Tuesday, April 9, 2013

MOVIE REVIEWS #60: "SKYFALL", "BULLY", "HOLY MOTORS", "THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN", "SAVAGES", "CHRONICLE", "THIS MUST BE THE PLACE", "GAYBY", "DIRTY GIRL", "UNITED", and MORE!

Believe it or not, I knew about Roger Ebert, even before I ever saw his TV show or read a movie review, much less his movie reviews. Little details that some people would be amazed that I paid any attention to, even at the youngest of ages, but I distinctly remember old TV ads for movies where they touted "Siskel & Ebert give it Two Thumbs Up". It must've been early too, 'cause I remember the first time watching their TV show was right after me and my mom had walked out on "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective," the film that I had gone to see, because everybody in my 2nd or 3rd grade class, (3rd I think), was raving and joking about it the whole time, and sure enough, when they gave a brief recap in their "In Theaters" segment, where they played the theme music, and showed the thumbs with a publicity still of the movie that had been in theatres for the last few weeks, there was Jim Carrey, in a close-up from "Ace Ventura..." and sure enough, they gave it two thumbs down. I don't know how or why I happened to stumble upon their TV show, but I did and I was instantly addicted to it. I'd stay up late into the morning, or wake up early, depending on what time of day they aired that week, just to catch them. I always thought that I only caught them sporadically, but in hindsight, their weren't too many episodes that I actually missed, and I especially tried to watch them when there was a movie or two out that I wanted to see. I know I was still young at the time, had to be only eight or nine, because it was shortly after I started watching him, a classmate of mine, Tiana, who occasionally stayed at our house in the afternoons and used to make me watch "Animaniacs," in the afternoon, and on one of the episodes, they parodied Siskel & Ebert in a cartoon, of-eh the, what's-her-name, the anarchistic pink skunk character that was on the show, eh- (The things I look up to make something accurate....) Slappy Squirrel, that's it. It was a Slappy Squirrel cartoon (Swore, I thought she was a skunk), and the next week, Tiana came up to me, shocked to have discovered "Siskel & Ebert At the Movies" and that the two critic characters in that show were based on real people. I thought everybody know who they were. Hell, I distinctly remember turning in a paper, where I had to talk about a book or something that I didn't and I simply wrote a five or six-lined sentenced where I used the word "Hated three or four dozen times, because I distinctly remembered how Roger Ebert had talked about doing that in his now-infamous review of "North". Come to think of it, even though I did nothing more than say "Hated" 30 or 40 times, I think I still got a B on that paper, with just the critique of, "You need to explain why you hated the film." That was the first time I stole from Roger Ebert, probably wasn't the last time, either. When the age of the internet came about, I became, and still am a religious follower of rogerebert.com, in fact, I was reading his reviews first on sun-times.com, which is when I first started realizing just what film criticism actually was. I'd go through his Great Movies list, (Which come to think it, is probably where I got my Canon of Film list idea) one by one, and would try to search for and watch as many of them as I could, while I took my time and cautiously looked through every video, and then later, DVDs and the video stores. I made note of all the new theatrical released films first by checking Roger Ebert. If he gave it a thumbs up or 3 or 4 stars, it naturally stuck in my mind, and I search his  film reviews first. I don't do that much anymore, 'cause now I start writing reviews, I try not to read others until I see the film myself, outside of checking a star rating or something. I never got to meet Roger Ebert, and I was beyond sad when he lost his voice, and was unable to continue doing "Ebert & Roeper..." as it was now called after Gene Siskel's untimely death. I watched every iteration of "At the Movies", including every episode of "Ebert Presents...", which I still hold out hope that it will somehow get back on the air, even though I've come to accept that Christy Lemire, like many real and supposed film critics, is relegated to an internet series with Ben Mankiewicz and other critics on "What the Flick" to review films. That's crap to me, and their should be movie review show, following the Siskel & Ebert format, available on basic television everywhere. I'm a believer in film criticism, and whether I agreed with him or not, Roger Ebert was the best movie reviewer alive, arguably of all-time. Hell, I'll say it, and screw Pauline Kael and whoever else you want to put up there, he was the best. His death certainly knocked me down. Made me stop whatever I was doing, and look back in disappointment, knowing that for the foreseeable we will never know what he thinks about a film again. Or anything else for that matter. I felt a similar pain and uneasiness after hearing of George Carlin's death, in the middle of the '08 Presidential Elections; the only thing missing from that, is what Mr. Carlin thought of it all. Someday soon, I know that I'll check rogerebert.com for a movie review of a film, that I just watched, and I'll be in the middle of writing my review, and I'll check out what he thought out it, and sure enough, it won't be there, and that's the saddest thing I can imagine. No more thumbs, no more stars, no more twitter, no more anything. We can imagine the future, but we can only have an opinion on what's happening in the present, and the now, and we'll never get to read Roger Ebert's thoughts, on anything in the now, again. The future doesn't look as bright anymore, now that the balcony has closed, for the last time. Rest in peace Roger, you will be missed.




