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More movies
Good Bye, Lenin!
I was taken aback at how … cute this whole production was. It’s basically a Marx Bros. farce set in the geopolitical climate of 1989/90 East Berlin, with some heart-tugging familial drama introduced in the last act. The farce is very, very funny – there’s a particularly wonderful scene where Alex’s (Daniel Bruhl) efforts to give his fragile mother (Katrin Sass) an old-style Communist birthday is nearly undone by a certain megacorporation’s sign unfurling on the skyline. The measures taken to protect his mother from the truth of the DDR’s breakdown are goofy and increasingly sad, as are the undertones of political bitterness between East Berliners and “Wessies.” Even so, I felt that the movie added too many plot threads and outlived its welcome by 15-20 minutes. A mild recommendation.

The Punisher
An excellent revenge movie disguised as a terrible one – I agree with Roger Ebert’s assessment that “there’s so much that’s well-done here that you sense a good movie slipping away.” Thomas Jane’s excellent acting and the successful opening act make it look like we’re in for something smart, and then a set of goofy neighbors are introduced … The Punisher tortures a goon with a popsicle … he makes his presence known to his killers for no apparent reason … threads are tugged at and unravel one by one. The final is an encapsulation of all this. Finally, The Punisher is presented as a serial-killing sociopath whose “heroism” is disturbing to us, and his quest seems unfulfilling. Then he takes out his archnemesis by exploding a bunch of cars in the shape of a giant skull. A decent b-movie, but below my expectations.

The Ladykillers
The classic example of shit served on a silver platter. A dopey heist story is given a stellar cast and knowingly overcooked dialogue. But I felt it so overcooked that I could never really enjoy it. A misfire.

Children of Dune
By many miles the best adaptation of a Frank Herbert novel … which is faint praise, but I want to make it sound like a ringing endorsement. Basically, the first “Dune” novel was a masterpiece that has been made into mediocre movies, and the second and third novels were slightly dull and goofy reads that have been turned into a thrilling miniseries.

The gist: Paul Atriedes (Alec Newman) has reigned as divine emperor of Arrakis for 12 years, while his followers have spread murder and jihad across the galaxy. He’s become bitter and afraid of fate, waiting for his enemies to pounce. When a plot finally arises, he manipulates it in a way that allows him to bring two children into the world while sending himself into exile in the desert. The children grow up and have the choice of following the divine path their father never could.

There are very few weaknesses in the entire production – acting is excellent (although Susan Sarandon gives off the impression that she’s slumming), the plot is cut together to make sense, and the action is movie-quality. When Keanu Reeves beat up dozens of Agent Smiths, it was a CGI display with no purpose. When Leto II effortlessly dispatches a wave of soldiers, it’s a forceful and compelling moment that brings the plot into focus.

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NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT FROM GUIDED BY VOICES

After almost 20 years, assorted lineups, and countless albums, EPs, singles, triples, stolen bases, misdemeanor convictions, and broken hearts, Dayton, OH’s fortunate sons are taking leave of your senses. ‘Half Smiles Of The Decomposed,’ to be released August 24 on Matador Records, will be the final album from Guided By Voices, one of the most acclaimed independent rock bands of all time.

“This feels like the last album for Guided By Voices,” explains Robert Pollard, GBV’s lone constant member, lead singer, and famously prolific songwriter. “I’ve always said that when I make a record that I’m totally satisfied with as befitting a final album, then that will be it. And this is it.”

‘Half Smiles Of The Decomposed’ is the band’s 15th full-length studio release, following 2003’s ‘Earthquake Glue’ and retrospective box set, greatest-hits, and DVD releases. Although its tour later this year will be the band’s last, Robert Pollard will continue writing, recording, and (possibly) touring as a solo artist. “I love the guys in the band, but I’m getting too old to be a gang leader,” he explains. “There’s a sense of maturity, and even integrity, I think, in continuing as one’s own self.”

IMMEDIATE REACTIONS:
– satisifed. “Oh, well, at least I saw them live twice! Once with original guitarist Tobin Sprout! And I got the whole band to sign the GBV poster that hangs above my PC.”
– bitter. “Motherfucking BULLSHIT. GBV break up and Coldplay and their mongoloid lead crooner are still around, still making aural sewage in tandem with Nickelback and Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews and the rest of the crowd that can’t write songs.
– optimistic. “I rather enjoy Bob’s solo albums. Perhaps he’ll make many and they’ll rule!”
– altruistic. “Maybe Bob can get his drinking under control now.”
– bitter, again. “Goddamn, Coldplay suck ass.”

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You can stop wondering
Here’s a formula for determining how many ways those lovely spammers can mispel “Viagra.”

