Sound City

Dave Grohl, the musician notorious for being in Nirvana and the man behind the Foo Fighters, Them Crooked Vultures and a host of other musical side projects, has widened his scope to the cinema now. Granted, it’s a Vh1-looking rock documentary that will probably only find itself in rotation on your basic cable music channel; in January though, Sundance (of course) will unveil it which will no doubt bring out the hip Hollywood stars.

The doc is about the rise and fall of the famous recording studios in California named Sound City. Watch the trailer below to check out the impressive lineup of musicians that have recorded there, and many of which are interviewed by Grohl to reminisce. While I’m excited at the prospect of learning about this famed institution and seeing its history, the trailer is frankly less than captivating or polished.

The soundtrack Grohl has put together as compendium to this film though, looks honestly amazing. It’s out March 12, 2013 (but available on iTunes now – which seems in direct opposition to what this doc is soapboxing about), and features a collection of musicians from some of the notable bands that recorded there, playing together with Grohl on a number of original songs (one of those now infamous mashups is the former Nirvana bandmates, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear, and Grohl, performing the song “Cut Me Some Slack” along with Paul McCartney, which they premiered to the world during the 12.12.12 Sandy Benefit concert earlier this week). Here’s the full tracklist (via Pitchfork):

1.) Dave Grohl, Peter Hayes, and Robert Levon Been: “Heaven and All”
2.) Brad Wilk, Chris Goss, Dave Grohl, and Tim Commerford: “Time Slowing Down”
3.) Dave Grohl, Rami Jaffee, Stevie Nicks, and Taylor Hawkins: “You Can’t Fix This”
4.) Dave Grohl, Nate Mendel, Pat Smear, Rick Springfield, and Taylor Hawkins: “The Man That Never Was”
5.) Alain Johannes, Dave Grohl, Lee Ving, Pat Smear, and Taylor Hawkins: “Your Wife Is Calling”
6.) Corey Taylor, Dave Grohl, Rick Nielsen, and Scott Reeder: “From Can to Can’t”
7.) Alain Johannes, Chris Goss, Dave Grohl, and Joshua Homme: “Centipede”
8.) Alain Johannes, Dave Grohl, and Joshua Homme: “A Trick With No Sleeve”
9.) Paul McCartney, Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and Pat Smear: “Cut Me Some Slack”
10.) Dave Grohl, Jessy Greene, Jim Keltner, and Rami Jaffee: “Once Upon a Time… The End”
11.) Dave Grohl, Joshua Homme, and Trent Reznor: “Mantra”

Being Flynn

Being Flynn is disposable filmmaking at its best. Here’s a relatively thought-provoking movie with a solid story and good acting that you’ll only walk away from easily forgetting. It’s in the same vein as the many other heavy family dramas of late, like Descendants. Why these movies gain so much acclaim is beyond me, as they are not necessarily amazing films, they are just pretty good films and have stories which people seem to be able to identify with – if not at least because they’re trying to escape similar situations in their own lives.


What’s funny is, there are millions of stories like this one and probably even better ones at that, and yet somehow this one becomes the fortunate one to survive the rest of the new age, sensitive and dramatic drivel out there. When I saw this film it was an advance screening and presented by none other than the former head of Sundance (now head of Tribeca), Geoffrey Gilmore. In the intro for the movie, Mr. Gilmore proclaimed that he sees a lot of films and it’s the ones that are different or unique that will make it in this present day “disruption” of filmmaking which we’re in (you know, day and date releases, video-on-demand, etc.), because it’s the unique films that will stand out. However, he directly works against his own statements by having hand selected this film for a special advance screening, because unfortunately this film is immediately forgettable and disposable despite its De Niro centerpiece and selling point.

Helmed by director Paul Weitz who you make recognize from earlier fare such as American Pie, there are little moments within this film that you can really hold on to and take with you once you leave the theater. You may crack a laugh, maybe even a smile, probably even feel really bad for Paul Dano’s character, Nick Flynn, at some point, but you’ll never truly care deep down.

There’s no way or chance even to emotionally invest in any of these characters. Yeah, Nick Flynn has a sad backstory, but what’s his deranged/eccentric father’s backstory? What’s his mother’s backstory? Filmicly (dramatically, that is), his mother (played lackadaisically by Julianne Moore here – shocking and disappointing), kills herself in the most unaffecting suicide scene I’ve ever seen in a film – and I’ve seen a lot of suicide scenes in films, because every filmmaker likes a good suicide scene.

