Friday, June 27, 2014

MOVIE REVIEWS #90: "THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG", "OMAR", "THE MISSING PICTURE", "OLDBOY (Lee)" "THE ARMSTRONG LIE", "FILL THE VOID", "INTERIOR. LEATHER BAR.", "PULLING STRINGS", "THE ROCKET", "HARRY DEAN STANTON: PARTLY FICTION", "MR. NOBODY" and MORE!

Sorry for some of the delays we've been having here folks. It sucks, I know, it ain't that great for me either lately. Once again, my Netflix, and it might be for a little while, which sucks, although sucks ass, although I'm doing my absolute damnedest to keep up anyway. That said, with these batch of movies lately, when even the better films were underwhelming, frankly I'm mostly just happy that I'm allowed to use a friend's Hulu account, and they finally got "Top Chef" on right now, so that I can catch up, and that's what I've mostly been focusing on lately. I'm only up to the season 7 finale, so no revealing anything yet. I'm happy to have the internet frankly, 'cause I didn't have that for a brief period of time, and admittedly, even that's a little more touch-and-go than I'd prefer at the moment. I also very late, canceled a blog I was gonna post, there was a couple reasons for it, mainly it gonna be a discussion on the importance or lack there-of defining a genre, when discussing a film, and frankly, the more I was diving into it, the less it became actually worth of a blogpost, so I decided that it really wasn't up to any sort of standard I wanted this blog to be, so I simply dropped it. No bigger or better story there, just frustration mostly. Frustration with my work, frustration at my home situation, a lot of frustration with some of these films frankly, but there were some good one too.

So here's to no more delays and no more touch-and-go's and no more living hand-to-mouth and day-to-day, here's our latest edition of our RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS!


THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (2013) Director: Peter Jackson



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Back again for another adventure of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) a humble, eh-, (Looks up notes) hobbit, and the band of dwarfs that have taken him along on this epic quest to- (Frustrated sigh) I don't know, do something.- This is something that really loses me with fantasy actually, especially these long epics, years apart with these films- I can't remember what the hell they’re doing most of the time. We keep getting lambasted with all this extra shit, and it’s like, “Oh, right, they’re doing this for a reason, what the fuck was it?” Trying to grasp the tangible out of the fantasy, is a much bigger part of a successful fantasy than people seem to think. Tell me they’re searching for a holy grail or something, at least that I understand, now we’re in flashbacks and other worlds and spun into giant spiderwebs and there a dragon hidden in a vault full of gold coins and trinkets about 15x the size of Scrooge McDuck’s, all this amazing crap but we have to remember the other thing? This is something Tolkien never understood, in traditional mythology it was simple, especially since it was a time when most of the known world wasn't particularly educated or evolved so they weren't that complicated, either that, or they got to the original point quickly, and then went on to something else that effected them, like in “The Epic of Gilgamesh” for instance. Now, I haven't read "The Hobbit", although I recall it from most accounts being simpler than "Lord of the Rings", and that means Jackson's really stretching this one out, making it even worst. Well, actually it wasn't worst overall I guess, but it is erratic. I guess it might've worked better in 3-D, but the effects, some were quite amazing, like the Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) dragon character, and the frightening and powerful presence that he is in certain, I don't think it was completely successful, but it was still effective for what needed to be done, but on the other hand, some of the sequences, like the sequence where everyone was going through the river, looked like bad unrealistic CGI. The rest of the time, sometimes it makes sense, and the journey's continuing, and other times, it barely makes sense. Characters go off on their own for awhile, characters go away for no reason for awhile, then come back. It's once again, constant manipulating for of the logic for the purposes of the plot to go exactly as the story needs it to. Not as much as the other films however, or at least it wasn't as noticeable to me. "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug", is probably gonna satisfy most Tolkien-ites, but it's basically just washed over me without much reaction or reason to care for me. A few special moments peckered in here and there, the backstory of the Smaug character and areas he reigns over where the dwarves are living/enslaved was actually fairly intriguing for a while, I still kinda came out of it thinking it didn't really lead to much. It's your typical second film, with a to be continued ending of a trilogy, and not much more. 


