More food movies this week. The ridiculous Woman on Top seems to take place in an alternate universe cause I don’t understand any of the characters or their actions and behavior. Tortilla Soup is a passable remake of the excellent Eat Drink Man Woman. Waitress is charming and Ratatouille once again demonstrates that the people at Pixar are master storytellers. Step Up 3D also takes place in an alternate universe where people “dance battle”, but it is fun to watch for some amazing dance choreography.
Scott Pilgrim is fun and funny, especially at the beginning. I wish Soul Kitchen, a German film co-written and directed by Fatih Akin (who also made In July), wasmore about food. Watched When Harry Met Sally again, which really is the gold standard for romantic comedy, but I like Manhattan even more. Actually a lot more.
Splice – by Vincenzo Natali, Antoinette Terry and Doug Taylor 4/10/07
Now that cooking is my newest hobby, I try to seek out some “food” or “restaurant” films. Big Night is still enjoyable after all these years. Exit Through the Gift Shop is fun but feels a bit like a prank on the viewer, but it led me to Orson Welles’ F for Fake, which is definitely mischievous.
Toy Story 3 – by Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner. Revisions by David Guion and Michaelk Handelman. 6/8/2005.
The Book of Eli
The Book of Eli is definitely preachy, but ithas some style, at least in some of the fight scenes. The problem is, well, not that it is that original as a post-apocalypse movie to begin with, but an absolutely ridiculous and eye-rolling ending completely renders this movie a waste of time.
A Perfect Getaway
I expected A Perfect Getaway to be just another silly horror movie, but it turns out to be a pretty entertaining thriller. The plot may not make complete logical sense, but there is enough suspense to worth a watch. It is however very nice to see Milla Jovovich in a non-rubbish movie.
Adapted from a South Korean movie, The Uninvited‘s twist is quite transparent from the very beginning, which takes away some of the fun. That being said, I appreciate the effort to scare by atmosphere and suspense, and not have to rely on gore.
Reservoir Dogs, the film that made Tarrantino’s name, still holds up. It doesn’t really matter now that a lot of it is “borrowed” from other movies, since Tarrantino has made paying homage to other cool films his own.
I usually quite like French romantic comedies as they are quite different from the ones made in the U.S. But L’arnacoeur (Heartbreaker) is actually quite Hollywood. So it’s not surprise that there is an American remake in the works already. Still, I enjoyed it – the lead is amusing and the farcical scenes are quite funny. The Dirty Dancing scene is always a crowd pleaser.
Oh, the fashion of the 80′s… Valley Girl is quite funny and entertaining in a familiar kind of way. Then again, that probably says more about the movies since then than about Valley Girl.
Despite the lackluster reviews, I enjoyed Wild Target for the charm of the actors.
Yes, the music is good. But it’s a bit of an easy cheat to make a scene better by adding a classic rock and roll soundtrack. Many of the characters are fun and would probably be more interesting if we could spend a bit more time with them. All in all, Pirate Radio has too many characters but lacks a center.
The original Heartbreak Kid (as opposed to the Ben Stiller remake) is a wonderful comedy/tragedy. It is funny, but the humor is almost a by-product of the story. In other words, the humor does not feel forced.
I just don’t see the point of Jonah Hex. Even with only an 80mins running time, it felt so long and pointless. How did they get so many big name stars to be in this dud?
Legion is a predictable B-movie with some fairly decent action sequences. The old lady in the diner scene was the most interesting one in the movie.
Reign of Assassins (劍雨)
The plot of Reign of Assassins is silly to say the least, but the mood and atmosphere of the movie evokes the world of martial arts in novels. The martial arts world in novels is the basis of this genre of cinema, but very very few films could retain that essence. The Reign of Assassins succeeds in this regard.
Toy Story 3 by Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner
Predators – Screenplay by Robert Rodriguez – 1st Draft, Aug. 2, 1996.
Frost/Nixon – Screenplay by Peter Morgan – 8/24/2007 Draft.
I really like slice of life movies like Please Give, or pretty much anything with Catherine Keener. This movie is similar in style to Nicole Holofcener’s two other movies, Friends with Money and Lovely and Amazing, where the plot is not the really focus. Holofcener prefers to pay more attention to the flawed characters, and the dynamics between them. There is even a Woody Allen-esque feel to her films.
While Splice is certainly a good thriller, there is a deeper level of human emotions (and the questioning of it) that makes it quite a wonderful sci-fi. A bit like a futuristic Frankenstein, the interesting part of the film is human parents/monster child dynamics. I like that the filmmakers are willing to take it far enough to be both shocking and disturbing.
I don’t think The Rebound, even with Catherine Zeta Jones as the lead, got a U.S. distribution. It got released in the U.K. though. Compare it with a lot of the recent romantic comedies, it is actually quite sweet and charming for the most part (although the part with toilet humor just does not seem appropriate). However, the plot is entirely predictable.
Mama Mia is without a doubt a guilty pleasure. Apparently, some of the catchiest pop songs ever made + gorgeous scenery + beautiful people + lots of dancing = Box office gold. What more can you say about Meryl Streep? She is absolutely fabulous again. Pierce Brosnon, on the other hand, is such a terrible singer that it actually adds to the fun of the movie.