It’s almost as if the director Weitz was afraid to do anything too painful with the scene because as he explained it in the Q&A afterwards, the real Nick Flynn (who wrote the memoir this film is based on, appropriately called Another Bullshit Night in Suck City), was on set with him that day as they shot the scene.

The worst part of the whole experience of this person’s life for me was a combination of De Niro’s overwrought performance as the eccentric and egocentric writer Jonathan Flynn and the way Weitz (and maybe the screenwriters?) decided they were tired of this movie now and had better wrap it up quickly at the end. I mean literally, Being Flynn does a 180 on you about ¾ of the way through and ties up everyone’s life in a nice easily digestible package. I can’t believe it could have happened so neatly and succintly in real life, so chalk that spin up to the Hollywood filmmaking formula.

Unfortunately suppressed in his performance for this film, Paul Dano is an awesome actor and he could have torn through the screen if he had been given the chance to, but his scenes which built up his drug addiction were so weak, sporadic and digestible, they almost seemed acceptable – literally the worst that happens to Dano when he’s drugged out on crack is he drinks from someone else’s beer glass. Yeah. His eyes get a little red and at the first mention of someone calling him an addict – BAM! – cut to scene with him at an AA meeting. Talk about cutting to the chase!

Weitz needs to stick to teen comedies, and Gilmore needs to rethink his latest film choices.

What to Watch in October

October appears to be the month of Hollywood uninspired remakes and throwbacks. Why is it so acceptable in the megabucks film industry to be unoriginal? Anyway, this installment of my “What to Watch” series shows you just how few amazing films are pumping out of the studios these days. Strikethroughs are strongly discouraged viewing.

October 7, 2011

Dirty Girl by Abe Sylvia. An interesting cast rounds out this indie-feeling teen road movie/comedy which was helmed by a former-Cats-dancer-turned-UCLA Film School Grad. I say give it a chance. With tinges of Raising Arizona and Easy A it appears to have a nice balance of comedy and drama.

The Ides of March by George Clooney. Political intrigue Clooney style looks to be light on the politics and heavy on the intrigue. Clooney’s smart-man genre has both stood out and fallen through the cracks in the past, but I’m looking forward to this one. The addition of the of-late, ever-present Ryan Gosling certainly can’t hurt either.

Real Steel by Shawn Levy. So the brilliant movie concept here was to make a film based on that game with the boxing robots 10-year old’s used to play in the 80s? Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Something or Other. What actually bothers me more though is that I’m fairly certain this idea has already been put to celluloid by Spielberg, Scott and/or Cameron at some point in the past 30 years. And while Michael Bay is my favorite summer movie director of the lot, I’m pretty sure any Transformers flick will overshadow this thing to a middle schooler.

Texas Killing Fields by Ami Canaan Mann. Is it wrong to wish you were related to a famous filmmaker? That seems to give a number of young filmmakers in recent years the power to write and direct and actually find backing for their projects. Oddly enough though their projects are many times not nearly as great as someone unrelated to a hit director. So this run-of-the-mill crime drama doesn’t really stand out, but the trailer is relatively taut and looks like it will fit right in between two more movies on Cinemax on a Friday night.

Toast by S. J. Clarkson. Standard British coming-of-age drama with Helena Bonham Carter and Freddie Highmore. Nothing to get to excited about, but it’s bound to be endearing.

The Way by Emilio Estevez. Ok, so we’re back to classic Hollywood nepotism in our October lineup. This time in a film starring Martin Sheen and directed by none other than Emilio Estevez! Interestingly though, even for a real life father and son to play off each other in the film, their acting almost comes across a little subpar. Check out the trailer, it almost feels like their conversation is scripted, when even if it was, you’d think they’d play off each other a little better. Anyway, it’s a cute, typical looking journey film, but nothing career defining.

October 14, 2011

The Big Year by David Frankel. Jack Black, Steve Martin and Owen Wilson as comedic trio in a film about competitive bird watching? Yeah… I’m not really feeling it either. Sounds like a fun rental though!

Footloose by Craig Brewer. It pains me greatly to say that the stellar Brewer, coming off creating some of the best neo-exploitation films of the past ten years, would stoop to the level of a remake – already. In the realm of cult classic dance movies of the 80s, you’d not expect to see Footloose cropping up ahead of that other one… but, alas, here it comes. So kick off your Sunday shoes and get comfy.

