Friday, December 2, 2016

MIXED BAG BLOG #12: REACTION YOUTUBE VIDEOS, "CHICAGO" FRANCHISE AS ONE ENSEMBLE, and RECONSIDERING THE FAIRNESS DOCTRINE in LIGHT OF THE MEDIA COVERAGE OF THE ELECTION

Well, there's not too much going on at the moment that I feel like writing about in an extensive manner, at least in the entertainment world. If you're interested in how we should overthrow the government and a 101 Class on how to rewrite the Constitution on the back of a napkin, you can try my latest article at "David Baruffi's Political Views and Reviews", which is at this site here:


So, every so often when there's nothing going on in the entertainment world that seems important or relevant enough to garner a complete and full review, we do a little Mixed Bag Blog, where we take, a couple quick looks at a few different subjects or events going on in the entertainment world, and we're gonna do one of those today.....


REACTION YOUTUBE VIDEOS

So, something I've been watching a lot of lately is an interesting new little fad and quirk of Youtube, and that's the Reaction Videos. I know, they're not exactly new, and there's definitely a whole genre of gaming videos, that, frankly I don't understand the appeal of at all, where we're seeing people's reactions to something, but in this cell phone video culture, there's been a development of numerous videotape, oneself, doing anything, and, eh, I'm not crazy about the narcissistic implications of that, but honestly I do kinda get it. It's basically the same as people who took photos of everything. Strangely as somebody with a film degree, I myself don't have this obsession or fascination, in fact I never think to film or photograph enough of everything around me, it actually does bother me that I don't but.... It probably doesn't help that my family did photograph me, a lot, when I was younger, way too much really. (Sigh) Anyway, eh, the reason I kinda starting keeping an eye for this, is that occasionally things happen, especially in the sports world where something amazing or shocking happens and you just want to see what happens to everyone, and recently there was an event in the sports, eh, entertainment world, (aka Pro wrestling) that kinda shocked people when it happened, in a good way, and I've frankly enjoyed watching a lot of reaction videos people made of themselves experiencing the event. Now, I've made some note of this before, I brought up a bunch of reaction videos people made after Villanova won the NCAA Championship, which if you know, I'm a Philadelphia sports fan, so I and everybody else was celebrating like crazy. We don't get to win much, especially the way we won, (Although admittedly, I tend to prefer watching the North Carolina fans watching the game, 'cause they lost, and it's funny!) but yeah, something amazing happened, and as trivial as it is, that shared experience is quite an amazing one to have. Nice to know exists to, for people like me, who don't live anywhere near their favorite sports town. Now, as to pro wrestling, I don't follow it like I used to, I've admitted to that as well, although I try to keep alert of it; I think it's like anything else, there's good and bad, but from somebody who's only half-paying attention anymore, it's kinda entertaining when something actually happens that surprises and shocks them. The great appeal of pro wrestling especially, is the opposite appeal of sports to some extent, since it is, pre-determined, you're more likely to get an exciting battle between the combatants instead of say, in Mixed Martial Arts, which I find boring as hell, especially when, big bouts usually end pretty quickly, so you can at least, see the wrestlers, trying to give the audience's money's worth, and the downside to that, is that especially lately, is that it can become rather predictable. Which is not entirely a bad thing, to be brutally honest, but it can get boring and repetitive, but if done well, within that string of repetitiveness, something that's startling unexpected and atypical and unexpected really does stand out. It's like any other writing, you set up A and B, and when you think C's coming, that's when Z happens, and now you got a new condition for everyone to deal with. But, yeah, that kind of shared experience, seeing people react to watching the Goldberg and Brock Lesner match, it's pretty amazing to see. Not just the shared experience part, I didn't experience that, I mostly was watching from the sidelines in laughter, like, "Hey, wow, they got them offguard, good job Pro Wrestling!" and from that perspective, it's still pretty fun to watch these reactions. 

It's kind of a weird name for them, "Reaction Videos", I mean, especially in this blogging and vlogging culture, essentially almost all Youtube videos are pretty much reaction videos. I mean, hell, this blog is essentially a reaction video. This article is a reaction to reaction videos, a review of anything is a reaction. As a commentator, basically all I ever do is watch what happens and then, react to what just happened. 

That said though, those morons who post reaction videos to reaction videos, or people watching other's videos and then record their reactions to those videos, I know I'm being somewhat of a hypocrite here, but those people need to die. Find something better to do. By the time you react and counter-react to the reactions and eventually, you forget what the hell the original event even was, and even if that wasn't a problem, that's just the ultimate worst kind of egocentric people who pervert the streaming landscape. I run my own entertainment reviewing blog and I even think that's beyond obnoxious That's too far, but yeah, sharing, or even just appreciating what others are sharing with each other, 'cause of something amazing or happy to be around, yeah, that a good use of a modern home movie aesthetic and one I can really get behind. I think this'll work best for events, things happening in real time, with people watching, and not necessarily scripted series or anything, I mean, I know pro wrestling is scripted to some extent, but it's still a real event, not like, just some amazing episode of "Game of Thrones" or anything, so sports is where this can really thrive. And you can get a decent chuckle or two out of sports entertainment with it as well, when they do something that's actually worth noting. So we're gonna talk about the possibilities of "Chicago" qualifying as a 


DOES "CHICAGO" FRANCHISE, MEAN "CHICAGO" ENSEMBLE? 



I think I've made it fairly clear that I'm not particularly fond of the idea of "franchises", or specifically, "Universes". but that's usually I'm talking about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or comic books in general really. I wrote one blog really criticizing the idea that such a cinematic scope of the event was overblown and not nearly as original as everybody seems to think it is, and I still by that, but I probably should be a little more lenient, because I think a lot of people don't fully realize how very often television series have made numerous efforts to cross franchises over and over again over the years. I mean, the term spin-off, pretty much comes from television, you know? I mean, I can think of a few spin-off novels and plays where multiple characters crossed over into other works, even Shakespeare did that, but this notion that feature films is a good idea for this, much less this feature films-television cross over crap, yeah, that's, that's too much and mostly just stupid fanfic fan service. I've never been one, who cared or gave a shit about whether or not Batman and Superman were friends, or in the same universe, or fighting each other or with each other, if anything, I usually just get annoyed that, if they are known and aware of each, why aren't they always together. 

But, television, television doesn't usually allow for fantasy to muck up reality, at least it used to, (Sigh) and in many instances in the past, it actually made quite a bit of sense, to cross universes and characters, especially since many successful shows would often be the predicate for some successful spinoffs. (And not-so-successful ones too, but we'll ignore them). You have shows that take place, essentially in the same time and place, usually on the same channel, since series are often design to compliment each other, it 's not weird at all, really to combine them into a universe, in the right circumstances. "Mad About You", "Friends" and "Seinfeld" being combined together for instance, it's actually almost natural. Or "The Golden Girls", "Empty Nest" and "Nurses", (I know, nobody remembers "Nurses", and frankly nobody should0 Miami, there's a few people who work in the medical field, it's Florida, there's gonna be a hurricane at some point, why not make a night of it? Especially since most of the time, these shows often have quite similar people behind the scenes as well. David E. Kelley has masterfully combined a few of his series in the past. "Boston Public", and "The Practice" crossed-over from different networks at one point, and "Boston Public", it was later revealed is in the "Boston Legal" universe, which was the spin-off of "The Practice", so there's some really great callbacks there, and it makes sense. Same people involved, similar tones, similar series. 

This brings me to a little seen Variety article about Dick Wolf, petitioning the SAG-Aftra, for a ruling regarding the Screen Actors Guild Awards. 


For those who aren't as familiar, instead of a Best Picture or Series' category, the Screen Actors Guild always gives out a Best Ensemble category, where they honor all of the actors for that particular movie or TV show, which can be a bit confusing, and there is a distinction between the two, the SAG, is not traditionally a great Best Picture Oscar predictor, 'cause they tend to lean more towards films with more actors and performers than perhaps. Anyway, Dick Wolf, is no stranger to franchise building and combining, the most famous of which, is "Law & Order" which stretches over a Tommy Westphall nightmare amount of series, not to mention all the ones that are crossed into that franchise, including, his current major franchise, "Chicago". I've never been a fan of "Chicago Med" or "Chicago Fire" or any of those series really, but at some point he decided to basically create a multi-series universe, just based around, well, the city of Chicago and the-eh, different aspects of the emergency sector, basically. Like I said, he experimented with this a lot on "Law & Order", but he's basically just gone and created this epic multi-series franchise, with numerous revolving door of characters that come in and out through the numerous different series. So, he's making an argument, since all the series are unusually interconnected with each other, that the entire franchise of series, should then count in consideration for the Ensemble category. 

Now each of these series, has, quite a few regular characters alone, if I were to guess, I'd say they're in the 12-20 range, there's a decent argument to be made for each of these series separately to be considered one of television's best ensembles, and we're talking four series now, that's close to eighty people. If you combine them, I'm pretty sure it'd rank as the "Most Ensemble", even more than other series that seem to have casts of dozens. Now, I've tried to find whether or not there was a ruling on the issue from the Screen Actors Guild, it's been awhile, I have to presume they made a call on this by now, but has just announced it publicly, and if I guess I would say, they probably rejected the petition, and for good reason. Other series get an hour, this series would be four and would encompass four different shows, and..., it would be a bit elaborate, and to some extent, almost unfair, and frankly the precedent it would set.... I mean, this could lead to a bunch of crap, especially now that there's so many shows on multiple mediums and channels that cross over into each other's universes, and god comic books are so annoying to television.... (Frustrated sigh). It does pose a few interesting questions though. about the possible future influences of these universes. Now, this was only the SAGs, but what if in the future, say the Emmys decide to consider the entirety of a franchise as a whole series? I mean, it wouldn't effect things Writing, Directing or Acting too much, but Production Design, Costumes, Make-Up, Casting especially, but most importantly, Series, in the future. Now, I don't think any of the "Chicago" series on their own are really good enough to compare to the better television dramas on television right now, but combining them together, could they possibly upend a "Game of Thrones", maybe? Perhaps? I don't know, and to be honest, I doubt it, maybe some other franchise in the future could? Or, how about the real horrible scenario, let's say the Oscars did this? Counted multiple movies in the same franchise as one movie, that happen to come out in the same year..., or not? Now, to me, one of the worst fuck-ups in recent Oscar history was when "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" swept every category, including Best Picture, not the least of which was that it was just a terrible movie, but really, if we're being honest here, they gave the award, for the entire trilogy of "The Lord of the Rings" as opposed to just the one movie, so in a sense they were honoring three films over three films as one. Which begs the big question, why the hell didn't they just make it as a miniseries? 

Seriously, why not? Why waste a spot for actual films, when instead, they could air it in it's proper medium? Those films essentially took Oscars from other films, and it's not like it was a film and then there were two sequel, they were all made together and at the same time as though it was one project. It's perfect for television, why place it as feature films, when it could've been placed like "Roots"? (The other-, the original "Roots"! [Sigh] We are remaking too many damn things]) Anyway, but now that there are all these cinematic universes, what's preventing the Oscars from looking at multiple films as one in the future? (Sigh). 

Yeah, I'm not exactly crazy about these hypotheticals. I think it makes more sense with television, 'cause it's something that is continuous and the crossing over opportunities make more sense and it's more sensible to create continuous universes over several series as opposed to several movies, but yeah, I suspect this will ultimately be a non-starter, at least I hope it is. It's a nice thought from Dick Wolf to showcase more attention on what he's doing with the "Chicago" franchise, but I don't know, this is a stretch, and this could be disastrous in the future. 


ELECTION MEDIA COVERAGE FINAL THOUGHTS: RECONSIDERING THE FAIRNESS DOCTRINE

Yeah, yeah, there's no getting around talking about the election to some degree, although to be honest, there's not much left to talk about. Everybody either was already, or is now a media critic, and if they're not, they're getting appropriately criticized for it. Maybe, if, there's any silver lining-, oh fuck, there's no silver lining to anything going on, okay, none! That said, if this is what it takes to get the media to actually be the media, then fine. It should've been a long time ago and frankly, now that there's so much viral media that's overflowing our Facebook pages, too much of being complete crap, and worst too many people believing it, I think the only thought that I've continued to go back to long after every abnormal insanity has happened since, that nobody else that I can find has looked back on is a simple question of "How did we get here?"

Like, how did our media, end up like this? Why? Why are we in such a swirl of, facts and opinions being confused and retweeted for each other. Where did we go wrong, how did we get here, and other questions that sound like they should be in a Talking Heads song.

(Sigh)

Well, if we go back far enough, there's one thing that keeps across my mind, that strangely I haven't seen brought up anywhere and that's the possibility of bringing back the Fairness Doctrine.


I always think of that commentary from Bill Moyers that I scrounged up from DailyMotion just to put on here. That was from nine years ago, and he was talking about how some of the far right commentators particularly on talk radio had inspired the acts of domestic terrorism that left people dead. He wasn't in favor of bringing it back, and to be entirely honest, I'm not entirely sure about whether or not I think it should be brought back.

