Thursday, December 30, 2010

Baghead + The Other Boleyn Girl

Baghead. I liked this more than I was expecting to considering it's a horror film (sort of) based around a villain who wears a brown paper bag on his head. Not exactly Michael Myers creepy. It's a standard, run of the mill brown paper bag and its normalcy might be the key for it causing fear or uneasiness as Baghead unfolds. The story, done up in as much comedy as fright by brothers Mark and Jay Duplass, concerns two women and two males heading out to a remote cabin for the weekend to work on a screenplay they can all be in. When there, drink is consumed, lusts are born and strange things begin to occur. You know, unknown types with a bag on the head emerging from the darkness or appearing in rooms.

I enjoyed another Duplass brother film a few years back called The Puffy Chair. Baghead has the same low-budget, improvised feel and mood. There's a casual spontaneity among the four cast members as they banter back and forth about films, what is happening to them or drunkenly make romantic passes at each other. It's a very flimsy premise, but the likable group of actors and some weirdness toward the end with Mr. Baghead make it funny in an awkward way and kind of eerie in a silly way. Nothing says terror like a killer with a bag on their heads, right?

The Other Boleyn Girl. Take my advice on this very, very subpar monarchy set melodrama from 2008: avoid it. Granted, films set among royal families of any nation are not something that interests me. Ever. Add The Other Boleyn Girl to the list. It's not that I just don't like these sorts of king/queen films (although I don't!), this is just a bad film and would be hard-pressed to please people into this world or time in history. It's a failure at everything it tries to be. Romance, historical drama, suspense--all of these do not work. The Other Boleyn Girl is dull, poorly written, poorly acted and full of characters I didn't care if they lived, loved or had their heads chopped off by the king.

Set in 16th century England during the reign of Henry VIII (played stiffly by Eric Bana), two sisters vie for the king's attention. Desperate for a male heir, the randy king takes sister Mary (Scarlett Johansson in heaving bosom mode) as a mistress, but then takes sister Anne (Natalie Portman) as a wife. It's complicated in the king's bedchambers. One sister will end up without a head. There's a decent cast in this, but it's ruined by a heavy handed script and direction, The Other Boleyn Girl confirms my long-held thoughts about the monarchy that will make me pass on the next film set in this period among this or that king/queen.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Metropolis poster

Metropolis, one of my favorite silent films of all-time recently played here in Tulsa with all the added footage that has made it a must-see for the film geek in 2010. The 1927 dystopian science fiction film directed by Fritz Lang while he was working at UFA (Germany's major film studio from 1917-1945) also has one of my favorite film posters. In fact, variations of this poster I've seen are also pretty mind-blowing as well. I so loved this female robot that when Dan Fritschie created the CineRobot propaganda poster in 2009, I asked him to channel his inner foxy robot--see CineRobot poster below for comparison.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

UTW review of The Tourist

Go here if you want to read my review of The Tourist in a recent Urban Tulsa Weekly. It's a blatant star-vehicle kind of picture with real, honest to goodness movie stars Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie doing what they do best in the thriller/action genre that this exists in--be movie stars. To know if I liked it or not, you'll have to click the link and read on...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I Heart Melissa Leo

In the opening moments of the 2008 drama Frozen River, the camera lingers on the face of its lead character played by Melissa Leo. In this brief, intimate moment we come to an understanding about this person--she is tired, worn-down, frightened, worried, emotional and angry. No words are said as none are needed, Leo tells us everything we need to know simply by showing us her face. And what a glorious face it is too--the face of a 50 year old woman who is also a great actress. What a novel concept!

In this day and age of surgeries, chemical injections and other medical attacks on aging that turns people into deformed mutants rather than making them look younger, Leo appears to have have rejected that path. Who ever truly knows though, unless the person has gone full-freakshow with their faces? The best thing about this for Leo--and other actors who are worried about the tolling bell of getting older--is that her career has never been better. She got a deserved best actress nod for Frozen River and has been a busy, busy performer of late among the cast of recent films such as Conviction, The Fighter and a prominent place on the acclaimed HBO series Treme.

I first became a fan of Leo's in 1993 when she took on the role of Kay Howard, a tough-talking detective in an all-male world on the wonderful television series Homicide: Life on the Street. There were some powerhouse actors on Homicide (Andre Braugher, Ned Beatty, Yaphet Kotto among others) and Leo more than held her own as Howard was a feisty, independent, complicated, well-thought out character. After the show ended, Leo went into bit-part purgatory before emerging from the wilderness with the gritty, low-budget Frozen River. I hope Leo keeps getting these good roles too for evidence that not every woman (or man) of a certain age doesn't have to carve up their face into some kind of mysterious plasticine version of the way they think they look.

