Wednesday, November 25, 2009

New moon falling

Commercial desires impale the tiny heart of the world’s biggest teen vampire franchise

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Mopey but precocious Bella (Kristen Stewart) is caught in a love triangle. On one side is the vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson), her alabaster emo lover who frets over her safety and the integrity of her soul. On the other is Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), her childhood friend who has blossomed into a tortured hunk. You see Jacob, a member of Quileute tribe, is a werewolf, destined to war against the vampires. Needless to say it gets all unrequited and angsty. Visually this sequel lands very much in the same competent yet unspectacular territory (inexcusable really, when you consider the box office). Story-wise, however, New Moon elicits slightly more interest, digging deeper into its otherworldy mythology. Unfortunately, it’s all-too-aware of its rabid fan base and calculated to within an inch of its life.

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The Blind Side

An improbable Sandra Bullock comeback is almost as triumphant as this gridiron tale

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Sandra Bullock is sensational as Leanne Tuohy, a spitfire Memphis matriarch who runs her well-heeled family with queen grace and drill-sergeant precision. But Tuohy’s a benevolent ruler; when she discovers one of her kid’s junior high classmates is homeless, she takes him in, ignoring the country club gossips. The taciturn boy looks more like a man; hulking African-American Michael “Big Mike” Oher towers over his peers, but his 80 I.Q. score, and a lifetime of neglect, finds him trailing far behind in school. With an absent father and a drug-addicted mother, Big Mike slept on couches and in the streets before the Tuohy’s took him in, turned his grades around and helped guide him to gridiron greatness.

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Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

A must-see film of empathy for the tragic human condition

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2009 at 12:00 AM

In an award-worthy performance, Mo’Nique plays mom, a foul, hateful creature who calls her daughter a “worthless fat bitch” whose only value is as a monthly government check. Continually abused at home, Precious can’t begin to fathom her schoolwork; she daydreams about having a handsome “light-skinned boyfriend” who’ll buy her fancy things and treat her right. These illusions are all she has in a ruined urban wasteland untouched by light or hope. The only thing keeping her from disappearing altogether are a string of compassionate ladies, including a teacher who gets her into an alternative high school program, and a deglamorized Mariah Carey as the social worker who forces her to confront her mother. Slowly we begin to see Precious blossom, to begin not just dreaming of a better life but trying to grab it.

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No country for anyone

John Hillcoat wrestles Cormac McCarthy and winds up in a dead heat

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2009 at 12:00 AM

It probably seems odd to praise a film that, in the end, exhausts its audience. And John Hillcoat’s faithful adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is just that: two hours of bleak tension that anyone would be hard-pressed to call entertaining. The apocalypse has come. We don’t know why or how; we just know that the planet has been reduced to a slow dying cinder. As revealed in flashback, the Man (Viggo Mortensen) and his pregnant wife, the Woman (Charlize Theron), were there to witness it. When their Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is born, the Woman falls into despair and, unable to face the idea of raising a child in a world destined for extinction. And then she kills herself. Eight years later, father and son search for a sliver of salvation in a crushingly sad and brutally desperate landscape.

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Fantastic Mr. Fox

Wes Anderson’s animated yarn skillfully balances pathos and kookiness

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2009 at 12:00 AM

George Clooney enthusiastically leaps in as the arrogant Mr. Fox, who gave up his days of livestock thievery to placate his wife (voiced by Meryl Streep) and raise a family. Now a newspaper writer, he has a stable home life, neurotic son (voiced by Jason Schwartzman) and a deep longing to be true to his nature. Committed to one last major score, Fox enlists pal Kyle (Wally Wolodarsky) and athletic nephew Kristofferson (voiced by Wes’s brother Eric Anderson) to raid three nearby farms — all owned by wealthy, vicious farmers. Unfortunately, this incites Farmer Bean (voiced by Michael Gambon), the trio’s nastiest, to wage war on Fox’s family and friends. Adorned with all the adolescent fetishes of Wes Anderson's previous films — maps, stylized landscapes, vibrant colors and textures, oddball characters and blasts of obscure classic rock — its stop-action animation world suits Anderson, allowing him to create the perfect playground for his deadpan sense of humor and relentless examination of familial anxiety.

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Ninja Assassin

Regan-era throwback still offers gobs of ass-kicking frolic and head-splitting fun

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2009 at 12:00 AM

This film's plot concerns a pair of bland Interpol dolts dedicated to tracking down and stopping these elusive Ninja clans, who serve as an elite murder cabal, offing anyone for the low fee of 100 pounds of gold. The cops get a major assist from charismatic renegade ninja Raizo (played sleekly by a J-pop singer Rain), who’s out for revenge against his evil former master. Wachowski brothers protégé James McTeigue (V for Vendetta) stages the fight scenes behind enough smoke, water and strobe lights to choke out a Madonna video, but still delivers all the bloodthirsty comic-book thrills you’d expect.

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35 Shots of Rum

Parisian tale of heart-stung family is a lovely slow burn

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Lionel is heartsick widower, quietly toiling as a Parisian train conductor, silently watching the world stream past him. We see many POV shots of subway cars charging forward, but, like Lionel’s own life, the film runs at a more deliberate pace. He lives with Josephine, his pretty, university-student daughter, in a drab high-rise somewhere in the concrete sprawl of greater Paris. They’ve been experiencing several years of isolated domestic tranquility, every day gently comforting each other over the loss of Jo’s mother, though doing their best to not name their pain. Both father and daughter have begun relationships with lonely, warm-hearted neighbors, and these connections begin to gradually draw them apart and back into the world, whether they want to leave home or not.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

New York by way of Detroit Artist Tristan Eaton Redesigns SoulTrain

Posted By on Mon, Nov 23, 2009 at 2:35 PM

Tristan Eaton is originally from L.A., but Detroit blood runs through his veins. Afterall, this is the city where the guy blossomed into one of pop culture's most relevant artists. Now based in New York, we feel we can claim him as our son. His mother, Gillian Eaton, accomplished actress...

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Richard Pryor: Regift of the year?

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2009 at 4:08 PM

Back in the day, the City of Detroit bequeathed unto the legendary Pryor the Spirit of Detroit Award for an animal rescue he founded here with his wife. Well, times are hard. It's up for auction here. Thoughts?...

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Antichrist

Want to see a penis masturbated until it spurts blood? This film is for you!

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Lars Von Trier once made arresting movies (Dancer in the Dark, Breaking the Waves) that ignored critics and challenged audiences. Today he makes movies to spite them both. If you think Willem Dafoe got it bad in Last Temptation of Christ (which probably had no small part in getting him cast here), wait until you see his wife screw a grindstone into his leg. Divided into four chapters bookended with an epilogue and prologue, Von Trier’s plodding parable follows He (Dafoe) and She (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a couple grieving their young son’s death. Hoping to prevent his wife’s impending mental breakdown, psychiatrist He decides to take She to their woodland cabin — called Eden — and treat her himself. Grief, guilt, the chaos of nature, and marital discord escalate into gruesome violence and disturbing hallucinatory visions.

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