2003 Milk Plus Droogies

Best Picture
Kill Bill Vol. I

Best Director
Quentin Tarantino, Kill Bill Vol. I

Best Actor (tie)
Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean

Best Actor (tie)
Bill Murray, Lost in Translation

Best Actress
Uma Thurman, Kill Bill Vol. I

Best Supporting Actor
David Hyde Pierce, Down With Love

Best Supporting Actress
Miranda Richardson, Spider

Best Screenplay
Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation

Best Foreign Film

Best Cinematography
Harris Savides, Gerry

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McBain Recommends
-Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
-Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
-Kill Bill vol 2
Shroom Recommends
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-Head On
Joker Recommends
-Top 20 List
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Yun-Fat Recommends
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-Los Muertos
-Tropical Malady
Allyn Recommends
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-Songs from the Second Floor
Phyrephox Recommends
-Top 20 List
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-War of the Worlds
-Howl's Moving Castle
Melisb Recommends
-Top 20 List
-The Return
-Spirited Away
-Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...And Spring
Wardpet Recommends
-Finding Nemo
-Man on the Train
-28 Days Later
Lorne Recommends
-21 Grams
-Cold Mountain
-Lost in Translation
Merlot Recommends
-Top 20 List
-The Man on the Train
-Safe Conduct
-The Statement
Whitney Recommends
-Femme Fatale
-Gangs of New York
-Grand Illusion
Sydhe Recommends
-In America
-Looney Tunes: Back In Action
-Whale Rider
Copywright Recommends
Top 20 List
-Flowers of Shanghai
-Road to Perdition
Stennie Recommends
Top 20 List
-A Matter of Life and Death
Rodney Recommends
Top 20 List
-The Pianist
-Talk to Her
Jeff Recommends
-Dial M for Murder
-The Game
-Star Wars Saga
Lady Wakasa Recommends
-Dracula: Page from a Virgin's Diary
-Dr. Mabuse, Der Spieler
-The Last Laugh
Steve Recommends
-Top 20 List
-Princess Raccoon
-Princess Raccoon
-Princess Raccoon
Jenny Recommends
-Mean Girls
-Super Size Me
-The Warriors
Jason Recommends
Top 20 List
-Old Boy
-Million Dollar Baby
-Head On
Lons Recommends
-Before Sunset
-The Incredibles

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The Blog:
Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Bad Boys II

Bad Boys II is every bit what the critics have called it. I fucking loved every minute. Yes, it's offensive as hell, but I would never place any charge of racism, sexism or homophobia against. It's an equal-opportunity offender. Blacks get it, whites get it, Hispanics get it, gays get it, women get it. If the Farrely brothers decided to make an action movie, this would be close to it (though they'd be far more kindhearted, to be sure). And the film is every bit as disgustingly violent as has been claimed, too. This is a film that begins with a slow motion shot of a bullet tearing through a guy's ass-cheek right before it enters the throat of another man, sending blood squirting all over the place. And we're supposed to laugh at this! Really, the whole thing is just audacious. SPOILERS (as if anybody cares) Two segments would make Takashi Miike proud. In one, our heroes are chasing a mortuary van down a busy street. The back doors of the van manage to fling open, spilling cadavers all over the street. These cadavers then get ripped to shreds by various automobiles, one's head popping off as a car rolls over its neck. In another, our heroes have snuck into the mortuary to examine the bodies. Seems our drug lords have been hollowing out corpses and stuffing drugs inside them. It is our heroes' jobs to open up these corpses and find these drugs. ("I think I feel a bag," then yanking out a bloody organ, "No, wait, it's a kidney.") Many wisecracks are made when Will Smith and the camera spend a little too much time staring at corpse-titties. END SPOILERS (as if you all cared enough to stop reading). The plot is a throwback to the 80's with its clueless attitudes towards drugs (just replace the cocaine with X) with its safe-target, Cuban, Russian, and Haitian enemies (one would've thought Bay would've chosen Arabs as the bad guys), and its heroes killing, I dunno, 400 or so people, many innocent, without blinking an eye, cracking wise the whole time.

Can I recommend this movie? It's action sequences, basically 2 hrs of its 2 hr. 45 min running time, are bravura for sure. No one can ever claim Michael Bay doesn't know how to film and edit an action sequence. The big Ferrari car chase shown in the trailer one would expect to be the center piece of the film, but no. It's dispensed with 20 minutes in, then one-upped time and time again afterwards. One sequence, a raid of a Haitian apartment, probably stands as one of the better I've ever seen. Judging the film in terms of action alone, I'd definately recommend. Thing is, I can't imagine a person not finding something here that would offend. Hell, I was offended more than once, I'm not one to be offended by much. But, Ichi the Killer fan that I am, that didn't bother me. Without redeeming value is this film? Most certainly. Fun as fuck? Again with the most certainly. See it at your own risk.


