“You shouldn’t forget the importance of entertainment” 01-15-09 to 01-22-09

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.

Movies

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.

Max Payne: I like Wahlberg. I like noir. I like stylized movies. This entertained me for a night. It was worth $1 at the Redbox.  What more is there to say?

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”.

 

TV: 

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”.

Theater

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.

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18 Responses to ““You shouldn’t forget the importance of entertainment” 01-15-09 to 01-22-09”

  1. Kimberly Dalton Says:

    Awesome blog! But you re-opened old wounds mentioning The Happening!!!

  2. amehkristine Says:

    When I was in 3rd grade, my class performed two songs from Cats at the Spring school recital. My teacher was obsessed with the musical. The Rum Tum Tugger is a curious cat.

  3. Abigail Says:

    I was a bit skeptic about seeing My Bloody Valentine 3D because I though it would be like every other cheezy thriller/scary movie! But I trust you judgement so I will check it out this weekend! =)

    I love how you see a lot of movies.

    Oh and I made plans to go check out the MoMA next weekend with one of my friends! I will let you know how it goes.

  4. Dee Says:

    man, Big Bang Theory is amazing. Sheldon is definitely the Geek God.

  5. nwrann Says:

    Kim, sorry, it had to be done 😦

    Abigail, MBV 3D one week and MoMa the next! That’s either schizophrenia or a well balanced diet.

  6. Dee Says:

    forgot to say, Ghost Town is good! I watched it right after watching a horrible movie (Twilight) and it made my afternoon.

    by the way, I really feel like asking, since you’re directing a movie of vampires, (if you saw it/read the book) what do you think of Twilight?

  7. nwrann Says:

    Dee,

    Twilight is a touchy subject around our house. Kim and I have somewhat differing opinions on the movie (I only made it halfway through the book-on-tape). I will say that it wasn’t as bad the second time I saw it. There were some interesting nuances that I missed, while cringing, the first time around. Bottom line though is that Catherine Hardwicke is a hack.

  8. amehkristine Says:

    I have to agree, Twilight was better 2nd time around but I don’t think the movie or book on tape does the story any justice. Reading it page to page, if you can find the time, is the way to truly experience the story.

    Speaking of vampire movies, there was a movie playing up the street from me called “Let the right one in”..the vampire in the film is a child, which may be more or less interesting than the often depicted adult vampires you see in movies (sans the token little one in The Lost Boys.).

  9. Becca Says:

    I’m glad you mentioned Funny Games. I saw the US remake a few months ago. When it was released I was dying to see it, but it was only in select theaters, none of which were close enough to me. My friend also saw it after seeing the original German film, and had pretty much the same opinion you did. I’ll have to see the original very soon. I’m not really one for horror/thrillers, but I enjoyed the remake a lot. I’m also very excited about Burning Inside. Any news on when it’s going to be released?

  10. Abigail Says:

    Haha. Well call me cheap but as a college student I get discounts to a lot of things! So one must take advantage of opportunities. =)

    And since the Twilight was brought up I will have to say that I read half of the book and I could barely stand it. I also saw the movie a few times and I will agree with amehkristine, it did not do it justice! I feel a bit guilty for not enjoying as much as I should have but my whole interest in the book and movie was because it involved Vampires. I wanted to know more about how the authors idea of a vampire was illustrated throughout the book. But seeing as the book is through Bella’s point of view I got annoyed with it quickly. The movie miss too many details but hopefully the second will be better. =)

  11. jetsabel Says:

    Nice picks. Willem Dafoe, is an evil genius. Wild at Heart, is one of those movies you need to watch again after ‘what the f*** did I just see?’ factor kicks in. It’s hilariously crude and just bizarre. And I always thought Lula’s line “The whole world is wild at heart and weird on top” pretty much sums it up. Nonetheless, I’m going to have to netflix it again because I haven’t seen it in a long time. As well as The Boondock Saints. You ever catch Dafoe’s performance in Streets of Fire? Not the best movie in the world (for sure) with that whole eighties vibe but, I couldn’t stop watching it the other night.

