Thursday, December 18, 2014

MOVIE REVIEWS #100: "THE LEGO MOVIE", "MALEFICENT", "LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON", "WE ARE THE BEST!", "KORENGAL", "TRANSCENDENCE", "MOEBIUS", "HAPPY CHRISTMAS", "GOD'S POCKET", "SEX TAPE" and MORE!

It's a milestone day for us today, it's our 100TH EDITION of our RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS!

(Balloons, and confetti drop from the ceiling as Offenbach's "Can Can Music" play, as a multiple rows of showgirls start appearing and dancing in unisom Rockettes-style, and a seven-tier cake arrives, along with a dog balancing on a multi-colored beach ball, while Cirque de Soleil dancer do tumbling passes through a ring of fire while Grindergirl sets off sparks on the other side of the stage. Just as the naked girl pops out of the cake, wearing nothing but a sash that say "Happy 100!" and a Tiara. She's helped out by two of the showgirls, who have now switched to performing the Cancan, as fireworks go off in celebration in unison, right after the Blue Angels fly overhead of the arena, but not before Bono from U2, is parachuted out of the plane, and lands onto the stage, his parachute, also has the number 100 on it, and as the song climaxes, all the performers, including the dog, line up, from a perfect 100, with Bono at the front of the one, the naked cake girl at the center of the second zero, and the dog, jumping back and forth through the ring of fire that the Cirque performers are holding up in the center of the first zero. Song ends. They hold for ten seconds, then everybody gets down, and slowly leaves, and unremarkably, exits the area and goes home.)

So that was it. Two minute song, a 100 or so performers, and nobody cleans anything up! How much did that cost us? You know, I don't even want to know, just fire whoever set this up, and find me a broom.

(I shake and dust off the confetti out of my hair and body. A balloon, then pops right behind me, scaring me, making me more frustrated)

Well, so much for that. Anyway, I'm glad we got to 100 of these, and when we do our next 100, I'll make sure to make it a more low-key affair. Anyway, it should low-key considering the state of the film industry right now, with all this crap regarding "The Interview" and supposedly North Korea being behind the attacks on Sony. Look, I'm not gonna pretend I understand how real or not, these threats were that they made, and I have no idea whether Sony's making the right decision by pulling the movie again, I really just don't know. I have friends who are hackers, good ones, not the evil ones that do all these crazy-ass things, and anti-government, assholes, and I'm talking to them constantly, to just find out more about this. If you want a quick thing though, Steve Gibson, who, like invented Security software of whatever- I'm not computer literature but he's an incredibly important and knowledgeable in the world of electronic security, he has a weekly podcast on Twit.tv called "Security Now", and he talks about some of these recent hackings, like Target recently, and last week, on his show, he talked about exactly what these hackers, whoever they are did, with Sony, exactly, and if you really want to kind learn about this world and the whole amount of information that's they've pulled right now, from Sony, seek out that podcast from the ninth I believe, and watch him, in general, I think as long as this keeps up, and I think it will, for awhile, all the repercussions from this, and we're not close to it ending, so I highly recommend seeking his show out. And I know we all have opinions, about their actions and reactions to all this, you know, Aaron Sorkin wrote a great piece, condemning the media for publishing the Amy Pascal e-mails and everything else that's trickling through slowly, and god knows what it is, and he's right. Shame on the media for publishing all this, shit, most of which, yeah, it sounds bad, but it's sausage-making folks, this is nothing unusual other then producers and studioheads talking to each other, trying to each get what they want; it's part pissing-contest, part chess game, it's a little "Entourage", but guess what, that's kinda how it is sometimes. And besides that, don't read them. They're stolen property, I know everything's out now, but still exercise free will, you don't need Lizzy Caplan's social security number or anything else that comes out from this, let's at least, be able, to temper our excitements over that shit, which hopefully none of you are really excited to hear about anyway, and frankly, you shouldn't be.

Anyway, we got a lot of movie reviewed, a lot of big ones, our 100th edition, it's award season, (And the OYL NOMINATIONS will be NEXT BLOG folks) let's get back to the actual movies! So here are this week's RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS!


