In "Guardians of the Galaxy," Peter Quill(Chris Pratt) literally… MoreIn "Guardians of the Galaxy," Peter Quill(Chris Pratt) literally dances himself out of trouble, sidestepping rival goons while betraying his partner Yondu(Michael Rooker) in getting a priceless orb back to Xandar. It is there that the trouble continues in the persons of Rocket(not the R word) and his partner Groot while Gamora(Zoe Saldana) is seeking to put a little distance between herself and her former employer Ronan(Lee Pace) who is not thrilled with the peace treaty between the Kree and Xandar. The Nova Corps really doesn't care about any of that to be honest, as they just arrest everybody in sight.
First and foremost, "Guardians of the Galaxy" is about the power of the mix tape.(Seriously, is "Cherry Bomb" the best pre-battle song ever?) Alongside the great use of music, this is also a funny and entertaining science fiction adventure movie that Michael Rooker almost steals by playing a hillbilly alien. But on the other hand, this is also a movie that tries too hard to smooth out the rough edges, especially concerning Gamora who comes off a little wimpy here, with the result being a little too much sappiness in the end. And it also assumes the viewer is familiar with some of Marvel Comics' cosmic characters and know what an audio cassette is.
In "The Smell of Success," Mr. Rose(Patrick Bauchau) dies, leaving his… MoreIn "The Smell of Success," Mr. Rose(Patrick Bauchau) dies, leaving his manure business to his daughter Rosemary(Tea Leoni), a cosmetics salesperson. She immediately fires everyone. But then soon realizes with the company's huge debts and production that might not have been the right way to go, and soon rehires everybody, especially Patrick Fitzpatrick(Billy Bob Thornton), the lead salesman. However, there are a couple of obstacles in Agent Chestnut(D.W. Moffett) of the FTC and Milagro Industries in their way.
For a movie that shares a child's exuberance for all things manure, "The Smell of Success" is actually not bad. It's not really good either, even as it mostly favors word play over vulgarity. That simply leaves a lot of the humor and nearly all of the plot involving a war of pranks. In return, the movie wastes a good cast, especially Billy Bob Thornton and the underrated Tea Leoni.
In "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For," Marv(Mickey Rourke) is in a bad… MoreIn "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For," Marv(Mickey Rourke) is in a bad mood, even before a bunch of frat boys try to kill a homeless man. After that is taken care of, Marv goes back to watching his favorite dancer, Nancy(Jessica Alba). In the meantime, Johnny(Joseph Gordon Levitt) shows up to play a little poker with Senator Roark(Powers Boothe), even after he is warned not to win too much. Elsewhere, Dwight(Josh Brolin) tears himself away from his busy life of taking naughty photographs and rescuing damsels in distress to meet with his ex, Ava(Eva Green), who is caught up in an abusive marriage.
The original "Sin City" was a blast of noir-inflected and brutal fun. Its follow-up "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" is so badly underwritten that all that is left is the brutality. So much so that is hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys this time around. For example one could even make a case for Roark being the protagonist here which has as much to do with Powers Boothe's larger than life performance than anything else. Otherwise, the movie has little idea what to do with its really cool cast, especially in making the mistake in giving Jessica Alba anything substantial to do.
On the way to visit his friend Professor Roch(Arnost Navratil) and… MoreOn the way to visit his friend Professor Roch(Arnost Navratil) and assist him on a new invention, Simon Hart(Lubor Tokos) enjoys his journey while taking note of all the new wonders of technology. Since that new invention is a deadly new explosive, it should come as no surprise that the two men are kidnapped by the nefarious Count Artigas(Miroslav Holub) and taken to a secret island.
"The Fabulous World of Jules Verne" is an entertaining film that is partially animated(through the wonders of 'Mysti-Mation!). This process works for the most part, even though the underwater scenes are a little underwhelming. Even then, the movie conveys as well as possible the rapidly changing world that Verne was experiencing on a daily basis in the 19th century. At the same time, it also anticipates what would come to be known as steampunk.
In "Kin-Dza-Dza!" Vladimir(Stanislav Lyubshin) is on his way to the… MoreIn "Kin-Dza-Dza!" Vladimir(Stanislav Lyubshin) is on his way to the market when Gedevan(Levan Gabriadze) asks for his help in assisting a homeless person(Anatoli Serenko) who claims to be from another planet. And then to their dismay find out the hard way that he was nowhere near as crazy as he sounded when they materialize in an unfamiliar desert. Vladimir at least holds on to the hope that they are still on earth, at least until Be(Yury Yakoviev) and Uef(Yevgeny Leonov) show up in their flying contraption and are not able to understand a word they say.
"Kin-Dza-Dza1" is an entertaining and imaginative entry in the long list of speculative fiction going back to Jonathan Swift to satirize society through fantastical settings. In this case, it adds a distinctly late Soviet flavor to the recipe of its observations of social mores, with pretty good effects for the time. And even better is the fact that this movie comes with its very own on-screen glossary. Granted it comes halfway through, long after it would have been good to know what 'etsilop' means.
