Monday, August 28, 2006

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Movie Catch-Up

Now even briefer! This'll cover all the crap I've seen from the beginning of July 'til....now. Not counting The Puffy Chair of course. Oh, and some of them I actually didn't like (a little shout-out to those who think I hate nothing).

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST - I don't care what anyone says, this was pound for pound a better movie than the first one. The action was better staged, the stakes were higher, there was a romance the audience gave a damn about, and more importantly, there was more than one interesting character. Jack Sparrow was improved on, but Davey Jones was a fantastic villain, Bootstrap Bill was fantastically tragic, and Elizabeth Swan had a personality. Imagine that. Best of all was Commodore Norrington, who was taken in directions nobody thought possible. Action, adventure, romance, mysticism, and a three-way swordfight atop a wheel. The best "summer movie" of the summer.

CLERKS II - Wanna see a movie tonight? Haven't seen this? See this. It's the funniest movie to come out all year. Kevin Smith's best movie that isn't Chasing Amy, and isn't Rosario Dawson the coolest actress ever? And any opportunity to put Jay and Silent Bob onscreen should be seized.

A SCANNER DARKLY - Probably the best adaptation of anything Philip K. Dick has written, besides perhaps Blade Runner. It's completely different from anything you could possibly expect, and most importantly, the animation isn't just there to look cool. Though it serves that function as well. Fantastic cast including Keanu Reeves, Woody Harrelson, and Robert Downey, Jr. (go see Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang for a fantastic performance by that guy).

MONSTER HOUSE - Not terribly memorable, but way better than any other kid flick this year (certainly lightyears beyond Cars).

MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND - The best party movie since You Got Served. Probably even better. Get the right group for it and you'll swear it's the best damn thing you've ever seen.

TALLADEGA NIGHTS: THE LEGEND OF RICKY BOBBY - Incredibly disappointing. It was pretty funny, even hilarious at times, but this is from the same guys who made ANCHORMAN? You wouldn't know it watching it. And if "shake and bake" becomes some new hilarious catchphrase around school, I may leap from my 11th-story dorm room.

SCOOP - Woody Allen's latest isn't always funny, but it is consistantly amusing and entertaining, which is hard enough in and of itself, never mind when you're doing a mystery comedy involving the supernatural. Also great to see Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Jackman, and Ian McShane cast completely against type.

MIAMI VICE - If you only watched the first half hour and the last forty minutes, not only would you think it kicked ass, but you wouldn't feel like you missed any of the plot. Unfortunately, I was there for everything in between.

I should be much more on top of the review thing...certainly once school gets going, but probably even in those weeks when almost no one else is around. I made my working list of the stuff I wanna see that's coming out between now and year's end, and it's...extensive.

Monday, August 14, 2006

THE PUFFY CHAIR

Well, the good news is that independent film lives. Over the last few years, it’s been feeling more and more like in order for a so-called “indie film” to be released, it has to have at least one big star (preferably a well-known comedic actor making an unexpected dramatic turn), a $5-10 million budget, unnaturally quirky characters, a plot revolving around budding romance or eccentric families, and be all fine-tuned for release through Focus Features or Fox Searchlight.

But every now and again, I’m reminded that it’s still possible for a bunch of friends, or even one person, with a vision to produce something truly original with almost no money and get it out there. Really make it happen. And build a whole career that all started with a tiny independent effort. The most recent shot at it was Shane Carruth’s Primer (2004), which is what you should be watching right now instead of doing whatever else you had planned for the evening, and I can only hope he’s following the trail of his predecessors. Richard Linklater did it with Slacker (1991), Robert Rodriguez with El Mariachi (1992), Kevin Smith with Clerks, Wes Anderson with Bottle Rocket (1996). Jay and Mark Duplass have done it with The Puffy Chair, a movie made for $15,000 and being shown right now only in Portland (represent!) and New York. It’s traveling around the U.S., but you should check it out now while you can.

Essentially, it’s about a guy, his girlfriend, and his brother traveling to pick up a purple LazyBoy he bought for his father on eBay, then to deliver it to his father for his birthday. It’s a road trip movie, and for 85 minutes it feels damn leisurely, as any road trip should. But plot is besides the point, it’s the characters here that make it. It’s one thing to have good characters. A lot of movies have good characters. But it’s pretty damn rare, even more for a first-time writing/directing team, to develop great characters. Characters with a depth that isn’t necessarily spoken aloud, and who have as many interesting negative traits as they do positive. And then it’s a whole other issue to find actors to make them watchable. Nobody wants to watch people with too many flaws, but these three actors are all fantastic. I’d watch any of them in any other movie in a heartbeat. They’re funny, nuanced, and unbelievably engaging performers. Most movies are lucky to get one actor or actress as instantly engaging as these three are. Put them together in a room, it’s no surprise the end result is as good as this film is. I don't know if they improvised their dialogue, but it comes off extemely natural, relatable, and once again...engaging and interesting. I'll be quoting "I brought my own nutsack"...well, until I get sick of it at least.

I have big problems with the end of the film, which I won’t discuss here for all the obvious reasons. But thinking it over, the 83 minutes that preceded it were so much better than a lot of the stuff that’s come out this year, that it’s an easy recommendation, as my only trepidations with the ending are personal (please forgive me if I completely misused "trepidations").

I’ve kinda slowed on the reviews, partly because it’s been awhile since there’s been something to really encourage you guys to go see (aside from Clerks II, which I regret not writing about...oh, and I probably should've written that you shouldn't see Talladega Nights), so take this as a huge encouragement. It’s worth seeking out truly good movies, but it’s especially worth the effort when you’re not sure what their shelf life will be (though the fact that part of its theatrical distribution was financed through Netflix is encouraging). Independent cinema lives.

Friday, August 11, 2006

worms! yay!

Just so you guys know, Microsoft just announced that they found a critical security flaw in just about every version of windows. This flaw allows someone to take control over any computer connected to the internet. This will undoubtedly be taken advantage of very shortly.

To fix this, download the patches by running the Windows Update program or going to update.microsoft.com.