Tuesday, April 7, 2015

QUICK THOUGHTS #1: "KEEP ON KEEPIN' ON", "THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY: THEM", "HERCULES (Ratner)", "THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY", "A LETTER TO MOMO", "WHO IS DAYANI CRISTAL?", "MIELE", "THE SAPPHIRES", "MAIDENTRIP", "WITCHING & BITCHING" and MORE!

Uh, alright, let's get this over with. Like I promised I would, the movies I wasn't able to completely review last week, due to my severe lack of internet availability, which I hope will be eradicated quickly. So, let's call these, QUICK THOUGHTS, 'cause that's how long it took me to come up with the name. And frankly, I'm just cutting and pasting this to do it quickly. Alright, I'll add a photo if I can, I got enough time for that, but yeah, I'm frustrated enough, let's get to them. Here are the FIRST and hopefully LAST EDITION of QUICK THOUGHTS


KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON (2014)

3 STARS


One of the more honored documentaries of the year, Alan Hicks’s “Keep On Keepin’ On”, showcases two amazing blind musicians, one is jazz legend Clark Terry, who’s played with damn near everybody and is well into his ‘90s, is still performing even as his health continues to decline, the other is a young prodigy Justin Kauflin a great jazz pianist who’s is under the tutelage of Terry while he is fast-becoming one of the most sought-after session musicians around. I guess my 3 STARS thoughts are a little harsh, this is quite a charming and endearing piece, but I didn’t it completely connected as a film, and right as I happen to see it at around the same time I saw “Whiplash”, it kinda becomes the other jazz music film I saw this week. I liked it overall but I wished it was more entertaining.  


THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY: THEM (2014).

3 ½ STARS-Review Incomplete


This is the one movie that I’m relatively glad that this is the week I gave up my policy on reviewing everything because I really didn’t know quite what to make of this film, especially since, essentially I have only see a third of it. Ned Benson’s debut feature actually was actually two films, showing two lovers and Conor (James McAvoy) and Eleanor (Jessica Chastain) each from their own perspective on the relationship, with one film called “Him” and the other “Her”, and then, after they debuted at the Toronto Film Festival, he recut a third version, “Them” between the two films. Each got released theatrically and it’s so far a pretty interesting and brave experiment for all involved. It was also a compelling film, this one version I was able to see, but it did feel incomplete. I’m recommending it but conditionally, as I’m gonna withhold complete judgment until I see all three films. 


HERCULES (2014)

2 STARS


I didn’t exactly know what to expect from this latest version of “Hercules”, and I hadn’t given it much thought either to be honest. I certainly never thought “Hercules? (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) This needs the ‘Rush Hour’ director!” (Although there isn’t much where I think the “Rush Hour” director is ever needed.) There’s a few exceptions here and there but Hercules has never been that interesting a character to begin with, even most of the superheroes that have basically stolen from his original archetype never particularly interested me. Brett Ratner tries to do one or two different things with the mythology I’ll give him that, but frankly, this film is just a complete bore. It’s one of those films you’re waiting around for the arbitrary plot to finish so that Hercules can destroy/kill whatever he needs to do whatever. Just was never compelling enough. 2 STARS


THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY (2014)

2 ½ STARS



Hossein Amini’s, directorial debut “The Two Faces of January” is based on the Patricia Highsmith novel, she’s most famous for the Tom Ripley novels, this one takes place in Greece as involved a way-too complex to understand conning and double-crossing between its three leads Chester (Viggo Mortensen), his wife Collette (Kristen Dunst) and Rydal (Oscar Isaac) a tour guide in Greece who’s aware of their real intentions. Oddly, I thought it was just boring and convoluted to the point of uncaring.  


A LETTER TO MOMO (2014)

4 STARS



Finally getting a theatrical release in America after originally being released in 2011 in Japan, Hiroyuki Okiura’s “A Letter to Momo”, is a mostly successful ghost story and another in Studio Ghibli’s gorgeous hand-drawn animated films. (Actually this was Production IG, not Ghibli) Momo is a little girl who’s lost her father recently and now finds herself haunted and looked over by hungry goblins that only she can see. It works best oddly when it’s at its creepiest and most emotional. And not as successful when it was going for fun-loving humor, like when it’s revealed that one of the goblin’s secret skills sets when getting attacked, involves farting in the general direction of a wild boar, and I wish I just going for the Monty Python reference. If you can get past those unfortunate missteps, there’s a good, emotional film here. 


