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Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), Don Taylor, C+

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Sunday, November 30th, 2008

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An ape out of water (no) tail!

A switcheroo reversal of the first film, now it is the apes who have landed among us and must fight for understanding.

The tone of this film shifts drastically, from Dr. Zira getting a musical-montage makeover on Rodeo Drive to images of infanticide.

Indeed, what could have been an interesting film and as good as the first, maybe, is ruined by a Gilligan’s Island-type production design. Once Ricardo Montalban shows up as a benevolent circus owner it is all over.

Clean (2004), Olivier Assayas, C+

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Sunday, November 30th, 2008

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I can’t deny this: Assayas knows where to stick the camera. His movies always look terrific. And they usually take place in an interesting corner of the world – a strange spot where there ought to be a great movie going on. And then…..the movie usually falls flat. Clean is no exception.

One can imagine the origin from reading the bio of any mid-level rock musician. Dies in early 40s trying to host a come back, leaves girlfriend and child behind.

What follows is the mundane specifics of cleaning up. Cleaning up the retrospective album contracts, figuring out where the kid goes, getting off heroin. Maggie Cheung is an interesting choice for the lead. As is Nick Nolte as the sympathetic yet firm “father-in-law.” Both go for a less-is-more approach, so most of the scenes just involve them staring off into space.

Location photography of Paris, London and Nowhere, Canada are top notch. As is the open-to-your-interpretation presentation of, what I say, is pretty shitty music.

Flying Down to Rio (1933), Thornton Freelan, B+

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Sunday, November 30th, 2008

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I now have an answer to the question, which is the most absurd Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie ever made? Yes, beating out Follow the Fleet and even the one where Astaire pretends to be Russian, Flying Down to Rio, a truly baffling tale of fops, hotel orchestras and amateur aviation, reaches levels of dadaist insanity in its ridiculous scenario.

A bandleader has eyes for a Brazilian debutante. Scandal! Everyone has private aeroplanes. Naturally! The of-its-era sexism and the of-its-era racism go eye-to-eye to see which can be more flabbergastingly offensive. (The jury is still out on this one.)

The big finish (the one that saves the hotel from the evil Greeks with English accents) is a chorus of dancing girls bopping around on top of planes! Never mind that the audience down below sees only the underside of the aircrafts as they circle above.

All told, something that truly needs to be seen to be believed.

Batman: The Killing Joke – Alan Moore

Jordan | Cram it in Your Ear | Sunday, November 30th, 2008

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Said to have been the biggest single influence on Chris Nolan and Heath Ledger for their iteration of The Joker in The Dark Knight, so that alone makes this worth taking a look at. A very compact story (that’s a polite way to say it) we get a peek into a possible origin for Joker’s embrace of anarchy, plus a view into his extreme sadism. Some nasty business, but presented with just enough good taste by Moore and company. The ending is nicely ambiguous.

Our Gang – Philip Roth

Jordan | Cram it in Your Ear | Sunday, November 30th, 2008

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One of Roth’s books you are most likely to find in used shops seems like it would be completely uninteresting … a 30+ year old satire of the Nixon Administration. And while, yes, there’s one or two Agnew jokes that’ll go over your head unless you’re paying close attention, this is actually a timeless and very funny little book about the stupidity of power and malleability of political speech.

In this book we see how positions are twisted around (the My Lai massacre ought to delight leftwingers, as Lt. Calley provided abortion on demand) or can be twisted around (Nixon’s run for “top Devil” in Hell) with a comic absurdity that is only one small ste away from reality.

This book was written pre-Watergate, which means its source material are Nixon outrages that’ve been somewhat diluted over time. There are also some prescient moments with more than one passing reference to a need to resign office.

All in all, this is some funny shit. One wonders what would happen if Roth turned his pen on W.

Batman: Gotham Knight (2008), Yasuhiro Aoki, Futoshi Higashide, Toshiyuki Kubooka, Hiroshi Morioka, Jong-Sik Nam, Shoujirou Nishimi, C+

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Saturday, November 29th, 2008

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An anime-style omnibus of Batman shorts. Madison Ave will tell you that this fills in between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, but don’t focus on that too much. Yes, it is more Nolan’s Gotham than anyone else’s, but it is not a direct representation of that.

Perhaps it is my inherent distaste for anime, but the acting is atrocious. Whenever I watch something like this I feel like I am watching Voltron.

