Thursday, April 30, 2009


CJ7 * * * * *
Directed by: Stephen Chow / 2008

This movie is AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME! I think this is Stephen Chow's best work to date. What a gifted creator and it's almost a crime that it was pretty much overlooked last year and more than likely will be overlooked on DVD. "CJ7" is Chow's "E.T." I want to own this ASAP. I can't recommend this enough! -djg

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Excited for Lars von Trier's "Antichrist"

"Antichrist", the new anticipated film by master Lars von Trier comes out this year. The trailer is fantastic and so are these stills: One. Two. Three. Be careful with that last one...but, wowie-zowie this movie looks all sorts of amazing and almost like a Trier version of David Lynch...maybe. The trailer plays it up in the horror market, but honestly I have no idea what to expect other than it's gonna be good 'n' plenty in the visual and thought department. Would we expect anything less? -djg

Monday, April 27, 2009


Citizen Kane * * * * *
Directed by: Orson Welles / 1941

There isn’t any need for me to repeat as others have a million times over with the brilliance and mastery of “Citizen Kane”. I’ll simply say that it’s an impressive feat of filmmaking (though maybe I was expecting a little more…blame it on the hype?), one I need to digest for more than three and a half hours, as I rushed to work right after it ended. Right now I’m just pondering if Orson Welles eventually embodied his Charles Foster Kane as he peaked early to world-acclaim by making one of the great, influential films at the age of 24. What did I make at 24!? It took me half that amount of age just to see his movie. It was worth the wait and I’m a little sad in some ways. Not seeing “Citizen Kane” was kind of my own movie watching “Rosebud” (and darn-it whomever film friend jerkily told me the answer to the mystery! Not cool!).

It was a high school history class where I first heard this classic movie mentioned, from my teacher. My young mind simply shrugging it off into the “Old Black & White” movie pile as I had Terminators, Jedi Masters, Col. John Matrix, Bruce Campbell, Ren & Stimpy and Monty Pythons to watch…over and over and over (and I still do). A few years later in a university history class it was said in swift passing after discussing William Randolph Hearst that a “Citizen Kane” viewing and report was worth some extra credit. I could tell by the professor’s blushed enthusiasm that she wanted to switch historical gears and talk cinema for the next three hours. I chewed on the initiative of “awesome easy credit that I don’t really have time for” until the weekend, only to find that more than likely classmates had beaten me to Blockbuster (this was before Netflix). I think I ended up meandering into the Action or Comedy aisle that Friday night and of course a date with a bag of Doritos, cheese dip and Reese’s Pieces. I gained five extra credit points that night, the so-called “Freshman 5”.

The past 8 or 9 years, as my movie window has widened, I’ve had some chances to see “Citizen Kane”. And this time last year I was really interested in finally marking it off the list as I was informed via a PBS documentary on Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz that he watched the film some 40 times, finding great connection and inspiration from it. Seeing it make the top of the American Film Institute list even furthered my curiosity. I passed purchasing the film cheap on a whim-before-watching a few times, something that I’ve stopped doing the past couple of years, buying before viewing. Well, that is until I was at Costco a few weekends ago and with tax refund money in hand. The sticker said, “$8.00” on the special edition DVDs for several cinema classics. I instantly snatched up a couple that I had on my “Must Purchase” list. Titles included “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.” And then I picked up “Citizen Kane”, thought for a second and put it at the top of my pile, a confident Kane-like Costco citizen.

Last year I said that 2009 would be the year for me to watch “Citizen Kane”. The hype has been building for so long that it was probably for the best that I put off seeing it until now, plus I wanted to devour more film to get ready. This morning I finally hit PLAY and was fully absorbed…and rewarded. I don’t want, rather I NEED, to see this one and over and over and over. I can’t wait. -djg

