Thursday, April 28, 2005

Trailer Trash

A few worthwhile trailers have appeared (in Glorious Quicktime) over the past couple of days.

Batman Begins

I haven't been able to conjure too much excitement for this. I love Batman and have long awaited a flick faithful to the spirit of the comics. Nolan is a talent (maybe too much of one for Batman) and Bale strikes a perfect Bruce Wayne/Batman. The cast is unfuckingbelievable...so why the lack of response from my loins? I like this trailer way more than the previous stuff and there's a spark of interest ignited (like I'm NOT going to take the day off to see this, please) but it's not the raving obsessive compulsive "MUST FUCKING SEE THIS NOW" hysteria that I was expecting.

Serenity

I'm looking forward to this. Not a fan of Buffy or Angel, I begrudgingly picked up the Firefly DVD's based on favorable reviews from practically the entire population of Earth. I was not disappointed. The feature film looks great. I was surprised that it expanded the look of the TV show for a movie. I don't get this sentiment that it looks like a "Sci-Fi Channel Movie"...what does that even mean? That it's lower budget than Star Wars? That seems like a spoiled brats critique (no offense, you cocksuckers!). Anyways...I just get an admitted superficial joy from seeing space movies on the BIG SCREEN.

Last but not fucking LEAST...

George A. Romero's Land of the Dead

I don't give a rat's cock about the troubles on the set. I'm ecstatic that Romero is doing zombies again. I wish George Lucas would take some of that fat Star Wars cash and bankroll a guy who has a similar independent vision. I know, that is commie prattle...but I can daydream. The trailer looks...well...plain jane. Again, I just can't be too objective where Romero and his walking dead are concerned they shaped me as a devourer of film at a young age...and I'm thrilled to have a fresh taste.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Quaffable, but uh... far from transcendent.

Sideways: Nothing more to really be said. It’s a masterpiece. I’ve heard some call it “small” and that baffles. I love it for it’s intimate scope. It’s just so effortlessly beautiful and honest. It’s also so motherfucking hilarious. Giamatti’s face when he sees that fat couple fucking…

Also: People who say they don't like this movie because they can't relate to the characters or think it's pretentious need to grow the fuck up.

The Sea Hawk

The Sea Hawk: I started on the Errol Flynn Signature Collection almost the minute it was out of the wrapper. As far as I’m concerned The Adventures of Robin Hood IS the ultimate Robin Hood movie (followed closely by the Disney version with the rabbits) so I was excited to check out some more Flynn/Curtiz swashbucklers. I opened up the box and laid the contents face up to select what I’d watch first. I immediately grabbed The Sea Hawk. The title and cover was just so cool.

The film opens with a Spanish Galleon bound for England getting bitchslapped on the high seas by Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe (Flynn) who’s not a pirate but PRIVATEER! He and his men easily take possession of the crew, its riches and most importantly to Thorpe the English slaves that have been forced to row the mighty galleons. Thorpe heads back to England for an audience with Queen Elizabeth who is naturally charmed by the rogue but must officially maintain the diplomacy with Spain. She publicly chastises Thorpe and orders him to cease the looting of Spanish ships. However, in the privacy of her chambers, she plots with Thorpe to continue harassing the Spanish Armada, as they fear (rightly) it’s building strength in order to attack.

The Sea Hawk is light, breezy old school action with a heavy dose of political intrigue just to keep your brain from atrophying. Errol Flynn has a distilled charm that has no modern day equivalent. The middle of the movie seems weighted down with the political maneuvering but then we’re thrust into more action with a greater payoff than the opening battle. Immensely entertaining.

Dig (dug) on DiG!

DiG!: Another stellar documentary from ’04. Chronicles the rise and…well…plateau of two hipster bands, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols. Both are so, so tragically hip and well aware of it. The narrative focuses on Anton Newcombe and Courtney Taylor the respective front men. 10 minutes into the film and it’s obvious that Anton is some kind of deranged genius type. The guy seems to live in his own bubble where his music is his only true sustenance. Apparently homeless and so devoted to “not selling out” they guy seems constantly aware of music as a foreign language and he’s the ultimate translator. He’s this weird mix of mellow hippie and ferocious kick-you-in-the-face monster. He’s a thorough fascinating topic for a movie on his own. But then there’s the yin to his yang, Taylor, who is a preening, pouty, self-obsessed rock star in the making. He speaks in that arch, phony accent that tragically hip hipsters love to adopt (for all I know this guy created it).

