The Big Word Project

For a mere 8 dollars (sent whizzing virtually through the interwebs to The Big Word Project), I have redefined two words in the English dictionary. All in the name of promoting The Blog That Few Read The Dork Report.

Everyone, take out your pens and scratch out the following two words from your dictionaries: CHAD and DORK, ’cause they belong to me now, fools.

via Daring Fireball

You Kill Me

You Kill Me movie poster

 

The first thing to say about You Kill Me is to give props to Ben Kingsley, if for no other reason than my fear that he will break my kneecaps if I don’t. Even after his terrifying turn in Sexy Beast, it’s still a surprise to see it is perfectly natural for him to take the role of Frank, an almost superhumanly talented mob assassin. For a man of a certain age who once played Ghandi, he can certainly act up some serious physical menace. But You Kill Me gives him a chance to enrich this character type instead of merely repeat it. In Sexy Beast, he was funny because he was so very extremely menacing. Here, his character is menacing and funny.

You Kill Me is a bicoastal film, literally illustrating Frank’s different worlds by setting the action in two different cities. In Buffalo, You Kill Me shares with The Sopranos a look into the operations of modern-day gangsters. Their lives are somewhat less exciting than the fantasy lucrative lifestyle seen in The Godfather and Scarface, but still sharply divided by cultural heritage and identity. Frank may seem to be a pathetic figure, but when sober, he is the sole factor keeping his small-time Polish crime family in business.

Ben Kingsley and Tea Leoni in You Kill MeYeah, I find alcoholic assassins irresistible too

The problem is, he is sober less and less when the story opens, and his family must fix him in order to survive. So Frank is ordered from Buffalo to San Francisco to dry out, leaving behind his family (both by blood and criminal association) and yet quickly forging a new one: Dave (Bill Pullman), a shady real-estate dealer no better than a gangster himself; Tom (Luke Wilson), a gay fellow alcoholic; and implausible love interest Laurel (Téa Leoni, also an executive producer).

Ben Kingsley in You Kill MeThis man played Ghandi

The problem with Laurel is not only the creepy age differential (a long-standing Hollywood pox from which it seems even indies aren’t immune), but with Laurel’s underdeveloped character. What little we learn of her history (a recently deceased, unloved stepfather) seems insufficient to explain what makes her so lonely and desperate that she would attach herself to possibly the most unstable and unreliable person in the world. What happened to her to make her so blase and amoral that she clings so fervently to Frank and cross the country to risk her life for him?


Official movie site: www.youkillmethefilm.com

Buy the DVD from Amazon and kick back a few pennies to me.

2 Days in Paris

2 Days in Paris movie poster

 

I suppose 2 Days in Paris can be seen as both inspired by and a refutation of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, the pair of films Julie Delpy made with director Richard Linklater and co-star Ethan Hawke. Although more realistic than most romantic comedy/dramas in terms of dialog and emotion, it would be fair to say those films buy into cliches of young love and romantic adventures in two renowned “cities of lovers” abroad, Vienna and Paris. Despite that, both are huge personal favorites of mine, and I strongly recommend watching them back to back, especially if you happen to be about the same age as the actors.

Julie Delpy and Adam Goldberg in 2 Days in ParisThe tourists went that-a-way

As writer and director of 2 Days in Paris, Julie Delpy portrays a most unromantic view of Paris, as perhaps only a Frenchwoman could. With only a fleeting glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, we mostly spend time in its moldy bohemian apartments, eating its fast food, and as captive audiences to its sleazily racist cab drivers. Not coincidentally, the film’s view of relationships is also bleak; Celine and Jesse (Hawke) experience intense passion and heartbreak over a total of 48 hours together (with a 10 year interruption) in Sunrise/Sunset, but Marion and Jack (Adam Goldberg) suffer the overfamiliarity and jealousy of a years-old relationship in 2 Days in Paris. Along with mere bickering, Marion and Jack fumble unsexily in bed, sneeze in each others faces, and accuse each other of infidelities.

Julie Delpy in 2 Days in ParisComment dit-on… action?

The couple’s disastrous two Parisian days build to a climactic argument that is unfortunately covered over in voiceover. It’s a lovely bit of writing, but it sums things up too well. It’s implied that the couple stays together, but perhaps in 10 years Delpy will make 2 Days in New York, and we can see how Marion and Jack have got on.


Official movie site: www.2daysinparisthefilm.com

Buy the DVD from Amazon and kick back a few pennies to me.

