Saturday, December 31, 2011

Movie Review: Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Nature's Inherent Beauty 

      Werner Herzog, an enigmatic visionary in an obsessive search for truth and meaning, is responsible for some of the most provocative, ambitious, and enrapturing documentaries/films in cinema's history: Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Fitzcarraldo, Grizzly Man, and The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser represent some of his finest work. His latest documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, could have been a painstaking dissection detailing the history of crayons. I would have been captivated. But Forgotten Dreams, fleeing the doldrums of industry, actually documents something extraordinary: Mysteries of France's Chauvet Cave, a clandestine site that houses the oldest-known paintings in the world.

Movie Review: 50/50

Compassion For Life

      Embedded in Will Reiser's autobiographical script, which springs to life from the jovial stewardship of Jonathan Levine (The Wackness), is an axiom of humanity that I, myself, learned from an Eastern Philosophies class after being subjected to a quaint little film, Patch Adams. This axiom, transplanting space and time, consists of a core human function: Compassion. While Patch treats this universal philosophy blithely, almost in a reductive course, the message still resonates. A philosophy of compassion, exemplified in the treatment of patients through humor and humility, is one I suspect Reiser identifies with most closely.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top Ten Movies of 2011 (PREVIEW)

A Preview of My Top Ten Movies of 2011




      As I formulate my year-end list of my Top Ten Favorite Movies of 2011, I've decided to highlight the first two: Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Guard. For very different reasons, I enjoyed both these films immensely. 
      One defies the big-budget, blockbuster model while the other achieves a measure of genius, which I've come to learn, is far more prevalent in the world of independent cinema. You see, indies operate free of big studio control, which, while neglecting a seemingly limitless swath of funds, affords a certain artistic freedom. Blockbusters, existing within the dimensions of a self-fulfilling prophecy, are burdened by the mitigating tentacles of studio interference: marketers, producers, artistic or capitalistic, and hordes of other artistically-draining forces. 
      Independent filmmakers work within a manageable, focused center of control, which allows the director's message to work in concert with their technical proficiency. This is not to say blockbusters cannot achieve artistic excellence—look at Scorsese and Spielberg, just to name two—but more often than not, the bigger the budget, the greater the likelihood of a costly, unwatchable albatross (I don't think anyone in Hollywood has forgotten the legacy of Waterworld; certainly not Kevin Costner). So, in this spirit of polarity, I've highlighted the first two qualifiers in my Top Ten Movies of 2011 List. Enjoy and, as always, feel free to comment.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Movie Review: Hugo

Hugo Go Gadget 

      Since the Inception of the Motion Picture, at the dawn of the 20th Century, creative endeavors have blossomed appreciably. Willed by a creative purpose, at its core both tangible and attainable, the progenitors of cinematic arts, progressively forward and vitally distinct, have spearheaded an industry of ever-changing parts: That industry is, of course, film. Movies, foremost in their design, necessitate a fervent willingness to dream, capture and effectuate that ephemeral yet instinctual spirit of imagination. Nursing this spirit, a surmountable though arduous challenge, are the generational Fore Fathers of Film: Names like Chaplin, Eisenstein, Bunuel, Lang, Renoir, Hawks, Ford, Hitchcock, Kubrick, Coppola, Fellini, Truffaut, Spielberg, Woo, Kar-wai and yes, you guessed it, Scorsese. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Short Review

Driven To Critique

      This is a teaser of my next "What I've Been Watching" segment. A veritable assortment of Classical Cinema, from Scarface: The Shame of a Nation to Sunset Boulevard, has assaulted my exuberant eyes and ears. And at some point in the foreseeable future, I intend to share my sincerest thoughts.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Film News

Gangsters, Gangsters, Read All About It!

     A real palpable odor, which is both discomforting and disorienting, overwhelms me: Something stinks...and no, I'm not talking about Slider from Top Gun, because as you know, Maverick proved him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, what reeks has the unfamiliar tinge of frustration. Maybe it's the frustration of Boardwalk Empire, a de facto must watch show from last year, which, on the eve of its season finale, has miserably underperformed; naturally high expectations, for me at least, unmet. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

2011 TheMovie411 Blog Awards

 Misadventures of a Missed Cineaste 

      I'm back! I don't imagine those two words conjure up memories of a famous press release from only the greatest basketball player alive? Whether they do or don't, I'm back like Die Hard: With A Vengeance. Actually, scrap that analogy...Unless we could trade Zeus Carver for Jules Winnfield? In that case "with great vengeance and furious anger," FilmMattic announces his return. Needless to say, my posting attendance record would make Ferris Bueller shriek in horror. Of course, then Brian De Palma would finally (as if he's been tirelessly in search of such a thing) have the perfect scream to conclude Blow Out. Heck, even a stoned out-of-his-mind Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High would disown me. I can hear the chants already: Truancy, truancy. And to my dismay, they're charged with the same stoic passion as the Notre Dame Football team chanting Rudy, Rudy. In other words, my unexcused absence from the blogosphere warrants the deepest of scorn even from the likes of the Dazed and Confused. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

What I've Been Watching: 2nd Edition, Part 2

What's Good In The Hood?