The Skin I Live In by Pedro Almodóvar. There’s no way I would miss any new film by this Spanish auteur, but this one just looks gloriously dark, creepy and quite apropos for October. Antonio Banderas, working with Almodóvar for the first time since their last disturbing work together (the 1990 NC-17er Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!), plays a sociopath/plastic surgeon who experiments on women he holds captive in his mansion. And, if you like this film, definitely check out the amazing short by filmmaker Sébastien Rossignol, Le Miroir.

The Thing by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. Watch the red band trailer here. Ok, I admit, I’m kind of a 70s and 80s trashy film nerd, so yeah I love John Carpenter’s The Thing, and while it disheartens me to see that it’s being remade (like everything else lately), I’m a little excited underneath it all to see it in maybe a slicker, gorier version than before. I’ll have to go a little hypocrite here, and say I appreciate the facelift on this schlocky horror gem.

October 21, 2011

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey by Constance Marks. I really dig personal journey and inspiration documentaries like this, so I may be a little biased here, but I would recommend giving this film a shot.

Father of Invention by Trent Cooper. 2010 holdover and weak comedy about a Kevin Spacey character who is released form white collar prison life and has to shack up with his daughter and work at a Hollywood-type Walmart. Pass.

Margin Call by J. C. Chandor. High drama in the banking and investment world seems to be a theme of a lot of films lately (no surprise), this one is run of the mill and sports a 50/50 cast. This seems a genre better suited to the likes of Oliver Stone and/or David Mamet.

Martha Marcy May Marlene by Sean Durkin. There’s a new Olsen girl in town! Her name’s Elizabeth. From the looks of it, she’s not interested in following in the footsteps of her sisters oeuvre, and instead has debuted her acting career in this indie Sundance word-of-mouther about the titular, multi-personaed girl who is part of a religious cult. See? Now here’s that originality I’ve been looking for!

Paranormal Activity 3 by Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman. The first was relatively captivating, but two sequels since then? Paranormal stuff is better viewed on basic cable when it comes on without knowing after an Anthony Bourdain marathon.

Revenge of the Electric Car by Chris Paine. I can only hope this film makes some waves.

The Three Musketeers by Paul W.S. Anderson. Another unnecessary remake of a perfectly suitable classic. The story is one of those that really looks better in classic film form anyway, so upgrading this one seems a little gratuitous. On the other hand, Paul W.S. Anderson has been known to do some pretty decent action flicks, and the obvious addition of Milla Jovovich is more than welcomed.

October 28, 2011

Anonymous by Roland Emmerich. Summer movie maven Emmerich slows it down for the Fall and tries out Shakespeare instead of catastrophe. Same premise, of course: he wants to turn The Bard on its head (sort of like humanity). Yes, this film is of the position that Shakespeare did not actually write his world-renown plays, and that Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford did. Pleasantly surprised; this appears to be a step up for Emmerich. Rhys Ifans’ and David Thewlis are always great, too.

In Time by Andrew Niccol. No stranger to this sub-genre, director Niccol creates a future where humans are genetically engineered and designed to die at the ripe old age of 25. In the cliched future-film/suspense genre there’s always one individual who breaks away from the mold and goes on the run, chased by whatever futuristic armed and uniformed drones the screenwriter has come up with – and, while this film doesn’t really look any different (despite the unique life-span concept), it does have the gorgeous Olivia Wilde playing a (…wait for it) mom. Commence dirty acronyms… now.

Johnny English Reborn by Oliver Parker. The inimitable Roman Atkinson dusts off the 007-parody character Johnny English and gives it another try after almost a decade.

Like Crazy by Drake Doremus. Director Doremus is a Sundance veteran now, but as I’ve said many times on this blog, don’t see a movie just because it played Sundance. Do, however, see Like Crazy because it’s heartfelt, realistic, humorous and painful all in one – and for me – it’s hits home all too much (but that’s for another blog, another day). This is solid work and great indication of what’s to come from this fledgling filmmaker.

The Rum Diary by Bruce Robinson. Okay, well you’ve got three things to consider here: 1.) Hunter S. Thompson; 2.) Bruce Robinson; 3.) Johnny Depp. Add them all together and you’ve got a winning combination in my mind, however I haven’t seen the film yet, but if Robinson’s cult classics How to Get Ahead in Advertising and Withnail & I are any indication, this film will be witty, effervescent, and full of colorful characters.

Sleeping Beauty by Julia Leigh. In a film “presented by” Jane Campion you can expect the material to be pretty raw and jolting, but Leigh’s film has the eerie, off-kilter presence of Dogtooth and the concept and tone of Eyes Wide Shut. Not to be confused with the children’s story, this is very adult-oriented material. A young college student (Emily Browning) takes a job as a “sleeping beauty” in a venue where men pay to watch her as she sleeps.

