Archive for the ‘Video’ Category
Describing Lucky Number Slevin is hard. I enjoyed it a lot, but discussing much of the plot would give too many things away. And there are really some nice surprises along the way. Even when you see some of them coming, the writer and director manage to yank the carpet out from under you all the same.
Bruce Willis, Josh Hartnett, Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley, Lucy Liu, and Stanley Tucci deliver great scenes, coming off as chilling and quirky.
Lucy Liu is a scene stealer in the early part of the movie, though. She pops into the neighbor’s apartment and bumps into Josh Harnett, who’s dressed in a towel for about a third of the movie. The dialog between them reminded me of the old Thin Man movies starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. It’s rapid-fire and witty, so you have to be on your toes to catch it all.
After a somber beginning about a chronic loser betting on a horse in a fixed race, the story picks up some twenty years later as two bookies are murdered. Later, Slevin (Hartnett) is mistaken for a man named Nick Fisher who owes the bookies money. Unfortunately, now the bookies’ bosses are trying to collect.
In short order, Slevin is taken to The Boss (Morgan Freeman) and is told he can pay up the $96,000 he owes, or kill the son of a rival crime boss. The rival crime boss is The Rabbi (Ben Kingsley), who later has Slevin kidnapped and brought in. Slevin is then told he has 48 hours to bring in the $33,000 he owes the Rabbi.
Things start to get complicated from there. Obviously the real Nick Fisher has disappeared. Lucy Liu determines that they should investigate and find out what happened to him, which provides for some really fun scenes between her and Hartnett. Then the police get involved, watching Slevin and trying to find out who he is.
Through it all, Bruce Willis walks quietly and calmly, a professional hitman who has his own agenda and is orchestrating everything.
The directing, the looping of the scenes to play over things that weren’t brought out earlier, the flashbacks to earlier events, all play out really well. The movie also reminded me somewhat of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, which also played with time and sequencing of the stories.
Although the end bogs down a little as everything is explained, the trip leading up to it is great, and it was fun matching wits with the writer. I had some of the overall story figured out by then, but I was still caught unsuspecting twice!
Here is the new Nelly Furtado video directed by Jesse Dylan (Bob’s son ajd Jacob’s brother). This video was shot over 2 days in Los Angeles (sort of). The scenes at the beach were shot at El Portal beach near the LA Airport. (Nelly was in make-up at 2:00am and in the water at 5:00am for these sunrise shots). Everything else was shot at El Mirage Dry Lake Bed Northeast of Los Angeles.
How do I know all this? Our webmaster was the 1st Assistant Director. . .
I imagine that if I were a musician, I would appreciate Once more than I do. Don't get me wrong, though – first of all, it's still a very good film, and second, I play a mean "Jingle Bells" on the piano. I think I can even play "Happy Birthday" and a few other tunes, too.
Bad jokes aside, Once truly will appeal to those familiar with not only the creative process of music making, but the connection that musicians share when said process creates something beautiful.
The film, with its main characters being named "Guy" and "Girl" doesn't muddy the waters with an abundance of plot or character building, instead focusing on the craft and, not surprisingly, the music (a good third of the film consists solely of one or more characters playing their songs, making this a rare indie "musical"). And sweet music it is. In no time, you'll be singing along to the catchy, if melancholy, tunes.
Unfortunately, too much of a good thing can turn out to be bad, as the music takes away from the very well written dialog. Once has an organic, real feeling from beginning to end, and avoids the pitfalls that would typically pollute a film like this (such as a rabid sing along or "quirky" characters).
In fact, much of the film feels much like a documentary, as if the actors were merely interacting with each other, as opposed to running through rehearsed dialog. Scenes between the "Guy" and his father ring especially true.
One minor complaint, though it can't really be directed towards the filmmakers: I consider myself to be pretty good at picking up and comprehending the non-American English accents, but there are numerous times where the Irish-accented "Guy," his father, the Czech immigrant "Girl" or any number of other characters are nearly incomprehensible to American audiences. Put some subtitles on the screen, people! I have an easier time understanding German at times.
