Since starting this blog I’ve wondered what I will do to make sure that it remains a pretty regularly scheduled thing and at the same time, hopefully, remain interesting without becoming a boring log of what I did during the day. So I’ve decided that every Wednesday night I will post what entertained me during the previous week (movies, TV, theater, books (rarely) etc), Thur to Wed, with a bit of commentary and on Sundays I will post something about a topic that I find interesting, such as the Andrew Wyeth bit I posted previously. And I might post anything exciting that happens in between.
Eden Lake: On the strong recommendation of a friend (who shall remain nameless because if people knew he liked this movie they might think differently of him) Kim and I went to Best Buy and purchased this “survivalist thriller” outright without seeing it first. It’s worth the money. This movie is so brutal that it is difficult to say I like it for fear that I might think that I am endorsing the actions in it. It’s tough and it brings me back to a time when I was young and seeing copies of copies (on VHS) of movies like I Spit on Your Grave and Last House on the Left and Cannibal Holocaust and thinking that they were so cult and underground and brutal and unforgiving. That is what I wanted Hunting Season to be like. Eden Lake brutalizes Hunting Season. Be very, very careful who you recommend this movie to. If they don’t know you, they might think something is wrong with you. It is certainly NOT your average “let’s get scared and have fun!” type of fluffy “horror” movie. (See: My Bloody Valentine 3-D below)
Funny Games (US version): Last year we got Michael Haneke’s original decade old German language version through Netflix. Like Eden Lake it’s a pretty relentless, nihilistic, pessimistic, though less gory, pic that leaves you feeling dirty (and not in a good way). Based on a strong recommendation (Yup you guessed it, from the same unnamed friend that recommended Eden Lake. Now do you understand why he shall remain nameless?) we decided to get the Funny Games U.S. version that came out last year. The original was so good that we put off seeing the new one for fear that it might be tainted. Especially since the U.S. version is directed by the same director of the original. So we gave in, got the U.S. version from Netflix and watched it. It’s essentially a shot for shot (one shot in particular seemed different, probably because American audiences in 2008 are too A.D.D. to sit through the same shot for the same length of time as the original) identical, English language version of the original. And it stars Naomi Watts (great job, though not quite as good as the woman in the original), Tim Roth (a fine performance), Michael Pitt (EXCELLENT PERFORMANCE, better than the original I would say) and some other guy who did a really good job too (interesting that I can’t picture the guy that originally played the role). I’d say the remake is a fine substitute for the original. It would be interesting to see them side by side to see how the pacing is different 10 years later.
Ghost Town: A funny enough movie starring Ricky Gervais as a misanthropic (I related to him) dentist that can see ghosts, after dying for a brief time. Greg Kinnear co-stars and Tea Leoni rounds out the cast. Nothing wrong with this movie, Ricky Gervais is usually pretty dependable for a laugh.
Wild at Heart: I received an Amazon.com gift card for Christmas and put it to good use purchasing Lost Highway, The Prestige and Wild at Heart. Kim and I decided to watch David Lynch’s excellent, violent, bizarre, and undeniably romantic road movie Wild at Heart. The pic stars Nicolas Cage (pre-Oscar) and Laura Dern as star-crossed lovers Sailor and Lula on the run from Lula’s overbearing, on-the-verge mother Marietta (played brilliantly by Laura Dern’s mother-in-real-life Diane Ladd). If you haven’t seen this you must, if for nothing else than for Willem Dafoe’s extraordinary personification of evil, Bobby Peru. If you have seen it, watch it again. And if you happen to get your hands on the Special Edition DVD make sure to watch all the neat little interviews.
Wrestling: This is one of those ultra-unknown super-low budget movies that you can find on Netflix and nowhere else, which is the real benefit of the mail-order service. Written and directed with heart by Jeremy O’Keefe, Wrestling is a watchable little flick about the drama that takes place in a small town during the summer between high school and college. The cast is populated with unknown actors (except Jeff Conaway) who turn in performances that are a bit uneven but acceptable for this level of production. Story wise, everything is pretty middle of the road without any true danger or consequences and life goes on. Biggest drawback, as it usually is on ultra-low budget productions (and I speak from experience), is the audio quality. If you enjoy what are now being called “mumblecore” movies this might be your cup of tea if you’ve already run out of Duplass and Swanberg movies to see. This was produced in 2005 and seems to be self distributed on Netflix so kudos to the filmmakers for getting it out there.
