Sunday, November 25, 2007

"Michigan vs. Ohio State: The Rivalry"

Should have been called "Bo vs. Woody: The Ten Year War"

Seriously... ManwithaVan could not have been more enthused for a documentary Ohio State Football (and their 110 year-old border rivalry with those nancy-boys from Ann Arbor). While this HBO doc is a fine introduction to the greatest rivalry in sports as well as an historic memento for its followers, it can be mighty glossy and shallow at times. "Rivalry's" brightest segment is its in-depth coverage of the "Ten Year War" between famed head coaches Bo Schembechler (in interview footage shortly before his death) and Woody Hayes (in footage of his infamous conniption fits). But this leaves little room for much else, including any meaningful exploration of the contemporary culture that “The Game” has spawned.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Not bad. Pretty good.

Seriously... When ManwithaVan was in high school he got lowbrow skin flicks like “American Pie”, which was admittedly funny at the time, but still felt… removed… over-produced and unrealistic. Enter Judd Apatow (credited here as a Producer) and his ongoing saga of laugh-out-loud yet down-to-earth fun-fare. While “Superbad” indeed packs in its fair share of outlandish shenanigans, it’s the first movie about high school I can remember that seems like a more honest portrayal of the times, boldly manifested in it’s humanistic characters. And it manages to be pretty damn funny in doing so, sporting a fabulous cast of Apatow familiars and some super sharp dialogue. Although it's a bit long.

"The Darjeeling Limited"

Wes Anderson is 5 for 5.

Seriously... Director Wes Anderson crafts yet another terrifically impressive film; this one the tale of 3 brothers who set out across India on a spiritual journey, even if on their own terms. And all 3 leads (Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, & Adrien Brody) turn in solid performances backed by the film's best attribute-- its writing, which is clever, creative, fun, funny, and even very self-aware. Just one thing... ManwithaVan could have done without all those unmotivated slow-mo shots pretentiously set to rock tunes, which only detract from the film's otherwise strong sense of style. Why's Wes always gotta be doin' that crap?

Monday, November 19, 2007


Everything a Doc could be.

Seriously... "Darkon" Directors Andrew Neel & Luke Meyers manage to cover all angles of a relatively unfamiliar topic – a full-contact adult war-gaming society – practically leaving no questions unanswered. Who are these guys? Who marries them? And what of their kids? It's all there and it's all worth it. It's also a very fair outlook on their lives, making it easy to both sympathize with them AND laugh at them. e.g. It's pretty ridiculous to watch these characters swinging foam swords 20 meters from a parking lot of minivans, and yet when the picture noticeably receives a boost in budget halfway through, suddenly incorporating sweeping crane shots, one can't help but feel happy for these guys, who are finally starring in their own epic.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"Rescue Dawn"

Herzog hasn't lost a step.

Seriously... Leave it to the jungle to make Director Werner Herzog feel right at home. "Rescue Dawn" is the true account of a U.S. soldier's escape from imprisonment, Vietnam, and his own government. It's also a flawless and refreshing throwback to the 1960's in terms of filmmaking form and style, once again demonstrating Herzog's mastery. And ManwithaVan can't think of a better performer than Christian Bale to tackle the role of an isolated survivalist. Apparently he's the go-to guy for roles that require extreme malnourishment and severe pain. But where do filmmakers keep finding these Asian actors willing to play psychotic Vietnamese soldiers? You'd think at some point they would all take a stand.


"Mulholland Drive" on street crack.

Seriously... For his latest feature, Director David Lynch operates under complete creative control boldly experimenting with digital filmmaking and further exploring the art of "diving within" to produce what is probably his most raw, honest, and personal project since the 1970's. But what the f*ck does it all mean? For starters, the film's title certainly does not refer to any physical place, rather the vast treasures or rewards that can be found by searching within one's self, as an actor or actress (i.e. Laura Dern) is often required to do for a role. To help make the best sense out of "INLAND EMPIRE", ManwithaVan recommends Lynch's short book, "Catching the Big Fish."