OMAR (2013) Director: Hany Abu-Assad


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Director Hany Abu-Assad directed the film "Paradise Now" a few years back which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, the first time that award was won by the nation of Palestine, previously the only time they've been nominated. Now, his latest film "Omar" also received a Foreign Language Oscar nomination, and "Omar" and while this is also, only the second film of Abu-Assad's I've seen, it's very clear to me that he directed both pictures. The noticeable lack of a score, a more New Wave realism approach to his subject, the undercurrent of the tensions over the Jews and Palestinians and the more de-glamorized look at what really conflates and continues this conflict, from a humanistic perspective. Omar (Adam Bakri) is what you'd consider a terrorist per se. He's a kid, early '20s, who's in love with Nadia (Leem Lubany) however, the only way to get to her is to climb over that newly-constructed wall that was supposedly built to separate the two cultures, although all it really did was separate people from each other. He is apart of a group that killed a Jewish guard however, and because he insists and climbing over and back that wall, he gets caught quickly and often, he gets arrested and interrogated regularly. Finally, he gets coerced into working with the police to turn in his friends, but not with a long fight. His friends aren't particular terrorist either, just fairly frustrated youths who are practically imitating others. When one prisoner tells Omar that he's apart of Hamas, and asks which group he's apart of it, it's more like a discussion about which gang they're affiliated with, for protection, as opposed to, a real declaration of beliefs. I actually admired "Paradise Now" more than I really liked it, so I actually find myself preferring "Omar", for being a more relatable and complex story, and being about a character as opposed to a more grandeur statement and comment. It's still a little slow-moving at times, but I didn't mind it too much now. The film is the slow decline of the optimistic and romantic "Omar" and how that eventually leads to a more radical character by the end, mischievous and misguided, frustrated with the perils of adulthood and civility. What would've happened to "Omar" if a wall hadn't been built? I think that's the question Abu-Assad asks. Perhaps some difference, perhaps not much, but it's clear that because Israel and Palestine are now separated by a wall, the wall itself becomes integrated into the conflict, and one more thing that helps turns a lover into a terrorist. Or a romantic into a radical?


THE MISSING PICTURE (2013) Director: Rithy Panh


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I remember seeing stills and reading the description of "The Missing Picture" when making my Oscar predictions and when it made the Oscar shortlist thinking, "This is so distinctly different that this might be one of those dark horse's everyone's missing." Sure enough, the documentary became the first film from Cambodia to receive a Foreign Language Film Oscar Nomination. When I think of Cambodia, I think of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot's genocide, and sure enough the film is a retelling of the atrocities we know better as The Killing Fields now, and the title itself refers to the visual images that do not exist of friends and families of the director Rithy Panh, as he tells his personal story of life before and during the Khmer Rouge regime. When there's something that isn't filmed, he creatively and painstakingly recreates the images by molding clay figurines, what must've been thousands, certainly at least hundreds of them as they to replicate the images. This is sorta like the same thing done in "The Act of Killing" but on a much smaller scale and budget, but it's just as detailed, if not moreso, as he struggles to replicate the images and memories he has of the re-educationg camps and death fields among numerous other places and people in Democratic Kampuchea as Pol Pot insanely attempted a restart of society and annihilated and massacred every dissenter and those educated from the outside world. He uses documentary and home footage when it's available to create this rare and unique image of this world and time using all these mixed media as Panh struggles to reconstruct his own life and memory of these moments. Sometimes it's amazing to see the moments that the Khmer Rouge did film, like child laborers digging in the fields, and of the executions. I prefer to see the surprisingly bright and more colorful images he creates and some of the old videos of before the Khmer Rouge and of a Cambodia that was strikingly vibrant and colorful. At one point, he shows images of the astronauts traveling to the moon, as a counterpoint of how the outside world was regarded as capitalist propaganda, and the disturbing ways in which Pol Pot was enslaving, torturing and closing in the country. Closing in the people. We've gotten a few images and perspectives on this era before, but nothing quite like this. Nothing so personal and poetic a depiction. How can or should we really show the true memories and images of such horrificness? This is as good a way to depict as any, and it's a powerful one. A pure one, a depiction of a world we don't want to see, and one that's even rarer for us to see. It's almost a cinematic akin to a one-man biographic show, a good one too. One of the most unique cinematic films of the year.


