Monthly Archives: September 2009

The Informant! movie review

The Informant! is the new comedy staring a pudgy Matt Damon in a darkly comic retelling of Mark Whitacre’s involvement in revealing an industry-wide price-fixing scheme involving lysine which is a critical part of the world’s agricultural business. Essentially, the corporation Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) colluded with European, Latin American, and Asian competitors to fix prices to ensure that prices remained high and the corporations involved remained profitable due to not having to compete with each other. Mark Whitaker was the company’s youngest executive who secretly turned informant for the FBI.

The movie takes this very serious matter (these companies were essentially robbing consumers every time they ate any type of food) and turns it into a satirical dark comedy. Steven Soderbergh directs the proceedings with a steady hand. Matt Damon will get an award nomination for his work here. He is barely recognizable behind the weight and mustache he accrued for the role of Mark Whitacre. He puts in a manic energy. Damon’s Whitacre, a real life genius several times over (an alumnus of The Ohio State University to boot!) is clearly in over his head. However, his intellect merges into arrogance as he begins to lie and play both ADM and the FBI against each other.

Since anyone can read that helpful Wikipedia link I’ve included, there is no point in avoiding spoilers here. Whitacre is a manic-depressive too intelligent to accept such a diagnosis. Over the course of his involvement with the FBI, Whitacre embezzled perhaps 9 to 11 million dollars from ADM. Damon paints this descent with sharp strokes. Throughout the film the audience is privy to various internal monologues of Whitacre’s which are windows into his delusions of grandeur. These internal monologues are also the best part of the movie

Damon shows just how dangerous a manic-depressive genius can be. His Whitacre is too affable to be suspicious of. He provides for his family who adore him. His colleagues trust him immensely, in spite of his age. He is fully there in the price-fixing meetings completely and amicably investing in the collusion. He does a great job of talking badly of the FBI and no one questions him because he is loyal and doing what he is told with a smile on his face.

Overall, The Informant! is a very enjoyable film. The laughs are uncomfortable laughs for the most part. The movie does sort of drag at parts and minor characters really aren’t that fleshed out and the various lawyers come off as the usual snake in the grass stereotypes. The movie is also subtle in transitioning the portrayal of Whitacre from a whistle-blower to a criminal. This subtlety may be lost on the masses who made Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen the summer’s biggest film. If Damon gets snubbed for some type of best actor award this year, that will be a grave mistake. See The Informant! it’s well worth the admission price.

I hold this work to be original thought. If I have used copyrighted material please email me. I will bring it down immediately. I merely mean for this blog to be a means to discuss and dissect my favorite things.

Extract movie review

Extract is the newest vehicle from veteran comedy writer/director Mike Judge who has been in search of another Office Space, a great movie that didn’t do so well in theaters but developed an incredible cult following. The creator of the iconic Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hill franchises returns to the life of the American worker after Idiocracy, a movie that was entertaining but in my opinion failed to reach its potential.

This time around Judge shifts his focus from the downtrodden office worker to disaffected upper echelons of a flavor extract producing company owned by a man named Joel (Jason Bateman). Joel is tired of having to manage a group of bickering and often lazy factory workers. When the opportunity to sell his company comes up, Joel is ecstatic. Bateman seems to be suffering from the same post-Arrested Development typecasting Michael Cera has. That is, he always seems to be playing the same character. In Cera’s case, it’s a good-hearted but self-conscious outcast whose awkwardness eventually is overcome to be popular or win a girl.

In the case of Bateman, he is a hard working straight man surrounded by buffoons he must passive-aggressively interact with and deliver his lines as detached as possible from the people that surround him. That’s probably not a good description of the similarity of his roles but I seriously believe you can take any film he’s appeared in or scheduled to appear in and you’ll find traces of Michael Bluth. Yet I digress since that’s not really my problem with Extract.

