December 29, 2012

Django Unchained

I saw five movies less than a month- four of them in two weeks - so I've fallen behind in my movie reviewing. Now that I've tapped out the Oscar nominees, I have time to write a little...

Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz are terrific in this explosive, sly, funny, but overlong and over-gruesome epic revenge thriller. I read somewhere that Waltz not only is ideally suited for Tarantino dialog, but he truly makes the character his own. I couldn't agree more.
Jamie Foxx is solid and unshowy as the liberated slave on the revenge warpath, very much in the quiet, Eastwood model of cowboy.
Leonardo DiCaprio is having fun but never truly menaces as Calvin Candie. Kerry Washington is a shockingly passive and silent "madonna" figure. I admit I have a pretty high tolerance for movie violence, but I had no stomach for some of the explicit violence; specifically the "mandingo fighting", where two men fight to the death, and watching a slave ripped apart by dogs isn't exactly on my bucket list.
Theater Notes: The theater was mostly full and at least half minorities. The crowd laughed hard at the (many) funny parts, and Samuel L. Jackson held the audience in the palm of his hand. He completely enthralled them.
AMC Aviation Plaza, Linden NJ, while my wife saw Les Miserables in a theater down the hall...

December 19, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Guys Movie Night)

Well, hello, short, dark, and handsome!
A very good Peter Jackson Hobbit movie, although, after 11 hours of Lord Of The Rings in the last decade, I don't really feel the burning desire to see more Tolkien stories on the big screen. I have already seen enough endless caverns, rickety bridges, hordes of orcs, and swordplay for one lifetime. The plot definitely felt flabby. Peter Jackson stands by the decision to release three Hobbit movies instead of two, but this definitely felt like a Director's Cut-style "leave everything in" edit.
Martin Freeman was excellent as Bilbo Baggins, the Gollum 2.0 is a jaw-dropping improvement on an already terrific CGI character. Richard Armitage makes a star-making turn as short, dark and handsome lead dwarf Thorin Oakenshield. He exudes quiet power and authority.
I have only read the novel once, so maybe I'm in the minority, but this movie feels much less crucial than the Lord of the Rings movies did. Jackson works hard to give the restoration of the dwarves homeland moral and emotional heft, but I remember The Hobbit being much more inconsequential than this. B-plus. With Marc and Jeff at Regal Fenway.
TRAILER NOTES:
The End Of The World is big business in Hollywood this year; We saw six trailers before The Hobbit, and five of them were about the end of the world in one flavor or another:
  • Pacific Rim (Godzilla vs Transformers)
  • The Host (Stephenie Meyer's aliens take over Earth by possessing human bodies thriller)
  • Warm Bodies (A Rom-Zom-Com in the spirit of Shaun of The Dead)
  • Oblivion (Tom Cruise Beyond Thunderdome, with Morgan Freeman in the Tina Turner part)
  • After Earth (Will & Jaden Smith's Avatar remake, directed by M. Night Shyamalan)
  • and Beautiful Creatures (Twilight with witches)
We didn't even see the trailers for the upcoming comedy This Is The End (from the Pineapple Express team), World War Z (Brad Pitt remakes I Am Legend with more action), or The World's End (the latest collaboration between Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright.)

December 8, 2012

Killing Them Softly

A self-indulgent, smug, talky gangster movie. Think Tarantino minus the humor, but keep the brutal, gruesome violence intact.
Kiwi director Andrew Dominik must feel damn lucky that Brad Pitt likes making arty movies- Dominik wouldn't have a career if Pitt didn't agree to star in this movie, and his previous feature, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007). As it is, Dominik treats Pitt's character lovingly, giving him all the great music cues, all the best lines, and his character, self-confident hitman Jackie, seemingly all-knowing and perfect.
Scoot McNairy wins my Breakout Performer award for his terrific performance in this movie, plus his role as one of the American Embassy workers hiding out in Argo. His three-time clueless loser crook is pathetic, but he has one powerful scene where Brad Pitt's hitman talks him into betraying his fellow thieves with the illusion of sparing his own life.
Between the too-cool songs on the soundtrack, the endless monologues which lead nowhere, and the pointless slow-motion murder sequence, I was rolling my eyes when I wasn't dozing off. C-minus. West Newton Cinema, with a very well-behaved crowd (for a change.)

December 1, 2012

141 The Song Is Over

  1. "Pass The Peas" The J.B.'s
  2. "No Love Lost" Pat DiNizio has a wonderful, distinctive voice.  I love the Smithereens as a power-pop band, but DiNizio sounds great singing standards too. This track is from his debut solo album Songs & Sounds [1997], featuring a wonderful and non-ironic saxophone solo.
  3. "Game Of Pricks" This is my first Guided By Voices song, a band I have heard about secondhand for years and years.
  4. "Driver 8" Maybe my favorite R.E.M. song? Bold statement, but it feels true.
  5. "Jailbreak" AC/DC were a longtime holdout from the iTunes and Amazon's MP3 stores. Back in my high school DJ days, I played this song all the time, from their 1984 EP '74 Jailbreak.
  6. "Trampled Under Foot" [live 12/10/07] Led Zeppelin, from their reunion album Celebration Day. The concert movie really made me appreciate how Zeppelin invented the blues-rock band template which so many bands exploited throughout the 70s and 80s. For example, "Trampled Under Foot" [released April 1975] sounds like the direct inspiration for the next song on this mix...
  7. "Long Train Runnin'" ...wait a minute, I think I owe The Doobie Brothers an apology! "Long Train Runnin'" came out in March 1973! Regardless, tracks 6 and 7 sound like brothers.
  8. "The Song Is Over" Maybe there's a little too much Moog noodling on this Who song, and the song lingers around for over six minutes, but it was 1971, they can be forgiven.
  9. "Dear Prudence" The Beatles
  10. "Found Out About You" Gin Blossoms
  11. "Tearing Us Apart" Eric Clapton duets with Tina Turner from Clapton's 1986 album August (The Phil Collins Era). Amidst Turner's comeback- her Private Dancer album became a sensation in 1984-85 - she collaborated with Clapton, Bryan Adams, Phil Collins, Steve Winwood, and Mick Jagger.
  12. "We Are Young" Fun., feat/Janelle Monae
  13. "Emmylou" First Aid Kit; terrible band name, very nice song. I think my wife discovered this band before this song was on the TV show Nashville?
  14. "A1 On The Jukebox" from Dave Edmunds album Tracks on Wax 4 [1978].
  15. "Heroes Are Hard to Find" Fleetwood Mac; a great Christine McVie song from the pre-Buckingham/Nicks era [1974]. The Mac is on tour again this year. Would I be interested in attending? As I said to my wife, "No McVie, no me!"
  16. "One Step Beyond" Madness

November 23, 2012

Lincoln

A riveting political and legislative adventure, and a biopic of Abraham Lincoln, all rolled into one. Daniel Day-Lewis does a perfect job. We know Lincoln (and Day-Lewis) too well to ever forget this is a movie, but he does a perfect job of what we can realistically expect from a man playing such an icon. This feels like a perspective of what the man was really like.
I really appreciate biopics that use one pivotal event to describe a man. My main problem with A Beautiful Mind is that it covered decades of the man's life. Most of Lincoln covers a few weeks only, the leadup to the House vote on the 13th Amendment. Spielberg (with writer Tony Kushner) create a West Wing-style political thriller that feels completely contemporary, while simultaneously depicting Capitol Hill, 1865 in all its colorful differences.I especially loved the hallways of the White House and the Capitol Building clogged with office-seekers and constituents petitioning their government.

