Saturday, December 17, 2016

MOVIE REVIEWS #128: "CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR", "THE JUNGLE BOOK (Favreau)", "O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA", "HAIL, CAESAR!", "THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE", "WEINER", "GREEN ROOM", "THE LAST MAN ON THE MOON", "COLLIDING DREAMS", "BONE TOMAHAWK", "THE TRIBE", "SECRET IN THEIR EYES", "ENTERTAINMENT", and "WE ARE STILL HERE"!

(Sigh) So, Lena Dunham.... I know, I didn't want to bring this up either, but I've had to defend her, again. For those who aren't aware, I've decided to call bullshit on people that basically hate her, not for anything involving her work, but for existing, and it seems like the same people tend to hate other female comic performer for, also just existing, since, I don't know, they don't only tell mother-in-law jokes anymore, and in particular, the vicious things people say against Lena Dunham, have led me to basically play fact checker on this kind of bullshit. You can read about that on this earlier blogpost at the link below:

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2016/09/lena-dunhams-apology-and-fan-culture-of.html

I had hoped that would've been the end of this, but, that's not what happened, instead, in a Fcaebook film group site that I'm in, but one that doesn't have enough followers for me to post my blog regularly in it, with the name "Criterion" in the title, and that's all I'll give on that, the "hate Lena Dunham" morons were at it again, and it wasn't hard to bait them, I just had to say that "Tiny Furniture" was a masterpiece, which...-, okay, I admit "Masterpiece" is a bit of a stretch, but it's still an incredible film that gets better on multiple viewings, but people were calling it the worst film in the Criterion Collection, which eh, no, no, it's not. Not even close; if they think that then should probably look at some of Criterion, Eclipse titles. 'cause they'd rethink that very quickly; not that "Armageddon"'s inclusion in the main Criterion Collection shouldn't have but.... Anyway, I got into an argument with two people, who might as well have been one, and I called their bullshit out, 'cause, well, one of them had no idea what "feminism" actually was, (And she was a woman, btw, who really needed a recent history lesson) and the other, who made a new claim against Dunham, that I hadn't heard, and naturally, it was stupid.

This guy claimed that, she, made a Facebook post in support of "white male genocide." No, I'm not joking, that was his claim.

Okay, I would've thought I'd hear something about that, 'cause that sounds like a major thing for a major celebrity to say! Of course, I didn't, 'cause I read the news and it wasn't mentioned 'cause, it wasn't news. So, I looked it up, found out what happened, and it's again, is a complete misrepresentation of, basically everything.

The "offensive" statements, (Eye roll, shaking head "no") was in an animated sketch that was posted on her Twitter and Facebook pages. Again, this was a sketch, a joke, essentially, that the only morons that I could find who took it seriously and reported this as news, usually began their articles with phrases "Hillary Clinton surrogate Lena Dunham", 'cause that's what she's famous for, not all her awards or television show or movies, just as a Hillary Clinton surrogate, (Which is stretching the definition of "Surrogate" by the way, but I'll let that slide)

So, anyway, this claim comes from a post on Facebook and Twitter, in the "comedic sketch" keep that in mind, she's interviewing her Dad, and he talks philosophically about the extinction of the white men, and the scene in animated by a very talented young animator, named Sofi Koko Gate. Here are the links to that video:

https://www.facebook.com/lenadunham/?fref=ts
https://twitter.com/lenadunham/status/793929098926166016

The tweet and Facebook page accompanying this video begins:

"It's not the end of men, it's the evolution of men into better men."

The Facebook page link, continues

"My dad didn't need to have a daughter to do the right thing for women, but I'm pretty glad he did."

The fonts changed there, 'cause I cut-and-paste to make sure I didn't misrepresent her. Apparently, a bunch of morons, took this literally. First of all, she didn't say any of this. She asks a comical question to her father, Carroll Dunham. Carroll Dunham, btw, is one of the most renowned and famous artists working today, he's known for combining and switching genres and themes in his work on a whim, mixing several different modern and classic inspirations into his painting, drawings and more recently, his sculptures. He's had several one-man shows on the East Coast in particular and around the world, and he's even given talks at Museum of Modern Art, his work has drawn huge critical and commercial praise and he's had several books of his art published over the years and continues to be a major figure in the New York art scene to this day. You can see his work at carrolldunham.net, I'm not much of a fan of his early work, but his more recent stuff is pretty interesting, It's surrealism meets cartoonish pop art, kinda of reminds me of R. Crumb actually, especially with the sexual and phallic imagery of his later work. (I actually really love his foray into sculpture. I'd buy any one of those pieces if I could) Anyway, it's their conversation, and she ask about his thoughts on white male genocide, in a question form, that's clearly. In fact all she does is ask his opinion on it, She doesn't say a damn thing about this particular subject, so they're literally putting words in her mouth. (Sigh) He, in turn, 'cause this obviously an in-joke between father and daughter, as every piece of evidence indicated,  pontificates that it's white straight males that have caused the most trouble;

I don't exactly know how anybody can argue that that is an incorrect assessment of history, unless you've never read a history book before, or you want to claim that every white male who's done a horrible thing in humanity's existence was gay, but ignoring that...,  it's also quite clear that the entire scene, is a joking matter, and the interview and animation clearly indicate that, (And btw, the animation does seem to take inspiration from his artwork, I might add, although it's not a direct reference to anything in particular piece of his) and that it's time for them to step down in terms of being in power, not in terms of literal genocide, which is never said, the word she used was "extinction", which is not genocide, but they hear what they want, saying it would be better for them, and the world in general if they do remove themselves from position of society power. Or as Dunham put it very correctly, on the Tweet and Facebook post of this animation sketch, "It's not the end of men, it's the evolution of men, into better men."

The part about "the extinction of white men", is clearly metaphorical, she even says so! How is this possibly interpreted any other way?!

It's clear, that this is basically an online greeting card basic, talking about how great her dad is, and doing so by showing a joking side to him. Saying this is representative of hers or even his views, is bullshit! and an outright lie. You can't claim it's literal, she says clearly, that it's not. And even if you ignore that, there's no indication of it being literal, in her opinion, maybe he's being serious, but there's no indication of that, as again, "THIS WAS A SKETCH"! Getting upset at this, is like getting upset at Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner, by claiming they believe people live for thousands of year, because they wrote "The 2000-Year-Old Man". And btw, it's not like she does anything else to indicate this is a realistic position for her, like not hire straight white men, or starts to kill them or encourage killing them. It's literally, just an animated little greeting card, from daughter-to-father, saying, basically "I Love You".

And for that, she gets the rapture from asshole morons who have nothing better to do than to troll her, and claim this as evidence of something that it isn't. Again, anybody tells you, she thinks this, or has said this, or believes this, is LYING and any claim otherwise, is BULLSHIT! That person is LYING and is 100% FULL OF SHIT! Not just for listing this as an example for hating her, but also because, that is a remarkably stupid thing to be so vehemently against that one thinks they actually need to take a side in it! Seriously, stupid! On many levels, for one thing, the fact that they're identifying "Whites" as an oppressed group that can potentially be victimized by it's entire gender being slaughtered, is really obnoxious. Yeah, somebody's gonna kill all the white American men, Canadian Men, British men, Irish men, Italian men, Jewish men, okay that one almost happened a few times, but Russian men..., (Okay, again that one...)

