September 20, 2010

Trailer Review: The Tourist

The Tourist appears to be a remake of Knight And Day with the sexes reversed. I don't know if it's supposed to be a action thriller with funny bits, or a screwball comedy with some action, but God Bless Johnny Depp; he can't seem to NOT be funny. 

September 19, 2010

The Town

A terrific heist thriller. Ben Affleck now has to be taken seriously as a director. Gone Baby Gone was no fluke; The Town is more of a genre action thriller, and less of a film noir than GBG was, but he's made a cracking bundle of excitement, soaked in Bostoniana.
Affleck is Doug MacRay, the brains behind a bank-robbing crew. During a daylight heist in Harvard Square, they take a tall dark drink of water, Claire, as a hostage (Rebecca Hall). They let Claire go during their getaway, but it turns out she lives in Charlestown too-  does she know too much? Will she talk to the Feds? MacRay, hungry to escape suffocating Charlestown, latches onto Claire as his one chance at going legit. Meanwhile, Doug's lifelong friend/ex - con/loose cannon/sociopath Jem (the excellent Jeremy Renner) won't let Doug walk away, while continuing to endanger Doug's life.
MacRay's crew is tracked by Jon Hamm's FBI Special Agent Frawley, who's not above bending some rules to make his case. Hamm brings an edge of anger to his all-American face, which only boils over when he's beating suspects and taunting criminals to get what he wants.
Speaking as a lifelong resident of the Commonwealth, The Town is the most "Boston" movie I have ever seen. I feel like I have walked past every location a hundred times. When Affleck's Charlestown crew are fleeing a heist in the North End, there's an authentic car chase around the twisty North End streets. When Jon Hamm's FBI agent catches the flash on the radio, he hollers "Close the fucking bridge!" Any Boston resident knows exactly what he's talking about. The verisimilitude felt good.
(NOTE: If you want to avoid a Boston-based movie with the least-realistic chase scene ever, Blown Away (1994) is the movie for you, featuring a 2-minute-long chase scene on Beacon Hill's Joy Street, which is, like, four blocks long!)
Then there's the dialog- Affleck doesn't care if anyone understands all the dialog, it's so mumbly and slangy, it was impossible for me to pick it all out. The nice thing about a genre movie is that you don't need to know all the words to follow along.
If I have one complaint, it's that the movie feels like it was cut down from a Heat-sized three-hour epic to a brisk two hours. This means there's lots of intriguing threads which are either never explored, or only glimpsed. I don't really need to know why Agent Frawley has a burr up his ass, or the story behind Frawley's townie partner and his roots in Charlestown.
NOTE: The townie cop is played by Titus Welliver, whom I'm adding to my Hey! It's That Guy! club. He made his debut in Navy Seals as "Redneck in Bar", played a cop in Oliver Stone's The Doors, played Al Capone in Mobsters, then proceeded to appear on every dramatic TV show of the last 20 years.
We're given hints that Doug may have fathered a child with Jimmy's sister (Blake Lively in full bar tramp mode.) Victor Garber has two lines as a bank manager, and gets a rifle butt to the face for his trouble? (NOTE: Garber co-starred with Affleck's wife Jennifer Garner on Alias) It's possible that The Town was a terrible movie when all the footage was first assembled, and a gem was carved out of it.

OK I have one more small complaint: [SPOILER ALERT] the movie might be a little too beholden to genre conventions, so when it breaks those conventions in uninteresting ways, I was confused. For example, Claire works at the bank the gang robs at the opening of the movie. They take her hostage while they make their escape; she's blindfolded, so she can't see their faces. Later, Doug befriends her, and they begin to fall in love, while she doesn't know his secret. In my opinion, the traditional resolution would be that Claire figures out for herself that Doug is one of the men who robbed her bank; but it doesn't resolve that way. I found this odd and confusing, especially when the rest of the movie followed heist thriller conventions in a regular way.

