RIP Dennis Hopper

If only Dennis Hopper was like most of us, then maybe he would have gotten the appreciation & status that he truly deserved in the industry. I was truly saddened by the -albeit unexpected- death of Hopper on Saturday from a cancer he had been battling for a while. At 74 years of age the actor's life stopped but not without a slew of writers remembering the memories he gave us in what was a unique and unforgettable acting career.

He acted and directed in Easy Rider -a seminal movie that launched the rebellious madness of filmmakers in the 70's. He single handily stole the show in Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now as a journalist gone completely mad in the far reaching jungles of Vietnam, he was highly delusional/brilliant as a paranoid druggie in River's Edge & -don't ever forget it- he was the highlight of Speed playing a brilliant albeit madly insane bad guy who just wants to terrorize for the fun of it (a Hopper specialty)

Hopper's best acting role was also his most controversial in David Lynch's 1986 masterwork Blue Velvet (also his best movie). Hopper played THE psychopath to end all psychopaths in American Cinema- as the notorious Frank Booth Hopper defied all cliches his way to turn a role that was so maddening and shocking into a brilliant showcase of his talents. His Frank raped Isabella Rosellini and inhaled gas at the same time- he bullied with words but also with actions, which is what made him so scary and so unique in a movie world that was going nowhere and -just like music in the decade- was turning into glam and plastic.

It is by no stretch of the imagination that I'd refer to Hopper as one of the few acting rebels to come out of the studio system in the past 30 years. He was fearless and intimate and exciting and unique. Very unique. The characters he played actually felt very real, no matter how disturbed they might have been & it is by no stretch of the imagination that Hopper invested something very personal in them. He was once quoted as saying that he wanted to play Frank Booth because he "was Frank Booth"- Hopper was many things but a genius is most definitely one of them, he will be very missed.

Reviews ! (a whole bunch of them)- The Secret In Their Eyes, Iron Man 2, Date Night, From Paris With Love, Kick Ass & Lost finale

Chloe Moretz as Hit Girl in Kick Ass

Iron Man 2 (C-)

I keep searching for a good movie, But I always come out of the theatre empty handed and disappointed. Iron Man 2 continues that spell with an overstuffed script and not enough action scenes to sustain our interest. Is it worth shelling out 12 hard earned dollars to watch a movie that basically has no idea or direction in its path? Of course not. Director Jon Favreau brought a solid mix of action and humor to the 2008 original that we -as an audience- had the right to expect something special again. Here's another sequel that fails miserably @ that.

Mickey Rourke -cue the comeback- & Robert Downey Jr do their darnest to save a movie that has the dullness of watching paint dry. They deserved better than this and so did the audience which -save for some major eye candy courtesy of Scarlett Johannsen- has not much to cheer about as the credits start rolling.

Date Night (C)

I think Steve Carell is absolutely hilarious but his latest with Tina Fey is far from it. They play a boring married couple that have their lives -and love life- re-energized when they are mistaken for another couple and get chased by two mobster thugs. Ah yes, originality and Hollywood @ its best. If only I was serious. Cliche after cliche gets hammered down to the audience as Carell and Fey get chased around central Park & a strip club among many other spots.

It does help that Fey and Carell are both amusing figures to watch -especially when on Television in 30 Rock & The Office respectively- but this film has none of the chemistry or satirical comedy those shows achieve on the idiot box. I did however dig a brain dead/ shirtless Mark Whalberg in a cameo that is the highlight of an otherwise dull and repetitive film. Oh Hollywood what have you become?

The Secret In Their Eyes (C+)

Argentinian director Juan Jose Campanella is a seasoned veteran of Television's Law & Order. For the first 90 minutes of this compatibly made detective thriller you don't see an inch of televised bullshit, it's only as the movie goes along in its overlong running time that melodrama sets in and an expected, preposterous finale settles in as a mean to shock its audience.

The film tells the story of a detective obsessed with an unsolved case since the 70s. Now retired, he decides to write a novel about his experiences & -of course- has a love story as a subplot. That love story is a real drag and stops the movie short of greatness ditto the finale. The Secret In Their Eyes won this year's Best Foreign movie Oscar & -considering everything I just said- you can tell it isn't deserving.

From Paris With Love (C+)

Although competently made and entertaining in some parts this new movie by Pierre Morel is not half as good as last year's other Morel B-movie Taken. John Travolta plays a violently mobile government operator that thrives on being gory just for the sake of it. John Rhys Myers is his saner, violent free assistant that wants nothing more than to get home and be with the girlfriend to propose to her. Sounds hokey? it sure is and gets even more when these polar opposites are assigned to catch a terrorist plot aimed for Paris. Ooh La La.