THE LEGO MOVIE (2014) Directors: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller

✰✰✰✰1/2



I must admit that I wasn't exactly looking forward to "The Lego Movie" until the somewhat shockingly positives reviews for the film started pouring in. Especially in film school, you have no idea, how many bad, really bad, short little movies I've seen, staring and about Lego's. (Legoes? Legos? Hmm.) Give me a second. [Please stand by. Simple Minds's "(Don't You) Forget About Me", musak version plays for about 45 seconds] Huh, interesting. Where was I? Ah,.... the bad, short little movies I've seen, staring and are about LEGOs. I mean, really stupid ones too; I know a few of them are pretty good, but a lot are bad and the worst of the worst, the most immature of filmmakers, really didn't make the idea of a feature-length LEGO movie appealing to me. Anyway, thankfully the team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, are hitting a creative peak right now, after they took "21 Jump Street", and completely reinvented that franchise into one of the funniest movies of the year, and they were given LEGOs, and they built something very sharp and funny out of it. (Which btw, I could never even build a house with LEGOs, so I'm impressed.) In a way, they kinda take the ideas behind most of those somewhat decent LEGO movies, quick parody of other films, and really take it to the extreme here. Our main character is a lowly construction worker, Emmett Brickowski (Chris Pratt), who doesn't quite realize how lowly he is. He's euphorically excited for life, happily reading books about how to make friends, and watching joyous goes about his day, saying hi to all the neighbors and co-workers, enjoying the popular sitcoms and music, ("Everything is Awesome" is definitely one of the most surreal and strangely brilliant comedy songs I've heard in a while.) and is fairly gleefully thoughtless about how empty his life truly is, until he runs into Wildstyle (Elizabeth Banks) a rebellious gothic-y girl who's searching for the famed piece of Resistance, which legend has it, would stop the Kraggle which long-ago, Lord Business (Will Farrell) got ahold of, and subsequently started kidnapping and eliminating all the master builders in order for the rest of the Lego universe to be and run exactly perfect as he sees it. (Master Builders were the innovative and creative artists of the Legoverse, of whatever it's called, who can quickly build anything from all the pieces around them, which often comes in handy) Now, he's President Business, and he has taken over all aspects of society, and plans to use the Kraggle to keep the LEGO worlds, in step with his own ideals, and Emmett, has accidentally found the Piece of Resistance, and as deemed by Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), he is the most special person alive, and will lead an end to President Business's reign of terror. President Business's actions of taking out the Master Builders, reminded me of how when the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia and Pol Pot, immediately eliminate all the people with glasses, and all other people with sort form of education, in order to start a civilization fresh, which of course led to The Killing Fields and his reign of genocide, and I'm almost certain that I'm the only person who's gonna mention Pol Pot in his review of "The LEGO Movie", but honestly, it was something that occurred to me. Meanwhile, Wildstyle and Vitruvius, as well as many other Master Builders like Wildstyle's boyfriend Batman (Will Arnett) Green Lantern (Jonah Hill) and Unikitty (Alison Brie) , who've all gone on to other secret Lego worlds to hide, start trying to train Emmett to be a Master Builder in time before Taco Tuesday where President Business plans on releasing the Kraggle, but Good Cop/Bad Cop (Liam Neeson) is on his tail, although he is a bit conflicted at times about President Business's actions. I know how ridiculous this story sounds, but that's fine, it's the kind of ridiculousness that you should expect when playing with something like LEGOs. I used to run a pretend professional wrestling organization with my plush animals. Mickey and Bugs Bunny would rarely fight, but when they did it was epic, Roger Rabbit and Snoopy had a long back-and-forth rivalry for the World Title that lasted years, Baby Doll would always be good until she's lose one of her limbs in the match, stuff like that, I know, it sounds stupid, but I still remember the great matches I put on; that's the kind of joyous freedom and fun this movie has, that purity of just playing and imagining, and it's also got that kind of carefree comedy in it. Now, I wasn't as big on the big reveal at the end, about "The Man Upstairs" and whatnot, I thought that was cute but it took away from the movie a little bit for me, and there was a few other minor criticisms here and there for me, and while I liked plush animals, I was never a LEGOs guy; I would've made a horrible engineer, but if you have memories of LEGOs that are more than simply, being barefoot and stepping on them, then I think this is the movie you'll want. If not, it's still, eh, really good. I won't say everything is awesome, but "The LEGO Movie" was very good. An enjoyable send-up of both little toy building blocks and of movies in general.


