…and the quest to see everything

Archive for November, 2010

Charlie’s Angels


ph. Columbia Tristar DVD

Cameron Diaz is born in 1972. Her father is Cuban and her mother is part Cherokee. Her Cherokee heritage is the reason we’re showing her movies here at APTN.’ So says the voice-over. Here she’s paired with Pete (Owen Wilson), because the film would rather pay for martial arts training than pay for the more expensive Wilson brother.

This should be bad movie territory, and of course it’s not perfect. It’s also an excuse to advertise Nokia, and break said Nokia. The film also has a lot of different espionage scenarios that it might as well be written by the manatees who write Family Guy, which isn’t that bad of a thing here. I saw it for the first time was when I was twelve. The film also makes room for comedy that I can still laugh at today. I don’t know where comedy is placed in McG‘s priorities, so I’ll give the cast credit for that. Fact! Lucy Liu was the fifth choice to play Alex. Other actresses slotted to play Alex were Julia Roberts and Jada Pinkett-Smith, who have their own humour. Other actresses Angelina Jolie and Thandie Newton can wear skimpy leather office wear. But I can only see Liu balance sexy, campy and funny, both dominating and empowering the Red Star engineers. Of course, the film needs someone who can bring funny as much as Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Bill Murray, who have a steady hand in comedy work.

And who can turn down Bill Murray who in the film look like he’s almost improvising? ‘May I have some ice water please?’ He then does some pretend crying, talks to a bird, plays catch with a wall, put antenna in his head, makes fun of Cher. Hilarious.

‘Bitch’ is used in the film at a time when, I imagine, it would sting as bad as the c-word did last year. The word is mostly directed to the angels. The frumpy woman at Red Star says it to Alex, Natalie (Diaz) says it to Eric Knox’s associate Vivian Wood. But when a guy says it to Natalie, he gets punished for it. To our delight.

Fact! Although this is the movie that helped Barrymore into a marriage with Tom Green, this movie put her in the arms of another man. Sam Rockwell and her play doomed couple Eric Knox and Dylan. This won’t be the last time Rockwell’s character would hide something from Barrymore’s. They’ll also be paired up two years later in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Their careers have gone on different paths, but someone pair these two people again, in a more serious movie this time.

The sequence is also one of director McG’s Wachowski Brothers references in the action part of the film, Knox shooting Dylan bullet time style and all. Dylan would later do air kicks, destroying four guys at the same time. Dylan is the shorter and more voluptuous of the girls, the others look like ballerinas while they’re fighting. But she throws more punches that the audience can feel.

The Chad (Tom Green) is great. Where is the Chad? I still think he’s funny and it’s weird to see this film showing him as a relic of the past. Well, as long as he isn’t doing damage to movies today. He’s Canadian? Dammit I was looking forward to hating him!

The film also has a well-rounded soundtrack that covered my bipolar music tastes spanning a decade, from Prodigy to Heart. And of course, to the disco music that is the only clear reference to the TV show in which the movie is based. The final act doesn’t show what Charlie looks like but where Charlie lives. I imagined him to be more of an office guy than some old coot with a Hawaiian shirt on a beach house. Strange. Anyway, Hope you had fun as much as I did.


Seminal Television: Chief of Hearts


Homer Simpson and Chief Clancy Wiggum (Hank Azaria) aren’t talking about Faye Dunaway.


Tamara Drewe


Loosely based on Thomas Hardy’s “Far from the Madding Crowd,” ‘Tamara Drewe’ isn’t that visually interesting. The blue-tinted flashbacks compared to present day warm hues, the non-split screen between characters. Those two things don’t seem groundbreaking at all. The film’s first thirty-five minutes merely introduces the characters. The titular character (Gemma Arterton), a swan of a journalist back in town with a new nose job. She also owns a house that is originally owned by the working class Andy (Luke Evans). Two teenagers, Jody (Jessica Barden) and the other one, read gossip magazines. A mix of novelists, Glen (Bill Camp) and Nicholas (Roger Allam) stay at a country house and rock stars like Ben (Dominic Cooper) and muscular help. Like the source material, Tamara scandalously has relationships between two men who are wrong for her while the right, gruff one, in the case Andy, is waiting to become the third.

ph. OutNow

Before we get to that inevitable end, there are a lot of subplots and minor characters colouring the film. Jody spies on Tamara and disapproves of the latter’s relationship with Ben, hilariously saying ‘She can’t love him. I’ve loved him since March.’ That’s when the film really begins. The film’s style of comedy isn’t selling Britishness and is more universal. We have campy adolescent humour. We have Nicholas, an otherwise successful crime novelist and his physical output on the frustration of his old life and a new life he can’t have. Glen also has a few quips delivered so subtly that it took me fourteen hours to realize that they were poop jokes.

