Sunday, November 26, 2006

Capsule Film Reviews

So, I was recently made aware of the lack of recent movie reviewing. Yeah, I know I was caught up in stuff and alot of "Dreamgirls" drooling, so to placate youse guys, here's a couple capsule reviews of recent films I saw and am willing to recommend:

Marie Antoinette

In my opinion, this is probably the most beautifully designed film of the last two decades. The costume and set design alone are worthy of a viewing. While Sofia Coppola's previous films have been somewhat hit-or-miss with me (hated "Lost In Translation," liked "Virgin Suicides"), this one hit all the right notes and establishes her as a visionary filmmaker, much like her father. Based on a recent, more sympathetic, biography, this movie fuses history with 80s music, not unlike Baz Luhrmann's "Moulin Rouge."

Virtually dialogue-free, Kirsten Dunst embodies the role of the young Austrian queen who was thrust upon Louis XVII as a teenager and her emotional struggle to become the historical figure she was destined to be. Because of its design and superficiality, the movie feels sterile but I think it replicates the lifestyle of separation of class the the French Royals experienced in the last days before the Revolution. This is definitely a big-screen kinda movie. Grade: B+

Running With Scissors

As with "Dreamgirls," it's no secret that I loveAugusten Burroughs, so I was naturally anticipating "Nip/Tuck's" Ryan Murphy's adaptation of his first memoir, Running With Scissors. I had been following its development, casting and release with great interest. The interviews with Ryan Murphy and Augusten Burroughs showed great admiration and respect between each man and their work and Augusten's enthusiasm for the movie when he spoke here in DC about the accuracy of bringing his experiences to film only increased the hype to me.

Well, there's something to be said for being too reverent and respectful of a literary work (and what is up with the freaky poster image?). Ryan Murphy does succeed at displaying life in the early/late 70s, down to the print wallpaper and fashions, but in being so attached to the book, he drains some of the life out of Augusten's expereinces in my opinion. That's not to say that the acting the anemic. I thought that each performer, with the exception of a couple, gave their all and were very convincing in their roles. The buzzed-about Annette Benning was at turns hilariously over-the-top and heart-breakingly vulnerable and she truly deserves an Oscar nod for her work here. The actress who really shocked me with her subtlety was Jill Clayburgh's performance as Agnes, the wife of the psychiatrist & Augusten's guardian. In just a few facial expressions and a non-sequiter line, she conveys wisdom and heartbreak and becomes the mother that young Augusten needs.

Joseph Cross is fine as Augusten as is Joeseph Feinnes as Augusten's child molester boyfriend, but the roles of Hope and Natalie (Gwyneth Paltrow and Evan Rachel Wood, respectively) are woefully underwritten, especially with the pivotal nature of Natalie in Augusten's life in his memoir. I think being too respectful, while gaining some authenticity, drains the life out of this movie and, dare I say it, the heart, too. If you're still interested, see it for the performances. Grade: C+


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Well, that time of year has landed upon us. The time when we hurry up to tie any loose ends for the year and gear up for the next one. It's amazing how crazy-fast the time's gone, but this time of year, I strive to believe, brings out the best in people so it's welcome.

I'm thankful for:

My friends- those who I've known forever and those who've recently come into my life. You guys really are the best and I appreciate ya'll even when I'm at my grumpiest. It's been saqid that friends are those people you choose to be in your family and I think I made some good choices. Luv Ya. Mean it.

Leela & Fry- One of those impulse things that happened last spring and they are a constant joy and frustration in my life. I think they help me make a better person.

My fam- Another source of joy and frustration in my life- in only the best sense. I'm glad they're there and that they know I'm there for them, too.

There are other things I'm thankful for as well, but they're all superficial: My MacBook, Hugh Jackman, Bruce Willis, Madonna, Pet Shop Boys, iPods, TiVo and the Scissor Sisters. What are you thankful for?

Enjoy your holiday!

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"Caligula" Remake Trailer (NSFW)

This is simply fascinating. This trailer premiered at a couple of film festivals for a fictional remake of Penthouse Films & Gore Vidal's scandelriffic "Caligula." It's a shame that this is just a fantasy thing because it looks like it might be pretty camptastic (even more than the original). Naturally, there's much sexual innuendo, so kids, turn away from this post.

