The Matador — Movie Review

The Matador photophoto courtesy Miramax

A mustached Pierce Brosnan walks through a hotel lobby wearing only a speedo, beer can in hand, gut hanging out, cigarette drooping out of the side of his smirk. The other guests stare, almost horrified, and obviously we���re supposed to have the same reaction: that can���t be (the former) James Bond playing washed-up hitman Julian Noble in The Matador. Julian is a complete 180 from James Bond: instead of style, he oozes sleaze; while Bond is a charmer, Julian is a bisexual predator, eyeing Catholic schoolgirls and raiding S&M clubs.

Matador poster
The Matador
(Miramax)
Rated: R
starstarstar (out of 4)
Official Site
Trailer
Metacritic
IMDb

Cinephiles may remember a similar anti-Bond performance Brosnan gave in The Tailor of Panama as a disgraced British agent who stews up trouble in Panama just because he���s bored and horny. But Julian is a far more complex and ultimately redeemable character that Brosnan plays with both gusto and finesse. Even though the setup is reminiscent of Gross Pointe Blank, The Matador���s focus on friendship, particularly male bonding, and Brosnan���s surprisingly articulate performance make this film a whole other beast.

On his birthday, when he���s alone and watching TV in a Mexico City hotel room, Julian realizes he has no friends. Scanning through his address book, he finds only brothels and gun shops. After indulging in an orgy, Julian meets businessman Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear), who is recovering from losing his job and his son. His current shaky business deal is essential to his survival, but he hides his lack of confidence in that suburban American appearances-are-everything way, which attracts Julian to him. Julian feeds off Danny���s normalcy ��� the first thing he wants to know is if Danny has a wife and kids. He wants a taste of that white-bread living that Danny sweats, and Danny indulges in Julian���s more exciting world of hits and screwing whole Filipino whorehouses. Continue reading →

Grandma’s Boy — Movie Review

Grandma's Boy photophoto courtesy Twentieth Century Fox

This movie straight sucked… now go and see it! Considering all the critics bashing it after it came out, its no wonder that the films production company decided against sending it to reviewers before it was released. The film carries nothing more than a sloppy pile of jokes, drug references, and some nudity. The film is almost a parody on the down-and-out-guy-gets-girl genre except that it’s geared to pot smoking gamers and it’s riotously funny!

Match Point poster
Grandma’s Boy
(Twentieth Century Fox)
Rated: R
starstar (out of 4)
Official Site
Trailer
Metacritic
IMDb

Alex (Allen Covert) is a 36 year old pot smoking video game tester who has to move in with his grandmother. He gets evicted from his apartment because his roommate spent the last six months rent on massage parlor prostitutes. Alex ends up moving in with his Grandma (Doris Roberts) and her two elderly roommates (Shirley Jones and Shirley Knight).

Alex’s weed-laden-ultra-smile in this film is only outdone by cuts of hilarious silence. In one of the basement scenes all you hear is the pitter-patter of Playstation controllers and all you see are Alex, Dante (Peter Dante), and a monkey, baked out of their minds, on a couch, playing video games on a blank television screen.

Alex’s work buddy, Jeff (Nick Swardson), is a riot but has a weird character transition through the film. At first, you are introduced to Jeff as an over sheltered nerd who lives with his parents, never had sex, wears lime green pajamas with the feet sewn on them, and sleeps in a pre-teen’s bedroom, full of action figures. Jeff goes from a freakish momma’s boy to a seasoned party god in two scenes. Despite the weird transition Swardson’s sharp timing, physical antics, and convincing facial expressions highlight the best scenes in the movie.

The pinnacle of nerd references comes in the form of a game geek prodigy named J.P. (Joel David Moore). The goth-meets-Matrix outfits and the weird high pitch voice that mimics bouts of Tourettes, that is futilely compensated with a hyper-inflated ego, makes this bad guy a really funny bad guy! Throughout the movie, J.P. is ridiculed by everyone, even the breakroom geeks at the game testing lab. He’s the hot shot no one thinks is hot!