OLDBOY (2013) Director: Spike Lee


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It's been awhile, and I do admit to needing another viewing of "Oldboy", which, in my memory has become a far more powerful and visceral than I remember when I originally watched it, but I was a little surprised how much I recalled and noticed quite clearly many of the differences after watching Spike Lee's remake, who by the way, would probably have not have been the first name that would've come to mind when thinking about a director to remake, but it actually does make a little sense when you consider some of the themes. Although, I must say he's a different director when dealing with a more mainstream project than he is for his more interesting personal projects. (Come to think of it, did he even use a double-dolly shot in this film? I don't remember one? Huh?) I've seen some of his other work like that before, but I missed "Inside Man", so this-this would be one of the very first more Hollywood projects of his I've seen, and maybe it's because it's a remake but...- (Shrugs) Anyway, the film begins with a relative sleazebag Joe Douchet (Josh Brolin) being a relative sleazebag, pissing off most everyone around him, especially his ex-wife Donna (Hannah Ware). Suddenly, somebody kidnaps him, and he's placed in some sort of hi-tech private hotel room, with little more than a TV, a bed, Chinese food served him periodically through a cubby hole, and a picture of a Bellhop (Cinque Lee) that he occasionally imagines is alive with him. Who's doing this to him, and why? He doesn't know, but in the meantime, his ex-wife was raped and murder and he's been framed, so even if he somehow escaped this imprisonment, he'd be a fugitive from the law, and apparently the crime was so vicious that it's still notorious enough for occasional interview special on exploitation TV shows. This as he see twenty years of history pass on TV until he's finally released with little more than a cell phone that he's still struggling to understand how it works, and some great talents and abilities learned from numerous exercise and yoga shows on TV. On the outside world, he eventually gets help, first from a young recovering drug addict Marie (Elizabeth Olsen) and from an old friend Chucky (Michael Imperioli) as he struggles to search through all whose lives he destroyed to find out who would trap him for decades like this. Who'd be capable, and frankly, and why. There's some good work also from Samuel L. Jackson and Sharlto Copley as well, in the film, and I'm gonna, reluctantly recommend this. I think Elizabeth Olsen's work is definitely the highlight of the film in, what, I'll admit isn't a tough role here, but a very different than we've seen from her, and from somebody who had very little acting work, until a couple years ago, she's becoming quite the presence on screen, and she's critically good when she needs to be and doesn't quite take her part, to the point of no return when sometimes the script was practically begging for it. The problem I found was that, unlike the original version, which had some of the same problems with the script as this version does, the approach to the material was so much more of a visceral experience. It wasn't just that it was this really graphic horror film, but it was in the way they used that horror to really, truly exemplify and visually the emotions of the film and the characters themselves; it was because the experience was so intense, that the film itself became really intense and Spike Lee's version just doesn't have that. It's a different version, I know, and he does some different things, but even though this is somewhat re-imagined version of "The Count of Monte Cristo", it depends on a lot things occurring and actions that are just too unbelievable, so you need that hyper-realism to really show how powerful the effect is, and just a few montage of going to Chinese food restaurant to Chinese food restaurant, it doesn't really do it. There's some undertones that Lee is playing with here as well, without getting to deep into the turns of the story, but there's enough interesting stuff to recommend a viewing, but this certainly is a relatively minor remake of a much more impressive film, and from Spike Lee, it's an interesting Hollywood turn for him, but I don't know, other than it shows that he can direct anything he wanted if he really felt like, but I think I'd rather watch one of his more interesting personal projects instead.


