Thursday, April 21, 2011

Man on Film: Drive Angry [3D]

Jesus, it's been a long damn time since I actually saw this. I went on opening weekend, keeping my streak of consecutive Nicolas Cage movies seen in the theater alive at nine--a feat that may be my proudest accomplishment.

While my accomplishment is something to behold, Drive Angry was unfortunately disappointing. Don't get me wrong, this was markedly better than Season of the Witch, but it failed to go as far as I had hoped it would. It played things just a little too safely, shackling Cage with a script that lack enough imagination and a foil not up to the challenge of giving an opposing 110% in the form of Billy Burke.

With Cage playing it up as only he can, he is complimented quite nicely by William Fichtner, playing The Accountant, whose mission is to bring Milton (Cage's protagonist) back to Hell, from where he had broken out to save his daughter. Fichtner plays it pitch-perfect, calm in destruction, dry in wit.

Adding to the film is eye-candy in the form of the insanely hot Amber Heard and the much less clothed Charlotte Ross. Ross does not look her age to be sure, and Heard, while not prancing about in various stages of undress as she did in The Informers, sure looks good. I can't decide whether her choice of accent works or not, as it's insanely thick and possibly bad but over-the-top is the name of the game here. Any shoddy accent work can probably be excused given the circumstances.

Where the film lives and dies is in its action sequences, and unfortunately this is where it comes up short. While promise is shown in the trailer, the action scenes simply lack the requisite verve to make the film what it should be: a trashy explosion-fest with crazy deaths and balls-to-the-wall energy.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reading Rainbow: High Society: The Life of Grace Kelly by Donald Spoto

This may seem like a weird choice if you don't know me well and know why I was reading it. I can't really get into why I was reading it in this space, but whatever. I read it. It happened.

High Society: The Life of Grace Kelly
For those not familiar with Donald Spoto, he is one of the authoritative Golden Age of Hollywood writers. He wrote the seminal books on Alfred Hitchcock The Art of Alfred Hitchcock and The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock. It was while writing The Art of Alfred Hitchcock that he became friends with Princess Grace, who he was lucky enough to have interviewed at length.

Not relying solely on his aged notes from 25 years earlier, Spoto interviews seemingly everyone that has ever known Grace Kelly in completing an exhaustively researched biography of the captivating actress. Her spirit seems to have made its way to these pages largely due to Spoto's concern for honoring her memory. He never crosses a line into a tawdry realm. Taste and discretion are always observed if something cannot be corroborated by multiple accounts of events.

Obviously, most of you would only read this if you were interested in Grace Kelly. If you are, this is a damn fine book with effortless prose and passion for his subject.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Man on Film: Biutiful

If you have seen Alejandro González Iñárritu's other three feature-length directorial efforts, you likely understand what you are getting into with Biutiful. If one were to list Amores Perros, 21 Grams, and Babel's shared traits, it would be that they are visually arresting, often bleak, and run perhaps a little long. While I happen to like those three films, I wouldn't necessarily cite the third trait as a strength, and the second limits his films' rewatchability. 

On Blu-ray May 31st
Biutiful marks the first feature that he has done since his public falling out with scribe Guillermo Arriaga, who got up on his soap box about authorship of films in the ramp-up to the Oscars when Babel was nominated for seven awards. While I happen to love Arriaga's work, both with Iñárritu* and without him, it is a little refreshing to see something different from Iñárritu himself. 

*The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada may have been my favorite movie of the past decade. 

Citing his father's life as inspiration for this film, this is clearly a very personal film for Iñárritu. More than any of his previous works, there are truly heartwrenching moments in this film. Uxbal, played to perfection by Javier Bardem, is a father of two in Barcelona living on the fringe, hustling to make a dime in morally ambiguous ways, and trying to get his affairs in order as terminal cancer is bearing down on him. As he scrambles to leave something for his two young children while their mother's grip on life loosens at every turn, your heart breaks. 

The film is deeply affective, in spite of its length. Bardem alone should get you excited about watching this film, as there are not many in the acting game who are as consistently amazing as he is. Uxbal is far from perfect and isn't above exploitation to serve his own benefit, but Alejandro González Iñárritu's world in film is not one of black and white. 

A quick formatting note, I updated the site to include the Amazon Associates widget. There will be links in some of the entries now. Apologies if this is a turn-off. I assure you, this will not affect what I write at all. 

And don't look now, but there are already three entries written for this week, and I'm starting another.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Queue Continuum: Exit Through The Gift Shop

Sorry I've been so absent here. The start of baseball season sort of messes up my schedule for a few weeks until I can reacclimate/make myself care less about the Royals. Here's some catching up. I'll try to get another entry queued up for Friday, as well.

Available on Blu-ray as well
While it is hard to suss out whether or not this film is operating on the level or not, the message still comes through loud and clear: The art world is a messed up place.

Regardless of whether or not you buy the premise that to movie is operating under, the fact remains that the awful, awful crap that Mr. Brainwash produced sold for a veritable assload of cash based solely on the hype that they successfully built up around a nonsensical show lacking in theme, taste, and restraint.

Even if you elect to believe that Banksy was really punking the Establishment, the film is ultimately a compelling one, and given his and Shepard Fairey's involvement there is at least a little prominent insight into the street art movement.

If this isn't near the top of your queue, it should be. That's where John De Lancie would want it to be.
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