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No Country For Old Men (2007), Coen Bros., A

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Thursday, February 28th, 2008

As I suspected, No Country For Old Men is better the second time. Without getting so shaken around by the tension and shocks you can really study each scene. And you can also follow what the hell is going on. (Yes, the movie makes 100% sense, actually.) Any misgivings I had about it the first time are gone. This movie is hot shit and actually has a point other than being flashy entertainment.

(My first review.)

Prince Live at the Aladdin Las Vegas (2003), Sanaa Hamri, B

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Thursday, February 28th, 2008

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I’m not sure when it happened exactly but Prince has kinda morphed into an oldies act. That’s okay – ’cause I’m an old man. He’s still got plenty of edge, but he’s got some PBS funk with him, too.

And he’s got an AWFUL video crew. Director Sanaa Hamri came damn near close to using star wipes on this concert video.

Still – the jams is hot and Maceo Parker sounds damned good with Prince’s tight band. I could’ve done without the “Whole Lotta Love” cover, but everything else is fantastic.

Rules of Acquisition, DS9 2

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Thursday, February 28th, 2008

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The return of the Grand Nagus Zek!

We learn some horrible truths about the Ferengi in this episode. They treat their women worse than the Saudis do. We learn something else about Quark. He kinda has a progressive side.

We also get some good Shakesperean comedy and a hint about something in the Gamma Quadrant called “The Dominion.” We also get a break from Sisko. That’s nice once in a while.

Attached, TNG 7

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Thursday, February 28th, 2008

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I like this episode because it doesn’t wuss out. Maybe it was the influence of the more realistic, grittier DS9, but it is good to hear that our friends on the Enterprise think about doing it once in a while.

Picard and Dr. Crusher have doohickeys attached to them that eventually enable them to read one another’s thoughts. Comedy ensues. Also: something else: we so rarely see intraplanetary mishigoss. It is nice to think that there will still be a thing as nationalism on planets of the future.

Be Kind Rewind (2008), Michel Gondry, A

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

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I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a more fun and original take on a very old movie trope – the underdog story. While it may be When We Were Kings that gets “sweded” in Be Kind Rewind, the movie is pure Rocky. Mos Def is the heir apparant to the last VHS-only story and the annoying Kramer character (Jack Black doing his thing) sets into motion a very unlikely scenario. Michel Gondry presents Passaic, New Jersey as Sesame Street – a mixed-race paradise of eager, underrepresented people bursting with creativity and discipline. I won’t deny that my eyes welled up during the world’s most low-budget (and fact-impoverished) Fats Waller documentary played on a hung bed sheet.

Be Kind Rewind is a love letter to the hand-made. Cutting and pasting with scissors and glue, not hitting CTRL C and CTRL P. In Gondry’s world, the cream will rise. Quality will win. The people’s voice will be heard.

O what irony to walk out of Be Kind Rewind to see Astoria’s first Applebee’s, still festooned with “Grand Opening” signs staring me in the face. Who wants to go down there to Swede one of their commericals?

Mars Ain’t The Kind O’ Place To Raise A Kid

Jordan | E-motions,The Star Trek Project | Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

This never gets old.

Little Children (2006), Todd Field, C+

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

This movie starts out strong. 100% engrossing, funny and finely observed. The marvelous performances (Kate Winslet might be the best actress of her generation) and the tense scenario manages to obfuscate a key fact that becomes sadly apparant by the end: there’s nothing going on here. The movie just runs out of gas and by the idiotic end you’ll feel pretty cheated.

If I’m not mistaken, I had very much the same thoughts about Field’s In The Bedroom The fact is, I hardly remember that much ballyhooed movie at all. Little Children may fare better in my memory because of the strong opening and the near Solondz-esque quality of the “town pervert” scenes (woah! that’s Moocher from Breaking Away!) but, feh, you’ve seen this movie dozens of times before. The Ice Storm. Magnolia. Blah blah blah.

And, frankly, what the hell is Todd Field’s problem? I don’t get the sense that we are supposed to see these characters in pain despite their affluence and think, “Fools! Don’t they realize what they have?” I think we are supposed to actually empathize with their “suffering.” I can’t get there, no matter how good an actress Winslet is. This movie should have stayed the satire it was in the first half hour before it devolved into whine time.

I know a lot of people who live in the suburbs. They are happy there. Dismissing everyone who lives in a suburb as a vacuous waste who only cares about commercial success is just another form of prejudice. In a post Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay world (even though I am not at liberty to discuss that movie yet) there just isn’t room for ANY prejudice: even if that prejudice is about rich, white people.

Melora, DS9 2

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

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Here’s a nice episode that puts us face to face with hardcore prejudice – do we accept the gravity deficient? If someone comed from a low-grav planet, can they fit in with our world? This is an obvious metaphor for the wheelchair bound disabled – a core constituent of the Trek audience. (I learned this at the Vegas convention – I’d never seen so many scooters and wheelchairs in one place in my life.) To what extent must a low-grav native wish to be “normal” in order to be normal, ya dig?

Anyway, this is also a nice love story (good to see Dr. Bashir’s character get interesting) and also some fun foibles with Quark.

Dark Page, TNG 7

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

No Insignia

I’m not anti-Troi episodes, I swear. But this is awful for just too many reasons. Watching this episode is one of the few times I heard myself think a comment my mother would say about all of Trek: How could they say such nonsense without laughing?

