Monday, December 31, 2007
Directed by Julian Schnabel, the film is based on the true story of Elle Magazine editor, Jean-Dominique Bauby, who was paralyzed by a stroke at age 43. Unable to move any part of his body except for his left eye, Bauby learns to communicate through a series of blinking the alphabet. And in doing so, "writes" the book that becomes "The Diving Bell And The Butterfly".
With the help of a translator, Henriette Roi, Bauby manages to communicate his thoughts through a very repetitive process that, while a triumph for him, begins to grate on the viewer. What saves the film, is the imaginative way Mr. Schnabel shows us what is going on in Mr. Bauby's mind. His imagination and memory are the only things that sustain him. The artistic flashbacks and dream sequences that connect all the elements of the film are very well done.
Mathieu Amalric gives an outstanding performance as Bauby. To express oneself though only one eye is remarkable. It's also his witty and emotional voiceover that guides us and allows us an intimate link to the character.
The film is in French with English subtitles.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Goosebumps. You want a ghost story to give you Goosebumps. "The Orphanage" delivers them big time. In an era when "horror" movies are nothing more than torture porn or gory remakes, a film finally reminds us of how to be truly frightened at the movies.
Produced by Guillermo Del Toro, many are calling it this year's "Pan's Labyrinth". Nothing could be further from the truth. That's a marketing ploy that is unnecessary. "The Orphanage" is closer to Del Toro's film, "The Devil's Backbone" or another Spanish ghost story, "The Others". It scares you with atmosphere, implication and anticipation, rather than cheap shocks and gore. Although there is at least one "jump out of your seat" moment that was unnecessary but scary just the same.
The film stars Belen Rueda as Laura, an orphan herself who is adopted in the prologue and then returns to her orphanage 30 years later with her husband and young son, Simon. It is their intention to renovate the place and make it a home for special children.
Know that the film is in Spanish with English subtitles. To say anymore would be spoiling the experience but know that Ms. Rueda gives a tour de force performance as a woman unraveling when the past, literally, comes back to haunt her.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
You know you're watching a film of merit when it unfolds like a good book and you get lost in the story. "Atonement" is adapted from the book of the same name by Ian McEwan. I didn't read the book but I have read others by Mr. McEwan and I can only imagine that the screenplay for "Atonement" faithfully follows the book. Mr. McEwan is a gifted author who writes powerful novels. This is a powerful film.
It is a sweeping story of depth, filled with romance, and devastating drama. There is great chemistry between it's lead actors, Keira knightley and James McAvoy. Saoirse Ronan is a wonder as Ms. Knightley's 13 year old sister who sets the story in motion with one horrible lie.
This is a period film set in England and war torn France in the late 1930's. The cinematography, sets and costumes are all wonderful. There is an amazing single tracking shot on the French beach that is remarkable in it's beauty and horror at the same time.
"Atonement" has already been nominated for many Golden Globe Awards and will surely garner many Oscar nominations as well. It deserves all of them. Once it ends, it will haunt you for days. It will have that kind of impact.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
This film is a strange mix of serious politics and light comedy. Written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Mike Nichols, "Charlie Wilson" plays like an episode of "The West Wing". The dialog is fast and furious. Much of the political nature of the film may go over the head of the casual viewer. The story, however, is an amazing one especially when you consider it's based in truth.
Those expecting a light hearted romp with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts will be surprised by the turn of events when Congressman Wilson visits an Afghanistan refugee camp. The sights and sounds will shock the audience just as they do Charlie. It's that turn of events, spurred on by a wealthy Texas socialite (played by Ms. Roberts) that moves Wilson to begin a covert war aiding the Afghan people against the Russians. He is aided in his mission by a unorthodox CIA agent played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who steals every scene. Mr. Hanks exhibits both charm and gravity as Charlie Wilson. He's a terrific actor and both he and Mr. Hoffman are adept at inhabiting their roles.
The story is remarkable and will certainly hold your attention. The ending should anger you, especially if you stop and consider what has happened in Afghanistan since it's liberation from the Russians. The quote that closes the film could not be more haunting.
Monday, December 24, 2007
A sharp script and terrific performances highlight this comedy about a pregnant teenager. The film is intelligent and there is never a false note in the performances.
The film stars Ellen Page as Juno, the 16 year old learning about love and life even as a new life begins to grow inside her. Ms. Page was terrific in "Hard Candy" and and with each new film, she continues to show a maturity beyond her years. "Juno" also stars Michael Cera as "Bleeker", Juno's best friend, responsible for impregnating her. Mr. Cera owns the part of the sweet, awkward teen whether it's "Superbad" or "Arrested Development". No one does it better.
As for the adults in the film, J.K. Simmons and Allison Janey play Juno's understanding dad and caring step-mom. Jennifer Garner and Jason Batemen play a childless couple looking to adopt Juno's baby. The entire cast is just perfect and all show a new side to the type of characters they usually play.
Besides the clever writing, the film also boasts a terrific soundtrack, with original songs provided by Kimya Dawson, of the band "Moldy Peaches". "Juno" captures the language and rhythms of today's teenagers in a very honest way and the music is a perfect compliment to the story.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney return to their Indy roots in this intimate film about a brother and sister dealing with their father's failing health.
The film is a cross between the 70's comedy "Where's Poppa" and the drama, "Affliction". A strong screenplay balances the serious subject matter with moments of unexpected comedy. Mr. Hoffman recently received a Golden Globe nomination for his work in this film and while he is excellent as always, the film really belongs to Ms. Linney. Wendy Savage is the more complex role and Linney gives a wonderful performance, balancing a very complicated character. Actually stealing the film out from both of them is the remarkable Phillip Bosco as their father, slipping into dementia yet revealing a hint of sanity that refuses to go.
"The Savages" is an offbeat film, not for everyone but a nice alternative to the holiday blockbusters.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
I am boring.... After an extremely promising start, "Legend" slows to a crawl until the big finish, which frankly, didn't really thrill me.
Will Smith is very good in the lead and almost only role. It's a different Will Smith, more serious, yet emotional and heroic. His German Shepherd companion is an extremely well trained and expressive animal.
