Archive for November, 2006

2006

November 17, 2006
San Jose CA — Cinearts Santana Row
USA
English
130 Minutes

After you’ve seen LITTLE CHILDREN, listen to the MichaelVox and Tassoula K. “Cinebanter” podcast, which is available here or at iTunes.

Easily one of the top five films of the year.

Uses an incredibly effective “voice of God” narrator who isn’t telling us what one character is thinking, but what all the characters are thinking.

Winslett is perfect, Haley is creepy. Go see it.

2006 Oscar Nominations:
~~Best Adapted Screenplay for Todd Field & Tom Perrotta
~~Best Actress for Kate Winslet
~~Best Suporting Actor for Jackie Earl Haley

7.6 Metacritic

~~

Comments No Comments »

2006

November 12, 2006
Campbell CA — Camera 7
USA / Mexico
Japanese Sign Language / French / English / Spanish / Japanese / Berber / Arabic
142 Minutes

If you want to be understood…Listen.

“What we have here is…failure to communicate.” Thank you Cool Hand Luke. This film highlights the thousands of ways we have trouble communicating with other humans. Not just language, and you can see the many that are spoken in this film. But custom. A kid chases down a chicken in Mexico thinking that it will be used as a pet only to be horrified when its head is cut off for supper. The language of music is completely lost on the deaf Japanese teenager. Food is eaten with hands and with silverware. Mobile phones are used to communicate sign language. A woman purells her hands while sitting in a Moroccan restaurant. Two boys, playing around, create an international incident.

Well acted, if a bit heavy-handed. Not as good as either previous effort, AMORRES PERROS or 21 GRAMS.

Riveting scene that takes place in a Tokyo dance club. We are inside the head of the deaf girl and we only “feel” the music, we don’t hear it, then we are taken out where the music is deafening. The lights are most important when inside her head. The music most important outside of it. That scene was very well done.

2006 Oscar Nominations:
~~Best Picture
~~Best Director for Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
~~Best Original Screenplay for Guillermo Arriaga
~~Best Editing for Douglas Crise & Stephen Mirrione
~~Best Supporting Actress For Adriana Barraza
~~Best Supporting Actress For Rinko Kikuchi

6.9 Metacritic

~~

Comments No Comments »

2006

November 12, 2006
Camera Cinema Club
USA
English
124 Minutes

I loved this movie.

It captured the first two years in a relationship better than any film I can remember. Justin Kirk, from WEEDS on Showtime and ANGELS IN AMERICA on HBO plays the boy, Stuart, and Julianne Nicholson, from a little MichaelVox favorite, TULLY plays the girl, Nicole. Their families are involved, as our their friends, but it’s really their show.

We open in a diner where they are meeting for the first time amongst the safety of mutual friends. They have an attraction and want to keep talking, so they do. For years. The first awkward what do you do for a living questions, move into let’s make out, into I’m sorry my place is so messy, into I’m not ready to sleep with you yet, into the complete lack of modesty around each other, into the fights that begin as tiny things and then move into giant things. It is basically these two characters relating to each other. By the end of the film, we know them. We see ourselves in both of them. We pick sides for every fight, we don’t trust her friend and we don’t like his brother and we wonder which family is more messed up. But don’t we all have messed up families and don’t our partners have friends we don’t entirely trust? They do.

Stuart and Nicole have a wedding with fantastic extra characters rounding out and coloring their lives. They have the inevitable discussions that new couples have about dreams and jobs and babies and whose house do we go to for Thanksgiving this year.

Stuart is cocky about his ability to make a living and about his brain’s power to sell anything to anyone. But less so about his ability to have someone stay in love with him. Nicole is unsure of herself physically at first, unsure of herself in business later, and then unsure of her feelings later still.

They are fantastic together. It says something about the sorry state of American film when one has to point out the complete honest intimacy depicted on screen in this film. They have one sex scene, but then several dozen nude scenes. They become free with each other as all couples do in the throws of something new. The actors are completely exposed and out there for each other and for us as the audience. We will see every inch of their bodies and feel as if we’ve seen into their souls as well.

It is nearly impossible to properly film the way a relationship changes over time. From lust to feeling to love to comfort. FLANNEL PAJAMAS gets it right, I think. It wasn’t always easy to watch. The plot devices weren’t all successful. But the relationship at the center of it all was incredibly honest. Even down to the whining that all couples do from time to time.

The script gives incredible attention to minor moments. “Can you go get me a cup of coffee?” becomes a litmus test for the future of a relationship, not a refreshing favor. At what point does the lover begin talking with the partner’s family on the phone. Does she call him “dad”?

This film isn’t for everyone. Some viewers will find it boring and navel-gazing. They’ll hear the whining and vacuousness. I heard the realism.

It moves into my top five of the year easily. I can’t wait to see it again.

4.8 Metacritic
“B-” EW
*** Steve Rhodes
**^ Slant
* Film Threat
“D” Onion A.V. Club

~~

Comments No Comments »

2006

November 11, 2006
Campbell CA — Camera 7
USA
English
113 Minutes

Harold Crick isn’t ready to go. Period.

