Skip navigation

Tag Archives: reviews

The film has been criticized for poorly portraying women, which is true, but this misses how the film poorly portrays everyone. Nearly every character is an embarrassment in some significant way, and the movie is largely criticizing the shallowness of elites (Harvard, Silicon valley, lawyers, VCs, the upper class, etc.). The movie is a critique of the kinds of people who would choose to profit from changing the world based on the model of “facebooks” (e.g. yearbooks), relationship status and friending people. The point is: it’s a 19 or 20 year old view of the universe, for better and, as the movie emphasizes, for worse. It’s notable Zuckerberg’s fiancé, with whom he was dating the entire duration of the time shown in the film, isn’t mentioned much less seen. But otherwise it’s hard to find particular bias: I doubt anyone feels great about how they are portrayed in this movie.

Scott Berkun


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

 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.

Link: Boozie Movies! Dead Hooker In A Trunk Review

Who says Punk is dead? For those of you who are sick and tired of youth focused DIY cinema equating to eighty five minutes of twenty something slackers from Williamsburg or Austin mumbling about their feelings in dimly lit kitchens while Sufjan Stevens croons in the background, I present to you, Dead Hooker in a Trunk.

Greg Christie for Twitch

Link: Yakuza video game reviewed by real Japanese gangsters


Cop Out
(Blockbuster DVD — Cincinnati)
Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan star in this simple cop comedy. The random humor that made Tracy Morgan so popular on 30 Rock is exemplified over and over in this movie. The plot isn’t exactly the most engrossing thing, and I found myself just waiting for more Tracy Morgan humor towards the end of the movie (I didn’t find it that thrilling). I hope Willis made a pretty penny off being in this one. In terms of Naked Gun style entertainment, it’s pretty satisfying, but certainly not intellectually stimulating in any way.

Shutter Island ^
(Blockbuster DVD — Cincinnati)
This film got a lot of hype before its release earlier this year, as is understandable with whatever new Scorsese project is in the works. After its release, as with most hope, it came against a wall of critics. Which is where I fit in. Interestingly, I thought DiCaprio acted pretty much the same character as he did in Inception. A hard-ass, strong willed, albeit mentally weakened professional forced to deal with his, up until now deflected, love driven psychosis. Again, a woman is the ultimate (leaky and disruptive) devastation to the man’s reality (same as Inception). The film is just beautiful, though, and the story is told fantastically—making you feel just as insane as the star. Greatly enjoyable, and a must see to capture Scorsese’s film style.

Inception *
(Esquire Theater, Clifton Cincinnati)
On all accounts, this movie is incredible. There’s also no doubt it’s a great conversation starter—more so than The Matrix but more accessible than, say, Waking Life. Here are my criticisms, though. Firstly, Christopher Nolan has provided us primarily with an action movie. As mentioned previously, it’s pretty much a better version of The Matrix, in terms of sci-fi action and conceptualization (fuck the sequels). As a result, during the first half of the movie we’re being rushed in and out of explanations for the films universe (note, this happens in The Matrix, as well. There is a purpose, though. The final sequence of the film would be completely and totally indiscernible if it weren’t for the hasty context we’re given earlier. (Which is why Ebert calls this film, “unspoilable” and “process” oriented). Let’s take Nolan’s ‘Memento’, on the other hand. Here’s a movie that hadn’t the need to focus so much on the action and as a result allowed us to experience more of the protagonists interior space. In an almost Hitchcockian sense, we sometimes learn more from what we don’t see of the characters interior space than what is manifested for us on the movie screen. That said, the manifested interior space is an unbelievable Matryoshka of conceptualization. The street flipping dream (including the mirrors and stuff), the Escher style staircases, the entire hotel hallway/elevator sequence, and the ‘totem’ shots (including the final one) were the most memorable for me. However, I hated the final dream setting (the wintery subconscious-defense-station). It seemed so boring as a dream setting compared to the other places. Many have concerned themselves over the ending: is it all a dream, or…er…where do the dreams start and end. Clearly this isn’t what drives interest in the film. Instead, it’s the idea of the ‘totem’, the ‘architect’ work, the ‘theif’ chameleon, Cobb’s abilities, Robert Fischer’s life, etc. But, just see the movie, it’s brilliant. On a more personal note, I wasn’t that interested in the stability of Cobb’s psyche—it wasn’t the driving force for my interest in the film’s mythos, it was a simple solution to Nolan’s problem of ending a film that threatens to be bigger than one man’s psychological well-being.

(Cable Television)
So much of this movie seemed to pick up right where Goodfellas left off. This is probably exemplified by Ray Liotta’s casting in the film. Anyway, Depp is fantastic as the lead character. In terms of stories that sober audiences to the reality of the drug business, it’s a good one, but not a classic—and certainly not original in any way. Depp’s character reminds me of a mixture of his roles in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Donnie Brasco. Penelope Cruz plays another great crazy bitch (a la Woody Allen’s recent Vicki Christina Barcelona), and as always, she does fantastically in this role. The costuming of the movie is pretty underrated, it’s got late 80’s early 90’s down to a sick science.