Thursday, April 23, 2009


The Cats of Mirikitani * * * * *
Directed by: Linda Hattendorf / 2006

He may have been without home, but 80-year-old artist Jimmy Mirikitani wasn’t bothered a bit. He’d been in worse situations. As long as he had some paper and something to draw cats and memories of life in American-ran Japanese internment camp, he was happy. And he was humble and extremely confident, all in one brush stroke. He didn’t ask of much. He didn’t complain about much, other than a deep bitterness towards what “stupid American government” did to him and his family by forcing them to live for years at Tule Lake prison camp and also a reminder of dropping a bomb on his boyhood home of Hiroshima. Other than that Jimmy loved America, and besides he was born here, in Sacramento, California. All bitterness aside, he just wanted to draw and tell his stories and "Make art, not war". Even on September 11, 2001, when every other New Yorker was looking up into the dark shadows of The Twin Towers, Mirikitani was looking down, crouched at his paper held in place by water bottles on a park table, working diligently on another self-proclaimed “masterpiece”. Linda Hattendorf befriended Jimmy months earlier, checking in on the neighborhood artist, hard at work on his paintings. If it wasn’t for her generosity he may have died in the harmful fallout of the ash and dust in the weeks that followed 9-11. Under grace and patience Hattendorf gave Jimmy a corner of her apartment for many months to paint his masterpieces. In that time as caretaker she also helped unveil a piece of his past that put him in the state he was in. And in order to get his life back in order, even well into the twilight years, Jimmy needed to revisit the past further than just in his paintings. “The Cats of Mirikitani” is one of the reasons why we need cinema and reflects on the immediacy of the documentary as pure art. This movie is extremely touching, heartfelt and a fine tribute to not only its subject, it’s unearthing of a true master talent, but also September 11, 2001 and those that lived, suffered and died in the American-ran Japanese internment camps of World War II. I was inspired beyond measure and wonder how many more Jimmy Mirikitanis there are wandering the streets that need our help. See this movie. -djg

DJG / Warming-up to Ramin Bahrani

Chop Shop * * * *
Directed by: Ramin Bahrani / 2007

The name Ramin Bahrani has been receiving a lot of praise in movie circles the past few years. Roger Ebert even dedicated a whole writing to him recently called “The New Great American Director”. It cites, “After three films, each a master work, he has established himself as a gifted, confident filmmaker with ideas that involve who and where we are at this time.” I’m not so easily convinced. I understand what Ebert is saying yet find myself appreciating what Bahrani is doing, more than actually liking his films. But, I’m starting to warm up. I’ve only seen two out of three and see something special brewing in a similar way David Gordon Green’s first few movies affected me. However, I’m not prompted to re-watch Bahrani’s work over and over, as I am Green’s, at least not quite yet.

“Chop Shop” features a brother and sister (Ale and Isamar) who can’t be much more than 13 and 16. Each has certainly seen, experienced and worked harder in their young years than I in twice the time. These kids are tough and street smart. They can also count money and do math better than me. Neither are they shy. And I believe in them on screen. I believe in them off screen. I refuse to believe that they are actors. On screen I assume they are orphans even though nothing, that I recall, is mentioned of their past or parents. I also assume they are immigrants, or at least their parents immigrated to America at one time. Their dialog/language is unique English to where I needed subtitled just to get it quickly straightened. They live together in a makeshift room in the upstairs of an auto body repair shop they also work at. The shop is housed in a grimy, crowded strip of many likeminded shops in the murky shadows of Shea Stadium (where baseball’s Mets called home until this year) in what seems to be the wastelands of Queens, New York. These are the kind of shops and people that most of us would be scared or at least intimidated to deal business with. A lot of the shops specialize in “shady”, after-hours business, stripping stolen cars for cash (aka: “chop shops”) The shop that Ale works at and Isamar vends food near seems like a legitimate enterprise, whose owner is stern but seemingly fair, putting a lot of trust and faith to give them keys to the shop and a place to live. He seems to pay them decent, as well as teaching skills to the trade. It’s an odd relationship as it seems like a no questions asked kind of thing. And these kids are surprisingly grown-up, ambitious and responsible, though there are flashes of child-like play and naivete, resulting in some of the film’s best moments. We aren’t told Ale and Isamar’s past, yet we’re told their future, or at least their dream. This is to make enough cash ($4,500) in order to purchase a dilapidated vending truck, the key to brighten their lives and a possible path to honest earnings/decent living. But, sometimes money is money, no matter your approach to getting it and always the bonds of blood run thick.

