Archive for the ‘Hawaii’ Category

Cloud Atlas (2012)


If you didn’t see this movie on the big screen, you missed out.  If you missed it entirely, you fucked up.  And if you were one of those who called it “the worst movie of the year” (whoever Mary Pols at Time magazine is; stupid stupid Peter Travers) – God help you.  When this movie comes to be seen as a lost classic in a few years, you may wish you weren’t so nasty.

I won’t be gloating though.  I choose the avenue of love.  This movie encouraged me to be that way.  This movie is about a lot of things I may or may not believe in – fate, true love, reincarnation of sorts – and it made me believe – strongly – in them all.  That’s the power of love, son.  That’s the power of cinema.  And I was skeptical too.  I’ve always liked the Wachowskis but I’m not as high on THE MATRIX as so many are (although, weirdly, I liked the sequels better than most), and I haven’t seen a Tom Tykwer move that really resonated with me since RUN LOLA RUN.  Most of all, without having read David Mitchell’s original novel it was hard to tell in advance what the hell this movie was going to be about.  Answer:  It’s kinda about everything.

It’s a 19th-century nautical drama involving slavery and other human cruelties.

It’s a period piece about the creation of classical music and an impossible romance.

It’s a 1970s political thriller about an intrepid reporter (co-starring THE THING‘s Keith David as SHAFT‘s Shaft!).

It’s a whimsical farce about an attempted escape from a nursing home.

It’s a science-fiction anime action-movie love-story.

It’s a post-apocalyptic future-tropical tribal-warfare-slash-horror-movie that turns into a campfire fable.

It’s like no other movie I’ve ever seen before, which for the record is exactly why I go to the movies:  To see things I haven’t seen before.  The performances are surprising and exhilarating, the score is clever and moving, the cinematography is colorful and absorbing, the scope is bold and ambitious.  Does it matter too much that some of the storylines are more affecting than others?  You think I care about anybody’s stupid little quibbles over some of the makeup effects?  This is a movie that shoots for the moon and more than once hits the stars.  This movie didn’t just surprise me with what it is – it surprised me about ME.  It’s sad that more people haven’t embraced it yet, but believe me, I’m happier loving this movie than you are disregarding or ignoring it.  Feel free to come over to this side anytime!

I wrote this for Daily Grindhouse and reposted it here because CLOUD ATLAS is out on DVD & Blu-Ray today. Now’s your chance to remedy the mistakes of the past…


Look, I’m still on a high from meeting and talking to a stuntman and Hollywood legend who was actually IN one of the epic slugfests in Donovan’s Reef — among many, many other epic slugfests — so while I digest that information, here are a few words on this very fun movie:

Donovan’s Reef was directed by the great John Ford, co-written by frequent Ford collaborator Frank S. Nugent (The Searchers.)  It stars John Wayne as Donovan and Lee Marvin as Gilhooley, his old army buddy.  Donovan and Gilhooley enjoy a few things:  Travelling, pretty girls, drinking, the ocean, and punching each other.

Donovan has settled in the Polynesian Islands where he runs a bar (hence the title), but he and Gilhooley have an annual fist-fight tradition going back twenty years. Plenty else happens in the movie, some of which concerned with issues of love and marriage and race and friendship, but the primary appeal of this movie is to see John Wayne and Lee Marvin beating the crap out of each other throughout the running time.

You can say what you want about Wayne (I have my opinions but they belong in a longer piece).  On the other hand, I won’t hear a single bad word about Lee Marvin, who is probably my favorite movie star of all time.  He’s great.  There’s never been anyone remotely like him in the history of movie stars.  His entrance into this movie alone is amazing – the dude jumps off a ship and swims to the island he’s been trying to get to, emerges from the ocean and immediately goes looking for Wayne.  From this entrance follow some of the best bar fights of all time.  Trust me.

You combine that with the Hawaii locations and the way that William Clothier’s photography captures them in that warm, friendly old-Hollywood Technicolor way, and you really have something special.  It’s no great capital-C classic, but it’s a solid and sturdy old-school entertainment that thrills and relaxes.  Donovan’s Reef is a movie that just feels comfortable to me – it’s a cold tropical drink at the end of a long and busy day at the beach.

Please enjoy this YouTube excerpt, and see if that puts you in a mind to go see this sweet little piece of old-Hollywood red velvet cake.



And the decade-long set of ten favorites continues…

#3.  Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

Remember what I said about how I value sincerity?  Here’s another case.  You can love it or hate it, but you can’t argue that this movie doesn’t feel like a letter straight from the heart of its maker.

Paul Thomas Anderson is the poet laureate of the San Fernando Valley.  I’m sure someone has said those exact words at some point in the past, but that would only go to show how true a statement it is.

Having spent plenty of time in all corners of the Valley over the past ten years myself, I can tell you that no movies capture the feel of that very specific landscape as exactly as do the movies of PTA.  Besides porno movies, which, naturally, PTA covered in his breakthrough, Boogie Nights.  PTA next covered the spectrum of Valley dwellers in Magnolia, and Punch-Drunk Love is the logical extension of PTA’s Valley-centered observations.  There’s a very specific loneliness and distancing to that corner of the world, at least as I experienced it – Los Angeles as a whole absolutely has that distancing effect, but most other parts of LA put up a much friendlier front.  Not for nothing, but the Valley is separated even from the rest of LA, so it’s got its own unique feel.

And that’s the feel I get from Punch-Drunk Love, which has rhythms and plot developments that to me have more in common with songwriting than traditional screenwriting. Punch-Drunk Love, like every other Paul Thomas Anderson movie, works on me more like a song than a movie.  It conjures a mood, and makes me hum along.  And it’s more evidence that PTA knows how to use actors perfectly – who else could take Adam Sandler, bar none the most popular American movie star of the decade (only Will Smith comes close), and get such weird magic out of him?

I’m a Sandler fan, personally, but it’s a rare thing to see him in a movie that can be remotely be considered “good.” And I never saw him be this interesting, complicated, and vulnerable on screen, at least until his pal Judd Apatow got a hold of him again, briefly.  Funny People has the other great Sandler performance of the decade, but only Punch-Drunk Love has the Mattress Man.