The Ocean's series are perfect summer movies. Say what you will about the second (I didn't care for it in the theater, but it has grown on me significantly via cable viewings), but all three do exactly what they are intended to do and more: they are mindless popcorn flicks that entertain without insulting your intelligence.
Sure, there are unbelievable scams here and there, but the sheer volume of characters (and their respective talents) make most of it believable. Also, with a strong, confident director, and capable writers, you never feel like you're being left out to dry.
Without saying too much (the trailer has said plenty already), the scam this time involves getting revenge on another casino owner, this time played by Al Pacino, who brings a lot to the acting table, and thankfully spares us the now-clichéd "Hoo-ah!" speech that he's become known for ever since Scent of a Woman (a rejuvenated Ellen Barkin is also on board, as Pacino's right-hand woman).
Notably (and thankfully, I think) absent are Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones, as their characters are apparently stuck in Europe or something, while the whole gang ends up back in Vegas. More so than in the first, the return to and of Vegas is a running theme, and it adds a deeper meaning to the film that was absent previously.
Along the way, many loose ends are tied up, many old friends show up, new characters introduced (most notably the nebbishy David Paymer as a hotel reviewer, as well as a Super Dave Osborne appearance), some great cameos, a number of in-jokes, and a whole lot of disguises. Among the most impressive scams Soberberg pulls off is the inclusion of a fabricated grand hotel right smack dab in the middle of the strip – and it's not like it's just one CGI shot; there are numerous shots from various angles.
All that said, the best and most important things I can say about Ocean's Thirteen are that a) I had a smile on my face the entire time (excluding the first 15 minutes, when a gaggle of teenage comedians sitting in front of us decided to use the theater as an improv class, to poor results), and b) it made me want to get on the next plane to Las Vegas. Perhaps Clooney and the gang should be getting residuals from the Bellagio. Talk about free advertising.
* Oh, and by the way: I was wondeing the other day who the "13th" person was that would make the title complete. Though they never reference it in the movie, it's safe to say that it's Eddie Izzard – his role gets a bit bigger here, and more than just being a "vendor" as he was before, he actually takes an active role in the scam. So that's that.
* Fun fact time: Super Dave Osborne aka Bob Einstein is Albert Brooks' brother. Yes, Albert Brooks' real name is Albert Einstein.
What could be categorized as a work of cooperative fan fiction, The Animatrix is an exquisite homage to the story crafted by the Wachowski brothers. They actually wrote four shorts of the nine piece collection, but all of the segments were directed not by the Wachowskis, but by revered masters of the anime world. Because The Animatrix debuted only a month after the first sequel, The Matrix Reloaded, much of its meaning was not clear. Now, that Reloaded and Revolutions have been available for several years; Animatrix absolutely deserves a second viewing. The only downfall is that it is not in high definition, but it is some damn fine work
Here’s a look at a few:
The Final Flight of the Osiris
If anyone had doubts about whether they should spend their time on something so often perceived as trivial as anime – then they need to be indoctrinated by something of the quality of Final Flight of the Osiris. Done in photorealistic CGI animation; Osiris is a very pretty bit of filmmaking. And who would expect that even the sound would have such a big picture feel. Andy Jones, probably one of the more recognized names to a mainstream audience, directed this gem.
The Second Renaissance – Part I
The look is more like ‘old fashioned’ animation, but the music and story of course – is much edgier. The basic premise is familiar, similar to I Robot, with hundreds of automated humanoids but it quickly depicts man’s inhumanity to man, or in this case…machine. Scenes that invoke various historical wartime atrocities: the My Lai Massacre, Tiananmen Square, or Auschwitz, triggers guilt over what horrors we are capable of committing.
1. The Second Renaissance – Part II
The story of 01- the early Machine City, and the continuation of a ‘prequel’ to The Matrix. This short tells of the final battle between man and machine, how man scorched the sky to retaliate against the machines, and how the machines pretty much took over the world.