THE ARMSTRONG LIE (2013) Director: Alex Gibney


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Let's face it, no matter how skeptical some might claim they were, it was simply much easier to believe, the lie, about Lance Armstrong. I did, everybody did. I think, he probably did too. I don't think it was a lie to him. If anything, the thing I found most impressive about Alex Gibney's "The Armstrong Lie" is that, he's probably more than anything else, the best cheater. The best, out of- what I think, probably more than any other sport by a mile, is a sport of cheaters. Gibney started shooting this film in 2009, capturing his comeback running of the Tour de France. Most thought at the time that the Oscar-winning investigative documentarian was making a film intended to reiterate the mythology of Armstrong, some were even out on the Tour trying to expose Armstrong and make what they called the "Anti-Gibney" film. Instead, Gibney shelved the project after the allegations came out, and continued to re-check his footage and the numerous conflicted emotions that he had during the race, and those moments with Lance. The image he built up, the competitor and aggressor that he truly is. That's one of the things that people don't quite understand regarding athletes and why there's so many scandals regarding steroids over the years, they're competitive and doing everything possible to get a win, sometimes it's out of necessity, because frankly you have to in order to keep. Armstrong however, is one of the most aggressive fighters out there. He never hid when confronted with allegations of doping, and he destroyed the lives of many people who tried to fight him. The thing's that most startling is just how sophisticated the doping was, and it wasn't really doping the way we think about it either, the bulking of injections or something like that, it was highly scientific and developed, dealing with how and when to dope in order to manipulate the white blood cells in the blood in certain points and moments in order to boost the ability to take in oxygen, particularly during those giant mountains and hills, or something like that; it might have been red blood cells; I always get them confused, but basically it's a very sophistocatd system. They had a motorcycle guy supplying bags riding along the Tour de France with them, and yes it was them, the whole team. All the teams had something, but the whole Postal Service team at the time. That's something that I always understood about cycling but I never really understood some of the dynamics about how a team cycling competition works, and we saw a lot of that during the most exciting moments of the movie, the actual race footage of Lance's comeback, as he finished 3rd behind his own teammate that he didn't get along with, but he seemed to be racing clean, and made a huge comeback on a mountain that normally he wouldn't, but was he actually clean? Ultimately, I find myself, ambivalent towards the film "The Armstrong Lie", is a bit of a more convoluted mess than I normally expect from Alex Gibney, who has produced an incredible amount of work among any filmmaker out there much less documentary filmmakers over the last decades or so; (This is his second-best documentary this year after "We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks", and he often produces more than one film per year) it's only a minor entry albeit an interesting one, that gave us more incite to a man who, frankly, I'm not sure we want to know more about anymore. 


FILL THE VOID (2013) Director: Rama Burshtstein


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Thinking back on the complexities of "Fill the Void", I find myself struggling with it, but in a good way. It took two viewings to watch it originally, and I still think I might need a third to really observe the subtleties of the film. It's the debut film from Director Rama Burshstein and it was the winner of seven Israeli Oscars, and was a big hit along the festival circuit in Europe. The film is based around Shira (Hadas Yaron) the eighteen-year-old youngest sister of the Hasedic Tel Aviv family. Her oldest sister Esther (Renana Rez) suddenly dies during childbirth, causing a huge potential problem in the family, and for her husband Yochay (Yiftach Klein) with a newborn, is considering moving elsewhere, but the mother Rivka (Irit Sheleg) tries to orchestrate Shira to marry Yochay. She's already engaged to a young man in New York, as most/all marriages are usually pre-planned and paired up, but now she's being pressured, and unsure of what to do next, as she's given a rare Jane Austen-esque choice to make. She's a smart girl, plays the accordion, although when pressure why, she just says "It's the only thing I know how to play." It's a tough position for her and Yochay to be in, but you also get the sense that possibly it might be for their best interests for them to be together. despite the 18-year age difference. "Fill the Void" is at both calm and meditative while also being intense and slice-of-life. Burshtein has a very static Ozu-like approach with much of his shots and the camera is often just on a tripod and intensely focusing, almost away from the scene, just observant and quiet, like the film is. It's quite an interesting film. It's not exactly beating you over the head with anything, but it's calmness demands that we consider and notice it. A strong film that harkens back to the old, that conflicts with the new ways, but a different and intricate approach to it in a world we don't see much of either. Very interesting and intriguing debut film.


INTERIOR. LEATHER BAR. (2013) Directors: James Franco and Travis Matthews


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Well, this one was annoying to try to stream in a library. "Interior. Leather Bar.", which should probably have been titled "INT. LEATHER BAR" 'cause that's how you'd generally write that on a screenplay nowadays, (Although, I wouldn't be too surprised if that's how it might've been written on a script back then.) is a strange meta-meta-meta film where James Franco and Travis Matthews, attempt to recreate or re-imag- how did I write this in my notes? Let me, see it's a:

"A part making of/behind-the-scenes look at the re-imagining of the edited scenes of a 30+ year old movie, and then, a few scenes of those shot re-imagined sequences?"

