Friday, November 30, 2007

The 50 Best Films of 2007?

This comes from a magazine called Paste Magazine
Now, I really can't agree or disagree that these were some of the best films of this year. The year hasn't ended yet, and we still have The Golden Compass, The Orphanage (another Spanish horror film produced by Guillermo Del Toro, who wrote and directed the 2006 CRIMINALLY UNDER-SEEN Pan's Labryinth), and ahost of other Oscar-caliber and studio friendly films. What do you think? Is this list accurate? Should anything be added? Omitted? Let me know in the comments section. The ones highlighted/boldfaced (or, should be): These are films I've either seen or plan to see this year.

1. Juno [Jason Reitman]2. Once [John Carney]3. Eastern Promises [David Cronenberg]4. Away From Her [Sarah Polley]5. Margot at the Wedding [Noah Baumbach]6. Michael Clayton [Tony Gilroy]7. The Wind That Shakes the Barley [Ken Loach]8. No Country for Old Men [Joel and Ethan Coen]9. The Kite Runner [Marc Forster]10. Syndromes and a Century [Apichatpong "Joe" Weerasethakul]11. Ratatouille [Brad Bird]12. Ten Canoes [Rolf de Heer/Peter Djigirr]13. Great World of Sound [Craig Zobel]14. Ghosts of Cité Soleil [Asger Leth/Milos Loncarevic]15. Offside [Jafar Panahi]16. My Kid Could Paint That [Amir Bar-Lev]17. 2 Days in Paris [Julie Delpy]18. Waitress [Adrienne Shelly]19. Manufactured Landscapes [Jennifer Baichwal]20. The King of Kong [Seth Gordon]21. Sunshine [Danny Boyle]22. This is England [Shane Meadows]23. Knocked Up [Judd Apatow]24. Hanna Takes the Stairs [Joe Swanberg]25. Bella [Alejandro Gomez Monteverde]26. The Darjeeling Limited [Wes Anderson]27. Grindhouse [Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez]28. Paris, Je T'aime [Various Directors]29. God Grew Tired of Us [Christopher Dillon Quinn]30. No End in Sight [Charles Ferguson]31. The Bourne Ultimatum [Paul Greengrass]32. Hot Fuzz [Edgar Wright]33. 3:10 to Yuma [James Mangold]34. Year of the Dog [Mike White]35. The Simpsons Movie [David Silverman]36. Hairspray [Adam Shankman]37. Sicko [Michael Moore]38. Rescue Dawn [Werner Herzog]39. The Short Life of José Antonio Guitierrez [Heidi Specogna]40. Forever [Heddy Honigmann]41. Persepolis [Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud]42. Talk to Me [Kasi Lemmons]43. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead [Sidney Lumet]44. Superbad [Greg Mottola]45. Zodiac [David Fincher]46. The Savages [Tamara Jenkins]47. Rocket Science [Jeffrey Blitz]48. The Signal [David Bruckner, Dan Bush, Jacob Gentry]49. The Lookout [Scott Frank]50. American Gangster [Ridley Scott]

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Run, Don't Walk, To Movie Theatres 5 December 2007

I can't wait. JUNO will be in theatres: Ellen Page (Hard Candy, X-Men 3), Michael Cera (Superbad), Jennifer Garner (Alias, The Kingdom, Catch and Release), JK Simmons (OZ), Allison Janney (West Wing, The Hours), Jason Bateman (Arrested Development and The Kingdom)and Olivia Thirlby (United 93) are all starring in this film.
Jason Reitman (Thank You For Not Smoking) is directing, and it's written by up and coming screenwriter, Diablo Cody--who writes one of my favorite blogs, The Pussy Ranch (YES! If you've missed out on some hilarious and spot on blog writing, do yourself a favor, check out Cody's blog. You'll thank me later).
Wicked and intelligent dialogue, well drawn out characters, and a premise that is sure to make you think and laugh....I think I know where i'll be next Wednesday before work (if I go at all that night :))....

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Margot At The Wedding


I had VERY high hopes for this one, and I still do, in theory. Margot At The Wedding is Noah Baumbach's second film, after his wickedly funny and profound The Squid and The Whale.

In Margot, Noah treads the same, if not similar waters, as Squid: Margot focuses on the fractured and strained relationship between Margot (a cold, and prickly Nicole Kidman), a neurotic writer, and her sister Pauline (a free-spirited Jennifer Jason Leigh), a woman who is planning to marry Malcolm (a surprisingly dialed down and restrained Jack Black), and unemployed musician. Margot and her son Claude (newcomer Zane Pais) decide to visit her Pauline after she announces that she is getting married to Malcolm. In short order, the storm the sisters create leaves behind a a mess of thrashed relationships and exposed family secrets. (

The writing is superb--Noah is very good with words, and he uses them to FULL affect here--making very clear the impact words have on people and how those words can be used to hurt them and leave some very deep wounds. Kidman, who hasn't been this good since 1995's To Die For, is in rare form as Margot--a seemingly strong and piercing woman who is barely hiding her own mess of insecurities about her life--a failed marriage, a barely hidden love affair with another writer (Ciaran Hinds), a possible addiction to pills--Margot is a mess, but it is SO fun to watch Kidman inhabit this woman's life with such naked aplomb and glee. It has taken me years to warm up to Kidman and the gifts she possesses as an actress. But, it's films like this, To Die For, Dead Calm, Flirting, Moulin Rouge!, and even the underrated and MUST see Portrait Of A Lady, that show Kidman at her best. But, Margot is definite proof she's a ridiculously talented actress--who doesn't get ENOUGH chances to show what she can do.

