Tuesday, November 11, 2008

T'was The Worst of Times, T'was The Best of Times...

Hey all,

What a weekend for a moviehound...

So I had a lot of catching up to do with some movie-going, be it at home or in the darkened theater, and this past weekend was truly Les Marathon du Cinema...just the way I fuckin' like it. With everything going on these days, I barely have time at home to watch an episode of THE SHIELD (which is frikkin' AMAZING this season and shaping up to be one HELL of a climax...go Vic Mackey!) or TMZ, let alone a movie in one sitting or be able to get to go see one in the theater, but it worked out that we actually had some time to spare and this weekend was one hell of a Movie binge.

Shall we begin?

REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA: OK, now Im sure Im gonna catch some shit for this one....but REPO just didn't agree with me, Im sad to say. Since it was announced years ago (I loved seeing the concept boards and the presentation Darren did with Shawnee Smith and "The Rooker", who were missed in the final product) I was immediately intrigued with Bousman's passion project since I thought SAW 2 was the best film in the series and his sense of creative style (especially those one-take transitions that have now become parody in each new "spin" on the Saw franchise) was one I would immediately watch in any other project. I've only met him a handful of times but we rolled with the same "club" so to speak and I would keep hearing crazy stories about how REPO was coming to fruition, the even more surrealist casting (Bill Mosley AND Paris Hilton AND Orge AND Paul fucking Sorvino??) and the pictures on the web gave me the impression that good or bad, this will be one hell of a "vision" on-screen, so no matter that I can't fault DLB for wanting to create something unique and vibrant. In most cases, Im the only one amongst the circles who LIKES this sort of thing, so I had high hopes.

Well...the wait is over I guess. REPO has been released in a limited capacity in theaters after a long struggle to get it a wide release and truth be told....I think Lionsgate made the right choice by going limited. This is NOT a "general release" type film and I think having a big roll-out would have made the film more susceptible to terrible reviews, which Im sure the fan-base is calling "misunderstood opinions". This is very much a niche film, one that will eventually gain a cult following the same way HEAVY METAL and even SHOWGIRLS has gotten (sorry for the latter comparison) over the years like a fine wine...or a ripe wheel of Gouda. It feels like the ultimate "Hot Topic" movie to me, one that could be selling T shirts, white makeup & striped stocking amidst the singing and cavorting.

So, maybe I'm just not the right demographic for the film, but with apologies to all involved, REPO just didn't work for me. While I liked the concepts for the production design (especially the Communism Propaganda-esque posters), the visual style of the film for me felt false and rushed, like when the film would abruptly cut into Frank Miller-esque comic panels to explain things the budget or time seemingly couldn't handle in the film itself. Those moments felt like they ran out of money or hours on the day. Also, the same Bousman who kicked in teeth with SAW 2 didn't seem to be on-set for this ambitious production, as none of the kinetic filmmaking he displayed in his previous films was present, at least to me. Not that I needed the same SAW visual trickery (stop flickering and speed ramping!!!), but there was a devilish glee infused into the mise en scene DNA of SAW 2 & 3 (to a lesser extent, SAW 4) and REPO felt like the camera was just set up on a Stedi-cam and unleashed to get whatever coverage they could with 2 hours left in the day. If you've seen BLADE: TRINITY, you'll know what I mean. The music to me was pretty unforgettable, save the "Little Blue Vial" song in the middle, which in general was the best part of the film. I know there will be the requisite comparisons to ROCKY HORROR, but the difference is....the music in RHPS was undeniably catchy and even radio-friendly, where if I heard any of these songs on the air I'd probably turn to NPR. Again, this is totally subjective, but pretty much all of the music felt so half-assed and "on the day" that none of it resonated with me.

Save for a few cool shots in the opening...I left REPO very dismayed and bummed out. I guess my anticipation for the film preceded the result but unlike TRICK R TREAT (which I KINDA liked the first time i saw it and have grown to love in the days and weeks since)It's a damn shame, but I dont think Ill give REPO another thought after that Friday night. Again...Im not being hard on Darren and his REPO crew, I applaud them for sticking to their guns and making something truly original out there in swamp of remakes and sequels (I mean, who am I to judge?) Im just saying/typing how I felt, purely as a fan, going to see a much-anticipated film on opening night. Was I disappointed? Ab-so-fucking-lutely. Will I give it another shot? Maybe...in 15 years when Im taking my kid, who will be sporting black eyeliner, a GENECO. shirt and quoting REPO incessantly, to a midnight screening...since by then it will finally be appreciated like say THE THING or BATTLEFIELD EARTH (come on, its only 5 years from becoming THE MOST AWESOMEST MOVIE EVER)

...well, if they have midnight screenings anymore...or movie theaters.
See you soon, "ieye". Damn you Jobs!!!

