Archive for the ‘ Movies ’ Category

2010: A List of Movies.

I wasn’t planning on doing a movie list, but Joe here inspired me, so here it goes.  Like the music list, I’m doing every movie I saw this year.

First, here are the movies released this year that I still want to see

Dogtooth, Winter’s Bone, Enter the Void, and Valhalla Rising.

And now, the list.

19. The Social Network

18. Kick-Ass-Having already insulted these in my “ten things that sucked” post, I’ve got nothing new to add.

17.      Defendor- A more realistic look at “real world superheroes.”  This is the movie Kick-Ass claimed to be.  Woody Harrelson does a great job with the title character, but a bland story and a reliance on luck and coincidence make this one forgettable.

16.      The Book of Eli-I’m getting sick of muted color schemes.  This was an okay movie, but please, no more.  Denzel Washington is running on autopilot, but Gary Oldman is appropriately cartoonish and Tom Waits has a small role, so it aint all bad.  The fights and battles are all impressive too.

15.      Easy A-No, I didn’t see many movies this year, but this one had enough sexy-adults-as-teens to keep me interested.  (Even the ugly kids were rich and beautiful)  The story was surprisingly funny, and Stanley Tucci was outright hilarious as “wacky dad.” I still don’t get why everybody was so well off, though.

14.      Centurion-The characters were all interchangeable and there’s too much digital blood, but also a lot of stabbing and chopping of limbs.  The battles in this medieval adventure story are all impressive and the movie moves fast enough that it succeeds.  The outdoor scenery is all beautiful too, just don’t expect any depth.

13.      Tron: Legacy-Really boring and terribly paced, but in a good way.  It’s the best boring movie I saw this year.  It also had the best use of 3D I’ve seen since Beowulf.  The simple color scheme is lovely.  As a friend pointed out, the simplicity of red/black/blue make it easy to follow and keeps it believable.

12.      Greenberg-Greenberg’s a lot like the Social Network.  The protagonist is an unlikable, self-absorbed asshole, nothing of importance happens, and it ends just when things start to get interesting.  Being fictional, Greenberg at least has a glimmer of hope.  Ben Stiller turns in a cringe worthy performance as the title character.  He’s a middle aged carpenter, barely anybody can put up with him, and any windows of opportunity are closing fast.  I want Greenberg to succeed.  I want him to become a better person.

11.      127 Hours-127 Hours beats you over the head now and then, trying desperately to make you “get it.”  This only accounts for a few brief moments in the movie though.  When the majority of the thing takes place underneath a rock, those things really stand out.  James Franco is great as real life asshole Aron Ralston, and Boyle’s excessive style of filmmaking really lends itself to the arm chopping scene.  He should make more gory movies.  It’s easily his best movie, considering it’s the only one I’ve enjoyed all the way through.

10.      Cyrus-Like Seth Rogen before him, Jonah Hill got really fat to play his best role ever.  Hill is the creepy title character in this low key romantic comedy with John C Reilly and Marissa Tomei.  Cyrus is Tomei’s creepy adult son that still lives with her.  Cyrus is short and sweet, and it mocks trance music.  I’m down with that.

9.      Iron Man 2-Iron Man 2 learns from the mistakes of the first movie, and creates some nice new mistakes while it’s at it.  Instead of a thrown together shitty ending, we’re instead barraged with too much happening at the beginning and none of it making any sense, but once the movie’s finally found itself, it picks up a lot.  The second half is a blast, and frankly, that’s enough for me.

8.      Black Swan-A little too melodramatic and goofy for me, this tortured woman-child tale is still told engagingly, and Natalie Portman’s performance is damn good.  It’d be cooler if she really was a were-swan, but what I got was still a fun 90 minutes.

7.      Shutter Island-As far as spooky and creepy goes, I liked Shutter Island a lot more than Black Swan.  Shutter Island had atmosphere, it had scares, and it had a much less predictable plot.  Both movies made me feel like a lab rat in a maze, with the director shouting at me from a distance, telling me which way to go, and…  Man, I don’t know where I was going with that.  Fuck it.  Both the movies are good, but neither are truly incredible.  That’s the point I wanted to make.

6.      Inception-For the longest time, I wasn’t planning on doing a movies list because I simply had nothing new to say. That’s exactly how I feel about Inception.  I will say that it’s a good movie.