The always on point and powerful Jennifer Jason Leigh actually plays "against" type as Pauline. Seemingly fragile and living in the shadow of Margot, Pauline barely manages to mask a seething mess of years of passive-aggressive bitterness and anger towards Margot. Leigh makes what could have been a one-note character come alive as you watch her literally come together and unravel at the seems every time she and Margot are in each other's presence or have one of their classic meltdowns (and the few that are shown in the film are CLASSIC--so much can be said WITHOUT saying much--or nothing at all...)

Jack Black is great as Malcolm, an unemployed schlub who means well, but clearly is out of his league with BOTH sisters--and knows it. Black was interesting to watch.

Newcomer Zane Pais was also very good as Claude, Margot's adolescent son who is entering that very awkward and uncomfortable period called puberty and isn't always sure how he feels about his mother and her outbursts sometimes. Margot loves her son and she spares him the kind of verbal daggers she gives everyone else around her. But, even he ends up in her crosshairs when she drops a verbal bomb on him towards the end of the film.

The rest of the cast is also great: John Turturro as Claude's studly father (!!!!), Fiona Cross as Malcolm's precocious and "adult ADD" having cousin Ingrid; Halley Feiffer as a Lolita-esque Maisy Koorsman, whose attempts to seduce Malcolm are hilarious. Ciaran Hinds rounds out the cast as Maisy's father and Margot's lover Dick.

However, this film isn't as funny as Squid. And, that will be the issue many folks will have with Baumbach's second outing. I wanted to like Margot At The Wedding, and I did. But, not because it was funny.

I enjoyed it, because of how brutal and visceral family conflicts can be. We have all known family members who have fallen out over ancient battles, sibling rivalries, etc. Baumbach's film is no different. Even though the viewer, and this is up for interpretation, is lead to believe that Margot and her sisters Pauline and Becky (who is referred to be only seen towards the end of the film) may have been sexually and physically abused by their father and most definitely neglected by their mother.

The film is hard to watch, because you are laughing at what appears to be the reasons behind why these two women are so fractured and screwed up. It is uncomfortable laughter, because the viewer only wonders just how autobiographical this is for Baumbach. And, also how autobiographical it could be for the viewer themselves. I know I did shudder over some of the scenes--I can remember very vivid conflicts between relatives in my own family that hid and speculated at the kind of abuse mentioned in Margot.

Overall, the film is very good and Kidman and Leigh will most DEFINITELY be mentioned during the upcoming awards season (though with JUNO coming out next week, their competition will be tough from the likes of Ellen Page {Juno} and Jennifer Garner {Vanessa Loring}).

But, this is a must see for fans of Baumbach's work. Though, don't expect to laugh much throughout the film. But, do expect to walk out thinking about family and how complex those relationships can truly be sometimes.

The Writing: A-/B+

The Performances: A

The Movie Overall: B+

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hey Everyone!/Back From Hiatus

Hey Everyone!

Sorry for the long "hiatus" of sorts. A lot has been going on in my personal and professional life, so I haven't been here that much, if at all.

I have missed a LOT of good films, and some really bad ones that merited a good deconstruction...

But, I will have reviews of BELLA, THE KINGDOM, and GONE BABY GONE up by week's end.

Til then, see you at the movies! :)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


Logline: The lives of a television actor, television show runner, and a video game designer converge in mysterious and unsettling ways.

Okay, so I saw this August 31st. A friend bought my ticket. Even though I had heard about the buzz on this film during its premiere at Sundance, I had my reservations.

It was written and directed by John August--great, but he did write the second Charlie's Angels movie, and that was RIFE with plot holes and low budget camp that feel flat most times (Though, Justin Theroux worked out and shirtless--oddly intriguing). So, I knew that it would be an interesting film to watch, but I was wary. But, he wrote GO. So, I was giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Ryan Reynolds on the other hand: He's a very competent and downright hilarious comedic, even if some of his choices in projects rant the gamut of being perfect (his comic timing in Blade: Trinity stole the show from Wesley Snipes, you KNOW it did! :)) to being ridiculously horrible and WRONG (The Amityville Horror--save for the shirtless scenes, what was the point?). So, the red flags were a-flying. But, Hope Davis and Melissa McCarthy were also the leads, so I gave it a shot and went.

And, I was amazed by what I saw. Filmed as three interlinking stories, The Nines asks questions about writers and the stories they create, and how many of us tend to take our creations very serious...even, in theory, believing we are God since we have the power to create these worlds for our own intended gain.

