Author Topic: goodguy's Watch Log  (Read 72096 times)

Offline goodguy

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goodguy's Watch Log
« on: August 31, 2008, 07:06:18 PM »
I don't often feel like writing "real" reviews, so I will put short comments on the DVDs I have watched in this thread. I start with a recap of my August viewage.

   Transformers (2007)
Directed by: Michael Bay
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox
DVD: R2-DE Paramount (2007)

My rating:

Shia LaBeouf reminded me a little of the young John Cusack, Megan Fox looked really hot and can fix cars, the parents (Mitzi from SFU, yeah) were delightful. Come to think of it, the script was in large parts surprisingly charming and funny for an action blockbuster (well, except for the p*ss jokes). Bay has great connections to the military and showed off their stuff well, the machine thingies looked great, but got a bit boring towards the end. All in all, much better than I expected.
Matthias

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Re: goodguy's Watch Log
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2008, 07:58:33 PM »
   Illuminata (1998)
Written by: Brandon Cole & John Turturro
Directed by: John Turturro
Starring: John Turturro, Katherine Borowitz, Susan Sarandon, Christopher Walken
DVD: R2-DE Kinowelt/Arthaus (2007)

My rating:

John Turturro is mostly known as an actor, but he has also written and directed three movies. I already wrote about his gorgeous Romance & Cigarettes (2005) here. Illuminata is about a theater company in New York at the beginning of the 20th century. The movie disguises itself as comedia del'arte and has probably half a dozen dangling subplots, but its main theme really is the problematic relationship between two creative people. It's a bit like Fellini crossed with Bergman. The big names like Sarandon and Walken all deliver great performances, and so does Turturro himself, but Katherine Borowitz (a stage actress and Turturro's real-life partner) absolutely stands out.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2008, 09:58:11 PM by goodguy »
Matthias

Offline goodguy

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Re: goodguy's Watch Log
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2008, 08:37:23 PM »
   Marion Bridge (CA 2002)
Written by: Daniel McIvor
Directed by: Wiebke von Carolsfeld
Starring: Molly Parker, Rebecca Jenkins, Stacy Smith
DVD: R1-US Film Movement (2005)

My rating:

Cover blurb: In the midst of struggling to overcome her self-destructive behavior, the youngest of three sisters, Agnes (Molly Parker), returns to her hometown in Nova Scotia determined to confront the past. Her arrival sets in motion a chain of events that allows a family of women to each in their own way re-connect with the world and each other. The film speaks volumes about siblings and parental relationships with a beautiful realized tale of loss, healing and humor.

The basic story of Marion Bridge is a bit like in those Lifetime movies of the week, but it is done right here. In fact, Carolsfeld's approach is so subtle and low-key that you might mistake it for boring, but it has the most startling effect in a confrontation near the end. Molly Parker is one of my favorite actresses, and she is great here as always. As a bonus, a very young Ellen Page can be seen here in a small but crucial role.
Matthias

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Re: goodguy's Watch Log
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2008, 09:44:51 PM »
   Me Without You (UK 2001)
Written & Directed by: Sandra Goldbacher
Starring: Anna Friel, Michelle Williams
DVD: R2-UK Momentum (2002)

My rating:

Cover blurb: ME WITHOUT YOU is a funny, moving and uplifting evocation of the 80s - decade of post-punk and protests - that will strike a chord with anyone who has ever lived through friendship and survived to tell the tale.
In a long, hot summer, Holly and Marina make a childhood pact to be friends forever. For the troubled and fiercely independent Marina (Anna Friel), determined to try everything, Holly (Michelle Williams) stays the only constant in a life of divorcing parents, experimental drugs and fashionable self-destruction. For Holly, Marina represents sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, a stark contrast to her own insecurity over her appearance and studious lifestyle.
As the years pass by, the girls experience all life has to offer - sex, love and loss - but the whole while Holly harbours a secret passion for Marina's brother Nat (Oliver Millburn). Will their friendship survive the truth to stand the test of time?


This is not a female buddy picture or a chick flick, but an honest and bittersweet look at a friendship that turns into something suffocating as the girls grow older. I already knew that Michelle Williams is a fine actress, but so far I had only seen her in supporting roles. Here she proves that she can also play the lead. Anna Friel, while having the slightly more difficult role, is equally great. Never saw her before, but I look forward to the arrival of my Pushing Daisies box.

