Love that photograph. (I first saw it here.)
My friend Andy recently pointed me in the direction of a terrific web-comic called XKCD. It’s a self-described web-comic of “romance, sarcasm, math, and language.” My buddies who work in the computer world picked this comic as their favorite.
Here’s an interesting article that compares various shows’ original pilot episodes with what actually made it to air. I was particularly intrigued since I recently saw Joss Whedon’s original, unaired pilot for Dollhouse that was rejected by FOX (it was a special feature on the season one DVD set), which Steph and I agreed was FAR superior to the pilot that aired (and, frankly, superior to ANY episode that actually aired during the first season!! The two episodes that FOX never aired, that pilot and the epilogue episode Epitah One, were far far better than any of the 12 episodes that were actually broadcast. But that’s a blog for another time…)
Here‘s an interesting list of one fella’s thoughts on the 10 best series of the 21st century so far (2000-present). Some interesting choices there. Love his description of season 1 of Battlestar Galactica (though beware a spoiler for that season’s shocking finish if you’ve never seen it!).
Click here for an absolutely fascinating, lengthy look into Spike Jonze’s almost decade-long effort to bring Where The Wild Things Are to the big screen, from the New York Times. I cannot wait to see what he has created.
There’s a really intriguing new trailer out there for Up in the Air, the new film from director Jason Reitman (Juno, Thank You For Smoking) and starring George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Jason Bateman, Danny McBride, and Zach Galifianakis that looks spectacular.
Last year I wrote a piece that I called My Farewell to Heroes, in which I vowed to stop watching that incredibly disappointing show. Luckily (judging by the consistently terrible reviews that the third season of the show got) I was able to stick to my vow. Life is just to short to watch shitty TV. Anyways, there’s an amusing review of the third season DVD set up at DVDactive.com (a terrific DVD/Blu-Ray site) by someone who shares my disdain for the show. Worth a read.
I’ve breen pretty down on the movies of summer 2009. My feeling has been that this was one of the more disappointing summers in recent memory. But a recent article by Devin Farici over at Chud, listing his 10 best movies of summer 2009 just might cause me to change my tune. I haven’t yet seen Moon, Away We Go, or World’s Greatest Dad (missed ‘em in theatres, but … [continued]
So let’s get this out of the way: Office Space is one of the greatest films ever made. Just a phenomenal movie. Writer/Director Mike Judge’s second film, Idiocracy, was much, much weaker (although not so horrible that it deserved the way it was basically dumped direct-to-DVD by 20th Century Fox). Judge’s new film, Extract, falls somewhere in between those two films in terms of quality.
Jason Bateman plays Joel, the sad-sack owner of a small plant that produces flavored almond extract. His wife (Kristen Wiig) doesn’t want to sleep with him, he lives next door to an extraordinarily annoying neighbor (David Koechner), and his factory workers are all, well, morons. To make matters worse, Joel’s plans to sell the plant are put into jeopardy by a freak accident that causes an unfortunate injury to his plant’s wannabe-floor manager, the fairly-clueless Step (Clifton Collins Jr.), AND Joel has just mistakenly hired a money-chasing con artist (Mila Kunis) who is after the money that Step will probably make if he sues Joel’s company. Oh, and Joel really needs to stop listening to the terrible advice doled out by his bar-tender, Dean (a very hairy Ben Affleck).
What follows is an amusing look into the lives of a group of powerfully ordinary Americans, most of whom are either very unhappy or very dim. I enjoyed the film, but it’s not at all the laugh-riot I was expecting from Mike Judge and a cast of that pedigree.
The beauty of Office Space is that, while most of the main characters are unhappy (as they are in Extract), we completely feel for them in their unhappiness because of all the cubicle bullshit that we see they have to put up with on a daily basis. Furthermore, while exaggerated, all of that office-life nonsense rings true. That core of truth is, I think, critical in the audience being swept along by all of the silliness that then transpires in the film. But much of the set-up of Extract feels slightly false to me. For instance, the major issue between Joel and his wife (that she won’t have sex with him after 8 PM, and he can never get home before then) is good for a few laughs but also seems rather ridiculous. Kristen Wiig plays Suzie as a decent person who does seem to like her husband — so it seems like the type of thing that they could easily work out with a simple conversation. Of course, if they did, there’d be no movie, but I’m always bothered when I notice characters only acting a certain way because that’s what the plot demands.
