Thursday, December 29, 2005

Capsule Reviews 12/29 -- The 'Berg Double-Bill

Movie: Munich
Director/Studio: Steven Spielberg / Universal
10 Word Review: Impressive, even for Spielberg. More impressive, I think, despite Spielberg.
Best Thing About It: I honestly didn't think Steven Spielberg, he of the tacked on happy endings that seemed almost pathological, had it in him. But he really does tackle the moral ambiguity of the terrorism/vengeance cycle that has encompassed Israel and Palestine for as long as I can remember. I had always been of a mind that the masterminds behind the Black September attacks at the Munich Olympics had it coming to them when they were later tracked down and eliminated by the Israelis. Munich manages to put that quest for justifiable revenge into a perspective in which no side gets off easy.
Worst Thing About It: Falling back on the "innocent child in danger" plot device is a needlessly cheap ploy in a movie that otherwise opts for a tougher route.
Best Performance: Eric Bana is phenomenal as the lead Mossad agent, doing that whole range-of-emotions thing that kept me from liking him in The Hulk (though his tendency to be all growly man-god in Troy was actually endearing).
Grade: A

Movie: Rumor Has It
Director/Studio: Rob Reiner / Warner Bros.
10 Word Review: Promising family comedy devolves into tepid, boring May / December duo.
Best Thing About It: Honestly, the supporting cast is so good. Mark Ruffalo comes to play here, taking the ever-thankless "safe, buttoned-up cuckold-to-be" role and bringing his unique brand of rumpled adorableness to it. Richard Jenkins we'll get to in a minute. Even Mena Suvari is wonderful, nailing down her flighty character. And may I say how much mainstream romantic comedy needs to have Shirley MacLaine around? When you need a boozy, brassy broad of a certain age who has seen a thing or two and isn't afraid to dish some pearls of wisdom over a highball, accept no substitute.
Worst Thing About It: The middle third of the film, which focuses entirely on the flat, chemistry-free duo of Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Costner. The entire time we're watching his aged ass and her not-young-enough-to-be-scandalous ass romping around the wine country, the audience is impatient for things to get back to Shirley and company.
Best Performance: So, for real this time: how invaluable an asset is Richard Jenkins? How many times to I have write the sentence with "In a relatively small role, Richard Jenkins brings it home"? Because he does, every single time. He's funny, he's folksy, and he packs the film's one true emotional punch. The man deserves his own honorary Oscar.
Grade: C+ (though a B+ for the supporting cast)

Movie: War of the Worlds
Director/Studio: Steven Spielberg / Paramount
10 Word Review: Perfectly passable blockbuster fare undercut by lame acting, lamer ending.
Best Thing About It: As always, when Spielberg envisions something we've never seen before, he can really deliver it. He impressively stomps his tripod monsters actross the eastern seaboard with efficient suspense and action.
Worst Thing About It: The ending. It's just so bad. Beyond the usual tacked-on Spielbergy happy family bullshit, it's also crazy abrupt, with a deus ex machina that even had Signs going "bitch, is you crazy?"
Best Performance: This one's a tough call. Tom Cruise is (and probably will forevermore be) supremely annoying to even look at. Tim Robbins is embarrassingly slobbery. I'll be deep in the cold ground before I recognize Dakota Fanning. I suppose by default I'd have to go for Justin Chatwin as the believably bratty, yet poorly written son Robbie.
Grade: C-

Movie: The Family Stone
Director/Studio: Thomas Bezucha / 20th Century Fox
10 Word Review: Warmly acted dramady endears, yet takes too many narrative shortcuts.
Best Thing About It: I don't know what this says about me as a person, but for the duration of that film, I wanted to be a Stone. Loved the bitchy sister, loved the deaf/gay brother, loved Diane Keaton and Craig T. Nelson as the mom and dad. They were mean, but they were also protective. In a lot of ways, they reminded me of my family, though my mother would sooner die than use the phrase "popped her cherry." But the more I saw my family in the Stones, the harder the emotional punches hit me. This was a sadder movie than a comedy for me.
Worst Thing About It: The characters, though likeable, are largely one-note. And the story kind of sandbags them whenever it wants to shortcut its way to the next plot development. Case in point: the dramatically crucial, yet ultimately false Christmas dinner scene. You'd think a lifetime of being a Stone would prevented deaf-and-gay Thad from being wounded by freaking Sarah Jessica Parker's clueless words. Apparently not in this scene.
Best Performance: Rachel McAdams, who is the most charismatic thing on screen at all times.
Grade: B

Movie: King Kong
Director/Studio: Peter Jackson / Universal
10 Word Review: Unnecessarily overlong, but once it gets going, it's wondrously impressive.
Best Thing About It: Everyone has already said it, and better than me, but the Kong/Ann Darrow "relationship" succeeds well beyond the chances I gave it. The scene on the frozen pond is so touching.
Worst Thing About It: Dudes, this is three difficult hours to get through. Action scenes just go on and on and ON (and the only one that should have was the T-Rex battle, because of its importance). Even the Empire State Building scene. I don't think audiences wanted to be thinking "just DIE already," but they totally were. Shave off a lot of that first hour and a half or so, and you have a much, much better movie. Much as I love Jamie Bell, his entire side plot was ultimately a waste and never paid off.
Best Performance: It's not really a performer's film, and it's not my favorite of her performances in her career, but Naomi Watts brings it home. Hers is no easy task, and she pulls it off.
Grade: B+

Movie: Cinderella Man
Director/Studio: Ron Howard / Universal
10 Word Review: Well-made, seriously desperate film fetishizes the Depression in unseemly ways.
Best Thing About It: The boxing scenes. For real. Stellar camerawork and editing there. Everything tended to come together in the ring.
Worst Thing About It: From the opening title cards, Howard's film seems utterly desperate to seem "important." Everything is so grave, every character so noble. It's more of this easy kind of "Greatest Generation" boot licking that, at this point, seems way too easy.
Best Performance: Much as I really don't care for the guy, Russell Crowe is really in his element here. He embodies the role both physically and emotionally, and he even gets me to look past the working-class vocal tics that are laid on so thick with everyone else.
Grade: B

Monday, December 26, 2005

Low Res Caption Contest No. 006: Happy Holidays!

Just to prepare you all, the man in the photo below is Pope Benedict XVI, the current pontiff. Think y'all can manage something to tickle the ribs? I think you can. Enjoy!

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Friday, December 23, 2005

For the Rest of Us!

Far be it from me to crib an idea from ESPN Page 2's truly loathsome Dan Shanoff, but I have to admit when the dude beats me to a good idea. In his "Daily Quickie" column, Dan partakes in the Festivus tradition of the Airing of Grievances. Which is most definitely a holiday tradition I'm interested in perpetuating. So let's get this started. I've got a lot of problems with you people! And now you're gonna hear about it!

Tom Cruise, you haven't done anything crazy in months. I can't live off the Oprah couch incident and the water-squirting picture forever. Plus, I watched War of the Worlds last night, and I kept wanting to punch you in the face. Speaking of which …

Steven Spielberg. You might want to learn how to end a movie. You've only been directing movies for thirty years, after all. Don't just end shit. And don't make that ending lamer than fucking Signs.

Johnny Damon. I hate you, I hate your Jesus face, I hate your stupid book, and I hate your stripper wife. It took me a long damn time to warm up to Clemens and A-Rod. It's gonna take you even longer.

George Bush. Stop listening in on my phone calls! Perv.

ABC Family Channel. If you're gonna show those stop-motion Rankin/Bass Christmas specials all day, every day, you mind tossing me the Heat Miser every once in awhile? Instead of Rudolph's Shiny New Year? Oh, and stop airing 7th Heaven every time I want to watch a Gilmore Girls episode. In fact, just stop airing 7th Heaven.

Brett Ratner. You're ruining Wolverine for the rest of us. And your "X-Mas" card looks ri-goddamn-diculous.

Peggy Noonan. I swear to Jeebus, if I see you on TV one more time hawking your stupid John Paul II book and talking about what saintly crusaders for humanity effing Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were, I'm going to … change the channel, again. But angrily.

Renee Zellweger and Kenny Chesney. Annulments are for when you marry your fiance's twin brother by mistake. Not for when you realize your husband is gay and you're too anorexic to bear children. Because y'all would have known that if you'd spent more than seven minutes together before getting hitched.

Michael Kors. I've got your Barefoot Appalachia Lil' Abner Barbie right here. Raymundo was awesome! Okay, the dress was ass, but he deserved a second chance. Especially over damn Andrae. I hope Nina Garcia punches you in the balls.

Craig Bierko. You were so, so, SO horrible in Cinderella Man. Like, worse than you usually are. And close your mouth, dude. You're catching flies.

Tyra Banks. Just, stop. Stop. Stop talking. Please.

Old Man Winter. Wake up, pops! It's a day until Christmas, it's raining here, and everything outside looks brown and sludgy and gross. I don't want snow for the next three months, but it'd be picturesque to have it for the next three days. Get to work.


Now, since Festivus is nothing if not a communal holiday, I urge all of you to air your own Festivus grievances. While you do that, I'll retrieve the aluminum pole. And prepare for the feats of strength.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Nip/What the Fuck?

An e-mail from a concerned and dedicated reader goes as follows …

Joe,

I think I speak for everyone when I demand that you blog about the revelation of the Carver, and possibly about the entire season of Nip/Tuck. At the very least send me a detailed email.

Mathan


Let it never be said that I am deaf to the cries of my readers. Now, run along, little Nip/Tuckians who've got the season finale unwatched in their TiVo. I'm spilling everything.

So. The finale. After a season and a half of the Carver being one of the more legitimately frightening killers on television, Tuesday night we find out the identity of the serial rapist/killer/torturer/anti-beauty activist … and it was the guy we figured it was all along. Dr. Quentin Costa -- who was brought on to the show right about when the Carver attacks began, was the most glaringly obvious of the usual suspects, and who has spent this season being systematically dismantled as a character, becoming less human and more like a coked-up, leering, sexually deviant (as all bisexuals on television naturally must be) wretch. Hard to believe this guy could be a killer, huh?

