Inglourious Basterds: Tarantino’s best work since Pulp Fiction—brash, over-the-top, ultra-violent, but with stellar acting and some of the best dialogue Tarantino has ever written.
As a bonus it’s always great to see Brad Pitt play white trash. He seems to love it so much.
It takes a supremely self-confident director to make this kind of movie, and especially to give himself the time needed to let some of the scenes really work.
An astonishing work.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End: I have a formula for determining the absolute suckitude of a movie: Multiply the suck factor of the movie with the cost of making it.
By that formula this may just be the worst movie ever made.
World’s End is a clanking, soulless, CGI nightmare with a plot like somebody put a 100 frat boys in a room, doused them with absinthe, had them write down their hallucinations, and then employed a particularly slow-witted orangutang to cut-and-paste the hallucinations into a script.
Lord, it’s bad. So bad. There can’t be a loving god who would allow something like this to be made.
Rollerball (1975): Yes, it’s from 1975, and no, some aspects haven’t aged well at all, especially the “cool futuristic” sets.
Be that as it may, Rollerball is definitely a classic. The basic premise is that in the future corporations run everything and have created a game called rollerball for the masses to focus on instead of, you know, paying anything to what’s going on around them. Rollerball involves two teams of skaters. To up the brutality, each team also has two motorcycles. The teams chase a lethally heavy ball around the court. It’s an exercise in horrid brutality with bloody casualties a large part of the enjoyment.
The in-game scenes are well executed, and are furiously fast-paced for 1975, which for our jump-cut addled brains in 2010 feels slow and detached. But despite the pacing, they are still rousing and intense.
Apart from the sports scenes, Rollerball is an exploration of dystopia and the corrupt, cynical people who run it.
James Caan does an incredible job as the best rollerballer on the planet, portraying him with both tender sadness in his private life and as a raging menace on the field. It’s a captivating portrayal.
Rollerball is worth watching just for Caan’s performance, but add in the well-executed rollerball scenes, the thoughtful portrayal of dystopia and the weight of malaise and futility that permeates the movie and this one is a classic.
District 13: Ultimatum: Big, dumb, preposterous and fun action movie like Hollywood used to make in the ’80s. Lots of karate, lots of parkeur, lots of stuff blowing up.
If you can put your brain in pause and just go along with it, District 13: Ultimatum is a lot of fun.
The Brotherhood of the Wolf: French thriller taking place a few years before the revolution in which a monstrous beast is terrorizing a remote region.
It’s well made with intense action sequences and, since it’s French, some completely gratuitous boobies.
The Brotherhood of the Wolf clocks in at 2 hours and 24 minutes, which is way too long and leads to spacing issues. Parts of it drag severely. Cut down to about an hour and a half, this could be a taut, intense thriller.
Miracle: I’m not big on either sports or nationalism, but Miracle—telling the story of the 1980 US olympic hockey gold in Lake Placid—is a spectacular feel-good movie.
Watching coach Herb Brookes—portrayed splendidly by Kurt Russell although with a Minnesota accent that drifts in and out—get his ragtag team of athletes ready to compete with and ultimately beat the presumed-invincible Russian hockey machine is spellbinding.
Excellent pick-me-up movie.
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans: Wow, really? Werner Herzog, aka “I make crazy dark movies about the futility of the human condition” Werner remakes Bad Lieutenant, one of the most hardcore and depressing movies ever and the result is meh? What?
Nicolas Cage, despite the volume of abominable dreck he’s been starring in, is a fantastic actor, but he spends the entire movie channeling Christopher Walken. Which is weird, but not weird enough. In the original Bad Lieutenant Harvey Keitel is frightening and doomed, in this one Nicolas Cage is … well, goofy.
Herzog really phoned this one in.
Very disappointing. Watch the original Bad Lieutenant again instead.
Crazy Heart: I’m sorry, but I just can’t work up a lot of sympathy for a has-been country and western star. I thought being a drunken self-centered loser was part of the job description?
As he always does, Jeff Bridges puts in a stellar portrayal of a pathetic loser with dignity and gravitas, but it’s mind-numbingly boring to watch.
