Friends with Money

Friends With Money

Cyndi Lauper wasn’t kidding. It’s tried and true, it’s trite, it’s a major cliche: Money changes everything. Money is never easy to talk about. If you have it, you don’t see what the big deal is. If you need it, well … you want it. The older you get, the more money you need to get by, whether or not you want to admit it. That is what Nicole Holofcener’s movie Friends with Money is peripherally about. Continue reading →

Brick (Movie Review)

Brick Photo

What do you think of when you think of movies set in high school? Perky cheerleaders? Sure. Unrequited love? Of course. Quirky comedies loosely based on Shakespeare? Ugh. A Dashiell Hammett inspired murder mystery with Lynchian undertones? Continue reading →

V for Vendetta

Movie Review >>

V for Vendetta Photo

I think I really need to stop watching movie trailers altogether. While arriving early for a feature so I can catch the previews and get pumped for what will be coming soon to a theater near me is one of my most favorite parts of the moviegoing experience, it tends to lead to me being underwhelmed when I finally see the films that I had so badly wanted to see just months before. V for Vendetta definitely fits that example. V is a solid action film, full of gorgeous sets and costumes (Natalie Portman looks particularly beautiful in this film), and packed with some great performances from British actors, including Stephen Fry, John Hurt, Stephen Rea and Ben Miles of Coupling fame.

V for Vendetta poster
V for Vendetta
(Warner Bros.)
Rated: R
starstarstar (out of 4)
Official Site
Trailer
Metacritic
IMDb

V for Vendetta takes place some 20 or so years in the future, when America has collapsed due to war and disease, and Great Britain is the reigning superpower it once was. However, in the future, the government has complete and total control over its people. There are curfews. Certain music has been banned, along with films, art, the Qur’an, sculptures, you get the picture. The government hates, and will imprison anyone who is “different.” If it sounds like we’ve gone back to Nazi Germany, we may as well have.

V beings with the reading of the Guy Fawkes poem, “Remember, Remember the Fifth of November,” as we watch Gunpowder Plot unfold. We soon meet V (played by Hugo Weaving), who wears a Guy Fawkes mask and seems to be a little bit Batman, a little bit Phantom of the Opera. He saves the heroine of our piece, Evey (Coincidence? He thinks not.), when he saves her from some Finger Men (Britain’s equivalent to the SS). As most girls do when they are saved by strange masked men, Evey becomes very taken with V. She soon learns of his plan to finish what Guy Fawkes started on November 5th, 1605. V wants the entire country to awake from their zombie like states under the British government and break free from the oppression and fear that they have been trapped by for years. The film is full of strong performances by all of its actors (though, Natalie Portman’s accent grew a little bit annoying at times). Perhaps the weakest of all performances was Weaving’s as V. It may not have been his fault, though. As Evey finds, it is quite difficult to connect to a man whose eyes you can never look into. The release of V was originally slated for last fall, but was postponed due to the London bombings in July of last year, and its hard not to see why. Some of the most violent scenes take place in old Underground stations.

Continue reading →

Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor)

Movie Review >>

Night Watch photoNight Watch photo courtesy Fox Searchlight

In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness. She is the slayer. Oh wait, wrong story … kind of. In Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor), there aren’t just vampires, there are entire races of both good (Light) and bad (Dark) guys called “Others” (no, not those Others) and the Chosen One doesn’t necessarily have to be a good guy.

Night Watch poster
Night Watch
(Fox Searchlight)
Rated: R
starstarstarhalf star (out of 4)
Official Site
Trailer
Metacritic
IMDb

Night Watch begins over 1000 years ago with an epic battle between Light and Dark. The brutal battle finally ends in a truce between Light and Dark, in which they agree that no Other can be forced to choose the side of good or evil, they have to choose for themselves. To ensure this, each side sets up police forces of sorts called, Night Watch and Day Watch, respectively. Like all stories that involve the eternal battle of good versus evil, there is a prophesy. The prophesy foretells a day when a chosen one will appear who can end the eternal battle between Light and Dark. When the chosen one is revealed, he will be given a choice to choose between Light and Dark. Whichever side he chooses will decide the fate of the world. Kind of a large burden for one person to carry.

