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Sunday, November 21, 2004

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Directed By Wes Anderson
Written by Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach

Starring Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Angelica Huston, Jeff Goldblum


Rating: A (yep, another "A," you have a problem with that?)


Part Jacques Cousteau, part Johnny Quest, part Moby Dick, and all Wes Anderson, the Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is a worthy addition to the Anderson catalog of films.
Bill Murray plays Steve Zissou, a Cousteau-like undersea adventurer and filmmaker whose latest film features the death of his best friend Esteban (played by the great character actor Seymour Cassel), who is killed while shooting their latest film, by a previously undiscovered giant fish which Zissou subsequently names the "Jaguar Shark." Zissou intends to devote his next voyage to finding and killing the monster. The plot thickens a bit as Zissou meets a young man named Ned (Owen Wilson), who may be his estranged son. Zissou takes an instant liking to Ned and brings him along for the voyage.


As with every other Anderson film, the characters are horribly dysfunctional, and sometimes downright dislikable, but always in a likable way. The film does manage to stay somewhat playful while dealing with weightier themes of hero-worship, celebrity, father-son relationships, and disappointment. I don't want to say too much about it because it's the type of story that literally can go in any direction, making it impossible to figure out how it will end, and I don't want to spoil the ride for anyone. This is the type film that will get better with each repeated viewing, and those are always the best kind.


Mil Peliculas

Saturday, October 16, 2004



TEAM AMERICA WORLD POLICE

Directed by Trey Parker
Written by Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and Pam Brady
Featuring their voices and the voice of LA Radio phenom Phil Hendrie

Review by Mil Peliculas
Rating: "A"

When the highly trained, highly equipped, elite, special para-military unit TEAM AMERICA finds out that Islamic terrorists have suitcase bombs that they plan to use around the world, they snap into action. But they'll need help. They'll need a new type of super-soldier. They'll need one with extraordinary skills enabling him to infiltrate terror cells and work from inside this insidious ring of murderous barbarians--they'll need...AN ACTOR!

Hunky stage performer Gary Johnston is approached after his latest performance of "LEASE" which features the show-stopper "Everyone Has AIDS," by the mysterious Mr. Spotswood. Spotswood is the head of Team America, who take it upon themselves to police the world. Gary has doubts at first, "Why should I fight terrorism?" He asks. "Because you have the power to fight it," is the answer; and it's good enough for Gary, plus some of the girls are hot. Gary agrees to help. Thus begins the best action film of the year. It's Trey Parker and Matt Stone's "Team America World Police." And it's as funny as you thought it would be...if you thought it would be.

Kim Jong Il is the Bond-styled supervillan bent on destroying the world with the help of some Chechnian terrorists and Hollywood's Elite: Sean Penn, Tim Robbins (who looks more like Elton John or Peter Bogdonavich, but okay), Matt Damon, Live Tyler, and the usual suspects. Alec Baldwin appears as the president of the Film Actors' Guild or "F.A.G. " and leads the actors as they unwittingly assist Kim Jong Il with his dastardly purpose.

Let me state categorically that this film is not for children, unless yor aim is to scar them for life and perhaps enrich the bank accounts of therapists across the country. It's for older teenagers or adults. It's gorey, potty-mouthed and features a nearly pornographic sex scene which was even trimmed a bit to rescue the film from its NC-17 rating and get it to an "R." Can't wait for the DVD on that one.

So it's NOT for kids, but what it IS, is a brilliant and hilarious spoof of action films, sometimes delving adeptly into supremely irreverent but thought-provoking political satire. It's nasty and sarcastic and sure to get its filmmakers scratched off all the Hollywood party lists. I say, if you're going to make political statements, this is the way to do it--in a wacky comedy. No one gets hurt (all that much) and your point often is more clearly seen. I love when filmmakers are praised for "speaking the truth" and "taking on the establishment " when that usually means siding with the rest of Hollywood against organized religion, Corporate America, and whoever the Republican president is. Whatever your political bent is, you must admit that Stone and Parker have more guts than their counterparts to go against "their own" as they are with this film.

Once again, as with their previous film, songs play a big part in garnering laughs. One song echoes the thoughts of all of us Masked Movie Snobs in properly dissing Michael Bay, scourge of Hollywood (someone let us know if they see Parker or Stone sporting one of our Masked Movie Snobs G-strings). But my favorite is the Team America theme, which reminded me of the action-packed toy commercials of my youth: G.I. Joe, Big Jim, and later, Transformers, etc. This one features the familiar generic rock music and the gutteral chanting of "America! Fuck yeah!" Ah...it warms my heart...