WHO IS DAYANI CRISTAL? (2014)

3 ½ STARS



The documentary from Marc Silver takes a bloody and disturbing look at the front lines of the immigration war, through the mystery of one girl’s mysterious death. I think the movie had a lack of focus and kinda went all over the place a little too much, but it’s a complicated issue though with many viewpoints and pieces of information that need to be put in context. I’ve seen it done better though, but I’ll recommend it.  


MIELE (2014) 

3 STARS



“Miele” or “Honey” is the nickname of Irene (Jasmine Trinca) who deals with easing the pain of the terminally ill, and one day, Grimaldi (Carlo Cecchi) a relatively healthy man asks for her services. “Miele” is intrinsic and intoxicating and occasionally erotic. It worked best when it stuck to it’s subject matter in a more down-to-earth approach and it faltered when it went more towards a movie plot. Mixed very mixed thoughts, but I guess I’ll recommend it, but it’s borderline. 


THE SAPPHIRES (2013)

3 STARS



This was relatively okay until they started singing Salt-n-Pepa in a Vietnam War era Saigon bar, unless the movie knows something that I don’t know. The story is about an Australian aboriginal girl group of cousins, including one who was taken away as apart of the lost generation ‘cause of her light skin as they perform for the American troops in Vietnam during the war. I guess I’m giving this movie 3 STARS because it’s entertaining and there’s really nothing particularly wrong with seeing it, but some of the choices they made with this are just bizarre. One of the co-writers of the film, Tony Briggs, who also created the stage musical that the film is based on, he is the son of one of the original Sapphires, and yet, this movie changes all of their real names? Why? The four girls are real, still alive when the film came out, they couldn’t get permission? Why use a song that’s so clearly not from the era and clearly not created until long after the event? I mean, I get creating/changing things for the purposes of creating drama, that I understand but, really, a Salt-n-Pepa song? And I love Salt-n-Pepa, but what the hell? C’mon!?  

NOTE: I was an idiot for this review, as apparently, I've since found out that "Whatta Man" was actually a sample from an old 1968 song, called "What a Man" by Lynda Lyndell. I've never heard of it before this film, and that one's on me. And, I'm honestly sorry for having focused so much of the review on this discrepancy. And since that was basically the only thing that I got out of the film, that's really disappointing for me, so.... (Shrugs) 


MAIDENTRIP (2013)

 3 ½ STARS



Dutch teenager Laura Dekker documents her journey as circumnavigates the world, alone on a boat, the youngest person to ever do so. Most of the footage is shot by her documenting the two-year journey from here Netherlands home, around the Cape of Good Hope to her native Australia and eventually all around. She was originally the subject of a high-profile court case as the state tried to take custody of her away from parents, but it should be noted that the record she broke was her older brothers, and few adults are capable of the accomplishments she achieved. I enjoyed the documentary from director Jillian Schlesinger is fascinating as it profiles a very young but very capable young woman and her journey.


WITCHING & BITCHING  (2013)

2 STARS



Even I almost forgot I saw “Witching & Bitching” the latest schlock from Alex de la Iglesia, one of Guillermo Del Toro’s less talented disciples. I guess that’s mean, but “Witching & Bitching” is a bit ridiculous and over the top. That’s not a cinematic crime, but it wasn’t interesting either. This film involves jewelry thieves getting caught up, in, I don’t know, something fucking crazy involving witches. Doesn’t really matter it’s just a bunch of crazy-ass shit. A little too much to me, kinda like the “Hobo with a Shotgun” problem with me where it’s too crazy for too long, “Witching & Bitching” just gets tiresome and goes on too long for too much. 


RED RIVER (1948)

5 STARS



Well, someday I’ll put this Howard Hawks classic western in my Canon of Film, but I just got around to it now. I’m usually more of a critic of Hawks and not the greatest fan of Westerns but this is a truly great one. It starts with John Wayne poaching land in Texas and building a cattle empire, that’s the first fifteen minutes, then his descent into madness as he tries to move the cattle from Texas up to Missouri, even though there’s deadly Indians on the border and more and more reports of a train station in Abilene and high demand for beef. Montgomery Cliff’s first role as well, it’s just a really classic, great film. 


DUNE  (1984)

2 ½ STARS



You know, I do love David Lynch, and occasionally he can surprise us with something like “The Straight Story” for instance, but there are certain things he should direct and certain things he shouldn’t. He directing, any kind of sci-fi film, it’s almost redundant frankly. After giving 5 STARS to “Jodorowsky’s Dune”, I finally decided to catch up on Lynch’s “Dune”, and while it’s definitely an admirable attempt to film Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic, it definitely is most an overblown mess. Lynch I think has better when he’s working with his own images and symbolisms, (I never cared much for his “The Elephant Man” either for instance) and you can tell he’s trying to work with Herbert’s but, ultimately it doesn’t really work out. 


