Cinephilia sounds dirty...

but it's not, I swear!

Since I am running far behind on my movie reviews, and I just hit a trifecta of indies at the Oriental today, I'm gonna hit ya with a six-pack of mini-reviews, or as Matt and Trey would call them, Review-Mini. Hold on to your cupholders everybody.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

I didn't expect to like this movie. I am such a big fan of the original Willy Wonka, and specifically Gene Wilder's performance, that I didn't think Johnny Depp and Tim Burton to put together a version I would enjoy. And I love those guys. Luckily, though, I was pleasantly surprised. Burton's whimsical sense of design is put to far greater use here than in Big Fish or Planet of the Apes, and Depp plays Wonka in a completely different manner than Wilder, but in a good way. Depp's Wonka is a wide-eyed man-child, and the comparisons to Michael Jackson are not without merit. He just plays him as relentlessly naive, not a potential pedophile. The absolute best part of the movie, though, is Danny Elfman's music. A lot of my favorite scores are from Elfman, including Batman, Nightmare Before Christmas, and my all-time favorite, Edward Scissorhands, but his music for the Oompa Loompa songs is some of his best work. Plus, he voiced all the Oompa Loompas! Elfman multitasking! My complaint is the deviation from Roald Dahl's original work, including Wonka's childhood, and his subsequent dismissal of Charlie's extended family. I felt that any changes in the original were ok, since they were approved by Dahl, but the changes in this version not only fundamentally altered the message of the story, but were too drastic to even be considered by Dahl, if he were still alive. Change is inevitable, though, so I can't harp on it too much. I saw this movie twice on IMAX, once by myself at Seven Bridges, and once with Tim and Kelsey at Lincolnshire, further reinforcing IMAX as my new favorite theater format. Harry Potter, here we come. Anyway, Charlie gets a B+.

March of the Penguins

March is a great story, an indie nature doc that's become the surprise hit of the summer. All I need to tell you about the movie is that it follows the semi-annual migration of flocks of emperor penguins across the Antartic plains, as narrated by Morgan Freeman. Kelsey and I saw it at the Ridge, which is a story for another day. Since everyone is trying to deduce the reasons for the box office slump, I'll throw in my two cents, as a continual moviegoer. Plus there'll be an unholy diatribe against the Ridge. Stay tuned. Anyway, I was very impressed with March, since it was originally a French narrative, in which the penguins had voices, and it also translated as a documentary. Editors are skilled, obviously. I did laugh a lot, and found myself wondering about the so-called "Intelligent Design" that implants the instinct in these fascinating creatures to mate 70 miles from their only source of food. Hmm. At times, though, I was bored, as I am apt to be when watching Animal Planet for more than a half hour. My attention is more easily held by shiny things, or by harder-hitting docs like Murderball (see below). March gets a B.

Cinderella Man

I never got around to seeing this the first time 'round, so Kelsey and I hit it at the Budget. Now, this is not meant as an affront to a certain Mr. King, but I normally don't go to "The Budge", as I've just decided to call it. I'm impatient, for one, but they just don't have the comfortable seats or hi-fi sound that the first-run theaters do. I really did want to see Cinderella Man, plus we got in for free, thanks to the aforementioned Hollywood/Budge partner/employee, so I can't complain. As for the movie? It's ok. It's your standard boxing story, fitting the mold much more snugly than Million Dollar Baby. Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger and Paul Giamatti star, as if the casting director worked for AMPAS, and Oscar-baiting would be a fair overall descriptor. Crowe did make me forget he was Russell freakin' Crowe, though, which speaks for something, and Giamatti was on point as always. It would be bizarre for him to finally win an Oscar for this role, however, considering I feel he was better in both American Splendor and Sideways. Ron Howard reinforced my general dislike of his work: generally overwrought and unnecessarily slow-paced. So is Cinderella Man an early Oscar contender? Probably, but maybe due more to lack of competition and pedigree, not actual merit. I give it a C+ .


I saw this movie, as well as the following two, in one marathon session at the Oriental, recently named one of the ten best movie theaters in the U.S. by Entertainment Weekly. It's about the wheelchair sport of quad rugby, and the men who play it. This brutal event boils down to kill the man with the ball, but played by partially disabled quadriplegics. This insightful doc traces the stories of the men who play for the U.S. national team, how they became disabled, and how quad rugby has helped them. There's also a great interwoven storyline regarding a former U.S. player who, after being cut, becomes the vindictive coach of Team Canada. What all these men want is to be treated as equals, and the film goes a long way towards helping that cause. I can only imagine what it must be like to suffer such a life-changing injury, and I'm sure there are stories of clinical depression from the flipside, but these athletes have taken what life has given them and kept on going, damn the consequences. I can see why this film has generated so much buzz, as it really does show the handicapped in a completely different light, and that's a good thing. Murderball gets an A.

The Aristocrats

So after I got out of Murderball, Kelsey met me at the theater, passes in hand to see The Aristocrats. Another documentary, but in a very different vein. Aristocrats is, long story short, the story of a joke that goes something like this: "So a guy walks into a talent agent's office, and says "I've got this great act, you've gotta see it." So the talent agents asks what the act is." At this point, the person telling the joke has to come up with the filthiest, most depraved series of events, all involving a family act, that they can imagine. "And after all this, the talent agent asks "What could you possibly call this?" And the man replies "The Aristocrats!"" I know it doesn't sound very funny right there, but hey, family members read this. This is, by far, the most foul-mouthed, vulgar, obscene movie I've ever seen, and there is no nudity and no violence. The whole movie is just comedians being interviewed. The joke has evolved, as sort of a comedian's inside joke, since the days of vaudeville, so every comic has a different version, and they're almost unfailingly hilarious. I had tears streaming out of my eyes, even as stunned gasps and people walking out punctuated the near-constant fits of laughter from the rest of the crowd. This movie will offend pretty much anyone, but unless you're really, really uptight, you'll also laugh your ass off. The best part is seeing so-called "family-friendly" comedians like Bob Saget and Paul Reiser come up with some of the most sick and sordid versions of the joke, and then openly question why they're even participating. Funny, funny stuff, although I'm sure the editor was a speed addict with ADD. There is so much quick-jump, high-concept editing that many times we don't get to appreciate the individual tellings of the joke. I haven't laughed so much at a movie since Anchorman, and that's saying a lot. A-.

Broken Flowers

I'm not a huge Jim Jarmusch fan. The only one of his films I've really enjoyed is Ghost Dog, although Coffee and Cigarettes had its moments. I do love Bill Murray, though, so Kelsey and I stayed to watch Broken Flowers, after hitting Qdoba. Murray plays Don Johnston, an aging lothario who, after receiving a mysterious note informing him he has a son, embarks on a trek to find which of his previous loves might be the mother. Let me also say that I was not a huge fan of Lost in Translation, because it just didn't say much, to me anyway. Perhaps I'm in the wrong age bracket to appreciate the message of both of these films, but I simply don't get it. That's hard to admit, for a self-described cinephile such as myself. Kelsey had the best word for it: unfulfilling. I won't spoil the movie for you, but there is what seems like an hour of travelling footage, and an hour of actual content. And unfulfilling is indeed a fitting word. Nothing really seems to change, which, to me, is the point of drama. Characters need to learn, to change, to adapt, to experience a catharsis (thank you, Kevin Spacey as William Hurt). I really didn't see any of that in Broken Flowers. I give an even C.