A year ago I became intrigued by Bahrani’s acclaimed “Man Push Cart”, a movie that hinted at some great things, in a “Taxi Driver” sort of way, but ultimately left me wanting more movie. It was a good story, but I was more wowed of the great difficulty the film must have been to make, especially for a first feature. I enjoyed Bahrani’s second feature “Chop Shop” a little more, but again was left a bit stumped and thirsting for more movie. It ended very abrupt to me, yet I can’t think of a better way to end it. Although I was left wanting more, I can’t stop thinking about it and am now thinking about “Man Push Cart” again. And I think that is Bahrani’s intent and strength. He gives just enough to let you chew-on and carry-over what’s on screen to that place where the characters live and breathe in the mind, out of the frame. That is the sign of a great artist at work. Though, here I’m coming back for more of the movie in my mind, and after this rekindling, I’m interested in a second viewing of each. Bahrani’s characters seem to be real people in real situations. And I’m curious at his writing approach and more importantly his relationships and life. Are these people, situations and circumstances he knows or has spent time around, even in simple observation? What makes him tick? On an artistic level, what film voices does he admire? So far his characters I’ve been involved have been immigrant Americans working hard, all-hours, seemingly bottom rung jobs and facing even harsher, complicated hours off the clock. I don’t necessarily relate to them, maybe in a working man way? But, it’s the little things in-between that are shining through to me. Something important that Bahrani is doing is paying attention, which causes me to pay attention, even after the fact. More young directors need to take note, so do audiences. Actually, people in general life need to. I think this is where his voice is really shining and where he has my interest. Paying attention is his “style”. Instead of tricking the audience or letting us fall prey to cliché, over-indulgence, awkward, arty-farty, forced or flashy filmmaking and falsely swelled emotions, he’s opening us up with eyes and soul. Ramin Bahrani is speaking with fluent honesty. It’s a uniquely-familiar de-layering process that he has conjured up and surprisingly fresh and foreign. Evidence in my poor writing…I can’t really explain it. Hmmmmmmm. I have now talked myself into getting to know Bahrani a little better and coming to realize the importance of the work he is showing me. I look forward to watching his third film “Goodbye Solo”. I look forward to watching myself grow with him. -djg

Monday, April 20, 2009

DJG's Movie Morning Monday / I've Loved You So Long * * * *

DJG's Weekend Watcher

Firefly * * * * *
Directed by: Joss Whedon / 2002-2003

Like with “Freaks & Geeks”, I get sad every time I begin and end the short-lived television series “Firefly”. Joss Whedon’s brilliant space western was culturally-criminally treated like crap as it didn’t even get one full season. At least it spawned the movie “Serenity”, but fans are still left with so many what-might-have-beens with these lovable and complex characters and their unique space storytelling in a somewhat oddly believable future. See it. See it. See it.

High Fidelity * * * * *
Directed by: Stephen Frears / 2000

Saturday was National Record Store Day and I watched “High Fidelity” for the umpteenth time. It’s in my all-time top 5 films and holds a special spot in-tune with my heart. And like a great song, the movie resonates even more as time passes.

I Love You, Man * * * ½
Directed by: John Hamburg / 2009

My second helping of “I Love You, Man” was even better as I got to share it with the buddy I’ll be playing Best Man to soon. Which is the main subject for this fantastically funny and fresh comedy starring Paul Rudd and Jason Segel. It’s been quite a surprising comedy year so far with this one and “Adventureland.”

Battlestar Galactica: Mini-Series * * * *
Created by: Ronald D. Moore / Directed by: Michael Rymer / 2003

Everybody and their alien have been telling me to watch “Battlestar” for a few years now. We finally got to the 3 hour mini-series that re-started the franchise that began back in the late ‘70s. It’s always exciting yet intimidating to start a new and lengthy television series. I’m honestly not quite sure what makes the mini-series so good, other than it just IS and wrapped with all the familiarities of favorite sci-fi and space whatnots. I now look forward to seeing characters and stories develop and a bunch more stuff gettin’ blown up in space.