      First order of business: You can find Part I of my "What I've Been Watching" segment here and my inaugural edition here. Of course, my newest edition can be found below.
      My current mood: an inextricable combination of heat wave desperation and heat wave desperation. I can't recall CT EVER being this hot. Recordings touched 105 degrees earlier today, but, because of the heat index, temperatures felt closer to 115 degrees. This blistering heat has me feeling like a baked meatball. Not because I'm Italian. It's just so damn hot, my sweat is sweating. But I digress; back to the movie talk. 
      It takes a cool guy to cool you off. And no blogger is cooler than Craig over @ Let's Get Out Of Here!  Beyond an idiosyncratic taste in film and an arsenal of wit that would make James Bond cower, Craig writes informative, engaging and hilarious posts concerning all-things movies; not the minutiae, the merry. The guy's got an exceptional ear and eye for the most straight-outta-left-field topical discussions. Inevitably, he can entertain the most cynical of film-centric personalities. And most recently, as de facto proof, Craig wrote a terrific "Documentary" piece regarding Blue Velvet (Can I get a shout out for David Lynch!). There's a lot of information to digest, but it's all unique and authentic. It can be found here! Forewarning: If you have a phobia of ears, well, whatever, confront your irrational fear.  
      In honor of Craig's exemplary "Movie About Making Movies" post, I've decided to highlight one of my favorite films, which depicts that very style, in my newest segment. I urge all of my film obsessed followers and readers to stop by Craig's blog. And I apologize in advance because I realize some of you may find it hard to resist perusing his entire postography. On my behalf, and Mr. Movie (formally known as Craig Edwards), I thank you all for your support.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

What I've Been Watching: 2nd Edition, Part 1

I'm Going Going, Back Back, to Classics Classics

      If you're curious, you can find my debut "What I've Been Watching" segment here.

City Lights (1931) - Charlie Chaplin

Widely considered to be the crowning jewel of Charlie Chaplin's auspicious career, City Lights illuminated his greatest gifts. Performing as The Tramp, his most beloved and recognized character, Sir Charles demonstrated a rarefied adeptness for physical comedy, slapstick humor and visual pizzazz. For those who doubt his creative genius, enjoy a lifetime of purgatory. And unlike "Andy" Dufresne from Shawshank State Penitentiary, you won't have a rock hammer. Charlie's virtuosity, if you'll take me at my word, arose at the very outset of City Lights: the iconic opening scene featured The Tramp on the Statue, which demonstrated his unrivaled flair for performance. Through a nuanced veneer of inventive acrobatics, Chaplin both captivated and horrified the crowd. And few actors of any era could ever capture the impossible, non-compartmentalized essence of a character—an essence empathized with striking vibrancy—without seeming contrived. Chaplin, as director and lead actor (basically, lead everything) could do so without breaking a sweat and probably without even showing up on set. Performances, we can almost-uniformly agree, are measured and quantified differently. The criterion, while graded in universally established principles, is pliable across generations. But no critic, past or present, revered or rejected, can overstate the greatness of Chaplin. His legacy is carved into the granite faces (since we're talking about Hollywood, expect those faces to be glittered) of Mount Rushmore. Ultimately, City Lights, an enduring staple of the silent film era, defined the standards for romantic comedy. And it ended, arguably, with the greatest and most touching moment ever transcribed to film: The Tramp asked, "You can see now?" "Yes, I can see now."  10 out of 10

Monday, July 11, 2011

Movie News

I'll Be Blunt: Hollywood Smokes Everything

      Let's face the facts. The last time we puffed a Spike Lee rolled joint, our lungs overflowed with toxins. Instead of smoking, you know, genuine marijuana, we were duped into K2 (for those not savvy with teenager's ways of getting high, it's a potent mixture of herbal and spice plant products, which is sprayed with a psychotropic drug and contaminated with a toxic substance). The end result of smoking K2, which is not unlike watching Spike Lee's last film: a horrid mutation comprised of equal parts streaking Will Ferrell from Old School and drug-riddled Jared Leto from Requiem for a Dream. Not healthy. Not pretty. And oh so reckless.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Tribute to Steven Spielberg

An Impressive Look Inside the Mind of An Auteur

      A few weeks ago, the Director's Guild of America, perhaps to coincide with the release of Super 8, held "A Tribute to Steven Spielberg," which features J.J. Abrams and James Cameron discussing Spielberg's influence on their careers. What's more impressive is the fact that Spielberg offers a very candid and extensive look at his own, very unique filmmaking perspective, a perspective that Abrams refers to, quite eloquently, as "child-like," not in terms of maturity, but inspiration. Child-like, Abrams elucidates, is a "manifestation" of that ephemeral feeling, palpable during our formative years, which projects a "tangible" sensation of wonder and awe. It was a powerful, honest moment. Spielberg, rightly so, was quite touched.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Movie Review: Transformers: Dark of the Moon

The Bay of Pigs

      The Bay of Pigs invasion may have been unsuccessful back in 1961, but, in 2011, the world has successfully become victims of a new kind of invasion: The Bay of Pigging Out. Special effects overload, Check; Spectacular destruction, Check; More explosions than you'd see in a Cold War era nuclear test facility, Check; A clumsy narrative, Check; Gigantic robot carnage, Check; Stylized CGI on a colossal scale matched only by running time (a not-so-brisk 157 minutes), Check; Indefensible one-liners, Check; More slow motion effects than August Musger, its inventor, could have ever dreamed, Check; Actors named Shia LaBeouf and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley giving the audience a smooching sendoff, Check on the Checker. But here's the thing. I actually enjoyed it; not the kissing, the movie. Attention deficit of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish, so long as Michael Benjamin Bay is running the show. If plausibly ludicrous (an oxymoron, I know), escapist cinema can be an exercise in novelty, high art's necessary evil. And Michael Bay, an anabolic pragmatist, is the King of Escapist Cinema. He understands his niche brilliantly and intricately, #winning. And to the victor goes the spoils; Bay's wallet is so fat, George Costanza couldn't give him a run for his money...with good reason. Transformers: Dark of the Moon is primed to be a massive box office juggernaut, the likes of which 2011 has not seen (until Harry Potter hunts down the remaining horcruxes in a few weeks). The theatergoing experience is mercurial. With such critical polarity (critics loathed it, general audience loved it), is the enormous success of Transformers 3 a good or bad thing for cinema at large?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Movie News

No, You're Gonna Tell Me Something Today, Tough Guy. 

