Archive for the ‘Movie Reviews 2007’ Category

Movie review from LA June 3 – June 10: “Hostel: Part II”, “Day Watch”, “Ocean’s”, Apatow’s “Knocked Up”

June 12, 2007

Gosh where do I start from this past weekend. I’ve seen 4 very different kinds of films between last Friday and today…Monday. Not only that but I’ve been going through the worst cold I’ve had in 4 years time. My head is swirling with sharply and poorly acted and written characters, dialogue, styles of directing, images of gore, of the fantastical, of 60′s and 70′s throwbacks, of comical and dramatic moments, of brutally hilarious disturbing images, of sexual intercourse (the kind that leads to really bad things). My weekend has been filled with tension and laughs, escapist fun and reality that’s almost too real to want to laugh at, and then reality that’s too real to watch. For one weekend at the movies, that’s a pretty crazy ride. I’m going to start with the most recent seen and perhaps the least favorite moment of the ride.

Being sick there’s that moment when you think you’re done using the bathroom, so you pull away and to your surprise realize that you may not have been done and end up having to wipe off the floor or your leg a little bit. Eli Roth’s “Hostel: Part II” felt like that dribble to me. Or at least parts of it did. Large parts of it. Only instead of cleaning those parts up and flushing them down the toilet with the other bad ideas, Roth kept it to show the world. Thank you Eli! In keeping some of those ideas there’s a certain kind of inspiration that you find in the Hostel films, one lacking in other films of this recently resurrected genre (Saw and it’s sequels). There’s a joy that Eli Roth takes in the carnage, and in that joy you see moments of someone who has the potential to be a really good filmmaker, which means there are moments of”Hostel II” in which we witness a great film, just as there were in the first “Hostel”.

“Hostel” surprised me. It was in fact a film that I intended not to see. It wasn’t until I was thoroughly creeped-out by the very simple teaser for “Hostel II”…

…that I started jonesing to see the first. That same level of psychological fear that I found in the teaser flowed underneath Roth’s surprise hit. Sure, there was gore to be had, but much of it was hidden in the shadows or cleverly built up to, or used to create emotional gravitas. And this is where Roth excels in part II. (more…)

Weekly Movie Update May 23- June 3: Depp, Paprika and Miike

June 4, 2007

As I sit here consciously avoiding any and all dairy so I can finally get over this infernal morphing sinus cold that I’ve had for a month, I’m taking the time to ruminate on the three most effective films I’ve seen this past week. And as different as they are they all tread on similar creative ground, that of the abstract and absurd.

I’ll begin with the experience that I look forward to most throughout the year. Those films that when you walk out of the theatre the world seems just a little more alive than it was when you stepped in. Colors are more vibrant, sounds more distinct and scents more aromatic. The world around you becomes almost hyper realistic. The film is Satoshi Kon’s “Paprika.” I show you this trailer (on the next page) safely knowing that the experience is saved for seeing the film itself.

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Paris Je T’aime — Weekly Movie Update from LA

May 25, 2007

Before Pirates lambastes the world I thought I would take a moment and praise this little film that has almost more passion than it knows what to do with. Passion for Paris and even more so, passion for cinema.

paris je t'aim movie poster

“Paris Je T’aime” is a new film from the same producer of “Amelie”, that other love note to Paris. But here the Directors are far more diverse. Everyone from The Coen Brothers to Walter Salles to the cinematographer Christopher Doyle to Alphonso Cuaron to Gerard Depardieu to Alexander Payne to Tom Tykwer to Wes Craven to Gus Van Sant ( and many French directors as well who I will now take the time to get to know)… well it seemed like every director or person who wanted to direct something in Paris poured their heart into one of the 18 shorts that comprised this film – you can see all of their names circling the poster along with all of the actors too.

