Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Island: NOW we're talking!

I cannot say enough good things about this movie. I remember when it came out and did terrible in the theaters. I read article after article about how awful box office receipts have been with the theater owners bitching at Hollywood for putting out crappy movies, etc. How folks missed the boat on this one is WAY beyond me.

I loved this movie so much I won't even do any spoilers. But here's the basic plot. It's far in the future where rich folks have learned how to cheat death by buying "insurance policies" with clones of themselves. So when that new heart or liver is required they have full sized replicas of themselves, ready to go. Sounds great. Our docile clone friends are kept in a secret facility where they hang out with one another, staying healthy and working their menial jobs. Whenever one of them is needed for the client, they are winners of a lottery whereby they are sent to a mysterious island to live out their days in nirvana. But here's pesky Ewan McGregor as Lincoln 6 Echo who has a few questions. This is not good and sets up this action-packed thriller nicely.

It doesn't hurt at all to watch Scarlett Johannsen in the role of Jordan. She's curvy and beautiful, Lincoln's special friend (they're not allowed to be boyfriend and girlfriend), is really a nice person and can kick ass too. I really liked the two of them together as they discover the outside world.

The scene stealer is Steve Buscemi as the crusty janitor/custodian character who befriends Lincoln. He tries to teach him the ways of the world but not too much - he wants to keep his job. The series of scenes where he helps the pair escape are hysterical. He gets all the best lines and delivers them snappily.

This flick contains many "movie miracles" where, during The Matrix-styled action sequences, our protagonists don't break any bones or lose any limbs or anything. That was to be expected so it didn't bother me too much.

Sean Bean stars as the clone company's director and I mention him because I like the way he plays the role and best of all, I liked the desk in his office. It's this futuristic light-box surface that uses a crystal pyramid as it's mouse. He instructs Lincoln to draw him a picture and "pushes" a pad of paper graphic across the desk while handing him a stylus. Lincoln scribbles away and then slides it back over to the doc to check it out. Very neat techie stuff.

This movie is a MUST RENT dvd. It's exciting, sensual, and cool. Watch it and tell me how stupid it is.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster: Or, how to hate Lars Ulrich ten times more than you already do.

I don't think I need to mention there are spoilers because the movie is a documentary. Also folks, if anyone reading this is *not* a Metallica fan you can stop reading right now. Please, click on one of my Amazon links or search something in Google. But non-fans need not be bothered by this post.

I would say I'm pretty late to the Metallica-fan game. I only started really liking and listening to them in the early 90's. I think I'm about done, however, being that the last time I saw them I paid upwards of $70 per ticket and felt kind of "eh" after the show. But my husband and I wanted to check it out nonetheless.

The premise of the movie, um, excuse me, documentary, is to record the making of Metallica's St. Anger album. At first, it's an intriguing view into the music production business. Is that how they write music? Is that how they come up with the lyrics? It seems so stupid: A bunch of really rich rockers sitting around together writing on little scraps of paper. But then their personalities get in the way and it gets interesting.

The most amazing thing happens in this movie. The members of the group work with a therapist to deal with their bassist Jason leaving the band (loss) and learn how to segue into another era of music making millions after twenty plus years of togetherness. At first I was like "are you guys for real?" but then I began to believe it. During their therapy sessions I was first reminded of typical reality TV shows where folks vomit up their innermost feelings with a gleam in their eye. That was what watching Lars was like. Then I saw James, our intrepid lead singer, who was so obviously uncomfortable you could see it onscreen. And Kirk, the peaceable one, squirming on the sofa while nervously glancing at the other two. "Are they going to argue? Yes, oh crap, they are."

And then James goes to rehab and is gone for a year! Right in the middle of shooting! We have scenes of Lars and Kirk sitting around wondering "is he coming back? I don't know if he's coming back." I don't know if it's the music or the money that brings him back but of course he does. So now we have the newly sober James with a restricted work schedule being bitchy at the others. I had to agree with Lars: "what do you mean I can't listen to the music at 4:01pm? [after James has left for the day] " He points out that part of being a rock and roller is flaunting the rules, being a rebel and all. Even though Lars is a despicable little bastard he was right about that.