Cut to 1992, where we meet Anton Gordesky (played by Konstantin Khabensky who may be the Russian Clive Owen). Anton’s fianc?�e has left him for another man and he wants her back, so naturally, he goes to see a witch. The witch informs him that his fianc?�e is not only with another man, but she’s pregnant with this man’s child. She tells him that in order to get his fianc?�e back, the child will have to be killed. Before the witch can finish the job, Night Watch comes in and arrests her. It is then that Anton realizes that he is an Other. 12 years later, Anton is working with Night Watch to track a child that is being summoned by a vampire. Tracking this child turns out to be much more than Night Watch bargained for as Anton discovers that the apocalypse might be right around the corner and the boy he is tracking could be the Great One who would mark the beginning of the last battle between Light and Dark. And that’s really only the beginning of the story. The problem with a trilogy piece for a reviewer is that the end of the first part is really only a third of the way through the entire story. It makes me want to tell you more, but, you know, then you’d know the entire plot, and where’s the fun in that?

Like most films about vampires, demons, and otherworldly creatures, Night Watch is full of darkness. Nighttime, people dressed in black, leather, etc., but the Russians get the underworld movie right where we Americans get it wrong. How? Instead of trying to be cool, they just are cool (so cool, in fact, that they included a clip from Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the movie (“Buffy v. Dracula,” if you’re wonedering)). And, unlike most American movies in this genre, you don’t get the impression that the actors are sending out desperate subliminal messages to the audience that say, “Yeah, I know this is pretty lame, but I’m just doing it until I can get my big break in the next Jane Austen movie and be just as respected as Keira Knightly.” Night Watch is stylistic in all the right places and relies on simple acting when it needs to. Even the film’s approach to subtitles is pretty damn cool. At times, the actors walk right into the subtitles, obscuring them, or making them disappear, at other times, they type the text right onto the screen.

Will Night Watch be winning any awards? Probably not. I have to admit that at times it looked a little bit more cheesy B-movie than kickass vampire movie, but whatever. Like all films (and tv shows) in this genre, no matter how well acted and executed it is and no matter how well the story is told, its still just a movie about Vampires, Witches, and Others to some people. It can’t go any deeper than that, right? Ehh, maybe not. But, there were times when I couldn’t help but wonder if the message that the Light Others who thought they were helping the world, were doing exactly what the bad guys were doing, they just had righteousness on their side, and that made them right, whether or not they actually were (sound familiar?), had less to do with Vampires and Demons and had more to do with the state of the world today. But, you know, what do I know? I’m telling you to see a movie about things that don’t really exist.

In the end, I’m selling the same line I’ve been trying to sell to people for years. Yeah, some people don’t need to be sold, and you people know who you are. You’re the people who saw Underworld and were disappointed (obviously some of you weren’t, they did make a sequel), and the people who saw Constantine even though it starred Keanu as the chosen one … again. You don’t really need to be convinced to see a movie like this. But the rest of you, the ones who still laugh when people tell you that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was actually good, you might need to be convinced just a little bit more. So, go see it. I dare you to walk out of the theater not feeling just a little bit cooler for it.

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STARRING: Konstantin Khabensky, Vladimir Menshov, Valeri Zolotukhin, Mariya Poroshina, Galina Tyunina, Yuri Kutsenko, Aleksei Chadov, and Zhanna Friske
GENRE(S): Action, Fantasy, Foreign, Horror, Mystery, Sci-fi, Suspense/Thriller
WRITTEN BY: Timur Bekmambetov, Laeta Kalogridis, Sergei Lukyanenko (novel)
DIRECTED BY: Timur Bekmambetov
RELEASE DATE: Theatrical: February 17, 2006
RATING: R
RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes, Color
ORIGIN: Russia
LANGUAGE(S): Russian (with English subtitles)

Washington DC Independent Film Festival Opens this Thursday

DC Independent Film Festival

What cities do you think of when you think of independent films? Park City, Utah? You bet. New York City? Of course. Washington, DC? You didn’t read wrong. For 11 days in March, Washington, DC is home to The Washington DC Independent Film Festival (DCIFF) and it has been for the past six years. Each year, the DCIFF features “world premiere films, award winning features, shorts, animations, and documentaries.”

