Category Archives: Film


Not unlike an earlier post about Layer Cake, the movie Thumbsucker got me thinking about how there’s a sort of sub-genre of movies similar to it.  I’ll call it "indie post-modern coming of age story" for lack of a better word. 

It usually involves a teenager fighting some symbolic ailment while dealing with a family that is dysfunctional to some extent.   The colors are usually somewhat muted and is backed by a lot of indie musicians playing heartfelt piano and acoustic guitar music.   The final conclusion – or a scene close to it –  is almost always filmed in slow motion.  And then there is the obligatory "scene review montage" that comes at the end, where over the aforementioned indie balladry comes quiet, character-less shots of the places where the story took place… the bedroom, the house, the school, etc.  Not every movie in this sub-genre has all of those elements, but they usually have some and have a similar feel.  It all results in a moody, slow-paced film that tries to evoke a lot of emotion from the viewer.  A lot of them succeed.

However, at this point, the genre has kind of been done again and again.  Movies like Donnie Darko (with a sci-fi touch), Napoleon Dynamite, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums… and then even other films that go outside of the teen genre but still maintain that same feel: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Punch Drunk Love, and American Beauty, for example.

Since Thumbsucker has a familiar feel to it, but is trying to be so defiantly "indie," it doesn’t work that well.  It comes across as kind of pretentious and copy-cat.  It isn’t a bad film and probably would have been break-through a few years ago.  However, at this point, it results in a film with a lot of potential but ends up tripping over itself.

But What Would Mrs. Kong Think?

I can let go of a lot of reality when I watch movies.  Sure, I’ll believe that a radioactive spider can give a man superhuman powers or that travel through space at light speed is possible.  That is part of what is so much fun about movies: the chance to escape from reality. 

However, sometimes the lack of reality in small areas can undermine the effectiveness of a scene or an entire movie.  While watching the 2005 version of King Kong this weekend on DVD, I was willing to believe the whole giant ape thing of course.  As well as dinosaurs and giant bugs living on an undiscovered island.

However, during the scene where they fight off the giant bugs, after Jimmy suddenly becomes an expert marksman the first time he picks up a machine gun, he takes the gun and THROWS IT AWAY.  Now, I’m not 100% sure what I would personally do in that situation, but I would like to think that if me and my travel companions had just been attacked by giant cockroaches and flesh-eating swamp slug things, I wouldn’t get rid of the gun right away.  But maybe that is just me.

But what really did it for me is the scene in New York City after Kong escapes from the theater and Jack Driscoll draws him off by having the giant ape chase him by driving a taxi.  First of all, this is kind of a stupid choice: in order to save a single trolley car full of people, he leads King Kong on a rampage through the city that results in dozens of city blocks being destroyed.  Good job Jack!  Once the massive monkey catches the cab and Jack in it, they manage to wind up in a quiet residential area of Manhattan.  One that apparently doesn’t have any people living there who would be concerned that there was just a loud screeching car and the loud grunting and breathing of a 25-foot gorilla. 

Of course, this is all very convenient since at the same time, Ann Darrow arrives on the scene, even before the cops and the military, even though they had shown up in Times Square moments after the problems started.  She managed to beat them all to the place where Kong has run to even though she was on foot and in a light dress in the middle of winter. 

So we end up with a girl wearing a showgirl dress beats the police and the military chasing a giant monkey across New York City into a residential neighborhood where no one seems to care that there is a 25-foot monkey confronting a taxi with the roof torn off.  That’s perfectly believable, no?

And what is up with the whole love affair between Ann and King Kong.  I know that the connection is one of the basic elements of the story, but isn’t it a bit much to say that Ann would be in LOVE with the Monkey?  At least to the extent that they show her in this version.

In the end, the little unbelievable moments make the big fictional basic elements of the story less entertaining.  The special effects aren’t quite as good as I had hoped – that scene in Central Park was clearly fake (not to mention another unbelievable moment…. shouldn’t that ice have cracked?) and there were several other blue screen scenes that weren’t as seamless as we’ve grown accustomed to.  I’ll be sticking with the original, thanks.

