Other than that, and the news this morning that David Letterman's announced his retirement, there hasn't been too much else going on lately. Remember to follow my Facebook page, I'd like to get more followers there. The link is on the top right corner along with links to my Twitter and to the LAMBs, which I really should pay more attention to, but- Anyway, let's get right to this week's edition of my RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS! Starting with the Oscar-nominated film, "The Grandmaster"!
THE GRANDMASTER (2013) Director: Wong Kar-Wai
Ip Man, (Tony Chui Wai Leung) has been the subject of numerous films lately in recent years, most of them based on his actual life, some are considerably more based on his life than others. For those who aren't initiated in him, than Wong Kar-Wai's "The Grandmaster" is probably your best bet into fully understanding and explaining his importance, and it's not simply that he's the one who taught kung fu to Bruce Lee. I've always had a certain trouble fully accepting Wong Kar-Wai's films. In fact, this is probably the highest I've rated a film of his at this point, and frankly, I'm still debating it myself. He's always the first filmmaker, outside of Hayao Miyazaki, who I would go see frames of his films in an art museum if they were hanging, but sometimes I think he let's the amazing visuals just stay there, as though they're telling the story themselves, which I don't think they usually does. That said, there's a lot to like about "The Grandmaster". The movie begins a little before the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, and this has caused some distress in the martial arts world. Kung Fu, is separated in China from the North and the South, and there's numerous different disciplines of Kung Fu. This gets a bit complicated, but Ip is a master at Wing Chung, which is a little more unusual a discipline but a particularly vicious one when mastered. Most of the techniques are variations on the 64 hand positions based on the way they're used to attack. Ip is very confident in his skills, never losing even in practice to other masters, as the current Grandmaster, Master Gong (Qingxiang Wang) is willing to pass on his title to the right artist. He'd rather his daughter Gong Er, (Ziyi Zhang) have the title, but during this tradition, even though she's trained, women aren't allowed to rise to the ranks. Master Gong was a master of two disciplines, but only one he taught because the other was lethal, and only Gong Er, would watch him practice outside her window growing up. This changeover is based in respect and tradition, glorious and exuberant ones at that, yet, when the Japanese attack is inevitable, it completely alters this world of masters and this more, religious and Buddhistic philosophical world of Kung Fu, an exclusive world, soon opens up, and Yip Man, is at the forefront of it, as he begin teaching Wing Chung in Hong Kong shortly after the war with Japan. He's lost two daughters in the war, and the world of Hong Kong look more like we'd recognize a glamorous Asian resort town in, an episode of "M*A*S*H", than the spring-lit beauty of the earlier worlds, and the masters become instructors and numerous pop-up martial arts places. Meanwhile, Gong Er, wants to regain her family name, and take out the traitor who replaced her father as master of his discipline, and went on to help the Japanese government place a puppet government in Manchuria. What I really liked about the film, is how it shows the end of this era of martial arts, and how it transformed into the modern-day practice of the disciplines. It's always confused me slightly how this study of a fighting skill, essentially brings with it, this philosophical touch that promotes inner peace of all things, and I always struggled with that conflict, but seeing this film, I think I get a better grasp on it then before. Plus, the look and the acting by the two leads Leung and Zhang were quite good. "The Grandmaster" is probably Wong's most commercial film to date, this one was presented by Martin Scorsese when it was in theaters. I still think there's issues, some erratic pacing at times, but, overall this is one of his better films. I still think there's a wall up that prevents it from being more than a great looking movie as oppose to a great movie that happens to look great, but this one, with the epic true-life tale to help him out to keep a linear plot, it helped a lot, and I have a new appreciation of that era and of kung fu. And the fight scenes are good too. A few too many people going through windows, but other than that, still very good.
THE HEAT (2013) Director: Paul Feig
There's nothing inherently bad about "The Heat", and it's a funny at times.