The special effects are amazing and really give you a sense of a deserted New York City. The problem is, after the initial "wow" factor, you get used to it pretty quickly and the effect loses it's punch. The same can be said for the night creatures. They are terrifying at first and then just annoying.
There is one really terrific sequence outside Grand Central Station that was truly exciting but Will's loneliness and boredom is so realistic that it carries over to the audience.
The one truly frightening thing about the film is that many doctors believe the premise of the film will actually come to pass. It's not a question of what if, but rather, when.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Based on the non-fictional bestseller, "Into The Wild" is the story of Chris McCandless, a college graduate who leaves behind a privileged life for one of self discovery and adventure. Sean Penn has adapted the screenplay and directs the film.
Not having read the book, I can offer no comparison and just take the film at its own worth. After graduating, Chris decides to drop out of society and go off on his own journey across America, ultimately to Alaska. He changes his name and ceases any communication with his family. The people he encounters and his own self discovery form the basis of the film, recreated by his journals and the memory of those who knew him.
Visually the film is breathtaking with many of the Western states and Alaska providing the natural background for the story. Songs and music by Eddie Vedder compliment the story perfectly. As Chris, Emile Hirsch does his best work to date, in a physically and emotionally demanding role. The film also stars Hal Holbrook, Vince Vaughn, and Catherine Keener as the people Chris meets and impact his life. In addition, Marcia Gay Harden and William Hurt play Chris's parents and Jenna Malone, his sister.
Mr. Penn charts Chris's journey with love and affection for the character. But in the end, "Into The Wild" is not a celebration but rather just an observation of one man's life. It is ultimately a sad story but not as haunting as it might have been.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Disney has found a new way to mine box office gold. "Enchanted" borrows from Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and few of their other classics to come up with the tale of a cartoon damsel in distress banished to the reality of New York City.
Amy Adams is wonderful as Giselle, a lovely cartoon character about to marry her Prince Charming (or in this case, Edward) played by James Marsden. The film starts out animated but the characters soon find themselves come to life, in New York (due to the magic of the evil Queen, played by Susan Sarandon) where Giselle meets Patrick Dempsey, a single parent divorce lawyer.
Other animated characters end up in the real world too as the film rolls along to it's inevitable conclusion. There are many fun moments, especially in the beginning as the characters adjust to becoming "real". As I said, Amy Adams is wonderful as Giselle, lovely and bewildered at the same time. Mr. Marsden plays the vain and clueless Edward perfectly. Ms. Sarandon has a fine time camping it up as the evil Queen. Mr. Dempsey, on the other hand simply plays a lawyer version of his TV doctor, Derek Sheppard. To his defense, that's about what the role calls for. Indina Menzel is wasted as Nancy, Mr. Dempsey's fiancé. She simply isn't given much to do for someone with her talent.
Timothy Spall and Pip the chipmunk add comic relief. The film is colorful, features a few clever songs, and is simple fun. "Enchanted" is great for the kids and entertaining for adults as well.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Using a technique he debuted with "The Polar Express", director Robert Zemeckis takes it to another level with "Beowulf". The film is a combination of live action with animation layered over it. The resulting image looks like a very realistic video game. The best way to view this film is in IMAX 3-D. The images are stunning. The audio and video are a feast for the senses.
The cast is pedigree. Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, Brendan Gleeson, Crispin Glover, John Malkovich, and Robin Wright Penn all add their vocal talent as well as their animated images to the story. "Beowulf is an ancient tale told many times through the ages but with a script by Neil Gaiman and Roger Avery, it becomes a modern day sword and sorcery tale with liberal amounts of violence.
Visually amazing, "Beowulf" opened at #1, but overall has limited appeal. Fans of Norse mythology or the film, "300" will find much to appreciate here. Beyond that I wouldn't bother.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
This amazing crime drama joins the ranks of Joel and Ethan Coen's best work. The film works on so many levels, I don't know where to begin. A story of greed and violence with no easy answers, the film is a marvel from start to finish.
Javier Bardem plays one of the all time great screen villains. You have simply never seen anything like Anton Chigurh. He is The Terminator in flesh and blood. Josh Brolin (getting better in every film) plays Llewelyn Moss, a simple man who discovers a satchel of cash and sets in motion a series of terrible events. Tommy Lee Jones is absolutely perfect as sheriff Ed Tom Bell, a man weary of the modern world, still trying to do the right thing. Kelly MacDonald plays Moss's wife, Carla Jean who is smarter than she looks. And rounding out the principal cast is Woody Harrelson as Carson Wells, a wild card in this deck of violent cat and mouse.
The cinematography of Roger Deakins is breathtaking. The color palate of the Texas plains to the stark and seedy small town motels is remarkable. The sparse dialog rolls off the actor's tongues like poetry. Tommy Lee Jones, in particular, has so much quotable dialog, I need to see it again and take notes. Working from the novel by Cormac McCarthy, the Coen Brothers wrote the screenplay and capture the detail and soul of the novel, while bringing the violence to the forefront. Be warned, there is no shortage of blood in a Coen Brothers film.
Without a doubt, one of this year's best films. And by the way, if you have been paying attention, all the questions at the end will have been answered.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
At 83 Sidney Lumet proves he's still got his directing chops. This is a taut little crime drama that puts ordinary people into extraordinary situations when a simple robbery goes very wrong. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke play brothers, Andy and Hank, who for different reasons both are mired in money problems. Andy hatches a plan to rob their parents jewelry store and everything spirals out of control from that point on.
The film is shot in and out of sequence with a time line at the bottom of the screen keeping things in proper perspective. This allows us, via different camera angles, to view the same events from different points of view. Hoffman and Hawke are very good in their roles but not very convincing as brothers. The film co-stars Albert Finney as their father and Marisa Tomei as Hoffman's wife. Finney, in particular, is excellent.
The film is reminiscent of an earlier film (from a terrific book), "A Simple Plan", which has a similar storyline and theme. It's a stronger story of ordinary brothers who's lives unravel when a simple plan goes bad. The saving grace of this film is Finney (so strong in his quiet devastation), Hoffman (oozing desperation) and Lumet's tight direction.
The new film from director Ridley Scott is based on the true story of Harlem Drug lord, Frank Lucas. It is another in a long history of gangster movies with not much new to tell. A gangster rise to the top and is brought down by a relentless cop. What keeps you watching are the strong performances.