A History of Violence and Layer Cake

A quick comment on two films I saw a little while ago:

First of all, A History of Violence was up for some Academy Awards this year and deservedly so.  It was an intriguing drama with a big plot twist – not a just a shocker, but just a big knot that actually made up the plot.   I highly recommend the movie, but have one word of warning: though it looks like a deep, intrigue-filled drama, it is directed by the same guy who did The Dead Zone and the 1986 version of The Fly.  What this means is that while there isn’t a lot of opportunity for a lot of blood and guts, where the opportunity does arise, LOOK OUT!  This guy isn’t messing around.  Lots of blood and lots of lingering close-ups of deep, scary gunshot wounds.  Just be warned – it doesn’t bother me, but it did surprise me at first.

As for Layer Cake… it came up as a recommendation in my Netflix queue and I saw that it starred Daniel Craig, the much-maligned new James Bond.  I was curious what all the hubbub was about, so I gave it a shot. 

First of all, let me say that I think its a great film and I really enjoyed it.  However, while watching it, I’m saying to myself, "this reminds me of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch an awful lot."  Turns out the film was the directing debut from Matthew Vaughn, who was the producer for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch.   Not that its a bad thing – there is nothing wrong with a movie that is actually interesting, multi-layered and captivating with good acting and directing. 

What it did get me wondering is if there now constitutes a small sub-genre: the British amateur crime picture.  Kind of like the American mafia picture, but instead of being about professional criminals, it is about amateur-ish ones in situations that go bad.


Went to see Capote last night at the Cable Car Cinema in Providence, RI.  First of all, let me just say how much I love the Cable Car.  It is a really neat art-house theatre and last night I finally got a chance to experience the pre-movie music.  Last night it was two guys (one of which looked really familiar but couldn’t place him) singing Scottish songs accompanied by an acoustic guitar.  So much better than those stupid "trivia" questions, ads and name scrambles they do at the big theaters (on a "side-rant" – why are some of those so easy: "ujlia obertrs" for Julia Roberts, but then the next trivia question will be something absurd like "How many bullets did Neo fire in the first Matrix movie?"), I love those couches.

As for the movie, it was excellent, as I was expecting, but it was much darker and chilling than I had anticipated. I  knew it followed Truman Capote as he wrote his book In Cold Blood, but didn’t realize it was going to involve showing so much time spent with the killers and discussing the murders themselves.  Yet, that’s what makes it a really good film in my opinion – that it is a straightforward biopic, but rather utilizes a little piece of the character’s history to explain what he was about.  In ways subtle and not-so-subtle, we see how he had rough childhood, liked to drink, and had been made fun of all his life for his mannerisms.  By forcing the audience to infer all of this from the performance, it allows Philip Seymour Hoffman to really shine – he would need to for this picture to even work – and you really understand why he won the Oscar for Best Actor. 

While he got all the attention, I think that others in the film deserve recognition – not an Oscar, but simply some kudos.  Catherine Keener jumps from the 40 Year Old Virgin to Capote easily, and Clifton Collins Jr. did a great job as Perry Smith, one of the killers.

What I haven’t heard about in the wake of this movie is whether or not Truman Capote’s works have increased in popularity, especially In Cold Blood.  I know that I now want to read the book after seeing the movie and would anticipate that at some point in the coming months we’ll see an article stating the Capote has found a new audience and/or will be on Oprah’s reading list – if it isn’t already.