5.      I Love You Phillip Morris-Gay prison romance from the writers of Bad Santa.  They left Zwigoff out of this one and directed it themselves, and it’s every bit as good as their last one.  The movie’s hilarious, but it still has respect for its characters.

4.      Scott Pilgrim vs. the World-Of the three big comic book movies released this year, two of them missed the point of the original material.  Unlike Kick-Ass, Scott Pilgrim had the basic sense to change the point.  No longer does Scott Pilgrim suck and need to grow the hell up.  He just needs love and self respect to conquer all.  (Mostly love)  I could do without pointless text inserts, and a little breathing certainly wouldn’t hurt.  I never saw why Ramona would want Scott, but it looks great, the jokes are hilarious, it has a pro-rock and roll message, and the fight scenes are the best I’ve seen in a long, long time.  It’s an odd movie, always jumping around and throwing more and more bizarre special effects at the viewer.  I’m glad to see people are catching on to Speed Racer and using more abstract, colorful and cartoony digital effects.  Realism is overrated.  Go Scott Pilgrim go.

3.      True Grit-God, here’s another one I’ve got nothing interesting to say about.  Hmm, let me try.  Let me try…  Okay, I loved the Bear man-that scene when Rooster and Mattie are lost in a blizzard and they get advice from a crazy old trapper.  Beautiful.  The ending has also got to be the most intense, brutal, heroic ending of any movie I saw this year.  And uh, shit.  I guess that was all I had to say.

2.      The Fighter-David O’Russell makes magic with Marky Mark.  Marky plays Mickey, a real life boxer from Lowell, Massachusetts, where they smoke lots and lots of crack.  Apart from him and Amy Adams, the cast is all fairly hideous, even Batman looks like a monster.  It’s got crack smoking, it’s got cop punching, and damn, does it have some hideous looking people.  It reminded me a lot of The Wrestler, except this one’s better, and that’s without the benefit of Mickey Rourke.  I love The Fighter.

1.      Toy Story 3-Toy Story 3 was simply the best. That’s just the way it is.  Nothing new to say here.  Stay tuned for more engaging reviews of other movies.

0.      TRASH HUMPERS. I don’t mean this as an insult. It just wouldn’t be fair to the other movies to judge them against Trash Humpers.  It exists on an entirely different plane of criticism.

Advertisements

Ten Things that Sucked in 2010

Don’t worry gang, I’ve got more lists on the way to commemorate things I did like, but first we’re going to warm up with the garbage pile.

10.      Dubstep-They (meaning the internet) keep calling dubstep the punk of electronic music.  At first I thought that meant it was noisier and rawer, but it actually means that it’s easier to do and is trashier than the regular stuff.  Besides, the bass is so heavy, you need 800$ speakers to even hear it properly.  Fuck that.  Not really seeing the punk connection.  It’s amazing how inescapable this shit has become.  Talking to somebody about dubstep recently, he kept calling it “wuamp-wuamp.”  It’s a dumb title, but it’s still more accurate.  “Dubstep” sounds too sophisticated for such stupid music.  Dumb isn’t necessarily bad, I just want them to admit it and stop taking themselves so damn seriously.

 

I don’t know man; maybe I just don’t understand this stuff.  Sure, they’re warping the sound, but it still sounds pleasant.  There’s not enough dissonance in most electronic music.  It’s cold and sterile.  Dubstep is only taking half-measures.  It does get dirty, but it’s not enough.  There’s still a lack of humanity.  The machines are doing the heavy lifting.  That’s what sucks about techno.  There’s nothing wrong with using robots, but there is something wrong with letting the robots do all of the work.   And all of them are so pretentious about it too.  Hey, look at me!  I invented my own genre!  I’m that different.”  Fuck you dude.  You’ve got all this technology at your disposal, and this is all you can do with it?  Dan Deacon doesn’t have a ridiculous sub-sub-subgenre next to his name on his Wikipedia page.  Y’know why?  Because Dan Deacon’s cool.  He doesn’t give a shit.  Electronic subgenres are fucking ridiculous.  It’s the trendiest shit and they’ve got a new one every month.  Stop trying to be different (because you’re not) and start trying to be good.