Mr. Scott captures the gritty streets of New York in the early '70's and the film has the look and feel of a "Serpico" or "Prince of The City". As Frank Lucas, Denzel Washington has never been smoother. Whether shooting someone point blank or serving Thanksgiving dinner, he inhabits his character completely but we never see much of the man behind the criminal. As Richie Roberts, the cop who eventually brings him down, Russell Crowe is just as good in the less flashy role. In many ways, we learn more about Robert's character than we do Lucas as too much screen time is devoted to a custody battle with his ex-wife and his internal struggles within the police department.
The story behind Mr. Lucas's rise to the top is actually fascinating. Thinking like a businessman and not a street thug, he devised an ingenious way to bring heroin into the US and distribute high quality drugs for low prices.
His rise and fall certainly makes for a good story but this dark film is more informative than entertaining and anyone looking for sparks between Washington and Crowe will be disappointed. They literally only have a few scenes together towards the end of the film.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Animated Seinfeld is better than no Seinfeld at all in this slightly bizarre new film. It's one thing to have cute animated bees talking and acting like humans but to create an interspecies love story (even if it is chaste) takes it to another level.
The plot was reminiscent of "Antz" starring Woody Allen. A young bee isn't satisfied with life in the hive and longs for something different. This takes him out of his own environment into a new world of adventures. This is where the story takes a very strange turn. Unlike "Antz", which stayed in the insect world, "Bee Movie" takes young Barry Beeson into the human world where he is easily accepted as a "talking" bee and spends time as a lawyer and airline pilot among other things.
Rene Zellweger is the voice of his human love interest, a florist named Vanessa. Also along for the ride (literally) is Chris Rock as a cocky mosquito and Matthew Broderick, as his best bee friend. There are visual cameos from Larry King, Sting and oddly enough, Ray Liotta. Oprah Winfrey also lends her voice to the part of a judge.
Kids will like the animation and the slapstick. Adults will enjoy the Seinfeld humor but find themselves distracted by the cross-species sub-plots.
Sorry but I can't resist....I give it a B.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
George Clooney tries hard to lose himself in the title character, unfortunately he just can't get past being "Clooney". He has a few strong scenes but he has reached a point in his career that makes it very difficult to lose himself in a role and that sabotages the gravitas of the film. The story is strong but complicated and forces the viewer to pay attention to fully appreciate it. The payoff at the end is strong but the film itself tries too hard to be "important".
Sydney Pollack does his one note acting as the head of Clayton's law firm. Tilda Swinton has too few scenes to really work up a sweat although she does save her best effort for the final moments. Tom Wilkinson never disappoints and does a great job as a lawyer who may be losing his mind.
Similar to the TV show, "Damages", "Michael Clayton" is a legal thriller that never sees the inside of a courtroom. It's a clever twist on the legal genre, concentrating on the characters involved in the case, rather than the case itself.
Monday, October 29, 2007
A very solid directorial debut by Ben Affleck. Based on the crime novel by Dennis Lehane, the story revolves around a kidnapped child and the secrets underlining the crime.
Mr. Affleck not only directed but is also responsible in part for the screenplay and in both roles, he has crafted a taut, engrossing story filled with memorable characters. He shows a flair for capturing the life blood of the Boston neighborhood where the story takes place.
The film stars his younger brother, Casey Affleck, Michelle Monhagan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, and in a terrific supporting role, Amy Ryan, as the mother of the missing child. All the acting is solid and the film takes some interesting twists and turns towards an unexpected ending.
This is a dark tale with difficult subject matter that some will probably find unsettling. It aspires to the pedigree of "Mystic River" and at times, almost gets there. Mr. Affleck has found a new home behind the camera.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
There is a glut of "serious" Hollywood fare out there right now...and more to come. Some are better than others and most seem to blend into each other (or so it seems). If you are looking for something different and totally engaging, "Lars And The Real Girl" is the film for you. This Indy gem is only playing in a few select theaters but it is worth the search.
Ryan Gosling (a wonderful actor who chooses his films very carefully) stars as Lars, a painfully introverted young man in a small Midwestern town. Lars's emotional baggage is so heavy, he becomes delusional to deal with life. That delusion and it's effect on his entire town form the basis of the film.
The subject matter is heavy but the film deals with it in a light comedic way. There is much humor as well as heartbreak throughout the story. Watching Lars trying to cope is painful but the absurdity of the situation is very amusing as well.
All of the acting is outstanding, starting with Mr. Gosling. In supporting roles are Paul Schneider and Emily Mortimer as his brother and sister-in-law and Patricia Clarkson as the doctor who helps Lars on his emotional journey.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Director John Landis has created a loving portrait of a man who has made his living insulting people. This documentary explores the life and times of 81 year old comedian, Don Rickles.
Using a recent performance as his bookends, Landis fills the film with hilarious celebrity interviews and archival footage from Mr. Rickles long career. Not only does it present rare insight into the head and heart of Mr. Rickles but it also serves as a time capsule for the evolution of Hollywood and Las Vegas entertainment from the 50's through now.
There are some amazing segments with Frank Sinatra, Johnny Carson, Dean Martin and many other comics and personalities from a bygone era. And through it all, not only has Mr. Rickles survived but has continues to thrive on stages throughout the world.
At the Q & A after the film, Mr. Landis introduced Mr. Rickles to a standing ovation. His first comment- "Get the names of the people who didn't stand up". Mr. Landis also promised the DVD would be filled with a second disc of interviews and clips that didn't make the final cut. "Mr. Warmth" will debut on HBO in December.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix star in this decent crime drama as brothers going down different paths. Mr. Wahlberg is Joseph, the cop following in his fathers' footsteps and Mr. Phoenix plays Bobby, manager of a nightclub in Brooklyn, who is getting in deep with drugs and the Russian mob.
We've seen this kind of conflict before but an early plot twist elevates the story to a different level. Robert Duvall co-stars as their father in the type of role he knows by heart. Also co-starring is Eva Mendes as Bobby's girlfriend. Everyone does their share of good acting but the film belongs to Mr. Phoenix who has his share of star quality scenes.
There are a few exciting sequences but one particular scene really stands out and it should be easy to spot if and when you see the film. The visuals and sound editing are just great and the scene has a tension and excitement that the rest of the film only shows in flashes.
