Category: 2006


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This is going to be possibly the most contradictory and conflicting review I’ve ever written. On every intellectual level that I can muster, I know that the 2006 Happy Madison production Grandma’s Boy is exquisitely awful. It’s low-brow to the extreme and a consistent affront to good taste and smart comedy at every turn. But, and it’s difficult to express how much it pains me to admit this, I love this movie. Part of a cadre of films that I used to watch religiously whenever they were on HBO when I was younger (others include Beerfest and Anchorman), Grandma’s Boy makes me laugh louder and harder than it has any right to, and there are days when I think there’s something wrong with me for how much I love this film.

Grandma’s Boy is steeped firmly in the stoner/slacker tradition of the Cheech & Chong films but with a decidedly modern bent and a fixation with video games (which explains in part my love of the film as something of an avid gamer). And it isn’t afraid to scrape the bottom of the barrel for jokes, but for God knows what reason, those “bottom of the barrel” gags work here when they never work for me in any of the other modern Happy Madison films (like That’s My Boy). Because let’s face it. Any film that has Shirley “Mrs. Partridge” Jones talking about giving a hand job to Charlie Chaplin speaks to me on some odd, inexplicable level.

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Alex (Allen Covert) is a stoner wasting his life away as a video game tester for a game design studio when he really wants to make his own games and not mindlessly test the games of his obnoxious, robot-obsessed boss J.P. (Avatar‘s Joel David Moore). But, when the company brings in the beautiful and charming Samantha (Brokeback Mountain‘s Linda Cardellini) to ensure that their current game gets finished on time, she may be the motivation Alex needs to finally try and do something with his life. However, Alex has just been thrown out of his apartment (because his roommate spent their rent money on hookers) and he has to move in with his grandmother (Doris Roberts) and her two friends which Alex is too ashamed to explain to Samantha and his best friend Jeff (Nick Swardson).

Alexander Payne this is not. In fact, it’s not even Judd Apatow. The jokes in Grandma’s Boy are as crass and disgusting as you can possibly imagine. At one point, before he lives with his grandmother, Alex stays at Jeff’s for the evening. Alex can’t sleep so he attempts to masturbate to one of Jeff’s female action figures (which he pretends is Tomb Raider‘s Lara Croft) and winds up ejaculating on Jeff’s mom when she walks in on him. At one point, Jonah Hill (Academy Award nominee for Moneyball) sucks on a breast (he literally appears to be suckling on a nipple at one point) for hours on end. And fart jokes abound.

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But, and there’s no logical explanation for this, there are moments in Grandma’s Boy that carry some type of moronic genius where the film becomes so stupid, it’s brilliant. Alex’s burnt out pot dealer Dante (Patrick Dante) drags Alex into situations so surreal that they capture some of the absurdist magic of the old Happy Madison films like Billy Madison. And Shirley Jones steals virtually ever scene she’s in as the grandmother’s trampy roommate Grace. And, maybe it’s because I was born and bred on Freaks and Geeks, but watching a drunken Linda Cardellini make a fool of herself to “Push It” is hilarious. Although, Linda Cardellini is way too good of an actress for the material she’s given in this film.

Grandma’s Boy is a bad film. Although, it’s a bad film that I wholeheartedly enjoy (and though it was a disastrous critical flop when it was released, it has become something of a cult classic in intervening years). The movie doesn’t have a sophisticated bone in its body, and when I’m not trying to think about the film critically (as I was forced to during this viewing), that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. If you require your comedy to have brains, avoid Grandma’s Boy like the plague because it smoked all of its brain cells away. But if you can enjoy a stupid but occasionally brilliant stoner comedy, Grandma’s Boy can be a great trip.

Final Score: C+

 

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In order to properly imagine my state of mind while writing this review, you need to pretend that you can hear me sighing in the most frustrated manner imaginable. It has been over a year since I’ve watched a film I disliked this immensely. It was July of 2012 to be specific and I had watched the decidedly unfunny and misogynistic How to Marry a Millionaire with Lauren Bacall and Marilyn Monroe. Generally speaking, my average score for films I dislike is in the “C-” to “C+” range. I’ve given less than five total films (this brings it up to an even five) a score lower than a “C-” in this entire blog’s existence. That’s because even films I loathe like Forrest Gump or Cloud Atlas have a handful of redeeming qualities. No matter how terrible I think they are, there was at least some level of competency that went into their construction. There is nothing competent or enjoyable or redeeming about Steven Soderbergh’s (Magic Mike) 2006 indie Bubble which is a strong contender to be one of the worst, most unnecessary films I’ve ever, not just for this blog but in my entire life.