Extract just isn’t interesting. Is it funny? Yes, in many parts. Are there zany characters? Of course. J.K. Simmons steals the scenes he is in. He plays Joel’s partner, Brian, who doesn’t want to take the time to remember his employee’s names since they all disappoint him. Watching J.K. Simmons refer to everyone he works with as “dinkus” is comedy gold. Even David Koechner has some funny moments as an annoying neighbor (until the movie does something completely ridiculous and dark with his character that I particularly thought out of place but don’t want to spoil). However, many of the minor characters are not nearly as engaging as say, Bill Lumbergh or Milton were in Office Space. It’s hard to catch lightning in a bottle and Extract is proof of that.

Mila Kunis, one of Hollywood’s most under appreciated beauties, plays a con-artist. Her character isn’t really fleshed out, just kind of there. She even goes in and out of scenes just because. She doesn’t really display anything here other than her doubtless beauty. The one thing Judge got right in this film is that a woman as beautiful as Kunis would probably have no trouble getting away with the things her character does in Extract.

Events in Extract, like Office Space, are loosely connected to the plot of Joel trying to battle against a lawsuit from an injured worker being manipulated by Kunis’ . However, non of this is as engaging Peter Gibbons’ fight against Innitech. I have to admit, I nearly fell asleep during the movie and that’s a very rare thing. Sadly, as much as I want to like the movie, I just can’t. There are just some intangible things that didn’t grab me like Office Space did. Extract isn’t a bad movie, just an average one. I recommend a rental. It may be harder to find showtimes for this movie at this point anyway.

I hold this work to be original thought. If I have used copyrighted material please email me. I will bring it down immediately. I merely mean for this blog to be a means to discuss and dissect my favorite things.

9 Movie Review

Ever since I saw the teaser trailer set to my favorite band, Coheed and Cambria, I was overly excited for 9. Finally, I thought, a computer-animated film  with an adult edge. I loved the steampunk inspired visuals and grotesque machines being warded off by stitched together creatures. It looked so unique, so different. A pity then that this visual style didn’t translate over to the characters and story. 9, the debut feature of one Shane Acker, is a film that had so much potential.

9 may be the shortest feature-length film I’ve ever seen and yet, were it longer I may have been even more disappointed. 9 is a film that just goes through the motions from one setpiece to another while poorly providing context or any hint of why the viewer should care about these puppets and their battles with machines that somehow have animal skulls attached to them. The movie gives some hints of an interesting world that once was but doesn’t flesh anything out. The other eight stitch characters hardly have any personality and are introduced and discarded as needed. It’s a shame considering the voice talent involved.

Elijah Wood becomes the voice of 9 early in the film. He conveniently encounters a fellow stitch creature who conveniently helps him speak when it was much more interesting to see 9’s horrified reactions to the world in which he finds himself and his own horror that he has no voice. And what a terrifying world 9 is brought into. He literally awakens to the corpse of his creator. The power of this idea of waking up to essentially a dead God is squandered as the film pushes 9 to unite with the other 8 creations  of this deceased scientist.

9 also then becomes a challenger to 1, the eldest of these creations with no real reason other than the script tells him to and the other stitch creatures seem to follow along because they should. 9 unearths a sleeping giant simply by not thinking and then of course becomes the key to stopping it. Lots of neat things happen but without any real weight behind them. 1 (Christopher Plummer) watches his charges die off and because his character is the stoic one, lets their deaths pass. 7 (Jennifer Connelly) literally comes out of nowhere and then all of a sudden has some sort of history with other characters. It’s all quite disjointed in my opinion. Maybe I’m just getting dense in my old age.

I’ll definitely be renting 9 on Blu Ray just for the visual feast. If only some more time could have been spent on crafting an unexpected story to match the unique and beautiful visuals. It’s refreshing to see Pixar-level animation quality coming from somewhere other than Pixar. Kudos to the studios who tried to believe in this film. I hope the lack of success 9 will most likely have doesn’t scare studios away from trying to make adult-oriented computer animation. The medium can really bring some great stories to life, 9 just isn’t one of them…..

