Tuesday, August 30, 2011


I suppose that a seminal or groundbreaking movie should hold up to time. Clerks was one of the first slacker films and unfortunately, the slacker film is so much a part of filmdom these days that there was nothing really interesting about watching Clerks now. After seeing the first 2/3, I got bored, feeling like I had seen this all before. The plot puts a couple of minimum wage grocery/video store clerks on center stage and tries to amplify the drama of their life by amplifying every minutiae. Well done, but not watchable 15 years later.
2 stars (out of 5)

Planet of the Apes

Mark Wahlberg was great in The Departed and good in The Fighter. He was awful in The Happening and is pretty bad here. I think he is just not good enough, or given good enough material, to carry a film. Here he had Helena Bonham Carter to help out, but in her ape suit, she was not given anything to work with. Every time I looked at her, I thought Bernstein Bears. Wahlberg was too wooden and is not really a dynamic person nor does he play a dynamic character. Acting aside, I know that this was a remake of the original Charlton Hesston film, but it was not exciting, dramatic, suspenseful, {insert own adjective here}. My main reason for watching was to see how it fit in with the newest Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and I am not sure that I see an easy connection there. So while the current film is good, this one is bad. Maybe I need to see the original to round out the trilogy.
2 stars (out of 5)


A fabulous documentary of Ayrton Senna, the Brazilian Formula 1 driver in the late 80's and early 90's. With Senna as the prime character, the film features the rivalry between Senna and fellow driver Alain Prost who win 7 world championships between them in those years, the development of Formula 1 racing into a popular sport, and the politics and behind the scenes manipulations of the sport executives. All this while giving a great look into the personality of one of Brazil's most famous athletes. What makes this a great film is the quality and quantity of footage from ESPN's library that is pulled together to tell the story. I am not interested in the least in car racing and found this to a simply fabulous story.
5 stars (out of 5)

Crazy, Stupid, Love

An all-star cast, decent story line and zero incoming expectations make for a good movie. Probably the later being the most important. Steve Carell has just been booted out by his long time wife and meets up with Ryan Gosling, ladies-man extraordinaire, in a bar. An apprenticeship of sorts develops between the two as Gosling teaches Carell how to get back in the game. Add in a couple of strange pre-teen kids and there is no lack of character here. All this comes together in the first half of film to fulfill the stupid love part of the title. To be honest, it is a bit long and a bit slow developing to this point. However, by time we get to the crazy part in the last act, it becomes pretty clear that the long setup was pretty much all needed. Overall, this is a fun film with some obvious holes that are easily overlooked in the enjoyment.
4 stars (out of 5)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

A very well done prequel even though I haven't seen the original (and yes, it goes on my list now). I say this because there were a couple elements that seemed pretty clearly written in to develop characters that needed to show up in future films. These kinds of story elements always seem a bit awkward or forced, but didn't "interfere" with the overall flow of the film. Instead, they probably just added 10 minutes or so that didn't need to be there. The story is in someways a retelling of the development of HIV transmission from apes to humans, except in this case the virus is human created. But it is still toxic to humans and happens to provide exceptional intelligence to the apes. Probably the best part of the entire film is the fact that no real animals were used in the filming. Instead, the apes were actors who had CGI ape bodies put on them after the fact, making the entire thing much more enjoyable.
3 stars (out of 5)

This Film is Not Yet Rated

It was about time I saw this film after all my recent concern about screwy ratings in films I have seen recently (Fast Five earlier this summer for example). This documentary tries to find out who the ratings board members are (they are kept under lock and key). What I liked about the film is that it was primarily a discussion with filmmakers about how they make films and what decisions they make when trying to get particular ratings. The "investigation" to uncover the raters was a nice diversion to hold the whole thing together. Overall, it seems that most people in the film agree with me (which strokes my ego of course). That is, the ratings will let almost any violence through with a low rating, while sexuality is always a strict rating, regardless of the context. In describing violence, it appears that you can kill any number of people as long as you don't show blood and still get a PG-13 rating. However, if death is shown with blood, then the R appears. One filmmaker interviewed suggested that the reality should be exactly the opposite. It is not until you are older that you are mature enough to distinguish that killing without seeing blood is false and unrealistic. Younger kids should be required to see the full trauma of death if they are going to experience it at all. I am not sure that I would encourage 13-year olds to see the full trauma of death, but do understand the argument that showing death matter-of-factly does not do anything to promote care for life that we should be teaching youth. Overall, I suppose we must resign ourselves to the fact that the ratings are a guide set up by a seemingly conservative group of people with a specific moral code that is clearly not similar to mine. To blame them for holding their moral code does not work. The filmmaker here simply argues that the moral code is not wrong, but the secrecy and inability to admit that the moral code governs the ratings is.
4 stars (out of 5)


While this is not a great film in terms of film-making (it is a bit rough and cheesy at times), it is an excellent concept film. Four Israeli soldiers are a tank group and are assigned to support an incursion into Lebanon during the Lebanese war. The entire film is shot inside the tank, with the only external information coming through the tank gun sight and communications system. The film is advertised as a "claustrophobic look at war". However, I did not find it claustrophobic at all. I found the intensity of human behavior and emotion during stress illuminating, particularly since three of the four tank team were not professional soldiers, but draft recruits filling out their civic Israeli duty. I found that it provided more of a commentary on war in general than on the Israeli-Lebanese war. Coupled with the recent Waltz with Bashir, these films are not interested in taking positions of right or wrong on specific military actions, but make their point imminently clear about the devilish nature of war.
4 stars (out of 5)