Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Location: milwaukee, wi

Friday, May 30, 2008

Lots of new trailers!

Three brand new trailers for three movies I can't wait to see.

The Coen brothers' follow up to No Country For Old Men is, of course, something completely different: Burn After Reading, the story of a former CIA agent (John Malkovitch) who leaves a digital copy of his tell-all memoirs in a gym run by Frances McDormand and a hilarious-looking Brad Pitt (guys, he actually used to look like this). It looks like a return to teh balls-out funny Coens of The Big Lebowski -- this red band trailer really delivers. The final shot of Pitt dancing on the treadmill sold me.

An embeddable one for Choke:

Now, from reading about the movie, it seems pretty faithful to Chuck Palahniuk's book, but you wouldn't know that from the trailer. It looks like a romantic comedy, albeit one with a dark edge. The trailer hardly goes into Victor's choking or his mother situation, much less the weirder stuff that goes on in the book. This is probably a case of a studio not knowing how to market a movie, which is almost always disastrous, business-wise. Not that I figured it would be a box-office smash, but still. The trailer does show that Sam Rockwell was the perfect choice for Victor, despite being a little old; he has the look and the sensibility that I pictured reading the novel.

Finally, what is probably my most anticipated movie of the summer has just released a red band trailer (these things are everywhere now). Step Brothers stars Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly as the titular siblings, and I shouldn't have to say anymore to make you watch it. The gratuitous swearing, the attempted live burial, the bunk bed collapse. All these things make for a movie that I will love.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

New Watchmen image!

Thanks to AICN, we've got a picture of the golden-age Minutemen from Zack Snyder's upcoming Watchmen, and I can't think of a better way to start off this week. It's goofy, it's silly-looking, but that's how it is in the book! Then again, this is probably at their holiday party. But this image is another sign that Snyder is on the absolute right track, and I have no idea how I am going to be able to wait another year for this movie.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Betty Blue (Jean-Jacques Beineix, 1986)

In French, Betty Blue's title is 37°2 le matin, which roughly translates to "37.2 Degrees in the Morning," a far better title than it got for its American release. 37.2° C is the body temperature of a pregnant woman first thing in the morning; when I learned this, after watching the entire movie, it was really a really touching and beautiful cherry on this depressing sundae.

The film opens with Betty (Beatrice Dalle) and Zorg (Jean-Hugues Anglade) making love; they met three days before, and are in total lust at Zorg's shanty, where he serves as his community's handyman in exchange for his rent. She shows up once during the day with all her bags, and Zorg brings her in. Within days, she's dumped a bucket of paint on his boss' car and set his house on fire, and they leave for a friend's place. This is the beginning of an epic love affair that isn't particularly pretty, but is incredibly passionate and, well, French.

Dalle is absolutely radiant as Betty. Her first acting job, she was involved with director Beineix, and his love for her shows through the camera (although, aren't films with the director's lover in it often the best ones?). She is incredibly beautiful and tough, but there's a side to her that's damaged and broken. As time goes on, that side becomes less vulnerable and more dangerous, and the last hour of the film is spent watching Betty's mental breakdown. It's heartbreaking, as Zorg tries to save her. He is absolutely convinced that he can save her, and even attacks a doctor who says they can help her with medications and electro-shock. Betty is possibly a schizophrenic, more likely a bipolar with incredibly high highs and low lows. Dalle almost hypnotizes the viewer in the beginning with her beauty and raw sexuality, and lulls you into a sense of security about she and Zorg until it is too late.

The photography is beautiful; as I said, Beineix' camera really loves Dalle. The movie, at almost three hours long, drags for the first half. In fact, if you just watched the beginning, you'd have no idea of the emotional depth the movie achieves at the end. But as much as I think the film could have been cut by about half an hour, I also see why it was made this way, and appreciate the mundanity of this ridiculous love affair leading up to their ultimate tragedy. If you have patience, both for the length of the film and for a movie revolving around a not-always-likeable crazy French girl, Betty Blue is something I can't recommend enough.


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Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button trailer!

A first preview of David Fincher's upcoming film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has popped up on (I wish I could embed it here, but no dice). Despite the fact that it's in Spanish, I think you get a pretty good idea of what's going on. Fincher, as always, seems to be on top of his game aesthetically; plus, Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett are infinitely more likeable (and, in my view better actors) than almost anyone in Zodiac (Robert Downey Jr excluded). Pitt-Fincher collaborations have always been solid, and I'm sure this will be the case as well. Enjoy!

(More/better reviews coming soon, I promise!)