For those, who aren't aware, the Fairness Doctrine was enacted in 1949, and it required broadcasters devote airtime to presenting controversial issues that pertain to the public interest, as well as to air contrasting views on those matters. Now, the misconception is that the FCC Rule required that facts be reported, it doesn't, it doesn't even require that equal time be given to the controversial subjects, It was repealed in '87 by President Reagan. Since then, that's what led to the increase in more bias news organizations, stations and in particular, the rise of talk radio. Now, there's even more of a divide and everybody's stuck in their own bubble, and some of those bubbles are so far off from reality...- (Sigh)

Look, I don't quite know the answer, regarding the Fairness Doctrine, and even if it was reinstated, how would it be adopted to modern technology. The FCC doesn't oversee blogs and websites and to be honest, they shouldn't. Should they? I mean, if they're putting themselves out there as a news site and a news source, then maybe.... I don't promote myself as a news site, it says so in the title, My Views and My Reviews, this law wouldn't effect me, and it's not biasness either that's the problem, even neutrality itself is a bias perspective, but when the news and fact themselves get sideswiped by the fringe in order to create an alternative reality, then maybe it shouldn't be left for everybody to simply make the correct choice. I mean, that's why we have laws, 'cause there are choices people and institution make that are against the public interest. All laws are made because of that. The reason murder is illegal is because if it wasn't too many people would be killing and getting killed, and besides would we do during wars if that's being done normally. It's also proven the other way, you take a standard law and suddenly make it legal, the people who would most benefit from doing that former law, they start doing it. That's basically what's happened every single time there's been a repeal of government oversight, especially when it's corporate oversight, immediately those corporations began making these newly legal processes apart of their overall money-making stream. Don't misunderstand this either, the was specifically repealed in order to eventually create something like a Fox News and to exacerbate the growing right-wing dominance in talk radio, it's not coincidental and you could claim that, yeah, but they also helped create MSNBC or The Young Turks, but then again, those organizations are also reactionary responses to the far right-wing media, who at that time, complained furiously, incorrectly that the mainstream media was overly left-winged,.... (Sigh) 

Look, I'm certainly not saying it must be enacted or that the government should get involved in regulating or owning the media, but now that, somebody in their basements can create a website, make it look legitimate enough to confuse some people who don't closely enough and perpetuate a lot of fake and/or misleading news stories, not to mention the growing industry of outside countries hacking the country and trying to overthrow the American government from afar...- I think it's at least time to consider bringing back the Fairness Doctrine, or at least some modernize form of it, if not to regulate but to at least combat the media creating industry. Now, again, I don't know if we should bring it back, or even if it's possible to enact if we do, or for that matter, if we need to limit it to the FCC, or creating a new governing agency for online/alternative media, or all of the troubling things that that possibility might mean or entail, and how to regulate that kind agency from becoming too powerful, and... like I said, I think it needs to be discussed and considered at least. It will certainly not happen anytime soon, but if there's one discussion that should be explored considering the media and they're reaction/coverage of this presidential election, this is it. 



Sunday, November 27, 2016

MOVIE REVIEWS #127: "SING STREET", "LOVE & FRIENDSHIP", "OUR LAST TANGO", "BEASTS OF NO NATION", "LABYRINTH OF LIES", "CONCUSSION" (Landesman), "BEING CANADIAN", "THE FAREWELL PARTY" and MORE!

This isn't quite the most elaborate set of reviews lately. I've been working on other projects for one, but also I haven't been watching too many recent films lately; I've been going back and watchig some older films lately. Call it nostalgia for a better time, especially since the immediate future looks so fucking horrorific and right I'm putting my money on Jill Stein of all people that she'll pull an inside straight flush on the recounts. (No, I'm not over it, I probably won't be and you have no idea how difficult it's been to not turn this into a political blog and do a ten-piece article on how I'm now convinced the Electoral College has to be eradicated, and no, it's not simply that Trump won that changed my mind on that. [Deep breath] But I won't do that, don't worry.) So-eh, I've been taking a look at older films that I've missed before, and I'm rewatching a few other things but that's a conversation for later.

Anyway, I checked out a couple other Mae West films, unfortunately they were her later films, "Go West, Young Man" in particular, I didn't like too much. "My Little Chickadee" is worth a watch as a curiosity 'cause that's the film she made with W.C. Fields and both of them are credited with writing the script together. I'll get to W.C. Fields at some point, he's another name from that gets overlooked, but that movie was fun. Inconsistent but fun. I also, for whatever reason, have a lot of Czech films on my viewing schedule in the next few weeks and months and I finally got around to "Up and Down", the Jan Hrebejk multi-narrative comedy that I thought was a bit of a mess mostly, but I enjoyed it. Czech comedy has a tradition of telling multiple stories and have them clashing and colliding at the end, I'm thinking "The Fireman's Ball" mostly, but "Up and Down", isn't as confined and it's a bit of confusing to follow everything but there was a good acting and filmmaking. There's a shot in the beginning involving a baby on a back of a truck that was really impressive, if that was a special effect it was a damn great one. I also, for some reason watched "Bride Wars", I don't have too many thoughts on it although it's nice to see Anne Hathaway dancing on a rope again. If you've never seen her episode of "Lip Sync Battle" eh, you'll know why that's impressive. Seriously, why do people hate her, she's amazing!? Even in crap like that, she's special, I don't get the backlash towards her, at all.

Alright, I saw some other older films that I had time to write reviews for at the bottom, but let's get to this week's edition of our movie reviews, 'cause we got some interesting and important ones, including a few major films from this year that might come up this Award Season. Yeah, we're in Award Season folks, so get used to that. Anyway, let's get to the reviews!


SING STREET (2016) Director: John Carney

★★★★1/2 



John Carney has quietly become one of the most beloved filmmakers in the world in recent years. I've been among those who have exclaimed my affection for his work in the past, most notably, his first and best film "Once", the only film in my Canon of Film Series that I published twice, once, because I felt like it, and the other time, because it's theatrical adaptation on Broadway had just broken all the Tony records. I named it the best film of 2007, which does get under people's skin, since the traditional argument seems to be between "There Will Be Blood" and "No Country for Old Men" for that spot, and while those are great films, if I was truly honest, I could live without ever seeing or thinking of those films again; I can't say that about "Once". I can't even really say that about his second film "Begin Again", which, was no where near as great, but it tapped into some emotions and feelings that are very difficult to explain, unless of course, you've seen the movies, than you'll completely understand where I'm coming from. The secret to Carney's work as a great independent director is that, he's a musician first. A songwriter, who's films feel more like great albums that you can keep put on and drift away into the world of the movie. His third film, "Sing Street", on the surface, seems like the biggest deviation of the theme he has. Essentially, all three of his films, are about musicians getting together and making an album, curiously enough. In that respects, "Once" will probably always be the best of his films, because it came first and the pure shock of it when first seeing and experiencing it, just completely blindsided it's audience, who probably wanted to just dismiss the film as "Before Sunrise" with musicians, or something trivial like that, a few The Swell Season albums in my CD collection later and now I rank it among the Top Ten films of the decade. Still though, "Sing Street" works probably despite better judgement on my part. It doesn't hurt, again that the music itself, is really good, although not necessarily too good, and that's fine, because "Sing Street" is the first one that's not about trained, professional musicians, but about young teenagers who, do what every teenager tries to do at some point, start a band. (Well, I didn't, but that's because I thought I'd be a solo artist, and 200+ sets of hackneyed vaguely Bob Dylan meets Melissa Etheridge meets Alanis Morissette meets Tori Amos lyrics later and suddenly that guitar went to my cousin and I found myself getting into film instead.) The kid, is 15-year-old Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), a young Dubliner, on Synge Street, who's often the subject of ridicule by typicals bully and the like, and is naturally a bit awkward. But, he has a crush on an older girl, 17-year-old Raphina (Lucy Boynton), who he wants to go out with, or just be near, or find an excuse to be near her. She wants to be a model, so he decides to have her be a model in a music video of his. First, he needs a band. And after that songs that are worthy of getting her attention. Oh, also he needs to learn how to play music, so do most of the ragtag crew of band members which include a keyboardist Ngig (Percy Chamburuka) a multi-instrumentalist and composer Eamon (Mark McKenna), and a manager, Darren (Ben Carolen). He does have help from an older brother, Brendan (Jack Reynor) who has dropped out of college and mostly just sits on the couch wasting time, at the dismay of their parents Robert and Penny (Aiden Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy) who are, in the process of inevitable divorce and are basically too involved in their own lives to realize their younger kid has basically become a musician. And a fairly good and hopefully successful one. For one thing, he gets his model, for the music video, and she ends up doing everyone's makeup, and overseas the costumes and can direct a bit. I won't say when the movie takes off, but it takes off, and sure enough, what seems like young kids trying to play musician, eventually turns into, young kids, playing musicians, but convincingly and well. They get gigs, they're mostly successful. They're music videos actually come off well, and the music, which seems corny and innocuous at first, once it's evolved a bit, actually seems good. Since the movie takes place in the eighties, it's a bit, somewhere between Duran Duran and The Jam, but that's not a bad soung, actually, the songs are quite good and memorable. As well as the images. It's weird to say that, a director is going at telling his story through song, but Carney does that. There's not much actually that happens, but in it's episodic way, from one song and performance to another, we're drifted into this world and we become apart of it, apart of the band you might say, and we suddenly wonder and care about Raphina when, she suddenly doesn't show up for something she was supposed to. We know she wanted to get out of her surrounding and had an older boyfriend, and it's-, wow, it is really not that different from "Once" and yet it feels different. Bob Dylan just recently won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the first person to do so almost exclusively and mainly for songwriting, and there's constant debate since, but, if there's ever a debate whether music can be poetry, Carney's films should prove that argument wrong. Especially if you're a fan of romantic poetry. Music at it's core is a genre of romance, and this movie, is a romance. Not a love story, but a romance. A romance of characters trying to walk out onto the wire and get to that place where they really want to go and walk in the sun, whatever the hell the Irish equivalent of that it. In the name of love. Love of music, love of two brothers, love of trying to get out and achieve their dreams, love mostly of how music can make one feel in a particular moment and time, or whenever you think about it. I once heard somebody say that all art strives to be music, and, yeah, I can hum a few notes of, eh, I don't know, "Layla" to you, and you'll probably get Clapton's guitar rifts in your head and movies try to do that, but few do. Carney makes music to tell his movies, I don't know if that makes his movies as much art as music itself, but he's closer than finding a middle ground than anybody working today.


LOVE & FRIENDSHIP (2016) Director: Whit Stillman

★★1/2



I actually have been thinking quite a bit about Whit Stillman lately. He's a strikingly enigmatic filmmaker. And actually, "filmmaker" is kind of misleading, he's been making more movie than ever recently, it's not he hasn't been artistic during his time away from film, which at times, has spanned Presidential administrations. He first made "Metropolitan" in 1990, which earned him an Oscar nomination and his second film, in 1994, "Barcelona" I've yet to see either of those. I first encountered him with his fourth feature, "Damsels in Distress", which he made six years ago, a movie that, I didn't quite get at the time, nor do I think I get now. There's definitely something interesting about it however, and it more or less showcased for me, a prototype of what I've called the "Greta Gerwig character" and she's basically been doing variations on that role ever since, in many good and bad films some of which she herself has written. The movie in between, in 1998 was "The Last Days of Disco" a movie that, I have grown to love more and more upon reflection. Trying to explain Stillman and his appeal is difficult, but one thing seems to be common, that his very prudent and upper-class (or think they are) characters, that live somewhere between the pages of Woody Allen and F. Scott Fitzgerald, are mostly populated by smart young and sometimes older women, who seem to actually be the in-charge instigators of everything, especially socially everything and the men, who think who are in charge are mostly doofuses and buffoons who have stumbled into their place in society mostly because of their wealth and penises. and it's the women who tolerate and upend them, sometimes helping them. In other words, he is the most perfect director imaginable for a Jane Austen adaptation. That's literally too good to be true, it's too perfect a pairing, like when you found out Tim Burton was going to direct "Sweeney Todd..." it was like, "Well, duh, of course he is." Who else has a piece of art so perfectly fitted a director like that?

So why am I panning it? Is it bad, it is wrong, did he actually screw up the material? Uh..., okay, um, I'm probably gonna get some shit for this, but I have to admit a bias here, and that's, that I generally hate Jane Austen. Not everything, "Pride & Prejudice" is a great book, and Joe Wright's adaptation of that novel is masterful and the best adaptation of an Austen work I've ever seen..., it's also the only adaptation that I think has ever worked and is a good movie. Yeah, yeah, I hate Ang Lee's "Sense and Sensability", I hated that version of "Emma" with Gwyneth Paltrow, hell, I hated "Clueless", and I didn't even realize at the time that that was a remake of "Emma"; even when I don't know I'm watching something Jane Austen, (Okay, to be fair, I didn't hate the TV show, "Clueless" for some reason. Not totally sure why but it kinda worked in that medium for some reason.) I seem to not think very highly of it. And I was hoping I could get away from that with this adaptation of her novella, "Lady Susan" that Stillman has titled, "Love & Friendship", which, let's be fair here, could have been an alternative to literally everything she ever did. (I literally think he's joking us with that title; it's almost mockish. It's so quintessentially the most generic Jane Austen title, I'm almost shocked it wasn't actually a title of hers.) And it's not like he doesn't give us a new perspective on the material, just from the opening moments when he introduces the characters to us, with that style that supposed to be almost like reading a theatrical playbill but almost borders on Wes Anderson parody, he's definitely not going the typical romantic route of Austen, and that's actually refreshing. For a minute, and then Stillman's wry but witty dialogue is also refreshing and fun, for a minute or two, and then, the movie, is basically about a widower, Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale) who's trying to find husbands for her daughters while also struggling with her in-laws improprietaries which have become most scandalous for, Jane Austen world standards. And now, I'm tired and they're losing me. There's something about this, Austen set up that's never really worked for me, and I think I know what it is, it's that usually the stories are told from the perspective mainly through the character who's trying to do the setting up and marry off their family and whatnot, and that's not interesting. The reason "Pride & Prejudice" works so well is that Elizabeth is not in favor of marrying and being with a man, especially one like Mr. Darcy, and it doesn't hurt that she's a more modern character out of place and time. That's not to say someone like Emma or Lady Susan isn't, they're modern too, but they're stll the people trying to orchestrate and set things in motion, or control or re-direct what's already in motion. Basically, this felt like Jane Austen paint by numbers, and, while that's still, absolutely for Whit Stillman, I'm not actually criticizing him, he does a good job of this, and the movie has it's moments and well-acted and casted, and it looks great, but yeah, I can only take some much of this before I start pulling my hair out.This story also has a bit of a "Dangerous Liaisons" twist to it as well, which is another novel I hate that I don't think has ever turned out tolerable on screen. (No, not the Michelle Pfieffer one, or the recent Chinese remake! And no, not "Cruel Intentions" either, although setting them in high school, actually did improve that story a bit and made it make slightly more sense. Didn't make it good, but at least it's stupid manipulative horny teenagers acting like stupid manipulative horny teenagers in that one UGH!)