Set simultaneously in Parkersburg, WV (representing my home state here in the worst possible way imaginable) and Belpre, OH, Bubble is a turgid and excruciatingly paced look at the nihilistic emptiness of life in dead-end jobs in dying towns wrapped within a murder (non)mystery. If that sounds interesting, it could have been. There’s probably some masterful existentialist drama hidden in the thematic ambitions of Bubble. Sadly, the movie is not interesting. Martha (Debbie Doebereiner) and Kyle (Dustin James Ashley) work at a doll factory. Martha is an overweight middle-aged woman caring for her father. Kyle is a driftless twenty-something with no plans or ambition. Martha may or may not be in love with Kyle. A manipulative, pushy single mother Rose (Misty Wilkins) gets a job at the doll factory. She and Kyle start dating. She’s murdered. People begin to suspect Martha.

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I intentionally described the plot in as bare bones terms as possible because that’s literally the film. At a mercifully brief 77 minutes, plot is almost non-existent, and Netflix’s plot description makes it sound like some quirky murder mystery. It isn’t. It’s mostly a series of abysmally performed conversations with plot points seemingly artificially tacked on because Soderbergh and crew didn’t know what to do with these dull characters and non-professional actors. I know that Soderbergh is using the blandness and crippling boredom of the film as a commentary on what life is like in these sorts of towns, particularly if you’re stuck in the dead-end careers of people like Kyle and Martha. But, just because he intended to make the film as agonizingly dull as humanly possible doesn’t mean I have to applaud him for his success.

The comment about non-professional actors wasn’t unintentional. Kyle and Martha share the concept of “lead” in this film, and this was the only film either actor has ever made. Debbie Doebereiner was a manager at a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Parkersburg when Soderbergh “discovered” her and decided to cast her in his film. Don’t get me wrong. She certainly looks the part of someone who would be stuck in this lifestyle. That doesn’t make her a good actress and she has the emotional range of a Q-Tip, which actually was probably intentional on Soderbergh’s part. Dustin James Ashley seems like deep down he could probably be a decent actor, but Kyle is as flat a character as a sheet of paper, and with the film’s completely improvised script, he’s not given much substance to work with.

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I love Steven Soderbergh, and though I’m not from Parkersburg, WV, I come from a similar West Virginia town that suffers from all of the malaise that permeates Parkersburg and Belpre. I am a perfect candidate to enjoy this type of film. That I found it to be almost completely unbearable should speak volumes to the insufferably low quality of this production. Soderbergh is an Academy Award winning director (for Traffic), but Bubble feels like something a first year drop-out of film school would make if they somehow stumbled upon the miniscule budget this atrocity was shot on. At his best, Soderbergh is a genius and a poster child for inspired modern independent film-making. But if Bubble is the type of film he makes when he is totally untethered from the strictures of the modern studio system, perhaps its for the best if studio execs are there to keep him from indulging in this sort of pretentious, unwatchable nonsense.

Final Score: D+

 

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In 2006, two films about purveyors of illusions hit theaters, and much like the battle between 30 Rock and Studio 60 (which ironically both premiered that year as well I believe), only one would prevail. Of course, the film that made the biggest cultural headway (and helped to catapult Christopher Nolan into the public imagination) was the Christian Bale/Hugh Jackman vehicle, The Prestige. But, over the years, the other magic themed film from that year, The Illusionist, has gained a considerable cult-following and I’ve meant to watch it for years now. And, I must sadly report that I found the film disappointing. Like any magic trick properly explained, The Illusionist is a hollow, fleeting experience with only just enough flashes of magic o keep it interesting.

