with 'films' tag

we continued our tour of oscar-worthy films in seeing the king’s speech. probably not at the top of my list, but it was great. the production design was particularly notable, as well as all of the performances. its flaws were smaller than some of the other films we have seen recently, but i also felt like it didn’t take as many risks.

we watched tooth fairy recently, and it suddenly made sense why dwayne “the rock” johnson has had a lower profile the last couple of years. but billy crystal’s cameo almost made the rest of the movie worth it.

we saw black swan today, another award-worthy film. darren aronofsky has managed to keep his hands on an excellent crew, adds a fantastic cast, and makes another great film. i expect there will be a large number of oscar nominations for this (acting, director, best picture, etc), but i’m not sure that there was enough there to actually claim many of them.

we saw the coen brothers’ version of true grit on new years eve, and it was a fantastic film, although i think it fell apart a little at the end. the dialogue was excellent, the acting met it, and it was shot as beautifully as you would expect from the usual coen brothers team.

i don’t know that i have ever seen the 1969 version of the film, and i know that i have never read the novel that both are based upon. two things to correct, eventually.

jim as a simpsons character we went to see ratatouille last night, and it met every one of my expectations. brad bird really is a genius when it comes to animation.

most of the previews before the movie were real clunkers (mr. bean’s holiday was the worst), but the trailer for the simpsons movie was great to see on the big-screen. i can’t wait for the film

the picture is of me as a simpsons character, more or less, thanks to the official movie site. my wife celia made one too.

now it’s not like i have a shelf of simpsons toys in my bathroom, but i am a pretty big simpsons fan. the directv dvr in our bedroom is set to record episodes, and i will often watch one while i’m waiting for celia to finish her nightly routine.

25 days!

knocked up is very funny, with rich characters and fantastic acting. but the plot is strikingly unsurprising. it doesn’t drag the movie down, but it is disappointing how weak the story is in comparison to everything else. and seth rogen could not be more perfectly suited to the lead role. so much so that while the 40 year old virgin ratcheted up steve carell’s career, i don’t think the same will happen for rogen.

the rebel, or dòng máu anh hùng , was the closing night film at the vc filmfest 2007, as well as the winner of the grand jury prize for narrative films.

the film is amazing. it is set in 1920s vietnam, where the french have hired vietnamese agents to hunt down the rebels who are fighting for independence. there is a lot of action, and all of the acting is fantastic. unlike a lot of the wuxia films that have been popular recently, the fight scenes aren’t too over-the-top, and the plot is actually reasonably credible and well-developed.

john august does a great job of explaining the problems in spider-man 3. he doesn’t point out how egregious the scenes of peter parker acting cocky were, though. people who say this is better than either of the previous two have something wrong in their heads.

300 is gory (but not as ridiculous as sin city was), stylish, and fun. and almost as homoerotic as professional wrestling.


the other day, my fiancée celia said she was surprised that i hadn’t been writing anything about what she’s been working on. the biggest reason is just that i’m not sure how much i can say — she always obfuscates things and i wouldn’t want to screw things up by saying the wrong thing about the wrong person.

early in the whole writing process of her current project, about the time we were getting our engagement party together, i was fixing some rice krispie treats in the kitchen area of my old loft. i heard this thud which sounded exactly like a body falling on concrete. when i turned around, i saw she was sprawled out on the floor. my first thought is that it was a very odd pratfall, but once i got over to make sure she was okay and it was clear she had fainted, it became a lot less funny.

she has been fine since then, even through six more months of rewrites. and now she is once again close to the finish line (and it looks like it might not move once she reaches it this time) — until it moves on to the next stage and there are more rewrites.

i read most of the iterations of the script, except for the last few. it is interesting to see the process, and to see how it compares and contrasts with the types of projects i’ve done. unsurprisingly, i guess, you see the same sorts of dysfunctions (problems with decision making, shifting deadlines, communication breakdowns, etc).

she has been off at dov s-s simens two-day film school this weekend, and then it’s time for one more round of script polishing before it goes out to be read by important people.

i don’t think that deal means what you think it means

so blockbuster and the weinstein co. have announced that blockbuster signed a deal to be the exclusive renter for weinstein co. films.

too bad there is no such thing as rental rights. i suggest some of the people involved may want to read up on the first-sale doctrine.

all i can see this meaning is that netflix will end up paying less favorable rates for the weinstein co. films that they choose to stock, and weinstein co.’s less successful films will have even poorer distribution. but if weinstein co. releases a successful film and ever sells it on dvd, there is no way that netflix is not going to carry it.

more movie review catch-up

miami vice: beautifully shot, but otherwise pedestrian.

where is that monkey, i need to shoot something

pirates of the caribbean: dead man’s chest: bad guy is terrible muppet.

the illusionist: biel’s ass is only magic.

two more movies, ten more words

the devil wears prada: stanley tucci has great taste.

rebel without a cause: dated, but still a classic.

you’re bald

superman returns: slower than a sleeping snail.

ten words, two movies

nacho libre: very sweet, quite funny, nacho!

an inconvenient truth: we are all boiling frogs.

five-word movie review roundup

i like being tragic

the joy luck club is just a little too drippy, and the non-flashback portions haven’t aged well (and are the drippiest). but i’m told that watching it has put me several months ahead into understanding my new family-to-be.

love actually is one of those sprawling ensemble pieces that just doesn’t quite gel. we watched it so i could see the scene with the gospel choir at the wedding in the beginning of the movie, which is a clever little scene.

the most photographed city in the world

my fiancée celia and i went to go see los angeles plays itself at the egyptian theatre the other night. it’s a documentary about how los angeles has appeared in films over the years, and the writer/director is pretty critical of how the city is portrayed.

i had seen praise for the film, but i don’t think it quite lived up to the hype. a lot of the film footage is of questionable quality, the narration can be fairly tedious at times, and it’s just too long. the few film clips showing the now-gone richfield building did make my heart skip a beat.

i’d say it is still worth seeing if you can find a screening and you’re a nut about los angeles, but it’s not a must-see film if you’re more casual in your interest.

you were the prettiest one there

friends with money is like crash without all the tedious racial posturing. which means that it is a movie with the narrow westside los angeles mindset, and as the movie goes on you’ll develop the strong desire to kick every main character in the head.

we went to this when we didn’t make it into the mission: impossible iii premiere. we just ended up getting a couple of crappy t-shirts from that.

movie review catch-up

better luck tomorrow is a jumpy little independent film (picked up and released by mtv films) about some asian-american high schoolers who end up running a criminal enterprise on the side. what made it a little more jumpy for me is that i was tired and nodded off periodically. (not because of the movie — i was tired!)

ray is a great biopic, and jamie foxx does a great job portraying ray charles.

a bronx tale is a fun coming-of-age story set around gangsters in the bronx. it was written by chazz palminteri and directed by robert de niro, so you can sort of guess at the tone and quality.

breakfast at tiffany’s is undeniably a classic, but now that it has been a month or two since we watched it, i find that i can recall very little of it. (except mickey rooney’s performance, which is best forgotten.)

i’m not picking, i’m scratching

there are a few funny gags lurking within the benchwarmers, but jon heder certainly can’t carry the movie on his napoleon dynamite schtick, and you know there’s trouble when rob schneider is your macho male lead, supposedly married to molly sims.

if you’re not willing to sound stupid you don’t deserve to be in love

a lot like love is a little gem of a romantic movie, although i see now that it got really bad reviews when it was released. amanda peet is great, ashton kutcher doesn’t stink up the place, and it all fits together remarkably well. there’s a lot of little details and moments in the film that feel right, and make it easier to suspend some of the disbelief about how the lives of these two can keep intersecting.

(and for people who like to see places they know on-screen, there’s a scene that was shot in cole’s.)


ask the dust is set in los angeles in the depression, and one of the best things about the movie was the few shots of los angeles, like angels flight at its original third street location. celia thought they should have included more shots of salma hayek’s tits. (and i’m not going to argue with that.)

v for vendetta is entirely unlike ask the dust, but it was also a letdown. subtle as a box of hammers, and i thought it fell short on the action front. but there were a couple of flashy effects that were worth seeing on the big screen.

i haven’t eaten since later this afternoon

primer is a good film, and an absolutely amazing micro-budget independent film. it is probably the best time travel film i’ve ever seen, and it looks incredible for its reported $7,000 budget. the story is a bit confusing, but dealing with paradoxes can be like that.

he’s got burritos and huevos rancheros, too

celia and i watched camp recently, which is about a group of kids at a summer theatre camp where they put on new shows every two weeks, leading up to a big final benefit at the end of the summer. the story and dialogue is pretty painful in spots, but the performances of various musical numbers makes up for that. so if you have even just a passing interesting in musical theatre, you’ll probably enjoy the film.

don’t forget the dash

debris, clock, entrance, and temporary street signs

they were shooting a scene for spider-man 3 at the farmers and merchants national bank last friday. i was in vegas while the actual shooting was happening, but i took some pictures of how they dressed the building. my girlfriend celia was in the neighborhood while they were shooting, and the scene involved someone zipping down on to a cab that had been flipped over. i understand that the real highlight was the little person in a spider-man costume that was hanging out around bar 107. i’m sure she’ll post those pictures soon.

update: celia posted her pictures from the shoot.