Still, there is some good fun to be … [continued]
I saw a lot of films in 2008 — but, of course, there were many that I wanted to see but just didn’t get to. (I listed several when I compiled my list of the Best Movies of 2008.) Of the films that I missed, the one I was most bummed about was Waltz With Bashir.
For almost a year now I’ve been hearing and reading about what a success this film is. Well, last month I finally had an opportunity to watch Ari Folman’s magnificent “animated documentary” (as he refers to the film on the DVD’s special features). It is a beautiful, haunting, truly unique film.
A meeting at a bar with one of his former comrades from the Israeli army prompts Mr. Folman to realize that he has no memories of his time fighting in the Lebanon War of 1982. Despite that lack of concrete memories, he finds himself increasingly haunted by a bizarre image that he dreams about — of him, and several other Israeli soldiers, emerging naked from the water, watching flares illuminate a deserted Lebanese city block. Trying to determine the meaning of that image, and to sort out exactly where he was and what he did during the war, Mr. Folman travels around Israel, and beyond, meeting up with several surviving comrades from the war and listening to their stories.
The film is structured around these interviews/conversations. (These are almost all real interviews with real people, who voice themselves — with just two exceptions, according to the DVD features — in the film.) Why then, you might be wondering, is the project animated? Why didn’t Mr. Folman simply film and then edit together these interviews the way most documentarians do? Within the answer to that question lies the film’s surprising power. Folman and his team use animation as a way to recreate, before our eyes, what the interview subjects are describing, whether that be their best recollection of events that they lived through, or the dreams that they’ve had in the years since.
While certainly there is an attempt, on Mr. Folman’s part, to educate himself (and his audience) about the events of the Lebanese War — and, specifically, the massacre of Palestinian civilians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps by Lebanese Phalangist fighters — there is so much more going on in this film than just a recreation of those events. Waltz With Bashir represents a soldier’s attempt to come to grips with actions that he might have taken — or allowed others to take — or even just witnessed — during war-time. As such, this could be a film about almost any conflict. Yes, over the course of the … [continued]
At the end of August, I wrote a piece about an amazing event that I had the pleasure of seeing at my local movie theatre: Rifftrax Live: Plan 9 From Outer Space. (Did you miss what I wrote? Check out my description of this phenomenal event here.)
Apparently the event was so popular they have scheduled an encore re-broadcast of the entire evening in 285 movie theatres around the country on Thursday, October 8th at 7:30 PM EST.
This is a fantastic opportunity to enjoy former Mystery Science Theatre 3000 members Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett as they have their way with what is often referred to as the worst movie ever made: Ed Wood’s infamous Plan 9 From Outer Space.
Alan Moore is one of the undisputed masters of the comic book form, and that’s putting things mildly. He has authored a quite astounding body of work, including V For Vendetta, From Hell, and, of course, the magnum opus that is Watchmen.
TwoMorrows Publishing has, for the past few years, been publishing a wonderful series called Modern Masters, in which they spotlight a variety of the greatest artists in the field: Alan Davis, George Perez, Arthur Adams, John Byrne, etc. The format of those books (I suppose I should call them books — they are the size of magazines, but they are square-bound and much lengthier than your average magazine) is a lengthy one-on-one interview with the subject. Through these series of in-depth questions and answers, the reader is taken on a detailed journey through the life and career of the subject, and is also given great insight into his/her style, approach, and techniques.
First published in 2003, The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore adheres to the format of the Modern Masters series. The entire work is a lengthy interview with Mr. Moore, conducted by George Khoury. But while the Modern Masters volumes are all in-depth, this work puts those volumes to shame, clocking in at a hefty 237 pages. The new “Indispensable Edition,” which is what I have, was published a few months back, presumably with the intention of meeting the renewed interest in Mr. Moore’s work following the release of the Watchmen movie. This new edition has a great new interview with Mr. Moore, conducted in 2008, that serves as a fine epilogue to the whole piece.