With his hybrid film "Level Five," Chris Marker rambles on more than… MoreWith his hybrid film "Level Five," Chris Marker rambles on more than usual, especially the segments involving Laura(Catherine Belkhodja).(If anyone can tell me what the toy parrot is supposed to symbolize, I would appreciate it.) But once he finds his focus, he really gets on a roll, even anticipating the rise of the internet and Clint Eastwood's masterful diptych "Flags of Our Fathers/Letters from Iwo Jima," while warning about the temptation to rewrite history.
The particular bit of history that Marker is obsessed with here is the Battle of Okinawa, the last battle of World War II and one of the most fatal ever, especially as applied to civilian populations. As he points out, the Japanese military authorities sacrificed this distant province in the hope that it would deter the Americans from invading. Instead, Marker claims it led directly to the dropping of the first atomic bombs. I disagree. I think the Americans would have dropped them anyway on Japan as they felt they had to show off their shiny new toys to the Soviet Union.
In "Bachelorette," Regan(Kirsten Dunst) is initially taken aback when… MoreIn "Bachelorette," Regan(Kirsten Dunst) is initially taken aback when her friend Becky(Rebel Wilson) tells her she has gotten engaged to Dale(Hayes MacArthur). But she soon collects herself and rallies their friends Katie(Isla Fisher) and Gena(Lizzy Caplan) to be bridesmaids, even though Gena did not ever want to see her ex, Clyde(vodka spokesperson Adam Scott), again. But things do not go well with the obligatory male stripper and get even worse when they wreck the wedding dress the night before the wedding.
"Bachelorette" is a fast paced comedy with a talented cast, especially Lizzy Caplan who with the best moments in the film proves that 'Masters of Sex' is no fluke. That's not to mention the skinny women being the screwed-up ones for once. But then the movie takes this too far, not only in the department of why people write about characrers they have obvious disdain for, but also implies that the only reason the bridesmaids are not married yet is because they are so screwed up. Personally, movies have to do better than this and make more progressive statements than it is okay for women to behave badly. Because otherwise all you are left with here is a particularly vulgar afterschool special. And correct me if I'm wrong but that has to be the most demure New York City strip club.
In "A Simple Life," Ah Tao(Deannie Yip) has been employed by the… MoreIn "A Simple Life," Ah Tao(Deannie Yip) has been employed by the family of Roger(Andy Lau), a film producer, for decades. Then, one day she has a stroke. Roger pays for her care. With both sensing the end is near for her, he starts looking for a retirement home. Luckily, he knows the owner of one, and is able to cut a deal for a single room for her.
While it may not seem like much happens in "A Simple Life" with its deliberate and episodic approach, it is beneath the surface that it is mostly of interest. Namely, it is concerned with life in Hong Kong where as one character points out the population is getting older. On a general note, it is also about family and how it intersects with work, as Roger is about the only family Ah Tao has near her while Roger does seem a little spoiled for a man his age.
As an informative documentary about the Hollywood Blacklist, "Red… MoreAs an informative documentary about the Hollywood Blacklist, "Red Hollywood" is less interested in the martyrdom of those involved than it is in exploring the question of the work involved and any progressive issues raised in those movies. It also makes a great case for worshiping Susan Hayward, by the way.
But to me the most interesting thing about this cine-essay is not what it imparts directly, but the movies it references and how obscure they are, especially for Hollywood movies. I mean, yes, "Women of the Year" and "On the Waterfront" are mentioned here. But I did not see "Try and Get Me" until last year and the only reason I knew about the semi-clasic "Salt of the Earth" was because it was written about in 'Alternate Oscars' by Danny Peary who contrasted it with "On the Waterfront," released the same year. On the other hand, I have seen the minor red-baiting John Wayne movie "Big Jim McLain" which leads off "Red Hollywood."
As Jake Klein(Elias Koteas) tells it, he used to be a hotshot film… MoreAs Jake Klein(Elias Koteas) tells it, he used to be a hotshot film director in Hollywood. But that was a long time ago and now he makes a living selling real estate. However, he feels he is ripe for a comeback, so he is going to make a movie about his own experiences, having already cast an actor(Mike Vogel) in the lead. But then younger versions of Jake start putting in an appearance and hogging the hot tub, along with a mysterious woman(Jane Seymour) in blue. Otherwise, Jake just wants to sleep in late.
"Jake Squared" gets off to a fine start with its unique take on a mid-life crisis. And it is fun watching Elias Koteas let his hair down for once(so to speak), along with a very fine cast that also includes Jennifer Jason Leigh and Virginia Madsen. But after a while, the movie is simply content to chase its metaphorical tail. Luckily enough, the movie does eventually catch its tail, allowing for one true bit of insightful wisdom to shine through in the end.