stop chasing the mice inside your skull

i was pretty massively underwhelmed by munich. it could have easily been cut in half without losing anything. the film looks and sounds great, of course. the recreation of the kidnapping of the athletes is particularly well done. the review by todd mcarthy of variety pretty much sums up my feelings on the film.

wherever she is, that’s where my home is

celia and i finished watching the notebook last night. the twist to the framing for the story is pretty transparent, but the whole film is redeemed by the chemistry between ryan gosling and rachel mcadams. the scene where they row a boat out among some ducks looks amazing.

they don’t like it either

celia and i saw a screening of transamerica last night, and it is easy to see why felicity huffman got the golden globe and is a front-runner for the oscar. one great thing is that it is consistently a road picture — you keep expecting an issue movie to break out, but it never really happens. it’s about the journey, and fairly universal issues of acceptance and love. it just happens that the protagonist is a pre-op transsexual.

after the screening, there was a q&a with huffman and duncan tucker, the writer/director. one thing that tucker pointed out is that the film parallels the lord of the rings, which is also referenced when a character explains why the trilogy is “so gay.” huffman was very funny, and of course someone asking a question brought up sports night, which i bet she hears a lot.


flowers and vase celia and i ate some of the cupcakes last night, and also some of the the best lasagna ever. some generic lactaid prevented me from exploding like a cheese-eating pug.

we only made it through about half of the notebook.

as you can see, i took heed of eric’s reminder about the los angeles flower market, and also added a vase from chinatown to the mix. there were also some tulips that i snuck into her car before she left for work.

it was my best valentine’s day ever, how about you?

it doesn’t stink

celia and i watched blue car the other night, and about all i can remember is that it involved a blue car. other than that, it was a fairly generic first-time-director indie film.

but don’t trust me. i like bubble boy, and this got widespread good reviews.

celia and i watched happy endings the other night, which as a whole falls just a little bit short of its performances and soundtrack. maggie gyllenhaal is particularly amazing, both acting and singing. bobby cannavale is also great as the masseur (with the happy endings). the title cards that comment on some of the scenes are pretty heavy-handed, but at least don’t sink the movie.

like big rolling kegs

hedwig and the angry inch is a brilliant rock musical. hedwig is an east german transexual (almost — thus the angry inch) whose story is told in flashback as she tours with her band in venues in the shadow of the large concerts by the boy who spurned her and stole her songs. the songs are pretty much all works of genius, especially “the origin of love.”

syriana is a tight political thriller, and i think the rumblings about the complicated plot are largely overblown. it all pulls together in the end, and when i think people are responding to is the lack of clear good and bad guys. the performances are all stellar, and the direction is fantastic. there’s a scene involving an accident with a child that is just incredible in how it is handled.

rize is a documentary by photographer and music video director david lachapelle, and it was a real disappointment. it’s a chronicle of the clowning and krumping dance movements in south los angeles, and it veers from self-important and heavy-handed to not terribly interesting. the best-looking parts are entirely too good-looking, like clips from a music video. i think this was most disappointing because it could have been so good in the hands of a more capable documentary filmmaker.

lazy sunday

celia and i went to see capote at the arclight on sunday. it is easy to see why philip seymour hoffman picked up the golden globe for his performance, because it is pretty amazing. i was also really impressed by the sound design (and score) — there was a lot of effective use of just ambient noise.

after the movie, we tried the cream puffs at beard papa at hollywood and highland. they’re very tasty, but they aren’t the same sort of revelation as a fresh krispy kreme donut.

shadows flash in the light

broken bed (again) celia and i went to the screening of metropolis at the orpheum last friday. it was the digitally restored version, and this wikipedia article explains the differences from earlier releases.

we got a drink at the broadway bar before the film, and more at the golden gopher afterwards, so the list of downtown bars i’ve actually been to is now a little less meager.

despite my earlier repair job, my bed broke again this weekend. i’m not going to repair it again and give it a chance for a third strike, so i’m in the market for a new bed now. maybe i should build a bed frame using iron pipe.

i outrank you!

the producers (the original film version) is very funny, but i came into it tainted by the recent version. i can see how people who saw this first, and closer to its original release, can view it with such reverence, but i think there are some things that are better about each version. the thing that really shines in the original are the performances, which are all hilarious. the remake, in addition to adding a number of brilliant musical numbers, has a better pacing and i think it just fits together better.

this shit’s chess, it ain’t checkers

training day is a fine film in the corrupt-lapd-cops tradition. (like the shield, which has its season five premiere tonight.) denzel washington does an amazing job, and the role is nearly the complete opposite of anything else i can remember seeing him in.

training day is also partially set in the part of los angeles that ryan of losanjealous likes (along with hexod.us). gritty, but still sunny.

i dug a hole

the castle is a goofy little australian film about a family fighting to save its home from an eminent domain land-grab to expand the airport they live next to. but it’s really about the quirky family, and their blind geniality, especially the dad’s.

sleeping the big sleep

the big sleep, the 1978 version, is unsurprisingly not as good as the bogart/bacall incarnation. the setting is 1970s england, apparently before the bra had been invented. this version is more faithful to the book (and actually sees the story to conclusion), but the acting is pretty universally flat, if not bad.

2005 in review: films

it’s not the one-a-day pace that some people go for, but i ended up averaging over one film per week. (and more than that, really — i didn’t usually write up anything for movies i watched on the cable networks.)

i’m not sure i would call it my favorite film i watched this year, but pirates of the caribbean: the curse of the black pearl was the film that most impressed me. i’d say eternal sunshine of the spotless mind and der krieger und die kaiserin are the closest to claiming the title of favorite. the station agent, heist, and the 40 year-old virgin were also all great.

  1. the life aquatic with steve zissou (review)
  2. house of flying daggers (review)
  3. sideways (review)
  4. bendito infierno (review)
  5. in good company (review)
  6. be cool (review)
  7. robots (review)
  8. melinda and melinda (review)
  9. sin city (review)
  10. kung fu hustle (review)
  11. the hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy (review)
  12. star wars: episode iii - revenge of the sith (review)
  13. assault on precinct 13 (review)
  14. assault on precinct 13 (review)
  15. crash (review)
  16. mean girls (review)
  17. batman begins (review)
  18. bubba ho-tep (review)
  19. war of the worlds (review)
  20. butterfly and sword (review)
  21. the day after (review)
  22. the day after tomorrow (review)
  23. charlie and the chocolate factory (review)
  24. wedding crashers (review)
  25. carrie (review)
  26. quatermass and the pit (review)
  27. equilibrium (review)
  28. pirates of the caribbean: the curse of the black pearl (review)
  29. the 40 year-old virgin (review)
  30. the bourne identity (review)
  31. the transporter 2 (review)
  32. eternal sunshine of the spotless mind (review)
  33. say it isn’t so (review)
  34. crimen ferpecto (review)
  35. kill bill: vol. 1 (review)
  36. kill bill: vol. 2 (review)
  37. serenity (review)
  38. corpse bride (review)
  39. the aristocrats (review)
  40. madadayo (review)
  41. o (review)
  42. heartbreakers (review)
  43. serenity (review)
  44. stark raving mad (review)
  45. spartan (review)
  46. der krieger und die kaiserin (review)
  47. artificial intelligence: ai (review)
  48. saved! (review)
  49. heist (review)
  50. elf (review)
  51. the girl next door (review)
  52. dodgeball: a true underdog story (review)
  53. the big sleep (review)
  54. the station agent (review)
  55. king kong (review)
  56. harold & kumar go to white castle (review)
  57. the producers (review)
  58. donnie darko (review)
  59. bad santa (review)
  60. the chronicles of narnia: the lion, the witch and the wardrobe (review)

hence the weeping

i decided to see the chronicles of narnia: the lion, the witch and the wardrobe because the books are the first substantial series i remember reading (or actually, having read to me, in part, if i remember correctly). the movie was pretty good — the effects were just a notch below the lord of the rings trilogy, the acting was good to great (particularly the girl who played lucy), and even if the world is a bizarre mash-up of mythology and animals, it comes together well.

i suppose you can’t avoid talking about the christian subtext of the plot, but frankly it sailed right over my head. if anything, i think the “magic loophole” that brings aslan back to life comes off as trite.

the three b’s

bad santa is an incredibly profane holiday movie. i really wasn’t expecting much, but billy bob thornton really owns the role of a bad mall santa, and what’s not to like about lauren graham as a santa fetishist?

hungry hungry hippos

donnie darko is an odd film. it is beautifully shot and acted, and i would likely appreciate the story more if i had the patience to watch it again. perhaps the mistake was in getting the director’s cut, which is almost certainly more languidly paced than the original, since it clocks in with an extra twenty minutes.

the producers is very funny.

the universe tends to unfold as it should

harold & kumar go to white castle is one of those movies that is exactly what you expect going in, and hits all the right notes. neil patrick harris has a hilarious cameo as himself.

and this aside from roger ebert’s review of the movie is genius: “Many people believe the names of In 'n Out and Steak 'n Shake perfectly describe the contrast in bedroom techniques between the coast and the heartland.”


king kong is too long, but i am not sure what you could really cut out without losing something worth keeping. naomi watts does a great job as the beauty taming the beast of kong, and it is almost possible to accept jack black as the producer who brings king kong to broadway (but, unfortunately, only almost). and the effects are amazing, of course.