Stripes * * ½
Directed by: Ivan Reitman / 1981

I used to clear a room with, “I’ve never seen STRIPES.” Now, I’ll clear a room with, “I think STRIPES is overrated.” I think the idea of, “Let’s send a jerk Bill Murray to the ARMY!” looks great on paper, but for some reason “Stripes” doesn’t translate to the movies for me. My wife and I tend to feel the same way about 95% of the roles that Will Ferrell takes. And I’m very perplexed with “Stripes” as Ivan Reitman is behind the camera of Bill Murray, Harold Ramis (who also wrote), John Candy and other funny men. Is it too dated? I don’t even think it’s that. Perhaps if I’d grown up with it, like everybody else I know, it would mean more to me? I doubt it.

Munich * * * * *
Directed by: Steven Spielberg / 2005

How in the heck did “Crash” win the 2005 Academy Award for Best Picture? Four years later I’m thinking “Crash” who? “Munich” is genius direction and cinematography meets bold storytelling, a story inspired by the aftermath of the 1972 Munich Olympic terrorist attack. Steven Spielberg doesn’t hold back the bold punches in this recent masterpiece that he refers to as “historical fiction”. I find it fascinating and ferocious film genius that I wish to own.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

October 16, 2009 Can't Come Soon Enough!

For the past four years there has been a must-see-for-djg film. Martin Scorsese delivered a uniquely mastered crime movie with "The Departed" in 2006. P.T. Anderson returned in 2007 with "There Will Be Blood", a scorching masterpiece that took forever to come to middle of the mid-west! Last year it was Darren Aronofsky's fantastic "The Wrestler", which I was fortunate to see a couple months in advance for free while vacationing in Dallas, TX! This year, I'm trying really hard not to over-hype / over-excite Spike Jonze's "Where the Wild Things Are", but it's getting harder and harder to wait on films in our media-driven hype machine market. I have a feeling this one might get leaked online very early...and I will not see a movie online in that way, I will not. The amazing trailer came out last month and after a few weeks away from the hype, I'm sucked back in with the discovery of the official website! I think I've mentioned before how I don't like to wish the time away, but I'm really-really (really) excited for October 16 to open this film up. I'm also looking forward to see where Spike Jonze goes from here. This film might seal the deal for him as one of our most gifted film visionaries. And speaking of, I just realized that Quentin Tarantino's deliciously-lookin' "Inglourious Basterds" hits theaters in August (which is honestly just around the corner) so that should ease me until October, not to mention all the summer blockbusters starting to heat things up in the projection booths! -djg

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

DJG's Movie Morning Monday

The King of Kings * * * * *
Directed by: Cecil B. DeMille / 1927

Easter-appropriate, “The King of Kings” should be the epic Cecil B. DeMille movie shown on network television this time every year. “The Ten Commandments” gets the spotlight, but it’s DeMille’s silent Christian film that needs to be resurrected to the masses. Okay, I’m trying hard not to pun this thing up, but it’s hard! People, see “The King of Kings”! And no, it’s not related to “The King of Queens” television show…this is a classic, well-crafted movie documenting the last weeks of Jesus! AMEN! -djg

Reel Roots: “The Ten Commandments”, “The Passion of the Christ”, “Jesus Christ Superstar”, “The Passion of Joan of Arc”, “Jesus of Nazareth”, “The Last Temptation of Christ”…

DJG / Criterion Collection + "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" = !!!!!DVD!!!!!

I know this is raising a big stink with the film foo-foos out there, but I think "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is a great movie and a great release for The Criterion Collection. And for those complaining, looking for some higher reasoning to all of this, I'm sure it's because David Fincher is under a contract with them or something. But, who really cares? It's one heck of a directing feat that Fincher pulled off here! Also, I feel this film will be more respected with age (no pun intended)! Though, I do hope Criterion wises up and has the DVD reasonably priced in stores, otherwise this won't sell in the Targets and the Walmarts of today. I recall "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" being around $20 when Criterion released it a few years back and I'd be up for that because I can't afford their typically $40-$50 priced releases. -djg

