Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Anthony Minghella 1954 - 2008

Well it's a sad day as one of my favorite filmmakers dies at the age of 54 after apparently suffering from a brain hemorrhage during a routine check up on his neck. Minghella is the director of two of my favorite movies: The Talented Mr. Ripley and The English Patient. I know that the latter film is not universally loved, but it did a great job of adapting the difficult novel into a something that was entertaining and would be the visual blueprint for Joe Wright as he made Atonement (that's my analysis, I don't know if that's true or not). I have seen it at least five times and have grown to love it more each time. It's a film that never feels as long as others have made out to be. Although the joke about the film on "Seinfeld" was great and much deserved for all of the (over)hype the film was getting at the time. But it has aged well.

I will throw a review up here of The Talented Mr. Ripley soon as I have been meaning to re-watch it, and now I have even more of an excuse to. Although under less pleasant circumstances. The film is the best Hitchcock homage ever made and has a truly creepy performance by Matt Damon. Gwyneth Paltrow doesn't suck for once in her life and this is the film where Jude Law kind of broke through and made a claim for himself as a bankable actor who would go on to star in two of Minghella's later film Cold Mountain and Breaking and Entering. The scene with Law and Damon in the row boat is one of the most chilling things I have ever seen in a movie. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. I love this movie and it still holds up and has always been one of my favorite films of all time. I still prefer it to Ripley's Game which has a great performance by Malkovich, but Minghella hit a home run with this film; unfortunately a film so good that he would have trouble matching its awesomeness. It was probably the second or third best film of 1999 behind Magnolia and Being John Malkovich, which is great company to be in. I didn't really much care for Cold Mountain or Breaking and Entering but they were better than your average film that was released.

Here is a list of his films courtesy of imdb.

Well...I will try and get a review up a soon as I can.

Monday, March 10, 2008

(roller)Skate or Die!

Saturday night a bunch of us went up to Oaks Park to to skate the night away with Joylyn and Monique for their birthdays. I didn't skate but I opted to observe others skating and watch the people that really take it seriously. Also, it's amazing how many people are into skating. It was the place to be for a lot of Diablo Cody lookin' Portlander's and I guess I shouldn't be too surprised that something so retro is so popular in Portland. But I digress. After I ran though about $3.00 in quarters that Tieryn gave me (I played Area 51, Lord of the Rings pinball, and The Simpson's Game) I went back over to the observation area and thought about all of the roller skating movies that I have seen (I had made numerous references to Roll Bounce which all went right over Denessa's head) and I was amazed that I could conjure up so many memories (or simply recall) and so many movies I have seen with roller skating in them. Here's what I could remember ( I am not promising extensive here, just a small list of what I could remember that I had seen) :

Rollerball --- All I remember about this movie was that it had James Caan and was remade in 2002 with Chris Klein. Yup. That's all I remember about it. Oh and apparently Joylyn is going to join a roller derby league. Good luck and I hope you don't run into Chris Klein...he'll do whatever it takes to win, because he needs the money.

The Shaggy D.A. --- According to skatelog.com this classic Disney movie starring Dean Jones (!) has roller skating in it. I don't remember any, but I know I have seen this movie...plus it was just an excuse to mention Dean Freaking Jones!

Roller Boogie --- I think I watched this one when Troy and I were buying up tons of videos at Movie Shack when they went out of business. Before I sold this off I watched part of it because it had Linda Blair and it was directed by Mark Lester, the genius who gave us Commando. Yeah. Mark Lester rules...this movie sucks though.

Xanadu --- Nothing like Gene Kelley gettin' down to some funky disco music by Olivia Newton John while dancing around on roller skates. This movie is so bad.

The Rollerblade Seven
--- I have never even heard of this movie, but I thought I would mention it because it has Frank Stallone in it!

The Warriors --- Because you know you were a menacing street tough if you had roller skates on. I actually needed skatelog's help remembering this movie, I know that it's almost impossible to remember roller skating in a movie, unless it's Roller Boogie or something like that, but I was actually thinking about this old Sega Genesis game called Streets of Rage 2 and you could be this cool little kid on roller skates (aptly named Skate) who had red leather gloves (because I guess it looks cool and it hurts more if you're punched by red leather gloves) and you would skate around and beat up all of the bad guys. Essentially the game was just a rip off of Final Fight...but it was still a staple of my adolescence, and Skate is taken directly from The Warriors.

Prayer of the Rollerboys --- All I remember about this movie was on those late nights when I couldn't sleep I knew I could count on the Preview Channel (with Jim Ferguson reviews and all!) to put me to sleep with it revolving clips of movies currently on premium cable. I always remember the add for this movie playing about a hundred times on ch.4 as I would see lots of Corey Haim acting like he's not trying to act like he is too cool. Corey Haim ruled and I always thought that Patricia Arquette was hot. This was a direct result of Gleaming the Cube becoming so popular.