MALEFICENT (2014) Director: Robert Stromberg

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I have to confess here that I've never been big on "Sleeping Beauty". Easy as a kid, I always thought the original animated film was overrated, and actually not good, it was never a favorite of mine, and from that perspective, I do like "Maleficent" as a film overall, but I still have some issues with the film. The main one, and it is, an interesting take on the material, a better one that the original Disney film, and considering this is Disney, it's actually a bit of a dark and complex twist for them, but it still feels like a force to me. Disney, lately has been, probably correctly so, trying to get away from these classic, prince and princess fairy tale images of true love, these very old-fashioned and idealized images, and in some case they've done a really good job at breaking from this, like last year's "Frozen", a great film about two sisters essentially, or probably a better comparison would be "Brave", about the complex mother-daughter relationship, and that's sorta the relationship they're going for here with Maleficent, (Angelina Jolie) and Aurora (Elle Fanning). Maleficent is, the most powerful fairy in the world of fairies, and she befriends Stefan (Michael Higgins when he's young) as a young human who wandered into the land of the Moors where young Maleficent (Hannah New as a kid). However after Maleficent fell in love, Stefan (Sharlto Copley) as an adult is now a gung-ho soldier out to get Maleficent, at the promise of the King, who's asked for Maleficent's head in exchange for his kingdom. Stefan manages to poison her, but only cuts off her wings, leaving her grounded, although still powerful, and he puts a curse on the King's daughter Aurora, which will leave her in a coma on her 16th birthday, after the infamous prick, unless she gets love's first kiss, which both Stefan and Maleficent, now believe doesn't exist. In the meantime, she's living with, the  three most annoying characters in the story, Flittle, Knotgrass and Thistlewit (Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton and Juno Temple respectively), the three fairies, who are constantly a second or two away from a fairy fight in the kitchen. The most intriguing relationship is actually between Malificent and her faithful companion Diaval (Sam Riley) who's a raven she has turned human, or into whatever she wants at that moment, and he sorta acts like Maleficent's conscious as Maleficent herself, struggles between her more two-sided nature. I think the problem is mostly still that, while I think this a far better version of "Sleeping Beauty" than I'm used to, it's plot is a bit of a force, but it does make Maleficent a much more interesting and complex character than any previous version of the film. It also looks amazing; the director was Robert Stronberg, whose base is in production design, and he actually makes a decent directorial job here, the special effects are quite special, he knows how to take these visuals that he's good and use to tell the story, so that's impressive. Like I said, for me to recommend "Maleficent" is basically 4 STARS, from everybody who likes "Sleeping Beauty" so keep that in mind, but I did enjoy the film.


LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON (2014) Director: Kore-eda Hirokazu

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After watching Deepa Mehta's "Midnight's Children" last week, "Like Father, Like Son",  is now the second film in as many weeks that I've seen that's about children separated at birth, but the two films couldn't be any more different. Hirokazu Koreda's film, which a more Japanese translation of the title I'm told would be "And I Will be His Father", begins with an upper class set of parents, Ryota and Midori (Masaharu Fukuyama and Machiko Ono) who, with they're son Keita (Keita Ninomiya) being interviewed for a prestigious school. The scene, is almost comically symmetrical, as the small but loving and caring family tries to impress the headmasters. They find out during later bloodtests, that their kid was switched at birth with the parents of Ryusei (Shogen Hwang), Yukari and Yudai (Yoko Maki and Riri Furanki), a couple lower class shop owners who have multiple kids. Midori isn't capable of more children, and the realization that her real kid has been living with another family this whole time is devastating to her, and Ryota's struggles to accept his son afterwards. The movie is slow and deliberate, and little is outwardly explained, a lot has to be inferred, from just a scene, or a glance. Things often get left hanging. The movie is about the clash of ideals and cultures between the families, as they first, have to get to know each other, and their kids, and the emotional conflicts and heartships and heartaches they're suffering now, and in the past. As the courts struggle, to figure out what happened, they begin to go through the long process of inevitably exchanging the two kids, if they can. The "Nature vs. Nurture" debate, is one of the most constant ones that's been the base of influence for films since the beginning of film it seems, but it never does feel like it gets any easier to confront that realization. Koreda has often made films about kids, being the center of complex emotional struggles with his characters. This is the first film of his I've finally gotten around to watching however, and his style takes some getting used to. I'm already going throught the film for the third time, and it's not easy to do that given the approach to the subject matter he takes.It's clear that "Like Father, Like Son" is a great film, but maybe it's detriment is how much it truly doesn't let up. We see, Yukari, despite being older, and hardworking, be so naturally playful with his all his kids, generous and nice, just like Keita is, which they originally thought meant he took after his wife, and his inner struggles isn't whether or not he's emotionally connected to either of his kids, it's whether or not he's able to be a good enough father to either. These are just some of the numerous complications and conflicts that come up between all these adult characters. It's all feels the surface in approach, but it's at the forefront of the entire movie, a mood and tone that populates it, like a giant hive of bees, swarming over and surrounding them that they and we, can't get out of. The movie won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes last year, and it's easy to see why. "Like Father, Like Son", it truly a special film, one of the best of the year so far,


