified" a while back, yet the following few episodes just didn't do much for me as it unfortunately seemed to be setting itself up as a dressed-up, highly fashionable and well-acted mystery-of-the-week, and I was getting a little more deflated after each episode.

Well, I went on vacation after only seeing the first four episodes, came back with all twelve sitting there on the good 'ole DVR and I'll be damned if I didn't pick it back up again and end up falling in love.

"Justified", for its first 5-6 episodes is a mostly compelling procedural with wonderful production values, a wonderful cast and a terrific central performance each week from Timothy Olyphant, but it doesn't grab a hold of you and suck you in until 9-10 shows in. (For me, it was the excellent "Hatless" (ep. 9) that struck me as the awakening of the sleeping giant.)

The way that the writers/producers engineered the plot arcs of the last 4-5 episodes - including the transformation of a key character from deranged convinct to sympathetic born-again Christian - was flat-out brilliant.

At its heart, just like the Tombstone poster that hangs in his boss' office, "Justified" is a Kentucky-fried modern western. Olyphant's Raylan Givens is the overwhelmed lawman in a hostile terrain, a man with a quick trigger finger and a smart-ass smile that straddles the line between just and unjust. The Season Finale episode, titled "Bulletville", is the show's own O.K. Corral, a stirring gunfight that would make any genre fan giddy. Can't wait for Season 2.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

TCM SutS: Day 6 - Ingrid Bergman

Friday, August 6 - Ingrid Bergman (schedule)

Hard to Find
Saratoga Trunk (1945) - This Sam Wood drama about a woman who returns to her native Louisiana in the 19th century isn't a great film, but the performance of Ingrid Bergman as a Creole woman obsessed with reclaiming her mother's pride by upper-class snobbery is one of her best. Gary Cooper co-stars, the costume design is irresistible and you can only see the film here or by purchase from Warner Archive. Warner Bros, 135 mins, 6:00am ET

Stromboli (1949) - This Roberto Rossellini work was the result of a letter sent by Ingrid Bergman to the famed Italian director and the root of their eventual affair and marriage. I believe you can import the film for $15-$20 or watch the VHS, but this is rare chance to see it for free. Connoisseur Video, 107 mins; 8:15am ET

The Essentials
Casablanca (1942) - A little too essential, right? Everyone has seen this, but by the off-chance that someone hasn't, correct it immediately. What we have here is probably the quintessential American movie and the ultimate story of selflessness, love and heroism. The dialogue is tremendous and quotable and its legacy is carried by the performances of its cast. Warner Bros, 102 mins; 9:30pm ET

Notorious (1946) - One of my favorite Hitchcock films, this WWII spy drama contains another one of the best - if not the best - Bergman performances. Claude Rains as a villain, Cary Grant as a suave romantic government agent, numerous key suspense sequences and a terrific closing shot. RKO Radio Pictures, 101 mins; 11:30pm ET

Meet the Cure

I know that George P. Cosmatos' Cobra ('86) has a shoddy reputation that has blossomed into an almost sarcastically cult-fashion today, but I'm not afraid to admit that I kind of love it.

It's rather obvious that Stallone had seen and loved Dirty Harry, Magnum Force and Bullitt and his script doesn't have an ounce of credibility (the ending doesn't make any sense), but this is just a cool 80's retro-actioner about a one-name cop tracking down a group of militant radicals.

Cosmatos' direction is a bit nebulous at times when the action picks up, but he fits in enough weird 80's music-video moments ("Angel of the City"), psychopathic villains (Brian Thompson) and one of the greatest car chases that I've seen.

Plus you have that Wendy Carlosesque synth score and the ultra-hot Brigette Nielsen before she starting appearing on low-rent reality shows and dating Flavor Flav. For my money, Cobra ('86) is a better good/bad movie than Commando ('85).

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

"The Suburbs"

In honor of Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs", which hit shelves and iTunes today, here is the title track from the new album - love it.

TCM SutS: Day 4 - Ethel Barrymore

TCM's Summer Under the Stars:
Wednesday, August 4 - Ethel Barrymore (schedule)

Hard to Find
The Great Sinner (1949) - This high-class prestige picture was, and still is, considered a noble failure on all counts. The stunning cast and crew, including Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Ethel Barrymore, Walter Huston and Frank Morgan with director Robert Siodmak and famed novelist Christopher Isherwood acknowledged perhaps buckling under the pressure of the project, which was deeply rooted in the works and life of Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 110 mins; 10:00am ET

The Red Danube (1949) - A Russian ballerina is attempting to evade persecution in postwar Vienna in this stark, anti-communist Hollywood production in the early days of the Cold War. It was a financial flame-out for MGM at the time, but it should be compelling for its potent political stance. Walter Pidgeon, Ethel Barrymore, Janet Leigh and Angela Lansbury star. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 119 mins; 12:00pm ET

The Essential(s)
The Paradine Case (1948) - It's certainly second-tier Hitchcock, but this courtroom drama assembles, once again, a mighty cast including Gregory Peck, Alida Valli, Ann Todd, Charles Laughton and Charles Coburn with Leo G. Carroll. Selznick International Pictures, 114 mins; 8:00am ET

Trailer: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Troy Nixey and Guillermo del Toro's Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (Miramax, 1.27.11) has a trailer, but good luck finding fifteen seconds of actual footage in there. The haunted-house spookfest is co-written and produced by the ever busy del Toro and directed by first-timer Nixey with Guy Pearce, Katie Holmes and Bailee Madison as the victimized family.