50 First Dates
(Cable Television)
I don’t want to spend much time reviewing this movie, so I’ll say a couple words about Adam Sandler. Despite the criticism he often gets, his movies fill a very profitable niche. Films from Big Daddy to Click all run in the same sociological vein, they aren’t that expensive to make, and generally guarantee a profit. Having grown up hearing quotes from Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore throughout my adolescent school career, I have to admit that I really enjoyed his movies growing up. With 50 First Dates he still manages to achieve some of that really satisfying, and somehow endearing, childish humor, but in a slightly more conservative, understated presentation than, say, You Don’t Mess With the Zohan. Drew Barrymore plays a caricature of girl next-door cuteness, and though she does it well, it’s not exactly the most impressive roll of her life. Still, the movie tickles romance, and may, for some at least, offer a drop of intellectual exploration.

Star Trek VIII: First Contact
(Netflix Watch-it-now) 
I started watching this film out of boredom and ended up finishing it despite my original plan not to. In that regard, it was sort of like sitting down on a Saturday in the 90’s and settling for a mediocre movie on TV that just happened to start when you wanted to watch something. I had originally thought this was the Star Trek with the desert stuff and the meeting of Kirk, you know, uh…oh yeah: Star Trek: Generations. But, in fact, it wasn’t—but like I said, I finished it anyway. Ok, so, there’s the odd-number Star Trek films suck, theory. I pretty much agree, except that (though I haven’t seen all of them), most Star Trek movies are unimpressive. I’m very rarely super satisfied with any movie made from a television show. Additionally, the bad Star Trek movies have ended up like cult classic episodes of the corresponding series. In that sense this movie was about as good as any episode of TNG. The special effects are pretty cool, but nothing really happens in this one that’s absolutely universe shattering (besides good old fashioned time travel)—I mean, it’s hard to compare with the crash landing of the Enterprise in Generations. Geek wise, it was probably super satisfying the see the warp engine’s inventor, and ‘First Contact’ with the Vulcans. Anyway, the movie is just another franchise film, and nothing like Abram’s recent prequal-reboot (which was brilliant, if you ask me). If you really want to nerd out for a couple of hours, save yourself some money and check out Jandrews Edits on Youtube.

Life is Beautiful ^
(Netflix DVD)
This movie won best foreign film and best actor in 1998 at the Academy awards, which is basically why I decided to watch it. In that regard, Roberto Benigni is amazing, and perhaps the most notable thing in the film. In fact, the most memorable thing the film offered to me was Benigni’s acceptance at the Academy Awards. The film reminded me of some other postwar films that exemplify the imaginary as a method of coping with trauma—thus, I’d say, this film is a perfect pair with Goodbye Lenin. It’s hard to believe the story in any way plausible, but I think Benigni’s character is something that is fundamentally human. I know people love this film, but having watched it this particular week, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like if Adam Sandler was Italian and made a holocaust film—I imagine it couldn’t be that far off from this. It’s an uplifting story, but not in the same way that Schindler’s List is uplifting.

Trouble the Water *
(Netflix DVD)
There is so much to talk about with this film. As the website for the film indicates, it’s not just about the Katrina disaster, it’s about the inequalities of citizenship in America. Kimberly Rivers Roberts’ and friends’ camera work is terrible, and as she captures the storm, those who couldn’t flee, and a strangely authentic pre-apocalyptic atmosphere. The titular moment of the film comes when Roberts’ puts one of her own raps on the boombox and does an impromptu karaoke version, to me this sums up the film’s power and message. We’re seeing an individuals struggle to promote individuality in a country that idolizes individuality but somehow sadly fails to adequately foster that individuality for all its citizens. See this movie.

Youth in Revolt ^
(Blockbuster Free Kiosk Rental Code)
Michael Cera star-drives this cathartic strange boyhood romance story. In comparison to Superbad the protagonist often talks about his desires to do things that are clearly ‘immoral’, and somehow awkwardly manages to overcome these societal pressures to do the ‘right’ thing, and get the girl. In this case: blowing up a bunch of stuff so he gets sent to live with his dad (near the girl), sneaking into a boarding school and trying to have sex (with the girl), and drugging his the girl in hopes that she’ll fail out of boarding school and have to come home. In contrast to Superbad, though, the film takes place in a much lower class setting, which I think allows it its strangeness. The family troubles, the floozy mom (Ray Liotta cameo), and Steve Buschemi as a dad, make the film a lot less mainstream in terms of what most audiences can identify with. I particularly enjoyed when the jesus-freak parents end up perpetually on shrooms because of the older brother character. You’re still getting an awkward Cera film, but you’re getting a lot more eccentricity.

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.

