Archive for March, 2009

Movie review: The Hammer

Posted by seoulfully on March 20th, 2009

[DVD]

This is a pretty sweet, heartfelt comedy. I don’t know if I believe a 40 year old way out of boxing could hold his own in a regional competition, though I know in boxing more than ever there’s always the so-called “puncher’s chance.”

For a movie of this budget, I thought the fight scenes were pretty impressive, especially the climatic one. This one had a bit of everything: a buddy flick, a romance, and a old-dog-young-pip-rivals-to-friends-mentor-mentee relationship. Usually when a movie tries to incorporate so many elements, I find it falls far short of its goals. This time, perhaps because it is more light-hearted fare, I thought it worked pretty well.

An entertaining flick, nice little diversion for the hour and a half or so it ran.

Movie review: Milk

Posted by seoulfully on March 19th, 2009

So let me start by saying I wasn’t familiar, in any great detail, with the story of Harvey Milk prior to the marketing for this movie. I certainly wasn’t as familiar with his story or persona as I was with, say, Ray Charles or Johnny Cash or even Howard Hughes. Now mind you, I wasn’t really familiar with any of them on any real level. I knew of them, but not much.
So there have been tons and tons of biopics lately of varying levels of success. I think the general feeling (maybe a result of the Oscar and the unfortunate passing of Ray Charles during the time) is that Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in Ray [DVD] is the standard bearer. “Jamie Foxx BECAME Ray Charles” was the basic statement. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Ray. It was a good enough movie, but just didn’t really catch me. But here’s the thing, if Jamie Foxx deserved the Oscar for Ray, then Joaquin Phoenix did just as admirable a job as Johnny Cash the following year in Walk the Line [DVD]. I thought his performance as Johnny Cash was just as deep as Jamie Foxx’s performance. So this is all a long way of saying, I don’t really know how performances of real people are quantified. That said, it’s easier for me to say “wow” to those performances than Sean Penn’s performance as Harvey Milk, if only, because I am familiar with the source people and thus can see the level of mimicry achieved.
This isn’t a knock on Penn’s performance. I think it speaks greatly of it, that I know it’s a true story and find it utterly believable, real, and totally commendable. However, I think the two standout performances in this movie were James Franco and Josh Brolin. Franco kind of plays the same sort of sad guy as he’s done for most of his career, but he does it so well. I thought Brolin played Dan White pitch perfect. The right amount of desperation, ambition, and all of that.
Such a tragic story. But well told in this movie. I don’t know if Sean Penn became Harvey Milk, but this performance is up there on that level for me. I thought some of the choices made by Gus Van Sant were a little boring and cliche, but for the most part, I thought he did a good job with this story.

Movie review: The Nines

Posted by seoulfully on March 14th, 2009

[DVD]

I thought the concept of this movie was neat, if slightly unoriginal. I mean a greater power finding humanity so compelling that all is spared, that’s kind of well tread material. I think how they unfolded the mystery of the story was okay. I’m a Ryan Reynolds fan, and as such I’m glad he’s worked toward less base humor kind of material. The movie is a decent enough way to pass the afternoon.

Movie review: Dear Zachary

Posted by seoulfully on March 14th, 2009

[DVD]

This is an incredibly powerful movie. Very touching and very sad. It’s a documentary about the aftermath of a murder. The incredible fallout from the death of a man, who apparently was very beloved. I usually don’t bother worrying about spoilers, but I’m not going to get into them here with this movie.

I don’t think the movie itself was particularly well made. I don’t think it’s quite as polished as something like Capturing the Friedmans [DVD], but it doesn’t take away from the emotional impact of the film. I think it’s kind of a messy movie. The fast speech, the editing back and forth of bits, I just don’t think it played as well.

I’d encourage everyone to see this movie. It’s quite powerful.

Movie review: The New World

Posted by seoulfully on March 13th, 2009

[DVD]

I don’t exactly know how the math works. If you take the slow pace of, let’s say, Meet Joe Black [DVD] and couple it with the pacing of 99% of Martin Scorcese movies and throw in a measure of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford [Blu-ray | DVD] and the resulting movie would probably still be faster than this movie. It’s really slow. Slow for slow’s sake it seems.