In the Shadow of the Moon

In the Shadow of the Moon movie poster

 

In the Shadow of the Moon may not be the most radical or revelatory documentary ever made, but if the point was to get out of the way of some true American badasses and let them tell their story, then it should be counted as a success.

The DVD edition is introduced by co-producer Ron Howard, whom, along with Tom Hanks, is an avowed space-nut and maker of the great Hollywood retelling of the Apollo 13 mission. He doesn’t address the big question: why a big theatrical documentary on NASA’s Apollo Program, now? Is it simply that the aforementioned true American badasses are frankly getting on a bit, and that this is one last chance for them to strut their Right Stuff?

In the Shadow of the MoonI can see your house from here

The biggest clue is that the film takes pains to place the missions in a historical and political context of the Cold War, civil rights, the Viet Nam War, and the spate of assassinations the country suffered in the late sixties. When Kennedy called in 1961 for NASA to land a man on the moon within the decade, it was a truly audacious and inspiring moment. As astronaut Gene Cernan put it, “science fiction.” The almost incalculable amounts of money and impetuous were there, surviving even the assassination of the man that inspired the astonishing endeavor.

Time passes. Walls fall, the White House falls afoul of diminishing returns. Subtract the Cold War space race with the Soviet Union, and NASA reduces its ambition to decades of launching spy & corporate satellites and performing zero-g experiments in the Space Shuttle (although I must say detecting anti-matter sounds pretty cool), losing the Apollo 11 tapes, and apparently too busy with constant maintenance on the International Space Station to do anything else.

In 2004, Bush makes a fool out of himself by calling for NASA to land American boots on Mars by 2020. This time an entire nation rolls its eyes and knows it’s a flimsy, sparkly distraction from the many disasters of his term of office (and this, before Katrina). Maybe I’m stretching things to fine a political critique in the timing of this film, but that’s my theory. It’s a kick in the pants – in a time of crew cuts, tail fins, and assassinations, the United States landed on the freaking moon nine freaking times.

In the Shadow of the MoonI want my MTV

As a nobody web designer, I don’t mean to diminish the work of post-Apollo rocket scientists and brave astronauts; only that the momentum kick-started by Kennedy has sputtered out by almost any measure. After all, what has NASA done lately that one might call, bug-eyed, “science fiction”? I do love the Mars explorer robots Pathfinder, Spirit, and Opportunity, though! I love robots on Mars. Robots on Mars are neat-o, man. Hi, robots on Mars!

One gripe: In the Shadow of the Moon has a cheesy score, especially disappointing in light of Brian Eno & Daniel Lanois’ gorgeous music for For All Mankind, a documentary film of lunar footage from the Apollo missions.


Official movie site: www.intheshadowofthemoon.com

Buy the DVD from Amazon and kick back a few pennies to me.

Paul Muni: Original Gangsta

Paul Muni Scarface Original Gangsta

Paul Muni Scarface Original Gangsta

The Onion AV Club’s How’d it get burned? 22 film remakes dramatically different from the originals piece points out that while Al Pacino’s Scarface has become a modern gangsta icon, nobody slaps the original Paul Muni incarnation from 1930 onto t-shirts, posters, and cheezy mirrors for sale by street vendors. A quick Googling confirmed that there are no 1930/1983 Scarface mashups to be found. So I set out to rectify that with some quickie Photoshop jobs.

It has crossed my mind that the reason no one seems to have posted this sort of thing on the intertubes yet is that it’s probably semi-illegal. If not against the movie studios owning the rights to the property, then at least to the estate of Paul Muni. But this is just for fun, and I’m not trying to sell t-shirts or anything.


UPDATE: I took another spin through Google after finishing the above post, and found a few examples of prior art:

“Keep it Gangsta T-Shirt” on Cafe Press: one of the only “gangsta” graphics I could find that used 1930s imagery.

GangsterGigars.com: exactly what it sounds like.

Gone Baby Gone

Gone Baby Gone movie poster

 

Good ol’ Bahstuhn Cahtholick Ben Affleck is an all grown-up, big-boy director now, and lookit, he made himself a pretty decent movie. That said, Gone Baby Gone is a big plate of grim, with side order of depressing.

Affleck makes excellent use of location footage and local color. And not surprising for a movie directed by an actor (like Julie Delpy’s 2 Days in Paris and George Clooney’s Good Night and Good Luck), Affleck privileges the characters and performances over the plot. We also see plenty of B-roll footage of the faces and voices of Bostoners on the streets, in the bars, and on local TV screens.