The film opens with THE PRISONER (PART ONE), and we are introduced to Gary, a popular tv show actor who, after a horrible break up with his girlfriend, sets her things on fire in a grill..and leaves the fire burning and burns down his own house. He then goes in a search for crack, picks up prostitute (Octavia Spencer), and ends up in a hotel room, cracked up and hallucinating. You he got a bad batch of crack when he calls 911 to tell them that he doesn't have a belly button. He leaves the hotel and drives off. As he's driving, his hallucinations become more pronounced when he starts to see other versions of himself in the backseat. He crashes his car and is arrested by the police. He is released from custody and placed on house arrest. He is taken to his place of residence by Margaret (Melissa McCarthy), his new publicist.

They end up at a huge mansion, where Gary is to stay for six weeks. Here, the viewer starts to notice very unusual things. For instance, Margaret seems VERY preoccupied with Gary, and threatens to break his ankles with a sledgehammer if he fucks up (MISERY, anyone? :)). Meanwhile, Gary starts to hear things in the night. One day, he meets his next door neighbor Sarah (Hope Davis), a very sensual and sexually vibrant married mother who is bored with her life and takes an immediate interest in Gary. The two hit off and the impending almost sexual tryst is done over Sarah singing the song "Is That All There Is?" (and done beautifully well by Hope). But, Sarah cuts Gary off and runs off to care for her child.

Mysteriously, Gary starts to notice that things aren't what they seem in the mansion. A message on a post, apparently in Gary's handwriting, just says Look at "The Knowing" is found on the kitchen table. Gary hears voices and believes rats are in the house and sets traps everywhere. One night, he is in the kitchen. He hears voices, and bumps right into---HIMSELF (!!!!!) He freaks out and the other "person" disappears. Gary steps in one of the traps and runs out of the house. He ends up at a bus stop where a young girl (Elle Fanning) seems to know him and is trying to get him to listen to her. Unfortunately, she is deaf and he doesnt understand what she's saying. Gary is arrested again.

This time, he is given an ankle bracelet and can't go anymore than 100 yards away from the house. Margaret illustrates this for hilarious effect when she marks a red line at the 100 yard mark. She decides to stay with him, and the two quickly connect. Sarah returns, and she is more cryptic and sinister. She tells Gary she can save him, and he doesnt understand what he needs to be "saved" by. Margaret, seemingly aware of who Sarah is, tries to explain what a "Nine" is and how Gary is so important. But, Sarah tells him she can get him out of all of this and save him. Gary, confused, confronts Margaret. Stepping across the red mark, everything around him dissolves into a mass of white light and slowly fades away to PART TWO: Reality

Here, the story focuses on Gavin (played by Reynolds), a popular screenwriter who is now directing the pilot "Knowing", a supernatural drama basically sold as "Rosemary's Toddler" (a polite riff on horror-suspense classic, Rosemary's Baby). The pilot is also being filmed as a part of a reality tv show following Gavin's journey getting the pilot on the air. It stars Gavin's best friend Melissa McCarthy (playing herself), the former star of Gilmore Girls who leaves her show (pre-dating Gilmore's cancellation in May 2007. Or, was it a prediction August made in his script?) to be a part of Knowing. The two have been best friends for fifteen years, with Melissa being Gavin's friendly "hag" (gay lingo for a straight woman who's best friends are gay. For the slow folk, Gavin is "family") and confidant. The pilot is running smoothly, save for one thing: The network head (a Big Brother type tha tno one sees or hears from in the story) isnt jazzed about Melissa as the lead actress. Melissa is talented, perky, and overweight--a No-No in television. So, Gavin goes to battle over Melissa as the start with the network. On his side is Susan (Hope Davis), his boss. She is okay with Melissa as the lead

They have a focus group for the pilot to generate fan interest. In the male focus group, the men make it clear that they dont like Melissa as the lead. One particular man, a bearded guy who seems to see Gavin on the other side a two sided mirror. Gavin is freaking out and the guy walks to the mirror and continues to stare at him, screaming he's not real. Gavin leaves. Later in the story, the network makes it clear they don't like Melissa and convinces Gavin to look at Dahlia Salem, a popular tv actress who left a pilot that was in limbo. He likes her, and decides to cast Dahlia as the lead, and also keeps his job since the network was going to fire him if he kept Melissa. Facing the inevitable, he tells Melissa over drinks and the two have one of the ugliest confrontations in recent history on film. She lets him know how fucked up he is for not standing by her and basically having her give up a steady gig on Gilmore Girls for his show. All Gavin could say is he made a decision--it was either him or her. He chose himself.

Weeks later, Gavin is at the upfronts--where all the new pilots are shown to basically drum up interest from network executives to get them on the air for the Fall. Gavin is there to promote "Knowing". On the way to a reception in the hotel, he runs into Dahlia. She gives him some unexpected news: She left "Knowing" to return to her original pilot, which was picked up by the network. No one told Gavin, so he is understandably crushed. He confronts Susan at the reception and she basically tells him that the "Knowing" has been shelved indefinitely. Angry, the two argue and Gavin slaps Susan in the face. Smirking, Susan asks him if he felt like a man for slapping her. She told him he didn't and left. Defeated, Gavin runs outside. He's telling the reality tv crew about what happened and how he felt. Then, he notices bright objects (reminiscent of "The Sims") above people's heads and realizes that things clearly aren't what they seem. A woman (Octavia Spencer) asks Gavin what's wrong. He says nothing is wrong. Then, she asks him: "Then who are you talking to?" It's apparent that the reality crew is a figment of Gavin's imagination--more characters he "created" in his life. The scene fades to black and we end up with "Part Three: Knowing".

