Archive for the ‘Films’ Category

Blockbuster weekend

August 23, 2009

I am the first to admit, I prefer indie films over blockbusters. So what possessed me to step outside my comfort zone? Not sure. Yesterday I saw two blockbusters: G.I. Joe and District 9.

Weeks ago I promised to take my 7-year old nephew to see G.I. Joe: the Rise of Cobra, and he incessantly reminded me of my promise until I finally caved in. Yesterday morning, I kept my word. Two hours of military crafts and spies and ships and guns and muscles and rockets and bullets and armored suits and submarines and explosions and martial arts and enough already! The theatre was less than 10% full, and after 10-minutes into the film, I leaned over to the kid and said, “You know what… I think this movie is too violent.” And he said, “I know it’s all fake. Just like the cartoon.”

Fair enough. Best 90 minute nap I’ve taken in a long time. My favorite part of the movie… the preview for Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant.

Later that night, I went with Jenny and George Michael to see another film at the SAME theater – District 9. Sold out show. As I walked into the theatre, I was expecting “Starship Troopers on Earth” — don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Starship Troopers. Peter Jackson proved my wrong. Two hours of robot-like aliens and guns and mutant regeneration and alien blood and human puke and weapons blowing off heads and and a gigantic space craft hovering over a ghetto… No napping through this one. And it looked like it was shot with three cameras and no tripods. Loved it.

To round off the weekend of sloth, I think I’ll throw on a baseball cap and flip flops and go see Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards.

The gods grew quite scared…

September 20, 2008

Some of you may know I studied the Classics at UCLA—ancient Greek art, architecture and literature. One of my favorite stories is told in Plato’s Symposium. The comic playwright Aristophanes tells the story of the Origin of Love.

In John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig & the Angry Inch, they put it to music and animate it. It’s pretty awesome. I also found a video where someone illustrates the story on the actual pages of a Penguin paperback.

The Origin of Love

Clip from the film Hedwig & the Angry Inch

Video that illustrates the story

Revealing the Raw Troof

June 16, 2008

the ONION MOVIE — Review/notes to follow…

View the trailer.

MOB. For life.

4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile

February 17, 2008


4 Months 3 Weeks 2 Days
During the course of one day in 1987 in Communist Romania, Otilia helps her friend and roommate Gabita to get a late-term abortion done (at that time, any sort of abortion, as well as any kind of contraceptive were illegal in Romania). The film is very realistic and shows the rough and gritty situation in which the girls, particularly Otilia, must make decisions and deal with their consequences. A very heavy film.

CHOKE selected for Sundance in ’08

December 1, 2007


Choke – Directed by Clark Gregg (What Lies Beneath screenplay). An adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s (Fight Club) novel, Choke is the sardonic story about mother and son relationship, fear of aging, sexual addiction, and the dark side of historical theme parks. Cast: Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston, Kelly MacDonald, Brad Henke.

Is Justine Timberlake a good actor?

July 15, 2007


I recently saw two films on DVD that featured Justin Timberlake—Alpha Dog and Black Snake Moan. I thought both films were good, better than I expected. Both were engaging for different reasons. Alpha Dog had an quirky ensemble cast and such a realistic look at partying. Black Snake Moan was shot so brilliantly—dark and beautiful—and the music was awesome.

So can JT act? He’s not bad, but he’s no Crispen Glover or Martha Plimpton. The way I see it, when an actor truly nails a performance, he owns his character. It would be impossible picturing anyone else playing that role.

Alpha DogAnton Yelchin and Ben Foster were perfect as the Mazursky brothers—Zack had my sympathy from start to finish, and Jake was so intense he scared the fuck out of me. If you took away all their lines—so neither spoke a single word the entire movie—I would probably still feel connected to their characters. That’s how good I thought they both were. [Official movie website]

Black Snake MoanChristina Ricci and Samuel Jackson were amazing both individually and together. Their chemistry is so hot, it’s borderline creepy. [Official movie site / Interactive MySpace page]

Justin Timberlake doesn’t seem like he’s quite there yet as an actor, but I think it’s just a matter of time. He’s definitely surrounded by a lot of talented people.



Paris—Je t’aime

July 13, 2007

I took these photos in 2001. I fell in love with Paris immediately. (Paris, France. Not Paris Hilton.) Seeing the film Paris, Je t’aime quickly brought back memories.

Transformers… a very long Michael Bay movie

July 5, 2007

I saw Transformers on the the 4th of July with my sister’s family and one of my two nephews currently visiting from Delaware. We got there 45 minutes early, but the theater was already packed. There weren’t enough seats, so my 5-year old nephew started out first sitting on his dad’s lap to score Red Vines, then his mom’s lap for popcorn, and eventually ended up sitting with yours truly not just for the root beer but also to fall asleep. What could be better than a heavy 5-year old asleep on your lap—snoring, sweaty and smelling like he put on way too much sunscreen—to weigh you down during a typically long Michael Bay flick?

