Sunday, March 26, 2006

Justice League Unlimited

OK, I have never seen Dirty Dancing. Never had a desire to. But when I flipped on the TV yesterday, there was Patrick Swayze, gyrating in what I fear was the climax of the movie.

I like Swayze. I think he's a hard-working and impressive actor. Red Dawn hit me at a particularly formative time.

This whole him dancing thing was more than a little unsettling. I lasted about 30 seconds before I had to shut it off.

To cleanse the brainpan, I watched a couple of episodes of Justice League Unlimited. I'm bummed they've sunsetted the series (along with Teen Titans), but the rumored Legion of Super-Heroes looks to be a reality, so maybe that'll scratch my itch.

Anyway, these two episodes, "The Great Brain Robbery" and "Grudge Match" are well-written, engaging, and have some substance (less so the former, more so the latter). Michael Rosenbaum continues to be great as Flash, and Clancy Brown (Lex Luthor) is probably one of the most diverse, hardest working, non-A-list actor's out there (looks like updates to his website stopped after 2002/3, so go to to see his latest credits).

Oh, and the whole "Grudge Match" has got some great writing and dialog, but the final scene between Huntress and Black Canary is clever and sexy -- just what I needed to get Patrick's hips out of my head.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Curious George

I caught a matinee of Curious George the other day.

Y'know, I went saw Mike Judge speak a few weeks ago, and he was bemoaning the fact that all of these big names and big stars are doing voice over work for movies. His point was he watches an animated film for escape, and hearing a recognized voice being itself -- rather than a character -- pulls him out the movie.

Now, I'm biased, because big stars doing voice over makes it harder for me to do voice over, but aside from that, Curious George is perfect example of what Judge was talking about.

I'm a Will Ferrell fan. I'm a Drew Barrymore fan. I was not a fan of this movie.

The movie wasn't about George the monkey. It wasn't even about Ted ("The Man in the Yellow Hat"). The movie was about Will Ferrell.

I didn't go to see a Will Ferrell movie -- I went to see George.

Oh, and I freaking paid through the nose to see the film, even thought it was a matinee. I feel like Regal and Carmike and Landmark and the like are summarily killing the movie going industry...

Friday, March 17, 2006

Jumping off Bridges

I saw jumping off bridges as part of SXSW this afternoon.

Hard for a bunch of reasons, not least of which it feels a bit ... off ... to offer any critique about a film that's got tough content that's based at least partially on real events.

It's a good little film. Director/Writer Kat Candler is talented and daring. Bryan Chafin fights through a tough role. Rhett Wilkins has one of the strongest performances, and Michael Emerson has a great, understated, nuanced pathos and bravery at the same time. Glen Powell Jr. took me out of the movie a few times, but I don't know if it was his performance or that he's a ringer for my cousin.

The story is compelling and important.

For a bunch of reasons it wouldn't be appropriate for me to discuss in this forum, it was tough content for me on a bunch of fronts, and I can't say much more about the film.

But it is worth seeing.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

V for Vendetta

I went to the V for Vendetta regional premiere last night, as part of the SXSW Festival.

I was really nervous about this treatment of Alan Moore's amazing 3 episode comic book series, started in 1981 -- mainly because of what "They" did in the movie treatment of his The Leage of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Not that that film was terrible, per se, but it missed the point of Moore's deep literary writing across his TLEG series, and turned it into a less-than-compelling "me-to" action/monster flick for 2003. I mean, "Alan Moore has led the field in intelligent, politically astute (if slightly paranoid), complex adult comic-book writing since the early 1980s" (

V for Vendetta, however not only didn't suck -- it was amazing.

What happens in V is that in a future London (as imagined in the early 80s) a fascist, totalitarian government reigns, and one person -- donning a Guy Fawkes mask and known only by the moniker "V" -- stands in opposition to the oppression.

What the film is about is so much more.

There will be those that will try to use it as an artistic stick with which to beat the current administration, but those doing so will be doing the material (and the administration) a disservice, and miss the bigger point. The film is not a political or activist film. It's a warning. Or a call to action (which, to me, is different than "activism" in its current incarnation).

It's a rally cry around concepts like what makes Guy Fawkes Night important. It's a warning about your accountability, my accountability, for not letting us become a totalitarian state.

In the original series, "V" is a terrorist, but one who is more about motivating and empowering people to change, rather than single handedly making that change. There is an emphasis on action in the film that's a bit disproportionate to the original series, but it may help it at the box office, and to me doesn't compromise the deeper stuff.

I enjoyed seeing the Brothers Wachowski do something with material other than The Matrix, and with something that's not a 3-film arc. And it's cool to see James McTeigue come to the forefront as a director for the first time, and deliver so solidly.

The cast and acting is phenomenal, with Natalie Portman (Evey) delivering a compelling (and I suspect emotionally demanding) performance. Stephen Rea (Finch) and Stephen Fry (Deitrich) are top-notch.