I say that it’s hollow and fleeting because The Illusionist has joined films like War Horse as proof that you can have a technically competent and well-executed film that I won’t find especially enjoyable when the the important pieces (plotting, characterization) are merely shadows in fact. Because, like the ethereal projections that Eisenheim the Illusionist (American History X‘s Edward Norton) conjures late in the film, there is nothing substantive beneath The Illusionist‘s surface. With flat, one-dimensional characters and torpid pacing that seems to revel in its own predictability, this film tested my patience to sit through its motions and only earned my attention on rare occasions.

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Years after being pushed away from his childhood love, almost supernaturally gifted illusionist Eisenheim moves to Vienna to practice his trade. But during a packed performance attended by none other than the crown prince of Hungary, Eisenheim sees his childhood love, Sophie (Jessica Biel), for the first time in years. A contessa herself, Sophie is now engaged to the Crown Prince, but seeing Eisenheim brings up feelings that both thought were  lost. As Eisenheim becomes even more popular with the Viennese people and embarrasses the Crown Prince with his tricks, Eisenheim is investigated by Inspector Uhl (Private Parts‘s Paul Giamatti) for any possible wrongdoing. But, of course, nobody knows the massive trick Eisenheim has up his sleeve.

I tend to give more in-depth discussions of characters and plots here, but as I’ve said, there isn’t much going on underneath the surface of The Illusionist. Characters are exactly what they seem, and if you are able to pay even the most remote attention, things play out as you think they will. Although I actually enjoyed the ending (mostly for the film paying off how I expected things to turn out), it is also 100% predictable and even then, it glosses over certain things that would have made more sense with better foreshadowing. Though Eisenheim is meant to be mysterious, the film’s dogged insistence on not fleshing out his character any robs the film of nearly any ability to generate audience sympathy.

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Ed Norton is one of my favorite actors of his generation. I’m not sure if it’s possible to watch him in Primal Fear or American History X and not simply stand in awe of his mastery of his craft. But, like everything else in The Illusionist, his performance in this film is simply “meh.” He can’t maintain his Prussian accent for more than half a scene, and the writing provides him with very little to work with in strengthening the characterization of this bland magician. Jessica Biel is just an outright mediocre actress at best, and she showed nothing new as the Contessa. But, thankfully, like all films he’s in, Paul Giamatti shines as the tireless investigator because he’s just always a champ.

I’m going to keep this review short. I want to play a bit of The Last of Us tonight and keep catching up on Game of Thrones. Hell, maybe if I’m lucky I can even watch Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs which is the next film on my blog list that I have waiting at home from Netflix. And honestly, there was just nothing special about this film. It wasn’t that the movie was bad. And, I actually really enjoyed the cinematography at times, but there was nothing astounding about The Illusionist. And it had enough glaring flaws in terms of its characterization that I couldn’t ever fully (or even mostly) invest in this tale. For fans of the technical aspects of film-making, The Illusionist has some secrets to reveal, but everybody else could probably stay home.

Final Score: B-

 

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One of the things that I have always loved about foreign cinema is that it opens me up to worlds and cultures that I will never experience first-hand. Great foreign cinema (A Separation, The White Ribbon, Stroszek) can edify me as much as it entertains me. I’m clearly not saying that all enjoyable foreign cinema must have cultural history inside it (Bergman and Fellini care little for that), but it’s always wonderful when it does. 2006’s Rang De Basanti is the first Indian/Bollywood film that I’ve reviewed for this blog, and I felt that I learned more from this film about modern Indian youth culture and India’s history than anybody possibly ever could from Slumdog Millionaire.

It is difficult to characterize Rang De Basanti in simple terms. Running at nearly three hours, Rang De Basanti is the type of multi-generational epic that went out of vogue in America around the time the Godfather films finished up. The film’s emotional core and even genre are just as hard to pin down as the film starts off as a coming of age dramedy that shoots unexpectedly into tragedy for the film’s last hour. The film has a grandness of ambition and purpose that exceeds the actual artistic merits of the film to the point where the film’s themes are subverted (I believe unintentionally) by an insane final act that lessens the ethical value of the film. Rang De Basanti has its flaws, but even despite them, it proved an immensely enjoyable movie.

