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.
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