WE ARE THE BEST! (2014) Director: Lukas Moodyson

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One of the more interesting filmmakers around is Swedish director Lukas Moodyson. His film "Lilya-4-Ever" is often listed as one of the best films of the last decade; I haven't seen that one yet, but his debut feature "Show Me Love" about a lesbian relationship between two teenage girls, is one of the smartest, most observant, and frankly most entertaining films I've seen about teenage homosexual romance, and it had a fun flippant attitude as well. I mention the tone of how exciting and gleeful that movie was, and how that declaration of romance and love, and "We are the Best!" starts with that. It also starts with two teenage girls, around the age of 13, Bobo (Mira Barkhammer) and Klara (Mira Grosin), both of whom, are naturally rebellious, both of whom still influenced by punk rock. It's '82, in Stockholm, and they're constantly annoyed at the constant refrain about how punk rock is dead, Klara is particularly annoyed, and decides that it's time to start a punk rock band. Neither of them play any music, or have an instrument, but that doesn't stop them, although Klara wins out the battle to play bass guitar, relegating Bobo to behind the drum kit, and start to formulate songs while being thrown out of P.E.. and sign up for times at the Youth Center to practice. Practice is actually inaccurate for awhile, it's more like, banging loudly, but they soon recruit a young mousy guitarist, Hedvig (Liv Lemoyne) who's an outsider at the school, for being a little too Christian and quiet, but she happens to be a classically-trained guitarist, and begins to show the two tommyboys a little bit about arrangement and melody, and she let's her hair get chopped and shaped to a pseudo mohawk, over her parent's objections. I knew a few great musicians at 12 or 13, but like all bands, even punk teen girl bands, troubles start brewing, especially when Klara and Bobo start to get the attraction of other local punk boys, Klara's control issues start kicking in, and as they get marginally better and start trying to pickup gigs, and write more songs, their friendships start going more and more in the coming-of-age directions, but that's okay. It's such a cool and fun way to go about, and all three lead girls are quite believable in these roles, and the movie is equal parts, funny, absurd, and intrinsically entertaining. Most everybody interesting goes through some kind of music phase in high school, thinking they can be the next whoever, in this case, Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten's right at the wave of New Wave or course, but still, hopefully Klara and Bobo will inevitably evolve enough to really enjoy the feminist fanzine rocks of Bikini Kill, and have that eventually fold itself into grunge. The movie's actually based on an autobiographical graphic novel by Moodyson's wife Coco, about her first band, and it feels that way. It's that carefree, blissful spirit many youngsters have where they really infectious; you want to cheer for these characters, who as pre-teens where we're at our most insecure, are putting themselves out there in ways that people 3x their age, wouldn't dare try. It really is so immensity to capture that jolliness on film, especially with kids, really special film,


KORENGAL (2014) Director: Sebastien Junger

✰✰✰✰1/2



There's something about soldiers, especially, these soldiers, my generations of soldiers who've fought and still fight in the Iraq and especially in Afghanistan War, and how strangely eloquent they can discuss their time and battles in the dreaded Korengal Valley, and yet, still find this camaraderie in this more gung-ho attitudes that, frankly I despise. They exist, some even discuss these things, like the one African-American soldier for instance, talking about he knows people look at him, and despise him behind his back, and yet, I've come away from "Korengal", very much the same way I came out of "Restrepo", with a fascination with the soldiers themselves, as much as the dangers of their missions and the locations. And their missions are dangerous and deadly, and we get right into that action. Sebastien Junger originally made the Oscar-nominated documentary "Restrepo", about this valley and these shoulders a couple years ago with his co-director Tim Hetherington, who unfortunately was killed while photographing the bombings in Libya. Hetherington, more than a filmmaker, was a war photographer, and like many, he became collateral damage doing the dangerous job he loves. Junger's started out a novelist, but has learned from Hetherington and went back into that outpost named after the fallen soldier, and back to that brigade, to see the war again, and how it's still being fought but through this new prism or a couple years gone. The Korengal Valley, is the Afghan province, outside of the Pech District, and it could very easily pass for somewhere in the lower Rocky Mountains, but is actually along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and while the locals, are somewhat more use to the soldiers, the firefights go on. The locals can seemingly fly across the vines is barely more than Ghandi-like loin clothes, while carrying around 125 pound surface-to-air missiles, and their tripods on their backs, like it's  nothing, especially with their families; women and children often used as shields, knowing we won't shoot. Death seems, a little less common, and there's more time, slightly more time, for the soldiers to consider their place, and frankly consider anything that simply passes the time. "We talked for six hours about who would win in a fight, George Clooney or Fabio one time," one soldier reflects. It's the soldiers themselves that are more fascinating then the war, the way they think about their experiences, and how the "Korengal" has become life for them. There's such a clarity and focus in how they reflect and talk, but still with this weight on their shoulders, this matter-of-factness about everything, so calm and collected, it's almost eerie, not just in the interview section either. It's so hard to describe, but it's almost like the trappings of the modern world, the ones that we think about like television and computers that most think are scrambling our brains are in fact, making them more educated and better equipped to handle the rigorousness of  being soldiers. They know the military is an outdated institution but it's still the best way to fight, and the best way to serve, even if that means being sent to the deadliest place on Earth, and told to wait there and don't shoot unless you're under attack.