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An idealistic young British woman, Sue (Alice Patten), travels to India in order to shoot a historical film about India’s revolutionary movement in the 1920s against British rule. Sue finds the young stars of her film when her friend Sonia (Soha Ali Khan) introduces Sue to her group of college friends, including the charming DJ (Aamir Khan), the brooding Karan (Siddharth), the comic Sukhi (Sharman Joshi), and the pensive Aslam (Kunal Kapoor). The Western society-obsessed friends are cynical towards the state of modern India and have trouble relating to the martyred patriots at the center of Sue’s film, until tragedy in their own lives sparks a revolution in their own hearts.

I don’t want to say too much more about the film’s story because part of the pleasure of Rang De Basanti is watching the transformation this film takes. It’s not much of a stretch to say that until a pivotal event took the film into it’s final act, I was convinced that Rang De Basanti was a comedy about cultural diffusion and barriers with some light drama involved. The tone was so light and lively (and the musical numbers but more on that in a second) that when the film switches gears (and boy does it), I was left feeling as if I’d been punched in the stomach by the sharp turns the story takes.

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I may be wrong, but I’m fairly certain that Rang De Basanti is the first Bollywood film I’ve ever watched in my entire life. And, I’m sort of thankful for that because the moviei s a great fusion of Bollywood tropes (doomed romances, insane out of nowhere dance numbers) and more traditional Western storytelling which all fits within the film’s context of young Indian men rediscovering their sense of Indian nationalism. There’s a dance sequence interspersed with bits of historical tragedy from Sue’s film that is immediately followed by the tragic event that sets the films final act into motion, and while that may seem dizzying to American audiences, it seems to mesh within the Indian context of the film.

Ultimately, Rang De Basanti proves to be a film about corruption in the Indian government. When I was an RA, I had several friends from India and Pakistan (both from the Lahore region of the area), and either one was willing to readily educate me on the political corruption of their respective governments. And, Rang De Basanti‘s attempts to bring these issues to light is all well and good and very noble, but the film loses some of its moral authority on these tough issues when it has its heroes behave the way they do towards the end of the film. I don’t want to spoil what happens, but it’s certainly easy to say that the film finds itself muddled by the end.

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Rang De Basanti is centered on a great cast with a natural chemistry, and the interactions between the young male stars reminded me of an Indian spin on classics like Diner. Aamir Khan and Kunal Kapoor really stole the show, and I’d like to see more from practically everyone in the cast though sadly not much Bollywood winds up on my list for this blog. I’ll draw this review to a close with this. Rang De Basanti may lose its footing by the film’s end, but if you can get past the thematic missteps in its closing moments, you’ll be rewarded with an intense and highly emotional look at Indian youth and the problems facing modern Indian society. For lovers of foreign cinema, I highly recommend it.

Final Score: B+

 

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(A quick aside before my review. I watched this movie Thursday before I went to bed. and then I went to a Fleetwood Mac concert on Friday and I worked open to close shifts Saturday and Sunday. I’ve only just now had a chance to sit down and write this review. I also have to review Django Unchained which I watched at my dad’s when I got home from work Saturday (and then immediately went to bed after it ended. So, if this particular review seems short, it’s only because I want to save my energy for the more complex Django.)

Despite his often sophomoric sense of humor, Kevin Smith is one of my favorite writer/directors of all time. Obviously, I don’t actually think he’s one of the best, but his particular brand of pop-culture humor and existential crises speaks to me on a fairly intense level. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Chasing Amy is my third favorite film of all time (behind Annie Hall and Pulp Fiction). Beneath the dick jokes and the literal shit humor (I’m looking at you, “chocolate pretzel” scene from Mallrats), Kevin Smith usually has something insightful to say about the rat race, love, and coming to terms with our own possibilities. 12 years is a really long time to wait for a sequel, but Kevin Smith’s long-anticipated follow-up to Clerks may not have the freshness and sense of wonder it had a decade ago, but Clerks II makes up for it with a surprisingly touching tale of male friendship that had me in tears after my first viewing.

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Taking place over a decade after the original film, Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randall’s (Jeff Anderson) lives are different but, at the same time, not much has changed at all. The Quick Stop has burned down and the duo have moved on to the only thing lower on the service industry totem pole than retail. They now work in fast food at a Mooby’s Burger (a chain Dogma fans should recognize). The movie begins on Dante’s last day before he moves to Florida with his fiancee to start a new life and leave Randall behind. Dante doesn’t really love his girlfriend though; in fact, his true feelings lie with his boss, Becky (Rosario Dawson), who he once had a one night stand with. As the clock ticks down to Dante’s last day in Jersey, Randall begins to truly feel the loss of his best friend, and Dante must choose if he should do what society wants or live his life the way that will that make him happiest.