Of course, having your serial killer be the guy who made most sense as a serial killer isn't exactly a bad thing. It was the ways in which the 2-part finale tried to lead us in other, last-minute directions that was irritating. And, yes, I'm talking about the "Quentin has no penis" part. Uh, what?! He … WHAT?! And this is coming from a guy who had no problem with any of the season 2 revelations (Ava is a man! And is screwing her son!) that seemed to offend so many. But Dickless Quentin seemed like such a desperate ploy for misdirection. Everything after that part just seemed to get worse and worse (hauling out Liz's strap-on? Un! Comfortable!), topped off by the rather tacked-on reveal that Kit was Quentin's creepy-incestual co-killer sister. God. I hate the co-killer gambit so much. Though I did appreciate how Rhona Mitra was able to drop her English accent at the end there. It just seemed so kitchen sink. Like they had painted themselves into such a corner with the Carver having to be a male, but they wanted to do the femme fatale thing anyway, so … sister! Bah.

As for the season as a whole, I'd say it was disappointing. Season 2 ended on such a high note. I'll agree with the prominent criticism of the season that it wandered too far away from its central storylines. I didn't mind Julia opening up the recovery spa, because that served as a nice furthering of her mega-arc, as well as Liz's. But the whole "Beady-Eyed Anne Heche on the run from the mob" plot? Such a loser. And it lasted three episodes! And then there was that overwrought episode with the plane crash where nothing actually happened. At least the tranny Matt beat up made her way back into the story, lest that be just another of the seemingly endless plot strands left hanging. Like a lot of people, I liked the storyline Matt got into with the neo-Nazi family toward the end. Although, racism/homophobia/hate in this country is usually insidious and doesn't always take the face of a snarling Aryan princess, and it might have been nice to have taken the subtler road in order to get to a deeper truth. But this is Nip/Tuck, the show that had Joan Rivers rubbing spooge on her face and loving it (a high point of the season -- and what is it with Grandma Skeletor factoring into so many of one show's best moments?), so maybe I'm expecting too much. As it was, I was glad that Cherry and Matt had the balls (so to speak) to off Daddy Hatebucks at the end. Of course, the timeline got dicked-up at the end there, where it looked like Matt had his long, dark night of the soul, his two dads cart off to the nunnery to investigate Quentin and Kit, they return, and the Matt comes home, all "maybe a home-cooked meal will wash away this murderous taste in my mouth." It seemed lazy, like a lot of the third season.

Which is too bad, because it's still a pretty damned compelling show. I mean, try and pry me away from it next season. But still: crappy season, overall.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Capsule Reviews 12/16: The Oil, the Bitch, and the Wardrobe

Movie: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Director/Studio: Andrew Adamson / Disney
10 Word Review: Gorgeous, imaginative storytelling. Falls well short of LotR greatness, though.
Best Thing About It: It really does look amazing. From the set design to the visual effects, Narnia is a fine creation. Also, I thought any and all scenes between young Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy) were standouts.
Worst Thing About It: Sadly, the flaws aren't few. You never once get the full scope of Narnia as a land and all the different creatures in it. There are almost no emotional connections beyond the children. The major battle just sort of ... happens. And the ending was crazy abrupt, and doesn't leave you hanging on for a sequel at all. Also, not having read the books, I was bracing myself for a two-hour long Christian allegory, but it's (thankfully) really not that at all. HOWEVER, once the allegory does crop up, boy howdy it is not subtle.
Best Performance: It's a dead heat between MacAvoy's endearing sweetness and Tilda Swinton's strike-a-pose posturing as the White Witch. Congratulations, Tilda, you're still in the running towards becoming Narnia's Next Top Model.
Grade: B-

Movie: Syriana
Director/Studio: Stephen Gaghan / Warner Bros.
10 Word Review: Depressingly accurate oil drama succeeds by not hiding its complexity.
Best Thing About It: I loved that it didn't try and simplify things for the viewer. Not because it made me feel smarter for understanding it (truth be told, trying to keep track of which law firm worked for who was a battle I surrendered early on), but because the Arab oil situation really is complex, and giving audiences a sense of the murkiness of it all was important.
Worst Thing About It: Throughout most of the film, Gaghan and his cast decline to hit the audience over the head with messages or characters, which is why the lobbyist (I think he's a lobbyist) played by Tim Blake Nelson stands out so much with his "yee-haw, I'ma git me some undue Congressional influence!" vileness. Not subtle.
Best Performance: George Clooney might take the Oscar for his turn as a CIA agent, but Alexander Siddig and Matt Damon run circles around him. It's their scenes together when the film comes most alive.
Grade: B+

Movie: Happy Endings (DVD)
Director/Studio: Don Roos / Lions Gate
10 Word Review: Hilarious, unexpectedly endearing, and brilliantly acted. Top ten, for sure.
Best Thing About It: I can't say as I get Don Roos. He can make pure pap like Bounce, but he can also do wonders with wicked black comedy like The Opposite of Sex and this movie. He's got a talent for making morally suspect characters endearing, and I wish he'd use it more.
Worst Thing About It: This overachieved in so many areas, I can't think of anything bad to say about it. Even Tom Arnold is pretty good. Which is weird.
Best Performance: It's a tough race. Lisa Kudrow is excellent. Jesse Bradford, Steve Coogan, Amanda Foreman -- all fantastic. But Maggie Gyllenhaal is the real standout. It's the Christina-Ricci-in-Opposite of Sex performance, except meaner, tougher, and with a wicked cool singing voice.
Grade: A-

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

2005: The Year in Radio Pop

I'm a nerdy list-maker by nature. I won't bother to deny that. It's probably a big reason why I'm so easily drawn to things like predicting the Oscars, and why the NCAA basketball tournament is my favorite sports post-season. Give me something cataloged and listed and seeded one-through-sixteen and I am dorkily enthralled. Top 10 best breakfast cereals of 2006? Yes, please. It explains why I've taken to creating iTunes playlists cataloged by the year the song was released. So far, I've got lists for 2005 back through 2002. iTunes does half the work for you, but it's still fun to browse through the library and remember that the month you graduated college, "Dirrty" was the hot jam. Then, you can boil said lists down even further, so that they fit on one time capsule of a CD.

Thus, in the spirit of time-specific now-stalgia and anal-retentive list-making (and also in the spirit of the hyphen, because would you take a look at that sentence?), I present to you the latest CD I've burned: 2005: Retrospecticus. Not necessarily my very favorite songs from the past 12 months, but the tunes that I think of when I think "2005."

** As always, the eternal disclaimer: I have terrible taste in music. I know this. I'm happy with this. Keep your snooty comments to a minimum.

01 The Killers -- "Mr. Brightside": This was probably my favorite song of the year. And it's caught its second wind with me, too -- that point where you love a song, then it gets kind of played, but now enough time has passed where you love it again. That's where I'm at with this song. Plus, it sure is one purty music video.

02 Kelly Clarkson -- "Since You Been Gone": "Brightside" may be my favorite song of '05, but this was the song that I heard almost every day of this year. God help me, but I do love Kelly Clarkson. I couldn't tell you the mechanics of what goes into making a perfect pop song, but I strongly believe this is one.

03 Ciara f/ Missy Elliot -- "One, Two Step": Weird thing about "One, Two Step": when it was brand new, you could not get away from this jam at the clubs. One night it played four times. Y'all, we were not drunk enough to not notice. So I really, really hated this song, up until two months ago when I gave it another listen. Turns out, it is a fucking stellar dance tune. Plus, Ciara gets bonus points for "My Goodies."

04 All-American Rejects -- "Dirty Little Secret": Not my favorite All-American Rejects song ("The Last Song," I still love you best), but it's still the cream of the pop-punk crop. By which I mean it doesn't make me want to go down to Hot Topic and start punching fifteen year olds.

05 Fall Out Boy -- "Sugar We're Going Down": Completing the pop-punk twin bill. This song had to grow on me, but once it did it tended to define the summer.

06 Gorillaz -- "Feel Good Inc.": Aww, man. This was my jam this year. Fucking incredible in every way. Catchy and weird as hell, which is a fine combination for me.

07 Gwen Stefani f/ Eve -- "Rich Girl": Had to include some Gwen, because she was all over the place this year. But I'm at the point with "Hollaback Girl" where I kind of want to stab my eardrums out. Which is too bad, because I used to love it. "Rich Girl" has the following advantages: 1) Eve, with her "COME together all over the world" hook, which is catchy like bird flu; 2) The phrase "my fancy house in London town"; and 3) The mental image of Gwen in Jewish peasant garb doing "Fiddler on the Roof."

08 Jennifer Lopez -- "Get Right": Club jam second only to "One, Two Step" in terms of dancey goodness. Jenny and I have a turbulent relationship, but '05 was an "on again" year for us.

09 Green Day -- "Holiday": By far, my favorite of the American Idiot songs. Billie Joe does go all Godwin's Law on us by comparing Bush to Hitler, but that last "this is our lives on holidaaaaaaay" makes up for it. Bonus Joe trivia: Green Day were my first concert ever, at the tender age of fifteen. My parents were not waiting for us in the parking lot, but my friend's parents were.

10 Howie Day -- "Collide": If you know me, you know that any playlist will have one puss-rock song in it. I liked Howie Day from way back when he used to open for Tori Amos. This song was stuck in my head for almost a month, and it only got dislodged when it was used as background filler for that awful Jason/Jessica "swear on our relationship?" convo on Laguna Beach. That did the trick. Because: shut up, Jason. But also, even more: shut up, Jessica!

11 My Chemical Romance -- "Helena": I know. Believe me, I know. First of all, I want to rename them The Baby Fat Toy Goth Band. Second of all, the song is about his grandmother. But, honestly, I really, really liked the song. And there was choreographed dancing in the video, which has been catnip for me ever since the days of Janet Jackson's "If." Still, I can't seem to shake the fact that underneath the goth makeup, these guys are secretly the West Memphis Three.

12 Coldplay -- "Speed of Sound": Yeah, it's a letdown from the enduring excellence of "Clocks," but this was a tune that grew on me. Chris Martin has that rare falsetto that doesn't weird me out. He's very comfortable way up there. Almost good enough to make me forget he named his daughter after produce.

13 Kanye West -- "Gold Digger": Jamie Foxx annoyances notwithstanding, this song is so very, very cool. I especially enjoy Kanye's spasm-like dance move when he's all "get down, girl, go 'head, get down." Clever lyrics on this, even if I do feel a little bit guilty for so cheerfully singing along with the "leave yo' ass for a white girl" line. Sorry, Mathan.

