Tuesday, December 16, 2008

See Ya Latah, Sinners

Let me start off by saying I give Milk a B/leaning towards a B+ right off the bat. I really liked it, I think it is an important story that I didn't know about before now and it was well-written, well-acted and well-directed.

I have two cricisms, 1) I think in some places, the history took precedence over the story so I was lost in a "here's what happened" vs. a "here's how the story of what happened played out." Josh Brolin's charcacter for example. There wasn't much of a personal connection before Milk shows up at Dan Smith's kid's baptism. One minute he's on tv and the next he's just there. But, I will say that I think they did a good job in showing some great actual footage from The Castro and all over the news and whatnot. I would think that with good footage, there was a real danger that the actual clips could overcome the storyline-I thought that happened with The Queen somewhat, but it didn't happen here.

Along these lines with this first criticism, I had a hard time with the relationship between Milk and Diego Luna's character, Jack. I think that someone who really didn't like Jack must have been consulting on this project, because I think that I would have rather have seen that character and relationship fleshed out or toned down, but not left straggling out there the way it did. I like Diego Luna since his Y Tu Mama Tambien days too, so I am not sure what wasn't getting me there. Seeing little vignettes of all the bad sorts of things Jack ended up doing, doesn't really help bring to the grief that Milk must have been feeling later.

2) Before I say this, because I'm sure there are tons of people who would disagree, let me preface this by the fact that I love Sean Penn, but his portrayal here of Harvey Milk reminded me of his I Am Sam character more than any of the gay guys I know. I just didn't get there with him. Now I thought James Franco and Emile Hirsh both pulled off their roles with flying colors. I'd like to see James Franco get a supporting role nomination for this. He was excellent. And as a side note, the HSM kid was cute in this too.

Anyway, it is a great story, and an important one, especially in light of the California Prop 8 debacle. It makes it difficult to believe that we're actually walking backwards instead of forward in some respects. Can I blame that on W too? :-) Anyway, if you haven't already gone to Funny or Die to see the Prop 8 Musical, go watch, it is funny! But a sad commentary that stars need to come out to shine a spotlight on an issue that we should never be hearing about again. Come on CA! Get it together!

Hopes for a Good Show Smashed at the Aragon

Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis both panned the Smashing Pumpkins show back when they were at the Chicago theater. No, I hadn't read reviews before I went to see them at the Aragon. But I get that Billy could be an acquired taste and I VERY often don't agree with one or both of those critics so I take their reviews as input but definitely not as the last word. That being said, now, not after reading those reviews, but rather after seeing the show... I wish I would have saved my money. The apology show, was still an egomaniacal Corigan blunder.

I really did enjoy the first half of the show, but once Corigan cut loose in a crazed jam session, he left everyone hanging without coming back with some strong songs, instead he dropped a bunch of folksy songs that, let's face it, all sounded the same. Granted, I don't have the new CD. I have heard a couple of songs though and maybe some of the other new ones would grow on me but I'm not feeling it. I want Billy (writing Courtney Love and old Pumpkins) the songwriter up there, not a waste of $45 for an experimental show. I up and left. I felt like there was nothing worthwhile for me to stay to see, and I was sad. Even the Zwan show I saw at the Aragon was better than that show. Not that it was a bad show, but I'm just saying they could have done better.

Kot says, "Had the band come back strong with a couple of rave-ups, the night might’ve added up to a strong statement from the Pumpkins Mach II." But I'll tell you what, when I left, I left thinking that even if they had thrown in one or two good songs, it wasn't going to be worth it to stick around to find out. I was brought way too far down after a good strong beginning to be brought back up again.

Funny thing is, that my friend Jeff, an American transplant hanging out in Australia these days saw them down under and immediately posted on my Facebook page that he had the same reaction to their show there. I can understand that Billy might not be all that great at taking criticism, but shouldn't he at least read the reviews from his fans who WANT to see him do well? Listen to what we're saying Billy. This show could have been fixed ages ago, we still love you though. I'm sure I'll come to see you for the next iteration of Mr Corigan and the SP!

Last Chance to Not Bore Me

This past Sunday, Dec 14th, Talk Cinema gave us Rom Com hopeful Last Chance Harvey on the screen at the Century theater by Clark and Diversey here in Chitown.

It really was cute, well, sort of cute. Dustin Hoffman, is a very sad and pathetic guy. The kind of guy who people don't want to talk to on the airplane, who has a history of drinking, who is on his own, and whose daughter wants her stepdad to walk her down the aisle. He forgoes the chance to make sure he keeps his job to make a trip to London to attend his daughter's wedding. Of course when he arrives, daughter is colored not impressed, the job is lost. But to save the day, in the midst of it he runs into our lovely Emma Thompson.