      It's no secret. I'm a gluttonous sucker for gangsters. "Hans, *booby,* I'm your white knight." Kobayashi scoffs down Nathan's hot dogs. I scoff down bouts between criminal hotshots. It may be a subconscious byproduct of my Sicilian roots (the birthplace of "the Five Families"). Or, it may reflect my cinematic upbringing, by which, I mean, an adolescence regularly accompanied with countless trips to the theatre (the elitist spelling, I know), where my prepubescent eyes dovetailed into the real sensible kids stuff; you know, The Untouchables, Goodfellas, True Romance, Reservoir Dogs, Carlito's Way, Casino, Pulp Fiction, Heat, Donnie Brasco, Snatch. Perhaps, this tumultuous mobster childhood (criminality is in the eye of the beholder) explains my most recent dissertation: the one where I shamelessly professed my love for all that is De Niro and Pacino. Man, I love them gangsters. All the chummy talk aside, I just got word through the Internets that an awesomely titled project, Gangster Squad, just received an HGH injection: a dosage of Breaking Bad. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What I've Been Watching: 1st Edition

Tuning Into The Classics

      I'm going to experiment with a new segment (bi-weekly, monthly, who knows?) called "What I've Been Watching." Beyond the intention of renewing interest in classic cinema, this segment represents an opportunity for me to underscore some of the "great" films that I've been watching recently. So, consider this debut segment, a repository of the classics. Films from Godard, Truffaut, Bergman, Fellini, Herzog (and so many, many more) will be featured prominently. Enjoy! And as always, I encourage feedback and discussion.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Robert De Niro vs. Al Pacino

Say Hello to my Little Friend, Robert De Pacino

       I reaffirm my faith in the beauty of cinema almost routinely. The most joyous moment in Francois Truffaut's The 400 Blows (one of my favorite films) occurred when young Antoine and his family ventured to the cinemas; cinema, as both an escape from delinquency and birth of inspiration, is one of Truffaut's most poignant and recurring themes. Fast forward to today. My fondness for film is like a rose in full bloom. "A guy told me one time, 'Don't let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner." That's a quote from the memorable diner scene in Heat. It's one of those spectacular cinematic moments that deserves a "where were you when you watched Robert De Niro and Al Pacino square off before the camera, mano-a-mano" disclaimer. That scene represents the formative stages of my obsessive love for film. I was young, but I snuck into the R-rated showing of Heat. And I'm eternally grateful for my youthful mischief because cinema thrust upon me with an unrelenting intensity. Towards the latter part of their memorable on-screen exchange, Pacino warns De Niro: "You know, we are sitting here, you and I, like a couple of regular fellas. You do what you do, and I do what I gotta do. And now that we've been face to face, if I'm there and I gotta put you away, I won't like it. But I tell are going down." And De Niro responds: "There is a flip side to that coin. What if you do got me boxed in and I gotta put you down?...We've been face to face, yeah. But I will not hesitate. Not for a second." So, in keeping with their underlined spirit, I ask only one favor: briefly suspend your knowledge of the final act in Heat and imagine what would happen if De Niro and Pacino, in a purely artistic sense, faced off?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Movie Promotion

VIP Red Carpet Screening of Captain America: The First Avenger

      Promotional opportunities seldom, if ever, arouse my curiosity. That's about to change. A polite individual from the Visa Outreach Team contacted me regarding a marvelous fan opportunity. If you guys and gals like movies as much as I do (and I know most of you can easily answer yes), then Visa is giving us the chance, however slim, to win a trip for two to the Captain America: The First Avenger screening. The best part (if one of us wins) is we get to see it before it opens in theaters on July 22. Oh, and one minor thing: we'll be in the company of celebrities, which for you ladies, means a chance to propose to Chris Evans
      What's the catch, you ask. Just vote for your favorite city to host the VIP Red Carpet Screening (the 'entry form' link can be found below). The sweepstakes conclude on Friday. I apologize, but I was only made aware of this unique opportunity the other day. Your precious vote will also give you a chance to win other great prizes: 

Grand Prize: A 3-day, 2-night trip for the Grand Prize winner and one guest to the city that wins the screening (as determined by voting) , including round-trip, coach class air transportation from a major U.S. gateway airport nearest the winner's home to the winning city, double-occupancy hotel accommodations (one (1) room), ground transportation to/from airport and to/from the VIP Red Carpet Screening of the movie,and a $500 Visa Gift Card for winner only to attend a VIP Red Carpet Screening of the movie, Captain America: The First Avenger, on July 19, 2011 or July 20, 2011 (date will be determined after voting has concluded), including two (2) tickets to a VIP Red Carpet Screening of the movie. Actual value of trip prize depends upon the city of departure, city of the screening, time of travel, any air transportation fluctuations and on current market conditions at time of prize fulfillment, and any difference between the stated ARV and the actual value if any, will not be awarded; Approximate Retail Value ("ARV") $4,990 each.