What a wonderful cast. One critic wrote "If Day-Lewis weren't in the movie, then Tommy Lee Jones would have stolen the whole thing" and I agree. I especially liked the lobbyists Seward hires to sway Democratic votes: James Spader, John Hawkes, and Tim Blake Nelson? What a trio! Spader is especially colorful - clearly he and Spielberg felt the movie needed to be leavened with levity.

It must be nice to be Spielberg and cast whoever you want in your films: I count SEVEN Academy Award winners or nominees in the cast:
  1. Daniel Day-Lewis
  2. Sally Field
  3. David Strathairn
  4. Hal Holbrook
  5. Tommy Lee Jones
  6. John Hawkes
  7. Jackie Earl Haley

Fun Fact: Hal Holbrook and Joseph Gordon-Levitt share a birthday, February 17 (56 years apart)
Theater Note: Before I had a child (and babysitters) I didn't care when a movie started. Now I am pissed off when they start showing 20 minutes of trailers at the time the movie is scheduled to start.
(With Emily, Black Friday 2012, Aviation Plaza Linden, NJ)

November 14, 2012

Celebration Day

I have a theory about successful rock and roll bands:
No successful rock and roll band has ever broken up and stayed broken up.
The financial incentives are eventually strong enough to reunite even the most broken of bands.
This theory only holds if all the band members are still alive. If key bandmembers die, the band may never reunite. (That gets to the core of what a "band" is - The Jimi Hendrix Experience never reunited, but were they really a band?) Even bands where the leader goes on to a successful solo career, sometimes a more lucrative career, they will still reunite: for example, I was disappointed but not surprised when The Police reunited after 20 years apart.
I have reviewed the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member groups and the exception that proves my rule is The Smiths. All the bandmembers are still with us, the band broke up 29 years ago and they're still broken up. I challenge you to name another successful rock and roll band that broke up and stayed broken up?
In my youth, the gold standard for reunions were The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. It felt like The Beatles were broken up forever and permanently (since John Lennon died.) But 25 years after they broke up, the Fab Three reunited for two "new" singles featuring zombie John Lennon on lead vocal.
Most successful bands reunite not to record new songs, but to tour, where the real money lies. Led Zeppelin broke up after John Bonham died in 1980. The three surviving members have never toured or recorded new material together, but they have performed:

  • 1985: The band reunites for Live Aid. Page described the performance as "pretty shambolic", while Plant characterized it as an "atrocity". Phil Collins, sitting in on drums, implied in an 2016 interview that Page was too impaired to play properly - "drooling" was the word he used.
  • 1988: The band reunites again for the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary Concert. Page described the performance as "one big disappointment", and Plant said that "the gig was foul".
  • 1995: The band plays at their Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction.
  • 2007: Led Zeppelin reunited for the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert, which is the subject of this movie.

Their performance is terrific. I found that the performance peeled away their mystique and revealed the band for what they really were: the original, and best, blues-rock band. They sound like every blues-rock band you've ever heard over the succeeding generations, but Led Zep invented it.

At the Regent Theater, Arlington, with George and Scott; the only other movie I ever saw there was another classic rock movie, A Hard Day's Night, ten years earlier.

November 13, 2012

Guys Movie Night: Skyfall

Bond has cut closer to the heart than ever before in SKYFALL.
Bond never actually hits a target
with his gun in this movie.
In the Daniel Craig Era, Casino Royale presented Bond as a impulsive, not-quite-ready-for-double-O-status killer, and Quantum of Solace was a underbaked, implausible mess (thank you writers' strike), this third 21st century Bond film tests Bond's body and soul. His body is tested with a shaky rehabilitation from a gunshot wound; his soul is tested with questions of his purpose, his mortality, and his roots.

Javier Bardem is compelling as the villain. His introductory scene is a single, motionless, shot: Bardem approaches us across a great room, growing slowly in size onscreen until he's literally in Bond's lap. He tells one of those folksy stories which become more and more creepy as they go along. By the time he's done, he has the audience in the palm of his hand.
Bardem's blond hair, and especially his fake blond eyelashes, were terribly distracting.
The major flaw in the movie is the plot. The machinations of the story are cobbled together from spare parts of other movies. I am not asking a James Bond story to reinvent the wheel, but when Bond hides out on a tropical beach, I expected him to pass Jason Bourne jogging by. When the villain escapes, I expected the Joker to be riding shotgun, or perhaps Loki?
It's still gripping, high-quality entertainment: (My grade = B plus), but the Bourne trilogy has raised the bar on spy movies, and I can sense the Bond franchise is playing catchup.

BOND & BOURNE MOVIES on Stub Hubby


November 1, 2012

Guys Movie Night: Seven Psychopaths

A sloppy and passe Tarantino-style shaggy-dog murder comedy. C-minus. Too gratuitously and graphically violent for even my calloused sensibility, and nowhere near sharp enough to hold my interest.
The opening scene is two hitmen, one dumb and one smart, dressed in black, casually discussing their next hit, John Dillinger, and the movies. Is writer-director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) deliberately honoring or parodying Pulp Fiction? It's too obvious to be a tribute and to on-the-nose to be a parody. There's plenty of late '90s style casual murder, colorful characters, tall tales, stories told in flashback, sex, nudity, and intense violence. This flavor of film was very fashionable in 1996 (see The Usual Suspects, Three Days In The Valley, Way of the Gun, and Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead), but it really rubbed me the wrong way.
The cast is all-star: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, and Tom Waits are good, although they seem to wander around the script with their dialog.
McDonagh was lucky to cast Harry Dean Stanton, Kevin Corrgian, and Gabourey Sidibe in bit parts.
I am fond of Slovenian native Zeljko Ivanek, with his grey complexion and dead blue eyes, he's a terrific character actor.
McDonagh's previous writing-directing effort, In Bruges, is also a darkly comic and surprisingly violent movie-- which I can recommend if you don't mind wholesale death of all the characters --but Seven Psychopaths fudges the tone out of whack. Also, the pacing in the last third grinds to a halt.
At the Belmont Studio Cinema with Adam, George, and Kevin

