Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Black Sheep's Blu-Tuesday

For the last I don't know how long, I have been bored out of my mind with very little to do.  Today, when all I thought I had to do was write this little piece has gotten way busier than expected.  It has gotten so busy in fact that I must rush through this because I have to be somewhere in about an hour and have yet to prepare dinner, let alone eat it.  Shall we ...

The eighth volume of this long running Fox comedy series is surprisingly sharp.  I say surprisingly because I found that Seth MacFarlane and friends have been relying too much on tested jokes and formula in more recent years, that they were getting somewhat lazy.  This latest volume though, which spans the later part of the season before last and a good chunk of the most recent season, steps it up though with episodes like "420", in which Brian and Stewie put on the most darling little number about how everything is better with a bag of weed.  And of course, how can you miss the reveal of the evil monkey?!  The DVD comes with commentary, deleted scenes and Family Guy karaoke!  Freakin' sweet.

On a completely different note, I cannot recommend this 2-hour plus, black and white, incredibly  bleak German film any more.  I know; it doesn't sound like anything you would ever want to do but Michael Haneke's THE WHITE RIBBON is practically a masterpiece.  Nominated for the Best Foreign Language and Best Cinematography Oscars this past year (both of which it lost), this film explores the bizarre happenings in a small  Northern German town just before World War I and the uprise of the growing social change.  It is a fascinating exploration of humanity as well and I assure you, when it is this beautifully executed, you won't notice the time at 20all.  You may even wish it keeps going.

This spring comedy failed to connect in theatres but will hopefully find new life on home video.  Three middle-aged men (John Cusack, Rob Corddry and Craig Robinson) head back to the ski resort they frequented in college in an attempt to distract Corddry's character from his suidical depression.  Through some random chain of events, they end up traveling back in time while getting wasted in a hot tub and have a second chance on life.  The laughs are plenty if you can forego the ridiculous premise and validation of materialism as happiness.  Get a few buddies together, get some beer and enjoy the trip!
Source: Blu-ray.com

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Black Sheep @ The Box Office

It is of no surprise to me or no one else I'm sure that TOY STORY 3 held on to the top spot at the Box Office with nothing but mediocre challengers for the crown.  The $59 million haul is a reasonable 46.5% drop off considering sequels tend to drop steeply in their second weeks.  At $226.5 million, it has amassed almost as much in two weeks as SHREK FOREVER AFTER has in its entire six week run.  The Adam Sandler ensemble comedy, GROWN UPS, did solid business in second place.  This opening is on par with previous Sandler summer comedies like CLICK or YOU DON'T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN and $10 million shy of the entire domestic take of his last film, FUNNY PEOPLE.  Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz managed some mild returns for the action-comedy, KNIGHT AND DAY.  The response is certainly not overwhelming and could throw the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE franchise into serious question going forward.

Outside the Top 10, two Black Sheep favorites continue to perform well.  The $2 million drama, WINTER'S BONE, has now hauled in over half its budget with another solid week of expansion.  The week's big indie success again though is CYRUS, from the Duplass brothers.  It pulled in over $17K per screen on just 17 screens for a 65% increase over last week.  This weekend I caught COCO CHANEL AND IGOR STRAVINSKY.  The review is coming later this week but the film itself may not make it there, pulling in only modest returns, $4K per screen on 20 screens.  Another review coming later this week is for Alain Resnais's festival hit, WILD GRASS.  The French film, which drove me insane while I watched it, only earned about $7K on five screens limiting its expansion plans.

NEXT WEEK: Those pouty little vampires are back as THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE roars into 4000+ screens on Wednesday for what will certainly be one of the biggest hauls of the year.  M. Night Shyamalan's THE LAST AIRBENDER opens on 3000+ screens, including some 3D screens to help boost what I think will be a pretty mild gross.  And Taylor Hackford, LOVE RANCH opens on the art house front.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Written and Directed by Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass
Starring John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei and Catherine Keener

John: I know you’re not supposed to say this but I really like you.  Is it crazy for me to say I want it to work out?
Love is tricky to figure out, to piece together so that it actually works out for all parties involved.  Love is particularly tricky when you’re middle-aged, have been single for seven years, you’re not really so impressive on paper or in person and the object of your affections is in something of an unhealthy relationship with her 22-year-old-son.  Yes, this is what makes love tricky in our modern existence but it is also what makes love oh so rewarding if you manage to get through it.  Furthermore, in this particular case, it makes for the perfect comedic setup for the new Duplass brothers comedy, CYRUS, the summer’s first great indie-comedy.