Yeah, um, consider this a movie that I am passing on, not just because of my negative review, but also because this is a perfect storm of material that I am just naturally resistent too. The fact that I was entertained at all, is just out of curiousity of seeing Stillman and his troupe of actors, most notably for me Beckinsale and in particular Chloe Sevigney who were the main girls in "The Last Days of Disco" actually, eh, definitely save it from being completely intolerable, but I have a limit to Stillman and I certainly have a limit to Jane Austen's typical bullshit and eh,... yeah, I like it better than "Clueless" and "Sense & Sensability" if that helps? (Shrugs)


OUR LAST TANGO (2016) Director: German Kral

★★★1/2



So, I'm not particularly knowledgeable about the tango, or dance in general, but tango is the national dance of Argentina, that I know, so I'm not surprised that this dance documentary is from there. Now, I feel like I've had a bit of a bad streak lately when it comes to dance documentaries; I had one on my Worst Films List last year recently, and it wasn't the only recent dance doc that I've been underwhelmed by. Maybe I've felt spoiled as I've compared most of those films to Wim Wenders's amazing documentary "Pina"; "Our Last Tango" is not that good, but I think the streak is over. The movie takes an interesting approach, as it works as a bio of it's stars, Maria Nieves Rego and Juan Carlos Copes, a legendary tango pair who danced together for forty years before they broke up as a team in their '60s. Now, in their '80s, they're coming together for this film and one last dance. I think, from a simpleton perspective this wouldn't have been that interesting, but the movie also makes interesting choices, switching between archive footage, interview footage as well as new footage that recreates the past with performers, mostly dancers and they basically tell their story, through dance. Juan becoming more of a choreographer when they hit America for instance, you see an actor playing him, in a dance number, where he's correcting the dancers, that's a great touch, and all those are wonderful, and they're also intercut with interviews where Maria is being interviews by the director and the dancers themselves. It's a bit meta, but I enjoyed it here. The dancing numbers were well-done, and well-shot and it help tell their tale in a way that's much more enjoyable than a straight interview with archive footage. It was an appropriate way to add heft to a story that's thin and kept you visually intrigued at the same time. Their story itself, is pretty interesting alone, especially how Juan's marriage led to them dancing together for years without talking, 'cause Maria basically was in love with him, and that got in their way in numerous ways. Still though, I was genuinely surprised they go an eighty minute movie out of this material that probably in lesser hands would feel like a short film that was stretching to be elongated into a feature, but I bought this. Dancing was great and used well and the movie was enjoyable. Tango's not my thing, per se, but I understood why these two would be so enthralled with it enough to make it a life's work, and that's enough for me.


BEASTS OF NO NATION (2015) Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
★★★★



For reasons, that, I probably should've obviously knew from the title, my first instinct before writing this review was to look up the names of the groups involved in the movie, to get a better geographic idea of exactly where/when in Africa the film takes place. I guess that goes back to the idea of whether or not it's better to tell your story in a real-life setting, or to create one on your own, and of course the answer to that is, "It depends...". I don't know, maybe I thought it would be more powerful for me, if I could pinpoint this, but I guess ultimately it doesn't matter. It's pretty much taken place in every other part of the continent at some point in recent history. "Beasts of No Nation" marks the first non-documentary feature that was distributed by Netflix, and they picked a powerful film. It's a war movie that centers around, Agu (Abraham Attah) a nine-year-old boy who's family is killed by a rebel military group. He's then captured by a mercenary group that's led by it's Commandant (Idris Elba). Commandant, is probably a Joseph Kony-type charater, although he can be a mix of a lot of different renagade African tyrants. over the years. The movie chose, if it isn't clear yet, it didn't name it's West African country it takes place in, neither did the novel the film is based on. That said, I think this is a preference, but it's knawing at me, 'cause there's a tendency in Western Cinema especially to generalize Africa, when there's numerous different and distinct tribes and cultures abound, for me, I feel like this would've been a more powerful story, even if it's fictional if they were more specific about where this was. I know, I don't think a lot of people minded this, and there's a few examples of films I can think that get away with this. This is essentially a formulaic movie, it's about the sudden change from being a young kid, to suddenly becoming a soldier, and a murderous um massacring soldier at that. A rough sudden shift in...-, well in everything. He's goes from a happy kid, having fun, imagining, and suddenly, he's taught how to take a machete to a guy's skull. I guess, the one comparison that comes to mind is "Platoon", and the tenuous relationship between Charlie Sheen and Tom Berenger's characters in that film, and not that that movie's any more realistic than this one, but it does set a time and place. What "Beasts..." does do, is setting up the emotional pull; this is a movie that's more pathos and ethos than logos. The big shift is when Commandment, makes his way to the Capital City and when he overlooked for General in favor of one of his other soldiers, it's then when he begins to go rouge, and now we're into "Aguirre..." territory, and eventually, his "soldiers" start to turn on them as lack of food and water comes over them. Idris Elba, won numerous Supporting Actor Awards for his performance, and he is quite good here. A lot of people, complained about him not getting an Oscar nomination, and I can see why (I don't think it was racism that led to him not getting in; I suspect it was more that this was a Netflix movie that led to it). He is the key performance, if he doesn't work in the film, than the movie doesn't work. That said, I still found myself a bit removed from the movie. I felt like, while the movie had fable-istic touches, "Beasts..." came off, slightly more like a message picture to me. That's not a bad thing, but it does handcuff the film a bit for me. It's a recommendation, but definitely one that's more admirable than emotional. I appreciate the movie more than I recommend it, but it does what it's trying to do. It's director is Cary Joji Fukanaga, who I sorta like his version of "Jane Eyre" a few years back, although he's most well-known for directing the first season of "True Detective", which everybody seem to like except me. I don't know if he added anything more to it, I feel like he's a cinematographer who happens to direct most of the time, which is his background. He actually did the cinematography for the film as well and it is impressive; I wonder if another director could've given some more purposeful and visioned on the material, but yeah, this still is quite powerful and memorable.


LABYRINTH OF LIES (2015) Director: Guilio Ricciarelli

★★★★



The biggest lie ever told about the Holocaust, (other than the morons who keep trying to claim that it doesn't exist.) is that, the soldiers were all "Just following orders". The truth of the matter is more complex. It's nice to simply blame Hitler and say that Germany just fell apart for a bunch of years there, but he didn't steal the power, he was elected and almost a third of the country voted for him, and many people joined the party afterwards. (Many didn't do it by choice) and Hitler created a situation where, essentially murder and genocide were encouraged. Think of Amon Goeth in "Schindler's List", was he ordered to shoot Jews every morning from his balcon? No, that's just murder and he was a murderous vicious criminal who happen to thrive in an environment where they prejudices and homicidal tendencies weren't just endured but encourage. "Labyrinth of Lies" is the movie that's about, essentially the trials that forced Germany to come grips with that reality of their past. The movie, more specifically is about the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials, where 22 former and mid-to-lower level functionaries were tried for murder. The film starts in '58, and it shows how, a mere thirteen years after, the country has become fairly, unknowing about such concentration camps like Auschwitz and the acts of genocide that were done there, but eventually, the Nazis, who were responsible for the atrocities, and who had quietly re-entered public life. They were teachers, mechanics, etc. The movie, isn't a bit of a dramatization of the actual events, and that's really the only thing that bring the movie down. The main character is Johann (Alexander Fehling) a composite character who represents a few different young idealistic lawyers who ended up tackling the U.S. Army Document Center, who have kept the records, and there's thousands of them to sort through. Some real-life characters are here as well, Fritz Bauer (Gert Voss), Johann's boss and one of the major prosecutors of the trial, as well as Simon Kirsch (Johannes Krisch) one of the Auschwitz survivors who helps them start pieces together the pieces. It's hard for him to remember everybody, and you , so many died that identifying exactly who died when.... The title is accurate, it's a maze wrapped in a puzzle and yes, everybody, including the collective conscious of the country is lying. There's a side story with Johann being in a relationship with Marlene (Frederike Becht)  a young dressmaker that's mostly symbolic, but it mostly works. This is a difficult subject to simplify into one traditional feature film. I've seen some compare the film to "Judgement at Nuremberg" which is an interesting comparison, although it's worth noting that the majority of that film takes place in the trial, and the majority of "Labyrinth..." is essentially, the gathering facts part, before the trials. In that respect, it probably lacks the tension and drama that it needs to be a great film, but on the same token, it's not going for that anyway. "Labyrinth..." is a reminder about just how easy it is to whitewash over the past, and just how how horrific and difficult it is to bring it up again, although, in many cases, just how necessary it is. There's a late scene where Johann goes to Auschwitz, it's startling how, in some sense it's just a field, with a camp in the middle of nowhere, in some Polish town that nobody's ever heard of. After the trials, nobody thought of Auschwitz that way again, and-eh, for all it's sins and horrors, it's actually best that that's the case now and forever, and these guys did that. It's a good story that needs to be told and that's what ultimately pushes "Labyrinth of Lies" up from just a regular Holocaust film.


CONCUSSION (2015) Director: Peter Landesman

★★



So, I don't know if everybody who reads me is a sports fan, in fact the few occasions when I've brought up sports here, I've often been reprimanded, even though, this is an entertainment blog and sports are entertainment, and frankly they actually one of the most interesting parts of the television landscape at the moment. And being a sports fan, I've been keenly aware of the continuing studies and changing views on concussions over the years. So, this latest film, "Concussion", is not necessarily something that is gonna reveal itself to me as a shocking revelation that I never knew. I've been aware of this, and for those who are aware, I don't know what one would gain from watching this film. That said, this still could've been a good movie, and for awhile it was, but by the end, I-eh, I was waiting around for the film to end. Will Smith, plays Dr. Bennett Omalu, the Nigerian-born Pittsburgh coroner who started studying head injuries related to football after he looked over the sudden death of Mike Webster (David Morse), the Hall-of-Fame Pittsburgh Center who had started losing his mind and acting irrationally in his later years. It was him that coined the term, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE. For those, who aren't fully aware of the science, I won't go into too much detail, but basically, a concussion, is when your brain ends crashing into the inside of your skull. The brain is not a stable organ, it's basically floating in a protein of liquids. Now, a single concussion, even a bad one, probably won't have that much effect, but that said, it's not always clear if somebody has had a concussion, and-, you know, if you play like an old sports video game, I have an old NHL game for instance, where it's very common for injuries like concussions to occur and then, the player will return to the game, pretty quickly, that's how callous we thought of them at the time. Now, there's protocols in most major sports about when to return from a concussion, and usually it's weeks later, and keep in mind, undiagnosed concussions that can results for years of playing football, or boxing or-eh, another entity that's been plagued by this is professional wrestling. eventually, that many hits of the brain to the skull, especially at quietly the violent speed that football's played at, and eventually, you forget who the hell you are anymore, literally and figuratively. There's a big reason why a lot of recent suicides of major athletes in this sports, have been, in shots in the chest area and hangings, instead of a bullet to the brain. Anyway, the movie, the good parts in the beginning showing Bennett as he pursues his education, the guys get more degrees than a thermometer, and how he catches the syndrome and publishes the report, despite some pressure from inside the coroner office, and the city of Pittsburgh, which if you don't know, Pittsburgh is a big football town. There's not as big as they think and are nowhere as good as Philadelphia but still, they're a football-passioned town, (Wink) And no, people don't want to think that, America's Passion, (For those foreigners out there reading this, baseball is "America's Pastime, football is "America's Passion) that would rather believe that the sport they love is not as dangerous or deadly as they may fear. The thing that brings the story down, is really, everything after, especially the portrayal of the heads of the NFL, was very one-sided and not in a good, in a really cliched way. Not that they're wrong, I mean, they did have to get called to testify before Congress before these changes happened, but I mean, this was but, the dark rooms, the old men smoking cigars, the photography, it was very awkward. They basically portrayed them as though, they didn't care at all, and would rather-, well, they bring up that they were-eh, basically people who were similar in their approach to this that were denying smoking's hazards for decades, and yeah, it is that egregious, but they don't portray them as human beings either, which is the ultimate problem with the filmmaking. Although there's a lot of weird choices here, for one the casting is awful. I mean, Will Smith, there was some controversy that he didn't get an Oscar nomination for this, eh, I hate to break it to ya, but no, he didn't deserve it. I kept just hoping he's stop doing a Chiwetel Ejiofor impression for most of the movie. But still, Mike O'Malley's got a bizarre role that, seems completely horribly cast, I didn't even notice that it was Luke Wilson that played Roger Goddell. It felt like there was a stunt casting to get a makeup nomination. Like, Albert Brooks is really good, as Smith's boss but you know, all I could see was his bald head, so... The director of the film was Peter Landsmen who did another film that was a bit of a cameofest a couple years ago called "Parkland" about JFK's assassination and showed the hospital where both Kennedy and Oswald ended up before they died and all the supposed chaos that happened there. That movie, was better and well-acted, but like "Concussion" it had nothing to say about it's subject. I didn't learn anything about JFK's assassination in "Parkland" and I didn't learn much about CTE in "Concussion". He like has half an idea to show something on screen that happened, and if possible, with a degree of accuracy, but he doesn't seem to have a point of view on any of these materials. It's like, "Here, let's show you the hospital" or "Here, let's show you how concussions are dangerous in football"! I mean, yeah, why the NFL couldn't or didn't give in on that simple point, that occasionally the sport can be dangerous to play and concussions may be bad for you, I couldn't tell you, but I still suspected that the movie would be a little more detailed or at least have a reason for existing. Instead, we get, half a movie about how they realized there was a problem and the rest of the movie, kinda trying to find a story other than "Eventually the NFL got their shit together, (Or more together than before at least)", and there just wasn't one.


