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In an effort to continue cataloging the movies I see each week I’ll be posting them in this format with the “movies” and “reviews” tags. Each post will feature this introduction and a brief review of each movie including several merits and faults. Each description will have a short prefix including the format in which I viewed the movie, which I hope will provide some context for understanding how I ended up watching the movie. “^” means worth watching. “*” means a favorite. On a rare occasion I may use “**” to donate a must see. If a movie passes the Bechdel Test, it will have an “&” sign.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World *
(Glendale Mall AMC Theater Indianapolis)

Considering the type of hype the movie got, I’m not surprised it didn’t do amazingly at the box office. It’s just as confusing and nonsensical as a fighting video game, but somehow I don’t think this strays far from Edgar Wrights natural style. I mean you see that jump-cut style all the way back in Spaced, take the paintballing scene, for example—and it follows all the way through his work. Needless the say the video game graphical and thematic elements are certainly unique, thus the film will almost certainly gain a cult status. All in all, though, I’d say this is really only a must see for folks who grew up inside of nerdy (RPG, Strategy, Fighting) gaming cultures and communities (and that’s me).

The Wild Bunch *
(Netflix DVD by Mail)

I was on a Sam Peckinpah kick at the time of watching this American classic. He’s a really prolific director, and an interesting man, but I’ll focus on the film here. To me the film embodies a tradition of depicting the west that continues today in games like Red Dead Redemption. A tradition of darkness, alcoholism, hyper violence, and sexual abuse in a vast paradoxically homely and exotic wasteland. At times the wear and detail on mens faces in the film are almost Bressonian, introspective shots, that convey a entirely interior moral epic. During scenes like the Gatling gun abuse scene, by the Mexican militia group, make the film become a near lucid dream of violence and lawlessness. The train robbing sequence, the bank robbing sequence (at the beginning), and similar scenes make play out of the lack development and promise for wealth and progress—at the same time as being downright clever action sequences that Hollywood is always trying to replicate. Anyway, like I said, it’s a classic, you should probably see it if you like westerns.

The Thin Red Line **

This is the best war film I’ve ever seen. Until I saw this movie, I wasn’t that interested in war movies. It came out the same year as Saving Private Ryan, and it’s hard to beat the most sympathetic actor in Hollywood. I was once told that during the pre-production of Apollo 13, when the casting agency asked America who they least wanted to see die, they chose Tom Hanks. It’s hard to compete with that sentiment. But I digress. This is one four films that Terrance Malick has directed. Of the two I’ve seen (Badlands, and this), I think he’s probably one of the best film makers alive today, and certainly one of the most underrepresented. Two scenes have been really memorable for me. The first is simply the opening of the film, it was downright unexpected, and sort of timely if you ask me. It depicts a solider attempting to defect with some natives on an island and the mostly speechless relationships he’s involved in. It brought to mind ex-pat culture, something that I think is really overlooked in the media today. The second extremely memorable moment during the film comes at a typical point for war films, during battle scene. Towards the middle of the film many of the units have failed to advance up a hill covered with tall grass and with a bunker perched atop. They finally make it up the hill and in a extremely intense montage kill probably hundreds of Japanese soldiers using various methods. So much of the film is internal, there are plenty of voice-overs, but the voice-overs only reveal the strong emotions underneath the surface of war. Really, this film isn’t for soldiers and the middle-class. It’s for artists, by an artist.

Whip It! & *
(Netflix DVD by mail) 

Here’s Drew Barrymore’s film about a girl, played by Ellen Paige, who, driven by her desire to experience something beyond her small town minded beauty queen mother, decides to join a Roller Girl team despite being underage. She succeeds, and as a result of her recklessness must come to terms with the reality of what she’s become involved with. This isn’t an extreme tale, but it’s got everything that a movie like Youth in Revolt, except it’s for girls, and has the always fun and hilarious Kristen Wiig. It’s the feel good movie of the summer, and even inspired me to try to go to an actual Roller Derby here in Indianapolis if I can. It’s just a fun movie, and worth seeing on rental for sure.