I’ve got nothing but ire for the inventors of viagra at this point. I’m an abstinate 22-year old who sees no reason to ever use this product. All it’s done is unleashed 10 or 12 fraud e-mails a day into my account and spawned the worst advertising campaigns since “this is your mind on drugs.”

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Movie review: Master and Commander
Friends had told me that this adaptation of several Patrick O’Brian novels was plodding and plotless. Friends were wrong. This is a perfect movie, smart and high-minded where the overrated “Gladiator” was lunkish and simplistic.

Like “Kill Bill,” there’s a simple plot which undergirds more human, interesting stuff. It’s 1805 and the H.M.S. Surprise has been ambushed by a French ship, the Acheron. Capt. Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) has lost nine men and his ship has suffered huge blows, but he resolves to send his man-of-war after the frigate – a faster, tougher ship. The next two hours of movie are spent with the captain, his friend and ship surgeon Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany), and the crew of nearly 200 as they chase the French ship. We see them eat, complain, undergo surgery, turn against each other, and vocalize superstitions, all while rigging a massive ship under a captain whose judgment is increasingly called into question.

Just about everything here worked. The two naval battles are tremendous, especially when we get to know the bodies being flung across the bow by cannonballs. The quieter segments are funny and realistic, and the big conflagration at the finale is simply awesome – it begins with the ambush and death of one of the characters we’ve gotten to know best.

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A new time-waster
Ain’t it Cool News is a guilty pleasure, like masturbation and Little Debbie products. (I will allow you to connect those three dots further.) The writing sucks, the “talkbacks” are cesspools of retarded Americana, and holy Jesus the design is rotten.

But if you’re a movie geek, it’s fun. I’m a mini-movie geek (compared to my sick record obsession, at least), and I really enjoyed the feature posted on the site yesterday. Some guy listed his 100 favorite movie moments. Some guy with bad taste (“Dumb and Dumber”?).

I’ve got time between work to cobble together a list of my own. As little thought as possible shall go into it. And rankings are meaningless.

100.Harold in the cab in “The Long Good Friday.” (1980) It finally dawns on Harold (Bob Hoskins) that his enemies have completely hoodwinked him, and he’s going to die. As he sits in the cab en route to his execution (which we don’t see), Hoskins’ face goes through denial, anger, acceptance, humor, and he keeps stewing as the camera just sits there.

99.Baron Harkonnen in the mood in “Dune.” (1984) The repellent psychopath (Kenneth McMillan), having explained his plot to his inner circle, ascends into the air, lets oil run over his face, floats over to a terrified servant boy, pulls out a plug attached to his heart, and bathes in his blood. The soundtrack is by Toto and we have reaction shots from Sting, of all assholes, but the scene is just so disturbing and wrong that it’s unforgettable.

98.Bob kisses Charlotte in “Lost in Translation.” (2003) I’m a big fan of the kiss. I thought “LiT” ascended to greatness when Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson’s climactic whisper and spit-swap appears and you realize “wow, that made every sex scene ever look like an episode of Gumby.”

97.Gale and Evelle escape from prison in “Raising Arizona.” (1987) Basically, a mud-covered John Goodman screams. That’s all you need.

96.The opening ride in “Akira” (1988) Kaneda et al ride their motorcycles througn Neo-Tokyo to the music of Geinoh Yamashirogumi. Will convert anyone into an anime geek.

95.The elevator corpse in “Die Hard.” (1988) “Now I have a machine gun. Ho, ho, ho.”

94.Ruth’s daughter gives birth in “Threads.” (1983) The absolute bleakest way to end the bleakest movie ever – the semi-retarded child of nuclear holocaust delivers a stillborn mutant. Party!

93.Jesse and Celine in the record store in “Before Sunrise.” (1995) Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy enter a Viennese CD record store’s listening booth and hear Kath Bloom’s “Come Here” while standing awkwardly.

92.Dr. Raymond Stantz reads Gozer her rights in “Ghostbusters.” (1984) “Gozer the Gozerian: good evening. As a duly designated representative of the City, County and State of New York, I order you to cease any and all supernatural activities and return forthwith to your place of origin or to the nearest convenient parallel dimension.” Followed, of course, by Dr. Peter Venckmen (Bill Murray): “That oughtta do it. Thanks, Ray.”

91.Dirk Diggler’s recording career in “Boogie Nights.” (1998) Dirk (Mark Wahlberg) sings the theme from the Transformers movie (“You’ve Got the Touch”) and emotes like it’s Billie Holliday.

To be continued … ?

Yeah, to be continued.

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Why I love Evanston, reason #4056
“Get your friend and get the fuck out.” – a cop, to me, when I showed up at a friend’s party to congratulate him on finishing his MCATs. The cop was there to bust up the other rowdy partiers, but I was sober. And 22.