DVD Note: Avoid the R1-US. It is slightly cut, has the wrong aspect ratio, and lacks the AC.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2008, 09:52:20 PM by goodguy »
Matthias

Najemikon

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Re: goodguy's Watch Log
« Reply #4 on: September 01, 2008, 12:29:50 AM »
Anna Friel is great. Played a lesbian in a soap called Brookside which I thought was... memorable... :drooling:

Seriously though, she always seems to put a lot of work into her roles. I can recommend The Land Girls too. I think it was just a TV movie, but it's a decent story.

Offline goodguy

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Re: goodguy's Watch Log
« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2008, 12:51:14 AM »
   Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (Season 1, 2008)
Created by: Josh Friedman
Starring: Lena Headey, Thomas Dekker, Summer Glau, Richard T. Jones
DVD: R1-US Warner (Aug 19, 2008)

My rating:

Cover blurb: The mother of all destiny. Her son, the future leader of mankind. Their protector, a Terminator from the future. Together they must take back the future as Sarah Connor (300's Lena Headey) prepares her son to fight the war against machines determined to annihilate the human race. The Clock is ticking. Can they stop Judgement Day?

I had low expectations for this series, but it surprisingly manages to stay slightly above average. There is no really bad episode in the short S1 run, and at least one of them comes close to being outstanding. That would be The Demon Hand, written by Toni Graphia, who has also written for Carnivale and Battlestar Galactica. That's worth mentioning, because I always thought that his BSG episode Flesh and Bone was the only truly great one in BSG S1.

The main cast is pretty adequate, and as much as I like Summer Glau, it is Richard T. Jones as the FBI agent who stands out. Lena Headey is quite good too, but her voice-overs grated on my nerves. To be fair, that is much less her fault and more a case of bad and clich├ęd writing.

The score was written by Bear McCreary, who also worked on BSG. While the BSG score, especially in the mini series and S1, often appeared to me as a Firefly rip-off, I mostly enjoyed what he has done here.

I usually don't care much about so-called plot holes, and so I didn't mind that Cromartie was able to make the time jump without being covered by organic material. However, especially in the first few episodes are lot of moments that are cringe-worthy in terms of logic. For example, shouldn't Cameron be able to immediately recognize the Bruce Campbell impersonator slash teacher as a fellow terminator? And what's with the situational awareness of all those terminators that they get overrun by cars on a regular basis? And if you end up naked on a highway, wouldn't it be advisable to not stand there for a few minutes until everyone can take a picture of you? Especially if you are a fugitive and your main objective is to go into hiding??

DVD Note: Warner continues to annoy me by misusing scenes from Casablanca as an Anti Piracy Spot.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2008, 01:21:09 AM by goodguy »
Matthias

Offline goodguy

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Re: goodguy's Watch Log
« Reply #6 on: September 24, 2008, 10:22:10 PM »
   The Big Lebowski (1998)
Written & Directed by: Coen Brothers
Starring: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro
DVD: R1-US Universal (10th Anniv. Edition; Sep 9, 2008)

My rating:

Cover blurb: From the Academy Award-winning Coen Brothers comes THE BIG LEBOWSKI - the hilariously quirky comedy-thriller about bowling, avant-garde art, nihilistic Austrians, and a guy named...the Dude.

Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski doesn't want any drama in his life...heck, he can't even be bothered with a job. But, in a case of mistaken identity, a couple of thugs break into his place and steal his rug (you gotta understand, that rug really tied the room together). Now, the Dude must embark on a quest with his crazy friends to make things right and get that rug back!

Starring Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, and John Turturro, THE BIG LEBOWSKI has become a cultural phenomenon. Now experience the outrageous fan favorite like never before in this 2-Disc 10th Anniversary Edition loaded with all-new bonus features that will take you beyond the movie! The Dude abides...


Meh. I said that already.

One of the really interesting extras on this DVD is Jeff Bridges' Photo Book. Bridges shows and talks about photos he made with an extra-wide-lense camera during the shooting of the movie. The photos are black-and-white and look really great. Among them are some portraits, showing the same actor twice, that resemble those greek comedy/tragedy theatre masks.

What a great, albeit unintentional, way to criticize this movie. But not only is TBL a comedy without a glimpse at something tragic, it is a comedy without respect for its characters, it is a dumb comedy that looks down on them.