BEING CANADIAN (2015) Director: Robert Cohen

★★★



So, Canada. What do we make of ye? There's a few things in Robert Cohen's documentary that he definitely gets right, for one thing, Americans don't know that much about Canada. I'm counting myself in that, I honestly don't know much about Canada. I probably know more than most of my friends, like I know the geography of the place pretty well, but I'm a geography buff so I study things like that, but I'm also a history buff, and yet, I don't quite know a lot about the history of Canada. It's something that, I'll be blunt, is not really studied here. Now, don't get me wrong, we don't study a lot of country's history, mostly we cover Europe, 'cause most of their history is where American history came in, but we don't study, say Mexico and they're our other neighbor, and on top of that, we don't really study too much of say Japan or China or any of Africa really, or other major former and current world powers or superpowers, and that's unfortunate, but then again, Canada's weird. I mean, there's a deep history and there's a lot of culture up there, but it's not necessarily as glorious as other countries, including America. For instance, Canada, even being a country, was a complete accident. They sent there Declaration of Independence, to England and apparently Queen Victoria saw it on the table, figured it was a regular document that she had forgotten to sign, and she signed it, and suddenly Canada's a country. I'm pretty sure it wasn't Queen Victoria, that's how little I know about Canada, but yeah, Canada's weird and there's a lot of little quirks in their history past and recent like that. Basically we know, Canada, love hockey, which we're cool with, they have good beer, which we're really cool with, eh, they have a lot of maple syrup, and a shocking amount of maple syrup, especially since one of the world's biggest and most expensive thefts of all-time, which is showcased in this film, involved the theft of millions of it. Like eight figures, millions of dollars worth of it. Um, we know there's a kind of culture there, but defining it exactly would be difficult. Even when Canadian chefs came together to define "Canadian cuisine", eh, they really come up with much of an answer. To quote the wonderful Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, "They have the same as American cuisine, but I don't know any American who says that they'd go out of their way for Canadian food." Anyway, Robert Cohen is a longtime TV comedy writer, who one day got fed up for being made fun of too much for being Canadian, and decided to do something about it, and that was to take a cross-country trip through Canada. Basically, it's a road movie of Canada, filled with interviews with many famous Canadians, mostly celebrity friends of his, and a look at the some of the quirks and perceptions good and, eh, not-as-good about Canada. I-eh, I can't think of too many bad perceptions of Canada. I mean, when-eh, the big disagreement even within the country is whether Quebec is weird 'cause they still insist on speaking French, you're doing okay. Hell, Canada and the U.S., here's something I did know, on top of being the longest border between two countries in the world, it's the longest peace-time border between two countries of all-time, we haven't fought each other since the War of 1812, where they did burn down the White House, which ranks as their most notably and memorable military accomplishment and even then, they basically did it fairly pleasantly all things considered. They tend to be nice, they bring that up; they apologize a lot for some reason, I didn't realize that per se. Apparently they're TV is notoriously bad, in both production quality and regular quality. I-eh, I don't quite know how to respond to that, 'cause of most my experience with Canadian television is pretty positive. "SCTV", "The Kids in the Hall", "Slings & Arrows" is one of me favorite shows, then again, I'm not familiar with "The Beachcombers", which is apparently their equivalent to "Gunsmoke" in that it lasted forever and nobody actually likes it anymore. Oh wait, I just did a check, it's no longer the longest-running show on Canadian television, it was beaten a couple years ago by-, by,- really? It was beaten "Degrassi"! "Degrassi"'s been on the air since 1980!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? (Scratches head, long thinking pause) Oh-kay, um, I legitimately have no idea how to respond to that. Wow! Okay, eh, moving on, um, this is a fun, light-hearted, and ultimately not-that-informative a documentary, it's basically a fun little trek across the country, jokes put in when possible and ultimately, not that deep or anything. It's got some interesting things to say about Canadian identity, how for instance, the constant having to explain how something's a Canadian version of blank, and quirks like that, and it's fun to say a huge list of past and present Canadian celebrities, many you might even realize are Canadian talking about the country, (Although Canadians will remind you when someone is a Canadian.) and that's about it. It's like a light episode of "Anthony Bourdain..." without the emphasis on food as much, but still, this is light, delightful fluff, and I can't complain about. I would like to see a more in-depth look at Canada history and culture and elsewise at some point, but this is fine for now and for what it is.


THE FAREWELL PARTY (2015) Directors: Tal Granit & Sharon Maymon

★★★



So, you know what's really funny? Assisted Suicide! Titled "A Good Death" in the original Hebrew, the Israeli film "The Farewell Party", took quite a bit of chances with this story about people at an old age home, trying to help a man end his life by constructing and finding a suicide machine. The person dying, but not quick enough is Max (Samuel Wolf) and as he asks for the pain to stop, his wife Yana (Aliza Rosen) asks for help from Yehezkel (Ze'ev Revach) who already spends some of his spare time pretending to be God on the phone, literally. for fun, but now, he and his wife Levana (Levana Finklestein) have to find a mercy killing machine and dispenser. This is surprisingly funny much of the time as they struggle. It's not, great, I kinda found it slow, myself, most people I think fell for the concept more than the movie itself; the movie remain 14 Israeli Oscar nomination, and to be fair, it's pretty good, it's got it's moments. Definitely in the sardonic route, although if you didn't know what the MaGuffin, I'm not sure this couldn't be confused for anything else. For those who aren't too familiar, the hand-made killing machine, was invented by Jack Kevorkian, and basically, the idea is that everything would be set up in a way for the patient, to flip the switch, and inject him/herself with the euthanasia concoction. These machines are more handmade and primitive than people probably realize and that doesn't make them any easier to find, in fact it's more likely that they'll have to be made and finding and operating one, not difficult, but you have to get the appropriate drugs to fill with it, and set the machine up, etc. I think there's actually more material her for comedy than the film really let on, and that's what's ultimately disappointing to me. Maybe a slight shift in tone would've helped as well. I think I expected a little more broadness; I've seen this film referred to as a "commercial comedy", I don't know exactly what that is or why this film, but I think it could've been a little more broad however, in order to undercut even more, the tragedy of the situation. Still, there's a lot of interesting ideas here, and I laughed quite a bit, so a tempered recommendation for me.


WHY DON'T YOU PLAY IN HELL? (2014) Director: Sion Sono

★★★



Eh, well I quit. Fuck this, this movie's not reviewable, Why the fuck did I just watch? Oh dear. You know a lot of shit a couple years ago when I said "You're Next" was the worst film of the year and a bunch of people told me, "I didn't get it, it was supposed to be a comedy!" Yeah, they're wrong on that, that film was stupid no matter what it was trying to be, but I was thinking about it watching this film because, "You're Next" was one of those movies that wasn't ridiculous enough to actually be a comedy, but "Why Don't You Play in Hell?" there's no other option, this has to be a comedy. It's a comedy on like ten different levels, most of them pretty meta, a lot of them are just ridiculous and trying to explain, anything about it, is pretty much a lost cause. It's gory and kinetic and action-filled, and a bloody mess, literally, is a labyrinth of a multiple narratives coming, together? Together's not the right word, clashing maybe? Let's see if I can make any sense of this, um... it begins with a stupid toothpaste commercial. (There's a sentence I never thought I'd say.) The young girl in the commercial, is Mitsuko (Fumi Nikaidou) who, let's see, is a gangster's daughter who's mother's in jail for several counts of murder. She wants her to be a star however and this leads to her family trying to achieve that. The other, sorta thread, involves a young filmmaker Hirata (Hiroki Hasegawa) who has a filmmaking crew that call themselves the Fuck Bombers. They also find a future star, Sasaki (Tak Sakaguchi) as they run into him while beating up Yakuza and they try to film it. This film crew, are the most delusional film crew I've seen in a while. I mean, they're a devoted crew, they love the act of filmmaking; I don't know how much they actually know how to go about it. They're a guerrila crew without a vision. Anyway,  from, I'm not even gonna pretend. There's dozens of flashbacks and imagined scenes and a lot of violence and blood and gore, and decapitated human body parts. This is how over-the-top absurd trash is done right. Meta to the nth degree, a plot that's as pointless as it is impenetrable, and an overlord of several twisted demented and perverted characters shoving this material together, somehow. And, I enjoyed it. I can't explain it, or understand it, or why it exists, or what point is being made, although I'm fairly certain there's a metaphorical parable about filmmaking in the movie, but what that is, I don't know. What would I criticize of this movie if I could? It's too much to criticize, It's like watching "The Jerry Springer Show" at a certain it gets so over-the-top and ridiculous that eventually there' no criticism anymore, it's just is what it is. It's the first feature I've seen from Japanese director Sion Sono, and maybe it makes more sense in context of his filmography. He's clearly talented, but I mean, this is a movie that's just, well, I'd call it "eye candy" but you don't normally see eye candy that's so filled with blood spewing out of it, but essentially, it's just a crap put together that looks and seems cool, in one abstract surrealist mess. I don't know if that's good or anything, but it's what it is.


NATURAL BORN KILLERS (1994) Director: Oliver Stone

★★★★



Yeah, I finally got around to "Natural Born Killers" among other aforementioned films this week. This film has been on my radar of course for years, but it's always been a bit of an anomaly to me. Stone, especially later Oliver Stone, had never been one to try to aim for timelessness in his films, he's usually on the zeitgeist or at least thinks he is and he's trying to portray the events of the time. And this movie screams 1994. Reading old reviews of the time, and it's interesting how they take it as a warning about the future, and honestly that future, twenty-plus years later, eh, we've been inundated with warning after warning about where the media has gone and how our celebrity-obsessed culture will lead to our downfall, and it's not that any of those claims are wrong; I think it's just that we've now, for the most part adapted to it. Celebrity culture already has a tendency to be caught up in waves, and like waves, a lot will hit the shore for awhile, and then eventually it'll get caught back up in the Ocean by the next tide and suddenly I'm watching a movie that supposedly about the possible horrors of the media dramatizing sex and violence and turning mass murderers into cult celebrity icons and frankly, all I end up seeing is a who's who of names that feel more like they were dug out of a time machine. Are any of you even familiar with names like Tonya Harding, Lorena Bobbit? I'm sure you know all know who O.J. Simpson, and I'll take a bet and say most of you found out about him before that recent miniseries, but do you all really understand the visceral reaction and flashbacks people of my generation will have when confronted with that name? Or any of these names? As we have since moved from a television culture to internet culture to streaming culture, to now, a Facebook culture, half of this movie will just seem weird too you. Hell, if you're an actual film scholar and historian, you'll probably look at this and laugh on another 'cause it's not like America doesn't have a long history of romanticizing all of our famous outlaws, that's been happening forever, most prevalent, it happened during the Wild West. In film terms, not only are there hundreds of westerns, many of them showcasing and profiling the most vicious of killers and bank robbers in positive lights, but there's plenty of movies that were in some way about how the media perceived them. Probably most notably, when comparing it to "Natural Born Killers" is "Bonnie & Clyde", who were also romanticized by their adoring public. Hell there was a string of these back in the '60s and seventies. "The Sugarland Express", "Boxcar Bertha", "Dog Day Afternoon", "Smokey and the Bandit"..., yeah, like I said, this stuff isn't really new. So, what about "Natural Born Killers", is it any good? Or was it ever? Well, it is curious to see the credits, in that Quentin Tarantino is listed for having come up with the Story, which I totally believe, but he's not listed as having any credit with the actual script, which I totally believe. This is an Oliver Stone film for sure, and it's purpose is to bring a nightmare kaleidoscopic lens on the media and it's culture, while using his own modern Bonnie & Clyde archetypes that were raised on the perversions of classic television as well as the brutal realities of horrific reality, and watch them go on an onslaught of a murder spree, and watch the American public eat it up, shortly after the Super Bowl for the biggest ratings. The couple, Mickey & Mallory Know (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis) on top of being perfectly cast and quite great in the film. They're the right on iconic with inert stoicism that led everybody in the nineties to look inward and spew out a sarcastic comment while sitting on the couch watching MTV, waiting for the next Soundgarden music video to play. The supporting roles are pretty good, most of it's just good casting. Need a tough jailer, bring in Tommy Lee Jones, need someone over-the-top to be a TV reporter, Robert Downey, Jr., he works. Rodney Dangerfield and Edie McClurg are interesting picks casting against type as Mallory's parents that work out well. Somewhere in their dialogue I can see the specs of what might've been on an original Tarantino draft of this script, especially in Tommy Lee Jones's character. If this comparable to another Stone movie, it's probably "Talk Radio", which was also a nightmarish media-based dive into the deluge of the worst of Americana, but somehow that movie has become more and more prophetic and timeless. Not that "Natural Born Killers" isn't prophetic, but I think it's warnings of a future have been proven more hollower than it intended. That's not enough a sin to pan it by any means, it still works as a film and definitely one that needs to be watched, especially if you want to take a look at what the '90s were like for a lot of us. It really only fails when compared to the precedents that were set by other better films that came before with the same warnings, but yeah, I can see this placed near the top of the second tier of those films in some peoples' calculations, including mine.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

CANON OF FILM: "I'M NO ANGEL"

I'M NO ANGEL (1933)

Director: Wesley Ruggles
Screenplay: Mae West, Story & Dialogue by Mae West, Addition Suggestions by Lowell Brantano



It's hard to quantify to a modern audience just how important and ahead of her time and influential Mae West actually is to the world of entertainment in general, not the least of which cinema, and it's bit hard to contextualize her in general, 'cause despite what everybody might think, that era of American cinema between the invention of sound and the adoption of Hays Code in 1934 was actually quite risque for the time. Not just sexually either, there was Warner Brothers making social conscious pictures like "I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang", as well as more outwardly sexual films, and while there was a lot that was still taboo, they certainly insinuated plenty, and downright said it in some situations, like the famous five minutes of "Baby Face" that were edited, that makes it very clear that Barbara Stanwyck's character has basically been forced by her father to be a prostitute since she was a teenager. That said, the most shocking abridge to the social morays of the time, was Mae West. She was already famous in America as a vaudeville performer, who like many at the time were multi-talented, and we see almost all her talents in this film, which, just came out after the code was enforced, but still manages to sneak in quite a few witticisms of hers. Like, when she's giving a phone number operator, "W, as in witch! Witch! W as in Witch! Dame misunderstood me." You gotta realize, at one point in her career, she was arrested for obscenity for performing her act, and she wasn't Lenny Bruce or anything, she never cursed, she was, that suggestive. (The play that she wrote that was raided was titled "Sex", this was back on Broadway in 1926!) Oh, and and one point in her career, she was almost banned from radio, after flirting a little too much with Charlie McCarthy. I'm dead serious, she said that, "Charlie was all wood and a yard long; I remember our last date and I have the splinters to prove it."! That was 1937!

