Monthly Archives: September 2011

Monty Python: Almost the Truth

If you are a Python fan and have not seen Monty Python: Almost the Truth than you must stop reading this (well you can finish reading this if you’d like) and watch it immediately. Even if you’ve only ever seen The Holy Grail I urge you to watch this and edumacate yourself. It’s on Netflix Instant and has been for some time. While it is a six episode documentary with each episode being roughly 50 minutes, don’t let that put you off. I watched it over the course of a week and I wish I could have seen more.

The documentary starts with the Python boys when they were boys all the way through their films and where they are all sort of at now. The doc uses a lot of archive footage, both video and stills. Once they start talking about sketches you’ll get to watch some of them in their entirety. You also have some interviews with some current comedians like Eddie Izzard, Steve Coogan, and Russell Brand among others. None of those interviews are used a lot. THey are very brief bits put in to give you some spacing and to help the flow

Each episode of the doc generally focuses on one area. The first ones are a bit mixed up as you see the Pythons as boys and discuss their upbringing. Then you movie on to their university years and post university years where they all did various sorts of things. Finally you get into the creation and production of Flying Circus and slowly move into discuss the live shows and move to America. Their first movie is crammed in there and then the next episodes are basically devoted almost one per movie to The Holy Grail, Life of Brian, and the Meaning of Life and the end of Python.

You get some great stuff out of the Python stars. Their interviews are all away from each other so you hear each of them grumble about another member every now and then. Actually one thing you get from watching the doc is that they really didn’t get a long a lot of the time. They were close friends who hung out with each other all the time, but were just some dude who they worked with and mostly enjoyed working with.

John Cleese is hard to figure in his interview. There are times when he is genuinely talking crap about someone and there are other times where I’m pretty sure he was just messing about, but he plays it straight (as usual) so it is hard to tell at times.

Eric Idle, Michael Palin, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, and Terry Jones are all still alive (unless something has happened so recently that I’ve somehow missed hearing about this.). Graham Chapman however is dead and was not alive when they made this. He is still in it. A lot of the other Python members talk about him and the doc uses collaborators of the Python’s frequently and you get some stuff about Graham from them. The doc uses quite a bit of archive footage of Graham, especially past interviews to help give him a voice.

The documentary is actually quite brilliant on its own. It flows wonderfully and everything is nice and balanced out. That and the material is just outstanding. It is about the lives of the Python members. It is about their lives and how it tied to Python. It isn’t simply “oh this is how we made this sketch or this movie” but what they went through during this whole Monty Python madness. Everyone must watch it.

Your Highness

I thought I would like Your Highness. I mean I love James Franco and Natalie Portman and Danny McBride has been in some good stuff. That and a comedy with knights and whatnot? What isn’t to like about that for an English nerd like me?

I really did not like this movie at all. It just kind of sucked. The jokes were nothing new and in other films or real life I do normally laugh at that kind of stuff. For whatever reason it just did not work here. Maybe it was because the gags were just very obvious and didn’t seemed like they were worked in all that well.

The story was odd and consulted, but I didn’t expect anything good there. I assumed it would be weir and wouldn’t make sense. It’s one of those comedies. Unfortunately it wasn’t funny enough to cover up the story.

The acting was ok I guess. Franco and Portman seemed decent enough. I enjoyed Toby Jones brief appearance, though they fucked up me thinks. Initially he is tall. Like Danny McBrides height as they talk and are eye level with each other. It looked like they did some crappy CGI on Jones and put his head on some weird body. The rest of the film though on the “quest” he is his normal height and body. I also enjoyed Damian Lewis, but again it was a small part and wasn’t anything special. I’ve skipped Danny McBride for a reason. I’ve never really cared about him. He’s been in some good stuff, but I really don’t care for him in most of those movies. Occasionally I’ll like a bit, but usually not. This was one of those films where I wasn’t converted at all. I understand that his characters aren’t the most likable and that isn’t why I don’t find him funny. I haven’t put much thought into, but its one of those taste things I suppose.

I didn’t like the film and I’m glad I didn’t go see it in theaters like I initially wanted. The only thing I think could improve this film was if I had watched it while backed and I don’t know if that would have actually helped.

Red State

I’ve seen so many movies lately, but haven’t posted. I have half-written drafts waiting to be finished. Classes just started so things may continue to be spotty for a bit. Hopefully I’ll keep posting regularly, though not as much as over the summer. Anywho.

Anyone who reads this blog might be aware that I’m a fan of Kevin Smith. I don’t think he’s amazing, but he is interesting and I love keeping track of what he does. I’ve been hearing about Red State for ages, mostly through his podcasts, and I finally got the chance to watch it. For anyone unaware of Red State, Smith decided to handle the release himself. It technically debuted already, but hasn’t had an actual theatrical release. He’s been taking it around the country and playing it on various theaters and giving Q and A’s afterwards. This past week it was released On Demand for people to rent and in October you can own the DVD or Blu-Ray. I chose to “rent” it since I’ve been dying to see it. I almost went and saw it when he toured nearby, but I missed it. Now I kinda wish I had gone.

Red State draws parallels to the Phelps family. There is even a reference to them in the film. Goodman compares the Phelps to the Cooper’s (Smith’s creation) and the Phelps are essentially just supposed to be nuts that aren’t a real threat like the Cooper’s. That alone gives you a much better idea of the film than thinking it is a spoof of sorts of the Phelps family.

