Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Wed 19 Nov 2008 9:41 am   //   Posted in: Movies, Review

Quantum of Something

Last night we saw the new 007 flick “Quantum of Solace.” My favorite part was the part about the quantum of solace. [Pause for laughter.]

James Bond feels like he’s in a kind of transitional phase, but the movie is still a safe choice: You’re paying for 007, you’re getting 007. Two films ago, the ever-wise custodians of the Bond brand brought in actor Daniel Craig to bring the series up to contemporary standards. So far, this has meant copying the look of the Jason Bourne movies (which have come dangerously close to out-Bonding Bond). The new Bond involves less sex, gadgets, drinking and sleaze – and more noise, quick-cut fight scenes, backstabbing and pain. Judy Dench is the ideal M, and Craig is the best Bond ever. The problem is the villains. The bad guy in this film is the head of a utility company who’s evil scheme involves— [spoiler alert!] (more…)

Tue 4 Nov 2008 2:53 pm   //   Posted in: In the news, Movies

Citizen McCain

A classic film clip to keep in mind as you’re watching the election returns tonight:

(Direct link.)

Thu 25 Sep 2008 9:42 am   //   Posted in: Movies, New York is different, TV

Life on a sound stage

I’ve been trying to make sense of the sudden increase in location shoots going on around the city. Gossip Girl has been taping all over Brooklyn in the last month or so; they were shooting on Prospect Avenue in my neighborhood Tuesday night.

Generally, film and TV productions cause minor disruptions. They will take over all the street parking on a block, set up a bunch of trucks with diesel generators, and spread heaps of cables and equipment all over the sidewalk. Sometimes they’ll close a restaurant or a coffee shop for the day. And rarely, for the biggest movies, they’ll block a sidewalk or a road entirely. I think most New Yorkers get such a kick out of seeing our city fictionalized in movies and on TV that we accept these small inconveniences.

The Times has a story today explaining why there are so many shoots going on right now: Tax credits.

Sat 30 Aug 2008 11:48 am   //   Posted in: Movies, Review

Walking the high wire

Saw the new documentary Man On Wire yesterday. It’s about the French tightrope-walker and his friends who sneaked onto the roofs of the World Trade Center in 1974, strung a cable between the towers, and performed a high-wire act for the surprised and delighted crowd below.

Lately I’ve been paying closer attention to the different ways of telling a story in a documentary. This movie has no narrator, just the voices of the participants retelling the events. The filmmakers interject their own comment and sense of humor using music and editing. This film uses actors to recreate scenes that were never filmed originally, which sounds sneaky but serves the story well.

Any work of nonfiction succeeds or fails based on how good the material is. In this case, it’s a brilliant and simple story with some universal themes. It’s about taking a reckless risk for art, about chasing an obsession, and about craving some intense experience in a world engineered to be safe and comfortable. It’s also about success: He did it!

Unmentioned in the film is what happened to those towers. That seems like a missing piece of the story, but on the other hand, what are they going to say about it that the audience doesn’t already know?

Sat 2 Aug 2008 2:46 pm   //   Posted in: Movies, Review

You call *this* the biggest movie ever?

Saw the Batman movie yesterday. Fine. Too violent. Didn’t live up to the hype. Also, Gotham City is Manhattan, not Chicago. You can’t have it both ways.

(Update: “It’s a film that is just rewriting the record books every day and redefining our notions of what a blockbuster can be.“)

Mon 7 Jul 2008 9:35 am   //   Posted in: Movies, No right to be good

Pixar can do no wrong

Gerritt and I went to see WALL-E over the weekend. Like people have been saying, this movie is a lot better than any description of it makes it sound. A post-apocalyptic robot love story told as a Disney-Pixar cartoon? Yeah, it sounds bad on paper, but somehow this film got made and the world is a better place for it.

I want to talk about the ending credits. In the movie, humans have been living in a Wal-Mart space ship for 700 years. They have forgotten how to make art. The ending credits shows the re-evolution of human art after they have returned to Earth. It runs from cave paintings to Picasso, but with robots tucked away in most the paintings, as if they are no more unnatural than trees. It’s one of those great ideas that feels like something you’ve always had in the back of your head, but at the same time seems like it’s never been done before.

Fri 20 Jun 2008 12:00 pm   //   Posted in: Failure, Movies

I love a bad review

The Love Guru looks like the worst major movie to be released in a long time. It’s the rare case where the reviews are more inspired and entertaining than the film itself. (I haven’t seen the movie and don’t plan to.) Bad reviews are fun to read, and these did not disappoint. Imagine a poster quoting the critics…

“Antifunny!” –The New York Times
“Anti-entertainment!” – New York Daily News
“Anti-comedy!” – The Washington Post

The film currently has an astonishing 14% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It has made people forgot that Mike Myers, pre-Shrek, used to be funny. As a reminder, here’s a clip from his last genuinely funny movie, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, which came out in 1997.

Thu 5 Jun 2008 1:00 pm   //   Posted in: Failure, Movies

How to fix the Indiana Jones movie

My brother Gerritt helped me realize what made Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull so bad. The culprit? Indiana Jones.

Imagine if Lucas and Spielberg dropped a summer movie on us out of nowhere called The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Instead of Dr. Jones, our hero is a new character. Some kind of nerdy tough-guy professor, played by Will Smith or The Rock or Nick Cage. Imagine…

Roll film. It’s the cold war, 1957. Our hero is fighting the Soviets for possession of a mysterious alien skeleton. There’s action. Comedy. Camp. Flying saucers and killer ants. There’s a flume ride down a treacherous waterfall. There are cute gophers and hilarious monkeys. Sure it’s ridiculous, but that’s what we expect — a mindless escape movie. Everybody loves it.

But back to what happened. We were expecting an Indiana Jones movie, and so was Harrison Ford. He did his best to make it one. But the script was all wrong. That left us with something tantalizingly close to an Indiana Jones movie, but a little off. It’s that slight difference that was so upsetting. The movie had an uncanny valley problem. It made fans like me feel queasy to watch it.

There’s still time for Lucas and Spielberg to scuttle Indiana Jones 5 and get to work on some other movie that would almost certainly be better. We can hope.

Elsewhere: Five Questions Not Answered In ‘Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull’

Mon 26 May 2008 10:23 pm   //   Posted in: Failure, Movies, Review

Worse than Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones quicksand

The most tragic thing about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is that for millions of kids, this will be their introduction to Indiana Jones. Not the swashbuckling hero movies from the 80s, but an incoherent, over-CGI’d space alien picture. (Spoilers follow.)


Wed 14 May 2008 9:38 am   //   Posted in: Movies

Guy movies

The Sex and the City movie is coming out soon, and it’s mandatory for everyone in New York to see it. Hey, I don’t make the rules. For the sake of contrast, here’s a list of excellent movies with no (or virtually no) female speaking parts:

  • Twelve Angry Men
  • Reservoir Dogs
  • Master & Commander: The Far Side Of The World
  • Glengarry Glen Ross
  • Ice Station Zebra
  • The Shawshank Redemption

There are lots of war movies that fit this description, too, but that’s not really my genre. Can you think of any additions to this list?