Again, in re-reading this I feel horrible for trashing the flick, but that's what a blog is for right? Honest opinion? Im no critic, as you can probably tell from my poor grammar and run-on sentences. It's just my opinion, das it. But, if anything, GO SEE IT FOR YOURSELF. I am clearly in the minority here (judging from the weekend B.O.), but had to share...and Im still exctied for what 'ole Bous has up his sleeve next.

ROLE MODELS: After enduring the previous evening's cinematic selection, Bri and I were psyched to see David Wain's new comedy ROLE MODELS. While I pretty much hated THE TEN, we're both HUGE State fans from back in the day ("I wanna dip my BAWLS in it!") and pretty much everything that comedy troupe has produced since...ok maybe not VIVA VARIETY, but to each their own. I am a die hard WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER fan, so whatever Wain does, we follow. See? We're devoted fans of Auteurs! So already we were interested in his new film with Stifler, the dude from the Apatow flicks, that black kid from THE TRACY MORGAN SHOW and McLovin of course...

Surprisingly enough, it was pretty hilarious. I love any movie that puts the word "fuck" and "boobies" in a little kid's mouth (woah, that didn't sound good), but ROLE MODELS elevated that notion to grand proportions with a clever script that took the high concept of "Big Brothers" and made a lot out of a little. Sure, it felt like a film ripping off the now-trusted "Apatow Engine" (likable schlubs, improv-based dialogue, Jane Lynch, etc) but it also had a bunch of State alumni peppered in and Wain has an almost Absurdist touch with the comedy that made everything click, and hilariously so!

What sucked...was that there is an element in the film that was the subject of a project Im possibly working on that really depressed me when I saw it in ROLE MODELS. You know when you feel you have "that great idea" and then you see something on TV, or on the radio, or in the movies or on the net-wherever you get your creative fix-that takes the wind out of your sails, steals your thundah...well as much as I liked ROLE MODELS and would watch it again when its played endlessly on COMEDY CENTRAL in 3 years, I left the theater with a dark cloud over my head. Ive gotten over it since, but it still might seriously affect my decision on this project going forward (even though its B.O. might actually help the cause)...damn you WAIN!!! But as far as comedies go, its worth your 14 bucks to enjoy with a big crowd.

THE FALL: This movie has been collecting dust on my entertainment center for 3 weeks running, we just never found the right time to delve into director Tarsem (THE CELL, REM's "Losing my Religion" video) latest epic, which could best be described as THE PRINCESS BRIDE meets a living breathing Oil Painting. No, its not like WET DREAMS MAY CUM (sorry, I had to) but the visionary director knows how to paint on a cinematic canvas...his images are just stunning to look at (and MADE for Blu-Ray) so to get my mind off of things, we watched THE FALL and while there was some structural issues with the script, I thought it was pretty grand and a beautiful distraction. While I dont need to go on about the visuals (just check out the trailer below to get a taste) the chemistry between the little girl cooped up in a 1920's hospital begging an ill actor to tell her stories in return for special favors (you know, like cop some Morphine from the medicine cabinet) and her storyteller (Lee Pace from PUSHING DAISIES) is fantastic. Their camaraderie throughout the film is the glue that binds these wonderful images woven through the film as Pace tells her the story of a group of mercenaries from all around the world thrust into a common quest, and Tarsem sure does heap on the high contrast filters and sexy slo-mo.

Im not entirely shocked this film (originally finished in 2006 and shot all over the world)got a wider release or a more critical following, but at the very least now on Blu Ray you can behold how stunning cinema can still be to the eye...or watch even just to say Tarsem had more going for him than that awful J. Lo flick. Damn you Tarsem!!!!

THE WRESTLER: This might have been the most anticipated movie of the year already for me, and as much as I heard how gripping and powerful it was, I didn't want to get burned again (see above). Luke and I went to the Fox lot on Sunday to see a special DGA screening with Aronofsky and the writer (Robert Siegel) and we were both excited.