14 Song title omitted due to the extreme embarrassment of having this song on my CD. I will never, ever tell.

15 Lifehouse -- "You and Me": Continuing the tradition of me burning a disc for myself with one song that I don't actually like on it. I never seem to realize this until it's too late. But it does remind me of 2005, if only because it's been used on more TV shows than any song this side of Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah."

16 Garbage -- "Bad Boyfriend": This one is a bit of a cheat, since it wasn't a hit song or anything. But it was released in 2005, and it rocks hard, and it's my girl Shirley Manson. I can't not include it. Shirley does scary/sexy so very well.

17 Carrie Underwood -- "Independence Day": I had to somehow commemorate the first season of American Idol that I watched straight through. I'd have included something by Anthony Fedorov, but that would have been a bit too queer, I think. And by the end, I really did like Carrie a good deal. But there was no way I was going to put her "Jesus, Take the Wheel" song on here. I wish I was kidding on that song title. I am not.

18 Kelly Clarkson -- "Behind These Hazel Eyes": That's right. I like her so much, she's on my CD twice. What of it? If I had really wanted to push it, I'd have included the song where she cries real tears in the video and then yells at her own mom for getting beat up. But that's more a visual phenomenon -- hence the absence of any R. Kelly goodness here.

Speaking of R. Kelly … just stay tuned to Low Res in the coming weeks, is all I'm saying.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Golden Globe Predictions

So, the Golden Globes announce their nominees Tuesday morning. In the interest of keeping my stellar (*ahem*) predictive abilities on display, here's who I think will be nominated, for all to scoff at come tomorrow. Enjoy.

Best Picture - Drama
01 - Brokeback Mountain
02 - Munich
03 - Good Night and Good Luck
04 - The Constant Gardener
05 - Capote
alt.: Crash

Best Picture - Musical/Comedy
01 - Walk the Line
02 - The Squid and the Whale
03 - Mrs. Henderson Presents
04 - Pride and Prejudice
05 - Casanova
alt.: The Producers

Best Director
01 - Ang Lee - Brokeback Mountain
02 - Stephen Spielberg - Munich
03 - George Clooney - Good Night and Good Luck
04 - Noah Baumbach - The Squid and the Whale
05 - David Cronenberg - A History of Violence
alt.: Fernando Mierelles - The Constant Gardener

Best Actor - Drama
01 - Phillip Seymour Hoffman - Capote
02 - Heath Ledger - Brokeback Mountain
03 - David Strathairn - Good Night and Good Luck
04 - Ralph Feinnes - The Constant Gardener
05 - Terrence Howard - Hustle and Flow
alt.: Russell Crowe - Cinderella Man

Best Actress - Drama
01 - Felicity Huffman - Transamerica
02 - Charlize Theron - North Country
03 - Joan Allen - The Upside of Anger
04 - Rachel Weisz - The Constant Gardener
05 - Scarlett Johansson - Match Point
alt.: Vera Farminga - Down to the Bone

Best Actor - Musical/Comedy
01 - Joaquin Phoenix - Walk the Line
02 - Jeff Daniels - The Squid and the Whale
03 - Heath Ledger - Casanova
04 - Nathan Lane - The Producers
05 - Bob Hoskins - Mrs. Henderson Presents
alt.: Cillian Murphy - Breakfast on Pluto

Best Actress - Musical/Comedy
01 - Reese Witherspoon - Walk the Line
02 - Judi Dench - Mrs. Henderson Presents
03 - Kiera Knightley - Pride and Prejudice
04 - Laura Linney - The Squid and the Whale
05 - Catherine Keener - The 40-Year Old Virgin
alt.: Rosario Dawson - Rent

Best Supporting Actor
01 - George Clooney - Syriana
02 - Paul Giamatti - Cinderella Man
03 - Jake Gyllenhaal - Brokeback Mountain
04 - Matt Dillon - Crash
05 - William Hurt - A History of Violence
alt.: Kevin Costner - The Upside of Anger

Best Supporting Actress
01 - Diane Keaton - The Family Stone
02 - Maria Bello - A History of Violence
03 - Catherine Keener - Capote
04 - Amy Adams - Junebug
05 - Gong Li - Memoirs of a Geisha
alt.: Frances McDormand - North Country

Best Screenplay
01 - The Squid and the Whale
02 - Brokeback Mountain
03 - Good Night and Good Luck
04 - Crash
05 - Capote
alt.: Munich

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Netflix Files: Catching Up on Project Runway

A brief bit of backstory: I caught a grand total of two episodes of Project Runway this past summer when Bravo was running one of those all-weekend marathons. I had heard good things, but there's "heard good things," and then there's experiencing the particular combination of fascination/revulsion/joy that comes from spending some TV time with the likes of Wendy Pepper, Jay McCarroll, Austin Scarlett, and the rest of the Runway freakshows. It was lovely.

So, I had made the determination that I'd catch up on the entire series via DVD before the second season begins (Wednesday at 10pm). We'll take this disc by disc.

Disc 1

What We Learn:
The competition pits the following twelve aspiring fashion designers against one another:

Robert Plotkin – Smarmy, overly familiar, well-intentioned, would-be ladies man.

Wendy Pepper – Stripey-haired, middle-aged mother grasping fiercely at what she clearly sees as her last chance at making something of her life. Unnecessarily, and ineptly, Machiavellian. And, from the looks of it, sets her makeup gun regularly to "whore."

Kevin Johnn – The extra "n" is for "not a big part of the storyline, at least through four episodes."

Daniel Franco – Dykey-looking male designer obsessed with creating his own Harry Chapin-by-way-of-Tony Robbins story for the cameras. He's gonna be back for season 2, it looks like. Great.

Starr – The single-named result of what would happen if Karen Carpenter and Evanescence's Amy Lee created a perpetually trembling offspring.

Vanessa Riley – Raven-haired, Brit-accented, and kind of a crappy designer.

Jay McCarroll – Large, queeny, brilliant designer who blows right past obnoxious and lands safely in the hilarious zone.

Kara Saun – It aint Kara. It's Kara Saun. She generally kicks ass. She also generally doesn't care much for covering up her models' naughty bits.

Mario Cadenas – Self-conscious slacker who started off annoying, got cute real damn quick, and then got booted even quicker.

Austin Scarlett – The name says it all, as he's pretty much Scarlett O'Hara with Farrah Fawcett-Majors' (aka, Mrs. Steve Austin's) hair. He's ready for his closeup, Ms. Klum. Also: crazy/brilliant.

Nora Calguri – Teeny, sweet, talented, and reminiscent of America's Next Top Model winner Naima.

Alexandra Vidal – Silver medalist in the "Whose name would sound coolest spoken by Nicole Kidman on the red carpet" Olympics (Austin takes the bronze, Kara Saun the gold). Teeny, blonde, and subtextually attracted to Robert.

Oh, and there are also models who get picked each week by the designers, with one superfluous lass getting musical-chaired out of the show. None of them are interesting, aside from the one who was late and got dumped by her agency. And even then, it was like, "eh."


What Kicks Ass:

First off: the judges. Specifically, hostess Heidi Klum, who proves herself to be a) prettier, and b) unintentionally funnier than I ever expected her to be. The show's elimination catchphrase ("You're out.") gets beaten to death, resuscitated, and placed gently in a German children's hospital by Heidi's accent.

Michael Kors is the ostensible Simon Cowell, except (as far as I've seen), he's neither cutting, clever, bitchy, or devious. Thank god, then, that Elle fashion editor Nina Garcia comes through in the clutch with some choice bitchicisms. Man, did she ever hate Wendy Pepper's licorice dress.

The first challenge is to design a dress made up of nothing but what could be bought at a local supermarket. Genius. In between the wildly varying quality of dresses made out of aluminum foil, shower curtains, butcher paper, socks, and the aforementioned licorice whips, Austin rocks out a dress made out of corn husks and wins the challenge. Daniel Franco and his "follow your bliss" bullshit get tossed.

The second challenge is to convey "Envy," which Jay does with grafitto-tagged denim, Mario does with the illusion of homicide, and Robert does with the illusion of a penis. Oh, and Starr designs a dress with these bulbous tumors, which are intentionally supposed to be tumors, and yet she still doesn't get eliminated. No, it's Mario's nonchalance that gets him the boot. Which makes Jay cry because he lost his bitchy smoking buddy.

It's not even that the challenges are so compelling (though they're interesting enough). The beauty is in the cast who are either funny, crazy, cool, or some combination of the three. And I haven't even gotten to the point where Wendy's train jumps the tracks yet. Gooood times await.

Stay tuned for disc 2. And watch the second season. Maybe Michael Kors will actually do something interesting.

Oh, Hell.

After almost an entire year despairing about how bad the Brett Ratner-led X3 was going to be, here I go enthusing about the trailer. But it does look pretty cool, you guys. Halle Berry apparently kept her wig from the Catwoman set and streaked it. And after a few years on Six Feet Under, Ben Foster sure seems to clean up nice. And Famke Janssen looks wicked cool as Phoenix. Fuck, y'all, I'm setting myself up for one heck of a letdown.

