What I Watched

What I Watched, What You Watched: Installment #25

Ashby, Morel, Soderbergh and Bahrani

First off, a quick apology for the tardiness of this article. I am working on a few behind-the-scenes things with the site at the moment and a small redesign that has been taking up a lot of my time and this week's "What I Watched" was a delayed casualty, but hey, at least it's still Sunday right?

Anyway, I did take in a few movies to discuss and also watched Gamer on Blu-ray, which I will be reviewing shortly, and after I get done with this column I am going to go back to watching Criterion's Blu-ray of 8 1/2, which I will be reviewing on Tuesday. For now... let's get to this week's list...

District B13 (2004)
QUICK THOUGHTS: After Pierre Morel was announced as the new director for the proposed remake of Frank Herbert's "Dune" I figured I would take in his French actioner District B13. Most of us became familiar with Morel after Taken last year and are thus awaiting his upcoming feature From Paris with Love. I had heard about B13 prior to Taken and heard it was pretty good. To that I can say it's not bad, and if you are able to shrug off the awful plot it gets even better, especially if you are extremely interested in Parkour, or freerunning. It's definitely fast moving and his a certain charm, but it felt like a film best left to Netflix's Instant Play (which is how I watched it) and more likely never revisited.

Goodbye Solo (2008)
QUICK THOUGHTS: NY Times critic and "At the Movies" co-host labeled Goodbye Solo as his #10 film of 2009 and after hearing Roger Ebert go on and on about Chop Shop I thought I should find out what is so great about director Ramin Bahrani. This is a very good film and very moving. I wouldn't classify it as "best of the year" material, at least not top ten, but it's a film you would be hard-pressed not to become instantly fascinated with and find immediate connection as Bahrani wastes no time at all getting into the story of a Senegalese taxi driver named Solo who befriends an elderly man who hires him for another trip in two weeks, at which time he plans to kill himself. The journey is the story here all while the question of what will happen in the end is left up in the air from the very start. If I was to give this film one dose of overwhelming praise I would say it has one of the best film titles ever, but it takes watching the film to find out why. I hope you do.

The Girlfriend Experience (2009)
QUICK THOUGHTS: This is Steven Soderbergh's much talked about sub $2 million indie from 2009 centering on a New York City call girl, and it was surprisingly interesting and one I definitely plan on watching again. The only problem I had with it was the lead character's fascination with correlating birthdays, a notion I didn't particularly quite understand or think had anything to do with what was going on as much as it was a distraction.

Shampoo (1975)
QUICK THOUGHTS: Hal Ashby's Shampoo is listed as one of the AFI's 100 funniest movies of all-time, but I'm sorry, I just didn't see the humor in this movie... This isn't to say I thought it was bad, it was alright, but funny? Nope, didn't laugh too much... that is outside of the scene with then 18-year-old Carrie Fisher featured below, two years before she would come to be known as Princess Leia.

One final note, I watched all of these films on Netflix's Instant Play feature using the PS3 as my connecting device and all four looked fantastic. If you aren't using that feature yet you really ought to look into it.

There you have it. Now share your weekly recaps and weigh in with any thoughts you may have on the films I saw. And remember to connect with my Netflix queue by clicking here, I have already added several titles from those that have already linked up.

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  • Jimmy

    Ramin Bahrani is incredible talented. I can't wait to see what he comes up with next, the guy hasn't made a bad film.

  • Alex

    If you are a fan of parkour/free-running, then District 13 and its sequel District 13: Ultimatum are both pretty good. You know what you're getting these days with something scripted by Luc Besson, plot's a long way down the list.

    This week's watches:
    Le-Donk & Scor-zay-zee - 8/10
    Noise - 6/10

    Re-watches:
    The Abyss - 8/10
    Swingers - 9/10
    Made - 7/10
    Clay Pigeons - 6/10

  • Scott

    1/3-1/9:

    The Lovely Bones - D-
    Thelma and Louise - B
    Tomorrow Never Dies - B-
    The World is Not Enough - B-
    Live and Let Die - D-
    Force 10 From Navarone - B+
    Sherlock Holmes - A-
    The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus - A
    Dr. No - B

  • Joe

    This week was NOT my best for selections:

    Underworld: Evolution B-
    Land of the Lost C
    The Mummy 3 D
    Twilight C+

  • adu

    Lovel Bones: A...not a fan of the book but still thought the movie is extremely good if you can detach from the book.

    Up In the Air: B+, A quality movi but not award worthy.

    Whip It: C-, mediocre

  • Danny

    Well i started out the week with some DVD's...

    1. (500) DAYS OF SUMMER. I didn't get the chance to see this in theatres, so it was a blind buy for me. It was a movie I knew I was going to like from the get go. Some movies are like that. It was better than i had anticipated. The funny thing, a buddy of mine who i always discuss movies with happened to watch the same day i did and text me saying he thought it was the "Better Off Dead" of 2009. I shot with "I can see why'd you think that but disagree, i think it's more on par with "High Fidelity". Anyrate I thought the movie was a fun little look at relationships and Zooey Deschanel did not dissapoint nor did Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who has come a long way from playing Tommy on 3rd Rock from the Sun). I also liked all the animated sequences. And i laughed my ass off at the very end of it... that felt a tad forced... but worked with the rest of the tone of the flick.

