Archive for Review

Any Given Sunday (1999)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on December 14, 2012 by Parker Connell

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      Any Given Sunday is a god damn mess. Think of every sports movie cliche, now pump those with human growth hormone and mountain dew, if you make that take too much crank you’ve got Any Given Sunday. Oliver Stone’s attempt to tell the story of the wild world of pro-football is an over-the-top, badly edited, poorly written cluster-fuck of a film.
    Stone has never been known for making subtle films but Any Given Sunday is as unsubtle as film gets, at least Natural Born Killers has the semi-excuse of being an attack on subtlety. The movie starts in the middle of a game and in the opening 10 minutes alone we are assaulted with rapid-fire edits, cartoon sound effects, weird fades, pointless blur effects, also Matthew Modine being underutilized as usual. It was stressful and incredibly difficult to watch, it felt almost like having a panic attack except I’ve never had Pacino yell at me during a panic attack, and it never lets up for the rest of the movie.
    Speaking of Mr. Pacino I actually do like him in this. He is in full blown Shouting Pacino mode but Any Given Sunday is one of the few instances where this method of acting works because the rest of the film is in full on shouting overdrive, any kind of acting subtlety doesn’t even read which is probably why Cameron Diaz isn’t completely awful and why Aaron Eckhart is totally forgettable.
    Stone also continues his trend of giving James Woods one scene where he gets to just totally put everyone else to shame. Good for you Mr. Woods I hope you live forever.
    The closest thing to a theme this movie has is the always boring ‘old versus new’. Al Pacino is an old school coach, a thirty year veteran of the game and he’s being pushed around by the new school, Cameron Diaz is the owner of the team and she wants to run the team based on money and stats and all the other things that aren’t “Heart and Gumption and Wanting It The Most” and Jamie Foxx is the hot shot new guy who has his own ideas about football, and also racial issues but those speeches are badly written. Part of me thinks Stone is siding with Pacino in this regard, in ’99 Stone had already been making movies for almost 30 years and he probably had a lot to say about young guys edging in on his territory. However, Any Given Sunday is like a bad interpretation of what young people want, maybe that’s the point and Stone purposefully made a bad movie to prove that what young people is shitty… but I doubt it.

    Schizophrenic editing that is akin to a panic attack, blunt, boring, cliche writing (probably the worst writing Stone has done since Scarface), it features the only recurring puke gag in film history that I don’t like, oh and it’s two and a half hours long, there is very little to like about Any Given Sunday.

Gentleman Broncos

Posted in movies with tags , , , , , , , on December 1, 2011 by Parker Connell

It was around the time that Sam Rockwell sporting a pink unitard and speaking in an offensively cliché gay lisp, picked up a flat cow turd and ate it that I realized that Gentleman Broncos wasn’t really intended to entertain anyone. If anyone is entertained it is purely incidental. The writing in Gentleman Broncos feels like a five year old heard his first fart joke and immediately wrote a movie. Everything is unnecessarily gross and mildly hateful.

I don’t want to say that Gentleman Broncos is the ugliest film I’ve ever seen, but if Trashhumpers didn’t exist Gentleman Broncos would be the ugliest film I’ve ever seen, but at least Trashhumpers had the benefit of being ugly on purpose.

Michael Angarano plays the main character of this movie and that is just too bad. Mr. Angarano has in his short career made been in some pretty great movies, Snow Angels, Sky High, that one movie where Jet Li and Jackie Chan fight each other or some bullshit, Red State, and in this he is totally wasted, as is Sam Rockwell. The only person that comes out of this not appearing bad at there job is Jemaine Clement, who completely buys into the role of Ronald Chevalier and crafts the only character worth watching. In a different, more perfect world, I different writing/directing team would have created Chevalier and made a decent send-up of the notoriously absurd and conceited world of sci-fi novelists. Instead we are stuck with a movie that revels in unearned testicle jokes and unfunny homophobia.

This movie is funny like reminiscing with your elementary school friends about all the poop jokes and girls you used to like, not very funny for anyone else to watch and even the people who experienced it should realize that “One of the lasers hit my boob” screamed by a man in drag isn’t very funny. The whole stupid affair reeks of kids swearing in the cafeteria, none of them really knows what it means and aren’t really committing to the vulgarity just in case adults are listening.

On the topic of puke jokes: I love puke jokes, and in my naïveté I thought all puke jokes were funny, my ignorance was brought to light by Gentleman Broncos, and I hate it for this reason.

There is quite a bit of unhappiness at the filmmakers Hess. After Napoleon Dynamite became the Juno of that year (what was the pre 2008 version of “This years Juno”? “This years Scent of A Woman” maybe?) people started getting down on the husband and wife Mormon moviemaking team, I didn’t bye into it, sure Napoleon Dynamite got old pretty quick and doesn’t hold up, but I still hold Nacho Libre (the couples second film) as one of the funnier movies around. I say all this in order to offset any claims that I was predetermined to hate Gentleman Broncos, which is the very opposite of the truth, the makers of this movie failed in their own right with no help from bias.