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

DJG's Weekend Watcher

Bolt * * * ½
Directed by: Chris Williams & Byron Howard /2008

With Pixar taking all the high-end computer animation highlights (and rightfully so), it’s causing a few others, even parent companies, to push themselves more. However cute or clever, they still falter, leaving me wanting Brad Bird to have soul writing and directing on any and every animated feature released today. “Bolt” started strong but fell short for me as it turned into a buddy-road picture that I’ve seen one too many times. I understand it’s animated…and for children…but, as each new wacky character (except for the pigeons and the fat kitty that looked like my Mazzy!) intervened, I fell back sighing instead of laughing. Don’t get me wrong, I did have a good time and found a bit of heart of in it. In the end I give “Bolt” some points as it was cute and better than “Kung Fu Panda”. Though, I’m just really ready for Pixar’s “UP” to come out.

Slumdog Millionaire * * * * ½
Directed by: Danny Boyle / 2008

“Slumdog Millionaire” is Danny Boyle’s best movie. My third time was even better. The Academy Awards has done a great job of selecting Best Picture the past three years, movies that are both artful and a thrill-joy to watch…movies that can be watched many times over. There is rarely a week that goes by inside my movie mind where I’m not thinking about or wanting to watch again “The Departed”, “No Country For Old Men” or “Slumdog Millionaire”. Boy, oh Boyle!

Flags of Our Fathers * * * *
Letters From Iwo Jima * * * * ½
Directed by: Clint Eastwood / 2006

Some directors struggle making a decent war movie, let alone two very powerful ones in one year while in their mid-70s, and not to mention one of those being a foreign language film. Clint Eastwood is putting guys half his age to shame and I think his best work might come in the next 20 years! He’s the Bruce Springsteen of filmmaking and Bruce Springsteen is the Clint Eastwood of songwriting! “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters From Iwo Jima” explore often over-looked territories in the war department. From the perspective in and out of the fight, both films explore the roots and ideals of patriotism, freedom, propaganda, heroes, family ties and human spirit. No matter your color, country or creed these things are universal and war is the enemy. -djg

Thursday, April 9, 2009

DJG / Timecrimes

Timecrimes * * * *
Directed by: Nacho Vigalondo / 2007

Spanish language films have seen a major boost, at least from my vantage point, in the past decade. Or, has Spain and Latin America always been cranking out the hits? Add “Timecrimes” to a contemporary list of unique and well-crafted, fresh perspective, genre-bending films like “The Orphanage”, “Volver”, “Pan’s Labyrinth”, “Amores Perros” and “Y Tu Mama Tambien” (among others). “Timecrimes” is a first-rate science fiction thriller that is smart, simple and a tongue twister of time travel. I was on the edge of my seat and had to be as this film is quick on its feet, much more than me if I got caught up in time travel. Especially, if there were three of me and only 30 or 40 seconds apart! See it. See it multiple times. -djg

Monday, April 6, 2009

DJG's Weekend Watcher

Magnolia * * * * *
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson / 1999

Writer-director P.T. Anderson’s epic, weaving tale of relationships and redemption (and that’s only skimming the surface on the chewables) turns 10 this year. And with my nearly-tenth viewing, “Magnolia” is still fresh, progressive and a certified masterpiece and will only continue to be. Looking back at 1999, it’s almost a crime that “Magnolia” and its director were left out of Oscar’s Best Picture and Best Director races. It should have nabbed what “American Beauty” has since not been able to live up to. It also has one of the greatest endings EVER! If you haven’t partaken in the brilliance of P.T. Anderson, maybe you should start with this contemporary classic. Though, every film that he brings to the table is and you should see them all: “Hard Eight”, “Boogie Nights”, “Magnolia”, “Punch-Drunk Love” and “There Will Be Blood”.

What's Eating Gilbert Grape * * * * 1/2
Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom / 1993

I have family living outside of Manor, TX, the town “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” was filmed at. You know the water tower that young Leonardo DiCaprio kept climbing, caddy-corner from the grocery store that young Johnny Depp worked at? Last November I visited both of these landmarks. I even saw the initials in the cement in front of the store (still there), belonging to Depp. Though, the ice cream store is long since gone, I think it was an extra in the film. I’ve seen “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” a handful of times and it has somehow retained its freshness, even 16 years later, in an independent film world thick in trite, cliché and samey-so-so quirky stories and characters. I think it’s a classic. It’s especially refreshing to know, and see in the flesh, that it has REAL small town charm. Despite being “different”, it feels grounded in reality and heart and I like that. If you’ve seen one (small town and movie) you really haven’t seen them all.

