Movie Reviews – July 2009

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Do the Right Thing: 20th Anniversary Edition
Street: 06.30
Do the Right Thing, one of Spike Lee’s earlier joints, is a wonderful film focusing on respect, disrespect and the consequences of a close-minded society that hinders equality and success. I had never seen the movie and was pleasantly surprised at how the main character, Mookie, is the peacemaker and instigator of change in the community, while still doing all he can to make his neighborhood into one he can call home. Although I could talk about the movie for the whole review, the best part of this re-release is the documentary about how the movie was made. They actually shot Do the Right Thing in the heart of NYC and constructed buildings for the set on the streets. After working with the community for eight weeks of shooting, the residents actually missed having the director and film staff around calling out “rolling.” This movie was a definite eye opener and now, after seeing it, I hope we all can come together in our own communities to make them the best they can be. – Adam Dorobiala

Falling Down (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros.
Street: 05.26
If you ever needed a reason to refrain from living in the city of angels, take a gander at Joel Schumacher’s gritty depiction of a simple man spiraling out of control into the darkest depths of human nature—in broad daylight. It all starts with a traffic jam on the hottest day of the year and a broken air conditioner. That’s all it takes for Bill Foster (Michael Douglas) to take a stand against the unjust principles of modern-day society and wreak havoc as he makes his way “home.” Tracking the path of chaos and destruction is Detective Martin Prendergast (Robert Duvall) on his last day on the force. While some will view Foster’s actions as terroristic and violent, others will see him as a hero fighting to reallocate our misguided values and prejudices. Either way, Schumacher (Yes, the same Schumacher who demanded nipples on the Batman suit) has captured a chillingly realistic illustration of how an ordinary man’s life can suddenly take a drastic turn toward anarchy. Amplifying the tension filled air is Andrzej Bartkowiak’s exquisite cinematography with distinctive angles, vast urban landscapes and a scorching color tone that immediately parches the audience, forcing everyone to crave a glass of refreshing water to cool down. - Jimmy Martin

Gigantor: Volume One
E1 Entertainment
Street: 05.05
It’s no mystery that Japanese culture has made a permanent mark on the American animation industry, but what some may not know is just how far back the tradition began. One of the first international adaptations arrived in 1966 from the 50s Japanese manga series, Tetsujin 28-go, eventually renamed Gigantor. The cartoon follows Jimmy Sparks and his enormous remote-controlled, destructive robot buddy. Set in the inconceivable year 2000, the two prove how useless the government’s military is as they battle against crime syndicates across the globe. The vocals are out of sync with the mouths, the animation is constantly repetitive and inconsistencies run rampant, but the nostalgic commemoration of the genesis of animated programming is what keeps drawing viewership—plus the preposterous cheese that spreads across the screen. How can you go wrong with characters like secret agent Dick Strong, bumbling cop Inspector Blooper, genius scientist Dr. Bob Brilliant, and the sly villain Dr. Katzmeow? Gigantor hits that unusual rotation of acceptability where a show can be so bad, it’s good. The four-disc set contains 26 episodes, an interview with anime historian Fred Pattern and audio commentaries on select episodes. –Jimmy Martin

Lipstick Jungle: Season Two
Street: 05.05
If women around the country poured Grey Goose vodka in their martinis in honor of the girls from HBO’s Sex and the City, they may want to reach for a plastic jug of McCormick’s in tribute of the gals from Lipstick Jungle. Both created by the same author, Candace Bushnell, Lipstick sheds a fourth character and only revolves around the lives of three middle-aged women attempting to thrive in a “man’s world.” As Wendy (Brooke Shields), an executive film producer, Victory (Lindsay Price), a high-end fashion designer and Nico (Kim Raver), a fashion magazine editor, whine and bicker about their incessantly boring man troubles and dreary career issues, the authenticity of their characters’ demeanor becomes completely implausible. The three damsels in distress cannot be blamed for this inevitable failure. It’s the shoddy writing and improbable plots that drove this production straight into the land of obscurity. The second (and final) season contains the remaining 13 episodes, but you’re better off watching Sarah Jessica Parker and friends gab the night away—even if it’s TBS’ edited down nightmare. –Jimmy Martin