The BJM are rowdy, intelligent rock dudes who, judging by the music used in the film, are actually really good musicians. Their shows frequently turn into brawls (though I’ve actually seen worse fighting at my daughters pre-school…arm-strength, gentlemen; get some) that coupled with Anton’s messianic complex keeps a record deal just out of their grasp. The Dandy’s, on the other hand, get the big score. They seem to me like art school clichés. Obsessed with their looks, their music has all the depth and emotional complexity as the cell phone commercials it’s used for. Promised by the record company they’re going to be the next big thing…they wind up being huge in Latvia or some shit.

The fact that I was unfamiliar with either band and was thoroughly engrossed by them is a testament to Ondi Timoner’s narrative. She spent 7 years with these jackasses. Her camera often takes a “friends-eye view” getting you so up close and personal with the subjects you can smell the patchouli (for better or worse). The DVD is a two-discer packed to the gills. Most amusing was the commentary by ex-members of the BJM where they take the piss out of their old chums and the film itself.

8/10, *** ½, B+, two forefingers up, 6 out 8 banana trees, 9 out 12 teats on a hog.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Peckinpah

Tuesday's gone with the wind, bitches.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Seriously Goddammit...

Monday, April 04, 2005

Intermezzo

You missed it.

Sin City: LOVED

There was no possible way for me to be objective about this. Frank Miller was one of the first comic writer/artists to treat me like an adult. I remember clearly when I first read The Dark Knight Returns summer of '86. Before that I consumed a modest diet of Uncanny X-men, Justice League, and Avengers. "Dark Knight" shook me by the lapels. It opened my mind to other stories where morality was a little grayer and the meaning often bubbled beneath the surface.

I had all but given up on comics when Sin City caught my attention. Frank Miller turns Film Noir up to 11. This was right about the time Reservoir Dogs came out and I started reading Jim Thompson. Frank Miller's first Sin City book was nothing but broads, thugs, and killers. It was also so fucking thick with atmosphere. His mastery of negative space within the narrative forced you into each panel. His characters craggy, beaten faces. The way light spilled from behind blinds, striping the characters in thin bands of shadow.

I had always flirted with the idea of a Sin City movie in my head. Who would play Marv? Nick Nolte? Dwight? Dafoe? Would it be animated? The hope was always aborted as there just seemingly wasn't a way to capture the essence Frank Miller could with india ink. Years later I'd heard that Robert Rodriguez had filmed a short and given it to Frank Miller in hopes of acquiring the rights and, most importantly, his blessing.

Thank fucking God...He reportedly loved it and signed on. Not only as "Based on the comic by..." but as co-director. A huge show of solidarity on the part of RR.

Filmed entirely in green screen and on digital video, Rodriguez and Miller were able to recreate Sin City pixel by pixel from the ground up. Literally. The intital little trickles of info that came out had me buzzing. Mickey Roarke as MARV? That was just so wrong that it went all the way around the world to being right. Then I saw that first teaser poster. Roarke as Marv in solid, bright red; his face highlighted with almost glowing white bandages criss-crossed all over his mug. I was thrilled. I had the feeling, way back then, that RR and FM nailed it.

Fast forward to 4/1/05. I took the day off from work to catch the first show alone. The film started (in glorious DLP) and I was immediately transported to Sin City for 2 hours. It all gelled for me. The violence, the sexiness, the mood. What caught me off-guard was how funny it was. This was noir turned up to 11 and all the actors were in on it. Mickey Roarke's Marv stole the show. Coming off as a crossbreed of John Wayne and the Frankestein Monster that's been chewed up and spit out all raw and vulnerable. His pain, his need for revenge, and his concern for his drifting sanity are so perfectly articulated by Roarke.

Clive Owen plays Dwight McCarthy differently than I read him in The Big Fat Kill. He plays him quiet and detached but slowly slipping off the edge. It's his ability to reign it in at the critical moment that sells it. Rosario Dawson is an actress to watch. She's a total badass, here.
Willis and Alba in That Yellow Bastard are both great. It was an oddly affecting piece.

I went back to Sin City two more times this weekend convinced that I would spot the chinks in it's armor. Would I be checking my watch on that 3rd viewing? Hell no. the 3rd screening was magic. It was with a big saturday evening audience who seemed to "get it". The chatter outside the restrooms after the movie was incredibly positive. I saw a couple of mom-types talking about how much they loved it. People were actually happy.

Another one of the things that deserves mention is how Sin City delights in all it's excesses. It's extremely violent. There's more nudity than I think most modern audiences are used to seeing. But I never felt it was gratuitous or pandering. Lucille in naught but a thong clicking the hammer back on her snub-nosed revolver is so honestly evocative of Frank Miller's little town.

More later...