Hump Day Short Film Reviews

Well, I haven’t really seen much lately, which means that I’ve seen less than five films in a week, though, in the next couple of days I should be more active, beginning with tomorrow’s screening of the three-hour Algerian film, Chronicle of the Years of Embers. So, here are some short reviews of the three films that I’ve seen this week:

The Fruit of Paradise (d. Vera Chytilov?)

I finally made it to the Cinematheque’s Chytilov? retrospective. Hmmm, perhaps not the most ideal way to be introduced to a director’s work (in particular, the Cinematheque AC was broken), but quite frankly, I really hated this film. It’s beautiful, in a non-exciting way, being one of those really abstract, modernist European art films, you know, the ones that give abstract, modernist European art films a bad name. Filmed in 1969, the film is a retelling, of sorts, of the Biblical story of Adam and Eve (the main events of the film are preceded by a prologue which is a cross between the Book of Genesis and a Brakhage film), set in a Czech spa (though it’s more of a love triangle). The most interesting part of the film was the stylized, expressionistic acting, especially by Jitka Novakova, the ingenue Eva, who seems to embody innocence, and Jan Schmid, who plays the serpentine serial murderer Robert. I’ve already forgotten most of this historical curio.

Rounders (d. John Dahl)

Inspired by my recent infatuation with Texas Hold’em and the WPT on the Travel Channel, I rented this underrated film from 1998, which I had never seen before. It’s a good solid film, which is made even more watchable if you have an interest in poker. Rounders features a very impressive cast: Matt Damon (one of the few major stars of today who consistently picks more interesting projects, unlike, say his cohort Ben Affleck), Edward Norton, John Malkovich, Martin Landau, John Turturro, Gretchen Mol (I remember that she was going to be the next big thing, until this film fizzled at the box office), and Famke Jansen. Well acted and solidly directed, Dahl takes a very, very shopworn premise and infuses it with atmosphere, suspense, and a keen sense of detail. Again, it’s a pretty generic story, but it’s consistently watchable.

Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines (d. Jonathan Mostow)

I got pissed at the traffic and the lack of parking in downtown Madison this evening, so I took off for the nearest multiplex to see whatever was playing by the time I got there, so I saw T3. I pretty much agree wholeheartedly with Mcbain’s earlier review (and also Shannon’s comments about the lack of humanity; my office mate, who saw the film last week, thought that the film was “hollow”), T3 is a decent film, but pales in comparison with the first two films. I just wanted to point out a couple of additional things that I noticed watching T3:

*Hey, I like Mostow’s other films (Breakdown and U-571), but T3 was certainly lacking James Cameron’s assured touch. McBain and Joker already point out the direction’s technical and poetic shortcomings, but I have a complaint about the CGI, which I thought were overused, muddy, and ugly. Dammit, I miss the models and glass mattes of the first film, and I remember when morphing was the shit. Cameron might be a megalomaniacal control freak with an overinflated sense of his films’ mythic grandeur, but he knows his SFX, and he would never have allowed that kind of obviousness intrude upon his film. Also, as Shannon notes in the comments, T3 completely lacks the human element when it comes to it’s grandiose special effects (there’s a seeming lack of appropriate high stakes in the film). I do remember the nuclear fire that incinerates Sarah Connor and a playground full of women and children in T2. Now that’s frightening. This Judgment Day, well, it won’t be giving me any sleepless nights.

*I appreciate the humor in T3, but I’m not sure I agree with the direction the humor was taking. I think the drive towards self-parody and self-referentiality (did like the cameo reappearance of the psychiatrist who appeared in the first two films) is a rather big mistake, even if it is funny. T2 was very funny, with a young punk kid teaching an emotionless robot how to be more human, creating many funny and moving moments, but it was all organic. Here, Arnold Schwarzenegger seems to be winking to the camera when he does his trademark, emotionless one-liners, it’s just too knowing. The humor in T3 doesn’t make the T-101 more human, it makes him more cartoonish. That kind of took me out of the story, and severely diminished my emotional investment in the film (which was already lacking in the first place). I was moved when the T-101 was destroyed in T2, here, I really couldn’t care less

*Kristanna Loken was pretty hot, and the TX is an interesting idea, but she was not very frightening. Everyone else has mentioned how much more effective Robert Patrick was as the T-1000, and that has a lot to do with his acting and appearance, but it also has to with the fact that the T-1000 was presented as a much more imposing, virtually indestructible killing machine. According to T3, the TX might be stronger, faster, smarter, and better armored than a T-101, and she might be able to control other machines, change her appearance, and turn her arm into a myriad of weapons, but for the most part, they neglected to actually make her stronger, faster, smarter, etc. than the T-1000 or even the T-101 (a hohum plasma gun, which violates the rules of the Terminator universe, seemed a hell of lot less frightening, not to mention painful, than a four-foot long metal skewer). And they way they killed her, what an obvious rip-off of the first film.

