Monthly Archives: February 2007
Actor: Forrest Whitaker. It’s about time, he’s deserved this since Smoke.
Actress: Helen Mirren will get it tho I’m rooting for Penelope Cruz in Volver just cuz I’m an Almodovar fan from waaay back.
Supporting Actor: It’s between Eddie Murphy and Mark Wahlberg. Both gave the performances of their lives, but you felt for Eddie’s character where you really didn’t for Mark’s. So the Oscar goes to Eddie, unless of course members of the Academy have seen Norbit.
Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson, hands down. Who’s the American Idol now, bitches?
Animated Feature: Happy Feet.
Director: Clint Eastwood, again, it’s about time.
Foreign Film: Pan’s Labyrinth.
Song: “Listen” from Dreamgirls. Not much choice here this year, but this is the best o’ the bunch.
Visual Effects: Superman Returns. The dude of steel saving that plane and shuttle are the only reason to see the flick.
Best Picture: The Departed, only because it’s the only one I’ve seen this year.
Check back later for my thoughts on the winners and the awards show itself.
The Departed – Martin Scorcese is one of the giants, quite possibly our greatest living director. Despite that, and the Oscar noms for this flick, this isn’t one of his best. That said, a lousy film by Scorsese is still better than 90% of everything else out there. While not a good flick, it still contains amazing performances. Mark Wahlberg gives the performance of his life. Jack Nicholson is at the top of the game except when he falls into Joker or Jack Torrance mode for a few frightening seconds. Other than that, he’s flawless. Leo and Matt are adequate but seem to have spent more time on their Boston accents than their acting chops here. Vera Farmiga is the breakout here, watch for her. All in all, a good flick, just not a great one from Scorsese. Loved the rat theme though.
Also check out my review of New Avengers #27 “Ronin Returns… In More Ways Than One“.
If you’d like to discuss these reviews the Avengers Forever website hosts a chat every Thursday evening at 10:00 PM EST in its own chatroom. Or to discuss everything Avengers 24/7, please check out the AF Forum.
Duplex – I’m not a fan of Ben Stiller, or maybe I am. I just don’t tend to like the same Ben Stiller stuff everyone else raves over. I loved his long ago Fox TV show for example. I related to his character, a writer, in this dark comedy from 2003, and I’ve always loved Drew Barrymore. This one has its moments but by no means one of his best and definitely not his most popular. Worth a peek.
Jane White Is Sick and Twisted – This tour de force by actress Kim Little had so much promise as a satire about television. You ever see a movie preview that looks so good you can’t wait to see it, and then you do see it and it’s like shit on a stick? That’s this flick. Despite interesting appearances by David (Squiggy) Lander, Wil Wheaton, Colin Mochrie and Maureen McCormick, this movie is nothing but disappointment.
Mandingo in a Box – At first I thought this was a play on the “Saturday Night Live” skit “Dick in a Box” but it’s much better. This twelve-minute flick written and directed by Daheli Hall is a smart and funny commentary on how desperate single black women are for a ‘perfect’ male counterpart. Genius.
Closing out this obscure set of flicks this time is The Hookers – a retro-erotica selection available from Comcast’s Something Weird On Demand channel. We were popping through channels with company over a few weeks back and came across this 1967 mini epic that tells the tale of three girls gone bad. Filmed in black and white by an apparently drunken camera crew, it’s so unintentionally funny and inexplicable (many shots of a glass vase full of wheat – what the hell does that mean?) we’re still laughing over it. See it at your own risk, and prepare to giggle uncontrollably.
I have just recently seen both The Prestige and Hollywoodland. Both had the potential to be great films but blew it because of what I call ‘the Pulp Fiction curse.’ The curse happens when writers or directors believe they can reproduce the brilliance of Quentin Tarantino by using the mobile time line for their movies that his genius engineered with Pulp Fiction. Now please keep in mind I’m not saying that Quentin is a genius by ant stretch, just that some of his tricks are genius moves – the scenes-out-of-order-to-create-better-flow trick being one of his best. This does not for either of these two films though.
The Prestige re-teams Batman Begins playmates Christian Bale and Michael Caine with director Christopher Nolan in this script by he and his brother Jonathan Nolan, and based on the novel by comic book writer Christopher Priest. Much like The Illusionist, which I thought was the best film of this past year, this is the tale of a turn-of-the-century magician, or more specifically magicians. Bale and Hugh Jackson play rivals so competitive and scornful that their relationship turns to murder.
The movie travels far and wide depicting many of the secrets of the magician’s world, much to the dismay of the practitioners of that field I’m sure, and those portions are greatly interesting. We also get a side trip to the real life Nikola Tesla, the mad scientist whose ‘discoveries’ equaled those of Thomas Edison. Tesla is played with great skill by a black-haired David Bowie.
