Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Steven Soderbergh's State of the Cinema Address

Last week, Steven Soderbergh gave a keynote speech at the San Francisco International Film Festival. It's a lengthy read, but anyone interested in cinema or cares about cinema and can't really stand studio garbage should take the time to read it. It's informative with regard to the studio process and really damn amusing.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Olympus Has Fallen Movie Review

A lone vigilante hero in the wrong place at the wrong time is trapped in a building with a large group of well-financed and highly skilled terrorists who are holding several hostages. They’ll do what’s necessary to extract the codes they need from their captives. Our hero is estranged from one of those held hostage and his ability to repair the damage done to that relationship hinges on the outcome of the event. He has regular contact with the bureaucrats on the outside, at least one of whom can’t see what needs to be done.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

25 Years Ago This Month: April 1988

We start with the movies I've seen

Stand and Deliver is one of those inspirational Hollywood movies about a teacher stepping into a bad classroom situation and turning the students around. This is based on a true story and the movie is well-regarded and was even selected for preservation as culturally significant by the Library of Congress. Edward James Olmos plays math teacher Jaime Escalante, who helped Mexican-American students in a high schoo lin East L.A. succeed at the AP Calculus exam.

Short Cut Movie Review From My Collection: Kill Bill Volume 2

Short Cut Movie Review is normally less than 400 words, but in some cases may go slightly over. This is my attempt to keep writing about as many films as I see without getting bogged down with trying to find more to say. They are meant to be brief snapshots of my reaction to a movie without too much depth.

It was hard to see after Kill Bill Volume 1 where the entire epic was headed and what the point of it all was, but then Kill Bill Volume 2 truly tied it all together. I judge it a better film overall when considering them as two separate entities if only because it feels much more complete.

I don’t much care for the opening black and white scene of The Bride (Uma Thurman) driving while narrating the events of her recent life. It’s a scene that I always thought was tacked on (likely a reshoot) when the Weinstein’s refused to allow Tarantino to release it as one four hour film. So the scene serves as an introductory recap of the first film.

What works really well in the Volume 2 is that we finally get to see Bill (David Carradine) in an early scene that shows how the massacre at the chapel went down. During the wedding rehearsal, The Bride finds him sitting outside playing his flute. The tense conversation gives way to feelings of comfort until the rest of the assassins arrive for mayhem.

Just about everything about this film works better including the lengthy flashback showing how The Bride learned her skills from Pai Mei, the unforgiving teacher for whom she nevertheless has tremendous respect. This sequence informs the double level of revenge she seeks toward Elle (Darryl Hannah) when she confesses to having killed Pai Mei. Also the whole section involving Budd (Michael Madsen) and The Bride’s burial in a coffin from which she manages to escape using a brutally painful Pai Mei technique. Then the final showdown between Bill and The Bride, staged not as a brawling climax but as a reflective, semi-apologetic, emotional comedown from all that has transpired over the course of the two films. We learn the nature of their relationship and fully understand both the tragedy and necessity of killing Bill.

“The woman deserves her revenge. And we deserve to die,” says Budd. Yes, but that doesn’t mean you go without a fight.

Tarantino’s epic turns on qualities like honor, fealty to ideology, and loyalty to family and loved ones. And most importantly of course, revenge for past transgressions. He accomplishes it all with great visual style ad flare while imbuing the ending with genuine emotion.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Short Cut Movie Review: Heathers

Short Cut Movie Review is normally less than 400 words, but in some cases may go slightly over. This is my attempt to keep writing about as many films as I see without getting bogged down with trying to find more to say. They are meant to be brief snapshots of my reaction to a movie without too much depth.

I once saw the near-deification of a teenager who had died in an accident involving tremendous stupidity. It was undeoubtedly tragic for his family and no one should have to go through that, but it was also disconcerting to see the outpouring of grief, memorials, and bad poetry for someone whom most people thought was a real jerk and a bully. I bring this up because I was reminded of it watching Heathers, the 1989 cult classic black comedy about teenage suicide and murder.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Pretty in Pink Movie Review

There’s a real timelessness in John Hughes’ films that center on teenagers that belies the sometimes terribly dated fashions and soundtracks that accompany his stories. The opening montage of Pretty in Pink (written by Hughes, but directed by Howard Deutch) screams 80’s. The blaring saxophone of The Psychedelic Furs’ title song screeches over a scene of Andie (Molly Ringwald) getting ready for school in the morning. She crafts her own clothes, which look a lot like a blend of New Wave and post-punk. Later there’s James Spader as the wealthy yuppie Steff with his linen trousers and blazer, collared shirt unbuttoned halfway down, and his flowing blonde locks. Andie’s childhood friend Duckie Dale (Jon Cryer), who is not so secretly crazy for her, is a pure original fashion statement, but distinctly dated to the period.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Roger Ebert Has Taken a Permanent "Leave of Presence"

RIP Roger Ebert (1942 - 2013)

Roger Ebert was 70 when he died yesterday and had spent the last decade battling cancer, yet his writing almost never slowed. In fact, it seemed to impossibly double when he lost the use of his voice some years ago.

I've read several obituaries and tributes to the man, the best of which can be found here, and nothing I can say will do justice to the life he led and the influence he had as the nation's most recognizable film critic.

In 46 years as film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, he amassed a catalog of thousands upon thousands of reviews. For a long stretch he ran a bi-weekly Great Movies column. In recent years those columns took a back seat as he focused more on his blog which became his voice online when he no longer could express himself verbally to the people standing next to him. He expounded on a variety of topics including politics, philosophy, religion, evolution, death, video games as art, and his own personal history and memories. If his blog writing had a unifying theme it was the expression of humanity and compassion. He allowed comments on his blog entries. He personally read and approved every single one of them, occasionally even responding. His entries dealing with video games and evolution have thousands of comments posted. His blog was widely praised for having the most sensible and well-behaved readership on the Internet. The level of debate was usually elevated.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Brief Slowdown

I was planning on writing today to say that I was going to shift the focus of this blog away from reviews of every movie I watch and toward more critical analysis of classic films. But now I find myself writing to say that I won't be writing much of anything while my finger heals from the stitches I got as the result of a vegetable cutting accident. Typing is proving difficult without the use of one index finger.

Back to my blog plan, I'm mainly finding that the stress of keeping up with reviews of everything is too much right now. I will continue to write reviews for most movies I see in cinemas and anything I watch from my own collection. Some of these may be a Short Cut Review (my reviews of 400 words or fewer).

I'm nearly finished with this month's 25 Years Ago entry. After that I may not post until I can really type.