It is here that things sorta come together. In this story, the pilot Gavin created actually becomes real. Gabriel (Reynolds again) is a video game designer who is out with family in the woods. His wife Mary (McCarthy) and daughter Noelle (Elle Fanning) are having a good time. They come back to their car and realize that the engine shut down. Gabriel goes to get help, leaving the other two at the car. Getting to the highway, Gabriel meets Sierra (Davis), a hiker who shuns him when he asks her for help. He runs into her further up the highway. She offers to help him and the two walk to an area where Gabriel can use his phone.

Once in the woods, Sierra tells him the story about her ex-boyfriend, a gamer who was obsessed with Gabriel's games. He preferred those games to her, and in anger, she decides to kill him by giving him water laced with lots of GHB. Gabriel drinks the water Sierra gives him, and he starts to convulse. Sierra laced his drink with GHB, as he is "dying", Sierra tells him to accept the truth: That he is "God" and that he needs to accept the power he has. Turns out, Gabriel is a kind of "god" who created this world and ninety other versions of the world. ALL PEOPLE are his creations, and he rids himself of them everytime they fall apart. He is approached by other followers of his--Octavia Spencer (the prostitute in Part One and the woman on the sidewalk in Part Two) and Dan Dehman (the security installer-Part One; the agitated focus group man-Part Two)--who tell him to let it go and move on.

Eventually, he does and he tells Mary, his wife. Mary has always known who Gabriel truly was, and she feared the day that he would leave her forever. Noelle knew also. Come to find out--Mary was Gabriel's favorite creation and one he would miss. He leaves and the film ends with Mary and Noelle at home with a new husband, moving on as life would.

I know this review is probably confusing as hell, and it should be...The Nines raised so many pointed and interesting questions about the writer as creator and how that power can be intoxicating and poisoning. The performances were outstanding by EVERYONE.

Hope Davis and Melissa McCarthy both showed they are more than the quirky characters they play in the many films they have on their resumes. Both women showed complex and illuminating layers of strength, sensuality, and power. Both were perfectely cast, and their names will definitely be thrown around come awards seasons.

Ryan Reynolds shows that he has acting chops aplenty and has a dramatic presence that should net him more meatier roles in the future.

The first two parts were amazing. It is clear that Part Two is autobiographical. After the success of the first Charlie's Angels, John was given the chance to write and create his own TV show, the ill fated on the W.B. Only lasting seven episodes, the show was marked more for the turmoil going on behind the scenes. August was fired by HIS BOSS, the infamous Dick Wolf, the "demi-god" of the Law and Order franchise (Wolf has his own problematic history in tv. I did laugh when he predicted that ALIAS wouldn't last after its first two years and ALIAS laid a smack down on Criminal Intent the two seasons the shows completed against each other. And, I'm sure Wolf is PRAYING for "24" to leave the air..:))

The third part of the film collapses for a host of reasons, but overall, The Nines is a very good film and an excellent first effort by writer-director John August.

It's unfair that August is being compared to David Lynch and Charlie Kaufman. Lynch and Kaufman have made a career of making films with twisted, non-linear narratives, characters swapping identities, and just multi-faceted and layered plots and characters. They have both produced some great works that will most definitely stand the test of time (Lynch--Mulholland Drive and sublime, underrated, and under-seen Inland Empire--a MUST see and a film that will be reviewed here in the coming weeks; Kaufman: Being John Malkovich, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind were two amazing films that are STILL talked about to this day for their innovations and powerful and profound questions they raise). August shouldn't be compared to them--YET. Someday, he will be there if he makes films similar to The Nines and other, more innovative work. The Nines is a symbol of what is to come for John August. And, I am definitely waiting anxiously for his next project.

Sites to Visit related to the film:

The Nines

John August

Composer Alex Wurman


Saturday, August 25, 2007

WAR starring Jet Li and Jason Statham

Logline: An FBI Agent seeks vengeance on a mysterious assassin known as "Rogue" who murdered his partner.

Basically, War is nothing more than an extended 100 minute visual assault, without the Kung Fu/Wire work mastery we know Jet Li is famous for (and can ACTUALLY DO without the aid of wires).

The plot is very paper thin: Special Agent Jack Crawford (an oddly attractive yet aging gracefully Jaston Statham, the British Vin Diesel, only smarter with his film choices, a little more talented and is AWARE of what his fans want. Sorry Vin, we're still waiting for greatness--that you can ACTUALLY prove and not boast about) becomes obsessed with "Rogue", a mythical assassin that kills his partner and his family because of revenge.

Crawford goes on a three year mission to find Rogue and kill him for what he did to his partner Crawford looses his marriage, his family (Andrea Roth, fantastic and amazing on F/X's Rescue Me has NOTHING to do here..NOTHING!), and, in theory, his soul.