As with most film festivals, the DCIFF bestows various honors on its most outstanding films each year. They award films in each category they screen throughout the festival (feature, animation, short, and documentary). These awards include the Grand Jury Award, the Audience Award, the Visionary Award (which is “presented to a film of social or political importance that can provoke change”), the Washington, DC Filmmaker Award (“presented to [a] DC filmmaker for outstanding creative achievement”), the Cine Latino Award (awarded to the best Latin film), and the World Cinema Award, which will be presented this year to the most outstanding film from South Asia. Grand Jury Prize winners receive the DC Production Grant, which gives the Grand Jury Winners monetary and promotional support.

Founded by Carol Bidault in 1999, the festival first appeared on the scene in March of 2000 calling itself, “DCDANCE” as a nod to the world renouned Sundance Film Festival. In its first year, it lasted only three days, but featured 30 films, including the premiere of director Barry Levinson’s (Liberty Heights, Sleepers) documentary, Original Diner Guys. That same year, the DC Independent Film Market and Trade Show was founded. It now coincides with DCIFF and provides DC filmmakers the opportunity to meet with industry professionals, such as buyers, distributors, and agents. This is a unique opportunity because it is the only film trade show of its kind in the DC area. The next year, the festival changed its name to the name its stayed with, The Washington DC Independent Film Festival. Over the next few years, the festival gradually expanded, and garnered praise from local film critics like Stephen Hunter. Continue reading →

My iPod, Myself

My pre-iPod days were fairly simple. I‚Äôm the proud owner of some 350+ cds. So, every day on my way to class, to the gym, to work, I‚Äôd have to choose the soundtrack to my walk. It wasn‚Äôt always easy. Did I want U2 … the Dismemberment Plan … Tori Amos … a soundtrack? Sometimes I would end up carrying a few cds with me because I couldn‚Äôt pick just one. The decisions were tough, but the days, oh, how simple they were. I really had no interest in the owning an iPod. It seemed so unnecessary and expensive. I couldn’t afford it on my just out of college temp salary and I already had a discman. It may have been a slow and sometimes painful system, but it worked. Then in the fall of 2004, Apple introduced the U2 iPod.

U2 iPod

Black and red and pretty all over, it was the musical courier I’d been waiting for my entire life. The only problem was it was still a little too out of my price range. So, when Christmas rolled around, my dad asked me if I’d like an iPod for Christmas. I really wasn’t too keen on the idea at first. I’d lived without one this long, why did I need one now? It was expensive, it was tiny, but the thing of it was, I kind of wanted one. So, after months (years, even) of resisting the lure of the iPod, I told him, “Yes, an iPod would be perfect for Christmas.”

I loaded many, many cds onto my computer in preparation of the iPod‚Äôs arrival, so many, in fact, that my computer started to run out of memory (at four years old, my laptop hosts the same amount of hard drive space as my iPod, 20 GB). While millions of people the world over were once again preparing for the arrival of the Christ child, I was preparing for the arrival of my iPod. When the iPod finally became mine, I swore I‚Äôd take care of it. I swore that I would never let it be scratched (That didn‚Äôt really happen. Someone really needs to design a case that does a better job of that.). I swore that I would love my iPod, ‚Äòtil death do us part, and I was pretty successful at it. While other people were mistreating, misplacing, or just having plain old bad luck (I‚Äôve heard many stories about malfunctioning iPods over the years) with their tiny little pieces of machinery, mine was doing just fine. I treated it like my baby. Continue reading →

Cat Power: The Greatest (CD Review)

Cat Power - The Greatest

Get it at Amazon.

NATIONAL >>


Cat Power
The Greatest
Rating: 8 (out of 10)
Matador Records | 2006
Website


I���ve got to hand it to Chan Marshall. It takes balls to call any album that isn���t your greatest hits album The Greatest (and this being her seventh album, she could have done it). It doesn���t matter how good you think it���s going to be. Claiming to be the greatest is a boast like no other (unless you���re Kanye West). Of course, if you think that Chan Marshall is purporting that her album is actually the greatest, well, you don���t know Chan Marshall.From the second you lay eyes on the album cover, you should know that The Greatest is actually not claiming anything of the sort. The cover, all pink and shiny with a holographic finish, features a ghetto gold chain with gold boxing gloves hanging from it. Let���s face it, the cover looks more like the cover art for the Britney Spears/K-Fed vanity project than the cover art for a Cat Power album.