And Hugo Weaving ("V")? I'm going to go with "masterful" on this one. To pull off the twisted and complex character that is "V", and be engaging -- through a non-moving mask -- is one of the real treats of the film. Man -- Elrond, Agent Smith, and now "V"? Good for him!

The effects and editing are incredibly tight, and they actually pulled off some of the comic book signature moments perfectly -- not an easy thing to do.

There are a couple of minor glitches, but they don't detract from the whole film. There's a jarring continuity/edit problem at one particularly important dramatic moment, and there was one part of the climax I thought had a timing mismatch between two of the elements. Again, not enough to break the film.

So, to summarize -- The film didn't suck, it was really good, and is (arguably) actually important.

"Remember, remember, the 5th of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot;
I know of no reason,

why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot."

Sunday, March 12, 2006


I picked up the Clerks 10th Anniversary Edition DVD.

I'm somewhat motivated to watch/rewatch Kevin Smith's stuff after seeing him speak on Monday.

Weird -- never thought I'd think there was something "comforting" about watching "Clerks".

Almost "The Breakfast Club" comforting.

And the 3-disc DVD is a treasure trove o' goodies -- for fans of the film (or Kevin Smith's), or students of independent film.

Kill Bill VOL. 2

After rewatching Kill Bill VOL. 1 the other day, I watched Kill Bill VOL. 2 last night.

I actually hadn't yet seen VOL. 2 before last night (I've been waiting for the friends with whom to watch it, or some such excuse).

I'm surprised at how different I feel VOL. 2 is from VOL. 1. They're both amazing, diverse pieces of film work, but VOL. 2 to me felt more deliberate and poetic.

I really enjoyed "Chapter Seven: The lonely grave of Paula Schultz", and was pleasantly surprised by Michael Madsen's ("Budd") performance. There was something just beautiful and poignant about Budd's life, and Tarantino plays it in an amazingly intimate way.

And going back to my recent fixation with set dressings I mentioned in my summary of Kill Bill VOL. 1, the grave behind and to the right of Paula Schultz's tombstone, is wrapped with a series of galvanized metal gates. This was just unaccountably strking to me. There's just something sad and important and reverent about it that spun a whole backstory in my head. Dunno ...

I'm mixed on which volume I like "better" -- there's phenomenal stuff in both.

** Possible Spoilers **

I'm a bit conflicted as to the familial "resolution", and I felt like the climax was teased at the beginning of the 2nd film, so I knew what was coming from after the opening scenes. I think if it had been teased in VOL. 1, it would have been a better, "Awe, crap, that's right!" kind of moment -- and would have fit better with the whole "This is one movie" shtik.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Kill Bill VOL. 1

I watched Kill Bill VOL. 1 last night with a couple of friends (one hadn't seen it before).

Uma Thurman is ... amazing. And Quentin Tarantino is just masterful.

I think my favorite chapter changes each time I watch this film.

Last time, it was "Chapter Three: The Origin of O-Ren" (I'm a big fan of I.G. Productions' stuff); this time, it's "Chapter Four: The MAN From OKINAWA".

I like so much about the chapter. I like how it's so subtly bookended by the same dialog. I like the interplay between Hattori Hanzo (Sonny Chiba) and "Bald Guy (Sushi Shop)" (Kenji Ohba) and between Hattori Hanzo and "The Bride" (Thurman). I like how Chiba dots the "i" with Japanese script-style while writing in the dust.

I like the set dressings for the sword room, which -- to me -- is one of the most brilliant set dressings I've seen. The Japanese aren't trying to be these dressed up objects of Western fetish they so often become -- they're just living. And this set dressing shows that so well. The wall of master craftman's swords. The silk makeshift curtains. The underwear hanging from a cheap, Wal-Mart-esque hanger. The translucent plastic storage containers. The TV in a corner. It just feels authentic, lived in, and non-pretentious.

Anyway, now my favorite chapter is "Chapter Four: The MAN From OKINAWA".

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Night Watch ("Nochnoi Dozor")

I caught Night Watch right after I watched Ultraviolet, and am glad I did.

I'm sure Night Watch benefitted some from my just-previous disappointment with Ultraviolet, but the film stands solidly on its own.

Where Ultraviolet was what I expected Aeon Flux to be (a throw away popcorn flick, which Flux was not), Night Watch was what I had hoped Underworld: Evolution would be (smart, stylish, complex, hinting at a huge world that exists beyond the film without hitting the audience over the head with it). By the way, Underworld: Evolution was not this.

I read that one critic described Night Watch "as a popcorn movie with a vodka chaser" -- but this is really a disservice to the film. It's much deeper than that, more twisted and stylish, and a lot of fun.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


Just saw Ultraviolet.

OK, so part of it is unfortunate timing (who wants follow Aeon Flux and Charlize Theron with the same shtik?), but, frankly, the movie's not that good on its own.

It tries too hard to capture some of the comic series' signature moments (and pulls some of them off), but a lot of them fall terribly flat -- turns out splash panels don't translate well to film.

Mila Jovovich is fun to watch, and there is some heart and flourish worth seeing.

Now, off to see Night Watch to hopefully clear the aesthetic palate ...