(2 Days Later)
My editor has informed me that I should (Finger quotes) "Write more", about this film; she's probably right,
THE CANYONS (2013) Director: Paul Schraeder
"The Canyons" ranked as one of the more controversial films of last year, for many reasons. The casting and the sex scenes being the big ones, although the pairing of Director Paul Schraeder working with Author/Screenwriter Bret Easton Ellis, was probably what got some people in more of a tizzy, although I would not be one of those people. I've never particularly understood the appeal that some give to Ellis's work. I've tried sitting through "Less than Zero" a few times and couldn't get through it, and while the cinematic strengths of "American Psycho" make the film intriguing, I thought the story didn't know whether it was a comedy or a drama, and that it didn't matter at the end, because he undercuts the entire story anyway. He deals with the emptiness of the rich, and frankly I think his work is just empty, or at least I thought it was until "The Canyons", which seems to have found a whole new level of emptiness. It takes place in that part of Los Angeles where everybody's a trust fund baby and seem to be at the edges, somehow loosely involved in the film industry, even though there's a bunch and abandoned movie theaters, the films that are made are in New Mexico and places like that, and nobody talks to each other without also doing something else on their phones. Christian (Porn star James Deen, and you know what they say, every time a porn star gets a SAG card, an angel get his wi-, wait, that's not right, that's a bell ringing. What happens when a porn star gets a SAG card then? NOTHING?! That seems wrong, something should happen.[Shrugs]) is a vacuum of emptiness. He's currently producing a horror movie that he hasn't even read the script to, and even he thinks his fetishes of making his girlfriend do anything/one he wants is boring. Well, that's a strong word, girlfriend. Tara (Lindsay Lohan, which also partly explains Deen's presence because casting her at this moment means no bonding from the Guilds, which in turn, opens up the casting a bit for a few more unusual choices.) is basically a beautiful unattached blonde who's job is to basically do whatever she wants as long as she's at home at night, waiting around for Christian to fuck her, or Christian and whatever guy/girl/couple/other that he finds that also comes around and fuck. (I don't know whether Christian, was an attempt to allude to Christian Grey, but to some extent, Tara basically more his submissive slave, than she is, a normal girlfriend.) That said, he does have issues, revolving around the star of his movie Ryan (Nolan Funk). He got the role on the suggestion of Tara, who was working with Gina (Amanda Brooks) on the movie. Gina was more or less producing and casting the film although she was probably technically Christian's assistant. Ryan is her boyfriend at the time, but Christian suspects that Tara must've gone out with Ryan as well. He's right, and they've been revising their old romance since he's been cast in the film, but Tara wants it to stop, but Ryan thinks he's in love with her. What is "love" in this world, exactly? I think "love" is really code for, any actual emotion, and is henceforth confused with love, but Christian's big deal, is that he has to be in control, as he tells his father-appointed shrink Dr. Campbell (Gus Van Sant, in an interesting cameo), so he concocts a few schemes. Never mind that he also is sleeping with someone else, his "yoga instructor", Cynthia (Tenille Houston) There's a few more games of- I don't want to call it chess, that's seems like it's giving these characters too much credit, but there's a lot of backdoor connections between characters and people saying things to cause others to do one thing, and other at-an-angle connections between everyone, one of those things where everybody in L.A. seems to know each other through an old acting class or something like that. Schraeder is a good filmmaker, his "Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters" I think is one of the best films of the '80s, and one of the most underrated biopics of all-time, and of course, he wrote the script for "Taxi Driver", which is a similar kind of empty and lonely character to Christian, but that was also a movie with a point, and trying to find a more universal truth in the emotions. There's no emotions here, or anything real in Ellis's work, and even worse, there's not even a real point other than to say that these characters are empty because of their wealth. I mean, maybe he's looking down on them, but he's sure infatuated with them enough to keep writing about them. If these were real characters, it might have real effects for us to see them participating in orgies or murder, (Murderous being the only other supposed emotion besides "love") instead, these are placeholders more or less. The worst kinds of consumerism, really. Since I think that's what they're aiming for, ironically, the movie's well-cast, and well-performed. I hate making this comparison because I think it's unfair to him, but Deen is actually good here, and good for this role; I don't think he has the range that say Sasha Gray had in Soderbergh's "The Girlfriend Experience"; this kind of character, might be about it for him, while Gray has emotional range and some intriguing takes on them actually so, I wouldn't look for him to crossover into other legitimate roles too much in the future, but he's definitely got a presence and can probably be good in different variations of this character. Lindsay Lohan's good here, but I wouldn't think of this as a breakout film for her in the future, but then again, I don't know if she was trusted with too much to do, although you can kinda see her struggling to give more dimensions to this characters. She does succeed in that, not as much as she probably could've or needed to, to really make the movie enjoyable, but I don't necessarily think that's her fault either. Obviously, some have noted some of the parallels to her life in the film, and you can tell that she's not exactly at her healthiest during this movie. I think really, the movie fails however from the script level mainly, and while, there's something compelling about what it is, I can't really recommend it. This film belongs in that, more-interesting-to-discuss-than-to-watch category.