    2. JENNIFER'S BODY. I bought this movie too... And I saw this in the theatre. I liked this movie. Is it an example of modern film making marvel? Not by any stretch of the imagination, but I still have a lot of fun with the movie and never expected it to be anymore than what it was... I also noticed it's a lot more fun the second time around. I know there are Megan Fox detractors out there that think she is only another pretty face to put in movies and doesn't have that much acting talent. But i disagree. I think she did quite good in this movie... she embodied the hot girl with the under the surface insecurities very well (I also thought she was good in How to Lose Friends & Alienate People). She may never be an award winning actress, but really does she have to be? Can't people just have fun acting in films and not always worry about trying to win awards?

    3. 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU (10th Anniversary Edition). I have a connection to this film because it was filmed at my highschool , there are many of my friends and old teachers in the background (I never made it down there to be an extra unfortunately)and many of the locations in the movie are places I've been many times. It's also good teen movie and one of the last ones to really teeter on the "Hard PG-13" side of things, with lots of innuendos... though there were no F-Bombs flyin' or suggestive sex/nudity... I'm not sure how much of the humor would be changed for todays audience and "strange Rating issues" almost 11 years later... Yes, I realize It's the 10th Anniversary edition, they were a tad late getting it realeased... LOL

    4. TREMORS. I simply had to watch this because I found out that it been turned into a short lived TV series 7 years ago... So it got me in the mood to watch this "Kevin Bacon Classic" Ha Ha.

    At the theatre.

    I finally went and saw AVATAR in 3D... I had to many people tell me how great it was and turned from a movie "i wanted to see evetually" to movie "i needed to see or i felt my movie geek status would be revoked". And I was the last out of my core group of friends to go see it... which never happenes, I'm usually the first to see movies or i get the group together to go see movies. I admit I had my reservations about the movie, but it shattered all of them. I had a really good with the movie and I like how James Cameron retold all to familiar story... Now I'm hoping when the DVD comes out that the 3D will be decent... because that's really the only way to enjoy the movie to it's fullest, in my opinion...

  • The Jackal

    Was a varied week for me on the ol' Blu-ray/DVD/Netflix/Theater front. Started out the week with a couple of DVD purchases:

    Black Hawk Down: 3-Disc Deluxe Edition
    - commentaries and documentaries were so great on this film
    - this is just a phenomenal film, one of the best I've ever seen on war
    - 9/10

    Dances With Wolves: Extended Edition
    - the four hour cut of this film is quite simply a masterpiece.
    - 10/10

    My trip to the theater was 80% successful:
    Up In the Air----------9/10
    Lovely Bones----------7.5/10
    Youth in Revolt------7.5/10
    Daybreakers-----------4.5/10

    Netflix continues to satisfy me and more than justify the membership fees:
    Gomorrah---------10/10 (possibly the best crime film ever)
    Che-----------------8/10 (just a great film)

  • Chris138

    Being off from school for another couple of weeks and frigid weather outside kept me inside a majority of the week, so I caught up on watching movies, among other things. I usually don't watch these many movies within a week's time.

    1/3 - 1/10

    The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (4/5)
    Malcolm X (5/5)
    The Adventures of Robin Hood (5/5)
    As Good As It Gets (rewatch, 4/5)
    Hoop Dreams (5/5)
    Badlands (4.5/5)
    Menace II Society (5/5)
    Tupac: Resurrection (4.5/5)

  • maja

    Firstly...no Sunday morning movie jumble this week :(

    Movies i watched this week:

    The Lovely Bones - B-
    Up in the Air - B+
    It's Complicated - C+

    Rewatches:
    Atonement: B- (used to love this movie but it just doesn't hold up on repeat viewings)
    Cinderella Man: A-
    Goodfellas: B+

  • Martian Army

    For some reason I didn't get out to the theater this week, but had some time to watch a few at home. I plan on seeing Daybreakers and Youth in Revolt later this week, and Avatar for a second time as well. Nothing I watched this week particularly stood out, but they were all at least good.

    Girl, Interrupted - B+ (I had meaning to check this one out for awhile, knowing that it was the movie Angelina Jolie won her Oscar for. With Brittany Murphy's passing, I felt it was about time I did. It is a very difficult, but powerful movie with a great cast, especially Jolie and Murphy.)

    The Merry Gentleman - B (I can really get into slow-paced character studies, so this one was up my alley. Michael Keaton and Kelly Macdonald both give great performances, and Keaton's directing in his debut was very creatively done.)

    10 Things I Hate About You - B+ (Being at the tail-end of the generation that this movie aims for, I really appreciated it. With a great comedic cast and well-written script (as a modern take on Shakespeare's 'The Taming of the Shrew'), I got a good amount of laughs out of it.)

