Friday, May 29, 2009


Having gotten good reviews by nearly every critic for telling a good story and "not over anthropomorphizing the dogs", we decided to see this. Besides, it is opening weekend and seeing a cartoon with a theater full of kids is much more fun that watching it at home on DVD. Pixar doesn't disappoint. They pull out all the stereotypes (old guy, dogs, city kid as boy scout) and use them to maximum advantage. The message is a not-so-subtle prodding that perhaps we all drag around too much crap (didn't we see this in Wall-E?), should let go of most of our "treasures" and look for what is really important in life. But while this message is not subtle, it is also not heavy handed. If you go to this film, you will enjoy it. And if you are anything like the kid behind us, you will laugh uncontrollably at the pooping-in-the-wilderness bit.

Chris and Don: A Love Story

First saw this movie last year and loved it. Now we own the DVD and ... still love it. The end of life ritual and care that took place between these two men is rich. You will probably see this film on my watch list at least once a year.

Terminator Salvation

The other day I was thinking about who I would name as my top 5 action star actors. Christian Bale is definitely on that list. As John Connor, he is rugged and fearless, doing what needs to be done to save the earth. What more could you ask for. McG takes the reins of the Terminator franchise and steers well. The film is high on action, just enough story line and connection to the rest of the episodes for continuity, and throw in a bit (but not too much, in fact barely any) sentimentality. The filming does not rely on up-close, ridiculously fast chase and crash scenes that are so close and so fast that the viewer does not really even know what happened. Can you tell what one of my action movie pet-peeves is? I have a feeling that the upcoming Transformers movie will fall into this category. Overall, high quality summer fare.

And the other 4 on my top 5 list? Daniel Craig, Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, and Jet Li

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mondays in the Sun

When the shipyard in a small Spanish town is closed down, the layed off workers have different ways of coping. This tale of a few friends slowly unfolds, revealing the variety of ways that each has developed. And each reveals a different take on what it means to be employed; to be a man, a father, a husband; to be a career worker; to be a productive member of society. While not an extremely engaging film, it does reveal some neurosis that are probably worth thinking about these days. What exactly are we entitled to? What are the "sins" of capitalism? How would I manage in a position of being powerless?

Star Trek

The re-launching of a franchise. The plot is a straight forward telling of how the crew of the Enterprise is put together. There is even an appearance by Leonard Nimoy as "old Spock", which of course means that some time travel is involved. There are few surprises here although I am sure that the Trekkies will parse each plot element for consistency with the original series. Perhaps the most interesting effect of the history provided in this installment is how that history will play out in future installments. All of the main players relationships are a new interpretation and will result in an alternate universe that is very different than the one we know. So a good mix of story telling, action, and some metaphysical thoughts about time travel. Can't really ask for more can you?

The Grocer's Son

When Antoine's father has a heart attack and is restricted to the hospital and rest, Antoine is convinced to help out with the family market. His job is to take over the traveling grocery van that travels into the country side of France to provide goods to the sparse population. Antoine is not happy to be stuck in this "country bumpkin" job and his customers can tell. The entire scenario is complicated by the fact that Antoine borrows money from his mom (which he is paying off by driving the van) to help support a girlfriends dream. The setup screams family feud, learn something about yourself and your roots and make peace with your past. And all of this happens in due course. The French country scenery and chemistry between the players makes this fun to watch.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Chop Shop

Every so often I like to watch a film that I have never heard of and know nothing about. Chop Shop is a story of a N.Y. kid Alejandro who is living on his own, hustling and working any way he can to earn money. He lives upstairs in an auto repair shop on junkyard row, earning his place by working for the owner. He sells DVD's, candy, steals hub caps and anything else he can do to earn money. But he is more than just a survivor. Alejandro has big plans for himself and his sister and has no intention of working for others for his entire life. As we watch the story unfold, I realized that this is a classic slow movie, while still being completely engaging throughout. The daily life of Alejandro and the people who surround him is a fascinating mixture of desperate survival and enjoying life among friends. These "regular life" scenes are not flashy or overly dramatic. Instead, I feel like I have a better understanding of the trials of Alejandro and how he views his life, both the good and the bad.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Garden

This documentary follows the story of 400+ individuals and families that referred to themselves as the South Central Farmers. In the early 90's, the city of Los Angeles allowed them to divide 14 acres of land that had been acquired by eminent domain into small plots for a community garden. In 2003, the city sold the land back to the original owner, who started an eviction process to get the community garden closed down. The film is a well told story of the struggle between the powerless and the powerful, showing the problems that are faced by each. While I recognize that politicians are working on a quid quo pro basis every day of their lives, it makes me bristle when they just accept that compromise is always natural and unavoidable, that there is no such thing as win-win. The arrogance of individuals and the sense of entitlement of the collective left me with a bad taste, but I suppose that is the point. I can't imagine living in a place where politics and corruption is the norm and relevant on a daily basis. Or perhaps I do live in that place, but my ostrich head doesn't notice.


I like a good corporate espionage thriller. Unlike Michael Clayton, where lives were at stake and people were harmed, here we are trying to steal the next great personal hygiene product, which just makes for good, clean fun (pun intended). The stage is set with the opening scenes which introduce the players (spies Julia Roberts and Clive Owen) and the stakes (a no holds barred fist-fight on the tarmac between rival CEO's Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson). This is a personal vendetta and big money all wrapped together. The fun thing is, we never quite know who is playing whom. The story does an excellent job of cutting back to the past to fill in some missing piece, without introducing timeline confusion. And in the end, we have completely bought into the characters mindset as we sit and review what just happened, trying to piece together cause and effect, player and played.

Friday, May 1, 2009

X Men Origins: Wolverine

I learned two things today. The first day of summer is now May 1st, according to Hollywood anyway. With the release of Wolverine, to be followed shortly by three other big summer blockbusters (Star Trek, Terminator Salvation, and Angels & Demons) all before Memorial Day (the previous start of summer), movie season is falling prey to the same forces that have stretched Christmas towards Halloween. Not that I am complaining, just observing. Second, I am not really a movie critic. I just happened to listen to some real critics discussing Wolverine about an hour before I saw it. In hind sight, everything they said was true. It's just that while watching the movie, I didn't really notice any of them.
Hugh Jackman plays an excellent Wolverine. In this installment of the X-Men stories, we get a lot of back story on the mutants in general, and Wolverine and Sabertooth specifically. While this may not have the best dialogue (it is a summer blockbuster, what do you expect), and it may not have the best special effects (I actually didn't notice what others are complaining about), it entertains throughout and never left me wondering what I was going to do later in the afternoon. My simpleminded enjoyment of a comic book tale, without all the baggage of knowing the actual comic book storyline made this a great opening for the summer. By the end of the month, I may have to see some independent films just to balance out my movie karma.