2. Kid’s Story
Not my favorite segment but still interesting, it’s the back story of the young man that Neo refers to as “Kid” in Matrix Reloaded. We learn why he’s so annoyingly, yet endearingly devoted to Neo.
Noir Anime. Pretty funky.
This is the trippiest of all, the visuals are far-out but gorgeous. The animation style is hard to define, part photo-realism CGI, and part regular drawing. Some Matrix-free type folks find and rehabilitate machines. They actually jack-in these machines to the Matrix, and run a sort of indoctrination program to show the machines that Man can be their friend. As a group is working this program in a newly found machine, Sentinels (Squiddies) attack this human stronghold, and though most of the humans are killed, the newly rehabbed machine fights to defend them.
Again, this nine piece work is definitely worth seeing, but it’s a shame that it was not released in HD. Let’s hope when it does, that the price for a high def disc will have come down.
In the first installment of this trilogy, The Matrix, Neo takes the red pill and descends Alice’s rabbit hole. But it’s an intriguing paradox that the Wachowskis use a mirror or looking glass to show the real beginning of his journey. Like Alice, we all go down the rabbit hole to Wonderland simply by watching The Matrix. We then choose immersion via her Looking Glass by seeing The Matrix Reloaded or The Matrix Revolutions.
When Morpheus tells Neo that the Matrix is “the world pulled over our eyes,” he could very well be describing the movie itself. The entity that the Matrix Trilogy has evolved into is not a fraudulent cover up however. It is a world that an eager audience has willingly drawn down and around them, the mantle of questions, of enlightenment, the shroud of a thought experiment of vast scale.
And The Ultimate Matrix Collection too, provides deep exploration into a world that cannot be explained, it must be shown. With 35 hours of extras, plus the three films, this set is a massive compilation of behind-the-scenes technical goodies, background information on the actors and their work on the three films, and of course, some naval-gazing and New Age philosophizing.
And so, here’s a brief bit of summary and random reactions and observations on the Trilogy.
The Matrix (Disc One)
I’ve always maintained that The Matrix was, at the very least, a visually stunning project. Now it’s captivating and wondrous in other ways as well, but since this is a review of a high definition product, then we must start with appearances. For example, the use of the green tint inside the Matrix was mainly used to symbolize the color of old computer monitors and screens, but it also brings such texture. The addition of 1080p HD technology just cranks this up to a new level. The scene that made bullet-time famous – Trinity suspended in the air, all black suited whoop-ass splendor – is even more jaw-dropping.
It doesn’t stop. Other scenes that were fairly gorgeous anyway are just that much better. When Neo waits to meet Morpheus, he stands under a bridge during a rainstorm. HD makes the rainfall absolutely glorious. And the dojo training fight between Neo and Morpheus is fantastic. The whole damn thing is luscious from the get-go.
The audio is enhanced as well. This set has Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1 and Dolby Digital Plus: English 5.1 and you can hear the difference. When Neo and Trinity come to rescue Morpheus from the Agents, they shoot up the lobby of the building where their leader is held. You’ve got bullet casings falling, column supports being eaten away by gunfire and the sound is incredible.
• I’ll delve deeper in to symbols and themes in a subsequent post, but one thing I just noticed for the first time was when Neo was first freed from the Matrix. As Morpheus and the crew re-worked his atrophied muscles, he wore a simple loin cloth, just like Jesus. But in Neo’s case, he was being reborn, rather than preparing for crucifixion.
• Hugo Weaving rocks, his brilliance would come through no matter what definition he is rendered in.
• I never get tired of Neo and Morpheus in the Dojo Training Construct. Never.
The Matrix Reloaded (Disc Two)
• Ah, the Burly Brawl – one of my favorite scenes. The crows sound like tigers. It’s a bit chilling, and a lot of awesome. The courtyard – how could something so decrepit look so lovely?
• And the fight in the chateau’s Great Hall – HD shows off the gloss of the marble floor perfectly. Yum.
• The Freeway Scene is still just as long, maybe a little too long, but otherwise it’s augmented nicely in HD.