Airborne --- And thus began the barrage of Shane McDermont pin ups in Bop and Tiger Beat magazines for a year, until sadly this rising star flew too close to the sun...oh wait...he sucked and was never popular. But the ladies sure loved him...I can't believe this movie had a theatrical release. And yes...I know that we are moving into rollerblades at this point...but come on roller skates were so not in at the time...

Boogie Nights --- This came to my memory because of Rollergirl of course. Who can forget the Pesci-esque beatdown she gives that dude after he tells Burt Reynolds to eff off. Wonderful.

Brink --- I always loved this cheesy Disney movie. It has all of the classic Disney movie moments. The wacky sidekick, the funny/too cute for camera pet (usually a dog), the really hot girl who is dating the mean jock, the quiet and confident kid who can skate, and the mom and dad who tell their son to believe in his dreams...of rollerblading. Yeah, I don't know if any of those elements are in this movie, but I am probably 50% right. I don't remember much about this movie except for the fact that I have seen it. Yikes.

I think that's all I can remember (I already mentioned Roll Bounce) if you have any titles to add to this let me know. The only other ones I can think of that have roller skating or rollerblading in them would be Dogma and D2: Mighty Ducks. The latter which was better than the former. Yeah that's right. I just called D2 better than Dogma. Emilio has my back on that!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Fun and Games?

So I don't know if any of you have had a chance to see the trailer for the new horror film Funny Games, but Brandon and I saw it last night prior to watching Michael Clayton on DVD. The film looks interesting to say the least and the poster for the film is interesting. I am torn on my initial reaction to the films trailer (which is below), which is a blatant rip-off of Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange and Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs. What's interesting is when I looked the film up, I found that it was a remake of director Michael Haneke's (who made the brilliant Cache) original 1997 Austrian film.

I don't know how I feel about remakes by the same filmmakers. I know this has been done before (I think with a Spanish horror film, but I can't remember the name) but watching the original trailer and seeing the trailer for the new film with Tim Roth and Naomi Watts, I couldn't help but feel this will be a shot-for-shot version of his Austrian film. Which is fine, I haven't seen that version, so I won't notice the difference. There are just a few things I want to tackle here:

1. The trailer is a lot like what Paul Thomas Anderson did with There Will Be Blood. Just one look at the trailer and you can see Kubrick written all over it. Even the all white outfits (Michael Pitt has a golf club instead of the cane that Malcolm McDowell carried around) evoke the imagery of A Clockwork Orange. The big red letters in the trailer with the classical music also seem like they were lifted right out of a Kubrick films promotional campaign.

2. The "horror" of this movie. I really don't know how I will react to the film. The preview definitely has a Straw Dogs feel to it, and I hated Straw Dogs. There seem to be glimpses of rape, violence, and Naomi Watts giving her body up to save her family all in the two minute trailer. The imagery is enough to make me think twice about wanting to sit through a film like this, and the films promotional poster of Naomi Watts crying is a tough image to swallow. The film will be hard to take, but in what manner will it present its horror? That will be the key to whether or not it is horrifying, or merely exploitation.

3. I really hope that the psychological aspect of this film outweighs the need to shock with rape and violence. Michael Pitt looks real creepy, and his character seems to be having fun doing what he does. That is not where the problem could be. This could be a Last House on the Left type of film, but it could also go completely off track and just be an excuse to show an hour of a poor woman being raped and humiliated in front of her husband and child.

4. This type of horror film can be done well because it relies on our fear intrusion and our safe little bubbles we occupy being burst with shocking violence and nihilism. The trailer makes me think of Ian McEwan's novel Saturday or the French film Irreversible where there are moments of shock and horror and unease, but they are done in a way that don't seem exploited. Irreversible succeeded because it chose to show its most horrifying imagery (a brutal rape and murder) at the very beginning of the film, and then it worked its way backwards revealing what the lives of the couple was like before that horrible day. The time-altering gimmick gave a certain amount of poignancy towards an otherwise ugly film, as we see how happy the couple was, and wish to hell that we could stop the unstoppable events of the future.

I am hoping that Funny Games doesn't fall into the "cute" horror category where they think they are being clever and referential to other revered filmmakers, therefore elevating the content of their film. The films tagline really bothers me too: "You must admit you brought this upon yourself." Ugh. To me that just gives me the sense that this is going to be that kind of smug horror film where the wealthy and happy family is punished for being a wealthy and happy family. Unless there is some major swerve where we learn that they really did deserve this, than okay, I could maybe see that, but if it is just a Straw Dogs type situation where the woman is raped because she is American and good looking, and then we have to linger on that scene forever, well count me out. I am conflicted on the film, covering up horror with comedy is fine, but it's all in the execution, and one wrong move could turn this into I Spit On Your Grave territory, and all these thoughts are just from the trailer, so they are doing something right in promoting this film, because even though I am unsure whether I will run out and see the film, one thing is certain: the trailer has me talking about it.