 

9.      Heavy Rain-The year’s most “revolutionary” (somebody must’ve said it) videogame isn’t really a game.  I thought Heavy Rain was going to be a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure type of game.  All you do is walk around, talk to people, collect clues and other shit like that.  The beginning is fun as you try to figure out how to play, but eventually, the ridiculous story becomes too absurd, the gameplay gets boring, and I realized that no matter what you do, the ending is always the same.  I had already seen a friend complete the game the proper way, so I was determined to have some fun with it.  Unfortunately, none of your actions have consequence.  The story progresses to the next scene regardless of how you play.  Even killing your characters doesn’t get anything done.  Heavy Rain isn’t a game, it just tricks you into thinking it is.  One more thing, for a game that prided itself on its realistic characters, I was a little appalled by the lone female character-a reporter who spends at least the first half of the game taking showers, being another character’s nurse, and making out with said character.  As soon as she starts doing some actual reporting, she gets date-raped.  Classy.

 

8.      Passion Pit-No band this year went from mildly amusing to fucking unbearable faster than these guys.  Catchy songs and good hooks can only take you so far before the unbearably effeminate voice of Michael Angelakos becomes the only thing I hear.  I was hoping they’d win me over when I saw them live at the Sasquatch music fest, but they only sounded worse than they did on the record and the excessive amount of douche bags kind of killed the atmosphere.  Living in dorms with a bunch of other buffoons, I had to hear “Sleepyhead” four times a day last semester, and I’m glad to be through with it.

7.      Blackest Night/Brightest Day

Geoff Johns is starting to piss me off.  Has he not been reading Batman?  Dan DiDio clearly does not give a shit what DC publishes as long as it sells.  Johns has been given a massive corner of the DCU to play with with these two crossover titles, and what has he done with it? One good Martian Manhunter story.  Blackest Night didn’t really matter.  After an incredible first two issues, the zombie comic became textbook dull as the story progressed.  In the end, nothing really mattered, and a bunch of C-List characters got resurrected, because, hey, there certainly aren’t a lot of good living characters to write about.  All of these resurrected people then went on their own sucky adventures in the immediate follow-up Brightest Day.  Brightest Day is an example of comic-fandom at its worst.  Hawk and Dove and company were never compelling characters to begin with, and the comic makes no attempts to improve most of its 30-man cast.  Move on already.  Let a dead dog lie.  Is Aquaman so beloved a property that he has to be revived every five years for another shitty adventure that still won’t work?  Get over it, people.  Most of the stories weren’t very interesting.  Some of them were just plain stupid.  Only the Marian Manhunter tale has any bite to it.  The comic isn’t over yet, but I gave up after issue 13 anyway.  Can Geoff Johns be trusted anymore?  Or is he just a bond company stooge dead-set on maintaining the status quo?

6.      Kick-Ass-The Movie, not the comic.  Hey, what if the Spider-Man movie was just about a crazy kid in a wetsuit getting the snot beat out of him?

Okay, sounds cool.

Yeah, and what if the Spider-Man movie had more swearing, and shitty action, and it was kind of gory?  What if Peter Parker wasn’t relatably pathetic, but obnoxiously pathetic?  What if the fight scenes all looked like shit?  What if, even though we took away all of the superpowers, the script still had leaps in logic that made Spider-Man 3 seem plausible?  What if, at the end, the hero defined by his incompetence straps on a jetpack with attached machine guns and saves the day?

Wait, what?

Fuck this movie.  People have been sucking its dick for how bold and innovative it was, even though it was just a terrible looking, juvenile rehash of comic book tropes with added swearing.  Kick-Ass’s big selling point is the real world setting, but they forego nearly everything that makes the real world matter.  At least discuss hospital bills or something, sheesh.

5.      Kid Cudi-Kid Cudi is bad for hip hop.  He doesn’t make my blood boil the way Drake does, but his own personal brand of arrogance is still obnoxious.  He’s that stoner kid in your high school English class who loooooooooooooooooves drawing attention to how weird and interesting he is.  His music does often forsake traditional rap structure, but I’m not about to congratulate him for just that.  Get some lyrics, Cudi.  Stop rhyming words with themselves, stop writing so many songs about weed, and stop assuming that just because you’re sad, you’re also deep.