trains and blimps

the station agent is a quiet movie filled with awkward silences. just my sort of film. there are also some beautifully composed shots, and the acting is top-notch.

wine and film

trader joe’s coastal cabernet sauvignon 2004 the big sleep isn’t the film i was supposed to watch last night — it was supposed to be the big sleep, but the wrong version was in the envelope. i’ve seen the bogart/bacall version before, and was curious to see what the 1970s london take on the story was like. now i’ll have to wait for the right version to be sent, but the bogart/bacall version will be more fresh in my mind so i can compare the two.

i finished off a bottle of trader joe’s coastal cabernet sauvignon 2004 along with the movie (and dinner), and it wasn’t terrible for a $4 bottle of wine. but it wasn’t great, either.

and yes, using a telephoto lens to take that wine bottle picture was totally gratuitous.

a sport of violence, exclusion, and degradation

dodgeball: a true underdog story is funnier than it should be. none of the acting is particularly good, the plot is about as predictable as it possibly could be, and yet it is all redeemed by actually being really funny. it also has some of the most brilliant cameo appearances in recent memory, including david hasselhoff.

check out that side boob

the girl next door is your classic porn-star-falls-in-love-with-guy, guy-acts-like-a-creep, guy-redeems-himself-and-porn-star movie.

i mean, what porn star isn’t really just a good-hearted girl yearning to pursue a normal guy, fall in love, and step into a normal life?

that’s realistic, right?

cotton-headed ninny-muggins

elf is a fun holiday film. it does a good job of evoking the old stop-animation holiday specials, and jon favreau love of practical special effects (versus cgi effects) really turns out well. and zooey deschanel can sing.

cute as a pail full of kittens

heist is almost exactly what you would expect from a movie of that title from david mamet. gene hackman and danny devito are brilliant, but so is all of the supporting cast, such as ricky jay (who had most of my favorite lines).

the plot is probably the weakest element, but the more i think about it, the better it is. i was expecting a little more flash, but i think the film really pulls off a more moderate and realistic heist.

the dialogue crackles, of course. one particularly great line: “My motherfucker is so cool, when he goes to bed, sheep count him.”

in an odd bit of serendipity, today (and tomorrow?) they’re shooting scenes in my neighborhood for the pilot of heist, a possible 24/prison break/the wire/murder one-style series about a jewelry heist that unfolds over a season. they’re using the farmers & merchants national bank.

speaking of murder one, they finally released the first season and the second (last) season on dvd.

traffik is the 1989 british television miniseries that steven soderbergh’s film traffic was derived from, along with the more recent usa network version of the miniseries, also called traffic.

the miniseries shares two of its three major story arcs with the film version, and naturally is set in britain (and pakistan), rather than the united states. at the time, the series was remarkable for showing the drug trade at such different levels, and what motivated the participants beyond a simple good/evil distinction. i think that has been done better since then, such as in the wire, but traffik deserves credit for breaking the ground.

saved! is a teen comedy set in a religious (born-again) high school. it does a pretty remarkable job of threading the needle of being funny without being too broad or focusing on easy targets.

for the soundtrack (over the opening and closing credits), mandy moore does a cover of “god only knows” by the beach boys, but it falls far short of the original.

jena malone really does look like mary-louise parker’s daughter, too. and on the commentary with mandy moore, it is funny how often she says “gosh” and “totally.”

can you get a human to love them back?

artificial intelligence: ai is no 2001: a space odyssey or e.t. the extra-terrestrial or close encounters of the third kind, but does blend in elements of all of them. it’s beautiful, but it goes on way too long.

i think there are two extremes that can be reached by a story that two brilliant filmmakers have been working on for a very long time: it can be tight, spare, and tell its essential story without a lot of fat. or it can end up too long, too over-thought, and have too many ideas. ai falls too far towards the latter.

there will be a screening of the new film version of the producers at the orpheum theatre in downtown los angeles on december 14, 2005. you can buy tickets online ($50/person for non-reserved seating, or $150/person for reserved seats and a vip reception), and the proceeds benefit la’s best after school arts program.

der krieger und die kaiserin (or the princess and the warrior, as it was titled for american release) is a re-teaming of director tom tykwer and actress franka potente, who also did run lola run together. as you might guess from the title, it has a bit of a fairy-tale quality to it.

it has a totally different energy than run lola run, but it is a pretty amazing film. every scene has a couple of layers to it, and it really doesn‘t fall into any easy genres, although it is a little bit of a heist film, a little bit of a romantic film, and is partially set at an insane asylum, with all the characters that brings with it.

the film is set in wuppertal, germany, and has some scenes of (and set in) the schwebebahn wuppertal, which is a suspension monorail that looks incredible.

spartan is a david mamet film starring val kilmer as a special ops officer trying to track down the daughter of a high-ranking government official. (it’s sort of implied it is the president.) it’s not at all flashy, but i think it also fails to spark. the dialogue is classic mamet, of course.

i stumbled in getting discs in the mail the last few days, so now my flow of movies to/from netflix is all screwed up, and i’ve got one movie to last through the weekend. (i only have one book from the library, too.)

i decided that since i owned the soundtrack, i should actually get around to seeing stark raving mad. (the soundtrack was done by john digweed and nick muir.) it turns out that it is a heist movie where the bank robbery is being done behind the scenes at a rave. it’s a pretty decent heist movie, with a few interesting twists but not too much that comes as a surprise. one of the funniest scenes involves dave foley playing an undercover fbi agent who ends up having another connection to the rave.

listening to a bit of the commentary, the directors seemed very proud of themselves that they had captured the feel of a rave, and while i guess they did a good job of that (not that i would really know), i think groove is a much better-looking film. stark raving mad has a few too many jump-cuts, and the cinematography isn’t as crisp as what i remember from groove.

i took the gold line out to pasadena today to catch serenity before it totally disappeared from theaters, and i’m glad i made the effort. it’s a great film, and a great wrap-up to the series. and given the box-office performance, it appears that may be all it will be.

heartbreakers is a film that somehow didn’t get purged from my netflix queue when i cleaned it up, and then happened to bubble up to the top of the list due to poor queue management. i’m not sure that the film has much of a reason to exist outside of showcasing jennifer love hewitt’s breasts. okay, that’s harsh. it a pretty harmless, if somewhat bland, comedy.

o is a modern take on william shakespeare’s othello. while it is apparently quite faithful to the plot, the setting has been shifted to high school with basketball as the backdrop. it’s quite good, although it isn’t nearly as aggressive as baz luhrmann’s romeo + juliet.

i actually own a copy of the complete works of shakespeare, of which i have embarrassingly read very little. i’ve certainly seen more films based on shakespeare’s plays than i’ve seen as plays. but i would still put myself down as someone who likes shakespeare. go figure.

not bursting into tears

i went up to hollywood to see serenity at the arclight only to find it wasn’t playing. bastards. i almost went to see wallace & gromit: the curse of the were-rabbit instead, but the next showtime wasn’t for almost two hours.

so i got sucked into amoeba records instead. the damage:

i also finally got some reasonable placemats for my kitchen table. next thing you know, i’ll get some dirt and gravel and actually plant the herbs in the portable herb garden in the center of the kitchen table. or maybe that will take another few years.

solid gold

madadayo is akira kurosawa’s final film, about a professor who retires once he decides he can live on the income from his writing, and his former students who honor him with a birthday party each year where he proclaims “madadayo! (not yet!)” when they ask “mahda-kai? (are you ready?)”

there are a few particularly brilliant sequences in the film, but one of the things that really grabbed me was one of the first shots, when the professor walks into his classroom and there is a cloud of smoke hanging in the air.

it is a deliberately paced film, and i’m sure not for everyone, but i really enjoyed it.

steven spielberg steven spielberg has signed up to do three games with electronic arts. no word on whether that includes a steven spielberg’s director’s chair sequel. the smart money is on no.

here is one of the in-game movies. here’s another. this audio is from a recording session for preliminary versions of the game.

the aristocrats is a very funny documentary. i think my favorite rendition of the joke is the one by the mime, although the south park version is also great.

chicken little doesn’t come out until november 4.

no serenity yet, but the aristocrats is playing at the laemmle grande this weekend.

this askmefi question is the latest of a recurring theme of questions. here are some other variations on that theme. (no, i did not ask any of them.)

i wonder if there are other recurring themes on askmefi that would make a good movie.

free museums

twenty-four los angeles museums are free tomorrow, october 1. that includes moca and the japenese american national museum downtown. (spotted by art.blogging.la.)

also, there’s a screening tomorrow night of infamy, a documentary about graffiti artists by doug pray, director of hype! and scratch.

this hasn’t happened in a while: a movie i want to see, serenity, isn’t playing at the laemmle grande. for a small theater, they have generally been good at getting the movies i want to see. maybe next week. (but then that’s when the wallace & gromit film is supposed to open….)

speaking of films, i saw corpse bride while on vacation, and it is pretty much what you would expect from a tim burton animation project. great design, pretty good story, good voice acting from johnny depp and helena bonham carter and others, decent soundtrack from danny elfman, etc. it’s not quite as good as the nightmare before christmas was, and too short, but i’d still recommend it.