Yeah, when somebody takes up in arms for the rights of "Whites", what they actually mean, is that that they hate Blacks, Latinos, Africans, Muslims, Chinese, all Asians actually, basically any group you can think of who's actually been oppressed in the world, and in this case, you can throw in women on that list, 'cause again, this is blatant misogyny; I stand by that. Fuck anybody who says this, and fuck the two people I argued this with in that FB group; they know who they are, and if you want to find them and let them know I'm talking about them, go right ahead, and tell them to PROVE I'M WRONG!

(Sigh) Sorry about all that crap, but yeah, wasn't gonna let them have the last word. So, Movie Reviews, I didn't get to a few things, but not much. I did watch a Francois Ozon film that I didn't get to earlier called "Young & Beautiful", from a couple years ago. Ozon, is a pretty erratic French director; he's made some good or even great films like "Under the Sand" and "Ricky", but he's also some unbearable crap like "Potiche" and in particular, "8 Women". I like his last film, "The New Girlfriend", but "Young and Beautiful" I didn't care for. I've seen a bunch of European films like this already and done better, the story of the-eh, schoolgirl-turned-prostitute, pretty much, although there is one funny scene I liked when one of her clients dies. Still, this is a bad cliche subject matter, especially for French films; I can think of three or four better versions of this film and story off-the-top of my head, and those are just recent ones like "Student Services", there's a bunch of older ones too. If you want to see a teenage girl spiraling her life into a maze of sex, go find "The Diary of a Teenage Girl", still the most underrated movie from 2015.

I also watched "The Broadway Melody", the second film to win the Best Picture Oscar, and one of the first true movie musicals. It's not that impressive today, although at the time, 1930, this was a major accomplishment and groundbreaking film for the use of Sound, that said, um, the story...-, maybe this is just me, but symbolically, I swear, the film feels like a gender-swapped "Cabaret". I know, but seriously, those two "Sisters" seemed unusually close, even for a two-girl performing act. I know consciously, a lot of that is just the limitation of the sound equipment, but-uh, yeah, it's still weird. Guy's dating the one sister, falls for the prettier sister suddenly, and...-, yeah, it's weird. Not bad, it was pretty good actually, but not a classic anymore, just an important and interesting Hollywood footnote.



CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016) Directors: Anthony & Joe Russo

★★1/2 



So, of all the weird ticks of the MCU and it's analysis, one of the ones that most startles me is the fact that, a lot of people seem to single out the "Captain America" movies as the "Best Ones" or "Good Ones" of the bunch, which, is completely befuddling to me, 'cause I gave negative reviews to both of those films, and they were pretty lousy in fact. Okay, maybe I little hard on ".Winter Soldier" but it really bored me to death, even though on some level I appreciated the attempt of doing a different kind of genre, but it didn't really work, at all, and worst yet, it basically forgot all about the fish out of water aspect of the character, which was the only really intriguing part of him from the first film. That first film, which I guess is technically a more entertaining film, and an attempt at, I guess what equates to a period piece, but I didn't care much for it at all either. Superheroes and the past, and history, really don't go together. Okay, it kinda worked in "X-Men: First Class" the only really good "X-Men" movie, but-, I mean, in the comic books when Captain America beat up Hitler, it was timely and satisfying fantasy fulfillment, but now that seventy years have past, all I can think is, "You know, we do read history books, right? Not just comic books?" And now, apparently Captain (Chris Evans) is going back in time cause Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) has a time machine to bring us back to the Civil War for some reason...-, wait, hold on, I'm being told I got that wrong? We're not doing the Civil War? Um, hold on...- (Long pause), okay, this is instead, a reference to the Civil War, between the members of the Avengers themselves. because apparently, we wanted to see that? Yeah, this is really more like "The Avengers 3" but it's Captain America's story, I guess? (Sigh) I-, You comic book people are really shocking annoying, you know that right? (Sigh) Anyway, continuing the ridiculous trend that, some people don't like the Avengers going around the world and saving the planet from terrorists and other bad guys, there's a UN-led movement to basically, restrict the Avengers ability to come in somewhere and save the world. This comes about after a few incidents in which there was collateral damage, and to the movie's credit, they do a good job showing that concern and problem. There's a great cameo from Viola Davis as a grieving mother for instance, a part that I'm just now realizing, she plays way too much of in general. And during an attempt to capture the Winter Soldier (Sebastien Stan) in Lagos, Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olson) accidentally blows up the side of a skyscraper killing about eleven innocent bystanders most of whom were on a goodwill mission from their home made-up African country where Black Panther, (Chadwick Boseman) is from, and it turns out, is Prince of that country, until at the Vienna signing of the well-publicized UN Accords, his father King T'Chaka (John Kani) is killed and he's sworn revenge. It turns out, it's not actually the Winter Soldier but a renegade Sokovic named Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) who's been infiltrating Hydra and Bucky's old gaslighters in order to draw him and the rest of the Avengers out. First off, there's some strange editing techniques in the movie, particular the fast forward; I thought I had set the movie on double-speed half the time, and I do not get it. I also thought some of the action moves were kinda stale, particularly from Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) who seems to basically have a move-set entirely made up of hurricaranas at times. Which brings me to the major sequences of the movie, and apparently the one people wanted to see, the battle of the superheroes as they fought each other at the airport. Okay, first off, I have to give this movie some credit, because for once in the entire cinematic run of the character, they Spider-Man (Tom Holland) right. Not that he's a good character, in fact, quite the opposite, and that's what I love about the casting of this little pipsqueak shy teenager doing a bad Michael Cera impression, as well as the great choice of Marisa Tomei as Aunt May, who I know consciously she's like 50 in real life, but attraction-wise she's perfect for Tony Stark to hit on now that her and Pepper Potts are for some reason on a break, (Which is a shame, 'cause she's one of the best characters in the franchise) This, is ridiculously funny to me. After five horrible Spider-Man films, we get a version that's actually sorta interesting. Anyway, that said, the fight..., okay, I already made one pro wrestling reference, you know how there's tag team matches? Well, usually it's one two or three people on a team against another two or three people, but occasionally they have a tag team match, where there's five or six people on each side, and usually what happens in matches like this, is that, the competitors end up tagging in and out everyone at least once, maybe twice, so that, everybody has a chance to pull of their move sets and make themselves look pretty good, and everybody gets a turn until somebody else gets tagged in and beats them up with their moves. That's kinda what this fight felt like, except usually when I imagine a fight like that, it's good guys versus bad guys, not good guys fighting other good guys. It's not as compelling to be honest. It's just a lot of special effects really. (Sigh) Look, I'm getting a little tired of the MCU, this isn't the worst of the "Captain America" films, but I still don't think it's any good, and frankly this one seems less a movie as it does a collection of a bunch of random parts from other Marvel movies that are pushed together. This is the first film of there's where the ending happened, and I was like, "That's it! That was the ending?" And of course, there's more alternate endings after, but who cared. This franchise has gone on too long and needs to die, preferably soon. And yeah, I'm panning another "Captain America" movie, focus the next one on an interesting superhero next time.