For anyone who has ever read and enjoyed any of Alan Moore’s amazing comic books, I cannot recommend this publication highly enough. I thought that the early chapters, dealing with Moore’s youth and childhood, would be boring — but Mr. Moore’s wit brought great humor to those stories of his “early days.” And once the story moves to his break-though stint writing Swamp Thing, the narrative really kicks into high gear. The book is filled with behind-the-scenes stories of Moore’s time working on all of his seminal works. I’ve read a good deal over the years, for example, about his run on Swamp Thing and the making of Watchmen, V For Vendetta, etc., but the stories found here quickly move beyond the familiar “legends” connected with those projects. It’s endlessly fascinating to hear Moore’s thoughts on the development of those works, as well as his opinions about them now, looking back. (I was quite interested to read about the reasons for his dislike, for example, of The Killing Joke, which — despite his feelings — … [continued]
My wife borrowed the French movie Diabolique from her step-father, but after reading the description on the back of the case, which described the film as “an acknowledged influence on Psycho,” she decided that it would probably be too scary to watch. I, however, had never seen the film, and was intrigued enough by what I’d heard about it to give the DVD a spin.
Diabolique (which is apparently the film’s title in the U.S., although the title card of the film itself reads Les Diabolioques — “The Devils”) was made in 1954 by acclaimed French director Henri-Georges Clouzot. The film is in black-and-white, and is in French (with English subtitles).
Christina and Nicole are an unlikely pair. Christina is married to the cruel Michel Delasalle, who runs a fairly shoddy boarding school for boys. Nicole is one of the teachers, and is also Michel’s mistress. Christina and Nicole have bonded over their mutual hatred of Michel, who is vicious in his treatment of them both. Ultimately, the two women hatch a plan to escape their troubles by murdering Michel. While being sure to carefully cover their tracks, they carry out the grisly deed and dump Michel’s body in the school’s swimming pool. Their hope is that Michel’s corpse will soon be found, and people will assume that he committed suicide. But when the pool is drained soon after by the school’s groundskeeper, the body is gone.
Part of the charm, for me, in watching older movies often has to do with the leisurely pace at which they unfold, and Diabolique is no different. The film takes its time, introducing the small group of teachers at Mr. Delasalle’s sad little school, and allowing us to see exactly why Christina and Nicole feel that murder is their only escape from their current situations. But the pacing of the film is also, to me, its greatest flaw. The real fun of the film doesn’t start until the pool is emptied and the two women realize that Michel’s body has vanished. The mystery of just-what-is-going-on, and the two women’s descent into fearful paranoia as they grow convinced that somehow Michel is not actually dead, is the real heart of the film. But it takes quite a long time (over an hour) to get to that point — a little too long, for my tastes.
That being said, I quite enjoyed the film. It’s a pretty grim little tale, filled with characters who are either cruel or hopeless or both. The actors are all fairly naturalistic — there’s none of the stilted “Hollywood-speak” that one can find sometimes in older films. The photography is also very well done — the black-and-white imagery is … [continued]
The post-Nemesis Star Trek: The Next Generation adventures continue in the latest excellent novel from Pocket Books, Losing the Peace, by William Leisner.
Following the calamitous destruction that the Borg have wrought throughout the Federation in David Mack’s terrific Destiny trilogy (see my review here), Starfleet’s exploration programs are all put on hold as every surviving starship is called upon to help pick up the pieces. Whole planets have been destroyed, leaving countless displaced survivors stranded across space. The surviving Federation worlds quickly find themselves overwhelmed by an enormous flood of refugees who have lost everything, and dramatic shortages of food and materiel strike everywhere.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise bounce about the quadrant, attempting to help where they can and put out whatever “fires” they might come across, but the enormous problems facing the Federation seem much larger than anything that can be addressed by one lone starship. Meanwhile, Picard’s command crew (many of whom are new faces who have been introduced in Pocket Books’ post-Nemesis novels) each must face personal struggles as they try to come to grips with the tragedies they have survived.