Ben Affleck directs Gone Baby GoneHow many times I gotta tell you, bro? I pahked the cahr down on the yahds

Gone Baby Gone is one of the first movies to poach some of the excellent acting talent premiered in HBO’s superb series The Wire. Doubtless by accident, Michael Kenneth Williams and Amy Ryan both play characters diametrically opposed to their TV counterparts; Williams is a sardonic po-lice resolved to the corruption around him (compare and contrast with The Wire’s Omar, a parasite that feeds on the drug trade), and Ryan plays a coked-out winner of bad-mother-of-the-year, the exact opposite in every way (including accent) of her salt-of-the-earth B’more Port Authority po-lice on The Wire.

Ed Harris and Amy Ryan in Gone Baby GonePay no attention to my rug

The few bad points to mention (other than the aforementioned pervasive grim tone), are Ed Harris’ inconsistent rug and a middle section papered over almost entirely by voiceover narration.


Official movie site: www.gonebabygone-themovie.com

Buy the DVD from Amazon and kick back a few pennies to me.

The 11 Best Movies I’m Most Embarrassed I Didn’t See in 2007

And now for the most useless blog post ever, in the long and storied history of useless blog posts:

A special bonus collection of bullet points showing just of few of the many acclaimed films I didn’t see this year, any number of which could very well upset my list of the best, but hopefully not score spots on the worst or most disappointing.

  • 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
  • The Assassination of Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford
  • Away From Her
  • Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
  • In the Valley of Elah
  • Into the Wild
  • Lust, Caution
  • Michael Clayton
  • Persepolis
  • The Savages

If all goes according to plan, I should start finding many of these soon in my mailbox via Netflix, and the pointless Dork Report reviews will start flowing.

The 10 Most Disappointing Movies I Saw in 2007

As I was compiling the best and worst movies I saw in 2007, I found I still had enough for a special category: movies that absolutely don’t deserve to be called bad, even when it’s just me here talking to myself on my stupid blog. But for one reason or another, here are the movies of 2007 from which I expected something a bit more:


28 weeks later

28 WEEKS LATER
A disappointingly conventional follow-up to the truly scary original.


american gangster

AMERICAN GANGSTER
I was hoping for a bit more from Ridley Scott and the two fine actors, perhaps another crime epic on the level of Heat. But American Gangster is essentially a biopic, a genre in which good narrative storytelling is often forsaken in favor of a string of illustrated events from history. Yes, it’s interesting that these people actually lived and (more or less) did these things, but a story this does not make.


becoming jane

BECOMING JANE
I loved the recent film version of Pride & Prejudice, and Becoming Jane sure sounded like a good idea: play fast & loose with the real Jane Austen’s biography to create a frothy romance in her own style. But the end result fell oddly flat, with little of the real woman’s spark. The direction and performances were fine; I think the fault lay in the script.


charlie wilson's war

CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR
Probably the finest-pedigreed film of the year, with Mike Nichols directing, Aaron Sorkin writing, and Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymore Hoffman starring. So why doesn’t the movie take off?


I Am Legend movie poster

I AM LEGEND
The superb trailer all but had me waiting in line at the theater weeks before this movie came out. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it couldn’t live up to the promise; it’s full of preposterous implausibilities and plot holes (and that’s if you even accept the basic premise). The best zombie movie I’ve seen is still 28 Days Later.


knocked up

KNOCKED UP
I was a big lover of Judd Apatow’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but I don’t think Knocked Up quite measures up to its predecessor’s painful hilarity. Additionally, I could just barely swallow the premise that the two characters might hook up in an alcohol-fueled bonding moment, but not at all that they might stay together.


the lives of others

THE LIVES OF OTHERS
A complex character study that would have made my personal-best list had it not undone itself in the end by hailing its complicated protagonist a “good man.”


a mighty heart

A MIGHTY HEART
Michael Winterbottom is one of my favorite filmmakers of all time, and this movie held tremendous promise for me as it was done in a similar faux-documentary style as Road to Guantanamo. But whereas I wanted to tell everyone I met that Road to Guantanamo is essential viewing for every citizen of the world, I just can’t say the same for A Mighty Heart.


stardust

STARDUST
All apologies to Saint Neil Gaiman, for whom nearly all he touches turns to gold, but Stardust just didn’t do anything for me. Gaiman’s and Roget Avery’s script for Beowulf was brilliant, but this adaptation of his illustrated novel by another screenwriter had no pixie dust.


zodiac

ZODIAC
I know Zodiac has been praised to the high heavens, for both its special effects (didn’t notice that it even had special effects? Exactly!) and for its storytelling, but I just didn’t feel it.


Coming up next: the 11 Best Movies I’m Most Embarrassed I didn’t see in 2007!

