Anyway, some of the movies I didn't get to review this week, I've been getting around to a lot more older films recently, catching up on my Yosujiro Ozu, watching his "The End of Summer", which is okay. I'm more selective on the Ozu's I like than other are, I prefer "Floating Weeds" over "Tokyo Story" for instance, and I don't know, I thought this was a weaker one of his but it was still pretty good, just a mess plot-wise. Speaking of a mess of a plot, I got around to the biopic, "Modigliani", with Andy Garcia as the famous painter, now been some great biopics about painters, but forget painters, this is one of the worst biopics of all-time. Like, it's awful. Really awful. Unwatchable, boring, not even competent enough to get the correct period songs, ugh. Truly awful.
Also, I watch an interesting anthology film called "Revolucion" from 2011, it's a collection of short films from Mexican filmmakers made in honor of Mexico's 200th Anniversary of it's independence, (Which was in 2010, I use American release dates remember.) from ten Mexican filmmakers, including, Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna, Carlos Reygadas, a few other notables. I didn't get it at first, it seemed unrelated really, but as a mosaic of just, the times and lives of the people of Mexico, I thought it was quite good. I don't think it's the greatest anthology films, they're almost always a mixed bag at best, but I'd seek this one out.
Alright, that's enough, let's get right to it. Straight onto this week's MOVIE REVIEWS! And I promise the next two blogs, my Top 100 Animated Characters Ballot for Geekcast Radio Netowrk, promise!
MARGUERITE (2016) Director: Xavier Giannoli
So, "Marguerite" is the French film that's out currently that's "loosely" based on Florence Foster Jenkins, and if the names rings a bell to you, there's another film, starring Meryl Streep that's based on her, the latest film from Stephen Frears that's out which I have not gotten around to seeing yet, and is about a famous and popular socialite who admired Opera, and would perform for her friends and acquaintances, unaware of her severe lack of talent. The two films are not related other than the fact that they were coincidentally made at the same time. This film's Florence Foster Jenkins is Marguerite Dumont (Catherine Frot), which is itself a very sly movie reference as Margaret Dumont was a famous full-figured comic actress of the time known for being a straight-guy in many Marx Brothers movies, this is definitely intended for comedic effect, and the movie begins with her performing at a benefit for war orphans at the end of a long night of performances, (this is, around the end of WWI, I should point out). There's a couple critics who wrote about the event, and a young one named Lucien (Sylvain Dieuaide) is enchanted by a talented young musician, Hazel (Crista Therot) a talented singer and conservatory student who he gives glowing reviews. He also reviews Dumont but, in a sly back-handed way that makes her seem to believe that he appreciated the performance more than he did, and since everybody else is too kind to point it out, she begins to dive into her "music" and this leads inevitably to a major performance at the end, that goes horribly wrong. I-eh, I don't know; I suspect this is a tricky film subject to begin with, even though it's based on reality, the entirety of the premise is based on the notion that she's so rich and powerful, and ultimately good-hearted that everybody puts up with her excesses to the point where they just don't fully explain or reveal to her that she's not capable or talented enough to be doing this professionally, or that she's bad at it, or she just doesn't believe it when they do say it. Basically, this is a Mr. Magoo cartoon. Yeah, I don't know, I'm back and forth on whether to recommend "Marguerite," it's light, it's fun, there's nothing deep about it, and hell, if for no other reason, I should probably recommend it for the fact that it more than anything promotes critical honesty. I guess there's no harm, but this isn't the greatest film, it's mostly just, being told at the beginning the obvious punchline of the joke at the end, like somebody telling "The Emperor's New Clothes" myth with, "See, this guy doesn't realize he's naked...". That's my issue, is that I don't quite know how this film falls on the "Is it comedy or tragedy meter". If it's comedic to you, you'll probably like, and I guess it was comedic enough for me to recommend, but it's a tricky call for me too. I suspect there's a better movie about this subject somewhere, whether or not that'll be Steven Frears's project or not, we'll find out soon enough.