TRANSCENDENCE (2014) Director: Wally Pfister

1/2



Of all the things I can think of to do with Johnny Depp, (As an actor! Don't- I heard it too, that's not where I'm heading.) why would you, put him into a, computer basically. I mean, I get conceptually, the idea, that in order to create artificial intelligence, you need an actual sentient intelligence, so a human, and have they're memories, someone implanted, into a-, in case, well, basically, it's just computer; it's not even- I guess it's kind like a holographic image, but it's not even that really, it's basically Johnny Depp in front of a green screen, and he's not even doing anything interesting. "Transcendence", is Wally Pfister's feature directorial debut, he's  one of the best cinematographers in Hollywood, most notably for his work with Christopher Nolan; he even won an Oscar for his work on "Inception", and he's clearly a talented and capable director, but I think the story let him down more than anything, although I didn't get the sense that he really could figure too many ways to make it more intriguing either. Depp plays Will Caster, a leading scientific researcher in artificial intelligence, which means that he's often villified, and scorned for his work, and after a brief introduction, he's a victim of a poorly-executed terrorist attack. He's shot, but he's not what he once was, and his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) decide that instead of him just passing away, they'll try and, implement his mind into the artificial into a machine, and if all goes well, his presence will then infiltrate the machine. It succeeds, and from there, he starts manipulating the stock market to make sure Evelyn has enough money to hide out and build their own lab in the middle of nowhere, to continue the research. Meanwhile, a leader of the anti-A.I. group, Bree (Kate Mara) is trying to convince a fellow A.I. researcher Max (Paul Bettany) to join their side and eventually take down Will. He's coming to the conclusion that while his personality and memory made be uploaded into the computer, it's possible that he's not exactly sure it's the same Will they knew. There's some other good work from Clifton Collins, Jr., Morgan Freeman and Cillian Murphy as well, but the film, is really about Evelyn and Will and her willingness to believe Will still exists within the computer, and Will's insistence on trying to make sure she knows it is him. The film's told in flashback from this apocalyptic modern world, so we know this is not only the future, but something went wrong, but it also doesn't even approach the  nuances of realism or even really consider these days, or modern A.I. studies, it's basically a storytelling device and not even a good one, and it's not done well. "Transcendence" doesn't really explore the possibilities of A.I., it just mostly hypothesizes worst-case scenarios and then, decides that it must go there; it's almost arbitrary. Yes, we can put a human into a computer, yes, people will be pissed off about it enough to orchestrate worldwide attacks, yes, it's gonna lead to the end of the world as we know it,... fill in, fill, in,- I guess the appeal is the relationship between the two scientists, but even that's not done in a particularly way. The more I thought about "Transcendence," the more I started disliking it. It's one of those movies that acts like it has many ideas, but when you really look at it, there really isn't anything there. I mean, Johnny Depp, inside a computer, who would've thought that would've been boring?


MOEBIUS (2014) Director: Kim Ki-Duk

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Oh, the perils of being a film critic. In order to, even try to explain Kim Ki-Duk's latest film, "Moebius", I would basically be giving away plotpoints so major, that you're gonna basically know too much of the movie, after I finish this review, that arguably you would have probably made up your minds over whether or not you should see or would like it. However, if I don't explain at least, some of what happens in the movie, and just tell you guys to go and watch it, then, I'm gonna get some complaints, from people who are going to look at me going, "What the hell did you just make me watch?" Somehow, I'm gonna have to thread this needle, so here it goes; first thing you need to know is that "Moebius" is a great film, possibly a masterpiece, a great combination of the best of the Asia Extreme movement style that takes the elements of horror, and thrusts them into an pure art and singular-visioned idea of filmmaking. Kim Ki-Duk has experimented in the past with the use of very limited sound, like in his romantic-comedy, "3-Iron", (Well, we'll call that film romantic-comedy, for lack of a better term) and with "Moebius", which is titled after the notion of a moebius strip, here's a film, that's completely without dialogue, only the actions most of four characters are used to tell a disturbing circular and revolving story about a family. The Mother (Eun-woo Lee) and Father (Jae-hyeon Jo) are having some sort of personal problems with each other, although whatever it is, isn't revealed to their Son, (Young-ju Seo) Later, we find out, that he's been having an affair; his Mistress (Also played by Eun-woo Lee, in a very peculiar double-role casting) runs a small supermarket, and both the Son and the Mother catch him one night. (IF YOU WANT TO GO INTO THIS FILM BLIND, STOP READING NOW, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED)