• Once more we are reminded of the Wachowskis’ penchant for long winded monologues. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But when we meet The Architect (Helmut Bakaitis) we, or maybe it was just me, are left feeling like the frustrated man in the old hearing aid commercial, “What did he say?” The precision and locution of The Architect’s dialogue had me staring in bewildered admiration. Like the rest of the trilogy, I understood more after multiple viewings.
The Matrix Revolutions (Disc Three)
• One of the big questions posed at the beginning of Revolutions is – how the heck is Neo in the Matrix – when he’s not jacked in. I was not aware that this was even an issue when I initially watched the third sequel. Apparently Neo himself isn’t aware of the significance of this conundrum; he just keeps wandering around the train stop for Mobil Avenue – which, by the way, looks wonderfully crisp and clean. Oh, and what happens when you rearrange the letters in Mobil?
• Because Neo is stuck in Matrix Limbo, Neo and Trinity need to contact someone named The Trainman to get him out. Of course, guess who they need to go through? Of course, the Merovingian. Accompanied by Seraph, they pay a visit to the Merovingian’s Hel Club. I’d forgotten about the shootout in the parking garage the way that the bouncers/enforcers walk on the ceiling. Very cool. But why does the Merovingian refer to Seraph as a "little Judas"?
• The Mexican standoff scene is funny, especially considering that everyone was supposed to have checked their weapons before entering the club.
• Poor Mifune, he really takes a beating during the fight in Zion’s Dock. It’s amazing that he can even get his final words out to Kid.
• The final showdown between Neo and Smith is intense in its stylized fighting sequences and special effects. I read somewhere that when they are fighting in the air, swirling about, their outlines create a yin-yang effect. Nice imagery, as the two have been intertwined since the beginning of The Matrix.
There are lots and lots and lots more to this Ultimate Matrix Collection in HD DVD, stay tuned for Part 2.
With the growing acceptability for finding love through online dating, personal ads, and many other forms of outside help, it is no surprise that a television show about a professional matchmaker would soon be in the works. Enter the A&E Network and their new show, Confessions of a Matchmaker.
The unscripted, half-hour series follows Patti Novak and her all-in-the-family-team in the wilds of Buffalo, New York as they set about finding perfect matches for their many clients. It is surprising, and more than a little encouraging, to see Novak making her matches not through cold and clinical computer programs (á la eHarmony), but by sitting down with each file and going with her years of tested experience and, believe it or not, her gut.
In the first episode we meet Charlie, a former Mr. Nude Universe who has deplorable and disgusting table manners, and Ashley, a barely-out-of-college woman who tans too much and wears inches of make-up. Novak ushers them through a harsh reality check (“That’s disgusting,” she admonishes Charlie at a mock dinner), pre-date advice, and reports from their respective dates.
The singles depicted are to be either congratulated or committed for their willingness to have their experiences taped, but these stories do make for interesting television – even if it is at times physically uncomfortable to watch. While witnessing Ashley drink her way through a disaster of a first date is cringe-worthy, seeing Charlie power-walk in the mall is both accessible and endearing.
The crux of the show, though, is Novak’s candid honesty. She pulls no punches and spares no feelings. It is also what makes this quality reality television. She manages to walk the infinitely fine line between sincerity and cruelty. With such insights into her clients’ lives it is no wonder she has a fantastic track record as a matchmaker.
An engaging narrator, Patti Novak will worm her way quickly into the hearts of reality television fans everywhere. And for those of them who are single…well, they just might learn a thing or two.
Confessions of a Matchmaker premiers on Saturday, June 16th with back to back episodes at 10:00 and 10:30pm.
What do you get when you mix action director Cory Yuen’s kinetic style with Eric Roberts, Jamie Pressly, Kane Kosugi, that goober from Reba McEntire’s oddly addicting sitcom, and a gaggle of wannabe martial artists in pretty little thongs?
Why, you get something along the lines of DOA: Dead or Alive, of course! In case you’re not into the whole nerd-addled video game scene, this snazzy yet impossibly retarded little flick is based on the pixilated franchise of the same name, which ultimately boils down to a series of tournament fights featuring lots of well-endowed beauties beating each other into glorious submission. You know you want to play it.