Monday, December 20, 2010

I sometimes wish I was living in New York City again

I'm going to try to not knock on Tulsa or Oklahoma on this post as I'm happy to be living in the area where I was born, raised, have most of my family, went to school, have friends I've known for 30+ years and feel both comfortable and inspired most of the time. But, sometimes I read about cultural events happening in other cities and dig deep into that area of my heart populated by wanderlust. It gives me serious pause. I ask myself: why am I not living in New York City, the absolute mecca for all the cultural things that I love?

For example, MoMA just opened this massive exhibit related to German films called Weimar Cinema, 1919-1933: Daydreams and Nightmares. It absolutely sickens me that I can't go experience the most comprehensive exhibit on German cinema in American history. There's posters, film stills, material and more than anything--films. 75 feature length movies from this vibrant period including such legends as Fritz Lang, F.W. Murnau and G.W. Pabst. Many films will have their first screening in decades or are restored film prints that were "discovered" post-German reunification. It makes my heart ache in longing!

But, I'll stay with Tulsa with sadness in my bones when I read about events such as this. It's not so bad, right? I have my Netflix queue with nearly 200 films ready to be shipped to me. I have my beloved Circle Cinema, where it takes a while for films to get here, but at least they get here.  It could be a lot worse for me film wise, I could be living in the godforsaken movie town of Oklahoma City after all. Now that would be truly depressing.

Image from 1925 film Variety.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

UTW review of Tamara Drewe

Go here if you want to read my review of the English pastoral sex farce Tamara Drewe. Directed by Stephen Frears and starring the lovely Gemma Arterton, this is kind of a hit and miss comedy with lots of pretty views of the countryside (and of Arterton!).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Taxi Driver + Heartbreaker

Taxi Driver. It's a very difficult proposition to list my favorite Martin Scorsese films, but if I had to make one (anyone who knows me knows I love a good list so this isn't exactly torture) Taxi Driver would be a solid number three. The sad thing for it, no matter how many times I watch it, chances are it will stay at number three. No way I will ever move it ahead of my two favorites Raging Bull and Good Fellas. Those two are as good as it gets for cinema as a whole, no matter the director. Future Scorsese movies? No hope they will eclipse these three.

Released in 1976, Taxi Driver still packs a tremendous punch as a visceral look at urban isolation, decay and seediness as a socially inept war veteran (Travis Bickle) goes off the deep end whilst coming up with ways to clean the streets of the "scum" he encounters while driving his taxi. Robert De Niro's first post-Godfather II (1974) role is as Bickle and it's a legendary performance with lots of classic scenes ("You talkin' to me?" being the most well known). The only thing about it that never stops bugging me is why De Niro wore a skullcap rather than shaving an actual mohawk on his head. I don't care about sequence filming or any of that. He should have taken razor to skull. How is that method acting, Mr. De Niro? Taxi Driver has a relentless script from Paul Schrader and it's just as dark today as when it originally came out. Great supporting roles by Harvey Keitel, Peter Boyle, Cybill Shepherd, Jodie Foster and a brief, wonderful scene by Stephen Prince as a gun salesman named Easy Andy that kills me every time I watch it. Taxi Driver belongs in the category of must see over and over cinema.

Heartbreaker. Now for something different--French farce! I love French cinema and there's nothing more enjoyable from there than witnessing their version of the American romantic comedy. If I had to choose between something similar between France and America regarding romantic comedies--it's France. Sorry patriotic Americans but Hollywood has dumbed down this genre so much they are increasingly painful to watch. The French know how to deliver chemistry, physical comedy, intelligence and more edge than the parade of blander than bland movies Hollywood creates. Let's add Heartbreaker to that list of how the French do it better than the Americans.

Starring the charismatic (and desperate for a cheeseburger and fries skinny) Romain Duris as a lover-for-hire, paid to break up relationships by seducing unhappy females by concerned loved ones. He works in a team of three (more comedy fodder obviously) and he takes the job very seriously, doing research, creating elaborate ruses to further woo his target. Trouble ensues when he meets Juliette Van Der Becq (Johnny Depp's l'amour Vanessa Paradis), an extremely wealthy, independent and not interested since she's about to be married. Or is she?  Of course she is! It wouldn't be a farcical French romantic comedy if she isn't tempted by Duris' charms. Light as a feather, Heartbreaker delivers laughs and romance as it beguiles the characters on the screen and the audience as well.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

UTW review of 127 Hours

Go here if you want to read my review of 127 Hours in a recent Urban Tulsa Weekly. Based on real events, it's Danny Boyle's follow-up to Slumdog Millionaire and stars James Franco as a young man trapped in a Utah canyon who'll do something desperate to survive. It's pretty good too.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Movie tickets #21

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

UTW review of The Tillman Story

Go here if you want to read my review of The Tillman Story in a recent Urban Tulsa Weekly. It's a documentary that tells the story of professional football player Pat Tillman's journey from the NFL to the mountains of Afghanistan, where he was killed in action as a member of the Army Rangers. It's one of my favorite documentaries of the year and will likely get your blood boiling as the government lies, bullies and tries to trick the family and public all in the name of a jingoistic patriotism. Recommended. 

