Monday, September 28, 2009

I can't believe this. So I go to check out Ebert's blogroll and I see that he's looking at comments of the readers of his blog. So I comment and he responds... with some amazing feedback... I'm so honored. It's the equivalent of Michael Jordan praising your basketball skills. It's the highest tier of movie praise.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


"Gigantic" is uneasy from the start, it being Matt Aselton's first film, but it really falls to pieces in the end. How many tepid, "quirky" romantic comedies are we going to get from the mold-breaking, actually hilarious "Juno"? "Little Miss Sunshine" came first, but Jason Reitman's film was better. Anyways, "Gigantic" is one of these eccentric little films that was spawned from that 2007 film. It stars Paul Dano as Brian Weathersby, a typical girlfriend-less character who is plugged into the position of mattress salesman due to the lack of a realistic idea, who has one big ambition in his life: he is intent on adopting a Chinese baby (a little smear of eccentricity). He's also being repeatedly attacked by a "homeless man" (Zack Galifianakis), something the film doesn't linger on, and doesn't provide an explanation for (thus, confused IMDB users starting threads).

Well, as always, there is a love interest, and that's the overused Zooey Deschanel, who plays Happy. She comes down to the mattress store after her father (John Goodman) decides to buy an expensive Swedish mattress. A relationship begins. The odd thing is, there's no real energy. The same thing can be said for the movie. It feels oddly weary, and, in a way, drug-induced. There are a lot of plot elements that seem to have little or no effect on the film. Such as the random attacking or the studies of rats that Brian's alcoholic friend from college (Brian Avers) conducts (I suppose these exist so that there can be poor similarities drawn between rodent and homo sapian). Not to say the film is all for nothing. I'm not sure the name of the character or the actor, but there's a good performance given by Brian's meditating mattress co-worker. He supplies the only life into the film, delivering offbeat lines with a nice ease. There's not much else here.

Dano is all over the place, and Deschanel is lukewarm playing two notes: quirky girlfriend a la "(500) Days of Summer" and self-effacing girlfriend. Goodman does moderately well in a comic part as one father. The same cannot be said for Ed Asner, as Brian's old, conventional-thinking father, at least as the film fails and caves in at the end (a fellow moviegoer noted his awfulness and I think he wasn't very good either). Mary Page Keller as Happy's estranged mother delivers another standout terrible performance. I dunno. I guess nothing could have really solved Aselton's problems here. Here's a slipshod, fragmented romantic comedy that does not work save for a couple of bits. "Gigantic" (poorly-titled to say the least) is not gigantic in terms of influence on anything. The title describes only the drawbacks in Aselton's poor movie. D+

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Informant!

Steven Soderbergh's "The Informant!" is based on a true story, but if not for the elaborate title cards and retro sets I wouldn't be able to tell so. If it really stays inside the box of reality, it's an incredible plot. Also very hard to summarize. It involves Mark Whitacre, played by a puffed-out Matt Damon, who turns in some of his best work as a rich VP at a corn company called ADM. I'd be hard pressed to find a role where Damon is as in character as this, or as good.

Well, there's a mole in ADM giving info to a Japanese corn company. This development is a reference to the director's earlier work "Schizopolis," which you should know is a terrible film. Anyways, I can't describe what happens next because it's hard to follow, but a couple bends later, Whitacre is being wired by the FBI. He meets with an agent, Brian Shepard (Scott Bakula), a dull man who wants to get an inside look at ADM, since ADM is a shady company in the corn business. I think what the intention of the film is is to show how ridiculous and how twisting the plots were and how dull and how mundane office people are. No matter. To discuss too much of the plot would also to divulge too much information, to inform you, and I won't do that.

What I will describe are the film's qualities. The lighting and the set design capture the feeling of 90's office life quite well. They illuminate the dullness. So do the hilarious musings and meditations that Scott Z. Burns (co-writer of "The Bourne Ultimatum") supplies Whitacre, on bizarre TV shows, polar bears camouflaging, and other things. These were definitely the high points of this eccentric film. And the way that Damon delivers them is exactly on target. But the most accentuated bit is the music, which mimics 70's spy shows to funny but mostly overbearing effect.

That's how the film works: very good in smaller doses, but too much over the span of 108 minutes. I think a big flaw of the film is the last 30 minutes, where there's a drop in interest. I mean, it's what happened, but here it doesn't really help. All in all, Soderbergh does what he likes, and that is making silly films. He coaxes out of Damon a great deal, and I think it's notable. I would say "The Informant!" is a pretty humorous comedy of intrigue. I enjoyed it for the most part. Also for Damon's interesting work. But this is not an Oscar contender. B

Thursday, September 3, 2009

It Might Get Loud

"It Might Get Loud" is a look into the styles and histories of Jimmy Page, Jack White, and The Edge. It requires you at least have a basic knowledge of these three musicians, since it feeds off of your nostalgia. Why these three guitarists are connected is because of a meeting in January of 2008, where they talked about and played rock music. This convergence is the centerpiece of the doc. The film opens with White constructing a guitar out of a soda bottle, a piece of wood, and a string. This reflects his overall way. He's influenced by blues (especially "Grinnin' in Your Face" by Son House, which he says is his favorite song), and doesn't like to overload the effects. Although he's the youngest of the three, he's got the most traditional mindset. At one point he states in his self-satisfied, Dylanesque manner, "I never wanted to play the guitar," and until he was an apprentice at an upholsterer (where he formed a band called "The Upholsterers"), he stuck to the drums.

This couldn't be farther from U2's The Edge, who plays simple riffs and uses effects to make them majestic. He describes watching the "Top of the Pops," and how every once and a while something revolutionary came out. He was wary of his homeland of Ireland, as he experienced the bad economy and violence of the times (and was heavily shaken at that). The latter was inspirational for U2's "War." He remarks later on in the film that if he hadn't been a member of the still-running band, he wouldn't still be playing guitar. "I might be a banker," he says.

Jimmy Page, age 64 at meeting-time, is the real rocker of the group, as he mostly prefers just amplification. As a member of Led Zeppelin and the Yardbirds, he's one of the greats of classic rock. The film goes into him in less detail, although it does linger on archival footage of a live performance of "Stairway to Heaven." Going in, he was the one I had heard the least of. He doesn't give away any secrets here, as opposed to White, who composes a song onscreen. There is a little bit about his early career (a lot of gigs), and about how "When the Levees Broke" was recorded, but not a whole lot.

So you can see all the history coming into this gathering, as they talk about their inspirations and such. I guess it's mostly for the small performances they give of each other's work. There's not so much of this segment; in fact, it's only intercut sometimes. Overall, "It Might Get Loud" is an uneven documentary, with a lot of padding to get it to feature-length status. It was interesting to see into huge figures in the music industry, but I wish it could have been made a little better than it was. It is (no shock) self-indulgent, like a long solo by a guitarist that overstays its welcome. But if you want to see how guitarists roll, this is where. C+