What to Watch in September

It’s a tough cinematic world out there, but I care about the readers of this blog and only want them to spend their hard earned dollars on the good films, so here’s a (sorta) completist’s guide to the 2011 Fall Season of films – starting with September. My plan is, around the middle of each month, to post the next month’s domestic (limited and wide) film releases – while of course providing my own two cents on it. The indicators should be pretty clear: if it’s got a line through it, it does not have my recommendation. That said, give it a chance if it comes on cable someday.

September 2

  • Apollo 18 by Gonzalo López-Gallego. Watch it and think about how we’ll never get to go to space again. Which is ok I guess since there’s monsters up there.
  • Seven Days in Utopia by Matt Russell. Looks like a cross between Doc Hollywood and Tin Cup.
  • Shark Night 3D by who cares. It’s sharks in 3D.

September 9

  • Bucky Larson: Born to Be A Star by Tom Brady. Nick Swardson plays the socially-outcasted son of two adult pornstars.
  • Contagion by Steven Soderbergh. Eh. Pretty sure I saw this almost 10 years ago, but it was called Outbreak.
  • Warrior by Gavin O’Connor. Looks like a possibly edgier, indier version of The Fighter, although the MMA thing is getting old.

September 16

  • Drive by Nicolas Winding Refn and starring Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan – there’s no way I’m missing this.
  • I Don’t Know How She Does It by Douglas McGrath. A classier comedy for the SITC set?
  • The Lion King 3D by Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff. So The Lion King is getting not only a Blu-ray upgrade, but a limited theatrical release in 3D!? Oh Disney, your vaults are so leaky!
  • Restless by Gus Van Sant. The story of a terminally ill teenage girl who falls for a boy who likes to attend funerals and their encounters with the ghost of a Japanese kamikaze pilot from WWII.
  • Straw Dogs by Rod Lurie. This is one of the most painful films for me to list here. In general, I loathe most remakes of anything, but especially a remake of a film that was absolutely perfect to begin with. Peckinpah would roll over in his grave if he knew someone bastardized his (possibly) best – and most controversial – work to make an easy sale to the teenage torture-porn audiences who should just be left to their Final Destinations and $5 popcorn. Haven’t seen the 1971 version of this film with Dustin Hoffman? Try and get your hands on that first and check out my review of it here.
  • The Whale by Suzanne Chisholm. Endearing doc which looks like a cross between Free Willy and The Cove.

September 20

  • Pearl Jam Twenty by Cameron Crowe. A cineaste’s favorite rock ‘n’ roll filmmaker (ok, along with maybe Pennebaker and Scorsese) pulls together a new rock doc on the 90s other Top 40 grunge band, Pearl Jam. You know, the ones who instead of making kids want to do drugs and commit suicide, made them want to surf and stand up to bullies? Apparently, they’ve been around for 20 years now. Problem is, if I go see this, I’m just going to feel fucking old. PS. The soundtrack is released on this day as well, and it includes 30 pages of liner notes from Crowe himself.

September 23

  • Abduction by John Singleton. Decent looking action suspense flick which fits neatly into the fringes of the summer blockbusters. Nothing you haven’t seen before story-wise, but a chance to see Team Jacob’s (Lautner’s) acting ability in something other than stilted-werewolf-lover-boy for once.
  • Dolphin Tale by Charles Martin Smith. Another Free Willy in September comes you (and your children’s way)! This one looks more like a good tearjerker for the adolescents and their moms than The Whale, but at least this one will probably have the prospect of ending on a high note.
  • The Double by Michael Brandt. Political intrigue and the usual pairing of a retired CIA Operative and a younger FBI agent to help heighten the tension and provide something mid-life crisis moviegoers can sink their teeth into. Think Hollywood Homicide in… Detroit?
  • Killer Elite by Gary McKendry. Standard issue action flick, but one with a cast that I admit I’m intrigued to see play off each other: Statham, De Niro and Clive Owen (with a ridiculous Magnum P.I. throwback mustache). The updated version of “Rock You Like a Hurricane” in the trailer is not adding any points though.
  • Machine Gun Preacher by Marc Forster. First of all, I’ll watch anything by Marc Forster. He has a sensibility to rooting out the most unique films which appeal to both the marketing people and the critics. It’s a beautiful thing. This one stars Gerard Butler as a (I think) a real life reformed drug addict/biker who finds religion and makes it his life’s devotion to help the children of impoverished and brutalized Africa. The poster, however, looks a little goofy.
  • Moneyball by Bennett Miller. Hollywood takes a shot at revitalizing the sport of baseball by bringing in Brad Pitt and the only character Jonah Hill seems to ever play anymore – the bright, young, employee with fresh ideas on an old line of work. Looks a little too Any Given Sunday via Jerry Maguire for me though.
  • Red State by Kevin Smith. Holy crap. I’ve been waiting for this movie since 2008. What else can I say?
  • Weekend by Andrew Haigh. British indie romance about a gay couple who do pretty much nothing exciting looking for an entire weekend. Touted as an “Audience Winner” at SXSW this year – don’t let that get your hopes up. A good percentage of what they program is geared towards one specific type of hipster audience and most of the films are either pretentious or ridiculous or both. Example: MacGruber. This one looks a bit like Medicine for Melancholy only not with a black, hetero couple in the States.