5.      Shadowland-Brightest Day might’ve been a great exercise in treading water, but at least that’s to be expected from a DC event comic (Even one only starring C-listers.)  After two groundbreaking Daredevil runs by Brian Michael Bendis and Ed Brubaker, it looked like this one was going to be the craziest yet, but Andy Diggle gave up halfway through and decided to make a comic that reads exactly as you expect, only more boring.  Daredevil, now the leader of the ninja cult The Hand, has declared martial law in Hell’s Kitchen and builds the title fortress in the middle of town.  Has he finally lost it?  Has he gone too far?  Nah, don’t worry.  It was just a demon controlling him.  The comic flakes out in the character development, and nothing of importance happens.  Unable to come up with anything better than a reset, Andy Diggle proved that he was indeed a bond company stooge.  In the miniseries’ final issue, Iron Fist and Luke Cage deliver some meta-commentary on the comic.  Motioning towards Bullseye’s corpse, Luke says “Well, at least he’s still dead.” To which Iron Fist replies “Small consolation.”  Indeed.  What could’ve been a decent story got bloated into oblivion until it was just another big pile of nothing.

3.      The Lost Finale-What can I say about this that hasn’t already been said?  Even I got in on the action earlier this year, and anybody who cares about Lost already has their own opinion about the ending.  Regardless, the fact remains that they ended exactly how they said they wouldn’t, and wasted half of a season doing it.  Thanks for the memories, guys.

2.      Drake-There is only one logical explanation for Wheelchair Jimmy’s rap career. He and Lil Wayne are secret lovers, and Weezy ghost writes all of Drake’s good raps.  I’m not a homophobe man, I just call it like I see it.  But seriously, he doesn’t even have an original flow.  Listen to a Drake song.  Can’t you hear those rhymes coming out of Lil Wayne’s mouth?  Drake depresses me.  He’s a former child actor from a Canadian teen soap, he appears in Sprite commercials, he’s had it made for the majority of his young life, and nobody even bats an eye.  Given his circumstances, Drake should be a rapper with class, but god forbid anybody have some integrity.  He’s talking about the same stupid material shit all these young rappers like to rhyme about.  He’s just Lil Wayne-lite from Canada, and he’s got no taste in beats.  Fuck Drake.

1.      The Social Network-

Mark Zuckerberg is an asshole.  20 minutes later-Mark Zuckerberg is an asshole.  2 hours later-Mark Zuckerberg is an asshole.  I don’t care if he’s a real person, he’s still not interesting, and I want to punch him in the face.  Almost every single character in this movie is a rich douchebag, everybody wins in the end, and it doesn’t have anything insightful to say.  It left a bad taste in my mouth.  It’s like a 2 ½ hour episode of King of the Hill where every character is Peggy.  The Social Network is a movie we didn’t need.  It’s not a story worth telling.  Can’t we wait just a little bit longer, and see where this real-life drama develops?  I guess that’s the thing, though.  That’s all there is.  Everybody’s a rich asshole and that’s all they want to be.

 

This movie is boring.  Nothing ever really happens.   This shouldn’t be a problem for the guy who directed Zodiac, but it is.  There’s a few times when they pretend that something’s happening, like that idiotic rowing race,* but Fincher lets Aaron Sorkin’s script do the heavy lifting.  Every character talks in that stylized tone where they’ve always got something clever to say. It keeps things interesting for a bit, but it’s not enough to save the movie.  The characters are all kept at a distance.  It’s impossible to get inside anybody’s head.  We’re only given a chance to identify with one character, and he’s not even in it that often.  If the movie had been from Eduardo’s point-of-view, maybe we would’ve gotten a quality flick, but it seems doubtful.

 

Besides, what kind of loser makes a movie about Facebook instead of adapting Black Hole? Now Fincher’s next movie is going to be an American-ized adaptation of a best-seller that’s already been made into a movie.  I don’t want to say that that’s a Ron Howard move, but that’s a Ron Howard move.

 

I might be missing something, but I don’t care anymore.  I really hate this movie.

 

*A gold star for anybody who can tell why that scene matters.