October 14, 2012

Argo

A sharp and gripping thriller, expertly tailored by director-producer-star Ben Affleck. Sustaining suspense in a movie where some of the audience know the ending (of the true-life story) is a challenge; Affleck keeps stirring the pot all the way through, and keeps the suspense high until the end. My grade: A-minus.
The opening sequence- a reenactment of the storming of the US Embassy in Tehran (November 1979) is terrifying. I don't know any of the history of these events, but it's shocking that the embassy remained open at the time. Why didn't the State Department pull their servicemen out sooner? The scenes of mob violence, and the capture of the diplomats, all hit home hard after the events in Benghazi on 9/11/2012.
In the wake of the capture and the beginning of the hostage crisis, CIA "exfil" expert Tony Mendez (Affleck with bad 70s hair) is called in to consult with State. Bryan Cranston is Mendez' boss, and he deserves a medal for his flawless and entertaining exposition. He briefs Mendez during a walk-and-talk through Langley, and he manages to explain for us the complete political-diplomatic-bureaucratic landscape in a fast-paced monologue, in a perfect balance of clarity, in-house jargon, and humor. "(President) Carter's shitting enough bricks to build the pyramids" is one memorable line.
I don't think anyone says the words "this plan is so crazy, it just might work" but that's essentially the idea. The only way to extract six Americans from Iran during the revolution is to cook up a crazy plan, develop a deep background, and rely on sloppy Iranian bookkeeping to bluff your way through.
Mendez goes to Hollywood to set up a complete fake movie production company, where John Goodman, Alan Arkin, and Richard Kind provide terrific comic relief. As much as I like Goodman, I feel like he's overused-- until I saw a photo of the real Oscar-winning makeup artist he's playing.
I appreciated that Argo shines a light on Americans who are rarely recognized for their hard work- foreign service workers toiling for the US in some of the most dangerous places on Earth; and the unknown officers of the intelligence services, choosing to fly into Iran to save the lives of strangers, with little hope of success. It's a thankless, heroic occupation, far from the land of spies or assassins, these men and women are acting covertly to save lives.
CASTING NOTES: Set in 1979, the hairstyles, grooming choices, and eyeglasses of the Americans in Iran are regrettable. It's easy to doubt that any man would ever choose to comb his hair that way, or that any woman ever thought those eyeglasses would work for her. Color me surprised during the closing credits, when photos of the characters were matched with the real-life passport photos of the six Americans-- those combovers and the walrus mustache are all authentic. Plus, the actors closely resemble the real people- when you're casting actors to play obscure historical figures, the only reason to cast the parts so well is out of respect.
Both Kyle Chandler and Chris Messina are having their "moments" these days; I see these two everywhere! Since Friday Night Lights went off the air, Chandler made Super 8, Argo, and four more features either in the can or filming now, two directed by Oscar winners Martin Scorsese (The Wolf Of Wall Street) and Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty).
Since I saw Chris Messina in Julie & Julia in 2008, he's appeared in 11 movies, plus he's a regular on The Newsroom, Damages, and The Mindy Project.

October 9, 2012

The Robot Arm Was Early Today

8:10am, my son sounded the alarm.
"I hear the robot arm! The robot arm is coming!"
This is not the opening scene to a sci-fi movie. The "robot arm" is mounted on our new town garbage truck. Two minimum-wage jumpsuit-jockeys have been replaced with a giant robotic arm: the robot arm can collect all the garbage, and the driver never has to get out of the truck. Needless to say this is the coolest thing a two-year-old has ever seen, and I think it's pretty neat too.
Unfortunately, the robot arm was early this week, and I hadn't rolled our toter to the curb yet. I literally had this week's kitchen garbage bag in my hand when I heard the diesel engine. I ran downstairs in my shorts and tee shirt, and just barely caught the guy before he passed us by.
All this got me thinking about COMMANDO.
At the opening of the movie, Arnold is a retired black ops soldier, and his fellow squad members are being assassinated. One of his men is asleep at dawn when he and his wife hear the diesel truck engine down the street. They belatedly realize that they haven't taken the trash out yet. The guy dumps the kitty litter in the bag, and hustles down the driveway in his bathrobe and slippers to catch the truck before it passes them by.
The truck is backing up to the end of the guy's driveway. Two garbage men are hanging off the back.
"I thought you'd miss me." the man says.
One garbageman pulls the bandana off his face.
"We won't."
 The two garbage men (actually villainous ex-soldiers / hitmen- that's Bill Duke [right]) shoot the guy to death, then dump their weapons into the back of the truck and drive away.
What was their plan to murder this guy exactly?
  • Steal a garbage truck
  • Drive to the target's house
  • Hope that the truck's engine noise wakes him up
  • Hope that he realizes that he's hearing the garbage truck
  • Hope that he forgot to take out the garbage the night before
  • Hope that he decides to race out to the curb with his trash?
I guess it's possible that their plan was to park the garbage truck in front of his house, trudge up the driveway, break in, murder the guy, then walk back to the truck and drive away?
They must have been thrilled when the guy ran down to meet them out front. Saves them all that walking.
NOTE: Thanks to Legion's Fate blog for the screen caps. His weapon-centric plot synopsis is terrific, and funny too.

October 8, 2012

Looper

A smart and thoughtful vision, and a clever exploration of time travel, but Looper's overcomplicated time-travel Möbius strip muddles the motivations and heart of the movie. Emily Blunt and her young son provide some emotional heft, but the movie (and my brain) spent too much energy placing the puzzle pieces together to appreciate the journey the characters were taking. B-minus.

The year is 2044. Joe is a Mob hitman whose 30 - years - older self comes back in time to change the course of "history". Problem is, the Mob wants Old Joe dead, and Young Joe has no future as long as Old Joe defies his fate.
After 30 years of crime and loneliness, Old Joe finally found peace and true love. This is all ripped away by the new boss of his old Mob, so Old Joe's motivations are clear- go back 30 years and prevent the ascent of the mysterious "Rainmaker" who would someday rule the Mob and destroy all he had to live for. Yes, this is the plot of the second "Terminator" movie, except the "John Connor" in Looper is 10 years old and destined to be an evil kingpin, not the leader of the resistance.
Young Joe doesn't appreciate Old Joe's struggle against destiny. Young Joe is thinking short-term: he cannot escape the wrath of the Mob in the here-and-now, as long as his older self defies his fate and muddles in his own history, so Young Joe must kill Old Joe before the Mob catches up to them both.

 Young Joe is the protagonist of the film, and I am puzzled by his motivation. He begins the film as a cold-blooded assassin who is struggling against his destiny: doomed to be executed when the Mob can no longer use him. He hoards his treasure, in the hopes that he can escape his fate someday. So when his older self arrives and explains what will become of him, Young Joe does not join forces with Old Joe to change the course of his life. Instead, he refuses to be told what will become of him. It seems unrealistic, even in the hopeless near-future where this movie is set, to imagine any 30 year old trying to kill themselves at age 60 instead of taking a chance at extending that deadline. Doesn't there need to be an emotional arc for the protagonist to travel?
At the halfway mark, the movie transforms in to the standard Western "standoff at the isolated farmhouse" template- screen doors, pickup trucks, vagrants sleeping in the barn, creaky floorboards, you name it. Emily Blunt (flawless American accent) is Sara, the tough single mother with a shotgun, defending her young son (Pierce Gagnon). Young Joe is the dangerous stranger whom Sara slowly begins to trust; she literally helps clean out his wounds while talking all folksy. All we needed was a cowboy hat.
The sci-fi fan in me appreciated the cleverness of the time travelling: Young Joe cannot keep anything from Old Joe- as soon as Young Joe does something, Old Joe "remembers" it.  Remember Marty McFly's family photo, with the disappearing siblings? In Looper, a retired hitman's fingers begin to disappear as his younger self is tortured to death.
The aspect of Looper that I thought would be the biggest problem: Joseph Gordon-Levitt's prosthetic appliances, combined with his Bruce Willis impression, turned out to be surprisingly good. It doesn't change the fact that we all remember what Bruce Willis really looked like 30 years ago. If I were the director, I probably would have just ignored the issue and left off the prosthetics, but they probably helped more than they hurt.
Bruce Willis 30 years ago and today; JGL playing Bruce at that age (center)