Three Hundred (300) First Prizes: Two (2) Movie Tickets redeemable at; ARV $38 each.

One Hundred (100) Second Prizes: an AM/FM Retro Radio ARV $18.30 each. ARV of all prizes: $28,200.


Visa Signatures' VIP Red Carpet Screening of Captain America: The First Avenger Sweepstakes (the "Sweepstakes") is open to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia, 18 years of age and older as of June 9,2011 ("Eligible Participants"). Void in Puerto Rico and where prohibited.

Limit one (1) vote/entry per person and per Facebook account per day. That gives us a chance to cast three, in the words of Charlie Sheen, "Winning" votes. Well, fingers are crossed.

VIP Red Carpet Screening of Captain America: The First Avenger Sweepstakes Entry Form

VIP Red Carpet Screening of Captain America: The First Avenger Sweepstakes Official Rules

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Movie Review: Super 8

The Magic 8 Ball Knows All
(Minor Spoilers)

      Ask the magic eight ball a question: who is J.J. Abrams? J.J. Abrams is a purveyor of mystery and suspense. It is certain. But a more arresting realization can be gleamed from the co-creating mind of Lost. Beyond the scope of fortune-telling toys, I posit this belief: J.J. Abrams is a spectacular visual artist, a storytelling savant who wields his magical wand under the unique rubric of filmmaking. He is a tenured, world-renowned professor, the Indiana Jones of imagination, and he teaches a master's level course. He calls it, brashly but befittingly, the art of a movie. Beyond a terrifying waiting list, a number that's equivalent to the legion of Miami Heat haters, what does that all mean exactly? 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Short Film Review: Madeleine Zabel

Mad-dy World, Mad-dy World

      The world, beginning with the aughts, has been indoctrinated into the far-reaching tentacles of a seismic cultural realignment, byproducts of an impertinent mass consciousness. The ripple effects have decimated doctrines of normalcy, replaced conventions with hysteria, and necessitated an oversaturated media whose lifeblood is celebrity mania. No short film has ever conveyed this sense of, what I'll call, the madness of the media, better than director Chris Shimojima's Madeleine Zabel. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Movie Review: X-Men First Class

Flying High

First Class is not only synonymous with a classy, comfortable form of air travel (remember that Seinfeld episode?), it's an apt descriptor for Matthew Vaughn's sturdy X-Men movie. And after flying First Class, much like Jerry Seinfeld, I can't go back to coach.

      Imagine you’re about to board a commercial flight. No seat assignments have been communicated in advance. Your buttock is flummoxed. You step foot on the aircraft without the faintest idea of where to lower your gluteus maximus. A flight attendant by the name of Matthew Vaughn ushers you to that lovely place, a cushiony contraption replete with luxurious accoutrements befitting a person of high-class comfort and prestige. It’s conveniently nestled in the front section, prime real estate for air travelers, not to mention exquisite panoramas. It turns out that Mr. Vaughn is actually a film director masquerading as a flight attendant/pilot. And to your astonishment, you’re now firmly aboard a marvel-ous flight, destination comic book heaven. So fasten your seat belt, make sure your seat back and folding trays are in their full upright position, and enjoy the ride. Despite the very real threat of nuclear apocalypse, there’s no need for emergency exits; this isn’t The Last Stand. You’re in First Class baby and privy to the best amenities, both visual and emotional. Yes, Fassbender and McAvoy, I would like some more. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Two Cool Videos

Text at Your Own Risk

      Be forewarned. If you don't like what I have to say, then expect repercussions. My retribution will involve one of the 100 Greatest Movie Threats of All-Time: "Don't mess with the bull, young man. You'll get the horns." I'll be raining down on you with such fury, you'll be wondering if the person pummeling you senseless is Mike Tyson. Ah, but I'm kidding. As a partial, not pseudo pacifist, I leave the fighting to the movies. Only in the movies can extreme forces of good and evil be imagined and realized...not imitated.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Movie News Roundup

Unchained and Biblical

      Batting leadoff today is a story, from Wednesday, that portends a very compelling possibility; imagine Leonardo DiCaprio in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. If the story unfolds as expected, we won't have to imagine it. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Movie News Roundup

Fickle Film

      Like any archetypical Clint Eastwood cowboy, I'll be donning a hat. We can call it the movie marshal's hat; Eastwood preferred a beaver felt Stetson made famous in Sergio Leone's Dollars Trilogy. As an enduring cultural icon, Eastwood's name is synonymous with tough-talking-no-nonsense banter. So, I'm going to pay forward his legacy of straightforward talk. It's a spirit that cannot be effectively translated to words, of course, but I'm going to do my best. After all, stubbornness in spirit is also a primal facet of The Man With No Name. I'll be corralling the genuine and barefaced movie news of the day (sometimes the week/month/year), assuming the news is worthy of underscoring, and offering my brief analysis. My fierce pal, Dezmond of Hollywood Spy fame, also deserves some of the recognition for this post' inspiration. As the James Bond of movie news, he's consistently on the ball, reporting developments that appeal to moviegoers across the world. Kudos, my friend.
      As we know, film news developments are fickle creatures. Interesting, timely news is not only beholden to whimsical decision makers, but earnest, around-the-clock reporters; predators of information, eager to broadcast the latest and greatest snippets of anything remotely topical. I believe Clint Eastwood, in an entirely different context, said it best: "if you want a guarantee, buy a toaster." But Eastwood also famously stated: "I tried being reasonable, I didn't like it." Therefore, the inherent unreasonableness of reporting shall not deter my willingness to underscore, what I deem, the interesting movie developments of the day. And with that charming nugget of wisdom, let's get to today's news.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Movie News