The movie is also slated as a horror film, partially because Smith keeps calling it that. It isn’t a horror film. People call Silence of the Lambs a horror film and I still think of that as a thriller. Anyways, Red State is more of a dram/thriller. Something odd in there. In a lot of ways it is vaguely similar to something the Cohen Brothers might make. The humor isn’t the same though and yes Smith’s sense of humor is sprinkled throughout the film. Actually as dark as the movie gets, the last line of the movie is a nice laugh. A lot of the humor is just kind of randomly thrown in the middle of some bizarre moments and I enjoyed it, though it was a bit weird.

That’s the thing about the movie. It’s hard to describe it. I really enjoyed it, but it does have it’s problems. I feel like you have fans of Smith who don’t want to bash it and then some critics who are just itching to slam it. Both groups need to talk things out, because the movie is good, it’s just not what most people expect at all.

The cast is amazing. I can’t think of a performance that wasn’t good. Michael Parks was brilliant and deserves all the praise he is getting. People keep saying he’s Oscar worthy. I don’t know. He’s creepily good, but I can never tell what is considered an Oscar worthy performance. I though the three boys, Kyle Gallner (Jarod), Nicholas Braun (Billy-Ray), and Michael Angarano (Travis) were all great. Unfortunately they only exist for the first fourth of the film really. They are basically just a tool to introduce the Cooper’s. The rest of the cast is great, but no one really gets much screen time. Parks pretty much dominates the film and once Goodman enters he kinda battles Parks for time.

The film was well shot in my opinion. It looked great for the most part. I hated one sequence though. It’s Abin Cooper’s first big sermon that he gives. It’s long and a lot goes on to interrupt it (plenty of spoilers in that). Unfortunately the camera moves constantly. It looked like it was hand-held actually and there are constant cuts to every character that is attending “church.” The reaction shots were unnecessary. Parks is a compelling actor here and as lovely as his voice is throughout, I would have been happy to spend just watch him stand and speak most of the time. The lack of time the camera stayed on him for any length of time in that whole sequence just kinda killed the mood to an extent. He’s mesmerizing and the camera takes that away.

Again the movie is kinda odd and there are some little things spread throughout that just seem off. In some sense the movie kinda feels like it doesn’t really flow smoothly. The transitions are kind of rough in places, but it’s far from ruining the film. The content of the movie alone is interesting enough to keep me watching. That is another problem sort of. Smith could have done a lot more with the material he chose. The movie felt like it could have been, for lack of a better word, epic. It didn’t seem that grand though.

Defiantly worth watching. I suppose the rental price may seem a bit high, but it was worth it to me and I’ll probably end up owning the movie at some point.

“Fuck the thing!”

So I’ve finished the first of the “Death Trilogy” by Gus Van Sant by watching Gerry. I’ve seen the film once before. I watched it when I was in middle school I believe. It was one of those movies my mom picked out from the library to watch. To clue you in; my mom has a tendency to pick horrible movies. They are generally the most obscure things ever. And she never watches them, because she always falls asleep. I watched it with my parents and we were most amused. Watching it then, we were so amazed at how dull it was and it has been a joke to us ever since. For us it has been defined as the worst movie and is the butt of jokes for us.

I’ve read some thing on IMBD and other places. A lot of people seemed to have similar feelings to my parents and myself. There were also a number of people who loved it. So I went into watching this again with very low expectations, though I was hopping it would prove to be better than my first viewing. It was. Sort of.

The movie is simply about two guys, Matt Damon and Casey Afleck, who get lost in the desert. Really that should clue you in to what the movie is like. There’s a lot of walking around and not much that really happens. For a movie that is 1 hour and 40 minutes long, it seems much much longer. There’s probably one or two pages maybe of dialogue for the entire film. The majority of it consists of shots of the scenery or them walking.

Now the cinematography is beautiful. The landscape is beautiful to me and i actually enjoyed watching them walking around for a bit. By the time you’ve watched an hour of this though, it just gets dull. It’s also at this point where the dialogue (what littler there is) stops. I feel like the last forty minutes had maybe two lines and that occurred at the end of the film. There is also one sequence that was roughly ten minutes that was a simple close up of Matt and Casey in profile walking. That was it. Just that steady shot of them walking and nothing else, but the few facial expressions they made and the sound of their walking.

That is pretty much what kills the movie. For most it is to artsy. And in a time where people have extremely short attention spans, it is hard to sit through and not get bored.

Personally I want to like it more than I do. Both the actors and director are amazing, but not here really. They don’t really show off their talent. It’s also a really interesting concept. I saw a drawing in a museum in Boston once that was simple a square rectangle drawn and filled in with a black charcoal pencil. I, like many people, said “I could do that. I’ve actually done that.” That is what this film brings to mind for most people. Anyone can take a camera and follow two guys walking around.

I suppose I’ll get to the positives, besides it looking pretty. Really it is realistic. If two guys got lost in the desert this would probably be pretty accurate. I’m sure if I was on some drugs or drunk I may get a trip out of watching the film, but at this point no.

Basically it is a very beautiful looking film, but defiantly not for most people, myself included. I will watch this again, but who knows when. I feel like its one of those movies that will slowly grow on me and will work in times when I need some soul searching.

The trailer pretty much sums up the entire movie.

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