This would all have been very entertaining if I actually cared for these characters and their actions/motivations. I clearly didn't. Travolta is the only spark of the movie- which is influenced by the french action thriller (Taxi/District 13) a very popular genre in France. Check your brain out at the door with this one and get ready for some major nonsense ala Taken but sans the excitement that same Liam Neeson vehicle had & with far less coherence.

Kick Ass (B+)

Kick Ass is everything I wanted Iron Man 2 to be- Vulgar, repulsive, graphic, smart, funny & -above all else- vibrantly alive. Its story of Dave Lizewski, a teenager that decides to be a -failed- superhero, is a realistic depiction of what would happen if your neighbour decided to try out a spidey suit. Dave is a teenager that jacks off daily and drools over the school hottie on a daily basis. His alter ego Kick Ass becomes an overnight internet sensation & is helped along the way by Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) & his daughter Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz) who want revenge on a mob boss for the untimely death of Daddy's wife.

I didn't expect much going into Kick Ass but what I got was an ultra violent fanboy fantasy into a -realistically made- superhero world. What more do you want? Well how about a great Nic Cage performance as a father training his daughter to fight evil in a world full of it. Want more? Chloe Moretz -the film's highlight- as a machine killing 12 year old with a fetish for curse words and blood. Director Matthew Vaughn stuffs so much into his superhero movie that it feels too much @ times but what he lacks in timing & structure he compensates in style and graphic imagery.

Lost Series Finale/ "The End" (B+)

Who'd a thunk it. The best movie out there right now actually aired on TV. I'm not big fan of Lost but that didn't stop me from watching the 2 1/2 hour Series Finale on Sunday night. Twist after twist ensued under a plot that had me on the edge for the duration of its running time. No matter what people thought of the finale -titled The End- it had something that most movies these days lack in their unawareness to what a public really wants- ambition this episode was jam packed with it.

3 Summer movies that actually look interesting & not horrible

Now that Robin Hood and Iron Man 2 failed to live up to the hype- I'm ready to proclaim the rest of the 2010 summer movie season one of the worst in a very long time. (& were only a month in) Is there anything coming out that actually has the potential to be this year's first real Oscar contender? Christopher Nolan's Inception is the only worthy looking candidate but there are 2 others that will try to stand out as diamonds in the ruff and have my curiosity peeked. I'm not necessarily looking for serious artistic fare but even the blockbusters look dreadful. I mean who seriously wants to watch A-Team with no Mr. T? Cruise and Diaz in Knight & Day or Angelina Jolie trying to be a female Jason Bourne in Salt & Stallone trying to revitalize his dead career in The Expandables? Summer 2010 will surely have surprises up its sleeve but they will likely come from the independant circuit and not the Hollywood mainstream.

Inception (July 16th 2010)
Here's the film I'm most looking forward to this summer. From gifted filmmaker Christopher Nolan, who's already made Memento, The Dark Knight & The Prestige in his short but illustrious career. His new movie -Inception- has the mind bending potential to invent a new genre of cinema and kick start the Oscar race this season. Leonardo Dicaprio stars in a movie with so much hype around it that nobody has a clue what the hell it's about.

Toy Story 3 (June 18th 2010)
Why wouldn't I pick this one. It's pixar (Wall E/The Incredibles/Finding Nemo) and the first two Toy Story movies knocked me out for a loop. I'm not sold on it being in 3d, in fact I'm ready to watch this one sans the goofy glasses. The only down side? It's the third film of the series & I have yet to see a third film from any film franchise that has eclipsed the original(s). Then again if it's half as good as the first two, I'll be a happy camper. Look for this one to take Best Animated feature @ this years Oscars.

Middle Men (August 6th 2010)
George Gallo's Middle Men starring Giovanni Ribisi & Luke Wilson has sleeper hit written all over it. Its far out premise about how Porn was being sold to the mainstream in 1995 (pre Internet) has enough interest sneaking up on me. Advanced reviews have been great with Rolling Stone and Variety already raving about it. Gallo -a relative newbie in the field of directing- mixes his love for Scorsese in every frame of this ridiculously vulgar movie. I'm sold.


Having seen this new Atom Egoyan picture, I'm not quite sure exactly what he was reaching for here. This is a remake of a French film that was much better and intriguing than Egoyan's attempt @ the erotic thriller. Then again the story he has is juicy and hypnotic. In other words his source material is actually much more interesting than the execution he commits in Chloe.