Speaking of letdowns, last night's episodes of Arrested Development and Kitchen Confidential reminded me all the more how much I'm going to miss both shows. Like there aren't already too few actually funny comedies on TV right now. KC was really coming into its own, too -- and Harold from Harold and Kumar seemed to have joined the cast for real. Damn. The catastrophic loss of AD speaks for itself. And if it didn't, its sublime Charlize Theron Monster joke would have spoken for it. Damn. Damn, damn, damn.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Capsule Movie Reviews: All Singing, All Dancing, One Sucking

Movie: Walk the Line
Director/Studio: James Mangold / 20th Century Fox
10 Word Review: Standard bio, buoyed by fantastic performances by Phoenix and Witherspoon.
Best Thing About It: It's almost impossible not to compare this movie to Ray -- they're so very similar to each other. I thought this movie bested Ray on at least two criteria: it was less dependent on Cash's stellar music to keep us interested. Ray tended to use Ray Charles's songs as a crutch. Also, I thought the haunted family past story arc was integrated far better in this story than it was in Ray's.
Worst Thing About It: It's still somewhat Bio-by-numbers. He's a kid, he moves out of daddy's shadow, goes to war, is poor, gets his break, career goes up, meets his lady, personal demons, career goes down, lady helps save his soul. Seen. It. Before.
Best Performance: Reese Witherspoon. Joaquin Phoenix is very good as Johnny Cash, but it's Witherspoon who gives the movie its life. I've been waiting to see her give this performance for a long time. Interestingly, with this role she steps the farthest outside her comfort zone, yet the role also makes the most of her most innate gifts -- her charisma and her (for lack of a better term) sweetness. Lady can sing country, too.
Grade: B

Movie: Rent
Director/Studio: Chris Columbus / Columbia/Revolution
10 Word Review: Earnest, enthusiastic musical whose winning performances trump fleeting boho annoyances.
Best Thing About It: The songs - they're catchy, packed with emotion, and belted by a uniformly excellent cast. The better ones have been playing in my brain all week.
Worst Thing About It: Oh, just the thirty or so times I wanted to yell "get a job, deadbeat!" at the screen. Maybe this is a function of the cast being ten years olden than when the play debuted, but seeing this collection of thirtysomething actors singing about not wanting to pay their rent and not wanting to "sell out" and get a job … shut up! I really should have seen this show back when I was in high school, I think.
Best Performance: Damn, this is a tough call. Jesse L. Martin is so good. Tracie Thoms crafts the most likeable character. Wilson Jermaine Heredia is a burst of energy. I was most partial to Rosario Dawson, though. I've liked her ever since 25th Hour, and she surpassed my expectations here in a big way.
Grade: B

Movie: Shopgirl
Director/Studio: Anand Tucker / Touchstone
10 Word Review: Lamely conceived romantic dramady that's neither romantic, comedic, nor dramatic.
Best Thing About It: It's really quite bad, but I enjoyed the chemistry between Claire Danes and Jason Schwartzman while it lasted. Two very likeable people right there.
Worst Thing About It: Oh, man. I guess the primary blame goes to the script. Because what kind of story is this? None of the characters are believable from the beginning to the end. Tangents pop up out of nowhere (Jeremy goes on tour?!). Mirabelle pretty much needs to be nuclear-blasted before she figures some pretty obvious shit out. And Steve Martin is not in any way sympathetic. Plus, the voiceover is horrid and cutesy and confusing.
Best Performance: Danes, who is begging (begging!) for the script that will let her make the leap. This wasn't it.
Grade: D+

Movie: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Director/Studio: Mike Newell / Warner Bros.
10 Word Review: Exciting, fantastic, and the best of the Potter bunch. Impressive.
Best Thing About It: Steve Kloves's script rises to a serious adaptation challenge and emerged almost unscathed. Of course, Newell acquits himself quite well, also, particularly with regard to the Quiddich World Cup and the introduction of the rival magic schools.
Worst Thing About It: In a cast this big (and getting bigger every time), there's increasingly fewer opportunities for folks like Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman to shine.
Best Performance: The three young leads are improving by leaps and bounds, but I was all about Brendan Gleeson's manic, oversized Mad-Eye Moody.
Grade: A-

Friday, December 02, 2005

Secret Not-Lady in the Possibly-Not-Water

So, okay, I saw the trailer for the new M. Night Shyamalan disappointment-to-be, Lady in the Water, last week before the Harry Potter movie. It was the most preliminary of trailers -- the movie isn't due to open until summer '06 -- but it certainly left an impression. To put it plainly, it's quite possibly the single most self-satisfied, self-conscious piece of promotion since the Cinderella Man clip groomed itself in front of our eyes around this time last year.

In the interests of providing you with the full Lady in the Water experience, I'm letting you in on the dialogue my brain had with itself while trying to process nearly two minutes of what the fuck? Enjoy!

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Well, we got people playing by a pool, so summer movie, I guess.
And crazy random shots of butterflies with an overbearing string accompaniment, so pretentious movie, I guess.
And, hey! It's every-shlub Paul Giamatti! And he's … plumbing!
His name appears to be "Cleveland," so you know he's all working class. Privileged white girls get named after states like Montana or Dakota. Blue-collar plumbers are named after cities.
Looks like he's the Super for this apartment complex. The violins make me think he's kind of a sad dude.
For real. If it weren't for the violins, that soul-crushed look on his hangdog face might not have been enough.
Damn, that is a nice-looking apartment building, though. He should be happy he keeps such a clean complex.
Oh, but look. He lives in a little hobbit home at the edge of the woods. He is sequestered away from the pretty condo because he lives in Frodo's house.
Sad!
And now the violins are doing some trilly thing which makes me think he's also a Russian immigrant. Like he's Fivel and he's looking for his family.
Doubtful. He's a writer, though. Like he was in Sideways. Bet he won't get Oscar nominated for this one either.
Well, not after that title card. "Once Upon a Time …"?
Yeah, not even Spielberg gets away with that shit anymore.
Oh, fuck! You know what this movie is?
What?
It's the new Shyamalan. He finds a mermaid in the pool. Watch.
Well thank you for ruining the last seventy seconds!
Just watch.
His name is Cleveland Heep?! Are they kidding me?
Sadly, no.
Oh, that's very Shyamalan. Because it goes for poignant, yet it comes off as …
Illiterate? Because of the Uriah factor?
Right, because I'm pretty sure Giamatti's not supposed to be making us think of prog rock or a Dickens villain.
Oh, no.
That's not …
Groban. Josh fucking Groban.
Singing in Italian.
Kiiiiiill me now.
Oooh! A splash in the pool. Is it human or fish?
Depends on how lonely Giamatti is.
Hiyo!
Oh, hell, who did I hear plays the mermaid?
Daryl Hannah?
No. It's some name actress.
Daryl Hannah is a name actress.
An actress whose name means anything in this, the 21st century.
Daryl Hannah was just in Kill Bill!
It's not Daryl Hannah! You're just thinking of Splash.
Well just wait a second and they'll show her.
Dude, this is Shyamalan. We probably won't see her until the final reel, when she's revealed to be a character from Uriah's children's book that he's writing.
Oooh! That's a good twist.
Shut up.
Whoa, that's the whole thing? A ripple in the water and a title?
Aint called a teaser for nothing.
Oh, wait. Shot of Giamatti from water-cam.
Yeah, that aint doing him any favors.
For real, dude. And bes- … Oh, you have got to be joking.
Wow. That was just … wow.
"A Bedtime Story, Written and Directed by M. Night Shyamalan"
Do you think he got that put in the contract?
"Director's name, credits, and pretentious description of movie get above-title billing."
His name seriously took up the whole screen.
Even Quentin Tarantino saw that trailer and was like "dude, you're being a little full of yourself."
"How many of you are there?"
Don't believe her when she tells you, Paul! She's setting you up for the twist!
She's secretly a fragile super-villian!
She's secretly dead!
She's secretly from the early 1800s!
She's secretly vulnerable to water!
Err.
Uh.
Oh, like that's gonna be any worse than what the actual twist is.
True. You wonder how many times he can go to the same we- …
Shh! Quiet, dude, it's the Narnia trailer!
Aww, yeah. Aslan like a motherfucker!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Unloading the Hole in the Back of My Head

Okay, so I've been horribly neglectful of my blogging duties, and for that I am sorry. To make it up to you, I have a completely unformed and random series of thoughts as they pass through my head. Let's do this shit Larry King style!

Of the many things I was thankful for this Thanksgiving, my initially ugly -- yet unarguably comfortable -- old-man slippers are pretty high up on my list.

Fact: there is nothing like a holiday weekend to bring hacky country music "superstars" on to network television. Faith Hill, Kenny Chesney, you made the TV set so easy to fall asleep in front of this year.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was the best Potter movie I've seen yet. So very, very good. Brendan Gleeson can really ham it up with the best of them.

So, when exactly did Grey's Anatomy become my favorite drama on TV? Seriously, when? All of a sudden I'm on that shit like Bush on Al Jazeera.

Speaking of which, remind me some time to run down all the things I've learned from my new blogging job. At the top of that list would definitely be knowing how to identify a crazy right-wing blog just by its banner. Mostly, I think it involves the Liberty Bell and Latin phrases, but I could use a little more time to flesh the theory out.

Why am I so strangely excited to see Aeon Flux? For some reason, I just think it looks so cool. It's got that sci-fi quirk that I love, in which everyone is dressed like an extra from Madonna's "Bedtime Stories" video for no good reason. And, yes, Dune had the same tendency. Also, what is up with "Bedtime Stories" being such a referential touchstone for me? It explains so much, from sci-fi costumes, to creepy anatomically incorrect CGI, to the downfall of Kurt Loder's career. Because, if I'm recalling correctly, Loder hosted the world premiere of that video, a premiere which involved Madonna reading a "bedtime story" to a bunch of profoundly frightened children. That was back when Loder's official occupation wasn't so much "MTV News stiff" as "Madonna lapdog." But that position would soon be taken by Rosie O'Donnell, then Rupert Everett, and finally her little Kaballah string bracelet.

More importantly: Why do I know this? Why do I have all this useless MTV knowledge in my brain? What quantum physics theory would I have to learn that's weighty enough to push out the fact that I remember "Dead at 21"? Why does the name "John Sencio" hold any meaning for me? Why do I hold to the Kennedy/Duff/Bill Bellamy era as the "Golden Age"? Why would I even bother holding stubbornly to the belief that Cindy Crawford was the only true host of "House of Style," and Rebecca Romijin was only a pale impostor? Ditto Jenny McCarthy, "Singled Out," and Carmen Electra. Why do I think I could bust out 3,000 words on why the MTV Beach House was so much better when Daisy Fuentes was around? What did they do to my brain??

Okay, more of my random thoughts later. Clearly I need to regroup.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Low Res Caption Contest No. 005

You know the drill by now. Make with the funny. This particular photo was found and requested by devoted, delightful, and damn attractive (for a girl) Low Res loyalist Tipsy McSwiggans. Who loves ya, baby?


Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

What I've Been Up To

Sorry about the minimal blogging this week, you guys. I've been recapping Apprentice: Martha Stewart for Television Without Pity this week (read the recap here) and have been busybusybusy besides.

To tide you over, I came across the following as I was weeding out my document folder at work: the bio I wrote for myself when I was writing the column for 411. I'm not sure if they're still planning on making a go of their author bio section, but it occurs to me that I put some work into the following smart-assed remarks, so why let it go to waste. So, if you at all care, here's what would have been my entry:

Name:
Joe Reid; AKA, Dr. Frederick von Gigglehoffer, AKA Jimmy Six Thumbs, AKA His Royal Highness The Duke, Duke, Duke, Duke of Earl

Current Role:
Maintenance of Monday morning mirth on the Movies/TV page.