The party scene at Grandma’s house was classic. Barry (Jonah Hill), one of the game testers, sucks on his first female breast and keeps sucking for thirteen straight hours. Jeff finally has sex… with Shirley Jones’ character… yeah, it was pretty creepy… actually it made me ill… but it was still funny. All the while, Grandma and roommates get stoned on “Frankenstein weed”.

This was a film I’ll have to see again, but not just for the funny. Unfortunately, some of the delivery put laugh time on top of joke time making it impossible to hear every joke. The dialogue between characters still needed some shaking out as well. The quality of the picture in the beginning also seemed a little rough. I’m not sure if the theater was to blame there or not.

Overall, Grandma’s Boy might get chewed up by critics for its bathroom humor but for pot head gamers who’ve spent way too much time with the folks this year, it might be that perfect bong hit to end off the holidays and start off the new year.

—————————
STARRING: Linda Cardellini, Peter Dante, Shirley Jones, Shirley Knight, Joel Moore, Kevin Nealon, Doris Roberts, and Nick Swardson
GENRE(S): Comedy
WRITTEN BY: Barry Wernick, Allen Covert, Nick Swardson
DIRECTED BY: Nicholaus Goossen
RELEASE DATE: Theatrical: January 6, 2006
RATING: R
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes, Color
ORIGIN: USA

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.

—————————
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

Naked in Ashes — Movie Review

Naked in Ashes photophoto courtesy Paradise Filmworks

Naked in Ashes is a documentary dedicated to the yogis, or Hindu mystics, of India. These holy men carry on a 5,000 year-old ascetic tradition, denying the needs of the body for the sake of spiritual enlightenment. Los Angeles-based filmmaker Paula Fouce has managed to tell their story with great sympathy and esteem, while at the same time ignoring, inflating, or simply (and most likely) misunderstanding the essence of her subject.

Naked in Ashes poster
 
Naked in Ashes
(Paradise Filmworks)
Rated: NR
starstar (out of 4)
Official Site
Trailer
IMDb

If you know nothing about Hindu mystics, you should see Naked in Ashes. After all, any movie about yogis is better than no movie about yogis. It has beautiful footage of the Himalayan lakes and mountainside. If you are familiar with this sect, you will quickly realize that the film suffers not so much from it’s misguided vision as from the great opportunity it misses. The staggering need for focus and improvement is evident from the opening credits on. Fouce gets closer to this infamously hermetic group than most Westerners will in a lifetime, yet fails to paint an accurate portrait of their mission and context within the greater subcontinent. The film misses some of the basic facts crucial to an understanding of the Hindu yogi’s spiritual life.

Some of those basic facts: In India, yogis are generally referred to as sadhus, from the sanskrit “to practice [meditation].” These men halt all pursuit of the three Hindu goals: kama (pleasure), artha (wealth), and dharma (duty), and instead seek moksha (liberation) through prayer and meditation. Naked, dreadlocked sadhus (such as the primary figure of the film, Shiv Raj Giri) are called Naga. Clothed sadhus with knives or swords are called Jata. Each deity in the Hindu pantheon inspires a different sort of sadhu.

While Fouce may well have done her homework, her film does not reflect it. Rather than use the industry-standard documentary subtitles, she dubs the yogis’ speech with Indian-accented English, and employs a hackneyed voice-over narration throughout the film. After following a loosely organized group of yogis to the Kumbh Mela, a holy festival along the banks of the Ganges, Fouce pulls her loose narrative full circle to Santosh Giri, the 14-year old sadhu-to-be who opens the film. One can see why Fouce chose this orphaned boy as the emotional center of the story; his wide-eyed obeisance to the new world around him is mirrored by her own.

