Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Owlets Then, No Owlets Now...

The Kid in the Front Row has begun a little game that Andrew R tagged me in. The rules, such as they are, are thus: The Kid gives a first sentence and a last sentence. Then each tagged writer writes a new sentence and tags someone else. It's just that easy!

1. Jane never expected to visit Belarus, but it was the only possible solution after what had happened.

2. Her lonely planet guide had advised her that it was a great place for birdwatching- so she packed her binoculars- Todd would have been proud, had he not been lying in a coma.

3. Poor Todd; Jane remembered the incident so well: he had spotted a rare long-whiskered owlet, had ran out into the street to snap a photo, and had thusly been hit by an ice cream truck.

4. Except the ice cream truck was actually a roasted salmon!

5. Upon seeing this strange occurance, a Portuguese fisherman who happened to be standing on the other side of the street (and who was also, coincidentally, the resident expert on salmon) ran to scene and called 911, prompting Todd's speedy - albeit smelly - rescue.

6. Naturally, Jane was distraught over the entire salmon/ice-cream truck affair , moreover considering that she was the one who had wanted the photo of that owlet; they were both avid birdwatchers, but she was particularly fond of the owlet.

7. She had gone off owlets since then, and as she checked into the little hotel by the river, she wondered if she could find solace in the azure tit, a beautiful bird that, while easily spotted and hardly rare, at least had a name that sometimes made her giggle.























30. The three of them left as quickly as they could and vowed never to return again, especially if Jane was in town. 

Of course, I must tag TomS, a lover of both birds and the written word. Of course, I guess we all are, seeing as how this is a...ROUND ROBIN story! Hyuk-hyuk!

...I apologize.

Monday, September 27, 2010

October CCT: Singing, Dancing, Reading

Tentative schedule for next month's Casting Coup Tuesdays!

A Wrinkle in Time
a novel by Madeline L'Engle

a musical; book by James Goldman, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
a musical; book, music and lyrics by Pete Townsend

Their Eyes Were Watching God
a novel by Zora Neale Hurston

Saturday, September 25, 2010



As incoherent and wildly over-the-top as this movie can be, I certainly loved it. Crazy Oliver Stone is great Oliver Stone, and here he's delivered an energetic, sometimes bafflingly edited (but in a good way) indictment of these times. Where Wall Street was a warning, Money Never Sleeps is a harsh reflection, and some wry observations about short-sightedness almost come with a shrug of "I told you so". Most of the monologues make their point in the first couple of sentences, then go on babbling nonsensically about some strange metaphor writers Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff have shoe-horned in. Sylvia Miles reprises her role as a realtor. Just go with it. Have fun. Rodrigo Prieto's cinematography rocks, Craig Armstrong's score is pretty good, and the acting's great! Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Susan Sarandon, Frank Langella, Carey Mulligan, Josh Brolin: all great, all solid, all believable. Eli Wallach is a madman, but it's awesome and I dig it. It won't be for everybody, but the people who it is for will adore it.


Beautifully shot, subtly directed, mesmerizingly acted. Director Anton Corbijn, cinematographer Martin Ruhe and star George Clooney take all the feeling of loneliness and visualize it. I don't mean just Clooney staring pensively while sitting alone, but the way in which everything is framed, the lingering on a butterfly, the hypnotic entrance of a prostitute, the solitary drives through serene vistas. It's all very beautiful, and (thank the Lord) not without purpose. I'm sure eventually I'll stop being impressed with the subtle ways Clooney humanizes his characters, but that day hasn't come yet. Violante Placido also impresses as the kind-hearted hooker (aren't they always?)...and her looks don't hurt either. What few action sequences there are are genuinely thrilling and cut together clearly! There was a time in the middle where I thought, "This is beautiful, but am I going to care after tonight?" Fortunately, the ending paid off, and I do.


Channing Tatum does a fine job, charismatic and realistic. I like the chemistry between him and Amanda Seyfried. Terry Stacey's cinematography is nice. Otherwise? The film almost plays as a parody of such movies, it's so ridiculous. We get cancer, autism, class distinctions, 9/11, a beachside brawl, a Mysterious Past, coin collecting, a misleading opening monologue, a final scene that does not fit with anything. It's just too much. And not like a Tyler Perry movie, where its camp value is worth its weight in gold, but in a boring, "guess they missed the mark" way. Shame.