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Runaways, Atonement + Spirit of the Beehive

The Runaways. I'm pretty critical on films about rock bands or rock music. I just can't tolerate all the mistakes in story, tone and detail errors these kinds of films continuously have. Very rarely do I see a rock music related film where I think the subject matter and the music were captured correctly. Control, a 2007 English film about Joy Division from director Anton Corbijn is an example of a film I loved that got everything right. The Runaways is another of the long-list of rock n roll movies that irritate much more than they satisfy me. Something that I couldn't overlook for the entire film is just how little to do with the story Lita Ford was given. I guess she didn't sell her life rights to the producers so her participation in the band (and movie) was miniscule. I could not let her invisibility go. 
The Runaways were an all-girl teenage rock band that played in the 1970s.  Kristen Stewart actually does a surprisingly good job playing the young Joan Jett and Dakota Fanning takes on singer Cherie Currie [check out the awesome poster I dug up online].  As mentioned, there is virtually no Lita Ford in this film version of The Runaways. I liked some of the early scenes of the band learning how to play, write songs and go on tour, but by the end it's devolved into an after-school special about the dangers of too many drugs and too much rock n roll lifestyle. That's original. The Runaways is just another Hollywood misfire in the world of rock music. It did make me get out Joan Jett's first two records and re-listen to them so that's something. 

Atonement. In preparation for a Tulsa City-County Library panel event I was a speaker on, I read Ian McEwan's novel Atonement and watched the film version. As usual, book defeats movie. There's really no comparing the two worlds as the novel is such an intimate experience. The movie is just a watered down taste of what the world McEwan creates on the written page. When I saw Atonement in 2007, it never quite felt right to me in tone. After this avalanche of it in my life and thoughts--it still doesn't. I just can't buy the entire Briony escapade by what we get delivered to us on the screen. In the novel, yes, but not the film version. The book makes it clear to me that there's too much WW2 stuff and not enough of the early portion of the story, but I imagine that was what helped get the film funded and director Joe Wright gets to show-off with an epic long-shot on the beaches that deliver the madness of war. That particular shot, while impressive, is actually rather distracting. I spent the entire time wondering when it was going to end rather than pay attention to what Wright was trying to film. Go with the novel. 

Spirit of the Beehive.  I have to admit, I'm including this 1973 Spanish film Spirit of the Beehive because I absolutely love this poster. Amazing! The film itself is slow, dreamy, plotless, haunting, contemplative and open-ended. If this makes it sound like a foreign film that's because it reeks of its European heritage. The story is about a girl whose family is fractured and after she watches James Whale's 1931 film Frankenstein, she loses herself more and more to the inner world of a child. You have to be in the right kind of mood to watch Spirit of the Beehive, but if you stay with it long enough, it will reward you. What can be enjoyed year round though is that poster on the left. There's something about a hexagon that I'm really drawn to. I love hexagons! 

Thursday, December 02, 2010

November movies

There Was a Crooked Man---1970---usa   ***
Cairo Time---2010---canada   ***
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu---2006---romania   ***1/2
Nowhere Boy---2010---england   ***
The Runaways---2009---usa   **1/2
Object and Memory---2009---usa   **1/2
Atonement---2007---england   ***
Sweetgrass---2010---usa   ***
The Best That Never Was---2010---usa   ****
Tamara Drewe---2010---england   ***
Morning Glory---2010---usa   **
Spirit of the Beehive---1973---spain   ***1/2
The Tillman Story---2010---usa    ****
Xanadu---1980---usa   **1/2
Whip It---2009---usa   **1/2
127 Hours---2010---england   ****
Baghead---2009---usa   ***1/2
Love & Other Drugs---2010---usa   **1/2
The Other Boleyn Girl---2008---usa   **
The Girl Who Played With Fire---2009---sweden   ***1/2

Monday, November 29, 2010

UTW review of Morning Glory

Here's my review of Morning Glory that appeared in a recent Urban Tulsa Weekly. I didn't like it all that much and in fact, worried that my critique of morning television programming might have been a little too scathing. But, too late now. Go here to read it.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Xanadu, Whip It and Sweetgrass

Xanadu. Each November at Circle Cinema, I try to pick something for the midnight movie that fits the following sentence: come watch a turkey before you eat turkey. For 2010 it was the 1980 musical/science fiction romance Xanadu. I'd actually never seen it, but knew about it and even owned the soundtrack thanks to my love of Electric Light Orchestra. So, Saturday night at midnight I watched it and think it's deserving of his reputation as a kitschy, campy smorgasbord of silliness in the late '70s/early '80s vibe. The film is way more serious than I expected. Sure, the story about a romance between an artist and the roller skating muse (Olivia Newton John) from another world is absurd. The dialogue is terrible. The effects are laughable. But, the songs are super melodic and catchy. There's something kind of wrong watching Gene Kelly skating around to a pounding disco beat (which would be his last appearance in film).  Xanadu's a train wreck, but it's charming in just enough ways to make it worth watching late in the middle of the night in true cult cinema fashion.