Things are wrapped up a little too easily at the end but it's a solid film if you like the genre.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Featuring a seemingly odd choice of actors for his latest film, writer/director Noah Baumbach continues to explore dysfunctional family dynamics, as he did in his last film, "The Squid & The Whale". "Margot" stars Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh as estranged sisters who come together for the wedding of Ms. Leigh's character, Pauline. Playing her unlikely fiancé is Jack Black, who does a good job with a serious (for the most part) role.
You don't usually find Nicole Kidman in "small" quirky family dramas and it was good to see her digging into a real character and giving life to Margot. Ms. Leigh, on the other hand is known for smaller quirkier roles and in this film, she actually gets to be the "normal" sister (dragging her share of baggage though).
This is an intense family drama with comedic moments that break the tension but for the most part it's a sad story filled with characters who aren't very likeable.
You don't usually find Nicole Kidman in "small" quirky family dramas and it was good to see her digging into a real character and giving life to Margot. Ms. Leigh, on the other hand is known for smaller quirkier roles and in this film, she actually gets to be the "normal" sister (dragging her share of baggage though).
This is an intense family drama with comedic moments that break the tension but for the most part it's a sad story filled with characters who aren't very likeable.
The new film from director Todd Haynes, may or may not be a biography of Rock Icon, Bob Dylan. The film is based on the life and times of Bob Dylan and features his music throughout the film, however, he is never mentioned by name and six different actors play different interpretations of him. The title of the film is perfect!
Serious Dylan fans will fully appreciate the film more than the casual fan as they will probably get more of the "in-jokes" and personal aspects of Mr. Dylan's life as portrayed on the screen. There is a very loose structure of a story that moves back and forth in time throughout different periods of Mr. Dylan's career but what really propels the film are the six actors and the cinematography.
The six actors playing Dylan-esque characters are Cate Blanchett, Ben Whishaw, Christian Bale, Richard Gere, Marcus Carl Franklin, and Heath Ledger. They are all terrific but a true standout is Ms. Blanchett, who fully captures the look and feel of a mid-sixties Bob Dylan.
The cinematography is simply amazing. Each time period is represented by different styles (and nods to other directors) with the camera capturing moments in time with beauty and realism. The film is a visual feast for the eyes. Add in the terrific Dylan songs and aforementioned performances and you have a remarkable film to experience, even if you are confused by "the story".
"I'm Not There" premiered at The NY FILM FESTIVAL and opens in NY on Nov. 21st. As an aside, the cover story of this weekend's NY Times Magazine section is all about Mr. Haynes and the film.
From New York Indy director, Abel Ferrara, comes this tale of a down on his luck strip club owner played by Willem Dafoe. While the film is set in New York, it was actually filmed in Italy which may account for the intimate setting of Ray Ruby's Paradise Strip Club. The entire film takes place either inside or in front of the club.
Matthew Modine co-stars as a silent partner in the club and his character seems to have wandered in from a David Lynch film. The film also stars Bob Hoskins, who is wasted in an underwritten role and Sylvia Miles, who shows the most life as the landlady looking for her back rent.
Except for the cache of Mr. Ferrara, I don't understand why this film was selected for The NY Film Festival. It's a quirky little film about a seedy world that has nothing much to offer it's audience. Mr. Dafoe sings, Asia Argento French kisses a dog, and there are endless shots of all the strippers doing their thing.
Go Go Tales premiered at THE NY FILM FESTIVAL. The opening date is not yet known.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
The new film from Director, David Cronenberg, delivers the goods. Following up "A History of Violence", "Eastern Promises" once again teams Mr. Cronenberg with Viggo Mortensen who is outstanding in an Oscar caliber performance.
The story gives us a glimpse into the shadowy world of the Russian mob where Mr. Mortensen is a "driver" working for Vincent Cassel, and his father, played by Armin Mueller-Stahl. Mr. Cassel is excellent as the spoiled, cowardly son and Mr. Mueller-Stahl is absolutely chilling as the mob boss who goes from loving to violently cruel in the blink of an eye. As the midwife who accidentally finds herself immersed in this world, Naomi Watts holds her own with her male co-stars.
Part of the genius of "Eastern Promises" lies in the minimum acts of violence that are so graphic that they resonate throughout the film, making it seem far more violent than it really is. This is signature Cronenberg and his style breathes life into these characters like no other director. The film is intense, absorbing and aside from one plot point that bothered me, just terrific.
Friday, September 07, 2007
Not quite a remake but more of a enhanced version, "3:10 To Yuma" is a new take on the classic American western, based on a short story by Elmore Leonard. I have to admit, I love a good western and "Yuma" doesn't disappoint.
Russell Crowe is just magnetic as the dashing criminal, Ben Wade. Playing against him is Christian Bale as rancher, Dan Evans, who ends up part of the group escorting Wade to the 3:10 prison train to Yuma. Mr. Crowe is just terrific, whether he's turning on the charm or killing one of his own men. Mr. Bale, as usual disappears into his character, and while it's the less showy part, he brings an air of realism to the role.
The film also features Ben Foster, playing an intense sociopath (so good in these types of roles), Peter Fonda as a aged bounty hunter, Dallas Roberts, and Gretchen Mol as Mr. Bale's wife. The film is directed by James Mangold, who directed "Walk The Line".
Expect serious confrontations, lots of gunplay, beautiful scenery and even a few surprises.
Monday, September 03, 2007
If you are the type who convulses with laughter watching Rowan Atkinson's facial distortions and physical contortions, then "Mr. Bean's Holiday" is for you. Otherwise avoid it like the plague.
The biggest mystery surrounding this 80 minute endurance test is why Willem Defoe would agree to be in it. He must really be hurting for a paycheck.
The attempts at humor are so lowbrow they barely leave the ground. In all fairness, I did snicker at the French restaurant scene, which involved a cameo by a French acting legend, Jean Rochefort. I guess he needed the money as well.
Friday, August 31, 2007
At the heart of this raucous, silly, juvenile comedy is a warm story of friendship. "Superbad" deserves to take it's place among classic coming of age films like "Dazed And Confused", "American Pie", and "Fast Times At Ridgemont High".