For that matter everyone involved in this production: Andy Serkis, Scarlet Johansson, Piper Perabo, Ricky Jay and Roger Rees – all turn in amazing performances. This should have been a great film. It’s the patchy timelines and misplaced flashbacks that kill it, although the length doesn’t help much either. I think if The Prestige had been told in a linear fashion, with no flashbacks, no tricks – it would have been one of the best of the year.
Hollywoodland also suffers from the same curse. Focusing on the supposed murder or suicide of actor George Reeves, TV’s first Superman, the film can’t decide whether it is about the investigation of the crime or whether it’s a George Reeves biopic. The switches from investigation in the present to flashbacks to Reeves’ life are so jarring it takes away from any enjoyment of the film.
Much is made in the DVD extra material of how much research Ben Affleck did for his role as Reeves, but I really have to say it doesn’t show. Affleck performs well, but he doesn’t seem like Reeves at all, either from the Superman show or any interviews I’ve seen with the man. On the other hand, Adrien Brody gives a near perfect showing.
The flick explores all possibilities of the crime which is a nice change of pace for these types of movies. Usually the writer or director decides for you what the truth is which can be so annoying, especially if you have a grasp of the facts before seeing the work. Hollywoodland is only for folks interested in Reeves’ death and folks who want to see another great Brody performance.
Dreamgirls – I’m not fond of Broadway shows. While not my type of entertainment, having married a stage rat I have been exposed to my share of Broadway and musicals of that sort. Sometimes the stuff is pretty good, and sometimes it’s worse than an Adam Sandler marathon, a casino production of “Cats” and “Starlight Express” on ice being major lowlights. When these shows become films, bad things happen, A Chorus Line being a major example. I might have liked the flick had I not seen the show. Luckily “Dreamgirls” is something I have not experienced on stage, which is probably why I enjoyed the movie version so much.
Dreamgirls is a strange parallel universe version of Diana Ross and the Supremes and the Motown story. Once you get through the game of who is supposed to be who, it’s easy to settle back and enjoy the ride. Be warned, it’s a long ride, but you don’t notice it.
Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy steal every scene in which they appear. I would say their Oscars are assured. Jamie Foxx is as always a trimuph, but while Beyonce has one of the lead roles and sings and dances up a storm, her acting is at the opposite end of Foxx’s. Not to worry as she doesn’t do all that much acting, that’s left up to the professionals.
A wonderful flick, must see.
You Only Live Twice – A James Bond I had seen decades ago and not since. I was reeled in to watching it again when a glance at the opening credits revealed the screenplay was by Roald Dahl of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” fame. His words have always delighted and impressed me. Armed with the knowledge of his hand, some of the absurdities of this Bond-er stood out. Still, it’s a Sean Connery and he can’t be beat in the role. Interesting to see Charles Gray in the cast but not as Blofeld. There are some painful dated sexist sequences when it comes to portrayals of Japanese men and especially women, but other than that, a great JB flick.
Un Dia Sin Mexicanos – I came across this supposed satire on HBO while popping through the channels. It’s a what-if? that explores the idea that one day California wakes up and its entire Latino population has vanished. Basically a one joke gig however, great concept, bad follow through. It might have been a terrific five minute skit on “MadTV.”
The Invincible Iron Man – Something that should be remembered about all comic book properties is that the lure for the audience is folks in spandex (or in this case, armor) fighting bad guys also in spandex. This DVD flick is beautiful rendered and animated, tells a wonderful storyline, but lacked serious (or even silly) superhero action – a no-no for any superhero flick. I just wanted to see Iron Man hit stuff. Guess I’ll have to dig out my videos of the 1960s cartoons for that.
Firewall – I have to wonder if Harrison Ford got the memo that no one cares anymore? When was the last time he had a hit movie? It might be time to make a new Indiana Jones or Star Wars flick before it’s too late because he’s not aging gracefully. Sean Connery is hotter than Ford at this point. Dude is looking old and not able to do the action hero anymore. Not that Firewall, a cutting edge bank heist thriller, has cast him in that role, but he’s not even cut out for the passive role he has here. The flick does have its share of suspense and tense moments but Ford doesn’t supply many of them. It might also be nice if all the loose ends were tied up at the end.
The Notorious Bettie Page – I’ve never been a hardcore fan of cheesecake or Bettie Page, but I know my share of the phenomenon from Dave Stevens art and working in a video store with a healthy old school burlesque collection. Gretchen Mol is beautiful and stunning, and her acting is top notch as well. Props to writer/director Mary Harron. Beautiful women and wondrous cinematography.
Oldboy and The Boondock Saints – Both of these flicks came highly recommended by friends. There are elements to them that I really liked but overall I was bored and disappointed. The latter was many levels more engaging than the former until its anticlimactic ending.