Clearly, Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson aren’t great actors. It’s why we haven’t seen them in many films outside of the View Askewniverse (the interconnected world where all of Kevin Smith’s Jersey films take place), but I could never imagine another pair playing Randall and Dante. Perhaps, they simply aren’t playing characters too far removed from themselves prior to the success of Clerks, but Brian O’Halloran in particular captures the weariness that comes with working in the service fields (I’ve only been doing it for three years in two different jobs and it already makes me hate people). If he seemed beat down and cynical in Clerks, by Clerks II, he’s turned into almost a shell of his former shelf. And, props must be giving to Jeff Anderson for his willingness to really sell the filth and vulgarity that is Randall, but when he’s required to have his big emotional climax, Anderson nails the basic humanity of the character.

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The film’s best performance though was arguably Rosario Dawson whose smart and put-together Becky is a side of low-wage life you rarely see, the person who gets trapped and never allowed to escape despite their talents. She too has her own weariness and concerns (as you find out throughout the film), and Rosario’s natural charm made it easy to see why Dante might be willing to give up his whole life for a girl like her. And the film, in true Kevin Smith fashion, had a bevy of wonderful supporting performances. Jason Lee, Ethan Suplee, Ben Affleck, and others all make appearances, and even Jason Mewes seems like he has more to do than usual as the always obnoxious (but weirdly funny) Jay.

Like I said, I also want to review Django Unchained tonight (and I see that review eclipsing 1500 words or so) so let me end this review on a couple of notes. Clerks II is hilarious. I’ve seen this film at least a dozen times, and I still laughed my ass of the entire run time of the film. But, in addition to its deliciously low-brow sensibilities (all of the scenes where Randall tortures his Christian, nerdy coworker Elias spring to mind), Clerks II has the most heart of any Kevin Smith film whose name isn’t Chasing Amy. It’s the rare film where you may literally laugh and cry. Apparently, Kevin Smith is at work on a Clerks 3, and if it ever sees the light of day, I can only hope it’s half as good as this now classic 2000s comedy.

Final Score: A-

 

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Not since my review of No Country for Old Men early in this blog’s existence have I reviewed a film that I have such complicated feelings toward. Much like that particular Coen brothers film, The Departed was the movie where Hollywood royalty (in this case Martin Scorsese) finally took home the big prize. Yet, just like No Country for Old Men, there is a sizable portion of that director’s fan-base who feel Scorsese was rewarded for the wrong film. I consider myself to be a bit of a Scorsese buff, and I can name around five of his films that I think are better than The Departed and quite a few films from 2006 that were more deserving of the Best Picture Oscar (Pan’s Labyrinth, Letters from Iwo Jima, Little Children just to name a few). That’s not to say this isn’t a good movie. It is, in fact, a great film (that far exceeds it’s source material, Infernal Affairs). It just has enough flaws to keep it from reaching the top-tier of Scorsese classics.

You do have to give The Departed and Martin Scorsese (as well as screenwriter William Monahan) credit for something though. The Departed (alongside Peter Jackson’s re-imagination of King Kong) has become the standard by which any future remake has to be judged. Current readers will know I reviewed Infernal Affairs last week, and I found it to be an all-style/no-substance affair. That was actually my primary complaint about The Departed for years although upon more recent viewings, I’ve come to appreciate a lot of the subtext the film contained. And despite The Departed‘s occasional slightness, it expands and broadens every aspect of Infernal Affairs. Characters that were broad generalizations are given life and depth, and with the exception of Good Will Hunting and Gone Baby Gone, Boston has rarely felt this alive in cinema.