Losing the Peace may be a unique Star Trek novel in that there is no villain. There is no alien threat to be overcome, no unique science-fiction mystery to be solved. Rather, the problems that beset Picard & co. this time are of a much more mundane — though no less perilous — nature. It would have been easy for Mr. Leisner to have added in some sort of more traditional antagonist — an alien race trying to take advantage of the chaos in the Federation, or something like that — and he is to be commended for avoiding that somewhat obvious way to add drama to the story. Instead, Mr. Leisner takes the time to draw the reader into a variety of much smaller-scale dramas taking place amongst Picard’s crew and all around the devastated Alpha Quadrant. These aren’t “fate of the universe” stories of a galactic scale — they’re very “human” tales. One might think that could make for a rather dull Star Trek novel. Quite the contrary — I thoroughly enjoyed this very realistic take on what the Federation would logically be facing following the galactic upheavals that took place in Destiny, and all of the “small” stories to be found in Losing the Peace accumulate into a tense novel in which the Federation seems to be in far greater peril than it ever has been before.
I was also pleased at how well Mr. Leisner was able to characterize both the familiar Next Gen characters who appear (Picard, Beverly, Worf, … [continued]
I walked into Wes Anderson’s film The Royal Tenenbaums totally unprepared for the idiosyncratic work of genius I was about to see. I had seen Rushmore on video a year or so earlier, but I’d gone in expecting a goofy Bill Murray comedy and so didn’t quite know what to make of the film I actually saw. While Rushmore had gotten a lot of acclaim upon its release, the film didn’t exactly blow my skirt up (to borrow one of my favorite lines from True Lies). But I’ll watch Gene Hackman in almost anything, and the rest of the ensemble cast of Tenenbaums looked intriguing, so I decided to check out the film when it came out in theatres. I was absolutely blown away by what I saw: the film was emotional and very, very funny, but even more than that, every frame seemed to be absolutely unique, unlike any other film I’d ever seen before. This was the work of an accomplished, singular filmmaker.
The Royal Tenenbaums remains my favorite film by Wes Anderson, but I’ve also quite enjoyed The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (a much-underrated film that I have really grown to like upon repeat viewings) and The Darjeeling Limited. Despite my appreciation of those films, though, I had never sought out Mr. Anderson’s first film: Bottle Rocket. There’s no particular reason for that — I wasn’t avoiding seeing it — it’s just a film that I never got around to watching. But when the Criterion Collection (always known for their high-quality presentations of notable films) released Bottle Rocket on DVD last spring, I knew I had to take the plunge.
Bottle Rocket focuses primarily on the friendship between three young men: Anthony (Luke Wilson), Dignan (Owen Wilson), and Bob (Robert Musgrave). The three guys — Dignan in particular — harbor aspirations of becoming master criminals. When we meet them at the start of the film, though, they’re pretty hapless.
Bottle Rocket isn’t strong on plot, exactly. That’s not to say that nothing happens in the film — quite a lot happens, actually. But there isn’t really a strong dramatic through-line to the events — the movie feels more like a series of vignettes. That hurts the pacing of the film somewhat, but adds to the naturalism of the story. These three friends aren’t typical movie-heroes caught up in BIG DRAMATIC events. They’re just sort-of hapless schmoes trying their best to figure out their own lives and find their way in the world. And therein lies the movie’s charm.
The two Wilson brothers and Robert Musgrave all turn in strong performances — especially Owen Wilson, whose character of Dignan is a truly unique creation. … [continued]
One of the greatest comic books that I know of took its final bow recently: Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s masterpiece, 100 Bullets.
The centerpiece of the series has been, since the very first issue, the mysterious Agent Graves. Graves brings the powerless and the beaten-down a chance at vengeance: an attache case filled with irrefutable evidence about the person or persons who destroyed their life, as well as a gun and 100 rounds of untraceable ammunition. Somehow, Graves has arranged so that no law enforcement agency on the globe can touch the user of that gun and those 100 bullets.
When the series began, its structure was that of short stories (some one issue long, most spanning several issues), each featuring a different protagonist — from a former gang-banger from Chicago to an ice-cream truck man in Brooklyn to a bartender in California to gas-station attendant in Texas, and many others — each faced with tough choices as to how to respond to Graves’ “gift.”
