Saturday, September 24, 2011

Dead Cinema opening reception/hiatus

A reminder to any area Tulsa readers that my photography exhibit, Dead Cinema, will have its opening reception on September 27 from 6-9. I hope to have a really good turnout and see a lot of people I know, so I hope to see you there. Just a reminder about what Dead Cinema is: twenty photographs of unused/abandoned movie theatres across the state of Oklahoma. I recently was asked to include a selection of Dead Cinema images for a group show at the Norman Arts Council's Mainsite gallery titled Emerging Artists of Oklahoma. So, I'm very excited that this project will get another showing in Norman from December 2011 to late January of 2012. I will possibly add some new theatres located in downtown Los Angeles as they've got some wonderful old palaces sitting empty.

I am so busy with my move to Los Angeles [all our earthly possessions worth taking are loaded onto a "pod" travelling west, so I have no computer at home] that CineRobot is going to take a brief hiatus until I can get settled, unpacked and re-wired in our new apartment in Los Angeles. Hopefully that will be some time in the first week of October.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Film: Rise of the Planet of the Apes [2011, usa]
Where I saw it: Jenks, Oklahoma
Who with: Greg and Randy
Rating: ***1/2
Banksy rip-off poster rating: ****

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a surprisingly fun piece of genre entertainment from director Rupert Wyatt [The Escapist]. Growing up male when I did [my childhood and teenage years are firmly steeped in 1970s and 1980s culture], I revered the original Planet of the Apes series. Repeated watchings revealed many levels in the landmark science fiction film from 1968. Of course, I even watched all the lackluster sequels such as Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Heck, I even read the novel by Pierre Boulle that came out in 1963.

One of my favorite memories of a kid connected to film was when I was home sick from school while in junior high, I watched all five films in a row from the couch. It was a great day to be ill when I could gorge myself on "ape" lore! Tim Burton's soulless, disastrous remake [aren't the vast majority of these cash-ins, ahem, remakes this way?] in 2001 made me think the impossible: hoping I'd never see the apes on screen again. Then comes Rise of the Planet of the Apes and changes that opinion I've held onto for a decade.

An origin film, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the story of the genesis of the ape's rise up from being cage dwellers and at the mercy of the humans who controlled them, to being simian revolutionaries, fighting for their chimpanzian independence. These apes just want to be free! If you recall your ape lore you will remember that there's already been an origin film--Conquest of the Planet of the Apes--but I guess the filmmakers thought no one would remember that less-than-stellar film, so they just decided to redo it. So this new one is kind of a remake, kind of not a remake.

Obviously, primitive apes alone can't take down the entire earth population of humans so a nifty element of Rise of the Planet of the Apes tracks how a virus does the bulk of the serious labor for the apes. This is a believable story point as we are currently bombarded with paranoid missives from an assortment of disease control centers around the globe as they preach about nefarious strains that could wipe out human kind. Let's not forget movies either as Contagion just came out and it's about the same topic--rapid spreading disease and the vulnerability of the human species.

The movie follows the path of Caesar [a CGI/live action creation played by actor Andy Serkis] from a newborn to his childhood living in the attic of a genius scientist [James Franco]. Caesar shows remarkable cognitive ability and actually surpasses human kids much older than him. Franco's scientist is trying to find a cure for his father's debilitating alzheimers [dad is played by John Lithgow]. He might find out how to slow the disease, but through his research and experiments, he unleashes something devastating. You know, the virus that kills humans and turns apes into intelligent creatures looking to take over.

Caesar is kind of the Jesus figure among the apes, the chosen one you could say, and will eventually rule. The film does a terrific job of creating a bond between viewer and Caesar. How can you not fall in love with the adorable little guy when he's young? By the time the tone shifts to a darker shade, you are right there with Caesar and his simian army, rooting them on against the humans. Very effective how the humans become the villains in this world.

Full of top-notch special effects, a minimum of silly science talk by Franco, a lack of over-the-top action and a rooting interest for the fortunes of Caesar/apes, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a welcome addition to the "ape" universe. It's the kind of summer entertainment that I'd like to see more of in ultra-mainstream releases. This is probably better than the spawn of sequels I mentioned earlier and much better than the Burton embarrassment a decade ago.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Guard

Film: The Guard [2011, Ireland]
Where I saw it: London, England 
Who with: Scott
Rating: ****
Brendan Gleeson rating: *****!

The Irish comedy The Guard comes oh-so-close to being an incredibly satisfying bit of dark humor. While it goes slightly off the rails a bit, it's still got enough moments of sheer lunacy, pure deadpan delight and originality to make it one of my favorites of the year. The Guard ends up being crackpot entertainment, delivering heaping slices of quirky Irishness while only being tinged slightly with a few spots of disappointment due to the fact it could have risen to "cult classic" status without the false steps.

Brendan Gleeson plays "Gerry Boyle," a small village cop who would rather be doing any number of things instead of doing police work. This includes drinking, drugging, ordering prostitutes from Dublin...that sort of thing. When a dead body shows up in his village, "Gerry" is sent for a briefing by an FBI agent "Wendell Everett" [Don Cheadle] on the gang of criminals in their midst. The pair become an unlikely team with "Everett" becoming increasingly baffled, amused and irritated by the outlandish, blustering, racist force of nature that is "Gerry Boyle."

By far the best thing about The Guard is this character of "Gerry Boyle" concocted by writer/director John Michael McDonagh and performed by Glesson. While Glesson has shined before, his performance in this is electric and nuanced and probably the best role he's ever done. The man can flat out act. Watching the interaction between Gleeson/Cheadle is pure pleasure for me. When character actors [of which both Gleeson and Cheadle are] get leading roles, they always play to their strengths and one of those attributes is to let fellow actors have space to move around in a scene. Such is the case with The Guard, as when these two people say their dialogue, the pauses, flourishes and spaces the duo fill in are magical. It's a joy to watch.