Hooked On Trailers

      Is it just me or does every summer movie season feel like Hollywood's deliberate attempt to introduce moviegoers to a new Bond character: you know, trailers galore? The busy blockbuster-laden landscape of movies represents, for studios, what Christmas time means to retail/online merchants: BIG business. The influx of new and more polished looks at some future blockbusters is always met with great anticipation. The summer of 2011 is no different; Green Lantern, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Super 8, 30 Minutes or Less and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; Part 2 represent some of the studios' more hopeful attempts to draw hordes of moviegoers to the box office. Whether you want to see the breathtaking world of Oa, the nefarious exploits of an evil transformer/alien robot copy machine, ascertain the "secret" of Super 8, watch Aziz Ansari mold the minds of young, impressionable kids or witness the final showdown between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort, the summer of 2011 offers something for you; something unique to your sensibility. For the most recent, jazzed-up trailers, hit the jump.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Person of the Week

Cool To Be Fuller Yourself

      Sam Fuller is one of the beloved mavens of low-budget filmmaking. The energetic proprietor of pulp storytelling is responsible for pioneering a predominantly primitive style. But, like any great movie-making influence, Fuller also dabbled in other forms of film: notably, acting. Ah, you don't believe me. Well, I have definitive video proof. And the proof is in the witnessing; in my case, the revival of my "Person of the Week" crown. Yes, the crown, like MJ in '95, is BACK...and to Sam Fuller and Al Pacino, go the spoils.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Movie Review: The Hangover Part II

Hungover, Dehydrated and Drowsy

      It was the best of Zach Galifianakis. It was the worst of Zach Galifianakis. The Hangover Part II is a bigger, a badder, but not a better amnesiac-ridden remake of the Wolfpack's virgin descent into infinite debauchery. 

Monday, May 30, 2011

FilmMattic Reflections

Memorial Day Magic

      First off, I'd like to send my sincerest blessings to all of our U.S. Service Members. I have two older brothers in the military and many close friends in the Marine Corps. I have only a faint idea of their commitment and sacrifice to our greater good, our freedom, our security, but I thank each and every one of them for their brave service. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Film Meme

Fifteen Movie Questions Meme

      The movie blogosphere, an arena I'm proud to navigate, is full of unusual and unique ideas. Al Gore's Internet distinguishes these ideas based on causal traits: in this case, repetitive, transmittable musings that bloggers freely share. What I'm referring to, of course, are the nifty man-made creations known as memes. The latest one to capture my unbridled attention is called "Fifteen Movie Questions." It's the brainchild of Anna from Defiant Success. And after perusing my blogroll, it came to my attention. My fellow movie buff gal deserves the J-Kidd worthy assist. Rachel  (aka [film] girl, interrupted), a talented fireball of wit and reason, recently jumped on the meme bandwagon. And as bandwagons go—I'm talking squarely to fair-weather Miami Heat fans—others must climb aboard. Well, heeere's Johnny, and by Johnny, I mean Matty. This would be the point in time when Tony Soprano's shrink would advise me to tone down my obsessive film tendencies. But, like the brooding Mr. Soprano, I casually ignore her advice. For those of you who are keeping score: Film Obsession - 1 / Normal Behavior - 0. I kid, of course. Naturally, I'll leave such self-deprecating gimmicks to Kathy Griffin. There is nothing abnormal about loving movies. Griffin, on the other hand...well, I try to keep my blogspace PG.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Movie Review: Too Big to Fail

 Ask Dirk Nowitzki: Big Equals Bountiful

Just like Dirk Nowitzki, a seven-foot stud whose playoff performances embody Sheen's "Winning" trademark, Too Big to Fail delivers its own game-winning performances, elevating stale, often bland dramatic non-fiction to gripping achievement. 

       I was poised and committed to watching game four between the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder. But then a familiar slogan hit me like a ton of bricks: It's not TV. It's HBO. Unbeknownst to me, an appalling admission that I'm forced to concede, the king of premium cable was debuting its made-for-TV movie about the 2008 U.S. economic meltdown; the repercussions from the calamitous downturn are still keenly felt. As a student of the economy and a lover of cinema, this two-hour production exemplified my most impassioned plea for entertainment; a marriage of intrigue and personal edification. In other words, I passed on Dirk, Durant and Westbrook. Just like the late 90's, early 2000's (think The Sopranos), HBO had my full and undivided attention. So the question I'm forced to face, appropriate given the opportunity cost of missing a compelling playoff game, is did they succeed?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Film News

Cannes Film Festival 2011 Winners

      What's the prevailing message from this year's Cannes Film Festival? Terrence Malick rules the Earth. Listen up Hollywood: It's all about quality, not quantity. The Cannes jury, presided over by Robert De Niro and including Uma Thurman, Jude Law and a smattering of foreign luminaries, has selected the winners of this year's competition slate. The results are illuminating.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Movie Preview

Super Psyched for Super 8

Directed by J.J. Abrams
Written by J.J. Abrams
Produced by J.J. Abrams, Steven Spielberg and Bryan Burk
Starring: Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, AJ Michalka, Ron Eldard and Noah Emmerich
Music by Michael Giacchino
Cinematography: Larry Fong
Editing by Maryann Brandon
Studio: Bad Robot Productions & Amblin Entertainment
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Budget: $45-50 million

Release Date United States: June 10, 2011 in both standard and IMAX theaters.