Penn & Teller: Bullshit!: Season Six
Street: 05.12
Who would have thought that the two Vegas magicians would still have a witty and educational documentary program that pokes fun at society’s generally accepted (and usually retarded) beliefs after six seasons? Each episode’s topic fuels and enrages the outspoken Penn Jillette as he and his partner, Teller, decipher, mock, and perform various illusions to illustrate the absurdities of our world. The sixth season bombards and attacks controversial subjects including The War on Porn, Being Green, Sensitivity Training and World Peace. Essentially, for many episodes, it’s the duo’s way of expressing their idea that an ultraliberal, politically correct, hippie lifestyle is nothing but an enormous plate of shit biscuits, especially in the case of new-age con artists and their alternative medicines. “Sure lady, I believe your noni juice will cure my grandfather’s cancer. Fuck science and technology, right? Go, grape juice!” It’s not only the comedic writing and disputable themes that continue to attract audiences to tune in, but Jillette’s passionate delivery of narration that reveals a compassionate and soulful messenger wishing for a better tomorrow—oh, and there are a lot of naked people walking around.–Jimmy Martin

Public Enemies
In Theaters: 07.01.09
The name John Dillinger immediately sparks an array of emotions that rightfully secure the notorious bank robber as “Public Enemy Number One,” but director Michael Mann and Johnny Depp’s distinctive interpretation stray from the infamous criminal’s malicious legacy and provide a much more calm, cool and collected undertone, which plummets his threat level from severe to guarded. Set in the 1930s Depression era, the unlawful ladies’ man struts around the streets of Chicago, B-list cronies in tow, as the unconventional celebrity who loves being in the spotlight but must remain somewhat in the shadows due to the relentless determination of officer Melvin Purvis’s (Christian Bale) desire for justice. With an exquisite eye for detail in sets, costumes and talent, Mann has all of the right chips in play to execute an exceptional film, yet his decision to utilize cinematographer Dante Spinotti’s hand-held digital imagery diminishes the production’s look significantly. The first half of the film (where the majority of the trailer images came from) appear polished and refined, while the latter portion, especially the explosive shootouts, feel as thought they belong to a first-time student film or a behind-the-scenes featurette. It’s too raw for this brand of filmmaking. In hindsight, Mann has created a mediocore gangster tale that would have fallen forgotten by the wayside if it weren’t for the talents of Depp and Bale. –Jimmy Martin

Revolutionary Road
Paramount Home Entertainment
Street: 06.02
Director Sam Mendes returns to the gloomy trials and tribulations of America’s veiled suburban lifestyles for the first time since 1999’s American Beauty with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Revolutionary Road. As a typical newlywed couple in the 1950s, Frank and April Wheeler appear to have the perfect marriage to everyone in the neighborhood, but the depressing truth reveals their increasing hatred for each other as they continue living mundane and insignificant lives, still yearning to conqueror and achieve their own passions and personal desires. Mendes morphs the audience into flies on the wall, forcing them to observe the numbingly cold atrocities of infidelity and domestic violence that occur behind unsuspecting picket fences. While the story is purposefully simplistic to mirror the plainness of life, DiCaprio and Winslet continue to prove their talents still dominate the industry with their brutally realistic performances that continually induce spine-tingling chills from sheer rage and adrenaline. Not for the engaged fiancée looking for a romantic tale of love or the girl questioning whether or not marriage is the next appropriate step up life’s staircase, this practical tale of self-preservation will scare anyone out of their scheduled matrimonial vows. –Jimmy Martin