It's the ultimate buddy comedy centered around Seth and Evan's attempt to buy liquor and have sex at an end of high school party. The story is simple but the visual gags and very funny dialog will keep you laughing throughout the film. Jonah Hill plays Seth and Michael Cera (from Arrested Development) plays Evan. They are perfectly cast. Mr. Cera, in particular, has such great deadpan humor, timing and delivery that he makes every scene priceless. Their friendship is tested throughout the film and it really is the soul of the story.
Seth Rogan, so funny in "Knocked Up" co-wrote the film and plays a very unorthodox policeman. Bill Hader (from Saturday Night Live) plays his partner. It seems pretty clear that the character of Seth is based on Mr. Rogan. Also co-starring in his first film, is Christopher Mintz- Plasse as Fogell, who almost single-handedly steals the film.
Produced by Judd Apatow (who has a terrific winning streak with similar films), "Superbad" is raunchy but real and very funny.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Werner Herzog's most commercial film to date is a drama inspired by true events. This is the story of Dieter Dengler, a German American pilot shot down in Laos in the early stages of the Vietnam War.
Christian Bale is simply remarkable in the role of Dengler. His dedication to his craft knows no bounds. The hardships he endures are horrible and heartbreaking. Suffering with him as fellow prisoners of war are Jeremy Davies and Steve Zahn. Mr. Zahn, in particular, is outstanding in a role very different from his usual movie characters.
The story is riveting and will have you on the edge of your seat. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, it has not lasted long at theaters and may be hard to find. If you miss it on the big screen, make it a must rental on DVD.
The upbeat ending seems tacked on and a little rushed but otherwise, Mr. Herzog has written and directed an inspiring tale of survival and the human spirit.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Picking up where the last film ended, Matt Damon is still on the run trying to figure out how it all started. Director Paul Greengrass does an excellent job of putting the viewer right into the action and maintains a solid pace throughout.
From the intense camera angles to the live action stuntwork, the film pulls you in and never lets go. The character of Jason Bourne is the ultimate escape artist as he continually finds clever ways to elude the CIA. The film tries hard to bring you up to speed if you haven't seen the first two Bourne adventures but the new film makes more sense taken in context of the full Bourne saga.
Joan Allen and Julia Stiles are back reprising their earlier roles and playing the CIA chief, with nasty secrets to protect, is the always excellent, David Strathairn. As for the role of Jason Bourne, Matt Damon has found a defining character. Given little dialog, Bourne is a man of action and Damon slips back into the character with ease and maturity.
The film travels the globe with fantastic action sequences at every turn. If you're a fan of the series, this is a threequel that delivers the goods.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
To quote Homer Simpson, "Why pay to watch something you can see for free on TV?"
Well, for starters, it's 90 minutes of commercial free classic Simpson humor. Need I say more?
If you are a fan of the show, it is a must see. A few liberties are taken with the film that can't be show on TV and for the most part, it's more of what you already love on a bigger screen. One can argue that the story could have been better developed for the film. It's full of elements we've seen before on the show. But the bottom line is that this show is currently one of the longest running shows on TV and there is only so much you can add to it's brilliant humor and satire. The writers do their best to give almost every character, we've encountered through the years, choice bits of dialog but it's hard to do without making them seem like throwaway lines. Still, even throwaway lines from The Simpson's are better than plot points in many other comedies.
If you are not a fan of the show, don't waste your time. You won't "get it". But if you've ever laughed at even one episode, make the effort to see the film. It's a lot of fun.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Don Cheadle gives a tour de force performance in this "based on a true story" film. This is the story of Petey Greene Jr, an ex-con who ends up as a radio DJ for WOL-AM in Washington D.C. in the late '60's. The film tries hard to cover a capsule view of late '60's America before and after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and for the most part works well enough to propel the story.
Co-starring Chiwetel Ejiofor (so good in "Dirty Pretty Things") as Dewy Hughes, "Talk To Me" is a very entertaining film about dark times in America and the complicated relationship of two men who desperately need each other. Not only is Mr. Cheadle terrific as Petey Greene Jr but Mr. Ejiofor matches him scene for scene as the station employee who "discovers" him and later becomes his manager. The acting is outstanding and both deserve Oscar Nominations come next year.
Taraji Henson also does a great job as Vernell Watson, Petey's long time girlfriend, bringing both laughter and pathos to the role. Rounding out the cast is Cedric The Entertainer and Vondie Curtis Hall as other DJ's at the station along with Martin Sheen as the station owner and general manager.
It is pleasure to watch Mr. Cheadle in any of his films. He continues to astound with his range and chameleon ability to disappear into roles. And as for Mr. Ejiofor, this film should be springboard for bigger and better roles.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Recent movie versions of Broadway shows have not really translated well to the screen with the exception of "Chicago". "Hairspray" does a terrific job of migrating from stage to screen, bursting off Broadway and into the streets of 1960's Baltimore. The songs and the choreography are first rate and the casting is absolutely perfect.
John Travolta, at first seemed an odd choice as Edna Turnblad but he makes the role his own and quickly disappears into the character. His singing and dancing skills still come through, even under tons of latex. Christopher Walken, Michele Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah, James Marstan, and Allison Janney are all just wonderful in their respective roles.
As the teenagers, Zac Efron, Amanda Bynes, Elijah Kelly, and Brittany Snow are all excellent. Stealing the film out from all these established stars, however, is Nicole Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad, the teenager who helps bring integration to Baltimore. Ms. Blonsky is a singing and dancing wonder who shows great promise for a long career in film or on stage.
"Hairspray" will have you smiling and tapping your feet from it's opening moments. It's a very enjoyable time at the movies and a lot cheaper than the Broadway show.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Film five in the series continues a trend set in the last film...the darker the better. "Phoenix" is very dark and very heavy on dialog. The action is exciting but doesn't occur very often. This is strictly a transitional film that continues a bridge toward the inevitable conclusion with film seven.
The visuals are very good and the acting continues to improve for our three central leads, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint. The remaining friends and foes are played convincingly by what appears to be, every British actor living today. Imelda Staunton is a standout as Delores Umbridge.