Some of the stories here are really cool. The one featuring Deadshot is particularly awesome, as is Batman’s reflections on learning to work through physical pain. The emphasis, for the most part, is on tone and mood as opposed to plot. This works well in many of the pieces, but is spread a little too thin in the others (the cops dropping baddies off at Arkham witness a fight – this is a story?)

This is better than the truly lame Superman: Doomsday but not by that much. The allure of being associated with The Dark Knight only goes so far.

The DVD features the usual chunk of unnecessary extras, although the lengthy bio on Bob Kane is actually pretty terrific. Much is made about Stan Lee and Siegel & Shuster’s Jewishness, but watching footage of Kane I felt like I was over a plate of stuffed derma at the 2nd Ave Deli. To wear cape & cowl on Saturday? Unheard of!

Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation (2004), Phil Tippett, C+

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Saturday, November 29th, 2008

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I’d heard so many times that this was g.d. awful that I was delighted to find that it was merely bad.

This intensely low-budget film (it has the production values of your average episode of Voyager) feels more like a fan-fic short story than a sequel to the mighty and awesome Verhoeven film. Ed Neumeier’s script has the potential to go either way, but for the most part it is played straight.

The film is basically Zulu with a zombie/The Thing element tossed in during the third act. The final reel is full-on revolting in its gore and the low-budget nature of the project helps decide if we should “take this all seriously” or not. I can’t deny enjoying it, or the fact that all the female troopers are naked half the time.

They say ST: 3 is actually not bad, hence my reasoning in finally getting around to this. There are far worse things to watch at 1 AM.

The Unseen Beatles (2007), BBC Films, C-

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Friday, November 28th, 2008

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This is officially fascinating. There is such a market for 65 minute Beatles DVDs that when someone unearths literally five minutes of never before seen footage, this is blown out into a documentary.

The footage? Are you ready for this? Silent stock of the Fab Four on a trip to Jersey (the Island) goofing off before they became major major stars. And the silent footage of (I kid you not) the roadies unloading for their final ever concert in San Francisco.

The rest is boilerplate stuff you already know, focusing mostly on the three world tours the Beatles took, and how the failures of these tours (specifically how no one could hear anything) begat the modern rock concert industry. Okay, sounds good.

There is no Beatles music in this DVD as they couldn’t get the rights.

Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places, DS9 5

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Friday, November 28th, 2008

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I always like Quark episodes and I usually like Worf episodes, so a Quark/Worf one is sure to be a winner.

So here’s where Dax and Worf finally get it on…plus Worf acts as Cyrano to Quark in wooing a Klingon female. I must say, I didn’t buy that Worf would allow that marionette trick at the end – would he sully a sacred ritual? for Quark? – but I guess if Dax asked him to that’s reason enough. Fun, funny stuff here, plus Kira holding the O’Brien spawn is leading to some interesting complications as well.

Remember, VOY 3

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Friday, November 28th, 2008

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Boy, Janeway really can’t make up her mind about when to stick to the Prime Directive. In the last episode she kidnaps Ferengi off a planet, this time she won’t help B’Elanna confront Holocaust deniers.

A race of telepaths are using Voyager as a greyhound and an older woman decides to unburden her peoples’ shame by giving B’Ellana sexy dreams. Whereas I never minded seeing Troi toss and turn under thin sheets, now is as good as a time as any to say that I kinda find B’Elanna Torres a little disgusting. I like her fine as a character…it’s the makeup or something. I dunno. Makes me kinda sick.

The Ship, DS9 5

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Friday, November 28th, 2008

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Surrounded and left to die in a Jem’Hadar ship, Worf, Dax, O’Brien, Sisko and Ensign Ricky all get on each other’s nerves. And poor Ensign Ricky has the audacity to be dying from a wound.

The Vorta with the low-cut outfit wants something off the ship, but won’t say what. And the standoff continues. Pretty tense stuff with a nice turnaround at the end.

False Profits, VOY 3

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Friday, November 28th, 2008

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In a nice piece of fan-wonk we get a tag back to a long ago TNG episode B-story.

Those Ferengi that got sucked into the Delta Quadrant have set themselves up as Gods and are getting double-shots of oomox morning, noon and night. When Neelix appeared as a Grand Nagus Proxy, things went downhill.

Janeway proves herself damned inept as she lets the bad guys AND the wormhole back to the Alpha Quadrant get away.

The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939), H.C. Potter, A-

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Thursday, November 27th, 2008

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As I’ve mentioned in previous review of the similarly unsung Fred and Ginger movie Roberta, there’s just gotta be something hard-wired in you if you are gonna’ like these movies.