After you’ve seen STRANGER THAN FICTION, listen to the MichaelVox and Tassoula K. “Cinebanter” podcast, which is available here or at iTunes.

Bullet Points:

–Will Ferrell can really pull off the quiet serious guy role. Probably better than Jim Carey can.
–Maggie Gyllenhaal is simply magnetic. Your love of the film will be partially based on your love of her.
–”I brought you flowers” will have new meaning after you see it.

6.7 Metacritic

~~

Comments No Comments »

CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN
2006

November 11, 2006
USA
English / Hebrew / Armenian
84 Minutes

After you’ve seen BORAT, listen to the MichaelVox and Tassoula K. “Cinebanter” podcast, which is available here or at iTunes.

Something is either funny or it isn’t. You can’t really explain it. People ask me if I liked it. I say, not really. But then I remember scenes and I laugh again, just thinking about them. Two men chasing each other through a hotel while naked? Funny. Guy falling down and breaking expensive antiques? Funny. This thing is a huge phenomenon. The more about the filmmaking that comes to light, the less subversive it seems and the more safe it becomes. But Cohen sold this character, 24/7. And when Americans look racist, homophobic, and stupid, isn’t it our duty to laugh at them as loudly as possible? I think it is. Highbrow? No. Performance art? Maybe.

2006 Oscar Nominations:
~~Best Adapted Screenplay

8.9 Metacritic

~~

Comments No Comments »

2006

October 25, 2006
Campbell CA — Camera 7
USA
English
132 Minutes

Says some interesting things about what it means to be a hero. And it contains the most explicit battlefield carnage I’ve ever seen. But it left me cold. I don’t think it was the fault of the actors. We’ve seen it all before. The beach landing, the cowards and the heroes. I’m looking forward to Eastwood’s Japanese version.

7.8 Metacritic

~~

Comments 1 Comment »

2006

October 25, 2006
Campbell CA — Camera 7
USA / UK
English
128 Minutes

After you’ve seen THE PRESTIGE, listen to the MichaelVox and Tassoula K. “Cinebanter” podcast, which is available here or at iTunes.

You know when you’re told not to think about a movie’s plot too closely or else it will lose its magic? This is exhibit A. And it didn’t have that much magic to begin with, even though it’s about magic. Bale and Jackman and Caine are great. The story isn’t. Come back to us Mr. Nolan.

2006 Oscar Nominations:
~~Best Cinematography for Wally Pfister
~~Best Art Direction

6.6 Metacritic

~~

Comments No Comments »

2006

October 22, 2006
DVD
USA
Japanese / English
104 Minutes

God awful. Here’s what I wanted: Hot import models, cool cars, and maybe, just maybe a decipherable plot. What I got was the oldest looking high school senior in film history (He’s allegedly 24 when the film was made). I also got little feel for Tokyo and nary a hottie. Endless drift driving scenes that weren’t all that exciting and a side plot about the Yakuza. American kid is sent to Tokyo because he’s been kicked out of every American high school due to his drag racing. Bow Wow happens to already be there. Playboy model Kaila Yu is allegedly one of the starting line girls, but she must not have been on screen very long. Believe it or not, the late cameo arrival of Vin Diesel is welcome, that’s how bad this thing is.

4.6 Metacritic

~~

Comments No Comments »

1999

October 19, 2006
DVD
USA
English
150 Minutes

A veteran coach and a commercially-minded owner of a football team clash over attitudes and tactics, while the players undergo crises of their own.

I want my two and a half hours back. Terrible. The acting is poor, the frenectic editing and camera work is ridiculous, and the football sequences aren’t even exciting. Al Pacino is stuck firmly in Scent Of A Woman overacting mode. I expected so much more.

5.2 Metacritic
* Halliwell’s

~~

Comments No Comments »

2006

October 11, 2006
San Jose CA — Camera 12
USA
English
152 Minutes

After you’ve seen THE DEPARTED, listen to the MichaelVox and Tassoula K. “Cinebanter” podcast, which is available here or at iTunes.

Powerhouse cast assembled to work for Scorsese. This is second only to Half Nelson on my year’s best.

Bullet Points:

–Ron Howard and Spielberg make me mad when the manipulate me, but Scorsese doesn’t.
–a simply breathtakingly exciting first hour.
–Edited perfectly, as usual, by Thelma Schoonmaker.
–Nicholson is the weak link, believe it or not.
–Alec Baldwin does more with little screen time than any other actor.
–Nice theme of masculinity throughout.

2006 Oscar Nominations:
~~Best Picture
~~Best Director for Martin Scorsese
~~Best Adapted Screenplay for William Monahan
~~Best Editing by Thelma Schoonmaker
~~Best Supporting Actor for Mark Wahlberg

8.5 Metacritic

~~

Comments No Comments »

1993

October 7, 2006
Sundance
USA
English
103 Minutes

In 1976, a group of high school students celebrate their last day by victimizing younger kids.