I hadn’t heard very many good things about this movie, and that really played out, but what I DID hear was that it was a beautiful movie. And I can forgive a lot of things about a movie if it is visually arresting. I just love looking at pretty pictures. And this movie had some nice shots, but it just wasn’t as gorgeous as it could’ve been, as I thought it would be.

I didn’t think much of the performances by any of the actors. I suppose it was passable. It was a lot of looking mostly sad to a voiceover or overtly slow camera movements.

While I adhere to a 5 star rating system based on Netflix’s system for my queue, from here on out, on the blog, binary. A yes or no. So this movie, no.

Movie review: Rachel Getting Married

Posted by seoulfully on March 12th, 2009

[Blu-ray | DVD]

First off, Bill Irwin, the father, is excellent. But on some level he will always be the dancing FBI agent from My Blue Heaven [DVD]. The performances in this movie are so incredible. Top to bottom, from the leads to the small bit parts, everyone played this pitch perfect. The dysfunction feels so real, so painful, the wounds this family has suffered are right there under and then above the surface. And yet, the love they have for each other, the worry, the concern is all there too. And none of it feels far fetched or contrived.

I’ve never been part of a group quite this dysfunctional, but it all feels right. I don’t have these kinds of problems in my family, but I can understand the hurt and simultaneous love. I don’t quite have the words. I think this movie didn’t get its due during the award season. I don’t know how often I’d rewatch this movie, but I’m honestly consider buying it. I could just keep my Netflix copy forever, but there are too many movies on my queue to sacrifice a spot like that.

I compare movies to other movies all the time. The feelings they give me and such. This movie, in a way reminds me of Revolutionary Road. I think this movie is better than Revolutionary Road (though I did enjoy that movie). It’s just in both I think the feelings, the relationships, while representing extremes, are real. You can just feel it. It makes for a lovely movie, even when almost uncomfortable. In fact, I think Rachel Getting Married amplifies it by using a videography/cinema verite/documentary camera style. You feel like you are intruding on this family.

Wow. Just wow.

Movie review: Shattered

Posted by seoulfully on March 12th, 2009

[ DVD]

This was a pretty typical twist thriller. It pretty much jumps right into the random violence, what’s-going-on-here thrill ride. I didn’t really get the tense feeling of time and necessity required of this kind of movie. The ending was a little bit of a surprise. The “first” ending was only a mild surprise, then the “second” ending was a bit more surprising. It’s a bit unrealistic to think someone would go through all of this as a “simple” revenge setup. Then I think, “maybe not.” Maybe rich people are just crazy when left to their own devices and such.

If I didn’t get the necessary tension from this movie, I guess that says what it needs to about the performances by Maria Bello, Gerard Butler, and Pierce Brosnan, the plot, and the dialogue. It was passable. Might be able to pass an afternoon with it on, but not something I’d make an effort to see. Even if the effort is putting in my Netflix queue (which I obviously did, otherwise I’d not have reviewed it). Even so, umm, yeah, buy it via that Amazon affiliate link above. As Principal Skinner once said, “Prove me wrong, children, prove me wrong.”

Movie review: Watchmen

Posted by seoulfully on March 12th, 2009

I don’t get it. I just don’t get it. I guess this movie is for fans, even though there are apparently enough differences to rile up the most hardcore of fanboys. I’ve never read the graphic novel [Book | Blu-ray] and never really had the desire to read it. Just wasn’t on my radar. So I don’t know anything really about the source, the story, what’s missing, what’s an exact frame grab from the book. So my review is coming from that angle.

First off, it’s a long movie. The director’s cut that supposedly will be released in theatres in a few months (and assuredly on Blu-ray/DVD) is supposed to be an additional half hour or so. As it stands the movie is just over 2.5 hours. And it starts out slow. The pacing of the first 20 or so minutes is drag along slow. It definitely picks up. There isn’t a ton of Zach Synder time shifting. I think the dialogue and the voice-overs kind of add to the slow pace of the film. I think, as has been written a few times, the dialogue, while apparently pretty slavish to the source, doesn’t really work well out loud. This next sentence shows how unfamiliar I am with the source. The dialogue sounds like Tarantino dialogue. Tarantino-Kill-Bill dialogue. Very stilted. Tarantino did it to mimic the samurai flicks he loved. And here it was done to show the love of the source. I think it kind of detracted from the movie here. Sort of the same thing as in Sin City [Blu-ray | DVD].