That's the other major thing about her, the part that's really important nowadays, is that she was a writer, and usually wrote most of her movies and material. That might seem amazing, and it is, but you know, keep in mind, how unique she was; she had to write material. When she made her way to Hollywood, she was already well into her career, close to 40, but that didn't stop her. Her first film was "Night After Night", where she has a Supporting Role in an otherwise forgettable George Raft movie, where she rewrote all her lines. Within three years, she would be the second highest-paid person in the country, behind William Randolph Hearst. At the same Congress was filled with calls insisting that the "Mae West Menace" would stop. She way brazen, sassy, sexual, and innuendos in what seems sometimes like every line of dialogue she has. In "I'm No Angel" she confides, "It's not the men in your life that counts, it's the life in your men," and yeah, that was a bit too much for Bill Hays and most of America, where women were expected to settle down and get married and certainly not be so loose-moraled to sleep around, much less brag about it, much less, celebrate it. Much less, insinuate how good sex is. Other than maybe Groucho Marx, there's nobody who's more funny and quotable of that era of film than Mae West.

"I'm No Angel" was the second film collaboration she had with  a beginning-of-his-career Cary Grant as her main love interest, (Or I should probably say "Final Love Interest" in the film) after "She Done Him Wrong", that's one film of hers for some reason I haven't seen yet, but "I'm No Angel" is probably more influential than people realize. Like almost all of her work, she's the fish out of water who's rambling up and confronting the societal norms and morays of the time, and like "She Done Him Wrong" it came in just under the wire when it comes to the code being strictly enforced, so we're getting, mostly pure uncensored Mae West here. In "I'm No Angel", which is technically titled after a song she sings a few times in the film, although it could also probably be, at the time, the most obvious "No shit" statement in history, West plays Tira, a circus performer, who's looking to get out of her racket, but instead begins to get fame by moving from singer/burlesque performer to a lion tamer that's famous for sticking her head inside a lion's mouth. She takes this gig until she's rich enough to give it up, and basically, she's moving from man-to-man, the way she runs from one racket to another, until she gets caught up with a politician Kirk Lawrence (Kent Taylor), who was engaged at the time, but eventually, his cousin Jack Clayton (Grant) puts a stop to that, by falling in love with her, herself. And after promising to get married, she ends up suing over breach of promise, and in the movie's probably most galling scenes for the time, when you think about, she ends questioning witnesses at her trial, and of course, winning over the audience and the juries, one even sends her flowers. (Which is where she utters her most famous, and most misquoted line, "Why don't you come up and see me sometime", in "She Done Him Wrong" she actually says, "Why don't you come up some time, and see me," but she changed it for this film.)

Looking back on "I'm No Angel" the thing that shocked me is just how modern it really is as a story. I've made several notes about how I look at most of the big female actor/writer/director people of today, especially in comedy like Lena Dunham, Margaret Cho, Sarah Silverman, Tina Fey, among others as some of the best and most important artists of the day. Hell, when I finally revealed my Top Ten Films list of 2015 recently, I suspected that the most shocking and polarizing film on my list was Amy Schumer's first starring feature film role, "Trainwreck" which I ranked 5th on the year and I stand by that. I noted that that film took the conventions of the romantic comedy and through just a new perspective like Schumer's made if feel different and better than most of the ones we've seen in the recent past, and she does by the way. And "Recent" is the keyword, 'cause if you really want to observe why I ranked it so high, "I'm No Angel" is probably the best film to watch and compare to it. "Trainwreck"'s definitely more modern, but still, a creative person, who promiscuous, flaunts her constant affairs and sexuality, who often leads men on only for her own selfish and narcissistic gains, sometimes through scheme and deceit even, eventually falls in love with the man who makes her take a second look at her life and recognize that falling in love might not be such a bad thing. Yeah, they're similar, and yeah, I think you can argue that Amy Schumer might be a modern-day version of Mae West, and she's just as controversial today as West was in her time period, and is around the age Mae West was when she broke into movies too. In "I'm No Angel" West has to defend her actions, in a literal court of law, and in "Trainwreck," she has to earn her comeuppance by becoming a trait she admonishes, a cheerleader. Like, I said, it's a modern take, on the kind of rom-com trends and genre trappings that essentially people like Mae West invented and we've been struggling to find somebody who can master them the way she could ever since. Schumer of course, to sensible, evolved people at least, doesn't have to defend any of her actions, and that's because Mae West is the one that took the bullet for her, and all the other great female comic performers of the day, and she took it years earlier than any man ever did.

Mae West was, well, I'll let her say it, "When I'm good, I'm very good; but when I'm bad, I'm better."

Friday, November 18, 2016

THE TOP TEN WORST FILMS OF 2015! (Once more, a last nose-holding look at the crap of 2015. Thankfully, there's not too much it, so...)

I really, don't want to do this, this year. When I decided to separate out my Top Ten Worst Films List into a separate blogpost last year, it was because I thought the 2014 year in film was so bad and frustrating and seemed to keep getting worst and worst,...- what I'm saying is, that I needed to let out some long pent-up, built-up aggression and rage that I'd been holding in. This year, 2015, like I said before, was actually a much, much better year for feature films, and it was across the board. Even a lot of the films that people kept saying were really the bad and worst of the year, eh, most of the time, I found myself, being more forgiving if not outright enjoying them on some level.

That doesn't mean that their wasn't crap this year. And maybe I'm just delusional and that, I was only the unlucky one who just consumed and over-consumed on the true shit while everybody else was enjoying the more enjoyable films of 2014, and yeah, every year has a fair amount of shit in it when it comes to movies, often a lot of it. Now, there are critics and people who, for one reason like to seek out the truly, truly awful stuff that comes out in a given year, or just in general, like to waffle in the camp and the horrid and the incompetent of the lower drenches of cinema and it's not like I don't understand that fascination. I get what somebody says when they say they just want to watch a "bad movie", and not even meaning it ironically, or camp value. Sometimes they enjoy the crap and frankly it's not a bad way to become a good filmmaker to study the truly awful, teaches you what not to do. It helps to see it done poorly to show how the others show it being done right. That's why "Showgirls" is taught in film school classes.

And yeah, it's importance to showcase the truly awful crap that was thrown upon us in cinemas and elsewhere in the world of art every year. That said, there's a reason why I never liked doing Worst Ten Lists. For one thing, I don't like watching the crap. I feel like I'm wasting my time when I'm doing that, and frankly since I'm not paid adequately for this job yet, (SERIOUSLY, CLICK ON THE ADS FOLKS, THEY'RE THERE FOR A REASON!) I don't really see why I should force myself through all the horrible movies in a given year, just to make out a Worst Films List to correspond to my Best Films of the Year Lists. That's the reason why, before I always just shoved those films onto the bottom of my Top Ten Lists until last year, and frankly I hope/wish I will go back to doing that. Give those films the amount of attention they actually deserve, which is, yeah, basically a position as a footnote on the bottom of some other analytical look at the year in film. But, that's why I was so pissed and annoyed last year; I don't go seeking bad movies out, in fact, my viewing schedule and lists, while complex and too trivial to explain here, they're definitely slanted towards seeing the best-reviewed, most important and culturally significant films around, and not just in a given year, just in general. That doesn't mean those other films aren't films I'll watch, I'll get to some of them eventually, I'm sure, but no, I'm not actually going out of my way for them. And that's in general, that's not just for a specific year. Since there's so many films from both the past and recently that I haven't seen as of yet, I usually strive to watch the important and purportedly good ones first if possible, and the purported bad ones, may have to wait a little longer for their turn. So, when I felt overloaded with shit last year, I felt pissed and deceived and all kinds of annoyed and filled with all kinds of anger and rage after having to sit through a monumental amount of complete and utter shit; it's because I wasn't seeking it out. They were supposedly, for the most part, films that, for some reason, caught my radar and were, at least by enough trusted accounts that I took an interest in seeing those films, of some level of quality. It's one thing to knowingly go and seek out a bunch of bad movies, or know that bad movies are just the norm for your job and profession as long as you're compensated adequately you can put up with them but when that's not the case and you're seeking out great and good and finding some of that and then finding more and more mediocre and medicre-er and then finding a lot of bad and really bad and worst and worst and oh god, "Kelly & Cal" worst, ugh,

Anyway, that's what really was the catalyst last year, this year, I would've much rather have shoved this on the bottom of my Top Ten Best List instead of devoting a whole blog to it, and yet maybe I just got lucky or luckier this year and maybe my vetting process for films was a bit more refined than it was last year.... (Shrugs) I don't know, I didn't feel like I saw as much crap as I did last year. But, that said, some crap snuck through, and for that, I should seek take advantage of the opportunity and use this blogpost to seek out revenge on those horrible, horrible movies that did indeed waste my time and patience, so, why not. This won't be as anger-filled as last year, but whatever, a barrel and now that I've emptied it out from the top, let's scrape off the bottom. Let's get to it!

THE TOP TEN WORST FILMS OF 2015!   (Now, just as late as my Best Lists are, only later!)

Number Ten!

10. Lila & Eve



I only just now got around to this one, that managed to sneak in. "Lila & Eve" is one of those movies that's trying to be a couple different films at first, but is just so predictable and inevitable that it basically becomes none of those things.

FROM MY ORIGINAL REVIEW
Charles Stone III seems like a name that's been more ever-present among the African-American film community to me, than he probably actually is. I'm actually a bit shocked and kind of confused to check his Imdb.com page to find that he hasn't directed a feature-length film in over a decade until "Lila & Eve"..... and, well there's no real way to sugarcoat this, but this film was terrible. It's not horrible on concept, but it's basically some strange shallow fantasy about grieving mothers of dead sons, who decide to take the law into their own hands. "Death Wish" meets "Menace II Society", only not nearly as interesting as that would sound. The two mothers, are the titular Lila (Viola Davis) and Eve (Jennifer Lopez) two mothers who meet at a 12-step ground for women who've had a son murdered, mostly through gang violence. Lila's son Stephon (Aml Ameen) was killed by a local kingpin. Eve convinces Lila after a meeting to go and visit the intersection where her son was killed and soon enough, seemingly by accident, they up becoming murdering vigilantes. Lila tries to hold together what's left of her family and job but in the meantime, Eve keeps coaxing and getting her more and more investigating of her son's death and the general underworld of the area that led to Stephon's murder, and gunning them all down. (Sigh) There's a decent idea here, but you gotta really handle it well and really know how to handle it. Even the best movies of this genre, few of them are really great, in fact, I'm not really sure I can argue that any of them are, but there is a level here. "The Brave One" comes to mind as one, that's as outlandish as this one, but still seems plausible enough and gives it's story the correct amount of seriousness for that film. This film, not only does it just look and feel overly dark in general, the lighting choices here are somewhat questionable, but there's nothing intriguing or new here, unless you didn't think that Viola Davis could give a bad performance. Yeah, I see people bashing Lopez's work here as well, which, yeah, but her character's so preposterous: I'm not sure how to play it right. Maybe Sharon Stone could've done it 20 years ago? But, I didn't think Davis's work was any good here either. At least her character, was somewhat of an actual character and a real plausible human being, but it's still nothing that she shouldn't have been able to pull in her sleep, and yet still, there's a few moments of her, where I'm wondering what she's doing. Still, this was bad, straight from the page. I get the temptation to make a vigilante movie like this, but from a story perspective, they're rarely good, and this is really one of the worst and most forgettable and uninteresting ones I've seen. This is another one of those movies where the plot twist at the end is so blatantly obvious and so early in the competition that you're basically just waiting around for the film to end, if you can stay awake through the scenes that don't have gunfire in them.

"Lila & Eve" is one of those movies that I suspect probably started somewhere interesting, but it completely went off the rails. It's just too many of the wrong genres trying to be shoved together and and filmmakers who aren't actually capable of putting all these kinds of films together in some kind of coherent way. It was bad on the page, and became bad on the screen.

Number Nine!

Okay, while I did say that there were a lot of great films last year, when it came to making my Top Ten List, from where I was when I started to what it ended up, I didn't actually make too many changes. I thought about adding or subtracting a film or two that I wanted to get in and couldn't find room, or move a films or two around on the positions after I thought deeply about it enough, but not much; I've spent other years fixating for a lot longer and making many changes on the Top List, even though there were a lot of great films, at some point, the Top Ten wasn't too hard for me to narrow down. That was not the case, at all, for this Bottom Ten, as I was legitimately trying, and looking down the list of, say thirty five or so films that I was considering and changing the orders, multiple times and trying to get it just right; it was a difficult and trying list to make this year.

9. Woman in Gold



Part of me, wants to be nice and grade "Woman in Gold" on a curb, maybe put in something that's more reprehensible or otherwise is probably more "technically bad", but, I don't know.... Like I said there was some "entertaining bad" this year, at least to me, so I can probably forgive one or two of those more interesting films. "Woman in Gold" was the worst of two both worlds, it was tasteful, trite, manipulative and commercial, mainstream, but it was also horribly boring as Hell to sit through.