THE JUNGLE BOOK (2016) Director: Jon Favreau

★★



Oh, god, I forgot to write about this one too earlier. Damn, I really need to keep a pen-and pad on me.

(Sigh) Okay, Disney, we need to talk.

"The Jungle Book"? Why? Why are remaking this one? Seriously? Like, you want to do live-action versions of your animated classics, okay; so far, I haven't been too impressed, but, "The Jungle Book", is not a good film to begin with; I'm not even sure it's a good book! Sorry, I know, I'm gonna get shit from this from some of you but, even as a kid, I was bored to death by this one. I like the music, which I didn't even like at the time, but I have a little more respect for it, and that's awkwardly put in as is in the movie, but mostly it's taken out in favor, what are admittedly pretty good, if overrated special effects. I'm basically half-convinced somebody at Disney saw "Life of Pi", and they said, "Hey, don't have a story with a young kid and animals, let's do that!" I-eh, I wasn't impressed. Granted, I barely could stay awake for the original movie, but I wasn't that enthralled with this version either. Mowgli, (Neei Sethi) is the young man founded by a panther, Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) and was raised by the wolf Raksha (Lupita Nyong'o). However, Mowgli's presence upset the Bengal Tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba), so to protect his family, Mowgli is convinced, reluctantly to run off and find the human world. Instead he finds Baloo (Bill Murray which is surreal and sorta cool) who, because he's a big old lazy bear who scheme and plots and sneaks around, teaches young Mowgli to live the easy life, and gets him into smoking and then he starts turning into donkey and his nose grows when he lies...-, oh fuck,- sorry wrong Disney film there. It's only until Khan takes over that Mowgli is called back and now, it's a fight for, the rule of the jungle, I guess? And it's up to Mowgli to combine his human traits, his skills as a wolf and bear to fight the Bengal Tiger...-, sigh, yeah, I've never understood this. I kinda like, how the animals have settled on truces for water, that's a nice touch, that kinda twist the line between the animal kingdom and the ideal of a Disney animal kingdom, but yeah, I never thought the original story ever really went anywhere, and this story doesn't really go anywhere either. It's basically a fish out of water story, except they completely skipped over the parts where we see the fish adapting to being out of the water. I mean, "Cast Away", for a comparison, spent a good chunk of the time, showing Tom Hanks, trying to figure out life on the island, before he turned into, master of the island. Here, Mowgli's spent his entire life as a wolf, so we only see, a few small glimpses of how he reacts and behaves differently from wolves, and then he's admonished or congratulated for being more human, depending on who's talking to him, and then, at the end, kill Shere Khan by being human. So, it takes human to kill the endangered bengal tiger! Wait...- Anyway, I wasn't impressed with "The Jungle Book". It's trying to have it both ways, a new version and a callback to the original, and if there's ever Disney movie that should either pick one or the other, it's this one. It's one of those movie, like "The Golden Compass" for instance, where it feels like, I'm basically just supposed to stand back in awe of the special effects and, they're not bad, I don't hate them, they are impressive, maybe if I saw it in 3-D, I'd appreciate them more, but I'm mostly underwhelmed by the movie. The plot is even more simplistic than the original, and not as interesting, the character are interesting more for the actors portraying them then they are characters, Scarlet Johansson as Kaa is particularly odd, I never thought Kaa was a girl, but, what do I know. The best of these, is a really underused Christopher Walken as King Louie; of course he's an underused character in the original film too, but Walken is wonderfully Walken in this. It's not enough to save the movie for me. I frankly can, in any version, care enough about Mowgli to truly appreciate his journey in any adaptation of this film, therefore, I don't end up caring about the movie. And I hope Jon Favreau goes back to directing more things like "Chef" instead of more action-based stuff like this, with this "Cowboys and Aliens" I'm kinda getting tired of it. Sure, I like his "Iron Man" films but, yeah, I'm done with this Favreau for now.


O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA (2016) Director: Ezra Edelman

★★★★★



So, we're actually doing this; we're counting this as a feature film?

(IMDB.COM)
O.J.: Made in America premiered at Sundance Film Festival on January 2016. It also screened at a number of festivals and received a limited theatrical run before airing in 5 parts on ESPN.

(Under breath, then rage)
blah, blah, blah, limited theatrical run before...-, AH, Son of a-, goddamn-, FUCK ME!!! AGH!

(Frustrated sigh)
Oh, crap. Okay, so, I recognize the fact that I do have a lot of readers who are younger than I am, and maybe aren't as informed or don't really remember the O.J. Simpson trial, which is probably why 2016, became the year, we all suddenly decided to inform and reteach everybody about it in film and television, (Sigh, and no, before you ask, I haven't seen the entire FX miniseries yet, I've seen a bit of it, it looked good, but that's all I've seen so far) And for the most part that's a good thing, that said, for those of us who lived through it, and who recall it with a distressing amount of accuracy like it was yesterday, and have since, spent literally a huge chunk of our lives, learning and re-learning about O.J. Simpson, and have lived, relived, re-experienced and do that, not only with the trial, but with more extra added strange and surreal new chapters to the life of O.J. Simpson than I can count, it's-, it just hurts my head. I need an aspirin. And, if that wasn't enough, this is a seven-and-a-half hour documentary!

You read that right, 7 1/2 HOURS! So. let's get this out of the way, theatrically-released motion picture of this length, they are unusual, but it's not unprecedented. There's one experimental movie out there that literally takes over thirty days straight-through to watch and it's trailer is famously 72 minutes long, and there's plenty of famous cinematic feature films and movies that got screened in theaters but might show in other media elsewhere like "The Decalogue" or "Berlin Alexanderlplatz" for instance, that are in the nine hours range, but just in terms of documentaries, again it's unusual, but it's not unprecedented. Frederick Weisman's "At Berkeley" is 4 1/2 hours long and is arguably the best documentary this decade, but in terms of this length, the two that come to mind off-hand are "Shoah", the famous nine-hour documentary on the Holocaust, and "The Sorrow and the Pity", the six hour doc about the French Resistance fighters, that you probably remember as the movie Alvy Singer keeps ending up bringing Annie Hall to go see. Again, it's unusual, but this isn't too bad, except for the fact that, I'm reliving the damn O.J. Simpson trials. And, before you can really understand those trials and why he's currently in prison, up in the northwest corner of my state, after forever turning a pretty decent local casino that I've enjoyed going to most of my life that's pretty cool except for the occasional Union strike, into "That place O.J. robbed those guys." Sorry, Palace Station.