The Brothers Bloom
(DVD Backup DivX) 

This is a pretty clever film about two con men brothers who’ve grown up together and must face the issues of co-dependency. It starts with a con in grade school where a bunch of kids pay to see this wandering wisp light. The film moves into a romance as the brother who must make a rich eccentric woman fall in love with him, actually falls in love, and as she begins to adventure with them, becomes part of a bigger and bigger con. Or is it. It’s pretty fun, but ultimately I couldn’t relate much to any of the characters. Except maybe bang bang, a speechless Japanese woman whose expertise is demolition. Needless to say, this isn’t a groundbreaking or even extremely notable film, but it certainly is enjoyable, and is extremely well conceived.

The Losers
(Netflix on XBox360)

This is a terrible movie. I also watched the movie “Expendables”, but I’m not going to review that either. Actually, the latter has a bit more justice existing simply because of all of the action stars. At least the first 10 minutes were entertaining simply because Jet Li and Sylvester Stallone are in the same picture. In the Losers, on the other hand, even from the beginning, when they save a bunch of small children in a small terrorist enclave town using a stolen school bus, you’re thinking: could this get any more cliche and terrible? The answer is yes, so don’t see it.

Archer: Season 1
(Hulu)

 I first heard about this show on an episode of Fresh Air that interviewed the creator, who also happened to be the creator of Sealab 2021. In that vein my expectations were pretty much on target. A lot of the themes and styles fo characterization on identical between the two shows. There’s the slut character, and the womanizer character, idiotic leader, etc. Part of the charm of the show comes from the successful repetition of the same joke. I wouldn’t suggest watching this show all in the one sitting (as I did pretty much), the jokes aren’t as funny, and it loses its repetitive comforting power.

Paris, Texas *
(Netflix DVD)

The first Wim Wender’s film I’ve seen will certainly not be the last. Wender’s seems to have e genuine fascination with the American west, but not the parts of it you may expect. A lot of imagery he makes beautiful seems almost mundane to us—I could imagine certain scenes of this film in a documentary context. The numerous highway scenes, outlooks over the L.A. sprawl, the way the peep show is presented, the hotel and downtown shots, are all ruminated on in an uncharacteristic way. A lot of images from the film stick because they seem so ‘normal’. His explorations of characterization are borderline quixotic in their interiorization and distance, the film is predicated on a man not talking for years, yet somehow by the end there is a great lukewarm wash of hope. Performances by Harry Dean Stanton and Quantum Leap’s Dean Stockwell are just plain fascinating. Stockwell, who plays the brother character in the film, is simultaneously a father, a brother, a friend, and almost a therapist style character. Stanton’s obsessive compulsive explorations, make him seem like a amnesia victim, a solider with post traumatic stress disorder, or an alien. Needless the say the film is entertaining, but it’s also something more rare that I can’t put my finger on.

The Cincinnati Kid *
(IMCPL Library DVD)

In high school I watched the movie Rounders, then went to Goodwill with my friend Chris, bought a suit, and proceeded to have as many people over as possible for some Hold em’. We played with loose change, but it was still pretty fun. I don’t think I ever did very well. Had we been watching this movie, though, I’m not sure we would have still played. Something about Rounders leaves out the feeling that we got after about an hour that we’d been playing FOREVER. The final, three day long, one on one battle that is the end of The Cincinnati Kid really shows how excruciating gambling can be. The film is does a great job of depicting “the weight” and all that comes with it. We see the social pressure, litterally embodied by an audience of wealthy looking individuals who look to be at some form of civilized dog fight. We see the financial pressure, as individuals invested in the tournament try to use their monetary power to rig the game. We see the romantic pressure, as one woman takes sexual advantage in the situation. But also the psychological pressure, “You’re just not ready for me yet, kid.” This is my first Norman Jewison film, and I certainly hope it’s not my last.

The Burbs
(Netflix Watch-it-now on the Roku Media Player)

 I think I’ve seen bits and pieces of this on daytime cable throughout my life and never until now watched the whole thing. I discovered that it’s a really strange movie all the way through. There’s elements of horror, reminiscent of other cult 80s horror like Fright Night, elements of almost Mike Judge, a la Office Space, style domestic humor, and somehow there’s still room for ‘Mouth’ from Goonies to play a character who seems like he should be in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. It’s not exactly Tom Hanks most trying role, but it’s a surprisingly fun and well sculpted movie—I can see why the play it on TV a lot.

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