Mil Peliculas


Friday, July 09, 2004



ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY

Written by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell

Directed by Adam McKay


Folks, you know I've been gettin' lazy. A review here...a review there. But I must say I was inspired to run right home after this midnight screening at the Arclight in Hollywood (greatest theater in the whole wide world) and post my review of this one because it is nothing short of brilliant. Far exceeding my comedy-snob expectations.
Anchorman is the story of local San Diego news anchor Ron Burgundy, at a time when the world was his oyster. It was the 70's. Before the days of sexual harassment, AIDS, and women in the workplace. A simpler time...and men didn't come simpler than Ron Burgundy. A man more shallow than a coin fountain, and dumber than a box of rocks, but sweet in a bizarre way. The story chronicles Ron and his news team of equally clueless compatriots as they try to deal with the first female news anchor played by Christina Applegate.
Okay enough of the pleasantries. Let me just tell you I laughed my arse off and it was one of the only times in recent memory that I can recall laughing that hard throughout an entire movie. Non-stop, wall-to-wall, sustained absurdity--and it all works. At first I thought it was the two Double Happinesses I drank at the Good Luck bar in Hollywood, but nope, everyone else seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. Great cameos abound, and I actually had some tears squirting out of the ole ducts during the "climactic battle sequence." I'm actually planning on seeing it again, and I don't often do that. I'm predicting that this one could place Will Ferrell in the pantheon of true SNL graduates to hit the cinematic jackpot. Along with guys like Steve Martin, Bill Murray, John Belushi, and yeah, Mike Meyers, what the hell. Ferrell should expect his next paycheck to have a lot more zeroes after the smoke clears on this one. All right, it's 2:45 in the morning for crap's sake. I'm going to bed.

Go. Watch. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 08, 2004



FARENHEIT 9/11

Written and Directed by Michael Moore


George Bush. Bumbling fool? Diabolical genius? Well, both if Michael Moore is to be believed. Moore’s latest film is a definite hit piece on the poor bastard. It’s hard to separate your politics from a review of this film, which explores mostly the negative aspects of George Bush’s presidency and the events leading up to the present Iraq war. Moore has stated, I believe, and correct me if I’m wrong, that his goal with this film is to change the minds of those viewers who have an “on the fence” position about ol’ Dub Bush. I’ll tell you now; Mil falls to the right on the political spectrum. It all started with one of Moore’s heroes, Rush Limbaugh, when I began listening to him more than ten years ago to hear what the other side thought about things. Much to my chagrin I found I tended to agree with the Republican mouthpiece on most things. Now you know where I am coming from.
Now let’s talk about the film. I was talking to El Bicho and he asked me if I liked the movie—and frankly I wasn’t sure. Now I tend to think I didn’t really like it much, but not because I disagree with Michael Moore’s politics, it’s just that it failed to engage my mind in any serious way. Let’s just say he lost me at “hello.” The film opens with a recap of the 2000 election, more specifically the Florida part, yeah, remember that? Well, I do. But I think Moore is a little foggy. Here’s where he lost me: he implied that after the votes came down such a close margin, Bush winning each of the regular mechanical counts, that Bush was handed a victory by his brother Jeb (Governor of Florida) and the supreme court of Florida, mostly conservatives. He went on to say that newspapers declared afterward that Al Gore would have been the victor had he been granted a statewide recount, this of course has become popular folklore among angry democrats. Forget the fact that not all newspapers that reported afterward agreed with the newspaper Moore quotes. Upon hearing this bit of information, Mil remembered that he would have supported a full statewide recount, by hand if necessary, but Mil also recalls that GORE NEVER ASKED FOR ONE. He did ask for recounts in certain counties that were weighted to the Dems’ side, which he was properly denied cause that just ain’t fair, he’d be guaranteed to pick up votes there. If he asked for a statewide recount after that, it was just too late.
I think that’s what is missing from this film--where’s the other side? I felt like I could have been watching a film about how Bill Clinton had something to do with the death of Vince Foster, and that other guy in the plane crash. I don’t buy those stories either, but someone could certainly make an interesting case for those if they hand picked some interviews and did some nice editing. Whatever. I much prefer listening to talk radio, which is ruled at least these days by conservative hosts. The reason I like those shows, especially guys like Dennis Prager and Michael Medved is because they like to have guests on who oppose their ideas, often quite articulate folks. I like hearing a good debate. I didn’t get anything resembling debate in this film, and that bored me. And since I thought he was obfuscating right from the start, I didn’t know what else I could trust him on. He also implies that Bush went to war with Saddam Hussein because he was responsible for the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center. I never thought that, never was given that impression by the President. Saddam Hussein probably didn't know about the plan, but we know he supported terrorists by paying the families of suicide bombers, not much of a stretch to think he helped Al Qaeda as well, but not necessarily with the Trade Center attack. We found some top Al Qaeda guys in Iraq after we rolled in. Saddam probably didn’t know they were there.
I think I went with the whole idea of the war because after the WTC attacks I thought, crap, look what those 19 or 20 jackholes were able to do with some of our own jets, we should start cleaning up our pests from the past, and a guy like Hussein could certainly do more damage if he wanted to, and since EVERY DAMNED COUNTRY IN THE WORLD thought he had some nasty weapons, he was a good start. Plus he already violated his surrender agreement from the first gulf war by not allowing inspectors to do their job properly, so we already had cause to boot him out of power. Moore never touches on any of this in the film. For me, the worst you can say about Bush’s decision to go to war is that we did the right thing for the wrong reason, and the war went well, but the occupation, well, maybe not so well, but I think in a hundred years it will be viewed as a good move, many disagree. Time will tell.
As far as world opinion goes, Bush just forgot to say please, or didn’t say please to the U.N. quite enough times, and rushed to war (2 years is rushing by the way)--or maybe he should have said please to Michael Moore directly? So anyway, I’m not sure how to rate this one. I guess if you hate George Bush, you’ll like the film. What more is there to say?