Whip It. I didn't see Whip It when it came out in 2009, but I didn't miss much. Drew Barrymore's directorial debut is set in the roller derby world of Austin, texas, as a bunch of tattooed women skate, beat the crap out of each other in the name of sports and find some kind of elusive female empowerment via the shared bond regarding these things. At least that's what Ellan Page's 17 year old character "Babe Ruthless" discovers on her journey of self-discovery, all because of roller derby. The coming of age elements to Whip It are pretty mediocre and covers all the usual bases--fights with Mom/Dad, boy trouble and feuds with the best friend. That leaves the roller derby action to save the film and while it was crisp, fast paced and full of action, unless you actually know what the heck is going on in a roller derby match, these scenes lacked suspense. I'm out of the loop on this re-birth of the sport I watched before professional wrestling as a kid. Now, it's serious business from those involved. That doesn't make Whip It any better than it is--a predictable, lightweight, coming of age story.

Sweetgrass. If you like your documentaries no-frills then I've got just the one for you: Sweetgrass. It's so no-frills that a little bit of explanation would have greatly added to the viewing experience as I watched its story unfold. We see a huge of herd of sheep being driven over a mountain range by two sheepherders. It appears to be a dangerous trek with one of the herders visibly shaking by the event, calling his mother and complaining about what has happened. The men have to fight off bears, predators, personal injury and extreme isolation as they move the sheep. But, a big mark against the film is we never know why these men are doing this. Have the animals been sold? Do they drive them over this mountain range every year?  We never know how long that the trip is taking them either. It could be one month, could be six, who knows. Any little bit of text or voiceover at the start of the film would have simply answered these questions and made the rest of the film more enjoyable. Watching sheep roam the countryside for 90+ minutes isn't the most thrilling of topics either, so a little help from the filmmakers sure would have been appreciated. There are some beautiful scenes of nature in this documentary though. The sheep are driven through fields and mountains that are gorgeous, awe-inspiring and wonderful to see. It felt as if you are on the drive, but you aren't really welcomed in to understand why this is happening. You are just watching. Sweetgrass could have been even better had the directors chosen to teach us a little bit as the film unfolded.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hiroshi Sugimoto theatre photographs

I've been photographing historic movie theatres for a long time. I'm drawn to the architecture, the colors, the glowing neon marquees and the sadness of an empty, unused theatre. I've been compiling photos of run down, abandoned theatres for a project I've dubbed "Dead Cinema" (some of these might appear on Blevins Fotografic from time to time). I have taken interior photographs, but the bulk of what I've done has been exteriors due mainly to the fact that I've been unable to go inside if I'm just driving around towns and cities hunting for that marquee that pulls me in like a magnet.

Recently I stumbled across the work of Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto and have been blown away by his large-format, extremely long exposures that capture an entire movie in a single frame. The expertise to be able to craft these long exposures on 8x10 cameras, as Sugimoto does, is the work of a master technician in complete control of his craft. Folks, if you are a digital photography person, bow down and admit the error of your ways, as these remarkable images could only be made by someone working within the world of film.

Sugimoto, born in 1948 in Tokyo--we actually share February 23rd as a birthday,  has been taking movie theatre photographs since 1978 and they range from famous palaces, lesser known palaces, regular theatres and even the drive-ins that dot the American landscape. How it works for Sugimoto is he sets up his camera, prepares and formulates light, space and the room, opens the shutter and records the entire film in a single frame. What is left is a magical, glowing white screen and every small detail of the theatre/drive-in captured. There are no people which leaves an eerie, surreal element to the images. It's as if time has forgotten to exist in these Sugimoto photographs.

Here's Sugimoto describing where the idea for the photographs came from.

One night I had an idea while I was at the movies: to photograph the film itself. I tried to imagine photographing an entire feature film with my camera. I could already picture the projection screen making itself visible as a white rectangle. In my imagination, this would appear as a glowing, white rectangle; it would come forward from the projection surface and illuminate the entire theater. This idea struck me as being very interesting, mysterious, and even religious. [Time Exposed, 1995]
I've been looking at a bunch of these images online, but it's not enough, I want to be able to see prints, up close and personal, to soak in all the minute details captured in these images. Since they are drawn from large-format cameras I can only dream about the details a giant print would unveil.