Past Roles:
I began low on the 411 totem pole, fetching coffee for Widro and Quaaludes for Ashish. Then I began ghostwriting for several of the zones around here, going by aliases such as “Warren Woo,” “Matt Biscuiti,” “Eric S.,” and “Aaron Cameron”. I got to write under my own name with the recurring column “The End Credits,” the fourth issue of which exposed the sordid weapons-for-sex scandal at Sony Pictures Classics. I won the Nobel Prize in Muckraking for that piece. From there, I horned in on the weekly news column racket with the “Friday Movie News Happy Hour”, a pulpit from which I mocked Tom Cruise’s height and Ben Affleck’s existence, made roughly 347 reports on the status of the new “Superman” movie, and, on August 30th, 2003, killed Charles Bronson. I’ve yet to be brought up on charges for that last one.

Other Credits:
Mostly uncredited stuff: I was the fifth Golden Girl (Rose Neiland’s long lost cousin from New Hampshire), the fourth Amigo (Martin Short’s jealousy and pettiness kept me on the cutting room floor), the 11th Lubbock family member on “Just the Ten of Us” (Heather Langenkamp’s jealousy and pettiness – not to mention her crystal meth addiction – kept me on the cutting room floor), and the long lost Huxtable child, Cousin Rufus, the famous the jazz musician (yeah, yeah, they all are).

Quote:
“That dog has been licking his asshole for the last three straight hours. I submit to you that there is nothing there worth more than an hour's attention, and I should think that whatever he is attempting to dislodge, is either gone for good . . . or there to stay.”

History:
Worked in the coal mines, grifted for a bit on the Jersey shore, ran with the bulls in Pamplona, ran with the woodchucks in Pennsylvania, ran with the Crips in the Compton of your imagination, caddied for Senators and CEOs, captains and kings, smoked weed with Willie Nelson, smoked crack with Meredith Baxter, dropped acid with Imelda Marcos and went on a three-day Ny-Quil bender with three-fifths of The Eagles.

What else do you need to know?
I enjoy NFL football, Labatt Blue Light, reality television, and the music of Ann and Nancy Wilson.

I do not enjoy paper cuts, tomatoes, when networks schedule shows I’d normally watch on Friday nights, or the music of Steely Dan.

You can catch me soon, on tour, playing the spoons for Dr. Funke’s 100% Natural Good Time Family Band Solution.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

LowRes Insta-Poll

I've just witnessed Carmine Gotti and Bai Ling duetting "Summer Nights" on VH1's But Can They Sing? Have I just seen:

a) The face of God.

b) The face of Satan.


Vote and discuss. But please discuss. Because that shit was awesome.


p.s.: Larry Holmes and the kid from One Tree Hill. "Don't Go Breaking My Heart." I can die now.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Oh, For Pats' Sake

Seriously, there's being a whiny bitch when your favored sports team loses a big game, and then there's … this.

Full disclosure: I do not hate "Sports Guy" Bill Simmons. I wouldn't read him every week if I did. I love the Gen-X style immersion of sports into pop culture thing that he does, I really do appreciate the enthusiasm he shows for both sports and things like TV and movies, and nine times out of ten, the guy produces a damn finely written column.

That being said: the homer thing has just gotten sad. Dude pulls every excuse short of "they lost on purpose" for New England's drubbing at the hands of Indianapolis on Monday. They were injured, the NFL changed the rules on them, the Colts had too easy a schedule, Peyton Manning is a doofus whose teammates hate him. Half of these things sounded like old Yankees columns with A-Rod's name crossed out and Peyton's written in. And the NFL put the fix in for the Colts, did they? I keep forgetting who decided to give the Pats the home game in this matchup the last two years. And isn't a cream-puff schedule just as likely to keep a good team from being battle tested for a big game?

Of course, the biggest beef I had -- and this one is a carry-over from Simmons's Red Sox columns, too -- is that he still tries to play the martyr card. Oh those poor defending World Champions! Will they ever catch a break? This is why I appreciate even the most obnoxious of Yankee fans. They don't try to bullshit you into thinking their team is David to anyone's Goliath. They get beat, they get pissed, they tell you your team is "one-and-done," and they go back to saying how dead your asses are next year.

Look, I get that he probably got six thousand of the most obnoxious in-your-face e-mails from Colts fans after the game, and I’d probably want to rub some noses in shit if I were him, too. But this column was weak. Shut up, take your lumps, and lie in wait for the playoff rematch, dude.

Oh, and while we're on ESPN, I cringed a mighty cringe today when I saw that Page 2 had given a regular column to Chuck Klosterman, of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs fame. I was all set to be annoyed, right up until I read the thing, at which point I remembered that Chuck's a pretty damn great writer. He pretty much nails the sports purist mentality, and puts enough of his tongue in his cheek to let us know how ridiculous it all sounds. I like it a lot. Although it left me with the same thought I had after reading Sex, Drugs .., which is that Klosterman is a great read, but if ever I were to wind up in a conversation with him at a party, I’d literally have to gnaw my own limbs off to get the hell away from him. "No, I don't need to know why Jake Plummer is the Steely Dan of NFL quarterbacks, Chuck. And I don't care to find out what my opinion on NBA free-throw shooting says about me as an American. And –" *chompchomprrrRRRIIPPPP* "Ahh, freedom at last!"

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Capsule Reviews: The Prime of Mr. Truman Capote

Movie: Capote (2005)
Director/Studio: Bennett Miller / Sony Pictures Classics
10 Word Review: Compelling bio with strong portrayals; lots of layers – satisfyingly complex.
Best Thing About It: Lots to recommend here. For one thing, it's absolutely gorgeous to look at. Some really captivating cinematography. And the script seems to have aged pretty well in my head, holding up to a whole lot of initial scrutiny. Which brings us to the best thing about the movie, which has to be Phillip Seymour Hoffman's lead performance. I've never been a huge PSH fan, but he really pulls it all together here, with a skilled and surprisingly likeable turn.
Worst Thing About It: The vagueness of the script, while not as much of a detriment as I originally thought, but it still makes the film less satisfying than it could have been.
Best Performance: Has to be Hoffman. Although I can't say enough good things about Clifton Collins, Jr. as convicted murderer Perry Smith. Awesome, awesome work, and a great example of doing a lot with a little. Couldn't take my eyes off of him.
Grade: B+

Movie: Prime (2005)
Director/Studio: Ben Younger / Universal
10 Word Review: Well-written, too-loose romantic comedy. Uma, Meryl cruise on star power.
Best Thing About It: When you have Uma Thurman and Meryl Streep doing their movie star thing, you don't need much. They have several very good scenes together, including one small piece of unexpected and quiet emotion, which I loved.
Worst Thing About It: Much as I love them, though, I couldn't help but think that this movie would have worked better as an ensemble indie comedy. The central figure in the movie is still the Bryan Greenberg character, but inevitably Uma and Meryl wind up pulling focus. Which is good, but ultimately bad. It almost feels like this was a relationship movie that all of a sudden got Meryl Streep to play the mother and thus built up half the movie around her.
Best Performance: Strange as it is to say – and it seems I'm the only one actually saying it, but whatever – I was most impressed by Greenberg. He came across as very aware of his own charisma, which is a gift for an actor, I think. And I thought he walked the tightrope of oddly-mature-for-his-age-oh-wait-he's-not quite well.
Grade: B -

Movie: Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
Director/Studio: Ridley Scott / 20th Century Fox
10 Word Review: Orlando Bloom enters the Crusades and lulls us to sleep.
Best Thing About It: The silver-masked, leprosy-plagued King of Jerusalem, played by Edward Norton, even though we never see his face. Loved everything about that character, particularly the look of the mask, which gives the movie a sort of art film sheen.
Worst Thing About It: Everything else. Lord. So boring, and so long.
Best Performance: Truth be told, I liked Jeremy Irons, standing around with quiet dignity, like he usually does. I seem to always like him, and I wish he'd get better parts these days. He's won an Oscar, casting directors. Get your heads out of your asses.
Grade: C -

Movie: Wild at Heart (1990)
Director/Studio: David Lynch / PolyGram
10 Word Review: Typical Lynchian violence/weirdness blend, filmed like a mystical opera.
Best Thing About It: Watching the movie fifteen years later, and especially with the prism of Mulholland Dr. to look through, it's fun to click off the list of Lynch's stylistic and narrative staples. It's an experience, watching David Lynch, it really is.
Worst Thing About It: It's not always an easy experience. It's Lynch's way to have not everything make sense, so there are a lot of tangents that aren't necessary, and while some of them work in their own right, some of them don't. Plus … Nicolas Cage … singing Elvis. I know.
Best Performance: Diane Ladd gives just about the weirdest performance ever nominated for Oscar (one could argue, "until Renee Zellweger in Cold Mountain came along," but I'll back off from that), but I was partial to Harry Dean Stanton in one of his typically excellent supporting turns.
Grade: B

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Weird, You Guys

So I was watching Bravo's "100 Scariest Movie Moments" yesterday. Yes, "again." It's really, really good. And it's pretty much on all weekend, so you should try to TiVo it if you haven't seen it, although for some dumb reason Bravo is still airing its usual block of West Wing episodes on Monday, like, HELLO it's Halloween, make with the scary, already, and ... I've digressed.

ANYway, I'm watching the 100 Scariest special, and they're showing the clip from The Sixth Sense with the creepy girl who busts in on Haley Joel's tent, and the girl looks oddly familiar. Was that ... was that Mischa Barton? Yes. Apparently it was.