I don’t usually rush out to see blockbusters, and that’s basically Michael Bay in a nutshell. But I have to give him credit—Transformers is awesome! A little long, but very well done. The storyline was a little sketchy, but the action was incredible. Definitely to try to see this film—a big screen with a good sound system is a must.

300 (Director Zach Snyder)

March 19, 2007


Notes to follow…

View the trailer

My own Q&A with LOL director Joe Swanberg

March 6, 2007

I contacted LOL director Joe Swanberg via MySpace, and he was quick to respond.

My question:

In a way LOL felt like a documentary. Was it? What was your script like? Are your personalities in real life much different from the ones we saw in the film? Towards the end I was convinced y’all were just living your actual lives and we were lucky enough to watch and experience details of your intimacy that is familiar to all of us.

And the filmed snippets of people making sounds that your one friend turned into musical collages… Absolutely BRILLIANT! It’s hard describing them to people. It’d be more effective just showing them, let them experience it first hand. Can you point me to any sites that have sample grooves/videos?

LOL was a good ride. Thank you.

Joe’s response:


Thanks so much for seeing LOL. I’m really glad you liked it.

The film is all improvised, which is why it feels so much like a documentary. All of the actors are playing exaggerated variations on themselves, and some of the elements of the film are real, like the voice mail messages the the camera phone pictures that the long distance couple send back and forth.

If you want to see more of the Noisehead videos, we have a podcast that you can subscribe to at the LOL website You can even see a few that weren’t in the movie.


SF IndieFest—LOL

February 18, 2007


Director: Joe Swanberg (USA 2006)
Runtime: 81 minutes

Alex, Tim, and Chris view the women in their lives through a computer screen or the lens of a camera-phone, struggling to balance their online fantasies and addictions with the demands of real life. Featuring a nonprofessional cast, video contributions from people all over the world, and music by lead Kevin Bewersdorf, “LOL” shows how the latest tools of communication can either help us click or turn us off.

LOL trailer:

Director’s note:
“We started with nothing but the theme of relationships and technology, and over the course of 6 months we discovered a film much funnier, sadder, and more relevant that I ever could have hoped for.” — Joe Swanberg

SF IndieFest note:
Joe Swanberg visited us last year with his erotic feature debut “Kissing on the Mouth.” He’s just finished acting in “Quiet City”(Dir. Aaron Katz, whose “Dance Party, USA” is in this festival); his third feature “Hannah Takes the Stairs” features IndieFest fave Andrew Bujalski (“Funny Ha Ha,” “Mutual Admiration”); his short film “Thanks for the ADD” appears in Issue 2 of San Francisco’s Wholphin video magazine, and the entire first season of his web-show “Young American Bodies” is on, with Season 2 coming soon. Now, someone should coin a label for this prolific new wave of post-cinematic video/web/film artists.

Darius’s notes:
Coming soon…

SF IndieFest—All the Lonely People (series of shorts)

February 10, 2007

All the Lonely People (series of shorts)
Review of films coming soon…

  1. Happiness
    Director: Sophie Barthes (USA 2006)
    Runtime: 11 minutes
    Storyline: A woman working in a condom factory tries to buy happiness
  2. Night Becomes Day
    Director: Jacob Hinmon (USA 2006)
    Runtime: 14 minutes
    Storyline: Alex turns his car into a “taxi” and sets out on a nightlong adventure
  3. Die Besucher (The Visitors)
    Director: Ulrike Molsen (Germany 2006
    Runtime: 39 minutes
    Storyline: A woman hosts a couple in trouble and becomes the target of their cruel game
  4. My Name Is Wallace
    Director: Bob Pondillo (USA 2006)
    Runtime: 18 minutes
    Storyline: A lonely man falls in love with a sex-line operator

Keep passing the open windows…

January 30, 2007


Awesome book and incredible film—The Hotel New Hampshire

Notes to follow…

Withnail & I

January 13, 2007


Notes on this film to follow… In the meantime, watch the trailer below.

[02/12/07] Okay… I think I know what to say about Withnail & I. I liked it. It’s like that classic buddy movie where the two are inseparable, never by choice, and they’re always faced with (or creating their own) chaos. One guy is definitely more desperate and aggressive than the other. It’s a little bit like Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot, or Dante and Randall in Clerks. But as I was watching Withnail & I, this song kept going through my head—a song that I know I liked a LOT at one point in time, but at that moment I couldn’t quite place it. I finally figured it out…

The song is called “It’s a Mugs Game” written and performed by Marc Almond back in the early 80’s when he was part of the band Soft Cell. I downloaded that song tonight and listened to it again for the first time in over 20 years. FUCK—what an amazing song!

I’ll post the lyrics to “It’s a Mugs Game” in another post and link back here. Or link from here to it. Something like that.

< View future blog post—It’s a Mugs Game >

Running with Scissors (Film)

November 19, 2006

Movie stills from Running with Scissors

For me the film Running with Scissors was a very different experience from the book.

Notes to follow…

View the movie trailer above

Detailed review by Robert Urban

Sasha Cohen as BORAT?