TBL is obviously supposed to be a riff on The Big Sleep; it has a similarly convoluted, almost non-existing plot, and the iconic elements, including the porn ring, are all there. What's missing is the sense of moral, the clever and sparkling dialogue, any kind of chemistry between the characters. Just compare any of Bacall's double entendres with Moore's blunt vagina speech to see how unfunny TBL really is.

Matthias

Najemikon

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Re: goodguy's Watch Log
« Reply #7 on: September 25, 2008, 11:31:04 PM »
Bloody hell. When you said "meh", I thought you meant, "kind of, alright, I suppose", but that seemed downright vicious! :D

I agree it is a riff on Noir, almost a piss take. But I can't agree at all when you say it was dumb, there was no chemistry or even that it looked down on the characters. After giving us some of the very best in modern Noir, the Coen's have earned the right to kick back a little. It was always affectionate and as I said in the other thread, I think Sam Shepard's cowboy represents the viewer and hopefully we share his kind bemusement.

I think the last thing you should do is compare Julianne Moore's character directly with Bacall. She is the femme fatale, but her blunt speech is purposefully a direct contrast to The Dude. Double-entendres are a game, possibly to test someone and flirt, plus the one saying them actually has to have respect for who they are saying them to. Moore's character was after establishing control over The Dude. She's blunt to give no room for manoeuvre and no time to think. And The Dude works slow.

You could say it's simply an excuse for poor writing, but the badly judged The Ladykillers remake aside, the Coens have an exemplary record for writing and in various styles too. A more understandable complaint I sometimes hear is that they are sometimes too clever for their own good, creating rather manipulative and distant screenplays. Personally I've always enjoyed their quirky approach and seen the warmth behind such design, which I thought was perfectly done here. Do you like their other movies?

Offline goodguy

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Re: goodguy's Watch Log
« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2008, 10:37:02 PM »
Bloody hell. When you said "meh", I thought you meant, "kind of, alright, I suppose", but that seemed downright vicious! :D

Yeah, what can I say? I got angry afterwards.

I agree it is a riff on Noir, almost a piss take.

And quite literally so. Har-di-har-har! Now I don't know if something got lost in translation here, but doesn't a "piss take" imply a lack of respect? Btw, nice explanation of double etendres in that context.

And I stand by my "dumb" comment. The Coens make fun of their characters in an absolutely lowbrowed way. Maybe deliberately so, but if there lies the cleverness, I fail to recognize it. Plus, it just falls flat. Wannabe-artists laughing there heads off in a conference call - not funny. A raging Vietnam vet smashing the wrong car - not funny. It is all so predictable and stereotyped, it drains the life out of the characters and the movie. And did I mention that it just isn't funny?

Do you like their other movies?

I haven't seen that many of their movies. No Country for Old Men was great. I remember liking Fargo, but my memory of it is fuzzy at best. The same fuzzyness clouds Barton Fink, which I didn't like.
Matthias

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Re: goodguy's Watch Log
« Reply #9 on: September 28, 2008, 02:13:06 PM »
And quite literally so. Har-di-har-har! Now I don't know if something got lost in translation here, but doesn't a "piss take" imply a lack of respect? Btw, nice explanation of double etendres in that context.

Ah, very sorry. Shouldn't have used that term at all! It's a heavily used British colloquialism, but usually in speech. I suppose at a basic level it does mean a lack of respect, but it's often used to recognise good natured ribbing; like if someone was mimicking something you did or said, you might turn around and tell them to "stop taking the piss". How you say it depends on how seriously you're taking it, so it isn't suitable in writing at all. Suffice to say, I meant good natured.  ;)


And I stand by my "dumb" comment. The Coens make fun of their characters in an absolutely lowbrowed way. Maybe deliberately so, but if there lies the cleverness, I fail to recognize it. Plus, it just falls flat. Wannabe-artists laughing there heads off in a conference call - not funny. A raging Vietnam vet smashing the wrong car - not funny. It is all so predictable and stereotyped, it drains the life out of the characters and the movie. And did I mention that it just isn't funny?

I haven't seen that many of their movies. No Country for Old Men was great. I remember liking Fargo, but my memory of it is fuzzy at best. The same fuzzyness clouds Barton Fink, which I didn't like.