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Friday, May 16, 2008

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, 2007)

If 2007 hadn't been the year of There Will Be Blood, The Assassination of Jesse James would have been both the best and the most beautiful film of last year. Criminally underrated, both by audiences and award ceremonies, Andrew Dominik's film is often described with words like "ponderous" and "epic." I stayed away from the film for just that reason; I have a short attention span at times, especially for movies that are slooooow and almost three hours long. But once I finally put this film into my DVD player, I couldn't stop it. It's epically gorgeous, including some of the best cinematography I've seen in American film in a long while. There's a scene near the beginning of the film, where the James gang is robbing their last train, and as the train approaches the roadblock in the middle of the night, the intensely bright light from the train cuts through the bare trees, and it was so beautiful I don't think I will ever forget it. The entire train robbery scene is beautiful, even when the gang boards the train and Jesse especially is brutally rough with the passengers. The film moves from the claustrophobia of the train to the intensely wide-open spaces all over the America of Jesse James. Another scene has Jesse and a member of the gang standing on the threshold of a giant ice field, symbolizing the desolate nature of this huge country.

Not only is the film incredibly gorgeous, the performances are all career-best. Brad Pitt is really remarkable as James; it's a testament to his performance that after a few minutes, you forget about Brad Pitt, movie star, and think of him as James. His James is all over the place: paranoid, insomniac, jumpy, tired of a life that has never allowed him to have a real home. Enter Robert Ford, Casey Affleck in a rightfully Oscar-nominated role (in fact, I might like this performance better than Javier Bardem's winning one. Might.). Ford is a real loser, someone who has been made fun of his entire life, idolizes James, and has dreams and plans for himself he will never live up to, even after his famous murder. Since the conclusion of the film is foregone, we're never in suspense as to what will happen, just when, and what will provoke it. Somehow, Robert Ford and his brother Charley end up in the James Gang, getting closer and closer to Jesse. But things happen along the way, and Jesse knows to keep his friends close and his enemies closer. The interplay between James and Ford, neither sure what the other knows or knows they know, is fascinating to watch.

There's so much I could talk about in regards to this film; just about every scene has something I could probably write 500 words about. It's gorgeous, engaging, and superbly acted, and it's a shame that this movie didn't get the attention or acclaim that There Will Be Blood did. In fact, these two would make a good (if 6 hour) double-header, as some of the themes are shared, and the view of America is similar. Both movies have a superb score, as well -- Nick Cave did Jesse James', and even makes a great little cameo appearance. Everything about this film is really well crafted, and often breathtaking. A quiet little movie that will get in your mind and stay there.


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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mister Lonely trailer

The movie I've been hearing about & anticipating for years now, Harmony Korine's Mister Lonely, starring Diego Luna & Samantha Morton as celebrity impersonators who go to a commune full of their peers, finally has a trailer out. The trailer says the film is in competition at Cannes, which means that we'll hopefully see it out before the end of the year (especially if it does well). I can't wait for the film, and the trailer even made me tear up a bit. Check it out!

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Friday, May 09, 2008

A Good Old Fashioned Orgy

In what might be the best titled film of all time, Jason Sudeikis, Will Forte, and Leslie Bibb have all signed onto A Good Old Fashioned Orgy, about a 30 year old (Sudeikis) who decides to have one last party at his family's old summer home -- an orgy.

Plot sounds hilarious, plus my two favorite current SNL cast members? Sign me up! Unlike one of the ComingSoon commenters, I think this has way more potential to be funny than Zack & Miri Make a Porno. Hopefully we can look for it next winter!

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (Fritz Lang, 1933)

Was The Joker based on Dr. Mabuse? After seeing Fritz Lang's masterpiece, I can't help but think that he was (the modern incarnation, at least). Both Dr. Mabuse and The Joker are institutionalized evil geniuses who control a mob of criminals from inside (although Mabuse has some help), both have hypnotic powers, and both are ridiculously creepy. That being said, it shouldn't be surprising that The Testament of Dr. Mabuse creeped me out in a way that few films ever have, especially considering it's over 70 years old. Dr. Mabuse (about whom Lang made an earlier and a later film, both of which I want to check out) was a criminal mastermind until he saw something during a police standoff that drove him insane. Since then, for ten years he'd been locked up in an insane asylum, where he was silent until he started writing the instructions for a legacy of crime.

In the meantime, Inspector Lohmann is investigating the disappearance of a disgraced colleague who has figured out the secret of a counterfeiting ring. There's also Tom, a member of said counterfeiting gang, and his girlfriend Lili, who has no idea about Tom's actual job. All these pieces come together in what we would consider today to be relatively obvious ways, but its the way that Lang, an obvious master, fits all the pieces together that makes this film worth seeing. It's exciting, with a believable love story (Lili is my favorite character in the film; her response when she finds out about Tom's life is really amazing for a "good" female character at the time), as well as some truly terrifying moments. Dr. Mabuse's ghost is something that will haunt my subconscious for some time. Check out the Criterion DVD, with its (as always) wonderful transfer and special features.


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