All images on this post are by Hiroshi Sugimoto.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

UTW review of Nowhere Boy

Go here if you want to read my recent review in Urban Tulsa Weekly of the English film Nowhere Boy. It's about the early years of John Lennon, before the Beatles, when he was just a troublemaking teenager in Liverpool. I wasn't blown away by it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

UTW review of Conviction

Sorry for the time away, dear readers, been kind of swamped with outside commitments. I will try to be more punctual for those of you who expect better of me. Go here to read my review of Conviction. It's one of those "true" story inspirational films that come out like clockwork. I'm lukewarm on it.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

October movies

October was a light month, but did have some NY, NY screenings--always a good thing. Plus, I re-watched a couple of films I absolutely love, love, love (high scores below should give it away).

The Social Network---2010---usa   ****
Blood Simple---1984---usa    ****1/2
A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop---2010---china   **
Inside Job---2010---usa   ***
Waiting for a "Superman"---2010---usa   ***
A Fish Called Wanda---1988---england   *****!
Marwencol---2010---usa   ***1/2
Red---2010---usa   ***
Repulsion---1965---england   ***1/2
Hereafter---2010---usa   ***1/2
The Town---2010---usa   ***1/2
Conviction---2010---usa   ***

Monday, November 01, 2010

Halloween festivities

Here's some photos of the White City Halloween Spectacle a group of us engaged in last night in lieu of a film article--I've been lazy lately with inspiration for posts! There's a group shot of the entire cast going for kind of a Victorian era mish-mash of characters ranging from hunchback, gravedigger, mad scientist, zombies, witch, gatekeeper of souls and two sisters in an eternal slumber.

I was Dr. Florian von Herzog (a nod to both Kraftwerk AND Werner!), a scientist lost in the grips of mathematic insanity looking for the bones of young children to use in his laboratory. You can gaze at Dr. Herzog in a lucid moment in the photo to the right. SJ played Rachel, one of the pair of Rothschild sisters who were in some kind of unexplained sleep-state who were dangerous and hungry for flesh if woken. Photo below is Rachel in some kind of Salemesque graveyard setting. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays and this is why...

Friday, October 29, 2010

UTW review of Hereafter

My latest review in Urban Tulsa is the Clint Eastwood helmed drama about the mysteriousness of what comes after we die called Hereafter. Hardly scientific and thankfully free of religion, this is a Euro-tinged, ensemble casted, slow-burning drama that I liked despite it having some issues. Go here to read it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dead Alive trailer

Before Peter Jackson made films such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, he made horror films such as Dead Alive (aka Braindead). We're screening a film print of it this Friday and Saturday at Circle Cinema at midnight. I've seen this a few times and one of them was pretty memorable as I watched it with my Grandma Gertrude when she was in her mid-70s. She just giggled and giggled at all the over the top gore that Jackson unleashes. This trailer is rather free of the bloodletting though. Come watch it on the big screen this weekend if you are in Tulsa!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

UTW review of Red

This week I reviewed Red for Urban Tulsa. Go here if you want to read it. Kind of an action/comedy hybrid, it's a familiar story yet still kind of fun. Especially if you like John Malkovich. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Movie tickets #20

Monday, October 18, 2010

UTW review of A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop

A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop is a nice title, not so great movie. This is actually a Chinese remake of the 1984 Coen Brothers movie Blood Simple. It's also my review this past week in Urban Tulsa. Go here to read it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Movies in Manhattan

I just got back from a brief trip to the Hudson Valley to attend SJ's twin sister's wedding and spend a few days in NYC post-wedding. Of course, films were on the docket. Even though we were only there for two full days and three nights, got to see four films. It helped that we were staying in  a borrowed apartment at Macdougal and Bleeker--within walking distance of lots of good theatres. I am highly envious of the location of that apartment!

First up was Inside Job at the Angelika. We actually bought tickets to see the new Woody Allen film, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, but as we went down stairs a quick decision to switch it up was made. Inside Job is about the 2008 global economic crisis and is so chock-full of business talk, I felt like I needed a MBA just to figure out what in the world was going on. Too many talking heads, acronyms, complicated business talk for me I guess. Also, I am not sure why I keep watching these docs about how corrupt a society we live in. All it does is infuriate and get my blood pressure up about issues I have absolutely no impact on. No regular person does. Inside Job is another of those kinds of docs, when you can understand what these sleazy, greedy banking bastards are doing.

Waiting for a "Superman" was our second documentary and this time we were at Sunshine on Houston Street. Over earnest and a bit disappointing, this attempts to tell how our public school system is screwed up in America. You don't say? Well, it is if you weren't aware of that fact. Seems the kids can't read, write or do math (or comprehend business talk either based on my fogginess during Inside Job) and this is especially true in the inner city where schools are dropout wastelands. The problem here is it should have focused more on the desperation of the kids and their families that they get into one of the charter schools profiled, rather than going dry and telling the viewer repeatedly how messed up things are. We already know that. Connect us emotionally to more kids and I'll remember that long after some of the statistics are cited. Maybe I didn't like this that much because as soon as it ended I was heading down the street to Katz's Deli for some pastrami?