Thompson character's is basically Elinor Dashwood, from Sense and Sensibility meets Sarah from Love Actually (though with a mother who she stops her life for to talk to on the phone all the time instead of a mildly retarded and violent brother). Kate Walker is the big sister/supervisor to the girls she plays with at work (and who try to set her up with an eligible bachelor) and the martyr who takes care of everyone else including taking her mother's crazy calls all the time because "she's had a hard run of it."

The problem is this, the movie sort of aims its sights at being a ROM COM but a romantic comedy needs comedy. The circumstances leading up to him being in a bad place aren't funny, they are simply depressing. The fact that the rich stepfather could be a class war against the struggling piano player. But, they let that go. Instead we're just left with a sad lonely woman taking the attentions of a messed up and desperate guy. It doesn't even come off as romantic at all (not to mention the afore mentioned lack of comedy). But there are some tender moments and I did laugh, just not enough for me to recommend it to anyone else except for as a renter.

I give it a C/leaning towards a C-

Monday, December 15, 2008

About A Boy Director To Helm New Moon

This is awesome news. Christopher Weitz has been tagged to direct New Moon. Now, let me say the good and bad about this. The Good- is About a Boy and his producing Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist...About a Boy is one of my favorite movies. Awesome, and could Nick and Nora's be cuter? Bad- is the Golden Compass- a favorite book but the movie, eh, not so good. Now let me tell you why I think it still, over all, is a good thing.

Golden Compass had some good special effects and that will help carry the day here. The problem with Golden Compass (the movie) was that the editing wasn't great. The wrong things were focused on. The story was maybe too dense. Here, that isn't a problem. Stephenie Meyer's books, I think I have said before, are enjoyable to read but the stories are not complex. Girl wants Boy, Girl Loses Boy, Boy is Honorable, Girl and Boy Stay in Love. It gives you what you want. Hardwicke did a good job establishing the Angst... but with Edward for much of the storyline, unless Weitz does a floaty head (a la Miss Elizabeth Bennett seeing the floating head of Mr Darcy Firth in the BBC's Pride and Prejudice and later mimicked by another floating head in Bride and Prejudice) and Bella gazes into her mirror or any available window to look dreamily into his eyes for minutes on end, we won't have some of the same problems we had in the first one.

Here's crossing my fingers. I think that Weitz did some good mojo with the whole angst of our boy Marcus in About A Boy...and we definitely see it in Nick from Nick and Nora so I'm hoping he brings some of that to Jacob. Jacob needs it if anyone is going to be okay with him in the 4th movie. He has to be likeable, just HAS to be. :-)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Invite Me In

Let the Right One In... good vampire flick... head to your local indy theater to see it. I give it a B+

read more | digg story

My friend Dana's place is right by the Century theater on Clark so after we ordered some thai we walked over to see see Let the Right One In with a packed house. I really liked it. There were some things that I don't think I picked up on right away until after I thought about the movie a bit and the scenes are still sticking with me. My only critique would be that the dialogue was a bit slow in parts, but that might be a Swedish thing?

I have been a big vamp fan for a long time, really liking the Anne Rice Vampire Chronicles, and enjoying Buffy (the movie before the show even came out- so much so that I watched from the very first episode to see the full glory of the show from the beginning) and then Angel. I also like True Blood this season on HBO. Since I haven't read the Charlaine Harris The Southern Vampire series (or frankly any of the other romance/urban vamp fantasy) I can accept the sussing out of the other charachters in the show. I would get tired of all Sookie Stackhouse/all the time. I did read the Twilight series purely for the pop culture value. In comparison, I would say that both Let the Right One In and the Twilight movies do what they set out to do.

Angsty Thirteen and excellent Lords of Dogtown director (not to mention a woman who was a production designer on a favorite movie of mine- Tank Girl), Catherine Hardwicke does the teen angst thing well for Twilight. But I think the staring longingly into one another's eyes but racing through the action sequences, along with some suspect dialogue, just left the movie falling flat. I felt like there was a lot of build-up for the movie and am hopeful they stick with her as a director and let her explore the next book, New Moon's sharper angles. I should note that it seems like Melissa Rosenberg has done nothing but good things, so maybe Hardwicke needs to pull back on letting Stewart and Pattinson make up any of their lines?

But Let the Right One In, does something totally different for me. It made the characters raw and real for me, in a way that I don't think any other vamp movie has been able to do. We have winter here in Chicago (and did in Pennsylvania where I grew up) but the landscape for the scenes gave a preternatural feel in and of itself outside of the vamp story. The slow dialogue lent itself (whether intentionally or not) to the preternatural, stark feel of the film as well.

I am more than a little concerned that the Cloverfield director Matt Reeves already is working on the Americanization of the book. (Not a remake per se, but a reinterpretation of the book's story.) It could be decent or disastrous. We shall see.

Also, see an interview with the author on Aint It Cool News.