  12. Jaime Says:

    the wrestler trailer helps to make me feel okay. i love mickey too 😉 and bruce..that is so new jersey..

    jw..do you see a lot of theatre nowadays? what do you feel about musicals based on the music of bands and artists?
    ps silly random add question/have you ever unscrambled a rubik’s cube to its original state? without cheating and..in less than a week?
    cause i so just did. 😛

  13. nwrann Says:

    Amehkristine, Let The Right One In is supposed to be amazing. I didn’t have a chance to see it when it played ’round here.

    Becca, Burning Inside has been sent for consideration to a bunch of film festivals, hopefully we’ll make it into some. And hopefully we’ll get distribution from that. We’ll see.

    Jetsabel, I haven’t seen Boondock yet. Streets of Fire is amazing. Dafoe has been one of my faves ever since seeing it on HBO back in the day. Make sure to see Platoon if you haven’t already

    Jaime, I don’t see nearly as much theater as I’d like to. It doesn’t really matter to me what the basis, inspiration or source material for theater, musicals or movies are, whether it’s a remake, sequel, based on a book, comic, previous work or band’s music. All that matters is the end result. Although the source material might have already generated interest for me if I was already a fan. I would like to see Movin’ Out (based on Billy Joel’s music) but don’t need to see Mama Mia (saw the movie). Does that answer your question?

  14. Lenchen Says:

    Well, I actually haven’t seen one of the movies you recommended, but I agree about Michael Pitt! His acting is so intense. Have you ever seen “The Dreamers” with Eva Green? He’s awesome in this movie!!

  15. sarah Says:

    i wish i could nod along as say, oh he`s in that movie? well then i must go see it because i love work! or something like that. but i try not to follow celebrity`s lives because i happen to think it`s odd that we photograph other people bringing their kids to the park and going on vacation, which in turn makes me kind of oblivious to the work they`re doing.
    although i am a huge fan of movie reviews because i am terrible and deciding what movies look good and which don`t. thanks about my bloody valentine; i kind of wanted to see it, but wasn`t sure if it was worth the $10.25.

  16. Carlydee Says:

    Good plan. Recommendations are always in high demand these days. But rarely books? I haven’t been reading much myself, but I’m definitely more of a literary person than a television person. Some reading for you: “Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn. It’s a deep book, but enjoyable, and also not very time consuming to read. I’d say it’s a little less than half of “Twilight” in size.

    Speaking of Stephenie Meyer’s vampire chronicles… I found the movie quite funny. It took a lot of self control to keep from laughing out loud in the theater. I was almost to the point of tears… “spidermonkey”… good times, good times. I haven’t watched it twice. If it’s better the second time, maybe I’ll give it another chance. Maybe. But I’ll bring a pillow to bury my face in, just in case.

    I’m with Becca about “Burning Inside”. Consider me excited. Cheers!

  17. nwrann Says:

    Carlydee, “rarely books” is most likely because of my schedule. I used to be a voracious reader (especially when I was in the Army in Egypt, but that’s a story for another day) however, these days my schedule is pretty crazy: wake up at 5am, day job by 7, home at 4, eat, watch a movie, do something productive write/edit/etc til 11pm or midnight, sleep. If I read the only time I can really do it is at night after 8 or 9 pm and at that time if I do something as “calm” as reading I’ll usually pass out. I had “East of Eden” on my bedside table for 5 years and only got 10 pages in to it. When I do read it’s usually in the summer on vacation.

  18. amehkristine Says:

    So I went and saw “Let the Right One In” last friday night. It is a MUST SEE. The film was stunning. It is what Twilight should have been. It was touching, beautiful, funny and a clear connection between the characters totally evokes emotion from those watching.
    I am not a huge fan of subtitled movies but I would definitely see this again. It is So so so so SO GOOD. It definitely rates as one of my top favorite movies…it’s really that wonderful.

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