One of my favorite things about being in New York City is the endless opportunity to watch old films in a theatre with other people. Film Forum is currently having a great two-week festival of heist related movies and we caught A Fish Called Wanda, a peerless 1988 heist/comedy that stars Kevin Kline, John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis and Michael Palin. I hadn't seen this in over a decade and sure forgot just how unrelentingly funny this movie is. Kline just goes for it from beginning to end and Cleese does a couple of psuedo double-takes that might be in the running for best double-takes in film history. He holds his bafflement for so long it's not really a double-take, it's way more than that.

Our last film was another documentary, Marwencol, at the IFC. This was an odd one. Very low budget look at this guy who is viciously attacked in Kingston, NY and left for dead. Brain-damaged after the attack, he begins to build a fantasy world around his house that involves WW2 and a fictional story set in Belgium all done in 1/6 scale. He's completely lost in this world of alter-egos, battles, good vs. bad and dolls. Probably a little too long, Marwencol is still an interesting look at the lengths one man goes to keep his mind and body busy whilst it can do little else after an act of brutality.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

UTW review of The Social Network

Go here if you want to read my review of David Fincher's latest The Social Network in Urban Tulsa. It's about the birth of Facebook. I liked it.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Showing The Outsiders in an alley

Recently I was involved in helping with a screening of The Outsiders in a unique Tulsa location: a downtown alley. A screen was hung off a brick building, a DVD/projector was placed on top of a truck, a PA system was hooked up and presto, it's movie time. The neat thing about this particular alley was that a scene from The Outsiders was actually filmed in it.

The Outsiders is a special novel and movie to a lot of Tulsans, myself included. Written by S.E. Hinton when she was a Tulsa teenager, the book was a favorite of mine growing up. The film version from 1983 and director Francis Ford Coppola has a legendary who is who of young Hollywood types. Here's the list: Tom Cruise, C. Thomas Howell, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Diane Lane and Leif Garrett. Tom Waits even has a small role.

These two images were taken the night of the screening--one of the film itself and the other a view of downtown Tulsa from one of the seats.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Valhalla Rising, Room In Rome + Cell 211

Valhalla Rising. This was an interesting Danish film set around 1000 AD as the great Mads Mikkelsen plays "One Eye," a violent Viking type forced to live in a cage and fight other men to the death while attached to a pole. Mikkelsen, wordless the entire film, is not someone I'd ever imagined in such a brutal role where he's destroying skulls with rocks or ripping out hunks of flesh while in battle, but he's terrific as usual. Do not mess with One Eye! The film also goes on a few tripped out, Werner Herzog-esque madness feeling scenes as One Eye gets entangled with a group of Christian crusaders. Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson), Valhalla Rising is beautiful throughout, no matter how barbaric or unhinged what we witness becomes. The film is full of atmospheric dread and as much 1000 AD dirt, doom and gloom than you may want. Valhalla Rising is hard to stop once it begins and while it has some flaws, the sudden, over the top violence combined with the gonzo visuals make it one of the year's more intriguing releases.

Room In Rome. I'm a long-time fan of Spanish (or Basque) director Julio Medem but his newest, Room In Rome, is a complete and utter disaster! It is going to be in the running for one of the worst of 2010 for me as it is a shallow, poorly written, horribly acted bit of Euro-sleaze and an awful release from Medem. To get a film from Medem with lots of sex in it is no surprise, after all, he directed such pulse-racers with flesh-a-plenty like Sex y Lucia and Lovers of the Arctic Circle (a film of his I really love). Room In Rome's story is so flimsy orchestrated it feels as if Medem thought to himself, "How can I get a couple of hot actresses in a hotel and convince them to take their clothes off for 93% of the movie?" However he pitched it, that's what occurs. The only thing going for this is the fact that Elen Anaya and Natsha Yarovenko are very attractive women. Anaya is the much better actor but who is going to remember that after watching this? It's hard to tell the difference between Room In Rome and the soft-core Euro films shown on late night cable in the 1970s and 1980s--same bad stories, same bad acting, plethora of nudity as two women spend a long night nakedly entwined in each other's arms in Rome.

Cell 211. Here's another film from Spain but I actually really liked Cell 211. It's a very gritty prison drama that offers up enough suspense, twists and turns to overcome some really poor decisions near the end of the film (I won't spoil it so don't worry). A newly hired prison guard is getting a tour of the facility when a riot breaks out. He finds himself alone behind the bars, mixed in with the inmates he does what he can to survive--pretends to be a criminal too. He comes under the wing of the prison leader, the vicious Malamadre (Luis Tosar) and events become more complicated as he gets more intwined with their riot while also trying to stay alive. As I said, some of the twists toward the end just didn't work for me and that's too bad as Cell 211 was really enjoyable up to that point. Still solid and very watchable, if you like films set in prisons--add Cell 211 to the list as a good one.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

UTW review of You Again

Go here if you want to read my review of You Again in a recent Urban Tulsa. File it under the scathing category as I didn't like this comedy at all. I didn't come close to cracking a grin.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Blevins Fotografic

Not satisfied with the time I invest to keep up with writing about film for CineRobot, I've decided to end the secrecy of my interest in photography. That's right, I've started a second blog called Blevins Fotografic!

