Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Midnight movies in tulsa

If you happen to reside in the Tulsa area and want to attend a midnight movie, this Friday and Saturday (august 26/27) will be the first screening of a monthly series I am programming at Circle Cinema. We will be screening the director's cut of Donnie Darko. Circle Cinema's website is if you want information on where the theatre is located or want to see how it is being fixed up. The theatre was built in the 1920s.

Future films in the next few months will be Evil Dead, Night of the Living Dead, Halloween, Run, Lola, Run and Harold and Maude.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The 40 Year Old Virgin and the drive-in

Before I discuss this week’s review of The 40 Year Old Virgin, let me praise the most American of movie going experiences—the drive-in. I decided to go to the Admiral Twin to see the movie and from the retro commercials; the cars streaming by on the neighboring freeway; the stars dotting the blackening Tulsa night sky; the movie on the massive, peeling white screen; this is the make-up for the perfect summer movie going experience. If you haven’t been to a drive-in recently—go! I don’t get overly patriotic often but going to a drive-in makes me proud to be an American as this is something only done in the U.S.A.

Now, on to director Judd Apatow’s The 40 Year Old Virgin and what turned out to be an extremely enjoyable movie that had me laughing out loud all the way through it. I'm a huge fan of a couple of tv shows Apatow was involved in--Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared--so I had high hopes for this one. The 40 Year Old Virgin is gleefully filthy and frequently hilarious and is by far the funniest movie of the year.

Steve Carell (Anchorman, The Daily Show) plays Andy Stitzer, a 40 year old electronic store employee who is content to surround himself with time consuming hobbies like collecting toys, playing video games and painting miniatures. He doesn't even drive a car for pete's sake, he likes to bike around town instead. Women do not enter into the equation. In fact, women have never entered the equation, hence the title of the movie.

Stitzer’s buddies at work find out he’s a virgin while playing poker and begin to attempt to rectify the situation by involving him in a variety of schemes that degenerate into comic horror and mayhem that usually sends Stitzer running away in extreme embarrassment. This is good for us as the events are very funny.

Stitzer meets Trish (Catherine Keener) in the electronic store and the two hit it off after some false starts. Trish actually has three kids and is a grandma (a “hot granny” as is said in the film) but this doesn’t frighten off Andy. The film moves forward on a couple of different levels—will Andy ever have sex and what will happen when Trish finds out he’s a virgin.

I expected The 40 Year Old Virgin to be kind of a one-joke pony with nothing but “virgin” related jokes—but it’s so much more than that. The backbone of the story is actually a sweet love story (yes, punctuated with lots of graphic language that might offend some) as Andy is just this great guy—who cares if he’s never had sex. In fact, the film’s message has kind of a pro-celibacy, sex is overrated lean to it that may get lost in all the other dirty shenanigans that occur.

Carell is perfect and believable as a man who has not had sex. He’s part geek, part sweetheart. The supporting cast (Seth Rogan, Paul Rudd and Romany Malco) is also up to the task as the buddies get significant moments in the film to ham it up and act/talk naughty as their romantic lives are too messed up to be giving advice to Andy.

While The 40 Year Old Virgin is not for everyone because of the frank, graphic language (think of Something About Mary only with more cursing), it is still a sweet, charming story filled with memorable characters and is hands down the funniest film I’ve seen this year. And it's even better if you go watch it at a drive in.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Terrence Howard's duel roles in 2005

I've been meaning to write something about the two great performances Terrence Howard has turned in this year but have been waylaid by activity. I saw him on the cover of an entertainment magazine this week and figured I'd join the praise heaping.

Howard has given two of the fiercest performances I've seen this year in two of my favorite films of the year--Crash and Hustle and Flow. In Crash he was playing support in a stellar ensemble cast whereas in Hustle and Flow he was the lead and in virtually every scene. Both films show Howard as an actor to watch in the future.

I loved Crash. It's a rambling, multifaceted story set among a variety of people in Los Angeles (and can stand beside other great L.A. films with lots of characters such as Short Cuts and Magnolia of recent years) that tackles some tricky subject matter such as race and class. Howard plays a successful television director who has his outlook on who he is turned upside down when a racist cop (in a great role from Matt Dillon) accosts him and his wife late one night.

All of a sudden the director is thinking about his own "blackness" in the "white" world that he lives in and he explodes in a fit of rage, letting loose all the frustration and pain in a tense few moments that might get him killed.