S. Darko
20th Century Fox
Street: 05.12
Growing up, a mentor once told me, “There are several sacred things in this world you don’t ever mess with.” One was another man’s french fries. I’ve recently discovered another is film franchises that don’t need a disconnected, unoriginal, idiotic sequel. I truly believe there’s a demon producer in Hollywood who green lights terrible follow-ups like The Sting II, Speed 2: Cruise Control, Blues Brothers 2000 and Blair Witch 2 just to watch society crumble one production at a time. This savage beast has struck again with this pointless addition to the Donnie Darko series. Filmed in Utah (whoopty fuckin’ doo), the tale reveals the antics of depressed Samantha Darko (Daveigh Chase) seven years after her brother Donnie’s mysterious death. After running away from her Virginia home and bound for California with her friend Corey (Briana Evigan), their car breaks down and maroons them in Conejo Springs, introducing them to a handful of creepy town folk, a mysteriously missing child and a fallen meteorite. Rather than focusing on one specific storyline, the pain-inducing script presents subplot after subplot and musical montage after musical montage, hoping to disguise the fact that an actual story arch doesn’t exist. Desperately trying to remind the audience of various elements from Richard Kelley’s captivating original, the cast and crew forgot those elements served an actual purpose and weren’t just there for show. –Jimmy Martin

The Taking of Pelham 123
Columbia Pictures
In Theaters: 06.12.09
To be honest, I forgot there was an original Taking of Pelham 123 released in 1974, and to be even more honest, I’ll probably forget about Tony Scott’s snoozer remake even faster. Everything about this suspenseful heist flick screams gratuitous exhaustion and leaves nothing for the audience to care about or to leave with anything memorable. Denzel Washington provides a decent performance as Walter Garber, an MTA employee under investigation for receiving bribes from the Japanese who’s forced into the role of negotiator for John Travolta’s subway criminal antics. Now, speaking of Travolta, I’d like to thank him for creating the next greatest drinking game on the market. Every time “mother fucker” concludes his sentence, take a shot. You’ll be hammered in 20 minutes and dead in 40. It really is over the top and absurd, and removes all threatening connotations from his devious actions, which basically describes the entire film. John Turturro, Luis Guzmán and James Gandolfini were only used to spew off a few clever lines of dialogue and then directed to immediately exit the scene. What a waste. As for Scott’s stylistic vision, I am usually a fan, but this time he’s gone too far. His blurry images, mixed with choppy editing, nearly triggered a seizure. Both Scott and Travolta need to calm down, take a step back and realize it’s perfectly alright be the old guy incapable of pleasing younger generations, and need to refrain from pathetically attempting to relate to their “hip” world. It’s a recipe for disaster, which was obviously used to create this mediocre crime caper. –Jimmy Martin

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
In Theaters: 06.24.09
My God, what has Michael Bay done? I knew the man had issues with directing over-the-top action blockbusters where the massive explosions drown out 90% of the dialogue, but he seriously needs to be institutionalized this time around. If he was attempting to mirror the ADD tone of the 1980s children’s cartoon show, then job well done sir, but if he had any aspirations of creating something a tad bit more mature, then he’s completely lost his shit. We find the Autobots a few years after the previous film’s catastrophic events working covertly with the U.S. Military hunting Earth’s remaining Decepticon inhabitants. However, after an unexpected ambush takes the life of Optimus Prime, the international Indiana Jones race is on to locate a century-old matrix that will revive the fallen commander. Everything that could go wrong does go wrong with this mechanical, idiotic sequel. None of the actors are given more than four seconds to display any type of talent or discuss any aspect of the minimalistic plot before another fire bomb explodes in their faces. Shia LaBeouf is hardly given a moment to deliver anything memorable while Megan Fox is basically kept around as a mobile Maxim photo shoot … shocking. And if that wasn’t enough, the overtly chauvinistic characterization of African Americans depicted between two dimwitted twin Autobots should soon have Jesse Jackson demanding for an apology, and I hope he gets it. Plus, there’s John Turturro’s wrinkly ass, a horny remote controlled truck, and a glimpse at robot heaven … yeah, you just read that. Not even the extraordinary special effects or the world’s largest on-screen explosion can realign this spiraling nightmare. –Jimmy Martin