Vacancy 2: Skip it. Rent Vacancy.
The Wrestler: Disclamer: I’m a big fan of Darren Aronofsky’s previous work (PI, Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain) so it would have to be a blunder of The Happening proportions to make me not like this movie. I also happen to be a Mickey Rourke fan from way back (Rumble Fish, Diner, Pope of Greenwich Village) so this was pretty much two great tastes that taste great together. The Wrestler is a super-gritty piece of cinema verite that at times felt like a documentary and, in case you haven’t heard, Rourke turns in the performance of a lifetime. It’s a bit of a departure for Aronofsky because there are no gimmicks (a la Requiem) no pseudo-religio-science (a la PI and Fountain) and this is his first pic he didn’t have a hand in writing. It’s just straight up character. The Wrestler may, and probably should win a ton of awards but it certainly won’t win Feel-Good-Movie of the Year. Check it out if it’s playing near you. I can’t wait to see it on DVD and start dissecting it. What do all those follow shots represent?
My Bloody Valentine 3-D: See it in 3-D. GREAT FUN! Good times. Better than you think.
Independent Lens: The Atom Smashers: An interesting documentary about Fermilab, home to the world’s most powerful particle accelerator. What’s a particle accelerator? In this case it’s a 4 mile tunnel underground where protons are supercharged and slammed into anti-protons. When they collide the protons smash apart, and the results are recorded. This is all in an effort to find the Higgs Boson which is the particle believed to give everything mass, also known as The God Particle. I found this documentary very interesting. A human face was put on the scientists who spend their lives in this monolithic facility in the middle of America. What’s also interesting about this is that there is a huge race to find the Higgs Boson before the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) comes on-line in Switzerland. Well it turns out that the LHC came on line in September 2008 but quickly had to be shut down (no not because it created a black hole), so the race is still on. There’s also a lot of reference to the dwindling U.S. government science budget of the last administration. Maybe that’ll change now and intellectual curiosity will be rewarded again in America. Check out this documentary. It’ll make your head spin faster than a proton around the Tevatron.
Lynch: A documentary about David Lynch. Basically an agile camera crew followed him around for about a year while he was working on Inland Empire and other projects. Interesting to me. It would probably be interesting to other Lynch fans, even if you already know everything there is to know about the man. But non-fans or people not familiar with his work or history might not “get it”.
Fringe: Caught up on the last two episodes this week, and watched the newest one tonight. I think this show is finding its stride. I’m enjoying.
Big Bang Theory: I’m not a sitcom fan and I LOVE THIS SHOW. I get my serious fringe-science kick from “Fringe” and I get my funny physics fix from “Big Bang Theory”. This is definitely my season for watching TV. I don’t know if I’ll have room for “Lost”.
Cats: Kim and I went to the Shubert Theater in New Haven to see the touring production of, what used to be the longest running show on Broadway. I had never seen “Cats” before and, honestly, didn’t know a damn thing about it (pretty shameful for a student of theater, I know) except that it was based on poems by T.S. Eliot. It turns out that all of the songs (Except “Memory”) are T.S. Eliot’s actual poems from his 1939 book “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats ” set to music which makes it a little more interesting. Otherwise it’s pretty thin on plot, the bulk of the show is musical numbers introducing and about the various standout cats in the group. The vocals were very difficult to hear in the first half of the show but overall it was a good, worthwhile time. Didn’t blow me away though. I wonder if “Chicago” is coming back to town anytime soon.
I think that’s about it for this week. Make sure to tune in on Sunday.
Tags: 3-d, andrew lloyd webber, aronofsky, atom, atom smashers, big bang theory, bobby peru, cannibal holocaust, cats, darren aronofsky, david lynch, diner, duplass, eden lake, fermilab, fountain, fringe, funny games, ghost town, haneke, higgs boson, hunting season, i spit on your grave, inland empire, jeremy o'keefe, large hadron collider, last house on the left, laura dern, lhc, lost highway, lula, lynch, mark wahlberg, max payne, michael pitt, mickey, mickey rourke, mumblecore, my bloody valentine 3-d, naomi watts, netflix, nicolas cage, paricle, pi, pope of greenwich village, proton, redbox, requiem for a dream, ricky gervais, rourke, rumble fish, sailor, swanberg, t.s. eliot, tevatron, the prestige, the wrestler, vacancy, wild at heart, willem dafoe, wrestling