Broken Flowers

August 16th, 2005

Director Jim Jarmusch, best known to me for his work in making Ghost Dog - The Way of the Samurai, first worked together with Bill Murray in Coffee and Cigarettes before getting back together two years later to make Broken Flowers.

Broken Flowers features Bill Murray acting in a role similarly caught up in the mundane passing of time as was his character in Lost in Translation. Murray plays Don Johnston...with a T...a "middle aged Don Juan" with a whose past relationships with women are to be admired. As he says, he was just living his life when one day he receives a mysterious letter which had neither a return address nor a signed name. The letter read that it was from a woman from 20 years into Don's past and that shortly after they went their separate ways she gave birth to a son. Don's son.

Winston, Don's sleuth-obsessed neighbor gets involved to discover the origin of the letter. His blueprint involves Don creating a list of possible women from which he will plan an itinerary. The choice, then, is Don's; whether or not to set out on this wild goose chase to find a woman who may or may not have given birth to his child.

The movie was good. It was not great, it was not incredible, it was not wonderful. It was good. I think it COULD HAVE BEEN great, incredible and/or wonderful. Something was missing.

Winston was the loveable character. It was his role that should have been developed further. He and his family with their relationship to Don could have been used more. Maybe a few less cut scenes to watch a plane take off.

I understand that the idea was to let Don embark on an outwardly manifested journey into himself, but so many solo shots of Murray sitting quietly as he learned more about himself made the movie progress too slowly.

I know I broke the cardinal rule of movie watching and entered the theater last night with expectation(s) for this film. Granted I had not heard much of the movie itself, only that Murray was great. I will concede this point, but with exceptions. To an extent I will draw a parallel between Bill Murray in Broken Flowers and Tom Hanks in The Terminal. Both men were great in their respective roles, the problem was that maybe the roles themselves needed work. The Terminal was a horrible film, so I will go no further in using the two movies in the same sentence. I said before, Broken Flowers is a good movie.

I laughed (maybe too) loudly at many points. That is part of what made the movie difficult for me as I would laugh so hard and then there would be such a long lull before the next laugh. This emphasized some parts of the movie as being slower than I believe they really were upon reflection; the contrast was too great.

There were two things that I definitely enjoyed about Jarmusch's direction. One, though it made me a bit nauseous, was his camera shot out Don's driver side window. The shot is right out the window, including the reflection in the side mirror. This shows Don on his journey through his past to maybe find a piece of his future. We watch the world pass by his window then vanish into the horizon. The second technique was the use of basketball hoops. Winston instructed Don to keep an eye out for clues that may indicate which of the women mothered a son. Each neighborhood he travels to shows a basketball hoop. The hoops are used as hope that maybe he is on the right path.

I was also fascinated by the newfound desire in a man who had never exhibited any signs of wanting a family of his own to find his son in the face of every 19 year old young man he passed on the street. ...So I guess that was three things I liked....

Either go in committed to "the long haul" or maybe get antsy in your uncomfortable theater seat, either way the movie is good. Maybe Jim Jarmusch will just let me see his next script ahead of time so we can work in a few more jokes to keep up the intensity. Until then, go see Broken Flowers. (Oh and I recommend Ghost Dog, too.)

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August 9th, 2005
So I Married an Axe MurdererCharlie: I want you to have my children. And I want you to have your children...That sounds like an awful lot of children.

Suggestion to Blockbuster.com

August 5th, 2005

I was playing with my Blockbuster.com queue early this morning and a feeling came over me as I stared blankly at my 188 movies long list. One thing that is nice about the site is that they allow you to provide feedback and suggestions for improvement. Despite the wonderful suggestion I made before that is still ignored, I felt compelled to submit another idea. Here is what I wrote:

How about a button that will randomize your list. You spend an entire day going through lists and lists provided on blockbuster.com adding movie after movie. They are simply now in the order in which you browsed to them. You could sit there and spend just as long if not longer pretending that there is a specific order in which you would like to view them though we all understand how arbitrary that is. If there was a way to simply randomize the list it may save a lot of time and even spice up one's queue.
Think about it.

Let it be no secret that having such a list is daunting. Those nearly 200 movies are my Everest. Getting through them will take time, that is certain. The randomization feature would allow for more surprise in what movie would come next. Ok, ok, ok. I could just never look at my queue and I would have no idea in what order my movies will come to me, but this would be more fun.

New movies come out that you were anxious to see in the theater, though missed for whatever reason(s). You may prioritize them ahead of other movies in your queue, but the prioritization causes conflict for me. The beauty of the service is that you have access to so many movies. I am able to see movies I otherwise never would; the price is right. If I actually went in and played favorites with the movies I queued, some movies may well be taken right off the list. They will be bumped closer and closer to the vanishing point as new movies are added. Or you could let me hit a button and roll the dice. I think it is obvious which way I prefer.

Oh, and if you are curious, my other suggestion to them was to, through an admin interface, create links that I may add to the end of my movie reviews which allow you to queue the movie directly. I would push more for this original suggestion if I were forced to choose, but I think they are both valid and worth Blockbuster's time and consideration.

July 31st, 2005
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindClementine: This is it, Joel. It's going to be gone soon.
Joel: I know.
Clementine: What do we do?
Joel: Enjoy it.

Happy Endings

July 29th, 2005

Saw this movie last night. It was a "Hey, what's playing at the theater right next to where I am going to be tonight?" situation more than a "Hey, I really want to see Happy Endings." situation. In fact I had not even heard of it, conveniently, until yesterday afternoon when I happened across it on some random blog on the "I want to see these movies:" section.

I was in Royal Oak for something else, so I called Dave and we decided to take in a movie. Happy Endings it was. It was either that or The Year of Yao, the decision was an easy one.