Just in Time for Christmas-Trash Humpers



On my way back home for Christmas break, I stopped at a truck stop to use the bathroom. The nice, well-stocked, clean looking place was closed for repairs so I had to go to the grimy old one on the other side of the interstate. This was one of those places where everything came in shades of brown, either painted that way, or stained from decades of cigarette smoke. The obese waitress told me the bathroom was for customers only, so I got a cup of coffee. After a brief spell at her greasy counter, I got down to business. The bathroom was just a touch filthier than you’d expect. The flickering light revealed a hideous paint job slowly chipping away from years of rot and negligence. Fur (not hair) was strewn about the base of the sink. Somebody left a damp paper sack on top of the toilet seat. A VHS was inside the sack. “Trash Humpers” was written on the tape in white paint marker.
Well actually, they have it on Netflix, but if you get the chance, you should try to see it on grimy diner tape. That’s how it was meant to be viewed, just stumbled upon through sheer luck, leaving the viewer to decipher if it’s real or not. Unfortunately, we live in a post-YouTube, post-Wikipedia world. There’s not enough mystery surrounding oddities like this, so I can only laugh along.
Trash Humpers is about exactly what you think it’s about. Writer/Director/Presumably-Everything-Else Harmony Korine set out to make a movie about four people in old man masks running around a derelict town humping trash, cackling, and causing a ruckus. There is no plot, the characters don’t have names, the cinematography’s rather ugly, and it doesn’t make any sense. It’s not a very thoughtful or insightful flick, but it does deliver on its message of trash humping. There is no glory in Trash Humpers. We need movies like Trash Humpers. Korine’s calling out the moviemaker in all of us. This is what he can do over a weekend. Is it good? Not really. Can you do better? Go for it, man. What’s there to lose?
I was very excited when I saw that Trash Humpers was coming in the mail. I told my friends about the coming greatness, and most of them seemed offended and disgusted. None could grasp why I’d want to watch such filth. “Harmony Korine? Ugh.” They’re all too snobby to watch low-brow sleaze. Of course, this only made the movie better. Like Mount Everest, it’s something you watch just because it’s there.
My expectations were low, but I’m happy to report they were exceeded. I don’t want to reveal any “plot points.” The thing’s barely there as it is. If you were worried about the actual trash humping, don’t. It’s all fully clothed dry-trash-humping, and there’re other scenes with dialogue and whatnot. The Trash Humpers run into some people on their quest, and most of them do a good job livening things up.
I was genuinely surprised that the DVD had deleted scenes in the special features. That would imply there was some editing involved. I assumed Korine just filmed until he had enough. Could there be more going on than meets the eye? Everybody’s going to debate the true meaning of the movie, but I say it is what it is. It’s a fun movie to watch with some friends. Really, a team effort is the only way I’d recommend watching it. There are some movies that must be seen in theaters, and there are some movies that MUST be seen with a group. Alone, I would’ve gotten bored a lot sooner, but I made it a full hour into the thing before it stopped amusing me. If that’s not an accomplishment, I don’t know what is.
The one thing I am confused about is the old man masks. Are they supposed to be real old people? Do the other characters know that the Trash Humpers are wearing masks? If they aren’t masks, does that mean only old people can be Trash Humpers? If they are real old people, are they at all related to The Hateocracy from that episode of the Boondocks? How old do you have to be to join the Trash Humpers? Do we become Trash Humpers when we die? Is heaven Trash Humping? It might be. Being a Trash Humper would be great. They seem to get away with everything they do, they meet the weirdest people and they get to hump all that garbage. Sometimes, they even pick up flesh and blood hookers to suck them off. Where do they get the money for that? What do Trash Humpers eat? DO they eat? Will there be a sequel, or at least a cameo in A Fifth of Shrek? So many questions, and you know Korine has no intention of answering them. Trash Humpers will be Trash Humpers, I guess.