The main problem this movie has in terms of “integrity” (or whatever term you’d use for the category of thing sin the writer/director has control over) is that none of it is original. Each of its three acts have their own half assed story arc each stolen from better movies. The first act, taken from Hess’s own Napoleon Dynamite, is about an awkward teen’s romance with an awkward girl. Both movies main characters obviously have little or no experience talking to girls but where Napoleon was a begrudgingly sweet story of weirdoes finding each other Gentleman Broncos’ love story is a mean one where the girl takes advantage of the boy’s earnestness.

The second act is about Michael Angarano selling his book, The Yeast Lords (everything about this movie is off putting), to a local filmmaking group. It is at it’s heart a rip off of Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind, and what a cold, dead heart it is. Be Kind Rewind is a flawed but entertaining film simply because of the creativity of it’s direction, and the simple sweet nature of it’s performances and script. The production of The Yeast Lords has all the surface appearance of a “sweded” movie from Be Kind Rewind (dolls standing in for special effects, using men to play women, bad line readings) but instead of the sense of community the view felt during Be Kind Rewind, Gentleman Broncos urges us to laugh at it’s would be filmmakers, Hess and his cohorts go out of there way to say “Look at these idiots, they think they can make a movie.” Which is ironic, I suppose, because the piss poor production of The Yeast Lords is only slightly more terrible than Gentleman Broncos.

The third act is stolen whole cloth from the Frankie Muniz/Paul Giamatti family vehicle Big Fat Liar, where a corporate bigwig steals a short story and attempts to make big money off it. In Gentleman Broncos, Jemaine Clement steals Michael Anganaro’s sci fi book The Yeast Lord and repurposes it only slightly to become Brutus and Balzaak (one of many really lame jokes about testicles featured in this movie). I have very little good to say in terms of Big Fat Liar except that Gentleman Broncos belongs in the small group of films categorically worse than Big Fat Liar.

 

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.

The Girlfriend Experience & Full Frontal

Posted in movies with tags , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2011 by Parker Connell

Soderweek continues for me with The Girlfriend Experience and Full Frontal. Both films could (and should) be considered lesser Soderbergh films due to their loose storytelling and their short run times. Neither of those are bad things,especially the short run times which made it much easier to get through them. These are two essentially Soderbergh experiments and as such they are successes.

Both GFE and Full Frontal are short slice of life yarns about people in some kind of entertainment industry. GFE is a drama about a really high-class prostitute (played by Sasha Grey) and Full Frontal is a comedy about people in and around Hollywood.

The Girlfriend Experience wasn’t as good as Full Frontal simply because I didn’t care about any other character outside of Sasha Grey’s girlfriend for money Christine. Pretty much every character is a super rich business type and since the film is set on the cusp of the economic crisis and the 2008 presidential election all they do is complain about money and who would be better for there money.

Full Frontal was better to me because the cast was pretty great and I’m just more interested in th film industry than I am prostitution, especially the kind of prostitution that costs over 2 grand a date and has no dependence on crack. Probably the most entertaining part of Full Frontal for me was Blair Underwood and Julia Roberts starring in a romantic comedy within the film and then Blair Underwood’s character starring in a David Fincher film within the romantic comedy (complete with cameo from both Fincher and Brad Pitt). It was funny, and it actually kind of hurt my brain. Also the sub plot about the always great Enrico Colantoni putting on a weirdly pretentious play about Hitler starring the equally as great Nicki Katt was laugh out loud funny.

All in all both films succeeded in their own ways, The Girlfriend Experience was very nice to look at but ultimately hollow, and Full Frontal was ugly as sin but had some interesting things to say about creative people, but honestly I don’t think I’d ever like to watch them again.

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 Kids Are All Right

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

I really wanted to enjoy The Kids are All Right. Going in I was expecting a light, funny, intelligent comedy about an interesting modern family. In the end, however, I wasn’t all that impressed.

The Kids are All Right is about a lesbian couple played by Julianne Moore and Annette Bening and their two children 18-year-old Joni and 15-year-old Laser played by Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson respectively. Joni has just graduated high school and with some pushing on the part of her brother decides to call the guy whose donated sperm was used to impregnate the moms. That dude’s name is Paul and the normally very entertaining Mark Ruffalo plays him.

Now if you were presented with this premise, just this sort of over long log line, what story would you tell? I know I would tell the story of the kids and use it to explore the idea of homosexual parenthood and the bizarre act of people using a stranger’s seed. That to me is infinitely more interesting than a story about the dysfunctions in the marriage of Moore and Bening.

My disinterest and boredom with the squabbles and bickering of the parents has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that it is two women; it has more to do with the waste of an excellent and original story. As far as I know there has not been a film about teens born from donated sperm, certainly nothing as mainstream as this, starring bankable actors and actresses. Instead The Kids Are All Right seems more interested in telling the same old boring upper-middle class suburban marriage falls apart at the slightest interruption to the status quo.

