Archive for great film

Red State

Posted in movies with tags , , , , , on September 6, 2011 by Parker Connell

Who knew foul-mouthed, king of the slackers Kevin Smith had a movie like Red State in him?  Once known pretty much exclusively for masterful creation of dick and fart jokes Mr. Smith has come out with one of the best thrillers in recent memory.

After the cinematic turd known as Cop Out I was ready to cast Smith aside, and any hopes I had for his next film Red State were pretty much thrown out the window. Then the first trailer came out. It looked gritty and visceral, more Rob Zombie than Kevin Smith, and that creepy voice over by Michael Parks, had me interested, but then thoughts of Bruce Willis telling unfunny jokes during poorly shot and edited car chases danced in my head and I filed my curiosity away.

Well here I sit eating my words.  Red State is an expertly made thriller about religious fanatics think Fred Phelps meets Waco. Three teens are kidnapped after being tricked with the promise of sex. Abin Cooper (Michael Parks) and his flock intend on punishing the three deviants for their wicked thoughts and actions. Soon things escalate and ATF is called to the scene

The story is something that has been seen before, but not in movies very often, this sort of thing happens in the news. Where Smith surprises is in his direction. Usually Smith focuses on the writing and the direction, cinematography, and pacing are left on the back burner. In Red State we have dynamic camera work, and one or two scene that are tenser than anything I’ve seen in years. Never before has Smith had me on the edge of my seat but here I was hold my breath, can’t look away, holy shit what is going to happen, tense for long stretches of the movie.

That isn’t to say that the writing suffers. Red State features some of Smith’s best writing since Dogma (it seems religion gets the best out of him) and it seems he benefits from the almost complete lack of dick and fart jokes.

As far as acting this is really a one-man show for Michael Parks who is allowed long speeches about scripture and “the homosexual” and it’s really enthralling and disturbingly entertaining. John Goodman does well as the ATF agent in charge and Kevin Pollak has a good moment followed by a great moment. The teens are good and Kevin Smith seems to understand how actual modern 18 year olds act and talk.

Perhaps Red State is a fluke, or a momentary rest from his standard output, either way I feel safe in saying that aside from Clerks, Red State will be the one Kevin Smith is remembered for in the long term. Short term it’s a great movie.

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Super

Posted in movies with tags , , , , , , on August 12, 2011 by Parker Connell

A trend I hope everyone has noticed with the recent influx of super hero and comic book films is the post-modern deconstruction of super hero and comic book films.  From Kick-Ass to Special these films take a skewed realistic look a how life would be if people put on a suit and tried to make the streets safe once again. Super is one such film, and it is also likely the perfect post-modern deconstruction of super hero and comic book films.

James Gunn wrote and directed this pitch-pitch-pitch black comedy about Frank (Rainn Wilson) an uninteresting, neurotic, and strange man who all his life felt out of place until a co-worker (Liv Tyler) takes an interest in him. She has a dark past and when the film starts it catches up with her again in the form of Jock (Kevin Bacon). She leaves Frank, which causes him to lose it. In one of the more disturbing and visually brilliant scenes of the film (of which there are many) Frank his touched by “The tip of the tip of the finger of God” which leads Frank to believe his duty to the planet is to put on a costume and tell crime to shut up.

What follows is a pretty much non-stop spree of weirdly depressing violence. I found my self simultaneously cheering on the insanity like it was a Robert Rodriguez movie and squirming like it was an episode of Extras. Rainn Wilson’s Crimson Bolt is an insane creation; imagine if Travis Bickle grew up on Batman and the Punisher, and the addition of his kid sidekick Bolty (Ellen Page) creates possibly the most uncomfortable sexual tension this side of… everything, I have never seen a movie with a more disturbed sexual subplot, ever.

I’ve recently come to fall in love with Kevin Bacon and Super is the latest in his attempt to become… I don’t know, this generation’s Walken… except without the self-parody. His performance as the bad guy Jock is hilarious and deranged and I loved every minute. Same goes for Michael Rooker as Bacon’s right hand, he isn’t given much to do but in true Rooker fashion he makes you notice him.