Five Easy Pieces ^
(Netflix Watch-it-now)
Jack Nicholson stars with Karen Black in American classic about alienation and disillusion. As a part of the 1970s American New Wave it’s filled with complex themes, deep messages, and simultaneously repressed rebellious overtones. Films like Badlands (which I’ll review next) and even Alien are said to have been made possible by early counter-culture films like Five Easy Pieces. Thus the introspection and artfully constructed long shots. The rainy atmosphere throughout the middle to end of the film are really nice and remind me of Twin Peaks, or even The Goonies. The film’s opening scene, featuring the song “Stand by your Man”, and the scene at the diner where Nicholson yells at a diner waitress are probably the most famous and memorable. If you ever see a lifetime achievement award reel of Nicholson’s work, you’ll probably see the diner scene (I feel like I already have). That said, There are plenty of other beautiful scenes that make the film stick with you. The final scene with Robert (Nicholson) and his wheel-chair ridden statue of father, for example, comes as a beautiful soliloquy in a desolate grey landscape. No doubt the film is worth seeing (eventually, at least), especially if you’d like to study cinema in any way. 

Badlands *
(Bloomington @ “The Curiodrome” – Tuesday’s with Nile Arena
Terrence Malick’s most famous film, next to the Thin Red Line (which I have yet to see). This film really has a lot in common, stylistically speaking, with Five Easy Pieces—it came out during the same “New Wave” period. Though, I think a lot more ideas are discussed and explored in this film versus FEP. While FEP feels repressed and linear, Badlands is rebellion from the start—rhetorically is practically picks up where FEP leaves off. It’s certainly intellectually heady, and fairly introspective too, but somehow Badlands has a bit more fun than the aforementioned. Murder, family problems, running from the police, stealing from the rich, and a little bit of the Huck Finn lifestyle find there way into this film. It’s certainly an American classic, no doubt. Empty western expanse coupling with seminal images of southern life along America’s muddy river fuel a particularly rural comportment. The film’s ending, which I won’t give away, is hilarious in it’s exemplification of a certain way of thinking. Definitely worth seeing, particularly if you’re a cinephile. 

Toy Story 3 *
(Karasote’s theater which was recently purchased by AMC, which as of now is somewhat ambiguously named, but it is in the “College Mall” area of Bloomington Indiana)
I got some flack for really loving this film, but I understand the sentiment. It’s the third installment of another blockbuster dynasty film franchise. Just goes to show that no production company, no matter how sacred amongst it’s dedicated fans, is immune from the evil that is the sequel. Clearly, I tend to agree with the pretentious in sequel boredom. However, that doesn’t make this a bad film, it’s just part of the Toy Story 3’s reality. On the contrary, Pixar has given this film as much thought and creativity as the previous two films, while still exploring new unexplored sentimentalities. The film doesn’t do as good a job at alienating us from human activity (which the exception of toddlers), as the previous films. In fact, the premise of the film is a dedication to humans. In TS3 humans are rewarded for their uncanny lack of awareness by a dedication from their most loved toys. The main drive of the film are the sentiments that are generated from the fear of abandonment. Admittedly, I did cry during the movie (as I do at most Pixar movies), and I genuinely enjoyed the film (and there’s no way I’d see it in 3D, though, but to borrow from Ebert, “just don’t get me started”). Worth seeing if you like most previous Pixar movies.

10 Things I Hate About You
(Netflix Watch-it-now)
This was a “I can’t fall asleep—I guess I’ll watch something I don’t have to think too much about” situation. The film is simple, and the exhaustive Shakespeare references amass quickly solidifying that this isn’t a new story—the movie is an adaption of “The Taming of the Shrew”. As a high school film it’s pretty standard, and I’m not sure what more could be expected from this genre of film than what is offered here. The cast of the film is pretty great, featuring: Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It’s cute and hormonally satisfying: first-boy sets up plot to get the first-girl, his plot involves second-boy being paid to date first girl’s sister, second-boy accidentally falls in love for real, drama and comedy ensue. It was a pretty quintessential high school film when I was in high school. Don’t know if it is today, but it probably should be. It’s a super cheesy movie, it’s fun and it doesn’t involve a lot of work.

When Harry Met Sally
(Netflix Watch-it-now)
This has got to be the most neurotic love story ever told, beating out even Woody Allen for insecure awkwardness. I genuinely felt a little sick watching certain parts of this movie. That said, there’s a certain art to this type of romantic comedy, a sort of script writing that must be respected for the same reason Seinfeld got syndicated. The a scene from the movie that sounds like it was written by Larry David, Sally fakes an orgasm in a restaurant to prove that it’s easy for women to do. (Side note, a clip of the scene’s on youtube and has gotten well over a million hits between several versions). To me, though, the film is frustrating. 12 years of falling in love is really frustrating, even for a spectator. To exemplify how OK the film makes it, though, Harry and Sally’s story is compared to a bunch of completely different (albeit still ‘in love’) elderly couples. The framing offers a justification for their unique love story, right? So, I guess, even professional cynics can find romantic love.