Then the film unfolded.

Damn you Aronofsky. In the best way possible.

Wow. Just....wow. I'm still trying to find all the right words to describe how great this film is. Everything about it. The acting. The style. The script. The music. The locations. The action. The drama. The Rourke. This could very well be my favorite film of the year.

Truthfully, Im a BIG fan of D.A. from the moment I even just READ about PI in 98 when it swept Sundance. This guy was one of US, a Brooklyn kid made good and who stuck to his unique vision and passion and let the audience catch up with him. Since then, I've followed him through REQUIEM (which I love) and THE FOUNTAIN (which, like REPO, I applauded its ambition but it just didn't resonate with me). When I found out he was making a film set in the indie wrestling circuit on the East Coast, I was even more jazzed. Almost 10 years ago, I worked at Pseudo.com on a show called AND JUSTICE FOR BRAWL, which was a show hosted by the self-proclaimed "Internet Icon"...."Diehard" Derek Gordon. Below is a clip from the show (that I shot...memories) which was made in a time where most people couldn't watch video on their 56K modems:


AJFB focused entirely on the Pro and Indie wrestling world, and it was a total gas to work on. Derek and I would regularly travel up and down the coast producing and shooting packages and segments in the same places THE WRESTLER shot, the same culture THE WRESTLER inhabits and mirrors the same people THE WRESTLER focuses on. I got to know and befriend many of the people in that world, so to me, this movie had a personal connection already, and I was so excited to see what D.A. and Mickey had up their sleeves in embracing this counter-culture.

First off, I cant think of another performance aside from Heath (Joker) Ledger that will surpass the strength and weakness on display from Mickey Rourke in this film. He IS the film, he is the vital organs and the lifeblood and would have floundered if there was one misstep in his performance of Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a pro wrestler past his Madison Square Garden days, still fighting to hold on to a sembelence of his former glory. He's got a daughter who hates him, a body that's about to quit him, and a stripper who wont give him her heart when he needs it the most. Basically, Rourke is playing Rocky Balboa better than Stallone did in ROCKY BALBOA, bringing a real heartfelt pain and weight to every look he gives to those around him. He's a broken soul, and Aronofsky and Siegel thrust The Ram into a simple tale of life-changing decisions that reaches a well-deserved and PERFECT climax. If you really think that the last shot isn't perfect, I might have to body slam you.. I will eat a rotten tomato if Rourke doesn't get a nomination. Mark my words.

Visually, Aronofsky has thrown out his usual visual trickery (don't expect any "Hip Hop Montage" which I will say I miss) in favor of a very verite style using all hand held cameras and a practical lighting scheme, but if you look closely, he's still the same guy who loves patterns just like the protagonist in PI, just in a more human way. Try to see how many shots of people's backs there are, or how certain compositions compliment the next scene. He might have dropped the gimmicks a bit, but the style is still there, just in more subtle strokes, and it fits the film and his own style well.I was dissapointed to hear he wasn't working with the infinitely talented (and veyr much in-demand) DP Matty Libatique like his previous films, but his new cinematographer Maryse Alberti brings a truth to the table that completely complimented the theme of the film, and its clear she got the world and captured it perfectly as well as stoked Aronofsky's desire to find those patterns in his filmic equation. It was clever, delicate touches like those in the visual vocabulary that will make every future viewing of THE WRESTLER even more rewarding, and it will stand as one of the best character studies of the new Century.

Oh, did I mention Marisa Tomei is naked in 80% of the movie? Thank you Darren.

After the very informative Q&A, Luke and I both left shell-shocked, and its been a few days since the screening, but I just cannot shake the images, the tone...everything about this movie reminded me of why I love cinema, especially from a true Auteur. The director has definitely upgraded into Aronofsky 2.0 and this was a wonderful example of a filmmaker not holding fast to what made him a name to cinephilles, and truly deserving of every award he, the film and his lead actor gets.

So, there you go. More movie thoughts than you can shake a dick at. Boy, did I need it too; there's nothing like good AND bad movies to put things into perspective for me, and Im rearing to go....BRING IT!

Oh and one final thing: GOBAMA!!!!

Staying Scary,

PS: One last video to enjoy...this shit is priceless. Memories are forever.
I miss that ugly orange couch.


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