I'll try to post images that I like that I've taken every 2/3 days. There will be no images from digital cameras--real film, real film cameras! You can find Blevins Fotografic on the links to the right or click one of the links on this post. Better yet, go to it and fill out the proper blanks that will allow you to be notified of each image that is posted.

Don't you want to see more images like "Hay Field 2" that I took while in Le Flore County, Oklahoma?

Friday, October 01, 2010

September movies

It wasn't a huge month for film watching. I did get to see one of my all-time favorites (Fast Times...) in a theatre on a very scratchy print. I watched a couple of really crappy films too--Room In Rome and You Again (review soon).

The American---2010---usa   ***1/2
Basquiat: The Radiant Child---2010---usa   ***
Piranha 3D---2010---usa   ***
Winnebago Man---2010---usa   ***1/2
Blast from the Past---1999---usa   ***1/2
The Switch---2010---usa   **
Flipped---2010---usa   **1/2
Easy A---2010---usa   ***1/2
Valhalla Rising---2009---denmark   ***1/2
Room In Rome---2009---spain   *1/2
Love on the Run---1979---france   ***
Trafic---1971---france   ***1/2
Cell 211---2009---spain   ***1/2
You Again---2010---usa   *1/2
Fast Times at Ridgemont High---1982---usa   *****!
When You're Strange---2009---usa   **

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Francois Truffaut's "Antoine Doinel" film series

***light spoilers ahead; read with trepidation if you plan on watching all five films***

A few weeks ago I watched the interesting documentary Two in the Wave that is about Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Goddard, their friendship, their rivalry and the French New Wave. I've never warmed to Goddard but have long loved the work of Truffaut. It was good timing as SJ and I have been slowly winding our way through Truffaut's wonderful series of films on the character "Antoine Doinel." The "Antoine" films capture all the qualities I love in a Truffaut film: the combination of serious and comic, an overtly sweet romanticism, the palpable joy of living and the foreboding sense of "Frenchness" that covers pretty much everything on the screen.

"Antoine Doinel" showed up in Truffaut's first film The 400 Blows in 1959 and it was the first depth charge for what would become known as the French New Wave. Jean-Pierre Leaud played the 12 year old Doinel, as he did the next four installments over the next two decades. As Leaud ages, so does Doinel, although the character never seems to truly "grow up," continuously getting into romantic troubles and inable to hold down a job. Leaud is the perfect cinematic foil for Truffaut's alter-ego in the series as I'm not sure Truffaut would have been able to continue had he not had such a rapport with Leaud as his leading man.

The second time Antoine shows up is for the only short film of the bunch with the 1962 Antoine and Colette. The charming 32 minute film sees Doinel start up a familiar topic for Truffaut to mine in the future: romantic obsession. He spots a woman he finds fetching at a concert and begins to pursue her to no avail. No amount of wooing can win the heart of Colette it seems and the groundwork is laid for the films that come next in the series.

Stolen Kisses comes in 1968 and starts with Doinel being kicked out of the army for unfit behavior. He immediately gets in touch with Christine (Claude Jade) even though she just wants to be friends. Doinel is persistent though and gradually she gets drawn into the romantic whimsy of the character. Along with the romance is some comic material related to Antoine's inability to hold down a job with a chunk of the story involving him bumbling around as a private detective. Stolen Kisses is my second favorite of the films--it's hard to top the always watchable The 400 Blows--as it just has a terrific feel to it. Perfectly paced and full of fun scenes and characters, it's a joyous trip into the foibles of poor Antoine and his work/love life. Classic stuff from Francois Truffaut.

Just two years later in 1970 comes Bed and Board, the fourth installment in the series. Antoine is now married to Christine and the scenes early in the film of their wedded life are filled with some of the same light-hearted comedy and charm that makes up the bulk of Stolen Kisses. As the film evolves though, there is a tonal shift and it becomes a little more somber and introspective as Antoine begins to rue the mistakes he is making in the marriage--starting up an affair with an exotic Japanese woman for example. Growing into an adult has taken some of the youthful exuberance from Antoine and Bed and Board hints that it might not be as easy for Antoine to get what he wants in the future. Adults seem to find it harder to bounce back from failure than young people and Antoine finally might be on the path in growing up.

Or maybe not. Love on the Run comes nine years after Bed and Board and finds Antoine and Christine divorced whilst Antoine is up to his usual shenanigans with a variety of women. There's even a return of Colette, now a successful woman in her 30s that piques the interest in Antoine (who doesn't?). Love on the Run does something I didn't like at all--it uses a bunch of scenes from all the previous films cut into the story. This wasn't a good idea. I've already seen those films so didn't need to re-watch scenes I already know and remember. The new story was really hampered by this continuous interruption of the fresh to insert this old footage.