November 7, 2006

Sasha CohenBorat

When I first read about this movie, I thought… Sasha Cohen the little Olympic figure skater made a movie? Before seeing the film, I had no knowledge of Sacha Baron Cohen, his HBO show or any of his characters. My first experience was this film—Borat.

With so much pre-release hype, there was worry the film might flop just like Snakes on a Plane. So they scaled back on the number of screens they planned to show the film originally on its opening weekend. I tried seeing it Friday through Sunday without any luck. They must have double sold seats, because even with fewer screens showing this film, it grossed almost $25 million opening weekend. I finally saw it tonight—day five.

I walked into the theater with 4 friends from work with my fingers crossed that it was going to be a smart comedy. I left that theater with way more than I expected. WAY MORE. It has to be one of the smartest comedies I’ve seen in a long time. It was non-stop laughter from start to end. I don’t know who laughed louder, me or my friend Pam. At times I felt like apologizing to the people around me because of my loud uncontrollable cackling. I almost laid an egg. Cohen has a unique way of tackling inappropriate topics and cultural stereotypes—not dancing around the edges all half-ass, but committing 110%. It was definitely FULL-ASS. I believe Cohen’s commitment and absolute risks make this a truly smart and ingeniously funny film—a film I will definitely see again.

It’s not that I don’t want to write too much about the film’s content, I don’t think it’s possible. No plot synopsis or character description, regardless how well-written, would do the film justice. I recommend you just go out and experience it first hand.

Sacha Baron Cohen—aka Borat—thank you for LETTING ME HAVE IT!

Video #1—Official Borat movie trailer

Video #2—Ali G fans, help me out… (See note below)

Is that Cohen/Ali G at the beginning of this ghetto fabulous music video from 2000 or 2001? Check out the first 30 seconds, then let me know by leaving a comment. Thanks.

Preview—Reno 911: Miami

November 7, 2006

Of all the moview previews before the movie Borat, this is the one I am looking foward to seeing most—Reno 911: Miami

What the F_ _ _ _ ?

November 5, 2006

A Documentary


THiNK Film delivered LOL controversy last year with Aristocrats. Now that all the poop jokes have settled, they’re serving up FUCK—a documentary—the film that dare not say its name. 

Director and producer Steven Anderson addresses the social, political, personal, historical, linguistic and artistic significance of the four letter word. He tells his story through a series of candid interviews with linguists, comedians, musicians, filmmakers, journalists, porn stars, world political leaders, and a host of well-spoken celebrities. The film also features never before seen fuck-footage, clips of American fuck-culture over the years, and fuck-animation from Oscar-award-nominated artist Bill Plympton. The film promises to be a celebrity fuck-fest. Literally.

FUCK is scheduled for limited release at Landmark theaters in losAngeles and New York on November 10, and in San Francisco on November 17th at the Lumiere theater.

Watch the movie trailer below

Half Nelson

September 10, 2006

Half Nelson

Genre:  Indie
Directed by: 
Ryan Fleck
Starring:  Ryan Gosling, Shareeka Epps, Anthony Mackie

An unmounted camera can leave an audience dizzy. Although a good percentage of Half Nelson was filmed with handheld super-8, the story itself is far from dizzy. It’s quite focused. This film is different from others that feature tweakers—The Salton Sea, Requiem for a Dream, Spun. This isn’t about the glamour vs. horror of crack. It’s not about making statements to generalize a segment of misfits. What makes this film different? The story is personal. It’s about individuals and how their lives are affected. It’s about an 8th grade teacher and basketball coach caught by one of his students hitting the pipe in the girl’s locker room. It’s about a 13-year old girl who’s smart enough to ask questions that matter.

Ryan Gosling plays the part well. His character is developed not so much in what he says, but more through what he doesn’t say. And young Shareeka Epps is flawless, another example of less is more. What if your favorite teacher was cracked? Scary thought. This is a heavy movie.

I was hooked from the first preview—This song is called Half Nelson for those times when you’re feeling kinda stuck. The song Ryan Gosling is referring to is Half Nelson by Miles Davis.

Half Nelson website

SF Shorts

August 12, 2006

SanFrancisco International Festival of Short Films 

1 Liar (US Premiere)  2 Actors  3 Mario Makes A Movie

Fancy  5 Film Noir  6 Derek's Appeal

And the Sun Stopped Shining  8 Coney Island  9 Hair Lady

PROGRAM 4 — Saturday, 8/12 at the Victoria Theatre

1  Liar – China Moo-Young, UK 
Actors – Joe Leonard, Zach Evans and Drew Masters, USA 
3  Mario Makes A Movie – Roger Deutsch, USA 
Fancy – Lori Grossman, USA 
5  Film Noir – Osbert Parker, UK 
Derek’s Appeal – Peter Malof, USA 
7  And The Son Stopped Shining – Barry Stricke, USA 
8  Coney Island – Jeremiah Zaga, USA 
9  Hair Lady – David Birdsell, Canada

See a description of each film.