JOBS (2013) Director: Joshua Michael Stern
One of my all-time favorite TV movies is "Pirates of Silicon Valley"; it wasn't the greatest film technically, but it's still the best document on the creation myths of both Apple and Microsoft and one of it's successes was how is took from others' perspectives of both Steve Jobs (and Bill Gates), which helped illustrate their legendary statuses more clearly, more magically, and help tell the story better. "Jobs" presumes that he's already this destined God-like figure, and then tries to revert to show the young Christ-like Jobs as he finds his way towards and begins creating his destiny.
Now, I know you're wondering why I have chosen to post the star ratings in this spot, as oppose to at the beginning of my review. Well, a funny thing happened to me on the day I watched "Jobs", (Which is also the same day that I at least, am starting to write this review.) I had a long day to begin with, and I starting watching the movie on Netflix at the library, which I like to do on Saturdays, but, I got there late, and I only watched, about thirty minutes of the movie at that time, but, as writers do, I was already inspired, so I started writing and outlining that opening to this review above, as soon as I got home, which prompted one of the strangest reactions I ever had. After I wrote that opening, I read it and liked it a lot as a writer and as an appropriate opening to this review, and I then thought joyously, "I hope I hate the rest of this film!" I even unconsciously said that out loud at my computer; I wish it was an Apple to make it more ironic, but it's only an Intel. Obviously, I don't hope movies are bad, but as a writer-first,... well, this was an unusual and interesting dilemma for me. Anyway, I thought I'd share that piece of sausage-making with you. Uh, actually, the movie has it's moments, so I was worried for a bit, but then, "Jobs", just couldn't resist to inevitably use, every bad biopic cliche, from the sweeping music underneath a cheering crowd, who shouldn't be cheering as Jobs introduces them to the iPod, like they, already know how great it is; that's was bizarre, to the forced and terrible inspirational dialogue and directing. There's not a bad cliche gone unused here, and the biggest problem with the poorly executed "Jobs." Of course, Ashton Kutcher's performance as Steve Jobs has been the subject of some debate; if we're comparing back to "Pirates...", probably is a downgrade from Noah Wyle, but I actually think he did a good job here, and some of the supporting actors were particularly strong. Josh Gad as Steve Wozniak, has a few good memorable speeches. The movie chronicles Jobs from the beginning as a Reed College dropout and of course, the beginning of starting Apple in his parents' basement, to the Apple II, to the money pit that became the Lisa, and then later the struggles he has with the Mackintosh. There's only a couple scenes devoted at all to Microsoft, and they don't even mention how Microsoft at one point how Gates's Microsoft eventually grew to have a huge percentage of Apple. The movie also skips awkwardly the transformation of Jobs as he would proceed to NeXT, and creating more limited and educational-based technology. Of course, this is the other problem with Steve Jobs, his life is worthy of literally lots of movies and maybe a full miniseries. (Another Steve Jobs biopic, based on more widely-regarded source material is still in the early phases of development.) I think that's the best approach to him, because trying to cram in everything seems hard to swallow to me. That's the real problem with "Jobs", it does it's best, but it's really just skimming the surface and going through the motions and we only get a really basic entry view into an unusually complex man.