Well, in other news, and no good way to transition from that, but the LAMMY nominations are over, and I'm waiting anxiously to see if I get nominated for anything on the 15th. I don't know if I will, but I created a new "For You Consideration (FYC)" banner to promote my blog, and this one they actually posted on the LAMBS site, here:

 http://www.largeassmovieblogs.com/2013/04/fyc-lammys2013-15.html

And here's the banner:

DavidBaruffi

I know still not great, but drastic improvement from before. Cleaner, sharper. I miniaturized it to fit in this blog, but trust me, it is easy to read in it's full size, although I probably would've picked a different font to promote the eligible categories I was in, but still a lot better than before, and I like it. There's some better banners on there, but clean, simple, straightforward, kinda like this blog is, so I'm satisfied with that one. I don't think I'm gonna the Best Banner tournament, but oh well, as long as they notice it at all.

Alright, that's all the blog news for now. With a heavy heart, let's get to this week's "RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS!"

SKYFALL (2012) Director: Sam Mendes

4 1/2 STARS



"Skyfall" does something absolutely essential to the success of the film, and of the James Bond franchise in many ways. It's one of those things that makes me struggle to determine how many stars I give a film. It's a transitional film, from the beginning of this, restart of James Bond, which, starting with "Casino Royale", begins at the beginning of his career, a young newly double O agent for MI6, who seemed more at home,  disguised in workclothes than in a tuxedo, to the more emotionless suave Bond with the licensed to kill, has a new girl every movie, newer, strangers gadgets than before, and always driving in Aston-Martins that would surely never survive the movie. "Skyfall" seemed to begin with the {spoiler edit} of James Bond, but it doesn't, unsurprisingly, but it shocks us, even for a Bond movie opening, it shocks us out of our seat. Soon after, MI6 is attacked, after someone gets a hold of a harddrive with the names of all of MI6's secret double agents. He then hacks into MI6's computer, and blows up the building, but whomever is doing this, seems to have a grudge for M (Judi Dench). Bond is somewhat out-of-shape, but still, M send him out to find out who the mysterious villain is, as well as Eve (Naomie Harris), who he has a nice flirtation with, and they work well together in the field. There's also, Q (Ben Whishaw) back, and while he's got one interesting prop in a gun that only Bond can use, the Quartermaster is mostly a computer expert, who's an anti-hacker analyst, and young. M's already got a new boss on her ass, in Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), a former IRA fighter who's loyalties seem strained. Bond goes through some of the greatest and most outlandish action sequences I've ever seen in this movie. Chases on motorcycles, cars, trains, multiple trains, cars being thrown, trains being thrown as a weapon, bombs, even the old Goldfinger Aston-Martin makes an appearance, not to mention, hanging on the side of skyscrapers in Shanghai, as well as crawling out of a casino's alligator pit. The hacker behind all this, turns out to be a former MI6 agent, named Silva (Javier Bardem) who marks a return to the flamboyant Bond villain, who has the hideaway on his own island. In fact, he just took the whole island, by convincing the inhabitants that there was a Chernobyl-like explosion about to happen. Silva's diabolical, part Julian Assange, part Joker from "The Dark Knight", and he's dozens of moves ahead of MI6, and he's got revenge on his mind. Dench's M is practically a co-lead, as we slowly reveal a part of her past coming into the foreground. We also, learn about Bond's past, as they use his old childhood home as a place to lure Silva for a showdown. "Skyfall", and it's quite a good James Bond film. Daniel Craig is becoming the Bond that we're all familiar with finally. We even get Miss Moneypenny making an appearance. I'm of two-minds on "Skyfall", on one hand, the way the movie transitions, is masterful. It's got all the things we love about Bond movies. Action, girls, a great villain, a James Bond with a slight handicap, overcoming and surviving the most violent of battles, and even the great spy gadgets, all mixed together in a great, albeit somewhat outlandish story. On the other hand, I prefer the Daniel Craig Bond from "Casino Royale", and it feels a little like we're going from a grown-up Bond, to a more childish version. A good version, a classic version, one that's just as beloved, but, I worry. This one was directed by Sam Mendes, most famous for "American Beauty" and "Road to Perdition," as well as great films like "Revolutionary Road" and "Away We Go", it's his first film with this much action. I don't know, I like it technically, but emotionally I'm conflicted. It's definitely worth watching though, and it's about as good a James Bond movie as you can ask for.

