Friday, February 26, 2010

Trailer for "Ride Rise Roar" (2010)

Directed by Hillman Curtis. Have a look at the trailer for Ride Rise Roar, the David Byrne concert film (premiering March 14 at SXSW in Austin, Texas) and see if you don't agree that it looks like it just might be as beautiful and exciting as 1984's "Stop Making Sense."

Unless you are my Dad, odds are you're aware that "Stop Making Sense" is the 1984 concert film of Byrne's art-pop act, Talking Heads (by Jonathan Demme) that could have revolutionized concert films had anybody bothered to pick up the gauntlet.

Prior to "Stop Making Sense," concert films tended to be horribly boring. For one thing, rock artists did not bother to think about what elements of their performance might or might not translate interestingly to film. This meant that, other than maybe Neil Young, nobody thought to produce a show that catered especially to the film goer. Also, it hadn't occurred to anybody to shoot concerts with the lights on, something movie film desperately needs to work -- especially prior to the advent of digital video. This resulted in dark, grainy films that strain the eyes.

"Stop Making Sense" was a beautiful revelation, with its brightly lit, tastefully minimal stage set. In fact, minimalism was a deceptively satirical theme in the show's subtle attention to a movie's three-act narrative structure. Simply put, the film is beautiful to look at and a joy to watch.

Unapologetically artsy, "Stop Making Sense" manages to balance its intellectual presentation without ever feeling pretentious. In the same way that "This is Spinal Tap" earned its smirk with spot-on satire, "Stop Making Sense" earns its straight-faced artiness with sound, color, movement, beauty and an overall uniqueness the likes of which had never before been seen.

The film barely grossed $1 million when it was released, though it's soundtrack record sold well. In retrospect, a very fortunate thing happened -- nothing. The success of high concept music videos for marketing music pretty much guaranteed we wouldn't see a bunch of shitty imitations of "Stop Making Sense" featuring the Police and Van Halen. Instead, Billy Idol punched the air, David Lee Roth swung from a wire, Madonna rolled around in a lot of outfits.

Now, almost 25 years later, we can hope that Ride Rise Roar holds a candle to "Stop Making Sense."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Must Love Dogs (2005)

Directed by Gary David Goldberg. I'm going to go ahead and call this a must-see for students of Hollywood film-making. I've been accused of being cynical but even the purest, least jaded and most optimistic fan of movies would have to notice that this movie is not actually about anything.

Since "Serendipity" made me want to jump into the screen, "Sherlock Jr."-style and slit the throats of its characters, it probably was not smart to see another John Cusack rom-com this soon. So part of me is tempted to give the benefit of doubt to just being short tempered after that whole debacle, but I don't think that's the case. I'm not mad at this movie like I was at "Serendipity" (which portrayed sociopaths as romantics and their abused fiancees as foolish shrews). In fact, I almost want to see this again to make sure there is as little going on here as I think there is.

In fact, I'm not sure where Netflix gets their plot summaries, but the one they have online for this movie is a big fat lie. It claims this is about two people courting but both pretending they own dogs because they met under the premise of loving dogs. While this may have been in an early draft of the script and used as the marketing platform for the flick, by the final cut not only were no dogs harmed in the making of this film, virtually no dogs were used at all. In truth, there are a couple, but they're here about as much as "Animal House" uses a horse.

This is the weirdest spoiler alert ever because there is nothing to spoil. This movie tells the story of Sarah (Diane Lane) and Jake (Cusack), two good-looking white people who just ended unhappy marriages and are looking for new relationships. Their respective friends and families try to hook them up and recommend online resources. They date around a bit and have some odd experiences. Around the middle of the story they meet each other and there's some attraction. By the end of the movie they're willing to acknowledge that if they are going to find love with each other, they'll need to be honest with themselves and each other. That's it. How many people do you know who have lived this?

Especially during the '90s there were a lot of independent and foreign films that played like those New Yorker type short stories that simply study a character and don't feel a lot of pressure to let a lot happen. They just sort of end with a feeling of "isn't life kind of ironic sometimes." This wasn't even like that. I think this movie is for people with so few problems, they will think that the few things that happen here on screen count as a plot.

It's like the blandest movie ever made. Highly recommended.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Jennifer's Body (2009)

Directed by Karyn Kusama. If you have always dreamed of seeing a possessed Megan Fox vomit black acid while devouring the flesh of her lovers then this is the movie for you. No, this is not a backstage documentary of the making of "Transformers 2" -- hahahaha! It's her first "topline" role, meaning her first movie where the poster isn't of a robot. Also, Diablo Cody ("Juno") wrote the screenplay.

I would say this movie would be greatly aided by robots or anything that made "Juno" good, which probably means either being directed by Jason Reitman or just being a different movie. My guess is that when "Juno" broke it was time for Diablo Cody to grab any script lying around her apartment and this was left over from some forgotten screenplay workshop. Megan Fox plays Jennifer, a metaphoric maneater who becomes a real-life one once she is possessed by a supernatural force.

But Jennifer isn't to be saved, she's to be slayed because the hero of the pic is her best friend Needy (get it?), who is played by Amanda Seyfried ("Mean Girls," "Mama Mia!") and looks a lot like Jan Brady in this. For the first half of the film there is subtext that Jennifer is SO HOT that Needy has been wrestling with homosexual thoughts her whole life. This is subtle until the actual point that subtlety is put aside and they just make out a lot. But Needy knows and declares ("This is crazy!") that Jennifer must be killed along with those nasty lesbian tendencies.

The great question is whether Megan Fox is hot enough to make this all worth bothering with. These movies are designed to keep you questioning that to the end, when it's too late to bother.