What holds The Guard back from elevating itself from being better than the really good? My first gripe is it gives the gang that Gleeson/Cheadle chase after too much screen time. These scenes take away from the best thing in the movie--Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle--and the gang conversations regarding philosophy is forced and overwritten. It just felt way to fake and written some of the things the gang talks about. Every second that Gleeson's "Gerry Boyle" was not on the screen is a waste of time in The Guard's story. It's too bad McDonagh got too cute and in love with writing about this absurd gang because it damages his film in the end.

The Guard, erased of these wrong choices by McDonagh and his insistence on showing us the uninteresting gang, could have risen to the top as possible favorite of 2011. It's still hovering in my top ten and definitely worth seeing for the comedic tour-de-force that is Brendan Gleeson, but it had the chance to be truly special.

The Guard trailer

Monday, September 12, 2011

New Beverly Cinema

Well, it didn't take me long to go to the New Beverly Cinema on our recent five day apartment search in Los Angeles. The day we signed our lease, we actually made it to see the 1987 Wim Wenders film Wings of Desire. I obviously plan on spending a lot of time at this place because our apartment is only a 1/2 mile walk from the New Beverly! I promise that wasn't on my "must-have" list when we started driving all over Los Angeles searching for an apartment. Lucky for me, it just worked out that way. $7 double features!

Photo is of New Beverly at sunset as SJ and I are standing in line to buy our ticket to Wings of Desire.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Attack The Block

While I won't be "officially" a Los Angeles resident until October 1st, I'm
counting Attack the Block as the first movie I watched since I saw it after
an apartment lease was signed. I'd been longing to see this buzzed about
British film all summer and it lived up to the lofty expectations I'd built.
It's the most fun I've had with film all summer. Boundless energy, vibrant,
youthful performances, one-liners, action, pulsating score--Attack the
Block is a perfect summery concoction about a group of teenagers fighting
off aliens when they land on their particular council block estate in a rough
part of London.

What I wasn't into so much was the $13.50 charge to see it. It's a good thing
I liked it with those prices.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Movie tickets #24

Monday, September 05, 2011

The Girl From Paris

Film: The Girl From Paris [2001, france]
Where: Tulsa/at home/dvd
Who with: loner style
Rating: ***1/2

Every so often, I love to be transported to France via cinema. I've never even been to France properly [I'm not counting the times I've stopped in the airport for connecting flights], but based on the 15 to 20 films I see each year from there, think I'd get along swimmingly if I spent time there. The Girl From Paris, a low-key charmer only solidifies that opinion. Forget visiting though, after watching stuff like this, I'd like to pack up all my belongings and move there for a spell.

Sandrine [Mathilde Seigner] is in her late 20s or early 30s and is tired of the city life in Paris. Burned out by her technology based job, the endless traffic, noise and hustle of urban living, she enrolls in a two year program to learn how to become a farmer. She is paired up with a surly goat farmer in a gorgeous, but extremely remote, mountaintop region and begins to devote her time to the goats, the property and her quiet life. It's not easy, but Sandrine is fully dedicated until events lead her to question her resolve once the harsh winter comes sweeping in.

I'm a fan of movies set on farms. I've always loved seeing people work on the land, in barns, with animals. Documentaries or fiction, it doesn't matter. If the setting is rural, I'm interested. Toss in the French element and the stunning location and I'm an easy mark. Luckily, The Girl From Paris is a sweet, tender comedy/drama about simplifying your life. There's also the pleasant side-story about the deepening relationship between the cantankerous old goat farmer and this woman with newfangled ideas such as selling goat cheese online or opening up a small hotel for guests looking for a rural retreat. The Girl From Paris has a lot of heart and might make you want to move to France--or at least go for a visit.

Friday, September 02, 2011

August movies

Highlight of the month [obviously, not counting a midnight screening of The Big Lebowski that saw quite a few dress-ups like the image to the left of "The Dude" and "Walter" done up Tulsa style] was watching the pitch-black Irish comedy The Guard with Scott while in London. Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle are the most unlikely of comic pairings in 2011. See this one if you get the chance. Gleeson fans in particular should run to the theatre and watch his dazzling performance as a small-time local cop with a taste for hard living, women and politically incorrect opinions.

Right before I met Scott, I killed some time in the nerd nirvana known as Forbidden Planet. Their science fiction book section downstairs is a mindblower for sci-fi fans in terms of sheer number of offerings. Lots of English sci-fi you don't see in America. I was disciplined and only got three books including Ready Player One with a much better cover than the edition that just came out in the USA. I like my sci-fi.

Finally saw Super 8. Pretty mediocre actually. I wish it had absolutely no aliens in the story. Had it just been about these kids trying to make a super 8 film in the early 1980s without all the action, aliens and that stuff, I would have liked it a lot more. Fun in spots, but nothing more than that.

High Ballin'---1978---usa   **
30 Minutes or Less---2011---usa   ***
The Infidel---2010---england   **
The Help---2011---usa   ***1/2
The Girl from Paris---2001---france   ***1/2
Rise of the Planet of the Apes---2011---usa   ***
Revanche---2008---austria   ***
Paul---2011---usa   ***
Unknown---2010---usa   ***
The Guard---2011---ireland   ****
Salt of Life---2011---italy   ***1/2
Star Trek---2009---usa   ****
The Band That Wouldn't Die---2010---usa   ***
Chasing 3000---2007---usa   **1/2
Our Idiot Brother---2011---usa   ***1/2
The Big Lebowski---1998---usa   *****!
Super 8---2011---usa   ***
Hot Coffee---2011---usa   ***1/2