Two Reviews-The Quick and the Dead & Friday

Two  reviews for ya today.  Enjoy

The Quick and the Dead

I started watching this movie and the opening credits came up and I thought to myself “Whoa.  There’s a lot of people in this-Keith David, Lance Henrikson, young DeCaprio, Russel Crowe, and the motherfucking Hackman.  Right on.”  Then the movie got underway and I thought to myself “man, this movie is absurd” then I kept thinking about how absurd it was about every five or ten minutes until it was over.  I don’t consider myself a Sam Raimi expert.  However, this is the ninth movie of his that I’ve seen, so maybe I am qualified to call it his most Raimian.  (Y’know, like how people use “Lynchian” as a real word.)  That means it’s his most self-indulgent and stereotypical of what people expect from a Sam Raimi flick.  Are there a lot of zooms?  Hell yeah.  Are the actors’ performances suitably mega to fit the cartoonish plot?  Oh, hell yeah.  Is the supporting cast a bunch of colorful, outlandish cartoons? Hell. Yeah.  And what about those weird shots where it zooms in and out and the same time; are there a lot of those?  Man, I lost count after a while.  The movie is genuinely good as well, if a little on the goofy side.  (Nah, I’m just kiddin.  It’s pretty fuckin far on the goofy side.)

Most of the actors are good enough, but Hack-Man is the best thing on screen here.  He’s a good actor.  While guys like Dennis Hopper got really over-the-top in the 90s by doing mountains of cocaine (Super Mario Bros.) the Hackman manages to be absurd and ridiculous with the smallest of effort-a laugh her, a glare there.  Hack-Man’s got a subtlety to his hilarity.  Sharon Stone and Russell Crowe are bland and dull as the two straight-ish characters, but Hack-Man and Decaprio kick ass as the villain and his cocky son.  Good performances.  They’re two of the more outlandish characters, but also two of the most believable.

As a western, The Quick and the Dead verges into parody, but they pull it off.  The plot is barely there-Sharon Stone rides into town.  There is a gun dueling contest.  She wants to kill Gene Hackman for reasons that are actually pretty cool.  I imagine this is what a western by the anime companies that made crap like Naruto or DBZ would be like.  The tone’s similar to his shitty movie he made with The Coen Brothers-The XYZ Murders.  It’s a live action Looney Toon, but he’s got a bigger budget, and better actors, and about a decade or so of experience under his belt, so it’s a big improvement over that one. Also, it’s one of the few movies with shots like this-

Wacky!

Nobody’s trying really hard to make fun of westerns, they’re just trying to make fun, trying to be ridiculous.  None of the actors seem too self-conscious.  They play their characters like characters instead of caricatures.  Russell Crowe might be taking the comedic route, but he’s so incapable of being funny it seems unlikely.  Hack-Man and company are just flexing their acting chops, but a combination of great shots and great acting save what could’ve been the Jason Statham joint of its time.

Well shit, maybe this is the Jason Statham joint of its time?  You’ve got the ridiculous story, the cartoony effects and physics and the dull lead who’s not in many good movies. (Sharon Stone.)  However, you’ve also got competent direction and a supporting cast instead of a bunch of shitty stereotypes.  I haven’t seen any of The Transporters, but I can say with confidence that this movie is infinitely better than Crank.

Friday

Ah man.  This was a tough movie to watch.  Not cause it was bad, I just really, really, really wanted to be there hanging out on the porch with Ice Cube and Chris Tucker.  Friday is about Ice Cube and Chris Tucker sitting on the porch, and sometimes going inside the house or next door or across the street.  Also, they do take a trip to (spoiler) the convenience store. (end spoiler)  So, as you can see, it’s pretty thrilling.  Apart from the convenience store detour, the entire movie takes place on the same block, usually not going farther than Ice Cube’s line-of-sight.  I’ve had a rough relationship with movies where nothing happens, for every The Conversation, there’s a Limits of Control.  For every Slacker, there’s a Waking Life.  For every Hiroshima Mon Amour, there’s a Mon Uncle.  Friday falls into the first half, I’m happy to say.  The jokes aren’t always the greatest, but the characters are likable-they drink 40’s and Kool Aid, not 8$ fruit smoothies, is what I’m saying.

Ice Cube plays Craig, who just lost his job for stealing boxes.  He claims it wasn’t him, but nobody (including himself) seems to really give a shit.  His dad (John Witherspoon) wants him to go find a new job, but instead he’s gonna sit on the porch and get high and talk about girls with Smokey (Chris Tucker.)  Smokey’s a small time drug dealer who smokes half the product that his boss, Big Worm, supplies him with.  So, as you can see, the shit will eventually get real.  I think this could be a requirement of all Ice Cube movies.  “Guys, I’m not gonna be in it unless shit gets real in the third act.”  That was his way of keeping his urban edge when he started acting.  He needed people to know what it was like living with Ice Cube-At the end of the day, you get shot at, and then you fight somebody.