MY ORIGINAL REVIEW:
 There's a way to make this movie and tell this story right, I swear there is, but "Woman in Gold", oh man, did they not do that right. And that's really disappointing considering the subject matter, 'cause this is a big problem, us trying to locate many of the possessions that the Nazis stole from the Jews and then bring the items back to the descendants, particularly the valuable ones. Jewels, heirlooms, and in particular paintings. You know, eh, I know there's a few morons who still try to claim that the Holocaust didn't happen, eh, the Nazis documented the Holocaust, not only through film and pictures, but to the most trivial of details, people. They did that. It's- ugh. Anyway, this is the tale of Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren) who escaped to America from Vienna when she was young, and on top of losing most of her family, and the possessions she lost, she lost multiple paintings, including a painting of her aunt done in gold leaf by Gustav Klimt. That painting, "Woman in Gold" was hanging in Vienna for decades and is often noted and considered to be the most famous and important example of Austrian art, but it's not Austria's to have. It's apart of the constant argument about art and ownership, whether it's owned by those who actually created the work (or commissioned it), which is often the case, or in this case, whether a piece of art as a piece of cultural importance trumps it's actual ownership ,and whether or not, the law, both in Austria, or the U.S. (Or for that matter, in terms of international law) can adequately determine how to settle such a situation. The story is about Maria and her lawyer, Randy Schoenberg's (Ryan Reynolds) struggle to regain possession of the Klimt painting, even after it had become the Mona List of Austria. In between the road blocks of the trials and hearings, we have flashbacks of Maria as a child through the Holocaust, and her aunt, and the painting, etc. Honestly, this isn't a bad movie, but it's so boring. I'm not sure they were able to stretch the story of the trial to a full film, so they tried intercutting the film with the flashbacks, but I seriously don't think this worked either. Take the context out, it's a by-the-book based-on-a-true-story tale of overcoming tremendous obstacles and the little guy winning over the.... ugh, it's just not that good. Director Simon Curtis has done some good films in the past, I admired his "My Week with Marilyn" immensely, but this was not the correct approach to the material. I'm not sure what would've been but trying these two narratives approach definitely wasn't the right one. "Woman in Gold" looks like an amazing painting that I hope to see one day, it's currently at the Neue Gallery in New York City, and they make a point of bringing that up, and that the owner of that museum is the son of Estee Lauder, Ronald (Ben Miles from the UK version of "Coupling"), so that's quite possible, (Although there was absolutely no reason for that character to even be in the movie) but other than that, there's no reason to see the movie about how it ended up here. It's a short film stretch to an hour and 45 minutes and starring Helen Mirren in a half-ass attempt to get her another Oscar nomination. I hate being that blunt, but...., yeah, that's what it is.

Yeah, this was just boring and awful, and somehow Helen Mirren got a Golden Globe nomination for it, mainly 'cause she's Helen Mirren. Anyway, this is one of those stories that, somebody heard and read about and somebody said, "You know, that could make a good movie", without really thinking about whether or not it would actually make a good movie. It just sounds and seems like the kind of thing that would, but when you really think it through, sure there's WWII, Nazis, important history here, it's a story worth telling, but, is it a movie? It's basically a courtroom fight over a piece of art, and that's not inherently compelling. That's bad enough that it's not compelling what really puts it on the list though, is that, they didn't take the right approach, at all, to make it compelling. Maybe they wanted to be faithful to the original story or people or whatever, you know, that's fine, but I'd rather watch a movie that was less based on the facts of what happened and was instead more entertaining as a film.


Number Eight!

I really don't like documentaries on this list. I have the last couple years, but I really do try to avoid doing that, but it has been happening more and more lately for one reason or another. Sometimes it's wildly inaccurate and manipulative, other times it's just unwatchably boring, like the one I selected for this ballot, Now, last year was one of the first times I didn't have a documentary on my Top Ten List, and I didn't really focus in on it, but it was a weak year for documentaries too last year. In fact I only had five nominated for the One-Year-Later Award last year, which is the minimum, something I rarely do; now I didn't have any docs on my Top Ten List this year, but that wasn't because they weren't good. There were a bunch of really good ones this year that just didn't make my Top Ten cut. I'll definitely have the maximum of ten nominations this year, but there were still a few pretty bad ones this year. Some of you might even shocked by some of the ones I put in my Dis-Honorable Mentions List at the bottom,put I didn't pick one of the politically or culturally horrific one. I could've made a stand and picked one of those more popular titles, but instead I picked one that almost no one's heard of.


8. Ballet 422



Yeah, I didn't write a full review of this movie, so bare with me as I try to explain my reasoning here, but this movie looks interesting on the surface. It's a documentary about a ballet production, and the behind-the-scenes aspects that put of putting on such a production. There's plenty of good films about things like that, and ballet, even for someone like me who isn't necessarily a fan, can find a lot of it fascinating. It's also been a popular and important subject for film from "The Red Shoes" to "Black Swan" and documentaries on dance can be amazing if done right. Wim Wenders's "Pina" is one of the best documentary films this decade. That said, "Ballet 422" is just boring.

MY ORIGINAL REVIEW:
Ugh, this movie annoyed me the more I thought about it. I really wanted to like "Ballet 422", I've enjoyed movies about ballet over the year, and especially these behind the scenes movies, like "Black Swan", or the underrated Robert Altman film "The Company". This movie documents Justin Peck's, a dancer/choreographer of the New York ballet, and the first current dancer to be allowed to choreograph an original ballet for the production. What does that entail? Well, not much to be honest. We see, a little of the technical, sometimes the real technical, like how they dye the costumes using the washer, that's actually one of the most interesting parts of the movie unfortunately. At barely 75 minutes or so, we basically get a behind-the-scenes, and not much of the actual ballet. That could be interesting in of itself, but this wasn't captivating, or really taught me much about how to put on a ballet production. I feel more cheated out of this film than any film I've seen in a while.

I mean, look, I'm not one who goes into movies, hoping for things; I'm actually very much against people who come into films with expectations, at all, no matter how minor or major or overblown they may be, but for a ballet documentary, even a behind-the-scenes one, I'd figure some ballet dancing would come up. This movie, is shockingly lacking in actual ballet, even in actual discussion or analyst of ballet. I mean, there's some scenes of practicing and that's interesting, but I mean, I guess the movie was hanging on this Justin Peck guy being this intriguing figure who would propel the movie into something more, and honestly, he may be a great choreographer, but he's not a compelling film character. This is one of those examples where I didn't care to see the DVD special features, I just wanted to see the ballet by the end of it, and frankly, we didn't see that so.... (Shrugs)


Unlucky Number Seven

Oh Dear. Partly because of, the fact that I do tend to slant my viewing habits towards the bigger and more important films and filmmakers, there's almost always at least one, really good and talented director on these Worst Lists, and-eh, this year, is no exception, and this film in particular is full of talented people, in front of and behind the camera, but-eh, what the hell were they thinking?

7. The Humbling



I wanted to give Barry Levinson's "The Humbling" a break, at first. I mean, it had the unfortunate timing of coming out, shortly after the similar, "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)" but no, this movie too messed up to really not be considered. I expect more out of these people.

FROM MY ORIGINAL REVIEW:
Well, we'll get the obvious thing out of the way first, "The Humbling" clearly suffers firstly from the fact that "Birdman..." came out last year. It particularly doesn't help that the opening sequence involves our lead character, a legendary actor, Simon Axler (Al Pacino) trying to get into the theater after locking himself outside, in time for his cue onstage. So, the movie's behind the eight ball already, but honestly, if you took that out of it, "The Humbling" is still, pretty much just a mess. And you know, I don't really get Barry Levinson lately. He's a good director, "Good Morning, Vietnam" is in my Canon of Film, and "Rain Man" is one of my personal favorite movies, I actually just saw "Bugsy" fairly recently that was a really good film too. I guess in hindsight there have been clues over the years that he has this fascination with satirizing Hollywood. The best of these films by a mile is "Wag the Dog", but this is the same guy who directed "Diner" and "The Natural", and produced, "Homicide: Life on the Streets" even "Sphere", I usually think of him as somebody who has range in subject matter and interests, but lately even in those projects that you would think there wouldn't be this behind-the-scenes deconstructing of Hollywood going on, he seems to be going after it. "Man of the Year", about a comedian who runs for President, or "What Just Happened" which is really a sharp satire of Hollywood, even "The Bay", which was a horror film from him, that I don't think I recommended, but that was one of the few films that actually found a new and unique approach to the found footage movie by telling the story through the perspective of a news reporter looking back on the footage that was taken and she was apart of, even in found footage horror, he's looking at the behind the scenes footage. I don't know why this has become his motif lately, and it's just become more and more cynical it seems. And this is the worst of the bunch too. The movie begins with Simon playing Jacques in "As You Like It" and he's practicing his "All the World's a Stage" monologue and then onstage he accidentally falls off of it. Admitting that he's losing a sense of reality between the real world and the world of the stage, he admits himself into an asylum for thirty days. When he gets out and back home, he talks to a psychiatrist (Dylan Baker) over Skype and the details are...-, um...-, hmm.... Eh, let's see if-, no, that's not really right either. Um, hmm. Well, I mentioned the "All the world's a stage speech...", well, that, and this quixotic script is based on a Philip Roth novel and co-written by Buck Henry of all people, it's intended to be difficult to determine whether or not the events that occur are in his mind, or are actually happening, even he claims, he doesn't even know and isn't sure he can tell. So, these events mainly are based around Pegeen (Greta Gerwig) the lesbian daughter of two of his oldest theater friends, Carol (Dianne Wiest) and Asa (Dan Hedaya), who suddenly knocks on his door, claiming...-, oh boy, um,- she claims a lot of things, basically, they start eventually being together. (Dear Lesbians, send your letters of complaint to Barry Levinson, et. al. c/o Ambi Pictures and Hammerton Productions.... California, 90rest of zip code) Anyway, she's some kind of pathological liar, sociopath, con artist, it's doesn't matter, it's some crazy-ass thing that's a partial side-effect of casting Greta Gerwig in the role, 'cause you want the lead female to straddle that line between "Oh, she crazy," and "Batshit, holy fuck crazy", also known as the "Parker Posey is-your-lead actress-in-an-underwritten-Indy film role" syndrome.  Her parents tell him this, his psychiatrist worries about this with him, then the ex-girlfriend comes around, Louise (Kyra Sedgwick) and talks about how she's crazy and that she's still in love with her despite the lying and apparent cheating and now fucking men, and women, she still screws around on Simon. (Seriously, Lesbians, you really should write a letter on this one.) And keep in mind, it's insinuated that it's unclear what or which of these incidents is real or not, because of Simon's inability to separate reality of the play and the real world, so.... (Shrugs) I got nothing. Oh, there's also a fellow inmate from the asylum who is now stalking Simon because she believes that he's agreed to be her hitman in order to kill her pedophile husband. It's this mess of things colliding and frankly, whether it's a tale told by an idiot or not, it doesn't really lead to much in the end..... the idea of an actor unsure what's real or not is interesting, but not unique and being inside his mind just makes everything confusing and not insightful. Again, I don't know why Levinson keeps pulling from this bag, I don't know what's left for him to explore in this world or why he keeps doing it to be honest, it's becoming repetitive and pointless. He directed the HBO biopic "You Don't Know Jack" with Pacino playing Dr. Jack Kevorkian and that was a good film and even then, a lot of the film was focused on the media aspects of that story. I wish he'd looked towards some kind of different material in the future, something's that not so cynical and so meta of Hollywood; it doesn't feel like it's as interesting a theme to him, as his recent filmography suggests, and that's probably why it so confuses me, especially after this film which is nothing but confusing.... 

Yeah, I'm trying to give "The Humbling" a bit of a break, but god this was just a mess and really when you think back on the film, this is just a blur of a mess of a meta-Hollywood, meta-actor-y, just a blob that lasted an hour and forty-five minutes of my life. It's already bad in the mindset, and then, going back and looking up the plot of the movie, it gets dumber and dumber. It was well-acted, but yeah, this hit theaters in January, was immediately forgotten and thank God. Barry Levinson's a good director, and I don't know why he keeps this fascination with the fame and multiple public and private sides of it, but he should really find another motif. Let Sofia Coppola make that kind of movie, Levinson should find something else.


Number Six!

Now, also a bit of an anomaly on my Top Ten List was that, there were no foreign films on the list this year. Again, not because there weren't plenty of good ones out there, there were plenty, but they just didn't make my Top Ten this year. That's actually quite unusual, last year I had four foreign films in my Top Ten, so kind of an under-the-radar story from 2015 films was that 2015 was a particularly good year for American films, but still, foreign films were still really great. For the most part,....

6. In the Name of My Daughter



I really didn't want to put an Andre Techine film on this list, but, even the great ones (Although Techine is probably more borderline great than great) can sometimes make some clunkers, and this, based on a true story melodrama, "In the Name of My Daughter", this unwatchable mess, most definitely deserved this spot.

FROM MY ORIGINAL REVIEW:
Techine, along with Jean-Luc Godard is one of the last surviving and working directors of the French New Wave and even then, Techine kinda came in at the tale end of that movement. Honestly, I've never really been a fan of his. On top of that, "In the Name of My Daughter" already as a story comes in behind the eight ball for me. This is actually based on a major headline story that occurred in France involving, a missing person, a casino heiress, a hostile takeover and the Mafia, but this story did not make headlines here, at least none that I remember and to be honest, it's not told well. I wish I could be a little more specific considering the movie, but....  this was all so jumbled and just-, I mean, it's half-told in flashback there's double-triple crossing, there's business dealings and-, this was so complicated, and this could've been told well, Scorsese given this material could've done something with this, but Andre Techine is way not the right guy for this. This movie comes off like a mixed up TV movie that didn't know what perspective to take with. Actually, you know what this reminds me of, there's a book called "Citizen Hughes", by Michael Drosnin and it's about the Howard Hughes empire and how the IRS inevitably were able to take him down. Don't bother looking for it, it's probably around somewhere but it's a pretty obscure book, the only reason I have a copy and actually know about it, is because my Grandfather's brother, Andy Baruffi, was the head of the Las Vegas Branch of the IRS and he was the one who actually arrested Howard Hughes, (At least he is in family folklore) and he's mentioned in the book a couple times because of this, and he did head off the investigation so he was more than involved in this, but anyway-, if you actually read the book, it's-, I mean, it's not bad but it is dense. It's not a non-fiction novel like say "In Cold Blood", it's really more of a investigatory piece, sorta like, the novel "Game Change" is detailing the behind-the-scenes of the 2008 election, but it's dense and unless you're devoted to learning about it, I don't recommend reading it, but "In the Name of My Daughter", it feels like, reading this book again. It just overlayered and dense and full of details and references and relationships that-, honestly I just don't know enough about, and this movie didn't make me want to learn. (It also doesn't really help that this didn't really end, this story yet, the courtroom case, still leaves a lot in the air, so it's already a story with an unfinished, lingering ending.) There's a decent performance by Catherine Deneuve and a few others, but this is being really generous right now. The movie is just a colassal, confusing mess that, even if I knew about the story and hypothetically could follow it, I don't think I would still like this film. This is a quintessential example of the wrong material with the wrong director.

