Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Town

The Town is an amazing movie. It tells the story of a bank robber, making him a sympathetic character, while not omitting any of the nitty-gritty of the world in which he exists. Director Ben Affleck and Movie Star Ben Affleck worked together to craft a story that slowly draws you in until you abruptly realize that the good guys aren't good guys and the bad guys are actually FBI. It's not something you see every day.

I missed Affleck's first directorial effort, Gone Baby Gone, but it received great critical acclaim at the time and it's at number five in my Netflix que at the moment. I hate to make this comparison, but I thought I was watching a Clint Eastwood move at times. Eastwood is known for telling gripping stories at a deliberate pace and not making protagonists too clean nor antagonists too cartoonish. That's exactly what The Town does.

A word of warning, though. Besides the liberal use of F-bombs, The Town is set in Charlestown, Massachusetts and was obviously filmed there. The characters all have seriously thick This Old House accents and I missed a few words here & there as my midwestern ears just couldn't keep up with the speech of the Bay Statahs, doncha know. Fer sure. Charlestown isn't far from where my beloved niece, Belle, is going to grad school. Maybe I should get used to the accent just in case she picks it up while she's out there.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Countdown to 100

I've seen a lot of movies in the theater in the past couple of decades, let's say it's in the neighborhood of 2000. Seeing movies in the theater is something I – obviously - enjoy. Some of my readers have probably seen that many or even multiples thereof on home video so I'm not bragging, just stating a fact.

I likes my movies.

I also like insignificant trivia. Today, for no good reason, I'm going to combine the two. I've seen 69 movies in the theater so far this year. I want to see 100. No real reason – I just want to.

It's been a while since I've seen 100 movies in the theater in a year. 2006 to be exact, and it was exactly 100 movies. 107 the year before; 113 the year before that. What about years since then? Well, I relocated in 2007 (81), so that killed a lot of movie slots. In 2008 (72), even though I bought my house mid-year and have a built-in excuse to not have seen movies the latter part of the year, it's actually the first half of the year that shows a low count. I think I was so depressed from subletting that hovel on Ford Road that I couldn't muster the energy to see what movies were playing. In 2009 (89), I think it's just that there weren't that many good movies out there.

So I have to watch 31 more by December 31, 2010, to hit 100. Not undoable – there are 103 days left in the year, so I only have to hit one every 3 days or average 2.1 per week to hit the goal. It can be done but consistency is difficult for me. I'll probably have to cram a few in late December.

If the release schedule cooperates, I could try to recreate my Iron Man feat from 2003. I saw thirteen movies in thirteen days between April 19 and May 1, 2003. I would love to try it again sometime, if only there were thirteen movies worth watching in a thirteen day period anymore. In the last seven years, the Big Hit mentality has become even more the modus operandi of the theater owners. More screens showing multiple copies of the same movies. Not very many independent movies or also-rans get shown. In addition, they move the big movies out faster than ever. If you don't see a new movie in its first two weeks, you might miss it. I've missed dozens over the years by dawdling.

So we're off and running - 31 movies to watch by the end of the year. Don't count on me blogging every one of 'em – see the dawdling comment in the previous paragraph – but I'll do what I can.

Easy A

Where to start? With Easy A's crisp dialog, natural pacing, funny story that doesn't play like it was written by a sitcomputer, perfect cast, or Emma Stone? All facets worked and are worthy of note. Let's start with Emma Stone.

The charismatic Emma first hit my radar in a short-run TV series called Drive in 2007. After that, she hit the big screen in Superbad. In Easy A, she carries the movie herself, being in virtually every scene. Her screen presence is amazing, giving us a high school heroine that is hot when needed, common when called for and smart constantly. This is one up & comer that, with good career choices, could be the next Sandra Bullock (no pressure, Emma).

Easy A is a retelling of The Scarlet Letter, using the novel both as inspiration and cautionary tale. A rumor spreads about our heroine, which she encourages at first, which later takes a life of its own. The movie is funny, breezy, never loses perspective and, much to my great joy, never delves into body function humor! Look out for the punchlines inside and outside of the bookstore (Literate humor! Who knew!).