The great thing about the Coen's is that their movies tend to be distinctly one style or another. They are known to love Chandler's works so Noir can feature in any. Much as I love Lebowski and their other more light-hearted fare, I have to admit there are a lot of people who simply don't see the appeal, so obviously you're one of them. :laugh: But as you've implied yourself, it doesn't mean you can't enjoy their others.

I think a key for me enjoying all theirs is understanding that they never do anything for the money or anything that's expected. They've had numerous opportunities to break into mainstream, but they usually come back with a new film that sort of dares to challenge peoples conceptions. If they worked in an corporation, they'd get promoted just to prove they could do it, then turn up to work naked or something and get booted out!

As way of an example, consider that they insisted Fargo was a true story, but it's not; or they claim to be working on a particular script, but it turns out they've made it up to tease journalists. Also extras on their DVDs are often fake, so they're taking Spielberg's approach of not revealing anything, but can't resist teasing. Except of course for quality exceptions like Bridges photography.

Fargo I'd say sits on the fence between thriller and affectionate piss-take (I might as well use it now! :P) and remains one of their best. I wouldn't bother with their latest (Burn After Reading) if I were you. I haven't seen it yet of course, but reviews suggest it's definitely Lebowski territory. I can't wait!

The Man Who Wasn't There is interesting. Gorgeous black and white, pure Noir in all it's themes (it's bleak), but utterly absurd. Billy Bob Thornton narrates in fine Noir fashion, but his character is a mute hairdresser. There's a scene towards the end that I hated because it seemed so ridiculous, but I recently read a theory about the whole thing that puts it in new light and I must try it again. The Coen's are never interested in making something easy, that's for sure. Give it a go one day, I'd love to hear what you think.

Intolerable Cruelty is another perfect example of their style. It's pure screwball comedy and works pretty well, but they alienate the core audience of such chick-flicks by including near the knuckle humour and characters (the joke about green salad or the asthmatic hitman). However I think that's quite British (Fish Called Wanda) so maybe that's why I liked it.

But the two films I'd definitely recommend are Miller's Crossing and Blood Simple. Especially Blood Simple. It was their first film, quite low budget. Brilliantly written, though typical thriller, and some of the cinematography is fantastic. Miller's Crossing is another early one, but heavily stylised. Still has their unique vein of humour, but it isn't a million miles from The Untouchables, with Albert Finney and Gabriel Byrne in Prohibition America.

O Brother Where Are Though... no idea. I love it, it's wonderful, it's looks gorgeous and the music is fantastic, but it is one of their films about idiots, so I really don't know what to tell you on that one! It's supposed to be based on Homer's Oddysey, but also has strong links to Preston Sturges' Sullivan's Travels. I've even heard someone suggest it could have been a sequel, but you'd have to have seen ST to fully understand how.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2008, 02:18:18 PM by Jon »

Offline goodguy

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Re: goodguy's Watch Log
« Reply #10 on: September 28, 2008, 05:41:41 PM »
I think a key for me enjoying all theirs is understanding that they never do anything for the money or anything that's expected.

I do have a thing for so-called independent movies, especially American ones. While the Coens aren't mainstream, they seem to me pretty well established, though.

I wouldn't bother with their latest (Burn After Reading) if I were you. I haven't seen it yet of course, but reviews suggest it's definitely Lebowski territory. I can't wait!

Yeah, I gathered as much from the trailer, but thanks for the other recommendations. Miller's Crossing was already on my wishlist for some time, but I can't remember why I put it there.
Matthias

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Re: goodguy's Watch Log
« Reply #11 on: September 28, 2008, 09:44:59 PM »
   Pushing Daisies (Season 1, 2007)
Created by: Bryan Fuller
Starring: Lee Pace, Anna Friel, Chi McBride, Kristen Chenoweth
DVD: R1-US Warner (Sep 16, 2008)

My rating: -

Cover blurb: Every not-so-often, along comes a show that's different. Wonderfully different. Pushing Daisies, TV Guide's Matt Roush writes, "restores my faith in TV's ability to amuse, enchant and entertain." It's the story of Ned, a lonely pie maker whose touch can reanimate the dead. Neat, but there's a hitch. If Ned touches the person again, the miracle is reversed. If he doesn't, a bystander goes toes up. What to do? Easy: Team with a private eye, bring murder victims back just long enough to discover whodunit, and collect the rewards. Things go well until Ned's boyhood sweetie is the next dear departed, and he can't resist bringing her back for keeps! Dig the wit, style and quirky romance: If you're not laughing, you may need a visit from Ned.