John C. Reilly makes a fine return to the screen in a more complex, character-based role than he has played in recent memory.  John, which is his name in the film and not a casual form of address for the actor, is seven years divorced and still hanging on to that relationship.  As a result, he doesn’t do much outside of the house and dating is about as foreign a concept to him as a single sit-up must be given the state of his physique.  Without wasting any time on showing us scene after scene to prove what a lonely loser John really is, writers/directors, Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass, introduce John to Molly (Marisa Tomei) at a party his soon-to-be-remarried ex-wife (Catherine Keener) drags him to.  They hit it off instantly which begs the question, what’s wrong with this girl?

As it turns out, she is quite lovely and she and John fall for each just like that.  Just because she’s lovely though doesn’t mean she isn’t hiding plenty of ugly behind your back.  The ugly I’m talking about here is Jonah Hill.  I’m kidding; the actual ugly is the unhealthily close relationship she has with her son, Cyrus, played by the also lovely, Hill.  Seriously, I actually think he’s hilarious.  I’m not sure I wanted to see Hill or Reilly in so many high definition close-ups but it does help you see that they are not so dissimilar.  This might be one good explanation why Cyrus makes it his personal mission to ensure John and Molly do not succeed as a couple despite the fact that they are both so much happier now that they’ve met.

The beauty of CYRUS, and there is a lot of it, is the natural way in which the Duplass brothers bring everything together perfectly.  A sharp, subtle script, in which Cyrus and John battle intelligently instead of declaring war on each other in some farcical sense, is embodied seamlessly by a pitch perfect cast.  Safe for a fairly conventional conclusion, the Dulplass brothers prove that real situations can be shown for the difficult messes they are and still be incredibly funny at the same time.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Written by Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini
Directed by Debra Granik
Starring Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes

Ree Dolly: Never ask for ought to be offered.
WINTER’S BONE tells you immediately what tone to expect for the duration of your journey.  Two young children bounce up and down on a trampoline that sits outside a dilapidated wood cottage that is surrounded by discarded playthings and car parts.  A folk waltz about Missouri plays over the soundtrack and, as a teenage girl takes down the laundry and plays with the kids she so clearly looks after, it seems to me that Missouri might as well be misery.  These are the Ozark Mountains.  This is an America that is not often seen in film – an America that has nothing, trusts no one and doesn’t stand a chance.  This is the America that America would rather forget.

The girl is Ree Dolly (relative unknown and inevitable awards season breakout, Jennifer Lawrence).  She is sixteen years old and she cannot join the army like she wants because she must take care of her two younger siblings and her mentally unstable mother.  At an age when the concept of responsibility is only freshly coming into existence for most, Ree must embody it so that her family doesn’t fall apart.  And as if chopping the firewood, preparing dinner and making sure the children know both their math lessons and firearm safety weren’t enough for her to shoulder, she must now also find her estranged father.  His latest battle with the law over his career as a meth manufacturer has put her home in jeopardy.  Her father owns the home and he needed something to put up for bail so if he misses his court date, her family loses everything they have.  Their only hope is this young girl.

Lawrence fought hard for this role.  It was thought that she was too pretty for the part and, while she is definitely a pretty girl, her performance is about as raw and ugly as they come.  Each character she meets greets her with trepidation and aggression and yet each of these people is somehow related to her in some distant fashion.  They know her plight and you can see that most yearn to help but that it always stops there because no one dares get involved out of fear for their own person.  Lawrence is fearless in the face of these challenges.  She relentlessly hunts down her father to secure her family’s basic need for shelter.  This is strife; this is suffering.  This is survival in the truest sense of the word.