But the beauty of 100 Bullets is the way that an even more complex and fascinating larger story began to emerge, slowly, as the series progressed. Characters from one story would re-appear in later tales in unexpected ways. Events seen in the background of panels in one issue would, many issues later, become the focus of another story. Slowly it came to light that the people Graves was visiting might not be as totally unconnected and random as they had at first appeared. Eventually we readers began to discover a larger story, about the thirteen families who had long-ago divided up control of America, and the secret war that was now tearing them apart. As great as the tough, pull-no-punches stand-alone crime stories were that the series began with, I found myself even more engaged with this epic story-line that came to dominate the series over the course of the second half of its run.
I’m not even sure where to begin in terms of singing the praises of the series’ creators. Azzarello’s stories are both painfully, brutally intimate and also astonishingly epic. Over the 100 issues of the series (collected in 13 volumes — and that number isn’t random, as attentive readers of the series surely know), Azzarello wove a head-poundingly intricate web of increasingly inter-connected events and characters. I have re-read the early volumes of the series many times now, and each time I read them I discover amazing new connections — the way a major player late in the series’ run was there all along in the background of an earlier tale, or the way an off-hand comment made by one character early on the series would illuminate the motivations … [continued]
Last month, Entertainment Weekly published their usual guide to all the upcoming films being released from September through December. This is the time of year when the Oscar-bait films come out to play, which generally leads to some terrific — and some terrible — offerings. Here’s what caught my eye:
Extract — The new film from Mike Judge (Office Space), starring Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, Kristen Wiig, and Ben Affleck. I am there.
Capitalism: A Love Story — Michael Moore’s latest documentary.
The Informant! — Steven Soderbergh’s films are always interesting, even the ones I don’t connect with as much. This true-life story of an FBI informant (played by Matt Damon) who develops superspy-like delusions sounds intriguing.
9 — Post-apocalyptic CG sock-puppets.
The Invention of Lying — I’ve been reading about this comedy, written and directed by Ricky Gervais (the original The Office) for ages now. Can’t wait.
Where the Wild Things Are — Spike Jonze’s adaptation of the classic book by Maurice Sendak. The first trailer absolutely sold me. I am really curious to see what Mr. Jonze has created.
The Road — An adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel about a man (Viggo Mortensen) and his son trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. It’s been delayed for almost a full year, but I’m still interested. I have high hopes.
Toy Story & Toy-Story 2 3-D — Two great films, now in 3-D? Should be a ton of fun.
Fantastic Mr. Fox — A stop-action animated kids’ movie by Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums)? Color me curious.
The Box — The plot of this new film from Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko) sounds like the plot of an episode of The Twilight Zone: A husband and wife are offered $1 million if they press a button on a small wooden box. The catch: pushing the button will mean the death of someone, somewhere else around the world.
The Lovely Bones — I’m pretty much going to go see any movie Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) makes for the rest of his life. Luckily, this adaptation of Alice Sebold’s novel looks haunting.
Sherlock Holmes — Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) and Robert Downey Jr. bring us a new take on Holmes. Done and done.
Avatar — James Cameron’s first film since 1997′s Titanic, and he’s returning to sci-fi? Like Peter Jackson, the master who gave us the first two Terminator films, Aliens, The Abyss, and True Lies always has my ticket.
So how many of that above lengthy list of films will I actually get to see?? (I did pretty well with … [continued]
Romantic comedies are not really my thing.
That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy movies that deal with romance. I often say that When Harry Met Sally is one of my three very favorite films (along with The Godfather and The Empire Strikes Back, if you must know). It’s just that I have a strong dislike of the silly Hollywood boy-meets-girl, boy-and-girl-are-separated-by-some-ridiculous-misunderstanding-or-other-comic-or-dramatic-obstacle, boy-and-girl-work-everything-out-and-live-happily-ever-after type of movie. Yech.
Luckily, there’s none of that unpleasantness to be found in the absolutely delightful new film, (500) Days of Summer. This film has been getting a lot of favorable press since it’s release, and rightfully so.
The film focuses on a love-affair, between Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and the fact that this is the same actor who also played Cobra Commander in the recent big, loud, and dumb G.I. Joe movie is astounding) and Summer (the beguiling Zooey Deschannel). But right from the opening voice-over, the film is clear: “this is not a love story.” Thank heaven. While (500) Days of Summer deals with matters of the heart, the film stays well clear of schmaltz.