the moxie cinema is an independent movie theater that opened today in springfield, missouri. the best thing from this distance is that they blogged the whole experience of opening the theater. it’s a great story. more small businesses should do something similar.

i was a little surprised at how different kill bill: vol. 1 and kill bill: vol. 2 were. the first is much more action-centered, and the second is more character-driven. i have to say i liked the first more — the second just had a few too many parts that were too slow. but the two movies really shine as a pair of complementary works.

my impression of the second is probably also colored by having fallen asleep during the last fifteen minutes. that never does a good thing for my impression of a film, even when it’s just because i was tired and not really the fault of the movie.

when you discuss movies about los angeles, chinatown is likely to be near the top of everyone’s list. it’s playing at the arclight on wednesday as part of the afi at arclight series. there’s also a screening of the player coming up on september 20.

no word on when the crocodile dundee in los angeles screening is.

march of the penguins, which is an apparent bright spot in a lackluster summer for the hollywood studios, started out with what sounds like really terrible voiceover work that was replaced with the narration by morgan freeman.

the most amazing part may be is that this was apparently done at the behest of the studio (warner bros.).

crimen ferpecto is a black comedy from spain about a department store salesman, his rivalry with another salesman to become the floor manager, and his relationships with the women he works with. it is pretty funny, but it doesn’t quite live up to its potential. it has a bit of that classic romantic comedy feel, but it doesn’t keep topping itself like down with love did.

say it isn’t so isn’t as terrible as i thought it would be. it’s not great, but it is pretty competently put together. there was at least one shot where i thought “that looks too good to be in this movie.”

and let’s face it, i’d watch rollergirl read the phone book. and that’s a good thing, because chris klein basically has the acting range of a phone book.

okay, that’s probably too harsh. but i thought it was funny.

eternal sunshine of the spotless mind is an amazing film. i think it is a bit of a travesty that it only won the oscar for best screenplay, and the only other oscar nomination it got was for kate winslet. but i am glad the screenplay won — i had a vague memory that it had lost, which is why i double-checked.

the transporter 2 is exactly what i expected: a totally preposterous action film that was a lot of fun. if you liked the transporter (and i did), you’ll surely like this one.

the 40 year-old virgin is a very funny film. it was another long comedy like wedding crashers, but it also doesn’t really suffer for it. i think it would have been better without the last three or four minutes. there’s a perfect scene for it to end on, and the ones afterward are either obvious or gratuitous. not bad — they just don’t really make the film any better.

re-animator is playing at the egyptian theatre tonight at 7pm, followed by a q&a with the director.

“speaking in my official capacity as a pulitzer prize winner, mr. schneider, your movie sucks.” — roger ebert, reviewing deuce bigalow: european gigolo

equilibrium is a movie that is seems good, but seems to be lacking some vital ingredient. it’s like a loaf of bread baked without salt. it does have a couple of pretty snazzy action scenes, and the underlying idea is sort of neat, if well-worn.

quatermass and the pit is vintage british scifi, with all the good and bad that implies. in the end, i was disappointed by how choppy the story is, with just a few too many leaps of logic on the part of the scientists.

it’s also another one of those films i probably appreciated less than i might have because i fell asleep while i was watching it the first time.

more academy qualification screenings

some more movies being screened at the laemmle grande 4-plex in downtown los angeles. it’s like downtown’s own little documentary film festival.

the site for one six right mentions that they expect all of the showings to sell out, so maybe that applies to all of these screenings in general. and here i had figured that they were probably playing to some empty houses just to satisfy the academy qualification requirements.

carrie is a good film to see at the hollywood forever cemetery, although the only time i was ever really conscious of being in a cemetery was when walking out.

the cinespia event was pretty packed — we ended up at the back of the crowd. the walk-in line spiraled in on itself, and it took at least a half hour from getting in line to getting through the door. the lines of cars for the free parking was also pretty incredible, and unless you happened to get a spot right by the exit, getting out was clearly an exercise in patience.

when i was walking back to the subway afterwards, the furthest away that i saw anyone parked was right near gower and de longpre. so if you happen to live right near there, and have not been to a cinespia event, you’ve really got no excuse.

(thanks to shannon for posting about carrie and providing the push for me to go to one of the cinespia showings, which are one of those things i had heard about but never gotten my act together to go.)

the devil and daniel johnston is playing at the laemmle grande 4-plex through monday — at 10am each day.

this must be an oscar® qualifying run, but at first i couldn’t see how running at 10am is “advertised and exploited during its los angeles run in a manner considered normal and customary to the industry.” but this is a documentary, so there’s a rule 12 exception, which just specifies that it has to be run between 10am and midnight for seven consecutive days.

goofy. i may have to check it out this weekend.

i saw charlie and the chocolate factory, and i quite enjoyed it. there are some ways it falls short of willy wonka & the chocolate factory, but it definitely exceeds it in the quality of the special effects. i particularly thought the ending of the willy wonka version was more satisfying. and seeing the other children again near the end was very much a case of one too many special effects.

the gimmick of using one actor for the oompa loompas worked well, but i found it nearly impossible to make out some of the lyrics of the songs, which were amazing aside from that.

yesterday and the day before that

yesterday i watched the day after, the 1983 television movie about a nuclear exchange with the soviet union and its aftermath. it is showing its age, and its a little amazing to think how plausible that scenario seemed in the early 1980s. there was one little throwaway comment that seemed particularly funny given subsequent events — the conflict between the soviet union and the united states is triggered when west germany is cut off (again), and as a group of students are gathered around a radio listening to updates about what is happening, one of the students says they aren’t worried about the conflict escalating because it is just germany — but she’d be worried if it were in the middle east.

i think the thing that is most amazing to me about the film is that just barely twenty years later, i’m working side-by-side (virtually) with a number of amazing developers in and from the former soviet union.

the day before yesterday, i watched the day after tomorrow. there was a lot of hand-wringing about the politics of the movie when it came out, but at its core it is just an old-fashioned disaster flick. it’s not a terrible film, but it certainly doesn’t rise very far from its genre. and it’s hard to take bubble boy in an even slightly serious role.

butterfly and sword is a movie with many flaws, but it makes up for it with some of its over-the-top fight scenes and a few really amazing shots. the editing is really choppy, some of the effects are cheesy, and the plot is just barely coherent. but i’ll forgive all of that for the scene where a carriage is carried into place among the treetops and anchored into place by ribbons that shoot out of it. some of the acting is pretty good, too.

“you make me want to be a better man.” — jack nicholson as melvin udall in as good as it gets, screenplay by mark andrus and james l. brooks

“they say all native californians come from iowa.” — fred macmurray as walter neff in double indemnity, screenplay by billy wilder

if there is one thing that redeems war of the worlds, it is that it is so entirely inconsequential that i will have completely forgotten it by tomorrow. it will be like i blacked out for three hours this afternoon. it sucked so hard that (i hope) my brain will simply purge the memory of it.

bubba ho-tep is a bit of a cult classic, but i have to say i was a bit underwhelmed. a large part of that is probably because i failed to stay awake through the whole thing — twice. so there’s a chunk of the middle/end that i didn’t see.

there are some great moments: the flashback explaining how elvis traded places with an impersonator, the interplay between campbell as elvis and ossie davis as john f. kennedy, and the decoration of jfk’s room.

maybe i’ll have to try again some day when i can make it through the whole film. but for now, i’ve got another 100 films in my netflix queue to work through.

the recent movie crash is being turned into a television series for fx.

batman begins is surprisingly good. i hadn’t really planned on seeing it, but having heard several positive comments about it, decided to give it a shot. it was just a little bit too long, and you could have cut katie holmes out of it without really losing anything important, but otherwise it hit all the right notes. i think what really helped is that the movie is about batman — and he’s not overshadowed by the villians. it was more character driven, like the spider-man films have been. now we’ll see how long it takes them to drive the franchise into the ground again.

the story about how much the producers of mad hot ballroom had to pay for music rights caused quite a furor, but i think some people took an unfortunate focus on the total cost ($140,000) and portrayed that as the outrageous figure. considering the film, through last weekend, grossed over $2 million (and easily looks headed over $3 million), i’m not sure i find that figure ridiculous at all.

it’s the details of the story that are maddening, like trying to get a license for a kid singing the single line “everybody dance now” or emi asking for $10,000 to license the rocky ring tone that the documentary filmmakers happened to catch or having to worry about billboards and frito lay trucks. and here it’s the producers that are part of the problem: by failing to stand up for their fair use rights, they brought the cost upon themselves.

but the endeavor appears to have paid off: mad hot ballroom is already in the top 25 top-grossing documentaries since 1982, and looks poised to make it into the top 20 at least.

the grand performances series that takes place at the california plaza in downtown los angeles is starting up this weekend with two films: mad hot ballroom and double indemnity. there’s all sorts of cool stuff on the schedule, which runs through september. and it’s all free.

it took me more than a year to get through it, but i’ve finally seen all of krzysztof kieślowski’s dekalog miniseries. there are 10 episodes, each based (sometimes fairly loosely) on one of the ten commandments. they are all connected by place (a warsaw apartment complex) and some refer to characters and events from others, but each is otherwise distinct.

they are all brilliant, of course.

