Saturday, August 7, 2004

PRETTY SURE THIS WILL BEAT "TAXI" IN THE "BEST TAXICAB MOVIE" AWARDS: I wind up with a split decision on "Collateral." Yes, the direction is as stylish as one might expect from Mann, who masterfully uses light and darkness throughout the film, and brings an intensity and immediacy to a film that unfolds largely in real time. You can't fault the performances, either. Be it from Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, or a supporting cast riddled with H!ITG's like Mark Ruffalo, Irma P. Hall, Bruce McGill, and Peter Berg, the performances are top-notch. For Cruise, this is, perhaps, his "Training Day," a film where a popular, well-regarded actor plays dramatically against type and gets acclaim and (potentially) awards for doing so.

The problem is in the script. The plot depends almost entirely on coincidence and hiding pieces of information from the audience. In fact, I saw the major plot twist coming from very early on. Add to it plot holes sizable enough to drive a truck through, like the only person in the office the night before a major criminal trial being the lead prosecutor--no paralegals, no secretaries, nobody else at all, and the police and FBI apparently stopping following people after a major shootout, and you have some maddening problems.

That said, I didn't check my watch once during the run time of the movie (over two hours)--the style and performances are captivating enough that you overlook the plot holes. I did, however, kick the chairs of a person (directly in front of me) who decided to chat on their cell phone during the movie, and nearly shouted at the four groups who brought young children into the movie. Perhaps as an unmarried and childless young person I'm missing something, but is it too much to ask that you leave your kids at home when you're going to the evening showing of an "R" rated movie, or at least take them out of the theatre when they begin to cry and scream?
THAT LEPRECHAUN'S ON ACID: In this day of mourning, many turn to the Chappelle's Show clip page for aid and comfort.

But I think I've got a new favorite clip, and it will appeal to anyone who fondly remembers the standup comedy scene of the 1980s: Dave Chappelle is Black Gallagher.

Friday, August 6, 2004

"IF THERE'S SOME SORT OF, LIKE, RETARDED OSCARS, YOU WOULD WIN." Finally got around to seeing Zach Braff's Garden State this evening. No, it's not perfect. It's Braff's first film, and that shows, throughout, with "first film" and "indie film" cliches littering the landscape--most notably an emotional climax that features characters screaming off a cliff for no apparent reason. That said, it's a gem, featuring strong performances all around, especially from Natalie Portman, who, for once, has a part where her acting, rather than her hairstyles, can take center stage, and from Peter Sarsgaard, who does a veritable 180 from his great work in "Shattered Glass" to play a pot-addled grave-digger. Add in completely unncessary appearance by rapper Method Man, and you have something fascinating and touching.

Braff's directoral and writing style has a naturalness to it that reminds me, in a lot of ways, of Cameron Crowe. In particular, both Braff and Crowe demonstrate an astounding touch with selection of the right music, both contemporary and classic. Admittedly, Crowe has his missteps, but hard to think of a better role model for Braff to follow. Maybe if we're truly lucky, they'll work together in the future.

On a closing bizarre note note, on my way to the theatre, I saw an unusual panhandler. The sign really says it all--"6 Foot 7 Inch Jewish Guy Will Freestyle Rap."
COCAINE'S A HELL OF A DRUG: CNN is reporting, via an LAPD spokesman, that funk singer and cultural icon Rick James was found dead in his home today by his caretaker.
FOR WHO, FOR WHAT? Gingerly treading onto Alex's turf, here's a list from of the ten allegedly most embarassing sports interviews/press conferences.

How you can compile such a list without Allen Iverson's "we talkin' about practice?" press conference, however, is beyond me. A total piece of diddly-poo.
THEY'LL TUMBLE 4 YA: From across the pond, this list of the ten oddest former Olympic events.

I've long held this fantasy that the Olympic closing ceremonies contain one massive game of dodgeball involving all the competitors from every nation, that helicopters would drop hundreds of those red rubber playground balls onto the field and the game would continue until one last Olympian was left standing.