An American flag still hangs outside the Dolly home.  It does not fly proudly but rather it just droops, defeated and tired.  WINTER’S BONE, directed with grace and respect by Debra Granik, and based on a brilliantly bare screenplay by Granik and Anne Rosellini, is a visceral experience that makes its points frankly and strongly.  It speaks sharply to the dated gender roles, commonplace drug usage and extreme poverty that flood these parts without anyone knowing or caring and it does so in a soft voice that allows the audience to see how dire it is with their own eyes.  Even this America will not go down without a fight.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Black Sheep's Blu-Tuesday

I apologize in advance if I come across as some what scattered today.  There is a lot to get to and, to my detriment, I can't seem to find my focus.  I can however find my enthusiasm for the now tentative September release of Sam Mendes's 1999 Best Picture winner, AMERICAN BEAUTY, on Blu-ray.  This is one of my all-time favorite films and I cannot wait to see it restored to its original magnificence.  With it's 10-year anniversary behind us, I thought I was going to have to wait until 2014 for a 15-year release.  Other Blu-ray announcements this past week include the movie that kept me up for two nights straight when I saw it ... in college!  THE EXORCIST spiderwalks on to Blu-ray on October 5.  And another huge release for me - the movie that got me initially interested in the French Nouvelle Vague, BREATHLESS (AU BOUT DE SOUFFLE) has been restored and is being released by Criterion on September 14.  And for all you geeks out there, the BACK TO THE FUTURE series is circling on October 27 release.

There are also a lot of releases this week and I will start by warning you ...

Matt Damon and director, Paul Greengrass, worked so well together on the latter two Bourne movies, Damon has said that he won't return to the series without Greengrass.  After watching their latest collaboration, GREEN ZONE, I wish he would seriously reconsider this statement.  Ordinarily, my esteem for these two individuals is pretty high but this project is a disaster.  Greengrass's now trademark hand held camera is pushed to to the point where the action is practically impossible to follow.  When you can follow, you realize that you're watching a bunch of soldiers rebel against the controlling American government to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when there aren't any to be found.  GREEN ZONE takes itself so seriously but doesn't realize how ridiculous it comes across.

I had never seen any of the three different incarnations this rags to riches tale has seen in its day.  This one dates back to 1954 and since that time, some of the footage has gone missing or been destroyed.  This restored version dates back to 1983 when film historian, Ronald Haver, reconstructed the film to its original length.  The Blu-ray quality is sometimes unbelievable, which makes it all the more jarring when the picture drops out and still images sub for the missing footage.  The soundtrack is entirely intact, which is great as it allows us to devour Judy Garland's impeccable vocals.  When she sings "The Man that Got Away" in the first act, I marveled at both how powerful and frail she comes across on screen.  This Gershwin musical is perfect for a rainy afternoon like the one I'm having now.

This last 2009 entry garnered two Academy Award nominations by sneaking in with a limited two-week qualifying run on a couple of screens in December.  It was then pulled from theatres and rereleased in January to capitalize on what it hoped would be the two nominations it actually received.  Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren both earned nods for their work as Russian author, Leo Tolstoy and his high strung wife, Sofya.  The film itself did not receive any other recognition, primarily because it plays out exactly as you would expect it to and there are very little surprises.  Still, the lead performances are so strong and their story itself so moving that it makes for a light but yes still effective experience.  Plus, I will pretty much watch anything to get the chance to stare into James McAvoy's beautiful, blue eyes.

ALSO AVAILABLE: Music fans rejoice as both U2 and Bruce Springsteen release their latest concerts for all those who could not afford their hefty ticket prices and for everyone else who actually wants to lay down a little more to relive the experience.  Minor spring titles, REMEMBER ME (with the pasty Robert Pattinson) and SHE'S OUTTA MY LEAGUE (with the plucky Jay Baruchel) look for more forgiving home audiences.  And Criterion releases Michelangelo Antonioni's 1965 film, RED DESERT.

Source: Blu-ray.com

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Black Sheep @ The Box Office

Naturally, there was never any doubt that Pixar's TOY STORY 3 would open at number one.  Pixar's track record speaks for itself.  The question was always by how much it would open past their previous benchmark, THE INCREDIBLES, which opened to $70.4 million (and to be fair, FINDING NEMO is right behind with a $70.2 million opening).  When Woody and the gang opened to double what last year's UP opened to on its opening day, it became pretty clear, the lead would not be a narrow one.  Although not as high as the $120 million some were predicting, $109 million easily gives Pixar it's best opening weekend to date and also almost doubles the $57 million opening of 1999's TOY STORY 2.  If the total holds, TOY STORY 3 will also hold the record for the best June opening weekend of all time, scantily surpassing TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, which opened to $108.97 million in 2009.  I wasn't kidding when I said scant.