October 1, 2012

140 Trippin, Throwin, Rollin, & Tumblin

  1. "Cleo's Mood" Jr. Walker & The All-Stars
  2. "Tripping Billies" [live at Luther College 2-6-96] Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds
  3. "Throwing It All Away" Genesis
  4. "Hate To See You Like This" Fountains of Wayne
  5. "Hang Loose" Alabama Shakes
  6. "Sway" Rolling Stones
  7. "Feels Like The First Time" Foreigner; when he recorded it, did Lou Gramm know he was singing a future staple of strip clubs for decades to come?
  8. "Airstream Driver" Gomez
  9. "Gold On The Ceiling" The Black Keys
  10. "Miracle Man" [live] Elvis Costello & The Attractions; from a Stiff Records sampler Stiffs Live
  11. "We're Going To Be Friends" The White Stripes
  12. "Age of Consent" New Order
  13. "Ho Hey" The Lumineers
  14. "If I Wanted Someone" Dawes sounds like Daryl Hall & Crazy Horse, and that's okay with me.
  15. "Hello Hello" Missy Higgins
  16. "Everybody Loves You Now" [live July 1980, Bayou, Washington DC] In 1981, Billy Joel released Songs In The Attic:
    "At the time of its release, it was unique as being the first widely available appearance of music from his first album, Cold Spring Harbor [1971].
    Songs in the Attic introduced Billy Joel's early work to fans who had only come to know his work after The Stranger [1977]. In his earlier work, most of the instruments were played by session musicians, but by the late 1970s, Joel had a fairly consistent touring group, and so he wanted to showcase the songs with this band."
    Growing up as a Billy Joel fan, with Billy Joel as a musical cultural constant throughout the 1980s, I never ever heard this song. Two other live recordings from this album appeared on his 1985 two-disc Greatest Hits collection: "Say Goodbye To Hollywood" (June 1980, Milwaukee Arena) and "She's Got A Way", (June 1980, solo piano, The Paradise Rock Club!) It was almost as if his Greatest Hits collection was the limit of his catalog. I discovered this song in 2012, while listening to Alec Baldwin interview Joel on his podcast Here's The Thing.
  17. "Any Little Town" The Push Stars
  18. "Rollin' and Tumblin'" Bob Dylan
  19. "Smile Big" Leftover Cuties; as heard in a hurdles-themed running commercial during the London Summer Olympics
  20. "Must of Got Lost" J. Geils Band
  21. "Bad Girls" M.I.A.; as heard in The Mindy Project pilot.

September 22, 2012

The Master

THE MASTER was really terrific. I have grown very fond of PT Anderson's show-don't-tell, anything can and will happen style. This was not as good as There Will Be Blood, but it's a brilliant, riveting, and unsettling character study. A-minus.
Philip Seymour Hoffman is The Master, a spiritual leader in post-war America, a genius at drawing desperate souls into his cult of personality. His brand of path-finding gibberish is brilliant. The parallels to L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology are obvious. Joaquin Phoenix is a psychotic, alcoholic drifter whom Hoffman draws into his inner circle. Don't expect much more story than that. There's no a-b-c character arc. The minimal plot makes it tough to keep the pace moving, there's an almost inevitable soggy slow portion three-quarters of the way through.
Ace performances from Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams (who previously played Father and Sister together in Doubt; they were both in Charlie Wilson's War too). Adams is not just a pretty face. She's downright scary in this film. If she's deliberately walking away from girl-girl roles, I don't care, the results are terrific. Must have been a change of pace from The Muppets? Joaquin Phoenix went a little too Method for me, with his contorted face and lockjaw dialog. His self-destructive jail cell scene was wayyyy too Raging Bull.
Sometimes I feel Jonny Greenwood's musical scores in PTA's movies are Anderson reflexively avoiding traditional Hollywood scoring. I watched the full trailer for LINCOLN this week, featuring another John Williams score, and I imagine Anderson repulsed and sneering at its lyrical beauty.
Also worth noting: the movie was shot in 65mm, and the fine grain and gorgeous detail was worth it. THE MASTER is the first fictional film shot in 65mm (not IMAX) since Ken Branagh's HAMLET in 1996 (which I saw projected in 65mm at the Kendall.)
"Sixty-five millimeter" can mean several things; check out the examples (below):
Most movies that are still shot on film, are 4p 35mm (far right.) Which of those three other formats was THE MASTER shot in? I did some digging. Cigarettes & Red Vines posted these photos of the negative cutting:

Red Vines rotated and reversed that photo to show us a positive image (see right)- THE MASTER is shot in "five perf" 65mm, meaning there's five perforations (sprocket holes) per frame. According to Pro Video Coalition, nearly 75% of the 137 minute movie was shot in 65mm.

THEATER NOTES: I saw THE MASTER at the Landmark Embassy in Waltham with my lovely wife (thanks to the in-laws for babysitting) and kudos as well to the aging boomer audience who remained completely SILENT throughout the film. I would have lost money betting on couples chatter. I assumed the plot was opaque enough to cause folks to narrate for their spouses, but perhaps the movie was so gripping they kept quiet?Here's one more image of the five perf 65mm film I found on Tumblr:

ALSO BY Paul Thomas Anderson on Stub Hubby:  There Will Be Blood and Punch-Drunk Love. By Phillip Seymour Hoffman: Moneyball, The Invention of Lying, Capote, Cold Mountain, Almost Famous, The Talented Mister Ripley, Twister, and Nobody's Fool. By Amy Adams: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and Catch Me If You Can. By Joaquin Phoenix: Walk The Line, The Village, Signs, Gladiator, and To Die For. (I saw Parenthood [1989] in the theater when I was 17, but I don't have a post for it)

September 13, 2012

Genetics and The Weasley Family

You can't see everyone's hair in this photo,
but trust me, they're all redheads.
It's always frustrated me that the entire Weasley family are redheads.
Yes, I will give a pass to all the magical happenings in the Harry Potter stories, but it's annoying (and genetically unlikely) that two redheads will meet, and that all seven of their kids will have red hair!
This article on Boing Boing, debunking the myth that redheads are being bred out of existence, points out:
"Only 1% of humans are redheads, but 4% of humans carry a copy of the gene that makes redheads. You could be a carrier and not even know it. So could your spouse. Two redheads are unlikely to make a brunette, but two brunettes can make a redhead."
I am assuming that Muggle genetics and Magical genetics work the same way!
It's easy to assume there are more redheads in England than the worldwide average of 1%, so it's not extrordinary for Arthur and Molly Weasley (the parents) to find each other. But what are the odds of all seven offspring having red hair? Anyone know?
Related:

August 31, 2012

139 Cheap Sunglasses

  1. "Go Your Own Way" A powerful cover of the Fleetwood Mac song, by The Cranberries. The hardest rocking, fastest paced Cranberries performance I've ever heard? From Legacy, a Tribute to Rumours
  2. "Something Happened on the Way to Heaven" Full Phil Collins disclosure: I already owned No Jacket Required and Face Value on CD, plus a CD collection of all the remixes from No Jacket Required, plus some Genesis 12 inch singles from Invisible Touch. I also love "Easy Lover". This summer I picked up the entire Phil Collins Hits collection on the Amazon MP3 store for 99 cents. Who can argue with prices like this?
  3. "Give It Away" Red Hot Chili Peppers; after seeing Matthew Sweet and O Positive perform this summer, I am feeling a little early 90s nostalgia.
  4. "Runaway Baby" A real mixed message from Bruno Mars- I also bought Doo-Wops & Hooligans for 99 cents.
  5. "Cheap Sunglasses" Fun ZZ Top blues that takes it sweet time to wander around and finally come to a halt.I already owned a lot of ZZ Top when I picked up their 38-track "Best Of" collection Rancho Texicano for $2.99
  6. Love this cover. The band manages to
    look cool while goofing off. Look at
    Paul Carrack's face!
  7. "Money's Too Tight (To Mention)" I was obsessed with this Simply Red song as a teenager, but listening to it now, the personalized verses and anti-Reagan lyrics don't jibe with an English singer. Turns out it's a cover of The Valentine Brothers, which explains the distinct American perspective in a song sung by an English band.
  8. "Pink Bedroom" A John Hiatt song, later covered by Roseanna Cash, from his 1980 album Two-Bit Monsters.
  9. "Labelled With Love" A country ballad from Squeeze East Side Story
  10. "All That Heaven Will Allow" A cover of the Springsteen song by The Mavericks. Am I the only Springsteen fan who loves Tunnel Of Love? Does Bruce hate it? I feel like the only one.
  11. "Just A Boy" I used SoundHound to find the name of this Angus & Julia Stone song (heard in a store)
  12. "Suppose" Buffalo Tom
  13. Love this cover!
  14. "Most Likely You Go Your Way (and I'll Go Mine)" This summer I read some insightful rock criticism on Bob Dylan in the Ellen Willis collection Out of The Vinyl Deeps. Recommended for some honest, well-described, contemporaneous perspective on Dylan.
  15. "Girl Of My Dreams" I found this one-hit power pop wonder from Bram Tchaikovsky on the three-disc Poptopia collection circa 2000; I bought the LP Strange Man Changed Man at John Doe Records in Hudson NY this summer. Did I buy it for the cool cover art? A little bit.
  16. "Young Blood" The Naked And Famous
  17. "(You're So Square) Baby, I Don't Care" Cee Lo Green; from a Buddy Holly tribute
  18. "Honey Love" I recently backfilled my golden oldies collection with a ridiculous MP3 deal on Amazon.com-- 111 Rock 'N' Roll Superhits for $2.99? That's 2 cents per song! Amongst the "super" hits is this ska-ish tune from Bunny Paul, a cover of a Clyde McPhatter song.
  19. "My Old School" My CD copy of A Decade Of Steely Dan was mastered nearly 30 years ago, at a tiny fraction of the volume level you can expect from today's CDs and MP3s mastered in the 21st century
    Most indifferent album cover ever, or
    quintessential triumph of slick 80s
    graphic design over substance?
  20. "The Battle of Evermore"; Led Zeppelin featuring Sandy Denny - I never realized that Robert Plant does not sing this entire song- I assumed he double-tracked the parts that overlap. Turns out Plant shares the mic with Fairport Convention singer Sandy Denny (1947-1978), the pre-eminent British folk-rock singer.  My friend George (mandolin) and me (guitar) took a shot at playing this song this summer. George did a respectable job imitating Denny's soprano vocals!
  21. "Cemetery Guns" Fountains of Wayne
  22. "Winter Winds" Mumford & Sons; both of these last two songs were on my list of artists to catch up with in my August post Falling Behind.

August 12, 2012

Total Recall (2012)

I saw the remake of Total Recall, but I don't remember it. OR DO I? DUM Dum Dummmmmmm...
I think I was with Adam, at the Somerville Theater, but that may be a memory implant.
ALSO: Here's my review of the 1990 movie

August 1, 2012

Falling Behind

On my 45-min commute, I've been listening to podcasts almost exclusively for ages. I've totally fallen behind listening to music! In the past year, I've bought albums by The Jayhawks, White Stripes, Black Keys (El Camino and Brothers), Mumford & Sons, Alabama Shakes, Wilco, and Bruce Springsteen, but only listened to them once or not at all! I'm remedying this starting today. Right now I'm listening to Fountains Of Wayne Sky Full of Holes, an album I bought a year ago this week but only listened to once. If you see more of these bands in upcoming music mixes, this is why.

July 22, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Brutal, overlong, redundant, needlessly complex, and mostly Batman-free. My grade: C-plus.
My feeling walking out of the theater was that Christopher Nolan did not have a strong need to make a third movie. DKR retreads many of the same ideas explored in Batman Begins, but with a scarier villain than Ras Al Guhl.
Stub Hubby Review: Batman Begins & The Dark Knight
Ann Hathaway nailed it,
and the costume looks
less fake than this too.
What did I like about DKR? Bane is menacing, Anne Hathaway's Catwoman is just as I remember her from Frank Miller's Batman: Year One, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is strong as a passionate, hotheaded cop. Burn Gorman (Torchwood, Bleak House, Layer Cake) is a creepy-looking minion. I liked the imagery of the prison pit, even if this Jungian metaphor was covered already in Batman Begins. There's only so much "freshman year philosophy" (as my wife calls it) I can take before it becomes meaningless. Bruce Wayne is strong because he doesn't fear death. No wait, fearing death makes you strong? Either way, I don't think you can repair a compound fracture of a back vertebrae by hanging the patient from a rope and punching them in the back, no matter how many push-ups you do afterwards. What's the co-pay for that? The last act takes place in wintertime, and the snow was very realistic, and I loved the drifting, floating snowflakes a lot. Very convincing.
I have not read Bane-Batman comics before, and neither have millions of moviegoers, so what he's like on the page isn't relevant. Bane is a force of nature. He is an implacable pile of deadly muscles. He moves slowly but with complete economy of motion. Each death by his hand (or boot, or knee) is a model of efficiency. Bane wears a gas mask and speaks through it like Darth Vader. I know secondhand that in the comics Bane's strength comes from the gas, but I think we're told in DKR that, also like Vader, the gas mask merely keeps movie Bane alive. I repeat this Vader comparison because no one has ever complained about comprehending Vader's dialog in the Star Wars movies. I could only make out about half of what Bane said in DKR. At first, I just wrote it off- as long as I got the gist of his dialog, I could keep up, right? This turned out to be not good enough. Bane's worldview is the engine for all the action in the movie. It was impossible for me to get behind the purpose of the chaos if I barely understood why it was happening in the first place.
In a pivotal scene -- a scene that sets in motion the last 45 minutes of the movie -- Bane addresses a football stadium via a referee's radio headset. I literally thought to myself- how is anyone going to be able to make out what he's saying? This is like talking at the McDonald's drive-thru intercom, with a walkie-talkie!