I can’t say the movie stuck out too much visually for me. There were some cool visuals, but as it stands right now, I can’t say anything comes to mind as particularly memorable. I can say, even though I didn’t read the source graphic novel, that there were clearly scenes in this movie that were direct grabs from the frames of the comic. And you could tell because they seemed to stay on screen a beat longer than necessary. Or were overtly “stylized.”

I think the performances, save Jackie Earl Haley, were fairly mundane. Patrick Wilson was passable as a kind of middle of the road guy in his post-hero life. Malin Ackerman just seemed flat. I think Jeffrey Dean Morgan did okay with what he was given. Billy Crudup, I mean, I guess it was an interesting performance in as much as it was written devoid of emotion, for the most part, and played as such. Jackie Earl Haley was spectacular I think. The bits of Rorschach sans mask were the best parts of the movie. I even got past his Christian Bale Batman Dark Knight gravel after a bit, though it really bothered me at first. I think Matthew Goode was okay in his role. I couldn’t get past the fact that he looks kind of like a “normal” Steve Buscemi.

I will probably watch this movie once more when it’s out on disc. Just to catch some of the detail. And then probably never again. I can’t say this movie will stand the test of time like a lot of the lovers of the movie do. I can’t say that it was the best way to tell the story of the “unfilmable” graphic novel. I can see how this story really appeals to college age kids. And things you love in college you tend to love into full on adulthood. And I think that plays a role in some of the reviews out there. It’s kind of like Fight Club [DVD] in that respect. I love Fight Club. The book, the movie, the whole nine. But it’s kind of a college/rebellion/rage against the machine kind of thing that really flourishes in college. The book and the movie are good. Both have problems that I willingly overlook because of my love of it. I think Watchmen is the same thing. Though I’m not saying this is as good a movie as Fight Club or that Synder is anywhere on Fincher’s level. Just that loving something at that time of life resonates for a long time.

Watchmen definitely has an audience. I don’t think it’s a movie made for the population at large. It feels a bit like Serenity [Blu-ray | DVD] in that regard. A vocal group of fans (I can’t say how large a group), but not sure it really resonates with the general population.

Addition: By the way, the world that Watchmen populates sounds a lot like what I’ve heard of Araonofsky’s Batman (via /Film).

“It was a hard, R-rated Batman,” he says. “What I pitched them was Travis Bickle meets The French Connection — a real guy running around fighting crime. No super-powers, no villains, just corruption. For the Batmobile, I had him taking a bus engine and sticking it in a black Lincoln. Real low-tech geek stuff.” (via Cinematical)

The /filmcast guys have a more detailed synopsis in one of the podcasts, but I can’t remember which one. If I find/remember it, I’ll link it here.

Movie review: The Incredible Hulk

Posted by seoulfully on March 10th, 2009

[Blu-ray | DVD]

I’ve only seen the Ang Lee Hulk [Blu-ray | DVD] in bits and pieces as it aired on television, so I can’t really compare this to that. I thought this movie was okay. I didn’t quite understand the second plot point of General Ross pursuing Banner to get his Hulk-ness or whatever, since he clearly had some sort of magic juice to make soldiers all kinds of hyped.

If I were Ed Norton, I wouldn’t have been fighting so much to have my name on the script. I didn’t quite buy his post-Hulk Banner. I thought William Hurt as General Ross was better than Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane. Though I thought maybe the role needed more of a moral quandary for him picking between his weapon and his daughter. Liv Tyler was serviceable. I recently watched her in The Strangers and she sure can scream, but I don’t know if anyone does a plaintive whisper better than her. Tim Blake Nelson played his usual kind of offbeat guy. Wasn’t sure about Tim Roth as the British special forces guy. I mean he had the attitude down, but dunno. And if he was such a long-standing special forces guy, I suppose I could make the argument that he is used to acting independently, etc., but I’d also think that he’d have a real respect for, if not a whole chain of command, the very top ring of said chain.

The movie was okay. The visuals were alright. I can’t say that I thought the CGI was integrated seamlessly, but it looked alright.

Movie review: Chaos

Posted by seoulfully on March 9th, 2009

[DVD]

Just don’t bother. I’m a Statham fanboy, but this is probably worse than The Transporter 2 [Blu-ray | DVD], Transporter 3, and War [Blu-ray | DVD] combined.