High and Low *
(Netflix Watch-it-now)
Another Akira Kurosawa masterpiece. The film reminded me a bit of one of my favorite Hitchcock films called Rope, because a lot of the movie takes place in just one room. This is situational drama, wherein something happens and all of the possible options are explored on screen and through dialog. It’s like wathing a chess master’s thoughts play out a real drama. Needless to say, it’s heady, it’s got subtitles (for the non-native Japanese speakers) and thus requires a lot of reading, it’s in black and white, and it’s pretty slow compared to contemporary Hollywood movies. That said the end of the film is just fantastic, featuring a really cool undercover chase scene, drug murders, and bad-ass sunglasses. Besides being pretty, I think it’s a rewarding, mentally engrossing film. It’s a classic, and another must-see for the Cinephile.

(DVD from ‘Plan 9’ in Bloomington) Of all the movies I decided to spend my precious money on for a full featured DVD, it had to be this one… As the director’s commentary states, and I’ll paraphrase, this is an amazing movie because everyone involved, from the gaffer to the screenwriter, seems to be making the worst possible decision at each moment of the films production. Paul Verhoeven, whose other works include Total Recall, and Starship Troopers, has found a way to make instant cult classics. I had an argument with fellow spectators regarding how bad Paul’s movies are (each of them defending the aforementioned films for different reasons). The fact of the matter is, the movies ARE bad, but they are bad in a GOOD (cult) way—a way that our nostalgia obsessed postmodern culture has quickly instilled in our collective unconscious. Anyway, women are blamed for things that they had never been previously recognized for doing in Showgirls. The main themes of female conversation throughout the film are the female body (i.e. tits, when the audience can see them), potato chips, and painting nails. But the movie is a tragedy for two other important reasons: it was a terrible career choice for the already scarred co-star of Saved by the Bell, Elizabeth Berkley (Jessie), and the film features Kyle MacLachlan of David Lynch fame. Why? I don’t know. Anyway, Showgirls was the first movie to make me genuinely bored, wait, not just bored, but downright numb, from female frontal nudity. Enjoy.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans ^
DVD from ‘Plan 9’ in Bloomington)
This almost made it worthwhile to rent full featured DVD’s after my run in with Showgirls… “Herzog, what the hell is going on!? …Wow. Alright, whoa that’s abstract… Wait, what’s tha—Jesus Christ!” Throughout most of the film, those were my thoughts. Between yelling at elderly women while tearing out their oxygen nose tubes,being on cocaine and painkiller benders for days on end, and taking hits from his lucky crack pipe, Nicholas Cage destroys this role. In the best way. Furthermore, though the film is certainly a Hollywood production, far from the documentaries (or fauxcumentaries, as I call them) to which Herzog owe’s his acclaim, certain shot choices scream Herzog. Namely, several shots with extreme close up perspective shots of reptiles. A friend whom I watched the film with also informed me Herzog has never seen the original Bad Lieutenant, and came up with the idea for this movie based on reading the title alone of the original film. The eccentricities of this film notwithstanding, it’s quite topical in American culture—focusing on an area that is still poignant for it’s devastation (as if the Hurricane weren’t enough, now the Gulf states’ suffer from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill). Surprisingly, I haven’t even heard of any other films about post-Katrina New Orleans—at least not any that have garnered as much attention as this one. Regardless, Scarface, eat your heart out, I think Herzog’s one-upped you.

It’s Complicated
(Netflix DVD)
I’m sort of embarrassed to say I watched this—so this’ll be a lazy review It’s just a typical star-driven romantic comedy—thanks to Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin, who were particularly hot when the film was released. The film also features that guy from The Office (John Krasinski), as a brother-in-law, and Steve Martin, as the new architect boyfriend, so, you know, it’s got that going for it…Here we see a upper-upper-middle class divorced couple, sort of, kind of, falling in love again—which is really weird, but I suppose it’s probable. Clearly, I struggled through this one. Will Alec Baldwin and Meryl Streep get back together? That’s the real question of the movie, and if you picture their past roles and public identity, you can pretty much see how the film ends. Like all romcoms the funniest scenes are just situational comedy, the most pleasent scenes are montages of dreamy romance, and I can think of about two of each that really stand out. So, I give this film a four. It’s no Sleepless in Seattle, that’s for damn sure.

Departures **
(Netflix Watch-it-now)
Winner of best foreign film at the Oscars in 09’, Departures truly deserves it. It’s a profoundly moving film, featuring an incredible score, beautiful cinematography, a deeply fascinating story, superb acting, and on and on. The formalism and imagery is just breathtaking and a delight to take in. One cut from the closing of a coffin to the flying away of birds stuck with me as a perfect example of film poetry. Similiarly, The central character, Daigo’s, father’s face is blurred in the his memory—a brilliant example of using the nature of the film medium to create an authentic empathy (and reminding me of my favorite Woody Allen moment, when he “loses his focus” in Deconstructing Harry). I would recommend this film above and beyond the others I’ve seen recently, it’s spotless.