Mil Out


Wednesday, June 23, 2004

I posted this a while back on my other blog, but I don't know if anyone saw it. So here it is again...

MIL'S TOP TEN BONER MOMENTS OF CINEMA

I was just thinking about some of the great movie moments from the past. Used to be that movies were made because someone thought they would make a great movie. Nowadays movies are made if the producers think they will make money. It's a different mindset--at least for the studios. Speilberg and Lucas changed all that with the introduction of the blockbuster, but good movies were still being made for their own sake up to and around that time by the studios, and Indies still get made because someone thinks they've got a movie that needs to be made for its own sake. It's only when you make a movie for its own sake that you can get a truly great movie moment, and that's also why you can never get a great movie moment out of something like "Tomb Raider," or "Spy Kids."

Here is a list of ten of my favorite movie moments. If you have not seen these, you need to go get these movies and watch them all.

MIL'S TOP TEN BONER MOMENTS OF CINEMA

1. Luke Blowing up the Deathstar in "Star Wars."

2. Michael Corleone kills Virgil Solozzo and Chief McClusky in "The Godfather."

3. Indiana Jones shoots the Black-Clad Swordsman in "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

4. The entire 100 minutes of "Annie Hall."

5. T.E. Lawrence is forced to kill the man he just risked his life to rescue in order to keep peace between two Arab tribes in "Lawrence of Arabia."

6. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, Moonwatcher throws an animal bone into the air--cut to a space station in orbit around the earth.

7. Robert Shaw's U.S.S. Indianapolis speech in "JAWS."

8. The "Mirror Scene" from "Duck Soup."

9. "Once Upon a Time in the West," the end, revealing why Charles Bronson is always playing the harmonica.

10. Toshiro Mifune riding on horseback after a group of soldiers with his sword drawn in "The Hidden Fortress."

Bonus Boner Moment: Uriens Knights Arthur in the moat at Leodigrance's Castle in "Excalibur."

As a true movie lover, movie-geek and movie-snob, these moments and scenes have given me goosebumps and also put a salty one in the corner of my eye. And there are many many more. If you have a boner moment to share, email me at mil@maskedmoviesnobs.com and let me know about it.

Friday, June 18, 2004



CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK

"Written" by Jim Wheat and Ken Wheat

Directed by David Twohy

Starring Vin Diesel, Thandie Newton, and the guy who looks a lot like Alex P. Keaton's Dad.

I don't know why I even have to review a movie like The Chronicles of Riddick. This review is a week or so late--showing my disdain for this type of movie. Could you not tell the movie was a steaming turd by watching the trailer? I feel a bit out of the loop because I did not even know it was a sequel to the extremely underwhelming Pitch Black from a few years back. This story is the continuing "adventures" of Riddick the Furion who can see in the dark. An amazing character trait by the way. He's up against an alien race who are sort of a cross between The Borg and ancient Greeks or something. A death-obsessed race called Necro--something-or-others is trying to take over the universe and there's some old prophecy about some Furion killing the leader of the aliens and of course it might just be Riddick. Ho hum. Featuring great ear-delicious dialog like when Vin Diesel gets a whiff of Thandie Newton, the Lady MacBeth of the story who is trying to get her Necro-alien husband to kill the leader and usurp his throne, he (Vin) says, "It's been a long time since I smelled...beautiful." That's as good as it gets, folks. There's also a confusing and boring foot chase scene on a really hot planet called "Crematoria" (so clever). I kept wanting them to go to the planet "Whipcreamia" so Thandie Newton could roll around in some stuff.

So there's my half-assed review. STAY AWAY...REPEAT...STAY AWAY FROM THIS MOVIE IF YOU VALUE A DOLLAR.

Mil out.

Friday, May 07, 2004



SEEING OTHER PEOPLE


Written by Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky

Directed by Wally Wolodarsky

Reviewed by Mil Peliculas

Must have been nearly 10 years ago when I stumbled across a nifty little comedy in a far corner of a forgotten video store and happened to read the back of the box. It was a little-known low-budget comedy called “Cold Blooded” starring Jason Priestly as a strange, unmotivated low-level employee of a bookie who gets promoted to hit-man and finds that he’s really really good at it. It was directed by a fellow named Wally Wolodarsky, one of the scary-talented writers behind “The Simpsons,” and despite the smallness of the production, it delivered big on the laughs. A few years later he directed (but did not write) “Sorority Boys” which I did not see and cannot comment on, but this Friday brings his third feature film to theaters: “Seeing Other People,” written by Wolodarsky and his wife Maya Forbes and directed by Wolodarsky. Another astute independent comedy shot on a small budget and boasting a high laugh-per-minute ratio. But these are good laughs, not your average sit-com laughs from throwaway jokes that you forget by the time you hit delete on your Tivo.

Jay Mohr and Juilanne Nicholson star as a betrothed couple whose relationship is put to the test after Alice (Nicholson) sees a friend having anonymous sex with someone in her sister’s bedroom at her own engagement party. Alice begins to think about all the random sexual encounters that she never had and now will never have as the finality of marriage approaches. She proposes that she and Ed (Mohr) are mature enough to be able to “see” other people, that is, have sex, until they get married. Now, anyone who’s ever been in a relationship for more than 12 minutes knows that that is not the soundest of ideas, but Alice is very persuasive and Ed reluctantly agrees, thinking that she will never go through with it—and is shocked when she actually does. Ed uses his minor celebrity status as a television writer to troll for babes and does quite well, while Alice immediately becomes tied up with one particular guy, going against her own rules. When they find themselves spending more time with other people things start to get ugly. Andy Richter of Conan O’Brien fame and Bryan Cranston (Malcolm in the Middle) also score major points from the bench on this one (forgive the basketball metaphor…it’s playoff time).