More about the origins of this trailer here.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006


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Dreamgirls Advance Review

A drumbeat begins, a bass line joins in and flashbulbs pop and blaze amid the twirling camera-work and frantic editing. With these images, sharing the frenzied opening with the film version of “Chicago”, Bill Condon’s film of “Dreamgirls” gets off to a kinetic start with the musical performance of the fictional Stepp Sisters at a theatre in Detroit. Amongst all of the chaos we’re introduced to Curtis Taylor (Jamie Foxx), Deena Jones (Beyonce Knowles) and the rest of the principal cast in minutes. The rest of this film maintains the fluid nature of Michael Bennett’s original staging, and Condon has adapted the piece to retain the major points of the story (as well as most of the musical numbers) but he also opens up this world and places it within the context of the major historical events that take place around the rise of the (fictional) girl group, The Dreams.

It’s no secret that I’ve loved this musical since the first time I saw it in 1997. It’s got a fairly brilliant score that blends the Motown sound with personal character songs and major diva moments. While the show was more of a sung-through piece, Mr. Condon sets the bulk of the musical numbers in their realistic settings (stage, recording studio, bar) and replaces all the recitative with actual dialogue that befits each character and suits the plot, unlike the film of “Rent,” which just had people speaking lyrics. Then he subtly takes a scene, once we’re involved with these people, and raises the emotional stakes so high that the only thing they can do next is sing instead of speak. It’s not as awkward as it sounds and there is no need for a framing device (like “Chicago”) to place these songs in context. This movie is a true movie musical that harkens back to the days of other dramatic musicals as “Oliver,” “West Side Story” and “Sweet Charity.” There are shades of “Cabaret” where a song will comment on the action and make it a sort of emotional shorthand and that’s welcome, too.

Eddie Murphy has a star- (re)making turn as soul man James “Thunder” Early, both making him human and outrageous simultaneously. This is one dramatic performance to keep your eyes on come Oscar time.

“American Idol” contestant, Jennifer Hudson lives and breathes as Effie White. She conveys Effie’s sense of entitlement brilliantly and, when she breaks down with the signature song “And I Am Telling You,” she takes command and you can’t tear your eyes off her. At the screening I attended, there was a tremendous amount of applause at the end of that number- in a movie theatre, no less!

As the other two Dreams members, Beyonce Knowles and Anika Noni Rose fill the roles respectably, making each person’s growth over the decades quite persuasively.

The one actor who, while still good, wasn’t up to par was (surprisingly) Jamie Foxx’s “sleazy” Curtis Taylor, Jr. It may have been a directorial choice but it seemed like his portrayal wasn’t as fully formed or commanding as the other characters.

With that in mind, this is still an excellent film. Because of its sprawling nature, at times it reminded me of “Boogie Nights” because it takes the rise of the recording stars and places them in the undertow of history and stirs them up. There are minor departures from the stage version, and are actually welcome. There are also some nice homages to the stage production- if you’re aware of the history of the show and its marketing I’m sure you’ll know what I mean.

In all, after the screening, I just wanted to turn around and watch it again.
Grade: A+

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A night of movie trailers and bad commetary

Monday night, the Happy Fun Time Friend Service & I went to the DC Film Society's semi-annual Movie Preview Party over at E St. Cinemas in DC and we enjoyed two hours worth of trailers- some good, some bad, and some just plain wrong.

And this was high-lighted with banter from the DC Movie Guys: two overgrown adolescents who think they may be Don & Mike of radio fame and are most definitely lacking much of the wit and banter and, especially, humour of those two radio hosts. Over the past events I've attended, there has always been a sense of semi-untolerance for their outbursts, but this time there were plenty of vocal people telling them they suck and to keep their comments to themselves during the trailers themselves. Hopefully, the next trailer night won't be hosted by them.

Movies I'm looking forward to

The Fountain: The latest film from Darren Aronofsky, who is (IMO) one of the most visionary directors of the past decade. This trippy time-traveling triptych features Rachel Weisz and Hugh Jackman as lovers in three distinct time periods (present day, 16th century conquistadors, and 26th century whatevers), and each story involves the search for eternal youth (said fountain of the movie title, perhaps?). Sounds trippy and the visuals appear to rival the cinematographic artistry of Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette (IMO, the most beautifully photographed movie of the past two decades).

Spiderman 3: Uh-oh, Venom's coming (squishing?) out! While I didn't think too highly of the first movie, the sequel was an great comic-book movie that delved into the aspects of identity and heroism that kinda gets me off, and this trailer makes it seem like there's still some more depths to be plunged in the Spiderman story.

Notes on a Scandal: Four words: Judi Dench & Cate Blanchett.