The Mother, then takes a knife, and attempts to castrate her husband in his sleep, but he wakes up in time. While he's fought her off, she then attempts plan B, and ends up castrating her son instead, determined to punished her husband, if not him, then his bloodline. She even injests part of the appendage, so he becomes a eunuch. This makes him the victim of ridicule, and eventually joins a street gang, which lasts until they actually gang-rape the Mistress, who's tried to bare herself to the Son, for forgiveness, as she's guilty of all he's caused him. This is only the beginning btw, and the actions and the emotional, both personal and sexual involved between these four characters, and three actors, get so intertwined in uncomfortable ways that Oedipus and Madea's family would start to wonder if they both got off easy. I've read some who think that this was a dark comedy, and it's comedic moments in it but I don't think that was the primary goal, but it's blatantly metaphoric that it might as well be. It's one of those films where you just keep watching as you're afraid of what's gonna happen next, but you can't make yourself turn away and not watch. It's utterly compelling, you can't turn away no mater how over-the-top "Moebius" becomes. Even if you guess how it turns out, you want to see how it gets there. This is real artistic accomplishment in film, this from an established great artist already, but still, this might be among his best.


HAPPY CHRISTMAS (2014) Director: Joe Swanberg

✰✰1/2



There has become a fairly recognizable pattern of story amongst many of the mumblecore filmmaker with their stories. Essentially they almost always seem to be about a character who, enters an environment and changes the dynamic, which a lot of movies, but since it's mumblecore, it's always, modern day, essentially, it' usually a couple, and it's usually a relative, or an old friend they've outgrown, it's starting to become this repetitive theme with this genre. Joe Swanberg has been one of the most prolific of these mumblecore filmmakers, not counting shorts and TV, he's directed 16 feature films, including this latest one, "Happy Christmas", in just nine years, and he's only 33 years old. Probably the best of the bunch is "Drinking Buddies", which left a lot of room for interpretation as it's script on a subtextual level, left us with a lot of questions about the characters' objectives, motives, and knowledge and forethought of their own actions. There's some interesting stuff in "Happy Christmas" too, but none of it's nearly that level, by any stretch of the imagination. Anyway, the couple in this one is Kelly and Kevin (Melanie Lynskey and Mark Webber), and it's Kevin sister Jenny (Anna Kendrick) that's the disruptive influence, and she is fairly disruptive. She's an aimless 20something who spends most of her time her getting wasted, either at home, which inevitably becomes their basement, or whenever she's out at a party or bringing home a guy, and lighting up there. Kelly and Kevin have a little kid, and Christmastime is around the corner, so they're getting ready for that. Kevin's a filmmaker who's busy during his career at the moment, Kelly's a writer who's feeling more like she's a stay-at-home Mom than a novelist at the moment, and is in the middle of a writer's block, and is overall uninspired. Basically what happens, is that, in between everything else, Kelly begins to get inspired to write again, through Jenny's pressuring, gets a room/office, and basically, they start working on ideas and talking with each other back and forth, pitching ideas, working on, this, basically a Harlequin novel idea, and Jenny's friend Carson (Lena Dunham) is also telling stories too, and really, that's the most interesting and fun part of the movie, hearing these characters talk, and that's about it. That's really the best parts of the movie, in fact the movie ends with a scene like that, an improvised conversation scene like that, and that's fine, those were the parts that were actually funny and interesting, and not-so-much, the, waiting Anna Kendrick to forget she's cooking a frozen pizza 'cause she was stoned, and she's ostracized because she smoked up the house, and can't be around Kelly and Kevin's kid, 'cause she's not responsible. You know, I was gonna recommend this movie, 'cause I did think about those conversations, between the girls, but Gene Siskel's thing is back in my mind now, is the movie better than listening to a conversation between the actors having dinner? And, frankly there wasn't enough of them having these conversations, which was much more interesting than anything else, so; I was only half-kind of recommending this film anyway, but it's not really good enough to recommend. Too cliched, not much of a story, good actors being wasted really in what's really just half of a movie here, this could've been a lot better.


