I thought 2007 was a tremendous year for movies. Here are just a handful of terrific ’07 flicks that I saw: Eastern Promises, The Darjeeling Limited, Grindhouse, Knocked Up, Superbad, The Simpsons Movie, The Mist, Gone Baby Gone, Margot at the Wedding, 300, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Juno, Charlie Wilson’s War, Ratatouille…I could go on and on.
And yet my recollection is that 2007 saw one of the most disappointing crop of big-budget summer movies in recent memory. Other than a couple of the comedies mentioned above (Knocked Up, Superbad, and The Simpsons Movie), I found myself continually disappointed by practically every single summer flick I saw. Those include:
Spider-Man 3 – What a disaster. I’ve been mocking it for two weeks on this site, and we have barely plumbed the depths of my disappointment. The first hour is pretty good (well, except for the whole Harry-has-amnesia thing), but then it just all falls to pieces. Peter Parker combs his bangs over his forehead to show that us he’s evil. Sandman agrees to help Venom kill Spider-Man for no reason whatsoever (an act made even more ridiculous considering that the whole first half of the movie bent over backwards to show us that Sandman is really an OK guy just trying to help his daughter). That awful, awful dance number. The way Gwen Stacy’s character is completely forgotten about. That awful, awful dance number. Ugh.
Shrek 3 –Mildly entertaining at best.
Transformers – Very much like ID4 to me — Big and dumb. Like ID4, it was a ton of fun to see in the theatre for the first time – lots of eye-candy explosions, lots of great “audience cheering” moments – I would be dishonest if I claimed it wasn’t a blast. But I really wish the movie was a bit smarter. Optimus and the gang acting like idiots trying to hide around Spike Witwicky’s house (“my bad”) is kind of like Jeff Goldblum using his Mac powerbook to download a virus into the alien mothership’s computer. I can’t see myself re-watching this too many times.
Pirates of the Caribbean 3 – I really didn’t like Pirates of the Caribbean 1 or Pirates of the Caribbean 2, so I’m not sure what I was expecting.
Die Hard IV – To me, Live Free or Die Hard is kind of like The Godfather Part III. Hang on, bear with me. I have always defended The Godfather Part III. My assertion is that if it had some other title, people would think it was a pretty decent gangster flick. Not amazing, but enjoyable. But because it’s the Godfather Part III, viewers compare … [continued]
Just a quick note today. In yesterday’s blog I referred to what I called “The Wire Effect.” And what do I read this morning? Amy Adams – so terrific in The Wire as well as in Gone Baby Gone – is set to appear in the season finale of The Office.
I can’t wait! Here’s hoping all of the other amazing actors from The Wire continue to get work…… [continued]
So my wife Steph and I were watching Gone Baby Gone last week, and I must confess that we both let out a bit of a squeal at a certain moment during the flick. No, it wasn’t during the nail-biting quarry shoot-out in the middle of the film. No, it wasn’t during scene with the Jamaican. And no, it wasn’t during the devastating moment of choice that forms the crux of the end of the film. All of those moments are terrific, don’t get me wrong – Gone Baby Gone is one of my favorite movies from last year.
But the moment where Steph and I really sat up and took notice was during the funeral scene, when Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) catches the eye of a police offer who he knows. Steph and I looked at each other. “Is that…OMAR???”
And indeed it was. Michael K. Williams, who has basically one scene in Gone Baby Gone (but it’s a doozy — the steakhouse meal with Patrick), is the same actor who portrayed the shotgun-carrying, drug-dealer-murdering, criminal-with-a-code Omar Little for five amazing seasons on HBO’s The Wire.
And this is what I refer to as The Wire Effect – the phenomenon on which one is so in love with the characters in a beloved TV show that you sit up and take notice whenever they appear elsewhere. Part of the reason we were watching Gone Baby Gone in the first place was because, after watching Amy Ryan on The Wire, Steph and I wanted to see her performance in GBG again (since the first time we saw the flick was before we’d ever seen The Wire). I love Lost – but I lost it even more this season when Lance Reddick (Lt. Cedric Daniels on The Wire) appeared briefly as the mysterious “assembler of freighter folk.” Heck, I even got excited by The Sarah Connor Chronicles when I saw Andre Royo (“Bubbles”) appear on that show as a resistance fighter (in a tiny role that was a sad waste of his enormous talents).
