September 12, 2010

Get Low - 2010

Director: Aaron Schneider
Writers: Chris Provenzano & C. Gaby Mitchell
Starring: Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek

"I want everyone to come who's got a story to tell about me." Based on a true story from 1938, the elderly Felix Bush (Duvall) goes to funeral director Frank Quinn (Murray) in search of a pre-death funeral party to hear the stories that townsfolk tell about him.

The movie's got a rather simple plot, but it's entertaining from beginning to end. Duvall gives an Oscar-worthy monologue at the film's end, and Murray has never made a bad film aside from Garfield. The movie also stays surprisingly upbeat, despite focusing on a man about to die. For the first real film project from the director and writers, it's nothing short of superb. My only complaint was the first scene of the film, which wasn't explained until the last 15 minutes of the 100 minute film, and (I think) should have been removed altogether. That's all I have to say about that. A

September 3, 2010

Permanent Midnight - 1998

Director: David Veloz
Writer: David Veloz
Starring: Ben Stiller, Maria Bello, Owen Wilson, Elizabeth Hurley

"People always ask, 'What's the worst thing heroin drove you to do?'. I always answer, 'showing up on Maury.'" This every-so-slightly comedic drama tells the true story of television writer Jerry Stahl (Stiller) and his struggle with drug addiction in the 1980s, while working on
ALF, thirtysomething, and Moonlighting.

I have a list of traditionally-know-as-comedic actors that I can only tolerate (in fact, who excel) in serious roles. The list is as follows:
  • Steve Carell (Little Miss Sunshine)
  • Jim Carrey (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
  • Will Ferrell (Stranger Than Fiction)
  • Adam Sandler (Reign Over Me)
  • Ben Stiller
I'll make exceptions for Mystery Men and Tropic Thunder for Stiller, but he's just unparalleled in Royal Tenenbaums, and he's dead on in this role. He has this wonderful manic energy that makes him perfectly suited to play a Hollywood junkie. I highly recommend this movie so people can see the less zany side of a "comedy" actor, and I'm sure I'll be saying more of the same when I get around to watching Noah Baumbach's Greenberg. My only fault with this film is the way that it's told. Stahl explains his life story to a fellow ex-junkie (Bello), which the audience sees through a series of flashbacks, and it's just a few ticks off of proper linear storytelling, yet not altogether along the lines of something like Pulp Fiction. A-

Machete - 2010

Directors: Robert Rodriguez & Ethan Maniquis
Writers: Robert & Álvaro Rodriguez
Starring: Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba, Cheech Marin, Robert DeNiro, Steven Seagal, Don Johnson, Lindsay Lohan

"You just fucked with the wrong Mexican." The former
federale Machete (Trejo), tasked with the assassination of an anti-immigration state senator (DeNiro), is betrayed by the man who ordered the hit. With the help of his priestly brother (Marin) and an underground network of illegal Hispanics led by the enigmatic Shé (Rodriguez), Machete embarks on a mission of revenge, ultimately leading to the Mexican drug lord (Seagal) responsible for the death of his wife.

This is not a film to be taken seriously, and if anyone does so (especially some poor soul like Tom Tancredo), they'd be making an egregious error. Rodriguez has stretched his trailer from
Grindhouse into a film with B- and C-list celebrities, and it's exactly what the trailer promises: chock full of over-the-top action, gratuitous nudity, and somewhat cheesy one-liners. But when a movie's written properly and directed well, it's okay to shut your brain off for a couple hours and simply enjoy the experience, even if that means pretending that Steven Seagal is Mexican, and that people still find Lindsay Lohan desirable when she's not machine-gunning down the bad guys while dressed as a nun. B-

Oh, and remember the look of
Grindhouse? Film grain and pops and cigarette burns and whatnot? That lasts through the opening scene and credits, then disappears for the remainder of the film. To me, it's a nice compromise between making the film look modern and those who prefer the look of the initial trailer. To others, not maintaining this asthetic for the entire duration is a betrayal of the purists. You be the judge.