Writers Wolodarski and Forbes have some heavy comedy-cred--Wolodarsky with the Simpsons and Forbes with the Larry Sanders show--and it’s a credit to that talent that this film, with it’s completely implausible plot, never loses the audience, delving cleverly into male and female nature for some good belly laughs and, dare I say it, some thought-provoking insights as well. There are also more than a few quotable lines--another indicator of a movie that is destined to have a long shelf life. I’m hoping for this film to achieve success for purely selfish reasons: I want more Wolodarsky films!

Mil out

Saturday, April 17, 2004



Kill Bill Volume 2

Written and Directed by “Q”

Reviewed by Mil Peliculas

I love L.A. Where else can a schlub like me get to see “Kill Bill Volume 2” TWICE before it’s even been released. Okay, maybe New York, maybe, but it snows there and you have to be rich to live in the city, so screw that. So I caught “Kill Bill Volume 2” on Wednesday at the lovely Grove Theater in the Fairfax district, then I saw it again, along with “Volume 1” on Thursday night at the best theater in Hollywood, The Arclight. I’m pleased to report that Q delivers again.

The second film follows the story of the blood-splattered bride (Uma Thurman) on her quest to kill the five people responsible for the slaughter of her wedding party, her unborn daughter, and (damn near) herself. Most of you know that "Kill Bill" was originally envisioned as one big film, a roadshow picture, with an intermission and the whole works. But writer-director Quentin Tarantino ran into trouble with Miramax about how to release it. They apparently wanted him to cut it down, but he compromised with this Volume 1 and 2 thing. Once Kill Bill has been melded together into its intended single piece in the form of a director’s cut, I think Kill Bill will truly come to be known as Quentin’s "mishmashterpiece." He’s successfully taken some of the coolest movie moments from all manner of genre, from his vast memory of such moments, and somehow made them all get along rather nicely. The second part is a very different film from the first one, not nearly as violent, although it has its moments—replacing bloody spectacle with good old-fashioned plot twists that Hitchcock and Wilder could be proud of. The film even opens with a black and white film-noir process shot of Uma delivering a femme-fatale style introduction. Quentin is the only guy making movies like this these days. Myopic critics might say he’s the only one “remaking” movies like this these days, but a friend of mine (La Mujere de Gris) made an interesting point about that as we were standing in line. After pointing out that “Kill Bill” follows the plotline of an old Japanese film called “Lady Snowbird,” she went on to say that if she’d remade “Lady Snowbird” it would not have been anywhere near the film that “Kill Bill” is, and I’d say the same for myself. And therein lies the talent of Quentin Tarantino: he’s a clever thief. But we love cleverness in thieves. What is more exciting than watching a master safe-cracker do his job? Tarantino is a virtual encyclopedia of movies, but more than that, he truly LOVES movies in a way that not many of his peers do today. Movies really shaped his consciousness—I think he lives in a movie—and as a result, his mastery of character and plot is not easily matched. Quentin has succeeded in creating another slew of great cinematic moments…props to “The Man.” Sad thing is, for Bolsa de Queso and I (Bolsa de Queso is the guy who thought of this website, but never writes any reviews) is that we may have to wait another five or six years before we get another Tarantino film. Oh, woe is us.

War Out - Mil


Saturday, March 27, 2004



JERSEY GIRL (2004)

Written and Directed by Kevin Smith

Mil is not what you'd call an avid Kevin Smith fan, but I do think he's a talented guy, writes pretty good dialog, and definitely gives back to his fans. And I've spent way too much time in line at the Nuart in West L.A. waiting next to shining examples of his fan base to see midnight screenings of some of his films. I'm happy to say that I think they are not going to like this film much. I think they'll consider it a sell-out. Well, good. Those people annoy me anyway, and I'd like them to all stay home in their cars. Bunch of comic-book-reading-drunken-goth-morons who are loud and unfunny for the most part. They see Kev as some sort of grungy Woody Allen or something. Which confuses me. But hey, I'm Kevin's age...and these kids are young.
So why the long preamble? I don't know, just venting, I guess. I know you're on pins and needles to find out what I thought of "Jersey Girl" so here goes....
I liked it. Yep, nice little movie. It's a story we've seen many times--a protagonist whose suddenly forced to give up his fast-paced life to wipe a baby's ass--and it ends up being the best thing that ever happened to him. I think Kevin Smith is maturing as a filmmaker, first, the look of the film is much bigger, more Hollywood you might say, but in the good sense, with help from cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond. Smith's bathroom style humor actually lends itself well to this type of story, and yes, he does tone it down a bit for a wider audience. The performances are good, even George Carlin, whose not much of an actor, managed to put a little salty one in the corner of my eye once or twice. The daughter, played by Raquel Castro, is exceptionally lovable and precocious. There's a cute scene where Affleck walks in on his daughter and a little boy showing each other their junk. Other movies have tackled that awkward moment, but Smith handles it a little better than most I think. I must also admit that I got a little misty a couple times, and some accuse me of doing that too easily, but it only happens when I am genuinely moved by something. I often expect to be moved by certain films, but if the scenes are not handled well, I don't react. So I gotta give Kevin props for that. I don't frequent his website but I can imagine the horrible accusations flying out of the keyboards of his average fan. "You sell out!" "Hollywood whore!" and whatnot...screw all yall. Let the guy make what he wants to make. Here's a test if you feel disappointed by him. Sit down and come up with a list of all the people who've disappointed you, THEN sit back and make a list of all the people YOU have disappointed. Uh-huh. It's so easy to be disappointed ain't it? RELAX. I just have to say, good job, Kevin, and I am looking forward to the Green Hornet.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004



