Archive for June 2009

Party Down (John Enbom, Dan Etheridge, Paul Rudd, 2009)



My favorite television series of late courtesy of Starz, aka Starz Entertainment, LLC, a wholly owned television programming subsidiary of Liberty Media Corp. This is scintillating funny stuff – the dude that stole the show in Stepbrothers (one of the more underrated films of 2008), Adam Scott, forges ahead as glum, pill and vodka shot popping Henry Pollard, a down on his luck actor who’s claim to fame is a particular commercial that has him exclaiming “Are we having fun yet?!”  Next to him are other struggling actors including those played by the brilliant Jane Lynch, Kyle Bradway, Roman DeBeers, Casey Klein and the guy that steals this show, Ken Marino playing Ron Donald the boss of Party Down, an LA catering company.  Party Down premiered on March 20, 2009 and played ten episodes of increasingly manic comedy.

Willow Canyon Homeowners Annual Party (Episode 1), the premiere episode, introduces us to Henry Pollard, the newest recruit to Party Down.  Henry is a young disgruntled actor, lost of his big dreams, and arrives at this suburban party with the observation that this particular homeowner’s set up isn’t that bad.  He explains as much to the homeowner, Gordon McSpadden played by Enrico Colantoni.  McSpadden isn’t as impressed by his own spread and caps off his evening as host by becoming extremely intoxicated, stripping off his clothes and cannon balling into his pool much to the dismay of the other homeowners.  Thus begins a very interesting series that casts a humorous eye on not only the employees of Party Down but on their clients who change weekly with the gigs and who are as colorful as the main protagonists.  Henry meets Casey (Lizzy Caplan) a similarly struggling actor who promises a romantic attachment for him.  Caplan is lovely and gives a wonderfully understated performance in this series.  Add Jane Lynch (Constance, the goofy, off-kilter B movie has been), Ryan Hanson (pretty boy Kyle missing a few brain cells who doesn’t flinch when told that Henry’s “agent” is State Farm), Martin Starr (Roman, a “screenwriter” of Star Trek knockoffs that’s way too good for this job but can’t get the (any) girl), and Ken Marino (Ron, the catering supervisor, inspired by famous management gurus of the stage and happens to be a recovering addict teetering on the edge).


Highlights are the premiere, Investors Dinner (Episode 4), Taylor Stiltskin Sweet Sixteen (Episode 6 with an absolutely balls to the wall turn by a wildly cursing J.K. Simmons as the daddy/music producer), Celebrate Rick Sargulesh (Episode 8, a hilarious take on a mob birthday party sparked by an impromptu performance from Steven Weber as the birthday mobster boy), and the Stennheiser-Pong Wedding Reception season one finale with a lovely cameo by Kristen Bell of Forgetting Sarah Marshall fame.


Great cameos throughout (yes, thats Sulu) the material is surprisingly moving as the series plays on and develops relationships and interplay between the principal characters as real people facing real career and interpersonal challenges.  I cannot wait for the second year as its been green lit by Starz.

Top 20 Film Soundtracks



1   The Shining
2   Ghost World
3   Until the End of the World
4   Amadeus
5   The Wizard of Oz
6   Saturday Night Fever
7   A Clockwork Orange
8   The Sound of Music
9   Nashville
10   Grease
11   Jackie Brown
12   The Graduate
13   This is Spinal Tap
14   2001: A Space Odyssey
15   A Mighty Wind
16   Breaking the Waves
17   Full Metal Jacket
18   Out of Sight
19   Donnie Darko
20   Garden State

Top 20 Film Scores



1   Psycho (Bernard Herrmann)
2   The Last Temptation of Christ (Peter Gabriel)
3   Twin Peaks (Angelo Badalamenti)
4   The Truman Show (Burkhard Dallwitz)
5   Requiem for a Dream (Clint Mansell)
6   Memento (David Julyan)
7   Mystic River (Clint Eastwood)
8   There Will be Blood (Jonny Greenwood)
9   North by Northwest (Bernard Herrmann)
10   Crash (1996, Cronenberg) (Howard Shore)
11   Stealing Home (David Foster)
12   The Illustrated Family Doctor (Severed Heads)
13   Dead Ringers (Howard Shore)
14   Sideways (Rolfe Kent)
15   Exotica (Mychael Danna)
16   Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Jon Brion)
17   Blue Velvet (Angelo Badalamenti)
18   The Remains of the Day (Richard Robbins)
19   A History of Violence (Howard Shore)
20  D-Hall (Nat Leakey aka Mandrake aka Me)

The Visitor (Thomas McCarthy, 2008)


the visitor

A very sweet story that Richard Jenkins (economics Prof. Walter Vale) was just meant to play.  The feeling I am left with is altruism in it’s purest form, beyond even the backdrop of 9/11 deportation which is somewhat of a political misstep in the film anyway.  Vale, despondent from his mundane existence is reinvigorated by discovering an illegal couple living in a NY property of his but not one he frequents.  There should be more excitement in economics than this.  Vale bonds immediately with the male lead in a mutual love for music.  The film is not without its faults:  1.  Again, the political landscape falls tired because its been going on for centuries in many countries, 2.  The widower theme and a disjointed relationship with a son is never developed at all (this backdrop is a conceit to persuade the audience to feel a certain way going in – I don’t like to be persuaded a certain way going in.), 3. Why not have the relationship with the mother and Vale become sexual?

But overall its inspiring to watch Vale as he desperately yet calmly tries to solve the problem at hand.  I have always loved Jenkins, especially in his comic roles (e.g. Flirting With Disaster) but this is his film and in the special features in the blu-ray DVD he confirms its his role of a lifetime.

*** 1/2 / *****

The Strangers (Bryan Bertino, 2008)



Crack, craSHH, scream, click.  Good sound design.  Is that it?  About it.  Not sure if this was some Funny Games copy gone awry or an honest attempt at box office penetration, or both.  The first act is really cool, the relationship stuff and how the plot points are delivered in a kind of choppy flash forward / flash back / etc way that works.  Yet after that the pic deteriorates into the genre norm minute by minute, cut by cut.

Lord, I gotta say one thing – Liv Tyler has never looked more beautiful on film and plays a great damsel in distress.

Round the end we get to see hints at the true identities of the intruders.  By that time I was bored and looking at the clock.  Effective thriller for the middle-expectation filmgoer thrill seeker.

** / *****

Burn After Reading (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2008)



I think its fits in nicely within the Coen ouevre (i.e. people, sometimes dumb, sometimes not, getting involved in situations way over the heads) and they must have needed a break after they’re masterpiece of No Country for Old Men and the grand attention it got….the problem with the film is that the thriller aspects of the film occur too late into the third act. So, in the meantime, the audience has to get by on enjoying the wild, over the top acting…..which is pretty good for the most part. However, if you are going to cast Pitt AND Clooney its going to be a distraction anyway – but when they are both trying so hard to give it that “Raising Arizona” intensity its alot to take in. 

John Malkovich, Francis McDormand, Hilda Swinton and Richard Jenkins, all great actors, are sucked into the mayhem of the wildness of the script and are overwhelmed by it.

*** / *****

Lakeview Terrace (Neil LaBute, 2008)



Your run of the mill thriller with few surprises.  The material is so dated that it comes off as a training manual in how to make a thriller about race relations.  Its not poorly done at all and a few sequences are surprisingly funny (the chainsaw scene).  The oncoming fires are a silly but somewhat effective device as the tension builds.  But overall, I was pretty bored.  Nice score.

** / *****