Movie review quickie: Taxi to the dark side

Taxi to the Dark Side should infuriate you. It’s a competent documentary exploring exactly what kind of dysfunctional system we setup in Afghanistan and Iraq in the service of the ‘war on terror.’ Its main focus is the story of an Afghani taxi driver who gets picked up by American forces and ends up dead, exploring the people involved, the policies that lead to his death, and the aftereffects. It’s chilling, infuriating, and tragic. Anyone interested in evidence of just how incompetent and evil the Bush administration was should check out this film, then you should track down Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney and kick them in the balls. I’m not kidding.

Movie review quickee: Blowup

So I love movies from the late 60’s-mid 70’s, and grabbed Blowup because of a Netflix suggestion based on something else I’d seen. In short I hated it. It possesses that whole ‘show not tell’ quality I so enjoy, and it’s a bit interesting in terms of giving one a glimpse of place and time (London, mid 60’s), but beyond that I hated it. The main character is a misogynistic ass who cares only for himself. He gets involved in a sort of murder mystery after photographing a couple in the park then becoming suspicious when the woman appears at his studio asking for the film. He blows up the photos he’s taken and discovers a man with a gun and a dead body in his photos.

The whole point seems to be about the main character reconnecting with the world but it’s slow, drawn out, painful to watch the guy abusing the various female characters in the film, and comes across as pretentious asshatery. I’m sure film students would eviscerate me for all that, it’s beloved by critics and held up as a landmark film, but it did nothing but irritate me.

Movie review quickie: Outlander

I have wildly varied taste in movies. I’ll sit down to watch something like Cache, then turn to something like Outlander next, and find things to enjoy in each of them. Outlander is a competently executed modern B movie. A spaceship crashes on Medieval Norway, and the lone survivor is soon captured by a local viking village. It turns out his ship had been infiltrated by a vicious space dog/lizard from beyond, and the rest of the movie features viking on viking, viking on spaceman, and viking+spaceman on space dog/lizard action, pretty much nonstop. It’s a fun B movie ride and not much more. The story tries to build some tenderness and a sense of character with the spaceman’s backstory, but the acting’s not up to the task so it fell flat for me. The special effects are decent, better than I expected actually, and the action is generally well executed. Worth a look if you like competent but unexceptional Sci fi. Here’s the trailer to give you a sense of it:

Movie review quickie: Cache

I watched Cache with Susan last night. It’s a bit hard to categorize the film – on the one hand in many ways it’s a thriller, but it’s missing some of the requisite parts. For one thing, there’s almost no physical violence – almost everything that happens revolves around dramatic tensions between the major characters. The story follows a well off French family who begin recieving creepy videotapes, cards, and phone calls. The father begins to suspect who’s involved after one of the tapes shows his childhood home, and this leads to the film’s central conflict.

Truth be told I think the movie went straight over our heads. It wasn’t till afterwords as we sat discussing it that it occured to us that in part it’s an allegory for France’s relationship with Algeria, something that would have been much clearer to the film’s original French audience. We were also non-plussed by the ending, which comes abruptly and seemingly without any resolution of the central tensions. It strikes me now that this was really the point – there is no pat resolution to the issues that are explored, they’re ongoing and the resolution remains to be seen.

Anyway, I enjoyed the film – it’s well acted and has some decent cinematography, plus it’s really thought provoking. I doubt that many folks who read my site would enjoy it though – it’s also slow, deliberate, and very reliant on interpretation – this is a show, not tell, movie. There are shots that last for minutes where nothing, seemingly, happens, and I suspect that would drive most of my friends nuts. Still, I really enjoyed it and I think Susan did too.

Movie Review: Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Susan had to work on Sunday and I was tired from staying up all night playing Rock Band, so Sunday afternoon/evening I lounged around watching tv. One of the things I watched was Zack and Miri make a Porno. It was just ok. If you like Kevin Smith movies, you’ll probably enjoy it – scatological humor, discussion of subjects that are normally out of bounds, profanity laden rants, etc, all the Kevin Smith bits you would expect are here, including a scene I wish I had never seen (if you’ve seen the movie, you know which one I mean – it’s all about the cake frosting). It’s also got awkward acting, poorly directed scenes that don’t flow,and a ridiculous plot. All in all though there are a few laughs to be had and Elizabeth Banks is fun to watch.

Film: Shotgun Stories

Susan got a recommendation for this one from Bob Mondello on NPR and we watched it last night. Disappointing sums it up. It’s a drama about a feud between two families that becomes violent when the family patriarch dies. It’s a meditation on violence that’s not very well acted and not very well filmed, plus there’s a certain lack of….verisimilitude? Authenticity? One character walks around in the same bleached white gauze bandages all movie, another demonstrates his supposed mechanical skills by showing his younger brothers how to tighten a bolt…it just came across poorly. There were a few laughs to be had at the expense of the dim rednecks that make up one of the families, the ending is unusual for a film with this theme, and it exhibits that rare ‘show, not tell’ quality I so enjoy – these are the only positive things I can think of to say about the film.

It’s well reviewed over on IMDB so maybe it’s your cup of tea – it wasn’t mine despite generally liking dramas.

Pineapple Express – don’t bother

I watched Pineapple Express over the weekend, which may surprise folks since it’s not really in tune with my tastes, but I loved the Cheech and Chong movies back in the day and enjoyed the 40 year old Virgin and Superbad, which had some of the same folks involved, so I figured why not give it a shot. I shouldn’t have bothered. It starts off ok, introducing the main character, his dope dealer, and the improbable series of events that leads to them spending the movie fleeing a gang of murderous thugs, but the whole thing feels like amateur hour with bad acting, sophmoric humor, a plot full of holes, and an unsatisfying ending. My recommendation? Stay away.