The casting is perfect all around, with supporting roles played by Thomas Haden Church, Lisa Kudrow, Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson, Malcolm McDowell and Amanda Bynes. There was some scenery chewing going on but it was all in good fun. Aly Michalka and her breasts played the self-absorbed best friend. Michalka and her breasts star in my Fall-TV season guilty pleasure Hellcats.

You know how I frequently say negative things about the style of today's comedies? Easy A is the antidote to those comedies.

An Open Letter to

Dear IMDB,

I hate your site's redesign. You've taken an intuitive, easy-to-use and ultra-informative site and made it icky. It's now a cluttered screenhog that is a chore to navigate and hides the most useful content.

Please fix it. I don't care that you return to the original design, but there are thousands of sites that provide entertainment industry hype with no useful information. Now, thanks to you, there's one more.



Friday, September 3, 2010

More From the Newsletter Archives

From 2001 through 2006, I wrote a movie column for the company newsletter, known by several names, notably The Onquirer and The Be...Connected Newsletter. I found many of my reviews archived on the Onvoy LAN, in draft form for some and in final form for others, and I posted 170-some in July, 2009.

Not all my reviews were archived electronically but I have printed copies of every issue of the newsletter (I think). I said last year that when I get enough gumption I'll scan the hard copies and post those reviews. Apparently, today is the day when my gumption hit critical mass because here are the scans.

I've attached a comment for a 2010 perspective to each of the reviews. I think you'll see a couple of patterns emerge, which can be summarized with the words Keira Knightley and marine mammals. If Keira ever appears in a movie with dolphins, I may disappear into a singularity of perfect happiness.

If you have trouble making out the detail in any of the scans that follow, click on the scan and it will zoom out to a larger size.  Enjoy this trip back through time and enjoy the movies.

Whale Rider - August 2003

I posted a version of this review in July 2009, which turned out to be a draft version. This published scan is different in a couple of places.

I rewatched Whale Rider a few weeks ago. It is still a delight to watch. The Kiwi accents are pretty thick, so when you watch it - hint, hint - closed captions might be a good idea.

Bend it Like Beckham - August 2003

You'd think that my two previous mentions of Bend it Like Beckham would've been enough, but I found this third one. I showed great restraint in not mentioning Keira Knightley in any of them - I had a huge age-inappropriate crush on her back then. The DVD is in my stack of evergreens to rewatch sometime in the near future. Just thinking about Bend it Like Beckham makes me smile. Like Whale Rider, the accents are thick, so don't be timid about turning on the captions.

As a side note, BiLB co-star Archie Panjabi won an Emmy for The Good Wife last weekend.

Seabiscuit - August 2003

I haven't given Seabiscuit much thought since seeing it in the theater. When I've wanted a feel-good horse movie in recent years, I turned to Dreamer, with Dakota Fanning and Kurt Russell. I've been seeing commercials lately for a movie about Secretariat, a superhorse that was running when I was in my teens. I suspect that Secretariat will have a lot of the same elements of Seabiscuit, which isn't necessarily bad. I think I'll toss Seabiscuit into my NetFlix que for future revisiting.

Spy Kids 3D - August 2003

I don't remember much about Spy Kids 3, but I remember being wowed in a few places and bored silly in a few more. I like the crack about Whale Rider, which still applies today.

Le Divorce - September 2003

Le Divorce is a almost? Didn't the newsletter have a proofreader? Oh, wait, that would have been me.

I recall mentioning the Kate Hudson thing because she was the face of the commercials and previews. They made it sound like this was a movie about her character, so I had a distinct feeling of being baited and switched. Nonetheless, Le Divorce was one of the last Merchant-Ivory films and the only one set in the modern day, so it was unique and mostly enjoyable (the ending is a little wacky).

Open Range - September 2003

Some people are reflexively down on Kevin Costner, but I prefer proof that his films suck before I say they suck. Open Range didn't, but it wasn't great. I remember Costner being pretty good.

Truth be told, I shouldn't have used the comparison to Dances with Wolves - I've never seen it. Heard a lot about it but never actually seen it.

