Tuesday, August 19, 2008

DJG / Weekend Watcher

Little Children * * * * ½
Directed by: Todd Field / 2006

It’s the children in “Little Children” who appear more grown-up than the adults. Appropriately so, as adults we need to sometimes see the consequences of our actions through a younger lense. Playing out to near-perfection, the story puts the viewer in an awkward yet very inviting company of things we don’t really want to see but wish to keep up with. Employing the use of an unlikely and daring anchor, a sex offender stirs a unique plot to showcase redemption, rebirth, solace, trust and truths. Though, it will assuredly split audiences in much debate and controversy, Todd Field has created a mini-masterpiece on many aspects of unrest in suburbia and beyond. “Little Children” is one of the best-crafted and most over-looked films of the past couple years.


Tropic Thunder * * * *

Directed by: Ben Stiller / 2008

I’m still trying to find my rear after laughing it off and out the door last weekend with “Pineapple Express”, and now “Tropic Thunder”, another outrageously fresh ‘n’ fun comedy to cure my summer blues. I’m an above average Ben Stiller fan, but he’s got me really high hoping for some more fresh comedies like this one that he is writing and directing. The movie is a movie about the making of a high-budget war movie that naively goes AWOL and POW as it entangles with an actual war. Get it? Well, there isn’t too much to get unless you get choked-up with laughter. And let me just tell you, this is stupid-awesome to the core and showcases Tom Cruise’s best role since “Magnolia” and the best Matthew McConaughey this side of “Dazed & Confused”. The two mega-stars make outstanding career choices by basically playing hyper-exaggerated caricatures of their tabloid selves and they are nothing short of genius. But, the best thing to watch in “Tropic Thunder” is Robert Downey, Jr. Somebody please give this guy an Oscar nod as he convincingly plays a sensitive, blonde-haired, blue-eyed powerhouse Australian actor portraying a hard-edged African American soldier. He chews some of the best comedy lines to come on the screen in a long while and you completely forget that you’re watching Robert Downey, Jr. My only complaint with the film is that with a little bit more editing it could have been even better and at times it trades in some of the freshness for typical low brow comedy and crude dialogue. One more thing, Danny McBride isn’t in the movie enough (HOT ROD / PINEAPPLE EXPRESS).


Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession * * * *
Directed by: Alexandra Cassavetes / 2004

It’s easy to take for granted the access my generation has for feeding obsessions at the culture buffet. Before satellite television, Tivo, iPods, Netflix and DVDs (heck, even VHS) there was a time in the home movie market when all you had to watch was the ho-hum programming of basic television. Unless you either had a lot of money, movie industry connections or lived in the Los Angeles area and paid a fee for Channel Z, you didn’t have a lot of options at home. This documentary decently chronicles the rise and fall of Channel Z, a groundbreaking T.V. station that showcased hard to find films and breathed a second chance life for many films, actors and directors. The documentary itself might even breathe new life into the films as I found great joy in discovering many new titles. All thanks in part to the genius of Jerry Harvey. He was to the movies like a talent scout is to great athletes. He necessarily didn’t have the abilities or resources to make movies (though he wrote the screenplay to one), but he had the passion and smarts to spot one that really spoke and sparked him to recruit it to the next viewing level. Movies were Jerry’s life as he ate, drank, spoke and shared them by way of his obsession with Channel Z. It was an idea before HBO or some of the other powerhouse out there today, even in its prime with only 100,000 subscribers. Jerry had a passion that even the industry big shots saw as he befriends many great directors and got the full rights to show their final cuts of films that otherwise would have gotten lost in the Hollywood background. Jerry may have found a great joy and love for movies, but sadly he had his own inner darkened theatre that he couldn’t escape. His emotional distress eventually led to the murder of his wife and his suicide. It’s another sad and tragic ending on genius that just leaves one wondering why and how? And I can’t help but imagine the what-might-have-beens as I think of a present day Harvey as a movie studio executive engineering movies, and the kinds of new and old talent he would find and share with us movie fans.


Lies & Alibis * * *
Directed by: Matt Checkowski and AKurt Mattila / 2006

Default funny guy Steve Coogan steers this fast-paced crime 'n' comedy cracker box caper as the executive of a firm that specializes in helping men successfully cheat on their wives. Though he loves his line of work, easy money and little moral can lead to even riskier management when a client accidentally kills his temptress and all fingers point to the man initially in charge of covering up the affair. "Lies & Alibis" is decent, yet is another in a heap of films that fall into the post "Pulp Fiction" bin-there-done-dat crime stories that non-linear flash and dash to the point where the multi-layers and fresh become flat pretty quickly.


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