The effects in this film are perfect. I don’t know if the effects were practical or done in post, I’m leaning toward practical because there are some scenes of violence and gore in this film that are truly disturbing in a way that CG gore has yet to achieve. I couldn’t tell you if the gore is over the top because I’ve never seen someone get hit in the forehead with a pipe wrench, but I imagine it looks quite a bit like it does in Super.

Many people will come away from this film feeling dirty and depressed. Hell I did and my favorite movie starts with a rape, but don’t think this wasn’t intentional. If you look at what Gunn has done here is showing us what super heroes really are. Yeah we like Batman when he punches the Joker or drops a Mafioso from a second story building, and some people (not me) enjoy the adventures of Spider-man, but this sort of vigilantism is not a healthy exercise, and Super is showing us what Kick-Ass should have that there is nothing really good or rational about people putting on masks and taking the law into their own hands.

That isn’t to say that Super will change the way you look at super hero movies. James Gunn is just presenting another way to look at them, and unlike Kick-Ass, Super doesn’t drop the ball in it’s last act, there are no rah rah girl power montages set to Joan Jett songs or bullshit Jet Packs. This is the closest thing to real life as you can get from a super hero movie, and you know what, I love it.

Solaris

Posted in movies with tags , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2011 by Parker Connell

I am starting a new tradition for movie fans. I think of it a bit like a pilgrimage one might make if they were religious, you know if your religion was based around good movies, which mine is. This filmgrimage is called Soderweek and this is how you go about accomplishing it. For seven days you must watch as many Steven Soderbergh films as you can. They don’t have to be the only movies you watch, but they should make up the majority of them for those seven days. The other rule of Soderweek is that you must watch at least 2 Steven Soderbergh films that you have never seen before. If for some reason you have already seen all of Steven Soderbergh’s films (which I find unlikely unless you are in fact Steven Soderbergh, in which case hello Mr. Soderbergh I really enjoyed The Informant, and I hope those rumors about you retiring soon are false.) you have to get a friend (or enemy) to watch 2 Soderbergh films with you that they have not seen. The most exciting part about Soderweek, like any religious pilgrimage, is that it is a wholly personal experience; you choose the week when you will do it. It is written that you must complete at least one Soderweek in your lifetime but it is recommended by the Elder Gods that you make as many Soderweek pilgrimages as possibly. I have chosen the week starting Feb 7th and ending Feb 14th as my first Soderweek, and the first film I watched was Solaris.

Solaris is a surprisingly great film. It’s a simple sci-fi story about a shrink (Cloon the goon) who has to take trip to a space ship that has stopped all contact. The ship is orbiting a celestial body known as Solaris. Solaris is a strange entity that nobody understands and when Clooney gets there he finds half the crew dead and the other half slowly being driven mad by the power of Solaris.

Any description of this film will make it sound much more intense and science fictiony than it is, but like 2001 (a film that obviously influenced Soderbergh in the making of this film) Solaris is a much subtler more subdued thing. Really this film is about one man coming to terms with the death of someone he loved, set against the always interesting back drop of madness from the vastness and intense alienness of the cosmos.

The film also stars Jeremy Davies, Viola Davis, and Natascha McElhone, and that is pretty much it. Personally I love Jeremy Davies in this and pretty much everything, he is just a fascinating person to watch, and his fidgety pause filled delivery is perfect for a Space Madness film. Viola Davis is also quite good she plays the other surviving crewmember and while she is just as crazy as Davies she plays it exactly the opposite, she is always stone still and very unassuming. McElhone plays Clooney’s lost love in both flashbacks and as a projection of Clooney’s memory via Solaris. McElhone has the tough job of being simultaneously off-putting to the audience but believable as somebody Clooney would immediately fall back in love even though he knows she is dead and she pulls it off perfectly.

As a sci-fi fan I was disappointed a bit with the way Soderbergh pushed aside most possibilities for some great sci-fi, but by the end I got what he was trying to get across. This isn’t a film about space and alien life it is about memory, and death, and love, and big themes that have been explored before, but in my opinion any theme is better if it is explored on a space ship.