99 HOMES (2015) Director: Ramin Bahrani
"How does it feel, to be without a home"
---Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan
"Don't get emotional over real estate," warns Rick Carver, (Michael Shannon) a South Florida realtor who's job is to evict people out of their homes for Fannie Mae, in 2010, and he's not wrong, per se, and there's a great amount of literature that backs him up. I can basically pick a Checkov play at random and it would be a good comparison argument for Rick's theory. Shannon dominates Ramin Bahrani's latest film, "99 Homes", and not in a way we've seen him do it before; this is truly one of his greatest performances. Bahrani's a perfect director for this material, although only his second feature film that uses mainly named and professional actors in the leading roles, after the underrated "At Any Price"; his previous films were all low-budget character pieces that showed the struggles of surviving in an Americana that at every turn is able to fighting against them. "99 Homes" is certainly a frustrating film to watch, especially in the beginning as Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) along with his mother, Lynn (Laura Dern) and son Connor (Noah Lomax) are evicted from their house the day after the court upheld the eviction, as they had chosen not to pay their loan immediately after getting multiple conflicting information from the bank. They were informed that they had 30 days to file an appeal, but despite seeking out a lawyer, they never got that far. I certainly know about this process personally and generally. South Florida, once one of the worst hit areas for the '08 housing crisis, although ground zero was where I live, in the Las Vegas Valley in Southern Nevada. We've finally started to recover from it, but it took us about two years longer than everybody else and there's numerous reasons for that that, but South Florida was hit hard too, and in the ashes, came this new rising business of buying up the homes that were either abandoned or the owners couldn't pay, (Or in some cases, the banks were simply forcing their way in on, with/without legal documentation) in order to stock them up and resell later. Dennis moves into a weekly motel as he looks for work, he was building houses, but naturally, that market slowed to a halt. Out of work and determined to get his house back from the bank, he starts actually working for Carver. Fix-it jobs originally, repair and whatnot, some more drastic than the others, but as the paychecks get bigger and bigger, he begins to find work as a realtor as well, and soon, he's showing up at the door with the Sheriff department on hand and evicting people from their homes. Sometimes he gets them to sign a cash-for-keys deal, which allowed the homeowner to get $3500 from the government to leave the premises in a timely manner, hoping that that would be enough to get tithe them over while they searched for a new place to live, but usually he gets everything from threats of lawsuits and violence to sometimes houses that are already abandoned, which he finds a couple clever ways to get money out of as well, and not just for him. First of all, the directing here is, really good, but particularly the editing. Bahrani, until now has never really used a quick cross-cutting editing style, nothing near this kinetic and forceful; his always have always been meditative until now, but they were also about capturing the feel and tone of the area. The busy New York City streets of "Man Push Cart" or "Chop Shop" or the farmlands of the Great Plains, in "At Any Price" and especially the strange and surreal friendship formed between a suicidal North Carolinian man and his Senagalese cab driver, in "Goodbye, Solo", the one I'd probably argue as his best film, at least until now. "99 Homes" doesn't have time for reflecting, the movie is about the loss of that space that one spends their minutes and hours reflecting upon and living out their struggling lives. Things happen fast especially to those who know how fast changes actually happen. Shannon has an amazing monologue, one of many in the film, where he talks about how he was selling houses three years ago, it wasn't that he still doesn't do that, the government lead him to evicting instead. He's heartless, but practical as all hell and speaks with the knowledge and experience that he knows the system's screwed and rigged, and if he's damned to Hell either way, better to be damned on the side that's doing the rigging. I'm not condoning his action, or Dennis's either, and I don't think the movie does either. The movie is as modern as can be, but it's told as a painfully realistic Faustian fable that speaks more bitter truth than it probably wants to. And after he took everything from you he could steal, now you realize he's not selling any alibis as you stare into the vacuum of his eyes and say, "Do you want to make a deal?", to, completely lift and rewrite from "Like a Rolling Stone" again, and the more I think about the lyrics to that song, the more I'm convince I could copy them word-for-word here and call it an accurate review of "99 Homes", If there's a criticism, it's that the movie does have a bit of a confession ending, a la, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington", in that vein, but it's not an unearned one, and even with that ending, the movie ends, open-ended, which is the right call here, although I won't explain why, and don't think you know exactly how the ending plays out, just like everything else, it's a little more complex than it seems on the surface and nobody's entirely in the right or in the wrong, except for maybe the system and the people who put it in place, and that's neither of these characters. Hmm, it's more Greek than I imagine too on further reflecting. A guy's house gets sold from under him, and with no other offers or options, he starts to work for the guy who evicted him from the house, cause he couldn't find a job building houses, only fixing houses that the guy he worked for has bought up. Is this destiny, free will, inevitability, coincidence, chance..., the ironies of life? Give it up to Ramin Bahrani, he didn't take any easy way out here. The film isn't called "99 Houses", is it?
