Once in a while...

...you come across a beautiful little film. You watch Billy Elliot and you're inspired. You watch Paris, je taime and you believe in love.

Once is such a film.

This is a film you have never seen before. I doubt you will ever see a film like this in the future. Don't go into this film unaware that it involves a scruffy Irish guy from the band The Frames singing through 75% of it. It's a beautiful story about love. Platonic, innocent love that wants to be so much more, but it's not right. The protagonists love for each other is not expressed sexually, but in a much more delicate way through the music they write and perform.

This movie looks like it was made with the money found in one of those Unicef boxes with the multi-ethnic kids on them. But for once, it doesn't matter. The music is so good, the acting is so sincere, it could have been shot on a cell phone and had the same impact.

This film is at times so real, I was honestly disturbed. You feel like a voyeur. But not in a gratuitous, National Lampoon kind of way; rather as an uninvited guest into a glimpse of the lives of the European working class. The only difference being these characters have hauntingly vulnerable singing voices. A lot of reviews have described this film as a musical, and imply that the songs are directly related to the love story being presented. I beg to differ. These songs are not necessarily a narrative guide through the story. They're much more than that. They reveal the characters, not the plot. The songs are simple in musicality, but complex in the way they teach us about their owners, and allow us to invest in their lives for a couple of hours.

The audience during my viewing of this film were not as touched as I was. Perhaps it's because this movie is relative in the way that music tastes are relative. An older couple walking out of the theatre were disappointed in what they labeled "a concert."

You've never seen a concert quite like this.

You won't see a film like this in years.


Sicko This Place.

As I was walking out of Fahrenheit 9/11 a few years ago, I remember a couple of preppy guys walking out in front of me. One of them turned to the other one and said, "Dude, that movie was so biased."

I still smirk when I think of that. I guess I just never realized that when I was walking into a Michael Moore film, I was getting ready to experience the most fair and balanced portrayal of extremely important and relevant subjects. Oh, wait. That's right. I'm in a film theatre.

Michael Moore is polarizing and polemic and controversial and whatever. I get it. He is also an amazing documentarian. He fudges the facts sometimes, but it's always to prove a point. SiCKO is his best film thus far.

Be warned. This movie will piss you off. This movie will piss you off but good. Walk out of this film unaffected. I dare you.

Few movies make me tear up. I never teared up when I was kid because I didn't know anything. I didn't care. Tell me you teared up when Mustafa died and you were six years old. No. But watch it now and see what happens. Our experiences mold us and allow us to be engaged emotionally in the outcome of other people or things; whether it be an animated lion, or a 9/11 rescue worker who can't afford her inhaler. A 9/11 rescue worker who can't afford her inhaler. "What is wrong with us?" Michael asks in the film. That's what I've been wondering for a while. A 9/11 rescue worker should be able to walk in to any pharmacy and grab handfuls of their necessary medication and walk right out.

I'm not patriotic. I'm not nationalistic. The only time I show any pride of what country I was born in (Spain) is every four years during the World Cup. Sure, the United States is a messed up place. A lot of people don't like our leaders and they spend hours and hours talking and writing about it. Who cares? Nothing gets done.

The thing about this film is it completely caught me off guard. Bowling for Columbine? Yeah, I had thought about gun control and reform. Fahrenheit 9/11? Most of the facts presented I was already aware of. SiCKO?


Speechless. I couldn't believe the things I was seeing on the screen. In a moment of pure, gooey documentary genius, Mr. Moore sets Hillary Clinton up portraying her as an advocate for universal health care. I thought "Wow, Hillary's great. She wants to help us out." Shortly after, we find out she was silenced. Hillary Clinton had a price, and somebody did the math. So were other members of Congress, Senators, and other high-ranking officials.

A widely written-on criticism of this film is that it paints a rosy picture of other countries. This is true. France isn't perfect. Neither is England, or Canada, and God knows Cuba has it's problems. But whatever. We're not talking about the country as a whole, we're talking about one topic: health care. And all those countries beat us out. There is no reason why we shouldn't have universal health coverage. Just as there is no reason we should not all be driving electric cars (Exhibit 1A: Who Killed the Electric Car?). But whereas electric cars deal with the environment, health care deals with our neighbors, our family, and our friends. Taxes would go up if we had universal health care. Wait wait...You don't want to pay a few more in taxes and help millions of sick people along the way?

But I digress. In terms of the filmmaking as a whole, the film starts off a little slow but picks up its momentum along the way. It has some great moments of levity that don't trivialize the seriousness of the subject matter, and the editing and aesthetics are spot-on.

I can't say this film entertained me. That is my highest criteria for the film-going experience. Therefore I can't recommend this film to you on the basis of a good Friday night. After this film, you'll want to kick somebody in the jaw and then apologize because their bill is going to be through the roof.

Go watch this movie.

Go watch this movie next friday.

Friday the 13th.


SiCKO: 4.5 Homeless patients dropped off on Skid Row / 5 Homeless patients dropped of on Skid Row.

Live Free or Mouth Guard.