The movie focuses on his journey to find "Rogue" and all of the double-crossing and shenanigans that go on when "Rogue" (played gamely and surprisingly, with a touch of understatement by Jet Li) starts taking out members of the Yakuzas (Shiro Clan, led by rising star Kira-san (Devon Aoki), daughter of Shiro (Ryo Ishibashi).

You would think that a film like this would be RIPE with the kinds of shrewd and complex plotting, action theatrics, and turns and twists ala John Woo's Face/Off, or any film by any of the current, past, and even future Asian film directors (Tsui Hark, Kar Wai Wong, Taashi Miike {exploitative or not, he turns it OUT with the theatrics}, Chan-wook Park {Oldboy}, etc.). And, the film DOES have that potential.

But, it just falls apart quickly, because the film wasn't written well at all. Why are we supposed to care about Crawford? He willingly gave up his life and home to avenge his partner's murder? Okay, fine. But, Jack Crawford was written so one-dimensionally that it was hard to care.

And, the last minute twist at the end? SHAAADE. You mean to tell me with all of the mediocre action set pieces, the LACK of bullets and ku fung (the film should have had nonstop didn't), this is how you end it? Wow, thanks for insulting the audience's intelligence, Lion's Gate. THANKS.

Both Li and Statham are credible action stars that are credible ACTORS who can handle a well written and paced complex action/drama. War was NOT that film.

I think this pairing, if given a well written script, could work in future films. It just didn't work in this one.

Grade: Performances: C-/Action: C-/Writing: NE/Audiences being duped into making this one of the top films of the weekend(WATCH): NE Overall Grade: C-/NE

The Rating System

So if many you have noticed, I give letter grades for my reviews: A, A-, etc.

Besides the fact that it's just easier, it's actually a throwback to my time as an undergrad at Oberlin College. We had letter grades, but there were degrees of them.

So, we have the A grade: A+/A/A- Essentially, if a review has this, then you know it was very good or was very strong on the writing, performances, etc. I'm very particular, so a film would have to BRING IT on so many levels to get one of these grades. I don't give them out, but you'll see them here on occasion :)

B+/B/B- These are good films, decent acting, good writing, and the overall film was fine.

C+/C/C-: The film wasn't great, plot holes, spotty acting, just poorly executed in general. Now, before you say that only Hollywood films will get this rating (If you notice, there tends to be a more "indie" mindset here), i will give this rating to ANY film that is horrible.

NE: No Entry...:) basically, in undergrad, grades BELOW a C- were NOT counted nor acknowledged on official transcripts. No Entry means that your overall performance was lacking, beyond spotty, and just downright a mess.
For films, if a movie is SO shitty, so horribly acted, written, etc., you WILL see a No Entry.

So, there you go...not that any of you care..:)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

DVD Corner: Something New (2006)

Something New isn’t new at all. In fact, it follows the same tried and true formula for most romantic comedies.

What’s different is the fact that the lead characters are a White landscaper, and a Black accountant.

Directed by video director Sanaa Hamri, and written by Kriss Turner (Co-Executive Producer and Writer for some episodes on Everybody Hates Chris), the film is about Kenya Denise McQueen (Sanaa Lathan), a hard working career woman who is up for partner in her accounting firm.

She has it all: a great job, friends and family who love her, top-notch education (Stanford and Wharton), etc However, Kenya lacks the one thing she craves and doesn’t have: An equally successful Black man on her arm. It’s been two years since her last relationship (A man named Rashid Muhammad, who is basically referenced in a conversation over drinks at a bar, and a phone message at Kenya’s house), and Kenya is quite guarded and wary of love.

She is single, lives in Los Angeles and bought her first house. Kenya is a woman who wants a social life, but never has time to have one. But, she does have an endless (!!!) mental checklist of what she’s looking for when she meets Mr. Right.

After spending Valentine’s Day with her girlfriends Cheryl (Wendy Raquel Robinson), Nedra (Taraji P. Henson), and Suzette (Golden Brooks), Kenya agrees that she needs to “let go, let flow” and be more open to getting out there and dating.

Reluctantly, Kenya goes on a blind date courtesy of her coworker Leah (Katherine Towne), a soon to be married Jewish woman whose well-meaning, but meddlesome ways irk Kenya. Leah sets her up with Brian, who is clearly everything Kenya wants: tall, handsome, perfect, and an architect. So, Kenya agrees to meet him at a Starbucks in Crenshaw (!!!!) one day.

And, Kenya does meet Brian (Simon Baker-Denny)...a White (!!!!), landscape architect who happens to work for Leah’s family. Shocked and flustered, Kenya is NOT feeling Brian and cuts him off. But, she runs into him at Leah’s pre-wedding party. Not deterred by Kenya’s rudeness, he offers to help landscape her backyard. Grudgingly, she agrees.

Kenya’s coldness and reservations are eventually worn down by Brian’s charm and free-spiritedness and a romance develops.

Something New is “new”, because the story is told from the perspective of an intelligent and hard working Black woman. Clearly, this rarely happens in Hollywood since you can count the number of Black actresses who can carry a film on one hand.

Of course, you would expect this point of view since it was written, directed, and produced by Black women.
Kriss Turner’s script does discuss the kinds of pressures facing Black women when considering a partner, be he Black or otherwise. It is a romantic comedy, and it is light on the heavy subject matter. But, it is well written and works most of the film.