This has happened to me with other shows. I got very excited when Alexander Siddig, who played Dr. Bashir on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (by far my favorite of the Star Trek series) appeared last season on 24. (And I was very very annoyed when he was unceremoniously killed off-screen after only a few episodes.) And a grin always appears on my face whenever I see an alumna of the late, great Arrested Development like Jason Bateman or Michael Cera or Will Arnett. (He’ll always be GOB Bluth to me!)… [continued]
I made a comment in my 1st blog entry for the site (on April 15th) about our being in the midst of a movie dead-zone currently. Has anyone else noticed this? There are a lot of exciting summer movies just over the horizon (things kick off with Iron Man in just two weeks)…but its pretty striking to me how few good new movies have been released by the major studios since January. I count only three that I’ve seen:
Cloverfield — It’s not great cinema, but boy did I love this movie. From the tantalizing Star Trek teaser that played in the opening moments right through to the end credits, I was completely hooked into this adrenaline-rush of a movie. Yes, it is even more implausible than a monster wrecking NYC that the kids were able to keep their digital camera rolling throughout the whole thing. But I guess that you either buy into that conceit (and it is a conceit that requires a leap of faith, I grant you), or you don’t. But I’ve got to say I loved every minute of this flick. I’m interested to see if it holds up to a repeat viewing (and to viewing on a small TV screen).
Be Kind Rewind — A sweet, silly little story that celebrates good old-fashioned love of movies and movie-making. There are a lot of us out there, I think, who’d love to be able to pick up a camera and make our own versions of our favorite movies, and this film really taps into that. (I wonder if the filmmakers were inspired by the real-life story of the three boys who created a shot-for-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark over the course of several summers? Google the article in Vanity Fair from a few years back if you don’t know what I’m talking about.)
Forgetting Sarah Marshall — Just saw this one two days ago. Its another home-run from the Apatow comedy troupe. I am something of an Apatow groupie — I was a fan of Freaks and Geeks (Judd Apatow’s failed TV show from 1999) from the first episode. (I don’t know what on earth prompted me to watch it, but I’m glad I did.) I loved Undeclared (Apatow’s follow-up to the cancelled Freaks and Geeks, which was itself cancelled after one fewer episode than Freaks & Geeks)…and, like most of the rest of the world, I thought The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up were both dynamite. Many of the familiar faces pop up in this latest film (Exec produced by Apatow, written by Jason Segel and directed by Nicholas Stoller), including Jason Segel (who gives a terrific performance in the starring … [continued]
I’d like now to take a moment to thank my old college buddy Andrew for all of his help with getting this snazzy new Motion Pictures web-site up and running. He does pretty good work, yes?
Things are pretty bare bones for now, but we’ve got some exciting additions planned for the site as we get up and running over the next few weeks. We’ll have an RSS feed, so that you can be notified whenever new cartoons are posted to the site. We’ll have some more extensive sub-pages that’ll include fun things like some of my early cartoons and some reviews (positive and negative!) of Motion Pictures. And we’ll have some ads up on the site — which won’t dramatically effect all of you out there in internet-land, but will hopefully help yours truly pay for this undertaking!
See you tomorrow…… [continued]
Here are five more DVDs (continuing my list from yesterday) that I loved loved loved this winter, when the pleasant caress of new TV shows had been denied me:
VI. Eastern Promises — I have seen this movie 3 times now since it came out last year, and I enjoy it more every time. (And I liked it quite a lot the FIRST time I saw it!) Viggo Mortensen gives an amazing you-just-can’t-look-away performance as the deadly Russian Nikolai, whose path crosses with a midwife named Anna (Naomi Watts). And let’s not forget the amazing Armin Mueller-Stahl, who is as amazing as he always is. (I must admit, though, that I’m such a geek that whenever he’s on screen, in this or any other movie, I always hear him in the back of my head saying: “not even zey…can stop ze future.” X-Philes know what I’m talking about…)
VII. House of Games: The Criterion Collection – A terrific new DVD of the first film that David Mamet directed (from his own script). I’m a big Mamet fan. There are some flaws in the story, sure…and I’ve never been, as a viewer, quite fooled by the central con of this flick. But the simple joys of watching the great performers (Joe Mantegna, Rickey Jay, the late great J.T. Walsh, among others) mouth Mamet’s rat-tat-tat tough-guy dialogue is more than enough for me.
VIII. Volver – Pretty surprising for a sci-fi nut like myself, but I found myself completely swept up by Pedro Almodovar’s story about the intersecting lives of various women in Madrid. Penelope Cruz is spectacular.
IX. The Best of the Dick Cavett Show: Stand-Up Comedians – This DVD set contains several notable episodes from the great Dick Cavett’s 1970’s talk-show, in which he engages guests in fascinating hour or hour-and-a-half long (really!!) conversations about their lives and work. This set focuses on his interviews with stand-up comedians such as Woody Allen, Groucho Marx, Bill Cosby, Bob Hope, Carol Burnett, and many others. I love the Daily Show and all of today’s late-night talk shows, but after watching these incredibly in-depth interviews its hard to take any of today’s five-minutes-then-you’re out “interviews” seriously. This is the way it should be done. If you have any interest whatsoever in stand up comedy, you need to track down these DVDs.