Still in Theaters - September 2003

The Italian Job had a longer review posted in July, 2009. I watched it again two weeks ago. It's still fun. Everything in that movie worked, from start to finish. I think the 'preeminent' reference was a passive-aggressive whack at Ocean's 11, which was more about the glitz than the caper. I shudder to think how (deservedly) mean I would have been if I had Ocean's 12 or Ocean's 13 in mind.

I didn't have room or time for a long Freaky Friday review when it opened, so its only mention in the newsletter came in this capsule. It's the shortest and most direct review I've ever done, save for my Not Recommended review for Legally Blond 2. Freaky Friday is in my stack of DVDs to rewatch. I hope the disappointment I feel in Lindsay Lohan for squandering her talent doesn't reduce my enjoyment of the movie.

Yes, that's another mention of Whale Rider. I was doing my best to encourage people to see it. Have you seen it? Well?

Under the Tuscan Sun - October 2003

I didn't pay attention to Diane Lane when she was the 20-year-old 'It' girl. For me, she's always been 40ish and playing smart/funny women. And she does it well. Under the Tuscan Sun was the first movie I'd seen with her in the lead and what an introduction! It's a pleasant chick flick, if you'll allow me to use that term.

The Rundown - October 2003

I hate professional wrestling and professional wrestlers as well, so saying something nice about The Rock did not come easy to me. I'm very glad I was right about him, but I don't see any need to rewatch The Rundown, if for no other reason than co-star Sean William Scott drives me nuts.

Out of Time - October 2003

I hadn't given any thought to Out of Time since I wrote this review. I guess since Denzel is both prolific and consistently good, I've had no need to go looking for old stuff, since there's always new stuff handy. I think I'll throw it in my NetFlix que and see if it holds up.

Matchstick Men - October 2003

Can't really add anything to this one.

School of Rock - October 2003

I was a bit prescient with the "a little Jack Black goes a long way" remark. I much prefer him in supporting roles, so much so that I don't even bother seeing movies with him in the lead anymore.

King Arthur - July 2004

I watched King Arthur again a few weeks ago. I'm going to stand with my previous comment that the movie would work better if they changed all the names (including the title, I suppose). I can't believe I didn't mention that Keira Knightley was in it - I was pretty high on her back then.

It seems interesting to note that I own a copy of King Arthur, while I haven't given Brad Pitt's Troy even a single thought since I wrote that review six years ago.

Anchorman - July 2004

I've seen Anchorman a couple of times since. It doesn't hold up extremely well to repeat viewing but I will stand with my review for the first couple of times you see it.

Dodgeball - July 2004

Saved! is still hilarious, by the way.

Dodgeball had the benefit of the novelty factor going for it. I had never seen Vince Vaughn in anything before, not even stand up, so his quick, snarky delivery was new and funny to me then. I don't see him quite that way anymore. I'll still give Dodgeball the nod as the funniest movie of 2004.

And two more words about Dodgeball: Julie Gonzalo.

Home Video Update - July 2004

I had to look up Secret Window in IMDB before remembering it. Wait, nope, even after reading a summary I don't remember the contents of the movie but I do remember attending it. Not sure what to make of that.

Eurotrip is still funny. And Scotty still doesn't know.

I'm still a little bitter about having wasted one hour and 21 minutes of my life watching The Big Bounce.

I liked 50 First Dates more than I let on. It's a cute, comfort-food kind of movie and Drew Barrymore was just adorable as the amnesiac.

Master and Commander doesn't hold up on repeated viewings but it's a good thriller once.

In case I wasn't clear, Cold Mountain is not a happily-ever-after kind of movie. I think I'm still a little depressed after seeing it - six years ago!

The Triplets of Belleville is a very stylish, animated movie in French. It doesn't need subtitles so much because it's almost like a silent movie - no dialog silent - with musical accompaniment.

If you work at Onvoy and have ever had a cube near me, you have heard me quote at least one line from Blazing Saddles every day for the past 12 years. Every day. Yeah, I have about five go-to lines that I use over and over, but I've spouted pretty much every line from that movie at some point. If you've never seen it, rent it now. If you have seen it, isn't it time to watch Blazing Saddles again? Now, excuse me while I whip this out.

