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Archive for March, 2005

Finally!

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OK, I’ve finally posted the Official Moviegeekz 2004 Year In Review. Consider that post to be a “living document”–it’s going to get updated on a regular basis as I see more and more movies from last year. I don’t want to penalize (if you can call it a “penalty” to be left off my list) flicks for the fact that I didn’t get to see them in time to include them. And hey, this ain’t print, it’s the Web–I can update it anytime I want. Which I plan to do.

Just as a “f’r instance”: Sideways doesn’t come out on DVD until next week, and given what I know about the movie, I’m pretty sure that it’s going to do very well in my lists. And you’ll notice that Jamie Foxx isn’t on my Best Actor list–that’s because I haven’t seen Ray yet. Even if he doesn’t win my Best Actor award, I’d imagine he’ll at the very least be in the running.

So anyways, go check that out and post any comments you might have. I plan on going back and doing previous years, too, and keeping those updated–I’ve already realized while compiling my list for ’03 just how wretched a year for movies it was.

Written by Allen

March 31st, 2005 at 11:15 pm

Posted in General

Review: Closer

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The relationships of four damaged people come under the microscope of director Mike Nichols in Closer, a movie so obviously based on a stage play you can almost see the proscenium arch surrounding the scenes. The screenplay, which was written by Patrick Marber and was indeed based on his play, practically drips with intimacy: rarely are more than two of the four leads together in the same scene at the same time, and on those occassions where three or four are present, the movie still explores only two at a time. Closer wants us to see the particular dynamics of the way each of its characters interacts with each of the others, and those dynamics are compelling.

Closer (2004)
Grade: A-
Directed By: Mike Nichols
Written By: Patrick Marber (based on his play)
Starring: Jude Law
Julia Roberts
Clive Owen
Natalie Portman
Studio: Sony/Columbia Tristar

Closer deals largely with lying and sex and the way those two concepts are so inextricably intertwined with modern relationships; in the world of Closer, sex doesn’t come without a generous helping of lies on the side. Each of the four leads–Jude Law‘s Dan, Julia Roberts‘ Anna, Clive Owen‘s Larry and Natalie Portman‘s Alice–lies both to themselves and to their partner of the moment; whenever the truth does come out, damage follows in its wake.

Dan meets Alice when the two lock eyes while walking toward each other on a busy London sidewalk; they meet when she’s hit by a car while crossing the street because she’s locked into that stare. And so the theme of love and sexual attraction leading to pain and disaster gets introduced early. We skip ahead in time a year or so and Dan and Alice are living together–but he finds himself drawn to Anna, a photographer assigned to his picture for a book jacket. She’s drawn to him but rebuffs him when he admits he has a girlfriend; hurt, he plays a practical joke by pretending to be Anna and having Internet sex with an anonymous man (Larry) and enticing him to meet the real Anna. The joke backfires and Larry and Anna end up together. None of that violates our No Spoilers Whenever Possible rule; that’s all setup, moving the chess pieces into position on the board. After our couples are solidly coupled off, then the emotional fireworks begin.

CloserThis movie relies on its actors even moreso than most films and the actors here do not disappoint. Both Portman (a courageous performance in a very risky role for her) and Owen were Oscar-nominated for their performaces and Roberts certainly could have (should have?) been. (It’s easy for us to forget sometimes that Julia Roberts has talent; her movie-star shine sometimes obscures her three Oscar nods and her one Best Actress win.) None of these roles stand out as showy, with the possible exception of Portman’s, and that mainly because hers is the most explicitly sexual. Each of these characters come across as a real person with all of the insecurities, flaws, comedies and tragedies that implies.

Yet while these people feel real, they don’t feel like people I’d want to spend much time with.None of them has any idea what they really want; all are manipulative and cruel in some way. Dan is selfish, shallow and suffers from a severe case of “grass-is-greener” syndrome; Anna’s a coward who doesn’t feel she’s worthy of love; Larry’s angry, hurtful and far too obsessed with sex; Alice is too needy and, later, too cold. The two hours spent in these people’s presence while watching the movie was plenty for me.

