someone who used to ride pigs for entertainment…

Joy DivisionI’ve never been an active fan of Joy Division, owning only the Substance compilation, but I am fond of some of their music (especially They Walked in Line from their days as Warsaw… I’m not sure why this never ended up on any “Joy Division” comps) so I’ve never given them much thought. But once we saw that there was a documentary out about them, considering that they were such a seminal band with such a short dramatic history we decided that it was a must see. So we saw Joy Division.

After having seen the movie, I would suggest that it still is a must see for anyone with any interest in this band or in “modern” music in general. It was quite good, and produced somewhat different than I would have expected, it had the air of a high quality public television presentation and it was very dark. Lots of grainy old footage of the band back in the day and the current interviews were lit very darkly. Of course, the subject was dark too… Starting with the youthful despair of England and ending in death… The full 4 years from that Sex Pistols concert in 1976 up until the end in 1980.

Joy Division

Using great old still footage and film of the band performing in the clubs around town and the insightful and enthusiastic interviews with involved folks make it a very interesting story of the band, of the scene (musical and otherwise) around Manchester and the development of Joy Division’s sound and album covers. It is a very psychological story that they tell, starting with how the terrible state of social and civil disrepair in England in the late 70’s led to these disaffected youth and their music, the connection between the reality of Manchester and the music of Joy Division and the effect that Ian Curtis and Joy Division had on those that experienced them. They bring in Tony Wilson (the late owner of Factory Records), the designer who put their album covers together, the Belgian journalist who became Curtis’ special friend, Genesis P-Orridge, Pete Shelley and all sorts of folks who really bring the reality of the scene and the effect and importance of the band to the fore.

Joy Division

Of course, Ian Curtis takes a good deal of the focus here as the singer and lyricist (interestingly, the band members claim to have really not paid any attention to what the lyrics of the songs were) who was bipolar and became epileptic. His youthful marriage, being torn between his wife (represented here only through text from her book) and his girlfriend (who is frequently interviewed in the movie) and just his general lack of well-being. The New Order fellows (the remains of Joy Division) all seem like nice regular blokes and the frankness and honesty of the interviews is very heartfelt and revealing.

But there is also more ephemeral matter here, they show some albums that I would very much like to have fall my way and there is a goodly amount of film of the bands early shows, and, that said, Joy Division was worth watching just to catch a glimpse of Ian Curtis dancing.

Joy Division

For special features, it has extensions of the interviews which, though outtakes, are still interesting and, as Caitlin pointed out, are extensive enough to be could well just be another movie. Joy Division is well produced, quite interesting and is pretty much an essential music documentary.

i’m a stranger here myself…

Ok, after this I will only be about a dozen movies behind. Once I finally get the taxes done (due last Friday, of course) then I’ll get cooking! But I think that we will stick to the capsule commentaries for now. We’ve been do busy watching Big Love, Lost (yes, it does suck, but I watch it anyway… So there), Flight of the Conchords and working our way through all 11 hours of the Lord of the Rings trilogy… How will I ever fit all of this on my tombstone?

A Stranger in the KingdomTrying to recall the recent movies… We watched A Stranger in the Kingdom. The second of Jay Craven’s film adaptations of Howard Frank Mosher’s Vermont novels. A Stranger in the Kingdom was much more engaging then the other that I have seen, Disappearances. Taking place in “Kingdom County” Vermont in the early 1950’s, it is the story of three strangers who arrive in the area: the new minister and his son, who are black, and a French Canadian girl. A couple of black folks arriving in rural New England in the 1950’s was certainly something that would cause a stir, but a French-Canadian? The girl arrives as a sort of Mail Order Maid who is not pleased with who she finds to be her employer when she arrives. In fact, she finds someone that she likes much better. Tensions start to increase and combine themselves together… The minister wants the best for everyone, but not everyone wants that. Once a body turns up, all sorts of finger pointing is engaged in, there is a trial (the the prosecution calling in the big guns… Martin Sheen!), lies, truths, backstabbing, gunfire. Yes, the responses to all these incidents by the locals are not completely good. It’s a nice and engaging story with some good mystery, and for the most part, it actually was filmed in the “Kingdom”. Unlike that fraud of a few posts back..

