The House


Sex and the City 2

I hadn't planned to write about this one, since just about everyone else who covers movies has already weighed in on it, but it was the only new movie playing in Central Jersey that I wanted to write about this week, so I wound up seeing it yesterday and writing it up for TimeOFF. Anyhow, I have a longstanding love-hate relationship with SATC, so I wouldn't have wanted to miss this one. Here's my review of it for TimeOFF.

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TAGS: a movie a day, chris noth, cynthia nixon, john corbett, kim cattrall, kristin davis, michael patrick king, sarah jessica parker, sex and the city 2, timeoff


Capcom ReloadedIn the entertainment medium, the word "classic" is often interchangeable with "timeless." After all, is the Beatles's Sgt. Pepper any less amazing to listen to or is Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather any less poignant then when originally released? Mediums like cinema, music, and literature tend to be unaffected by the thoughtless constraints of time. Video games, on the other hand, have never been that lucky.

While cinema, music, and literature have the luxury of having their fundamentals well established, videogames are stuck with having to reinvent the wheel every six years or so. Going back to an arcade game from the early 1980s or an early 3-D action/adventure game from the Playstation One era can be jarring for most modern gaming enthusiasts. While the medium has come a long way since the primitive monochromatic glares of the simple sprite based games like Pong and Space Invaders, many still worry about the roots of gaming being crushed by the weight of its own accelerated evolution. So storied companies like Capcom and Sega must ask a difficult question: How do you pay homage to your back catalog of software while making it relevant to the modern gaming public? Surprisingly enough, the answer to this came from a very modern gaming trope.

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TAGS: capcom classics collection reloaded, capcom classics collection remixed, data east arcade classics, final fight double impact, magic sword, sonics ultimate genesis collection


Coming up in this column: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Please Give, Date Night, Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps (play), Poets, Screenwriters and Classical Musicians, Johnny Eager, The Sound Barrier, Finishing the 2009/2010 TV Season, but first…

Fan Mail

Fan mail: "Agor" took me to task for not appreciating David Simon and Treme, and he makes a very good defense of what Simon is up to, comparing it to an intricately structured novel. My problem was that I did not find the characters and the situations compelling enough to put in the time the show was going to require, just as I have occasionally started a novel that I just cannot get into. Many viewers will stick with Treme and I hope they enjoy the show.

Agor also points out that I am not really writing about Simon as much as HBO in the item on Treme. He's right. I have liked some of Simon's stuff before, especially Homicide: Life on the Street and the second season of The Wire. However, what I was getting at in the piece was the overall tone of HBO insisting it is superior to anything else on television. Sometimes it is, sometimes it is not. But as you may have noticed in this column I deal not only with the screenwriters and their work, but many other aspects of screenwriting. I have discussed on several occasions the screenwriting styles of major studios like MGM and Warner Brothers in their heyday. Simon is working for HBO because its approach fits his. In the column below, I spend some time on a stage adaptation of a film and a collaboration involving a screenwriter and a lot of other artists. After all, screenwriters do not work in a vacuum.

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TAGS: alfred hitchcock's the 39 steps, date night, johnny eager, please give, the girl with the dragon tattoo, the sound barrier, understanding screenwriting


The Father of My Children

I couldn't get to my aunt and uncle's place on Long Island and to a movie theater yesterday, so my husband and I checked out the movies on demand on TV. There were lots of good options, including The Father of My Children, which I'd just added to my wanna-see list (it opened here on Friday). At just $6 for the two of us, seeing this one on TV wasn't just convenient, it was a welcome break from the $12.50 or $13 apiece that you have to pay these days at most New York theaters.

What we saw was an elegantly made French film that pulled me in with deceptive ease. Like Things We Lost in the Fire, The Father of My Children is about a beautiful, happy family that seems unusually blessed until they lose their father and husband and have to learn to cope without him. But where Things We Lost in the Fire was off-puttingly histrionic, The Father of My Children is deeply affecting without ever being showy about its emotions.

It's also the movie equivalent of a roman à clef for indie film lovers, a behind-the-scenes look at the difficulties of making and marketing arty movies studded with thinly disguised versions of real filmmakers. Even the father of the title, Grégoire Canvell (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing), is based on a real person, a producer who was about to make writer-director Mia Hansen-Løve's first movie when he died unexpectedly. Being able to play the inside-baseball game of guessing who's who may add another layer of enjoyment for people who are into that kind of thing, but it's hardly the main attraction. The Father of My Children is about everyday truths: the comfort and joy a happy family bestows on its members, the pain of losing a cherished parent or mate, how people cope with the death of a loved one, and the importance of accepting the worst and enjoying the best that life brings you.

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TAGS: a movie a day, alice de lencquesaing, chiara caselli, louis-do de lencquesaing, mia hansen-løve, summer hours, the father of my children, things we lost in the fire


Dennis Hopper lost his battle with cancer today at the age of 74.

Because, we're told, Sex and the City 2 is still in theaters, here are some more choice words about the movie, this time about its portrayal of the gays.

And while Slant's review of the film didn't make Movieline's Top 9 (perhaps because S.T. Vanairsdale has an aversion to Top 10s?), it's worth noting for bringing our attention to Lindy West's amazing takedown of the film.

A repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell passed the House this week. Watch Republicans use phrases like "tickle the fancy" and "shoving this down your throat" in protest:

Links for the Day: A collection of links to items that we hope will spark discussion. We encourage our readers to submit candidates for consideration to keithuhlich@gmail.com and to converse in the comments section.

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TAGS: dennis hopper, don't ask don't tell, lindy west, movieline, mubi, s.t. vanairsdale, salon, sex and the city 2, the stranger


Survival of the Dead

I've always had a weak spot for zombie movies, which give me permission to wallow in guilt-free survival fantasies. I mean, how bad can it be to kill somebody who's already dead, especially when their whole purpose in un-life is to snack on your brains?