despite a script by tina fey, mean girls just doesn’t live up to similar films like heathers and clueless. it’s a little frightening that rachel mcadams plays the leader of the popular-girl clique of a bunch of high school juniors — she’s 28. that would also make her about five years younger than amy poehler, who plays her mom in the movie.

another los angeles moment

when i came back from seeing crash, they were shooting a movie near my building — but they were shooting it with a camera mounted on a remote-control helicopter. so there was a car driving around the block, followed by the helicopter, followed by a truck with a camera operator standing on the back of it with a big remote control.

and i thought the shoot up the street from that was interesting — they had cartoon-looking cars with winding keys mounted on them.

i think it is a little amazing how crash fails in spite of its shortcomings. a lot of the situations it sets up are pretty hackneyed (a latina lashing out because she’s been called mexican and really has puerto rican and el salvadoran parents? so not new). but the film pulls them together in an interesting way. and there’s a few scenes that really propel the film to great heights.

assault on precinct 13 is basically a zombie western set in 1970s los angeles. the gang members making the assault have a thin motive and not much of a strategy or a sense for self-preservation. the pacing of the film is pretty slow, but it holds up pretty well — amazingly well considering its budget. it certainly rose above its potential.

assault on precinct 13 is a more typical action movie. it has been relocated from los angeles to detroit, and the biggest problem with moving the setting to the modern era is waved away with a cellphone-jamming magic wand. the bad police officers making the assault are developed somewhat as characters, and aren’t nearly as self-destructive. although the remake/reimagining looks better and has better actors and acting, it doesn’t even rise to meet that potential.

i bit the star wars: episode iii - revenge of the sith bullet, and it’s not a terrible movie. it really does dovetail nicely into the first trilogy. but all the reviews that take shots at the dialogue are deadly accurate. it’s painful.

i think the hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy fits admirably into the different iterations of this story (radio show, book, television show, interactive text adventure, and now movie). it is more similar to the others than it is different, and i think it may be the only version where trillian is more than a sketch of a character.

considering how well the movie has done, and the various references to going to the restaurant at the end of the universe at the end of the movie, i would be more surprised to not see a sequel than to see one.

i got the order form for tickets to the last remaining seats events put on by the los angeles conservancy in june and july. i share eric’s disappointment that the orpheum is the only downtown venue being used this year, but it looks like they’ve put together a good program and the hollywood pacific sounds like it should be an interesting venue.

tickets don’t go on sale to the general public until may 6, but since i’m a member i can buy now. if you’re interested in going to any of them, let me know and i can get some series tickets and split them up, or just buy individual tickets for some shows.

i have to admit i was a little disappointed by kung fu hustle, even though it was a really fun film. it’s one of those cases of going into a movie with expectations that just couldn’t be met.

i saw melinda and melinda, woody allen’s latest film, this weekend, and sin city, robert rodriguez’s latest, last weekend.

melinda and melinda was a bit of a disappointment. the acting was all good, but the direction felt a little off for a woody allen film, and it was hard to shake the feeling that the parallel-stories thing has been done better in other films. it was good to see will ferrell in a relatively understated role, and radha mitchell was great as the two melindas. reviewers seem to be consistent in saying the comic side of the story overshadows the tragic, but i’m not sure that i agree.

i don’t have anything to add to the plethora of other sin city reviews, other than to agree that it is a great film. actually, here’s something add: linux and mysql powered the asset management for the film.


midas world by frederik pohl (another book recommendation plucked from the fork archives) claims to be a novel, but is really a set of short stories that trace the history of the world after fusion power is invented and energy becomes plentiful. all of them are delightful and thought-provoking, but none more so than the first. with plentiful and cheap energy, the economics of the world have become inverted and it is only the rich who have time to work and be truly idle. the poor are consigned to unending consumption, fulfilling the rations they are assigned by eating beyond the point of enjoyment, living in gargantuan homes, and never really accumulating belongings. it is an inversion that seems completely absurd, until you remember the strong correlation between poverty and obesity in the united states. the idea that society is racing against itself in order to consume what it produces is an interesting way to look at the world.

robots, even seperated by decades from midas world, actually hits on a similar theme with its story of robots resisting an evil corporation that is eliminating the supply of spare parts so that they can sell shiny upgrades and consign old robots to the scrap heap. between this film and ice age, i think blue sky studios has established itself as a fairly close second-place to pixar in feature-length computer animation. like in pixar’s films, there is a strong story to complement the visual design and trickery. they’ve certainly proven themselves to not be a one-trick pony.

doing a movie about the movie industry can be rough, especially a sequel to a movie about the industry. be cool makes the dangerous choice of making fun of sequels at its outset, and then proceeds to be a mediocre sequel. there are a few clever scenes, but the whole film is just not nearly as tight as great shorty.

the soundtrack is also pretty pathetic, which is disappointing considering the greatness of the get shorty soundtrack.

a long weekend ramble

my parents were in town this weekend, and we spent almost the whole time doing things around downtown.

the arrived late on friday afternoon and checked into the westin bonaventure. (the person who wrote “the hotel's interior can’t quite match its dramatic exterior” is wrong — the interior of the bonaventure is one of my favorite spaces.) i met them at the hotel, and then we walked down to my apartment, and we had dinner at pete’s café.

on saturday morning we took the los angeles conservancy’s walking tour of the broadway theaters, and had really great luck: in addition to the usual theaters on the tour, the tower theater was opened up, and we caught the very tail end of the performance that celia of 5th and spring wrote about. we ate lunch at clifton’s cafeteria and then went over to the los angeles theater, which wasn’t open during the tour but was open in the afternoon for some reason.

in the evening, we hopped on the red line up to hollywood & vine and walked down to the arclight to see in good company (short review: liked it!) and had dinner at the baja fresh that is part of the new sunset & vine complex. there were a couple of scenes in the movie where you could see the bonaventure in the background, which was a funny coincidence.

on sunday, we hit some of the open houses that were part of the downtown living open house (actually we had gone into the eastern columbia building on saturday, and there was also an open house in my building that we checked out). the open house was a little disappointing because most of the properties were still under construction, and there was nothing to really see. (but maybe that was just those we happened to go to — we didn’t visit them all.)

from the south park area, we took the dash out to chinatown to explore that area a little bit, and then had lunch at yang chow. andy richter and his family (wife and kid) sat down at the table behind us while we were waiting for our food.

we took the dash back to my place (or as close as it gets, and then through part of the toy district on foot) to pick up the tickets for the matinee show of as you like it at the ahmanson theater and made it just as they were closing the doors after hustling through the civic center. either the second act of the play is much stronger than the first, or it just took us a while to get into the shakespeare headspace, because we all agreed that we enjoyed the second act much more than the first.

after the play, we went back to the bonaventure and had dinner in the lobby bar (after unsuccessfully trying some of the other restaurants in the hotel).

this morning, we met up again for breakfast, and then walked around a little in the financial district (mostly just sitting and watching the ducks in the watercourt at california plaza). my parents then caught their shuttle back to lax, and i picked up lunch at the happy cow diner at the bonaventure on my way back home. (i didn’t order it, but they have a ½lb. kobe beef burger for about $9.)

it was a very long weekend, and a lot of fun. i recommend any and all of the things we did, especially the walking tour of the broadway theaters and as you like it.

i’ve started putting some photos up at flickr.

i saw sideways last weekend, and i have to say i’m in the camp of people who thought it was good, but don’t quite understand the huge acclaim it has gotten. there were really funny parts, and i like how it ended, but the whole premise just felt flawed to me.

bendito infierno (or blessed inferno or sin noticias de dios or don’t tempt me — you have to love the triangulation of film names for particular markets) was the movie for this weekend. it is a spanish film about a struggle for a boxer’s soul between agents of heaven and hell. the movie is actually a few years old, so i’m not sure why it is back in theaters now. there are a lot of really brilliant concepts in the film, and i’m surprised that there (apparently) hasn’t been an effort to make an american version of the film. it also wouldn’t be a bad concept for a television series.

house of flying daggers is not nearly as good as hero. the sound design is brilliant, though.

i caught the life aquatic with steve zissou last weekend, and it was about what you’d expect for a wes anderson film starring the voice of garfield, bill murray. that is: funny, warped, understated, and elliptical.

holiday seeing wrap-up (2004 edition)

the aviator
going into the movie, i knew very little about the life of howard hughes, so most aspects of the story were a revelation. it’s a fantastic film, and it contains some amazing acting, particularly cate blanchett’s portrayal of katharine hepburn.
meet the fockers
i went in with pretty low expectations because i had seen some bad reviews, and i guess am still bitter from along came polly, but this was pretty good. i think some of the backlash came from people that adored meet the parents, but i remember thinking that was only just “pretty good,” too. and this one has alanna ubach.
this is a documentary that follows jerry seinfeld as he rebuilds his stand-up act after retiring all of his old material. the photography is great, and it’s a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at a comic’s life. (although seinfeld is no ordinary comic, obviously. it also features orny adams, a lesser-known comic, and the little where’s-orny-now featurette on the dvd is as funny as some of the material in the movie itself.)

a tale of two movies

i’ve watched a couple of recent bill murray movies in the last few days. the first was the lauded lost in translation, which does a great job of conveying the disconnection of being a traveller in a foreign country. i haven’t travelled to japan, so i can’t say how true-to-life that aspect of the story is, but i experienced the disorientation of being on your own in a foreign city with a disrupted circadian rhythm when i was in finland and sweden a couple of years ago, and i saw my own experience echoed in that aspect of the film. but besides really capturing that feeling well and being beautifully shot, the movie doesn’t really go anywhere, and the characters don’t seem to live up to their potential.