Go on — admit it.
As your perverted mind can probably imagine, this cinematic adaptation isn’t exactly a deep, meaningful experience you can share with your entire underdeveloped family. Though I’m not a fan of tournament movies by any means — I can barely sit through Bloodsport — DOA somehow managed to keep me watching until the very end. Since the story boils down to a handful of women with their own personal agendas venturing to some exotic island to throw-down with a cast of colorful characters, it definitely wasn’t the plot that kept me intrigued. Imagine that.
So was it the witty dialog that kept me glued to the screen? The deep characterization? Or perhaps it was the plethora of butt shots inspired by the randy source material? Sorry, Charlie. None of those. The only reason I decided to sally forth until the film’s extravagant conclusion was due to the presence of Corey Yuen, an absurdist Hong Kong director who has kept me coming back for more since witnessing the outrageous stupidity contained within the Jet Li opus High Risk, also known as Meltdown here in the States. Yes, dear readers, I’m that kind of geek.
Since the script is barely a paragraph long and the plot is lost at sea without hope of survival, the only thing you’re here for is either the action or the ass, though you might be able to claim both on your 2007 tax returns next year. And while there are a jagged pieces of a story buried deep within the gloss — something about a blonde thief and her bozo boyfriend scheming to steal the prize money, a vengeful princess looking for her brother, and a female wrestler desperate to prove her worth — I’m almost positive you won’t care too much about it. Trust me on this one.
Yuen, in his infinite wisdom, has smartly sliced this picture down to the bare essentials. The whole things runs at a brisk 87 minutes, leaving little room for a full-blown narrative to live and breathe and take root. Which is good, I guess, considering an engaging storyline has never been the director’s strong point. Yuen is much better at lensing stylishly choreographed fight sequences, and while it’s not the director’s strongest effort by any stretch of the imagination, DOA does showcase some lofty kung fu insanity that will surely those searching for a cheap visceral thrill. However, martial arts purists will probably balk at the constant use of wires and CGI, not to mention Yuen’s decision to completely waste what could have been his ace in the hole.
Which brings me to Kane Kosugi.
This guy is a monster. I became an instant fan after experiencing the empty yet enjoyable action-packed thriller Blood Heat last year. In fact, DOA’s most satisfying fight involves Kosugi’s infiltration of Eric Roberts’ techno-tinged headquarters, which finds the nimble fighter battling a series of hapless goons as he gradually works his way up a flight of stairs. It’s no Tom Yum Goong, mind you, but it’s still an impressive sequence nonetheless. It’s a shame his screen time is so limited. Had he been born with sizable breasts and a tight round ass, I doubt this would have been an issue.
To be fair, Jamie Pressly does have a few adrenaline-pumping moments of her own, especially during the film’s grand finale which finds our adorable four kung fu cheerleaders battling that mildly deformed troll Eric Roberts, whose spiffy new age sunglasses grant him all of his adversary’s abilities. Did I mention this movie is pretty stupid? I did? Well, it’s a point that should be driven into your thick skull like a wooden stake; expecting anything worthwhile would just be silly. Of course, fans of Holly Valance, Sarah Carter, and Devon Aoki won’t notice the lack of intelligence in the picture. More than likely, most people who investigate this title will have their hands full with other, er, things.
All joking aside, DOA: Dead or Alive is a fun little flick, one that you’ll probably kick yourself repeatedly for enjoying. Just try to stuff your preconceived notions in a cookie jar before sitting down with it and all should be right with the world. Seriously! As an action picture, it’s occasionally fierce, sporadically funny, and thoroughly entertaining. As long as you can stomach a few dodgy scenes that require our juicy collection of eye candy — both male and female — to actually hold conversations with one another, I think you’ll be surprised by how much you like it.
And if your significant other starts running his or her mouth about the film’s reliance on scantily-clad women fighting in the nude, in the rain, and with hardly anything covering their wobbly bits, just tell them that you’re here for the kung fu, thank you very much. After all, we’re here for the martial arts madness, right?