BULLY (2012) Director: Lee Hirsch

5 STARS



There is literally, not a single damn thing that I learned from watching "Bully". What the movie does is show, what really is just, an unflinching look, about what it's like in school, at least this was what it was like for much of school. One of the kids, a tiny and frail-looking a 17-year-old named Tyler, has already hung himself when the movie begins, a phenomenon that has garnered much attention lately, which is should. I never personally understood that, however; my reaction to bullying, which btw, as bad as it felt like it was for me, it never came close to the actual abuse that these kids go through, but my thoughts on what to do about bullying leaned more towards the actions of Je'Maya Jackson, who went on the schoolbus one day with a gun, and threatened to kill. She was charged with 30 charges of attempted kidnapping, and was currently in jail when the movie started, but by the end, the 16-year old got released. I don't know if she regretted it, but I doubt it. Somebody said that no matter what's happening to you, that's not a reasonable response? I don't know what-the-hell is a reasonable response, 'cause I tried everything short of pulling a gun, and frankly, that's because A. I didn't have one, and B. I couldn't figure out how not to go to jail afterwards. I don't know how the bullies managed to do it, but they did; they didn't so much as get in trouble. I know this, that the teachers are absolutely incompetent at stopping it. There's one scene, where a teacher comes in, and stops what looks like something that was starting. She breaks it up, and tells the two kids to shake hands. One of them absolutely refuses. He's the one who's been bullied and terrorized by the other this whole time, but he gets interrogated, and placed in trouble, and a stern talking to. That's really what bullying should be called by the way, terrorism. If it was, I bet something would've been done about it, but that's what it is. It's a form of causing fear effecting the ways of life of others. Causing kids not wanting to go to school, and effecting, oftentimes, ruining, or ending their life. The parents try to start changing things, but many of the schoolboard heads don't believe they even have a major bullying problem. Most of the kids bullied are small and shy, often have glasses, seem somewhat frail and awkward, and aren't naturally personable. An exception is Kelby, an openly gay kid, who went from someone who was bullying and then became the bullied, and by the whole town, much less the schools, and even the teachers. Gay or straight, the keyword used by many of these kids is "faggot", more proof to me, that that word should be demonized the way those others words should are. You know the ones, that begin with N. The bullying keeps going, the perpetrators don't get caught, and adults in the school are incompetent, and powerless, and only half of them are aware of their incompetence, and oftentimes, they blame the victim for not getting along. (That never works either btw) The parents don't know either, because the kids are too afraid to tell them, so they often never fully comprehend the hell their kids go through, when they head to school everyday. I'm gonna tell a story, now. When I was in ninth grade, instead of going to my local high school, I went to a magnet program at a different one, one that I learned later was terribly run. A lot of the reason for my choice was because I could and being someone who loved school, I thought a tougher more education-based program would be better for me, and that there'd be more like-minded students at the school. I was naturally misanthropic to begin with, and I hated most students anyway, and yes I was bullied occasionally, and it sucked. When I went back to my high school a year later, after having failed at the other school, I noticed that many of the kids who were bullying me, weren't there anymore, as many of them had dropped out, and pretty soon, hardly any of them were there, and they were more ostracized than ever before. I still didn't like most of the kids, but not as much as before. No more hoping that those assholes would skip class, or failed attempts at "fitting in" that never work. Education, is the silver bullet to everything, and if "Bully" educates anybody, than it's done it's job. The movie famously caused a brief riff between Harvey Weinstein and the MPAA, when they incorrectly gave the film an R rating for the language. This is a movie that should be seen by everyone frankly. Mostly by adults more than kids though. Kids see this at their school everyday, and if they don't, they're either blind, or they're the bully. But I will say this, as Dan Savage points out, no matter what, it does get better, but it would be nice to help make it better now too.

HOLY MOTORS (2012) Director: Leos Carax

4 STARS



Trying to describe "Holy Motors", is going to be a challenge. It's a Kafkaesque journey through numerous different worlds, each cinematic in it's own way. It's a film that seems to be about film, and on that same token, the movie prefers the artificial over the reality. It stares longingly as a young woman Eva Grace (Kylie Minogue), suddenly bursts into song, but runs and hides, when that woman, jumps off a neon sign to her death. There's no real plot; hell, there's hardly characters, but there's a great performance by Denis Levant, originally as M. Oscar, who travels by limo from one appointment to another, each time, he plays a different person, and each time, he has a new scenario, each of which, has something cinematic about  it. The first, and probably most memorable and visually stunning, is when he goes to perform in a CGI outfit. We see him, in the electronic outfit, covered in motion sensors, almost having an erotic dance, as he and his partner move and react. It's both beautiful and sensual. There's sex in this movie, and this sex scene, if one can call it that, is one of the strangest. He continues, as his driver Celine (Edith Scob) keeps driving to the next appointment. She can be seen on a TV screen in the limo, even though, she's also driving the car. Does everything that happen, only happen if it's being recorded and viewed by M. Oscar, or whatever next mask he dawns or character he plays? Reminds me of that famous line Warren Beatty said of Madonna in the "...Truth or Dare" documentary, "...Why would you do something if it wasn't on camera?..." "Holy Motors" recently won the Muriel Awards for Best Film this past year, a tight-knit group of critics and film historians/commentators who's opinion has seen an ever-increasing rise in public opinion, and they make note of the many ways the film is about the relationship between film and the audience, and how those two seem to collide, and often seem almost as one, in many ways. Even his name, Oscar, must have cinematic importance. I think "Holy Motors" is a good movie, not a great one, and part of this is because I think the best film of this nature, that dealt with this themes, and the reality/artificiality of film was David Lynch underseen masterpiece "INLAND EMPIRE". Compared to that film, which is still fresh in my mind, years after seeing it last, "Holy Motors", seems like a bunch of randomness, like pieces of a dream without a connection. Some could argue that nearly every David Lynchfilm  is like that too, but there's an emotional truth to "...EMPIRE" that "Holy Motors" doesn't have. I can spot all the film references, and pieces of the past in "Holy Motors", but despite everything, it feels more like the pulling of the film through the projector, and not the smooth and natural path of a film, and that bothered me. I was interested to see where "Holy Motors" went, I'm definitely glad I saw it. In many ways, to do as the Muriel Awards did and quote "The Maltese Falcon", it may be the stuff that dreams are made of, but dreams are often just fragments, and those aren't the kind of dreams Sam Spade was referring to. I must admit that this is only the first feature I've seen from the great French director Leos Carax, and I'm gonna take a shot and say that, it's probably better that most people review his other films before getting to this crescendo that is "Holy Motors". Maybe it'll play better after seeing more from Carax, but as a film, I have to compare "Holy Motors" to what I've seen that it is comparable to. In that sense, "Holy Motors" is a good film, but not a great one. Not yet anyway.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012) Director: Marc Webb

