Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Werner Herzog reads Curious George

I always love Werner Herzog's unique narration in his documentaries,
so to hear him read a children's book like "Curious George" gives
it a whole new perspective. Werner takes it to a darker place
thanks to his teutonic accent. Get the kiddies next to the screen
for some Werner!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

UTW review of The Adjustment Bureau

Go here if you want to check out my review from a few weeks ago in Urban Tulsa on The Adjustment Bureau. It's a science-fiction thriller based on a Philip K. Dick story [which made me have a lot of hope as I'm a long-time fan of his] that stars Matt Damon and Emily Blunt as a star-crossed couple who might not be allowed to be together due to the shadow world that controls our actions. This could have and should have been so much better. Read on to find out how...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sidney Lumet 1924-2011

Sidney Lumet died a few weeks ago at the age of 86. If you look at Lumet's career on IMDB it's a pretty amazing list of films that he was involved in since directing an early masterpiece in 1957 with 12 Angry Men. Extremely prolific as a director, he churned out nearly one film a year from the late 1950s to 2000. Lumet's sheer amount of films he helmed might have damaged his legacy as it caused more "misses" and also stripped away from the special quality his peers attained by releasing fewer movies. Lumet had some not so great ones, but he directed a bunch of bonafide classics and can't miss films in his career.

Lumet was in show business in some form or other for nearly seventy years! He was on Broadway as a child actor in the mid-30s before serving in WW2 from 1942-46. After the war he initially gravitated back to the stage and then became a highly respected director in the emerging world of television. With his first movie, he hit a home run with 12 Angry Men, a testosterone filled, claustrophobic, tense look at a trial's jury as they deliberate a case. After that, Lumet kept on making movies and more movies and more movies.

The 1970s and 1980s were his zenith as a filmmaker. Just look at this list of must-sees that Lumet directed in those two decades: Serpico, Murder on the Orient Express, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, Prince of the City, The Verdict and Running on Empty. In 2007, an 82 year-old Lumet proved he could still hang with all these young whipper-snappers by delivering the pitch-black drama Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. It was the last film he would make and he went out on a high-note with that one.

Frequently using New York City as a backdrop to his films, Lumet's style wasn't flashy. He believed in a straight-ahead naturalism and realism that made stories set among the world of the police or lawyers a perfect backdrop for his attention to detail. I love directors who aren't trying to show-off to the audience at every turn and Lumet didn't want the camera, editing or photography to distract from what was taking place on screen. I love that no-nonsense, what you see is what you get style and attitude from Lumet. The man had guts and he loved to make movies about corruption, betrayal and throw in some sort of social statements in his films.

If you don't know a lot of the films I've mentioned, do yourself a favor and get them in your Netflix queue as soon as you can. I'm going to put a few of these in and re-watch them and go through his filmography and pick out the ones I didn't see. It's time to appreciate the rich cinematic world of one of America's greatest filmmakers of all-time: Sidney Lumet.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

New poll question: What is your favorite Sidney Lumet movie?

My next post will be a tribute to the recently departed director Sidney Lumet, so I thought some of his more well known films would make a good poll question.  Which one of these movies is your favorite? Go to the home page to vote!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

2000 statistics!

Let's go to the year 2000 and the statistics for that year. I got to travel some, including a month or so in Seattle gorging myself at the Seattle International Film Festival. That was good fun. 2000 was also a more social year watching movies as my solitude was quite a bit less. Here's my year in movies...Plus, check out the beard I had in the mid-90s to the right of the "I [Heart] Bigfoot" sticker.

Total: 264

By month

January: 21
February: 19
March: 9
April: 20
May: 49
June: 45
July: 24
August: 14
September: 21
October: 15
November: 15
December: 11

By decade

1920-29: 3
1930-39: 6
1940-49: 11
1950-59: 9
1960-69: 8
1970-79: 8
1980-89: 17
1990-99: 137
2000: 64

Where I saw 'em

84--Pryor Creek, Oklahoma
75--Seattle, Washington
56--Norman, Oklahoma
31--Tulsa, Oklahoma
6--Dallas, texas
5--New York, New York
2--Rapid City, South Dakota
1--Bozeman, Montana; Missoula, Montana; Muskogee, Oklahoma; Springdale, Arkansas; West Palm Beach, Florida

Who I saw 'em with

21--Lillian Blevins
18--Otis Hoover
13--Laura Ballay
10--Nancy Churillo
9--Shane Davis
8--Bobby Ahn
4--Sherrill Davis
3--Seth Jones
2--Amy Cargill, Emily McNichols, Joshua McNichols, Robert Schrader
1--Sara Booker, Scott Booker, Donnie Bostwick, Shelley Faught, Denny Kelly, Pedro Koo, Victoria Nguyen, Michael Ninburg, Chuck Wootten, Rig ?, Shirl ?