In this tale (a period piece of 1911!) there are backstage vaudeville antics, country trips to New Rochelle, bohemian rented flats, parisian dance halls, whistle-stop road shows and, alas, the tragedy of World War I. In between: “modern dancing,” negro servants and gowns! gowns! gowns!

Vernon and Irene Castle were huge in their day – inventing, among other things, “The Castle Walk.” I think I may have heard of that. Anyway, off to find Vernon Castle cigars on EBay!

The Dark Knight (2008), Christopher Nolan, A

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Thursday, November 27th, 2008

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With respect to my friends Keith Uhlich and Jurgen Fauth I ask again, what movie were you watching?

This truly is an awe-inspiring flick, with tremendous depth and executed with great care. And it’s got a dude in a cape driving a crazy-ass mono-pod motorcycle!

I disagree, though, with those who read this as a defense of the Bush administration. I read it as an examination of the Bush administration, asking us to define the lines. Torture a prisoner? There are consequences. Wiretap? There are consequences. Is there a difference between Two-Face and Batman (e.g. Al Qaeda’s tactics and the US’s tactics?) Yes, of course there are – and it is all up there for review.

And the music is great.

I can’t wait to watch this for a third time.

Step Brothers (2008), Adam McKay, B-

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Thursday, November 27th, 2008

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Don’t get me wrong, Step Brothers is an awful film. It is preposterous and idiotic and, alas, relies far to heavily on the easy dick joke. However I give it major props for one solid reason: I respect anything anyone anytime when all else is subservient to a joke. Far too often with today’s comedies, opportunities are shunted aside in deference to “story.” Well – maybe not everything needs to have a story. Knocked Up needed a story – okay, I buy that. But Airplane! didn’t. The films of Jerry Lewis (to which Step Brothers owes everything and more) didn’t. And it takes a little chutzpah to just not give a shit and tell joke joke joke.

About half of these jokes fail. But that’s the negative view. About half of these jokes succeed! And they are hilarious! Will Ferrell acting retarded is hilarious – QED!

A note about the DVD – foolishly, the producers allow you to view the theatrical version or the unrated version. I hadn’t seen the theatrical and unwisely chose the unrated. Therefore, every time I was watching a scene that I thought wasn’t quite working I would wonder “was this left off the theatrical?” It made for distracting viewing. Note to Hollywood: leave your deleted scenes as “deleted scenes” on the DVD.

Where The Green Ants Dream (1984), Werner Herzog, A-

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Monday, November 24th, 2008

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In 1984, just as the PC movement is getting ready to really blow up and make every tale of indigenous peoples into a hardcore guilt-fest, Herzog does the unthinkable and tells his story with (for the most part) no agenda.

The lead character does rebuke his whiteness and decide to groove on the vibes of the earth with the Aborigines, but he is also presented as a rudderless dude that’s quite a bit spaced out to begin with.

The mining company that finds itself inadvertently drilling on holy soil is presented in a surprisingly human light – much more so that reality, I’m sure. I think they truly wish there weren’t uranium under the dirt there.

The verite scenes of Aboriginal culture are not made majestic. They are simply there – in the hot sun – with a didgeridoo.

This is a curious (and a little slow) movie that goes out of its way not to make a point – which, in the world of “ethnographic filmmaking” really is quite a big point!

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Mere Anarchy – Woody Allen

Jordan | Cram it in Your Ear | Monday, November 24th, 2008

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If you love the ramblings of a thousand year old Jewish man as much as I do, you’ll love this book. It’s as good as Allen’s other three short (and I mean short!) story collections. But, maybe, in a way funnier, in that it is the year 2008 and he’s talking about answering services and EST.

The more out of touch Woody is, the more endearing, I say. He mocks California as a state overrun by new age shysters with names like Galaxie Sunstroke. His tales of film producers aren’t of slick young people in fashionable clubs, but Yiddish-speaking momsers kvetching over derma.

We shouldn’t wonder what happened to Woody to make him seem irrelevant. Instead we should ask where did we, as a culture, go wrong that we’re not on his wavelength anymore.

Anyway, if you saw me doubling over on the subway last week, it was because I was reading this book.

Apocalypse Rising, DS9 5

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Monday, November 24th, 2008

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Gowron is a Changeling! NO – Martok is a Changeling! And Worf, Sisko, Odo and O’Brien must disguise as Klingons to expose him. (By hitching a ride with renegade Dukat and his killy-mobile!)

To see the gang take Klingon lessons is a hoot. To watch them tell tales and drink bloodwine is fun, too. And it looks like the Federation-Klingon disagreement is at and end.

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