I do feel ambivalent about the film’s understanding of love –  I hinted about this already in the first paragraph. On one perspective, love is a step higher than friendship. One’s words of approval sparks the other’s love even if this other person isn’t filmed to have that eureka ‘I love her’ moment. Tamara trusts Andy on what to do with ‘her’ house. Nicholas’ wife Beth (Tamsin Grieg) tells the dejected Glen that if he writes the way he talks about Thomas Hardy, it makes the man more interesting. Another thing about those encounters is that the women ave the upper hand without purposely asserting it, and their words are given more attention to than the men’s reactions. On the other hand, the film lets the characters end up with their true loves and wants the audience to believe this should work because they have been badly matched with others.

Nonetheless, the films’ funny and engaging, moreso than the ‘epic’ Julie Christie film in the 60’s. Although Alan Bates‘ character seems more like a realistic cute-enough working class man than Andy, who looks like less embarrassing version of Fabio. I take the lot of good with the bad.


Juno


ph. Fox Searchlight DVD

Juno, its eponymous hero and the actress who plays her, Ellen Page, probably have slightly maligned reputations by now. The movie and character would be seen as aloof and jokey despite of her pregnancy, and the actress almost got typecast as the leading star of the indie pack. My ‘job’ is to tell you the readers that there’s much more to the film. I caught this movie four minutes in, and Juno’s in real distress, convincingly telling her best friend (Olivia Thirlby) on the other side of the hamburger phone that she’s a ‘suicide case,’ revealing her situation. But yes, she does deliver on the humour, so relax. It’s eight minutes in and she’s already covered pop culture references and ironic ebonics, and sells her lines efficiently. She understand exactly what she’s experiencing, by this part of the movie anyway. And there’s her and the movie’s conundrum during unexpected pregnancies – the slightly depoliticized choices of keep, adopt and abort. When she chooses to give up her child for adoption, she has to deal with the new characters as well as ones already in her life.

And no, the characters in Juno don’t all talk alike, with their different rages of old, conservative – both gentrified and not – Americana and new, snarky Americana. Even bit parts have their own ticks, just like every human being in a fictional universe like this one we live in. A lone pro-life protester who shouts that all babies want to get ‘bornd,’ or a goth, sexually active receptionist.

Speaking of quirky, there’s a bit of focus on the characters’ material possessions and moments of privacy. I already mentioned the hamburger phone. There’s the discarded living room set, the picture of prince Charles in Juno’s cheerleader best friend Leah’s room, love interest Paulie Bleeker’s (Michael Cera) maroon and yellow outfit combination while he’s putting deodorant between his thighs. While we’re at Paulie’s shorts, by the way, let me just say that yes, cinematographer Eric Steelberg isn’t Wally Pfister nor Roger Deakins, but correct me if I’m wrong, he did bring the most eye-popping movie in an otherwise sepia tone year. Brenda’s (Allison Janney) obsession with dogs, adopting prospective Mark Loring’s guitar. Again, my fascination with these objects root from my boring decor. Mark’s wife Vanessa’s (Jennifer Garner) contradiction of bourgeois chrysanthemums and Alice in Chains tee are given the same light of individuality as the possessions of the working class characters on the other exit on the highway.

Yes, Bleeker’s a nerdy jock anti-stereotype and Leah encourages her best friend’s new sexuality yet still cool enough to join a rock band. However, the movie has clichés. Product placements. Juno’s short body trying to walk opposite everyone else’s direction. Juno’s stepmom Brenda warning of something that’s gonna happen and being right. Speaking of which, I would like to congratulate the internet for not ruining the movie.

Despite her wit, thank God she isn’t always the smartest person in the film, where the adults also show her things that are as she says ‘beyond her maturity level.’ She has her flaws. She crosses the line with the people in her life, using the word ‘gay’ – Leah does too. Page is nonetheless amazing in this, giving more than expected for the role. There’s something even in the way Juno runs up the stairs to the bathroom that shows how inventive and physical she is in a role that’s more script-based. If there is a flaw to her performance, it’s her voice that usually isn’t this nasal. She also ends most of her snarky lines with a lower tone, reminding me of how a younger Jorja Fox would speak.