GOD'S POCKET (2014) Director: John Slattery

✰✰1/2



"God's Pocket" is actually based on a Philadelphia neighborhood called "Devil's Pocket", although in the movie, it's regarded as small town in of itself, complete with it's own newspaper, complete with it's old-timey Hunter-Thompson-influenced newspaper columnist who romanticism the rugged, hardworking townsfolk of "God's Pocket", so much so, that they all turn on him, thinking he's insulting them, unable to recognize the poetry in his words. This character is Richard Shellburn (Richard Jenkins) who's one of the few people around it seems, who is not from God's Pocket, but has been a local celebrity for about twenty years or so. Also from somewhere else, is Mickey Scarpato. (Philip Seymour Hoffman, in one of his last roles) He's married to Jeanie (Christina Hendricks) who is from there, and when her construction worker son Leon (Caleb Landry Jones) suddenly dies on the construction site, she believe that it wasn't as much an accident that it's first claimed. She's right, and Mickey does go to his friend Bird (John Turturro) who knows some local tough guys to do some extra investigating. Meanwhile, Mickey is struggling to raise the money for the funeral. He's trying to cut corners every chance he gets in order to make it look decent and not be in too much debt to Smilin' Jack Moran (Eddie Marsan) who runs the funeral home, but things go from bad to worst for him, as Murphy's Law keep happening, and inevitably, due to some of these strange circumstances, eventually, this leads to Leon's being declared dead twice. Meanwhile, his wife, begins having an affair with Richard, and everybody in God's Pocket seems to know it, but Mickey. Or maybe he suspects, but doesn't really care either. "God's Pocket" is the directorial debut from John Slattery, the great character actor you might know as Roger Sterling from "Mad Men". He's got some talent, and he's directed a little bit for that show, but this is clearly a first effort, and it's mostly average. It's a decent first attempt, but the tone is erratic, we never really know what to make or think of any of the characters,- I mean, we get a sense of the town, but, it never really feels that believable, So, it's a tough one, I wanted to like it for Hoffman, and he is- well, he always really good, and he is the best thing in the movie, and that's with some good actors here, but overall, "God's Pocket", it's otherwise interesting, but mostly forgettable indy.


SEX TAPE (2014) Director: Jake Kasdan

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(After 45 minutes of trying to think of what to write, most of which involve finding other work busy work to do first while thumbing around the internet, and about two and a half minutes of actually thinking about what to write.) Um, oh yeah, I saw "Sex Tape" as well. Oh, it's um-ah, eh. Yeah, eh. Do I need to write anymore? I do? Shit. Um, well, there's really not much to talk about here. I could go on a rant about how, Cameron Diaz's nipples are never shown, despite about eight or ten different sex scenes she has with Jason Segal in the film, and frankly that's just annoying, for a few reasons, (Mostly 'cause it's such an obvious contractual that part of her not be shown completely naked, [She probably had a body double anyway, but doesn't that make it worst; she could've had one for her tits too, couldn't she?]) I'm not trying to be a dick about it, honestly, and I do love Cameron Diaz, but she should really know-

(Another 55 minutes later)

Oh, shit, I'm sorry; I forgot I was writing this. Um, where was I? Anyway, uh, Annie and Jay (Diaz and Segel), met in college, and had instant sexual chemistry, and would fuck anywhere they could, and probably a few places they shouldn't have, but they couldn't get enough of each other, and they decided to get married. (I felt like making a GGG Dan Savage reference here, but I couldn't get it in naturally, strangely.) However, we fast forward a few years later, and they've got two kids now, and they keep trying to recapture their sexual spark, but life gets in the way. Their latest idea is to record a sex tape, using, some new flattop screen Apple made that apparently is cheap enough for Annie to give away to everyone. Jay forgot to erase the video after they realized in the clear light of day to do that, but now they got to go all around L.A., collecting those laptops, hoping their friends, including Robby and Tess (Rob Corddrey and Ellie Kemper) as well as Hank (Rob Lowe) who's trying to hire Annie as a spokesperson for their brand. (Oh, I forget, she's written an extremely popular blog about parenting and being a mommy.) It's, not the greatest premise, but it's fine, decent, there's a few chuckles; it's harmless really. Well, about as harmless as a sex tape can be frankly. Even that point gets made by an interesting cameo by Jack Black as a Redtube-like porno site producer that they tried to break into once they realize their take had been uploaded. (They didn't realize that a simple phone call or e-mail to them, and they would've just taken the tape off.) "Sex Tape" was directed by Jake Kasdan, and he also directed "Bad Teacher" with Diaz and Segal, but there was an interesting character at the center of that film that made it watchable despite some of it's major flaws. Segal co-wrote the film with Nicholas Stoller and Kate Angelo, some of his regular co-writers too, but this could've been really raunchy, sharp and funny, but this movie kinda falls limp, bad pun intended.