Yeah, I even ended that with a question mark. It's a bit both, a very short, qualifying as a feature film that's a documentary about Franco and Matthews, wanting and trying to recreate the mythic 45 minutes or so of footage deleted from the William Friedkin film "Cruising" which is noted as a landmark in gay cinema, but included numerous stereotypical and somewhat offensive both graphically and probably to some, homoerotic sex and other scenes that the MPAA eventually made Friedkin cut from the film. Now, I've heard of "Cruising" although I haven't actually seen it, although I've seen clips here and there when looking up gay cinema, so I'm not gonna to be able to determine whether the footage shot was gonna be in the movie or should've been or not. The film itself, is a bit of a failed experiment. It seems behind the scenes, and it records some of the conversations with the actors, some talk about Pacino's performance and the film itself, and then the footage, which can be graphic, and the rather boring process of making sexually explicit footage, which it is by the way. I don't know, I didn't find much in the experiment nor in the behind-the-scenes of making the experiment. Eh- yeah, that's about it. Nothing else in here than hasn't been said or done before, even the material they're filming has been done before.


PULLING STRINGS (2013) Director: Pedro Pablo Ibarra


1/2



This movie fucked up my sleeping pattern! I was supposed to go to sleep after watching "Pulling Strings," and instead, my body told me to go to sleep after the main plot inciting incident which involves Rachel (Laura Ramsay) an American diplomat working at the U.S. embassy is tasked by her boss (Tom Arnold) with holding his laptop for a few days while he's out-of-town. My body refused, to let me continue with this film for almost 12 hours after watching this scene, and my body was- well, right to do so, but I had to fight it. It was my professionalism as a film blogger and critic that insisted that I continue watching "Pulling Strings", eventually. Oh, my body fought me good, I was down for the count, and I should've stayed down, but eventually, I got back up and lasted the full 15 rounds. Worst fight of my life. Anyway, she loses the laptop and a mariachi, Alejandro (Jaime Camil) who she earlier rejected for a visa, goes around Mexico trying to find it for her, (A computer that there's no real sane reason she should've had responsibility over anyway.) and both Stockard Channing and Tom Arnold's talents are seriously under and mis-used in the film. (I know somebody just laughed at that, but yeah, they misused Tom Arnold's talents seriously, and badly at that.) There's nothing else you really need to know about "Pulling Strings" actually. It's contrived dribble, it goes back-and-forth between whether or not Laura is incredibly fluent in Spanish or completely an amateur at it, the songs aren't that impressive. It's a wannabe romantic-comedy, it's nice that it's trying something with an American and a Mexican and sort of a cross-border romance, and it's nice to see Mexico as a major character, but it's not really a character either, that's really a contrivance as well. I'm sure a good version of this story could be made with a better, smarter, less cliched script, perhaps one with better actors, perhaps Kriten Wiig and Gael Garcia Bernal in the leads maybe. Other than that, this feels like one of those movies where nobody else in the movie has ever seen a romantic-comedy and nobody is aware that they're in one, and yes, there's a scene at the airport near the end. When my body finally gave in and I managed to finish watching "Pulling Strings" at the moment when I hoped was the end, I check the time clock and repeatedly out loud said, "Please let there be seven minutes of credits? Please let their be seven minutes of credits? Please let there be..." multiple times over, like a mantra. One of the best things I can say about "Pulling Strings" is that it indeed, did have seven minutes of credits at the end. I was relieved.


