January 5, 2010

Media intaken

There have been a bunch of comics in my recent past, but not many of them have been worth noting.  If I were to review them, it would mostly be a big, long series of two stars out of four, nothing to write home about at all.

There have been some video and movie stuff, however, that was a little more noteworthy.

First up was the video of Romance & Cigarettes, John Turturro's directing and writing debut.
  • Basic summary - Gandolfini is cheating on Sarandon with Winslet.  His three adult daughters (Moore is the youngest) all live at home and are just weird - as are pretty much all of the other people in the film.
  • Impressive cast - James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Steve Buscemi, Mandy Moore, Mary-Louise Parker, Christopher Walken, Eddie Izzard, Amy Sedaris.  I'm guessing a bunch of them signed on because it was Turturro's gig more than that he was a great director.
  • Clear first director stuff - interesting shots here and there but nothing that really flows from one scene to another.  The first two-thirds of the film are light-hearted, quirky, wacky stuff.  The last third, though, is drastically different, far more serious, and fairly jarring from the first part of the film.
  • Winslet does a hilarious, thick cockney accent and seems to just be here to enjoy reading thoroughly (and often hilarious) lines.
  • It's quirky, but its not a good film, and the two disparate parts don't fit well together at all.  Weirdly, though, I actually found the final third of the film touching and a little moving in spite of not having any connection to any of the weirdo characters through the first two thirds of the film.

Up in the Air
  •  I agree far more with these three reviews than with all the glowing reviews that are out there.  Just fair warning if you've seen this and love it.
  • Up in the Air is enjoyable.  It's slick.  It's smooth.  It's almost moving in a couple of scenes, and it threatens to be a great film.
  • From the third review up there...""Up in the Air" doesn't even risk that degree of frustration: Any potential bumps or irritations have been smoothed over; the picture glides right by, a zoned-out, turbulence-free ride."  Yeah, that's about right.
  • I love George Clooney.  I'll go see just about anything he's in and have been impressed with a bunch of his films (Oceans 11; Good Night, and Good Luck; Syriana; Michael Clayton; Three Kings; O Brother, Where Art Thou?; South Park; From Dusk 'Til Dawn), but this one just relies too much on his smooth without taking true advantage of it.
  • Spoiler here...highlight to read if you wanna...The ending sucks.  I mean it sucks big time.  Sure, there was no way that Ryan and Alex were actually going to end up together - too neat, too tidy.  And I kind of figured something had to go wrong in Chicago - I was leaning toward boyfriend not family.  In the end, I just don't like movies that don't provide some sort of wrap up, some sort of conclusion (good guys win, bad guys win, whatever, but gimme something).  Here, our character seems to go on doing exactly the same things he had been doing but just with a slightly different attitude about things.  He ends up as stupidly groundless as he began the movie, just seems to realize that he was groundless, probably making himself more miserable in the process.  What the hell kind of ending is that?  I want growth or death or change in some fashion.  All we get is the hope for change, the writing of a phenomenally bland and crappy and anonymous letter of recommendation, dashed hope for change, hint of desire for connection with family - by a donation MADE ANONYMOUSLY as far as we know, and a suggestion that nothing really changed - except maybe that our hero lost his side gig giving payed speeches.  Dumb last third of the film.  Blech.
  • It'll win a whole bunch of awards, but the next one is the better George Clooney movie.

Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • Odd pacing at first, took a while to get used to.  Made way more sense once I figured out it was a Wes Anderson joint.  I've only seen two of his previous films (Tenenbaums and Zissou), but both were slow builds for me that turned into great films by the end.  This one matches those.
  • Here, Clooney's slickness is an asset around which the entire movie is built.
  • Great use of the stop motion, apparently filmed as half speed (12 frames per second) so you can see all the details more clearly.  (Maybe so they only had to do half the work, too, not mine to say.)  
  • The film is gorgeous, the voice work is spot on.  The laughs are well timed.
  • Excellent, kid-friendly stuff.
  • The use of 'cuss' to represent all bad words is entertaining, too.