Pan's Labyrinth: I always look forward to a new film by Guillermo Del Toro. They each have a sense of whimsy, while still being serious and adult. This one throws in what looks like a fantastical spooky-ish story and it makes me wonder why he hasn't been asked to direct any Harry Potter films.

Dreamgirls: The only movie that I'm willing to drive up to New York in four weeks to catch an advance reserved-seat Road show edition (no trailers, overture, intermission, program, etc.) engagement at the esteemed Zeigfeld Theatre. Or I might even be abel to see it earlier than that...Nuff said.

Movies that I now want to see, thanks to the trailer

Charlotte's Web: When I was younger, I enjoyed the animated film and like the story, but had no real inclination to go see this. Until I saw this trailer. It may be it's similarities to (one of my favorites) "Babe" or just my affinity for talking animal movies (don't ask), but this looks to be a nice adaptation and with such a stellar voice cast- Kathy Bates, Steve Buscemi (as Templeton the rat!), Robert Redford and Oprah Winfrey- it looks like it can't lose. Except for my one concern: Julia ROberts doesn't exactly sound like a warm spider-mamma should.

The History Boys: The play was panned and praised and won a whole lot of Tony Awards, but I never saw it since I knew that a filmed adaptation was already in the can and awaiting release. Not sure if I'm going to like it but it looks great and has a kick-ass soundtrack.

Evan Almighty: The first film ("Bruce Almighty") was enjoyable and I really had no inkling of wanting to see a sequel to it, but when you add genius Steve Carrell to the mix it becomes must-see. The trailer takes the Noah story and turns it on its ear with Carrell assigned to build an ark in the 21st century.

Movies that everyone should avoid at all costs

Unaccompanied Minors: One of two dreck-filled holiday movies this year. It's basically "Home Alone" x5 in an airport.

Deck The Halls: The other slice of holiday dreck. Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito are wasted in this mash-up of "Christmas with the Kranks" and "Christmas Vacation." And, yes, that is Kristin Chenowith as DeVito's wife.

Surf's Up: The second animated penguin movie to come out in a twelve month period ("Happy Feet" opens friday), but, come on, surfing penguins?!? I know it's not a documentary, but it just screams uninspired. To me, anyways.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Reason #1 I wish I still watched Read World/Road Rules Challenge

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Santorum: "Pursuit of happiness harms America"

One of the many reasons why I'm happy he's out of office. You can't make this stuff up, people!

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I'm not one to really gloat over politics, but Rick Santorum and his hateful rhetoric are out the door and this image just kinda made me smile a little and think of this song. (Download | Purchase CD)

While the lyrics are educational, the song is most definitely NSFW.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Actions Speak...

Get out and Vote today!

I think that Jonathon Larson's song, "Louder Than Words," best explains what I'm thinking about today (Download| Purchase CD)

Louder Than Words, Words & Music by Jonathan Larson
Why do we play with fire?
Why do we run our finger through the flame?
Why do we leave our hand on the stove-
Although we know we're in for some pain?

Oh, why do we refuse to hang a light
When the streets are dangerous?
Why does it take an accident
Before the truth gets through to us?

Cages or wings?
Which do you prefer?
Ask the birds.

Fear or love, baby?
Don't say the answer
Actions speak louder than words.

Why should we try to be our best
When we can just get by and still gain?
Why do we nod our heads
Although we know
The boss is wrong as rain?

Why should we blaze a trail
When the well worn path seems safe and
So inviting?

How-as we travel, can we
See the dismay-
And keep from fighting?

Cages or wings?
Which do you prefer?
Ask the birds
Cages or wings?
Fear or love, baby?
Don't say the answer
Actions speak louder than words

What does it take
To wake up a generation?
How can you make someone
Take off and fly?
If we don't wake up
And shake up the nation
We'll eat the dust of the world
Wondering why

Why do we stay with lovers
Who we know, down deep
Just aren't right?
Why would we rather
Put ourselves through hell
Than sleep alone at night?

Why do we follow leaders who never lead?
Why does it take catastrophe to start a revolution?
If we're so free, tell me why?
Someone tell me why
So many people bleed?

Cages or wings?
Which do you prefer?
Ask the birds.
Fear or love, baby?
Don't say the answer.
Actions speak louder than

They speak louder
Actions speak louder than...

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Quote of the Day

"It's an absolute monster! Maybe I shouldn't have said that. How uncouth of me!"

--Dame Judi Dench, speaking of catching a glimpse at co-star Daniel Craig in the all-together.

Does this make the anticipation for the new Bond movie greater or not?

Thanks to for the scoop.

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