I thought it was just delightful. Never saw the first one, but this movie had me laughing and crying continuously. You can wait for the DVD, but I do recommend picking it up.  My all-time favorite actress, Maggie Smith, has a seemingly trivial role that becomes important as the film progresses, and her last scene absolutely broke my heart. And hey, Maggie Gyllenhaal's English accent is quite convincing! Emma Thompson, of course, is perfection, and Rhys Ifans almost carries off with the film. Great fun!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

This Town is an All Right Town


Ben Affleck's growing as a director: I appreciated Gone Baby Gone, but I was generally underwhelmed by it. But while The Town isn't a perfect movie, it's certainly better-paced with more consistently satisfying performances. Actually, Affleck's proving himself quite adept at pulling off the latter from his ensemble, and while there's little doubt as to the talents of all those involved, even an all-star cast doesn't always boast across-the-board complex performances. Whether it be Rebecca Hall's leading turn as victim-turned-lover, Chris Cooper's cameo as a cold yet protective father, or the supporting turns from Titus Welliver and Staine as "those other guys" on both sides of the law, every role is textured, layered, and satisfyingly delivered.

Jeremy Renner and Jon Hamm in particular shine as the mandatory Psycho Friend and the Determined Cop, respectively. Renner, for one, is clearly having a great time with the role, but manages to keep it grounded. It's probably the second-best iteration of this kind of character, right behind Don Cheadle in Devil in a Blue Dress, but ahead of the somewhat-hammy Pesci in GoodFellas.  Hamm infuses his performance with some subtle humor, though there's never a doubt as to how serious he takes this business. This is the performance you wish Christian Bale had given in Public Enemies; the interrogation room monologue alone is pure beauty.

Out of everyone, though, it's Blake Lively who comes out on top. She's got, what, four scenes maximum? But every time she was onscreen, I sat up and took notice. The blonde beauty of television tarts herself up, all teased hair and smudged makeup, as Renner's drug-addled little sister. Her husky, slurred speech complements her almost-somnambulist look, flirting through half-closed lids at any man that sits beside her. It makes her transformation into a screaming, sweating cat all the more outstanding. She makes you feel the history between her and Affleck's character, and it's a pity we don't see more of her. Or maybe it isn't; maybe this is a role that works as well as it does because we see so little of her.

So the performances are great. What else? Well, Affleck's direction is certainly assured, so much so that his next film will probably be the one to knock it out of the park. Otherwise? A mixed bag. Dylan Tichenor's editing keeps the story moving...but two action sequences are too confusingly cut to discern what's taking place. I had no idea who was where during either the car chase or the fist fight. If this was done deliberately to confuse us, then congratulations, I guess. But it brought me out of the movie. The screenplay by Affleck, Aaron Stockard and Peter Craig is also problematic for me, giving Hall and Affleck dialogue that's either philosophizing or making metaphors. That the actors manage to make a lot of this sound natural for the most part is impressive, but the uncomfortable marriage of pulp and realism had me shaking my head at times. The score's uneven, too, sometimes awesome (as in the crime sequences), sometimes irritatingly Eastwood-esque (the romantic sequences).

Where these weaker elements became most obvious was in the ending. Though better executed than the one in Gone Baby Gone, Affleck still has a problem with just letting it go. The pacing seems off, especially considering everything that precedes it. Then, too, the script let me down. I didn't believe any of Hall's actions in the last five minutes, and the tone drove me crazy. Also, and perhaps I'm alone on this, I thought Affleck's character was an asshole. I liked him enough, but I didn't necessarily root for him, and I felt that the ending required you to.

But overall, it was pretty solid. Those performances are to die for, and the sound mix (SO GOOD) has to be heard in a movie theater to get the full effect. It's worth the price of admission, but may I recommend a matinee?

Friday, September 10, 2010

For Colored Girls May Be For Me

Since it's announcement, I've been following whatever news I could find on the film adaptation of For Colored Who Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf. I keep silent here because I don't want to blow the proverbial load prematurely, but so much about it has me chomping at the bit. I'm familiar with the show from my days in high school theatre, and have recently re-read the original play by Ntozake Shange, who also wrote the screenplay. If anyone can bring this choreo-poem to the big screen, surely it would be the original author!

Oh, sure, there was the initial thought of "uh-oh" at the idea of Tyler Perry directing...but then I realized how unfair that was. I've never seen a Perry film, my only exposure to his work being the cliche-ridden trailers, his two awful and unfunny TV shows, and his performance in Star Trek. But I've never seen Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Meet the Browns, I Can Do Bad All By Myself, etc., etc., so to have a knee-jerk reaction against Perry just because the majority of the other cinephiles do is dishonest. Having decided this, I could continue on with my excitment.

Which, of course, is all about the cast. I love me some strong female performances, ever since I was in third grade and fell for Dianne Wiest in Edward Scissorhands (her performance, that is; I actually fell for Winona Ryder). To be able to see an actress-dominated film with strong roles is catnip enough, but to have those roles embodied by this legion of actresses?! What did I do to reap this reward? There's deserved Oscar Winner Whoopi Goldberg, Hollmann Award Nominee Anika Noni Rose, old favorite Loretta Devine, legendary MILF Phylicia Rashad, undervalued chanteuse Macy Gray (who was great fun in Idlewild), jaw-droppingly beautiful Kerry Washington...and, fine, there's Thandie Newton, who I've never seen deliver a good performance, and Janet Jackson, who I've never seen act. And, truth be told, I don't know who Kimberly Elise is. But look at the rest of that cast list! Amazing!