In many ways, (500) Days of Summer reminds me a lot of Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. (That is high praise from me, as Annie Hall is a masterpiece and, while it not be among my top 3 favorite films, it’s definitely in the top 10!) Both films deal with the ups and down of a relationship, balancing comedy and drama from moment to moment. But what really drew the connection, in my mind, is the gleeful playfulness both films have with the structure of their narrative.
As you probably know, (500) Days of Summer isn’t structured chronologically — it jumps back and forth throughout the 500 days of Tom and Summer’s relationship. This is a clever device, and one that is well-handled by the filmmakers. The jumps in time aren’t at all confusing and, in fact, they help draw connections between different moments to illuminate the goings-on (for either comic or dramatic effect). But it’s as if the filmmakers, once they decided not to us a simple chronological structure, felt emboldened to have all sorts of other fun with the narrative. Suddenly there’s a voice-over. Suddenly the characters are all looking into camera to describe their true love. Etc. etc. Again, this compares very favorably, in my mind, to the free-wheeling structure of Annie Hall, in which suddenly, in one scene, we can read the characters’ thoughts in sub-titles at the bottom of the screen, or there’s suddenly a split-screen showing the differences between dinner at the Singer and Hall households, or Woody can suddenly bring in the real Marshall McLuhan to settle a debate.… [continued]
Even before Watchmen was released in theatres, director Zach Snyder made clear, in interviews, that we’d be seeing his longer Director’s Cut released on DVD/Blu-Ray before too terribly long.
Well, Watchmen: The Director’s Cut is indeed now available for all to see, and I am happy to report that it’s quite excellent.
This Director’s Cut isn’t a total reinvention of the film. The film unfolds as it did in its theatrical form. There are no revelatory story-lines or spectacular action sequences added back in. This Director’s Cut isn’t going to change anyone’s mind about Mr. Snyder’s adaptation of the comic book masterpiece by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. If the film didn’t grab you in the theatres (and if you’re reading this while thinking to yourself, “twenty-four extra minutes added on to a film that was already two and a half hours?? No thanks!!”) then nothing I’m going to write here will cause you to think any differently. But if you were as taken with the theatrical version as I was (check out my original review here), then this new extended version is a delight.
As I wrote above, the film hasn’t been dramatically re-edited (the way, for example, the first half-hour of The Fellowship of the Ring was entirely re-worked in Peter Jackson’s magnificent extended edition), and there’s no “Wow! What a cool sequence that they’ve restored to the film!” moment (such as the astounding revised ending of James Cameron’s Director’s Cut of The Abyss). No, what has been added back into the film are a lot of little moments, little bits of texture to the story from the original comic book. Scenes now start a few moments earlier, or end a few moments later. Many of the characters now get a few extra moments. Bits of background detail are added. These accumulate to result in a film that is a bit more leisurely paced than the theatrical version, but where the world of the story has been a little more fleshed out.
One of the very first changes is also the most perplexing one, and really the only change I objected to. There’s a little button added on to the scene where Rorschach investigates the Comedian’s apartment, after his murder. Now, as Rorschach is leaving, a cop finds him in the apartment, and tries to shoot him. For some reason, the bullets don’t seem to connect with Rorschach, and when the cop looks back at him, he is gone. Whereas most of the rest of the additions in this new cut result in the re-incorporation of small moments or details from the original graphic novel, this addition is a complete invention of the filmmakers, and it … [continued]
How many really great sci-fi films have there been in the last decade? It’s pretty slim, right? OK, J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek movie was pretty good… but before that? I can think of Cloverfield (2008), Children of Men (2006), Serenity (2005), The Matrix (1999), Galaxy Quest (1999)… what else? Signs (2002) and Vanilla Sky (2001) have a sci-fi twist to them so maybe they count. That’s eight films. Not a pretty substantial list, huh?
Well, here’s one to add: Neil Blomkamp’s District 9.