At its best, the movie just feels like you’re hanging out on the porch with Craig, listening to Smokey’s dumb stories.  This could be the movie’s biggest flaw if being Ice Cube’s pal aint your thing, but I was into it.  It’s a very relaxed flick.  I want this thing on VHS.

Michael Clayton

A month or so ago, some friends and I were talking about all of the movies we hadn’t seen.  Not literally all of them, that would be absurd, strictly the really famous and semi-famous ones.  I later wrote down a list of about 60 flicks that seemed like the most pertinent.  I started working my way down the list and watched Midnight Cowboy the next day.  So, you can see I got started immediately.  But then I slacked off.  I looked at the list the other day, and noticed that I had only watched two others that month-Drugstore Cowboy and Wall Street.  Now, I wasn’t in any rush to blaze through the list, but this was disappointing.  Three movies?  That’s weak man.  However, I’ve gotten back on track this week.  I nailed five of those suckers.  Michael Clayton, Friday, The Wages of Fear, Rashomon and Manhattan.  I might finish the other reviews eventually, but for now, here’s Michael Clayton.

Whoa, I finally did it.  When this came out a few years ago, all I heard was the ridiculous hyperbole Peter Travers and his ilk usually reserve for Jason Reitman movies.  Everybody loved Michael Clayton.  They might have wanted to hug him as much as Juno, but holy shit, people were diggin Michael Clayton.  So there was no way it could ever live up to the hype, right?  Well no, when all of the sane people finally got around to reviewing it, the situation looked even worse.  “Yes, this movie really is good.”  They said, “but it’s gonna be one where you really have to pay attention.”

“Nuts.” I said.  “There better not be a bunch of characters for me to keep track of.”

“Nah.”  Said everybody.  “There’s not too many.  But you do have to keep track of all of them.  Seriously, you’re not allowed to blink or you’ll miss something.  If your focus drifts away for over a second, you’re fucked.  However, it really is a great movie, so you’ll have to see it eventually.”

“Damnit.”  I said.  “Will I ever be ready for Michael Clayton?”

So I watched The French Connection.  I watched Primer.  I watched all three Matrix movies in the same sitting.  I watched Videodrome.  I watched Southland Tales-multiple times.  I watched Inland Empire.  Last night, I watched Michael Clayton and I have good news.

Michael Clayton is not nearly as confusing and incomprehensible as any of the above movies.  Well, most of them anyway.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s still pretty tough.  For example, the movie opens with Sydney Pollack delivering this incomprehensible speech to Cloon the Goon, and then some stuff happens four days later in the timeline, and then, half an hour into the movie, Sydney Pollack picks up again.  It’s probably as hard to follow as the second Matrix, but not as confusing as the third.

The director is Tony Gilroy, who mostly just writes other people’s thrillers-Devil’s  Advocate, The Bourne series, Bait, some other stuff.  This is his first shot at directing, and it comes off like a lot of other first-time efforts from other guys who’ve been working in movies for a long time.  It reminds me a lot of The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Tommy Lee Jones debut directorial joint-slow, quiet, but plenty of stuff going on.  But that was an actor’s movie, and this is a writer’s movie.  Dialogue is important here, and not in a “drawing attention to itself” Glengarry Glenn Ross way.  It’s more about what’s not being said than what is, so I guess we’ll also give props to the actors, Tilda Swinton, Sydney Pollack, Cloon the Goon, etc.

Michael Clayton is confusing, but not in any weird metaphysical ways.  It’s confusing the way a good crime story is, because that’s what it is.  The title character is a lawyer, but not a trial lawyer, he’s a different kind of guy his prestigious firm keeps on staff to do their dirty work.  Inevitably, Mike (Cloon the Goon) gets involved in some stuff he shouldn’t be getting his head into, etc, etc.  Not to say the story’s predicable, it just fits into a certain mold of crime story.  It’s not a lawyer movie or a mystery movie, it’s a crime movie-It’s not about solving the problem, it’s about living with yourself when you do shitty things to people for a living.  It’s a damn smart movie too.  Only once did I notice it dipping into the land of heavy-handed symbolism, but it comes so early on, and there’s so much that has yet to be explained that it pulls it off.  I guess there was the bit with the horses that I didn’t really get, but it’s not like there was a Chris Cornell song playing in the background, so I’ll let that one slide too.  This is classic noir.