I was willing to wait until January to catch it, but when it was announced that For Colored Girls... would be released this year on November 5th? You better believe I texted my friends, e-mailed my professor (we're reading the play in her class soon), cleared my calendar! And there it was. Two months. I had to sit on this for two months, but I could do it. I could always read my copy of the play if the anticipation got to be too much, just to calm me down. I was excited, but able to keep it in check.

Then the posters came out. Lord, I want this movie now:

How excited are all y'all right now? Because I am PUMPED.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Machete's Exorcism Goes the Distance


Better editing and a lack of Charlie Day (as Justin Long's painfully unfunny roommate) would significantly improve this already likable romantic-comedy. Drew Barrymore, director of last year's criminally underrated Whip It!, offers what I think is her best cinematic performance since Ever After (though I must check out Riding in Cars with Boys and rewatch Confessions of a Dangerous Mind), making her foul-mouthed, somewhat childish wannabe-journalist character into someone we can actually care about. Justin Long's frustrated, somewhat childish character also fares well, though many of his decisions come without decision-making beats. And I know he's a capable enough actor to give those, so again, I blame the editing. The same editing that forces the audience to watch arbitrary close-ups of a band while the actual story is happening off-screen. The last scene shouldn't be the last scene either, as it kills the climax.

There's a lot of stuff going for this movie. The central performances, a lot of the writing, and a determination on everyone's part to make this situation actually, you know, believable and realistic. When it's that movie, it works. At other times, we're clearly getting an Apatow knock-off. That may not sound fair, since he didn't really invent the improv-heavy raunchy rom-com, but certain sequences, particularly those with Jason Sudeikis and the aforementioned Day, give off this vibe, and are uncomfortably at odds with the rest of the film. The worst you can say is that the director and her editor really misjudged where to take the film, sometimes opting for random jokes instead of plot/character-forwarding ones, and covering whole scenes in closeups.

But again, for all the bad stuff, there's also great stuff. I will never get over Drew Barrymore drunkenly telling someone to suck her dick. That's great. It's about B-/C+ territory.

Best in Show: Drew Barrymore
Not So Much: Charlie Day


You get what you paid for. It's an exploitation flick where Danny Trejo romances Michelle Rodriguez, Lindsay Lohan and Jessica Alba, where Robert De Niro and Don  Johnson play good ol' boys, where Steven Seagal (who just hasn't aged well at all) is a Mexican drug lord, where Cheech Marin is a shotgun-toting priest, where every woman bares her breasts and every man has a hairy chest. Except Machete. His chest is all tats, baby. If Grindhouse was your cup  of tea, you'll probably love this. I certainly did! I do agree with my friend, though: seeing Lindsay Lohan as a drugged-out, slutty fame-whore wasn't even funny so much as it was sad. Her last scene's pretty solid at least. B

Best in Show: Don Johnson
Not So Much: Seagal, probably, as he was pretty unintelligible throughout, but who can say how calculated that was in a film like this?


Pretty solid horror flick in which a protestant exorcist is losing his faith. He allows a documentary crew to follow him on his last exorcism (HEY, HEY!) so that they can capture what a fraud it all is. But is it? The found footage conceit is fun, but sometimes the movie itself seems to forget that it exists: we tend to get coverage across the room from where the lone cameraman supposedly is. Whatever; if you can get past that, you'll get a scary, gripping film about faith, prejudice, salvation, and the nature of evil. The anchors, of course, are the central performances by Patrick Fabian (the preacher) and Ashley Bell (the possessed).

People online have started complaining about the ending, but any viewer who's been paying attention throughout should realize how fair the filmmakers have been throughout. Every last detail of the finale is foreshadowed, so don't come here bemoaning how it goes off the rails. (Actually, do, so we can discuss it and exchange opinions and get to know each other.) Horror aficionados will especially love it, since it's actually a creeping terror instead of a JUMP AT THE SCREEN kind of thing.

It must be admitted, though, that sometimes the acting leaves a little to be desired. But isn't great thesp work a luxury for most movies anyway? Bask in the majestic glow of Fabian and never mind other performances. B+

Best in Show: Patrick Fabian
Not So Much: Iris Bahr (as the documentarian)

Thursday, September 2, 2010


I am terribly behind on my Casting Coups, so I feel it's only fair that I delay them another whole month. School has started up again, and for the first time since Freshman year, I have to take liberal arts classes again: French Women's Lit, African-American Women's Lit, Intro to Old Testament! In addition, post-production work and figuring out my plans for after I graduate.

Sadly, this also means I haven't seen a movie in over a week. Was Piranha 3D really the last theater experience I've had, two Saturdays ago? The horror! The shame! The money!

Stay tuned.