You’re best off entering the film armed only with what little was revealed in the intriguing trailers: twenty years ago an enormous alien craft came to a halt in the sky over Johannesburg. Almost one million aliens (derogatively called “prawns” by the locals) are rescued from the powerless craft. These homeless creatures quickly develop into a new underclass in the city, dwelling in an enormous slum designated District 9.
That’s just the set-up. I went into the film completely clueless about the actual plot of the film (and what a delight that was, by the way, in this age of movie spoilers!) and I won’t spoil it for you either. I will tell you only that actor Sharlto Copley (a fresh face who I had never seen in a film before) does a tremendous job in the central role of Wikus van der Merwe. Mr. Copley takes Wikus (and the audience) along on a staggering emotional journey over the course of the film. When first we meet MNU (Multinational United) agent Wikus, he’s something of an affable buffoon, but his responses to the extraordinary events that follow are the meat and potatoes of the story , and when we leave him at the film’s end it’s hard to believe we’re leaving the same character. It’s a tremendous performance, and one the success of the film really hangs on.
Well, that and the film’s astounding visual energy. Mr. Blomkamp demonstrates terrific visual flair at the helm of this film. District 9 was famously made after the film version of Halo (which would have been produced by Peter Jackson and directed by Mr. Blomkamp, as District 9 wound up being) fell apart. District 9 was made on a very small budget (reportedly 30 million dollars) and shot in South Africa. I have no idea how Mr. Blomkamp and his team possibly pulled this film off on that tiny budget, but my hat is off to them. The film is a visual feast. I have no idea how they brought all the “prawns” to life — CGI? Make-up and prosthetics? Some combination? – but they are a phenomenal achievement. The aliens are completely believable — and they’re also, … [continued]
Wowee wow. This week’s Entertainment Weekly has a lengthy cover story about the I-never-thought-I’d-see-the-day Seinfeld reunion that is taking place this season on Curb Your Enthusiasm. (Kudos to EW not only for the great article, but also for the very clever cover headline.) The full article doesn’t appear to be available on-line, but you can find a lot of details here.
I can’t wait!!!… [continued]
I still remember the first time I saw Pulp Fiction. I didn’t know anything about this guy Quentin Tarantino, and I hadn’t yet seen Reservoir Dogs. But in reading about the film in advance of its release, it looked like it had a pretty spectacular cast, and I thought the trailers looked pretty cool. So, when the film came out in theatres, I corralled a bunch of my high school buddies to go see the flick with me. Boy, were we totally unprepared for what we were about to experience in that darkened theatre in Milford, CT! We pretty much had our brains blown right out of our heads. When the film was over, none of us could really speak — or even move! My friends and I just sat silently through all of the credits, slowly absorbing everything that we had just seen. What a movie! Walking out of that theatre it was pretty much assured that, from then on, I’d buy a ticket to any movie that Quentin Tarantino ever directed.
And, well, I have, and he hasn’t let me down since. Jackie Brown, Kill Bill (volumes I and II) and Death Proof (Tarantino’s half of Grindhouse — and please lord, can we someday get the complete theatrical version of Grindhouse released on DVD???) all proved to be relentlessly entertaining. What has really impressed me, though, is that while all retain the distinct signature of Tarantino’s style of movie-making, those four films are all quite different from one another in terms of content and tone. I am happy to report that I can say exactly the same of Mr. Tarantino’s latest work, Inglourious Basterds.
This is a spectacular film, one of my very favorites of this mediocre summer of movies. (My other favorite would be Pixar’s Up — see my review here — and two more different movies I could scarcely imagine!)
As with most of Tarantino’s movies, Inglourious Basterds kicks off with a powerhouse of a first scene. In Nazi-occupied France, dairy farmer Perrier LaPadite (Denis Menochet, looking quite a lot like Gerard Butler in 300) is paid a visit by “the Jew Hunter,” S.S. officer Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), who is seeking to determine if Monsieur LaPadite or any of the other local farmers are hiding a family of Jews who have disappeared. Tarantino is a genius at being able to craft exquisite tension from scenes of simple conversation, and this opening sequence is a master class in this skill (rivaling, in my mind, the deservedly famous “say what again!” interrogation scene from Pulp Fiction).
By the end of this prologue, only young Shosanna (and why her name is spelled that way, … [continued]