In 1977 an unlikely leader was elected as a city supervisor in San Francisco. His name was Harvey Milk, and he was the first openly gay politician in the country's history. Not a year after taking office, Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated inside of City Hall. During his brief time in office, Milk helped pass a number of gay rights initiatives and defeat the exceedingly discriminatory Proposition 6. Fast forward 20 years and we have the passage of Proposition 8 in California and an intense sense of deja vu.
In part, current events are what makes Gus Van Sant's Milk such a chilling and timely tale, that while at once beautiful and tragic, leaves one with a half-empty perspective on how short society has really come.
Jason Statham as Frank Martin is probably the coolest, sexiest chauffeur in recent history, but no amount of stubble, abs or Audi adventures can save the recent installment of Transporter 3. Maybe it was the rising gas prices that left little money to upholster much of a story or hire a decent female lead. My bet is on the latter, because the Transporter series has never needed much of a plot, and Natalya Rudakova as Statham's companion Valentina is absolutely horrible - almost unbearable, in fact. While the first Transporter was a surprise hit that earned Statham some suave cred on both physical and vehicular fronts, the second favored the car more than Statham's physique.
Every now and again a movie comes along and is labeled as "critic proof", which basically means that despite whatever critics might have to say about it, fans will still see and enjoy it regardless. The last one that I know of was Sex and the City: The Movie. Not a great film, but I doubt many cared. The latest to join this impervious crowd is Twilight. You're probably aware of the extensive fan-base that surrounds Stephenie Meyer's books. It's impressive by all accounts, and downright scary to some. Given the immensity of fandom, I probably won't deter anyone from seeing the film by describing it as tedious, eye-rolling, clipped, and in some instances, downright poor. If you care to know why, then read on.
Analyzing Kevin Smith's Zack and Miri Make a Porno feels remarkably similar to what it must be like to review an actual porno. The film has baseline appeal, so the only question is whether it's really good or really bad. The film has a built-in draw since Smith mated his universe with Judd Apatow's, creating a cast and context that definitely gets you excited. But like most adult films, Zack and Miri serves a solitary purpose of providing a good time. Smith hits this low bar pretty easily, delivering punching, raunchy lines the likes of a headboard rapping against a wall. But for all the raucous obscenities and those fan-favorites delivering them, Zack and Miri is an adult film that delivers pretty much what's on the box.
I think it's safe to say that most expect Clint Eastwood's Changeling to be the next Million Dollar Baby. After all, Eastwood directed both, and instead of Hilary Swank front and center, it's now Angelina Jolie as single mother Christine Collins. Both films maintain a studied focus on the lead heroine and the events that surround her, but that's where the similarities end. While Baby was a delicate, heart-breaking gem made rich by a simple story and amazing performances, Changeling is quite the opposite - sprawling in its scale, with drama that is derived from the story's details, which are largely based on true events. While Changeling can wear the badge of "stranger than fiction" proudly, it's definitely no Million Dollar Baby.
I'm not a horror movie guy. Never have been, never will be. But in the last few years I've grown to respect certain films from the genre, whether for personal reasons or for critical reasons, but it's rare that I ever come across a horror movie that I genuinely love. Yesterday night I finally found one. I'm not sure whether it's my childhood affection for Halloween and the act of trick or treating that provoked my appreciation for this movie, but whatever the reason, by in the end I walked out a bigger fan of horror than I've ever been. Michael Dougherty's Trick 'r Treat is, in my own opinion, the absolute best horror movie I've seen in years and it's sadly being buried by Warner Brothers. Unless I convince them to change their mind.
I want to take this moment today to talk about one of my new favorite movies. It's very rare that I find a children's movie, or even a PG movie, that isn't pointlessly fast-paced and annoyingly over-the-top. But today I discovered a movie that not only entertained me to the fullest extent, but was a PG-rated kids adventure movie. City of Ember is easily one of the best family adventure films I've seen in a few years that is as thoroughly entertaining as it is an immense achievement for director Gil Kenan. I'm utterly surprised that more people aren't heading out in droves this weekend to see this magnificent film!
Post-9/11 thrillers have come and gone over the years, but none have ever really gotten the recipe right. The Kingdom is too heavy on action; Traitor tries to be too smart; and there's just no redeeming Rendition. It's easy to say that Ridley Scott's Body of Lies is a bit tardy, but I'd prefer to describe the film's entrance into this growing genre as fashionably late. With Scott at the helm, and Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe as leads, Body of Lies is a blockbuster both on paper and in execution. The truth is, it's taken a visionary like Ridley Scott to combine the right ingredients in such a way as to create the only truly compelling film of its kind that, despite dealing with combustible topics, manages not to destroy itself.
Shia LaBeouf is unquestionably a hot commodity nowadays, and after seeing the previews for Eagle Eye, I had grounds to expect it to be the next blockbuster thriller. My expectation seemed reasonable, since the film reunited LaBeouf and director D.J. Caruso from the respectable Disturbia, and the original idea for Eagle Eye came from Steven Spielberg, no less. But you know what they say about judging a book by its cover. Eagle Eye may look promising on paper, but no degree of ridiculous gadgetry or blinding car crash can keep you from seeing the real truth - the film is an explosive disappointment.
Choke has got to be one of the most misshapen, lewd tales of 2008, and is aptly named since most will find it hard to swallow given its odd texture. At the same time, if chewed on and worked around properly, it's a satisfying film with a wonderfully complex taste. Behind the sex addiction, con artistry and degeneracy, lead character Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell) is actually a pretty decent guy, trying his best to sort out his life and relationships. And though I doubt many have had a "man overboard" situation with a Ben Wa ball (aka anal beads), there's definitely something in Victor to which we can all relate.
Don Cheadle's character, Samir Horn, is a man conflicted. He's Middle-Eastern yet also a US citizen; he's a concerted Muslim but also a pragmatist; he helps to further terrorist goals but works for the CIA. So when Samir turns to his girlfriend at one point in Jeffrey Nachmanoff's directorial debut, Traitor, and says "the truth is complicated," he's definitely not kidding. This complexity, along with a rounded cast, a globe-trotting story and a peppering of smart action makes Traitor an entertaining espionage thriller that is not only uniquely smart, but timely. But while the film doesn't reach Bourne or Syriana heights, it's certainly a thought-provoking and cautionary tale about the many shades of grey that exist in the world.
His role as faux film director Damien Cockburn in Tropic Thunder was fleeting and forgettable, but Brit funnyman Steve Coogan is the sacrilegious heart and soul of Hamlet 2, a film as offbeat, laughable and endearing as the play it portrays. As the failed actor, Dana Marschz, who resorts to teaching high school drama in Arizona, Coogan is positively hysterical, beaming optimism at every obstacle - a disposition that nearly smacks of mental disability. Coogan's unique delivery and wit is something you'll either embrace up like Jesus' love - Coogan, after all, does play the messiah in "Rock Me Sexy Jesus" - or, like pleated khakis, it may not be your particular style. Hamlet 2 is arguably Coogan's coming out party, speaking strictly in terms of his stateside career. The comedian has been around for some time across the pond, but largely has gathered small roles domestically - literally, as thumb-sized Octavius in Night at the Museum.