The great teaser can be seen here:

I hold this work to be original thought. If I have used copyrighted material please email me. I will bring it down immediately. I merely mean for this blog to be a means to discuss and dissect my favorite things.

Inglorious Basterds review

Well this is another late coming review. Last week I finally got around
to checking out Quentin Tarantino’s latest film,
 Inglorious Basterds. I continue to have mixed feelings about Tarantino as both a writer and
director. As much as I loved
 Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction I really
couldn’t stand
 Death Proof and repeated
viewings of
 Kill Bill disappoint.
However,
 Basterds is on track to redeem his work in my eyes. 

 

Basterds still suffers some irritating choices
(again a matter of opinion) such as over the top violence set to a spaghetti
western soundtrack and dialogue that in my mind serves not to advance anything
other than the ego of the director (more on that later). However, the film is
incredibly engaging for its alternative history of the Second World War. In
essence
 Basterds is a revenge
tale loosely tied together in various chapters (another kind of silly thing
carried over from
 Kill Bill that upon
further viewings I found a bit… off).  I really don’t want to spoil what
could be one of the most chilling opening acts of a film I’ve ever seen. As a
Jew, the movie is of particular interest. What if I really could go back in
time and exact vengeance for the evils unleashed by the Nazi regime and the
attempted annihilation of my people?  The one question not asked by the
movie is this: Does the violence unleashed by the Bastards do anything to
really bring back the six million plus lives extinguished by Nazi Germany and
does it really make any of the Bastards feel better about the horrific
anti-Semitism around them?

 

The film plays as a perfect revenge fantasy as the story ties in the
Inglorious Bastards, a group of American Jewish soldiers recruited to exact
bloody terror on the Nazis who have ravaged European Jewry.  Led by Lt.
Aldo Raine, a redneck sociopath played to a T by Brad Pitt, the Bastards are
only a brief part of this film which is kind of odd. They are merely there to
be in the right place at the wrong time as they unwittingly find themselves in
the revenge scheme of one Soshanna Dreyfuss who is trying to avenge her own
losses to a particularly evil Nazi named Hans Landa (played with bone-chilling brilliance
by Christoph Waltz). Many of the Bastards are only passingly introduced or
fully characterized. Many of the Bastards fade in and out of various points of
the film for no real reason. I read on
 SlashFilm, a favorite blog of mine, that Tarantino cut a
lot out of the film to tighten the pacing. Maybe that’s the explanation.

 

Basterds also finally brings back the dark humor of older Tarantino
efforts. My favorite line of the film comes at a point where a meeting with
informant has turned into a dangerous situation and Brad Pitt, in full Southern
drawl, proclaims something to the effect of, “You know what the worst part
of fighting in a basement is? Fighting in a basement”. It’s dialogue like
this that placed Tarantino where he is today. However, the director seems all
too willing to let us know he is clever. He has way too many scenes that drag
on with fancy dialogue that to me does nothing more than say to the audience,
“see how witty I am?”. 

 

I felt this feeling the entirety of Death Proof as that movie wasted so much time on dialogue that was neither
character-building or engaging but just felt done for the sake of being done.
Really don’t need to spend twenty minutes having beautiful women talk about how
they have to fart or take a piss or whatever the fuck nonsense the female
characters spewed from their mouths during a movie that had maybe two scenes of
anything really happening. 

The scene in the bar that follows that hilarious
Brad Pitt quip feels the same way. A lot of the film could have been shortened
if Tarantino would have just gotten on with things and not kept the characters
talking. Overall though, the film moved in the right direction despite its very
long running time I was never truly bored or irritated as I was in
Death
Proof
. That about sums this up. Stay tuned for my thoughts on the animated film 9 which I will be seeing tomorrow. 

I hold this work to be original thought. If I have used copyrighted material please email me. I will bring it down immediately. I merely mean for this blog to be a means to discuss and dissect my favorite things.