Adventureland * * * *
Directed by: Greg Mottola
/ 2009

Like corndogs gone bad “Adventureland” could leave some viewers with a bad taste in their mouth. The darker angles of adolescent sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll seems to be exhausted at the movie house of late, but I found myself surprised by this one. Interestingly enough, all marketing geared me for a gut-bust ala “Superbad” or T.V.’s “Undeclared and “Arrested Development”, same director at least, but the comedy was subtle and sprinkled just right with some sweet. Despite its subject matter “Adventureland” has a lot more brewing underneath the angst-ridden times of self-discovery and sh*t jobs of summer. The early 20s can be brutal and sweet, both wonderfully on display in this movie. Even though they are living and breathing life in the moment, it’s oddly reflected in almost open source nostalgia to the role players, I think so at least. I also think that Greg Mottola directed this film effectively well. There were times I found myself completely hypnotized and quite honestly I could have watched this movie until summer’s end. There were also times I found myself reaching back to days of unglamorous employment and all the amenities it actually has to offer, youth or without youth. What is a job anyway? As the film has left us wanting more, and in a good way, my wife and I both feel there is even more depth that could be aided in exploration by the result of an “Adventureland” television series, with the same actors/characters and production crew, of course. We see it in a very “Freaks & Geeks” light, and not just because Martin Starr shines so bright in it. I doubt it happens at all, but we can be dreamers, right? And music supervisor, I could feel your own goose bumps congratulations with every Lou Reed, Big Star, Husker Du, Bowie, Cure and Replacement song (among others) perfectly backing this story of tough love and good times among co-workers at an amusement park in the summer of ’87. Great job…GREAT JOB!!!

A Shot in the Dark * * * * ½
Directed by: Blake Edwards / 1964

This second installment in the original Pink Panther live-action film series is a fresh comedy caper masterpiece. Beautifully shot and orchestrated (just watch the Nudist Colony scene!), it’s an underrated joyful gem of cinema from legendary filmmaker Blake Edwards. And who could play better a dim-witted, dumb-lucked Inspector Jacques Clouseau than comedic genius Peter Sellers? I love you Steve Martin, but you’re nooooooo substitute for Peter Sellers. Comedy actors PLEASE take note.

Death Race * * * *
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson / 2008

NASCAR needs an upgrade. I’ve found it in “Death Race”, Paul W.S. Anderson’s (no, not Paul Thomas Anderson!) pimp-my-ride version of Roger Corman’s 1975 cult-classic “Death Race 2000”, a film I’ve yet to check off the list. So what, “Death Race” is AWESOME and well-crafted in its own right and Corman was all for it as he produced. And of course Jason Statham (ol’ Stat Ham!) is kicking butt in it. If you’re on the hunt from some pure escapism to the max, in an “Escape From New York” meets “Mad Max” (and some “Running Man”) fashion, then you NEED to see the brilliance of “Death Race”. In fact, if I were a betting man, I’d wager you may someday see it come to a reality near you.

Bottle Shock * * * *
Directed by: Randall Miller / 2008

This bio picture about the legendary 1976 Judgment of Paris wine blind tasting competition that had California’s Napa Valley shocking and turning upside-down the wine world really surprised me. I’m no wine pro, but “Bottle Shock” is a really, really lovely film flavor and made me proud that a bunch of self-serving hicks in California changed the way the world crushes grapes. Centering the rocky and bitter relationship of father and son winemakers Jim and Bo Barrett and the humorous travels and curiosities of British wine connoisseur Steven Spurrier to their Chateau Montelena, “Bottle Shock” is very sweet, delicate and fresh. -djg

Friday, April 3, 2009

the "best" for me...

Amazing homemade "Star Wars" costumes...anyone...anyone!? These are truly inspiring, nostalgic and tickle my day beyond any galaxy. I want to go home and make one while I watch the trilogy for the umpteenth time! -djg