2 OR 3 THINGS I KNOW ABOUT HER (1967) Director: Jean-Luc Godard

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There's no better example of film as pure art than Jean-Luc Godard sometimes, and sometimes there's no worst example of it either than Godard. "2 or 3 Things I Know About Her", apparently originated as a reinterpretation of "The Big Sleep" of all things, and although I guess it's as much a meandering non-sensical sprawling mess as that film is, there isn't much else they have in common. This film, was not only experimental in the style of filmmaking, it was shot experimentally by Godard, as he actually made "2 or 3 Things..." and "Made in U.S.A." at the same time,  shooting "Made..." in the mornings, and then "2 or 3 Things..." in the afternoon, just to see if he could. "Made..." is better, although neither film would rank by me as great Godard films. Some may admire "2 or 3 Things..." as being one of the first films in which Godard chose to abandon traditional narrative completely, and steer more towards this film essay approach to filmmaking that he's done for much of his career since, and I have in the past expressed positive leanings towards those films and later styles of his, but I also think, like a essays sometimes, they're often just different ways of saying the same thing. The film takes place in the high-rise suburbs of Paris, and there were many high-rise suburbs that were built outside major cities at that time, most of which, like the Pruitt-Igoe complex in St. Louis for instance, we underfunded and basically fell apart years later as the middle class would turn into the poor in those areas. (The film "La Haine" would be shot, about thirty years later in that area.) Our many character is a housewife and mother named Juliette (Marina Vlady) who often talks to us during the film, other times talking to others or to no one, and she fumbles through her day, which involves being a temporary prostitute. This is something that, when said out loud seems strange, but actually it is a practice that's surprisingly common in France, although the point that Godard is making is that everybody has to prostitute themselves in Paris in order to survive. The counter images, to the droll banalities of the homelife and the prostitution world, are the abundant amounts of advertisements that are everywhere, especially in this movie. Godard loves nothing more than pop imagery, and I'm sure he was going for something more Warholesque with his point about them, but frankly, watching a bunch of adds really isn't that interesting either. The "Her" in the title by the way is not the main character but of Paris, and there is this sense of modernization that has swept the real postcard image of Paris; it's not done, say to the extreme like with something like Jacques Tati's "Playtime", but the film does reveal a different side of the city than we had usually seen in film. Overall "2 or 3 Things I Know About Her", I'm a little surprised this Godard has become so highly regarded in recent years. It's an interesting bridge between certain parts of his career, but as a film, maybe he should've been making one at a time, it's just a little too aimless really. I actually was somewhat bored, or as bored as I can be for a Godard film. Can't quite recommend it, honestly.


LOVES OF A BLONDE (1966) Director: Milos Forman

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From French New Wave, to Czech New Wave, and I've been going through quite a bit of Milos Forman lately for some reason, and I'm noticing how strikingly different his early Czechoslovakian stuff is, compared to when he came to America after the Soviets really started shutting down people, His films afterwards, came more from this rebel/outside perspective, this romantic viewpoint really, even when there's dark undertones like "One Flew Over a Cuckoo's Nest", or something of that sort, but there's something in these earlier films of his. You get a little bit of a sense of the sharp satirical shots he was taking at the Communist regime in "The Fireman's Ball", in "Loves of a Blonde", but there's much more a sadness to this film. It starts out absurd, with this rural factory town, that's overpopulated with young women, and the factory manager and mayor, bargain with the Army to send over some soldiers for the girls. Unfortunately, they send out, reservists who are mostly, middle aged, married men, so it's hardly Fleet Week recreated in a Prague suburb, but some of the men are trying, and the women, are sort of amused at the attempts, but the prettiest of the factory girls, Andula (Hana Brejchova) shoots off the old men, but does spot and then falls for the piano player in the bar, Milda (Vladimir Pucholt). It's as the film went on, that I found myself emotionally responsive about Andula, and thought, about this poor girl. She has this beautifully romantic sequence, the most beautiful I've ever seen involving a man getting kicked in the shin, with this guy, and it's a great sequence, and we essentially know what's gonna happen, first he'll go back to Prague, and then, the girl sees both love, and a way out of her small town, so she makes the trip to Prague to surprise him. Bad enough when she's watching them, as they're sitting at the dinner table, waiting for the son to come home, but in a makeshift cot downstairs, she's crying her eyes out as all three are in endless thoughtless debate, so unaware of how she can hear, but also how much those words hurt. I felt for this young woman. It's nothing new, but it was sad and touching, and you don't always get that anymore. I was impressed with the care that Forman shows in "Loves of a Blonde",
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

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