So, okay, O.J. Simpson, first of all, by any standard, he's one of the greatest football players of all-time, and one of the greatest athletes who ever lived. He came around as a standout Heisman Trophy winning running back for USC in the late '60s, and, while there's a lot of aspects of America in the late '60s that are actually well-studied and common knowledge, the sports world at that time, has sorta been lost through history occasionally. '68 was the year the two African-American sprinters at the Mexico City Olympics made the Black Power fist when they medal'd in the 200 meters for instance, and football in particular was quickly becoming the modern american passion we know today, and before O.J. Simpson, the most prominent African-American athlete in the sport was Jim Brown. The most prominent African-American athlete overall, was probably Muhammad Ali, so arguably the biggest sports named in the African-American community at that time, were very politically astute and involved in the Black Rights movement, to varying degrees, and you can argue that they were transforming the sports world at the time. O.J. Simpson, on the other hand...- well, let me put it this way, when the first trial was going on, my mother asked an African-American co-worker about him, because the trial, became about race, for several reasons, that I'm just not gonna explain here, 'cause it would take too long and too much of my sanity, but he mentioned something in passing, about how "Suddenly, he's Black, he never wanted to be before," and at the time, she didn't quite know what he meant, but the movie actually makes it quite clear, 'cause he was a Southern Cal-born and raised, darling, and yes, he was a bit of a hood in high school, but he was a star athlete and got away with a lot, and he was such a great athlete that he basically could get things that others in his position, couldn't and because he was seen as non-threatening and loved the spotlight, he did. Long before, Michael Jordan, O.J. Simpson, was the commercial spokesperson who was Black, but not really, at least to white audiences. You know that conversation in "Do the Right Thing" about how the racist John Turturro sees African-American athletes and pop stars differently? Yeah, "Run, Juice, Run", was from a Hertz commercial, originally.

And he even parlayed that career into a surprisingly successful acting career, and for those who don't really know this, in Hollywood, he actually had quite a presence and reputation, and not necessarily a great performer or anything, but he's a name. And still...-, Okay-um, should I tell this story? Yeah, I-,

Okay, I'm telling a story, really out-of-school here, and I'm gonna leave names out of this, but when I'm not doing this, I do and have shopped around and sent out a couple of my screenplays and pilots in the past. I haven't done this lately, but occasionally I do it, and occasionally I've seen some interest in my loglines and whatnot, and I did make contact with one producer, who was curious about my work, and we exchanged info about our history and knowledge and skillsets in the business, and included in one of the e-mails, he had a list of celebrities he knew and worked with at the bottom of this e-mail, which was clearly a pre-set list, on that list, was O.J. Simpson. This was not that long ago, about, he was in prison at the time, not-that-long ago. So yeah, I'm not saying he was the biggest name or anything, it honestly, wasn't the greatest list of celebrities I've seen someone hand me, (And frankly, I didn't go further with the person, 'cause, while I had no reason to distrust him, I tend to not be impressed when people tell me who they worked with, so-and-so and so-and-so, nobody in the business really brags like that; that's a red flag.) but yeah, he's a name and one that's still thrown around as a reference, despite what happened in Brentwood.

So, what do I think about this documentary about Kim Kardashian's godfather? Well, I don't really have much to say, but it's really good. It deserves the praise and awards it's getting, it's just, man, a lot to really-, ugh. I mean, I've seen and lived almost every O.J. thing that's come out, since this damn trial-, I have a copy of Marcus Allen's biography somewhere, there it is, on my bookshelf actually, I just-, ugh, if you haven't spent 20 years, reliving all this crap already, then, by all means, this is one of the best and most thorough pieces of film, you'll ever need to see to really get a sense of O.J. Simpson, the man, the myth, the reality, the trials, the crimes, the image, and the self-destruction of it thereof, than, absolutely, this is worth the time, it's one of the best films and documentaries you'll find all year. Remember, this is a subject that's, been devoted to 16 hours or so of television and film this year alone, and that's just in the major two pieces of art and there really is, that many layers and perspectives that can be done on this guy, and for better or worst, he needs to be considered and analyzed as a part of and a creation of modern Americana, and this film, does that, amazingly well.


HAIL, CAESAR! (2016) Directors: Joel & Ethan Coen

★★1/2



So, I forgot to review this originally....

Yeah, that, (Sigh) that happens once in a blue moon, where I see something that I intend/should review and somehow, I missed it. Usually I'm on top of that, and frankly I don't know how I missed it. Especially this film, I mean, the Coen Brothers? How do I miss or forget I saw a Coen Brothers film? Well, (Sigh) the thing is, this is kind of a forgettable Coen Brothers film, and to be honest, it was boring. Boring for the Coen Brothers, sure, is a different standard than boring for everybody else, but yeah, this isn't one of their best. I mean, there's a lot of interesting parts, but in terms of a whole, no it doesn't really come together. "Hail, Caesar!" is more or less a send up of the old Hollywood movie system, which, to be honest, while I enjoy how the Coens tend to search high and low for new locations and ergo, new takes on Americana, they've done this a few times before. "Barton Fink" most notably but they've also done remakes of "The Ladykillers" and "True Grit" and they've dabbled with it in other pieces of work as well, and it didn't really have a continuing driving thread. For instance, I couldn't tell you who the lead character even is? I guess, I'll go with Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) the Capitol Studios fixer, who's the one who bursts in the door to make sure that everything gets taken care when celebrities find themselves in a compromising position, which seems to be something that happens to all of them, and continuously. One actress has to be saved from having a random photographer she runs into from taking nude photos of her, yes that was occasionally a problem even in the fifties, although really the studios were more concerned with her image being out there without their consent. He's also considering taking a job with Lockheed, yes that Lockheed, because, apparently that's a career path available for him, and he's considering it. Meanwhile, there's a director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) who's trying to deal with Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) a TV star who's not actually good at acting, although he's quite good as a western stuntman, he can't really act. That scene is funny, it doesn't really go anywhere however, other than to bring up how Ehrenreich is pitched as a star and commodity but not much else. Meanwhile, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is a major star, who unbeknownst to him and to some extent the kidnappers, is drugged and kidnapped and taken to hiding out, still in full Ben-Her meets Spartacus garb, to a secluded island full of communist screenwriters discussing how to overtake the country by sneaking in propaganda to their work. There's also an Esther Williams-esque actress, DeeAnna Moran (Scarlet Johansson) who's in the middle of another unmarried pregnancy, but this time wants to keep the kid, and this requires a complicated scheme involving getting legally married, giving the kid up for adoption, getting divorce again and then having the kid re-adopted, through the help of, a professional fall guy the studio has, Joe Silverman (Jonah Hill). This is weird, sad, kinda funny, but not really. It's cute, and sketchy kitsch at times, like the two twin sister rival reporters, Thora and Thessely Thacker (Both played by Tilda Swinton, because she's officially just trying to fuck with me and the rest of the world with her film choices at this point.) which is a funny nod to Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons, if people know who they are. Still though, this feels like a bunch of ideas for a movie that the Coens had, but never fully thought them out, but they all were based around the movie industry so they were thrown together for a film. (Shrugs) I expect more from them.


THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE (2016) Director: Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly

★★1/2



I'm somewhat notorious for having panned, every film I've ever seen that's based on a video game, or clearly borrows/steals the plot structure of video games. (I'm looking at you, "Sucker Punch" and "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World", you overrated pieces of crap.) Although, to be fair, I haven't actually seen all the major video game film adaptations, there's quite a few that I've missed actually, and a few of them, if I'm really being honest, seem promising. So, in preparation for "The Angry Birds Movie", since it's actually something I was able to play since I have Facebook, I played the game a little bit. It's okay. I played it a couple times, it's funny. I might play it again at some point in the future, but yeah, I'm more of a Candy Crush guy. Mostly I was just wondering how the hell they were gonna turn this game, where flightless birds (Which I guess is why they're angry; I think? I don't know why they're angry but yeah, they seem to be flightless bird, and not like penguins or ostriches flightless, like dodo flightless.) hurl themselves from a slingshot and destroy buildings. Not really a game that I'd think would be adaptable to the big screen, but that said, I think they gave it a decent shot. Red (Jason Sudeikis, doin' a surprisingly good Seth MacFarlane) is Red, an angry, red, bird. Why is he angry? Well, there's quite a few reasons throughout the movie, but if I'm taking a psyhoanalytical view, it's probably because he was hatched as an orphan and that's led to some pent-up anger issues, not that they're unjustified, but Judge Peckinpah (Keegan-Michael Key) sends him to anger management where he has meetings with some other angry birds like Chuck (Josh Gad) and Bomb (Danny McBride). Bomb has a tendency to blow himself up when he's angry. Basically this is a fairly content Utopia that doesn't like it when people disrupt their world. (Eye roll) I'm pretty sure we all know where this is going, don't we? Anyway, some Pigs on boats suddenly arrive on the island one day...-, Okay, actually, no, come to think of it, I did not expect that. Their leader, Leonard (Bill Hader) seems to be a cool guys and suddenly, he's impressing his politeness on the Birds, only Red is suspicious, especially since their boat knocked down his home and he's found several more pigs on the boats than Leonard originally claimed, but he's throwing a pretty good rave, so.... Anyway, of course it turns out that Leonard's right, and after he went up to find the mythical Great Eagle (Peter Dinklage) supposedly the one flying bird that looks out over them, and the town realizes he was right too late, they start their attack on the Pigs. Like I said, considering the game, I'm actually impressed with how they managed to pull in all the main aspects of the game into the movie, kinda well impressed me. I'm not sure where they got the idea that pigs love eggs from, that sounds like something from a bad early draft of "Animal Farm". I don't honestly get that at all. Is it a good movie, worth your time, uh, no. It's a lot better than it could've been, but I can't think of a reason to watch this unless you're really fascinated and devoted to the game and even then. It's not a really an elevated story and all the morals it supposedly tells I've heard told in better films. The animation is nice and I think they tried here, but this was a dead bird walking, or being flung from a slingshot.


WEINER (2016) Directors: Josh Kriegman & Elyse Steinberg

★★★



Really, first the ten-hour O.J. doc, and now you want to keep honoring the Anthony Weiner documentary? Ugh! I'm so getting annoyed at the awards right now. (Sigh) Some of you may be aware I'm pretty political, particularly on the liberal Democrat side. I've not done a good job keeping that secret, especially on my personal Facebook page. Or even on this blog's page some times. Which is here btw, you should like and follow it, there's a lot more there than just on my regular FB page:

https://www.facebook.com/David-Baruffis-Entertainment-Views-and-Reviews-602692689824035/

but, I'm not exactly thrilled at the idea of watching "Weiner", the documentary that was made and shot while following him on his failed 2013 run for New York City mayor. Now, do I like, Weiner as a politician, yeah, I used to, still do to some extent. I like his wife a lot Huma Abedin a lot more, he's a 100% right when he says that if she were running, (And she should've) that she'd kick his ass. She is a better politician than he is, he's more passionate, but she actually knows the angles, and watching this documentary, knowing what's about to happen,- well, there's two things that come to my mind. First, as much as I love Anthony Weiner, I was in favor of him resigning after the scandal, which involved him, for some reason, photographing pictures of his penis and e-mailing them to other women, as well as accidentally posting one shot on Twitter. You see, it's not the sexting that I hated, as a liberal, we don't care about someone's sex life. As long as you're not fucking people or anything else against their will, we genuinely don't give a shit. Yet, most of the time when there's a political sex scandal, if it's a Democrat, they end up resigning and except for Sen. John Ensign, from Nevada, if they're a Republican, they usually manage to keep their seats, usually because they ask for forgiveness or clothe themselves in the church. (Ensign's affair coincided with a blatantly obvious corruption scandal that really led to his resignation) Now, that seems oxymoronic, and it is, but here's the thing, It's not the sex, it's the stupidity, we don't like stupid, and Weiner was stupid. Really stupid. And that, we can't forgive. I mean, his wife is Hillary's right-hand girl, and he's out doing this crap as a Congressman!? And then, he does it as a Mayoral Candidate, and then he keeps doing it as Hillary's running for Office? (Sigh) Stop being stupid, Congressman Weiner, we can really use you. It's the stupidity, seriously. And, the movie shows that, he doesn't have the tact to really be in office. He mentions that at one point, and I do think this is true and observant, that people who often go into politics, aren't necessarily the best at being the most social people and now with something like the internet that makes people who are anti-social or more socially awkward than others, find a outlet that caters to them more easily as social introverts, they can get caught in stuff like this more easily. I get it, and full disclosure, before I switched careers into film, there was a time where I thought I would get into politics. Not running for anything, (At least I hope not, although there are times when I look at some of the elected officials in my district....) but behind the scenes, perhaps as a policy advisor or speechwriter. And yes, politicians, to paraphrase Kevin Smith in "Clerks", they hate people, but they love gatherings, well, they love humanity more, at least they used to, but yeah, more than that, they like gatherings. People behind the scenes of politicians, especially the smarter ones who work for the politicians, they hate all three, as I suspect Abedin does, and probably hates all three more than ever right now. As far as my second thought, as political documentaries go, I guess it's okay. I don't think anybody's gonna confuse this with "The War Room" anytime soon, at least I hope they don't, but it was fascinating in a way that I haven't seen other similar films be before. It's like watching two people, one who knows how but doesn't do, another who does but doesn't quite know exactly how, and unfortunately, neither one of them are really there to click and help the other out. Earlier this Summer, Huma Abedin filed for divorce, after the latest scandal broke. Again, it's not the sexting that bothers me, sexting itself, fine, I don't care, but it's so stupid, and he's so stupid about it...! It's so pathetic, Sydney Leathers, the second girl, the opportunist he texted who became a porn star off the fame, tries to ambush him at his election headquarters on election day, after she did a Howard Stern interview where it was brought up that she never even met the guy; they find a great way to work around her, but, good god, she's right, the hypocrisy is one thing, but it's not even an affair that he got caught for! Anthony Weiner, the unfortunately-named Democratic Senator, who was so awful at sex scandals, he didn't have sex in his sex scandals, how can you trust a guy like that?