The Greatest is a beautiful album full of sweet soul. Recorded in Tennessee with some of Al Green���s old collaborators, it definitely calls to mind old school soul without completely departing from the signature sound of Cat Power. It���s the kind of album that is well suited for a rainy day. It���s the kind of album that makes you want to walk into a dark bar, order a glass of bourbon, light up a cigarette and walk on over the juke box and fire up one of these 13 songs.

It took a while for me to take a shine to this album, mostly because it���s the kind of album that the younger and more depressed college aged me would have loved instantly. That���s not to say that this album is at all juvenile. It���s full of the knowledge of having loved and lost. It���s full of lament, sadness, rejection, and loneliness (it even has a little bit of fun thrown in there with ���The Islands���). Chan Marshall���s voice is gorgeous and strong on every song of the album. She almost sounds like a cross between Beth Orton and Fiona Apple �Ķ almost. Some album highlights include the title tracks, ���The Greatest,��� ���Lived in Bars,��� ���The Moon,��� and ���Where is My Love.���

But honestly, it���s not each individual song, as much as the album as a whole that is so captivating. The Greatest like a comforting old friend that you can take out and put on when the right mood strikes you (or the wrong mood). It���s not an every day album, but it can definitely be a though the years album. An album that you may not need all that often, but when you do need it, to let you know its there for you and that hey, it could always be worse, but more than that, we all go through tough times and we just might get through them too.

Match Point — Movie Review

Match Point photophoto courtesy Dreamworks Pictures

We do not control our own lives, luck does. That is what Woody Allen would like us to remember when we begin our journey into Match Point.

Match Point stars Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as ex-tennis player Chris Wilton. Chris takes a job as a tennis instructor at a prestigious London club where he meets Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode). They become fast friends, and before you know it, Tom introduces Chris to his family. Chris wins the affection of the Hewett family and begins dating Tom’s sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer). One weekend at the family’s country house, Chris meets struggling actress Nola (Scarlett Johansson). Their attraction is instant and intense. There’s just one hitch: Nola is Tom’s fiance?©. Chris and Nola engage in a flirtation that, years later, (when Chris has married Chloe and Nola and Tom have long since broken up) turns into a passionate love affair. Of course, as we all know, the course of true lust never did run smooth. Where the film goes after that is perhaps a darker place than anyone would expect.

Match Point poster
 
Match Point
(Dreamworks Pictures)
Rated: R
starstarstar (out of 4)
Official Site
Trailer
Metacritic
IMDb

Match Point provides a conundrum that was presented to filmgoers around this time last year with Closer. When you are presented with completely unsympathetic characters, how do you bring yourself to care about what happens to them? Its unclear if it was Allen’s intent to keep us emotionally detached from the characters, but the result is an interesting one. Its painful to say that Scarlett Johansson’s performance may be the weakest one in the film (stepping into a part originally held by Kate Winslet a week before shooting began), because she is one of the most promising and talented young actresses on screen today. Her performance is at times choppy, but she pulls through in the more challenging scenes of the film. No doubt due to working with an experienced director such as Allen, who knows how to pull out the genuine talent of his actors. Rhys-Meyers commands the role of Chris, achieving confusion, lust, and desperation without ever appearing lost in the dense stript. The supporting cast perfom beautifully, as if they were regulars in the world of Woody Allen.

Match Point is a good movie, but not great movie. The conclusion of the film is an unexpected, yet predictable one. As Chris’ marriage and affair begin to unravel, it’s as if he feels that he’s the lead in one of the tragic operas that he loves so dearly. He lives from moment to moment, not feeling so much lucky as lost.

In the end, Allen does prove his point about luck. The characters wander through the world of Match Point nearly oblivious to what is going on around them and unable to control the events that they themselves have put into motion.

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STARRING: Scarlett Johansson, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Emily Mortimer, Matthew Goode, Brian Cox, and Penelope Wilton
GENRE(S): Drama, Suspense/Thriller
WRITTEN BY: Woody Allen
DIRECTED BY: Woody Allen
RELEASE DATE: Theatrical: December 28, 2005
RATING: R
RUNNING TIME: 124 minutes, Color
ORIGIN: USA / UK