May 2009

It's a nice day for a matinee

So, one of my favorite guilty pleasures is going to Matinees. I don’t say guilty because I’m embarrassed, or ashamed; far from it. Rather, it’s more of a sense of that you’re doing something illicit, that you’re sneaking off somewhere when you should be at your desk, at work, being productive. Or at least doing the dishes.

As someone who scratches out a meager living by writing some words whilst sitting around at home, I do sometimes use this as an opportunity to get on my bike and go downtown to catch an early show. It’s better than it used to be – I had a job in an office once and after two weeks, my direct supervisor had a funny turn and was sent home for some mental recuperation. For a month. Accordingly, I took the opportunity to sneak out every Wednesday lunchtime to catch a film in the local theatre. Good times, indeed.

Mel Brooks x Larry David = Seth Rogen?

Mel Brooks may well be considered the figure head of modern comedies. He's worked with a great many actors that by this point are considered masters, as he should be considered himself. Each film that he's crated - whether Brooks has worked in the mode of writer, director, actor or some more esoteric role - he has imbued the work with contextual as well as historical and cultural hilarity. By now, this has become his trade mark. And even as The Producers' success on Broadway has revived a classic, the musical and film unifies a weird branch of comedy: Jew histarics.

A David Cronenberg Primer

Science fiction and horror have long been relegated to the low expectations of genre pulp despite the fact that some of the most stirring works of literature and cinema have come from speculative territory. No filmmaker since F.W. Murnau and Fritz Lang has done more to plumb the human psyche with sci-fi and horror than David Cronenberg. The Canadian writer and director has done some amazing things for the advancement of cinema, mixing blood-curdling concepts with cerebral ideas, even elevating camp to a new level of terror. For those who have never delved into the strange worlds Cronenberg constructs, here are a few good places to start.

 

eXistenZ

The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra: B-Movie Extravaganza

We are living in what some refer to as the post-post-modern era, a cumbersome term that is, itself, somewhat post-modern. Essentially, PoPoMo is just a dumbed-down version of the original approach. It embraces irony for idle amusement and not so much for meaningful commentary and it has a genuine love for its source material. Films like the loving homages of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg are the high-water mark for cheeky movies that simultaneously parody and show appreciation for the whole-cloth genres that have delighted popcorn crowds for decades. But they aren't the only ones in the game.

The Misunderstood: I Heart Huckabees

In 2004, David O. Russell teamed up with Jeff Baena to write a weird little comedy called I Heart Huckabees. They billed it as an "existential comedy", a clear sign that it wasn't going to hold onto many viewers or critics after the initial star-draw wore off. Despite having a stellar opening weekend, the film soon fell out of favor and quickly disappeared from theaters all over the country. Since then, it has carried something of a cult following. The question about I Heart Huckabees is how a film featuring Jude Law, Naomi Watts and Dustin Hoffman can't get by on sheer wattage alone.

Oh, Star Trek, I'll always love you

I went to see the new Star Trek film. Now, the film itself has already been discussed at great length, both on this site (http://moviecenter.us/news/2009/05/11/review-star-trek) and elsewhere, so I don’t really want to add to much to this, except to say that I liked the first hour or so a lot; it’s really fun to see all the characters that you know and, well, recognize, come together and meet up and become friends. When the action starts, it’s fairly standard fare, but hey, it’s certainly not terrible, which seems to be the basis of so much praise being heaped on it; relief that it’s not awful.

Review: Star Trek

As of today, the highly anticipated reboot of Star Trek has officially surpassed The Dark Knight for having the highest-grossing opening weekend in film history. So, is this movie deserving of the title?

As a critic, I can't say that I enjoyed Star Trek as much as The Dark Knight nor do I believe that it has as much artistic merit. That doesn't mean Star Trek wasn't one of the most enjoyable movie-going experiences I've had in a very long time. In the end, that's what Star Trek is all about. I don't think I'm alone when I say that I went to this movie for the fun of it, not to see an overwrought art-house take on a beloved sci-fi series.

Best Summer Blockbuster lineup in years

For the first time in many years I am very excited about this year's summer movie releases. Maybe its because they are all franchises I enjoy, but they seem to be bigger and better this year. Starting last week with X-Men Origins: Wolverine, starring Hugh Jackman. I grew up on Wolverine comic books so I wasn't expecting to be blown away but the film provided some action film goodness for my soul, and it was cool to see Wolvie's claws again in real life. Out today is Star Trek, starring Chris Pine and directed by J.J. Abrams. The trailer looks spectacular, I just hope the phasers and communicators are still giant cheesy sheet metal props, it is a prequel after all.

Ice Age 3 and Other Ways to Ruin Your Child's Education

The summer blockbuster movie season is upon us, so that means several kid's movies are coming down the pike, a couple that might be worth the price of a ticket and the rest of them certain to be unbearably bad. That dynamic is nothing new. Hollywood stopped trying to make decent kid's movies some time in the 1960's and it's been more than a decade since anyone not currently involved with Pixar has committed anything to major theaters that won't render the under-12 crowd hopelessly stupid by age 20.

This season we have a twofold atrocity slated for release in the form of Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. Now, it would have been bad enough to just make another Ice Age movie, but Fox had to maintain the franchise's trajectory of exponential awfulness by killing the one thing it had going for it. Namely, some claim to scientific dignity.

The Misunderstood: Velvet Goldmine

In 1998 Todd Haynes released Velvet Goldmine, a movie that has inspired more than a little derision among fans and critics of film. If any one picture can be described as "misunderstood" it is this one. Many of the terms used to describe it are inaccurate at best and it seems that the very point of Velvet Goldmine (and it does have a point) is lost on a tragically high number of viewers.

Velvet Goldmine is, in short, the story of glam rock as told from the perspective of one of its biggest fans. That fan is Todd Haynes. The movie is not meant to be historically accurate nor is it meant to be a thinly veiled biography of the central figures and fellow travelers of the glam scene. It's about the style and the music, the very feel of what it meant to be one of the people who fell in love with glitter.