CAMILLE CLAUDEL 1915 (2013) Director: Bruno Dumont
I've been struggling more than normal to figure out exactly how many stars to give "Camille Claudel 1915". There's a certain power to the movie definitely and Juliette Binoche gives an exquisite performance, one of her best arguably, and yet,- well, in some ways, the movie seems to be daring us to force us through it, and yet, it really isn't doing that, it's really just giving us a sensory experience of the day-to-day life of living in a madhouse. In Camille Claudel (Binoche) is now highly regarded as one of the greatest sculptresses of all-time. She was the subject of one movie already, that won five Cesar Awards and earned two Oscar nominations, including a lead actress one for the great Isabelle Adjani, the actress who's won more Cesar's than any other, That movie ended where "Camille Claudel 1915" begins, but they're not together technically. The first film, was a biopic of an artist who's obsession with her teacher/mistress, Auguste Rodin, led to her erratic and crazed behavior and eventually, to the madhouse, where she spent the last thirty years of her life. When she entered, around this time, she had already been broken up with Rodin for 20 years, but was still obsessed with him, and what he did to her. The movie was actually shot in a church-run asylum that, although looks as though it's an abandoned period location, is still running, and some of the inmates were cast in the film, as well as the nurses and other staff, and the movie is based off of letter that Camille and her brother Paul Claudel (Jean-Luc Vincent) wrote to each at the time. He's visiting her in two days. She spends most of her time in quiet desperation and anguish. She's both alone, with herself, but alas, is never alone. She's unable to slam a door behind her she mentions, and someone's always around, whether a nurse or a doctor, often it's a patient or two, a particular one, who's unable to really communicate, is a woman with a severely-gapped front tooth, short hair, and seems to be trying to befriend Camille. She, like many of the patients, have nowhere else in society to be, and are incapable of expressing the kind of passionate remarks and thoughts that Camille is able to. She's able to walk around and help out the nurses when needed; she's even allowed to prepare her own food in the kitchen because she's convinced herself that Rodin is out to poison her to death, and doesn't trust anyone else to prepare her meals. It's impossible now to fully know what Camille suffered from exactly, and the medicine of the day probably couldn't help her much if they did, but she does have a mental illness of some kind, and whether it was caused by her relationship with Rodin or it was there all along is impossible to fully explain. In the meantime, there's a quiet world among the brick walls of the asylum. She's forced to take a bath everyday, which is matter-of-fact, but still humiliating. There's a scene where she walks into a rehearsal of the inmates, working on a subpar performance of "Don Juan", unfortunately for her. The sad thing is that, for an artist, it is probably the closest she can come to even experiencing. Her emotions run rabid throughout the days. She can be astute and okay one second, then freaking out and crying the next. It's not the crying that upsets her, it's that, she can't really cry in privacy, and nothing, not even her pain and emotion are hers anymore, as she viciously tells one patient to just get away from her. Paul's visit is undercut with the thought from both him, and the doctor that she may indeed be able to live on her own, and that she shouldn't be there. That said, Paul, who himself is a Christian mystic poet, when he does, clearly believes in the mystic connection between god and man, and only this connection can help her. There's two scenes of the two siblings praying, out loud, and yet they seem to be done in different worlds and for different reasons. The visit from Paul is the climax of the film, as the two seem to struggle to get their points of view across to each other. For 30 years, she stayed in this asylum, we get a 90 minute glimpse at just three days of it. There's no background music and no sounds outside of the natural sounds or lack thereof of the world. If Einstein's right and an empty desk is representative of an empty mind, what is this life of emptiness thrust upon someone who's mind is so cluttered really do to them? The movie was directed by Bruno Dumont, and it's the first of his films I've seen, although he's developed quite a reputation for his sense of detachment that he attaches to material that normally would take a true position, like art and religion in this film, as well as numerous others. Claudel, despite everything lived a memorable and entertaining life, but that movie's already been made, and here, Dumont decides to focus in, just this part, which can easily just be the afterword written before the end credits of most films, and has a sole goal of showing us, what it was like for her, to live here, like this, at this place, and at this exact moment. For that reason, the movie succeeds.
