Inside Man/Spike Lee

I was impressed with ‘Inside Man.’ The plot is pretty silly, and there is at least one enormous gaping plot hole (which renders much of the intrigue irrelevant), but this is a superior action movie/thriller. It is absolutely enthralling; not a moment seems wasted or dull. Denzel Washington is a joy to watch, and he plays well off all the other actors, esp. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Clive Owen (but not Jodie Foster, who is wasted), and makes them raise their game. He is so damn relaxed. The scenes where hostages are being interviewed after the heist is over are superb: funny, clever, full of little details that become relevant later (chewing gum). I am not really enough of a Spike Lee fan to say what makes this a distinctively Spike Lee Joint. Certainly the attention to race is unusual in a movie this kind, and the lighting and changing grain of the film betray some real craft. But since ‘25th Hour’ is my favorite Spike Lee film, I am not qualified to place this among his other work. Regardless, this is a highly competent movie, and a fine way to spend two hours.

One of the previews was for ‘Flight 93′ which I’m dreading because of the political/patriotic baggage that it will carry. But it is directed by Paul Greengrass, which might save the movie.


Watched Keane today, a remarkably discomforting film, written and directed by Lodge H. Kerrigan, with a central performance by Damian Lewis that defies categorization. It’s a claustrophobic exercise in eliciting viewer paranoia as it chronicles a mentally unstable man (is he manic-schizophrenic or simply a paranoid schizophrenic . . . I don’t own a copy of DSM IV so who knows) who is on the lam, off his meds, and may or may not be responsible for the abduction of a daughter the audience is not even sure ever existed. Lewis’s ability to waver from moments of lucidity to a man fighting the voices raging inside his head is downright frightening (and strangely endearing once you remind yourself the guy won’t crawl through the television), and it is this portrait of a man with whom most of us would avoid eye contact (or even cross the street to stay out of his path . . . the gritty underbelly of midtown Manhattan hasn’t looked so bleak and uninviting for a long time) that occupies the first forty-five minutes of the film. But then William connects with a young mother and her seven-year-old daughter holed up in the low-rent hotel where William lives. It is here that a more conventional plot kicks in and the relationship between Keane and this little girl is thrilling due to the film’s unwillingness to make it easy on the audience. Not for the faint of heart or the overindulgent parent; still, Keane rarely goes where you expect it to go and that makes it a truly fine piece of work.
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The Hire

This was a series of 8 short (7-10 minute) films by well-known directors, each hired by BMW to highlight new cars. I won’t make great claims for them, though if you like Clive Owen (who plays the hired driver in all 8 movies) and car chases, and you want to see directors forced to operate within the constraints of an extended commercial, they are worth seeing. The films by John Woo, Ang Lee, Wong Kar-Wai and Joe Carnahan are all good, while Guy Ritchie’s, featuring Madonna, is predictably horrible.

They can be downloaded in DVD quality at though it is a long download. I have an extra copy of the actual DVD if anyone wants it (region 1). If you do, let Reynolds know and he can send contact information.

The Call of Cthuhlu (2005)

It’s always been a difficult thing to try to film an H.P. Lovecraft story. Stuart Green’s two, three, FOUR films aside, as they’ve got nothing to do with the dreary, humorless spirit of Lovecraft. (Green’s films are in fact funny and bright – the two things they shouldn’t be. And while I enjoyed his first two Lovecraft films, they do little more than exploit the author’s name)

There’s The Dunwich Horror (1970) starring Dean Stockwell and Sandra Dee, and Lcuio Fulci tried to do a zombie version of a story in 1980, but all of this is crap really; there’s a couple dozen awful things out there made after Re-Animator planted the idea in cheap filmmaker’s heads – they throw in the word Cthuhlu and stick poor Lovecraft’s name on the cover… At least when Roger Corman ran roughshod over Edgar Allen Poe he left a batch of great Peter Lorre and Vincent Price moments (at the very least) in his wake.