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With many added characters and a geographical facelift, The Departed is a very Irish-American take (coming from the ultimate Italian-American film-maker, Martin Scorsese) on the Hong Kong action of Infernal Affairs. Irish mafia king-pin Frank Costello (Chinatown‘s Jack Nicholson) runs the Boston underworld, and it puts him right in the sights of Massachussetts State Police Captain Queenan (Catch-22‘s Martin Sheen). Queenan runs the Undercover Department of the Special Investigation’s Unit, and along with his assistant Dignam (The Fighter‘s Mark Wahlberg), he hires Billy Costigan (Inception‘s Leonardo DiCaprio), a State Police cadet, to go undercover and infiltrate Costello’s organization. At the same time, Costello has Colin Sullivan (Margaret‘s Matt Damon) joining the Massachusetts State Police where he quickly climbs the ranks and becomes Costello’s mole in the police. And it’s not long before both Costigan and Sullivan have to hunt each other.

Where The Departed really sets itself apart from Infernal Affairs (besides the better cast, better direction, better editing, etc) is that beneath the cat-and-mouse game at the heart of the film and the violent crime action is a tale about identity, redemption, family, and being something more than fate decides you should be. The obvious theme to discuss is identity and how men and women who go undercover as cops often risk becoming the very people they’re trying to hunt. That was all of Donnie Brasco, and The Departed makes it so much more compelling. Maybe it’s cause DiCaprio handles the terrain better than Johnny Depp (more on DiCaprio shortly), but the dramatic thrust of the schizophrenic state Billy Costigan always had to place himself in was what kept the tightly wound crime thriller glued together.

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To me, any discussion though of the film’s merits have to begin and end with Leonardo DiCaprio’s fearless performance as Billy Costigan. He got his Oscar nomination that year for Blood Diamond, but it should have been for this film, and honestly, he was just as good as Forrest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland. This was a career-defining performance from Leo, and much like Robert De Niro before him, this was the film that cemented him as Scorsese’s new acting muse. Billy Costigan demands that Leo can reach every spot on the emotional continuum and often flip between them instantly. And not only does Leo do this, he nearly sets a new bar for masculine vulnerability. There is an emotional nakedness that Leo taps into for some of the most important scenes of the film, and it is rare to see a male actor display so much of his soul in a performance.

The rest of the cast was wonderful as well, and it’s honestly impossible to pick favorites. It’s kind of ridiculous that Mark Wahlberg got an Oscar nomination when Jack Nicholson and Alec Baldwin didn’t (as they both gave more interesting performances) though Marky Mark did do a good job in his spot. This was not one of the definitive performances of Matt Damon’s career, but he channeled the smugness and confidence that someone like Colin Sullivan would need to reach the top. Martin Sheen shined as the paternal Captain Queenan (even though he couldn’t always keep up the Boston accent). Some have accused Jack Nicholson’s performance of being too hammy, but I’m pretty sure it was intentional, and it added to the flamboyancy of the Costello character. And as the shared love interest of both Costigan and Sullivan, Vera Farmiga brings her own vulnerable sexuality to the equation as a psychiatrist.

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And, in classic Scorsese style, The Departed is a technical movie fan’s dream. There are issues I take with the direction (more on that later), but mostly, Scorsese proves again and again why he will be forever remembered as one of the most important figures in American cinema. Whether it’s the lighting, the quick cross-cutting, the not-so-subtle religious iconography, or the graphic, stylized violence, The Departed feels like a Scorsese film through and through, and after the decade spent the better part of the decade exploring more serious affairs like The Aviator and Gangs of New York, Scorsese’s return to his organized crime roots was certainly a breath of fresh air to his legions of fans. The Departed runs two and a half hours long, which is about thirty minutes too long for this story, but it took Scorsese’s steady hand to make that length bearable and consistently fun.

However, that doesn’t erase the fact that the film is too long. And while the pacing remains generally propulsive, there are moments where it lags, and I don’t just mean that it slows down to focus on characters. That’s fine. But many of the moments where the film tries to develop the Colin Sullivan character feel less well-realized than the other moments in the film, and unlike Infernal Affairs (where the dirty cop was just as interesting, if not more interesting than the undercover cop), Sullivan just never reaches the dramatic heights that Costigan finds. The sections where the film alludes to his sexual dysfunctions are especially poorly done and just don’t hit with me. Also, Infernal Affairs has a better ending than The Departed. I don’t want to ruin either film’s ending, but if you’ve seen both, I’m not sure if it’s possible to feel that Scorsese’s ending didn’t dilute the powerful nature of the other film’s climax.