By country

166--US and A!
13--China/Hong Kong [for some reason I didn't split these two in 2000, not sure why]
12--Italy, Japan
2--Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Taiwan
1--Austria, Brazil, Ethiopia, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Slovenia, South Korea, Turkey, Venezuela

In a theatre: 126
Documentaries: 23

Monday, April 18, 2011

UTW review of Cedar Rapids

Go here if you want to read my review of the sly comedy Cedar Rapids. I really liked this comedy with a great cast and a wonderful subversive edge to it. Unfortunately, this didn't do much box-office, which is a real shame, but mark my words--it will be much appreciated when people discover it via DVD.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Running Upside Down short film

Dear Readers,

CineRobot guest-blogger Stephanie Huettner is producing a short film called Running Upside Down and I thought you might want to be involved or know about the project [click on the image above to be taken to their website where you can watch a video from the filmmakers and learn more about it]. They are attempting to raise funds for the film that will allow them to go to Taiwan for part of filming. You can donate a few dollars or a bunch of dollars; I just sent a payment of $25 [The Tarantino level] to help them to their goal of $5,000. I think this is a worthy cause to support young filmmakers, so let's help them raise some money! Maybe I should pool some donations and get CineRobot a producer's credit?



Rush v. Pearce

If you haven't voted in latest poll, cast your vote. We've got a 5-5 tie with Rush and Pearce battling it out.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tiny Furniture

I saw Tiny Furniture last week and don't have time for a full review, but have to get in a quick rant about it off my chest. The gist of it is I loathed pretty much everything about this phony, gimmicky, masturbatory, self-conscious, lifeless, horribly written and poorly acted movie. The creative force behind Tiny Furniture is a privileged 24 year old named Lena Dunham who casts her real mother, sister and [probably] friends in the story and shoots it on the extreme cheap with DV cameras. Somehow, this woeful fraud of a movie has garnered critical praise, releases on a spate of art theatres across the nation and people claiming Dunham's a rising young filmmaker.  I obviously disagree with that assessment of her film and her as a filmmaker.

Like many of the micro-budget movies I've watched recently, Tiny Furniture is bland, under scripted and exasperating. The film feels more like a student project rather than a something that deserves to be seen by audiences in a theatre. This is just an exercise in youthful narcissism by a filmmaker who can't waste time growing older, maturing,  working on her ideas and becoming a more complete artist. No, like many younger people in the creative fields in 2011--whether they are writers, painters or filmmakers--they have to get their vision to the masses NOW. Many aren't ready for that and churn out undeveloped, unthought out crap that the myriad of internet hype machines fawn over in their hunger for fresh talent. Tiny Furniture is a perfect example of that. In the future, Dunham might have something to say about herself and the world instead of just wallowing in the endless, unabsorbing, hollow posturing that takes place in Tiny Furniture, but she isn't anywhere near that level at this point. This should have been a college project of Dunham's and never seen the light of day, but it did and will be in the running for the worst film I see in 2011.

Monday, April 11, 2011

UTW review of Hall Pass

I'm trying to catch up on my Urban Tulsa Weekly reviews, but this is another not-so-great one unfortunately. Go here if you want to read the details about the latest stunted adolescent film from the Farrelly brothers that stars the always annoying Owen Wilson as one of two husbands who get a week off their marriage and attempt to score with women.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

I Heart Margo Martindale

I'm always ranting and raving about character actors on CineRobot so it's time I give props to a hard-working character actress who is blowing me away with a performance she is delivering on a TV show that I love. Her name is Margo Martindale and I'm sure you've seen her before, although you might not know her by name. Like most actors who make a career in the "character" world, she's done a lot of small roles as support for the marquee actors in the film. In the past decade she's been among the cast in movies such as Iron Jawed Angels, Million Dollar Baby, Paris Je T'Aime, The Savages, Walk Hard, Orphan and Secretariat. She also has a nice little role in a film that has been mentioned a lot in the comments recently--Win Win.