Also, the tenor and accent of Bane's dialog was completely inconsistent. Sometimes the rich aristocratic melodic tone was there, sometimes not. Sometimes it sounded like he was talking into a red Solo cup, sometimes a tin can. I was baffled by this. Looking at Darth Vader as a model, I'm stunned that this essential component to the success of the film was botched so badly. Tom Hardy is so compelling in Nolan's previous movie, Inception, it's a shame his portrayal, while magnetic in the physicality and sheer terror, was ultimately flawed.

Also- Stub Hubby Review: Inception

I like surprises. I like twists. I just complained in my Brave review last week that the whole second half of Brave was a pedestrian "let's get it over with" slog. So how did DKR surprise me in a bad way? This might be hard to explain without giving it all away, but I'll try. I am all in favor of twists and reveals. You can have twists where characters are keeping secrets, and when they're revealed, what came before becomes more powerful. Unfortunately, the big reveal in DKR undermines what came before, and serves only as a clever misdirection on the part of the screenwriter. The big secret, revealed in the last half hour, makes the main conflict at the heart of the movie hollow and irrelevant.

Just as Nolan avoided sequel-itis with The Dark Knight, DKR has all the symptoms of the dreaded affliction in this third installment:
  • Characters from the last movie return for no good reason • Actually, Dr. Crane coming back for no good reason isn't a bad thing- it's a brief dose of levity in a relentlessly grim third act.
  • The protagonist gets less screen time than the antagonist • Worst case ever- Batman is barely in the first act of the movie, Bruce Wayne is literally absent for the entire second act of the movie too.
  • The superhero gets new gadgets or vehicles • Batman gives the Bat-cycle to Catwoman, and Lucius Fox gives Wayne a new Bat-plane. It's too bad, because the arrival of the Bat-plane explains how the movie is going to end for us.
  • Too many opponents • Too many everyone in this movie- Nolan has to keep the following major characters moving:
    1. Batman - kept on ice for whole middle of the movie
    2. Bane - the real star of the movie
    3. Catwoman
    4. Comissioner Gordon - he's missing in the hospital for the whole first half of the action
    5. Alfred - He retires halfway through. What was the point of Alfred leaving if he doesn't reappear at the most opportune moment to rescue Bruce when he needs helping the most?
    6. Lucius Fox - Explaining plot details real folksy-like
    7. Marion Cotillard - Her part of the movie is boring yet essential to moving the plot along.
    8. Joseph Gordon Levitt - A hotheaded GPD cop, no surprise here, he's the Robin character, even if Nolan thinks we're supposed to be surprised.
Really terrific.
 Setting: Batman Begins and TDK looked like they were filmed in Chicago- aerial shots looked like a more intricate New York City-ish coastline. DKR looks and feels exactly like New York City. The aerial shots look like NYC, the Empire State Building is featured, I think I saw One World Trade Center too. Uninventing a fictional Gotham is weird when Wayne Manor in Batman Begins looks like the pastoral countryside of England, transplanted to New Jersey's Palisades in DKR. It was completely disconcerting to watch all the bridges to Manhattan blown up. It crossed a line between comic book Gotham City and a world where 9-11 happened.

Stub Hubby & Batman

July 21, 2012

138 Seven Day Weekend

  1.  "Seven Day Weekend" Elvis Costello & Jimmy Cliff; the opening titles song from the terrible 1986 comedy Club Paradise
  2. "Awake" Letters To Cleo, from their major-label sophomore debut, Wholesale Meats & Fish. I didn't remember that I knew this mid-90s nugget until I heard it again.
  3. "Always On The Run" (aka the "My mama said..." song) Lenny Kravitz, featuring Slash
  4. "Merry Happy" I heard this Kate Nash on a TV show, but I don't remember which.
  5. "Easy Heaven"  Brat's MasterMix mashes up "Easy Like Sunday Morning" with "Just Like Heaven". It's flawless.
  6. "Losing My Religion" (live) R.E.M. did not tour to support Out Of Time, but they did a TON of live acoustic TV appearances, plus a handful of concerts. I have two different live recordings of this song from that period, released as B-sides. I forget which this is.
  7. "Overflow"  O Positive are channeling The Cure on this track from the Theodore Alternative Music Sampler.
  8. "Call Me Maybe" I paid 25c for Carly Rae Jespen's megahit.
  9. "The Right Thing" (extended version) Simply Red, from the twelve inch single. A far better arrangement than the version on the Women & Men LP.
  10. "Dancing In The Dark" (live) Mat Kearney; I heard a solo acoustic performance of the Springsteen song in a tee shirt shop in Provincetown on vacation. My SoundHound app could not identify it. I found a bunch of covers on iTunes, and this recording sounds like it might be the one I heard that day. I used to call this Bruce's "sellout" song, as it was written by the request of Bruce's manager Jon Landau to be the leadoff single from Born In The U.S.A. Some years ago I realized I was holding a grudge against this song for no good reason, and started to like it again. Also, I saw Bruce perform it on his London Calling Live DVD, where the arrangement makes it sound almost like Born To Run!
  11. "Truly Truly" Grant Lee Buffalo; another mid-90s song I forgot I knew until I heard it again.
  12. "The Cave" Mumford & Sons
  13. "Octopus's Garden" An exciting re-arrangement from The Beatles LOVE Cirque du Soleil album.
  14. "Saints" The Breeders; "Summer is ready when you are."
  15. "Little Head" John Hiatt
  16. "You Make It So Hard (To Say No)" Boz Scaggs
  17. "Heavy Dream" Parlour Bells are a Boston-based cabaret-rock band, reminiscent of Duran Duran, if they'd liked Roxy Music more and disco less.
  18. "Come Inside" Orbit
  19. "Birthday" Paul Weller covers Paul McCartney for his birthday.
  20. "Mercy" Duffy
  21. "New Slang" The Shins 
Parlour Bells, live at the Paradise June 30th,
the night I saw them at the WFNX farewell party.