CRIMSON PEAK (2015) Director: Guillermo Del Toro
The fact that "Crimson Peak" is as well-made as it is, works heavily in it's favor. I'm not sure exactly what else does, but that certainly gives it an advantage, otherwise this is basically a standard classic horror. Considering the amount of blood, you could consider it a hammer horror, perhaps. If Tim Burton's "Sleepy Hollow" was a hammer horror version of that classic story, than "Crimson Peak", might be a hammer horror version of "Rebecca". The film is the latest from Guillermo Del Toro who's always been a stunning visual effects director, although I've always found him inconsistent in terms of the material his material. His previous film, "Pacific Rim", was basically a special effects extravaganza where giant robots were fighting each other and humans were controlling the giant robots and Charlie from "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" for some bizarre reason was the best thing about the movie. I wasn't a fan, it just gave me nightmares that I was watching something that was trying to be better than "Transformers" and was technically succeeding, but still most felt like "Transformers" to me. "Crimson Peak" is definitely more in the vain of some of his more interesting work like "The Devil's Backbone" and "Pan's Labyrinth", but he's definitely going for a more classic horror sensitivity here. The main story involves an ambitious young writer in Buffalo at the turn of the century, Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska, who seems to be typecast now as the main girl who find herself going into a fantasical world, nowadays.) She sees herself as some young Mary Shelley acolyte and she probably is, and this leads to her romance and inevitable marriage to a young aspiring entrepreneur in Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and when they marry, despite objections from her father Carter (Jim Beaver) and her childhood friend Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) she begins to live at their family mansion, along with Thomas's overbearing and overprotective sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain, nearly unrecognizable) It's around then, that Edith begins getting visions of somebody, very bloody, disturbing visions. The "Crimson" in the title, while I think referencing the name of the house, is also a reference to the color of blood, and red is prevalent, especially in these dreams and visionary sequences. If this movie got credit and praise at all, it was for it's visual effects and they are pretty good, although considering this is Del Toro here, I'd say they're far from great and maybe farther from effective. That's the big issue with this movie, it's definitely a haunted house that could work, in fact it has before on many occasions, it's just that, he's trying to take a modern eye to the material. Modern visual effects, and erotic sex scenes, particularly one unsettling one, that gives us one revelation that someone like Hitchcock would've only been allowed to nudge and hint at us in the past, but is spelled out here. That's not even necessarily bad, but I don't know what the effect I'm looking for is. It seems to want to take itself seriously as a ghost story, but I found myself laughing at some of the more outlandish cliche scenes, and at the climaxes at the end. There's also a classic villain revealing his plan along scene instead of killing the protagonist scene that feels almost like it was lifted from "Sleepy Hollow", although unlike this film, that scene in that movie had a reason to exist. Here, I can't tell if he's commenting or satirizing the conventions or are we supposed to take them seriously. There's a lot here separately that I like about "Crimson Peak", it's well-made, well-directed, the production design and costumes are spot on, the acting for the most part is believable and I'm sure if Del Toro wanted to make something without a lot of the gadgets and effects, he could've, but in trying to bring all these things together, I don't know if he ended up with much. It's an amazing looking horror film, but as a horror film, there's a lot that could've been improved upon. Maybe it just needed one more run through the screenplay that would've brought all this together and tightened up, but I don't quite know if that would've worked either. Ultimately, I think it's good enough for the things it does do well to recommend, even part of me is unsure whether I'm happy about it for the more Grang Guignal aspects of it, or if I'm disappointed in it's pedestrian fail at a really great haunted house story. I guess it's worth debating over either way, so yeah, a half-hearted recommendation for filmmaking execution, but everything else, um... eh, a bit of a confusing mixed bag of story and tone not coming together. Also, I should give some credit to Doug Jones for multiple parts as he's essentially this movie's Andy Serkis with some of the CGI performances he gives.