MORE THAN HONEY (2013) Director: Markus Imhoof
I was more than a little reluctant going into "More than Honey", not because of the subject matter, but because I thought that it's impact wouldn't be felt on me 'cause I already saw another documentary recently on the current climate of bees and beekeepers called "Vanishing of the Bees", which focused on Colony-Collapse Disorder", where entire bee colonies have suddenly collapsed and abandoned their hives. You can read my review of that film in the link below:
I recommended that movie, but other than the fact that both movies are about bees, the two movies couldn't really be more different. This documentary was actually Switzerland's official entry for the Foreign Language Oscar, and I can understand why. Shot in four different countries, and over a period of, at least a year, maybe two, and is quiet and laid back in tone, but is in many ways, nothing short of spectacular. Some of the scenes of bees in the hive, I don't know how they got them. Not since "Microcosmos" have I seen anything like the up-closeness of such a small yet frighteningly amazing segment of our world, and yet, unlike that movie, which I never cared for because of how plot-less it was, this one, seems to use these shots better than any film I've seen before. (And btw, I personally, can't stand bees. Afraid of them, don't like them, my mom's allergic to them; prefer to never see one again, despite, as how very glad I am that they do what they do) Occasionally they use animation to tell their story, and the story of what's happening with them, and the really careful ways in which these keepers take care of them. Director Markus Imhoff, comes from a family of beekeepers, shows how in different parts of the world, the ways in which bees have been taken care of, but also manipulated. It's expensive to bring in a hive to pollinate the flowers and trees, to make what, really is a significant percentage of our food substance. We see them in California where they populate almond trees, and where, like in Europe and the rest of North America, all bees are now unable to actually work without chemical and drugs, ironically, probably because of all the chemicals in the grounds already. In parts of China, where there aren't any bees anymore, people now pollinate flowers and we see them swab and impregnate the flowers by hand, in a touch that, seems almost Carroll-like surrealism. The movie takes place in the U.S., California, China and Australia, where they've found a way to keep unpolluted bees on an island in order to keep them growing and pollinating. Queens are sold and raised for big money, around the world, and yet still, hives seem to die out from the smallest of things. Seeing a collection of dead bees, collected, incinerated and buried, is really a major loss for one couple. Hives are rented out and collected at hundreds of dollars each, and some years and years in advance because of their rarity now. Ironically, in South America, and slowly up here, the Africanized "killer" bees that supposedly were going to attack us all through my childhood, might actually be the ones that save us, as one Arizona beekeeper found out; because they're both wild and immune to the chemicals in the land, and rabid and vicious, they actually not only work harder and more vigorously, but they're actually healthier and create more product. He talks to us, while filling what seems like, ended jars of rich gooey honey that he's collected. There's a poetic to the film, and the beauty of the hive, mixed with the unbelievable photography of some of these bees, ways inside the hive, and moving. We even see that they got microscopic camera, on bees, and see their flight path. They truly are unique creatures. I can't think of any other animals with a hive-like organizational structure. They even communicate through dance and other movements with each other. We see all the nuances of bees and beekeeping and all the modern day pitfalls and travails. This is one of those movies, that you're gonna have to trust me on. It's got 100% on rottentomatoes.com, if that helps. It isn't a political doc, or anything, it's transcendent, it's meditative, beautiful and transient movie about our relationship with bees, and I realize, that I can't make that sound more exciting, but it is exciting, it's amazing to watch and experience. There are things I knew, things I didn't, but the way this film works and is really special. This is one of those weird documentaries, all Terrence Malick-like, where you could walk out for five or ten minutes, and come back and become enthralled in the film periodically, and not really lose your space. It's not a linear story; it's a circular tale, that continue to grow, as we continue explore it, and you don't need to go back and see what you missed, you can just watch and catch back up with it, you're gonna go, "what are they doing now?" instead. It's and overlooked and very special film, and it is, like the bee, "More than Honey".