GREEN ROOM (2016) Director: Jeremy Saulnier

★★★1/2 



Okay, what do we got here, "Green Room"? Huh. I know consciously what that is, and maybe it's just living in Vegas too long, but I keep confusing "Green Room" with "Green Door". (Sigh) From my experiences,-, never mind. Anyway, no they're not related and like most green rooms, they're not actually green. That's just the name they give to the room in which the performers of a concert in this case, or guests of a show hang out until they go on stage. This time, it's a punk rock band, and a bad one at that, called the Ain't Rights. They do an interview for some podcaster, and then they get a couple, "Gigs" which is charitable, including one at some out-of-the-way Neo-Nazi club. (Not that there's a Neo-Nazi nightclub next door or anything, at least there shouldn't be. I mean, not just because I'm against that, but having one in public would be such a pain, and there'd be public outcry and protests and unwanted publicity, yeah, if you're gonna open a Neo-Nazi club, make sure it's out-of-the-way, way better for business.) Anyway, the band, led by, Pat (Anton Yelchin, oh that's who that was. Damn, I never notice when it's him, even after death) is dire, and since there used to skinheads at their concerts, they go with it. And yeah, that's-, that's not untrue from what I've heard and not surprising that the one kind of music the alt-right   racists assholes corrupt is the one that requires the fewest amount of notes to play, and they usually still don't play them well. Anyway, they perform their gig and then the next band up takes over the Green Room, and then, apparently someone in that room, ends up dead and now both bands are stuck and trapped in the room, as they lock them in, while they wait for the owner Darcy-, what the fuck!?!?!?!?!?!? PATRICK STEWART!?!?!? Oh-kay, well, that's about the last person I thought I'd see in this movie. A movie with a bunch of young kid no-names, like (Checking IMDB)  Imogen Poots-, wait, who was she? Oh, I missed her. Okay, those two, of course Yelchin, and, (Checking again) Alia Shawkat, wait Maeby Bluth? That was the girl member of the band?! Okay, I was clearly not paying enough attention. What else am I missing, who's this Director, what else did he do... (Checking IMDB.) Oooooh, damn, "Blue Ruin". Oh, I hated that film. Okay, now, this, sorta makes more sense, not much, but....- actually, all things considered, this is a pretty good horror thriller. There's a good set of villains who have just as much reason to be weary of the band members they've technically kidnapped as they do the cops, and they're main ultimate objective is basically to cover up a crime ironically. It's also, a good contrast between space and setting, keeping tension by finding a situation that keeps it's characters stuck in a single place and have to find their way out, without it seeming, somewhat unrealistic, or leave open the possibility that the characters could leave at any time. They don't just keep it there though, they also some good directing around the location of the entire bar, and then there's some great outdoors battles and games of deadly chess as the bodies mount outdoors, as they're stuck in the middle of nowhere, even after the one murder turns into a bloody massacre. I don't think I buy any argument that says it all makes sense or works logically, but it's believable enough, and yeah, this movie kept me in suspense and kept surprising me. Casting helps a bit here. It's also much more logical and thoughtful than "Blue Ruin", Saulnier's previous film which followed an idiot trying to kill somebody while the director debated whether he was trying to make a Coen Brothers film or a Terrence Malick film. If there's a flaw, it's that I don't think any of the characters were really fleshed out, which is why and how I suspect some actors I'm somewhat familiar with were able to fly under the radar without me noticing, but that's not necessarily a bad thing either. (Although without giving the joke away, it's nice to see that all the member of the Ain't Rights were posers when it comes to their music, but in the best way possible.) This is a surprisingly inventive horror/thriller. I don't think it's a great one, but there's more than enough good ideas here to recommend.


THE LAST MAN ON THE MOON (2016) Director: Mark Craig

★★★★



I had a teacher in high school, I won't say who it was, and, generally I liked him for the most part, but I do remember one time he said something that was kinda fortuitous about being a skeptic regarding the moon landing. (Eye roll) I know, I can't stand those morons either, part of me, thinks he was doing it to rile some of the class up, which he was prone to do especially when it came to the female students, but in this case I do actually think he believed it. and one of his arguments was that, "How come we haven't gone back there since?" (I called him out on other parts as well but this is the one that really surprised me) I've heard that one elsewhere before, and here's the thing, we did. We went back four times to the Moon, successfully, and a few other times were attempted, most notably the failed Apollo 13 mission, or were at least in the early stages of being considered by NASA, but for one reason or another, usually funding or lack thereof technically, we didn't go back after. Not lately, but, even if you think there's something credible about the theory that the original moon landing was a hoax, which, there isn't, let's be clear, you're gonna claim that, NASA then went out of the way and faked it four other times, no to mention the infamous Apollo 13 flight being a near catastrophic miss, just to cover up the original fake one? (You ever notice they never do bring up the other four successful moon-landings in their conspiracies?) Anyway, the 12th and as of this date, final astronaut to leave his footprints on the Moon was Gene Cernan, the subject of the wonderful documentary, "The Last Man on the Moon". Cernan's in his eighties now, and spends most of his life on his farm and ranch. He's a cowboy, so yes, "The Astronaut Farmer" was not that strange a movie. There's not too much too his life to be honest, but I don't mind that here. He walked on the moon, after that, yeah, everything's gonna be a little downhill. He was also Mercury pilot before that and was one of the first to spacewalk. He also went up in space on Apollo 10, which was basically a mission to prepare for Apollo 11. He was also a bit reckless as a pilot and was known for some interesting and questonable shenanigans, particularly when he was in the Navy. He actually crashed his small plane shortly before he was schedule for his lunar mission, which, eh, normally would be a bad omen, but as we know, they let him go anyway. He divorced his wife, which was not uncommon among many of the astronauts, often after they head off, they have trouble at home. "You think going to the moon is hard, try staying home," his wife famously quipped. Cernan's a good storyteller and this film is as good to listen to while drifting off as it is to watch, maybe even moreso, and that's not a bad thing btw: I rather appreciate that about. So many documentaries can get bogged down in footage and don't allow a good narrator to guide us, Cernan's a good storyteller and director Mark Craig, let's him tell it. "The Last Man on the Moon", is hopefully a premature statement, but for now, it's great to get this piece that showcases of the few true living heroes in America.


COLLIDING DREAMS (2016) Directors: Joseph Dorman and Oren Rudavsky

★★★★



Alright, I've had a seven-hour O.J. document, a bad comic book movie, a bad animated movie, a documentary about an annoying politician and a disappointingly forgettable Coen Brothers movie, alright, what's next? Hmm..., okay, "Colliding Dreams" is next on my watchlist. Okay, what is this about?

(Pause)

A documentary about the history of Zionism. Almost 2 1/2 hours long.

(Sigh)

I hate my life, I hate my life, I hate my life, I hate my life, I hate my life, I hate my life....!

(Twenty minutes later)

Alright, Zionism, because, I clearly chose the wrong career path, is the movement that originated in the late 1800s, for the establishment and development and later protection of a Jewish national state. In 1948, this goal was accomplished, when the nation of Israel was officially founded.