Unfortunately, the film falls flat in a few areas. Questions that came up while viewing this film in theaters and on DVD: Why would Brian be attracted to Kenya? Why would Kenya be so willing and so quick to fall in love with his man? Who is Brian?

Clearly, this is a movie and these questions may never be answered. But, after viewing this film on DVD, I was expecting a little more discussion around the issue of interracial relationships. The last film to go there was Zebrahead, a classic 1991 romantic drama starring N’bushe Wright (Where is she?), and Michael Rappaport as high school students who fall in love at a Detroit high school.

Though not as profound and thought provoking as Zebrahead, Something New is a light, superficial romantic comedy that does bring up some interesting questions about race, class, and dating. It just doesn’t go further when exploring these intriguing questions.

The DVD offers a couple of featurettes. The soundtrack, done by Prince collaborators Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman (producers who have worked with Me’shell Ndegeocello, have composed for TV Shows Crossing Jordan and the upcoming Heroes: Origins episodes, etc.) is a powerful mix of hip hop, slow jams, and light yet complex small piano/string arrangements that add to the light, yet slightly complex mood of the film.

GRADE: B+ (for the performances)/B+(the writing)/B+(for the musical soundtrack and score)
Rating: PG-13

The Nines--Limited Release August 31st

Not much has been said about this film, which is a complete shame. Since I haven't seen it yet, I just want you to take a trip over to the films website. :)

It's written and directed by John August ( Screenwriter of the films Go and Big Fish), and stars Ryan Reynolds (Blade: Trinity, Smoking Aces), Hope Davis (American Splendor, Proof, and recently on the canceled ABC show Six Degrees and February 08 release of Charlie Bartlett), Melissa McCarthy (Sookie St. James on Gilmore Girls {*sigh* RIP}), and Elle Fanning (most recently in Babel, younger sister of Dakota Fanning, and an in demand actress in her own right).

The synopsis: A troubled actor, a television show runner, and an acclaimed videogame designer find their lives intertwining in mysterious and unsettling ways.

Hmm...I think I'll be in line when the film comes out next Friday.


The Nines Film Website

John August
Note: John's site is QUITE informative and a very useful resource for any aspiring or working screenwriter, especially his post regarding the subject of Race and Screenwriting

Check it out. This could either be a classic, or a very experimental blunder. But, with the talent behind and in front of the camera, I'm thinking the former.

See you in line 31 August 2007.

The Nines will be playing at oh-so trendy Landmark Sunshine Cinemas in the even more trendy Lower East Side (insert bountiful moments of sarcasm here! :))

Monday, August 20, 2007

Not A Film Post/Veronica Mars done good!!!!

But a very good detour...

120 Minutes

*Some of the videos that MTV played--when they played music. Artists as diverse as Liz Phair, Moby, Tori Amos, Orbit, Violent Femmes, etc. it's over 25 pages of videos and not all work, but TRUST ME, those of you who were "striking a beat to a different drummer" or just liked different kinds of music, will reminisce when you see these videos. And, they have "How Soon Is Now?" by The Smiths--I piddled!!!! ;)
*Courtesy of Whitney Matheson at Pop Candy (Thanks Whit!)

And, this IS a film blog, but there will be discussions around tv shows. You may see blogs about some of the more buzzed about tv shows: Bionic Woman, Gossip Girl, Pushing Dasies, Women's Murder Club, etc.

One of the BETTER shows to be on television, Veronica Mars was cut ridiculously SHORT. But it's star, Kristen Bell, is ON DEMAND. Being courted by several studios for film and tv work, she will be in a multiepisode arc on NBC'S HEROES. The Variety blurb about her:
Kristen Bell on HEROES:

DVD Corner: THE DESCENT (2006/2007)

A Repost from an older blog I had online.

The Brits Rule Horror: A Review of The Descent

So, let's face it. Horror films today are pathetic. They aren't very scary, nor do they elicit the kinds of shock and awe that sci-fi/fantasy/horror films of the 70's and 80's did (anyone here remember or even watched: Alien, Aliens, The Exorcist, the original Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street, The Thing, Hellraiser, The Entity, Halloween, etc.)

Horror films today are extremely violent, to the point of being cartoonish. Save for a few films like 28 Days Later (which was more sci-fi/thriller), and the Russian indie horror-thriller Night Watch that came out earlier this year, horror movies today aren't scary at all. They're quite boring.

So, you know I was quite skeptical when I heard about and saw early trailers for the British import, The Descent. I was a little intrigued: most of what I saw took place in darkness...all you see are lights flashing and girls screaming. But, it didn't really give much away. But, I was curious so I put it on a list of summer films to see. The cast was mostly British, and the brits seem to have a lock on doing a good horror film with suspense.

The Descent came out August 4th, and damn it, I was stunned! The film was QUITE GOOD! No, SERIOUSLY!!!

The basic plot: A group of female friends led by Juno (Natalie Mendoza) encounter bloodthirsty creatures when they get trapped in a mountain cave due to rockfall. Worst of all they their friendships sour and they discover their real fear is from each other... (from

That's it. But, The Descent was more than that. Suprisingly, it touched upon some very interesting dynamics in regard to gender, morality and even faith.