THE ATTACK (2013) Director: Ziad Doueiri
The funny thing about suicide bombers is that, it's a fairly secret occupation. If done correctly, nobody knows you're doing it, until.... "The Attack", is a suicide bombing in Israel, something that is unfortunately, not uncommon. Amin (Ali Suliman) is a highly-regarded surgeon and one who's known for his resistance to the Arab-Israeli conflict, having seen too much damage on both sides, although he's an Arab. When the attack is heard, he's having lunch at work, and hardly anybody moves after the explosion. The bodies start to come in, and the hospital starts to turn into a M*A*S*H unit. In the moment, we only see the result of the explosion, and everybody's too busy to bother noticing the cause. To the doctor's surprise, his wife Siham (Raymond Amsalem) was also killed in the attack. he doesn't even realize that she's missing until long after he returns home to an empty dark apartment. Not only that however, but she seems to have been the bomber, or at least one of them. This is beyond impossible for him to believe. She's not even Arab or Jewish, she's a Catholic. Yet, understandably, the police, most-represented by Captain Moshe (Uri Gavriel) don't believe him. He can't fathom it himself, as he's up for interrogation for long hours, as the entire situation baffles him. She couldn't possibly be a terrorist who just killed 17 people, including 11 children. What would make her do such a thing, and how could I have never known? He continues under interrogation to insist that she's innocent, and knows nothing. He does know nothing, but that mystical video tape he hopes will arrive, never does. This is the third feature film from one of the more intriguing directors out there, Ziad Doueiri. He's mostly known as a camera operator for some of Quentin Tarantino's earlier works, but he's gone off to direct three features, all overseas. His last film "Lila Says", was one of the best films about teenagers and sex in the last decade, and was also based around an Arab family, although that film took place in France and was based on a novel by an author by Chimo. This film, takes place in Tel Aviv, and seems to insinuate about the greater undercurrent of fear and legitimate paranoia that the nation of Israel has become. Yet, that's a full-ranging view, and like "Lila Says", Douieri choose wisely, to stick to the core story of Amin's struggles, most of the time. He happened to by a little well-known publicly after winning a major award before the bombing, and the movie begins to falter when it focuses on that aspect of it. Still though, this is a powerful film from one of the more unique filmmakers around, and gives us a haunting look at both marriage and terrorism in the Middle East, and how living in a world where you're used to bombings going off, that it barely interrupts your lunch, can and does effect everyone.