THE ROCKET (2013) Director: Kim Mondaunt


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Technically listed as Australia's entry in the Best Foreign Language Oscar last year, a bit of an unusual entry for them, "The Rocket" takes place in Laos, which some of you geography buffs may know, is one of five countries left in the world that's still under Communist rule, along with China, Vietnam, Cuba, and North Korea, and any film that's actually partially made there is a bit interesting in of itself that it got made at all, and this one seems to give us a look inside the everyday life of some of the people who live there. It's the latest from Kim Mordaunt, who is usually a documentarian, but this is a rare theatrical film for her. The movie begins with a birth in a village. Ahlo (Sittiphon Disamoe) is born with a twin who was born dead, and according to tradition should've been killed too, but his life was saved at the behest of his mother, Mali (Alice Keohavong). Years later, she's killed in a freak accident and the kid is deemed for bad luck. She was killed during a move that Ahlo's family is partaking after a force removal because the area where they previously lived in now gonna be flooded to make way for a damn. After this, he starts to befriend a precocious young orphan girl, Kia (Loungnam Kaosainam) who's traveling, living with her uncle Purple (Thep Phongam) an eccentric but knowledgeable character who's so named because of his purple sport coat and pants which, along with his hair style, replicates the look of his idol, James Brown. There's a lot of talks about bombs in the country, most of them unexploded, both big ones and those that are like landmines, and inevitably, Ahlo thinks he can help out his family, and break the curse that they think he is on him, by winning a rocket-building competition, and this contrast is interesting in of itself, the rural lifestyle of thousands of years, colliding in numerous ways with the western influences of today that pepper, sneak and find their way into these most obscure parts of the world. It's also a really rare glimpse into an exotic land, and it's nice to see it from these smart but determined child's-eye views. I've sat through it twice new, and the small slice-of-life moments get more interesting to me on multiple viewings. "The Rocket" is a lovely little film.


HARRY DEAN STANTON: PARTLY FICTION (2013) Director: Sophie Huber


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"Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Ficktion" is a peaceful, small, transcendent mosaic peek at Harry Dean Stanton, and that's all we will probably ever get. At barely 75 minutes, the documentary seems to barely scratch the surface of the 87-year-old acting legend, who's starred in movies and TV shows for decades. He's also a musician, a poet, and just one of those strange characters of Hollywood that's almost as fascinating in real life as he is for the roles he plays in his film. He's been in over 180 film and TV shows, yet "...Partly Fiction", which mostly follows and observes Stanton, smoking, playing guitar, occasionally hanging out and reminiscing with friends like David Lynch, only really talk about four or five, like "Cool Hand Luke" and "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid", and there's a few interesting stories there. They made damn sure to talk about his most famous work, "Paris, Texas" which was the first and one of the very rare times that he got cast as the leading role of a movie and that Wim Wenders film has to be listed on any legitimate of the best films of the eighties, and probably of all-time as well, but you do get a few glimpses of him as this great character actor, who wasn't trained in technique, but seems to be able to play and do almost any role/thing when needed for a film. He used to run around with Kris Kristofferson when he was still mostly a songwriter and he'd play guitar and sing and write occasionally. Debbie Harry wrote a song about him once, and he might've been a big rock or country star if he chose to pursue that route. They don't mention his most noteworthy latest role in "Big Love", and other recent performances where he's almost perfectly cast just from the image alone. He's a bit wirey, erratic and off-the-wall, even his quiet subdued homelife gives that impression. He is at both untrained, yet indescribably genius, and the film only briefly shows that. He explains at one point, "I've avoided success artfully," and a good way to describe Stanton's irreverent and most unusual entertainment career. The Village Voice critic Nick Schager describes it as "A film that's in perfect sync with it's subject," and it is. Does that make it a good film? I don't know, but I enjoyed the mood it set and I can enjoy hanging around Harry Dean Stanton for an hour or so, others...? Eh, who knows?