Changing gears, Bad Santa or the DVD edition Badder Santa is a hugely funny black comedy. I'm partial to subversive comedy, so I liked this one a lot.

Mystic River is a laugh-riot compared to Cold Mountain, but it's still a sad movie.

Manchurian Candidate - August 2004

Can't really add anything to this review, either.

Catwoman - August 2004

McG has gone on to direct We Are Marshall and Terminator Salvation, so he's not a good representative of this rule anymore. Pitof, on the other hand, has only directed one made-for-TV movie since Catwoman.

The Village - August 2004

I may have considered Shyamalan a master in 2004, but I got suckered in to see The Happening, so I've since reconsidered his masterfulness, TO PUT IT NICELY.

While The Village was a misfire, a few things stuck with me. Bryce Dallas Howard was wonderful, for one. The Village also contains one of the coolest scenes in modern movie history. The people of the village are at a social event one evening, a dance perhaps, when they are spooked by the "monsters" from the woods. People run about higgedly-piggedly, but Miss Howard plays a blind woman. She remains calm and sticks her hand out in front of her, like she's reaching for something. From off camera, her love interest steps in front, grabs her hand and leads her to safety, as she knew he would. It's an amazing scene. That the love interest was played by Joachim Phoenix, we will not discuss. Ever.

Thunderbirds - August 2004

You've heard me say that most movies or TV shows just aren't begging to be made into modern motion pictures and Thunderbirds was one of those, but I couldn't resist seeing it or talking it up. I've seen it a few times since this review and I get more enjoyment each time thinking about how inferior it is to the TV series, but I'm a little warped. If you have no idea what I'm talking about (ie, you're not part of the cult following), there is no need for you to ever rent this movie. Watching an episode from the 60s TV series could be fun, though.

Recently Released DVDs - August 2004

Confessions was a teen comedy with Lindsay Lohan before she turned sleazy. I own a copy but I'm not sure I've ever watched it. One of the co-stars was a young Megan Fox. The other was the lesser known Allison Pill, who will probably have a great and long career as a supporting actress (currently playing the drummer in Scott Pilgrim vs the World, recently the oldest daughter in Dan in Real Life).

I hope I'm being clear about The Big Bounce.

The Perfect Score was the last non-starring role for Scarlett Johansson before she become an 'It' girl. Kind of funny but nothing spectacular.

As for Peter Pan, I said "sensually charged" when I wanted to say "romantic" or "erotic," but didn't want to have to explain that Peter and Wendy are 13 in this version - not a conversation I wanted to have in the office. I saw this version on DVD a couple of years after seeing it in the theater - it still worked and was still "sensually charged."

Hellboy had a sequel, so you either know everything you need to know about it or you're blissfully ignorant. I skipped the sequel.

13 Going on 30 was Jennifer Garner's first lead role. There was a lot of publicity about it at the time, but it was a small, light comedy, and all the hype might have kept people away. I liked it but I haven't seen the need to watch it again.

The guy who wrote the Hidalgo quip sure has a way with words.

Since this review, I have watched Kill Bill, Vol 1 and 2 in succession. As with all Tarantino movies, once you've seen one, you know you've seen a Movie.

Friday Night Lights - October 2004

Dang. Sounds like a pretty good movie. I'll have to rewatch it someday. I've never seen the TV show based on this movie but I hear nice things about it too, so I'll check it out sometime.

Shark Tale - October 2004

Still haven't seen this movie. Still no desire to do so.

Mr 3000 - October 2004

Sure, I knock Bernie Mac and then he goes and dies, making me look insensitive. What a lousy break for me.

Vanity Fair - October 2004

This capsule review was pretty much spot on.

The Forgotten - October 2004

I had to look up The Forgotten at IMDB before remembering it, no pun or irony intended. Now that my memory has been prodded, I will go ahead and say you can skip this one.

I also remember that the previews/commercials had a big spoiler give-away, but even so, I don't think watching it unspoiled would have saved this movie.