STARBUCK (2013) Director: Ken Scott
(Depressed sigh) Well, I'm not looking forward to this American remake. I usually make it a point to come into most movies with as little expectations as possible, but boy, this one's not gonna be easy. The French-Canadian film "Starbuck", was a big enough hit, that it was recently remade in America as "Delivery Man", and starring Vince Vaughn. That alone, is not the worst thing, as the story could be salvaged hypothetically if someone were to actually take a more realistic look at the material; it could still be a comedy of course..., unfortunately Writer/Director Ken Scott's second directorial attempt is also the director of the remake. It's somewhere on my Netflix, I think. I'm not gonna look it up to be sure, but I don't want to be depressed if it is like I think it is, in my queue somewhere, probably not near the top of it at least. The title of the first one, is the anonymous name of a constant sperm donor, David Wozniak (Patrick Huard). The name is not a reference to "Moby Dick" or coffee, but rather a famous Canadian bull that was well-known for it's fertility. Anyway, for a couple years it helped him earn some money. He's still a bit of a slacker, although he remains inspired and competitive in local soccer leagues, he's significantly uninspired. His girlfriend Valerie (Julie LeBreton) is pregnant, but she's not interested in him being a father for his unreliability. Then, those sperm donations catch up to him, and it turns out, through a few questionable practices by the sperm bank, he has father over 500 kids, and over 140 are suing him in order to find out his identity, insisting that this kind of reckless behavior needs to be explained. His lawyer friend Avocat (Antoine Bertrand) believe they can win the case, and he's looking for a big case to make his name on. This is the part of the movie that frustrates me, apart from the movie being unfunny and bad in general. The lawsuit that becomes, and worse, remains the catalyst for the film, is just stupid. Why wouldn't the kids have, maybe sued the sperm bank for gross negligence, or why would David do so as well? And you don't think that, maybe some of the kids who found out about this revelation of their father think it'd make sense that he might want to keep his identity secret? And this is a scenario that has happened before by the way, an excessive sperm donor having so many kids, so there's potential here for a nice story about a wayward soul finding himself through the kids he didn't know he had; we really don't even need the lawsuit angle hypothetically; even with just the ones who sued that's 142 character that should have enough material relatively to keep the movie interesting. The movie could've been "The Kids Are All Right" meets "Broken Flowers" perhaps if it was done a little more thoughtfully. This goes for bad laughs and takes the exact wrong approach to the material. I hope a remake corrects these issues, but I doubt it. In the meantime, after watching "Starbuck", not hopeful for this French comedy remake.
KILLING THEM SOFTLY (2012) Director: Andrew Dominick
"Killing Them Softly", which really should've been a title saved for a Roberta Flack biopic, (Which is a good person to make a biopic about by the way) is a gangster movie that, isn't really a gangster movie as it is, a collection of random scenes between gangsters, and/or gangster wannabes. Set during the, I suppose 2008 Presidential Election, or around that time, the movie occasionally uses old Bush and Obama speeches to- I guess undercut the realities of the world. The world of the movie is the gangster underground, which apparently is so intertwined and combined, that it all revolves around a card game that they hold, where the money gets dropped off, played, exchanged, gambled, it's their NYSE, essentially. Everybody's on relatively friendly terms with each other, but a couple dumb guys on the bottom of the barrel of the criminal underworld, Russell and Franky (Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn) decide to hold it up. Normally, not a good plan to hold up a bunch of gangsters, especially for amateurs, but one of the gangsters, Markie (Ray Liotta) accidentally gave them an unusual advantage by having robbed the game once before. It was his own money technically, and since they liked Markie, they let it slide that time, but it stopped the games for awhile as the gangsters had to rebuild. The depressions hits the underworld hard too as is talked about a lot. A go-between known only as Driver (Richard Jenkins) helps bring in a couple of hitmen to try and take out everyone involved with the crime, which isn't too hard consider the criminals are idiots, but just to be safe, they also take a shot at Markie, afraid that this could be a repeat of his earlier crime. It isn't, but he gets destroyed anyway. The hitmen are Jackie (Brad Pitt), and later a New York hitmen, Mickey (James Gandolfini). Jackie, is the more professional of the two. Likes to work far away like a sniper, more to-the-point, able to analyze the angles, and is in it for the business. Mickey has a mess of a life, and is in it for the fun and money, and occasionally booze and women. While there's sudden outbursts of violence, the main tale revolves around these characters and their exchanges. Sometimes talking business, other times talking philosophies or politics, but mostly talking about the everyday grinds of the business of being a mafia hitman. The film was written and directed by Andrew Dominik, a man who's usually been reliable for good films until. His debut "Chopper", put Eric Bana on the international map and was one of the best and most unusual biopics in recent years. He then made "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford", one of the better westerns in recent years, and he's so talented that stylistically, you wouldn't be able to tell that the same filmmaker made both films. He's got a lot of skill and range, going from the quick 90-minute kinetic, music video-like stylish film, to the slow-paced and ethereal western epic that clocked in at almost three hours. I think his inspiration is that both were movies about bad guys, and that both had other things to say about them, and they also involved the public reactions to them. Here, he's trying to switch it so that the bad guys are actually reacting to the public, and that's not as interesting, 'cause we're watching an effect, not a cause. "Killing Them Softly", tries to be, both about two much, and yet, about too little, and frankly neither work. Before, he was just telling a story, that happen to have impact on other things and effect us personally, but now, he's let the metaphor take over his vision, and, he almost skimped completely on the story. For somebody who takes an average of six years to make a new film, he has to do better than this strangely generic tale.