So, wasn't it totally cool that the ENTIRE cast was female??? I felt that was one of the more original things about the film. Rarely, do you have a horror film in which the main "beacons" of masculinity are conceptualized as women. What I mean is that in horror films, the guys are usually the ones who save the day or protect everyone. In The Descent, the women are fending for themselves and they are KICKING ASS.

Natalie Mendoza is a particular standout as Juno, a no-nonsense caver who is one of the first characters to fight when she battles one of the creatures over Holly's body, the first (and honestly, the MOST annoying character in the film and i was glad she went first) character to get offed by the cave creatures. It's rare that you would have a woman take on a role that we would normally see a man play and be so natural at it. It's even rarer still that you would have a woman of color (Mendoza is Filipina) in this role also.

Shauna McDonald, as the "heroine" Sarah, was also effective as a grief ridden widow who became a bad ass in her own right fighting to survive in the caves. McDonald played her role very well.

Alex Reid (Beth), Saskia Mulder (Rebecca), My-Anna Burning (Sam), and Nora-Jane Noone (Holly) were also very good.

Did anyone get that Rebecca and Sam were sisters???? I didn't..I totally thought they were a couple. But, I checked the film's website, and the synopsis said they were sisters. I REALLY couldn't tell when they were hugged up on each other as one the creatures crawled past them in the tunnel (UNNN HUNNNHHH...HOW YOU DOIN? :))

Wasn't it fucked up how Beth did Juno towards the end? Juno was wrong for fucking Sarah's husband, but did Beth have to wimp out and bust her that way? Did she do it because of how she felt Juno left her to die (which I didn't see as a bad thing: in the circumstances they were in, Juno probably felt she did what she could for Beth. But, Juno also could have dragged her to safety or took her life like Beth asked Sarah to do later.) That dynamic was played out in an interesting, albeit, irritating way.

The ending: What Thee Fuck??? I saw the British alternative ending and felt that it was FAR superior to what you will see in the theater. I felt the ambiguous questions that ending posed (Did Sarah get out alive? Is Juno really dead? Has Sarah gone crazy or is she actually "seeing" her daughter?) were actually good ones and I wish American audiences don't have to wait until the DVD comes out here in the states (it's already out in the UK and Europe)

The plot holes: Why were those creatures there? Were they an offshoot of man, who were developed enough to live underground and in the darkness? How do they breed? I wish these questions were addressed during the film. I think that it might have been interesting to reconfigure the fates of some of the characters. Like, what if the creatures took some of the women to be breeders? We only see one female creature in the film. How to these beings procreate? Or, do they? Where do they procreate? The "Pool of Blood"? The film could have gone MANY places with these questions. But, I guess Neil Marshall (A superb filmmaker who directed the VASTLY underrated and rarely seen werewolf film Dog Soldiers (2002)) did not have the budget or time to go there.

Overall, I give The Descent a grade of A/A-

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Welcome to FilmGeekChronicles!!

Okay, so this should have been the FIRST post of this blog. But, it's damn near 3am in the morning. Sue me.

This blog will be about all things film: indie, Hollywood, foreign, etc. I love film and I finally get a chance to wax poetic about some of my favorite films, directors, and review current films and comment about films in production, etc.

Of course, I will definitely bring a nice little 'ol intellectually sound perspective to the intersections of race, class, sexuality, and identity and how they are/are not accurately portrayed in films....

Eventually, when I can sum up enough courage, I will even post parts of scripts in progress of my own.

Who am I? Just an Ivy league educated, Black man whose vivid memories are as a six year old, sitting with my Dad, watching ALIEN on HBO, a couple years after it coming out and telling him "I wanna do that". Now, here I am, after several years of starts and aborts, I'm determined to do this and see where it takes me.

I hope you come along for the ride and enjoy what you read and learn along the way.



Rape is about power. It is about the domination of the physical body, mental state and emotional psyche.

“Descent”-starring Rosario Dawson as Maya, an intellectually gifted undergraduate honors student at a nondescript, academically rigorous small liberal arts school in the Northeast (insert Wesleyan, Swarthmore, Amherst, Oberlin or Haverford for emphasis) who barely survives a brutal sexual assault-makes this vividly obvious and clear, dramatizing the act with level of stark vividness I have never seen in any film, American or otherwise.

Maya is attacked by someone she knows. It is Jared: an All-American, former pianist turned second-string football player (Chad Faust). He flirts with Maya at a party one spring, clearly in awe of and taken by her mixed-race beauty and, after a couple of tries, eventually convinces her to go on a date that ends in a candlelit, makeshift love shack in the basement of his apartment building.

The ordeal is over in minutes. Maya never reports it. But, during the Summer (the film is broken into sections that follow the changing of the seasons) her rage over what happens grows, and is acknowledged and transformed into an act of extreme sexual violence in which Maya sinks to Jared’s level.