*I don’t really want to get into the paradox of time travel created by the film(s), but it’s kind of weird that T3 more or less goes back to the first film’s conception of time and causality, directly bypassing the second film’s emphasis on free will (then again, Cameron himself changed his own ideas between the first and second film). Yeah, I liked how everything came together at the end, but I thought it kind of cheapened much of the events of the T2, like, say, Joe Morton’s death and the T-101’s self-immolation.

It may seem like I’m being really hard on the film, but like McBain, I was just disappointed that the film didn’t even begin to approach the the level of greatness achieved by the first two films of the series. Maybe they’ll coax James Cameron back for the inevitable fourth film (assuming Schwarzenegger doesn’t become Governor of California). It could happen, reportedly, Cameron is interested in filming a fifth Aliens film.

Link of the Day

One of my favorite Onion AV Club features was reprised this week, ”Curse of the Commentary Tracks of the Damned!!!”. Enjoy.

Monday, July 21, 2003


Here is a film designed to make you pay attention. It wants you to notice itself with its off-kilter premise and its handling of repulsive material and its numerous winking name-checks to Dario Argento. It wants you to notice director Lucky McKee, the improbably named guy making his relatively-big-name debut after codirecting a homegrown effort nobody saw called "All Cheerleaders Die". And most of all, it wants you to notice Angela Bettis, the actress playing the title character. I'll be damned if it doesn't work like a charm.

May is a young woman who works at a veterinary clinic and suffers from serious social anxiety. (How serious? She makes Barry Egan look like Barry White.) Her experiences growing up with a lazy eye has led to her prize the parts as well as the whole, and as the film begins she thinks she may have found the perfect guy. He's cute, he's mysterious, he's got gorgeous hands. And he says he "likes weird". Should be a match made in heaven, but then this is a horror film and not some crap with Meg Ryan. Things will end badly. It's exactly that expectation of dark happenings that makes the film hum like it does. For the first half, it appears that this may be another entry in the Lonely Misfit Struggling to Connect genre (a personal favorite genre, by the way). But there's weird undercurrents running through the proceedings, like May's evident glee at relating a sick story about a dog with a twisted bowel, that post the way for the uncompromising climax. Suffice to say I don't want to totally ruin everything, but what I said about parts? Let your mind wander.

"May" has balls in letting May ride the edge between sympathetic and off-putting, and that the character doesn't teeter off into the bowels of the latter is a credit to the outstanding performance by Ms. Bettis. With a face that resembles Holly Hunter re-imagined as a cadaver and a right eye that yearns to roll down and look at her nose, May isn't exactly the most attractive girl, but there's something oddly pretty about her anyway -- a certain hopeful air that often gets choked off in her social paralysis but will occasionally manifest in a smile or an eye's twinkle or a strangely poetic turn of phrase. Bettis takes all this and constructs a captivating portrait of a sad girl who wants to relate to others but doesn't know how. (Her makeout session with Adam, her "perfect" guy, after viewing his student film has a hypnotic inevitability about it.) She's supported by a sparse but effective supporting cast; Jeremy Sisto scores as Adam, who finds himself intrigued but not willing to follow May's darker impulses, while Anna Faris steals scenes as a lesbian coworker with whom May has an ill-fated flirtation. (At this point, I am now willing to watch Anna Faris in anything.) McKee's script, too, keeps things grounded by refusing to betray or shortchange these characters even when things turn grim.

To say that the bloody denoument is a given is to take nothing away from the film. But at the same time, I do have to register a slight complaint. As effective as the last minutes of the film are -- and effective they are indeed, with Bettis becoming stone-cold scary and McKee shifting his direction into hyper-style mode (it's here that his hand feels most Argento-esque) -- it's still a comedown from the previous material. The problem is that McKee's script is so impressive and empathetic in detailing May's clumsy attempts to make friends that the gore almost feels somewhat obligatory. But this criticism should be taken for what it is -- the nitpicking and kvetching of a genre freak who's seen one too many disappointments lately. On the inside, I'm jumping for joy. "May", for all its problems, is not nearly a disappointment -- it's a triumph.