Thursday, August 5, 2004

MEET THE NEW GIRL: The NYT, having nudged Elvis Mitchell out the door, today welcomes the Manohla Dargis from the LA Times with this rave on Collateral. If nothing else, it appears, Dargis is going to be giving us a healthy portion of context with each review.

Also noteworthy in the reviews: apparently, it's possible to have a movie with Kathy Bates and Holly Hunter that, nevertheless, still sucks.

And one last note: while no longer listed on the site, Elvis' archive is still available.
HELLO -- IS IT ME YOU'RE LOOKING FOR? Thanks to Adam for his warm and largely accurate introduction. I have no idea what, exactly, I'm going to end up adding to this blog, but I appreciate the opportunity to join him, Matt, Alex, Isaac and Phil here.

Let me start not with a question, because this happened to me Monday and I'm still not sure what the right call was.

So I took a taxi home from the office, and, idiot that I am, my cell phone fell out of my pocket and I left it in the back seat.

Driver, being wise, finds the entry marked 'Home' in my contacts, and calls me a half hour later. I've got your phone, he says, but I'm a half hour away now, and I'm taking off work tomorrow, so I wouldn't be able to get your phone back to you until Wednesday, unless . . . .

And I knew he was full of shit. But he had me. How much? I asked.

You tell me, he said.

I offered twenty dollars. He accepted, and came about an hour later.

I had my phone back. But, man, I felt like I had been taken. Was there another way to handle it?
ONE MORE INTO THE BREACH: I am proud to announce the addition of my friend Kingsley Shacklebolt to ALOTTFMA.

Kingsley was born between the boredom and the chowder. He doesn't speak the language, holds no currency, and many's the times he's been mistaken. All his life he's been a wanderer. (Not really.)

Kingsley watches The Amazing Race. He is an excellent cook. He believes that collage is the greatest of all the arts.

Please welcome him kindly.

Wednesday, August 4, 2004

IN RELATED NEWS, BABIES ARE CUTE AND PUPPIES ARE ADORABLE: Finally got around to leafing through the July 5 issue of The National Law Journal, which contains my favorite "obvious" headline of the year--yes, there's actually a lengthy opinion piece with the headline "Nazi laws are a poor guide." I have but one word to say--Duh.
THE INAUGURAL AMAZING RACE AMAZING BETTING POOL: Because people should be allowed to bet on anything, and because on average this list gets twice as many Amazing Race comments as any other comments, ALOTTFMA asks: How much of a lead do Colin and Christie currently have over Mirna and Charla? Post your answers in the comments. Closest guess wins; winner will receive: a prize. Prize will be: of no material value.
DENNIS MILLER CAN REST EASY: Sometimes, even when I'm working, I find stuff worthy of blogging about. I was doing research about closing arguments today, and came across Lamborn v. Dittmer, 688 F.Supp. 113 (S.D.N.Y. 1988). In Lamborn, the Court held that "Surely the use of sarcasm by counsel in argument is not barred." However, not all sarcasm in court is acceptable. In United States v. Burns, 104 F.3d 529 (2d Cir. 1997), the prosecutor actually stood up and sarcastically applauded at the close of defendant's counsel's closing argument. All parties eventually agreed that this conduct was inappropriate, but the Second Circuit held that it did not constitute reversible prosecutorial misconduct.

God bless my free federal caselaw access.

Tuesday, August 3, 2004

ISH! So, my brother finally got me to sit down and watch Pimp My Ride on the MTV. Hoo boy, that's some fine television.

For the uninitiated, the show is Queer Eye, only it's a lame car, not a lame guy. But otherwise, it's the same: evaluate the current crap, tear it to pieces and discard unneeded furniture, get the team together to work out a plan, refurbish/remodel and, finally, the reveal, all in a half hour. Just like you don't have to care about fashion to admire Carson Kressley's work, you don't need to care about cars to admire the work of Mad Mike and the West Coast Customs crew.

(And, just like QESG, while there's a lot of high-end work going on, there's also plenty that any of us can do based on watching the show. For example, the convenience of positioning a Camelbak behind the driver's seat.)