Hausu * &
(Xvid Backup)
Hausu was recently released on Criterion collection, so this is a well timed review (which I’m bad at). I actually watched it twice (once with subtitles, and once without) for this review. Hausu is at once crazy, nonsensical, transcendent, inspiring; but also, campy, kitschy, violent, confusing, and genuinely bizarre. I don’t know much else about this filmmaker, as must Americans don’t. He’s certainly no Takashi Miike yet, in terms of cult filmmaker namedropping. However, as I’ve recently learned, he’s a prolific and well-know filmmaker in Japan. He started in experimental and avant-garde film in the 60’s and later branched into TV and feature length films, starting with Hausu. The movie follows a young woman having a conflict of interest with her widowed father who has recently decided to start dating again. On a defiant whim she invites some friends on a summer vacation to her aunt’s house. She hasn’t seen her aunt in a long time, and when they arrive the house could use some fixing up. The girls resolve to fix the house up for fun, but things start happening before they can make any headway. The film is unbelievably visually engrossing. The special effects are basically the opposite of CGI, and mind bogglingly cool. We’re talking film directly drawn on, cutting out and layering of film, crazy vinetting, and that’s just in a few seconds of this hour and a half long film. It’s a ton of fun, and even if you get confused, as you inevitably will, it’s a blast and a half plus laughs.

The Late Late Show


In an effort to continue cataloging the movies I see each week I’ll be posting them in this format with the “movies of the week” tag. 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.

Dune ^
(Netflix Watch-it-now) Finally got around to watching this, and I was pleasantly surprised. I have heard bad things about this movie. In fact, my roommate came in towards the end and gave me a quote about how the movie was a murky incomprehensible mess unless you’d read the book by Frank Herbert. The movie tends to garner the same criticism that most David Lynch films receive—that they are lucid dreams played out in an emotional centrifuge in exchange for letting go of real structure. In this regard, the film seems worth seeing to me. The special effects are pretty much on par with what you see in Eraserhead
, even though the budget for this film was significantly higher. Not groundbreaking to say the least. I enjoyed the costumes in the movie, particularly the desert suits that they wear on Arrakis—but perhaps the writer had more to do with the construction of that element. As always with Lynch’s films, the cinematography and general atmosphere of the film is just beautiful. 

(AMC Theater in Bloomington) Where to start with this one? I guess I’ll get right to the spoilers (of which there are many in this review). As far as I can tell, one of the messages of this movie is: If you’re a woman, and you cloned yourself as a weird hybrid man animal creature, you’d rape yourself—and you shouldn’t have an abortion when you end up pregnant with the hybrid baby. The script writing was terrible. The acting, even by Adrien Brody, was thus understandably convoluted. However, I think Splice definitely helps to fill a science fiction void in the area of genetics. Sure the science was particularly terrible, but it definitely represents something that people are anxious and curious about. The effects were quite enjoyable, even though it wasn’t top of the line CGI. None-the-less, I suppose I just wish that the movie took one of two positions. If it was going to be disjointed, the movie would do good to be less serious—and vice versa. If it was going to have such serious content and message, there could have been more structural explanation for what the hell happened. For instance, toward the beginning of the movie, Brody’s character, Clive, tries to kill Dren (get it, Nerd backwards), but only a few days later, he takes on a father role, and then literally has sex with Dren. What the fuck? I’ll admit this led to some great audience responses, but how about a little emotional transition for the audience. We see Dren’s psychological changes, but Clive seems to have no emotional reciprocation. Likewise, can we get just a little motivation from our female lead, Elsa? I mean, I understand the need for surprise and weirdness, but I feel like any rational human would be emotionally traumatized after being raped by a strange creature that happened to kill their husband. Seriously, childhood flashbacks? Prescription drug abuse? Anything? Anyway, it’s worth seeing if you’re a scifi die hard. Or, if you’re interested in seeing a good idea crash and burn and sink into the ocean, then turn into a submarine, and then crash and burn again, only to submerge once more as a boat, and…you get the metaphor.

Roxanne ^
(Netflix Watch-it-now) This is a good old Steve martin flick without much to lose. Charlie, played by Martin, has a nose that gets in the way of his romantic dreams, while it conversely has helped him develop some amazing skills (sword fighting, firefighting, insults, acrobatics, etc). It’s a really clever and fun film, albeit surreal at times. I recently saw the bar insult scene featured in a video compilation of the 100 greatest insults (see posts from last week)—needless to say the writing complements the superb acting. Definitely worth seeing again, or for the first time if you never have.

