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Swing Vote

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OK, I admit it: this one could be really bad. But then again it could be really good too. Anyway, it's about politics so I sat up and paid attention. Watch the trailer and tell me what you think:

The on-screen talent is pretty good, but I think it's a first-time director so there's that. And then there's all the cameos from people playing themselves: Bill Maher, Larry King, Willie Nelson, Campbell Brown, Chris Matthews, Mary Hart Arianna Huffington, Richard Petty, Lawrence O'Donnell, Tucker Carlson, Aaron Brown, Tony Blankley, and god-knows-who-else.

Like I said, it could be really good ... or really bad.

Iron Man

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THIS is why they call them "movies."

It's terrific stuff: funny, smart, LOTS of action, great to look at, great music, charismatic star, and a political point of view to boot. It's been out for a while but I only just caught it last week -- but I intend to go again.

When I caught the trailer way back when, I was shocked to discover that Robert Downey Jr. was the star -- not exactly your average action hero. But he is absolutely fantastic in the role. It wouldn't have worked without him, I think.

If you haven't seen it already and still intend to go, stick around through the end credits -- there's an additional scene with a surprise cameo.

P.S. In a brilliant cross-promotional move, Marvel sticks a Robert Downey cameo into The Incredible Hulk. Now THERE'S a movie I'd go see: The Incredible Hulk AND Iron Man.

Burn After Reading

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Is there anything better than a Coen Brothers movie? I think not. Coming on the heels of their huge success with No Country for Old Men is the kind of screwball comedy that they do so well: Burn After Reading, starring George Clooney (O Brother, Where Art Thou), Francis McDormand (Fargo), John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, and Brad Pitt. I caught the trailer for it the other night and I cannot wait for it to hit the theaters. See what you think:

Favorite Coen Brothers movie? The Big Lebowski of course. But Miller's Crossing is up there, as is The Hudsucker Proxy and Raising Arizona ("Son, you got a panty on your head.")

How about you?

Enough of politics, I say! Enough of primary returns! What we need here is more cul-cha!



(HT to Mark Frauenfelder)

Time out: Let's go to the movies!

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Maybe I've just reached my limit on whatever it is that the candidates are dishing out in the run up the Iowa caucuses. I have no idea who is going to win (nor do I want to hear why your candidate is the only one who CAN win).

I'm going to the movies!

Actually, here are two movies we just saw; and a trailer for a third one that just looks funny.

Once

An (unnamed) Guy is a Dublin guitarist/singer-songwriter who makes a living by fixing vacuum cleaners in his Dad's Hoover repair shop by day, and singing and playing for money on the Dublin streets by night. An (unnamed) Girl is a Czech who plays piano when she gets a chance, and does odd jobs by day and takes care of her mom and her daughter by night. Guy meets Girl, and they get to know each other as the Girl helps the Guy to put together a demo disc that he can take to London in hope of landing a music contract. During the same several day period, the Guy and the Girl work through their past loves, and reveal their budding love for one another, through their songs.

Glenn Hansard (from the Irish band The Frames) and Markéta Irglová are terrific, performing all the songs themselves. It's a sweet little love story and the music reminded me a lot of the softer stuff from Radio Head's Tom York, as well as early Cat Stevens and that Belfast Cowboy, Van Morrison.

Here's a wonderful clip. You can get the movie on DVD.

Charlie Wilson's War

Aaron Sorkin, who wrote the screenplay based on George Criles' book by the same name:

Charlie Wilson's War is a great story that we've never heard before. Charlie is a wonderfully funny, brilliant, flawed hero, who put together this war and nobody has ever heard of him. It was the biggest covert war in US history.

Charlie (played by Tom Hanks) in the 1980's was a Democratic congressman from Texas and was extremely scandal-prone. He was forever showing up in hot tubs with strippers and drugs. He was an alcoholic. His nickname was "Good Time Charlie." His office staff in Congress was populated with beautiful women -- they were called "Charlie's Angels." So one wouldn't expect that he'd be responsible for one of the great turning points of the twentieth century.

Wilson, together with an equally colorful CIA operative named Gust Avrakotos (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) who had been shoved over to the margins of Agency work, the two of them along with Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts), an ultra right-wing anti-Communist from Texas (and the sixth wealthiest woman in the state) engineered the funding, training and arming of the Afghan mujahideen in their effort to get the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan.

They were successful-- they defeated the Soviet Army. It was the only time the Soviet Army had been defeated. In so doing, that was the first domino that fell in the end of the Soviet Union, the end of communism, and the end of the Cold War.

And not only that: Wilson brought together Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in an unusual alliance to defeat the Soviets. The movie is in theaters now.



Walk Hard

The up-and-down-and-up-again story of musician Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly), whose songs would change a nation. On his rock ‘n roll spiral, Cox sleeps with 411 women, marries three times, has 22 kids and 14 stepkids, stars in his own 70s TV show, collects friends ranging from Elvis to the Beatles to a chimp, and gets addicted to – and then kicks – every drug known to man… but despite it all, Cox grows into a national icon and eventually earns the love of a good woman – longtime backup singer Darlene (Jenna Fischer).
OK, so it's a parody of Walk the Line. Also in theaters now, although judging by the weekend box office, it may not be around for long.

This is the only one of the three that I haven't seen yet, but it looks really funny. Here are a couple of clips. The first one is where Dewey meets Elvis (played hilariously by Jack White of the White Stripes). The second is Dewey barging into a party and being introduced to the ... well, check it out. The last clip is the movie's music video.



P.S. Later today we're going to see National Treasure 2. Loved the original; hope the sequel is half as good.

This is a parody of all the "100" list specials that the American Film Institute keeps putting out. Each clip shows a character giving a numerical quote, and all the clips count down from 100. It runs about 9 minutes; stick with it and see how many of these movies you can name.