KAHLIL GIBRAN'S THE PROPHET (2015) Director: Roger Allers; Segment Directors: Gaetan Brizzi & Paul Brizzi, Joan C. Gratz, Mohammed Saeed Harib, Tomm Moore, Nina Paley, Bill Plympton, Joann Sfar, Michal Socha
Okay, I'm gonna admit a little ignorance here in that I never heard of Kahlil Gibran until this movie came out, nor have I ever heard of his book, "The Prophet". I'm actually kinda shocked and um, inarticulate to have now looked it up and found out that, indeed the book is one of the most successful and widely-sold and known poetry books of all time. In fact, according to Wikipedia, the only two poets in the world who have sold more copies of their work than Gibran are Shakespeare and Lao-Tzo, one's the greatest playwright and writer of all-time, the other is a Taoist deity contemporary of Confucius. So, yeah, being up there compared to him, makes me wonder how the hell I didn't know about him until now. (Sigh, We really need to starting teaching poetry in schools again people; and make it mandatory, not just optional.) Anyway, taking a Gibran crash course via Wikipedia, he was a Lebanese-American poet a romantic, he was also political rebel, which explains a bit of the conceit in "The Prophet" which involves Mustafa (Liam Neeson) who is I guess a Gibran surrogate as a political prisoner who is suddenly being released from house arrest and taken on a boat to-eh, somewhere as he, and his housekeeper Kamila (Salma Hayek, who is a producer on the movie, and in case that sounds a little strange to you, she is actually half-Lebanese on her father's side. [I know, but yeah, when you realize "Hayek" is not a Spanish name, it becomes obvious but I remember be shocked by that "Inside the Actors' Studio" revelation too. Hmm, I wonder if that episode's on Youtube....]) and her daughter Almitra (Quvenzhane Wallis) who has been silent for two years since her father's passing, and has been mostly a brat since, often stealing and acting disreputable in general. The movie uses this conceit as a base to have Neeson tell some, um, monologues and soliloquies which I guess is just his poetry, and have it be spiritually inspirational to all those around him, and I guess in real life it was. Portraying that on film however was difficult. Director Roger Allers gave it an interesting shot by making this essentially an anthology film by having many different animators come in and direct these monologues in their own style, they're own vision, most notably Tomm Moore of "Song of the Sea", eh, Nina Paley from "Sita Sings the Blues" and the legendary Bill Plympton. I suspect I might have appreciated this film more if I knew a little more about Gibran ahead of time, but I doubt it. This is really not a great piece of work to adapt into a feature film. As something nice to look at, for an hour and a half, it's not bad by any mean; I wasn't enthralled by the animation overall, but the mix of animators and styles is a nice touch, but being assaulted with a bunch of poetic stories that, at best, barely connect to anything that's actually occurring in the story; it's really difficult to fain interest for that long. This isn't really the best approach to present poetry, it's much easier to just read and dissect it either alone or with a group; poetry is best when it comes with a dialogue to discuss it, (Which is why we desperately need it classrooms!) visually presenting it, in a medium that it, more based on prose, is really not helpful. In fact, I felt like I learned less about Gibral and "The Prophet" if that actually is the base of the work, than I did looking up his information afterwards. It's actually more interesting to talk about than it is to watch. It has it's moments, but when they keep getting interrupted for these aberrations from other animators, or vice-versa, the aberrations get interrupted by the plot, depending on which was more interesting, either way, it just clashes more than it comes together.