I saw The Town with my friends Amy and Adam at the Capitol Theater in Arlington; apparently English-born Adam could understand the dialog better than Amy or me! As the credits rolled, I gave it an A grade; since then, when I see commercials for the movie on TV, I rewind and watch them twice. I think this means I want to see it again!
NOTE: I saw it again, this time with my wife, September 25 at the AMC Aviation 12, Linden NJ, with Becca & Vinnie. The digital projection and sound were excellent; I was able to understand a lot more of the dialog this time.

Stub Hubby Reviews The Depressing Boston Film Festival

September 17, 2010

Ben Affleck Aging Timeline

Ben Affleck, a life in photos. Not included, the goatee'd Affleck from Chasing Amy (1997)!

September 9, 2010

Sauron Baby Pictures

There's no thumbnail on this post because it's too funny to spoil the surprise. Trust me!

September 1, 2010

126: Summerbeast

  1. "Run" Vampire Weekend
  2. "Driver 8" The Old '97s. A slightly harder-rocking, slightly less subtle version of one of my favorite R.E.M. songs.
  3. "Whisper to a Scream (Birds Fly)" Icicle Works. Rediscovered on a VH1 1980s video showcase.
  4. "Jealous Again" The Black Crowes. A live, in-studio, acoustic performance, from the new Crowes album.
  5. "Never" Heart. So richly imbued with Eighties-ness, it's hard to mix this track among other less exuberantly artificial songs...
  6. "TiK ToK" ...until Ke$ha came along.
  7. "Wash Your Face In My Sink" The Dream Warriors. Was this Canadian hip-hop duo a one-hit wonder, or was this song popular only among me and my friends at WERS in 1991?
  8. "The Distance" Cake. Before I met my wife, I only new Cake as the 1990s alt rock band which covered "I Will Survive". I mostly hate disco, and this Gloria Gaynor song is one of my least-favorite hits in a genre I hate already. To sum up: Cake's cover is a boring, overlong, overly ironic remake of a song I hated in the first place. It turns out my wife has, like, four Cake CDs, and in the intervening years, I have found a bunch of their songs I actually like, including "The Distance", one of my new ringtones.
  9. "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" I don't listen to Jimi Hendrix enough. I gotta start putting him on more mix CDs. Mostly this song makes me think of a) hippies, and b) that scene it's in in Almost Famous, when the band trades in their bus for the jet plane.
  10. "Free Fallin" [live], from the comprehensive new Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Live Anthology. Great sing-along from the audience.
  11. "One True Love" Semisonic is another one-hit 1990s alt-rock band, whom I have gotten to know better. Around the turn of the century I really got into their almost-hit "Chemistry", and later, the drummer wrote a memoir which could have been titled "What It's Like To Be A One Hit Wonder."If you want to dig deeper into 1990s nostalgia, check it out. Jen Trynin also wrote a book about her year in the spotlight, which could have been called "I Would Have Been Alanis Morrisette (If It Weren't For Alanis Morrisette.)"
  12. "Via Chicago" Wilco. We went to Wilco's music and arts festival in North Adams this summer. This track is from Wilco's album Summerteeth.
  13. "Stratford-On-Guy" Liz Phair. I have the complete Rolling Stone magazine, cover-to-cover, on DVD (1967-2007.) Around the time I was assembling this mix I re-read Liz' 1994 Rolling Stone cover story.
  14. "Do You Love Me" Ridiculously catchy new Guster song, with pleasant Wall of Sound production.
  15. "Can't Do A Thing (To Stop Me)" Chris Isaak. Apparently there's a cable channel called FUSE, which aired a special Fifty Sexiest Music Videos Ever. My wife and I were not surprised to find the "Wicked Game" video at Number One, which inspired including this Isaak song.
  16. "Hackensack" [live, acoustic] The fact that Katy Perry has heard Fountains of Wayne, and recorded a nice cover song, has raised my opinion of her. It's still unfortunate that she married Russell Brand.
  17. "Ugly Truth Rock" Matthew Sweet
  18. "1901" Phoenix. It's like Duran Duran and Joy Division had a love child in France with Bryan Ferry as the midwife.
  19. "Pictures of Matchstick Men" Camper Van Beethoven
  20. "It Ain't The Cold War Harry" Grant-Lee Phillips