Salon's Andrew O'Hehir reviews Michael Moore's newest, Sicko, and comes away impressed:

When Americans do get to see "Sicko," Moore says, "They will understand that this was about helping 9/11 rescue workers who've been abandoned by the government. They're not going to focus on Cuba or Fidel Castro or any other nonsense coming out of the Bush White House. They're going to say: 'You're telling me that al-Qaida prisoners get better medical treatment than the people who tried to recover bodies from the wreckage at ground zero?'"
Hmmm. Wonder how they'll spin that?

Oh -- and the part about Moore, a right-wing blogger and his cancer-stricken wife will blow your mind. But you'll have to read that part for yourself.

"I hope this film engenders discussion, not just about healthcare, but about why we are the way we are these days," Moore told us. "Where is our soul? Why would we allow 50 million Americans, 9 million of them children, not to have health insurance? Maybe my role as a filmmaker is to go down a road we might be afraid to go down, because it might lead to a dark place."
Dark but entertaining for sure.
When Moore interviews Tony Benn, a leading figure on the British left, his larger concerns come into focus. Benn argues that for-profit healthcare and the other instruments of the corporate state, like student loans and bottomless credit-card debt, perform a crucial function for that state. They undermine democracy by creating a docile and hardworking population that is addicted to constant debt and an essentially unsustainable lifestyle, that literally cannot afford to quit jobs or take time off, that is more interested in maintaining high incomes than in social or political change. Moore seizes on this insight and makes it a kind of central theme...
I haven't seen the film yet, and/but I have a concern here. If Moore presents this as a shadow-policy, coordinated at the highlest levels, I'm skeptical because everyone knows no one is in charge. But that's a minor point. Either way you cut it, it's a devastating observation.

So I guess this film is going to rile people up. There is certainly something in Moore that brings out the worst in right-wing Bush apologists. They just go...nuts when he pops up on the radar. Of course, maybe there's not so many of them left and the few-and-far-between might finally have learned how to control themselves by now.

As far as the accuracy of my movies goes, [says Moore] I think the record speaks for itself. Maybe people will say: He warned us about General Motors, he warned us about school shootings and he warned us about Bush.
Crikey. This'll definitely drive them around the bend.

I can hardly wait!

  • TPMmuckrakers have swarmed the 3,000 page DoJ document dump like a bunch of hungry ants and dismantled it tout de suite. The result? Oh, baby -- lots of juicy tidbits for sure.

  • Gonzalez cancels a Thursday meeting with a House committee. Will he really still be here by then...or not?

  • Enough already with Web 2.0.

  • Mitt's Macaca Moment? Poor baby. Let Ann kiss it and make it better.

  • Obama says it wasn't anyone in his campaign that did the now ubiquitous Mac-1984/Hillary mash-up. Whoever it was, it's done pretty well -- check out the Obama logo on the girl's tank-top. Cool.

  • M.J. Rosenberg cries foul when Hamas gunmen kill an Israeli electrician -- but only because he was attacked inside the pre-1967 borders of Israel. This is exactly the kind of pointy-headed intellectual drivel I so hate from otherwise sensible liberals.

  • Ditto Kristof.

  • Holy crap! Even more juicy tidbits from the DoJ document dump.

  • Anybody here hang out at Flixster?

  • Apparently Heather Mills made quite an impression last night. Anyone see it?

  • That new glass-bottom observation deck at the Grand Canyon gives me vertigo just reading about it: it projects 70 feet out beyond the cliff's edge and you can see 4,000 feet straight down to the bottom of the Canyon.

  • Despite what Tony Snow says, there is apparently no precedent barring White House staff from testifying in front of Congress.

  • While they were rationalizing about dumping selected US attorneys, insiders at the DoJ were ready to rank Patrick Fitzgerald as "not distinguished." If any of the ones that they DID fire were half as professional as Fitz, then for sure these hacks at Justice (and the WH) were out of control.

  • This is weird: among 454 likely Democratic primary voters in Michigan, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama 45%-29% in a statewide primary. It's weird because I know lots of people in Michigan and I haven't met anyone yet that admits to wanting Hillary to get the nomination. Ditto Louisiana.

Oscar Night, 2007

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Ellen, at the Oscars last night:

“If there weren’t blacks, Jews and gays, there would be no Oscars

[pause]

or anyone named Oscar, when you think about it.”

Now that's funny.

Did you watch? If so, what was your favorite moment?

P.S. Oh yeah: Martin Scorcese finally won his Oscar.

Salon gives Alec Baldwin the honorary Oscar:

his confident bearing, the way he cocks an eyebrow at just the right angle -- speaks of healthy skepticism, an intolerance of idiocy and phoniness. An understated superhero in an age of overstatement, he can zap bullshit with a single glance: His X-ray vision seeks, and destroys, baloney. Baldwin is always both laid-back and on point, which seems a contradiction but is actually a delicate balance that's hard to strike. And although we're lucky to have him now, with his elegant carriage and knife-edge timing -- not to mention that voice, a voice with the texture and suppleness of the silkiest luxury mohair -- he'd be just as much at home in the comedies of the '30s and early '40s: Preston Sturges would have adored him.
Speaking of comedy, Baldwin has been outstandingly funny on 30 Rock. In an era where "bringing the funny" means showing people shouting at each other, Baldwin barely speaks above a whisper -- yet he's the funniest thing on an already hilarious show. He understands those things that makes him so good -- "healthy skepticism, an intolerance of idiocy and phoniness...understated superhero...zap bullshit with a single glance...X-ray vision seeks, and destroys, baloney" -- and manages to actually make a parody of it. That's how good he is in this show. Check it out for yourself:

Funniest show on TV -- and Baldwin won a Golden Globe to boot.

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