VICTORIA (2015) Director: Sebastian Schipper
Going into "Victoria" a bit blind, I wasn't aware of the gimmick involving the film, which is that it was shot entirely in one long take without an edit. That alone is impressive and at 140 minutes, "Victoria" can claim to be one of the longest film to have achieve such a take, which isn't a long list, although it's longer than I thought it was. It wasn't actually possible to do that for years, since most cameras had a limit, usually 20 minutes before film would run out, so before "Russian Ark" in 2002, there were a few attempts to simulate the effect, probably most famously Alfred Hitchcock's "Rope", but not knowing that, was startling at first. I kept wondering and waiting where this film would go, especially since it looked quite literally like it was heading towards a disaster, or at least dread. The movie mostly follows Victoria (Laia Costa) a young Spanish girl as she is spending a night partying into the wee hours of the night in Berlin before her morning shift at a nearby coffee shop begins. It's then, that she runs into a group of eh, well, men I wouldn't want around, led by Sonne (Frederick Lau) who she decides to go in a car with, a car that's clearly stolen. They take her to a few different locations, a roof of a building, a dark part of town, etc. They eventually end up at her coffee shop, and after about forty minutes of this movie and I'm about waiting around for this flirtation to either turn into a gang rape or a gang bang, the movie, suddenly surprised me. Sonne starts banging on a piano, which she then claims she can play, and then, she does. Turns out, she's a classical pianist, and Sonne is legitimately impressed, and not just because she's a hot foreign girl hanging out with her, and we learn about how she ended up here. Does it explain why she goes along with what happens next? I don't know, but she does, as she gets roped into riding a getaway car, as these crooks turn out to be crooks, and I won't go into too many details about what happens exactly, but, it's definitely intense and the effect of the long take, especially over many locations like this film has done, is incredibly effective. It all doesn't just take place in one-shot, it happens over the specific amount of time, and yeah, if you go back and think about, these characters are fairly ignorant and stupid, and of course the results at the end were inevitable, but I didn't think that was that big a secret either to me, or probably to her. In that sense, "Victoria" seems to be a movie about self-sacrifice, somebody who's probably smarter and knows better to do what she ends up doing with the people she ends up doing them with, but has decided for whatever reason that she'd rather dance on the edge of the building than to go forward in whatever world she came from before. "Victoria" is a powerful technical achievement and a fairly strong emotional one as well.
WELCOME TO LEITH (2015) Directors: Michael Beach Nichols & Christopher K. Walker
Going into "Welcome to Leith" a bit blind, I think I presumed Leith was some small farming town in Scotland or Ireland of something of that sort, and for all I know there still is (Correction, check and yes, there is a town in Scotland called "Leith") but the town in the film is much smaller. Leith, North Dakota, population, 24. For those who tend to watch geographic population trend, especially in America, North Dakota has been a place of particular interest in the last few years since the oil boom started there earlier this century and people around the country have been flocking there looking for work on the oil fields; I even know somebody who did that and it's difficult to understand just how desolate the area is, and how ill-equipped the state truly is for housing a large population of transplanted workers. Not that, their not trying, but you gotta realize that this is a place where cities are, at best, still in the process of being built; there's small towns all over, like Leith, but there's only one business there, a small grocery and going to say, see a movie, requires a many miles-long trip to say, Fargo, which isn't exactly as big as it's reputation might be either. So, when an old man named Craig Cobb starts buying up land and property there, it's a sudden shock to begin with, and that's before they realized who he is. Craig Cobb is a world renowned racist, he even said so as he was videotaped terrorizing the small town with a shotgun along with one of his fellow believers, Kynan Dutton, and he's right. Cobb, is the creator of Podblanc a white-supremacists video sharing website, among numerous other, for lack of a better word, "achievements" in his life. He's a white supremacist, white nationalist, a neo-Nazi, a Holocaust denier, of course..., he's a bad guy, although unlike most ignorant racists of his ilk, he's not necessarily a stupid guy. In fact, his plan for Leith, in some ways, is kinda smart, as he planned to buy up land and property and start building and having fellow white nationalists move in, in order to gain enough votes on the city council eventually, to take over and create, some misguided haven for white separatists to live. He even gave some of the property to the National Socialist Party, which I was pretty surprised to find out it's American base is in, Detroit of all places. The scary thing is, it, actually almost could work, and it's not unprecedented by any means. I live in Southern Nevada, and much of the population here is Mormon, and I couldn't help but be reminded of Warren Jeffs while watching this film. Jeffs ran a polygamist commune known as Colorado City for many years, which, at the time was a small secluded area that was probably built overnight by many of Jeffs followers, and relatives in this case, and when he was eventually kicked out of there, they built another commune in Texas. Last I remember hearing about him, he was serving a life sentence in Texas after finally being caught in Las Vegas, ironically enough after being on the run for years. There aren't too many racist groups that are bunched together in such a place as Jeffs had set up and Cobb was looking to overtake a town to create something akin to a version of that. The town, led by it's young mayor, Ryan Schock are bound to fight with Cobb, and town meetings soon become fodder for Youtube clips. as he works towards his goal. It's actually kinda smart how they find ways around the law to circumvent his actions, most notably getting him and Dutton arrested eventually for terrorizing, where they both pleaded out for, and using the