What falters here is the direction. Besides a lack of action, the film suffers from a lack of levity as well. A few jokes at Ron Wesley's expense don't really count as comic relief. The sub-plots of the book suffer here as well. Minor plot points come and go without much explanation making this a film just for the hard core fan base. Casual fans who may not be familiar with the book will soon be lost.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Looking for something different? How about a dark comedy concerning itself with an alcoholic hitman in Buffalo NY? Ben Kingsley stars as Frank, a hitman for the Polish mob in Buffalo who's drinking is interfering with his work. When he screws up on an important hit, he's sent to San Francisco to clean up his act.
The film co-stars Tea Leoni, Luke Wilson, Bill Pullman, Dennis Farina and Phillip Baker Hall. It's a great cast in a twisted tale directed by John Dahl. Much of the story involves Frank's attempts at getting sober with the help of Tom (Mr. Wilson) and Laurel (Ms. Leoni). It's an unusual script but it works on multiple levels. We are in on the joke and laugh at the situation, rather than at the expense of Frank's drinking problem. Sir Kingsley is a treat here, playing a sympathetic man with an addiction and a very bad job. The rest of the cast are very good in their respective roles, especially Leoni as Frank's love interest.
"You Kill Me" is a good alternative from the overload of sequels and kid friendly fare at the movies these days. If you are a fan of Grosse Point Blank, you'll enjoy this one.
In this age of torture porn that passes for horror movies and slick remakes of marginal horror films, it's refreshing to watch a good old fashioned effective ghost story.
Starring John Cusack with a cameo from Samuel L. Jackson, "1408" is a distant cousin to "The Shining". Both come from the mind of Stephen King and both feature writers trapped in haunted hotels. While "The Shining" was a masterwork from Stanley Kubrick, "1408" works in a much smaller but effective way to send shivers up your spine.
Mr. Jackson is the hotel manager who warns Mr. Cusack to stay out of 1408. His role is short but memorable as he delivers the best line in the film as only Samuel L. Jackson can. The rest of the film belongs to Mr. Cusack as he slowly begins to unravel locked in a very scary hotel room.
As the story progresses, the film turns into a special effects roller coaster ride that plays tricks on the audience as well as Mr. Cusack. The film delivers the scares it promises and is one of the best adaptations of a Stephen King story in a long time.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Opening this Friday in select theaters, "Joshua" is a creepy little drama that finds the horror in one family's seemingly normal life. Starring Sam Rockwell and Vera Farmiga as the parents of 9 year old Joshua and his newborn sister, Lilia, "Joshua" gets creepier and more disturbing as it goes along.
Mr. Rockwell is terrific as the average hard working dad (a big departure from his usual left of center roles) faced with an unthinkable reality and Ms. Faminga is equally good as a mother becoming unhinged by ordinary family problems complicated by something out of her control.
As the cracks begin to widen in this nuclear family, you begin to realize you are watching a very intelligent horror film, minus the gore and violence. There is nothing supernatural about the horror at work here and that reason alone makes the film even more disturbing.
"Joshua" pulls you in and keeps you on the edge as it builds to a surprising third act. It may raise more questions than it answers when it's over but it's a pretty intense ride along the way.
Monday, July 02, 2007
20 Years ago, Bruce Willis redefined the action hero in "Die Hard". Now, in the age of "24" and "Jack Bauer" type heroes, Mr. Willis does his best to show these wannabes how it's really done, as Detective John McClaine.
This is a perfect summer popcorn movie. Suspend your belief at the door, sit back and enjoy the great action sequences and witty banter between Mr. Willis and his co-star, Justin Long. This is far superior to "Die Hard With a Vengeance" but still pales to the original or even "Die Hard 2".
Using cyber terrorists as a plot line and giving Mr. Willis a young hacker "partner" works perfectly here to bridge the gap between generations viewing the film. Casting Kevin Smith in a small but critical role was a clever idea but you never buy him as a character named "Warlock". He's just Kevin Smith doing a cameo. The CGI work, for the most part, is pretty good and except for a few obvious spots, makes the film a visual thrill ride.
To quote villain, Timothy Olyphant, (who's good but no Alan Rickman) Detective McClaine may be "a Timex watch in a digital world" but he takes a licking and keeps on ticking.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Emma Roberts is one spunky teenage detective, in this modern, movie version of the well known series of books. The film is perfect for 12 year old girls. It's got mystery, action, comic relief, and PG romance.
For anyone else, I would say, skip it unless you have a 12 year old daughter or a tweener niece.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
I wasn't expecting much when I heard about this film but I was pleasantly surprised when "Knocked Up" turned out to actually be a sweet romantic comedy that contains many "laugh out loud" moments. As with his earlier film, "40 Year Old Virgin", writer-director Judd Apatow has a great ability to mix sophomoric humor with tender moments to create an engaging comedy.
The premise of the stoned slacker winning the love of the beautiful, successful girl strains credibility but Seth Rogan's "Ben Stone" is such a lovable loser that you begin to really root for him. Katherine Heigl doesn't stray that far from her TV character, "Izzy Stevens", but does show she can hold her own on the "big" screen too.
Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd co-star as Ms. Heigl's sister and her husband and they almost steal the film. Mr. Rogan's slacker buddies are all humorous in their own way but a bit underdeveloped as full characters themselves.
"Knocked Up" ends up a pleasant surprise. Much like the results of the title. Be warned, however, there is some strong language and a graphic birthing scene.
An Indy film in the truest sense of the word, "Once" features non-actors in a simple but effective story filmed on a shoestring budget. Starring Glen Hansard (lead singer of The Frames) and Marketa Irglova as struggling musicians carving out a life on the streets of Dublin, "Once" doesn't compromise for a Hollywood audience.
As a relationship develops between the two leads, the music they produce propels the story. At times the film feels like one long music video, but overall, it's vibrant and charming. A number of scenes are very effective and Mr. Hansard and Ms. Irglova are honest and true to their characters.
Music is integral to the story and many of the songs are heard repeatedly throughout the film with varying arrangements. You will probably find yourself seeking out the soundtrack after you've left the theater. "Once" is a little film with a big heart.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Did you hear about the new Pirate movie? It's rated....AAARGGGH
Bloated doesn't begin to describe this almost 3 hour soulless spectacle. The few action sequences scattered throughout the convoluted plot are overdone and seemingly go on forever. I wish the film editor had walked the plank. Most of this mess is just confusing dialog with double and triple crosses that ultimately go nowhere.