Not only is the plot outrageously convoluted and bad, I disagree with making Lwaxana Troi anything other than a comic-relief character this far in the game. Also: glaring plot hole: no one knows about her tragedy. Fine, I guess I could accept a situation where she’s broken off with all old friends and never mentioned it to her new ones. But if Mr. Homm is able to give her a photo of her dead daughter at the end, how is it that he’s unable to recollect any bad news from her past when asked? It makes no sense.

Talk To Me (2007), Kasi Lemmons, B

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Friday, February 22nd, 2008

Absolutely nothing new, but enjoyable nonetheless. I am a fan of Don Cheadle and of Chiwetel Ejiofor and they deliver.

The fact of the matter is that other than the “keeping the city calm after MLK’s death” this movie follows Howard Stern’s Private Parts beat by beat. And that is a funnier movie.

Beowulf (2007), Robert Zemeckis, C+

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

Surprise! I actually kinda liked this. I mean – it is awful – but not nearly as bad as I thought it would be.

Sarajevo Fast Food

Jordan | Tales Of Hoffman | Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

I can only do Bosnian food in small doses. It is crazy salty, gives me gas, gives me reflux, makes me all around sick. But twice a year I hit it.

The “Sarajevo Fast Food” place not far from the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria is a fantastic joint. The music is lively, everyone is nice and they have a special of the day. I had those little hamburgers in the shape of a sausage with ajvar and onions and some piping hot fluffy bread. I also had a Sierra Mist. On the way home, I had to stop in a deli to buy some water because it was so salty I thought I was going to die.

Bosnian food is not health food – but once every six months is probably okay.

Boarding The Enterprise – David Gerrold and Robert J. Sawyer eds.

Jordan | Cram it in Your Ear,The Star Trek Project | Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

On the 40th anniversary of Trek (two years ago!) this collection of essays was released. Some are just history about the show and its impact, others are in depth philosophical examinations of the implications of the transporter. Or the Prime Directive. One essay examined the ENTIRE show (not just a few key episodes) in the context of Vietnam. Another argues that a Vulcan’s dismissal of emotion is, in fact, not logical. And there’s a funny piece trying to figure out why no one in the 23rd century knows how to wear a seat belt.

I eat this crap up. Very entertaining.

8 1/2 Women (1999), Peter Greenaway, A-

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

Even at his most obtuse I find something to enjoy in the work of Peter Greenaway. There’s always enough going on visually or there’s some rapid-fire wit happening to keep me involved when I feel the story slipping away. 8 1/2 Women, a rather vulgar movie, also has lots of potty talk and naked shlongs to keep it amusing. 8 1/2 Women is the sex side of the sex/death see-saw with A Zed and Two Noughts. Both of these films are terrific. There are still many of P.G.’s movies I have not seen; I’ll be hunting them down.

The Jewish Americans (2008), David Grubin, B

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

I suppose this film is fine. There was little I didn’t know, but I recognize that I am exceptional in that regard. I actually recognize that I am exceptional in everything and am all around awesome, but that is a story for another time.

They coulda found some higher shelf talking heads. Is Tony Kushner really the best they could do? No disrespect to T-Kush, but there really aren’t that many important figures commenting in this film.

World Without End, Amen – Jimmy Breslin

Jordan | Cram it in Your Ear | Sunday, February 17th, 2008

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Jimmy Breslin invented the nexus of the mafia and humor with his Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight. Later he would write the only definitive novel of working class Queens with Table Money, quite truly one of the most shockingly pitch-perfect books I’ve ever read. He would follow that up with a wonderfully bleak look at New York’s homeless situation with He Got Hungry and Forgot His Manners. Before all this, though, is Breslin’s would-be epic about the Irish Troubles, World Without End, Amen. It is a mostly forgotten book – very much out of print and, frankly, isn’t worth hunting down.

The first third presents us with Breslin’s trademark New York City realism. An alcoholic Irish-American cop who thinks nothing of beating up blacks. Fate sends him to Belfast where he witnesses first hand the third world living conditions. He falls in with a group of Commnunists who may or may not be opening his eyes to injustices back home.

Breslin is an apt reporter and his scenes of Ulster country mayhem and poverty are well-written, but the narrative drive is very much on empty. Forget that it is near impossible to like our protagonist (stamping out a cigarette on a man’s eye just because he is black and gay is a tough way to win our love) and, although I give Breslin points for eschewing easy redemption, the “so what” factor of his Irish observations end us with a big, troubling question mark. I feel that maybe Breslin would have been better off with straight reportage if he wanted to discuss his take on Northern Ireland. Not recommended.

Smother (2008), Luis Gispert, A

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Sunday, February 17th, 2008

I rarely respond well to film or video installation art, but Luis Gispert’s ruminative stew of 80′s iconography and paranoia might actually be the best non-Cloverfield film I’ve seen this year.

You can check out the trailer below, but it doesn’t really compare with seeing it displayed on a giant gallery wall with loud speakers right in your face. You can see it at the Mary Boone Gallery for a few more weeks.

Cardassians, DS9 2

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Sunday, February 17th, 2008

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We’re still seeing the reprecussions of the Cardassian retreat from Bajor. Won’t someone think of the children? Lost orphans used as political pawns and a showdown between Garak (hey, remember that guy from the first season) and Gul Dukat (what’s up with his neck?) It all ends kinda well, I guess, except the kid is still miserable. Another “realistic” ending for DS9.

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