Archive for October 26th, 2009

26
Oct
09

Movie News and Views Oct. 26, 2009 Trailer Edition

“The Spy Next Door” – Jackie Chan babysits some kids when one of them downloads a secret code. Suddenly he’s forced to fend off secret agents. Also stars George Lopez and Billy Ray Cyrus. Opens January 15, 2010

“The Tooth Fairy” – Dwayne Johnson is a hockey player that brutalizes on the field as well as off. One night he’s given a new charge: being a tooth fairy. Also stars Julie Andrews. Opens January 22, 2010

“Season of the Witch” – Witches and warlocks and demons, oh my! The latest horror/fantasy starring Nic Cage and Ron Perlman. Directed by Dominic Sena. Opens March 19, 2010

“Toy Story 3” – Woody, Buzz, and the gang are back and they’re headin’ out of Andy’s room and on the road. Opens June 10, 2010

“Collapse” – Documentary about the current economic collapse featuring Michael Ruppert, a cop turned investigative reporter. From the director of “American Movie.” Coming Soon!

“The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus” – Long-awaited Terry Gilliam movie about a traveling magician who sells his daughter’s soul for magical powers and the person who is trying to get her soul back. Heath Ledger’s last performance on film. Coming soon!

“Motherhood” – Uma Thurman is a mother with a 6-year-old going through hoops for her daughter’s birthday. Also stars Anthony Edwards and Minnie Driver. Coming Soon!

“Precious” – Based on the novel “Push,” by Sapphire, it’s about an overweight, illiterate teen twice pregnant by her father and abused by her mother. Stars Mo’Nique, Paula Patton, and Mariah Carey. Coming soon!

“Women in Trouble” – They’re women. And they’re in trouble. Starring Carla Gugino. Coming Soon!

Advertisements
26
Oct
09

Movie Review: Capitalism: A Love Story

capitalism_a_love_story

 

Would Jesus be a capitalist?

 

Directed by Michael Moore.

 

After a “stock footage” disclaimer that the following film may be too shocking for viewers, we’re treated to closed circuit camera video of people robbing banks. Following that a British short film about life in Rome. Moore juxtaposes images from our current society into the short film with the narrator’s dialogue backing up the images of both old (Rome) and new (America). Yes, we are the “second” Roman Empire and yes, it’s all over…

 

The question above, “Would Jesus be a capitalist?” is one of many that Moore poses to us as he turns a gigantic mirror not just on Wall Street, but on Main Street (but he is more bias against Wall Street). Moore waxes nostalgic about growing up in the Fifties; his dad worked every day while his mom could stay at home, they bought a new car every three years, and the family went on trips to NYC every other summer. Now his hometown of Flint is on the list of the worst places to live in the U.S., millions of jobs have been lost, etc. What happened?

 

Toning down the humor and the “kid picking on the bully” that Moore can be known to exhibit, he instead chooses to investigate just exactly what placed us on this point of the economic map. One of those offering answers is William Black, the guy who exposed Charles Keating in the Eighties. Black talks about the de-regulation of the early 2000s which has led to the mortgage crises and current foreclosures affecting the nation.

 

Showing the effects on the underdog, Moore visits a family in Illinois whose home is being repossessed by the bank. The house has been in the family for over 40 years. The husband, a big, MidWesterner, was put on disability years ago after a workplace accident. His wife does part-time work. Having to pay for doctor bills he took out a home equity loan (“your home is a bank!”) and as the variable rates grew higher, he could no longer afford to pay them. He is forced to vacate and clean out all his belongings. For doing both, the lender gives his family a check for $1,000. The wife cries as a grand is pittance for having to fork over the home she’s been in for decades.

 

And the lenders aren’t the only ones “making out like bandits.” A group called Condo Vultures in South Florida capitalizes on the fact that people “overleveraged” themselves and are buying up property left and right for the eventual resale. Conversely, there is a family living in storage truck in South Florida who was evicted from their home. The neighbors gathered around, broke into their old home, and let them move back in. 9 police cars showed to try and evict the family again.

 

Moore delivers a soft blow on what should otherwise be a Mike Tyson TKO. I’m not mad at how he presented the information, because a lot of this needed to be said, but Moore could’ve gone deeper and harder-hitting; that’s something I find lacking in his last few documentaries. On this “go” Moore makes it more personal and more mature. Instead of running around with a camera crew and forcing people into answering questions he lets people tell their stories which are more effective. There are a few signature “Michael Moore moments,” like when he uses yellow Police Crime Scene tape and wraps it around Wall Street, or takes an armored truck to Goldman Sachs and AIG to get our money back, but they’re embedded later on in the movie.

 

Another ingredient of a Michael Moore film is presenting you with the information you didn’t have or realize. This comes in two points: a) The Corporation you work for may/probably has a Dead Peasants policy on you and b) the guy flying you to your destination is making less than the manager at the McDonald’s. An example of the first point comes in the form of a woman whose bank notifies her that the company her late husband worked for had an insurance policy on him for $1.5 million, none of which she will ever receive. Apparently corporations have monthly “mortality rate” projections and they’re not happy if it’s about 50%

 

The second is that yes, the people flying us from Boston to L.A., L.A. to New York, etc. make LESS than I do (which IS saying a lot). Several of these pilots have second jobs such as teaching, babysitting, working at a coffeeshop, etc. just to get by. Moore shows Captain Sully, the airline pilot who saved the lives of 150 passengers, testifying before Congress that the airlines have cut pay by 40%. Nobody listened or even if they did, they weren’t wanting to.