To say that Closer is a dialogue-driven movie would be selling it short; Closer is entirely about its dialogue, about what we say to each other in the heat of anger or passion. Marber’s dialogue is straight-edge sharp, especially during the story’s darker moments. Much has been made about the movie’s “filthy” dialogue, but the language isn’t obscene for shock value. These people talk about sex the way real people talk about sex, and talking about sex tends to be dirty. (And if it’s not, then someone’s doing something wrong.) Yes, it’s a little disorienting to see Roberts and Portman using some of this language, but that incongruity helps reinforce the “real person” feeling the movie’s going for.

And speaking talking dirty, here’s something odd: for a story that centers so much around sex, there are exactly zero sex scenes in this movie; there’s barely as much as any kissing between any of its pretty leads. Closer is a very sexual movie but for the most part it’s not a sexy one.

Written by Allen

March 30th, 2005 at 9:32 am

Affleck To Direct Lehane’s Gone, Baby, Gone

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Just to prove that I have an interest in movies that aren’t based on comic books, I now give you a bit of info about an upcoming movie based on a crime novel, instead.

Variety reports that Ben Affleck will apparently make his directorial debut by helming an adaptation of Dennis Lehane‘s Gone, Baby, Gone, one of Lehane’s excellent series of novels featuring the South Boston detective duo of Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. But Affleck won’t actually be appearing in the movie himself.

I’ve been wondering when someone was going to get around to making one of the Kenzie-Gennaro books into a movie, especially given the phenomenal success of Mystic River. I’ve only read two of the five thus far (Prayers for Rain and A Drink Before the War; Gone, Sacred and Darkness, Take My Hand are the others) and enjoyed both of them immensely. Lehane has a terrific feel for character and dialogue and keeps his pacing fast and tight and his suspense high, and both of the books I’ve read just felt like they’d make good flicks. And though he became a Hollywood name with Mystic River, I get the sense that these modern hard-boiled detective stories are what keeps his heart.

While I’m not surprised Affleck picked this movie as the one to use as his first project as a director, what does suprise me is that he’s not casting himself as Patrick Kenzie. For all of the mocking Affleck gets these days, it’s really less his acting that’s been the problem with his career than his choice of parts (or his inability to choose–he seems to subscribe to Michael Caine’s “I never met a script I didn’t like” philosophy) and his choice of near-spouses. He can act, at least competently, when he’s got a part that calls for it, and Kenzie’s a perfect part for him: self-effacing, not as tough as he pretends to be, surprisingly caring for a noir-ish gumshoe, and a Southie to boot. I can picture him in the role easily. Does he not want to overextend himself by acting in the first movie he’s directing? If so, I can understand that, though I feel compelled to point out how well recent history shows Zach Braff did in Garden State, also his first directing gig–and he wrote the thing, too. (Hmm, Ben’s got an Oscar on his mantle for co-writing Good Will Hunting…maybe he’ll take a stab at the screenplay, too?)

Another bit of weirdness is that Gone isn’t the first of the Kenzie-Gennaro novels, though for the most part I don’t think the order matters a whole lot; to the best of my knowledge, to date only one has had major status-quo shattering impact on the next, so if Gone is successful they could easily pick up with whichever one of the other books seemed like the best bet.

Anyway, I’m tentatively looking forward to this one, pending cast and screenplay announcements. And I can at least take comfort in the fact that Gone, Baby, Gone should be less depressing than Mystic River.

Written by Allen

March 23rd, 2005 at 5:40 pm

Posted in General

“Spider-Man 3″ Has Its Villain…Kinda

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Thomas Haden Church has been cast as the Big Bad in Spider-Man 3. “Well, that could be cool,” I hear you say. “Just which of Spidey’s cruel and curious coterie of villainy will the one-time sitcom star and recent Oscar nominee be portaying? Electro? The Shocker? The Scorpion? The Rhino? The Lizard? Kraven the Hunter? The Hobgoblin? (Or dare I even say it…) Venom?”

That’s just the thing, you see…Columbia Pictures hasn’t yet said which set of tights Church will slip into. I can’t imagine they’d have cast a part that big without knowing the character they were casting, and I can’t imagine Church would have taken the gig without knowing, either–why waste your post-Oscar cache that way? So let’s go through some of the possibilities and see what we can’t suss out.