I wanted to give this movie a bit of leeway, 'cause it is a good filmmaker, and to be honest, this wasn't a really well-written review, and it had been awhile between watching the film and writing about it, but that said, this film was really a labyrinth-like mess that didn't go anywhere. It couldn't go anywhere. I mean, it's hard to explain it, 'cause the movie and it's characters and subplots were so incestuously linked, but not in a way that made anything clear. There are some good movies about somebody suddenly going missing, "Under the Sand" comes to mind for instance, a few others, just last year, "45 Years" for instance, but this movie, has so many things elsewise going on. It's the missing girl, the company takeover, the casino fraud case, it's like everything is happening at the same time, so therefore everything is connected, but they don't really show a great job at how or why they're all connected. Or more than that, why I should care.


Number five!

5. Digging for Fire



(Angry growl) Okay, now we're starting to get into the movies that actually pissed me off this year. and Joe Swanberg, you're officially on the shitlist.

FROM MY ORIGINAL REVIEW:
Oh my god, here's a few terms I never thought I'd use in the same sentence, pointless, Mumblecore, cameofest, and it's boring on top of that. Joe Swanberg, is probably not the best of the Mumblecore movement, but he's definitely the most prolific. Not counting his acting credits, which would be a lot more than this, and only counting feature film credits, except for "V/H/S" which he only co-directed, Swanberg has directed, twelve feature films. and he's got a thirteenth in post-production that will come out later this year, and that's only, this decade! I'm not counting what he's done before 2010. That's insane, even for low-budget indy directors. Edward Burns hasn't directed that many features, in his 20+ Year career and that's probably the only other indy director I can think of who's even close to the rate and pace of Swanberg. It's not that his films are bad, either, I consider "Drinking Buddies" to be pretty damn good, and I guess I didn't outright hate "Happy Christmas", but honestly, I'm starting to think he's starting to lose it. He's never been a favorite of mine, but there's a pattern and the pattern is that, more and more of his films, come off as, unfinished. Like, there's an idea here, and he just sorta plants a few things in the movie, but he never really goes anywhere with them. Now when it's done well, since most of his films are relationship pieces, you can kinda take the often-improvised dialogue and sorta find some greater truths below the surface, that's the real reason why "Drinking Buddies" does hold up, um... well, I think here there's an idea for a subtext-filled tale about a couple, but, where he went wrong with it, um, I don't think he ended up anywhere near John Cheever or anything. Okay, so, like a lot of these Mumblecore directors seem to love to do, the main characters, a yoga instructor to the stars, Lee (Rosemarie DeWitt) and her public school teacher husband, Tim (Jake Johnson, who also wrote the feature) have been given a 3-month stay at a client's house, and it's a pretty lavish house and just enough time to get away from it all, and have some time together, and apart, as well. They also take their 3-year-old, Jude (Jude Swanberg, yes, Joe's real-life kid). Everything's rather cool, although Lee wants to take the kid to their grandparents, Grandma and Pop Pop (Judith Light and Sam Elliott) both to see the kid, but also so that Tim can stay home and get done their long-delayed taxes. However, he also wants to have a little fun, and asks some friends to come out for a barbecue. Among his friends is Sam Rockwell's Ray, I guess the most interesting and memorable of this group, which says more about Sam Rockwell in general than his character, I'll explain in a bit, but he also brings along a couple of hookers to the pool party, Max and Alicia (Brie Larson and Anna Kendrick). See what I mean, when I say this film is a cameofest. I'm not done by a mile on that by the way. Anyway, instead of partying too much, or doing something stupid with, either of the hookers or anyone else really, he ends up distracted by a find in the backyard, a rusted small gun, and what appears to some kind of human bone. As he continues to search the area, and eventually begins doing some amateur digging in the area, he starts finding things like, an old license plate, more unusual bones, many of them in the dirt, and other odd objects, a plastic trash bag for instance, a watch. It's suspicious, and in a normal movie, this could've been interesting and some kind of metaphor for the relationship struggles they're going through, and they are going through those. During one day, when the grandparents have the kid, Lee ends up having a day with Ben (Orlando Bloom, of all people,...) who she runs into at a bar, I believe on a night out, and gets close to maybe doing one or two things she probably shouldn't, but not really. Okay, let me just list off everybody else of note who seems to float into this movie almost by accident: Chris Messina, Mike Birbiglia, Jane Adams, nice to see her again in something since "Hung" got canceled, Ron Livingston, Melanie Lynskey, Jenny Slate, Timothy Simons from "Veep", and those are just the ones I instantly recognized. And they're all pretty much wasted. I mean, there's something between Jake Johnson and Brie Larson's character, as she actually starts helping Tim dig, and because they're dirty, she ends up putting on some of Lee's clothes while hers are in the wash, but, it doesn't really go anywhere. There's one weird scene, with an old neighbor, Tom (Tom Bower, oh forgot about him) and he mentions that he knows what's there that he's digging up, and the history of the house they're staying in, and nothing! Literally, he doesn't even ask, "Can you tell me the history, what is down there?" Nothing! Like-, I, I guess this was meant to be symbolic, but you're finding suspicious items underground on somebody else's property and you're becoming more and more obsessed with digging up whatever's there, and somebody tells you, they know what's there? I mean, even if he's lying and he makes up some ghost tale, which he doesn't even do, at least it's something that could lead somewhere. I-, I honestly have no idea why that scene's even in the movie, or why he went and did nothing with it; it's barely, if ever brought up again. I haven't had the fortunate opportunity to go through Swanberg's entire filmography, I'm sure there's gems I'm missing; I really should get around to "Hannah Takes the Stairs" at least, but this has to be his worst film yet. It's definitely the most pointless one, and moreso because there really was so much potential and not just in the waste of supporting actors either, there's a good idea for a film here, instead we get, two separate adventures that a couple goes on, and nothing comes of either of them.

Look, I actually do like this low-key, low budget, naturalistic shooting style made famous most recently by many of these Mumblecore filmmakers that have gone onto great success and have, deservedly become quite influential, but good lord. This is, just nothing. This is worst than Bret Easton Ellis nothing, it seems like it's going five or six directions, and as far as I can tell, this movie was just an excuse to get all his Hollywood friends together and have a party. And hell, I just watched Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming's old film "The Anniversary Party" from over a decade ago, which was basically the same thing, and that was actually a fun and entertaining movie. I have absolutely no idea, what the hell "Digging for Fire" was supposed to be about or why this was made, or...., well anything about it. The worst thing is that it seems like there's something there, but when you actually step back from it, complete waste of time and energy of us, the audience and worst yet, all the talented actors, who actually, many of them, are giving good and interesting performances, and they should be in much, much better movies than this one. Thankfully many of them are.


Number Four!

I originally thought this would be higher on the list, but to paraphrase Jim Cornette, so many things came up that were worst than this that it moved up without even doing anything. But, still, this was, really awful, and what makes it really problematic and annoying and a particularly horrid brand of awful, is that, unlike all the other films on this list, this is a musical! A Musical!? How bad can a Musical really be?



(Holds back vomit)

Oh god, I forgot that existed, give me a minute.

(Long thinking pause)

Okay, is case you all forgot about "Rock of Ages", it was fucking terrible! But, oh I don't say this lightly, THIS WAS WORST!

4. The Last Five Years



Ms. Kendrick, I beg of you, please be more selective and don't just do a movie because it's a musical, please, please, I beg of you; you're too talented for this crap!

MY ORIGINAL REVIEW:
The latest Anne Kendrick musical-, oh my god, that's a genre now! How the fuck did that happen?! Uh, anyway, the latest, "The Last Five Years" is by far the worst and I'm gonna start at the top here, the music is terrible! I'm told this is a popular musical from Jason Robert Brown but there's not a single memorable song from this movie. Half of them sound the same, occasionally there's a funny idea or line, and I know, essentially this is an opera, (I won't go so far to say "rock opera") so the dialogue is sung and whatnot, and I'll admit to having questionable musical taste, with my conspicuously high amount of Jewel CDs that I still listen to, but I can't think of a song from this movie I ever want to hear again. Admittedly, the movie's half screwed for me already 'cause of this, but that's only the first problem. The movie follows Cathy (Kendrick) and Jamie (Jeremy Jordan) as it documents their relationship over a five-year period through song, with Cathy's songs starting from the end of the romance and going backwards and the guys songs starting at the beginning of the relationship and going forward because,-... um, eh, I don't know; I think the author thinks he saw Harold Pinter did it once or whatever, there's no point to it. Cathy is a struggling New York actress who takes a lot of Summerstock work in Ohio, while Jamie is suddenly the next huge up-and-coming wonder boy in the literary world and falls into the trappings of being 23 and a huge successful novelist. basically, it's every other bad New York City independent movie ever made. It's what happens when "Listen Up Philip" thinks it's "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg". I don't even know what else to say, it's a boring tired plot of a movie with boring tired musical numbers...;- I can't even imagine how this would be better on stage; there's literally nothing here I haven't seen done better multiple times over. It's not even horribly awful for a musical that you can see it as camp like "Rock of Ages", except for maybe director Richard LaGravenese's strange choice of some Bergmanesque two-shots a la 'Scenes from a Marriage" and this movie's romance is nowhere near interesting enough to rip off Bergman. It's bad in dull and uninteresting ways and it's dull and bad for a musical.

Thankfully, I think this movie entered and died in theaters right away, but oh my God, this was dreadfully boring. If this was an album, I'd listen to it once, fall asleep, wake up halfway through, thinking, "Oh my God, how much did I miss?" and it turns out, "Wait, I didn't miss anything, I was awake this whole time!" This is terrible, the Pinteresque narrative doesn't help, it just makes it more confusing and frankly, that would only work if there was a reason to care. And the music, this is the worst music I've ever heard in a musical. I mean, people complain about being tired of "Frozen"'s music playing 24/7, screw you people, be happy this didn't catch on like that. This was just, utterly atrociously bad and atrociously boring! I didn't even realize a musical could pull those two things off, but dammit, this one did it. And, poor, poor, poor, Anna Kendrick, I felt sorry for her being in this film.Not as sorry as I feel for Malin Akerman, (Who's stupid idea was it for her to sing a lip with the string from Tom Cruise's jeans in her mouth, oh there was much bad about that film) but, yeah, pretty bad. At least "Rock of Ages" is almost gloriously bad, "The Last Five Years" is horribly bad and boring and completely forgettable.


Number Three!

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper have, in general, been on a role when it comes to making good movies, especially when working with David O. Russell, who, we'll unfortunately get to later. Now, they were in two movies together this year, in movies that were titled after the names of their female lead characters. There was "Joy" that was made with the Russell. Lawrence got an Oscar nomination for it and it was okay. The other movie they did....

3. Serena



The funny thing is that this was also made by a normally reliable and great director in Susanne Bier, but this movie was doomed from the get-go, from a nightmare of a shoot, to numerous delays with the release, even when Jennifer Lawrence being the biggest star in the world at the time, "Serena" was shelved until it was quietly released in theaters early last year, and, yeah, yeah, the studios was right. This really did suck.

MY ORIGINAL REVIEW:
Oh God, this frontier-era soap opera was doomed from the beginning. I think a lot of us have probably heard about the supposed nightmare production that was "Serena" by now. Not necessarily a nightmare in filming, just a nightmare of a film. In the absolute pinnacle of Jennifer Lawrence's star power as well as the rising fame of co-star Bradley Cooper, who we know they two have worked amazing magic together with "American Hustle" and "Silver Linings Playbook", this movie auspiciously remained on the shelf for three years before finally getting dumped into theaters early this year. Serena (Jennifer Lawrence) soon marries the rich timber tycoon George Pemberton (Bradley Cooper), I'm not glancing over stuff by the way, that's quite literally how much we learn about them and what happens right at the beginning. So what happens afterwards. Mostly, Serena, just makes her presence known. She's abrasive, cold and bitchy, towards everybody; I think she's supposed to be some kind of powerhungry, um,- I don't know. She gets married to this guy and immediately she is in charge of everything. Elizabeth Taylor's character in "Giant" is probably the closest thing I think this character was intended to be, but that's a real stretch actually, she was a gentle and nice character who influenced her husband to be less racist and more sentimental, this is just, I don't know. You can tell right away that she's somewhat more interested in the position the marriage gets her and the power that it invokes, by blatantly dismissing a townswoman who's carrying George's kid from an earlier affair, she and he doesn't dispute, she just doesn't acknowledge or gives a shit. It comes up later, but it seems like everything and nothing comes up later in this film. I called this a soap opera and that, yeah, that's it. It's over-the-top melodramatic emotions to a series of events that are occurring as often as they are random, maybe I missed the point where somebody threw a drink in this movie, but I wouldn't be shocked if I later rewatched it and realized somebody did. And the film was directed by Susanne Bier, the wonderful Danish director who's made some amazing work in the past, "After the Wedding", "Brothers" my favorite, the Oscar-winning "In a Better World", and she's done well in America before too with the wonderful "Things We Lost in the Fire",  but I think she was just given a terrible script and like everybody else, didn't know what to do with it. Everybody's trying to make a good movie, but it's not coming out that way. Bier's never made a period piece before and she's struggling to understand the mood of the movie, whether it's this elegiac sprawling observation on society, or a dark, cold Shakespearean tragedy. She's somewhere between John Huston and Clint Eastwood directing wise here, but it's just a mess. I don't blame her completely, this is just an anomaly for her, she'll bounce back and so will these actors. As for this film though, I don't blame the studios for holding this back. It reminds me of, like in movies about Hollywood actors and actresses making their big break and then suddenly, their next major film is a period piece and you see them on the set and in costume and it's big and overblown and the dialogue is shaky and best and doesn't seem like it would ever be from a real film, not that a movie like this would ever even be made nowadays 'cause even at the time this cliche of what a Hollywood movie was died 20 years earlier...,  yeah, this feels like one of those movies, like the fake movie someone's making within the real movie.