 

While this film may not have been as hard-hitting as I would like it to be, it’s still an important movie to watch. This isn’t about socialism, democracy, plutonomy, etc. It’s about straight-up greed. Moore does exhibit two instances where democracy works for companies, which is promising. My only other real complaint about the film is that it shuttles back and forth, not giving you the identity of certain individuals or why they should be important to the narrative until much later.

 

Should you see this movie? Yes. It’s important. Maybe you’ll find empathy or sympathy. Maybe you’ll wake up and see what’s really going on. Maybe you’ll start a discussion on complacency, collusion, and how much either side has to do with it. Just a thought.

 

One final note: there’s footage of FDR reading his proposed Second Bill of Rights. This bill guaranteed health care, education, a job, and a home to U.S. citizenry. After Word War II Japan, Germany, and Italy drew up new constitutions that included some of these provisions. Incidentally, these ideals have never been presented for inclusion in our own Constitution.

 

My grade: (adjusted for inflation) A

 

For information on whether the company you work for has a Dead Peasants policy on you, check out www.deadpeasants.biz

 

P.S. If you’re interested more in “how we got here,” check out the documentary “The Corporation.”

26
Oct
09

Movie Review: Zombieland

zombieland_ver2

 

Call it an American “Shaun of the Dead.”

Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, and Bill Murray. Directed by Ruben Fleischer

Sometimes going into a movie with low expectations is the best way to see it. I walked in hating the idea of the movie and walked out loving it.

Welcome to the United States of Zombieland; what’s left after a virus begins turning people into zombies (nothing new there). The narrator of this tale is “Columbus” (Eisenberg), an Austin college student from Ohio. He’s your standard post-Generation X nebbish, sensitive, shut-in “World of Warcraft”-playing collegiate that didn’t find out about the virus until his next door neighbor in 406 (Amber Heard) is bitten by a homeless guy and he offers a sympathetic shoulder. Unfortunately when he wakes she doesn’t want just his shoulder to cry on.

After the incident he ventures out into the world creating a list of rules as he goes along (up to 31 when the movie opens). The Rules for dealing with zombies include Cardio (being able to out run them), Double Tap (shooting the zombie twice, at least once in the head), Don’t Be a Hero, Check the Back Seat, Beware of Bathrooms, etc. It’s by these rules that Columbus survives.

On a highway with cars and trucks strewn everywhere (and a few burnt to a crisp) he meets Tallahassee (Harrelson), a shoot-from-the-hip zombie-killing badass. Tallahassee is 180 degrees different than Columbus: he’s brazen, redneck, macho, and says exactly what he thinks. His mission: killing zombies and the quixotic quest for Twinkies. His advice leads to Rule 32: Enjoy the little things.

This pair begin heading east and a stop at a grocery store leads to meeting sisters Wichita (Stone) and Little Rock (Breslin). Columbus and Tallahassee soon find that Wichita and Little Rock are more than just sisters; they’re con artists. This is found out multiple times after being taken for their weapons and vehicles (which they lose twice). Wichita and Little Rock are on a mission: Pacific Playland, an amusement park which supposedly has no zombies.

Before going in I wasn’t a big fan of zombie movies. I’m as done with zombies as I am with vampires. Yes, I loved “Shaun of the Dead. Who, except my brother, didn’t? I thought “28 Days Later,” was great. That’s it. I don’t fawn over every zombie survival guide or movie that’s released. This movie is something different.

The movie keeps a consistency: cynical narration from Columbus. We see and hear his internal thoughts, fears, wants, and desires. He thinks tough but can’t always pull it off. Add to that creative CG titling that brings to mind David Fincher movie intros. The initial opening sequence that shows the progression of zombies in the world and feels more than inspired from the intro to “Watchmen.” In fact Fleischer does a great job in doing what he wants with the zombie genre without making you feel like “we’ve seen this all before.” The world of “Zombieland” becomes a backdrop for a road movie where the characters are looking for illusory security.

Paying homage to “Watchmen”/David Finch intros is the most direct homage the movie pays to any other film. There is a scene at Pacific Playland where Tallahassee fortifies himself inside one of the booths where you throw a ball in the futile attempt to win a giant plush animal prize. Wearing a snakeskin jacket he blasts away at the oncoming zombies with a pair of gold-plated 9mms (“Face/Off” anyone?) He ejects the empty clips and reloads by slamming the cartridges standing on the table into the them (“Tomb Raider”-ish?) Speaking of video games the coup de grace scene where all parties involved have to defend themselves against the gigantic group of zombies reminded me of the days when I played “Doom,” while blasting hard rock music in the background. I’m just saying…

Is it gory? Yes. It’s also funny, witty, cynical, brazen, redneck, and a little romantic. Harrelson definitely carries the movie, but the cast looks like they were having film filming it. Eisenberg is good, but Michael Cera could’ve done just as well. Emma Stone works, and I’m becoming really impressed with Abigail Breslin; she’s more than just the kid you remember from “Little Miss Sunshine.”

So I’ve been saving Bill Murray for last. The group make it into Hollywood and after stealing a Map of the Stars they head to the home of the actor Tallahassee considers the top of the A-list: Bill Murray. Murray’s huge, lavish mansion is a little more than self-indulgent with various paintings of Murray. They almost mistake Murray for a zombie because he wears makeup to look like one (“It’s easier to blend in as a zombie.”) After an altercation Little Rock asks if he has any regrets to which he responds: “’Garfield,’ maybe.”

That’s as much as I’ll say about that. If this review can’t convince you to go see it, I don’t know what will.

My grade: A