And thank God they wanted to. What could have been an exercise in excess never once lurches as it passes from one skillful hand to the next. It sings, vaults and dances circles around your senses. One moment laughing at the absurdity – the next moved by something suddenly emotional. This film captures Paris in snapshots, beautiful little snapshots. Precise, keen snapshots. The subtlety at which some of the stories were told baffled and surprised me. All of you wannabe filmmakers out there who feel like a short film has to be a half hour long, watch this movie and learn.

And as I stated Paris isn’t the only thing the makers of this film are in love with, they show a passion for all kinds of cinema. And it’s a joy to watch them share their visions.

Check it out. It’s a gem.

Watch these trailers. Do not search for the American trailer, they give away too many plot points…idiot American Producers.

The Grindhouse: Tarrantino, Rodriguez and me

April 7, 2007

It was an experience alright. Not one many seemed to get. What do I mean by that? That even among the pulp schlock crowd there are idiots who don’t even seem to know what they are watching. Two things stood out among the audience during this film. The first, moments after Rodriguez’s Planet Terror came to a conclusion a good 20 people stood up and left the theater as if the movie was over. I watched in absolute astonishment as this occurred. Did they not realize that Kurt Russell hadn’t appeared in the film yet? That there was no deadly car chase sequences? Very odd. And secondly, only about a quarter of the audience was laughing and truly appreciating the amazing experience that these two talented filmmakers created for our pleasure. They were watching but they certainly weren’t seeing. Every detail of these two films was so minutely crafted to capture the essence of the original grindhouse movies that really its difficult to calm them bad movies. From seeing the crew and camera man in the mirrors in the opening moments of Planet Terror to the constantly shifting backgrounds every time the camera cuts in the first car ride in Death Proof, you know, if nothing else, that Rodriguez and Tarrantino have seen far too many of these movies themselves.

But even where homage is paid, the films stand alone as very entertaining and enjoyable modern films. The car crash sequences in Death Proof are really quite thrilling. The violence is unquestionably and almost realistically violent. If you know someone who has been in a fatal automobile accident, you may want to close your eyes during this sophisticated slasher movies first big death scene. But then if you do, the final 20 minutes of the film won’t be nearly as satisfying. The only problem here is that, well, you’ve seen Tarrantino do this all before. Certainly not with a murdering stuntman behind the wheel, but the whole 70′s exploitation in modern setting, you have…over and over again. So when the camera wraps around the girls in a diner quipping in pulp culture references…you’ve seen it. When you witness the over the top violence…you’ve seen it. This is Tarrantio’s specialty. This is why people love him, and will continue to do so. Because while he takes himself seriously as a filmmaker (my friends would argue too seriously), he takes himself too seriously when concerning film genres that don’t matter as much to anyone else. (Except maybe Eli Roth – who is his own sort of twistedness.) Even when there are a few moments of this film that drag a bit (the second group of girls especially), it’s so smoothly done, and has such an incredible end, you’ll find yourself a fan…I was even hooting and hollering in the end, which is something I don’t normally do. And thank goodness Kurt Russell exists. I don’t know what I would do without the man.

As for Rodriguez’s Planet Terror. It’s just impressive to see a man take such a ridiculous idea and make something beautiful out of it. Oh, and grotesque. But instead of making my own statements about the film, I’m going to pick on someone else’s statements. That being this final statement made by Richard Roeper in his current review “Grindhouse” over at the Chicago Sun Times…

“Rodriguez is a ridiculously talented writer, director, editor, composer, cinematographer, sound designer, etc., etc., and he absolutely nails the tone of the classic zombie gore-fest. Even through all the winks and blood and decapitations, he gives us twisted little subplots and a handful of three-dimensional characters. The cast is strong, though it’s a bit tough to buy the slight (albeit talented) Freddy Rodriguez as the baddest man on the planet. The sole reason I’m giving “Planet Terror” only three stars is I’ve never been a zombie-movie guy; I’ve always found this particular strain of undead, with their limited brainpower and their halting gaits and their dopey groaning, to be among the least interesting horror-movie monsters. But for fans of the genre, “Planet Terror” is just about perfect.” (more…)


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