The Best Directors: A Series—Curtis Hanson

Leave a comment

I have only seen three Curtis Hanson movies, but they are all excellent for what they are. The three I have seen are: L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys, and 8 Mile.  Of course only one of those is a classic.

L.A. Confidential brought two of Australia’s finest together with one of America’s best actors, Kevin Spacey. The notoriously convoluted book turned into a perfect film noir. The look of the film was amazing, as was the editing. Ditto for the music. Only one person can pull that all together…the director. On par with The Usual Suspects, this is the best crime story of the 1990’s. In fact, it is one of the best ever.

I do not remember much about Wonder Boys, but considering that it was about a college professor and school with a lot of talking, it is an exciting movie. One of the best adult college movies out there. It also has a crazy cast to wrangle, but wrangle Hanson must have. Robert Downey Jr. is a one man bag of cats, Tobey Maguire was blowing up, Michael Douglas was married to Catherine Zeta-Jones—back when that meant something—and it all clicked.

As impressive as “greatest crime story ever” and “least boringest college professor movie” are, telling the story of a poor, white rapper outside of Detroit with a non-actor was a coup. He tells the story of a little victory, and explains the scale of it. This is not winning the championship in some crappy sports movie, this is about finding the miracle to justify your faith. BEST. RAP. MOVIE. EVER.*

*CB4 is the best rap mockumentary ever, if people thought I had forgotten it.


Accuracy in…Ghost in the Shell

1 Comment

I thought about doing the X-Men movies, but I thought I would go by quality instead of whatever I thought of. How many people who read this have even seen Ghost in the Shell, though? Probably just the people who have watched it with me.

The biggest difference between the eight issue series and the anime—that is a Japanese animated movie—is how the depth of corruption in that Blade Runner style world. That and how the manga—Japanese comic book—is in black and white, except for the first four pages. Those four pages were painted and looked stunning. The ending is also different, but what are you going to do? Next time I will just do the X-Men movies.

Dark Shadows



Fifteen, and no husband? You must put those child-bearing hips to good use.

This was a wonderful, yet flawed movie. The ambiance and the characters were great. The costumes and the relationships delightful and fascinating. The flaws began to appear at the end when the story relied on logical leaps and hairpin turns that would be more appropriate in a soap opera than in a movie! Of course, this is based on the late 1960’s Canadian soap opera of the same name. That series ended in 1971 and this takes place in 1972, after introducing Barnabas Collins–Johnny Depp–and his doomed parents.

Johnny Depp centers a wonderfully eclectic group of, mostly, underused actors. Johnny Depp is his typical 10 out 10. I do not watch many Michelle Pfeiffer movies, but she has a cold beauty in this which Tim Burton uses wonderfully. That is to say, she might show off her bust a little but she takes no part in any romantic entanglements, which showed how well she can act outside of that crutch. Helena Bonham Carter’s Dr. Hoffman probably had a more interesting character than we saw, but her drunken, ineffectual psychiatrist does little for the film—although she does provide a few big laughs. Eva Green’s Angelique is wonderful. Such an interesting, devious, sexy character. But as I am in love with her, I admit that I am biased. If I, and not Barnabas Collins had been living in the 18th century and met her when she demanded that he/I love her, there would be no movie because I would have said, sure!

The remaining supporting cast are all great. From Jackie Earle Haley’s drunken groundskeeper to the kids—Chloe Grace Moretz and Gulliver McGrath—everyone has a unique character. None moreso than Barnabas’s lost love/modern version played by Bella Heathcote. Her Victoria Winters has much to hide and thankfully we learn all about her past. Part of me wishes that this were a soap opera and not just a movie, since there was so much more to discuss. Unfortunately with the way this film wrapped up, even a sequel cannot fix what has been done.

The Ref



 Is there a fucking waste of life named Murray here?

I do not like Denis Leary. That said, he is perfect in the role of Gus the thief, aka The Ref. He is stuck on the run in a town in generic suburbia after his jewelry heist goes awry. Since he cannot leave he needs a place to hide and that is how he winds up with the Chasseurs—Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey. A family whom we meet at Dr. Wong’s marriage counseling. Humorously enough, Dr. Wong is played by B.D. Wong. I wonder how he got that role!

All told this is a nice R-Rated family comedy with some very good two dimensional characters. Adam LeFevre and Christine Baranski have some scene stealing moments as the other Chasseurs. They have their share of cheese, but some of it has bite.




Is that the one with vomit in it?

From the get go this is a depressing comedy. Some bits seem over the top, but the reality of the film just takes about a half-hour to settle in. The laughs grew as did my concern for the main character, Salman. Scott Prendergast wrote, starred, and directed this sweet little comedy. Salman moves in with his sister-in-law because his brother is stuck in Iraq as a national guardsman and the couple’s two kids are neglected and wild. Salman does a terrible job of watching the kids while his sister-in-law, Leslie, goes back to work so that she can keep health insurance for her kids. She wants him gone, but he has no money to leave. She gets Salman a mystery job at her company, a busted internet corporation with a large office. If you have not seen the poster for this film you do not know what his job is, so click here.

As the movie matures, it also has three different types of attractive, flawed women. It is refreshing to see more female than male characters. Sister-in-law/worker/mom Leslie is played by Leslie Kudrow, who has this bedraggled, suppressed sexuality. Christine Taylor plays a suburban mom in the same social circle and when she flirts with Salman in the blue suit, it’s crazy. Like it does not seem absurd for her to tell him to give her a call about working as a clown for a birthday party, even if he chooses not to do it. Lastly there is the much less famous Angela Sarafyan. She plays a grocery store clerk who is crazy and cute from her first scene there. I loved her in The Good Guys, and hope that she gets more roles. There are also two good actors, Jeffrey Dean Morgan–Watchmen–and Chris Parnell–SNL–are in the movie, but who cares!