local ordinances to force him, by of all things, making him provide sewage availability to his properties. (He didn't have running water or bathrooms on them) He was out-of-town when they made that ruling as he was on a talk show talking DNA test, that proved he was not 100% Aryan, in fact he was 14% Sub-Saharan African it turned out. The documentary gets both sides surprisingly well as the Duttons and Cobb seemed shockingly participatory, even following Cobb to a Motel 6, returning phone calls to numerous other well-known white nationalists as he got out of jail after accepting a plea deal with time served. The National Socialist Party still owns land in Leith, and word is that Cobb has been trying this experiment in small towns in Nebraska, but failed, and his latest endeavor is to overtake Antler, North Dakota, and create a white supremacist called "Creativity Trump". You can guess where the "Trump" part of that comes but the "Creativity" part is what intrigued me more honestly; representative of the Southern Poverty Law Center were also interviewed for the film, and they brought up this notion that this group of Supremacists, consider themselves, "Creators", as in, they don't believe in God; they fee that they're God and that they're out to create a better world through their actions. It's worth noting that hate crimes have gone up nationwide in recent years and many of the most violent and noteworthy crimes were committed by former U.S. soldiers and Dutton and Cobb both were, and by the aged, as the 74-year-old who gunned down the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas, in 2014, who was a friend of Cobb's. "Welcome to Leith" is more frightening than most horror movies that everybody except for me is watching for the Halloween season, and it's scary on both ends, not just the fact that, literally the racists are coming to take over your town, but what it does to the townspeople and how they change and react as they try to figure out what to do. Dutton's wife often shows some graffiti images of their property with people telling them to leave and go home; she claims, "We are home." We never see who committed the acts of vandalism. It is strange to think that this plan, for all-intensive purposes, is perfectly legal, if the town is willing to let them get away with it. And there's a lot of small towns in America....
THE BOY AND THE BEAST (2015) Director: Mamoru Hosada
Okay, Mamoru Hosada is not an anime director that I'm completely familiar with, so I'm learning about him as I go here, the one title that he did that I've at least heard of is "The Girl Who Leap Through Time", which, presuming that actually is a movie where a girl leaps through time, I'm gonna presume that's a common theme in his work, "The Boy and the Beast" could be alternatively titled, "The Boy Who Went Through a Portal to an Animal World". Which is what happens to the main character here, a young boy named, Ren. His mother's passed away and he's supposed to go off and live with some of her relatives since his parents split years earlier and no one's sure where his father is. He decides instead to run off, because,- I-eh, I guess that's what grief-stricken ten-year-olds do, or however old he is. This takes place in presumably modern Tokyo, but he ends up going through the aforementioned portal to a world of animals. Where, apparently animals have grown the ability to talk and move around, form a society like a human civilization and...- you know, it just struck me, there was no reason these two worlds needed to be secret? Right? None that I-, anyway, in this world called Jutengai, he comes under the "tutelage" of a young warrior bear name Kumatensu who, for reasons I'm not even gonna try to explain, needs to take in a pupil, because a-, I-, I have no idea how this religious/government function works, but he chooses this brat Ren to train to be a warrior, and that's worrisome because there's this big,- oh right, this is why they're secret, because they're worried that all humans have an evil inside them, which turns out, does physically manifest itself. Um, I'm sure my lack of Japanese symbolism and mythology is costing me here, but even if I understood all the references, I'm certain that this film is just a mess. It starts out as a one movie, about this strained relationship between the the beast and the boy, but then, it throws all this order and mysticism, and there's a battle, and-, there's another secret (Although a badly-kept secret) human character in the world, and there's an honor thing, and then he goes back to the human world after all these years to go to college and learn and find his father...- I don't what the hell was going on here, this movie had too many subplots, and frankly, I'm sure there's some reason he made this animal world with a pig that's a monk and a god who spends nine years before deciding he'll being the God of Decisiveness, (Which is the movie's only really good, bad funny joke) and, really you almost didn't need this. I can think of one great anime just last year, "When Marnie Was Here" that had much of the same fantasy story about a character finding and meetings new friends and relationships in a strange new surreal place, and that had just as many ridiculous subplots, but it worked together and made sense; this film just seemed to throw whatever it could in, without really showing or explaining why. And, also, I don't normally criticize the directing in an animated movie, that's not really something I'm comfortable or knowledgeable enough about doing, but this movie, especially later in the movie, a weird directing trait that it kept coming back to, and it involved, um, a dolly-pan shot, from one person standing far away to another standing opposite them, They'd go from one, and then the camera panned to the other person and sometimes back, now it's a bit of an impressive shot for animation, especially hand-drawn animation, but I don't get why he kept using that for the situations. I mean, I'm sure he was trying to show distance and separation and lone wolf, loneliness, but after the fourth time, I just thought it was annoying. There's better way of showing and blocking that, especially in animation; the shots would not have worked in live-action, much less here. The animation is okay, I'm not really enthralled with it, but this film was a pretty lackluster and uninteresting story that's a cobbled together ideas from other better movies. I'm sure Hosada is more talented than this, but he wasn't here. This film felt like a half-baked idea that he didn't know what to do with it.