    The Spiderwick Chronicles - B+ (Some family-friendly films these days are good enough for me to enjoy, though most just bug the hell out of me. Fortunately, this one was the former. Good fantasy adventure that reminded me of one of the better Harry Potter's or the first Narnia. And I have to say that Seth Rogen has one of the best voiceover voices I've heard in a long time.)

    Swingers - B (Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn are both great here. I've heard this one is a comedy classic, and I'm sure it is. The reason why I gave it a lower score here is that I watched it on TV, so I didn't really give it my full attention and had to deal with an edited version. I'll definitely be rewatching it on DVD to get the full effect.)

  • Mari S

    Miami Vice - Very cool and serious. A bit of humour would've made this better in my opinion. C-
    Blade Runner The Final Cut - I just don't get this movie. D
    Paris, Texas - A movie about family and family reunions. Beautiful pictures, meaningful dialogue and expressive silence. Wim Wenders knows how to do it right. A-
    The Crow (re-watch) - Very goth, very pretentious, very, very 90's. C
    United 93 - I liked the almost documentary look and feel of this film. B+

    Also I want to share a dream I had the other night, because in it I was watching a movie called Babies. Only it wasn't the documentary-to-be but a movie about zombie-babies who were attacking people left and right, crawling on all fours at a tremendous speed. Now there's a movie about babies I would want to see :)

  • http://joker93.livejournal.com Nick

    Daybreakers - great first half, average second half, pretty good movie overall

    Re-watches:
    Once Upon a Time in the West - best western ever and one of my all-time favourites
    The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - second best western ever
    Catch Me If You Can - Spielberg's best film of the aughts in my opinion
    Star Trek - this year's best, most entertaining blockbuster. A blast.
    Jurassic Park - Spielberg-entertainer at his best. Excellent film.

  • Gavi

    In Bruges - A+

  • http://kevinblumeyer.wordpress.com/ The Pork Chop Express

    IN THEATERS:
    Nine: 7/10
    Daybreakers: 8/10

    ON DVD:
    True Blood Season 1: 9/10
    Adam: 7/10
    The Thin Red Line: 10/10
    The Hangover (rewatch): 8/10
    9 (rewatch): 7/10
    8 1/2 (re-watch): 10/10

    Just a note, my viewing of "The Thin Red Line" has put it in my top 3 war films of all time (alongside "Full Metal Jacket" and "Apocalypse Now"). It is such a beautiful and fascinating movie. I need to see more Terrence Malick movies.

  • The Jackal

    @Chris138: How does Menace II Society compare to Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing and Singleton's Boyz N the Hood? Also, noticed you listed The Adventure's of Robin Hood: are you excited about Ridley Scott's new take on the classic hero?

  • Matthew M.

    Adam (2009): B-
    All About Steve (2009): C+
    Blind Date (2007): C-
    Conspiracy Theory (1997): B
    The Cove (2009): A-
    Crash (2004): B+
    The Hangover (2009): C+
    Murder by Numbers (2002): C+
    Paranormal Activity (2009): B+
    Trucker (2008): A-

  • Chris138

    @The Jackal: Menace II Society, Do The Right Thing and Boyz N The Hood are all great films in my opinion. I found that Menace II Society was the most gritty and apparently 'realistic' depiction of life in those rough areas. The writing in Do The Right Thing and Boyz N The Hood are obviously better, but Menace II Society is still powerful and certainly worth taking a peak at.

    And as for Robin Hood, I am pretty curious about how Ridley Scott's film will turn out. It's clearly a different approach on the character, judging from the trailers it makes it seem much more like Gladiator-ish, which isn't a bad thing.

  • The Jackal

    @Chris138: Thanks, I'd always heard good things about Menace II Society - just never got around to watching it. I'll definitely have to add it to my Netflix que

    To date, I've never seen a better Robin Hood than Errol Flynn from the 1937 original; however, Scott & Crowe's interpretation looks fascinating.

  • maja

    @The Jackal: Menace II Society is definately worth checking out. It's a great watch and I actually prefer it to Do the Right Thing.

  • Jane

    In the theatre

    Precious - I finally braced myself and went to see it for the perfomances. They are indeed worthy of the accolades that they are receiving. Didn't really care for the direction (B)
    Princess and the Frog - Nice to see some hand drawn animation from Disney. The music is wonderful. I never thought I'd get choked up over a firefly with a bad dental care, but I did. (A-)
    Crazy Heart - A truely wonderful performance by Jeff Bridges and a nice surprise in Colin Farrell's small part. The music is great - wonderful lyrics - and I'm not even a country music fan. (A)

    On DVD

    Royal Tenenbaums - I can't believe that it has taken me this long to see this wonderful movie. I really loved it and want to re-watch!! (A+)
    The International - Clive Owen and Naomi Watts were wasted in what could have been a good action thriller. There were some great location shots but other than that I don't recommend it (C-)
    Waitress - A delightful little film that I has been on my 'wish list' for a while. Keri Russel is a charming. (A)
    Burn After Reading (rewatch) - I really love this movie. It's a black comedy romp with a hilarious non-sequitur thrown in for a hysterical shock. JK Simmons last lines sum it up.
    (A+)