AILEEN: LIFE AND DEATH OF A SERIAL KILLER

Directed by Nick Broomfield
Lantern Lane Entertainment
Running Time: 89 minutes

You gotta love Nick Broomfield. Or you’ve got to at least respect his tireless efforts to sniff out any interesting bit of information he can find about the subjects of his documentaries. I prefer to think of him less as a documentary filmmaker and more of a stalkumentary filmmaker. The guy never lets up. And that’s what you need when you make this type of picture. He’s seemingly always on the run, narrating much of each film in his sedate, Robin Leach-esque detached voiceovers.
His 1992 film, Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer, was about the first American female serial killer, a life-long prostitute who was convicted of shooting and killing seven men. It focused on the media frenzy surrounding her exploits and the shameless and pathetic—not to mention illegal—attempts made by those close to her to make a few bucks off of the whole thing. His latest is a follow-up to that eye-opening little nugget called, Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer.
This time Broomfield keeps the spotlight on Wuornos herself, chronicling the days leading up to her execution in 2002. Nick is up to his old tricks, doggedly pursuing any and all avenues to get the story, old girlfriends of Wuornos, old boyfriends, even her mother, who left Aileen at 6 months old and never saw her again. But he also spends a large amount of time talking with Wuornos herself, and this seems to become a source of some anxiety for him. Let me interject here that I saw the dramatized version of her killing spree, Monster, only hours before watching Broomfield’s documentary in which Wuornos is brought to vivid life by Charlize Theron (who probably should be clearing a space on her mantle for the best actress Oscar). It is a great performance, and, ironically, I ended up feeling great sympathy for this woman, she had it rough from the get-go. But after viewing Broomfield’s film, it’s obvious that the Monster filmmakers chose the most sympathetic version of her story—namely Wuornos’ version. I suppose it’s appropriate, after all, there is no other version. Anyone else who could offer another viewpoint is dead. According to Wuornos, the first time she killed a man it was in self defense. He was beating her and doing all sorts of nasty things and appeared to be intent on killing her. She shot him. Fine, I got no problem there. But then she shot six more men.
Over the years, Nick had developed a sort of friendship with Aileen, and a kind of respect for her as well; he thought she was the most honest person involved in the whole affair. Nick does have a bit of a socialist axe to grind, he seems certain that the death penalty is no deterrent (jeez, I’m deterred from speeding by the threat of traffic school!) and calls attention to the fact that Wuornos seems to be losing what’s left of her marbles, thus, bringing up the mental fitness angle. But Aileen really shakes him up when she drops a bomb that basically makes him doubt that the first killing was self defense. He is clearly troubled by this and spends the rest of the film trying to nail her down on that point. And it troubled me too. Most specifically as it relates to Monster. Movies about real people and their stories are usually the most moving, and you want to believe that what your seeing is truth. I don’t mean that every scene has to play exactly as it happened, but at least it should keep the spirit of the true story it is depicting. That’s what Broomfield’s film got me thinking about.
The pacing is perfect and there’s no shortage of interesting revelations, and let’s face it, there aren’t many more subjects under the sun that are more interesting than serial killers. Consider Aileen to be an essential viewing companion to its dramatic narrative counterpart.

Saturday, March 20, 2004



THE PIANIST (2002)

Starring Adrien Brody
Directed by Roman Polanski
Script adapted from Wladislaw Szpilman's Book
by Ronald Harwood


Another World War II movie to remind us of the atrocities committed against the Jews by the Nazis? Yep, and it's DAMN GOOD! Director Roman Polanski has finally found his way back onto the main highway after being lost for so many years, he must have pulled over to ask for directions. Thank God! This is a film directed by the director of Chinatown, and Rosemary's Baby, not the muddled crap of late, most notably Frantic or Bitter Moon. Welcome back, Mr. Polanski.

This dead-on and riveting piece of storytelling is based on the book by Polish Pianist Wladislaw Szpilman and chronicles his years of hiding during World War II. The story begins with the Szpilman family in Poland, 1939, just as the Nazis invade and commence with corralling all the Polish Jews into a small, walled off area that became known as the "Jewish Ghetto". It was basically a prison camp, where people were systematically starved, and randomly murdered by scumbag Nazis before they were then shipped off on cattle cars to lovely places like Auschwitz, to be further tortured, and finally gassed to death.