And nothing bad ever happened again! Boy, that was a short review! Okay, what's the next movie-, NO! C'mon, NO! NO! I don't want to! Please! Just, let me move on, onto anything else please! There's gotta be something-, anything, please? Can't we just...-

(Depressed sigh)

Kill me, kill me now! Okay, I may have exaggerated the "Nothing bad ever happened..." part. As well as the "Again. The "And", however seemed very accurate...-, ALRIGHT, I'M GETTING TO A REVIEW!

(Sigh)

So yeah, this is very well-done, informational and observant, it's a good movie that achieves it's objective, but that said, oh boy. So, I'm not gonna go through the entire history of the last 150 or so + years, all this. The movie does that, and it does it well, and for the most part, it seems to strive to look at the history in an unbias and historical manner all the way back from the beginning of the movement, to the establishment of the British mandate of a Jewish state in Palestine, to the creation of the state, which led to the Palestines without a country of their own, which they point out, they were the majority of at the time, and then such event as the Six Day War and the construction the wall, all the way to today's growing state of unease and unsuredness of the future for two groups of peoples. I'm- like I said, It's a good informational doc, lot of intriguing and fascinating talking heads, and the amount you're willing or able to put up with this, is probably equivalent to whether or not you will enjoy the movie. And it probably doesn't hurt if you've got a personal stake on the subject of Zionism. I-, well, I'm of two minds. One, I seriously think it's probably a bad idea, in general to form a state literally out of the air, based on a nationalistic and religious bias. There's quite a long history of that, which despite it's inevitability in many or most cases, probably not the best idea. That said, if there was any group of peoples who's been unfairly persecuted and dismiss from their lands, even with a skeptical reading of history, particularly religious texts, who can probably claim that they're most in need and deserving and should have a protected land of their own, it's the Jews. That's the part that's kind of hard to ignore, and that's even if you don't take into account the Holocaust, which-, yeah, like, after that, then I get it.

"Okay, six million of you just got slaughter and we, the rest of the world, really shouldn't have let that happen, so you want you're own country, fine you got it!" "Really, you want it there? You sure?" "Okay, your call."

That's kinda how that went down. Then, Syria and Egypt claims the rest of the country and suddenly we had a Palestinean refugee conflict, and it's not like these two peoples didn't have a history before. (Sigh) The movie, does show both sides, and it's understandable how and why both of them feel as they do. And, the movie doesn't really reveal any easy solutions or answers. It probably could be more critical of many of the Israeli actions in the past, but yeah, being overly critical of a persecuted peoples.... The sins of the father, eh?

If there is something that's fascinating for me, was the beginnings of the movement and the early days of the Zionist communes in Palestine, which were quite sparse in their beginnings and actually many of the Jews and Palestinians did in fact get along for quite a while at that time. They were often working for them, but it wasn't out of a controlling interest, they needed workers and farmers to tend to the farm, or else, they would've died. Looking at modern day Israeli places like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, it's actually shocking what's been built and where it was created, all within a very short period of time, not even a 100 years really. And under the constant threat of genocidal eradication from, literally every one of it's neightbors. It's impressive.

Was it a good idea, the best idea? I-, I have no idea. But the movie does a damn good job in considering it and showing the history and consequences of such a movement and decision, one that makes other new nations that have formed in recent decades, well, it puts them in another perspective to compare to such an undertaking as Israel.

Those were my thoughts. Okay, can I please move on now....!


BONE TOMAHAWK (2015) Director: S. Craig Zahler

★★★★



So, now I'm happy about, a-, cannibal zombie horror epic, western! This week, I swear to fucking god, but yes, "Bone Tomahawk" is definitely one of the most intriguing and fascinating neo-westerns I've seen in a while. The western, as it's been pointed out, has been having a bit of a Renaissance in recent years on the independent circuit lately, and that's not a bad thing. That's probably where it would do best, especially since the next generation is probably gonna rely heavily on undermining the conventions of the genre, along with a blend of mixing other genres with the westerns to come up with something new. And, I'll be damned, they came up with something new here even with some conventions as big westerns stars. The town top lawmen is Sheriff Hunt (Kurt Russell, not looking too different from when he was in "Tombstone", and town is always on alert. After some suspicious activity at the border is reported, he confronts and shoots Purvis (David Arquette) a thief, not a particularly good one, but he catches rather quickly, but he's shot, so they need to send for the Doctor. Well, the Doctor's drunk, so they send for the other Doctor, Samantha (Lily Simmons). Samantha's husband, Arthur (Patrick Wilson) is at home with a badly broken leg, that he's struggling to get to heal, but attends to Purvis's gun shot wound, while he's locked up in the town prison. Then, they suddenly become missing, and there's sudden shocking deaths and attacks elsewhere in the town. Indians? No, warns the local Native American Ramiro (Erick Chavarria) they're savages, they don't have a language, based on the weapons they left behind. And now, the movie seems basically a long search into the west, with Sheriff Hunt, Arthur, Deputy Chicory (Richard Jenkins) as somebody who has the most experience fighting the Indians, Brooder (Matthew Fox). He's essentially, the Quint of this mission. I won't spoil the ending for you,- well, technically I kinda already did, they do find, something that I'm calling cannibal zombie savages, and trying to explain much more is giving too much away. "Bone Tomahawk" is a really strong action-adventure feature horror thriller mystery that's mostly a movie where characters are travelling on horseback and talking for days. They're heading in towards an unknown, knowing they might not be coming back, and not sure what they'll find when they get there, or whether or not they'll even be able to defend themselves against, whoever or whatever they end up finding. It's a surprisingly effective twist that works better in practice than it on the screen than it probably does on the page. There's some good characters and memorable performances. It's Director S. Craig Zahler's debut feature, he's mostly a writer and musician until now; it's clear he's got an eclectic background as he seems determined to put a few different contradictory ideas into the same movie, and in another context with another director, this film could've gone straight to the bad cult movie channel on Roku, but this is quite a strong and effective film. There's a really fascinating talent behind the camera and I'm very curious to see what he comes up with next. I'm convinced whatever it is, will probably at minimum, not be boring.