It's a great performance that sees Howard stewing and boiling inside, just below the surface, waiting to unleash this frustration that is obviously tearing him up. In a film with a lot of great performances, Howard's might steal the show.

In Hustle and Flow, Howard taps into some of the same qualities--the frustration and anger--but gets to express them in completely different ways. He plays a small time pimp and drug dealer named DJay in a run-down section of Memphis. After running into a friend from high school who has some recording equipment and DJay starts to dream of doing more than pimping and tries to do some rappin'.

The film is kind of a rap filled, urban Rocky that might have flopped had it not been for the charismatic lead performance of Howard. He gives a very assured performance that his him drawling a syrupy, slow, Memphis drawl as he encourages his woman, scolds them and promotes himself. DJay is always promoting, whether it's women or his efforts to record some tracks. Howard's performance is subtle, raw, full of nuance and flash yet honest from beginning to end and it's hard to take your eyes off him.

I'll be watching for Howard's name in the opening credits based on these two great performances this year.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Murderball is an electrifying new documentary about men who play a sport I have never seen before called quad rugby (aka murderball). I love certain sports--baseball is at the forefront--but watching the all out violence of a quad rugby match played by men known as "disabled" is both thrilling and kind of inspiring.

The documentary introduces us to a variety of people--from those who play the sport, to their families and even their girlfriends. All topics of these men's lives are covered including how they were injured and its impact on their daily lives. And yes, this includes some frank discussion of sex (which was great to hear as its absence would have left a void in the film).

There are a lot of reasons this is a great documentary and one is the fact the film doesn't try to make the audience feel pity for these men. These guys are just normal guys who curse, make jokes and insult each other, talk about getting lucky with women, are as complicated as the rest of us and have the same competitive juices throbbing in their veins as other athletes.

The sheer emotion and passion that explodes out of these guys during matches is often riveting to watch. I would have loved to have seen even more of the actual game images as it's a compelling, violent sport with these metal, tricked out wheelchairs battering into one another over and over.

The film is centered on a feud/rivalry between one time USA player and now coach of Canada, Joe Soares, and the USA team--particularly player Mark Zupan--and who will win the gold medal at the Para-Olympics in Athens in 2004. The USA team is used to winning and Soares is seen as a traitor after switching sides to Canada.

Zupan is a captivating subject and just reeks of screen chemistry with his badass quad rugby ability, massive tribal tattoos, long goatee and penchant for dropping f-bombs. Zupan's face is usually a blazing scowl or this terrific grin he unfolds from time to time. Without Zupan this would not have been as interesting (of course the same can be said for Soares--a complex, screaming like a banshee while coaching, bull of a man).

Murderball is a raw, honest, lovingly crafted documentary about the testosterone-fueled sport of quad rugby and is one of my favorite films of the year.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Broken Flowers

I was in Dallas over the weekend and got to see Jim Jarmusch's latest, Broken Flowers. I really liked the film as it is a deceptively simple story (as a lot of Jarmusch films are), is peppered with lots of wry comedy, utilized little camera movement and has long, slow passages. In many ways, Jarmusch's style fits in with foreign filmmakers as he doesn't dwell on story resolution, plot twists/gimmicks or by blowing stuff up like a lot of American directors. If you have the same taste as I do, this is a good thing.

Broken Flowers tells the story of a man (Bill Murray as Don Johnston) who finds out he might have fathered a son 20 years earlier after receiving an anonymous letter from an ex-lover. Urged on by his mystery loving neighbor Winston, played by the talented Jeffrey Wright, Johnston goes on a quest to find the woman and the son.

It's a very simple premise and what follows is a loosely connected series of re-connections with people long lost in the fabric of life. Some of the meetings are comical, some are sad and some are extremely uncomfortable. All of them are painted with Jarmusch's love for everyday moments of life. From the shots inside the various houses of objects to the great p.o.v. shots from inside the car as Johnston drives in different parts of the country--Jarmusch has crafted another lean, beautifully spare film. In this day of flashy, show-off, video style directing, it's great to see someone so confident that restraint becomes more striking than any amount of hollow, wham-bam visual theatrics.

Another interesting thing in Broken Flowers is the acting of Bill Murray. Murray is on an interesting roll at the moment by creating these detached characters who often seem at odds with the action that is occurring around him. At times, Murray seems to be in a completely separate film than the actors in the same scene. I'm not sure how far Murray can take this approach--he's used it in various degrees on his last 4 films--but it is interesting to watch.