But this story focuses on Wladislaw Szpilman, an already well respected Pianist, played passionately by Adrien Brody, who received a well deserved Oscar nomination for Best Actor (don't be surprised to see him pick it up this year). It's a very personal story, beginning inauspiciously enough in a recording studio where Wladislaw is in the middle of recording a piano piece. The studio is bombed but he doesn't stop playing until he is literally knocked off his chair by a blast, a great introduction to the kind of character we will spend nearly the next three hours with.

Moving on, we see the Szpilman family trying to adjust to the assinine and sinister rules being imposed upon them by the occupying Nazis. Jews are only allowed to keep a maximum of 2000 dollars in their homes, and they have 5000, so there's a great scene that introduces us to all the family members as they argue about how to hide the money, great writing, there.

Once the occupation is in full force, we see just how horrible living conditions have gotten in Poland. It's every man for himself, every child for himself. Wladislaw eventually ends up outside the ghetto, spending countless weeks, months, and even years basically hiding in apartments owned by friends, literally locked inside, unable to reveal himself, even to neighbors next door. One particular apartment even has a piano, but he can only sit and imagine playing it, because to play it would alert someone to his presence.

It does make your gut hurt, and it reminded me a bit of another great little movie called Europa Europa, about a young Jewish boy and his even more unbelievable tale of survival during Hitler's rampage through Europe. As in Spielberg's Schindler's List, Polanski's camera is unflinching, never blinking and unafraid, making it hard to watch sometimes, for even the most hardened moviegoer. But it's worth it.

Another element that I have been wondering about with regard to previous WW2 films is the following question: Did any Jews ever fight back? Well, this film does deal with that. And yes, some Jews did fight back, and it's depicted in this film. And there's even a Nazi (based on a real Nazi) who's not a complete load, just to humanize them just a little, and a little is all they deserve.

It's nearly three hours long, but feels like two, and it's great filmmaking, look for it to get something come Oscar time.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Somehow I let the girlfriend talk me into going to see a midnight screening of Mallrats at the Nuart theater in L.A. I'm not a huge fan of Kevin Smith, he's talented, and he seems like a nice guy, but I don't think he'll ever make anything better than Clerks, which was pretty damned funny. This is not really a review of Mallrats, although the film was slightly more enjoyable than it was the first time I saw it back in 95 or whenever it came out. It's a corny, sappy little film that should really not have been made, I mean it almost killed the guy's career. He had to make Chasing Amy for 250 thousand dollars just to get back into the studio's graces after losing about 4 million with Mallrats.

The thing about the evening was the fact that it was a sell-out at midnight, and that these young folks that showed up sort of look at Kevin Smith like he's Woody Allen or something. I thought, damn, that's kind of pathetic. I mean, Woody Allen has made some stinkers, but only a handful out of the nearly 40 movies he's written and/or directed, and for these bozos to shower such adulation on the guy was quite bizarre.

So the movie starts late, at about 1230, 1245, then I gotta sit through that-then after the credits roll, the fun begins, Kevin Smith is there, and proceeds to take a Q&A session for the next 2 hours. My girlfriend was in hog-heaven, I am slumped all over the seat trying to get some shut-eye. But Kevin is a funny guy, no doubt about it, we listened to some insider stories about his house flooding, and where Ben Affleck banged some famous actresses in his house before Kevin bought the place from him. Found out that Kevin recently finished his first draft of Fletch, which came out to about 200 pages. Obviously that will need some trimming. Yes, Kevin was amusing, I'm not sure if he was 4:30 in the morning amusing, but hey, give the guy props for standing there until the last slack-jawed idiot asked his dumb question.

The guy really gives back to his fans-and that is cool.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004



THIRTEEN (2003)

Written by Catherine Hardwicke and Nikki Reed
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke
Starring Holly Hunter, Evan Rachel Wood, Nikki Reed
Review by Mil Peliculas


I just did something I normally don't do. I looked at some reviews on IMDB before I sat down to review this one. Who knew there were so many masters of filmmaking reading and posting reviews there? I'm a snob, but I don't think I ever go off on movies unless it's particularly egregious, and the filmmakers know it's egregious. So I must come to the defense of Thirteen. Is it as shocking or depressing as Kids? No. But it is of that ilk.

Thirteen is the frantically paced story of a young girl who's recently become a teenager and her subsequent befriending of the "popular" girl at school, played by Nikki Reed, the co-writer of the picture. The union results in a downward spiral into drugs, drink, sex, self-mutilation, shoplifting, eating disorders...the kitchen sink. Some of the geniuses on IMDB were criticizing the film for holding back, I think they mean not showing the sex scenes or something. Well, folks, due to recent laws, you cannot show thirteen year old girls (even if the actresses portraying them are over 18) engaging in sex, nor could you show them naked, because it is considered "child pornography." I too found it to be excruciating that I was not going to see these girls get nekked, especially Nikki Reed, who's hotter than the Space Shuttle Columbia's last re-entry, but I knew it could not be.

The shoddy camerawork talked about in other reviews is obviously deliberate and meant to give us a documentary feel, which it does, so what the big deal is I don't know. The best thing to come from the film is Evan Rachel Wood's performance, which kept me glued to my seat. Holly Hunter is great as always as the clueless mother--another criticism from the amateur Eberts on IMDB, but aren't all parents clueless at first when their kid decides to take a dive into the deep-end? She figures it out soon enough.