And, check it out, y'all: apparently Mischa's mom is still Munchausening her soup with Pine-Sol or whatever, because girlfriend looks as sickly as ever. Mom's even taken to poisoning Mischa's friends.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Capsule Review: North Country

Movie: North Country (2005)
Director/Studio: Niki Caro / Warner Bros.
10 Word Review: Authentic looking, mostly good true-life movie buoyed by a stellar cast.
Best Thing About It: The art direction and cinematography complement each other quite well. The story takes place in a Minnesota mining town (meaning: poor, rural, snowy) in the late-1980s (the Clarence Thomas – Anita Hill era, if you can call that an era, and I think you can, because hoo-boy, those were the days! Pubes on a Pepsi can, that takes me back!). So the period detail, such as it is, is very specific and subtle, but every nuance says "low-income industrial town." And the photography captures that art design perfectly. As distasteful as some of the subject matter is, it's rendered wonderfully.
Worst Thing About It: The ending, hands down. It's brutal – predictable, uninspired, and sappy in all the worst ways. Caro works so hard throughout the movie creating a movie that – while intense in its cruelty to the main character – still seems credible. The ending undermines that, badly.
Best Performance: Charlize Theron is very good, and cements her standing as a for-real dramatic actress, but Frances McDormand is still the all-pro in the lineup. It's to her credit that she makes such a strong impression before her character gets saddled with the somewhat-gimmicky fatal illness. She never lets the gimmick get the best of the performance. She rocks.
Grade: B

Notes From My Clogged Sinuses

So between starting my new job this week and getting a wicked head cold to boot, I haven't had much time to blog for myself. So, in order to make up for my absence, I offer a hodgepodge:

-- For starters, last night's Prison Break was awwwwwesome. [SPOILERS, duh] Best episode of the series, thus far. Tons of plot lines came together, lots of mini-climaxes, and the story went in about six new and different directions. In short, our investment in the setup has started to pay off. And they killed the cat! I never thought they'd have the balls to do that. And Patricia Wettig is the Vice-President, which I had considered, and which leads to a whole slew of further questions. I just loved the entire hour. Well done, show.

-- So, okay, at what point did I miss the memo that Filter's "Hey Man, Nice Shot" was set to experience a cultural renaissance? It's a great song, and certainly emblematic of my mid-90s "new rock alternative" music tastes. But outside of my media player, I hadn't heard the song in years. Now, all of a sudden, it's in the Stay trailer, in last week's episode of Supernatural, and getting name-checked in Stephen King's Entertainment Weekly column. It's like Filter's publicist was just awoken from a ten-year cryogenic slumber and decided she's get back to marketing the hell out of their song.

-- If you haven't been already, y'all have to read the InsidePulse columns from my brothers in the fraternity known as J.A.M. [Rush Week, November 7-11 – better bring a poncho.]

First off, Mathan Erhardt, who wishes death upon Lost characters, turns on a dime when Nip/Tuck disappoints him, and is able to alter the Grey's Anatomy storyline AT WILL.

Meanwhile, Aaron Cameron asks for feedback, and feedback he shall have: he starts us off with some bagel-and-cream-cheese humor, which is relatable and accurate. Strawberry and garlic just do NOT get along, especially at breakfast. He then mines some fine comedy out of well-worn racial slurs, a staple of the Cam'ron comedy style. I can't repeat it here, but the laughter, she was audible. Next up, an inside-jokey slam at a former colleague. My favorite kind! He then dips into some Foxy Brown (eww, not like that!), a spot-on Kanye West commentary (complete with the "George Bush Doesn't Care About ___" construct that I adore so much), and keeps his "consecutive weeks mocking Fantasia Barrino" streak alive. I keep waiting for him to make a "Duhh, stay outta Riverdale" joke, but alas, there's only so much Fantasia news to go around. Really, the only black mark against our Aaron? No extended AIM conversations with me! What gives, dude? IP couldn't handle the increased traffic last week?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Low Res Fall Movie Preview, Part 4

Part four of four. Done.


Movie: All the King's Men (Steve Zaillian)
High-Concept Synopsis: Sean Penn plays a southern political demagogue, with Jude Law as his reluctant accomplice/enabler. Patricia Clarkson, Kate Winslet, James Gandolfini, Anthony Hopkins, and Mark Ruffalo co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of good, old-fashioned political drama. Fans of the ridiculously talented cast. Fans of Sean Penn's "You, sir, are no Jude Law" speech from last year's Oscars.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Anyone, at least this year. It just got moved to 2006.
Why I'd See It: The cast is stunning, and while it's a remake, it's also an adaptation of a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, and the story is damn good.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Have to listen to Sean Penn extol the virtues of another one of his co-stars.

Movie: The Producers (Susan Stroman)
High-Concept Synopsis: It's a movie! It's a musical! It's a movie about the musical about the movie! Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, and Uma Thurman star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who wanted to see it during its blockbuster Broadway run, but the price was high and New York was far away. People curious to see if Nathan Lane uses his "inside voice" now that he's not singing to the back row. Whatever is left of Mel Brooks.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People who lost their hearing due to Nathan Lane long ago. The Zero Mostel Society For the Perpetually Bug-Eyed. HBO subscribers who think it won't be the same without Larry David's awful acting and off-key warbling.
Why I'd See It: I hear the Broadway production was great fun. And I do like Uma Thurman. But those leads . . .
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: See Lane and Broderick in an off-Broadway version of Oleanna. [And the award for strangest non-sequiter goes to …]

Movie: Fun Dick and Jane (Dean Parisot)
High-Concept Synopsis: Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni are a married couple who become oh-so-comical thieves to make ends meet.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who are really, really tired from all the Christmas shopping and need to get off of their feet. Badly.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People who have found Carrey's overt style of comedy rightly irritating. People who have found Leoni's stalwart devotion to pointy-faced irritation somewhat off-putting. People who haven't been seen since a screening of the trailer created a black hole of unfunny.
Why I'd See It: Bribery. [*Hint*]
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Get trampled to death by the holiday mall crowds.

Movie: Freedomland (Joe Roth)
High-Concept Synopsis: A white lady (Julianne Moore) says a black guy jacked her car and drove away with her kid in the back seat. Sound familiar? Samuel L. Jackson is the cop on the case.
Who Will Be Seeing It: The Susan Smith Society For Racist Child-Killing Bitches. The unflappable Julianne Moore fan base, who are practically begging her to make a good movie again. Drunken college meatheads yearning to scream "Mmm, mmm, bitch!" at Jackson's every appearance on screen.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Anyone who takes too close a look at director Joe "America's Sweethearts / Christmas with the Kranks" Roth's CV. People who have turned to dust waiting for Moore and Jackson to get their careers back on track. Holiday audiences looking for a better time than "Mom gets her kid abducted and may or may not have killed him herself."
Why I'd See It: It's a great role for Moore, who I still have faith in, and the subject matter and trailer look promising.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: See Christmas with the Kranks. Ever.

Movie: Mrs. Henderson Presents (Stephen Frears)
High-Concept Synopsis: Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins become burlesque club proprietors in WWII London.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of randy period comedy from across the pond. Folks looking forward to Judi Dench's star turn. People looking for boobies!
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Prudish socialite types who clutch their pearls and drop their monocles at such tawdry behavior. Audiences who mistake the plot description as a promise that Dench and Hoskins will be the ones going Full Monty. Janet Jackson, jealous that her tits aren't the only that can cause a stir.
Why I'd See It: It's a maybe Oscar contender, particularly for Dench and Hoskins. And it's not out of the question that I'd enjoy it.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Have that dream where I show up to the burlesque revue fully clothed. How embarrassing!

Movie: Munich (Steven Spielberg)
High-Concept Synopsis: After the Black September murders at the 1972 Munich Olympics, Israeli Mossad agents set to the task of tracking down the perpetrators and seeking their vengeance.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Spielberg devotees anxious for a look at his latest awards-grab. People – like me – who are fascinated by the subject matter. Oscar watchers who will need to see the movie that's been touted as a front-runner since before it began filming.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People put off by the political content of the film. People put off by the pre-ordained "Best Picture" status of the film. People who don't think "happy ending" Spielberg can do the story justice.
Why I'd See It: It's the 800 lb. gorilla in the 2005 Oscar race. Everyone who's anyone will need an opinion on it. Plus, the Munich games are terribly, sadly, fascinating to me.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Amistad, the last "important" film Spielberg tried to spring on Oscar at the last minute. And that one didn't work.

Movie: The Ringer (Barry Blaustein)
High-Concept Synopsis: Johnny Knoxville plays an ethically impaired debtor who tries to make some quick cash by fraudulently entering in the Special Olympics. Like, can we send Mossad agents after him?
Who Will Be Seeing It: People desperate for a comedy … any comedy … this winter. People who buy into the Farrelly Bros. (who are producing) party line that if they make fun of everybody, it can't possibly be offensive. People who have never heard of South Park and are thus unaware that they did an episode with the exact same plot.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People who are rightly offended by the plot. People who found the trailer to be painfully unfunny. Brian Cox fans who are holding strong on their "tough love" program of ignoring him when he makes bad movies.
Why I'd See It: Dudes, South Park did this exact same story! Except theirs was funny! It's not like the Farrellys are courting a different audience here. Morons. Plus, they haven't been actually funny in a dog's age. But … okay, it's got Katherine Heigl. Still, no.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: See Heigl and Cox rescued from the flaming wreckage of this film with a helicopter and a rope ladder. Oh, wait. I'd rather see that.

Movie: Casanova (Lasse Hallstrom)
High-Concept Synopsis: Heath Ledger plays the legendary lothario. Err, well, not the legendary Lothario. More like the legendary Don Juan. No, that doesn't work either. Look, he plays a guy named Casanova, who boned a lot of women in his time. His time being mid-18th Century Venice. Sienna Miller, Jeremy Irons, and Lena Olin co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: The cult of Ledger, which now included both the swooning and those who respect his talent, now that it appears he has some. The Lasse Hallstrom brigade who figured what Johnny Depp was to Chocolat, Heath may be to Casanova. Namely, an easy orgasm. The Lena Olin Fan Club, who will take what they can get these days.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People who figure if they want sex fiends from several hundred years ago, they've got Johnny Depp in The Libertine to tide them over. People who wouldn't see a Lasse Hallstrom movie if you paid them. Prudish high society types who flip their powdered wigs at … look, I've made this joke like three times now. Some people just won't see a movie with sex in it. Or, at least, won't see that kind of movie with other people in the room. *Ahem*
Why I'd See It: Meh. It's almost definitely a wait-for-DVDer. Too many other good movies around.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Study up on the semantic differences between "Casanova," "lothario," and "Don Juan." Although, come to think of it, that might be some interesting research, right there.