—————————

One Week Only!
Now Playing at E Street Cinemas.
GENRE(S): Documentary
RATING: NR
RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes, Color

The Keeper: The Legend of Omar Khayyam — Movie Review

The Keeper photophoto courtesy Arrival Pictures

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it

That is likely the most famous verse of The Rubaiyat, a collection of poems by the Persian mathematician and astronomer Omar Khayyam. Khayyam is most famous in America for his poetry, whereas in Iran he is equally noted for his scholarly achievements, such as his famous correction of the Persian calendar. The new film biography opening this week at E Street Cinema combines these angles beautifully to paint a whole portrait of Omar Khayyam, the man and the myth.

The Keeper poster
 
The Keeper:
The Legend of
Omar Khayyam

(Arrival Pictures)
Rated: NR
starstarstar (out of 4)
Official Site
Trailer
IMDb

Biography may not be the best way to classify The Keeper. In fact it is a story, about stories and their telling, which adds freely to the scant body of knowledge about Khayyam’s personal life. Rather than maintaining strict historical accuracy, The Keeper flashes back and forth between ancient Persia and modern-day America, framing Khayyam‚Äôs life story as it is understood by a young boy.

12-year old Kamran is fascinated by tales of his ancestor Omar Khayyam, and it becomes his duty to keep the family’s oral tradition alive in America. A secondary drama unfolds around the story as Kamran’s father, who feels his family should forget the past and focus on being good Americans, steps in.

Shot in 37 days in 3 different countries, The Keeper was written, produced and directed by newcomer Keyvan Mashayekh, and while unpolished at times, it is simply gorgeous to look at. The romanticized version of Khayyam’s life is framed perfectly by the drama of the immigrant experience. The heart of the film lies in the connection between both worlds, focusing not on Khayyam’s much-lauded poetry, but rather on the poetry that was his life.

—————————

Starts this Friday at E Street Cinemas.
STARRING: Vanessa Redgrave, Moritz Bleibtreu, Rade Serbedzija, Bruno Lastra, Christopher Simpson, Adam Echahly, and Marie Espinosa
GENRE(S): Adventure, Drama, Family/Kids
WRITTEN BY: Belle Avery, Kayvan Mashayekh
DIRECTED BY: Kayvan Mashayekh
RELEASE DATE: Theatrical: June 10, 2005
RATING: NR
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes, Color
ORIGIN: USA

Winter Soldier — Movie Review

Winter Soldier photophoto courtesy Winterfilm Collective

Operation Eagle Pull lifted the last Americans off the roof of the American Embassy in Vietnam seven years before I was born. As soon as I could comprehend combat, Vietnam interested me more than any other American operation. I read The Things They Carried. I saw Hamburger Hill, Platoon, Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket. In high school I fancied myself a peacenik and made a cheesy anti-war video for my video production class, complete with gory newsreels set to John Lennon’s “Happiness is a Warm Gun.” None of this training prepared me in the least for Winter Soldier, the new documentary opening at E Street Cinema this Friday, which chronicles the Winter Soldier Investigation conducted by Vietnam Veterans Against the War in 1971.

Winter Soldier poster
 
Winter Soldier
(Winterfilm Collective)
Rated: NR
starstar (out of 4)
Official Site
Trailer (Quicktime)
IMDb

Winter Soldier is the most real look I have had at the Vietnam War. It’s not the horror-story confessions of atrocities witnessed and committed that got me, though the film overflows with those. It’s the variety of voices, experiences and interpretations that fascinated me. The footage of the Winter Soldier Investigation, held in the ballroom of a Howard Johnson in Detroit, has all the attributes of an Alcoholics Anonymous convention: everyone is there for the same reason, and everyone has a different story to tell. Some members in attendance are trying to help, and some are out to get what they can. Some are just plain crazy, like the man in the film who claims that VVAW is racist & segregationist, while the table of panelists seats White, Black, Native American and Asian veterans together, passing the microphone to hear each other out.