Grumpy Old Men 
(Netflix Watch-it-now) Not into it at all. I couldn’t even really finish it. Somehow I think this film has grown outdated (or maybe it was never good). I just couldn’t even begin to identify with the main character, John Gustafson, who is literally a grumpy old man. Usually these sorts of characters are comedic personalities in a greater cast of obnoxious. Here it’s distilled and exacerbated. Likewise, I didn’t find a great deal of humor in John’s childish, boring, rivalry with his next door neighbor, Max Goldman, who is a nearly identical grumpy old man. The female of the story, Ariel Truax, should illuminate the picture and bring a fresh perspective to the old men. Instead, though, I just found further childish themes—like it was preschool emotional exploration time for the elderly that somehow forgot what it’s like to enjoy life. I don’t know, maybe it’s actually me who’s not “mature” enough for this one. 

Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis ^
(Netflix DVD) I’m not entirely sure how I ended up with this in my queue, but I found the film very rewarding. I had seen Flaming Creatures in an Avant-Garde class a little over a year ago in England, but hadn’t heard much else about Jack Smith. Apparently, Flaming Creatures was a mistake for Jack Smith, who later vowed to never finish works so as to avoid being a part of the ‘capitalist system’. I found it interesting that he (allegedly) directly influenced so many other popular artists (namely, Andy Warhol who plays an important role in the film, and Felini). If you’re interested in film, American avant-garde, and art history, this is a must see. I found it informative and even inspirational.

Outland *
(Netflix Watch-it-now) Set on the Jupiter moon Io, my friend Sam informed me that the film is a reference to “High Noon” (which I have yet to see), and I certainly see the Western genre connotations. Sean Connery plays new hire Marshall William T. O’Neil at the Con Am 27 titanium mining operation. As soon as he arrives, though, he is told to lay back and not get too involved in any real police work. William’s wife leaves, though, fed up with raising their child in the frontier—thus freeing William to really pursue real crime fighting. He quickly discovers that crazed amphetamine using workers have been killing themselves and damaging others increasingly over the last year. The ensuing investigation is exciting and fun, filled with shoot outs and space chase scenes. Highly recommended. 

The Mask *
Netflix Watch-it-now) When I was in elementary school this movie came out. At that time I didn’t get about half the jokes in it until middle school, but I think it made quite an impression on me. Jim Carrey’s classic med-a-reference-fantasy-over-acting style is well employed throughout the film—but I think what made the film most enjoyable this time through was the art-deco art direction. I had never noticed before but the film is a fantastic conglomeration of some really interesting pop culture references. There’s big-band and swing culture clothes, dancing, and music, as well as many other 20s themed typography choices, buildings, and interior designs. The film in general has a sort of atomic glow to it, embodied best, perhaps, in the scene at “Landfill Park” when watching a methane sunset. I haven’t seen a lot of the art deco style in movies lately, the only other recent usage I can think of is probably in the fantastic video-game Bioshock (and maybe in the upcoming film “Inception”). But, I could use some suggestions in this area (anyone?). Cameron Diaz also has a pretty good performance (for a powerless female character), but mostly she’s in the film for her cleavage. Other actor of note: Ben Stein, who plays the author of a book titled “The Masks We Wear”. He does well, though, I have to say I’m biased against him ever sense I noticed that he has some serious character flaws in real life (Intelligent Design? Seriously?). Anyway, I really enjoyed the movie after so many years, and I think that it still has a lot of cultural relevance today. If you haven’t seen it already, you should check it out.

In an effort to continue cataloging the movies I see each week I’ll be posting them in this format with the “movies of the week” tag. 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.

Also, I’m doing two weeks of movies this week, because I was on vacation.

Sukiyaki Western Django *
(Netflix DVD) Featuring a cameo in the opening sequence of the film by Quentin Tarantino, this is a film destined for cult status. Director Takeshi Miike’s movies aren’t easily accessible, generally speaking. This one is on the easier side—on par more with Audition (in terms of structure and content comprehension) than with the complexity of Visitor Q or Ichi The Killer. The costumes and makeup are unbelievable. There was an unfortunate epilogue of cheesy proportions (I’m exaggerating a bit, but the end did drag on a bit after the credits—in a funny way). The accents are so thick you basically need to watch the film with subtitles even though you’ve certainly heard the sayings a million times. Also, on the DVD there is a really long “making of” featurette that’s worth at least skimming through.

Fright Night ^
(Netflix Watch-it-now) This is a fantastic 80’s horror film. Featuring the classic “oh no! vampires moved in next door” plotline. The acting is bad, but not as bad as the other horror film I watched in the last two weeks (“Return of the Living Dead Part II”). The soundtrack also features a fantastic song, called “Fright Night”, which was ostensibly composed for the film. I would highly recommend the film for a nice night with friends, pizza, and beer—which is how I enjoyed it. As a final note, it looks like Dreamworks is re-making the film. Don’t see the remake, I can already tell you it’s a bad idea. The films unique atmosphere and mise-en-scene could never be replicated—especially not in today’s studios. 