Bruce Willis has always been badass. Yeah, he made those two movies with that junkie from Friends. But he was also in Grindhouse, 16 Blocks, Sin City, The Sixth Sense, Twelve Monkeys, and Pulp Fiction. He was walking around Harlem with a sign that read "I Hate Niggers" before Don Imus Kramer'd himself. And he doesn't disappoint with the racial slurs in this film.

I'll confess.

I've never seen a complete Die Hard film. I've seen bits and pieces of all of them on those matinee TV showings they have every once in a while. But that's ok, because I'm the key demographic for this film, and it's good to have a different perspective other than all the other cats who are Die Hardheads.

Firstly, I won't hide my enthusiasm for this film. Live Free or Die Hard has the best action sequences since District B13. They're creative, they're fun, they're hilarious. It's not often a movie can make butter out of your stomach and give you the giggles at the same time. True, there is an odd lack of blood in the action scenes (attributed to the PG-13 rating), but who cares? Go watch an Eli Roth film if you want to see skin on bones.

That is all this film is. It doesn't let up. It's set piece after set piece. There's a story in there somewhere about hackers and the ubiqutous taped TV message, blah blah blah. The action scenes can not be explained. Literally, I would feel like I am doing you wrong if I describe them. And I would never want to do that. All I can tell you is if you've ever wondered what it looks like to see an SUV ram your high school valedictorian-turned nemesis into an open elevator shaft, this is the flick for you.

Alas, not all good things can last. Yes, Kevin Smith is in this film. And yes, Kevin Smith is absolutely horrendous in this film. He does it a disservice, and I'm sure he knows this. He plays Kevin Smith playing a genious computer hacker. Kevin Smith? He can barely log in to his MySpace account let alone all the stuff he does in this. Also, Timothy Olyphant's turn as a villain certainly left me dissatisfied. This has got to be one of the few action films where the villain holds little to no weight, but at the same time he is irrelevant to everything Bruce Willis is doing.

I thought Len Wiseman did a great job with Underworld. This film looked great. The production value was dripping off the screen, every piece of rubble was in place, and every action sequence was clear and well-presented for the audience to enjoy. I only wish he had spent more time in post, becuase the dialogue editing in this film is terrible. There is literally a whole scene in this film where Justin Long is mouthing off and his dialogue is completely out of sync with his movements. A bit aggravating, but it can be forgiven.

This is the best time you'll have at the theatres this Summer along with Knocked Up and Transformers.

And also, Bruce Willis has three lines in the whole movie.


LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD: 4 Racial slurs from Bruce Willis / 5 Racial slurs from Bruce Willis.


Mark Wahlberg is simultaneously one of the best action film actors and worst actor in general right now.

I thought he was great in Boogie Nights, Three Kings, and Four Brothers. You think of those movies and go, "Yeah, Mark Wahlberg is pretty kickass." And then a quick IMDb scan later and you remember he was in Rock Star, Planet of the Apes, The Truth About Charlie, and I Heart Huckabees.

Antoine Fuqua is simulatenously one of the best action film directors and worst director in general right now.

If you know me at all, you know Training Day is one of my favorite films in the last decade. It's dirty, it's brutal, it's real. When a film is urban without going into Gang of Roses territory, I'm there. But then he went and Fuqua'd himself by directing King Arthur. A.) No one really cares about medieval films since Sword in the Stone perfected them. B.) Fuqua and Bruckheimer went and made the most conventional film possible, complete with unintelligible fight sequences, and flat performances all around.

So last night I was a bit hesitant when I popped in Fuqua's latest effort Shooter into my 5-disc DVD player. While I was glad that producers are still making R-rated action films (not like Transporter, or Aeon Flux), during the film I felt like I was playing a round of Counter-Strike. Mark Whalberg does not miss in this film. But by not missing, he relieves any tension from the fight sequences. The only time he manages to get hurt is when a meter maid sucker-shoots him in the shoulder. Marky Mark's character in this film is flawless. He doesn't Willis himself by indulging in the aguardiente, and he doesn't Denzel himself by being morally crooked. I felt both proud and ashamed watching Mark walk away from a hangar in slo-mo with a huge United States flag behind him. This is the US hero? The guy who can explode a dude's membranes from a mile away? Ok.

I truly did not care about any of the flaccid characters in this piece. Michael Pena apparently only goes for roles where he can spend half the time whining or being completely helpless. Is this the industry's only hope for Hispanic thespians? Where's Freddy Rodriguez in Grindhouse? Just CG his face on top of Michael's, it doesn't even have to look that good, just do it in Microsoft Paint and you've got a hit.

Then there's Danny Glover. I haven't seen Danny in a film in a decade, since Gone Fishin'. I assumed he never came back. But he's back and better than ever. With the one thing any good villain needs to be successful: a lisp! I kept hoping someone would invite him for dinner so he could have a moment to take the retainer out of his mouth and I could understand a word he was saying. It's hard to get realistic portrayals of really horrible human beings anymore. From Timothy Olyphant zombie-ing his way through Live Free, to that cute kid from That 70s Show walking around covered in tar. You want a true villain? Try Capitan Vidal in El Laberinto del Fauno, try Jack Torrance in The Shining. Those guys will cut your tongue out, sew it over their own, and insult you with it.