the other bill murray movie follows in the tradition of the sibling rivalry story of which cain and abel is probably one of the more familar examples. murray’s character finds himself becoming second fiddle to a newcomer in his household, and in trying to reestablish his dominancy, puts the well-being of what is effectively his sibling in danger, only to come to realize that what he has done is wrong, and he has to put his own life on the line to make it right.

that movie is garfield: the movie. it follows in the footsteps of the disney animated/live-action films like mary poppins and bedknobs and broomsticks and the classic who framed roger rabbit, but also with elements of talking-animal pictures like babe and stuart little.

the garfield character is entirely computer-generated, and is actually pretty good. the animation of the fur is close to on par with monsters, inc.. bill murray was a great and natural choice for the voice, and he doesn’t disappoint, giving an understated performance that really suits the character.

the performances of the live animals, particularly the dog playing odie, are also pretty amazing, especially in scenes where garfield interacts with the live animals. the technology for doing face/lip replacement for making it appear as if the animals are really talking has certainly progressed impressively since early films that employed the technique. (and is certainly far beyond the peanut-butter-in-the-mouth trick from the days of mr. ed.)

the human actors turn in fine performances, especially in a film where you would think they might be tempted to just phone it in. the character of jon is given a bit of an upgrade for the film, not being quite as big of a doofus as he is in the comic strip. played by breckin meyer, he is just a normal guy that is awkward around the girl he had a crush on in high school, who happens to be garfield’s veterinarian, liz (played by jennifer love hewitt).

i believe this is a bit of a departure from the garfield comic strip canon, where liz is garfield’s vet, but whose only connection with jon is her constant deflections of his advances. without spoiling too much of the plot, the relationship between jon and liz is certainly much different in the film than the comics.

and while the film does preserve a great number of elements of the comic strip (garfield’s love of lasagna, odie getting pushed off of furniture by garfield, and pooky the bear), another liberty that the film takes is in inventing a bad guy, a morning talk-show animal trainer (who is allergic to cats) that takes advantage of the fractured relationship between garfield and odie. the villian is played by stephen tobolowsky, the character actor probably best remembered for his role as ned ryerson in groundhog day. (which, incidentally, is one of my favorite films.)

the film was photographed by dean cundey, which gives me just one degree of separation from the film (since we both worked on steven spielberg’s director’s chair). some of the camera work is quite amazing considering that it was done with the main character in many shots not actually being on camera. the opening shot, in particular, is expertly choreographed and really helps to establish the quality of the interaction between the real world and the animated garfield.

so to summarize: lost in translation is a great mood piece, conveying the disconnected feeling of a stranger in a strange land, but without a strong story to give body to the fabric of the film. garfield is a great family-friendly retelling of the classic story of sibling rivalry rooted in cain and abel. and jennifer love hewitt is hot.

ocean’s twelve is one of those good films that is unfortunately overshadowed by its predecessor. at the end, the heist just isn’t as exciting, so the movie ends up falling a little flat. the whole style of the movie is really fantastic, it’s just the plot that ends up being a letdown.

eurotrip and the butterfly effect were part of the rejuggling of my netflix queue designed to burn off some films, and not be faced with a stack of heavy films that i always seemed to pass over in favor of just watching something from the tivo. both are okay, but not great films.

eurotrip is a pretty standard issue teen movie (woohoo, boobies!) which mostly falls apart at the end. it does have some clever bits, and the opening credit sequence is pretty brilliant.

the butterfly effect is an interesting concept, and the director’s cut ending is amazingly dark (and flows from the rest of the story, which the theatrical ending does not). it’s hard to see ashton kutcher in a dramatic role, although he is fine. the best parts of the story, and really the best acting, comes during the sequences set in the past.

i did the math the other day, and over the span of my netflix membership (since june 2000!), it has cost me a little around $4.50 per rental. it’s the last year that has really driven up my per-rental cost, between the temporarily increased rates and my slowdown in watching movies.

doing this sort of monetary math can be entertaining. here’s another one: if i assume that the car i owned for about 11 years cost about $9000 new, that means it cost just about $2.25 per day. just to own it: that doesn’t include gas, maintenance, or insurance. that’s more than i would have expected for a car that was pretty modest, and i had for a relatively long time.

i really should take another pass at doing a breakdown of how i’m spending my money. it’s been a few years since i last did it. all i have right now is this vague knowledge that i have a positive cash flow. (the biggest expenses are pretty easy: taxes, rent, and charity. those three alone soak up 60% of my paycheck. actually less, since my withholding was too high for most of the year.)

i haven’t read the comics, but hellboy certainly has the feel of a great comic book adaptation. ron perlman does an amazing job of looking like an oversized demon, but making him human.

one of the special features on the dvd is a collection of gerald mcboing-boing shorts. they’re brilliant, with fantastic character design and even more amazing backgrounds. it’s worth renting or buying the hellboy dvd for that alone. (the cartoons are in a great shape, too. perhaps restored?)

disney to make toy story 3 sans pixar. that just sounds like a colossally bad idea.

arafat may have money stashed all over the place. maybe in two hundred years, there will be a movie staring a distant relative of nicolas cage where part of the map to the treasure is on the back of palestine’s constitution.

i feel like i lacked the background in philosophy to really get i ♥ huckabees. but still, it was a strangely affecting movie.

on my way back, i took the route that takes me through the bonaventure hotel, which is a very strange space on the weekends (and maybe on weekdays — i’ve only ever been there on a weekend). it is a very, very empty space. they’re opening up a restaurant called the happy cow grill (café?) in one of the spaces between the walkway from the ymca and the walkway to the world trade center.


it is becoming clear that the defining characteristic of a pixar film is not being disappointed, even when you go in with high expectations. the incredibles is brilliant. brad bird (writer and director) is a supergenius, using his powers for tremendous good. i can’t think of anything not to like about the film. the story, the characters, the animation, the backgrounds, the camera work, it’s all masterfully executed. the cast is great — who knew that craig t. nelson could turn in such a great performance?

after a bit of a dry spell, the laemmle grande 4 plex will have both i ♥ huckabees and the incredibles this weekend. awesome.

i saw maria full of grace earlier today. it came back for a return engagement at the laemmle grande 4-plex, so i took that as a sign that i should go see it this time. it was an okay film, saved from being a boring film by the performance of catalina sandino moreno as the maria in the title. it was good to see a film about the drug trade that didn’t really glamorize it.

the zed word

shaun of the dead finally broke the dry spell at the downtown laemmle. i have to admit i was a little disappointed, but not much. if i were a bigger fan of zombie movies, i would probably have been ecstatic.

will amazon get into the netflix business? that would be interesting. i would consider switching if the service were comparable and i got the triple-points for charging the fee to my amazon credit card. (it is almost comical how much of my finances i now run through that card just to get the little $25 kickbacks.)

along came polly was an extremely so-so film. verging on not good. the sort of film that makes me wonder why it is that i think i like ben stiller. he’s been in some real clunkers. i will, however, find it in my heart to forgive jennifer aniston.

the manchurian candidate (the original) is playing tonight at the arclight.

and by tonight, i of course mean tomorrow.

hero is an incredible film. jason kottke got it right when he compared it to a ballet. roger ebert questions whether it is better than crouching tiger, hidden dragon, but i don’t think there’s much contest: hero is much better.

50 first dates is one of those films by people who are obviously enjoying what they’re doing, and doing it well. the obvious comparison i completely missed in watching it (but was clued in to by the commentary with the director and drew barrymore) is with groundhog day, which is one of my favorite movies of all time. but it does go a completely different direction where it could have gone the same way, which was very smart.

sky captain and the world of tomorrow is a fun movie. it’s all about capturing the spirit of pre-wwii pulp science fiction, and does a fantastic job of that. i think they pushed the visuals a little bit too far into the fuzzy range, but i can’t fault it too much for that. (story and acting wise, it’s certainly on par with any other science fiction.)

netflix now provides rss feeds, including new releases, your queue, and recommendations. (like the last link, via jeremy zawodny.)

13 going on 30 unfortunately falls apart at the end, but otherwise is a fun movie. a couple of the funniest bits are when jennifer garner says “gross!” to herself in reaction to some grown-up situations.

it’s not a groundbreaking film, treading ground well-tread by films like big or freaky friday and so on, but it fits together well (except for the ending, as i said), and manages to stay away from being too saccharine.

okay, who am i kidding? it is a good excuse to watch jennifer garner for 90 minutes. enjoy!