And while the people at Disney / Pixar are partying it up, the people at Warner Brothers are crying in their beers over the disastrous opening of JONAH HEX.  The Josh Brolin / Megan Fox graphic novel western hybrid pulled in a pathetic $5 million.  Following the disappointment of SPLICE, WB's last release, this summer has not been too kind.  May had MACGRUBER; now June has JONAH HEX.

The only title to pull in a higher average than the $27K TOY STORY 3 amassed is indie comedy, CYRUS, starring John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill.  At $45K per screen on just four screens, the film should easily generate some strong buzz for its expansion.  Expanding by 30+ screens helped WINTER'S BONE improve about 300% over last week.  I caught the film this weekend and will be reviewing it later this week.  If it can continue to get people talking, it could find its way into an awards season push.  The Italian film, I AM LOVE, starring Tilda Swinton also preemed on 8 screens this week and earned a healthy $15K per screen start.

NEXT WEEK: TOY STORY 3 should have no trouble fending off the big budget has been releases, KNIGHT AND DAY, with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz on Wednesday and 3000+ screens and GROWN UPS, with Adam Sandler et al, following of Friday on 3200+ screens.  I will be avoiding both and catching Alain Resnais's WILD GRASS.  Yes, I'll take French existentialism any day over those two jokes.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Toys of TOY STORY 3

People are so excited about the release of TOY STORY 3 this weekend, myself very much included, and I thought why not take a look at the actual toys that have stemmed from the film franchise.  If you hit up Amazon.com and search for the film in the toy section, 935 items will be found.  I stopped scrolling through them after about page 20 but the following are a few of the toys that I might write Santa Clause for come the end of the year.

Granted, this little guy, Bullseye, doesn't have a big part in the new movie but look at him!  How cute is that face?  I would definitely take him everywhere I go.  How cool would he be just dangling adorably off my backpack?!

Oh Mr. Potato Head - always trying to show up the other guys.  Albeit these costumes are nowhere near as hysterical as the one's he finds in the film itself, I love how in your face he is!

It's not like our man Buzz ever ends up on an operating table in TOY STORY 3 but yet here he is just waiting for those little green alien dudes to carefully remove his funny bone.  Good luck, Buzz.

Here are a few of the new friends you will find in TOY STORY 3.  The bear is the bad guy; Ken and Barbie, you must know already (that is the "Made for Each Other" set, by the way); and that last guy is Big Baby.  I'm not so sure why anyone would want to go near Big Baby but at least he didn't completely get the shaft.

And finally, who could forget this little guy?  I spent hours talking about nothing at all on this little telephone when I was young.  Fortunately, this telephone won't give you a tumor.

Don't forget to see TOY STORY 3 this weekend!

Friday, June 18, 2010


Written by Michael Arndt
Directed by Lee Unkrich
Voices by Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty and Michael Keaton

Hamm: C’mon, let’s go see how much we’re going for on EBay. 
There comes a point in every boy’s life when he has to grow up.  Ok, fine.  There are many points in a boy’s life when he must do this but going off to college is certainly an undeniable turning point.  You leave behind your family, your friends and the only home you know, including a chunk of everything you own.  For young Andy, a boy we first met when he was just eight years old, leaving for college means putting away all the toys that brought him so many hours of enjoyment back in his day.  And so he throws Buzz, Rex, Slink and the rest of them in a bag destined for the attic.  Some have said that after sitting in their own attic, the people at Pixar should have left their very first success, TOY STORY, exactly where they left it eleven years ago.  Fortunately for all of us though, the people at Pixar will never fully grow up.  The toys are out of the attic and they’re better than ever!

