Eagle Eye

Basing a whole movie on that scene in The Matrix where Morpheus is on the phone with Neo, giving him explicit instructions on what to do and where to go in order to escape his pursuers seemed like a pretty god idea to me. And Eagle Eye is almost exactly that. Jerry (Shia LeBeouf) and Rachel (Michelle Monaghan) are in sporadic contact with a strange woman who gives them various directives. And somehow, no matter where they are, this woman always knows whether or not their mission was successful. We have no idea what her intentions are but it becomes apparent soon enough that she means business.

Eagle Eye is fun but not entirely original. It kind of seems like a big mash up of various movies including, but certainly not limited to, Enemy Of The State, Live Free Or Die Hard, Get Smart, and 2001. My guess is that it might have to do with this being the first movie the writers have written (John Glenn and Travis Wright).

Either way, Eagle Eye is still entertaining. There are plenty of big explosions and fast car chases to keep you happy. In fact, the entire movie is basically one huge chase, with little time for pit stops. There is a catch, however. The strange woman frequently tells Jerry, “Don’t ask questions.” The same could be said of the filmmakers. There were so many times when I paused and said to something along the lines of, “But how will they know where that tunnel is?” Oh wait! I forgot. “No questions.”

As long as you’re willing to let go of the reigns a little bit, Eagle Eye will take you on an enjoyable ride. Probably not one that you’ll remember in a year or two but still, it’s fun while it lasts.

Man Bites Dog & Eyes Without A Face

While I was partying at All Tomorrow’s Parties in New York this past weekend, I was able to catch a couple of movies. Criterion had a room where they were playing a wide variety of movies they’ve released over the years. Both of the ones I saw happened to be black and white French movies and very very weird.

The first one I saw was Man Bites Dog (aka It Happened In Your Neighborhood) and it was easily one of the most bizarre movies I’ve ever seen. It’s filmed as a documentary but it certainly doesn’t portray facts. And as much as I hate this term, there’s no denying it gets the point across: Man Bites Dog is a mockumentary. The premise is simple. A small film crew follows around an eccentric serial killer, Benoît. Most of the time, Ben talks at great lengths about everything under the sun: art, family, society, music, and in the opening scene, the best way to keep a dead body submerged under water. Very often, the crew films him as he murders and rapes various people and even though you know this isn’t real, it still brings to mind many questions. How can they possibly make an unbiased movie? Should they ever intervene to help the victims? If they don’t help, are they automatically accomplices? The lines are very blurred and the questions aren’t easily answered. The way the creators of Man Bites Dog make these questions easier to swallow is that the movie is a comedy. It’s easy to brush off such heavy topics when you’re laughing. “Of course this isn’t real. So why bother thinking about it?” Apparently, this was very controversial when it came out in 1992 and won the SACD Award at Cannes. I give this film a high recommendation.

Eyes Without A Face is a French horror/thriller that conjures terrifying images from the title alone and the DVD cover only helps to provoke those fears. It’s about a doctor who is experimenting with strange skin grafts and when his daughter has an awful accident that, um, removes her face, he attempts to put a similar looking woman’s face skin on his daughter’s. This movie has made it into many critics “Top Horror” lists and with good reason. It is by far one of the creepiest movies ever. It’s a horror film that would be ridiculously unsuccessful if it came out this year. It’s not the kind of movie that really scares you or makes you jump and scream. It’s actually really hard to describe. Instead of watching it with your hand over your eyes, it’s more like you stare at the screen wide eyed with your jaw hanging open. That’s the best I can do. Trust me, Eyes Without A Face is a true horror movie but likely not one that you’re used to. And even with the occasionally cheesy effects, this is still a very worthwhile movie.

I’ve Been Watching Movies, I Swear

So it’s been quite a while since I’ve reviewed any movies but I assure you it’s not because I haven’t been watching them. Just the opposite, actually. I’ve been watching a lot of stuff but for the most part, I’ve been watching things that I don’t really think are worth reviewing. But I figured I must have at least a few words for each of the movies I’ve been watching, so I’ll play catch up now.

There were a couple of stupid screwball/slapstick ’90s comedies I watched (Jury Duty with Pauly Shore and Beverly Hills Ninja with Chris Farley), which were hardly worth the time. I remembered liking them when they came out, but then again I was about 12 years old. I no longer have any nostalgia for them after re-watching them, and I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing.

Dandelion was an indie flick that fell flat, for reasons I can’t specifically remember. It starred Vincent Kartheiser (remember him?) and it looked pretty but the story and acting were so sub-par. It was cheesy and cliche. Not something I’d recommend.

