Movies We Watched

Sometimes we watch stuff that we want to talk just a little bit about, not a full review worth. These are those films. If any of the films reviewed are available on Netflix Instant Watch (US or Canada) or HuluPlus (US only), we’ll note that by putting a direct link below the capsule.

There Will Be Blood

2007 USA. Director: Paul Thomas Anderson. Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Dylan Freasier, Ciaran Hinds.

A beautiful looking but otherwise empty movie experience that has nothing much to say about anything, and this, irrespective of the glowing praise by the likes of Tarantino. Everything goes down just as one would expect, without much of a fight, just aimlessly going through the motions of belittling Church and Commerce, and guess what, money doesn’t buy you happiness. I am a big fan of Paul Thomas Anderson but frankly the two stars I am giving this have more to do with Johnny Greenwood’s killer score and Daniel Day-Lewis’ grizzled performance. Everything else is as plain as the desert landscape this story is set against. Scholarly papers have been written about the choice use of camp in the final scene, to me it still just feels like a movie desperate to do something, anything to seem special.

A Separation

2011 Iran. Director: Asghar Farhadi. Starring: Leila Hatami, Kimia Hosseini, Merila Zarei.

Ego. Shame. Fear. Guilt. All are underscored here insofar as problems can spiral out of control when people push each other to the limit. Even moreso, A Separation shows the true ineffectualness of any bureaucratic legal body to sort out problems that are best suited to dramatization. Thus, we are armed with the God’s Eye view, and A SEPARATION appeals to logic, empathy, and yes, judgement. It’s the Iranian version of THE SWEET HEREAFTER, in its own way, and damn if that isn’t a compliment of the highest order. I had a plethora of reactions to the film and all of them, I believe, were earned. That is to say: the film doesn’t ‘cheat’ (sorry for opening a can of worms) by going all Lars Von Trier with its plot points. And that ending is perfect.

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Trailer: Men in Black (Cubed)

By the time you get up to the second sequel or more, you either have to go to Europe or go back in time. It appears that Men In Black 3 has chosen the latter route. The wacky-deadpan tone of things, the signature of the series, can easily support such an easy choice; as evidenced by Josh Brolin playing a young Tommy Lee Jones in the 1960s. Does anyone have any loyalty to this franchise, or is a 3rd go-around with wacky aliens, shiny weaponry and crisp G-men suits one too many? Or in MiB speak: “Is this old and busted or new hotness?”

The trailer is tucked under the seat.

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Review: The Company Men

Director: John Wells (“E.R.”)
Writer: John Wells
Producers: Claire Rudnick Polstein, Paula Weinstein, John Wells
Starring: Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Craig T. Nelson, Chris Cooper, Maria Bello, Kevin Costner, Rosemarie DeWitt
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 104 min.

There really isn’t any way of describing how terrible this film is without getting into specific spoiler territory so I’ll try to brush over some of the overall problems with the movie without getting too detailed. Suffice it to say that this film is trying so darn hard to be relevant and informative that it instantly becomes irrelevant, a product of its own past and something that has already aged terribly. Up in the Air, this is not. It’s full of corny, overwrought clichés that are so heavy handed that I couldn’t help but bust into laughter as I verbally recalled the story to my girlfriend two hours after leaving the theater.

The story is essentially about a bunch of corporate execs that lose their job due to downsizing and are having a hard time coping with their 12 weeks of full pay and benefits at a $120,000+ a year. They have a hard time finding employment in this downtrodden economy (yeah, the $60,000/year job just isn’t good enough) and several of them end up either sitting around all day feeling sorry for themselves, learning the value of an “honest” day’s work or just giving up entirely. Or in Chris Cooper’s case, getting drunk and throwing rocks at the office building while screaming obscenities in the middle of the night. It’s pretty dramatic stuff – it’s just like Jenny in Forrest Gump.
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Remembering a Decade…2007

(prologue) As we can begin to hear the death rattle of the oughts, we in the third row decided to start on this continuing series throughout 2009 that will look back at our favorite films of each of the past ten years (2000-2009). This will ultimately culminate in a “ten best/favorites of the oughts” piece sometime in early 2010.