2 1/2 STARS



I could talk about how tired I am of superheroes movies, and we're so oversaturated with them, that we're now making remakes, oh, excuse, re-imaginings, alternate universe, variations, of other superhero movies, in fact, we're starting with the one that started this rebirth of the genre. But, I get it, comic books are popular, for each superhero there's dozens of variations in their multiverses, and for what "The Amazing Spider-Man", is, it's a considerable improvement. Yeah, this one I'm get shit for, but I hated the first "Spider-Man". Barely, recommended the second one, I didn't see the third after it got the worst reviews of the series, and frankly, I never liked "Spider-Man", even before the movies. Never liked the original cartoon, I'm not a fan of the character at all. Frankly, of the big three, growing up, Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, I hope we can all agree those are the major three superheroes that everyone from age 1 to 100, knows about, whether they know comics or not, I never took "Spider-Man", seriously. Superman, made the most sense, he was Superman, it's plain and simple, and it's what you want in a superhero, never cared for the origin story, but other than that, he's your prototypical superhero. Batman, was always the most interesting superhero, because he was the vigilante. The one who had no real superpowers, but was doing all this stuff, even though he was a millionaire playboy, supposedly who didn't have to life at risk just to save Gotham from some crazy villain, but it made sense because he was just as crazy, and intriguing a character. The psychological study of him was more interesting than the battles, so that made sense to me. When I always think of Spider-Man, I always think of a four-year old playing make believe, jumping from his bed to the ground, and making up a superhero name for himself, "Yeah, I'm Spider-Man, 'cause spiders are cool!", or whatever. He was always a cartoon to me, no believably to him, like one of those pro wrestling gimmick characters from the WWE back in the '80s and early '90s. So, I was certainly coming in with skepticism to "The Amazing Spider-Man," but for awhile, I relatively enjoyed it. It's a definitely a darker and more mysterious interpretation of the Spider-Man origin story, there no real surprises broadly, but the new details are at least promising. I still can't quite recommend the film, but it's considerably better than the first one from ten years ago. We briefly get a glimpse of Peter Parker's (Andrew Garfield) parents, Richard and Mary (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz), before Peter's a teenager, with his parents long dead and living with his Uncle Ben and Auntie May (Martin Sheen and Sally Field). He's a bit of an outcast in school, only getting noticed occasionally for his photography. The Mary Jane character, has been replaced with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), which makes a little more sense actually, as her background is as working at the genetic research place where Peter's father was working before his death, and where his old partner, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) still works on using genetic mutation to help improve one's life, in this case, he hopes he can reactivate his skin cells, and grow back his missing arm. Two things, scientists dealing with any kind of genetic mutations, never seem to be successful in films, and two, and I know Emma Stone is a natural blonde, but nobody was more born to be a redhead than Emma Stone, and they dye her hair blonde here, and meanwhile, nobody was ever more born to be a blonde, than Kirsten Dunst, and they dyed he hair blonde in the original film. Just an observation, says nothing about their acting, I love them both, couldn't care what color their hair is, they can shave it off tomorrow if they wanted as far as I care, but, it just seems weird to me. Anyway, once Peter gets bit with the spider, you essentially know what's kinda gonna happen next. Peter Parker invents the webby substance to travel through town with himself, I thought that was a nice touch, as was, not only his crimefighting, but also his vigilanteism, with no J. Jonah Jameson news reporter character around, the skeptic that thinks, Spider-Man is evil, now falls into the Captain Stacy (Denis Leary, in an interesting piece of casting) who happens to be Gwen's father, that's a smarter choice too, but also his determination, in trying to find the man who ultimately kills his Uncle Ben, and I liked how that set-up worked out differently as well. I wasn't as interest in The Lizard, the villain that Dr. Connors turns himself into accidentally, and the ending, ultimately to anti-climatic, and the last half-hour or so, the film, was gaining any steam of momentum, and was falling quickly towards an ending. It's not necessarily  the film's fault, but we know what's gonna happen, and we're waiting for it to happen, and it happens, and besides that the inner drama of Spider-Man, as well as the complex melodrama of the Gwen/Peter relationship, is far more interesting than the villain. This makes for an interesting auteur theory comparison, and I like the choice of Marc Webb for director here, he made one of the greatest romantic-comedies in recent years with "(500) Days of Summer", kind of an out-of-the-box choice with this material, but I think he did about as well as he could've with it. I'm kinda interested in this Spider-Man, and am hoping the sequel, like in the previous trilogy, is the best of the series, hopefully if there's drastic improvement like there was here from the first film, then the sequel should really be quite a good film.

