Friday, October 17, 2008

Happy Birthday IMDB

Yup, IMDB is legal. It was founded 18 years ago today. I've linked to a message from the founder.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


This is the newest movie employing the film-making style pioneered by the Blair Witch Project. Quarantine is a remake of the Spanish horror movie, [Rec], coming no more than a year after the original. The movie is a rather straight forward thriller. A camera crew is following a fire brigade for a night when they are called to a disturbance at an old apartment building. After an old woman attacks one of them, they discover that the Center for Disease Control has quarantined the building. The rest of the movie is spent following the residents trying figure out what's going on, and just trying to survive- with the news crew filming the entire thing.

Quarantine had an interesting advertising campaign- similar to that of Cloverfield. Leaked video about this "Actual event" that the government was trying to cover up. What? You mean you didn't actually see any of these videos they put out last year? Guess the promoters were a little too secretive for it to do any good. Hence the more recent barrage of traditional trailers hyping the movie.

The movie started out mediocre. It opens with Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter) and her cameraman Scott (Steve Harris) touring the fire-station with a group of uncouth firemen. This is cut short when they get a call. Upon arriving at an apartment building they find a diseased lady who attacks them. Before they are able to get her out, the building is locked up, and they're trapped inside- to try to survive. Neither them nor the residents have any idea what is going on, just that nobody is going to be allowed out. Fortunately Angela and Scott are there to record the entire thing.

What really set Cloverfield apart was the spectacular production value (the monster aside) integrated into a low budget hand-held look. This was done very well. Quarantine on the other hand, just looks shaky. Sure it's supposed to have that style, and you can't expect someone fighting diseased zombie-esque people to record, let alone hold a camera steady, but there's a fine line between conveying that style, and just being confusing. There were far too many parts of the movie where I had no idea what was happening.

The acting was pretty bad, but it usually is in movies like this. It was certainly better than the performances in the similarly styled Diary of the Dead. The opening scenes in the firehouse were nothing short of awkward, but it got a little better as it progressed. Unfortunately as the acting got better, everything else got worse. I think the lowest point was when they smashed in the head of one of the infected with the camera itself. Magically the blood smeared lens didn't break, and was cleaned in the next shot.

The movie had potential, but unfortunately didn't live up to what I was hoping. It is very similar to [REC] (which I may throw up a review of as well), but every aspect was one step lower than the original. If you're going to make a remake so soon after the original, you better make better, or at least different. This was more of a generic brand knock-off.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Film Fest

So I got my tickets to this year's Savannah Film Fest, and I am excited. The lineup I've got:

Synecdoche, New York- Charlie Kaufman's new movie, starring Phillip Seymore Hoffman
O'Horten- a story about a retired subway train operator
The Wrecking Crew- a documentary about the legendary studio band
Elite Squad- a movie about Brazilian drug wars
Your Name Here- a biography of Phillip K. Dick
A Clockwork Orange- Yup, and Malcom McDowell is going to be here
Crazy- a movie based on Hank Garland
The Brothers Warner- A doc about the movie studio
The 27 Club- about a lead singer following in the footsteps of Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Kurt Cobain

I really wanted to see The Wrestler- the newest movie from Darren Aronofsky, but it was sold out.

Anyway, I'll have plenty of reviews coming up at the end of the month.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua

Yeah, I know. Don't worry, I'll keep this one short. I still feel I should review it, as it was #1 at the box office last week. Beverly Hills Chihuahua is the latest outing from director, Raja Gosnell- the genius behind both Scooby Doo movies, and Big Mama's House. This movie is like a bad version of Homeward Bound- possibly my favorite talking animal movie. It even has a similar premise with a dog being lost and trying to find her way home.

That dog is Chloe (Drew Barrymore) a spoiled chihuahua lost in Mexico. She finds help in unlikely sources, like a former police dog, turned dog fighter- Delgado (Andy Garcia). Or another annoying chihuahua (George Lopez). This movie is nothing but unfunny Mexican stereotypes and drawn out accents. I felt like every character was emulating Slowpoke Rodriguez (Speedy Gonzales's cousin).

The human cast, consisting primarily of Piper Perabo (entrusted with taking care of Chloe), and Jamie Lee Curtis (her aunt, whom Chloe actually belongs to) were just dull. I didn't care at all what they did. I mean c'mon, if you're entrusted with taking care of your rich aunt's dog, why take it to Mexico with you? And her completely inane friends, "c'mon, there's no way you'll find her, come to the beach with us." Some parts of the film offended me as a movie-goer. Did they really think we would swallow such crap? I realize that it's a children's movie, but there was nothing endearing about any of these characters- human or animal.

If you're going to take your kids to a movie about talking animals, don't. Instead rent Homeward Bound, or Milo and Otis (they don't talk, but it's just a fantastic movie). Even look Who's Talking Now was a far superior movie to this trite.



This was a fascinating documentary about Crawford Texas. Of course none of us would have ever heard of it had President Bush not moved there at the start of his 2000 campaign. Contrary to what you may think, the movie is not about him or his politics, but about his impact on the town. It covers both the good, and bad, the short term, and the long term.

First time director, David Modigliani, does an admirable job of being bias out of the movie. I suspect he leaned somewhat liberal, but the movie stayed almost completely neutral. It featured interviews with people from all political affiliations, and age groups. Some loved the presence of Bush, and some hated it. Some loved his policies, and some hated them. The one thing that bonded all of the interviewees together, however, was the profound impact their new neighbor had on them.

The movie primarily dealt with how the town coped with being in the political center ring. Crawford had to manage an invasion from tens of thousands of demonstrators and members of the media. This led to an economic boom, but also led to conflict. The business that managed to spring up on account of the tourism, eventually sank, in no small part to the press painting the town as one-horse, Podunk, illiterate, gun-toting, backwater. Little was known about the liberal newspaper headquartered there, or even the neo-anarchist peace-house. Crawford is indeed as diverse as the rest of the country. But all we ever saw was the same shot on all the television channels of a rundown shack and a bale of straw claiming to be on the outskirts of Bush's ranch. In one humerus interview, one of the residents realizes that this common shot was not on Bush's ranch, but of a tool shed behind Crawford high-school.

Some of the more interesting interviews dealt with salt of the earth funny anecdotes, including one elderly man who slipped in behind Bush's motorcade in his pickup truck and enjoyed the benefits of having the road cleared for him. Whether it's true or not, he had a grand time telling it, and I had a grand time listening to it. Another interview dealt with people contemplating why Bush decided to move to the 700 population town of Crawford in the first place. The common conclusion was that it was not his doing, but his campaign's, in an effort to paint a true small town, working man image of the president.

The movie does delve into politics a bit. There's quite a bit of coverage of the protesters on both sides of the war, but it never takes sides. In fact, the townspeople basically said "we don't care what you believe, we just want you out of here." Once the movie strayed from the people of the town, and ventured into more politically driven content, I started to fade a little. Fortunately, there was not much of that. The movie primarily stayed focused on the people, from the young students who were learning to be politically active, to the preacher who wanted nothing more than for Bush to attend his church (and spout some crazy talk about the end of days).

I suppose the purpose of this was just to explore the idea that there is much more than what we see. Crawford is more diverse and complex than we would ever be allowed to realize. to paraphrase what one interviewer said "a couple years ago, if you asked where Crawford was, we'd say it's 50 miles outside of Waco. Now when you ask where Waco is, we say it's 50 miles from Crawford."