Letting go, dealing with new realities, distancing yourself so as to avoid ever getting hurt – these are just a few of the touching themes that are subtly told in TOY STORY 3.  The Academy Award winning writer of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, Michael Arndt, follows up his first success with what could very likely net him another trophy.  Arndt understands that adventure can be subjective – that what might seem small and unimportant to some is the biggest challenge others will ever face.  He also understands that adventure is made perilous when those involved have much to lose.  For our favourite toys, the loss is particularly significant – they are about to lose their reason for being.  Being relegated to the attic means that these toys will no longer be played with, that they will no longer be able to bring joy to their favourite guy, Andy.  So as Andy lets go of them, they must learn to let go of him as well.

Toys passing the time in the attic might not make for a very exciting film though.  (Mind you, if anyone could make it exciting, it would be these guys.)  Instead, the toys find themselves donated to a nursery school.  Well, most of them anyway; our man Woody (Tom Hanks) was selected to go off to college with Andy but, as luck would have it, Woody seems to have found himself lost and on the loose once again.  While Woody tries to make his way home alone, his pals are stuck in nursery hell, where kids play with you for hours, sure, but they also have no regard for these toys because they just aren’t their own.  First time full-fledged Pixar director, Lee Unkrich (Unkrich previously co-directed FINDING NEMO, MONSTERS INC., and the second TOY STORY film), ties these two storylines together seamlessly and charges the entire picture with an intensity that never lets up and culminates in a climax so dire that it catches the viewer off guard and triggers an emotional response that cannot be contained.  Just ask the guy sitting next to me.

TOY STORY 3 is triumphant!  It carries the depth and hilarity that one has come to expect from Pixar and then carries it even further still.  Even though I say it again and again when I review their films, they are constantly outdoing themselves.  Here, they’ve achieved the extremely rare feat of making threequel a decade after the last installment that actually surpasses both films that came before it.  Even though they’re playing with toys, their maturity continues to expand and their visual mastery continues to break their own barriers.  Their films work because they have soul.  The spirit of TOY STORY lives in that special bond between a boy and his toys.  Back when life was simple, they were all we needed and, according to Pixar, we were all they needed too.  And by taking these toys out of the attic and doing right by them one more time, Pixar incites that rare and wonderful feeling of nostalgic warmth that one gets all over their body when find themselves unexpectedly playing again with their favourite toys.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Black Sheep Previews: TOY STORY 3

I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Pixar's TOY STORY 3 last night.  I laughed and cried and was thoroughly impressed.  It's not that I wasn't expecting to be wowed by the Pixar people but they've got to slip up at some point and a not so necessary sequel so many years after the last installment seemed like a good a place as any to start.  Haters be damned though because TOY STORY 3 is another family classic that is sure to be loved by adults and children alike.

One of the new toys featured in the third installment is the furry, little guy in the poster above, Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear.  They call him "Lotso" in the movie and there is more to this cuddly creature than one would expect.  Meanwhile, unlike the other stars of TOY STORY 3, Lotso never existed in real life.  In other words, he is not a real toy.  Pixar decided to add a little backstory to this pivotal character though in order to give him a bit more credibility.  Below is an all-new commercial for Lotso that Pixar produced to make it look like it was made in the 80's.  It's an awful lot of trouble for a video that lasts 30 seconds and may not really be seen by most people but that's what I love about Pixar.  They'll do whatever it takes to make their magical worlds seem more real.

Check out Lotso's commercial and be sure to come back tomorrow for Black Sheep's review of TOY STORY 3.  Then see the movie.  Just see it.  Don't argue with me.  See it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Black Sheep's Blu-Tuesday

There are plenty of new and upcoming home video releases to get to but first, I want to briefly follow up on CADDYSHACK from last week.  Man, humour has changed a lot in 30 years.  Inspired performances from Bill Murray and Chevy Chase elevate this Harold Ramis comedy higher than it could have ever aspired to reach but the laughs are pretty minimal.  I'm not sure if it is the pacing or the style but it just doesn't work comedically in today's context.

There are a bunch of Blu-ray announcements to get excited about this week.  For me, the most intriguing is the October 12 release of the David O. Russell 1999 film, THREE KINGS, starring George Clooney.  I look forward to seeing this beautifully shot and insightful commentary piece again as I have not seen it in ages.  Another classic, one I haven't seen at all, is coming August 30 - Peter Weir's PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK.  The surprise Academy Award nominee for Animated Feature, THE SECRET OF KELLS, will be available October 5.  And contemporary films, Roman Polanski's GHOST WRITER and Disney Nature's OCEANS, make their debuts on August 3 and October 19, respectively.