MR. NOBODY (2013) Director: Jaco Van Dormeal


✰✰1/2



Note to Science Geek Screenwriters: Quantum Mechanics theories are not an excuse to do whatever-the-hell you want! "Mr. Nobody" was actually made back in '09, before it finally stumbled it's way into American theaters after first debuting on the internet, and making it's way around-the-world it seems, before it finally reached us, and it's- it's just an overlong philosophical mess of a movie, where more than once, one of it's own characters correctly complains, "So what happened?" or "Which is it, which is true?" Or something like that to a the old man retelling his story. "Mr. Nobody" takes place in a world...- No, that's not right. (Frustrated scoff) It starts in a future where the last surviving mortal, a 118-year-old known as "Mr. Nobody" (Jared Leto) is the unwanted star of a reality TV show where the world waits for him to die, and he also predicts the future. A Young Journalist (Daniel Mays) tries to record an interview with him, and he begins telling what seems and sounds like a life story, beginning with his parents Mother and Father (Rhys Ifans and Natasha Little and Mother and Father, is in fact their given names in the film.) Soon, they get divorced, and what sense that the film made at that point, even on a- philosophical level, of some kind, and then the film diverges into two worlds, at least two worlds, one where he lives with his mother, and another where he lives with his father. These worlds collide in reality and in his mind. There's women in each of his lives. One named Elise (Sarah Polley as an adult, Clare Stone as a teenager) that he's in love with, another named Jean (Linh Dan Phan as an adult, Audrey Giacomino as a teenager) who he married, Anna (Diane Kruger as an adult, Juno Temple as a teenager) who becomes his stepsister at one point, but they end up in a disturbing relationship. There's a scene late in a movie involving helicopters dropping huge trays of ice cubes into the ocean that was taken directly from a cartoon in "An Inconvenient Truth", which was originally from "Futurama". Mr. Nobody, or Nemo as we learn his name is, in one life he ends up a multi-millionaire, in another a pool installer, in another an unemployed copy manufacturer, at one point, I'm basically wondering, if anything actually in this movie has any actual thing to do with anything else in this movie? The movie either doesn't know what it wants to be, or it wants to be too much, and be too cutesy about it. And does it matter? Which life is real, are any of them, is he experience infinite universes as he dies? This movie is a real mess. It's like "The Butterfly Effect" using the motifs style of  "Synecdoche, New York", with multiple lives. Also, "The Fountain" and "Vanilla Sky", "Cloud Atlas" and many other better movies I'm sure. When they mentioned an architect, like in "The Matrix Reloaded" I couldn't believe it. Nor the 9-year-old child who, I'm really glad wasn't written as autistic. (And how the fuck does he know it was a Bolivian that boiled an egg. Maybe it was the snowflake in China that fucked him up? [And while we're at it, the right hand on the keyboard is over jkl;, not hjkl, not even on an old typewriter, is it hjkl. I don't where they got that from. It's an ambitious film but there's no meaning behind the ambition, it's using these ideas in quantum mechanics and infinite and multiple universes, but it doesn't knew how or why to use them, or how to eh-, turn them into a compelling story. I would've rather re-watched those Brian Greene "The Fabric of the Cosmos" "Nova" specials, 'cause it's basically the same damn thing, only he does it in minutes, and Jaco Van Dormeal's film, the first one of his I've seen, he takes, almost three hours it feels like it. Despite all these failures, I'm actually close to recommending this anyway, 'cause it was such an abundance of ideas, that at least, there was something on the screen. Most of the time it ended up in me thinking, "What the fuck is this shit?" but, I think since, none of these ideas meant anything in the grand picture of what the film ended up, I kinda have to lean closer towards a negative review. What good is a hundred good ideas, if you don't know what to do with them?


THE RAID: REDEMPTION (2012) Director: Gareth Huw Evans


✰✰1/2



I've been hearing about "The Raid: Redemption" for awhile now. but the critical and fan acclaim, and now the sequel being regarded with even higher acclaim, I had put it on the back burner 'til now, but it more or less sounded more like a video game than a movie. Now that I've seen it, well, it's a video game. That's not to say it's a bad or unskilled one, but that's not really a movie, and as good as the action sequences can be, it's also about a simple as a film can be. It's relatively entertaining for what it is, a confusing mess of gunfire, hand-to-hand combat and numerous deaths. The movie begins with cops, who are raiding a 15-story building. On top of the building, a bunch of bad guys. Why on top, as oppose to somewhere closer to the bottom for easier passage to escape? Because it requires the cops to keep climbing floor by floor, having to kill/destroy numerous protectors and other bad guys who live in the building. Apparently all the villains in this universe, got together and bought an apartment complex. If this was say, the Batman universe, that might be a funny sitcom. The Joker on one floor, annoying the hell out of Poison Ivy on the floor below. The Penguin that nobody shuts up, the Scarecrow seeing patients in his home office on another..., I can see it now. Here, it's the same old, one floor equals one level, and the more you climb the badder the enemy gets that they have to beat, until the (finger quotes) "twist" that one of the bad guys is the brother of one of the cops. I want to know why the cops didn't get on this compound when, say they only had a few apartment rented and they were just moving in, or when they had finished off paying the mortgage, instead of waiting 'til now. There's a lot of inexplainable behavior if you try to take any of it as realistic. The movie doesn't try for that, although it would've been nice if it was a little less serious too, so it could be more enjoyable and light-hearted. This movie is very cold. The blue tint's and dark building indicate a level of poverty, but they also drain the movie of  any really kind of fun and joy this type of film could actually benefit from, and benefit greatly from. It's a movie about a lot of dreary violence, good violence, but who cares? The film was shot in Indonesia, although it could've been any Asian countries, and that's only because the actors are Asian. The director is Gareth Huw Evans, an interesting horror and martial arts director, I believe originally from Europe, but he's basically transplanted to the Far East at this point, and he's making a third film in the series currently. I guess because of it's popularity I won't put it as far back on the back-burner as I did this one, but honestly, I won't be putting it on the front one either. Action and violence, is technically, okay, but still, it's not a movie makes necessarily, even when it's done well.