Johnny Depp's "Jack Sparrow" is little more than a cameo in this story and all his charm from the other films has been reduced to ham in this one. The last few minutes of the film belong to Depp as if someone remembered he was the central character. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly have lost all their chemistry and Knightly has become outright annoying.Chow Yun-Fat is wasted as a Chinese pirate with very little to do and little time to do it.The best acting in the film belongs to Bill Nighy as "Davy Jones" and Geoffrey Rush as "Captain Barbossa". Nighy manages to convey a great deal of emotion under many layers of octopus makeup and Rush looks like he's actually having fun.
More is not necessarily better and there was probably an excellent 90 minute movie buried in this mess. On a positive note, the visuals are excellent and look great on a big screen but if you can wait for the DVD, do yourself a favor so you can watch it with your finger on the fast forward button.
Monday, May 28, 2007
Inevitably by the time you get to the 3rd film in a series, much of the magic and originality wears off. The return of Shrek and all the other familiar characters though, is like visiting old friends and there is certainly still a large amount of enjoyment to be found in their company.
Donkey and Puss make a terrific comic duo and the banter between Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas is priceless. Fiona and the other fairy tale women steal the movie as they give new meaning to girl power. Justin Timberlake joins the cast as "Artie", a young pre- King Arthur but his character doesn't really make the impact he should considering the storyline.
There is plenty of mushy sentiment this time around, much of which has to do with babies and becoming a good father and/or king. The sight gags are plenty and the animation continues to astound but like other "Part 3" films out now, the studios should give the characters a rest for a while and we'll appreciate them more for it.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
If you enjoyed the first film, "28 Days Later", you will probably want to see this sequel. Cillian Murphy decided not to participate in this one but Robert Carlyle kick starts the action as a surviving father of "the virus", reunited with his teenage daughter and 12 year old son.
From the opening moments, there are unexpected twists in the story and no one is safe which keeps the suspense level high. The camera work is frenetic and the various scenes of a deserted England are very convincing. There is plenty of violence and bloodshed as you would expect when fighting off blood thirsty zombies but there is also an underlying social commentary on the government's actions to contain the virus.
The ending leaves the door open for a third installment, probably to be known as "28 Months Later". And in this day and age of endless sequels, we'll probably have "28 Years Later" to look forward to at some point. There's always an audience for a good "zombie" movie.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
From the mind of Mike White, who has given us "Chuck & Buck" and "The Good Girl" comes this very quirky comedy/drama about how just far our love for animals can take us.
Molly Shannon stars as Peggy, a woman crazy about her beagle "Pencil". When Pencil accidentally dies, Peggy's world crumbles until she meets Newt (a very good Peter Sarsgaard), a animal shelter worker and dog trainer. Newt introduces her to "Valentine", a German Shepherd with some behavior issues. Peggy adopts him and begins to spend more and more time with Newt as well. Animals take center stage in their relationship and Peggy's passion begins to overwhelm all aspects of her life.
The film also stars John C. Reilly as Peggy's neighbor, Laura Dern as her sister-in-law, and Regina King as her boy crazy girlfriend. Peggy's obsession with dogs leads to various odd scenes with all these characters as well as her boss, played by Josh Pais.
The dogs in the film are terrific and adorable. The story starts out light and fun but takes a more dramatic turn as the film goes on. Ultimately, it tells us that our happiness in life can sometimes be found in very unlikely places but we go where our heart takes us.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
Well, the bloom is off the rose. If you have invested the time in the first 2 films, of course you will want to see how it all turns out but...the magic is gone. The film deserves an A for action but it also gets a B for bloated.
The seduction of Spiderman to the dark side takes too long to get going and Venom's appearance is too little and too late, showing up for the climatic battle (where Mary Jane is menaced by...a taxi cab and a dump truck...Yikes!! The dialog is sappy and many of the secondary characters have lost their zip (Jonah Jameson, for one). Toby Macguire's attempts to be dark and evil are just silly and a scene where he tries to make Mary Jane jealous with Gwen Stacy is just ridiculous.
The action sequences, however, are terrific and Thomas Hayden Church steals the film as The Sandman. His CGI is fantastic and in his human form, his acting is fresh and believable. Too bad, the screenplay messes with the original facts about the character's backstory and motivation to suit the plot. Devotees of the comic will be annoyed with that as well as the introduction of Gwen Stacy as a rival for Peter Parker's affection. Gwen's backstory is also tweaked to suit the plot and Bryce Howard is wasted in a poorly written character. Credit though, must also be given to Topher Grace who adds a breath of life to the role of Eddie Brock.
We are being teased with the prospect of Spiderman 4 (after all, Doc Connors has appeared in all 3 films so far and fans know what happens to him) but this film should make enough money to put the franchise to rest. Let's see what Robert Downy Jr. can do with next year's "Iron Man" movie.
Another screening at the Tribeca Film Festival, "The Air I Breathe" features a great cast entwined in 4 overlapping stories. Forest Whitaker is a quiet businessman who bets his life on a horse race, a gangster's enforcer (an excellent Brendan Fraiser) sees the future, a pop star (a better than expected Sarah Michelle Gellar) gets involved with a crime boss ( a typical Andy Garcia), and a doctor ( always reliable, Kevin Bacon) must try to save the love of his life.
The director, Jieho Lee, uses the overlapping technique we've seen before in films like "Pulp Fiction" and "Amores Perros" and for the most part makes it work (although just a little too neatly).
The stories are based on a Chinese proverb focusing on the four cornerstones of life: happiness, pleasure, sorrow and love. It is a strong drama with some harrowing scenes but it does reward in little ways throughout the film.
Screening at The Tribeca Film Festival, "A Dirty Carnival" is about the rise and fall of a Korean gangster. The title is a metaphor for the life gangster, Byung-doo, leads on the mean streets of Seoul.
The film is an exciting crime drama filled with all the elements you would expect including greed, betrayal, violence, and tragedy. Interestingly, there is very little on screen blood for such a violent film. The weapon of choice for these Korean gangsters is a metal bat and while it inflicts much pain, it leaves the film without the usual bloodshed. In fact, there are practically no guns at all in the film, which for that fact alone, makes it very interesting to watch.
