Sunday, June 28, 2009

Why "Burn Notice" is the right show right now

"Burn Notice" is among the top cable shows. For part of its second season, its ratings beat "The Closer," the most-watched cable program; the finale drew 6.1 million viewers. It's also very popular with critics, who praise it for inventive plots, terrific acting, and great action.

I think it's smart, sexy, and fun. The premise is easily described: a spy is wrongly accused of betraying the USA, his assets are seized and he's confined to his hometown, Miami. Action ensues as he helps people in order to raise money and contacts to clear his name.

Yet "Burn Notice" borrows a bit from prior successful shows. A distinct "Mission: Impossible" (or maybe "The A Team") vibe shines through as a team of trained operatives work together, fooling bad guys every week. It also takes strongly from "MacGyver" - since both have protagonists who brilliantly improvise to solve problems, the comparison was probably expected.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

"Spider" - David Cronenberg's internal version of "The Fly"

Spider is the story of a man recently released from decades of institutionalization. We follow him as he stays in a halfway house - particularly, as he uses a journal to uncover and relive the incident that lead to his incarceration. Ralph Fiennes plays the eponymous lead (yes, Spider is his name). Gabriel Byrne and Miranda Richardson turn out clever and skilled performances as his parents (and more, for Miranda).

What follows is depressing fun. Spider's release is unlikely, considering he's almost incapable of speech; he doesn't talk, he mutters. Enabling DVD "subtitles" proved fruitless - when he's extra-unintelligible, it's on purpose. Connecting to anyone, especially women, is nearly impossible. His name is very apt - he freezes at external stimuli, scuttles away, and (occasionally) strikes unseen.

Monday, June 15, 2009

"Batman Begins" is flawless - so for a comic book film, it's perfection.

For my money, this is the perfect super-hero movie. Only a few approach the quality of this film. From the outset, I had a special kind of anticipation for this film. I avoided all information about it - I even closed my eyes and hummed when a theater showed a preview for it.

I have a deep contempt for the recent Hollywood focus on unneeded sequels and unwanted remakes (Starsky & Hutch? Land of the Lost??). But Christopher Nolan is among the most exciting directors in the last two decades, and Christian Bale is one of the best actors working today. So my weariness was abated (and I was sold) as soon as I knew three facts: Batman, Nolan, Bale. Without the last two, I wouldn't have been interested.

For the reboot of this doomed franchise, they chose "the origin story." In case you've never heard it: Bruce Wayne is a happy rich tyke, but his parents are mugged and murdered in front of him. He grows up learning martial arts (wise choice). He acquires the skills to terrorize the villainous.

At some point, he decides to become a vigilante who will protect his city from its vast number of criminals. His city is basically New York, operating under one of New York's most popular nicknames ("Gotham"). As he tries to protect his identity and his hometown, excitement ensues.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My "Casshern" review - in a word, "ugh"

I just quickly skimmed the synopsis before I queued this, especially because I do not want to know everything about a movie before I watch it. Nice buzz, supposed to have great action, interesting story. I have watched plenty of anime, but I did not expect to see a steampunk-esque live-action anime film when I rented this.

The first fight scene gives you a horrible view of what happens: you cannot see the kicks and punches, which really sucks since they use the wire tricks and everything else. What's the point of employing all those fake effects if I can't see the first fight in the movie?

There are some beautiful shots and scenes. The plot, however, makes abysmally little sense. I know a tiny bit of japanese, and clearly there were moments where the translation was inaccurate or incomplete. Even more, there are a few moments in the film (a radio announcer speaking, especially) where there is no translation offered at all. Nor are there any subtitle options on the dvd.

Monday, June 8, 2009


I changed the name of this blog to reflect that most of these reviews will cover video rentals. I have a long list of films that I want to cover - movies I've seen before and want to praise or disparage. But I'm no one-trick pony, and I go to movie-theaters less often now.

It's much more fun to see a movie for the first time and share my thoughts on it. Also, I tend to see my favorites as seldom as possible, and my posting schedule shouldn't depend on that - some films, I don't even want to re-watch for a review.

Thus, the bulk of my writing will center on the third wave of my film education (college and pre-college being the other two). And this education will rely largely on Netflix. I came up with the title, and I thought the connection was a great coincidence.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I wish I were Bogart, I'd love to love Bacall - "To Have and Have Not" Review

"You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow."
This classic line is just one highlight of the first film to co-star Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. They met on the set of this film, at 45 and 19 - two very different people who changed each other's lives. This was the only one of their joint films that I missed, and I used Netflix to finally catch up.

"To Have and Have Not" is Howard Hawks' excellent adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's novel. Rather than condensing the entire novel, Hawk's film focuses on one segment of the story, eliminating plot lines and characterization to create a concise, focused work. Set in 1940, Steve (Bogart) is a cynic with a soft spot, a man who hires his boat for recreational fishing off of Martinique. Local tensions are high because the French colony is run by the Vichy government (a Nazi-controlled regime).