Thirteen may not change your life, but it will provide a nice glimpse into the mind of a thirteen year old girl. My niece is going to be thirteen soon, I hope my sister is prepared for the possible mental nuclear war that could be in store. Speaking of that, the film does drive home the fact that girls are much more volatile and evil than boys at that age--perhaps at any age. If the film were about boys, there'd probably be some fisticuffs and everyone would go play some football afterwards, but with girls, Jesus, it's like Glengarry Glen Ross with tube-tops. I was drained by the end. Young girls do not know the power that they have over men, countries used to go to war over young, beautiful girls, so it's no surprise that that power can be used for all sorts of mischief and mayhem.

Monday, March 08, 2004



KILL BILL-The Trailer

God, you know I am not a religious man, but I say this to you now: my life of sin is over. Never again will I have impure thoughts about animals. I'll pay back all that money I embezzled from my company. I'll give that retarded kid the right amount of change from now on...I'll even stop taking your name in vain...if you'll just make sure I live to see KILL BILL. I mean it. I now have a new reason not to eat a bullet, because the new Tarantino movie is on the way.

QT is, in this reviewer's opinion, the most interesting and original voice in cinema today. Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, all fine films, and Kill Bill looks to be a fine addition to his directorial filmography. All I know of the story is Uma Thurman is some sort of hit-woman, trained in the mystical martial arts by Asian masters. Her boss, Bill, double crosses her on her wedding day and tries to kill her. She goes into a coma for a few years, and when she wakes up, she's got but one thing to do: Kill Bill. But in the process she has to slice up a bunch of Bill's henchmen. This film looks like it will be the Citizen Kane of grindhouse action revenge movies. A real kitchen-sinker. A cross between Crouching Tiger and Master of the Flying Guillotine, with a little Bruce Lee thrown in. Notice Uma's clothes. In case you live under a rock, her yellow outfit with the black stripe is an homage to Bruce Lee's yellow jumper in Game of Death. There are more than enough delicious shots to absorb. One shot, from a above, features Uma standing on a glass floor above a zen rock garden surrounded by twenty or so baddies. The shot cranes up and over them, as if Busby Berkley had entered the dragon! Basically...satellites are orbiting below my expectations for this one. I may need therapy if it doesn't live up to them.

Knowing QT, I know he truly loves the old Shaw Brothers kung fu films, the old Toho monster movies (now, there aren't any rubber monsters in this film, as far as I know, but QT did ask Toho to design him a miniature Tokyo) and Bruce Lee, so I know he will do his best to do those genres justice, and in the process create something new, like he's shown a knack for over the last (holy Christ, has it been that long?) decade.

Now...how can I get to Cannes in October for the premiere...

Check out the official Kill Bill website...you can view the trailer there too.

KILL BILL VOL.1

Starring U

Written and Directed by Q


I had hoped to wait until I had seen Kill Bill twice before I sat down to review it, but I haven't been able to yet, and it's been a while since the poor website was updated so…

If you've kept up with this site for any period of time, you know that I was waiting for Kill Bill like the Second Coming. Actually, I look forward more to Quentin's fourth coming than I do Jesus' Second. If the latter actually were to happen, I may be in a spot of trouble. You'll also know that I was really expecting Kill Bill to be fantastic. Well, rest assured, it was fantastic. So there were no surprises there. Quentin Tarantino has reminded me, and I hope all of you, what movies are all about. What's that you ask? Well, movies aren't just about one thing, some movies are there to move you, some are to make you angry, some are there to wow you. Kill Bill falls into that last category. Well, "fall" may not be the right word. How about SMASHES into that category? Yeah. Better.

It's the story of a bride-to-be who's killed by her ex-assassin buddies on her wedding day-in the church for Chrissakes. Only she doesn't die. She goes into a coma for four years and wakes up a little ornery. That's where the story becomes mostly a revenge tale, but the story is told in the form of homage mostly to the Kung Fu movies of the Shaw Brothers from the glorious 70s. The opening titles even feature the Shaw Brothers Studios header. It definitely sets the tone. I remember lying on the floor on my living room right in front of the TV turning channels with my foot. Back then, and I ain't all that old mind you, remote controls weren't that common, and we only had a few channels: 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, then into the UHF channels-Speed Racer, Ultraman and Gigantor territory-then back to channel 2. Once in a while on the weekends I'd run across Kung Fu Theater, and see some long-haired Chinamen standing on walls or throwing flying guillotines at each other, ripping off heads. Those movies scored very high in the "originality" category. Quentin has taken the best parts of those films and woven them into one of his own clever, non-linear tapestries.

As usual, the real meat happens in the small moments, Tarantino has always been able to make great impressions with small details, and Kill Bill has plenty of them. The only bad point is that Quentin was really forced by Miramax to cut it way down, or release it as two movies. I'm glad he chose to keep it long, even if we have to wait a few months for the Kill Bill Volume 2. I wouldn't be surprised if the film ends its life on DVD as one full director's cut.

Kill Bill is perhaps one of the most violent films you'll ever see, but the violence is highly stylized, and more funny than disturbing. If you enjoy the fountains of blood shooting from severed torsos and necks you may want to check out some of the early Kurosawa films, as well as many other Samurai movies of the 60s and 70s. Hmm. I think I'll see this one again…tonight.