Assorted teens waste another day of school before getting down to wasting summer in 1976 Austin, Texas.

The set decoration is the real star here. We are transported. The cars, clothes, music, and attitudes are pure 1976. Nothing much happens and the acting is particularly good. Matthew McConaughey is a standout as the guy who can’t leave the high school girls behind. Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, Milla Jovavich all look so young. Probably way overrated in the pantheon of teen movies.

7.8 Metacritic
** Halliwells

~~

Comments No Comments »

2005

October 7, 2006
HBO
USA
Russian / English
85 Minutes

Fear Takes Flight.

A plane passenger forcibly involves his seatmate in a plot to assassinate a government official.

Incredibly well done for what it is. A don’t think too much thriller. And it stars cute as a button Rachel McAdams, she of the exceptionally large forehead. Just how does a guy sitting next to you on a plane control the world enough for an assassination to take place is somehow presented plausibly. McAdams is selling the whole thing the whole time. Plus we get post-9/11-airport-paranoia. A great way to spend and hour and a half.

7.1 Metacritic

~~

Comments No Comments »

2006

October 4, 2006
San Jose CA — Cinearts Santana Row
USA
English
96 Minutes

Musician. Humanitarian. National Threat.

After you’ve seen THE U.S. VS. JOHN LENNON, listen to the MichaelVox and Tassoula K. “Cinebanter” podcast, which is available here or at iTunes.

Could probably have gotten the job done on VH1.

6.4 Metacritic

~~

Comments No Comments »

(Bus 174)
2002

October 1, 2006
IFC
Brazil
Portuguese
122 Minutes

Incredibly riveting documentary about a drug-addicted street teen who takes a Rio city bus and its passengers hostage. This story alone isn’t as compelling as the television coverage that ensued. No police lines were erected and cameras could all but run up to the window of the bus to get comments from the gunman and the hostages. There must have been thirty cameras on the standoff. We have interviews from some of the passengers, cops, and media outlets. We know its going to end, but we don’t know how. He shoots his gun out the windshield of the bus to show the crowd that he means business and no one bats and eye or runs for cover. Just amazing. The documentary that should be shown with CITY OF GOD for a double-feature on poverty in Brazil.

8.4 Metacritic

~~

Comments No Comments »

2006

September 27, 2006
Campbell CA — Camera 7
USA
English
115 Minutes

We all make choices. What’s yours?

After you’ve seen THE LAST KISS, listen to the MichaelVox and Tassoula K. “Cinebanter” podcast, which is available here or at iTunes.

Garden State II. No happy couples. Nothing to look forward to in terms of love. We’ve seen all this “guy nearing 30 who thinks his life it too planned out” storyline before. Too many times.

Bullet Points:

–Braff can’t pull off the highly charged argument scenes.
–College girl who throws herself at Braff way too good to be true.
–Girlfriend reverts to Australian accent when angry.
–Wears its R rating proudly.

5.7 Metacritic

~~

Comments No Comments »

2006

September 16, 2006
San Jose CA — Camera 12
USA
English
106 Minutes

After you’ve seen HALF NELSON, listen to the MichaelVox and Tassoula K. “Cinebanter” podcast, which is available here or at iTunes.

The story of a crack-addicted inner-city history teacher. How can he be a better role model to his students than the drug dealers who inhabit their neighborhoods? Fantastic.

My bullet points:

–The best thing I’ve seen this year, by far.
–Ryan Gosling is fantastic. No one else could do this role except maybe a younger Ed Norton.
–Holla back if you hear me.
–No discipline problems.
–The guy had no money whatsoever.
–Awkward school dance scene.
–Shareeka Epps, who plays the girl student was simply magnetic.
–Red, white, and blue bandaid a bit of overkill.

2006 Oscar Nominations:
~~Best Actor for Ryan Gosling

8.5 Metacritic
**** Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
***^ Phillips, Chicago Tribune
“A” Schwarzbaum, EW

~~

Comments No Comments »

2003

September 9, 2006
HBO
USA
English
74 Minutes

Engaging story of a woman, Sue Sternberg, who runs a kennel in upstate New York. She doesn’t believe in keeping dogs alive at all costs. Some dogs should never be placed with humans, they are beyond repair or rehabilitation. They should be put down. This puts her at odds with all county kennels who would rather see a dog live out its days in a cement pen, without human interaction, than being put down safely. Sternberg, like all hardcore “dog people” is a bit of a kook, which she all but admits. She lives with three rescues and gives all her money, talent, and heart to the dogs that come through her door. HBO does it again.

~~

Comments No Comments »

2005

September 9, 2006
PBS — P.O.V.
USA
English

Extremely inspiring story of an inner-city Los Angeles elementary school teacher who has been running an after-school program for immigrant children to learn and perform the great works of Shakespeare. He has help from Ian McKellan and Michael York, but the program lives or dies on the teacher’s will and energy. Kids go through rigorous competition for the privilege of staying after school two hours a day working on dense prose. Magnificent.

~~

Comments No Comments »

Written by Michael W. Cummins