Happy Endings was a series of snapshots into lives of 10 different people; lives that intertwine in different ways. I guess industry standard has been to compare movies like this to Go when you are trying to explain the style involving the stories all coming together over time. The movie is full of many mid-level names, though they all come through with great performances. Lisa Kudrow stars with support from Steve Coogan, Jesse Bradford, Bobby Cannavale, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Ritter, Laura Dern, David Sutcliffe and Tom Arnold. (Bobby Cannavale was AWESOME in The Station Agent, I was glad to get to see him in something else.)

The movie was directed in a very unique (to me at least) style that at times called for splitting the screen to make room for text narration. Don Roos, who both wrote and directed this film, kept me thoroughly entertained.

As I hinted at above, the acting had me impressed. I am not typically a Lisa Kudrow fan, if you live under a rock and are not familiar, she played Phoebe on Friends, but I did not mind her in Wonderland. She came through in Happy Endings, however. I think Maggie Gyllenhaal turned in the top performance, no offense to Kudrow. The story is not the most family friendly, so don't take the kids, but Roos was able to keep me laughing start to finish.

What I am really trying to get at is that the movie was difficult to describe and you probably wouldn't understand what it was about unless you actually see it for yourself. Lucky for you I thought the movie worthy of recommending to you. Check it out.

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DVD Purchase Update 072405

July 24th, 2005

Movie of the Month - August, 2005

July 20th, 2005

So I Married An Axe Murderer

So I Married an Axe MurdererComedy sensation Mike Myers stars with Nancy Travis in this hatchet-driven romantic comedy about a wedlock-shy coffee house poet who finally meets the perfect woman. When it comes to love, Charlie Mackenzie (Myers) has had his share of bad luck: Sherri was a klepto--Charlie still can't find his cat. Jill was unemployed--but Charlie knew she really worked for the Mafia. Pam smelled like soup--beef vegetable soup. Good thing for Charlie these shortcomings became apparent, if only to him. Good thing for Charlie he discovered the truth before things went too far--before he stumbled into MARRIAGE! Because to Charlie the "M" word is just one step away from the fate foretold in that chilling phrase "'Til death do us part." When Charlie meets Harriet Michaels (Travis) everything changes. Harriet's not like the others. She's smart, sexy, and crazy about Charlie. This time Charlie is determined to overcome the fears that sabotaged his past relationships. This time, he's ready for some commitment. Sure, Harriet may have her shortcomings--but so what? After all those other women, what's the worst she could be? An axe murderer?

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July 19th, 2005
GrooveGuy: Why do you do this to yourself? Don't even get paid, risk getting arrested, for what?
Ernie: You don't know?
Guy: No.
Ernie: The Nod.
Guy: The Nod?
Ernie: Happens to me at least once every party. Some guy comes up to me and says "Thank you for making this happen... I needed this. This really meant something to me." And they nod... and I nod back.
scoffs
Ernie: That's it.

Batman Begins

June 20th, 2005

A darker movie about the darker side of Bruce Wayne's life as he transitions into his role as Batman. After the first two Batman movies (starring Michael Keaton) Hollywood took a two movie hiatus giving us garbage instead. What they got away from was the dark cloud that Batman wears like a, well...cape.

Batman Begins takes us back to the beginning and shows us where Bruce Wayne first became afraid. It is this fear that he then turns to anger; an anger which he desires to use to rid Gotham City of the crime now rampant.

Bruce Wayne and his alter-ego Batman have always been portrayed as well polished and expert at their crafts; Bruce as head of a business empire and Batman as hero to Gotham City. What was nice about Batman Begins was how they showed how Bruce is just learning how to do both. He has a few growing pains and trips a few times along the way, but you see how he will improve over time into the gentleman hero he becomes.

I had initial doubts about Christian Bale starring in this movie, but he proved to be a worthy Batman. When I saw Liam Neeson and learned of his part in the story I was hesitant again, but he was great. I like both Bale and Neeson. Katie Holmes plays the now grown up version of Bruce's childhood playmate. She, like most if not all other roles she has played, brings nothing to the table. Luckily there is no depth built into her character so we did not have to deal with her often.

My one real complaint with the movie was how Batman acquires the toys that allow this hero with no superhuman abilities to do the amazing things he does. I rationalize how they did it by saying that, in the interest of time, it was best.

I also liked the following things:
1) They showed Gordon as a Seargant...so you don't only see Batman's rise to power.
2) They used a bad guy that Batman had not faced in the four previous movies made.

The things I wonder after having seen it:
1) The young boy who pops up twice while scenes take place in the Narrows, is his name by any chance Dick Grayson?
2) At the end of the movie there are many things left unfinished and when Gordon hands Batman the "calling card" of this other villain you have to wonder: Are they setting up to make more new Batman movies? Or are they simply helping to catch up to where Michael Keaton began?

This movie was done well overall. I was entertained throughout. I would like to see more done in the same style, even if it means a Batman/Joker battle involving neither Jack Nicholson nor Michael Keaton (especially if we get a special appearance from Harley Quinn).

I liked Batman Begins a lot. Go see it and hope with me that they make more.

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Movie of the Month - July, 2005

June 20th, 2005

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindFrom acclaimed writer Charlie Kaufman and visionary director Michel Gondry comes Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. An all-star cast shines in this comical and poignant look at breakups, breakdowns and breakthroughs.

Joel (Jim Carrey) is stunned to discover that his girlfriend, Clementine (Kate Winslet), has had their tumultuous relationship erased from her mind. Out of desperation, he contacts the inventor of the process, Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson), to get the same treatment. But as his memories of Clementine begin to fade, Joel suddenly realizes how much he still loves her.

Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo and Elijah Wood co-star in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind -- a memorable firm that The Wall Street Journal calls "a romantic comedy unlike any other!"

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