Yes, Deer

For the second time in under a week I drove by a billboard on Route 93 South heading out of Boston that is advertising "Bambi II."  It got my twisted little mind thinking about what might come next in the Bambi movie franchise:

Bambi III: Thumper and Bambi – the Forbidden Love

Bambi IV: Flower – the Smell of Passion

Bambi V: Bambi Goes to the City

Bambi VI: Bambi Does The Forest

Bambi VII: Revenge Against the Hunters

Bambi VIII: Bambi Gets Horny (get it? Horns?  Deer? )

Bambi IX: Bambi Meets Freddie Kruger

Bambi X: Bambi Meets Jason

Bambi XI: Fire’s Revenge

Bambi XII: Bambi Vs. Smokey the Bear (made famous by Bambi’s line "F*** you Smokey!" and the grisly final impalement scene, the movie ending with Bambi throwing Smokey’s hat into a unconfined camp fire)

Anyone else got others?

March of the Depression

Just finished watching March of the Penguins.  Holy crap, what a depressing film.  I mean, it is fascinating and amazingly photographed and is truly a captivating film… but damn, you gotta feel for these poor penguins.

Back and forth… back and forth… tromp through the snow and ice to meet a female.  Then the egg comes and the female splits to go eat.  Then she comes back as the chicks are being hatched and they regurgitate some food into the new born penguin’s mouths.  There’s a welcome wagon for ‘ya: "break out of your shell so that you can see the vast wasteland of ice and snow that will be your home."  What about food?  "No sorry – you gotta eat this white phlegm-y stuff that your parents keep stored in their mouths.  Oh, and stay close, since, you know, its like 80 degrees below zero and the wind goes up to 100 miles an hour.  One last thing: once you get old enough, we dump you and then you get to do this 70 mile journey to get laid yourself"

Like I said – depressing.  The movie makes a good argument against the "intelligent" part of intelligent design and makes a good case for evolution: mainly that this is exactly WHY we evolve!!

War of the Audience

Saw War of the Worlds last night… I thought it was an entertaining summer flick, but with two major problems:  One, the ending just sucks.  All of a sudden things start to go right and we’re given a half-assed explanation of what happened to the aliens and all the loose ends are tied up without any explnation. 

Second, the flim falls into the usual unnecessary "emotional" sub plots that plague so many action flicks.  Really, the whole "estranged father" bit that Tom Cruise plays adds NOTHING to the film.  Give it a break already.  A father trying to save his family from the world being annihilated is dramatic enough – we don’t need to have something else going on to distract from the film’s main plot and action.

Other than that, the film is entertaining with some great cinematography, awesome special effects and some legitimately scary scenes, especially when they show people getting vaporized – borderline gruesome, actually.  I can’t wait to see it on DVD and crank it up on the home theater system.  A bonus of watching it that way is that you don’t have to put up with audience members…

NOTE: the rest of this post will be a scathing, scorching, expletitive-ridden rant about some of the morons in the audience.  If you are sensitve to "adult language" then you may want to surf away to somewhere else… now.

So last night we get into the theater, which was one of the more crowded shows I’ve been to in a while.  It was a Friday night on a long holiday weekend, two days after the movie opened.  I wish I had waited… then maybe the fucking assholes who were in there last night would have fucking seen the movie and not come the fuck back.  The first thing I wanted to do when the movie ended was to go around and bitch-slap everyone – HARD – who had a cell phone on during the movie.  Let’s get this straight – YOU ARE SIXTEEN YEARS OLD – YOU ARE NOT SO FUCKING IMPORTANT THAT YOU NEED TO BE TALKING ON A CELL PHONE DURING A MOVIE!!!   Give it a fucking break, you goddamn idiots.  Do you really think that ANYONE there thinks you are the least bit cool because you have a cell phone?  Everyone fucking has one. And I can assure you that NO ONE thinks that you’re really badass for using it in a movie theater.  In fact, all you did was appear to be a complete and total idiot who can’t handle the most basic human interactions, proving that you should have the phone taken away from you, be stripped naked, and put into a cage with dog food and water. 

The worst part is that now that cell phones have brightly back- lit colored screens, it isn’t jus the sound that bothers people – it is the fucking light as well.  Phone rings… they open their phone… and all of a sudden, from ten rows away, you can see this glowing light illuminating some asshole’s face.  Fuck ’em.  They should have their cell phone stuffed up their asses.  Cages are too good. 