I'd always paid attention to when Martindale was on the screen in all those projects, but it wasn't until she appeared on the second season of the FX show Justified that I took real notice of her. Martindale plays Mags Bennett, a soft-spoken, yet utterly ruthless, Kentucky matriarch that rules over her holler with a stern fist. Involved in moonshine and marijuana, Bennett is a wonderfully complex character that Martindale has crafted with equal parts terrifying and compassionate traits. When an episode doesn't have Martindale and one of her no-good sons [played by another trio of great actors in Jeremy Davies, Brad William Henke and Joseph Lyle Taylor], I'm kind of perturbed at the show. I want to see as much of this Mags Bennett as possible and if Martindale doesn't get some talk about nominations for this role, justice will not be served.

Are there any other Justified fans out there? The show is pretty amazing and Martindale is killing every single scene she is in.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Stephanie Huettner's SXSW journal [part two]

Saturday, March 12

So, let's jump back in time for the second half of March 12. One of the few non-film events I got to do at SXSW was attend a live taping of two separate Doug Loves Movies podcasts. For those who don't know, the podcast is hosted by comic Doug Benson. The first half is just free form conversation with the weekly guests and the second half is a movie trivia competition called “The Leonard Maltin Game,” in which soundbites and ratings given by Leonard Maltin are used as clues to quiz questions. Each guest picks a person in the audience to play for and the winning guest will give that person all of the special prizes. I have to say that the best prize of the evening was a pair of jeans brought by Dave Foley. He said that they are his favorite “travelin' pants” and that he thought it would be nice to give them away while on vacation. People fashion their own name tags for the event, trying to make them as unique as possible to stand out in the crowd. Mine was made by my friend, Melissa, because I was just too busy to slap my name on something. It was pretty damn sweet. Thanks, Melissa!

The first show had the aforementioned Foley, Kevin Pollack and a young comic named Anthony Jeselnik. The second show had Simon Pegg (at the festival for Paul), Rainn Wilson and James Gunn, who were both there for the premier of Super (more on that film later). Go to iTunes and listen to the podcast to hear it. None of the guests had heard the podcast before, so it was an exciting time of learning and growth for us all. James Gunn chose the name tag of the person to my left, a new friend named Moises. He told me that if Gunn won, thus giving him all of the special prizes, then I could have them. Gunn was the heavy favorite to win, so I was pretty excited. Rainn Wilson was pretty hopeless at the game, which wasn't really a surprise to me. The best new category that Doug invented was “Pullman/Paxton,” in which the answer will be a movie starring either Bill Pullman or Bill Paxton. Pegg turned out to be a ringer and won the game on Twister. Damn you, Simon Pegg!

Monday, March 14

So, remember in that last post when I had to leave Win Win early? Well, that's because I had to get up north to another theater for the second screening of James Gunn's Super, to make sure nothing kooky went down in the projection booth. I was already charmed by Gunn from the podcast, but when he showed up for the second screening of his movie at a satellite venue (most filmmakers only attend the big premier), I was smitten. I still have yet to see his Tromeo and Juliet or Slither, but I do love his web series, PG Porn (thanks, Vern Snackwell). I also enjoyed the film Lollilove, in which he appeared as an actor with ex-wife Jenna Fischer. I really enjoyed Super more than I expected. Perhaps “enjoyed” isn't exactly correct. I was entertained, fascinated and amused by it. Much of it is very dark, so people expecting just another silly, low-budget superhero movie will get a swift rhetorical kick in the head. On that Doug Loves Movies podcast taping, Gunn described the movie as “part comedy, part drama, part violent Charles Bronson action film.” I thought it balanced the violence and sweetness well and gave the audience just enough empathy for the characters to avoid alienating them.

After the screening, Gunn played a voicemail from his phone which Rainn Wilson had left especially for that audience, since he had already skipped town. “I heard that so many people wanted to get in that there were people sitting in the aisles. That makes my heart....absolutely sick! That's a fire hazard guys! You are endangering yourselves and everyone else. How. Dare. You.” Gunn then took questions from the audience. A young, comic-nerdy looking fella asked if there would be as much time between Super and Gunn's next movie as there was between Slither and Super (five years). Gunn reassured him that there would not be.