And now, what can you get your hands on right now?!

Michael Cera has a hard time proving that he can be anything other than the endearing, awkward teenager we've all come to love and appreciate.  Even though we sit around enjoying his shtick, we also sit around and complain that he's only got the one note.  Cera tries very hard to kill that persona in YOUTH IN REVOLT, from indie director, Miguel Arteta (THE GOOD GIRL, CHUCK & BUCK).  Theoretically, it should work perfectly.  Cera plays a geeky teenager who falls for a girl but must fracture into a split personality in order to maintain her interests.  His alter ego is bad-ass in preppy clothing but he isn't any less delicate than Cera's regular everyday persona.  Still, if you're a Cera fan, YOUTH IN REVOLT is a good time.  I found it to be funny and enjoyable - perfect for a little leisurely rental time. It is a bit of a disappointment for Arteta but the indie spin gives this Hollywood tale some some reasonably sharp edge.  If you want real edge though ...

No Blu-ray release here but the good people at Warner Brothers sent me this seventh season of Larry David's infuriating HBO comedy, CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, and I could not have enjoyed it more.  I had only seen one season prior to this and let me assure you, you do not need to know the history to get David's current situation.  I love to hate this guy.  He is the worst human being on the planet but he means well.  The first episode finds him rushing to break up with his girlfriend before she gets the results of her biopsy.  You certainly can't break up with someone after they've found out they have cancer but apparently the hours leading up to that are fair game.  The 10-episode season continues with a genius build to a "Seinfeld" reunion show, with all the major cast and some of the minor characters returning for hilarious turns as themselves.  Any "Seinfeld" fan will appreciate the subtleties of this season.  

ALSO NEW THIS WEEK: Other releases this week include Denzel Washington's failed work with the Hughes Brothers, THE BOOK OF ELI.  Underground animated cult fave, MARY & MAX is a tale of two oddly matched pen pals.  That chick from FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL has some issue with coins in a fountain and men following her around afterward in WHEN IN ROME.  And is you want a good drunken night in with the girls, check out the 15th anniversary edition of SHOWGIRLS!

Source: blu.ray-com


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Black Sheep @ The Box Office

You may have noticed that there was no review published this week on Black Sheep.  I had decided long ago, unlike most of you apparently, to avoid THE KARATE KID.  I was supposed to see THE A-TEAM but decided at that last second to simply protest Hollywood's endless supply of sub-par garbage this summer by reviewing nothing at all.  Yes, I do acknowledge this is also a convenient excuse for me to take the weekend off but seriously, what kind of pathetic weekend at the summer box office is it when these two unnecessary 80's throwbacks are your two top choices?  Somehow, like father like son, Jaden Smith successfully managed to headline the 8th biggest June opening in history.  Meanwhile, THE A-TEAM underwhelmed in second place with half the gross of its biggest competition when it was supposed to give it a run for its money.  And so THE A-TEAM now joins SEX AND THE CITY 2PRINCE OF PERSIA, and ROBIN HOOD as official summer disappointments while THE KARATE KID breathes some much needed life into the season. Showing promising platform starts were the Sundance favourite, WINTER'S BONE, which I hear is quite chilling, and COCO CHANEL AND IGOR STRAVINSKY, which I hear is quite French.  Kidding.  I actually hear mixed things.  WINTER'S BONE opened to a per screen average of $21,350 and CHANEL/STRAVINSKY opened lower with $16,265.  Both will expand slowly next week and will vie for the ever coveted summer indie downer crown.

NEXT WEEK: More crap and a potential summer saviour.  The trailers for JONAH HEX bore me dreadfully but it still charges onto 2700 screens.  Thankfully, a delightful alternative awaits.  TOY STORY 3 from the good ol' boy at Pixar bursts onto 3900 screens.  As if that weren't enough, another visual delight, I AM LOVE, with Tilda Swinton, opens in select cities.