      The promotional might behind J.J. Abrams latest film, Super 8 is robust—perhaps, akin to today's massive gasoline prices. People pay more at the pump, but question the nature of the increase. That is the genius of Abrams (and no, I'm not saying he's responsible for exorbitant gas prices). He unveils just enough in plot detail to satiate the colossal intrigue of super fan boys, but never alludes to that one critical feature. It leaves even the most hardened of investigative cyber cinephiles dumbfounded. More importantly, implementing clever marketing tactics escalate the anticipation of every moviegoer from NY to Shanghai, necessitating a rise in interest that's second only to congenital curiosity.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cannes Film Festival

You Cannes Do It

      My man De Niro's in charge. That's enough to get me in front of my computer, typing on a Saturday night, instead of standard weekend dance fever. If that's not an intimation of my love for movies, I don't know what is.  
      Held in the South of France every year, the Cannes Film Festival is one of the most respected festivals in the world. It opened this past May 11th and runs until May 22nd. There's a total of 20 films in the 'main competition' category, but many 'out-of-competition' films will also generate substantial buzz.
      Cannes is a cineaste's wet dream. It is my dream. An opportunity to witness a great cinematic work of art before the rest of the world is a privilege, one that shall not be treated with casual indifference. To be one of the lucky few in Palais des Festivals et des Congrès is, in my film-centric estimation, equivalent to winning a lottery ticket. And unlike Will Hunting, if I'm ever given the chance to partake in the prestigious festival, I won't be "too much of a pussy to cash it in."  For now, I can only fantasize about that possibility. In an effort to temper my fantasy, I've assembled a list of Ten Films Debuting At Cannes That I Will Not Hesitate to Watch. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Movie Review: Thor

Stop! Hammer Time!

      Like Charlie Sheen at a porn convention, I am conflicted by the glut of superhero movies right now. The kid in me never thought the day would come when Marvel characters would invade the big screen. But now that it's happening, and now that I'm an adult, I don't know how to feel. How does one evaluate the efficacy of dudes in costumes wielding fantastical powers? On the surface, these superhero films exist (like any pornstar in Sheen's voracious, party-blazed eyes) as pure eye candy. Thus, the crux of the evaluation process is whether the "fun" factor takes precedence over any "profound" pretension. 
      Well, much to my surprise, Kenneth Branagh streamlines the evaluation process. The early 90's wunderkind, famous for early Shakespearean successes, synthesizes a story that not only appeals to that always faithful childhood enthusiast, but entertains and engages the hardest believer among adults. Thor delights us old folk almost as much as it dazzles those youngsters. Bravo, Kenneth Branagh.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cinco de Mayo!

Mexico Duh, Winning!

      Today, we celebrate our Independence Day! Actually, that is entirely untrue. I just really admire Bill Pullman's character in Independence Day. The common misconception about Cinco de Mayo is that it's Mexico's Independence Day. I hate to be the one to dispel the glaring misnomer, but Mexico's Fourth of July actually occurred 50 years earlier in the month of September. Instead, Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Battle of Puebla. On that fateful day in history, May 5, 1862, 5000 inadequately trained, ill-equipped Mexican peasants fought against a sizable regiment of French soldiers. Unfortunately, the French eventually occupied Mexico and defeated the Mexicans. But the Battle of Puebla showed the Mexican people that bravery and conviction could serve as lynchpins for a country yearning for unity and teetering towards nationalism. 
      Oh yeah, one other thing. Why does the U.S. even care? Well, May 5, 1862 marked a time when my country was embroiled in its own war. May 5th is a date that we commemorate the cause of freedom and democracy during the first years of our American Civil War.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Movie Review: The Lincoln Lawyer

McConaughey Legalese

"Furman's legal thriller skirts morality, remodels expectations and overhauls conventions; a man strides into court confident and leaves conscious."  

Admittedly, this review is a bit tardy and I'm sorry. As you know, there was something called the A-To-Z Challenge that consumed all of my waking blogging time.
      Who could've anticipated the creepy but endearing older dude from Dazed and Confused—making his feature film debut—would become one of the biggest Hollywood stars of the last 15 years. It all boils down to an admission that would land most of us in jail:  "That's what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age." It's a disconcerting confession. If any other actor spoke that line, I'd find 'em utterly detestable. Lest we not forget Quentin Tarantino's From Dusk Til Dawn character...I mean talk about a total scumbag. But Tarantino is best served behind the camera and McConaughey's not any other actor. Like "The King of Cool," Matthew McConaughey, no matter how unsavory his character, exudes an effortless cool. It is that cool factor—specifically, the approachable guy-I'd-like-to-have-a-beer-with type of charisma—that distinguishes the handsome Texas-born actor from most other prominent performers. And it's precisely this measure of charisma that makes The Lincoln Lawyer a super-fun movie. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

FilmMattic's Great Alphabet of Films


*Tom Cruise' expression pretty much sums up how I feel.