(on a similar note, underworld is a good way to watch kate beckinsale running around in a leather outfit for a couple of hours.)

you could probably be drinking whole milk.

napoleon dynamite was the movie of choice this week — apparently it has been re-released, with an epilogue added (which i did not realize, and probably missed because i left during the credits).

it is a truly strange movie. it’s a very how-on-earth-did-that-get-made sort of movie. the plot sort of clumps together out of all of the odd little scenes and quirky behavior by the even more quirky characters. there are some laugh-out-loud moments, but most of the humor is so low-key, it is practically tragedy.

i went into garden state with dangerously high expectations, but was not disappointed. i managed to avoid all reviews and most of the information about the film, so i went in only really knowing what is in the trailers (which is not much, plot-wise). okay, i was a little disappointed that some of the most clever cinematography was included in the trailer, so it didn’t have the same impact it might have had if it were completely fresh in-context, but that’s a pretty minor nit. the comedy is really understated, and the movie is pretty deliberately paced, but it all really works. (and natalie portman is really cute….)

laziness pays off

garden state will be playing at the laemmle’s grande 4-plex in downtown los angeles as of this weekend. and to think i had considered going to pasadena to see it.

(actually, i’ll probably end up going to pasadena anyway, although not to see the movie. that’s where my trader joe’s is, right by the fillmore station. i need fake cheese and real nuts.)

shipped 08/06/03

instead of going out to a movie this weekend, i stayed in and watched red beard to try and unclog my netflix jam. it was akira kurosawa’s last collaboration with toshirô mifune and his last black and white film, and it is a beautiful film.

i’ve restocked the top of my netflix queue with a bunch of more recent movies. clearly having a stack of foreign films doesn’t inspire me to pop in a movie on dvd very often.

collateral was the movie of choice, since it is set in los angeles, including downtown. i wish there was even more of the city in the movie, but there are some great locations used. one thing that struck me on the way back from the theater is that i’m surprised more films aren’t shot in the financial district downtown — there aren’t a lot of people in that area during the weekend, and there’s some great spaces.

(very) minor spoiler: i was happy to see the movie use the blue line instead of the red line, even though they cheat the geography a bit. everybody uses the red line (and cheats the geography there, too).

thinking ahead

the trailers for garden state are amazing, so i was thinking that might be a good movie to see this weekend. i noticed it was playing at the arclight cinemas hollywood, but then further noticed that the off-peak price (what some less snooty people might call the matinee price) is $11.

now the arclight is a really, really nice theater, but $11 for a matinee just strikes me as terribly offensive.

garden state is also playing at the laemmle’s playhouse 7 cinemas in pasadena. the matinees are $6.

or maybe i’ll just stick to my local theatre and see maria full of grace and hope they bring in garden state in a week or two.

i’ve already mentioned that i am one of those people that likes m. night shyamalan’s films, so it should be no great surprise that i really enjoyed the village. it’s funny that i compared him to the coen brothers, since this time out roger deakins was his director of photography, who is known for his recent collaborations with the coen brothers. and as you might expect, the cinematography is great. what stood out even more for me, though, was the really excellent sound design. bryce dallas howard was excellent, as was the rest of the cast.

the final twist wasn’t particularly surprising, although that is simply more a function of the story that it is than anything accidentally revealed. i’d say the most disappointing part of the story is the use of a flashback to mix up the order of part of the story, which was distracting — for a while i thought they had simply mixed the reels up. i can understand why it was done, but like i said, it was distracting.

also, i saw the bourne supremacy while on vacation. it was good, although a little stilted. it’s a shame that they spoiled one of the more clever moments in the trailer.

i, robot is the blockbuster of the week, and it isn’t any more than just an average summer action movie, really. i’m not a huge asimov fan, and i don’t believe that i’ve read any of the books in his robot series, so any good things derived from his stories (or bad things done to his stories) weren’t really a big factor in how i thought about the film. of course, the story was not really originally inspired by the book of the same name, but rather it was a script that was adapted to the book as it was developed.

i think roger ebert really nailed it in his review, although i would be a little more harsh about the predictability of the plot. there’s really nothing new in this film.

2 + 2 = 3

anchorman: the legend of ron burgundy is, unfortunately, less than the sum of its parts. i think if you actually removed steve carell from the movie, it would have caved in upon itself.

it’s definitely a wait-for-hbo sort of movie, if you haven’t already seen it. i think i’ve learned my lesson to leave the theater for the best-seen-on-a-big-screen movies like spider-man 2. some upcoming movies that i think fit that bill are i, robot (yes, not much based on the book — get over it) and the bourne supremacy.

this stop-action lego spider-man short film is fun. it echoes some of the scenes and settings in spider-man 2. i guess it’s in the spirit of projects like the bmw films and the american express seinfeld/superman shorts. lego mary jane doesn’t have anything on kirsten dunst, though. (via hit & run.)

he’s got radioactive blood

i’m sad to say it was only recently that it came to my attention that laemmle’s grande 4-plex is located in downtown los angeles, just a block up from the ymca. so i took advantage of the day off and saw spider-man 2. it’s not a fancy theater (just four screens with about 150 seats each, assuming they’re all the same size), but it got the job done.

the movie itself was really good. they’ve done a great job of keeping to the spirit of the spider-man comics, and avoiding all of the pitfalls that the batman film franchise managed to mire itself in. the third film is due in 2007, but after that the contracts are up for all of the principal players, so it’s wide open for spider-man 4 to be sucktastic.

i can’t decide whether the conversations in the various spider-man related forums are more sad or funny. being involved with a comic-book-derived movie is like a little special purgatory that directors and writers find themselves within.

speaking of giant monkeys

american cinematheque will be showing baraka in 70MM at the egyptian theatre on july 8-11, 2004. it’s worth seeing on the big screen if you haven’t seen it before.

but it’s missing...

here’s the new york times list of “the 1,000 best movies ever made”. there’s a few surprises in there, and they left off any of the monty python films. my quick count is that i had seen about 150 of these. and although i’m sure the decalogue is great (the netflix discs are on top of my television), it’s not a movie. it is a miniseries produced for polish television. (via jason kottke.)

estimated arrival date: 09/12/03

i’ve been extremely slack in watching netflix movies lately, basically since i moved downtown (and got directv). i finally watched a better tomorrow ii. i don’t think the film has aged particularly well (since it was released, not since netflix shipped it to me), but the bodycount in the final portion of the movie is impressive.

i will cancel my netflix membership soon. i just haven’t been watching the movies. i would be quicker to cancel it if there were a video store nearby. (actually, there appear to be a couple in little tokyo, which is not terribly far away. i should probably check those out.)

holiday seeing wrap-up


the reviews of this movie that i’ve seen have been pretty harsh. it wasn’t movie-of-the-year, but i didn’t find it terribly offensive overall.

the lord of the rings: the return of the king

it’s been a very long time since i read the novels, and i’m not sure whether that is a help or hindrance to enjoying the films. it was an admirable film, and positively gorgeous.

big fish

another fine film, but i think i expected a little more from a tim burton film with carnival sideshow elements.

oy, enough with the mail stuff already

i watched hannibal over the weekend, and while both julianne moore and anthony hopkins were fun to watch, i thought that the movie fell rather flat. there just wasn't much tension in the movie, and ray liotta's character seemed to serve little more purpose than a red-shirted ensign on star trek.

i wonder why imdb is missing the caron over the z in željko ivanek's first name.

the reviews of the caveman's valentine generally say what i would: an excellent acting job by samuel l. jackson, within a less-than-excellent story. the portrayal of the paranoid schizophrenia of jackson's character is endlessly fascinating, and does much to excuse the weak plot. the music, composed by terence blanchard, also raises the film up another notch.

narrative trickery

memento employs a narrative trick the likes of which pretty much guaranteed i would like the film, even if it weren't well-acted and filmed. but it is also both of those, so it is a very fine film indeed.

one casting choice that kept drawing me out of the movie was jorja fox as leonard's wife. every time i saw her, i thought “hey, it's that chick from csi (and er)!” i guess part of the problem there was that her role was basically limited to being in dialogue-free flashbacks.

dissecting the blue, white, and red

anyone paying careful attention to my silly netflix rental history may have noticed there were two films i recently watched but hadn't mentioned: the first two films in krzysztof kieslowski's trois couleurs (three colors) trilogy. i finally got around to watching rouge (red), the final film. the first is bleu (blue), and the middle film is blanc (white).

all three are quite amazing films, and i'd say they get progressively better. the cinematography in red is incredible. (and then there's the story, and the acting, and the sound design, and ….)

the colors refer to the colors of the french flag, and each film takes its thematic cue from what that color represents: liberty (blue), equality (white), and fraternity (red). each story stands on its own, although there are a few common touchpoints (particularly at the end of red).

i definitely have to watch all three films again (and likely buy them), and can't wait to see kieslowski's dekalog (the decalogue): ten one-hour films based on the ten commandments. (which is being reissued on dvd in a couple of weeks.)

small time allen

so it turns out i had already seen small time crooks, but i went ahead and watched it again. it's a pretty good later-woody-allen film, although there's two aspects that stick out like sore thumbs: allen's character spits out strange gleason-esque threats to his wife, and much of the supporting cast completely vanishes about halfway through the film.

a priest, a rabbi, and a scientologist (and j.lo)

i went in to keeping the faith with pretty low expectations, but it turned out to be quite a bit better than i expected. even though it is a by-the-books love triangle with a few twists, the movie does not squander the excellent cast. (in addition to being one of the stars, this is edward norton's directorial debut—and not a bad job of it at all.)

the cell is a psychological thriller starring jennifer lopez, with the bad guy played by vincent d'onofrio. it was okay, but not all that exciting. some of the photography was really great, though. a director to keep an eye on....