Like a lot of people, I'm particularly fond of George Romero's zombie movies. I like their lightly scruffy, homemade feel. I like how they're always set in or near the blue-collar town of Pittsburgh, Romero's home base for most of his adult life, and how their heroes are generally can-do types, working-class or middle-class people used to relying on themselves—just the kind of folks you want to hang out with during a zombie invasion. But most of all, I like the way Romero uses his zombie movies to say something about the cultural soup we're all simmering in.

Romero has always made his zombie movies more for money than for love, so they're a little hit and miss. Diary of the Dead felt dashed off and didactic, one good idea stretched way too thin. Three years before that, Romero came up with what may have been his best zombie movie of all, the ferocious Bush-era satire Land of the Dead.

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TAGS: a movie a day, dawn of the dead, diary of the dead, george romero, land of the dead, night of the living dead, survival of the dead


Lost Planet 2I played Lost Planet 2 wrong. That is, I put the disc in my console, picked up my controller, pressed start, and tried to play the game. But that's not what Lost Planet 2 wants you to do at all. What it wants is for you to convince four friends to buy the game, so you can all play it via online co-op. I can certainly understand why Capcom thinks making you buy four copies of a game in order to play it is a good idea, but it's harder to see why you should bother.

Lost Planet 2 is so desperate to be regarded as a kind of action MMO that even when you play in single-player, your AI allies get phony online handles, complete with gangsta "a"s for "er"s. There isn't even a "Start Game" option, just "Open Session," and you have to specify that you want to be offline if you want to play without online intervention. That would merely be cute/annoying, but what makes it truly obnoxious is that mission after mission doesn't just encourage teamwork, it absolutely depends on it—many chapters require coordinating players at far-distant points on the map. And of course, brain-dead ally AI can't do that, and you don't have the control over your allies that other squad shooters offer, much less the ability to hop between characters provided by smarter team games like the original Xbox's Brute Force. So in single-player, you have a game that's flatly unplayable.

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TAGS: capcom, entourage, lost planet 2, monster hunter, monster hunter tri, oceans 11, resident evil 5, xbox 360, xbox live


Metropolis

The newly restored print of Metropolis, Fritz Lang's gorgeous, disturbing, and sometimes absurd silent masterpiece is a revelation. (It's due out on DVD and Blu-ray later this year.) Part Romeo-and-Juliet love story and part science fiction, it's also about class warfare, alienation, and exploitation in the capitalist Machine Age—but that's the muddled part of the story.

It's not one of my favorite movies, yet its iconic, beautifully composed images, and almost laughably intense expressionistic acting suck me in every time I come across it on late-night TV. The plot and message strike me as incoherent and fascistic, but some people find it profound. Maybe its lack of clarity is part of its power, since it leaves the movie open to interpretation.

Metropolis is a huge city created and ruled by one man, Joh Fredersen (played by Alfred Abel, whose restrained, naturalistic performance sits like a rock in the middle of a fast-flowing river of emoting). Fredersen is a grim control freak, but his son, Freder (Gustav Fröhlich), is a softie, an idealist who wants to befriend the workers who live and toil in a whole separate underground city beneath the glamorous one where the ruling class lives. When Freder catches a glimpse of Maria (Brigitte Helm), a demure blond goddess from the workers' world who has emerged for a moment into his, he's a goner. Like Theseus and his friend in pursuit of Persephone, he runs after Maria and gets all tangled up, trying to protect Maria as she's threatened by personal vendettas and political upheaval.

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TAGS: a movie a day, alfred abel, brigitte helm, fritz lang, gustav frohlich, matt zoller seitz, metropolis, museo del cine


Solitary Man

In these confessional, porn-saturated days, it's getting harder for fictional characters to do something so outrageous that we can't empathize with them. One of the biggest risks left for a filmmaker to take is to focus on a main character who is so narcissistic he hurts everyone he gets close to—particularly the women who love him. Both of the movies I saw yesterday, Greenberg and Solitary Man, take on that challenge, and I wanted to see if they could win my sympathy for their Hurricane Harry main characters.

It's always been tough for women to get by with that sort of thing in the movies. From the evil daughter in Mildred Pierce to the bad mom in White Oleander, selfish women tend to get their comeuppance on screen. Even in film noir, where bad girls behave very badly and get away with it, we don't usually like the femmes fatales, though it's obvious why the hapless heroes fall for them.

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TAGS: a movie a day, ben stiller, danny devito, greenberg, greta gerwig, jenna fischer, jesse eisenberg, michael douglas, noah baumbach, rhys ifans, solitary man, susan sarandon, zombieland


Ed Gonzalez's review of Sex and the City 2 was mentioned in the New York Post on Monday (though they incorrectly claimed that we posted our review early—slander!).

Ed's review was also quoted in a Telegraph piece about the film's "anti-Muslim" tone.

Salon.com published a similar article on SATC2's "stunning Muslim clichés" yesterday.

And check out another scathing assessment of the film by Matt Zoller Seitz at IFC.

On a lighter note, with Christina Aguilera's new album, Bionic, due in a couple of weeks (and her feature film debut, Burlesque, out later this year), we figured it was the perfect time to revisit SNL's pun-tastic spoof of the TV show's finale:

Links for the Day: A collection of links to items that we hope will spark discussion. We encourage our readers to submit candidates for consideration to keithuhlich@gmail.com and to converse in the comments section.

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TAGS: bionic, burlesque, christina aguilera, ed gonzalez, ifc, new york post, salon, saturday night live, sex and the city 2







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