Movie: Match Point (Woody Allen)
High-Concept Synopsis: Set in London, this is a tale of infidelity, seduction, and greed stars Scarlett Johansson, Johnathan Rhys-Myers, and Emily Mortimer, and is directed by … Woody Allen??
Who Will Be Seeing It: Movie fans who are dying to see Woody try something so outside his usual wheelhouse. Audiences relieved to find that, even after casting Scarlett Johansson as his female lead, Woody resisted the temptation to write himself into the script as her love interest. People who would gladly fork over nine bucks to stare at Jonathan Rhys-Myers for a few hours.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: The Woody Allen Society for Nebbishy New York Jews, who are upset that the Wood-man took his latest film across the pond. The Woody Allen Society for Horndog Old Geezers, who are upset at Allen for failing to capitalize on his ScarJo opportunity. The Woody Allen Society for Crappy Woody Allen Movies, who are upset that Soo-Yi's husband seems to have actually made a good film for a change.
Why I'd See It: The trailer suggests an exciting step out of Allen's old standbys. Johansson and Rhys-Myers look sizzling together.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Anything Woody directed in the last ten years or so.

Movie: The New World (Terrence Malick)
High-Concept Synopsis: John Smith and the rest of the Virginia company stomp into the New World and make friends with the indigenous people they find there. If by "make friends," you mean kill off and take their nubile young daughters back to England to marry them. Colin Farrell, Christian Bale, and Christopher Plummer star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: American history fetishists, Colin Farrell groupies, and the Cult of Malick, who are eagerly awaiting to cream themselves over this latest, sure to be, masterpiece of cinema.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People who bet on the Farrell pony and lost last year with Alexander. People who tend to find Malick's movies, while beautiful, insufferably slow and ponderous. The Mayflower Society, who are pissed that their colonial exploits aren't being memorialized on film. They massacred the Indians, too, you know!
Why I'd See It: It will undoubtedly look beautiful. And the Farrell, Bale, Plummer triumvirate certainly have it in them to deliver.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: The Thin Red Line, for Pete's sake. Life's too short to spend half of it watching Ben Chaplin daydream.

Movie: Rumor Has It (Rob Reiner)
High-Concept Synopsis: Jennifer Aniston kind of freaks when she finds out that her family's life was the basis for the book and film The Graduate. Which makes her grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) Mrs. Robinson. Kevin Costner, Mark Ruffalo, and Mena Suvari.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Post-modern enthusiasts who will love the meta-textual nature of the plot. People magazine readers who want Aniston to succeed after Angelina Jolie's irresistible powers of seduction broke up her marriage. Dustin Hoffman, who figured the six-degrees relationship he holds with this film might be the closest he'll get to success in a while.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Audiences squicked out by a possible Aniston-Costner onscreen pairing. People who have vowed to just stop seeing Mark Ruffalo in romantic comedies anymore. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who will be too busy fornicating and adopting babies to care.
Why I'd See It: Despite my initial misgivings, the trailer suggested perfectly acceptable mainstream comedy. Even Kevin Costner – playing himself for the 811th time on film – doesn't bug me the way he used to.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Exhume Anne Bancroft's corpse for a comparison study with MacLaine.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Weekend Update

Part 4 of the Fall Preview should be up and running tomorrow. And my new column at The Film Experience should be up on Sunday.

So, to tide you overuntil then, please ruminate on the fact that Halle Berry has six toes. [link via Defamer]

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Low Res Fall Movie Preview, Part 3

The third in a four-part preview of the Noah-worthy flood of movies the next two months and change have to offer.

Movie: The Ice Harvest (Harold Ramis)
High-Concept Synopsis: John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton do the quirky, darkly-comic heist flick. With the law of averages being what it is, this was inevitable.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Cusack fans who haven't given up the ghost yet. Fans of The Ice Storm who will mistakenly think this is the sequel where Elijah Wood comes back from the dead to "harvest" his oblivious parents. People with no imagination whatsoever.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People who see Oliver Platt and Randy Quaid's names in the credits and run away in fear of being eaten. People who already saw this movie the previous seven hundred times it's been made. Those of us who still find Billy Bob Thornton, while a good actor, endlessly creepy.
Why I'd See It: I probably won't. But if I did, it would be to see just how far Cusack has fallen.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Freeze to death while in the company of Billy Bob Thornton, Oliver Platt, and Randy Quaid.

Movie: The Libertine (Laurence Dunmore)
High-Concept Synopsis: Well, I can't do much better than the IMDb capsule: "The story of John Wilmot (Johnny Depp), a.k.a. the Earl of Rochester, a 17th century poet who famously drank and debauched his way to an early grave, only to earn posthumous critical acclaim for his life's work."
Who Will Be Seeing It: Drank and debauched! Who won't want to see this? There's Depp's fans, who cross age, gender, and sexual preference lines. There's highfalutin' costume-drama fans who like a little kink in their corsets. And I'm sure there's some folks out there who will get a kick out of the syphilis.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Okay, most people will be repulsed by the syphilis. And I'm sure Depp isn't loved by everyone. And it's not like Geoffrey Rush's Quills - the last costume drama that married debauchery with powdered wigs – lit the box office on fire.
Why I'd See It: Depp :Rush :: Winning the lottery : Finding a quarter.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Find a quarter. Or get syphilis.

Movie: Rent (Chris Columbus)
High-Concept Synopsis: Living the boho life in AIDS-ravaged New York, there are songs to be sung, lessons to be learned, and pretty people to get sick and die. Rosario Dawson, Taye Diggs, Adam Pascal, and Idina Menzel star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fundamentally sound cynics who will see it and scoff. Self-hating faux-cynics who will see it, be affected by it, and hate themselves. The jazz-hands crowd.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Folks with an aversion to all musicals. Folks with an aversion to this musical. The national association of landlords, who anticipate some sass in the tone of the title.
Why I'd See It: It both attracts and repulses me. Even with my doubts about Columbus as a director, I'll be there, ready to embarrass myself.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Pay ten times as much for the play.

Movie: Syriana (Stephen Gaghan)
High-Concept Synopsis: Middle Eastern oil politics has never been this entertaining! George Clooney is the CIA agent, Matt Damon is the oil broker, Jeffrey Wright is the lawyer, and this will all make sense in the end.
Who Will Be Seeing It: TV news junkies. A certain Texas family with ties to oil looking for a few hints (and no, not the Ewings). People who hope Gaghan can bring that Traffic magic to another hot-button issue.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Those who would rather look at Middle Eastern oil politics with a "la la la, I'm not listening!" attitude. People who are a little sick of Clooney's "let me tell you something about America" smugness. People terrified of Jeffrey Wright's awesomeness.
Why I'd See It: I loved Traffic, and if this is anything close to that kind of quality, I'm in.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Listen to Clooney tell me why it's important that I do see it.

Movie: Aeon Flux (Karyn Kusama)
High-Concept Synopsis: Charlize Theron steps into the thigh-highs of the Liquid Television animated assassin. The futuristic actioner co-stars Frances McDormand, Sophie Okonedo, and Jonny Lee Miller.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Old school Liquid TV fans. Horndog anime fans anxious to slobber over Charlize in spandex. Audiences sick and damn tired of all these serious year-end movies.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Anime purists who can't accept a live-action adaptation. Folks who were scared off the trailer by McDormand's "little orphan Aniie after an electrical socket mishap" hair. Sifl and Olly, who are royally pissed that they didn't get to ride their MTV nostalgia trip to a movie.
Why I'd See It: Looks like a cool, fun action diversion.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: A big-screen version of Dead at 21. No, wait, that's a complete lie. I would LOVE a big-screen version of Dead at 21.

Movie: Transamerica (Duncan Tucker)
High-Concept Synopsis: Felicity Huffman plays a pre-op transsexual who is shocked to discover she had fathered a son, who is now a teenage hustler in New York. Ahh, only in December.
Who Will Be Seeing It: The prettiest ladies with adam's apples you ever did see. Desperate Housewives fans with NO idea what they're getting into. Audiences curious to see what Huffman's pre-lauded performance will be like.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Anyone in between the coasts. Folks who think Cillian Murphy makes for a prettier gender bender. People who live in cities where this won't even appear on a screen. Damn you, New York and L.A.!
Why I'd See It: Huffman's performance is supposed to be something special, and I've always been a fan of hers anyway. Plus, co-stars Finoula Flanagan and Elizabeth Peña are both excellent.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: See Eva Longoria take on a similar role.

Movie: Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee)
High-Concept Synopsis: Gaaaayyyyyy cowboys in looooove! It's probably the easiest film concept to summarize all year.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Anyone eager to see Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal make with the bucking bronco already. Audiences eager to see what's shaping up to be the film of the year. Ang Lee fans wondering "is there anything he can't do?"
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Oh, the usual "it offends my family values" crowd, naturally. But I'll also leave room for good, open-minded people who still don't have much patience for wide-open-spaces prairie romance.
Why I'd See It: The buzz, she is deafening. This movie came out of Toronto with a wave a superlative reviews. Ledger, particularly, is supposed to be great, something I'd have found hard to believe if he didn't make lemonade out of his Brothers Grimm role. The Annie Proulx story upon which this is based is heartbreakingly beautiful.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Almost any movie this season.

Movie: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Andrew Adamson)
High-Concept Synopsis: Four children travel through a wardrobe, and find a lion and a witch on the other side. Damn, no wonder I did so well on the SAT reading comprehension!
Who Will Be Seeing It: Any of the hordes of people, young and old, who grew up reading C.S. Lewis's books. Folks looking for the natural successor to the Lord of the Rings fantasy epic throne. People who made their decision on what movie to see by looking up directors in the phone book, starting with "A".
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Defensive LotR fans who don't cotton well to usurpers. People potentially turned off by the heavy Christian overtones in the story. Fraidy-cat children who can't deal with lions and witches. Wussies!
Why I'd See It: I didn't think I'd want to. I never read the books, and I've largely outgrown movies about children having mythical adventures. But the trailer looks wicked cool, and everyone I know who has read the books raves about them. And . . . everyone else will be. Why feel left out?
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Feel left out. Oh, so sad and lonely.

Movie: Memoirs of a Geisha (Rob Marshall)
High-Concept Synopsis: Ziyi Zhang goes from poor rural child to the most famous Geisha in Japan. Ask your mom. I guarantee she read the book along with everyone else back in 1996.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Costume drama aficionados. Japanophiles positively giddy over such a high-profile adaptation. Fans of the kick-ass cast, which includes Zhang, Ken Watanabe, Gong Li, and Michelle Yeoh.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People put off by the "Japanese characters speaking English for no reason" thing that we've seen in the trailer. People put off by the fact that this very Japanese story got cast with Chinese actors. People too confounded by the "is it Ziyi Zhang or Zhang Ziyi" thing to even leave the house.
Why I'd See It: It looks purty. Really, really purty. The cast is excellent. And I thought Rob Marshall didn't get the credit he deserved for marshalling (see what I did there?) Chicago to that Best Picture win.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Work in a public library during the Memoirs of a Geisha / Angela's Ashes craze. Again.