I enjoyed the show very much, but I'm also glad the season was cut short by the WGA strike. Even more than Fuller's previous shows (Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me), this one is very "high concept". But the concept gets old after a while, and Fuller seems unable to flesh out the characters or sustain an interesting storyline over an entire season. I'm afraid I will be less than thrilled by the 20+ episodes of season 2.

I had the same problem with Wonderfalls, but not with Dead Like Me. Interestingly, the latter one was the show Fuller left after a couple of episodes due to "creative differences" with MGM. Maybe the execs were up to something there.

DVD Note: More Casablanca abuse by Warner.  :redcard:
« Last Edit: September 28, 2008, 09:55:07 PM by goodguy »
Matthias

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Re: goodguy's Watch Log
« Reply #12 on: September 28, 2008, 10:23:38 PM »
I enjoyed the show very much, but I'm also glad the season was cut short by the WGA strike. Even more than Fuller's previous shows (Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me), this one is very "high concept". But the concept gets old after a while, and Fuller seems unable to flesh out the characters or sustain an interesting storyline over an entire season. I'm afraid I will be less than thrilled by the 20+ episodes of season 2.

I had the same problem with Wonderfalls, but not with Dead Like Me. Interestingly, the latter one was the show Fuller left after a couple of episodes due to "creative differences" with MGM. Maybe the execs were up to something there.

DVD Note: More Casablanca abuse by Warner.  :redcard:

Hey Matthias - grateful thanks for the heads-up on this series. I own it but will push it back down my 'to view' list after your excellent review
cheers
rich

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Re: goodguy's Watch Log
« Reply #13 on: October 11, 2008, 12:47:38 AM »
Matthias, I saw this article and couldn't help but think of you! :tease:

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Re: goodguy's Watch Log
« Reply #14 on: October 12, 2008, 04:29:32 AM »
   The Long Goodbye (1973)
Written by: Leigh Brackett, based on Raymond Chandler's novel
Directed by: Robert Altman
Starring: Elliott Gould, Nina van Pallandt, Sterling Hayden
DVD: R1-US MGM (2002)

My rating: +

Cover blurb: Elliott Gould "gives one of his best performances" (Esquire) as a quirky, mischievous Philip Marlowe in Robert Altman's "fascinating and original" (Newsweek) send-up of Raymond Chandler's classic detective story. Co-starring Nina Van Pallandt and Sterling Hayden and written by Leigh Brackett (The Big Sleep), The Long Goodbye is "a gloriously inspired tribute to Hollywood" (The Hollywood Reporter) with an ending that's "as controversial as it is provocative." (Los Angeles Times)!

Los Angeles private eye Philip Marlowe (Gould) faces the most bizarre case of his life, when a friend's apparent suicide turns into a double murder involving a sexy blonde, a disturbed gangster and a suitcase full of drug money. But as Marlowe stumbles toward the truth, he soon finds himself lost in a maze of sex and deceit - only to discover that in L.A., if love is dangerous... friendship is murder.


Now that is more like it. Sorry Jon, but Altman's take on film noir is so much more interesting than the Coen's misguided attempt at, erm, uri-noir. It's also funnier. Just consider the opening sequence with Marlowe and the cat.

There are certainly parallels between the two movies. Both have protagonists that stumble quite clueless through the plot, but put the pieces together in the end. But the Dude is defined as a somewhat slow and clueless character right from the beginning, so it's not suprising that he doesn't get what's going on. Gould's Marlowe on the other hand looks like a cool and smart detective straight from a '40s noir, but doesn't quite act like it. That's irritating, but in a good way.

And the '40s hero, chainsmoking, with white shirt and wrinkled dark suit, is quite lost in the '70s world he has to navigate. He constantly talks to himself, and mumbles "That's okay with me" however strange his encounters with that world's inhabitants seem to him.

The entire movie has a dream-like quality, it is much more a mood piece than a crime story, which makes the occasional burst of violence all the more shocking.

And what a great ending. And I don't mean Marlowe's action itself, but the final shot afterwards.
Matthias