I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll leave you with that.

Kick-Ass: Comic and Movie (Spoilers Abound)

This is the comic.

Halfway through the second issue of Mark Millar and John Romita Jr’s, I had firmly come to the conclusion that the title character, Dave Lizewski, was not a decent human being.  When you see the emotional and financial turmoil he puts his Dad through after his disastrous first outing as a superhero, every iota of sympathy you have for the character should be gone.  The reader’s sympathy lies not for Kick-Ass, but for the people around him. Try as he might, this kid can do nothing but make things worse. Regarding his out-of-costume life, you can either get your pants in a bundle about him being Millar’s critique of the common “comics public” OR you can take solace in the fact that you are nowhere near as pathetic as this kid. It’s easy to view Kick-Ass as another criticism of superhero culture, but is it possible that it’s just about an idiot kid getting the shit kicked out of him? Does Mark Millar really hate his reading public that much?  Have you read a Mark Millar comic?  The guy kind of hates everybody.  I also failed to see all of the racism people were complaining about.  Does Dave beat up/get beat up by a lot of ethnic stereotypes?  Yes.  Do well adjusted people who finish middle school join inner city gangs?  Not so much.  If he were calling them “nigger” while getting the shit kicked out of him, we’d have a different story on our hands, we’d have Wanted, which has some pretty racist characters, but that’s probably because it’s about a guy who’s supposed to be Marshall Mathers joining a fraternity of super-villains and murdering people for a living.

This is the movie poster.

The movie tries its best to make Dave a likable protagonist and takes a much more upbeat stance than the comic.  I feel like they missed the point of the comic in the process, but it’s not like they missed the point of From Hell, Ghost World or something.  I can accept that.  What I can’t accept is the movie’s treatment of the Dave/Katie relationship.  I mean, the jetpack was pretty damn foolish, but this is almost as bad.  Lying about being gay to get closer to the girl, yeah, that’s not morally reprehensible at all.  The scene where Dave spills his guts and comes clean with her on his sexuality and tight-wearing?  Even assuming there’s some superhero fetishism going on; we’re supposed to accept that she goes from attacking him to fucking him in the span of three minutes?  Most adults aren’t that forgiving, let alone teenage kids.  This is the point where it really just becomes a teenage boy’s power fantasy, as Dave gropes his way to sexual conquest.  I tried to roll with it, and I might have forgiven it if they didn’t have to include that goddamn jetpack.

Ugh.  I see no reason why that was at all necessary. It was dumb and excessive in all the wrong ways.  The movie has gotten pretty fuckin ridiculous at this point, but certainly not jetpack ridiculous.  Maybe if someone else had been flying it, but when a character defined by his incompetence flies in and saves the day with his brand-new jetpack and Gatling guns, we’ve officially surpassed fridge-nuking and are now in the valley of shark-jumping.

I could have used some more violence and gore.  The comic is one of the goriest things I’ve read in a long while.  All I’m asking for is somebody’s head getting chopped in half.  Is that too much to ask for?  Ah well, I’m really just nit-picking at this point.  However, despite their noticeable lack of guts, the fight scenes were still mostly comprehensible. I’ve got to congratulate Matthew Vaughan on letting the audience know what the hell was going on.  The acting was also good, and I’ve really got nothing to contribute to the amount of praise everybody’s heaping upon it. So sorry, no 19 paragraphs gushing about Chloe Grace Moritz.  Nicholas Cage was probably better anyway.  He’s not as mega as he’s been recently, but he was pretty funny.

Sorely lacking.

The more I think about it, the more I didn’t like the movie. It had some great moments, a few bits of truly spectacular filmmaking, but it also had one too many really fucking awful parts.  There were some parts that I really liked, I tried to appreciate it as its own thing, separate from the source material, but it all falls apart so horribly at the end, I can’t forgive it.  I probably will sometime in the future, but I’m in no rush.

(It wasn’t just me and the nerds either.  I distinctly heard someone else in the theater say the ending was stupid, so there.)