Anyone else watching?

(Also, an fyi: expect a new blogger to join us soon.)
EVERYONE ON THIS PLANE IS IN LAST PLACE: Another great leg of the Race -- Biblical references both Old and New, sneaky midgets, pronounced male fear of deep crevices, respect for the ancient Egyptians, reproachful priests, a new twist and, for the heck of it, a massive lead that should be eviscerated the moment the words "hours of operation" are intoned. No one became less likable, but, man, I'm loving Chip and Kim.

PIMPIN' AIN'T EASY: Or so might say Charles Floyd Pipkins (aka "Sir Charles") and Andrew Moore, Jr. (aka "Batman") after this 11th Circuit Opinion issued today. Notable, if only because it's one of the few times you'll ever see reference to the "film" "Pimps Up, Hoes Down" and its companion piece "Really Really Pimpin' In The South" in a government document, and because the court seems to be WAY too interested in the methodology of pimping.

Link, unsurprisingly, via Bashman.
HOW 'BOUT A NICE GAME OF BOUILEBASEBALL? In the continuing quest to create the least necessary DVD of a television series, we perhaps have a topper. Yes, Season One of "ALF" is finally arriving on DVD. More disturbingly, as of this writing, it's #70 on Amazon in terms of sales. Now, I own a lot of TV on DVD, like both seasons so far released of this and this, and the only season so far released of this, but aren't we going a little far? Other competitors for the least necessary DVD release title?

Three seasons of "Dawson's Creek," with a fourth season coming soon.

"Sledge Hammer! Season One"

Four seasons (the fifth is on its way) of "Sanford and Son"

Three (extremely expensive) seasons of "Dr. Quinn: Frontier Anachronism."
WONDER WHERE THIS BLOG RANKS: Yes, it's the Parents Television Council Top 10 Best and Worst Shows For Family Viewing, which tells us what "good people" should be watching.

Their "best" shows are:

1. "Joan of Arcadia"--I can't argue with this one, and am actually a little surprised, especially in light of the police plots on the show, which can run a bit gory, and several sex-related storylines.
2. "Doc"--Yes, it's the show that stars Billy Ray Cyrus. His mullet gets second billing.
3. "Sue Thomas, F.B.Eye"--Huh? Oh. It's on PAX.
4. "Reba"
5. "7th Heaven"
6. "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"--According to the PTC, this "shows the heights to which reality TV can aspire. " Yeah, because there hasn't been any really good reality TV this year (see, e.g., "The Apprentice," "Amazing Race").
7. "Everybody Loves Raymond"
8. "American Idol"--"American Idol is an entertaining show that the entire family can enjoy because it focuses only on the surprisingly good performances turned in by talented young singers." I'm sure those who watch the show can find at least four errors in that sentence.
9. "American Dreams"
10. "The Bernie Mac Show"--Glad to know a show that features the line "I'll whup your head till the white meat shows!" is acceptable for family viewing.

The "worst?"

1. "Everwood"--In spite of the fact that's it's from a former "Dawson's Creek" showrunner and follows "7th Heaven," this is one of the best shows on TV for exactly the reason the PTC seems to hate it--it dealt with sexual issues this year with an uncommon degree of nuance and intelligence.
2. "That '70s Show"--The PTC's criticism of this show is that "Teen sex and drug use on this series are depicted as risk- and consequence-free." Yet, in the next sentence, they note that one of this season's storylines depicted an unwanted pregnancy. Hmmm---that doesn't seem "risk- and consequence-free" to me.
3. "Fear Factor"
4. "Two and A Half Men"
5. "C.S.I. Original Recipe"
6. "The Surreal Life"
7. "Girlfriends"
8. "Las Vegas"
9. "Will and Grace"
10. "Cold Case"

We can be thankful that they didn't include HBO--one can only imagine the race for the #1 "worst" slot between "Deadwood," "Sopranos," and "Sex and The City."