Although there may have been space combat scenes with robots and lasers toward the end of the movie. I wouldn’t know. I turned it off.
It’s probably just me, but this theme Hollywood keeps regurgitating about how you can be a self-centered shit your whole life and make everybody hate you, but as soon as a hot woman young enough to be your effing grand daughter for some reason decides to calms you down everything will be okay and your self-loathing will disappear seems like wish-fulfillment of the highest orders for the sociopathic scum at the top of the totem pole in Hollywood.
Sherlock Holmes: Fun high-energy movie that has more to do with the Bourne Identity than with Sherlock Holmes.
You like Bourne, you’ll like this, even though you’ll have to work pretty hard to get past the über-silliness of the plot.
Crimson Rivers: French thriller about a series of off-the-charts-grisly murders that lead to the discovery of a Dark Secret From the Past™.
Not the greatest thriller ever, and suffers from some overwrought camera work, but worth watching if nothing else for Jean Reno as the Grizzled Detective™ with bags under his eyes that need their own passports. Reno is the man.
And yes, the movie does explain what the title actually means.
Crimson Rivers 2: Angels of the Apocalypse: Stunningly bad sequel to Crimson Rivers. This may very well be one of the worst thrillers I’ve had the misfortune of seeing. Oh, dearie me.
Try not to laugh when the monks in robes start doing parkour. Really.
Jean Reno spends most of the movie looking acutely embarrassed, as well he should.
Up in the Air: This is the kind of movie that makes you think. George Clooney pays Ryan Bingham, a man whose job it is to travel across the country and lay people off. As you’d expect from a person who makes a living out of causing people pain, he is emotionally dead and has traded human connection for the service smiles of his endlessly traveling lifestyle, living in hotels and airports, unencumbered by human relationships.
So, he’s a narcissistic shitheel. But at the same time it’s hard to not see the attraction. Binghman is self-contained in his element, smug and untouchable as he goes through the motions of his pointless existence.
Up in the Air is a good movie in that it makes you think—it’s a breath of fresh air to get a completely different perspective on reality. But it’s also painful to watch. If you’ve ever been laid off, the firing scenes are near-unwatchable.
Still, Clooney and the rest of the cast do a pitch-perfect job and the movie is beautifully shot.
For myself, I’ve always loved airports and the sense of freedom and solitude they provide and can certainly see the attraction of Bingham’s lifestyle. Which is kind of difficult to admit since he is an emotional cripple.
Zombieland: Art House movie about the loneliness of the human condition, cleverly disguised as a shlock horror/comedy movie about life after the Zombie Apocalypse, filled with over-the-top action and painful one-liners.
Despite the grisly zombie-killing sequences, the plot is admirably focused and spare, and Zombieland moves to its conclusion with great economy.
It’s always nice to see movies that can be watched on different levels.
From Russia With Love: James Bond movie from 1963. That’s right. 1963.
It’s always great to watch good Bluray transfers from film, and this is an example.
From Russia With Love really hasn’t aged well, what with the entire world view shifting since it was released, but it’s well worth watching as long as you remember that the Bond movies always showcase the absolutely coolest tech and the coolest looks imaginable in an era. So the way people dress and talk was the penultimate of cool back in 1963.
Pinstripe suits, slim ties, and only street thugs and gypsies failed to shave daily and wear a natty hat.
Everybody smoked. Everywhere. All the time.
And the tech … oh, the tech! James Bond had a car phone in 1963! Can you even imagine how totally future it seemed in 1963 that you could talk on the phone in your car.
Includes Hollywood Dead, Tales from the Loop, Things from the Flood, The Court of Broken Knives, and Port of Shadows.
Nic has a retinal tear and has his vision is saved by a laser.
Includes The Storm Before the Storm, White Trash, Calypso, Tell the Machine Goodnight, Prince of Fools, and Provenance.
The Internet tells Nic to install Ubiquiti gear in his house, so he does, and now he has thoughts.
What I wish I’d known when I started podcasting.
Nic starts a new podcast about—gasp!—American sports.
Mostly excellent non-fiction in this installment. Includes Fantasyland, The Miracle of Dunkirk, Das Reich, The Undoing Project, Waiting for the Punch, Vacationland and Points of Impact.