The Blind Swordsman Zatoichi

Posted in movies with tags , , , , , , , on July 2, 2010 by Parker Connell

If you are like me, which you aren’t because you probably do not compare Freddy Got Fingered to Citizen Kane every chance you get, but if you are anything like me you like samurai flicks, and if you are me you love samurai flicks. Most of the samurai films I’ve seen, and it’s probably the same for you, are Kurosawa flicks, Yojimbo, Ran, and of course Seven Samurai. Thinking about it seems that before Zatoichi the only samurai movies I had seen were by Akira Kurosawa (unless you count Kill Bill, which I don’t because it takes place in modern-day and it’s more kung fu with samurai stuff thrown in) there are also a couple great japanimations out there about samurai that i recommend (Samurai Champloo and Afro Samurai) but for live action samurai bad-assery Zatoichi is my first non-Kurosawa.

Zatoichi was released in 2003 and was directed by the incredible Takeshi Kitano who also stars as the titular blind badass. We meet him on a dirt road sittin’ on a log, like a frog.

Not this frog though

A group of bad guys take Zatoichi’s cane/sword away from him and laugh at what they think is a poor blind man. so Zatoichi (spoiler) kills them really fast. (end spoiler) This scene is unconnected from the rest of the movie, it’s like a short film where the moral of the story is “Don’t fuck with old blind dudes”

Zatoichi the movie is about Zatoichi the blind killing machine righting wrongs in a village for no reason. He just kind of decides to help a nice vegetable woman and ends up helping her degenerate gambler nephew and a couple of vengeance seeking geishas (cool geishas not geisha who write boring memoirs)

That’s kind of a testament to Kitano’s talent as a filmmaker and a story-teller. This flick has all the hallmarks of a Hollywood action flick but it still finds a way to tell a deep, involving story that takes place in a very real, very relatable village with realistic people, it’s not just a hollow shell where violence takes place.

Oh but violence does happen. Incredible violence ranging from a few quick exchanges where Zatoichi ends thugs who try to take advantage of an old man to a couple full set pieces that rival anything done by Hollywood in the past 20 years.

One battle in particular towards the end is astounding. Zatoichi has to get in to a building and take out a high-ranking gang fellow. To accomplish this task he must first cut through ten guys, which he does in a ballet of superb violence, then when he gets into the gang dudes room the gang dude pulls a revolver, Zatoichi promptly uses his sword to show the guy what Zatoichi thinks of guns.

This is essentially what he thinks.

I whole heartedly recommend The Blind Swordsman Zatoichi to all fans of samurai films, and to most fans of good stories. I also recommend anything else directed by Takeshi Kitano.

Youth In Revolt

Posted in movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2010 by Parker Connell

Youth in Revolt is bout shitty people. Not like Pink Flamingos shitty more like kind of realist, really annoying if you met them in real life shitty. I did not expect this, so I really liked it.

Michael Cera plays Nick Twisp a 16-year-old douche bag, not the “wears too much BOD body spray, listens to Nu Metal and only Nu Metal, wears his baseball cap in any way besides straight ahead like a grown up” douce bag, no Nick is the listens to Frank Sinatra all the time, watches La Strada on the weekends for fun, talks like he is smarter than everyone, and thinks sex will solve all his problems kind of 16-year-old douche bag, so this character kind of brought back disturbing memories of myself, the only difference is I watched Bergman instead of Fellini.

So Nick meets Sheeni, the female equivalent of Nick’s douche baggery, a chick who knows who Ozu is and who really loves Breathless and Serge Gainsbourg, the only high school girls I knew who loved french shit that much were awful, I mean she names her dog Albert (pronounced Albear) after Albert Camus and the way she says Albert with stupid over emphasis on BEAR pisses me off, so of course Nick falls in love with her, because she is shitty, and he is shitty, and this movie is all about people who are shitty. The rest of the movie is about Nick and Sheeni trying to be together. In order to be with her Nick has to get kicked out of his mom’s house and sent to live with his dad which is nearer to Sheeni, to do this Nick creates Francois Dillinger, a really hardcore asshole designed to make Nick the ultimate intellectual bad boy, also a movie schizophrenic.