SAVAGES (2012) Director: Oliver Stone

2 STARS



Well, this is a sentence I never thought I'd write, but here it is, this Oliver Stone film is boring! Really boring! Strangely forgettable.Oliver Stone, making a bad movie, of course I can and have seen that, but boring? Even his worst films are compulsively watchable, even or in some cases, especially at their worst, but "Savages" is just your average pot-growers, Mexican gangsters genre film. Actually, it isn't even that, because the main characters don't even rise to the level of being that interesting, and the rest of the time, you're watching as the film goes on autopilot. It sorta starts well, as we learn the origin story of Chon and Ben (Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who are two half-men, one's a romantic, altruistic So-Cal surferdude, the other's a multiple-toured War veteran, who through his ability to get opiate seeds in Afghanistan, and the other's degree is business and biology, have grown into the major California distributors of marijuana, legal and illegal. I call them two half-men, because, A., that's really about how well there characters are written, and also, that's how O (Blake Lively) describes them. O, the film's narrator, is short for Ophelia, but she doesn't want to be name after a bi-polar basketcase, (Her sentiments, are one of the few memorable lines in the film) she is the lover of both Chon and Ben, in this "Jules et Jim" type three-way relationship (Another thing that never works out in movies.), both of whom, are so deeply in love with O, that when bad Mexican gangsters try to take over there empire, they figure the best way to convince them to let them have their empire, is to kidnap O. She's taken by Lado (Benicio Del Toro), a vicious hitman who works for Elena (Salma Hayek), the leader of the Tijuana cartel, who never seems to find time between beheadings to spend some quality. From here, good actors come into the movie, in many confusing double-crossing parts, like John Travolta, Emile Hirsch..., Demien Bichir shows up as well. The movie, I guess, is intended to be some kind of destructive romantic portrayal of the realities of the drug trade, but there's nothing exactly new here. It's multiple drug dealers, battling other drug dealers, while people are double-crossing their drug-dealers, and everybody's trying to make everyone else think they're some kind of mole, while the flamboyant corrupt DEA officer, plays both sides. It's gets confusing after a while, and frankly I stopped caring, especially after we got, two versions of the final showdown, one that was O's dream version, and the other, more interesting real version. I think the real problem with the film, the more I think about it, is that the protagonists are wrong. They picked the three least interesting characters, give them the dumbest of reasons for their actions as well, they're both so madly in love with O, that they'll do anything to get her back, forgetting completely about the multi-million dollar marijuana empire they've grown. Frankly, half of the this was done better in seasons 4-7 of "Weeds". Had the movie been through, maybe Salma Hayek's character point of view, it might've been somewhat appealing. Oliver Stone tends to prefer a shy outsider as his protagonist, who comes into the world, and getting overcome, more than he does the second master ruler of that world, we've seen in almost all of his best films, but it really doesn't work here. O is only marginally interesting herself as a something to do for Chon and Ben, who aren't even interesting enough for me to look up and see which one is which. This has been played out, and done better, and done with a certain amount of intrigue, and learning. I used to see something that I hadn't seen before in every Oliver Stone, but there's nothing here that's new. A most unfortunate negative review for a film, that is so ordinary it's baffling. If you didn't have good actors in the more flamboyant roles, especially John Travolta, and unfortunately so for him, 'cause this is one of his more interesting and better performances I've seen from him in a while, but if they weren't in this, are it was regular just no-name character actors, how bad would this movie be?

CHRONICLE (2012) Director: Josh Trank

2 1/2 STARS



Okay, I'm officially tired of all these first-person narrative/found footage, whatever-you-want-to-call-them, I'm tired of the way they're used to disguise the fact that the filmmakers, don't have an original story, just an original way to tell it. Except, it's not even original anymore. They're not even good stories anymore. And why are they always first-person horror or sci-fi, or supernatural? I mean, you have this great way to tell a story, using this first-person narrative, the camera is apart of the film, and we're experiencing this, at around the same time, at the same moment, as everyone else, right, so we then need to show special effects, 'cause if we show special effects, in a supposedly real camera, that's gonna be amazing, and it makes it more believable! Is this really the thinking that goes on anymore? Couldn't they make a comedy or a drama doing this, they write novels like that all the time, but no, first person is restricted to these subgenres that scare or at least try to, some monster movie or ghost movie, or the supernatural/horror/thriller. "Chronicle" is the latest one, and it's well-made enough, but it's just another telling of the same story. The picked-on, loner, ignored kid, gets the supernatural power, and shit happens. Shit like, rabid destruction, and rage, and telekenetic nightmares where tens of thousands are killed! This is not the story of a how young Andrew (Dane DeHaan) becomes a loose cannon, after he and two friends, Matt and Steve (Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan) jump down a weird alien-like hole-in-the-ground, that was behind some rave. No, this is the destructive adolescent fantasy of a pissed-off loner who wants to destroy everyone and everything, by going all Columbine on their ass, and not getting caught or thrown in jail for it. What? You don't think I recognize my own fantasies when I see them being played out right in front of me? Whatever was in that hole, gave the three kids some telekenetic powers, a mind trick I was trying to master after I saw "Carrie," many, many times, after stuff happened to me, like the stuff that was documented in "Bully". Andrew, has a sick mother (Bo Peterson) and an abusive alcoholic father. After being in the hole, all three guys can perform unusual feats. This intriguing beginning, does give us the impression that there's something here originally, other than just some inventive ideas, like how the boys almost get run over by an airplane as they test out their ability to fly. Others involved performing impossible magic tricks at the talent shows. Much of it, end up being the ability to make dozens of approaching cop cars flip over, and for people to suddenly back up dozens of feet, against their will, similar to those sonic boom machines in "Minority Report". All this clever ideas is just an exploitive use of a gimmick however, a gimmick for some pathetic screenwriter, to live out his most destructive high school angry-at-the-world, listened-to-too-much Rammstein type anger, and nothing more. When the movie reveals that truth, I felt angry myself. Angry that once again, somebody wasted the 1st person narrative filmmaker style on a bunch of special effects. Angry that this is just another typical thriller/horror story, without nothing new to say and no new retelling other then the 1st person narrative. Angry, that it wasn't even that, it was just the troubled thoughts of a troubled mind, who should've known better than to put these thoughts, so literally into a film. Angry that this kid didn't realize that these thoughts aren't original or meaningful in any way. If it was a bad movie completely, I'd just be upset, but the movie is well-made, and as Director Josh Trank's first feature film as a director proves he's talented and incredibly promising. He came up with the story along with Max Landis, the son of "An American Werewolf in London" directer Jon Landis, wrote is the pathetic screenwriter in this case. He is creative and talented, but so far, he's short-sighted, and both need to think outside their own masturbatory fantasies, or at least come up with better ones, possibly some that are worth masturbating over. In the meantime, "Chronicle" is a bunch of rage and fury, but mostly rage.