Annette Bening does what she’s been doing since American Beauty by playing an uptight control freak, this time she’s a bit looser, which was occasionally refreshing, but mostly it just felt extremely cliché. Julianne Moore plays a bit against character as the fun-loving, new agey, middle-aged hippie. I found Moore’s performance a bit nerve-racking in the beginning, and then her character makes a few decisions that were so bizarre and stupid to me that I just sort of lost it.

Now before you think I’m completely writing this flick off let me just say that there are moments that were incredibly intelligent and equally as entertaining. Every one of those moments involved the kids. Especially Mia Waskowska her performance was incredible, something about the way she got across her character’s unassuming intelligence and her, in a way, contradictory need for approval really floored me in a way few teenage character’s do, plus she was really quite funny. Hutcherson was also quite funny in almost all of his scenes in a much more obvious (but in a good way) and jokey manner. Hutcherson’s friendship with a mildly psychotic neighbor kid was also interesting and realistic, it’s one of the few honest teenage friendships in a film where yes jock type straight-laced looking kids in this day and age do in fact hang out with insane punk rock junkie types, it’s just the accepting kind of world we live in now. It’s just too bad these characters have felt more like tangents to the director’s intended story.

Speaking of acceptance, the portrayal of the homosexual relationship was one thing I really felt the director Lisa Cholodenko along with her co-writer Stuart Blumberg got right. Now when I say right I don’t necessarily mean true to life, this I do not know, I have never known a seriously committed lesbian couple so I do not know how they or their children would be treated, I do however know that the least interesting thing they could do would be to have the kid’s having to deal with their peers mockery for having “two moms”. I applaud the writing team for that, however, as much respect as I have for that aspect of the film, I would like to heap on doubly so my disdain for another aspect of the writing.

If this film wins any writing award, especially from the academy, I will be mildly perturbed, for really only one reason, but this is just so glaring and annoying that it took me out of the film every time it happened. I am speaking of course of naming Josh Hutcherson’s character Laser. Holy crap man, why, I mean that reads to me like a first draft kind of thing, where your put it in as like a joke, with maybe a couple of jokes about it strewn throughout and then in subsequent drafts when you realize that it is stupid you take out all the jokes, which the must have done, but then the writers forgot to do a find and replace function for the name Laser to replace it with Ansell or Vincent or some sort of arty name. Naming the kid Laser just felt over written and kind of twee, and if that was the point then it was a bad idea because they didn’t need to give the audience anymore reason to dislike the annoying, bickering, overly hip parents.

I expected to like The Kids are All Right more, instead what I got was a really dull experience punctuated by glimpses of the kind of movie it could have been. Taking the good with the bad, at least I know to look out for any and every flick Mia Wasikowska does from now on, and I have another reason to really like Josh Hutcherson besides his (surprisingly awesome) previous work on Zathura.

 

Cop Out

Posted in movies with tags , , , , , on September 15, 2010 by Parker Connell

Let me start by saying I saw Cop Out the day it was released in theaters. I went with a couple of friends, expecting a sub-par Kevin Smith experience. We all left feeling let down from that expectation. Upon watching it at home recently I now realize just how wrong we were. We went in expecting something that wasn’t very good so we left feeling let down. In reality we should have gone in expecting the best from Kevin Smith because that is what Cop Out is, Kevin Smith’s greatest work as a director, and a strong contender for best comedy of the past 10 years.

Cop Out takes the tired old mismatched buddy cop genre and turns it around making it vibrant and fresh again. Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan are partners in the NYPD and they play by their own rules, and sometimes their rules are no rules at all. As a for instance take the stake out scene where Tracy is dressed as a giant cell phone. What perfect comedic invention made even better by Smith’s decision to let Morgan riff freely. Tracy Morgan is hilarious in shows like 30 Rock and SNL where he is reigned in and controlled by television censorship but given the Kevin Smith seal of unmitigated swears he is revolutionary. He bounces comedy off everything on-screen.

Bruce Willis is also used perfectly. He’s a grizzled old cop, like John McClane if he hadn’t had all those run-ins with greedy Germans and just became jaded and sarcastic. As a straight man for Morgan’s antics he is amazing, but don’t worry in the realm of comedy Bruno is no slouch. Smith and the writers give Willis ample opportunity to stretch that comedy muscle.

The story is all over the place, which is a welcome departure from Smith’s usual linear way of telling a story, but at the center is a baseball card worth enough money to pay for an elaborate wedding for Bruce Willis’ daughter’s wedding. Needless to say things aren’t so simple for our heroes. I won’t spoil anything (because I highly recommend you see this) but let me just add that this has one of the most menacing villains I’ve ever seen in a comedy!

The look of this film is pretty great. It reminded me so much of old cop flicks like The French Connection and Serpico. Very down on the street, gritty, which made juxtaposition of comedy pop even more.

I could go on and on about this movie, from Kevin Pollack and Adam Brody as Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan’s rivals on the force with a weird predilection for cowboy wear, or the out of this world action set pieces, but I won’t I want this revelatory comedy experience to be a new and fresh experience for you.

I promise you will not be disappointed!