Francois is a great character for Cera because it gives him the chance to show the world the kind of great asshole he can be, the kind of asshole who, in the past, was relegated to DVD bonus disks and Internet videos.

The cst of this movie is really great and surprising, Zack Galifianakis, Ray Liotta, Steve Buscemi, M. Emmet Walsh, The Chick who puked a bunch in Nick and Norah, Adhir Kalyan from the great Aliens in America, and Fred Willard as the only character in this movie who isn’t totally shitty, he’s a genuinely nice guy but he’s an idiot. Ray Liotta is pretty much just playing his character from Observe and Report just at a lower rank in the police force, maybe Youth in Revolt is a prequel to Observe and Report, they have a similar tone, sort of.

One small gripe, there were a few animated sequences that were kind of bad and unnecessary, they felt like deleted scenes from Paper Heart but the first one had stop motion birds having stop motion sex so that’s kind of okay I guess.

Youth in Revolt was surprisingly intellectual, but not in a pretentious way bit in a lets not talk down to our audience kind of way, the movie is also really cynical which is also cool, I was watching At the Movies last night and A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips wer lamenting a films lack of cynicism and harshness, I like that because I agree more movies need to be cynical and evil.

It's important to keep movies evil

Youth in Revolt is an incredibly original, dark, and hilarious film. Totally worth seeing especially if you know who Ozu is, because this film rewards you for being an intellectual asshole.

Three Kings: Cloon The Goon and Pals Go To War

Posted in movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2010 by Parker Connell

I like David O. Russel. I’ve seen most of Spanking the Monkey, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen his Ben Stiller movie, and I love Three Kings, yes I absolutely hate I Heart Huckabees, but everybody makes one bad movie eventually, and sometimes they make one of the worst movies ever.

I hate you I Heart Huckabees

But I digress, this is about Three Kings a film about the first Iraq war that stars Cloon the Goon, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, and Spike Jonze as the Three Kings I guess, I know there are four of them, maybe David O. Russel forgot or something, maybe it was another metaphorical reason but if it does I don’t care cause metaphors are for sissies just like documentaries.

So Wahlberg, Jonze, and Cube find a map in a dudes butt then Cloon the Goon gets involved because he thinks it’s a map that leads to a bunch of gold, which it does, and they steal it because they want to quit their day jobs, Ice Cube works at an airport, Wahlberg is a cubicle jockey, and Spike Jonze shoots toys with a shotgun which would be the best day job ever if you could make 8 bucks an hour doing it, but he doesn’t so he needs that gold. Cloon the Goon does it because he doesn’t know why he fought in the war so he wants a reason, and I mean gold is a good enough reason to do most things.

Like slaughtering an indigenous people.

After the gold is had Cloon the Goon and the Kings (possibly the best band name since Chumba Wumba) take  pity on some Iraqi rebels in the coolest shoot out not filmed by Mann or Peckinpah. After that is when the film gets tricky but I’ll let you find out more on your own, what I want to talk about for a moment is Spike Jonze and Ice Cube.

Spike Jonze is primarily known as a director of some of the best music videos ever and some of the best movies around but holy shit kids, he can act. He does a better job of acting than most people in this movie, certainly better than Jamie Kennedy, he gets more screen time than Ice Cube, and he’s pretty much on par with Cloon the Goon in a couple of scenes, but that isn’t to say that the acting is bad, quite the opposite the acting in this is really great.

Ice Cube, what happened to him. He was in two of the best flicks of the 90’s, Three Kings and Boyz n The Hood, then the new millenium, or Willenium, starts and he does a bunch of stupid crap about driving kids and building houses or some shit, come on not good enough Ice Cube. we, the viewing public, know you have more potential than that.

The look of Three Kings is really rad, almost every shot could be made into a piece of art and a few of the sequences, like the aforementioned shoot out or the sepsis speech, are fucking beautiful.

Do I have any problems with the movie? Not really. It’s got so much that I like that it’s hard to think of something I don’t. If I’m being nit picky I guess the fact that the RZA isn’t in it kind of bugs me, I guess.

Not in this.

But seriously this is a great movie in my opinion, I’ve known some people who didn’t really care for it and I guess I can understand it but they are still wrong.