The action scenes are choreographed beautifully and are very exciting. The story has been told before but the acting and charisma of the lead characters keep the viewer involved throughout the 141 minute running time.
The film is in Korean with English subtitles. No American release date is set.
Saturday, May 05, 2007
From the folks that brought you "Shaun of The Dead", "Hot Fuzz" is a loving satire of almost every action cop movie from the 80's and 90's. Played for laughs and yet deadly serious, this British comedy works on many levels.
What makes the serious nature of the film so funny is the presence of so many distinguished English actors. Steve Coogan, Bill Nighy, Martin Freeman, Edward Woodward, Jim Broadbent, and Timothy Dalton are the most recognizable faces for an American audience and they are all terrific in both minor and major roles. The lead character, Sgt. Nicholas Angel, is played by Simon Pegg, who also co-wrote the film. His dim witted side kick, P.C. Danny Butterman, is played by Nick Frost.
Sgt. Angel is a super cop making the rest of the London police force look bad so he is promptly promoted and sent off to work in a sleepy little village in the English countryside. Of course, nothing is what it seems and total mayhem ensues. There are liberal amounts of blood and gore in the more violent moments which are so over the top, the filmmakers could only think "more gore equals more laughs" and you'll swear Michael Bay directed the last 20 minutes. If you're a fan of British humor in a "Monty Python" vein, grab a pint and don't miss "Hot Fuzz".
Friday, April 27, 2007
Richard Gere, Alfred Molina, Hope Davis, and Marcia Gay Harden star in the apparently true story of Clifford Irving's royal scam of McGraw-Hill in the 70's. Irving made claims that he personally knew and interviewed reclusive Billionaire, Howard Hughes. He managed to get a million dollar advance out of McGraw Hill for the publishing rights. The story has been documented many times over but "The Hoax" still manages to entertain and amuse.
Gere and Molina are a terrific team...a modern day Laurel & Hardy playing well against each other with Gere as Irving and Molina as Dick Suskind, his best friend and co-conspirator. Ms. Harden plays Edith Irving in what I can only assume is a spot on depiction of the real Edith. Hope Davis plays Andrea Tate, the lead editor at McGraw Hill who is first to be suckered by Irving.
Director Lasse Hallstrom captures the period of the 70's perfectly with costumes, makeup and an accurate and appealing soundtrack. "The Hoax" is interesting, both in subject and performance but ultimately will play just as well on DVD.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
A great return to form for director Paul Verhoeven. Going back to his Dutch roots, Verhoeven co-writes and directs this WWII story inspired by real events. The story centers on a Jewish woman hiding from the Nazi's in 1944 German occupied Holland.
After a series of horrific circumstances force Rachel Stein to join the Dutch resistance, she dyes her hair blonde and changes her name to Ellis de Vries. When she meets a high ranking Nazi officer, Ubercaptain Muentze, on a train, Ellis goes undercover as his clerk and lover. An unlikely romance begins between them and their situation become more complicated and dangerous as the film goes on.
At a very quick paced 2 & 1/2 hours, this film has it all. Romance, sex, intrigue, action, last second escapes, double and triple crosses, and terrific acting from the principle cast. Carice van Houten is wonderful as Rachel/Ellis and Sebastian Koch, so good in "The Lives of Others", stays true to form as her sympathetic Nazi lover, Muentze.
For the most part Verhoeven drives the story with some restraint towards bad taste however, be warned, there a few few scenes that push the envelope. After all, this is the same man who brought us "Basic Instinct" and "Showgirls". But don't let that stop you from a exciting and satisfying movie experience. "Black Book" is in English, German and Dutch.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
A thoughtful and emotional drama that explores one's place in family and society. When the Ganguli family moves to America from India, their American born son, Gogol, rebels against his traditional values and drifts further and further away from his family. He changes his lifestyle, his name, and integrates himself into the life of his girl friend's family.
Events occur that force Gogol to re-evaluate his life and the story is propelled on a journey of self discovery. The film moves at a leisurely pace beginning with the arranged marriage of Gogol's parents and moves through the years with much attention to detail.
We are exposed to much Indian culture as the film divides it's time between India and the U.S. but the story, at it's heart, is a universal one. Each generation must discover their own identity and yet, maintain the traditions and values that help shape the individual they are to become.
Kal Penn, a long way from "Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle", stars as Gogol with a terrific multi-layered performance. Irrfan khan and Tabu play his parents and both are excellent. The entire cast does a wonderful job bringing all the characters to life. Directed by Mira Nair, "The Namesake" is a richly woven fabric that will appeal to an audience looking for a film with depth and feeling.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
Certainly not for everyone's taste but if you like fast cars, blood spattered zombies, loose women and big explosions, then this one's for you. Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino have teamed up to bring you the full experience of "Grindhouse" movies from the early 70's. "Grindhouse" features great fake coming attractions for films like "Werewolf Women of the SS" and "Machete". It also includes scratchy film, missing reels, bad acting, cheesy sets and dialog, old animated ratings messages, psychedelic previews of coming attractions and lots and lots of blood.
Each director has made a "grindhouse" film and both have their appeal. The two films, "Planet Terror" and "Deathproof" are bound together by the fake coming attractions and the three hour experience is a fun return to the glory days of cult films being shown all along 42nd street in New York and similar neighborhoods across America.
"Planet Terror" stars Rose McGowan and Freddy Rodriguez battling killer zombies. If you've seen the ads, you'll know Rose ends up with a machine gun for a leg and is quite the CGI highpoint. "Deathproof" stars Kurt Russell as a crazed stuntman driver who likes to crash into and run down women. At first you think the film exploits women but Mr. Tarantino is clever enough to turn the genre on it's head and portray the women as the heroes of the film. "Deathproof" has some great Tarantino dialog and a terrific car chase climax. Rosario Dawson is along for the ride in "Deathproof" but literally takes a backseat to Zoe Bell and Tracie Thoms.
Both films have many cameos including Bruce Willis, Naveen Andrews, and Michael Parks, as well as cult horror film directors like Eli Roth and Tom Savini. For fans of the genre, Grindhouse is lots of fun and a visual treat but as I started out by saying, it's not for everyone.