Tuesday, March 15

The midnight screening of Hobo With a Shotgun was one of the most strangely anticipated events of the 2011 SXSW Film Festival. In 2007, Robert Rodriguez and Harry Knowles of Ain't it Cool News held a “Grindhouse Trailer Competition.” The winner of this competition would have their creation played before the national release of the Rodriguez/Tarantino double feature, Grindhouse. That honor went to the wildly popular “Hobo With a Shotgun” from Halifax, Nova Scotia. The trailer had the dirty, gritty feel that most of the other submissions lacked. As the title implies, it concerns a homeless man who takes to the crime-ridden streets of his town to take revenge on the scum who prey on the innocent and the helpless.

Now comes the film of the same name, this time with Rutger Hauer (yes!) in the lead. I arrived early to the Alamo Ritz to meet up with Sean (whom CineRobot readers will remember as the author of the article about projectionists in movies) and we made our way to the theater. SXSW bought everyone in the house a Miller Lite (yay?) and then the film got rolling. The main attraction in Hobo is the over- the-top, non-stop violence. Rutger Hauer, for his part, knocks it out of the park. He plays the role with a ludicrous sincerity that must be admired. During the 2am Q&A, the director, Jason Eisener, told a story from the set. In one scene, “Hobo” gets beaten by the police and thrown off a roof in to a dumpster. While prepping for the scene, the director noticed Hauer setting up a ladder along the wall of the building near the dumpster. When Eisener inquired about what he was doing, Hauer responded: “Tell the behind-the-scenes crew that a 66-year-old man is about to do a stunt.” He proceeded to flip from the top of the building and nail the shot. That kind of gem enhances a screening experience to a level that is impossible to recreate anywhere else. I sucked down that Miller Lite with unabashed, exhausted contentment.

Wednesday, March 16

This was the one day I took off from work and I was on call all day. The first screening of the day was 96 Minutes, which garnered a lot of buzz at the festival. I was too sleepy to watch, and decided to take a nap on one of the cushioned benches in the upstairs lobby of The Long Center, which looks out on to the terrace above Auditorium Shores (where a riot at The Strokes show happened later on). I woke up to tech check (technical testing of sound and audio) the Troublemaker Studios release, blacktino. Then, it was up north to another venue. This was an exhausting afternoon. The next five hours were filled with equipment breaking and sound not working. However, I was lucky to have two great volunteer projectionists and two helpful theater managers backing me up. I also had Sean leave a shift to assist me with some of the machinery issues.

After that kind of day, I just needed to laugh. Luckily, Conan O'Brien Can't Stop was playing downtown at The Paramount. I was on call and had to stay in the downtown area, so I thought I'd sit in until someone called me with the next emergency. The movie is a comedy travel documentary, beginning just after our dear, sweet, ginger avenger has finished his run on “The Tonight Show,” and is starting to work on his Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television live tour. I was lucky enough to catch the Austin stop on this tour, and the movie does an excellent job of conveying the raw electricity at the shows. I do have to tell all of the Tulsa readers that I would rather have seen Tulsa's special guest, Hanson, play “Never Been to Spain” with Coco, than the guest we had in Austin. I did, however, end SXSW 2011 with a Hanson show, so it all worked out. Can't Stop is part concert film and part confessional for Conan. There are some very sweet moments that show Conando jumping on the bed with his kids just before he leaves to go on tour, and some in which he is quite frustrated by some heavy scheduling which was negotiated on his behalf. At one point, he loses his cool a bit after a backup dancer brings in dozens of friends and family to meet him after a performance. He poses with them playfully and talks to them, but vents later on that “I have real friends that I'd like to spend a spare minute with.” The movie has a good pace and The Paramount was full of raucous laughter throughout the screening. It was, no surprise, one of my favorite movies at the festival.

While I don't have time to write about everything I saw, I have to mention a few films. Building Hope is a lovely documentary by Turk Pipkin, which follows his foundation, The Nobelity Project, and their mission to build the first high school in a rural Kenyan community. Tell Your Friends! is a fun comedy concert film that features comedians like Kristen Schaal, Reggie Watts (who opened for Conan on his tour) and Christian Finnegan. Any comedy nerds out there will love it. Dragonslayer, which won the Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature, is an honest and straightforward portrait of a young skater in Fullerton, California who is looking to get back on his wheels in the professional world. There's no narrative push towards a big competition. Just a young man, already a father, trying to find his way in the world while falling in love and re-discovering his passion.