Sunday, March 07, 2004



OLD SCHOOL

Directed by Todd Phillips
Written by Scot Armstrong, Court Crandall, Todd Phillips
Review by Mil Peliculas

Uh...I WAS a bit excited when I found out that Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson were set to star in the new remake of Starsky and Hutch, backed up by Snoop Dogg as Huggy Bear. Well, I have fallen into the "post credit blues." That's a phenomenon that occurs with us movie geeks when we get real excited, then we find out who the brains behind the operation are. It happened with Pearl Harbor...ooh, that looks pretty coo--AHHH! Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay! Oh crap. Anyway I have that feeling with Starsky and Hutch now, because the barely talented jackasses behind Old School are at its helm.

I don't have much to say about Old School. The razor thin plot involves Luke Wilson and his friends (Will Farrell and Vince Vaughn) who, in order to keep the house that Wilson has rented near a college campus, start a fraternity. I admit, there are 4 or 5 funny bits, none of which involve the intensely boring Luke Wilson character. The only reasons to stick around are Vince Vaughn and Will Farrell. This one suffers from one of the ailments that afflicted Road Trip (written by the same guys), namely a completely useless hero, whose friends are much more entertaining than he is. Not to bag on Luke Wilson, who I do like, just not in this snoozer.

By the time the ending rolls around, you really just want out. Let me leave you with one simple equation to remember this one with:

Animal House - laughs = Old School.

Saturday, March 06, 2004



CHARLIE'S ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE

Starring...bla bla bla...etc....etc...
Directed By McG. (no relation to the new McGriddle from McDonald's)
"Review" by Mil Peliculas


What can you say about this kind of movie? Apparently there's a big split. Half of you dig it, half of you hate it. For those of you who hated this movie, what the hell is your problem? It's just kidding. Full Throttle is played strictly for laughs, playing more like a spoof of an action movie than an actual action movie. Right from the gitgo, this movie makes no pretense that you are going to see anything that remotely resembles reality. It won me over during the crime scene investigation where Drew Barrymore discerns, from a shoe print, that it was a 1989 Air Jordan limited edition, and that from the weight distribution, it's wearer had knee surgery. Come on, that's funny, and I went with it. Problem is, it's really just like the first movie, amusing, but not much else.

Seems Hollywood has started to view sequels as simply another installment, akin to a sitcom or something. Well, that ain't how this snob views them. Come to think of it, I am not sure what I expect from a sequel. I guess I want to see characters evolving, new twists, a fresh take, a variation on a theme. You won't get that with Full Throttle, what you will get are a bunch of outrageous CGI-assisted stunts, some pretty funny gags, and loads of T&A for the boys. Other than that, I feel a plot summary is really not necessary, since the viewer is likely to forget it before he's left the parking lot. Actually, I think that is what happened to me. Something about Demi Moore as an ex-Angel gone bad, she's looking for the valuable whatchamacallit that the Angels want to get back from her, yadda yadda yadda. You get the idea. Demi Moore is looking fantastic, but perhaps a little too thin. Demi. Eat something.

If you live near Hollywood, and want to catch this one, I suggest seeing it at the Chinese. The climax of the film takes place on Hollywood Blvd, right in front of the Chinese theater. It's always fun watching a movie that features the theater you are watching it in.

Don't expect this one to be nominated for anything other than "Best panty crotch-shot" at the MTV movie awards.

Once again, Mil's famous closing words: You could do worse.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004



KITCHEN STORIES

Written by Bent Hamer and Jorgen Bergmark
Directed by Bent Hamer
Reviewed by Mil Peliculas


Did you know that the Swedes did extensive research in the 1950s on how the average Swedish housewife used her kitchen? Yeah, me neither. They collected data in order to create a more efficient kitchen and, thus, a more efficient society. This is the starting point that Norwegian filmmaker Bent Hamer has chosen for his newest film Kitchen Stories. Hamer explores what might have happened if the Home Research Institute of Sweden had taken their act on the road to study the kitchen habits of single males in Norway. The result is quite a nice little film.

In Hamer's version, 18 observers are sent out to document the habits of actual men in their actual kitchens, living outside the houses in little green trailers, on 24-hour call. The observers have been instructed not to interact with their host in any way. The story focuses on one particular relationship between a lonely observer and his lonely host. At first, the host, Isak, has regrets and won't even let Folke, the observer, into the house, but once Folke is in, and has set up his high tennis-referee chair in the corner of the kitchen, the ice begins to melt. If you're one of those low-brows who can't get past subtitles, well, your in luck because much of the humor is visual, hence universal, as is the story. Director Hamer shows he possesses one of the most necessary qualities in a good filmmaker: subtlety. See The Last Samurai, for an example of extremely unsubtle filmmaking, big musical moments to clue you in that something really really important must be happening, characters explaining what they are doing while they are doing it. You'll find none of that in Kitchen Stories.

It's often the small, silent moments that deliver the biggest punch. And it's through moments like these that these two men begin to bond and become good friends. The film explores deeper issues of human relationships. How can someone truly be a detached observer? How much can one learn about another without speaking or interacting with them? Like all good films, it raises these types of questions, answering some, and leaving some for you to answer yourself. That's all I'm giving you, I suggest your butt find its way to a seat in a theater where this film is playing, post haste.