  1. Electro or The Shocker. There’s nothing particularly memorable or exciting about either one of these guys, except maybe for Electro’s costume–as groovy as it can look in the right artistic hands in the comics, no way does that look anything less than ridiculous on screen. And the electric thing’s been played out by Storm in the X-Men flicks. Shocker’s vibratory powers don’t naturally lend themselves to the compelling visuals we’d need, so I’m going to strike him from the list, too.
  2. The Rhino. Ummmm…. no. Not unless they got someone of Michael Clarke Duncan‘s stature, and he’s already been The Kingpin, so that might just cause some sort of atomic-level meltdown in the heads of fanboys everywhere that could wipe out most of these movies’ core audience. So I’m thinking not a good idea.
  3. Speaking of The Kingpin,… contractually, no. Since Fox had the rights to Daredevil and Sony had ‘em to Spidey, they had to split up the shared assets like children in an acrimonious divorce. Fox got DD, Kingpin, Elektra and Ben Urich, which means (barring further negotiations in the future, which seem pointless and unlikely) none of those characters can show up in Spidey’s New York. It’s almost like the pre-Crisis DC Comics universe, if you think about it… not that I’m recommeding that course of action.
  4. The Lizard. Not a bad possibility here, though they’d already had an actor (veteran character guy Dylan Baker) playing Dr. Curt Connors as a bit part in Spider-Man 2. Baker could easily be considered a placeholder, though, if they wanted to go with a bigger-name actor for the role in later movies. The Lizard would work well for the same reasons Alfred Molina‘s Dr. Octopus worked so well in SM2–great visuals and the conflicted human center that’s the core of the Spider-Man mythos. If done properly (and given the track record of the first two Spidey flicks, I can only assume it would be), the Lizard could be a fantastic foil and provide room for real acting, not just CGI effects. Which brings us to…
  5. Venom. I know that the fanboys of the world are probably ga-ga over the possibility of getting Venom up on the big screen, but I’m not so sure it’s a good idea, especially with the way the first two movies have gone. To his credit, director Sam Raimi has tried to focus on the people and not the costumes; with Venom, what you’d get is largely just CGI. It could be some spectactularly cool CGI, I’ll admit, but this series has been about more than that so far and I’d like to see that trend continue. So while this one’s not a bad possibility, I’m casting my vote against it right now. (You hear me, Columbia Pictures?! Yeah, you!! That’s right, I said no friggin’ Venom! Got it? Don’t make me come out there!!)
  6. Kraven the Hunter. Hmm, could make for an interesting story, but doesn’t have the visual appeal. And Church wouldn’t be ideal casting there. Don’t think so.
  7. The Hobgoblin. They certainly seem to have set Harry Osborn up for this part, or for becoming the next Green Goblin; either way, that’s not the part Church will be playing.
  8. The Black Cat. lol omfg omfg rofl!!!!1!!! Seeing Church in that costume would be worth the price of admission by itself.

A couple of other notes on this topic:

  • They haven’t yet said that Church will be playing the only villain in SM3; while these movies haven’t succumbed to the Batman-esuqe Everything Plus the Evil Kitchen Sink syndrome yet, there’s certainly no saying they can’t fit two baddies into one story. So we could see, for instance, both Harry’s ascendance as a Goblin and whomever it is Church is playing.
  • There’s also the possibility that Church could be playing an entirely new villain created specifically for the movie. That seems kind of like wasted effort given the vast history and untapped depths of Spidey’s canon, but you just never know with these Hollywood types.

So personally I’m voting for ol’ Lowell to be playing the Lizard–seems the best matchup of movie, character and actor. But traditionally, the major movie studios haven’t asked my opinion on such things before moving forward. You’d think they’d have learned better by now.

Cross-posted at Moviegeekz and Comicgeekz.

Written by Allen

March 22nd, 2005 at 10:26 pm

Posted in General

Link: Inside Pixar

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Ain’t-It-Cool News’ Moriarty got to live out one of my life’s ambitions when we he took a tour of the Pixar campus. I’ve seen the main building a couple of times on the special features of the last couple of DVDs but I always, always want to see more. The “cottages” that the animators work in have to be the single coolest working environments I’ve seen yet. I still have never found anything that made me think that place is anything less than my dream job. If I could just get them to ignore the fact that I’m pretty sure I don’t do anything they’d need…

Written by Allen

March 17th, 2005 at 10:26 pm

Posted in General