If you answr a cell phone in a movie theater, the next thing you should do is go running out to your car so you can perform the emergency heart by-pass surgery that only you can do, or to the side of a dying family member.  That is it.  Otherwise, put the fucking cell phone on vibrate, and ignore it for two hours, you fucking morons.

It really did hurt the atmosphere of the movie – tense scenes punctuated with sound of chit-chat, ring tones and beaming lights from the becons of idocy.  It ended up making the mood TOO light as well, meaning that people were laughing too  much at too many scenes.   

Then after the movie ended, some asshole in the upper rows thew an ALMOST emtpy drink cup across the seats towards the front… I don’t think they were even targeting anyone – they just thought they would be the shit if they did that.  Instead, they are just shitheads with shit for brains that should be shit upon.

Thanks a lot assholes… I hope you all get fucking cancer from your cell phones and your goddamn ears fall off when you turn 25.


BATMAN!!!  (that was supposed to be the old Batman theme… weak, I know, but believe me, you should appreciate it more than me singing it, that’s for damn sure)

So I went to see Batman with Kim (our third time hanging out, but I didn’t get lucky dammit… man, is she gonna kill me when she reads this…) this afternoon.  First of all, as far as I can remember, I think this is the first time I’ve ever been to a movie in the middle of the day.  I’ve always gone as part of an evening out.  Does that make me strange (or just stranger?)?

Anyway – the movie is really good.  Batman has always been my favorite superhero character because he was the most "human" – I’m the far from being a "fanboy" or anything, but I always thought it was a cool character.  What makes this movie so great is that it IS about the character Batman, and not just a big dumb blow-shit-up action flick.  I like good special effects as much as anyone else, but when they start to take over the movie – or are the point of the movie to begin with – I’m just not into that.  The movie does a great job connecting some big gaps in the Batman mythology, such as why bats, how the hell did he get so good at fighting and where did all these neat gadgets come from?  It makes for a really interesting and attention-keeping moving.

The closest thing I got to feeling like a giddy fanboy was when they showed him loading his utility belt.  That was pretty cool.  Great Batmobile too, though I have to admit, I don’t understand why he has to do a sit-up in order to fire the guns and make a jump.  Not getting that. 

One thing that I liked which hasn’t gotten a lot of play in the critic reviews is how legitimately scary some of the scenes are – not just the stuff with the bats, but when the Scarecrow is going around drugging people (he is the the most believable superhero villain in any movie ever, BTW), the resulting scenes are actually disconcerting and frightening, making you hope that the stuff they are spreading around doesn’t actually exist, or that you at least will never come in contact with it.

One question I do have about the main evil plot in the film revolves around the microwave emitting machine.  I don’t want to bring too much reality into a superhero flick, but since this was a very grounded one, I’ll do it anyway: if this machine emitted such high-powered microwaves that it vaporized all the water around it, shouldn’t have all the people near it gotten cooked as well?   Hell, if it is that powerful, they should have been exploding right along side the water mains.  That’s how microwaves work… put a glass of water in the microwave and it boils and evaporates.  Put a kitten in it and it gets cooked (just an example folks, don’t get angry).

Anyway – it was good, and I’ll probably buy it when it comes out DVD.  From Kim’s perspective, she just really liked seeing Christian Bale all muscled out, but was disappointed with the outfit.  She was apparently hoping for more spandex (I picked up on that from her constant "spandex" chanting during the costuming scenes).  She was also disappointed that the most she saw of Christian was a topless shot in his pajamas. (I just thought he made for a really good Batman)

Of course, that’s more than we get from Katie Holmes, who is her usual almost-disturbingly cute self.  I wonder if she as much of a sex vixen as all men everywhere hope she is?  She looks great in the film, running around in skirts with boots (as some of you know, that pretty much gets me every time).  One  very funny thing that happened in the movie as a totally gratuitous erect nipple shot – when Katie is being lifted off a table after being drugged, her right breast is visible and so is a very erect nipple, right in the middle of the screen – pretty tough to miss, and completely pointless, other than making people like me type about it on-line, I guess.   Must have been cold in the Batcave…