July 15, 2012

Brave

Over the last twenty years, Pixar has upended Disney's traditional dominance of animated features with its modern and progressive filmmaking. Ironically, when a female protagonist finally gets her own Pixar film, it's the most old-fashioned and "Disneyfied" film in Pixar's history. And I, The Stub Hubby, feel like a knuckle-dragging "guy" for not connecting with the mother-daughter dynamic at the heart of the film.
Pixar has mastered the art of convincing CGI hair, but this is showing off.
The Disney feature Mulan covered this same ground 14 years ago, and better too- if memory serves. I may need to rewatch it! This column on Time.com covers the feminist failures better than I can. What I will say is that the reason that more movies don't have female protagonists, is that Hollywood believes that men won't go see a movie about women. That's why the red-headed teenager pictured above is barely in the TV spots- you'd think the movie was wall-to-wall adolescent hijinks based on the commercials that aired during the NBA Finals. People like to think that Pixar is some untainted artist's enclave on a mountaintop, but their movies need to make money too.
Brave feels like an aggressively traditional movie, and not just because it's set in ancient Scotland. It's a true fairy tale, the first fairy tale movie Pixar has attempted, and I was surprised and disappointed when the teenage princess with the modern ideas about free will and independence believes in faeries, fate, witches, and spells. I couldn't reconcile a young woman who wants to break convention and choose her own path in the world, with a land where faeries lead you to a witch with a magic spell.
Just as the queen was about to swallow the magic potion, I was eager to walk out. Dusting off the "magic potion" framework removed all drama for me. The remainder of the film was a "let's get it over with" chore, since I knew that the princess and queen would, in the nick of time, successfully fufill the rules of the magic and break the spell. If your response to this is "this is a movie for children", then that means I have to hold this film to a lower standard than all the previous Pixar films...except Cars and Cars 2, which also only succeeded as children's entertainment.
I have to give Brave a C-plus. Your totally male film reviewer, The Stub Hubby, apologizes, and is off to watch Field Of Dreams.
(Landmark Embassy Theater Waltham)

ALSO ON STUB HUBBY: I Attempt To Rank All The Pixar Movies

June 10, 2012

Prometheus

Ambitious, gorgeous, thought-provoking, but imperfect. My Grade: B
In the week leading up to Prometheus, I watched my Alien DVD (1979) with the commentary track on. Near the end of the film, director Ridley Scott openly ruminates on making a prequel. Scott and Sigourney Weaver agree that a prequel would have to answer fundamental questions about the origins of Alien: What is that horseshoe-ship? Who is the space jockey? Where do the Aliens come from? If you have soaked your brain in the Alien movies as much as I have, good news: Prometheus answers those questions thoroughly, and those answers make very satisfying sense to me. If you have only a casual appreciation of the Alien movies, the movie is still satisfying, but all the pieces won't snap as neatly into place as they do for me.
Ridley Scott has honored the dedication fans feel for his original Alien story. Scott has examined the origins of the Aliens in a broader context of the meanings of life itself, and our place in the universe, without marching out the slimy eggpods, facehuggers, chest-bursters, or xenomorphs we have seen far too much of in the last 20 years.
The premise and much of the plot is very similar to Alien: spaceship lands on mysterious planet, the true nature of the mission is a secret, chain of command collapses among crewmembers, reckless disregard of safety endangers everyone.
I said that this movie does not include the creatures we've seen before. I imagine that Scott felt that, after SIX movies, those creepy crawlies have no scares left in them.
The irony is that this movie's creatures are even more grotesque than the genus we're used to. The scares come from the unknown "how will this organism manifest itself"? They're not as viscerally unique, but the phallic and vaginal imagery is... "obscene" is the best word I can think for it. If you don't mind squirming in your seat, you can survive this movie, but the images won't leave you for days.
It's this blend of big thinking and obscene violations of the human body which set the tone off-kilter. The scientists that lead this mission are not metaphorically seeking the origins of man: they're literally seeking the origins of man, and they speak openly and repeatedly about it. This philosophical examination is powerful and works very well, but the cuts between these deep thoughts, and scenes of heads exploding, crewmembers getting violated by tentacles, and liberal application of flame throwers is a little jarring. ~~Landmark Embassy Cinema Waltham, with Emily
The cast is uniformly terrific, including Charlize Theron and Idris Elba.

2016 Notes: Rewatching the movie this summer, I noticed the parallels with the movie 2001? At the beginning of the of the movie they find cave paintings on Earth which are a direct signal that aliens visited Earth millennia ago and these messages are a clue for a future civilization. This is just like the monolith on the moon in the movie 2001: a marker left behind in a place where only an advanced civilization could discover it. Also, the main musical theme is really evocative and I love it. Composer's name is Marc Streitenfeld!


BONA FIDES: What kind of fanatic am I? I have been a fan of Alien since the first time it scared me. I was too young (seven) to see it in the theater in 1979, and we didn't have cable growing up, so I probably first saw Alien in the mid-1980s, after everyone got VCRs. I saw Aliens in the theater in 1986: one of the rare sequels that is as good (if very different) from the original. The awesomeness of these two movies combined cemented that pesky xenomorph in my cultural imagination. When I was a clerk at a laser videodisc store in 1994-95, I bought both Alien and Aliens box sets - Alien was the theatrical cut with tons of extras, and Aliens included the extended edition with lots of extras. I have also seen Alien3 and Alien Resurrection in the theater. In 2003, I saw Scott's slightly extended Alien director's cut in the theater as well. A few years ago I finally sold my laser disc player and repurchased both Alien and Aliens on DVD.
Stub Hubby Reviews Ridley Scott

May 5, 2012

Guys Movie Night: The Avengers

It's not much fun writing about great movies, so this one is short.
Marvel's The Avengers is pretty much perfect. An impressive feat considering the challenge of making a movie with four stars (or seven, depending on how you count). Congratulations to writer/director Joss Whedon and co-writer Zak Penn* for taking seven already defined characters, give them backstories, and mix them in a movie together, and make it work. With his track record on Firefly and Buffy, I should have known Whedon could make ensembles work, and anyone who's seen the Reaver-Alliance space battle scenes in Serenity knew the action would be airtight.

NOTE: If you're not one of the 49,000,000 Americans who's seen it already, you must stay in the theater all the way until all the credits are done, for the funniest scene in any movie ever. Well worth the wait. According to Box Office Mojo, The Avengers is #96 in All-Time Domestic Box Office (Adjusted for Inflation). That's 49,000,000 tickets sold for $389,000,000, right in between Terminator 2 and Indiana Jones 3. This chart does not count the hundreds of millions earned overseas.
NOTE: Zak Penn (born 1968) is the least-known creative person who I've never heard of in the comic movie world. (did that make any sense?) He wrote the story or screenplay for The Last Action Hero, Inspector Gadget, X-Men 2, Elektra, X-Men: The Last Stand (aka X-Men 3), and The Incredible Hulk.

Other Marvel Superhero Movies I've Seen, (not already hotlinked above)
Guys Movie Night at Loews Boston Common with Adam and Angus. The theater and audience were both wonderful, although I am still not a fan of 3D. My right eye waters the whole time I'm using those glasses. I also developed a strong headache, although the three or four servings of tequila I enjoyed in my margaritas at dinner may have contributed! The lobby of the theater was complete anarchy. I bought my ticket in advance but did not print it out. I had never had a problem with the automatic ticket machines until that night. There were two rows of five machines in the lobby. The group we chose had a small line waiting, BUT three of the five machines were not working, probably due to overwhelming demand. The machine I used literally gave up in the middle of my transaction: it printed my ticket...then, before it could cut my ticket from the roll and print the receipt separately, it died. I had to carefully yank my precious ticket out of the machine without ripping it, then, once the whole ticket was exposed, I used the outer housing of the machine as a crude edge to rip my ticket off the roll. By the time Angus and I managed to print our tickets (Adam printed his in advance and saved us some great seats) the line behind us was crazy long. Lessons learned:
  • I wanted to go on opening night to enjoy the full house reactions to the movie. Be prepared for the dark side of opening night too!
  • Always print your ticket in advance.
  • I keep saying 3D never again. Maybe it'll stick this time.
  • Never go to Boston Common again, at least not on the weekend.
  • Drink lots of water before drinking so much tequila.