i would recommend both movies, although not in the sense that you should rush to your nearest blockbuster right this minute and get them. just slap 'em in the ol' netflix queue.

one small step

today is the 34th anniversary of the apollo 11 moon landing. (or is it?)

by happy coincidence, i watched the dish last night: a fun movie about the radio telescope in parkes, australia that was the primary receiving station for the moon landing. it's a small-town-meets-big-event movie that doesn't look down on the inhabitants, or portray the outsiders as mustache-twirling villains or aloof sophisticates. everyone is very human—good intentioned and a little awkward.

summer in the city

another mini-movie-review: the seven year itch, a 1950's classic starring marilyn monroe and tom ewell. funny, if dated. it is based on a play, and clearly shows those roots. i'm a little surprised there hasn't been a modern remake, since the film suffered from the censorship of the hayes office.

one totally trivial thing that popped out at me was when ewell was reading the list of ingredients on a soft drink and it had corn syrup instead of sugar. i had always been under the impression that the prevalence of corn syrup was a more recent phenomena.

back to the movies

i'd fallen out of the movie-watching habit for the last month or so, but finally picked it up again this weekend, starting with the replacements. you could think of it as major league for football, but not as wacky. the football stuff looked great (some of it was shot during halftime of a preseason baltimore ravens game), and the rest of the movie was on the right side of the "not bad" line. and even keanu “whoa” reeves couldn't fumble the delivery of this cheesy, but fun, miniature motivational speech: “pain heals. chicks dig scars. glory lasts forever.”

warfare in africa, europe, and a galaxy far, far away

this weekend i watched star wars: episode i - the phantom menace and patton, two films i had never seen before. (yes, i waited this long to see the phantom menace.)

watching the phantom menace, i was reminded how much i love the star wars universe despite the numerous flaws and shortcomings manifested in all of the movies. my biggest gripe with this movie would be that the characters simply bob along, being carried along by a current of events that they seem to take very little interest in controlling. and in contrast with something like down and out in the magic kingdom, the quasi-future (yes, it is long, long ago) of the star wars universe just doesn't follow from our present. in particular, the idea of a robot army with a centralized control center is just super lame. (i’m surprised anakin didn't pull out a tibook and upload a virus to the central computer.)

another thing i found particularly obnoxious was the way the battle scenes were staged. it just seemed positively revolutionary-era with two forces coming at each other in a valley between two ridges. patton certainly had more interesting and believable battle scenes, even without the aid of ilm trickery.

i really enjoyed patton. i’m not much of a military history buff, but he’s clearly a fascinating character, and would probably be a great person to read more about if you wanted to go down the path of being a military history buff because of his deep interest in the subject. it’s interesting how the movie focuses so closely on patton and his actions during the second world war without any real insight into his life outside of the war, except to suggest that he has none.

it was also nice to have all the references to the film i’ve encountered over time get linked with the actual scenes from the movie. “Rommel, you magnificent bastard! I read your book!” has to be one of the best lines ever.

all that said, the phantom menace was a fun film, especially if you accept it as a film for kids, which is clearly how it was intended. the visual design is pretty stunning, of course. even though i found the battle droids annoyingly anachronistic, i really loved the character design.

signs is the latest movie to pop off the top of my netflix queue. i'm in the camp of people who like m. night shyamalan's films, so it shouldn't be too shocking that i enjoyed this one. night's films just have a measure of confidence and craftmanship to them that i really appreciate. (i would compare his films to those of the coen brothers, in that regard.)

one thing in particular that struck me as unauthentic about the film was the television news coverage within the film. while it served the story, it was simply too staid to compare to the sort of coverage that happens for major events. in particular, you'd have anchors babbling endlessly over everything.

and the culkin kid (rory) in the film was a little too distracting in his resemblance to his older brother (macauley). he did a great job, really, it was just disconcerting seeing what looked to be the kid from home alone.

(you might get the impression from all these mini-reviews that i like every movie i watch. that's probably true, in large part, because i go into most films with a certain expectation, and only really dislike a film when it falls short of that. that's why i can call a movie like bubble boy great. i just don't derive a great deal of satisfaction from dumping on a movie. and i probably avoid some real clunkers just by having the sense not to watch them in the first place.)

between drug-induced comas, i watched sanjûrô and big trouble in little china. i think my love of kurosawa films has been covered elsewhere. i had actually seen sanjûrô before, so i'm not sure how it ended up in my netflix queue again. i liked the central conceit of big trouble in little china (the flip-flop of the hero and sidekick roles), but the movie is showing its age, and really doesn't do anything to rise beyond well-executed b-movie.

continuing my netflix rampage, i watched defending your life. in a nutshell, it's an albert brooks movie about a guy defending his life in the afterlife. i probably would have found it more resonant if i were twenty years older ten years ago (about when the movie first came out), but it is still a funny film, even if it doesn't serve up any real surprises or deep insights. one thing that struck me is that i feel like i've seen a number of albert brooks movies, but as far as i can recall, this is actually the first.

v. quick movie review

bridget jones's diary: good. not hamlet.

mid-week movie madness

i'm on a netflix-queue-chewing roll. i finally watched rashomon. what can i say that hasn't already been said? kurosawa and mifune go together like peanut butter and chocolate, although i don't think this is their best pairing. i'm very partial to high and low.

three little movie reviews

lawrence of arabia was visually stunning, of course, and there was a great story to go along with it. i should no doubt see it in a theater (preferably something like the cineramadome) some day. then again, sitting through a four-hour movie is tough.

i wasn't nearly as excited by minority report as others seem to have been. i guess the vision of the future just wasn't as clever as i had been led to expect. i did love the eye-scanning greeter at the gap, though.

crazy/beautiful is a well-acted, serious teen movie set in los angeles. some of the most fun is the secondary characters, which were largely played by new actors and non-actors.

i'd say all three movies are worth seeing. but i wouldn't say any of them are must-see movies, with the exception of lawrence of arabia if you have the opportunity to see it on a big screen.

(there are 101 movies in my netflix queue. i will never catch up.)

i saw catch me if you can over the holidays, which was an enjoyable movie that was overshadowed by its brilliant opening credits. tom hanks' role was underdeveloped, jennifer garner's cameo felt tacked on, and the pretending-to-be-a-doctor-using-quotes-from-watching-television was just too clichéd. (but don't get me wrong, i did enjoy the movie—i just wish it were better. i think that's one of the defining qualities of a spielberg film.)

(side note: who the heck are these people? once upon a time, i entered all the info for this game, from the credits, but i had some problem submitting it. i still have the issue of entertainment weekly that called this one of the worst five multimedia products of 1996. i'm so proud. the next company i worked for ended up in some magazine's top-100 worst ideas list.)

baraka is an amazing movie. if you're in los angeles, you should go see it at the egyptian theatre this weekend. it's being shown in 70mm by american cinematheque. they'll also be previewing adaptation (written by charlie kaufman, directed by spike jonze) next weekend, which looks pretty mind-bending, much like being john malkovich from the same crew.

i forgot to share my review of bubble boy: brilliant. it's one of those films that has the nearly perfect balance of not selling itself short and not taking itself too seriously. there's a number of laugh-out-loud funny lines (particularly from the mom, played by swoosie kurtz), and the whole movie has a surprisingly aggressive sense of humor. (and marley shelton could pass for heather graham's sister. it's almost eerie.) i also now regret not having seen zach galifianakis's show on vh1, since he's really funny in his small role.

i wonder how long it will be until i can search for 'plate of shrimp' at google and it will pull up the appropriate scenes from repo man. probably never, since i don't think hollywood has a good sense of shared metadata. (ever notice there's not really an equivalent of isbn codes for movies or music?)

so i finally saw the movie happiness. brilliant movie, but yikes. (and what's up with people who have one blue eye and one green eye? i've noticed a slew of actors recently with eyes like that.)

crouching tiger, hidden dragon is a pretty amazing movie. some of the "flying" scenes are a bit silly, but there are more than enough other moments that more than make up for that. but the person who cut the us trailer should be strung up by their toes. the international trailer is beautiful and intriguing. the us trailer is a hack job, complete with painful voiceover by that standard movie trailer voice guy. the marketing genius behind that one deserves some purple yin in their frappucino.

one more movie-related tidbit. i watched all the president's men last night (catching up on another movie classic thanks to netflix), and it was very odd to see the dad from seventh heaven in the movie as the former treasurer of nixon's reelection campaign.

so, the phantom menace is finally going to come out on dvd. right around my birthday, as it happens. but i don't want it! i'd rather have this movie. (i still haven't even seen phantom menace, but i'll probably put it in my netflix queue when it is released.)

i watched erin brockovich last night (one of the two best picture nominees i've seen, along with traffic). it turns out the car accident scene was shot just up the street from where i live. that was a little strange to see ("wait a second, those buildings look familar...").

one of the funnier lines -- “bite my ass, krispy kreme!”

the movie was good. i liked traffic more, though. i haven't seen enough of the nominees to have an opinion on who should win what oscars, but i wouldn't be disappointed to see anyone from traffic or erin brockovich win anything. (the only other film with any nominations i've seen is cast away.)

traffic is a most excellent film. the storyline featuring michael douglas is the weakest of the bunch (and the benicio del toro one the strongest). the acting is top-notch, and steven soderbergh is genius. go see it.