(Sigh) Yeah, this was shelved for three years before getting a release and it should've been shelved for a lot longer. Um, this was really just a classically, boring, unwatchable movie. I mean, this movie...- I said that this felt more like a fake movie in an actual movie, and it kinda does. I mean, this feels like they were trying to go for like an epic, sprawling melodrama from like the fifties of sixties of classic Hollywood, and I guess I kinda get that, it didn't work, at all. It was just boring.


Number two!

I don't give too many films ZERO STARS, but I gave it to this film, and, it deserved it. I'll explain why it isn't number one later, but yeah, I never did understand disaster movies.

2. San Andreas



FROM MY ORIGINAL REVIEW:
(Slight growl under breath) No, no no. No-No,no-,no. No-no, NO! NO! No, no, no. No. Just, NO! No! No! NO! NO!. NOOOOOOOO-OOO! NO!

Oh, where to begin here. Okay, "San Andreas" is the infamous faultline- fault-line, (Faultline is not one word? Really? Okay.) it's the infamous fault-line that separates the Pacific tectonic plate from the North America plate and it conveniently for this movie, cuts through the state of California; it's the reason why, at least back in the day, I don't think it's a widely believed myth anymore, but some hypothesized that when the big earthquake hits California, that the state, or at least part of it, might one day become an island or just sink into the Ocean entirely. So, it's a perfect set up for a disaster movie, it's already California, Hollywood, it's earthquake heavy, it's a famous location that people already think (or thought) could be the location of such drastic disastrous events, etc. etc.  Now, you'd think a movie that was named after a famous piece of geography, would know thing about the region, like, how Hoover Dam works, or where the Colorado River goes. (Okay, technically the Colorado River used to go down towards Mexico, but it hasn't done that in decades. Or, maybe not make up a place in Nevada that's supposedly near Hoover Dam, which is where the famous seismologist Dr. Lawrence Hayes ([Sigh] Paul Giamatti, what the hell are you doing in this movie?! Please tell me you really wanted a yacht or something so you did this. [Sigh]) goes to seek out the evidence that he can accurately predict when the next big earthquakes will arrive and this leads to the big earthquake that kills one of his assistant and destroys Hoover Dam in exactly the way that it would absolutely not happen. And btw, the San Andreas Fault is about 350 miles away from Hoover Dam. Look, I know there's other faultl-ines, but seriously, if the fault shook enough to destroy Hoover Dam, then it probably would completely annihilated Bakersfield, Barstow, probably Fresno. Okay, Giamatti, is the established character actor who's sole purpose is to give the made-up science as exposition sound credible, he's never even seen in the same scene as the main story which involves, (Depressed sigh) a, let's see, let me check the "Hack Writers Mad Libs Guide to Disaster Movies" and under dangerous noble profession, he wrote down, "Helicopter Rescue Pilot", okay, a helicopter rescue pilot, Raymond Gaines (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) who's getting a divorce from his wife Emma (Carla Gugino) because plot convenience, and she's about to marry a new asshole Daniel (Ioan Gruffodd) who's trying to befriend their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) who's about to head off for college, and before a bunch of shit happens, meet-cutes and befriends Ben (Hugo Johnson-Burt) a British college graduate and his younger brother Ollie (Art Parkinson) and they all end up in trouble, most of the time, they get out of it. Daniel does a few things that aren't as unreasonable as they want to make it seem, but they treat him like the Billy Zane character from "Titanic" because of it....

Oh, God this movie is painful, and yes, I'm focusing on the sketchy geography and science, but this movie would've been bad anyway. I mean, a good disaster movie that's dumb and stupid, like "2012" for instance, it's over-the-top and just a spectacle of bad; "San Andreas" is caught between taking things too seriously or trying to be humorous and it decides on neither and it makes the movie just unbelievably boring. It's just a film about a family getting back together because of disaster. It's like "The Impossible", only stupid. It's not even stupid, it's just inept.  Just-ugh. Look, I've never thought Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock was necessarily the greatest actor, but that said, nobody gave a good performance in this movie. Nobody could give a good performance in this movie. These aren't characters, they're plot devices. Archetypes of plot devices. It's copying the formula of every other movie like this. I'm seriously wondering if this movie wasn't cut-and-pasted together from some other shitty script with just the names and locations changed. I'd call it formulaic, but it's so beyond formulaic that I practically just want to call it copying. This movie is like, you ever grade papers in like high school or something, and two idiots who sat next to each other are clearly copying each other's paper, and they're so dumb they get caught right away because they both got all the same answers wrong and had all the same misspelled words, misspelled in the exact same way? That's what I think the first draft of "San Andreas" was, and then somebody cut and pasted the rest to make it look like they weren't copying from someone else. I don't know who was copying who but I'm just gonna presume/hope this was the one copying, 'cause I don't want to know the moron who copied this work, if that's the case. "San Andreas" was just an utter pain to get through, and no, there's nothing in this movie I can honestly recommend.....

There's not much to say here. "San Andreas" was a dreadfully bad disaster movie. And, it wasn't even interesting or memorable for a disaster movie, it wasn't fun, it wasn't interesting, it wasn't anything that we hadn't seen a hundred other times before, and this isn't exactly a great genre to begin with, cause mostly those movies are just a bunch of crap happening over and over again, and trying to shoehorn a story, much less a happy story into all that death and destruction is just depression, so, and "San Andreas" is probably one of the worst I've seen at that, that wasn't a horrible Syfy TV movie or something.


And now, drumr-, actually, no, this doesn't deserve a drumroll, finally, let's get to the absolute WORST FILM OF 2015!

Number One!

I originally gave this film 1 1/2 STARS when I first wrote my review. (I actually changed it later to 1 STAR). Needless to say, I now think I was being generous, although, in general, I'd tell you don't pay that close attention to such things as the number of stars a film is given. I mean, "I gave it 5 STARS, but I gave this 4 1/2 STARS, and this  4 STARS, does that mean, one's that much better or...?" It means, it's good. Don't over think this, 4-5 is means I think it's really good, 2 1/2/-31/2 stars, probably means I think it's average, maybe okay, and 0-2 STARS means I don't think it's that good, basically,-, just don't get too wound up in how many stars I give a film; care if it's good or bad, and the stars are just my expression of how good or how bad I think it is, but still good and good and bad is bad blah, blah, blah.... Anyway, still, 1 1/2 STARS, is traditionally a bit high for me to rank on this list, especially at number one. not unprecedented, time and self-reflection are more than capable having me reevaluate a movie and it can definitely make me like or hate a movie more or less, long after originally seeing a film, but yeah, what happened here? Well, here's the thing, I think I thought I was giving this movie a little break. Giving it the benefit of the doubt, maybe I didn't quite get it, kinda thing. Then I started looking into the movie and then, the more and more I looked into the film, the less and less I realized it was, and at some point, this movie, because, and it's not even close, completely obviously to me, that this is the worst film of the year. Sorry David O. Russell.

1. Accidental Love



I really don't want to include this film on the list, on some level it doesn't seem right. It shouldn't actually count as a movie, much less a theatrically-released feature in the United States, but it was released and it technically counts, but then again, somebody needs to be responsible for this abortion.

MY ORIGINAL REVIEW:
Wait, wait-a-minute, I'm not reviewing this film, this movie is too old, and I don't have the time or need to devote to-. What?! 2015, no that can't possibly be right, this movie looks like it was made a decade ago! Wait, David O. Russell directed this?! I-eh-um, okay, it does sorta seem like one of his lesser works that failed comedically, but-eh, that's-, no this isn't, give me a second, I gotta look this up. This isn't adding up.

(Searching internet)

Hmm, huh, Richard Roeper's review, what's he got to...
The Story behind "Accidental Love" is weirder and definitely more interesting than the movie itself. Based on a novel by Kristin Gore (Al's daughter) titled "Sammy's Hill," the production was titled "Nailed" when director David O. Russell and the cast assembled for filming in 2008. Production was shut down more than a dozen times when the financial backers failed to make payments on time. cast member James Caan quit the film early on (Russell has a history of run-ins with actors from George Clooney to Lily Tomlin to Jude Law). Russell finally walked away and successfully lobbied to have his name removed from the credits. The patched-together "finished" product was released on VOD earlier this year, and it' s getting a one-show-only showcase at Facets Cinematheque on Friday.

Oh-kay, well, that explains it. And for the record by the way, this happens way more often than people realize, even with some established actors and directors. (Stephen Greene is Russell's "Alan Smithee" alias) Hell, Pacino's "Chinese Coffee" didn't even get a theatrical release. And, yeah that explains pretty much everything wrong with the movie as well. And yes, until I actually checked the release date I was actually just gonna skip reviewing this movie, because, well, to quote Roeper's review again:

As for the movie, it's an unmitigated disaster, not even worth a spin as a curiosity piece.

(Shrugs) Um, yeah. Yeah, there's really not much here. I mean, it's clearly supposed to be one of those old-time screwball comedies, sorta like if Preston Sturgess tried to make "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" but, that's... (Shrugs). It begins with a rollerskating-waitress, Alice (Jessica Biel) who's about to marry the man of her dreams, a local cop named Scott (James Marsdan) until a nail is accidentally shot into her head. Because of this, she's got a shortened life span and for reasons that have since become mostly irrelevant since Obamacare came along, she decides to head to Washington and try to convince her Congressman Howard Birdwell (Jake Gyllenhaal) to stand up for her and others who come along and help them get healthcare for reasonable things, like a nail stuck in your head. Needless to say, the most sensible thing in the movie is the fact that she then has sex with him, as the nail in her head triggered her, um-slut reflex. "I'm a nail slut", she utters in the movie's only memorably funny line. How this eventually involves, girl scouts and the Majority Whip's (Catherine Keener) plan for a military base on the Moon, no, not kidding, and-, eh, I don't remember, 27 other ridiculous things that might sound funny in a decent Upright Citizen's Brigade sketch or something, but yeah, this is a mindless mess of a barely-a-movie, that probably wouldn't have been funny eight years ago. I get the sense there probably was a decent satirical idea here at one point, the era of it's satire has passed, and even if it was around the time, it really isn't executed that well, and I know this is a tough genre to pull off and I admire the attempt, but obviously this was a doomed attempt to begin with.

Yeah, as bad as "Serena" and "San Andreas" and "The Last Five Years" were and they were terrible, at least they were movies, this literal and figurative abortion of a movie, was never properly finished, was only half-way tied and piece together with duct tape just to force a release, seven years after it originally was made. Now that explains, why it's bad, and why it deserves to be number one, but actually, if I'm being completely honest, I left something out of my review that I should've brought up. You see, I'm usually a stickler for watching movies through to the end and every single scene and whatnot, but this movie was really hard to watch. So, at some point during the screening of this movie, I left the room and went to the bathroom, and left the DVD running, and decided, no, I'm not gonna back up and catch whatever I missed. I cannot remember doing anything like that, in over seven or eight years, not since, before I had this blog and I returned "Jesus Christ Superstar" to the library after an hour, 'cause that was all I can put up with. So, yes, even without all the behind-the-scenes shambles that "Accidental Love" suffered through, even without knowing that at the time, this was the first movie where I decided to purposefully and intentionally walk out on, for a little while anyway, and I should've just taken the DVD out, not watch the rest from where I walked back in, stepped on the DVD until it broke throw it into the Ocean, never to be seen again, and I would've had I been near an Ocean (Or more importantly, I would've if I could've afforded the Netflix fine). "Accidental Love", this barely qualified as a movie, but it's the still the worst of 2015!

Of course, there was plenty of garbage throughout the year, so let's through up a brief list of Dis-Honorable Mentions that could've been on this list, if for no other reason, just to make sure you stay the hell away from them.

ANIMATED AND LIVE-ACTION FEATURES
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared-Felix Herngren
Blackhat-Michael Mann
The Boy and the Beast-Mamoru Hosada
Chappie-Neil Blomkamp
Containment-Neil Mcenery-West
Everest-Baltasar Kormakur
Hot Tub Time Machine 2-Steve Pink
Hotel Transylvania 2-Genndy Tarakovsky
Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet-Roger Allers, Segment Directors: Gaetan & Paul Brizzi, Joan C. Gratz, Mohammed Saeed Harib, Tomm Moore, Nina Paley, Bill Plympton, Joann Sfar and Michael Socha
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.-Guy Ritchie
Max-Boaz Yakim
The Nightingale-Philippe Muyl
Testament of Youth-James Kent

DOCUMENTARY FEATURES
He Named Me Malala-Davis Guggenheim
The Russian Woodpecker-Chad Garcia

(Sigh) Yeah, now I remember why I don't like devoting too much time to Worst of the Year lists normally, especially this year where, there wasn't that much I really found that horrifically awful. It's much fun to keep coming up with new synonyms for great than it is for crap. Alright folks, and that's the conclusion to the year, 2015, let's hope the next one...- oh right. Nevermind that, let's just try to embrace the upcoming Award season while we're trying to not turn the country to shit. Hey, that's what entertainment for anyway, I'll be here to guide you if you want. :) Peace out, :)