SXSW 2011 was a great ride. It was never boring and there was always something to see, do and hear. I'm going to take a nap now.

***Photos by Stephanie Huettner***

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

New poll question: who is your favorite Australian actor

What Australian actor is your favorite is the new poll question. Your choices include stars and a lesser known actors. Next poll will be on Australian actresses as there are a bunch of those as well. Go to the home page to vote.

Daniel Day-Lewis won the recent poll question of who is the greatest method actor with 14 votes. Marlon Brando received 5 votes, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Christian Bale all got 3 votes.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

UTW review of I Am Number Four

Go here if you want to check out my review for the teen science fiction thriller/actioner I Am Number Four. I didn't like it a whole bunch, but my review was weeks ago and I can't remember that much about the movie. So, it's forgettable too. There were lots of rumors Alex Pettyfer was going to be in the Hunger Games movie. I vote no on that front. That would be completely wrong casting for the character of Peeta, but it looks like the role went to someone else. It's my rare young adult novel reference on CineRobot! Don't expect many of those.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

March movies

I saw some pretty good movies in March. Seven of the seventeen films I saw I rated a four or above. I finally got a chance to see the Australian crime film Animal Kingdom and it was great! It probably would have made my top ten list had I seen it in time. Other highlights of the month were a midnight screening of The Shining, getting to see a film print of Jacque Tati's 1967 masterpiece Play Time and watching Win Win, an early candidate to make the tops list for 2011. Low light of the month was definitely Robert Redford's The Conspirator, a tedious, pious snooze fest based around the trial of people connected to Abraham Lincoln's assassination. Avoid that one.

Time Bandits---1981---england   ****
Cedar Rapids---2011---usa   ****
Animal Kingdom---2010---australia   ****
Beautiful Losers---2008---usa   **
The Flying Scotsman---2006---england   ***1/2
The Company Men---2010---usa   ***
The Adjustment Bureau---2011---usa   **1/2
Wise Blood---1979---usa   **1/2
The Puffy Chair---2005---usa   ****
The Spirit of the Marathon---2005---usa   ***1/2
Limitless---2011---usa   ***1/2
The Conspirator---2011---usa   **
The Shining---1980---usa   *****!
Play Time---1967---france    *****!
Waiting for Hockney---2008---usa   ***
Pastry Kings---2009---usa   ***
Win Win---2011---usa   ****

Friday, April 01, 2011

A PG-13 The King's Speech?

Wow. Harvey Wienstein is always eager to break rules to promote his films or figure out ways to make a little extra money on the film's he releases. Today, with the release of a scrubbed of f-words The King's Speech, he's set a new low-bar that I hope and pray won't be replicated by producers in the future. I'm not buying a second of the press release from the Weinstein Company that this is for the young people who stutter who want to see the movie. Complete and utter bullshit! Censor that Harvey.

This is about making some more money, plain and simple. If Harvey wanted to get a sanitized version to the kids he could have released a DVD version with the "R" on one side and the "PG-13" on the other. Or, even a double disc release. I'm sure that there will be two versions of the film out on DVD at some point because hey, then Harvey can make some more money. The guy is always going on and on about "art," but his version of art always has to make a tidy profit and he will bully, cajole, influence and trick his way to every penny [and then rob people of money owed them, hence legal cases like the recent Michael Moore lawsuit].

If I was director Tom Hooper I'd be pretty livid that this egomaniacal, hack producer is cutting part of your movie up just to make a few more ticket sales to people under the guise it's for the "kids." Let's imagine all the future films that can get a squeaky clean version as well as the "R" rated version. If he could, he'd release a PG-13 The Hangover 2 in a few months as well as the "R" version. Why not keep editing the film down to cover all the bases and give us a PG or even a G so EVERYONE can see it and not be offended by what they see. It will be just like watching the horrid TV versions of films where the bad language is cut-out for our own protection. No thanks.

In the newspaper today I came across the words describing the rerelease, "The film that won Best Picture of the year is now the family event of the year." Are you kidding me? Harvey has hit a lot of lows over the years, but the bar has been placed even lower than ever before by this embarrassing attempt to make some $$$. I've got two words for you Harvey and your cash-grab release to inspire [as Harvey wants us to believe, but only suckers would believe this is the real reason for this] all the underage stutterers out there who might be offended by the eff word: F*ck you!