Donnie Darko ^
(Netflix Watch-it-now) I have watched this film (and the directors cut) plenty of times, particularly in High School, when it was something of a pop-culture phenomenon for my generation. I stand by my conviction that Jake Gyllenhaal is a good actor (some may disagree based on his appearance in films like the recent “Prince of Persia”)—but it’s the combination of Jake with Maggie that gives authenticity to the film. The representation of family life is a major catalyst to the film. Lines like “you’re bitchin’, but you’re not a bitch”, and the entire pizza-dinner-“fuckass” scene are some of the most memorable for me. The high school part of the plot is rich, too. I’m not a huge fan of Drew Barrymore’s performance; though the science teacher, Dr. Fisher, and her seem somehow believable together. The best part of the school scenes during a scene with Beth Grant as Kitty, generalizing all human action into either fear or love, and featuring a cameo with Seth Rogen. Kitty is probably one of my favorite underrated elements of the film. Clearly, I think the film is worth seeing—but it hasn’t had a lot of staying power.

Hudson Hawk
(Netflix Watch-it-now) This is a terrible film. The premise is that there is a thief who plans the timing of his robberies according to the duration of show tunes—the thief is played by Bruce Willis. They’re goal is also ridiculous: to collect pieces of a mechanism invented by Da Vinci that turns stuff into gold. Even if you like show tunes and Bruce Willis, don’t see this movie—because Bruce doesn’t get to act in the way you want to see him, and there is only one scene, the final rumble, where the show tune theme is played out to it’s potential. If I had to pick one thing I liked about the film it’d be the candy-bar names of the enemy agents (i.e. butterfinger is a big brute character, who is always committing little foibles). Seriously, there are much better films to watch.

(Netflix Watch-it-now) Science Fiction horror films are not common. Ever since “Event Horizon”, though, films have tried to replicate it’s successes (namely this film and “Sunshine” by Danny Boyle, come to mind). “Sunshine” and “Event Horizon” have a relatively simple plot, where there is essentially one central imperative for their respective mission’s. “Pandorum” on the other hand is a clusterfuck of conflicting narratives, science fiction elements, and driving purposes. Between the huge ship, the mutated humans onboard, the imaginary people and the mental illness that only exists in space, there’s just too much going on. As a result, because of the jumping around, I was mentally and visually confused. The film is uncomfortable, but not in a pleasantly-cathartic-horror way, instead in an annoying I-wish-the-whole-stupid-thing-blew-up-even-if-they-are-the-last-hope-for-humanity, sort of way. I’ll save you some time: they landed on the planet, but sunk into its ocean, and have been there for hundreds of years. Alright, now go watch “Dark Star”, instead. 

Zoolander *
(DivX Encoded DVD to CD Backup) This was one of my favorite movies when I was really young, but I haven’t seen it many times—maybe three or four (compared with the countless times I’ve watched movies like Dumb and Dumber and 2001: A Space Odyssey). I’m sure most folks have seen this film by now. There are so many celebrities in this movie, it’s no wonder that it’s remained a popular film. David Bowie, need I say more? The film successfully pokes fun at an industry with a dark side that rivals the oil companies. So many memorable quotes and scenes from this movie; from the freak gasoline fight scene, to the walk-off competition, to “ooohhhh! the files are IN the computer”.Zoolander is hillarious, and still poignant today. Plus, there is a David Duchovny cameo. You’ve probably seen it, but see it again.

Brokeback Mountain ^
(DVD, friends house, Seattle) Jeez, I didn’t realize it, but I have been watching a lot of horror movies lately. Probably the most horrifying part of this film is the prospect of being Heath’s (Ennis Del Mar’s) wife. Seriously, terrifying. There isn’t much to say about this movie that you haven’t already heard. Nice costumes. Lot’s of drama. The tagline should be: Being gay is hard, being a gay cowboy is even harder, being a gay cowboys wife is hell. The scenery is beautiful. Where is Brokeback Mountain, anyway?

Return of the Living Dead II
(Netflix Watch-it-now) Wow, what a bad horror movie. At least when I watched “The Princess of Mars” last week, they didn’t know how bad they were. This film was unfortunate because the filmmaker knew they were making a bad movie and succeed. Featuring a tame b-movie plot and forgettable acting we turn to the special effects. The special effects were clearly made by alcoholic doppelganger of Stan Winston—and that’s a huge compliment. This is probably the second worse zombie movie I’ve ever scene, just above Romero’s recent “Diary of the Dead”. Worth seeing if you’re a real die hard zombie fan (or if you want to see where Robert Rodriguez took the idea for the military gas explanation for zombies used in his “Grindhouse” film “Planet Terror”)

In an effort to continue cataloging the movies I see each week I’ll be posting them in this format with the “movies of the week” tag. 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.