And who says the women’s picture is dead? Diablo Cody sprinkles her script with well-written female characters. As Leah, Thirlby supports her and moves furniture for her. She also does the best readings of the word ‘pants’ and ‘I know, right’ in the history of cinema. Vanessa’s slightly frosty demeanour ventures for need to have a child with sane amounts of caution. Janney plays Brenda as a sap with a Kristen Wiig outfit yet knows how to eviscerate anyone like she does in “The West Wing” in probably the film’s best scene. All three equally convince the audience that they’re the best parts of this movie in their moments onscreen.

The male supporting cast does wonders in this film too. J.K. Simmons as Juno’s dad Mac reinvents himself as the balanced, supportive parental cool from whom she gets her sense of humour from. Bateman as Mark Loring tries his best both to support his wife’s wishes to adopt while holding on to the youthfulness that Juno’s sparked within him. Cera knows how to convey anxiety only through his eyes – his face doesn’t move but it doesn’t need to. And despite seeing her at her worst, Cera’s Bleeker gives her the moment of tenderness when she needs it.

The trailers on the DVD include 27 Dresses who co-stars Jonathan from “30 Rock,” The Savages which I should have seen instead of Sweeney Todd and a digital copy promotion thing that ties-in with promoting Live Free and Die Hard.


Female Characters – Crouching Tiger, Hidden…


ph. Columbia Tristar DVD

I’ve seen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in parts before, watching Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) and Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) sharing tea together and talking about their repressed feelings. Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi)reminiscing about her lost years in the desert. They make me feel like I’m watching a story from Regency period in England as it is a story taking place probably in third century China. But then this movie has fights in them so I know what kind of movie I’m watching. These characters have already made an impression on me before finally seeing the film in entirety, in layman’s terms, knowing what they’re already like.

So I don’t know what it is seeing Shu Lien skip towards the common room to greet Li that strikes me, her feelings emanating through her face and posture. I’m not even sure if this image from the film perfectly captures a young lover within someone supposedly more mature and controlled, because she goes back to being more formal within a split second. I’m comparing this introduction to Shu Lien’s character with the way the film introduces Jen, a demure aristocrat in disguise. Shu Lien’s introduction, however, is a revelation. I use that word even if it doesn’t feel like the rest of her character is lying to herself. She isn’t, she’s just disallowing herself that bit of freedom other thinks she deserve.

There are other women in disguise – like Jade Fox (Cheng Pei-Pei), who trained Jen masquerading as the latter’s governess and a policeman’s daughter calling herself a circus performer while trying to find Fox, Jen hiding her own talent from Fox and from the rest of the world. The social strata calls for the female characters to go into these disguises, at the same time this game of pretend allows them to act out freedom and aggression. When other characters, male and female, allow them some defiance, they take on the chance. An example would be the scene when the daughter tells an inspector of her certain belief that a murderer is living under Governor Yu’s household, letting her father’s blood on her shoulder seen by Sir Te.

In a way, this story is just about these two leading women as it is about the Green Destiny. One wants what the other has. There’s also some delicious passive aggressiveness between them specifically from Shu Lien’s part. She tells Jen that she’s happy for Jen’s engagement, temporarily killing the latter’s fantasies of becoming a warrior. She also invites Jen and her mother in guise of an engagement party to test the latter, giving her faint praise after damnation. Jen of course gives the results Shu Lien expects, and does so either because of carelessness, vanity or both. The differences between them are constant until the end, when one goes one direction and the other chooses drastically different. One presumably moves on despite of the death around her, while the other can no longer accept happiness because of the past.


Oh my God! Oh my God!


“Viagra is not a drug, it’s a revolution,” says Jake Gyllenhaal as Jamie Randall, besting Vincent Karthesier’s trademark shit-eating grin. Brad Brevet thought this movie was terrible, but I’m a sucker for Spin Doctors-esque music. And both Gyllenhaal and co-star/ love interest Anne Hathaway get naked in this movie. Love and Other Drugs came out yesterday. Enjoy! 3/5.


While We’re At It


Long story long, while looking for reviews of Andrei Rublev on Google, I read the one from a blog called Precious Bodily Fluids. If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, yes, my blog name’s still weirder. His blog post on the film is the second or third entry on Google by the way, whoo hoo.

Anyway, while he writes about he movie he also mentions six other epic films. Lists suck, but that doesn’t stop me from making them. Gone with the Wind, Seven Samurai, Ben-Hur 1959, The Leopard, The Deer Hunter, Full Metal Jacket, The Thin Red Line. And yes, it’s mostly a boy’s club. Just for when you were wondering.