Zwartboek (Black Book)
Paul Verhoeven’s Black Book has so many twists and turns, betrayals and double betrayals, that there is not a dull moment in its 145 mins running time. It is also quite melodramatic. Carice van Houten is fantastic as the heroine.
I like Juno even more after reading two drafts of Diablo Cody’s script, and watching the film a second time. It helps that it is perfectly cast.
Another WWII movie. Max Manus is a well made, if a bit straight forward, account of the Norwegian resistance during World War II. Max Manus is a well known hero in Norway, but I must admit I’ve not heard of him before watching this film. It is always fascinating to learn something new about a culture or history of a country that I do not know much about.
The Special Relationship
The third film of the Peter Morgan’s Tony Blair trilogy. The Special Relationship, a HBO film, has many of Morgan’s signature elements. And it is another intriguing and entertaining re-imagination of two high profile public figures.
Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen
Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen has an very entertaining and interesting opening in France. But the main story never really gains any momentum. The superhero storyline never develops. There is a lack of character development. And too many unnecessary subplots drags down the movie. Good fight scenes though.
Predators - screenplay by Robert Rodriguez, 1st Draft, Aug.2, 1996
This 1996 Robert Rodriguez screenplay of Predators has undergone so many rewrites that it is almost completely different from the final movie.
Frost/Nixon - Screenplay by Peter Morgan - 8/24/2007 Draft.
Coco Before Chanel is a rather conventional biopic, but I was interested in the subject enough to like it. However, I think I would be even more interested if it was about Coco as Chanel. Audrey Tautou displays a cold edge that is very different from Amelie.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
The main problem I have with this eagerly awaited sequel is that Gordon Gekko is not the main character. It was perfect for him to be the villain and supporting character in the original, but he is now the reason to see Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and the film struggles to hold my attention whenever he is not on screen. It doesn’t help that the main storyline and the protagonist are just not interesting enough.
A homage to 70′s car movies (among many other genres), Quentin Tarrantino’s Death Proof is a lot of fun to watch. I was kind of dreading to see a lot of gore (but that’s actually more of Robert Rodriguez’s thing), but the film never really descends to that level. Tarrantino is more interested in the violence and the intention, and not just the consequences, which gives this movie an edge over Planet Terror. Rodriguez’s movieis such a gorefest that I just couldn’t really enjoy it. It is supposed to be a homage/parody, but apart from having actors who can act, and expensive action set pieces, is it any better than those cheap grind house movies?
I am going to ignore the Aliens vs Predator nonsense spin-offs and only count these three: Predator, Predator 2, and Predators as the true Predator movies. The original one, with Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a solid 80′s B-movie with an excess of muscles. The second one, set in LA with Danny Glover, doesn’t have the much point and lacks the tension and memorable action scenes in the first one. The newest one, Predators, goes back to the jungle with a cast of interesting characters. The story is paper thin. It’s all about the dynamics of the characters and action sequences. In that regard, it is an enjoyable sequel to the original.
Juno - written by Diablo Cody
Great read. Cody has such an unique voice. Her dialog is quite brilliant.
Talladega Nights – Screenplay by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay – April 6, 2005 draft.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Not that Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is not at times quite fun to watch, but it is amazing that so much money, talent and energy can go into a project and ends up with something so devoid of any personality. The CGI and the action scenes are expectedly well done. I have never played the game, so I have no idea how much it actually resembles the video game. And I am still a bit unsure of movie adaptation of video games, are we to expect some kind of game play element from the movie? In any case, apart from a few “video game”-esque pan shots, the filmmakers do not seem too concern about that.
Penelope is sweet and it has some flair in its fashion and art directions. It has a promising premise and the set up is intriguing. The actors are fun to watch. But ultimately, the filmmakers play it too safe and the story becomes just too middle of the road to be memorable.
Talladega Nights - Screenplay by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay
This draft of the screenplay doesn’t have the buddy character (the John C. Reilly character) yet, and it still lacks something. I like the short intro of Ricky Bobby’s early life in the movie better than taking up several pages of his childhood in this draft of the script.
I somehow managed to miss this male bonding classic, and its many quotable lines for over 14 years. Now I get why Vince Vaughn is famous – his character in Swingers is a funny, sweet, loyal to his friend, likable jerk (unfortunately, all his recent characters are just jerky without being likable). The movie has an easy going feel to it, much like the friendship between the characters.
The Expendables is a very 80′s action movie in so many ways. It’s entirely stars (all 80′s muscle icons) driven, all its action scenes must have big explosions, and of course, a forgettable plot. All three aspects (actors/action/plot) feel out of date. But, as someone who grew up watching these guys in silly action movies, I must admit I enjoyed this new silly one just enough to not dislike it.
Wet Hot American Summer
Is Wet Hot American Summer a parody of cliché teen camp movies, or is it just a mediocre teen camp movie? There are some funny moments scattered through, but the movie is too uneven and unfocused.
Cross My Heart
I remember liking Cross My Heart quite a bit when I saw it in the late 80′s. It only came out on DVD very recently, so I decided to re-watch it after 20 or so years, and it turns out I actually like it more now. Sure, there are flaws, such as several moments where it would make sense for the characters to tell the truth instead of lying. But those are easily forgivable. I like the filmmakers’ courage to trust the strength of the conversations between the two main characters to drive the movie, which is rare for a mainstream Hollywood romantic comedy.