Well, I came across a beautifully designed DVD cover at Jerry’s in Los Feliz a few weeks ago for The Call of Cthulhu and grabbed it. Jerry’s I might add, just might be the best video store for Lovecraft related films – even if they are mostly rotten. Continue reading The Call of Cthuhlu (2005)

Gugly filmmaking

I watched Gigli the other night. I remember liking Beverly Hills Cop and was only mildly annoyed with Scent of a Woman. I still think Midnight Run is a terrific film, mostly because Charles Grodin is absolute @%!*ing godhead. But what the hell went wrong with Martin Brent when he made this piece of shit? I can understand the lousy script, the dumb conceit of using a handicapped boy to help make believable the lead’s transformation from lout to likeable, the lame performances. But the thing that made me scream was the fact that everything had to be in close-up or medium close-up. Everything. I say this because I knew, from the outset, that I would not like this film. But I didn’t expect to be infuriated by something like shot-selection.

I can’t imagine many or any of you have seen this film, but maybe you can answer the larger question: have there been films (recent or no) that have bothered you not because of lousy acting or a bad script, but because of the direction? Specifically the type of shots the director has chosen, or the camera set-ups?

good night and good luck

do we already have a thread on this? i just finished watching this and found it terribly dull. i cannot believe that this got a best picture nomination or that so many smart people told me to watch it. perhaps it plays much better on a big screen, i don’t know. i do know that i felt no tension of any kind, felt no dramatic interest, and didn’t get the connection between the film’s narrative and its aesthetic, which frankly reeked of “good taste”. the opening scene looked a bit like a cross between ads by calvin klein and debeers diamonds, and the shiny beauty of the cinematography (not to mention the songs and score) muted for me the impact of what was being said. yes, it is a worthy story, and in these days of non-journalism, a necessary reminder of a time when the television news was worth watching, but it is not a great film by any means.

oh, and leland palmer is in it. i kept waiting for him to be possessed by bob and smash edward r. murrow’s face into a wall, but no such luck.

anyone else seen it?


I know Jeff can (will!) pipe up about his appreciation of this, too–and I’m curious what others would/do/will think. But I think this is a fantastic film, with a distinct visual and narrative sensibility, and Phil Morrison should (will!) be a big name in American film in the next few years.

Plot in one line: rich Chicago art-gallery owner heads South with her husband to woo a strange folk artist, and stays a stretch with hubby’s family, who seem–at first–like a glorious gallery of absurdist Southern caricatures. Continue reading Junebug

What a country!

In formerly repressive Soviet Union, vampires is so crazy! Is like whole country a battleground–between good and evil!

I should do all my posts in Yakov Smirnoff’s voice. So, like, Jeff and I saw Night Watch, which was kind of deliriously fun. I’m going to cautiously draw a comparison with Von Trier’s The Kingdom, because both films have a loopy laughing-gas good time reinvigorating some pretty standard cliches. (The caution is: no way no how does Watch approach Lars-ian lunacy. But it’s at least far afield from the somber darkness of much “horror/fantasy”.) Will it appeal to D&D players? You’ll have to ask Bruns, but for those of us who can’t tell this world-building mythos from that one, I Continue reading What a country!


‘Bubble’ is a mere 75 minutes long, shot with a digital camera by Steven Soderbergh, and using “real” people as actors. Soderbergh found a hair stylist, a KFC manager and a slacker and recruited them to play the primary roles in this bare bones story. The movie is set on the Ohio-West Virginia border, which is where the actors all grew up and live today.

The plot itself is a little simplistic, and I’m not sure I like the motivation used to explain the murder, but what makes this a quite wonderful little movie is the cinematography. Soderbergh does for mid-Ohio what he did for LA in ‘Limey’: in a few brief stills he captures the heart of a certain kind of existence. In this case it is the gray, flat world of working people struggling to keep their heads above water in a minimum wage economy. Every single damn shot is a masterpiece of composition. Unobtrusively, the store names, the contents of the vending machines, the posters on the walls, the church pews, and everything else behind and around the principal actors paint a picture of this part of the United States and of a social milieu that we rarely get to see on film. Much of the movie is filmed at night, or in dimly lighted factories, diners, trailers and rooms. The contrast to the dazzling light of ‘Limey’ is striking. The interiors are superb, particularly the doll factory which manages to evoke efficiency and soul-destroying monotony simply with a few stills and the hum of machinery.
Continue reading Bubble