There are things that work here, especially Julliane Moore as an undersexed wife that gets turned on by her husband getting it on with a hooker in secret- Chloe (Amanda Seyfried). I bow down to Moore's thrown anytime I see a performance, she is in fact one of the great actresses around and doesn't have an average performance in her.

The problem I got with Egoyan these days is not necessarily the stories he chooses -he always has something interesting up his sleeve - it's actually the way that he executes his stories in such predictable ways that infuriates me and makes on remember that his last great picture was 1997's The Sweet Hereafter. Remember that one? Risk taking is not in his vocabulary anymore & -after watching yet another letdown- I think it's time for him to think everything over.

Banksy & his Images + a short/concise review of 'Exit Through Gift Shop'

Graffiti has polarized many people in our modern age, which is why Exit Through Gift Shop's first half was so damn fun and vibrant. The second half turns into maudlin satirical stabs @ the art world but it nevertheless led me to seek out some of the astonishing Graffiti I saw on display during the film's first 45 or so minutes. There is so much more than just these but I picked some of my favorites.

What you see here is Graffiti art featured in the film & which has stayed etched in my memory, up until I finally had the chance to write to you about it. BANKSY is the main artist featured here -same thing as in the documentary- but I've added a few other astounding images that will surely make an impression on you from various different artists. They are socially relevant to the times and have a clear rebellious message imported with their stylistic flourishes.

Of course some of these Graffiti artists plaster their art on walls just for the fun of it & for a rebellious notion that they can break the law & damage legal property- but then there's something like the art portrayed below which was drawn on the infamous wall that separates the state of Israel and Palestinian territory That infamous wall does not need any explanation but what you see is something that is extremely risky and rebellious in its execution.

A stated above, not a very good film but nevertheless one that has opened up its doors to me with its world of fearless artists taking risks for the sake of their own art. Now why in the hell would I not support such a cause? If only the film was an hour shorter I might have recommended it but I say just search some of this stuff it's much more interesting than viewing the documentary about it.

'Bad Lieutenant' is re-seen & an Instant stoner classic is delved upon in the process

Now Don't get me wrong, the Original Bad Lieutenant -featuring a hard ass, fearless performance by Harvey Keitel as the most crooked cop this side of western civilization- is a classic cult picture of the 1990's & has only garnered more street cred over time. How can anybody forget Keitel's bad cop stopping a girl for speeding and asking her a favour in return (no need to describe the scene, just watch it if you haven't). The film is likely available at any DVD store around your block, if not it's well worth the search.

Last year a loose remake of the 1992 picture came out with troubling Director Abel Ferera replaced by Werner Herzog and Keitel replaced replaced by a trippy out of control Nicolas Cage- my original review can be read HERE. I had the chance over the week to catch up on it again, suffice to say this time around I wasn't as sober as when I originally saw the picture. You see, this isn't a movie that has much in the way of plot. In fact, it is a crazy, maniacal nightmare into the head of a man that has taken way too many drugs for his own good. I'd go as far as to say that one might not necessarily get the picture if they don't understand the experience of being on hallucinogens or are under the influence of it during viewing of the picture.

The more the picture advances, the crazier its plot structure becomes. Cage's bad lieutenant is stuck in a world where reality & dream (or more like nightmare) are coincided one onto the other- which is what might be the defining love it or hate sentiment for the viewer. This is a film that is very much as difficult to watch or in the stoner tradition of Gilliam's Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas. While one might think that I'm talking about a dramatic, serious picture- that would be far from the truth. Bad Lieutenant is very much a comedy of the absurd, one in which its titular character engages in behaviour so ludicrous and shocking that one might just laugh. I know I did & recommend you give this one a look again, to see how there still are original pictures out there. Just get prepared for the absurd and ludicrous.

With all my exams and crazy studying..

I haven't been able to watch much in the way of movies & it is a welcome vacation for the time being, especially since I will likely catch up on everything in the days to come. I did however catch two movies that garnered enough mainstream attention the last few months with their dvd releases.

I won't go much into detail but just to say that Law Abiding Citizen starring Gerard Butler and Jamie Foxx is so preposterous that in its owItalicn unique way it is entertaining and does the job any movie should do on a very boring and isolating day- draw your attention. I've even heard from a few lawyers claiming they liked it very much because of its accuracy on court room law etc. I'm not sure exactly what they mean by that- because if whatever I saw in this movie actually happens in court, then I should head to court more often to see what's happening and who's instigating what.

Then there's New Moon, which is a sequel to Twlight and which I only saw for a few painful minutes because of the awfullness that was going on screen. Shirtless vampire boys, shirtless wolf-men & a pale looking heroine that doesn't seem to want to even be involved with this truly horific movies (& I do mean that in a bad way).