This has got to be the finest year for cinema goers over the past ten years. I can remember narrowing down my personal list to about 30 favorites and then having a real tough time weeding it down to 10. Hence coming up with a consensus for a “top” five among seven or eight people proved to be downright impossible (leaving off all of the great “off the wall” cinema was particularly difficult – e.g. Grindhouse, Bug and Black Snake Moan specifically). So we each listed five movies that really captured our hearts that year and I tried to make the best executive decision I could that really showcases some of the best 2007 had to offer while maintaining a general sense of the tastes here at RowThree. Here are five films (and of course some honorable mentions) that represent some of the greatness that 2007 delivered.

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Bookmarks for October 14th


What we’ve been reading – October 14th:

Remembering a Decade…2005

(prologue) As we can begin to hear the death rattle of the oughts, we in the third row decided to start on this continuing series throughout 2009 that will look back at our favorite films of each of the past ten years (2000-2009). This will ultimately culminate in a “ten best/favorites of the oughts” piece sometime in early 2010.

This is probably our most inaccurate list of this series so far. With so many titles in 2005 that were on the cusp of being legendary, it really watered down the list of potentials. With movies like Brick, Good Night and Good Luck, Match Point and Batman Begins to contend with, it’s hard to put together a consensus top five list. Especially considering there were quite a few under-seen gems that popped up from 2005 over the past few years (Squid and the Whale, Lady Vengeance, Tristram Shandy). Once all of the staples of the year grace one’s list, it’s hard to fill in the blanks with a common consensus with so many great titles flying around. But anyway, if nothing else 2005 is a year that delivers weeks of quality film watching and more than a few week’s worth of discussion and debate. So here’s RowThree remembering 2005…

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A Plea to Kevin Costner

Kevin CostnerOh Kevin. What happened to you Kevin? You made some great films, then some not so great ones and then you seemed to fall right off the radar. And then there was Mr. Brooks. Not exactly spectacular stuff but it seemed like you were on your way back but alas, it materialized into nothing and sadly your track record doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

Tell me, why. Why you would agree to star in a movie which is such a sadly obvious attempt to say something poignant about the current state of the economy? In The Company Men you’re going to play a drywall installer who gives his recently laid off from Wall Street brother-in-law a job. I’m assuming that somewhere in there you’re also going to teach him a lesson about how money isn’t everything and that it’s the little things that matter. I know working alongside Ben Affleck is exciting but I have a feeling you signed on to work with Tommy Lee Jones whose role is to play the moral catalyst in the entire thing, likely stepping up to his greedy partners. Or maybe you’re just doing for it for the money. I can respect that; I know that producing a follow up to Dances with Wolves is expensive but maybe you should have waited for Mr. Brooks 2: A Daughter’s Revenge to start production.

Will I watch? Maybe not. I thought I’d give you another chance with Swing Vote but I couldn’t even get up the energy to rent the bloody thing never mind take myself to the theatre to see it. At this rate, your HSX stock must be in the $.50 range. I don’t want to lose faith in you but when you keep making films that sound this bad, it can’t be helped. But who knows. Maybe I’ll be surprised. If anyone can surprise me Kevin it’s you.

At least I still have my extended version of Waterworld to keep me going for a little longer but give this girl a break. You’re killing me and at some point, you’re going to have to give me a lifeline.

Tommy Lee Jones Behind the Camera Again

Don\'t make me kill you.One thing I love about Cannes is not only all of the great film and beautiful locales (and my jealousy), but also the interesting tid-bits of information that seemingly pop up out of nowhere.

If The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is any indication, not only has Tommy Lee Jones proven himself as an actor (better each year in my opinion), but also as a director. His freshman effort was quite well done and extremely enjoyable as a true contemporary western.

Now, via comingsoon, Hollywood Reporter is mentioning that TLJ is set to write, direct, produce and star in a new adaptation of the Hemmingway novel, “Islands in the Stream.” Since I am too uncultured to bother with the actual reading of a book, here is the general synopsis stolen from elsewhere:

Islands centers on the various life stages of a reclusive male painter named Thomas Hudson before, during and after World War II after he moves to the Bahamas. Like many Hemingway characters, Hudson, who in the tale has a stint working for the U.S. Navy and also endures a series of family tragedies, leads a complicated emotional life that he hides behind a stony exterior.”

With Morgan Freeman and the underrated John Goodman set to co-star, I see nothing but pure gold here. Without seeing marketing materials, trailer or even a still, I’m on board. Unfortunately we’ll be waiting a while as shooting doesn’t begin until next March. Well, at least I have something to look forward to in late ’09.