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Saturday, May 28, 2011


So. About that "fornicating"...

By now, we're all familiar with the story. Some of us have been fortunate enough to see the original interviews that inspired the Broadway play, which in turn served to inspire Ron Howard's film. The film plays itself out like a boxing match, so much so to the point that Nixon is shown jogging in place in a track suit before the final interview. The underdog of the match is David Frost, a once famed but at that time practically defunct English talk show host, designated to the kind of fare you might see on E! on a Saturday morning, in Australia. Richard Nixon, the man, was out of office and essentially hiding in his home in San Clemente at the time. Richard Nixon, the President, was no more - resigned, pardoned, and reviled by the majority of the American public. 

More after the cut--

Water for Elephants

The greatest show on Earth.

I remember being a child and watching The Greatest Show on Earth for the first time. Even then, I was drawn to the idea that a film about a circus can represent so many things - a sense of belonging, people constantly being on the move and on the run, faith, and illusion. But, at the same time, it was a disappointing introduction to circus films. It's certainly not the one I would make my kids watch first. I'd probably start them off on Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken (though, that's more about a fair than a circus, but I digress). After The Greatest Show on Earth ended, I didn't feel much - I appreciated the spectacle, but not the people within it. It's regarded as a great film by most people. I don't think so. Not even a good film.

Good movies leave you with the sense that they were there, and they give you a pleasant feeling, no matter the content. Great movies, you can touch. That sense of remembrance is tangible, and when the movie is over, you want more. Water for Elephants is a great movie. And, probably, the best circus movie I've seen.

More after the cut--

Friday, May 27, 2011

Cedar Rapids

Three guys, a girl, and an insurance company

Most of the time during this film, I thought to myself "This feels like an Alexander Payne movie." Alexander Payne, for those unaware, directed wonderful and heartfelt movies like Sideways and Election. Sure enough, by the time the credits rolled, Payne's name was listed as a producer for the picture. His fingerprints are all over it, though this is a bit more screwball than anything he would normally direct. The actual director here, Miguel Arteta, doesn't have the handle on human sympathy that Payne might, but he certainly hit it pretty close to home. Certainly pretty far from Cedar Rapids, which doesn't seem to hold much sympathy for those who pass through it. 

More after the cut--

In Theaters This Weekend

What happens in Vegas apparently warrants a sequel.

In theaters this weekend, it's a pile of anticipation. The sequel to one of the funniest movies of the last few years, The Hangover Part II; the sequel to one of the fluffiest movies of the last few years, Kung Fu Panda 2; and the long-awaited The Tree of Life from reclusive poet Terrence Malick. 

Stop holding your breath. It's all here. But, which one is more worth your money? Let's take a look below and find out. 

More after the cut--

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Better than you.

My favorite thing about Woody Allen movies is hearing the actors speak the words. It's always with a sense of adoration, and there are usually shades of performers to speak these words in the past. Allen's scripts are performed, no matter the quality, with gratitude. Such is most definitely the case with this - Vicky Cristina Barcelona. If you're intrigued by the title, it's simple enough. About as simple as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. In that, there's a massacre committed with a chain saw in Texas. In this, Vicky and Cristina go to Barcelona. However, there is a bit of a deeper meaning. 

More after the cut--

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Prestige


The Prestige in only the third act. At least that's what we're told by Michael Caine in his opening monologue. It's more a set of instructions for the film, we'll discover, but that's a later point. Every magic trick comes in three parts. One - the pledge: in which you give the audience something real to hold onto. Two - the turn: in which you take that something and turn into something impossible, the part where the magic lies. Three - the prestige: in which everything comes back to normal, and the audience (hopefully) cheers. Usually, magic is all about sleight of hand and misdirection. Christopher Nolan is great at that; recall the difficult but astonishing Memento. There's a pledge, a turn, and a prestige in that. But, here, in The Prestige, we live in the turn, while the pledge is revealed to us in flashbacks, and then the prestige isn't what the prestige is supposed to be, but rather something that cheats and gives an easy out. 

Still, though, the pledge and the turn make the film exciting and the thriller it should be. Don't be fooled - this film isn't strictly about magicians. It's a cat-and-mouse game about two men obsessed with one-upping each other and destroying both of themselves in the process. 

More after the cut--

On DVD Today

A new breed of action zero

This will be a uniquely short article, as the two major releases on DVD aren't of any specific consequence. I Am Number Four (remember that bright yellow poster on all the buses and port-a-potties? the one with the Android QR?) and Gnomeo and Juliet come out to own on Blu-ray or DVD today. Which is more worth it?

Well, I haven't seen I Am Number Four, yet. And I probably won't for a while. There will be a review, for those of you who are aching for one for some reason, but not today. And probably not tomorrow. But, soon, and for the rest of our lives.

Gnomeo and Juliet, however, I have suffered through. Let's take a closer look at each DVD release, though, and you can decide for yourself which you might prefer.

More after the cut --

Your Highness

Academy Award winner Natalie Portman

What happened to David Gordon Green? I remember seeing George Washington years ago on IFC and having my mind blown by him. Then, I got to see All the Real Girls shortly after his release and I thought to myself "This man is a genius.". After Undertow and Snow Angels, I could safely say that he was one of my favorite directors. Admittedly, I didn't care for Snow Angels, but it has grown on me overtime. 

Then we get Pineapple Express. And while it doesn't fit in with the rest of his filmography, it's a solid film toting subtle homages to films Green loved growing up, and even he has said it's a film he wanted to get out of his system. But, with Your Highness? This... this is a strange inclusion to an otherwise flawless canon. I feel like he's lost himself, or fallen in with the wrong crowd. 

More after the cut--

Monday, May 23, 2011

Starter for 10

Requiem for a Braniac

The oddest thing about a film like Starter for 10 is that it seems to be almost completely pointless until the last thirty minutes or so. And the most unfortunate thing about the project is that the first hour is almost completely alienating. This isn't the type of film where the audience is required to root for anyone in particular, nor are we given much of a climax to look forward to. We follow a young college student in England in 1985 as he enters Bristol University and attempts to find a place and enter a quiz show club, one who does their best to win championships on television. We follow him through bum friends, a failed and unrealistic attempt at a relationship, and a conventional attempt at knowing everything. 

The good news is, James McAvoy is watchable enough to excuse most of that. 

More after the cut--

In Honor Of - Rebecca Hall

Starting this month, with the week or so left, I'm honoring a new face every month. With the use of IMDb's "Random Name", it'll be a new director/actor/actress/writer/whatever. It's a way to pay homage to some of the people who might not get enough credit, a way to build a bigger backlog of older reviews on this site, and to point the filmgoer's who follow this blog in the direction of movies they might not be familiar with otherwise. 

With this late entry, I'm lucky that Rebecca Hall doesn't have too big a filmography yet. Only about ten or so theatrical releases under her belt. 

More after the cut--

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Rob Marshall brings a little "Penzance" to "Pirates"

In what could typically be called "Captain Jack and the Last Crusade", we say goodbye to Will and Elizabeth Turner and hello to a more expensive look, drearier set pieces, and a more puzzling plot line. But, one benefit of the Pirates films is that no matter how twisted the story may be, and no matter how questionable things may get, everything seems to fall into place. The franchise has always had a firm rooting in faith and spirituality, and things seemingly happening for a reason, which the hint of a moral compass always guiding the way, so... in that aspect, the film gives itself room to take outlandish turns, so lang as everything fits. On Stranger Tides is certainly no exception to this rule, but At World's End had that market cornered. 

More after the cut--