I really enjoyed watching them turn on their therapist. That hapless dude never saw it coming. Here he is, slaving for months with these self absorbed millionaires, only to be kicked to the curb like some slutty little groupie. The movie makers don't really show HOW he has helped bring the band back together. He makes a few canned therapist comments like "how does it feel to say these things about your father, Lars?" It comes across as embarrassing and stupid.

Somehow, thanks to Bob Rock as always, the band finishes the album. A very telling scene occurred at the prison where they shot the video for St. Anger. As an aside I saw the premier of the video back when it came out and it was kind of raw. This did not cover the fact that the song sucks. But anyway there is James and he's standing on stage addressing a group of very scary looking convicts and he's shaking! I mean really crapping in his pants kind of scared! I even exclaimed as much to my husband who was not impressed. But I found that his blatant fear made him seem so human to me. That he could be so rich and famous but be reduced at the same time.

There was a funny scene of Lars having a session with Dave Mustaine who CLEARLY has issues with the way he was booted from the band early on. I really think poor Dave really needs to get over it and move on. But I cracked up when he revealed that people see him on the street and yell "Metallica!" taunting him openly. That's the best.

I'm so glad that we Metallica fans can breathe a huge sigh of relief that the band will go on. Lars can continue being smarmy, James badass, Kirk peaceful and their new bassist, whatshisname Trujillo, pysched to be alive and working in the band. Speaking of Trujillo you can see their effort to avoid what they did to Jason, which was to treat him like the red-headed stepchild for 14 years. That was really rude. But, now that I've seen this movie, I know it's because of James' commitment issues and Lars' I-don't-feel-close-enough-to-James issues. I'm not a big fan of Trujillo. I can see he's really talented but I don't dig his braids or the way he jumps around onstage. It's just me.

Cold Mountain: How to spend several hours being sad


Why do I do this to myself? This movie was an impulse borrow from my local library. Thank goodness I didn't pay for it. I broke several personal movie-watching rules by choosing this movie:

1. It's a chick flick (love story)
2. It's a war movie
3. It's a historical movie with horses in it
4. It's got an advertised unhappy ending
5. It's a serious movie with high quality actors

I already can't remember anyone's name in the movie so I'll use the actors first names for simplicity. You have Nicole Kidman playing the dutiful preacher's daughter in this hick southern town of Cold Mountain. I thought she was a little old for the role. At her age she would have been an entrenched spinster or Old Maid. But she's so pretty I got over it. Then there's Jude, the hunky carpenter, who also would not have escaped husband-hood in those days but we move on as well. As expected, the pair are quickly falling in awkward love but the pesky Civil War breaks out and he has to go fight. Their good bye kiss is really hot, however, and I got a little stomach leap when it happened.

Then we have the parade of war horrors on the battlefield and at home. We see, in gory detail, battle scenes of soldiers being brave and getting blown up. I wondered how I could find Braveheart so cool and this so not. On the homefront we see our little lady, unable to care for herself, frightened of a rooster while cowering under the porch. Hard times come to the mountain and there's a serious lack of food. There is also an unfriendly bunch of gangsters who impose their own version of military law over the town. All the news is grim and it takes a LONG time to go through it.

But wait! Jude, after being injured, decides to get the heck out of there and make his way home to Nicole. Renee Zellweger comes to the farm and gets Nicole to pull herself up by the bootstraps. Things are looking up for the ladies but Jude is having a really rough time of it on his journey. There's danger everywhere. He fights starvation by eating tiny live crabs in the swamp. He hides from soldiers hunting for deserters. He faces Yankee soldiers attempting to rape and kill an innocent woman. This is another LONG part of the movie and I kept thinking "when is it going to end?"

Finally our protagonists are together. Really hooked up and having a hot sex scene. Excellent, roll the credits. But no! Our gangsters show up to ruin the day. My jaw dropped and I thought to myself, "NO! Not after all he went through!" But there it was: Jude dies in his lover's arms in a beautifully shot scene on the snowy mountain. I was depressed for a day.

I have to do some shout out's for some folks: Charlie Hunnam played Bosie, a sadistic, albino looking gangster. I've never heard of him, but he was very convincing in his meanness. Natalie Portman played the widow living alone in a cabin with a sick baby. Her loneliness cut me to the core. Jack White played a musician-surprise! I was positively creeped out watching Giovanni Ribisi tangle with the bloated carcass of a cow. Ugh.

On a more positive note my husband rented "The Island" with Ewan and Scarlett. That's more my speed. I'll let you know.