Thursday, June 10, 2010



Written by Jim Uhls
Directed by David Fincher
Starring Edward Norton, Brad Pitt and Helena Bonham Carter

Editor's Note: They say the first rule of Fight Club is not to talk about Fight Club.  I'm actually pretty certain that this is also the second rule of Fight Club.  I am breaking both of these rules in this piece but, to be fair, I'm not a card-carrying member of Fight Club so I don't think I have to abide by the group's rules.  Anyhow, you have been warned ...

When David Fincher’s FIGHT CLUB was released in 1999, it was one of those movies that not only made you stop and take notice but had you wondering what the fuck had just happened.  Even though the century was about to turn, people didn't know what to make of it at first.  How could they really?  Here you have this violent, aggressive piece of filmmaking that is hellbent on literally blowing up most of the institutions that modern society has grown entirely complacent to.  More importantly, all of this unrest stems not from a growing revolt amongst the masses but rather the increasingly debilitating delusions of just one man’s mind.

“This is your life and it is ending one minute at a time.” 

The man in question is never even named.  He is simply the Narrator and he is played by the seamlessly talented Edward Norton.  Norton is the perfect choice for our hero.  His earnest face and effortless charm make him very easy to like and to relate to.  Our Narrator, who is not coincidentally reminiscent of Malcolm McDowell’s narrator in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, starts out just like us.  He has put in countless hours at a thankless job to afford his ideally located condo and to amass the multitude of perfectly suited furniture pieces to fill that space.  He has done everything according to the great design but yet he is in a constant state of unrest.  He can’t even sleep unless he has the chance to shed all of his pain in the arms of people facing their own mortality at nightly support groups for a variety of cancer patients.  He is an exacerbated version of who a great majority of us actually are.  And thanks to Norton’s uncanny ability to draw in his audience, our dormant anger grows with his.

“This chick, Marla Singer, did not have testicular cancer.”

Of course, the Narrator does not have testicular cancer himself but the fact that he actually has testicles at least suggests that he could.  Marla (Helena Bonham Carter) is something of a monster.  She too does not step in time with the rest of the world – chain smoke getting caught in her wildly untamed hair as she walks in and out of laundromats stealing people’s clothing before walking directly into traffic without skipping a beat.  Marla is what sends the Narrator over the edge.  Her presence disturbs him but he cannot figure out how.  He just knows that he can’t sleep again now that Marla has made herself known.  It might have something to do with his addiction to cancer support groups.  He appreciates the sincerity of humanity when death is looming and Marla essentially wants to die.  Her death is close, or so she would like it to be, but, unlike her cancer patient friends, her death is one of her own choosing.  Where is the sincerity in that?  To be fair, I would probably lose a wink or two over that conundrum too.

“I know this because Tyler knows this.”

The pressure of life’s trappings starts to hit our Narrator a little too hard at this point and what was waiting patiently to emerge this entire time finally does.  Fincher has been giving us subtle hints; they’re blink-and-you’ll-miss-them moments but Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt in his prime, has appeared in frame a few times before this for split seconds at a time.  We don’t know it then, unless we’re super geniuses or have read the Chuck Palahniuk novel, but Tyler is a complete fabrication of the Narrator’s mind.  The impact of the story rests on the audience not knowing this bit of information until later because they need to believe the bloody reality of these two men beating each other rotten in the parking lot of some dive bar.  They need to believe this because it needs to inspire legions of other men to do the exact same thing.  These men and their nightly brawls are FIGHT CLUB.

“I want you to hit me as hard as you can.”

I am not a fighter but I, like the Narrator, beat the living crap out of myself from time to time.  The difference, or at least the one I am choosing to focus on right now, between the Narrator and myself is that I beat myself up under my breath when I don’t think anyone is looking.  He beats himself senseless and he does it right there for everyone to see.  And while he may be beating himself up, he is still fighting back for the first time in his seemingly insignificant single-serving life.  Aside from sincerity, there is something else the Narrator took from his life moonlighting on the support group circuit.  The imminent promise of death is a pretty good reminder for most that they’re still alive.  Pain, the intense kind that leaves scars and ringing in your ears while it drips your blood to the floor, has a similar effect.  This is especially true for those of us who don’t even realize we still haven’t slept in years.