The 9 Worst Movies I Saw in 2007

Just like Elizabeth: The Golden Age and Before Sunset, it’s the sequel that no one asked for! After the warm fuzzies of yesterday’s list of the Best Movies I Saw in 2007, it’s time for a little meanspirited snark.

I might be committing professional suicide for publishing this list, for five out of nine of these movies may or may not have something in common (a something which could lead to the aforementioned professional suicide if revealed). So with a little judicious self-censorship, onward!


[NAME OF LATIN POP STAR BIOPIC WITHHELD]
A new low in probably my most-hated film genre: the musical biopic. Once again, the life story of an important musician is told by filmmakers who obviously don’t care about the music and would much rather tell a story about drug addiction (and not only that, the same drug story every time: q.v. Bird, Ray, Walk the Line, etc.). Bladder-bustingly long, amateurishly over-edited, and the ostensible lead [name of hollow-cheeked latin pop star withheld] is shoved aside by [name of latina pop star famous for magnificent gluteus maximus withheld] as she tries to make it her story.


Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.jpg

FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SIVER SURFER
Fantastic Four 2 somehow manages to be better than the original in many ways, and yet less funny (the original at least had humor on its side). Who cast Mr. Whitebread as Dr. Victor Von Doom, the Eastern European dictator of Latveria?


[NAME OF FIRST-INSTALLMENT-IN-PROJECTED-FANTASY-FRANCHISE WITHHELD]
The fantasy genre leaves me cold, so it was a minor miracle that Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens made three Lord of the Rings movies that could turn genre grumps like me into fans of elves, dwarves, and wizards. [name of movie company withheld] tried to recapture the magic with [name of first-installment-in-projected-fantasy-franchise withheld], but forgot the magic. Humorless, self-serious, and wastefully expensive, [name of first-installment-in-projected-fantasy-franchise withheld] is full of awkward shifts in tone (for a more kid-friendly movie than Lord of the Rings, it turns shockingly violent at one point) and spurious plot twists (the most annoying instance being when the king of all [name of large white arctic mammal withheld] pledges his life to a [name of annoying little girl withheld] with no evidence that she’s anything special).


[NAME OF WOEFUL TIME-TRAVELLING ECOLOGICAL PARABLE / OSTENSIBLE CHILDREN’S FILM WITHHELD]
I pity the children for whom this will be one of their earliest moviegoing experiences. My generation had E.T. and Time Bandits. This one gets… lame Department of Homeland Security critiques and Intel-Inside bunnies? Oh, and let’s not forget the horrific song by [name of psychedelic rock dinosaur withheld]… could this be the man that cowrote [name of fifth best selling album of all time withheld]?


[NAME OF NUMEROLOGY-THEMED THRILLER WITHHELD]
A premise that could have been fun if not treated with such grim self-seriousness. Wannabe thriller directors would do well to remember that even Se7en and Memento had a little wit. Memo to [name of rubber-faced & formerly overpaid actor withheld]: you proved you could branch out into dramatic roles that still played to your comedy skills in [name of underrated movie directed by Peter Weir withheld] and [name of masterpiece directed by Michel Gondry withheld]. How about some more of that, please?


Resident Evil: Extinction

RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION
Not much I can say about this one. It’s on this list because I saw it and it’s bad, but I didn’t really get worked up over its badness as much as these others. The setup is actually not that bad, at least until the zombies attack… and attack… and attack.


[NAME OF MEAN-SPIRITED ACTION FLICK APPARENTLY WRITTEN BY COMMITTEE OF 12-YEAR-OLD-BOYS WITHHELD]
Porn for NRA-joining latent psychos who applaud when movie heroes shoot people. What on earth were [name of actor that reportedly turned down [name of famous fictional British spy franchise withheld] withheld] and [name of rightly revered character actor withheld] thinking when they signed on for this? Hot Fuzz is everything that this piece of shit is not.


Spider-Man 3

SPIDER-MAN 3
It pains me to list this movie here more than any other. Spider-Man 2 was one of my favorite movies in recent years, and I frequently rant to friends about how it’s a paragon of what Hollywood ought to be doing: like Lord of the Rings, it’s a mass-market genre entertainment that thrills, entertains, and moves. So this mess of a sequel depressed me all out of proportion to its only mere badness.


Transformers movie poster

TRANSFORMERS
Funny enough, it’s a pretty entertaining movie until the eponymous robots show up and start speaking, and shortly thereafter, fighting. Then it somehow becomes punishingly stupid, and considerably less fun.


Coming up next: The 10 Most Disappointing Movies I saw in 2007!