PRICE CHECK (2012) Director: Michael Walker


✰✰



Ugh. Nothing takes me out of a movie more than bad exposition dialogue. At the beginning of "Price Check", we see Pete (Eric Mabius) first at work, shortly after his boss has been fired. Then he comes home to his wife, Sara (Annie Parisse) and young kid. He picks up his kid, kisses his wife, then there's a dinner, and fun, and then at night, they're talking about work while lying in bed and he says, "I don't want to be Vice-President.... I want to be able to come home and be with my family...", after we just saw, exactly everything he just said, visually. UGH! That was mistake number number one. Mistake number two, is also a note to all independent filmmakers, when you write an almost impossible, unrealistic character, just casting Parker Posey in the role isn't gonna make is any more probably or believable. All it does, is what we see here, it takes one of the most underrated actresses alive and make her stretch herself and her acting ability out like Gumby just to somehow take this role and find a way to make her broad and contextually believable. And it's insulting and ridiculous to use an actress that great in a role that couldn't possibly work to begin with, and now you're making her look worst than she actually is. She's doing everything possible that she can do to save this role, and I admire her for doing it, but I have having to see her go through that. She plays Susan Felders who comes in like a bat out of hell riding a bull and takes charge of this trying to get this outdated store that her corporate office works for, sorta like a Wal-Mart but older, like a K-Mart and outdated as well. The details of the workplace environment are actually relatively interesting, as she's battling out with her company to move quicker into a complete re-branding and re-organizing structure of each store at the same time, while corporate, represented by Jack (Edward Hermann) wants instead to roll out the changes a store at a time, but with Pete by her side, who for seemingly no real reason, she's made him her right-hand guy on the project, pushes everyone to get the company and the store, and they even travel to L.A. together, and befriends Pete's wife, even showing up at their kid's pre-school Halloween party, in costume, before making making every at work have their own Halloween party. Eventually, this leads down a predictable path, one that, frankly the movie didn't and probably have gone down, and then it didn't do anything once it went there anyway, and soon enough, it skips right to the epilogue at the end instead of diving anywhere near real conflict. This is your basic, boring, idea-lacking Indy film; the kind where you just sit there, wondering why they don't do anything better or smarter or different even. Couldn't they have switched roles, Parker Posey be the frustrated corporate office worker family girl, who wishes to go home to her stay-at-home husband, maybe played by Patrick Dempsey or someone like that, or better yet keep Annie Parisse and make it a lesbian relationship, (and that conflict between them over more kids because even more complex) who used to work in the music industry, and have Eric Mabius be the Picaro-like crazed new boss who bulrushes his way into their lives to seduce and destroy? I don't know, but something to add a dimension to this. This is Director Michael Walker's first film in 12 years, a very long hiatus, and it feels like an average first-time filmmaker's debut Indy. When you're doing an independent film, there's two things you absolutely cannot be, either boring, or cliche. Cliche is probably worst too, and this movie, when they had nowhere else to go and backed itself into a corner, fell into cliche. You gotta do better than that, and not just rely on Parker Posey to come in and save the day, and instead, that's all that was done here.

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