Monthly Archives: June 2008

WALL·E

Here is a delightful, visually stunning and thought-provoking PIXAR animation effort from writer-director Andrew Stanton, the maker of “Finding Nemo” (2003). This time, our unlikely hero is a robotic trash compactor who is cleaning the Earth in the future while humans all over the world live on a pleasure ship in orbit. Meanwhile, EVE (pronounced “Eva”) is his love interest of sorts – a robot designed to find the last plant life on the planet. A Wal-Mart-esque corporation, having taken over the world, has helped to cheapen life on our planet, strangling it to death with our littering and carelessness. Meanwhile, the fat/lazy nature of all of the living humans aboard the ship is the subject of some pointed satire, and it’s thought-provoking. Why is it that even our best animators are considering the global ecological crisis, but the U.S. government does nothing?!? This mostly a just plain lovely and entertaing animated piece of art! One of the year’s finest films!

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<br/>NOTE: If you saw this theatrically, there was a nice short film called “Presto” about a magician and his bunny, and it is preserved as a special feature on the DVD, alongside the new companion short “Burn-E.” The film was nominated for 6 Oscars including Best Animated Film and Original Screenplay.

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THE LAST MISTRESS

Catherine Breillat’s period drama is a thoughtful, ribald, saucy little entry in the career of one of the best French directors in existence. Asia Argento stars as the title character, Vellini, a half Italian courtesan in Paris who first frustrates, then bewitches and ultimately seduces the young Ryno (Fu’ad Ait Aattou), who first describes her as a “mutt” and is soon cheating on his wife with her. The film is slick and well-made, and surprisingly involving, taking Jules-Amedee Barbey d’Aurevilly’s novel as its source material. Breillat (“Romance,” “Fat Girl”) has made an adult drama with real verve!

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GET SMART

Get Smart Movie Review

PG_13, 110 min, 2008

Director: Peter Segal
Writers: Tom J. Astle (written by) & Matt Ember (written by), Mel Brooks (characters) and Buck Henry (characters)

Stars: Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Alan Arkin

Get Smart is a better film than we deserve, from material we should expect to be wretched. Here is a high-tech, modern adaptation of an old TV sitcom that actually doesn’t suck! In fact, it’s very good. Continue reading

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BAGHEAD

Baghead Movie Review

R, 84 min, 2008

Directors: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Writers: Jay Duplass & Mark Duplass (written by), John E. Bryant (as John Bryant) (creator We Are Naked)
Stars: Ross Partridge, Steve Zissis, Greta Gerwig

The Duplass Brothers’ Baghead is a bizarre mixture of romantic comedy and horror about aspiring filmmakers who watch a movie and get the idea, “Hey! We could do that.” It’s also the kind of movie aspiring filmmakers watch and think, “Hey! We could do that!” Continue reading

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MY WINNIPEG

Guy Maddin’s odd, often funny and surreal mixture of documentary and dramatic recreation (though the documentary aspects feel fictional on some level as well) is the toung-in-cheek treatment of how he tries to get out of his home town in Manitoba, Canada (a land of “sleepwalkers”) and how he reminisces about the past which lead him to this tough decision. Amusing and bizarre work from the unique and talented creator of such films as BRAND UPON THE BRAIN!, THE SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD, and DRACULA: PAGES FROM A VIRGIN’S DIARY, the most original Canadian director working today.

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THE HAPPENING

The Happening Movie Review

R, 91 min, 2008

Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo

M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening is a good idea, decently executed, forewarning of a calamity that would be catastrophic to the human race – and which is diabolical in its implications. Continue reading

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ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD

Werner Herzog’s fascinating, absorbing and visually stunning documentary is a feast for the eyes and the mind.