True Blood: Season One
HBO Home Entertainment
Street: 05.19
I wish I had foreseen this current vampire programming pandemic because I would have bought Hot Topic stock years ago. With the absence of their hit dramas like The Sopranos and Six Feet Under, HBO struggled to find another originally raw series to fulfill the looming void in their Sunday night lineup. They successfully patched the wound with Alan Ball’s (creator of SFU) sinister adaptation of Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire mystery novels. Set in the distant future, a Japanese biotech company has developed synthetic blood, allowing the mythic population of vampires to reveal their existence in order to live among humans. The first season follows Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a telepathic waitress in the musty swamps of southern Louisiana, and her affection for local bloodsucker, Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) as a vicious series of murders brings fear and accusations into her small town of Bon Temps. Against the wishes of her friends and family, Sookie delves deeper into the shadows of the underworld, checking her innocence at the door. Ball’s gifts for spotlighting reality in a fictional format were already achieved with his first creation, but add a dash of fantasy and fears, and his career plot positively thickens. Along with its perfect mixture of humor, horror and humanity, True Blood succeeds in creating relationships with the ensemble cast where viewers can relate to at least one character if not all. The creative “whodunnit” twists and turns, juxtaposed with the human/vampire rights reflection of current social debates, make this series stand out amongst the crowd. –Jimmy Martin

True Romance (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros.
Street: 05.26
A year after he made a name for himself at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival with Reservoir Dogs and a year before he became a household name with Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino’s dialogue-savvy, action-filled screenplay, True Romance, was oddly attached to be directed by Tony Scott, but the end result was an intense love story that would remain entertaining for years to follow. On his birthday, Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) is unknowingly set up on a fake encounter with call girl Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette). As the night progresses, the two fall madly in love with each other and plan to restart their lives together, but escaping her pimp’s clutches proves to be easier said than done. After an undesirable situation that ends with a pile of dead bodies, the two flee to Los Angeles for salvation, but the ripple effects of their actions aren’t too far behind. Slater and Arquette are perfect as the naïve puppy love couple standing against forces much larger than the two. The droll banter complete with pop culture references and heart-pounding scenarios exhibited Tarantino’s budding skills as a writer and filmmaker. Along with the two headlining talents, an extended cast including Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken, Samuel L. Jackson, James Gandolfini, Val Kilmer and Brad Pitt only positively add to the intense build up to the climatic finale. The Blu-ray comes completely stocked with extra features, including three audio commentaries from Slater and Arquette, Tony Scott, and Quentin Tarantino, deleted scenes, an alternate ending, and a behind-the-scenes featurette. –Jimmy Martin

Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music
The Directors Cut 40th Anniversary Two Disc Special Edition
Warner Home Video, Inc.
Street: 6.9.09
My dad tells me that he is one of the only people from his generation that will openly admit that he did not go to Woodstock, despite the fact that he will also admit that he really wishes he had. After watching the movie, I can see why he gets starry eyed about just wishing he could have been there. Filmed on location, Woodstock takes you behind the scenes of this legendary music festival. Everything is shown from pre-fest interviews with the locals, stage construction and low-key footage of the talent getting stoned. Milestone performances by Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin are just a few of the 22 bands that can be seen. The Bonus DVD features 18 additional performances that weren’t previously released. Director Michael Wadleigh does an excellent job of showing us more than the bands—after all, Woodstock wasn’t just a festival, it was an experience. There are a number of interviews with the people who camped out at the festival, enduring rain, cold, mud, bad drugs, body odor and STDs (ST whats?). Undaunted by the elements, the fans still enjoy the music, the drugs and the sex. Was there more to Woodstock? Was it the beginning of a cultural shift? These were the questions and claims made by the people who were there. Go sit in the mud, drink a beer and watch the DVD to come to your own conclusions. –Ben Trentelman