This teaser certainly isn't as promising as the spiffy poster released during Comic-Con, but with this being a del Toro product, you can expect plenty of creatures and plenty of fun-house genre tropes.

Matthew Vaughn Sees Inception

Director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Stardust, Kick-Ass) had to scrap a good 12-pages of his currently in-progress script for X-Men: First Class - the reason? Christopher Nolan's Inception.

Geoff Bucher's Hero Complex blog over on LA Times describes the feelings of the British filmmaker as he caught a Sunday matinee of Inception only to be disappointed that a few of his ideas for his X-Men reboot/prequel were up on the screen.

Apparently Joseph-Gordon Levitt's tumbling, zero-gravity hallway sequence was a little too close to home for Vaughn, who had planned to shoot an action set-piece involving young Professor X (James McAvoy) in which he would take on some evil mutants through "spinning rooms" and "physics-bending imagery". Whoops.

Vaughn did love the film, however, and I have to say that this article has me looking a little forward to X-Men: First Class. It's nice to hear that the filmmakers are exploring new ideas and seemingly unsatisfied with anything less.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Out of the Gate

The first two reviews for Adam McKay's The Other Guys (Sony/Columbia, 8.6) are in and it's a one-two punch from the trades, except that Variety's Peter Debruge wasn't too impressed, or at least not nearly as fervent or giddy as Hollywood Reporter's Michael Rechtshaffen, who pretty much loves it.

I'm not a fan of McKay's Step Brothers or Talladega Nights, but I think The Other Guys may be worth seeing in theaters, if for no other reason than to see Mark Wahlberg back in the cop genre. Plus, apparently this thing is no slouch in the action department, with The Bourne Trilogy's Patrick Crowley receiving a producing credit along with his top-shelf crew, who knows, it might actually be pretty good.

Plus, at the end of the day, aren't we all just looking for something better than Cop Out? It doesn't have to be 48 Hrs., I'll take Tango & Cash.

TCM SUtS: Day 3 - Steve McQueen

Tuesday, August 3 - Steve McQueen (schedule)

Hard to Find
The Honeymoon Machine (1961) - Richard Thorpe takes a break from directing Robert Taylor and Stewart Granger in MGM adventures and leads a young, pre-iconic Steve McQueen in this rare comedy that the actor himself would later disown for his blatant "overacting" - sound fun! Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 87 mins; 10:15am ET

Bullitt (1968) - TCM's schedule is unfortunately loaded with the usual, but Bullitt is one of those films that never gets old. Yes, the 8-minute car chase is a mini-masterwork in itself, but its the overall pervasive mood of this solemn, deadpan crime thriller that leaves the biggest impact - probably McQueen's most iconic film role. Warner Bros, 115 mins; 10:15pm ET

Junior Bonner (1972) - One of Sam Peckinpah's most underrated and certainly one of his gentler films was this rodeo-western about a washed-up cowboy who returns home to his fractured family. There are no violent eruptions here, but the jagged, slow-motion editing and themes of modernity vs. tradition keep it right in line with the auteur's filmography. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 100 mins; 12:15am ET

Ambition vs. Faith

Thanks to /Film for posting these brilliant concept posters for the Alamo Drafthouse's traveling movie series. The artist is UK-based Olly Moss, and obviously this poster of Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood is so damn good it gives me chills.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

TCM SUtS: Day 2 - Julie Christie

Monday, August 2 - Julie Christie (Schedule)

Hard to Find
"Far From the Maddening Crowd" (1967) - This adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel is a 3-hour rural English period drama starring Peter Finch, Terence Stamp and Christie. It was a huge flop critically and financially and was one of director John Schlesinger's major missteps, but Nicolas Roeg's cinematography and the film's tumultuous and fiery shoot make it a must-see. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 169 mins; 5:00pm ET.

"In Search of Gregory" (1970) - A notorious failure in 60's experimental cinema, Julie Christie plays an heiress who obsesses over and seeks out a mystery man whom she meets at a wedding. British theater vet Peter Wood directs this supposedly vapid yet intriguingly bare film which was universally reviled upon its release - you won't get many chances to see this. Universal, 90 mins; 9:45am ET.

"Doctor Zhivago" (1965) - Too easy, right? The film that pretty much shot Christie to stardom was this David Lean epic, a milquetoast love story set against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution. Klaus Kinski shows up to save the day, but Lean's filmmaking is so pure and majestic, we don't really need him. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 197 mins; 1:30pm ET.

"Darling" (1965) - Along with Zhivago, winning an Oscar for this John Schlesinger drama about the allure of celebrity took Christie to the summit of Hollywood stardom. The film almost shut down due to financial stress, but it went on to become a big success. Embassy Pictures, 126 mins; 9:45pm ET.