April 9, 2012

Guys Movie Night: Wrath of the Titans

Slightly better, and a smidge less self-serious than 2010's Clash of the Titans.
Sam Worthington has loosened up a bit, and I am really fond of Rosamund Pike (Queen Andromeda). She must be playing a mythological character, because no ancient Greek queen could spend so much time outdoors and maintain such flawless porcelain skin. Perseus spends the movie looking like he's nursing a hangover after being dragged behind a truck, while Andromeda looks like she just stepped out of The Body Shop.
Put. my moisturizer. down. Now!
Many can't-believe-they-agreed-to-this scenes with Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson as Hades and Zeus. English actor Toby Kebbell's authentically dreadlocked hair and mangy moustache looked like a Edgar Wright/Jason Reitman hybrid.
That's Toby Kebbell (Agenor "the Navigator") in the center.
But which is Edgar and which is Jason?
Regal Fenway Screen 4, with Adam, Angus, Jose, Marc, and Murph. My first screening in Number 4, it's a very nice theater, considering it's tucked away in the farthest corner of the cinema.
If we had known Wrath of the Tit was playing, we would have seen it in 3D!

March 31, 2012

137 Right Down The Line

Nicki Bluhm
  1. "Careless Whisper" Ben Folds & Rufus Wainwright; live at Mountain Winery, Saratoga CA. Found while browsing Ben Folds' retrospective box set.
  2. "Right Down The Line" Bonnie Raitt covers the Gerry Rafferty song. Heard on the stereo at Redbones.
  3. "California Soul" Marlena Shaw, heard in The Italian Job
  4. "Right As Rain" Adele
  5. "It Ain't Over Til It's Over" from before Lenny Kravitz became totally insufferable.
  6. "Dreamsome" Shelby Lynne
  7. "Driving Sideways" Aimee Mann
  8. "How Blue Can You Get" B.B. King, live at Madison Square Garden, November 1969. From the Rolling Stones Get Yer Ya Yas Out!
  9. "Split Needles" The Shins
  10. "My Favorite Mistake" Sheryl Crow
  11. "Solitaire" Wilco, heard in the movie Friends With Kids
  12. "Pink Moon" Nick Drake
  13. "How You Like Me Now" The Heavy
  14. "Hold On" I will admit that All Things Considered introduced me to The Alabama Shakes.
  15. "Stick With Me" Nicki Bluhm
  16. "My Valentine" Paul McCartney
  17. "Lonely Boy" The Black Keys
  18. "Houses Of The Holy" Led Zeppelin
  19. "Last Night" The Strokes
  20. "What You Need" INXS
  21. "Promised Land" Elvis Presley

March 28, 2012

The Hunger Games

Preview: My friend Mary Beth and I are going to see The Hunger Games tonight, at a theater almost as scary as the Games. Read my separate post about the AMC Loews Harvard Square 5 to learn all about it. So it was with much reluctance that I just paid $11.50 to buy my ticket in advance for this location. There is no way to tell in advance on which screen your screening is showing.The good news: after I paid my money, Fandango.com provided my "print-it-yourself" ticket, and voila! Our screening is in Auditorium 1! Hooray!
Trailer Notes: There were at least 15 minutes of trailers. The highlights:
  • Breaking Dawn Pt 2: The excited audience murmuring after this teaser was very interesting. I could count the millions of dollars ready to be earned!
  • The Amazing Spider-Man: After three Spider-Man movies in a six-year span, audiences are suffering from web-slinging fatigue. I am all in favor of a reboot, but 2012 is way too soon. Speaking of superhero fatigue, we did NOT see The Avengers trailer, but I predict soft business for this superhero supergroup movie. I am a Joss Whedon supporter, but I suspect the interest is not there.
  • The Host: This teaser for the movie based on Stephenie Meyer's non-Twilight novel was generic and boring. Has anyone read this book?
  • What To Expect When You're Expecting: A soon-to-be-dad is indoctrinated into the ways of daddy-hood in 21st century America by a quartet of very funny actors: Chris Rock, Rob Huebel, Thomas Lennon, and Ben Falcone. The movie also stars Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz, Anna Kendrick, but they're barely in the trailer.
  • Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: The lengthy trailer looked overcooked and confusing. You barely see any bloodsuckers, and then the title card comes up. The audience broke into laughter and applause. Will this translate into $$? I don't know. I really didn't like director Timur Bekmambetov's Angelina Jolie thriller WANTED.
Movie Review: The Hunger Games was really good. Straight "A"! Director Gary Ross (Pleasantville, Seabiscuit) has made a humanistic, modestly directed movie with a deft touch. Too many directors show off too much, but Ross is subtle and smart. He doesn't leave fingerprints all over the movie.
Ross made smart choices to drop out the score and soundtrack at key points, especially when the imagery was overpowering on its own. The opening bloodbath at the cornucopia, and Rue's postmortem were both handled perfectly.
Jennifer Lawrence was terrific. Her acting was all inwards and quiet. There's something mysterious about her, like she's holding something back all the time. She has a sturdy build, which makes her tree-climbing and survival skills totally believable. Her face has a earthy, real quality- the pockmarks and freckles really sell Katniss' deprived, Appalachian upbringing.
The men playing Peeta and Gale were good. Lenny Kravitz was nice with his quiet warmth. I wish Stanley Tucci were a little less manic, and Donald Sutherland was a little too sleepy.

I didn't like the score very much- enough of the earthy vocal score oooOOOOooEEEEEooooo...!
One directing choice which I dislike is letting television play-by-play announcers hold the audience's hand by explaining key plot points. Caesar Flickerman and Claudius Templesmith (Stanley Tucci and Toby Jones) were inserted into the plot, talking directly to us, whenever something slightly complex happened. For most of the movie, Ross expertly played "show don't tell", so these examples stood out. The most egregious example of this phenomenon is Robert Zemeckis' Contact, where the CNN anchor team had as much screen time as Jodie Foster.

A-Hole In The Audience: The bad news is, the guy sitting in front of us checked his iPhone FIVE TIMES during the movie. The fifth time I leaned over and said "c'mon man, shut off your phone" to which he kindly replied "go fuck yourself." At this point my adrenaline had begun pounding, so I only managed to retort "you, fuck you!" Watch out Dorothy Parker! I felt slightly better when the lights came up and I saw he was:

  • Five inches shorter than me
  • balding
  • with his girlfriend
  • and, he deliberately exited his row in the opposite direction (the long way) to avoid passing me! Yay! I'm scary enough!
I spent the entire walk to my car crafting a cutting retort. The trick is to make it short but descriptive and impervious to reply. Also, I try to use a variety of swear words for color. I came up with
"Hey asshole, if you're so goddamned bored, get the fuck out."
Boy, that woulda showed him!