X. The Wire – My sister got me the 1st season set for my birthday earlier in the year – and my wife and I promptly devoured the entire 5 seasons of the show. Truly one of the greatest TV shows ever made. I’ll discuss this in greater depth at a later date, but for now, let me just say that I … [continued]
I’m a bit of a TV nut. So, like so many of you, I had to go through a bit of an adjustment this winter without any new installments of Lost, The Office, and all my other TV pals.
How did I survive? DVDs, my friends. God bless ‘em.
Here’s just a sampling of the Digital Video Devicey goodness that I enjoyed over the past few months:
I. Futurama: Bender’s Big Score – There aren’t a lot of shows (only Firefly and Arrested Development come to mind) whose cancellation burned me more than that of Futurama. My goodness I loved this show. I still remember the moment when I first understood that this Matt Groening creation was a thing of awesome beauty and genius. It was season two’s episode “I Second That Emotion,” (that’s the one where the Professor installs an empathy chip in Bender), in which it was revealed that the colony of underground mutants (long story) worshipped an unexploded nuclear bomb but, as one of the mutants commented, “its really just a Christmas and Easter” thing. Any show that makes Beneath the Planet of the Apes jokes (that’s where the whole mutants-worshipping-an-unexploded-nuclear-bomb thing comes from) without care as to the tiny amount of viewers who would actually get that joke is a show that guaranteed itself my viewership until the end of time. Anyways, this DVD movie was the 1st of 4 DVDs rescuing the show from oblivion. It’s the bees’ knees, baby.
II. Battlestar Galactica: Razor – Another direct-to-DVD continuation of a brilliant TV show. If you’re not watching Sci-Fi’s stunningly amazing reinvention of BSG, then I have only pity in my heart for you. This installment was, no surprise, gripping and surprising…in particular, the multi-layered structure of flashbacks-within-flashbacks was super-cool. And we got to see a young William “Husker” Adama battling “toasters” in the First Cylon War!
III. Zodiac – I totally missed this David Fincher film, about the real-life Zodiac murders of the 60’s & 70’s, when it was in theatres…and I don’t know quite what prompted me to pick it up on DVD. But I found this film to be completely gripping. A terrific cast, including Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Junior, and many many other familiar faces really kept things moving. And the beautiful set design & costuming combined with some really beautiful but extraordinarily subtle visual effects work brought San Francisco through the years to gorgeous visual life.
IV. Igby Goes Down – Check out this cast: Kieran Culkin, Clare Danes, Jeff Goldblum, Amanda Peet, Ryan Phillipe, Bill Pullman, and Susan Sarandon. Find it. Watch it. You won’t regret it.
More DVDS I watched and loved this winter coming tomorrow!… [continued]
Hi there! Welcome to Motion Pictures!
What is Motion Pictures all about? A boy and his robot mysteriously gain the power to jump in and out of movies. Hilarity ensues.
Motion Pictures has been kicking around my brain since 1999-2000. It started as a daily comic strip idea that I submitted to syndicates after graduating from college…and then it morphed into a self-published comic book in 2002-04. Its lain dormant since then, but like a good movie villain its just been waiting for its moment to re-emerge and wreak havok.
And that moment, dear friends, is upon us! I’ll be updating Motion Pictures DAILY (Mon-Fri) for the next two weeks, to kick things off, and after that I’ll settle into a regular schedule of new cartoons four times a week (Monday-Thursday). I’ve got about 35 strips drawn already, so I hope to be able to keep to the 4-times-a-week pace without any problems. I’m going to make a point to keep the strips as current as possible – so that, for example, when Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull comes out you can rest assured that I’ll be mocking it soon after on this site. However, right now we’re in the midst of a bit of a movie dead-zone. You might have noticed. (Don’t believe me? Exactly how many good movies have been released since the end of January?) SO I’ll be filling the void by having some fun with some of the easy targets from last summer – Spider-Man 3, Transformers, Harry Potter, etc. Should be fun!
I’ll also be updating this blog thrice weekly, mostly as a vehicle for my somewhat-rambling-but-I-promise-not-too-verbose commentary on whatever movie and TV shows I’ve been enjoying or detesting these days. I have a habit of talking my friends’ ears off about movies and TV, and now thanks to this new-fangled internet I can share those thoughts with you, gentle reader. Be brave.
Well that’s all for now. Thanks for visiting – tell all your friends! See you back here tomorrow.… [continued]