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THE PROMOTION

The Promotion Movie Review

R, 86 min, 2008

Director: Steve Conrad
Writer: Steve Conrad
Stars: Seann William Scott, John C. Reilly, Chris Conrad

The Promotion is a human comedy that is quiet, subtle, uneven and fitfully funny. It’s a slice of life about competition bringing out the best and (mostly) the worst in people. Continue reading

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KUNG FU PANDA

Kung Fu Panda Movie Review

PG, 90 min, 2008

Directors: Mark Osborne, John Stevenson
Writers: Jonathan Aibel (screenplay) & Glenn Berger (screenplay), Ethan Reiff (story) & Cyrus Voris (story)

Stars: Jack Black, Ian McShane, Angelina Jolie

Kung Fu Panda is a pretty enjoyable and funny little animated film designed to be a blockbuster. Its story is old and simple, its jokes contemporary and amusing, and its energy level almost alarmingly high. Continue reading

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THE GO-GETTER

Martin Hynes’ haunting coming-of-age tale is a a fish out of water story, and a road trip, a darkly funny drama and a dour comedy. Mercer (Lou Taylor Pucci from “Thumbsucker”) is a smart, sensitive, emotional, quiet, reserved teenager stuck in a virginal dead-end high school existence in Eugene, Oregon. One day, he gets the idea – he’s going to wear his friend’s uniform to his friend’s place of employment (a car wash) and steal a car. Not long into his journey, a cell phone rings. It’s the owner of the car. On the other end is the mysterious, sexy-voiced angel Kate (Zooey Deschanel), a sweet and saucy-sounding young gal, vaguely dreamy, with just the slightest tinge of melancholy. Her conversations with Mercer will keep him company, and provide the heart and soul of this film. Mercer, it seems, is on his way to find his long-lost elder half-brother Arlen (Jsu Garcia), who left home years and years ago. Mercer and Arlen’s mother has passed away and, of course, Arlen doesn’t know yet. Mercer will make many stops along the way, including an integral sojurn to a California commune of sorts where the kindly treatment from a spaced-out girl called Better Than Toast (Judy Greer of “Arrested Development”) contrasts sharply with the anger and violence of Nick the Potter (Nick Offerman). Seems Arlen left a bad taste in the mouths of many he came into contact with, as Mercer will soon discover. From there, Mercer gets the idea to go to Nevada and seek out the vaguely naughty ex-classmate from high school Joely (Jena Malone), who he describes as “the kind of girl you would want to take a road trip with.” He soon discovers that she wasn’t all she was cracked up to be, however, when they hook up with her pal Rid (William Lee Scott). His odyssey will also include run-ins with a traveling liquor supply man (Bill Duke) who gives him some friendly advice, a creepy homemade porn director who calls himself “Sergio Leone” (Julio Oscar Mechoso), a slightly troublesome pet shop owner (Maura Tierney) who is part of a rock band performing community service, and others. His trip will take him from Oregon to California, to Nevada and back to California, and finally to Mexico and Louisiana. Along the way, he may discover what it means to be a man. Martin Hynes, the writer-director, has crafted a thoughtful and sometimes very funny human comedy for his first feature. Hynes, you may recall, played the title character in Joe Nussbaum’s much-beloved short film “George Lucas in Love” (1999), a fusion (obviously) of “Star Wars” and “Shakespeare in Love” (1998). As a filmmaker, Hynes is never flashy, but always remarkably confident. He seems to know the world of these characters inside and out and provides us with an accute attention to detail, almost never striking a wrong note. Pucci is a reliable leading man, portraying basically a lovable loser who is the most human and understandable of everyone. Deschanel is flawed but sexy, funny and off-beat, like an independent film fantasy come to life, vaguely recalling her work as the similar Kat on TV’s “Weeds.” The supporting cast is top-notch, from the seductive bad girl Malone to the amusing Greer to the curious and intriguing Tierney and the informative and inspiring Duke; even Garcia proves to be more than he first appears. Byron Shah’s cinematography is great to look at, but never draws attention to itself; its almost documentary-like approach to the material is spot-on. M. Ward’s haunting songs pepper the soundtrack and suit the mood perfectly. Ultimately, this is the story of a young man’s quest to grow up and as such, it’s quite wonderful.

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