ALL THINGS MUST PASS: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOWER RECORDS (2015) Director: Colin Hanks
I'm-eh, admittedly slightly bias towards a film like "All Things Must Pass..." not because I have any particular connection to Tower Records, I honestly don't remember if I've ever been in one, although I certainly do have a music store that I used to get some great used CDs from that's long gone now; if it wasn't for the PJ Harvey "Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea" CD I bought there, I wouldn't have gotten through my first semester in college. But, I grew up in a video store, literally, my family started a chain of video stores back in '82, I believe, which was really early; very few people were renting VHS tapes back then; we were one of the first ones, nationwide and my grandparents ran the store in Boulder City, NV that my mother worked at, and I still have memories of picking up the VHS and putting them through the slots and walking around the store, etc., it's one of my earliest and most happy memories I have. Eventually bigger chains came in, and the store sold to Blockbuster Video a couple different times, and eventually the last closed at the end of the nineties but it was a great run and is probably partially responsible for why I screwed up my adult life by getting a film degree and writing screenplays that don't get sold for a living. Now, Tower Records, most would've suspected suffered a similar fate when the successful chain declared bankruptcy bank in '06, most suspected that it mainly was because of the increase in the rise of music availability on the internet. It probably had something to do with that, although Tower Records, like they had been on cassettes and CDs and even listening booths in the store, years earlier, looked to be ahead of the curb on that too. They were the first record store chain with a website in '94, although unaware of the future like everyone else, it was on AOL at the time. It was ahead of it's time in the beginning, when it was started out of a Sacromento drug store by Russ Solomon, who had a more, what-the-hell laid back approach to business. He often hired ragtag hippie types who couldn't get jobs anywhere else, also a lot of famous musicians both worked at Tower Records and most of shopped there. There's a few faces that contributed to the documentary, Elton John talking about how he's sure nobody poured more money into Tower Records than anyone on the planet, Dave Grohl who used to work at a Tower Records, even Springsteen make a cameo, but Director Colin Hanks, in his directorial debut, correctly uses them sparingly, instead focusing more on the business side, which itself is usually more wild and sex-and-drug fueled than some of the musicians who's vinyl they sold. The concept of just being a place that just sold all the music they could find was unique at the time, and the huge warehouse formula worked up and down the country and early on became hugely successful in Japan when they sold the franchise rights there. Eventually, this mostly family-and-friends run business collapsed on itself, not through just simply getting caught unprepared by the Napster and iPod booms, but also in general, some bad business ideas from people who shouldn't have gotten to the top, mostly investing in bonds and stocks that developed interest they couldn't pay back or get back. The title, "All Things Must Pass", obviously comes from the famous George Harrison song, but is also what they put on the last sign outside of the original Sacromento store when it closed down. Tower Records success in Japan, where it's still bigger than ever shows that stores like these are still pliable in this modern technological world and that there's no real reason for them to be falling this badly if the business side was able to keep up. It's legacy lives on. As for a documentary, it's cute, fun, nothing harmful or anything. Nothing special per se either, although it's an interesting subject. I think it's just what it wants to be, a nice little reflection on a place that a lot of people loved when it was here and give it's audience some answers about what happens, but mostly just to reflect back on how great it was when it was here. I'm sure everybody has a few places like that.
