Last weekend I was a little light on new releases and mainly catching up on TV shows, so I took advantage of Netflix streaming and went through a few documentaries I've been meaning to watch.
Great documentary about soldiers fighting in Afghanistan. The are stationed in the Korengal Valley, which is pretty much the most dangerous place on Earth. A living hell. They are constantly under fire. Many times throughout the documentary you hear bullets just whizzing by overheard just feet away from where they are.
There's no real structure or story here. It's more of a turn on the cameras and watch the soldiers go through it all. Just another day in the life of a soldier fighting in the war.
I liked it a lot. It's just about the soldiers, with no politics or commentary, just their words and emotions.
Another interesting, and sad, thing is that the photojournalist that filmed this, Tim Hetherington died just a few weeks ago covering the civil war over in Libya.
I highly recommend renting this.
The Transcendent Man
Interesting documentary about Ray Kurzweil and his predictions for how technology will affect humanity in the next 25-40 years. He basically thinks that based on the current rate of advancement seen over the last 40 years, the next 40 years will see advancements that basically will begin to blur the line between man and machines. Technology will develop to the point where it will slow our aging and eventually allow us to live indefinitely.
They also discuss the potential advances of AI and their impact. Kurzweil's predictions are met with varying reaction and responses and other scientists are interviewed as part of the documentary to provide their opinion and insight. Not everyone agrees with Kurzweil and it's good that they included differing opinions.
Overall I thought it was very entertaining and worth watching.
Naked Ambition: An R-Rated Look at an X-Rated Industry
This one was just kind of meh. I've seen other documentaries about the porn industry that were more interesting than this. Now that I think about it, I wouldn't even really call this an documentary about porn. The only parts of this movie that I would call documentary-ish are when they follow the story of a few starlets nominated for best new performer at the AVN awards. The irony is that the eventual winner was not someone he interviewed.
The rest of the movie was more about photographer Michael Grecco taking pictures for his book, so this is really more of a documentary about a guy making an art book that just happens to be about porn, rather than being about porn itself. Grecco several times throughout the documentary seems to be more star struck by some of the performers and excited about some of the people he was able to get to agree to be photographed for his book. "Look at all the cool porn people I got to be in my book!" Sorry, that's just not very interesting. There's one kind of funny scene where Evan Stone basically tells him to piss off.
Even if the subject matter is something of interest to you, I'd still wouldn't recommend watching it. I thought it was pretty much a waste of time.
On to regular movies...
My Big Fat Independent Movie
This is an older DVD back from 2005, but was recently brought to my attention, so I thought I'd give it a watch. This was written and produced by Chris Gore, who I normally like on Attack of the Show. It's kind of surprising that a critic known for independent films could have written and produced this turd. This was truly awful in the league of the Friedberg and Selzter, who are responsible for all of the awful parody movies (Date Movie, Epic Move, Meet that Spartans, etc).
This is parody of the worst kind. It's just stringing together bad references from better films, only none of it is actually funny. It's completely unfunny. Worse yet, they are attempting to parody films that are generally well liked by most people: Pulp Fiction, Swingers and Memento just to name a few. In retrospect those movies almost seem mainstream. Many of the movies he references were at least five to ten years old at the time he made this, so the references weren't even timely. It ends up coming off as petty and jealous for not coming up with the original idea themselves. Chris Gore seems like a hater for making this movie.
This features terrible performances across the board from people you've never heard of and will likely never see again, expect for a a shocking cameo by Bob Odenkirk. I say shocking because I'm shocked he was in it. He's better than this. He must have done this as a favor for someone involved in the production, because I can't believe he got paid for this or needed the $10 this production could afford to pay him.
I've seen Chris Gore on Attack of the Show advise people to not watch movies just like this one and I advise you to not watch his movie. It's frigging terrible!
I thought this just sucked. It's boring to the point of being sleep inducing and I actually did fall asleep at around the 40 minute mark and then had to go back about 20 minutes after my nap. Anthony Hopkins seemed to be enjoying himself with his performance. He's just chewing up scenery. That's about the only good thing about The Rite. The main character, played by Colin O'Donoghue, was just awful and totally uncharismatic. I've never heard of this guy before, but if he continues to give performances like this, nobody else will ever hear of this guy either. Alice Braga is also in this and was pretty forgettable as well.
There's nothing scary about The Rite at all. In fact, it seems at parts that they just were excessively loud in an effort to convey terror, but all it did was make me keep turning the volume down. Lastly, it's way too long of a film for it being as boring as it is.
Gnomeo and Juliet
I thought it was okay. There were some clever moments, but overall I wasn't thrilled by it. It's just wasn't witty enough to keep me interested. It's only about 84 minutes though. If you have kids, then they'll probably get a kick out of it.
Rent it if you have kids. I think it's a borderline rental for anyone else.
This is an interesting movie about a hermit, played by Robert Duvall, who decides to throw a funeral for himself, but while he's still alive. The difference is that he wants it to be more of a party where anyone can attend and he wants people to show up and tell a story about him. He hires the local funeral parlor owner, played by Bill Murray, to throw the party. Murray's character is looking at this as an opportunity to make some big money.
Robert Duval was great, but I don't expect anything less from him. I also really enjoyed Bill Murray's performance. He has just that right amount of slimy business man.
It's a slower paced film and took me a little bit before I was into it, but overall I really enjoyed it. If you like Robert Duval and Bill Murray, you'll enjoy this strictly on the strength of their performances. The movie itself has it's funny moments and really strikes a good balance between being funny and having some emotional moments.
This is a strong rental recommendation.
I didn't mind this either. I thought the performances were from Sean Penn and Naomi Watts were very good and it wasn't too preachy on the politics. Don't get me wrong, this is a political film, but I didn't think they were beating you over the head with it. At points I felt like I was watching a documentary, and now I have to confess my ignorance, as I didn't even realize when I started watching this that it was based on recent events and real people. I thought this was going to be more of a political thriller, than a biopic.
This is essentially the story of Valerie Plume, who was an undercover CIA agent. She's married to Joseph Wilson, a diplomat who is asked by the CIA to go to Niger and find out if yellowcake uranium is being obtained by Iraq to make WMDs. Valerie's cover is blown by the White House in part to discredit Wilson after he suggests that the intelligence was manipulated to invade Iraq. At this point the movie becomes as much about the media fallout as how this affects Plume and Wilson's marriage.
I thought this movie really struck a good balance between being a biopic, a political thriller and a drama about a couple who's marriage is almost destroyed by the events in the film. The strength of Penn and Watts' performance are what make the drama work here.
A good rental recommendation here.
That's it for now. Later this week I should have reviews of The Company Men, Biutiful, Sanctum, Just Go With It and Super 8.