      Over the past month, I have reviewed 26 films that I consider absolute required viewings (you can find them all HERE in a neatly organized directory). And with this post, I am listing them...because well, who doesn't like a list?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Great Alphabet of Films—Z is For


      Ah, Z day...the last day of the A-to-Z Challenge. Should I "jump, jump" like Kris Kross or "get jiggy with it" like Will Smith. Frankly, I only adopt such enthusiastic measures "when I got patron in my cup...tell the DJ play my shit, On that club music shit." Since this is entirely a virtual atmosphere, I will simply borrow the trademark phrase of the infamous, magnanimous, blasphemous Charlie Sheen, "Winning" (okay, in my blatant attempt to mimic Mike Tyson, which word doesn't belong, as a suitable descriptor for the former Two and A Half's kind of like an SAT question, huh)? 
      With all kidding aside, it has been a terrific month. I want to send my sincerest thanks to all of you who have joined my blog this past month. I've made new friends and didn't lose any old ones, so I would also like to thank those of you who have stuck with me. I hope to keep seeing you all around. I also want to send a special thanks to the co-hosts of the Challenge. It's a wonderful concept and it was executed with great class and ability. I'm proud to be a participant...and I signed up on the inaugural day. 
      I'll have to borrow a line from Seinfeld to sum up my current A-to-Z Challenge mood:
Kramer: "I'm out there Jerry [substitute with blogosphere] and I'm loving every minute of it!"


      So, let's get back to what I do best. Talk movies. Who deserves the final slot in my Great Alphabet? It's really only a two-movie race. I have not seen the enormously praised Costa-Gavras film, Z nor have I been fortunate enough to observe the incomparable Woody Allen delve into the mockumentary genre with Zelig. I'm sure one of these films is deserving of my spot, but I can't attest to their greatness. Instead, I have seen David Fincher's Zodiac and Ruben Fleischer's Zombieland. Since Fincher already clinched a berth with Fight Club, I've decided to award my final letter to the raucously funny, shrewdly entertaining, wonderfully acted zombie-comedy, Zombieland. Go Fleischer, "it's your birthday, we gon' party like it's your birthday." Actually, to be quite honest, I highly doubt today is his birthday, but at least, subconsciously thinking it is, makes me feel even more giddy about my selection..."And you know we don't give a f**k cause it's not your birthday!"

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Great Alphabet of Films—Y is For

Yojimbo or Y Tu Mamá También

      I'm going to be a little playful now that the blogging challenge finish line is only inches away. All you need to know is that the italicized titles are actual films (that I didn't pick), and the following transcript is a fictional back-and-forth between two unnamed characters. Let's begin, shall we?  

"Your Highness," Mr. Nameless said.
"No, I won't address you with such cordial grace. It's The Year of Living Dangerously and I'm just a Youth in Revolt. There's no Yankee Doodle Dandy in 2011, which is to say, no one's gonna be mistaken for James Cagney. If you want Yesterday's version of raucous, vulgar entertainment, and that oh-so wonderful slice of Americana, you'll have to tune into 2004's Young, Beautiful and Screwed Up...what we know today as, Jersey Shore," Mr. Anonymous replied.
"You Must Be Joking?"
"What, You Talkin' to Me?"
"Well you're the only one here. You Don't Know Jack."
"You're Telling Me, huh? Let me say this to you, for your situation: You've Got Mail. It goes somethin' like: You'll Never Get Rich unless...well, some Ludacris rapper says it better than I."
"Act a Fool." 
 "Yep. Sadly sonny boy, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow just don't ring true with Ye Olden Days."
"Can I have some of Your Alcohol?"
"You're a Big Boy Now...sure."
      Those hoping for Young Frankenstein, You're Out of Luck. You Know My Name, so there are no excuses for improperly addressing your hate mail. All I ask, no Yo Momma jokes because You, Me and Dupree say so. You Can Count On Me though, for picking a film that You, I love. You Came Along for the review and you got You So Crazy instead. The gimmick stops here, feel free to rejoice—Yes Man! You'll Find Out my pick after the jump. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Great Alphabet of Films—X is For

X2: X-Men United

      We've made it to the XYZ affair. Before you interject with some sarcastic remark, let me just state that I'm fully aware that I'm going from an incisive discussion of Jean-Luc Godard's Weekend into an enthusiastic discussion of X2 (two films cannot be more antithetical in design and purpose). But there's a reason I won the Versatile Blogger Award, and it has nothing to do with the fact that said award is merely the blogosphere's version of a chain letter. It's because I faithfully impose my diverse love for film on y'all. After all, FilmMattic is a repository of movie-centric ramblings, as vintage as Weekend and contemporary as Source Code.  
      Today's letter of the day usually implies an exodus, a removal, or some kind of exclusion of sorts. Well, this negative connotation does not apply on this spring day because I'm here to highlight one awfully exciting, well-executed comic book film. Expunge any repugnant preconceptions you may associate with the letter "X" and embrace this fine entry, for it deserves some actual deliberation. In lieu of the new X-Men film coming out this June, let's jump into a discussion of my favorite of the bunch...well, so far.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Great Alphabet of Films—W is For


      There were some formidable contenders to consider for "W." We've got Sam Peckinpah's Western The Wild Bunch, but I've already honored enough classic Westerns for one alphabet (High Noon, Once Upon a Time in the West, and Unforgiven). Who Framed Roger Rabbit is an entertaining, live-action/animation, fantasy-comedy spectacle from the special effects wizard Robert Zemeckis, but he's already captured a magical spot (Back to the Future). Judy Garland's performance in Victor Fleming's The Wizard of Oz will forever astound me; it's a true marvel of its time and a movie I cherished during my youth. But its enchantment doesn't quite send a chilly tingle up my spine the way it did when I was a kid, so I have to pass. Finally, the supremely talented Billy Wilder gets another crack at my Alphabet with Witness for the Prosecution, and just like Some Like It Hot, he was oh-so-close. Movies based on plays can be rather hit-or-miss; however, Wilder's courtroom drama thoroughly captivated me. If I read the Short Story or seen the Play, I'd probably be more blown away. But alas, I can't attest to either circumstance, therefore, Wilder narrowly misses out. Instead, the legendary Jean-Luc Godard claims the covetous "W" letter, with a film that's not my favorite from his distinguished resume, but is significant nonetheless. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Great Alphabet of Films—V is For