The Men Who Stare at Goats
  • Oddly, the last three movies I've seen in the theater have all been George Clooney joints.  Not intentonal, just happened.
  • This one is the weakest of the three and could probably be viewed as having the best cast (Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, Stephen Root).  It's also, by far, the most boring of the three. 
  • Basic set up...McGregor as small tow journalist interviews a wacky guy (Root) who mentions that he had been trained as a military psychic.  McGregor goes to Iraq when he's dumped by his girlfriend.  Stumbles into Clooney (who Root had mentioned by name) and begs his way into the country.  McGregor finds himself with the remnants of the psychic army project.
  • Jeff Bridges is appropriately wacky in a weird mix of The Dude and a multi-religious shaman.  Kevin Spacey is wasted but sporting a spectacular mustache - as does Clooney, by the way, for those ladies out there who prefer their men a little more hirsute. 
  • The one moment of drama - Spacey holding a gun to McGregor and Clooney (sorry, I'm spoiling it so you won't see this film) - is resolved by Spacey just looking away because he's on LSD that Bridges put in the water and eggs.
  • Generally a boring film...the best moments are when Clooney speaks of being a jedi warrior, trained to use his mind and McGregor seems skeptical.  Its funny, see.

 The Way of the Gun
  • Horrible film...bad, bad film...a couple of well written scenes amid a whole lot of horrible movie...
  • To quote the SF Chronicle, it's a "[r]otten, pretentious movie full of minimalist dialogue and self-consciously arty cinematography."
  • Even if Katydid loans you a DVD three pack with this movie and the following two films in it, do not think "oh, I'll just watch this one, too".  
  • It's bad.
 American Psycho
  • Christian Bale in an outstanding performance.  Make himself out to be totally vapid, stylish, psychopathic, cold, amoral.  Has a great quote in the 'making of' special feature in which he says he really enjoyed the change of not having to think of his character's motivation, not having to consider how his character related to the other characters at all, how freeing the was.
  • Also dug Willem Defoe's detective.  Never could tell just what he knew - and the trivia on imdb makes so much sense about that.
  • I'm down with the violence, even, especially as most of it takes place off scene so we just get the splashes of blood, the bodies left over, the aftermath of the violence rather than the violence itself.
  • But I don't get it.
  • Spoiler coming again...get used to it...I don't get the ending at all.  I get that it's intentionally vague - is this really Bateman?  Did he really kill those people?  Did his lawyer really see Allen in London?  Did Defoe really believe Bateman's alibi?  I just need some modicum of clarity in the thing.
  • Interesting social commentary on the vapid, materialistic world in which Bateman travels.

The Prestige
  • I was surprised at how dark this one was.  Wow...nothing cheery to see here.
  • Loved the Bowie cameo.  Outstanding to see the old man getting some work since his dismal turn in Labyrinth.
  • I'll admit to having a serious weak spot for anything with Scarlett Johansson.  Her British accent is atrocious.  She can't act to save her life, but she stands so well that I'll watch pretty much anything with her in it.  It's pretty much been downhill since Lost in Translation.
  • Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman are outstanding as the two magicians trying to destroy each other back and forth in a giant game of "top this".
  • Excellent film...really excellent.
  • The Best Man had told me the ending a while back, but even though I knew where the movie was going, there was a ton of suspense as I had no idea how it was going to get there.  I can't imagine the shock in trying to understand and digest the whole thing unless you knew what was coming.  Even still, there were scenes throughout that had me floored in how well the knot tightened throughout the film.
  • Seriously, I don't know how I missed this the first time through.  Major thanks to Katydid for this one.

The Wire
  • The Girl and I are currently halfway through our third season of The Wire on DVD, all coming for free from the library, and I'm more and more drawn into the show as we go along.
  • The more I see shows in their entirety on DVD, the less inclined I am to watch television in the drips and drabs of broadcast schedules.  Between DVDs and online television, I can understand by broadcast television is suffering more and more.
  • It's tough to say which is the greater series from the 00s - The Wire, The Sopranos.  Newsweek says The Wire, and I'm inclined to agree.
  • Man, Stringer Bell and Omar are just fascinating characters, as is pretty much every character on the show.  Wow, wow, wow...
  • Finally saw the actor playing McNulty break his American accent in the last episode (season 3, episode 4).  Outstanding little easter egg for those of us in the know.
  • The 'current' season is starting pretty slowly, but I'm assuming that it'll build like the others have.

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