But, “Descent” is not just about power. Directed by Talia Lugacy, a first time filmmaker who met Dawson when both were students at The Lee Strasberg Institute, seems very committed to exploring the psychic violence associated with rape and how Maya attempts to rebuild her life and move on from it. But, Lugacy also explores how this rape destroys Maya’s perspective on race and sexuality and her own freedom, all of which is violated by Jared when he calls her vile and racist names (“baboon”, “bitch”, etc.)

This is where “Descent” becomes more than a rape-revenge fantasy. What Lugacy (and writing partner Brian Faust) have done is to place this film in the academic, yet very real space of the intersections of race, class, sexuality, and identity. Up until now, one can assume that the issue of race was something Maya never addressed in her life. This rape awakened (in a very brutal and difficult way) Maya’s consciousness as a woman of color—a woman who is both objectified and reviled because of the very potent and real space she lives in and navigates as a woman of mixed-race (presumably, the viewer assumes that Maya is Black and Latina, but even then, this treads into an area of unfair and equally as damning and problematic labeling that many individuals who are mixed-race face by those who are not willing nor able to understand how “fluid” racial identity can be and is in this society).

This new racial consciousness is symbolized by Maya’s visits to a dance club in the city and her relationship to Adrian (British musician turned actor Marcus Patrick), an Afro-Latino DJ she meets after a night of hard partying. Even though it is implied, this consciousness is seen when Maya finally finds the courage to dance among the writhing bodies on the dance floor, and starts to experiment with drugs all in an effort to reclaim what Jared stole from her.

But, this attack makes it clear that Maya will never be able to go through life being judged on her intelligence and character. Maya (like all men and women of color) will be judged on her racial and sexual identity as well her beauty. She figures this out by hanging with Adrian, an extremely physical and sexually potent man who gives her bits of advice and “street wisdom” while slowly introducing her to cocaine and other drugs. Adrian is a bit of an anomaly himself: while clearly positioning himself as “straight”, it is obvious that Adrian is, more or less, omni/pansexual. He is a fan of the ladies and men, as evidenced by an “all-American” White boy whose racial and sexual desire of Adrian is played up for humiliation and laughs when he makes the boy smoke a cigarette from between his toes. It is here that power comes into play for those who are “oppressed”; Maya becomes more assertive when playing out and playing up her racial and sexual identities for White people who are obsessed by her looks: two particular scenes speak to this when Maya forces a White girl to wear makeup, and when Maya blindfolds (flirting with aspects of bondage) the very boy Adrian humiliated in an early scene, conceptions of power and how it can be interchanged become an additional space in this movie.

It is here that “Descent” transcends the rap-revenge fantasy motif (done for laughs and exploitation in such films like Irreversible (2002), The Last House On The Left (1972), and I Spit On Your Grave/Day Of The Woman (1978), and countless other Hollywood films in which women are subjected to various forms of objectification and rape—both physical and emotional) and becomes more about the ways in which is both a very sobering and ripe metaphor for racial, sexual and cultural domination, and how the consequences and retribution for this is always inhumane and extremely callous.

Rather than go into Jared’s “karmic undoing” and ultimately telling the truth of who he truly is, Maya’s retribution makes the nine-minute anal rape of Alex (Monica Bellucci) in Irreversible seem like a soft-core joke, and the graphic rape and murder of the girls in The Last House On The Left seem like a bad comedy. The scene is graphic, disturbing, extreme, and infinitely expected. But, it leaves the viewer with the question: Was it worth it? Did Maya really get her “vengeance” and “freedom” from what Jared did to her? This is left up to the viewer when the camera holds on Maya’s face during the final minutes of the film, and she is crying, silently, and in theory, back in the same place she was at the beginning of the film.

This film could not have worked without the powerful and ridiculously engaging performances by Dawson, Chad Faust, and Marcus Patrick. To say that this is a career-making performance for these actors is tame. All three DESERVE the right to be considered and INCLUDED in all nominations for the upcoming awards season.

Rosario, finally able to show the dramatic chops she rarely gets a chance to show in past films (with The 25th Hour, He Got Game, and Kids being exceptions), truly gives a bare, revealing, and very profound performance as Maya. In Maya, Dawson gives the viewer an insight into the perspective a woman who has been violated by rape, and the difficult attempts she makes to overcome it and heal. I think Maya also speaks to the small numbers of men who are also victims of sexual violence and don’t have the voice to “speak” about their assault because of cultural and societal mores. Maya also embodies the countless students of color who attend colleges just like Maya’s: lily-White, “All-American” environments where those who are “different” or “other” are rendered invisible, or reduced to being nothing more than racial and sexual objects for consumption by White men (and women) who are both unknowingly and actively objectifying their peers who are of color.

Extremely hard to watch and difficult to see and take in, “Descent” is a film that is needed to not only start and expand the current dialogue on rape and sexual violence, but to also have a very honest discussion about power and how it influences the intersections of race, class, sexuality, and identity in very negative and frightening ways. Both realistic and theoretical, “Descent” takes you to an uncomfortable place. But, a place that is honest and raw and one that we all need to be in order to fully address and combat sexual violence against men and women in society.

DESCENT is rated NC-17 and is currently playing in a limited-engagement run at CC Village East Cinemas (181 2nd Avenue on 12th Street).

GRADE: A- (for the performances)/B+ (for the writing)