Where the film lacks is in it’s billing. The tagline reads “Winter Soldier: They risked everything to tell the truth.” That risk simply isn’t apparent anywhere in the documentary. What is apparent is a crowd of young men in a motor lodge. Some are angry, some are confused, and some are at peace with the things they did in Vietnam. Don’t expect Winter Soldier to inspire the same revolutionary passion as 2002’s The Weather Underground. Instead, regard each speaker as a portrait of the war and it’s varied effect on any given man. While I believe Winter Soldier was intended as a war cry, in light of the recent abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, it is more effectively a human cry, calling us to observe the way war can warp and devolve our basic beliefs about humankind.

—————————

One week only Special Engagement starts this Friday at E Street Cinemas.
GENRE(S): Documentary
DIRECTED BY: Winterfilm Collective
RELEASE DATE: 2005
RUNNING TIME: 76 minutes, B&W
ORIGIN: USA

Sarah Silverman, Jesus is Magic

Jesus is Magic Movie Review >>

Jesus is Magic photophoto courtesy Roadside Attractions

Sarah Silverman will never tell you a joke that’s “safe for the kids,” and that’s just one of the things that makes her brand of comedy so very, very wrong in all the right ways. Her first concert film, Jesus is Magic, includes a generous helping of Silverman’s completely unorthodox live stand-up seasoned with skits featuring original songs (and trust me, you won’t be seeing any of these tunes as a selection on American Idol anytime soon).

Jesus is Magis poster

Jesus is Magic
(Roadside Attractions)
Rated: NR
starstarstar (out of 4)
Official Site
Trailer
Metacritic
IMDb
Review It Yourself

Nothing is off limits in her bag of tricks, be it jokes about religion, race, AIDS (“When God gives you AIDS�Ķmake lemon-AIDS”), 9/11, rape (“I was raped by a doctor�Ķwhich is so bittersweet for a Jewish girl”), and even the Holocaust. Part of what works so well is the way she almost effortlessly juxtaposes what are normally taboo subjects with what could pass as a Happy Hour chat, ripe with familiar, conversational phrases ��� “Nazis are a-holes�Ķexcept when they’re babies. They’re so cute when they’re little! If only they could stay small�Ķ”

If you’re expecting a continuous laugh-out loud fiesta, this may not be your cup of tea. Silverman’s commentary is more likely to provoke thoughts of, “Awww, I shouldn’t be laughing at this!” with stifled giggles and shakes of heads versus stomach-aching hilarity. Of course, that’s all part of the point ��� but whether or not people accept her cutting remarks as a clever tactic to force audiences to examine their own double-standards remains to be seen. The routine could use some fine tuning as some of the songs are stronger than others, causing a few spots to drag and feel a little repetitive. And by the end of the film, you might feel like you still don’t know very much about Silverman herself, as she remains fairly detached from the observations she shares.

Regardless, Silverman will likely charm you with her smarts, looks, and wicked talent, even when delivering what could be construed as the most offensive thought to come out of a “nice girl’s” mouth. Despite its minor flaws, Jesus is Magic should bring Silverman a widening base of admirers and attention that is long overdue.

—————————

STARRING: Sarah Silverman, La’vin Kiyano, Bob Odenkirk, Brian Posehn, Laura Silverman, and Brody Stevens
GENRE(S): Comedy
WRITTEN BY: Sarah Silverman
DIRECTED BY: Liam Lynch
RELEASE DATE: November 11, 2005
RUNNING TIME: 72 minutes, Color
ORIGIN: USA

Mudsugar Launching Soon

Mudsugar is an independent, locally owned and operated on-line magazine and city guide that reflects the heart and soul of the Washington, DC alternative music, alternative art and indepependent film scene.

Thanks for your patience while we work! Mudsugar should be in full operation soon. Sign up for our mailing list and we’ll keep you up to date with Mudsugar news, events and invites to the launch party and other special events.