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I’ll draw this to a close (this particular review keeps reminding me that I should start taking notes as I watch movies I plan on reviewing like I did in the past) and leave with these parting thoughts. The Departed is a great film and one of the definitive crime epics of the 2000s. Sadly, the competition in that particular category wasn’t as fierce as it was in the 90s and 70s. And Martin Scorsese is such a storied director with such a sizable library of classic films (Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, etc) that The Departed ranks somewhere alongside Hugo in a list of his great films that just aren’t as legendary as his definitive works. Still, for fans of Scorsese and fans of crime movies in general, The Departed is about as can’t miss as they come.

Final Score: A-

 

One of the best shows that I went to in NYC (and also one of the best dates I’ve ever been on) was when I went to see They Might Be Giants at Terminal 5. They were pretty fantastic, but to be honest, I enjoyed their opener, Jonathan Coulton, just as much as I enjoyed those veterans of indie nerd rock. He played for about 30 minutes, but he got to play a lot of really good songs, and since I’m going out to celebrate Halloween tonight (since I won’t be able to tomorrow and Halloween is on a Wednesday this year), I thought tonight would be a perfectly appropriate time to post Coulton’s zombie-themed classic “Re: Your Brains.” which he played at that show. I’m not going a zombie. I’m going as Back to the Future‘s Marty McFly, but this seems festive in the appropriate Halloween sense. I’m honestly surprised I haven’t used a Jonathan Coulton song on here yet because the man’s got a ton of really good singles. I hope I get to see him (and TMBG) live again soon.

I love movie musicals. Long time readers probably know this even though I haven’t had the opportunity to review very many of them. I’m a very theatrical person so maybe the pageantry and extravagance of Broadway musicals and film musicals (although 9 out of 10 times, the latter are based off of the former) speaks to that part of my personality. Here’s an embarrassing fact though. The first time I ever heard “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” from the movie Dreamgirls was in the first Sectionals episode of Glee where Amber Riley knocked it out of the ballpark. I get chills every time I hear her sing it (as well as when Lea Michele sings “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from Funny Girl). So, obviously after that performance (as well as Charice’s wonderful version of “Listen” in Season 2), I had to hear the genuine article. God, Jennifer Hudson sings the hell out of this song. I mean just damn. I’ll let her performance speak for itself. Enjoy.

Gotta keep this short folks. I worked all evening and Barack Obama is going to be speaking any minute now. Don’t know how he’ll top Michelle Obama or Bill Clinton (seriously. god damn Bill Clinton was great last night), but if there’s one thing Barack can do amazingly well, it’s deliver a speech. So, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for now. Anyways, I picked this song earlier in the day because it’s a song I’ve wanted to make my Song of the Day for months now but never saw the chance. I listened to it at least once or twice a day every day that I worked in NYC. For a simple reason. It was the song at the top of one of my playlists by random chance (and I never had the chance to update my iPod playlist). However, since it’s one of the best indie rock tunes of the aughts, no one was complaining. It’s pure angry sexuality. I have to stop now so I can hear President Obama speak though. Later peeps.

The greatest bar band in recent memory, The Hold Steady are a seminal indie rock favorite even though they’re as comfortable playing tiny venues like Morgantown, WV’s 123 Pleasant Street as they are major NYC venues like T5 or the Music Hall of Williamsburg. If you couldn’t tell by my review of their 2006 album Boys and Girls in America, I’m a big fan of Craig Finn and crew. They’re a wonderful mix of 70’s classic rock and late 80s/early 90s power pop, and Craig Finn is one of indie rock’s most literate storytellers. His songs are littered with classical and modern literary references, and contain a continuity of storytelling across albums so that late-comers to the band won’t always get the character arcs present in his albums. I’m just choosing today’s Song of the Day, “Chill Out Tent,” because it’s one of indie rock’s most fun and hedonistic odes to being young and sex, drugs, & rock and roll. Also, I literally have to chill out after my freak out at the end of last night’s Breaking Bad mid-season finale. I’m actually considering breaking my “No More Reviewing TV” rule to put up a post about that stellar end of the season. Enjoy the tune.