Movie: King Kong (Peter Jackson)
High-Concept Synopsis: He's a big, giant fucking ape. She's a tiny blonde. Can these two crazy kids make it work? Not with all these dinosaurs around! Naomi Watts, Jack Black, and Adrien Brody star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who thought Jackson's last films – these tiny arthouse flicks by the name of The Lord of the Rings -- were pretty okay. Fans of the cast – Watts, Brody, and Black tend to rock. People who just love apes. I mean love apes.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People who were grossed out by that last sentence. Kong purists who like their monsters stop-motion animated, consarnit! "Dinosaurs? Come on!"
Why I'd See It: There's a fascination to see just what Jackson will do to try and top LotR.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Try to live up to the expectations Jackson has in front of him.

Movie: The Three Burials of Meliquades Estrada (Tommy Lee Jones)
High-Concept Synopsis: Joes both directs and stars in a tale of a ranch hand who buries his friend. A lot. Barry Pepper co-stars.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of sepia-toned Mexican meditations on death. Fans who cannot get enough of Tommy Lee Jones – I'm talking the people who paid to see Space Cowboys. Fans of screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga (Amores Perros; 21 Grams).
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People who found Amores Perros and 21 Grams to be soul-suckingly depressing and self-consciously tricksy. People intimidated by Barry Pepper's confident good looks. All the poor souls forever lost in the crevasses of Tommy Lee Jones's face.
Why I'd See It: Jones is supposed to be superb, and I'm interested to see if Arriaga's work strays from its past tendencies with a new director.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Get buried. Three times.

Coming this weekend: Southern politicians, Israeli assassins, and here's to a new Mrs. Robinson.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Low Res Fall Movie Preview, Part 2

The second in a four-part preview of the umpty-billion movies set to open before the year ends.

Movie: Where the Truth Lies (Atom Egoyan)
High-Concept Synopsis: Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth are an amazingly successful 1950s comedy team. They perform, they have three ways, and they may have killed a girl way back when. Alison Lohman is on the case.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Kevin Bacon enthusiasts who didn't get enough Bacon meat in Wild Things. A certain sect of Martin and Lewis fans who always thought there was a little something else going on there. Folks who can't get enough of that Egoyan "feel bad" style.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People who seem more than a little put off by how nonspecifically creepy Colin Firth comes off in the previews. People who wish Alison Lohman would just pick an age and go with it. The other sect of Martin and Lewis fans who are patently offended that anyone might thing there was something else going on there.
Why I'd See It: Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter is one of the two greatest "that flick was fantastic, I never want to see it again" movies I've ever seen (make room, Requiem for a Dream).
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Have lived it.

Movie: Chicken Little (Mark Dindal)
High-Concept Synopsis: Zach Braff voices the little chicken who thinks the sky is falling. Animated hijinks ensue.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Children for whom Jarhead just aint gonna cut it as Saturday afternoon entertainment. Fans of Braff who dig him even in animated form. Disney executives desperate not to look bad in comparison to Dreamworks and Pixar.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Zoological purists who will bore the shit out of you, insisting the word "chicken" in the title means it's a girl, not a boy. Pissed off chicken advocates who object to the term "little" demeaning their status. PETA, most likely. Those shrieking harpies never have any fun.
Why I'd See It: The voice cast is pretty great. There's Braff, Steve Zahn, Amy Sedaris, Joan Cusack, Harry Shearer, Patrick Stewart, Don Knotts, Wallace Shawn, Catherine O'Hara, Fred Willard, Adam West, and Patrick Warburton. Love to see the animated movies casting for actual expressive voices and not just "name" stars.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Another Shrek movie.

Movie: Jarhead (Sam Mendes)
High-Concept Synopsis: Jake Gyllenhall's a new recruit in the first President Bush's army, and thus gets to experience Operation Desert Storm with a sardonic eye. Jamie Foxx, Peter Sarsgaard, and Chris Cooper co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Anyone who has seen the stellar trailers. Fans of the novel of the same name upon which the movie's based. People who would rather their war films with a bit less rah-rah.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: A certain administration who would rather not have unpleasant reminders about war in the Middle East. A certain administration who isn't all that psyched about Kanye "Somebody Hates Black People, and I Know Who" West's "Jesus Walks" in the trailer. People whose admiration for Mendes's work (American Beauty; Road to Perdition) has paled over the years.
Why I'd See It: From the looks of it, it could contend for my own personal "best of the year." I love Gyllenhaal and Sarsgaard, and their both supposedly excellent. I think this is a movie that's going to have something to say.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Watch another staged Q&A with the President.

Movie: The Dying Gaul (Craig Lucas)
High-Concept Synopsis: Peter Sarsgaard plays a screenwriter involved in a twisted love/lust/betrayal triangle with Campbell Scott and Patricia Clarkson.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who have just been dying to see Campbell Scott and Peter Sarsgaard in some dude-on-dude seduction scene. All four of them. Supporting actor enthusiasts who see the Sarsgaard/Clarkson pairing as the Bogie-Bacall of American second bananas. Fans of director Lucas's previous screenwriting efforts The Secret Lives of Dentists and Longtime Companion.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Actors who would like to see Lucas give someone other than Campbell Scott the chance to star in one of his movies, for once. Idiots who for some reason don't like Patricia Clarkson. Senator Rick Santorum.
Why I'd See It: Sarsgaard and Clarkson. It's a perfect storm of acting, if you ask me. And Scott's no slouch himself.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: See Sarsgaard in anything like Flightplan ever again.

Movie: The Family Stone (Thomas Bezucha)
High-Concept Synopsis: Dermott Mulroney brings his uptight fiancé Sarah Jessica Parker home to meet his laid-back family, populated by Diane Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Craig T. Nelson, and Luke Wilson.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People desperate for a romantic dramedy about family that is actually funny. People won over by the quite winning trailer. The teeming hordes of Dermott Mulroney fans. You know who you are.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Sex and the City haters who are sick to damn death of SJP. Rachel McAdams haters who are pissed at how incredibly awesome she is. Oh, and also: Anyone. Since it's opening the same weekend as King Kong. Dumb ass studio.
Why I'd See It: The preview looks great, with Keaton and McAdams looking particularly awesome.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Dare I say . . . King Kong? People, it's an ape fighting a dinosaur!


Movie: Pride and Prejudice (Joe Wright)
High-Concept Synopsis: Jane Austen hits the screen again, as Kiera Knightley does the whole I-love-you-I-love-you-not thing with Matthew McFayden. Brenda Blethyn, Donald Sutherland, and Judi Dench co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Costume drama enthusiasts, Jane Austen book club members, and people who liked Kiera Knightley in that movie where she's the flat-chested soccer player.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People who would rather eat a Jane Austen novel than read it. Folks who are rightly horrified at the present condition of Donald Sutherland's face. Colin Firth, who thought HE was the definitive Mr. Darcy and thinks Matthew McFayden has a stupid face.
Why I'd See It: If it's done well, I can enjoy a good costume drama. And Jane Austen really is a pretty snappy writer.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Get bound up in a corset.


Movie: Zathura (Jon Favreau)
High-Concept Synopsis: Like Jumanji, except in space. And no Robin Williams.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who liked Jumanji well enough, but thought it could use Dax Sheppard as an astronaut. People who liked Jumanji but thought it could use a little less of Bonnie Hunt's wry wit. Jon Favreau's family.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Robin Williams's vulgar, sweaty stand-up comic persona. Robin Williams's PG-rated funny-voices film comedy persona. Robin Williams's sappy sweet very-special-drama persona.
Why I'd See It: . . . umm . . . well . . . the thing is, I'm not going to see it. Really. Not.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: See above. Aint happening.

Movie: Breakfast on Pluto (Neil Jordan)
High-Concept Synopsis: Cillian Murphy leaves his orphaned existence in small town Ireland to become a celebrated drag queen in 1960s London.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Midwestern farmers and Catholic nuns. Who do you think is going to see it? Drag queens, trannies, and anyone who thinks pink. Also: anyone who's been suitably impressed with Jordan's stellar filmography and/or Murphy's burgeoning career.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Midwestern farmers and Catholic nuns. That one you can keep.
Why I'd See It: Neil Jordan absolutely rules. And Cillian Murphy aint so bad either.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Any other Irish orphan drag queen movie opening in November.

Movie: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Mike Newell)
High-Concept Synopsis: In his fourth year at Hogwarts, Harry Potter deals with rival magic schools, a death-defying tournament, and Ralf Feinnes as Voldemort.
Who Will Be Seeing It: If you've been reading the books and seeing the movies so far, why would you ever stop before this most pivotal chapter?
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Those of us who have lost the child within. Oh, okay, I won't hold it against non-Potter fans. But y'all are missing some great storytelling.
Why I'd See It: Take a look at the trailer. This could very well be the best Potter flick yet.
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Breathe. Okay, that was a little extreme. I'll go with "breathe for an hour."


Movie: Walk the Line (James Mangold)
High-Concept Synopsis: Johnny Cash walks the line. Johnny Cash fell into a burning ring of fire. Johnny Cash is played by Joaquin Phoenix, while Reese Witherspoon plays his wife June Carter.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Cash's hordes of true fans. The depressingly significant hordes of poseur Cash fans who really only know "Ring of Fire" but think it was cool that he dressed in black, played a prison concert, and sings about shooting a man just to watch him die. Not that they'd know the song that line comes from anyway. Anyone who's heard the deafening hype for the lead performances.
Who Won’t Be Seeing It: Fans of Mangold's Girl Interrupted who don't think they'd really fit in with the Cash crowd. People who have a visceral anti-Witherspoon reaction. People who find Phoenix to take himself a liiiittle too seriously.
Why I'd See It: The performances are supposed to be really, really good. And while I don't claim to be some big fan, I tend to like Cash and am interested in his story. [How's that for covering some bases?]
I'd Rather See This Movie Than: Be killed in Reno, just so someone could watch me die.

Coming up next: The singing Bohemians of Rent; Lions, Witches, and Wardrobes, and Johnny Depp's got syphillis!