If you love French cinema, do yourself a favor and watch the Antoine Doinel series of films by Francois Truffaut. Even if you've seen 400 Blows, return to it and then follow it up with the four charmers that follow, you'll be happy you did. I just wish Truffaut would have come back for a sixth installment.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Movie tickets #19

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

UTW review of Easy A

This was a surprise. I was assigned by Urban Tulsa to watch the teen oriented romantic comedy Easy A and guess what--I liked it. A lot. Fun, smart and lively, Easy A is one of the more pleasant experiences I've had in a multiplex all summer. Ain't movies great?! Go here to read my review in full.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Breakfast Club poster by Dan Fritschie

Each month Dan Fritschie does an original bit of poster artwork for whatever film is showing for Circle Cinema's midnight movie. This coming weekend it will be The Breakfast Club. This is the poster he designed for it that I've put up in various Tulsa locales. It's a fun one I think. If you're in Tulsa and up late this Friday or Saturday, come re-watch this classic teenage comedy/drama from the 1980s.

Friday, September 17, 2010

UTW review of Flipped

Go here if you want to read my review of Flipped in the latest Urban Tulsa. It's a family friendly film wrapped in the golden hues of nostalgia as it looks at young love between a couple of kids in the early 1960s.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Invasion of the Body Snatchers - Trailer

One of my favorite science fiction films of all time is 1956's Invasion
of the Body Snatchers. It's a great movie that works on a lot of levels--
thriller, statement on the witch hunt for supposed communists during
this era, or just a creepy tale about aliens among us and up to no good.
The lead actor, Kevin McCarthy recently died at the age of 96.
McCarthy is the main guy in this trailer, the one with the prominent jaw.
Check this classic out if you haven't seen it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Switch, Piranha 3D + Winnebago Man

The Switch. Not good. The Switch pretty much fails at most of everything it tries to do. That's a shame too because its male lead, Jason Bateman, is as good as it gets but a flop as a romantic lead might launch him back to supporting roles. He's too good to play second fiddle all the time in a supporting role. Bateman and Jennifer Aniston have little to none on-screen chemistry. I'm not going to blame Bateman though as he's rarely been given a romantic lead whereas Aniston makes a disaster of the genre repeatedly. Unless you happen to like such junk as The Bounty Hunter, Love Happens, He's Just Not That Into You and Marley & Me. The Switch has a workable premise for this sort of film of long-time friends with a mix-up involving sperm and an artificial insemination procedure. That should be guilty pleasure comedy gold but it's mucked up from start to finish. Only Bateman and oddball Jeff Goldblum make it remotely worth watching. The real question is how many more awful romantic comedies will Aniston get to make?

Piranha 3D. If you read my recent review of The Expendables, I spent a lot of time ragging on its empty celebration of the worst of the roided up action films that were popular in the 1980s. I loathed everything about it--from its endless destruction to its gimmicky, lunkheaded cast. Now, reason would tell you that I would despise another throwback styled genre picture in Piranha and guess what, you'd be dead wrong! I actually enjoyed this bit of silly mayhem from French director Alexandre Aja. The story is flat-out ridiculous but who cares? This is about getting a bunch of nubile bodies in skimpy bathing suits while they are mauled by a horde of fake, CGI prehistoric flesh-eaters let loose by a volcanic fissure in the bottom of a huge lake. And it's in 3D. I am sick and tired of all the 3D but this time the ploy for more money from my wallet works. It's safe to say I've never seen this many breasts bouncing around in front of my eyes in a theatre. Aja definitely ups the lecherous meter throughout. While it could have devolved into just a series of exploitive scenes, there's even some genuine tension toward the end and a snarky sense of humor that pops up from time to time. Piranha 3D is a blast of summer fun.

Winnebago Man. We live in a culture where fame can be found by pretty much anyone via the internet. Put some deranged, humiliating or attention getting video on youtube and if you get lucky, it will go viral around the globe. Suddenly, you are a star! Or, a fool mocked and ridiculed. This kind of celebrity has come to Jack Rebney. Search "Winnebago man" on youtube and you can see his infamous collection of profane outbursts as he was filming an industrial commercial in the 1980s touting all the positives in the RV field. Rebney is a maniac and unleashing a barrage of curses that are hilarious and captivating at the same time. Rebney seems to have disappeared from society as there is no trace of him after he was fired from Winnebago. This documentary attempts to locate Rebney and find out what he's been up to the past couple of decades. The film wants to make a statement regarding fame and the damage done to people who become celebrities without their knowledge or intention but that is its weakest element. It works best by just tapping into the strange life of Rebney himself as he's turned out to be a hermit, living on a mountain and with absolutely no clue so many people love this clip of him going berserk. Rebney and Winnebago Man is at times sad, charming and funny.