ZINDAGI NA MILEGI DOBARA (2011) Director: Zoya Ahktar
I understand that with Bollywood films, you have to expect a certain amount of predictability and even feel-good cliches with the film. Sometimes, it's truly inevitable. That said, you and your closest friends are on a week-long road trip through Spain, going from town to town, participating in various death-defying activites that one of your buddies has planned out, and the group has agreed that, whatever activity the other has planned, they all must do it, no matter what, and the last destination of this trip, just happens to be Pamplona, could you, maybe guess, what activity extreme sport activity you might be participating in? Even if the activities themselves were kept secret from the rest of the group until they're about to them? I basically waited 2 1/2 hours, waiting for someone to turn to their friend and hopefully, "I knew you're gonna make me do this you son of a bitch," at least as an acknowledgment, but no, these characters have to be, selectively uninformed about the only damn thing the city of Pamplona is famous for, and other occasional questionable behaviors throughout the trip. If you don't know what I'm referring to, than perhaps, "Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara" is a film you might enjoy. The title, is a bit of an awkward direct translation, but I think the title is a Hindi slang equivalent to "You Only Live Once", which sometimes it seems like that can be an alternate title to half the films in Bollywood. Kabir (Abhay Deol) has organized this road trip for him, and his two old schoolmates, Imraan (Farhan Akhtar) and Arjun (Hrithik Roshan) with the aforementioned arrangement. Each has set up a secret extreme activity for the group to do, as they travel through Spain. The 3-week journey is in lieu of Kabir getting a bachelor party. He's about to marry his girlfriend Natascha (Kalki Koechlin) in a few weeks, and now, he coerced his buddies into this trip, which they originally were supposed to take a few years earlier, but his friends had a falling out with each other, and they haven't been around each other since. On the journey, they go deep sea diving, which is where they meet Laila (Katrina Kaif) an Anglo-Indian who advises them on more than just scuba diving, as she becomes the carpe diem catalyst for the movie, that makes everyone begin to re-analyze their life. One of them confronts his long-abandoned father, Kabir begins to seriously doubt his upcoming marriage, yada, yada, yada. They also go skydiving, and of course, the thing which everybody in the audience knew they were gonna do in Pamplona. To complete the Spanish travelouge, they also stop in Bunol for the annual tomato fight for a while too. I tried to get into it, but the movie just went over too much familiar ground, and it didn't really add anything new or interesting to it. There's a surprise visit from Natascha on the trip, but even that ends rather quickly and is of no real consequence other than as something that gets us to the intermission. The movie looks spectacular and is shot well, from Writer-director Zoya Ahktar, that's the good news, and the movie became one of the biggest-grossing Hindi films outside of India this year, but it's just too simple a story to fully embrace, and it drags on way too much. The three musketeers as the three friends were once known, aren't really interesting enough for most of the movie to be entertaining, and even after we learn more about them as we go on, those moments don't seem genuine or natural. "Zindagi..." has it's moments, a few decent musical numbers for instance, but it feels like you're in the back of a car being driven somewhere, and it's takes so long to arrive, that when we do, we're too exhausted to enjoy any of it.