September 30

  • 50/50 by Jonathan Levine. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of my favorite young male leads and playing off another of my favorites – Anna Kendrick – makes this made-for-hipsters dramedy all that much more enticing. 
  • Courageous by Alex Kendrick. Overwrought drama about four law enforcement officers.
  • Dream House by Jim Sheridan. Rock solid lineup of actors, with the always-solid directing of Sheridan (ok ok, Get Rich or Die Tryin’ was a joke) makes this a no-brainer. Additionally, this will be Sheridan’s first stab at helming a horror flick!
  • Margaret by Kenneth Lonergan. Anna Paquin plays a woman who witnesses a bus accident which turns out to change her life. Honestly, this could be hit or miss. I’ve grown used to Paquin as a mind-reading vampire lover, so it may be a hard transition for me in this real-world-rooted drama, but then a film produced by the trio of Minghella, Pollack and Scott Rudin can’t be all bad.
  • Take Shelter by Jeff Nichols. This film looks just plain awesome. Michael Shannon is always great as the tight-lipped, emotionally-repressed characters he exudes, but the austerity and manipulation of the dramatic elements in this film make it no question as to why it garnered praise at Cannes, Sundance and other fests. Be sure to give it a shot if you see anything in September.
  • What’s Your Number? by Mark Mylod. Anna Faris churns out another romantic comedy where she gets to trip, fall and look goofy. 

Did I miss anything? Let me know and I’ll add it to the list.

Where The Wild Things Are (In Jonze’s Mind?)

If Spike Jonze makes another damn film about someone with an imagination (overactive or not) feeling like an outcast, I’m boycotting his work. Ok, I’ll make an exception if Catherine Keener, John Cusack and/or Mark Ruffalo are involved – but otherwise, I’m out. Seriously, Being John Malkovich — okay I was wooed. It was pretty original and amazing and unexpected and modernly classic in its filmmaking – deserving of its three Oscar nods.


Adaptation was an acceptable sophomoric effort. An indelible scene with the car accident, but otherwise seemingly uninspired. Films about writers are always easily panned when they’re lacking in darkness though, so I understood where Jonze was trying to go, but the Coens and other filmmakers had already succeeded in this type of story before. I’m Here*, a short film about robots made basically as a liquor company commercial and yet premiering at Sundance (all seems very hypocritical, no?), was wonderfully conceptual as a vision. Again Jonze wowed me with the modernly classic style of the film – but the story concept itself (even down to the idea of robots having human feelings) has all been run through before.


So, needless to say, I was disappointed to watch Where The Wild Things Are and find it to be the same damn shit, just a younger protagonist. Once more, Jonze seems to want to rely on the visual conceptual concept (something he no doubt picked up and got hooked on through the music video craft) instead of the actual art of directing a unique vision (as he accomplished in Malkovich). Music videos generally survive on a great, simple but unexpected or original concept with which a story is built around. So yeah, big, fuzzy, Björk-esque, rejected team mascots holing up on an island is great if your watching a Decemberists video or something, but dropping $9.50 and giving up your Friday night? No thanks.


Don’t get me wrong, I get what it’s trying to say and all, growing up is hard. Especially when you’re an attention obsessed little kid who feels like he has to please everybody just in order for them to pay attention to him. The major, life-altering realization for him, of course, is that even his big, fuzzy playmates have expectations of him and secret, selfish human traits. Grow up fast kid! Even in your dream world, not everything will go down as you like it! You can’t please everyone! Not even a harmless moviegoer such as myself. Howl at that.

*Incidentally, you can watch I’m Here in its entirety here. Consider the above my review of it.