BERGMAN ISLAND (2009)

3 ½ STARS



Originally composed as a television documentary series, “Bergman Island” it chronicles Ingmar Bergman as he’s in the process of deciding to spend his last days on his home on Faro Island, shortly before that ultimate decision to live out his last days there after finishing what became his final feature film, “Saraband”. Well, for what it is already, it’s gonna be compelling and intriguing for cinephiles of all kinds, presuming they have an interest in Ingmar Bergman and if they don’t, then they’re probably not cinephiles. Eh, I don’t know if it’s the best look at Bergman’s life and work, but it’s a good one, probably one of the last ones during his lifetime also. 


RETURN (2011)

3 ½ STARS



Finally got around to Liza Johnson’s debut feature, “Return”, which stars Linda Cardellini as a soldier who returns home from Iraq, to a find a much more difficult homelife than when she left. I actually did start writing about “Return”, but didn’t save what I had written and it got lost during a crash. There’s very strong performances from Cardellini as well as Michael Shannon as her husband who loves her, but falls into an affair as his wife falls deeper into herself, as well as a good performance from John Slattery who’s another former soldier that bonds with Cardellini who’s at her lowest point, when she tries to do something really stupid to delay going back into service, not because she doesn’t want to go back to the war, but because she wants to stay home and fight for her two kids and possibly her sanity. It’s a powerful first feature and I wish I could talk more into it. Cardellini’s performance is really good, she often reminded me of female soldier friends of mine and how they behaved once they come back from what’s honestly a less-traumatic experience at war than many of their male counterparts had, but that doesn’t make transitioning back to normal life any less difficult.  


THE FORGOTTEN (2004)  

2 ½ STARS



As I check my notes on “The Forgotten”, this is what I wrote, “(Shrugs) Julianne Moore, science experiment in space, blah, blah, blah, dead kid, others claim he never existed; (Shrugs) it was okay, nothing particularly special.” Oh, sorry, (SPOILER ALERT). Probably should’ve put that earlier. Anyway, that’s basically what you got. There isn’t much else, really. 


WHO THE #$&% IS JACKSON POLLOCK? (2006)

 4 STARS



I’ve heard about Teri Horton before, the truck driver who famously bought a $5 painting at a thrift store that she herself thought was ugly, only to be told that it might be a Jackson Pollock. For those familiar with Pollock, that story sounds completely understandable, but is it a Pollock? Most of the art world doesn’t think so due to the lack of provenance for the painting. Director Harry Moses takes a somewhat bias view of the controversy. Clearly there are some issues with the ways authenticity is sometimes determined. To my untrained eye it looks real, and I highly doubt replicating Pollock is that simple. There’s some circumstantial evidence that Pollock’s fingerprint might be on the painting, and he did often trade paintings for things later in his life and way a bit erratic. Still though, after a little self-digging research, it seems clear to me that the painting’s authenticity is certainly disputable, but it’s still an interesting story.


THE SONG OF BERNADETTE (1943)

2 ½ STARS



If you remember your Catechism studies, or you’re like me and actually mostly remember the “Unsolved Mysteries” retelling of the story of St. Bernadette, (Seriously not kidding, I know it was taught to me in Catechism, but I remember the “Unsolved Mysteries” episode. I know, that’s me) then you probably know what happens in “The Song of Bernadette”. Jennifer Jones in her Oscar-winning role plays the young naïve girl who sees the vision of the Virgin Mary, who comes and talks to her every month for a brief period of time making people in and out of the church nervous as she begins getting followers. It’s a little too long for me, although the film warns us about how only some are ever gonna believe the story. I don’t know about the actual events but faith is never a great storytelling device. It’s worth watching as a curiosity but not much more. 


CUTTHROAT ISLAND (1995)

ZERO STARS


Well, this wasted two hours of my life. “Cutthroat Island” is so bad,- (AUDIENCE: How bad was it?!). It’s so bad, the only time the movie would go right is if you put up a sign telling it to go left. It’s boring, it’s inexplicable, even for a dumb pirate action movie, with Geena Davis as a pirate seeking treasure, it’s too dumb to exist. This movie has a lot of bad screenwriting clichés, but let’s focus on Bad Screenwriting cliché #114: “No movie has ever been improved on, by adding a monkey.” Boy does that hold true for this film. Let’s see, any redeeming value in this schlock? Eh, (Long pause thought) um, nope, none at all. I might’ve given it half a star if Geena Davis had a nude scene in it, but no, they added a monkey instead. 
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