Good Morning VietnamWe also watched Good Morning Vietnam. This is certainly an entertaining Robin Williams comedy, but it wasn’t quite as satisfying as I used to find it around the time that it came out. Though it is a solid, filled out story, based on true events, Robin Williams is so non-stop Robin Williams that it becomes a bit overwhelming. His shtick is pretty tiresome, though there are some good relationships and he does do a great job though as the loud-mouthed and iconoclastic Disc Jockey Adrian Cronauer who is send to work on Military radio in Vietnam during the early years of the American involvement there. He makes some fast friends of the locals and some fast enemies in the Army, especially Bruno Kirby who is great as always here (and he gets another role where he can mention Frank Sinatra). But Cronauer maybe gets himself in a bit over his head and a bit too friendly with the locals. It was also my first awareness of Forest Whitaker, and he does a great job here.

picnic At Hanging RockOh, and this. What a disappointment. I recall Picnic at Hanging Rock being a big deal when I was a kid, but I never got around to it until now and, personally, I found it rather dull and had a hard time paying attention towards the end. One thing that is done well is that I had always thought that the novel was based on a true story, but it’s not so they got me there. The story of a group of girls from a private school boarding in Australia who go on a day trip to a barren, rock surrounded by scrubby brush for a picnic. They don’t seem to have any plans except for to sit around in the heat at the base of the rock in all of their Victorian clothing. And I didn’t get the attraction of the rock. And the tale, well, some of girls go climbing to the top and get all mysterious up there by disappearing. The trouble is, who cares? I’ve never before seen a mystery where I cared so little about what the mystery was. I just wanted to movie to end so that I could watching something else. The rock and the movie both look unpleasant, the characters are obnoxious, it’s slow and, in fact, there isn’t really anything to recommend this movie.

the aim of his role was to move a lot of blow

Super FlyYes, that’s it. Inspired by browsing through Joe Bob’s Profoundly Disturbing, I decided to check out some classic blaxsploitation that I hadn’t seen in a good long while. As most of what I have of this ilk (aside from the Pam Grier films, which you’ve heard enough about here) is stored away or gone now, so there were slim pickings. This led us to start off with Superfly… Well, basically, it is a dumb piece of hooey. but it has a great soundtrack! The story of a cocaine dealer named Youngblood Priest who has decided that he and his partner should use all of their accumulated money to make one last big score that will make them enough bread to retire for good. Of course, there are some problems with this scheme. The person that he wants to buy the stuff from is retired, his partner doesn’t really want to retire and, of course, the cops are on the take. Which leads to some unforeseen problems. One a personal angle,  some of his women like the idea but some don’t. Regardless, I don’t know how they can be seen with him as his pimpmobile (or I guess it would have to be a flymobile) is a horrid looking contraption.

Superfly's Ride

It terms of the movie, everything is bad: the acting, the dialogue, the film quality. It’s a washed out, badly acted and dumbly scripted thing. The fights scenes are terrible, most folks look like it is their first time on camera and they might be reading from offscreen cue cards. And it is quite boring. But it does have one of the great soundtracks of all time and Curtis Mayfield actually makes an appearance in the film.

They try to make up for the rest of this movie by trying to make the film “hot”, but it comes across as lukewarm. There is an extended bathtub “love” scene that isn’t just dragged on way to long, but it is also played in slow-motion… Which was just a bit to much of not much. Though it did serve to remind Caitlin of the bathtub scenes in Outcasts’ So Fresh So Clean video, which are much, much superior to anything this film has to offer.

So yes, it may be a classic, but it is a classic of its time and that needs to be kept in mind while watching, as it certainly doesn’t hold much now. Unlike the movie I was actually reading about which led me to watch this, Shaft, made earlier by this director’s father. Oh and, is this supposed to be Superfly or Super Fly?

to the moon and back

Fellowship of the RingI try, I swear. This week I had another one of those urges to enjoy the Lord of the Ring trilogy. So I put in the extended version of The Fellowship of the Ring, we watched it and, well, I don’t know. While it looks good and has plenty of action, the boring scenes (any involving the “shire” or the lands of the, phhhft, elves) are too boring! Especially the scenes in the land of Lothlórien! Unbearable! Corny! But aside from Orlando Bloom’s Legolas (who has at least some spring in his step and doesn’t talk in an annoying whisper while being shot with a soft lens), the elves really chaff me. Even Cate Blanchett, who I generally like as an actress, is so moofy and simperingly irritating here, I just.. argh! Where are an orkle of orcs when you need them?

Though those boring scenes do have their highlights. The Shire (minus the hobbits) does look like it would be a nice place to live and I do like Bilbo’s house in the shire… In terms of the elf lands, the “Elrond’s Council” scene in Rivendell can’t help but bring to mind the f’n brilliant Jack Black “giving up of the ring” parody. So it’s got that going for it.

Most of the characters in The Fellowship of the Ring are either dull or irritating, with the exceptions of Gimli, Boromir and the old favorites: the Ring Wraiths. I liked all of them and they enabled me to survive the rest. Though Gimli is sadly almost just comic relief. Trying to make a movie out of this has sapped a lot out of these characters, but the Wraith’s still got it…

Fellowship of the Ring

For those who don’t know. As told in The Hobbit, a little guy named Bilbo Baggins goes on an adventure and ends up coming back with a ring that makes him invisible. Of course the ring is actually a millenniums old artifact that belonged to (and somewhat contains the spirit of) an evil lord named Sauron. The Lord of the Rings (printed as three books) is the story of Bilbo’s nephew Frodo as he learns about the ring and set off on a journey to attempt the rings destruction. It’s a race against time as the dark lord is strengthening and not only sending out his forces to locate the ring, but also preparing armies to conquer the world! Sadly, Frodo has to basically go to Sauron’s house to destroy the ring and this first part of the story is him setting out, gaining some compatriots in allegiance (a fellowship, I dare say) and heading off towards the land of Mordor. Of course they encounter allies (always those stinky elves), adversaries (The wraiths, orcs, uruk-hai, etc) and betrayal.