Nothing was written and directed by Vincenzo Natali, the same guy who did the original Cube (which I recently reviewed here). It sounded like it had amazing potential. Sadly, it didn’t work out. It’s about these couple of guys who are in serious trouble and wish the world would go away. Then (surprise), it does. Outside of their house is nothing. Literally. Sounds kind of cool, right? Like maybe a contemporary version of My Dinner With Andre? Wrong. These guys don’t talk about anything worthwhile and worst of all, the characters are ridiculously annoying. Two things you really can’t have in a movie about nothing.

I watched the last James Bond movie, Casino Royale, and it was my first James Bond movie ever. I thought Daniel Craig fit the role to a T. It was great, I really enjoyed it, and I really look forward to the new one coming out soon, Quantum Of Solace.

I got to see this movie called The Man From Earth which is about a college professor who reveals to his colleagues on his last day of work that he’s actually a caveman and he’s been alive for hundreds of thousands of years. Definitely an interesting enough premise to watch it, even if it’s bad (kind of like Nothing). I liked the movie enough, but it was kind of boring with everyone sitting by the fireside asking the “caveman” questions the whole night. Not much more than that. Tony Todd and Richard Riehle were in it so that was a plus. The ending was a little too literal, explaining things a little too much and I could have done without that. But otherwise it was a fun thought experiment.

I also watched my first Pedro Almodóvar recently, Volver with Penélope Cruz. It was very weird, with the whole spiritual/ghost thing going on. A couple of criticisms would be that they didn’t wrap up that restaurant side story and the fact that Cruz got a Oscar nomination for it. I’m not saying she was bad in the movie, but rather non-spectacular. I feel like there must have been some other actresses that deserved a nomination more than Cruz for her role in Volver. Oh well.

And finally, I’ve been watching the Alien series for the first time. I saw Alien: Resurrection when it came out a while ago and up until now, that was the only Alien movie I’d seen (although I don’t think it really counts). I’ve watched the first and second so far, with the third coming up soon. Man, these movies are amazing. Sigourney Weaver kicks so much ass. and who knew Paul Reiser had any talent? He plays the perfect scum bag. Aliens is Godzillamonster’s favorite movie ever (I think) and with good reason. But because these are such famous and popular movies, I felt like there wasn’t much I could say that hasn’t already be said, hence no proper reviews. Suffice it to say I truly love Aliens.

And there you have it. A complete update of almost every movie I’ve seen in the past couple of weeks. I’ll be away until next Tuesday, so I won’t have any full reviews until sometime after that. I hope this will tide you all over until then.

Burn After Reading–classic Coen fun **nano-spoilers**

McDormand and Pitt as the morons of the century

The last we saw of The Coen Brothers was their dark best-picture winning No Country For Old Men. Today they’re back with far fluffier fare in Burn After Reading, starring George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton, and John Malkovitch. And for that I offer the Universe (and The Coen Brothers) many, many thanks. After an August of cinematic duds (only two decent wide release films came out the entire month) Burn After Reading is a refreshing upswing.

Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand were the highlights here even though neither really flexes any significant acting muscles. Regardless, both are immensly entertaining in their roles as, well, complete morons. As we’ve come to expect from The Coen Brothers, money is the central motivation of these characters who set the action in motion by seizing an unexpected opportunity to grab a quick chunk of change.

George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, and John Malkovitch play the poor schleps who get drawn into the goofy duo’s grab for cash. Swinton, seeminly reprising her Ice Queen role from The Chronicles of Narnia (will she play someone likeble ever again?) amuses while playing it straight, while Malkovitch gets to delight as the sensitive, downtrodden heavy. Physically, Clooney channels his character from O Brother, Where Art Thou to some extent, but endears as a sex fiend with a jogging fetish. And what’s he building in the basement? Looks sinister…

Overall, this talented cast delivers. The script meanders a bit, and the stakes aren’t particularly high, but the laughs are pretty constant. J.K. Simmons and David Rasche are quietly brilliant in their bit parts, and The Coen Brothers deliver quite a few of their signature surprise moments.

This film reminded me a bit of 6ixtynine9, a Thai gangster comedy I reviewed a little while back. The action in that film is set in motion by a simple misunderstanding which becomes compounded many times over. The setup is the same in Burn After Reading, except in this case, with these actors and this script, the result is a study in silliness. Most Coen Brothers comedies have a silly take on something more or less serious, where the stakes are high. Burn After Reading is a silly take on something completely silly, where any serious consequence is the natural, if unfortunate outcome of being a bit silly. In fact, I would almost call this film Coen light. Fans of their films will surely enjoy it, but if their other comedies have been too out there for you, I’d recommend giving this one a try.

This film is rated R for violence, strong language, and sex toys.

Burn After Reading 1-Sheet

Burn After Reading 1-Sheet