Lastly, the film uses the Iraq-deployed dad/husband/brother very interestingly. His picture is everywhere in the house. That includes a large one that looms over the dinner table. Even when he returns in the end, you never get to see the actor’s face or hear his voice or read what he has written! It is a very interesting directorial choice. A surprising one for a comedy, but a good one for a complete film.

Accuracy in…The Avengers and more!


I was recently asked by my cousin Scott about how accurate The Avengers was to the comics. I figured that I should not keep my insights to myself. And hopefully this will lead to people who have read comics that I have not leaving comics so that we all can learn. I suppose that some of these statements will include “spoilers,” but I will try to avoid that. Without further ado, Avengers…assemble!

The first “Avenger” movie was Iron Man. Tony Stark made his comic debut in the 1960’s in Vietnam where a piece of shrapnel moved towards his heart. Just like in the movie, except not in Afghanistan. Obadiah Stane did work with Tony Stark’s dad, Howard, and did turn out to be a jerk. Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan were in the comics and Pepper and Tony did wind up dating, like they do in Iron Man 2. I have not seen Iron Man 2 so it is hard to say much about it. Whiplash was a real villain though, but I don’t know if he’s Russian or a mechanical genius. One last thing—Jarvis was a real butler, not just a computer program. Any questions?

The third or fourth Avengers movie—who knows where to put The Hulk or The Incredible Hulk, whatever—is Thor. I was impressed with how accurate the movie was when it came to Asgard and its Asgardians. I have no idea about the humans, why the ice giants were called Jotun, and Thor should have a human alternate identity named Dr. Donald Blake and his hammer should transform into a walking stick. Lastly, the big metal guy? He’s not from the comics.

Captain America: The First Avenger is missing one major character—Sgt. Nick Fury. I think that the Red Skull was Dr. Erskine’s failed German super soldier. Dr. Zola has gone through some major changes, as has the leadership of Hydra, so it is hard to remember if they dated all the way back to WWII Cap. “Bucky” Barnes was not friends with Steve Rogers growing up. He was the base rat or something who went along with Cap shooting nazis WITHOUT any powers. It was a different time, when kids without powers fought in costumes–like DC’s Robin. And he did fall to his death, but from the same plane that led to Captain America getting frozen in ice.  Which leads us to…

the formation of The Avengers. This was Marvel Comics’ first collection of known superheroes since the golden age when Captain America, the Human Torch*, and Namor the Sub-Mariner formed The Invaders. Captain America was not an original Avenger. The Avengers found him in issue 4 at which point he helped them out and joined up. Shockingly, the first Avengers issue has Thor fighting the Hulk because of Loki. Besides Thor and the Hulk, Iron Man, Ant Man and the Wasp. Sorry guys, no Janet Van Dyne or Hank Pym in the first movie. Instead you get the Black Widow–Natasha Romanova and Hawkeye–Clint Barton. They are second generation Avengers and both former villains. Lastly, SHIELD did not come along until much later, so it had nothing to do with the formation of The Avengers.

I hope that this has been insightful and enjoyable. Excelsior!

*The original Human Torch was a robot, not a human being affected by cosmic rays like Johnny Storm, the Human Torch from the Fantastic Four. So Chris Evans, who played Johnny Storm in two Fantastic Four films and Captain America twice now should probably just hold a press conference where he is going to play Aquaman so that he can complete his messed up Invaders set. I almost forgot, he played the skater ex from Scott Pilgrim vs the World. He’s a comic book character junkie.

21 Jump Street



Hey! Stop fucking with Korean Jesus! He ain’t got time for your problems! He’s busy… with Korean shit!

This movie surprised me in unsurprising ways. It made the jokes I expected, but sometimes provided a little twist. Or a crazy odd-ball cursefest. Case in point, the best frenemies—as much as you hate reading it, I hate myself more for writing it—Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum have a lame car and need a cool one to show up to their first day of school, so they get some muscle car from the police station and proceed to violate the “don’t drive it like teenagers” promise they made. Tatum rolls over the top of the car when Hill drives it, but when it’s Hill’s turn he fails miserably and tumbles forward. Clearly, that was the joke, but then Tatum asks, “Are you okay!?” To which Hill responds, “I think I just shit my pants.” I did not see that coming. It is moments like the car scene that really elevate this comedy. So while  no-one associated with this film will ever even be nominated for an academy award, it has a good story, funny characters, and a great cast.

Hill is as funny as you might expect, but Tatum is really funny too. Not only that, but he gets the bulk of the emotional weight of the film on his overly broad neck. Brie Larson plays the most perfect high school crush of the longest time. Do not worry, she is 23 now and was amazing as Envy Adams in Scott Pilgrim vs The World. The captains in the film are played by Ice Cube–good for a couple of laughs–and Nick Offerman–who is only in one scene; one scene! The teachers are alternative comedian stars, so it’s really nice to see them getting work—Rob Riggle, Ellie Kemper and Chris Parnell. Lastly there are the kids. It’s funny how old everyone is in this movie, like Dave Franco’s eco-friendly drug dealer, who helps Hill and Channing look closer to high school age by being 26. I have no comment on Johnny Depp and his former partner’s cameo. Still, what a great cast for a fun movie.

Older Entries