Very excited

This post is pretty much just to show  Kim that I’m not kidding about writing about her in my blog…

I’m very excited – I’m going to see Batman Begins tomorrow afternoon with Kim.  Been dying to see the movie, and it has been too long since she and I hung out together.  We definitely always have a good time – we both have twisted senses of humor, so it works out well 🙂

So take THAT Kimberly!

How do these things get made?

So last night I watched The Day After Tomorrow and I’m pissed.  I want to know who’s going to give back the two hours of my f’ing life that I wasted watching this giant hunk of crap…  gawd, what a horrible movie. 

Too many plot lines… pick one and stick with it already!  Here’s what’s going on in the film: Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) struggles with being a bad father and a bad husband.  Lucy Hall’s (Sela Ward) attempt to save the little cancer kid, Peter.  Jack trying to rescue his son, Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal).  Same trying to woo Laura, played by Emmy Rossum, with another prep school prick getting in the way, but then conceding to him OUT OF NO WHERE (who the fuck does THIS happen to?).  Laura cutting her leg and getting sick, and the resulting attempt to get antibiotics for her off a Russian ship.  The conflict between Jack and the U.S. Government.  Some weather scientists trapped in Scotland, with one of them with a wife and child he’s worried about… and on and on and on…

Oh… and by the way, this movie is actually about a new ice age coming over the earth.  Couldn’t you tell from the above? 

The best acting in the movie comes from Jake Gyllenhaal and the special effects in the movie.  The weather itself is technically the best character and I felt the most connection with it.  Lord knows that Quaid and Ward weren’t given shit in the terms of a script to work with.  The scene where Jack Hall announces his theory to the NOAA is one of the corniest scenes I’ve seen in a while.  If MST3K comes back in another 20 years, this film – and particularly that scene – is ripe for the picking. 

With all of that being said, the core idea of the movie – the "plot" if you will – is an interesting one.  Throw away the scientific probability of it all (funny how many sci-fi films require you to ignore the true nature of the the "sci" part isn’t, it?), and what you have is an intriguing concept: what happens if we have a cataclysmic shift in our environment (or anything else that leaves the entire northern hemisphere inhabitable… nuclear war, pollution, etc.) and everyone needs to move to the middle to southern parts of the world where most of the "third-world nations" are? Do we become part of the third world?  Do we modernize it?  Do they even let us in after all the debt that they owe us and all the times we’ve ignored their revolutions, civil wars, political coups, and genocides?  Or do they give us a big "F-U" and turn us away?  I think that is the most interesting part of this film – when the government decides to evacuate the southern part of the United States (a decision that made in the film in a totally ludicrously scene that makes it seem like they just decided to go to McDonald’s for lunch…), and Mexico closes its borders to the U.S. until they forgive all debts.

The geo-political impact of massive evacuations from developed countries into third world ones is a really interesting concept, but apparently one that none of the scriptwriters could possibly deal with.

As a result, the movie ends without any closure at all… I guess we are left to think that things will just be hunky-dory… 

In my opinion, more time should have been spent on showing the effects of the storm throughout the world and emphasizing the global effects of the change in climates.  This was something that the movie Independence Day did very well, showing landmarks from around the world getting attacked.  It’s a bit of cliche at this point, but it does help to make an impact.   The writers should have simply gotten rid of all the silly subplots and focused more on the struggle of scientists trying to communicate the impending changes, and how governments respond to them.  Then the whole geo-political impact could have come into play, and a story line of a family trying to escape the storm into safety of a third-world country and the impact on those countries of a massive immigration would have been a lot more captivating than this crap.  It could have still been a big summer blockbuster CGI-effect movie, but with a lot more depth and more interesting.