THIS MUST BE THE PLACE (2012) Director: Paolo Sorrentino

4 1/2 STARS



"This Must Be the Place" is definitely one of the strangest-ass movies I've seen in a while. I wasn't sure whether it was a good one or not, but it was damn entertaining as I was watching it. It's slow and deliberate, similar Paolo Sorrentino's last film, the biopic "Il Divo", which I thought was pretty overrated for taking a relatively ordinary biopic and being just a little too cute with the camera angles and acting gimmicks, but this film is so strange in of itself, that it actually enhances the story. The story revolves around a retired rock star named Cheyenne (Sean Penn) who hasn't performed in 20 years, despite occasional requests from MTV to get his old band back together, but still wears lipstick and long black frizzed up hair when he goes out, even to the supermarket. His wife Jane (Frances McDormand) is unusually devoted, and despite his old bad habits, he's clean now, and speaks slowly with an effeminate but philosophical tone about everything. Soon, word gets around that his father's died. He hasn't spoken to him in thirty years, but during his life, he got close to catching the Nazi who tortured him at Aushwitz, and Cheyenne has chosen to continue the search and find him, possibly kill him; he hasn't made up his mind yet on that one. He tries to get the help or Mordecai Midler (Judd Hirsch), an old friend of his father who's tracked down hundreds of Nazi killers over the years, but now he's searching for the Jews gold teeth that the Nazi's turned into gold jewelry over the years. He spends the rest of the time, kinda heading closer, and looking back on his life, which includes occasionally visiting the graves of two young men who killed themselves because of his music after a night of drug use. (I'm guessing that's based on the famous Judas Priest incident) He even runs talks to David Byrne at one point (The Title comes from a Talking Heads song). He runs into a lot of interesting characters. Some are people from his past, others are just interesting actors who show up to make the journey even more unusual, as he goes from greasy spoon to greasy spoon, slowly coming up towards the Nazi killer. Harry Dean Stanton shows up, as the inventor of putting wheels on suitcases and backpacks with some vital information. There should be a place for him in every movie like that. He also makes a half-ass attempt at getting his stepdaughter Mary (Ewe Hanson) together with a young guy or two, but that fails miserably. "This Must Be the Place", reminds me of other films where a character, particularly an older one, runs into lots of unique people and slices of Americana, while on a bigger journey. "The Straight Story" came to mind a lot, that David Lynch film about the old man who rode a John Deere tractor across the Midwest to see his brother. "This Must Be the Place," is one of the better films like this. It's not necessarily as coherent, but it sure is interesting. A lot of times, I've noticed myself complaining about the same old plots and stories and finding nothing original. Well, this is an old plot, and an old story, but it's definitely told differently, and with some interesting twists, turns and characters. I've been watching a lot of nothing these days, and this is definitely Something,  with a capital S. "This Must Be the Place", is the second most unusual film I'm reviewing this week, and that's because "Holy Motors" is reviewed on this same blog, but it's still pretty strange, and pretty fun.