The Union ^
(Netflix watch-it-now) A lot of the more widely applicable information in this documentary I was already aware of—mainly because of an economist issue last year dedicated to expelling myths about drug prohibition and the economic effects of the ongoing drug war. That said, I still found it highly entertaining. It was funny to see some footage from films I’ve appropriated for my own movies used as b-roll here (see my found-footage video Conatus, and then note the scene where the women in the futuristic car scene gasps towards the middle of this movie). I found the host annoying, though. And the strange conflict of focus between “BCBud” and the American drug market I found at least somewhat distracting. Also, why was “the union”, or the structure of the illegal drug trade, the titled concept of the film—surely the information at the end outweighs this. I found the interviews a bit too traditional (I’ll call it PBS style). The movie was clearly biased, but I tend to agree with the decision on an economic level (as previously mentioned). The production value of the film was alright, but clearly the overall structure was mediocre—though I really enjoyed the final bit a lot (especially the finally quote).

Hot Tub Time Machine ^
(Danbarry Dollar Saver Cincinnati) Knowing what you’re getting is the key to enjoying this film. This is not standalone movie experience. It is a product of this particular generations marketable concepts and jokes. This is a film where the title pretty much let’s you know what you’re in for, and the titular line of the film is still one of the more entertaining. Classic time travel paradox jokes are always funny, but I got a really dark joy out of the ongoing bell-boy arm-loss joke. 
If you’re feeling a little contemplative or analytical, though, I think you’ll find yourself in that cynical limbo of un-enjoyment called ‘intelligence’ that sometimes leaves media-educated, excogitating, audiences feeling left out. I found it highly enjoyable, and worth seeing for a quick laugh. 

National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets ^
(Blockbuster Cincinnati) A great reminiscent of the first film. I imagine this film had diminishing returns in the box office, but that makes it no less enjoyable at home. Nicholas Cage is a vacuum as usual, basically portraying himself (his acting style reminds me of Keanu Reeves, in that he seems like pretty much the same person in every movie he’s in—though I hear Keanu is a really nice guy, and fantastic at Shakespearian theater). The puzzles are fun and pleasantly contrived. The action and character development are clearly at odds with one another—as with any film of this caliber. The entire idea that the family name could drive one to participate in such an adventure is not very tenable in my book. In contrast to the movie’s competitors ‘Da Vinci Code’ and ‘Angel’s and Demons’ (both great movies if you ask me), the film really has little conflict and tension. As Monica (who watched the film with me) noted, they really don’t seem have a lot of trouble with the puzzles, the police, international travel, or the bad guys. Clearly, like Hot Tub Time Machine, if you don’t want to think much, this is the action film for you.

Drop Dead Gorgeous * &
(Blockbuster Cincinnati) This is an recently vintaged gem that Monica shared with me. The form is mocumentary in the Christopher Guest styling. The movie clearly has a lot of relevance to most teenage girls than to teenage boys. There are a lot of big names in the film, too, that weren’t as big when the film was first released (including a late Brittany Murphey, who was probably my favorite character in the film). The plot was great, albeit carefully contrived, and worked as a great medium for some hilarious references to growing up in rural America as a young woman. Classic? I’m not sure, but it’s certainly unique. It’s also the only movie that passes the Bechdel test this week.

Roast of Bob Saget ^
(Netflix watch-it-now) When I was younger I would always try to watch these on Comedy Central with my friend Joey in SLC, Utah—as some kind of rebellion against what could be censored from my experience. Censorship can be training, in situations like these, where a simple beep doesn’t actually prohibit a word—instead it lets us know what concepts are unacceptable or inaccessible in regular conservative life (see these two possibly related articles). Having been able to so easily access this on ‘watch-it-now’, I have to say it made me feel like a child. The comedy was pretty funny, my favorite sets where probably the starkly contrasting anti-gross absurdity of Norm McDonald’s set and the smoothness of Cloris Leachman’s. According to the Comedy Central site Norm McDonald’s full set was cut out; in fact, they cut out one of the funniest parts where he says that that his fellow roasters are “for the birds” and “full of bologne”. Why!? Oh yeah, crude jokes equal good ratings with pre-teen boys. This isn’t highbrow stuff, duh. Somehow the ‘sincere moments’ in between roasts just seem awkward, as always. And it should be noted that in the adolescent’s viewing company are those who grew up with Full house, and whose understanding of reality was forever altered by Bob Saget’s character in Half Baked proclaiming, “I used to suck dick for coke!” Anyway, It’s not that long of a show, even in it’s extended form, and though gay/dry-vagina/greasy/adolescent-rape joke heavy, there are some gems in there.

Princess of Mars
(Netflix watch-it-now) This is truly a terrible movie. This was one of those situations where my friend Alison and I resolved to watch whichever movie we landed on in the sci-fi section. The premise is essentially a giant plot hole—something about a 16GB flash drive, body reconstruction, and a wormhole to an inhabitable mars (of the future?). Despite that, the film’s structure and message are surprisingly similar to Avatar. There are so many hilarious things about this movie that are unintentional that I feel as if it was produced solely to be consumed in some later century by Cinematic Titanic. I’d suggest waiting until then to see it.