FUTURO BEACH (2015) Director: Karim Ainouz
Everywhere I look up Director Karim Ainouz, every description begins with him saying that he's a film director and "Visual Artist". That's a weird term to use, and I don't know who's in charge of his biography on internet search sites, but first of all a film director, is a visual artist, which basically means that somebody who works in the "visual arts", or not music or words, so painting, sculpture, photography..., and while I can think of artists who combine a lot of different mediums to create a complete cacophony of an art piece that would, maybe make them be called visual artists by some, eh, Miranda July comes to mind offhand, but other than the fact that he originally came into film from an architecture background, (Which is not that unusual, you can go back to Fritz Lang to find architects who've move into the field of cinema) I have absolutely no idea why/what the hell he's got the term "visual artist" listed in every description of him I can find. I can find. I mean, I guess he painted at one point in college, but I can't find where he's doing that now, or has an gallery showing or anything...- what I'm getting to is that, that is one of the most pretentious things I've ever seen or heard. I don't use that word often or lightly either, "pretentious", I usually just associate that with pretentious assholes who call anything they don't understand or like "pretentious" more than I actually do artists or artistic statements but...- that's-, look I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and presume he or somebody else associate with Wikipedia or something wrote that and everybody else just copied and pasted that, but I couldn't notice that as I looked him up and some of the other reviews out there for "Futuro Beach". Okay, this is my first film I've seen that Anouz's directed that I've seen, although I've heard of most of his work; he's probably most famous for the Latin telenovela "Alice", which streams on HBO currently, I believe, but he also shoots a lot of experimental shorts and features, although he's maybe more recognized as a writer, most notably, "Cinema, Aspirin and Vultures" which is a film I haven't seen yet, but I have seen the Walter Salles feature "Behind the Sun" that he wrote the script for, which was a strange film in of itself as that was an adaptation of an Albania novel about a war between families that was ultimately changed to a turn-of-the-Century tale in the deserts of Brazil. It's an intriguing film, although I'd probably argue Salles's worst. Walter Salles has done "The Motorcycle Diaries" and "Central Station" among other, his last feature was "On the Road," which, okay actually that would be his worst and too predictable for a guy who specializes in road movies more than Wim Wenders, but "Behind the Sun" is still a weird mix of a film and cultures. Which I guess makes sense for Ainouz, who, as you have figure is born in Brazil but studied and worked in America during his early years and has also most recently worked and lived in Berlin. Which is something else weird that makes sense, Germany has had one of the largest influx of immigrant populations in Europe in the last few decades in fact, and it's started to show in the filmmakers that have been coming out of there, most notably Fatih Akim, the German-born Turkish filmmaker most known for "Head-On" and "The Edge of Heaven". Okay, I'm realize that I'm a bit all over the place on this review, but understand, that's how I felt like watching "Futuro Beach", which is literally and figuratively all over the map as well. The movie begins along the beaches of Brazil, and a couple people, brothers who are drowning. Donato (Wagner Maura) manages to save one of them, Konrad (Clemens Schick) a German Afghani war veteran, but his friend unfortunately doesn't survive, although they'll continue to search for the body. As they do, Donato and Konrad start having a relationship. This is the first fifteen minutes of the film, We also learn about Donato's family, including an ultra-worshipping younger brother, Ayrton (Jesuita Barbosa) who look up to him like a superhero, but soon enough, and by soon enough, I mean soon and without warning, we see that Donato has moved to Berlin with Konrad. (See, I told you this was all literally and figuratively all over the map) And they seem together enough, but isn't about the relationship between them either, although it seems to be at first, instead, the movie becomes about Donato's self-discovery through this other world of Berlin that he encounters and through this and other relationships he has throughout the movie. "Futuro Beach" is actually quite plotless to some extent, and almost to the point of poinless in fact. I've seen this movie compared to other films about culture clashes, including Fatih Akim's "Head-On" that I mentioned earlier, and there's also an attempt at something Terrence Malick or Walter Salles-like as well, in the physical and literal journey combining, but those directors usually do this better, and usually with a straight-forward story and plot. This movie is often just meditative meandering, and most of the time, I don't think it goes anywhere. It might be a wonderful journey for Donato to go on, but us experiencing it through these weird half-glimpses, kinda leaves me and I suspect a lot of the audience out of the experiences. I think there's too much here and ultimately, I can't really recommend the film. I'm sure Karim Ainouz has some talented work out there, but so far, I'm hoping it's some of his films that I've so far missed out on.