GAYBY (2012) Director: Jonathan Lisecki

2 STARS



I've been looking at the screen, trying to figure out, exactly what to say about "Gayby". It's not really a forgettable film. It's not a good one. It's one of those kinds of New York comedies where people have strange jobs like "hot yoga instructor", (Not, A hot, yoga instructor, a, hot yoga, instructor. Apparently "hot Yoga" is a thing, whatever it is) which don't sound like real jobs, and pay like they're not real jobs, although I think you can get away with that in New York...- I'm sorry, that run-on sentence was gonna go on for awhile. Frankly, I didn't like "Gayby", it's a comedy that I didn't laugh much at, because it isn't funny, but it made for some relatively entertaining background noise. I guess that's not much of an endorsement, in fact it's not an endorsement of any kind, but frankly it's a lot more than I thought it would be. "Gayby" begins with a similar idea from "Friends with Kids", which I reviewed a couple weeks ago. Only this time, the movie, doesn't get any further than the baby's birth, and one of the two longtime friends, is gay. Matt and Jenn (Matthew Wilkas and Jenn Harris) have been friends since college, even before Matt was out. Jenn is approaching 40, and is still single, is nowhere near marriage, and has a married annoying sister, Kelly (Anna Margaret Hollyman) who keeps trying to push marriage onto her, and set her up with a real job. She's the hot yoga instructor, while Matt owns a comic book store, and has just gotten out of a painful five-year relationship. Jenn decides to have a baby with Matt. A gayby, actually. It's apparently what it's called when a girl asks her gay best friend to have a baby with her, the result is a gayby, and I can't say that, without imagining Bill Hader's Stefan character from "SNL" saying it, but there you go. Anyway, originally, they try to get pregnant having sex, usually after they both go out with whomever they're dating that night. These kind of encounters become even stranger after they temporarily move in together when Jenn's apartment starts to get repainted. They try this for a few months, but not much happens, and let's face it, it's not exactly a good idea anyway, waiting for you gay best friend to come home from a date so he can have lots of uncomfortable ovulation-induced sex. This gets especially strange when Matt starts having a somewhat steady boyfriend, who's not completely out yet. After finally, kinda coming to their senses on the sex thing, they decide to get impregnated through a turkey baster. I would've called it artificial insemination, but I don't think that's appropriate. It wasn't a turkey baster actually, it was some kind of like a small needle-like pump. Something weird, anyway, around this time, is when a bored and frustrated Jenn has some mind-blowing sex with her house painter, and wouldn't you know, this is when she gets pregnant, and because three of her twelve-year-old condoms broke during the sex,.... Well, you can see where this is going. Considering the other New York faux rom-coms that I've had to sit through lately, eh, this could've been a lot worse. I don't know what to really go on about. This movie feels like an extended stand-up routine, by some young sex-based comedienne. A good comedienne, I'll grant you, but I don't know if it's a movie. Most of the actors aren't that great. The movie in fact, started as a short film, and was extended to this, Director Jonathan Lisecki's first feature, and it feels like it is. It's harmless, but I don't know. I wouldn't waste my time watching it again, but if there's was nothing better on cable, on a Sunday afternoon, it could probably be something nice to keep on. I will say this, Jenn Harris's body does seem flexible enough to be a yoga instructor of any temperature, and I was genuinely impressed with the sexual positions she got into with that house painter.

DIRTY GIRL (2012) Director: Abe Sylvia

2 1/2 STARS



"Dirty Girl" is a cool soundtrack with some goods '80s punk and rock, mixed with some occasional decent country ballads thrown in, along with a fairly light and halfway-memorable movie in the middle. I thought for a little while about giving "Dirty Girl" a positive review, giving it some explanation as good trash, but it isn't quite there, It takes place in Oklahoma, '87, and Danielle (Juno Temple) is the class slut. That's not really the best way to describe her, but that's how she's perceived, because she'll have sex with nearly any guy in school. Okay, she's a slut, but she's not a victim. She's a rebel, who's the spitting image of her young mom Sue-Ann (Milla Jovovich), and wears, well, whatever-it-is she wears, it's got to be breaking most of the dress code rules. She's rock'n'roll, and the rest of the world is church, no strike that, she's not just rock'n'roll, she's basically who the Runaways song "Cherry Bomb" was probably describing. In abstinence classes, she's asks sardonically about the pull-out method, and this gets her a one-way ticket into to Challengers,  the remedial class. I've always been somewhat surprised by who ends up in those classes in high school. Yeah, a lot of times, it's the mentally-challenged, but-eh, a lot of times it's people like Danielle, the out-of-control teen, who's rebelling against the world, and uses her body as a weapon, and a shield. Her class assignment is a bag of flour that her, and the school's fat shy gay kid, Clarke (Jeremy Dozier) get assigned to parent, which they name Joan, after both Jett and Crawford. Clarke's father Joseph (Dwight Yoakam, is another great and surprising performance from him.) is a paranoid drunk who tries to beat the gay out of Clarke as his mother, Peggy (Mary Steenburgen) watches ashamed. Sue-Ann is marrying a strict and possessive Mormon, Ray (William H. Macy) who tries to starve Danielle into having her see the light. Danielle and Clarke end up taking that bag of flour with them on a journey to find the mysterious high school sweetheart that's Danielle's father, who we learn later, left when Sue-Ann was pregnant, thinking that Sue-Ann was getting an abortion. Her father Danny (Tim McGraw) has just moved to Fresno, and this leads us to one of the first road trips movie I can think of, where we see the birth of a friendship between a  girl and her gay bff. Or gay guy, and his fag hag if you prefer. (I don't know if 'fag hag' is appropriate, but I heard it on Bravo once to describe Karen on "Will & Grace," so until I'm told otherwise on that one...) The adventures on the road trip, aren't that great. They pick up an exotic dancer at one point, Jade (Andrew Ableson) who takes a liking to Clarke, who's still a shy virgin, and they have an instant attraction. There's a few scenes of stripping in this film, one in a drive-in, and another during a contest, where Danielle starts her routine (Exactly how old is she btw, 'cause she's clearly not legal age to strip) to win money after their parents' credit cards are finally reported stolen, not realizing they're in a gay bar, which leads to overweight Clarke doing his striptease for the money. I don't know which I prefer, because Danielle's dance was both disturbing 'cause of her age and also bad as that it was clearly just shaping up to be her completely copying "Flashdance". There's quite a few '80s references and jokes in the film. I laughed occasionally, and there's some music breaks where the characters have a montage while singing a song, this one was in a car. I can't really call "Dirty Girl" a good movie. It's got a good title, albeit a deceptive one, and an interesting story, but it's also paper thin and sitcom-level deep, and some the journey has one too many plot contrivances, and some of the events are just plain ridiculous. There are parts I like about "Dirty Girl", and there's unusual genuineness in the film. It's the first feature film from Writer/Director Abe Sylvia, and while I believed that Danielle and Clarke would make great lifelong friends, I didn't buy into the movie, the way it's done. At a brisk 87 minutes, it's too thin on the plot, that drives the movie more than it should.