All in all it is a good film version. Probably superior to the Bakshi version that I have thought fondly of the last 3 decades and his has a lot of fighting. And I did quite like the Mines of Moria, easily the neatest place that they travel to. The troubles within (aside from my life long dislike of any elf or any portrayal of an elf) are that, well, it is better as a book (I suppose that goes without saying) and most troublesome about the film itself are a lot of the scenes, the screenplay and the music! They have utilized these to add a terrible and unbearable schmaltzy aspect of melodrama to the story that I have a hard time sitting through. The weepy gazes, comic relief, overwrought music turn it from a “serious” fantasy story of good versus evil into another Hollywood epic. Albeit with much more interesting scenery and a more unusual plot then most. But hey, I remember these stories from my teen years and even with all of that, it is fun to watch a lengthy and generally well made version on the screen.

And look, at the far right… It’s Brett!

Fellowship of the Ring

mush mush, part one

I’ve got such a big backlog of crap I barely recall from the last few months. I’ll just jot down some vague memories.

SerpicoWe watched Serpico. I feel somewhat surprised that I had never gotten around to seeing it as it is quite considered the classic. And I would have to say that it is pretty darn good. Brought to us by Sidney Lumet who, again with Al Pacino, would bless us with the great Day Day Afternoon two years later! Serpico is a straight-ahead 1970’s police movie… Stress, tension, yelling all that good stuff. But then again, I am partial to a good 1970’s crime films. Also, this is, of course, based on a true story. Al Pacino does a stellar job (though some of his fashions.. I don’t know) as Frank Serpico. The policeman who put it all on the line to expose corruption in the NYPD. Okay, I’ll give it away… He Gets Shot! But then, that’s the first scene anyway.

After that we go back to his days as a young policeman who idealistically joins the force (does anyone do that anymore?). He feels that he can improve things as he believes that using psychology and communication is the way to deal with criminals rather than force. Somewhat unusual for the NYPD and the rest of the men have a hard time getting accustomed to him. He also notices that all of the other officers are on the take. The movie becomes an uncomfortable pile of tension as he somewhat goes along with the other officers, while refusing his share of the take… Which makes them mad to no end. While this is going on he is trying to make detective and as he tries to complain to the higher ups about the corruption he ends up making more and more enemies on the force. And, as one might imagine, putting himself and those around him in a good deal of danger.

Feast of LoveAnd Feast of love. This one was actually fairly entertaining, though certainly a chick flick. The story of two friends (Morgan Freeman and Greg Kinnear) their personal issues and those people around them. Freeman is, of course, the elder who is wise and strong in his ways, while Greg is an oblivious yet well-meaning fellow of the “why can’t we all just get along” persuasion who owns loses his way in life when his wife leaves him. As he sets out to find new love, up comes a second (and more action-filled, in more ways than one) line of the movie which is the love story of two of Kinnear’s young employees and their troubles. Of course, the movie includes drama, drugs, death, heart-break and lots of nakedness but, more than anything else… It was filmed in Portland! And not just filmed in Portland like most of the movies there, but there is Portland all over it. Kinnear’s coffee shop is the Fresh Pot on Mississippi, there is lots of shooting at Reed… It was fun to watch it now from far away. My first Portland movie I’ve seen away from Portland. But it was also a perfectly fine movie. Much better than most of the “adult romance” crap that comes out of Hollywood movie.

JunoOh, and we watched Juno. Which was a charming little movie. I’m not sure why it got such crazy buzz, but it was just dandy. The story of a high school girl who unintendedly gets pregnant. Juno decides to go through with the pregnancy and give the baby up for adoption so off she goes to find the right people to give to. Ellen Page is charming and fun as Juno, a girl who has some quirks that are a little too quirky and is yet very sure of herself (in a way) as she seems have little trouble coming to terms with her situation. Though there are some good relationships in the film with her boy/friend, her father and her step-mother, the meat of the movie seems to be her developing friendship with the future adoptive father, who is much older then she but they bond on his continued youthful interests in music and horror movies and such grand things.

RatatouilleNow that Elinor is approaching 2 years old and it is much too cold to spend time outside, she is discovering kid’s movies. I have generally not payed much attention to them, but I did end up sitting through Ratatouille. The story of a rat who loves to cook and gets his chance when he teams up with the garbage boy at a famous restaurant in Paris. Of course, many shenanigans occur as they become famous all while the kid is actually cooking under the instruction of a rat under his hat. Like seemingly all Pixar movies, it looked great and had a fun and unexpectedly rich storyline.


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