Oh yeah, and there's a redhead in this film. She gets kidnapped and then kills some guy who had already gotten his arm blown off. Cheap shot.

I like my heroes to be flawed. Yes, it might be a cliche, but it's a damn good one that sometimes produces brilliant results. I really wanted to like this film. I really wanted to think Antoine was back in form. But after the 2+hrs. I was ready to cleanse myself of the inane story, gaping plot holes, and weak chops.

Don't bother with this film.


SHOOTER: 1.5 Redhead schoolteachers who know how to perform major surgery / 5 Redhead schoolteachers who know how to perform major surgery.


Trannies in LA?

I've never seen the Transformer's tv show. I've never seen the animated movie. I was born in 1987, hence I grew up on Beast Wars. That was my Transformers, and I was glad to sit through poorly rendered 3D environments while eating my Fruity Loops.

Let me preface my thoughts on the 2007 film by saying that by no means do I have any hate in my heart for Michael Bay. In fact I think he has his moments of inspired filmmaking. I was highly entertained by both Bad Boys flicks, I dug The Rock, but like any other fully developed fetus I despised Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, and The Island. Let's face it, Michael Bay was born in the wrong century. If he had been born in the time of gladiators, he would have been in charge of choreographing arena battles or shlocking used chariots to Greek tourists.

But I digress. Last Monday I hitched a ride with Chris and we went to our local fourteen screener for an 11:15PM showing of Transformers. I had been pretty excited about this film, having seen the great fx featured in trailers, and reading some fair reviews on the film.

Walking out of the theatre, I was a bit confused on how I should have felt. First, I felt guilty for not owning a GM vehicle, then I felt euphoric about rollerblading robots, then I pictured John Turturro's gams and felt nauseous, and finally I felt extremely exhausted and fell asleep.

But let's Memento backwards for a second to the actual filmic experience. This film is an all-out assault on your senses. Not in the way Revenge of the Sith was an 1983 laser show with the knob turned to 11, but more in the way 300 grabbed your testes and socked your 2nd grade schoolteacher in the collarbone. Except instead of half-naked Greeks, you get a fresh, African-Alien-American, breakdancing Pontiac pissing on that whiny guy from Miller's Crossing. But that doesn't come until 3/4 into the film.

For the first half of the film, we get an always pleasant Shia Labeouf struggling to purchase his first new car. I've always liked Shia, but the rest of the high schoolers looked like one sniff short of high-end supermodels. The high school scenes take place at a high school down the street from where I live, and having driven past it several afternoons, I can tell you the kids there look more like one sniff short of being adopted by Dina Lohan.

Then there's Shia's love interest. They have the sort of chemistry Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn had: very classy.

Actually, in all honesty, Shia's subplot is the only successful one in the film. But when it's in competition with Jon Voight (looking like he was just regurgitated from Ananconda), and that attractive white guy from Las Vegas, well...it's not saying much.

From what you've read, you probably are assuming that I did not enjoy this film. But that's just it, I actually thoroughly enjoyed it. Sure, they could have cut 20 minutes out of the film, and it probably would have been okay without the black robot being the only Autobot killed, but it's 2007 man, we can't kill the only black hero without defending ourselves on Oprah?

The fx in the movie are worth the admission price by themselves. The robots looked amazing every time they transformed back and forth. The set pieces are impressive (though not quite as creative as Live Free or Die Hard), and you can witness in real time every dollar spent on the screen. The crowd reaction was great, the audience laughed at most of the jokes, and clapped at all the right moments (except for the one guy that got up when the Latino soldier got killed and said "That's immigration reform!").

Sure, the fight scenes look like they were cut by Michael J. Fox, but they were still badass. Michael Bay is trying desperately (and achieving) the status of a director who refuses to make films that are timeless. These films are for the theatre. You watch Transformers in the theatre once, you have a great 2 1/2 hours, you walk out, and you try hard to remember something from the film but you can't. And that's ok with me. At least it wasn't a boring film where I remember every line of dialogue.

The only moment in the film where I actually felt embarassed was when Josh Duhamel looks lovingly into Shia's eyes and says, "You're a soldier now." That moment was not earned, and it was obvious in the audience's reaction.

You can't criticize Michael Bay because he doesn't care. And you know why he doesn't care? Because when the studio gave him the option of spending 200 million dollars on a film based on a Hasbro toy, or spending 200 million on helping the Darfur crisis, he didn't hesitate.

So go watch Transformers and have a good time. It's the best film based on an animated movie based on a tv show based on a toy since Harold and Maude.


TRANFORMERS: 3.5 Autobot afro picks / 4 Autobot afro picks.

...and it was good.

This is the beginning of my new blog, "Smash Cuts." As frequently as humanly possible, I will review current films and DVD releases in the most subjective manner, hopefully offending readers to the point of countless hateful retorts.

Hope you enjoy.