Monday, August 2, 2004

IT DEPENDS ON WHAT THE MEANING OF "LIVE" IS: The AP, via MSNBC, reports that Bill Clinton is in talks to host "SNL" early this season. He's got to be the number 1 "get" that "SNL" producers have wanted for years, and I gotta say, I encourage him to do it--it could be a jolt in the arm that the show desperately needs. The one problem is that Clinton's personality is already so much larger than life that he may be unable to play other characters credibly, and I'm not sure that you can do 90 minutes of sketches featuring Bill Clinton as Bill Clinton.

Sunday, August 1, 2004

RULE 4: EBERT ISN'T ALWAYS RIGHT: In spite of Roger Ebert's review, I did venture forth to see "The Village" this afternoon, and I'm almost 180 degrees removed from Ebert. Yes, the "what is going on" explanation is a tad disappointing and anti-climactic. (In fact, I'd guessed most of that part of the secret from the trailer.) Yes, Adrien Brody is miscast and largely wasted in his part, as is Sigourney Weaver. Yes, the period dialogue is stilted, especially from William Hurt (though there's a reason for that). But for the first time in Shymalan's movies, it's not the "What" that really matters, but the "Why." I don't feel comfortable sharing more here for fear of spoiling (and I will not be the first to spoil in the comments)--though this is a movie that can't be spoiled with a simple sentence like "Bruce Willis is really dead," the less you know going in, the better. I will say this--ultimately, I think "The Village" has some interesting things to say about American politics and culture, and both sides of the debate will find evidence to support their position in the film. I reccomend seeing it so you can make up your own mind. Also, Bryce Dallas Howard (Ron's daughter) is amazing--I'm thankful we didn't have to see Kirsten Dunst in the part--and it's very nice to see Judy Greer getting a serious role rather than her standard comic second-banana part.
NO, NOT THAT KIND OF "ADULT MOVIE:" I haven't blogged about movies in a while, but is it just me, or are we in the midst of one of the best movie summers for grown-ups in quite a while? After a May and June riddled with movies that were oriented toward the lowest common denominator like "Van Helsing," "Troy," and "The Chronicles of Riddick," most of which were commercial and critical dissapointments, as we've moved into the heart of the summer, we've gotten a series of movies that have decided to not underestimate their audience's intelligence, and have turned into some of the biggest hits of the summer.

We start with "I, Robot," which, in spite of an early ad campaign which made it look like yet another Will Smith quip fest, turned out to be a surprisingly smart and provocative story about what "protecting humanity" really means. Not even a performance as stiff as Bridget Moynahan's here can spoil the fun. Yes, it's not Asimov--not even close--but it is a thoughtful and intelligent sci-fi movie for the summer, which is a refreshing change.

It's followed by "The Bourne Supremacy." Never mind that the title makes no real sense (what exactly is Bourne "supreme" over?) and that the plot is almost too complicated for its own good, the movie shows guts with a major first act plot twist that had me surprised, and by instead of casting people for looking like action stars (Vin Diesel, I'm looking at you), casting real actors/actresses (Matt Damon, Joan Allen, Julia Stiles, and Brian Cox). Add to this a style of shooting that heightens the intensity and intimacy of the story (most of the film is shot with handheld, shaky, cameras), and you've got a deligtful summer movie. What's interesting is that "Bourne," which take pains to force the viewer to work out what's going on, will probably be one of the most profitable of the "big summer blockbusters" because cost was kept low.

This week, we get an unexpected treat in "The Manchurian Candidate." I haven't seen the original Sinatra/Harvey/Lansbury version, so I can't judge it by comparison, but what Demme and his cast does with the premise makes for an exciting ride. Particularly of note is the fact that in a straight thriller, Demme (as he did in "Silence of the Lambs") is able to get great performances out of his three leads. In particular, Liev Schrieber is frighteningly good as the titular character, who probably has the toughest job in the script. Demme's filmmaking technique (a lot of askew shots and extreme closeups) does, at times, bug, but like the similar camera work in "Bourne Supremacy," it brings an immediacy to the film.

Next week looks to continue the trend, with Michael Mann's "Collateral" arriving, which, by early accounts, is another high quality movie for adults.