      I'm one of Paul Newman's most ardent fans (his portrayal as Cool Hand Luke is simply jaw-dropping). His performance in The Verdict is nothing short of spellbinding. But Sidney Lumet's powerful and competent legal thriller does not earn my "V" spot (it was a close call). It's an unfortunate circumstance for the wonderful Lumet whom I greatly admire. I'd certainly place 12 Angry Men, his more riveting legal drama, in any numerical countdown, but there's just no numerals in the alphabet. Furthermore, Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon feature two of my favorite actor's (Al Pacino) best performances, but Kurosawa and John McClane got in Sonny's way. I haven't seen Valkyrie, so we can at least preemptively stave off any Tom Cruise bizarrely-jumping-for-joy-on-couches sightings. And Jean-Luc Godard is one of the most important and prodigious filmmakers in the history of cinema, but I must admit a modicum of shame for not seeing Vivre sa vie: Film en douze tableaux. It's on my ever-expanding must-watch list. At some point, I might have to share my musings on the immensely talented Godard. But I digress. Without further ado, one of Alfred Hitchcock's greatest films (I prefer a few of his other works over this one), Vertigo earns the spot. The grandmaster of suspense already has one film in my Alphabet (North By Northwest), which is my favorite of the bunch. Consequently, Hitchcock ties Spielberg and Coppola among the repeat letter holders, though I still have four letters to go.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Great Alphabet of Films—U is For


      I could never forgive myself if I shied away from one of my favorite genres (the Western) and its greatest revisionist, Old morality tale (Unforgiven). Clint Eastwood made my day so many times before. It's only natural that I reciprocate the classic gesture. I love gangster movies—and Brian De Palma's The Untouchables is a breathtaking incarnation of Prohibition Era crime life—but your just not going to see The Usual Suspects represented in my Alphabetic Universe. Bryan Singer's noirish yarn about "a bunch of criminals who meet in a police line-up" provides one of the great cinematic twists, but it doesn't boast an ensemble of Eastwood, Freeman, and Hackman nor does it provide the luster of the mythic Old West (though Singer's cast is damn fine too). I've been Sucker Punched by crime films before. Eastwood's Westerns, however, never disappoint. Foolhardy proclamation or not, I made sure to save a seat for The Man With No Name.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Great Alphabet of Films—T is For

 Honorable Mentions: The Third Man, True Romance, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Terminator, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, Toy Story, Trainspotting, Titanic, The Truman Show, Top Gun, The Thin Red Line, and To Kill a Mockingbird

      This letter was definitely no (T)ea party. The lot of films above (notice the obvious omission of any "The" films, unless followed by a "T") represent just a smattering of great movies that I carefully considered for this most difficult letter. The realization I've come to, quite conspicuously I must say, is that over the course of my Great Alphabetic unveiling, there are a handful of letters, which are nearly impossible to cull down...and then there are letters such as "Q." I guess the alphabet is an ardent follower of egalitarianism, for if all was not equal, I'd have a heck of lot more R's, S's, and T's in my countdown. But alas, I'm an equal opportunity employer. I must be fair to each letter. Ultimately, "T" came down to a four-way race between Taxi Driver, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, There Will Be Blood, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (outlasting, in my grueling mental critique, the other honorable mentions listed above). Hit the jump for the "T" time champion.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Great Alphabet of Films—S is For

Some Like It Hot, Seven Samurai, Seven, Saving Private Ryan, Scarface, Spider-Man 2, Snatch,  Superman (1978), Serpico, Solaris (1972)

      I mistakenly thought the glutton of great films ended at "R"... Big mistake. Yet again, I must cull as aggressively and shrewdly as I can. For starters, I'm purposely avoiding any titles that start with "The" because it would be virtually impossible otherwise (if you don't believe me, see the contenders above). I do realize I broke this rule a few times already, but those were three very special and extenuating cases for three absolute film classics. I've already awarded Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, so my pick's not coming from a galaxy far, far away. I love classic westerns—what can be better than the film that launched John Wayne's career—but sadly, Stagecoach doesn't earn my spot. And Some Like It Hot is a timeless comedy from the versatile mind of Billy Wilder, but it has been so long since I've seen it. It's a damn shame, I know. Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis can disguise themselves as women once again, and tease me until I cry. It's the only proper justification for not granting Wilder a place in my alphabet.
      So that leaves us with...well, some of the finest films over the past 60 years: Seven Samurai, Saving Private Ryan, Snatch, Serpico, Spider-Man 2, Superman, Solaris, and Scarface. Does Spielberg win his record third Alphabetic title or will the legendary Kurosawa deny him the accolade? Will Tony Montana dive into a mound of cocaine and shoot up the scene if he doesn't get the nod or will Pacino go Serpico on us instead? Does Superman, the origin story that gave birth to the superhero film genre earn placement or will the new age superhero film Spider-Man 2 win out? How about Andrei Tarkovsky's brilliant psychological drama Solaris or one of my favorite British gangster films Snatch? Oh, and there's David Fincher's Seven. Wait, he already won a spot for Fight Club. Never mind. So many great films, and yet, only one can be named the champion of "S." Which film earns the top spot on my alphabetic podium? Hit the jump for the toilsome decision.