UNITED (2012) Director: James Strong

2 1/2 STARS



In 1958, a plane crash took the lives of eight members of the Manchester United, the now-famous futbol team. (Or soccer, as we call it here.) In the midst of that kind of devastation, the United would go on to win the European Cup that year, after searching for players, just to fill the team. "United", tells the story, of before and after the crash, of the Busby Babes, as the youngest team to win the Cup, was later called. They really shouldn't have been in the air. Manchester was strapped for cash, and was playing against lesser teams in Europe, but the league, refused to postpone a game and they had to fly on an erratic plane, in the middle of a snowstorm, just to make the game, or else, they'd be penalized crucial points. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen. I must admit that I wasn't aware of this sports incident, as I only have a passing knowledge of soccer to begin with, but I'll surprised this movie was ever made. Sure, it's a good, uplifting story, but I don't think it was cinematic. It was by BBC, and aired as a TV movie in the UK, and wasn't released anywhere here, so that might be part of it, but it seems to me, to be somewhat in bad taste to make these kind of films, after such tragic disasters. I mean, one person dying, is bad enough, but practically a whole team? When Disney made the film "We Are Marshall", about the Marshall University plane crash tragedy, an incident I did know a lot about, my first thought was, why? Of all the sports incidents I could think of to make an inspiration based-on-a-true-story, tale about, that would've been the last one I would've chosen. I didn't see that movie, because Disney pumped out so many of those films for awhile, that I had tuned out long beforehand, and I wasn't about watching that one anyway. "United" is a little more interesting, partly because I wasn't aware of the incident, but until the plane crash happened, I couldn't help but think, "Oh, this guy's gonna be dead soon"? Some, I was right on, some I wasn't. Like I said, I wasn't intimately familiar with the incident. I'll try to get more educated, but as a film, it was somewhat interesting with the behind-the-scenes stuff with the League and the team, but a lot of it felt like more sports cliches to me. Okay, film, can't quite recommend, little surprised they made it at all. Could've helped from being a little less dreary lighting-wise. Everything was so dark. I get it, but half the time, I was trying to see who was who, and that's distracting.

THE WILD BUNCH (1969) Director: Sam Peckinpah

4 STARS



When I went down my flickchart.com list, of the top films I hadn't seen for some FB group I was apart of, I mentioned that, while I could explain the other films I hadn't seen, I said that, in regards to "The Wild Bunch", that I didn't really have much of an excuse for missing it. Which is true btw, I didn't have a good excuse, but I've seen it now, and I liked it; I just don't know what it is I'm liking about it. Well, that's not completely true, I do know what I like about it, the classic good-guys and bad guys western, and it's excessive and bloody violence. Considered a landmark in violent filmmaking in its day, there isn't really much else about the movie, other than it's glamorous display of flying bodies and even farther-flying blood-splatters. I've seen the movie tried to take notes, recognized some of the actors of course, like William Holden and Ernest Borgnine, but I couldn't even tell you which side was the good side. I can't even tell you which side is which side! It all seems the same to me. We learn this in flashbacks later on, as the Bunch is looking over their earnings, which ending up being a bunch of washers, instead of money.  The beginning is a violent bloodbath, involving soldiers, bounty hunters, bank robbers, even a temperance movement gets in their along with every other man and horse that happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and it's a confusion, chaotic and beautiful bloodbath. After that stops, there's a brief moment of rest, for us, where there isn't as much death, and we get some idea on what everybody killing each other over. The bounty hunter is Thornton  )Robert Ryan) a former Wild Bunch member, now out to capture them, after being threatened with prison time, but the gunmen he's given are clearly not capable of the it. Between gigs, they run over to Mexico for some R&R, which involves drinking and prostitutes, and they even try to help out a town that's prepared for attack and war, but doesn't have any guns to protect them. They try to work out a trade, all the while, preparing for their latest job, a train robbery.  The ending is, a little more pre-planned, and we kinda think we know what's gonna happen, but even then, things get screwed up, and a bridge gets blown up with horses and Mounties falling into the river. There's a meaningless to it all, that makes "The Wild Bunch" seem particularly dreary. Careers bank robbers as the era of the bank robbers are ending. I like it for it's slow-motion iconic editing, and the sheer artistry that it makes violence. Every frame of the action has something strikingly beautiful about it. As for the The Wild Bunch, well, it's the end for them.. That's no big surprise. I guess even if war of destruction or killing, there's beauty, and that's the real message of the film.

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