WHAT JUST HAPPENED?
Director: Barry Levinson
Writer: Art Linson
Robert DeNiro plays Ben, a kind-of-a-big-deal producer, in "What Just Happened?" a film based on the book by producer Art Linson ("Fight Club"). The film takes place over a few days as Ben is dealing with family drama, the results of a disastrous test screening, and Bruce Willis' refusal to shave his Santa Clause beard before his newest film starts production. It's a Murphy's Law dark comedy where every absurd and stupid situation is thrown at the lead character as he tries to stay afloat both professionally and personally. A lot of the comedy works and I found myself laughing out loud several times.
But as far as I'm concerned, and I may be way off base with this one, the film isn't very good. You're already in an uphill battle when you make a movie about the industry. I'm fascinated by it and even I can't stand most of these movies. Only a few have ever worked ("The Player" "The TV Set" etc.) and most are terrible. I still can't believe someone thought it was a good idea to make a movie about a press junket ("America's Sweethearts"). Robert DeNiro is very funny and watchable as the lead character, but half of the stuff he has to deal with is boring and awkwardly executed.
This film isn't a disaster by any means. It's just another mediocre Barry Levinson joint. There's some good character work, a few quality gags, and a nice turn by Bruce Willis. So, at least it has that going for it. Which is nice.
MADE IN AMERICA
Writer: Stacy Peralta and Sam George
This is a fantastic fucking movie. Mr. Peralta and company have created a fascinating and insightful documentary about gang violence in South Los Angeles and how we've somehow reached a point where there's a war zone in America and no one's doing anything about it.
It's a good companion piece for The Wire. I really admire anyone that devotes this much time and effort into increasing awareness of this really tragic and important subject matter. It's something that's been eating away at me recently and what they've done here I feel could really get some people off their asses.
But as much as I love and admire this documentary, the people that really deserve credit are those featured in the film. Like "Dogtown and the Z-Boys," it's an entertaining documentary with a great structure and impressive editing, but the people that were willing to be interviewed are what makes this whole thing special. I couldn't believe how many people they gained access to and how candid they were. I was really moved by the ex-gang members that have created programs designed to steer kids away from this seemingly unavoidable and horrible lifestyle.
I wouldn't be surprised if most people reacted similarly. A lot of fucked up things happened that led to our current situation. This is a sad and interesting part of American history.
The biggest gut punch in the movie is the quote from which the title was derived. I won't spoil it but "Made in America" is a hell of a title. You can't write that shit.
Director: Clark Gregg
Writer: Clark Gregg
"The one he was fucking."
Clark Gregg can deliver a David Mamet line. That much we know. But can he adapt an insane Chuck Palahniuk novel and somehow make it accessible and hilarious? Yes. He doesn't have David Fincher's eye.
Hell, he doesn't even have Apatow's eye. But he made a hell of a movie.
Choke is the story of a sex addict, a sex addict that intentionally lets food go down the wrong pipe in order to gain the love and cash of others. As you probably guessed, it's an odd movie. I don't mean that in a bad way. It's an unpredictable movie (if you haven't read the book) and it's fucking hilarious. There are some lines and scenarios that will make you laugh out loud more than you're probably expecting. It's not anywhere near as good as Fight Club but I think it might be funnier.
Almost everyone in the cast is fantastic. As far as I'm concerned, Sam Rockwell entered the hallowed ranks of actors like Marlon Brando and Daniel Day Lewis with his performance in Galaxy Quest. I expected him to be great and he delivered. This is one of his best performances. He makes a possibly unlikable character pretty pretty pretty likable.
This is a damn good movie and I think it's going to do very well for Fox Searchlight. I hope Francis Lawrence decides to do Survivor so we can have a Palahniuk trilogy. Nice job, Mr. Gregg. Nice job.