THE TRIBE (2015) Director: Myroslav Slaboshpytski

★★★★★




So, you'd think that, cinema, would actually be a natural art form for the deaf to appreciate and thrive in. It's certainly a visual art form, but actually, that's not really accurate. Now there's a lot of reasons for that, many of which have to deal with the history of Deaf people in America (and around of the world of course), which in of itself is actually a giant smorgasbord of nuances and teachings and approaches towards the deaf as well as the deaf's approach to handling, the hearing world that, would take too long to fully explain, but the first obvious reason is that, movies actually are very much based in sound, as much, if not in some cases moreso, than in the visual. Even silent movies were rarely silent, they usually came with score that was performed along with the screening of the feature film, either by piano, or in larger cities sometimes, by orchestra. That's not the only reason though, visually, the language of cinema, often doesn't equate and translate well to the Deaf. For starters, the severe lack of representation of the Deaf in media is a big hurdle, off the top of my head, I can think of three deaf actors, and I'm betting most of you can think of only one. (Kudos to those who know who Linda Bove and/or Shoshanna Stern are, and huge props if you can someone else that I don't know off-hand) There are plenty, plenty more by the way, most of the them, usually end up working on the stage where there's a longer and much richer history of Deaf acting performers and performances. In cinema, there's a few memorable portrayals, too many of them are portrayed by hearing actors, so it's a little tricky, but the most noteworthy example, until now anyway that starred and feature Deaf actors was of course, "Children of a Lesser God". Which is a pretty good movie that still holds up and it's of course the film, the actress all of you should've known already, Marlee Matlin, won the Oscar for Best Actress. (Still the record-holder for youngest winner, btw, and she deserved it) Still though, there's some good criticisms of that movie in the Deaf community, for instance, the main star, is a hearing actor, William Hurt, who talks through most/much of his dialogue, even while signing most of his performance.. The signing, is the other problem, not that it's bad, but, well, there are some close-up scenes in particular with Matlin, that are powerful, but she's signing during them. (She doesn't speak much in the movie) which means, we're staring directly at her face, and can't see what she's saying with her hands. So, a movie about the Deaf, where the Deaf, can't see what the Deaf character is saying part of the time, and that's Hollywood best example. Hmmmmm. Like I said, language of cinema, the shot itself is great, portrays the emotions that it's trying to portray, performance is good, but cinema language, doesn't always translate.

So, that was the first thing I noticed when confronted with this fascinating cinematic risk of a film, "The Tribe" the debut feature from Ukrainian director Myroslav Slaboshpytski which takes place at a boarding school for the Deaf, was that the movie, is very much, almost entirely in master or wide shots, so, yes, you can always see the characters signing, which is very important 'cause nobody speaks in this movie, although there is noise and sounds, often of and by the characters, which is something you don't always think about, Deaf people, do make quite a bit of noise in an effort to get their points and thoughts through. Still though, you're probably that I noticed the wide shots in order to pay attention to the signing that, Slaboshpytski, specifically chose not to have subtitled or translated, especially since the movie is pretty full of violence, including murder, as well as sex, nudity, more crimes than a well-run Mafia and during one scene, an abortion. This movie is not shying away from anything. The movie takes place at a Boarding School for Deaf youths, which on it's surface, could in any other context seems like a modern day "Dead Poets Society", although European cinema has a tradition of taking the boarding school at turning it into a political parable, and that's been the most noteworthy comparison most critics have made, to films like Lindsay Anderson's "If...." for instance. (The fact that it's a Ukrainian film, which, if you haven't heard, there's a lot of political shit going down there lately, also contributes to that) That said, I'm not sure I agree with that reading. We're not given character names while watching the film, again, no subtitles, no one speaks other than Sign, and I'm rusty on my ASL, and I'm not even positive that's the Sign they were using, but the main character is Sergey (Grigoriy Fesenko) who is the new kid in the boarding school, and therefore is the one who introduces us to this underworld gang of criminality, that calls themselves "The Tribe". During school hours, everything seems normal, almost blase, after wards, drugs and alcohol is stolen, from locals, in burglaries and robberies, that get violent, not to mention the severe violence within the group, as, yeah, they jump you in, essentially. They also run a prostitution rings out of the van, as the girls reveal their hooker clothes underneath their school clothes and the boys are essentially their pimps. (This inevitably leads to the abortion scene) Sergey also falls in love with one of the prostitutes, Anya (Yana Novikava) and that's another divide. It's pretty preposterous when you say out loud everything these high school students essentially are running and able to get away with and cover-up, so most translations of the film have been metaphorical, but is it all that ridiculous? I guess technically yes, but I'm incline to give this film a pass on the plausibility meter, because I don't think it's that out there. Essentially, the movie is about us, entering a world that we're unfamiliar with and can barely understand and follow it's so foreign to us, and that's actually a good description of the Deaf World. And yes, from what I've remember hearing and studying, the Deaf often do, run in their own circles and have a little world of their own outside of the traditional Hearing world, and like other cultures that are or have otherwise found themselves separate from mainstream society, they do sometimes build there own little neighborhood, civilization practically, hidden from everyone else, and yeah, reasonably, that would include very underworld elements like this, that could hypothetically hide in plain sight, as an otherwise upstanding boarding school full of youths. That's obviously just my interpretation. but "The Tribe" on both levels and both really well. This is a powerful film, one that demands your attention and rewards you with it's striking nakedness, willing to take to extreme with those left aside for most of the world, what they themselves would probably keep hidden away from society ourselves. Definitely one of the most fascinating and most unique cinematic experiences I've ever had.


SECRET IN THEIR EYES (2015) Director: Billy Ray

★★★



At the '09 Oscars, the Argentinean film, "El Secreto de sus Ojos" from Director Juan Jose Campanella was the surprise winner of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. It's a pretty good movie itself, I definitely remember it, although I was never exactly thrilled with the film myself. I think I saw it just before I started this blog, so I never did write a review for it, but yeah, it did win in what was otherwise a weak year for the category, but from a filmmaking perspective, it was particularly, one amazing long take that involved a police chase on foot at a soccer stadium, that's as good as anything that say, Alfonso Cuaron has done lately. The movie, which I know under it's English translated title, "The Secret in Their Eyes", (Which means, they basically got rid of "The" for the remake; I don't get why, especially since it's a better title with the "The".) was basically at it's core, a fairly traditional murder-mystery feature, so it's not a horrible choice of film to do an American remake of, and to be fair, there's not too much that's changed, although, that long unbroken take is replaced with a more traditionally edited sequence, this one in Dodgers Stadium during a baseball game, supposedly and it's not as impressive when compared to the original, but I always thought the original film had it's issues too though. The main one, being the continuous transfer of time, the movie jumps between two time periods, thirteen years apart. In the America version, that means it's 2002, and everybody's still grieving from 9/11, even in Los Angeles, where you could argue was the next logical and most likely target for a major terrorist attack, after Washington of course but still, culture capital of the world. Anyway, Ray Kasten (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is the head police investigator in L.A. who's returned back to town 13 years later, and gets to convince the D.A., Claire Sloan (Nicole Kidman) who to reopen the case involving Ray's then-partner Jessica Cobb's (Julia Roberts, strangely, 'cause apparently this film followed, fantasy filmmaking casting rules [Seriously, for those of you who don't remember them at the peak of their stardom, the idea of Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman in the same movie is just unbelievably strange and surreal, especially if you know their paycheck average]) slain daughter. She will killed and raped outside of a mosque, and the main suspect, Marzin (Joe Cole) who's also known as Beckwith, unfortunately happened to be a snitch for the local task force, as he's leading them to bust a potential sleeper cell, so the police, represented by Martin Morales (Alfred Molina) is reluctant to charge and even pursue the kid, despite it being a cop's daughter who's killed, but Ray goes after him anyway, along with the help of another officer, Bumpy (Dean Norris, who's a professional at playing cops). I won't reveal the twist at the end, other than to see that, the movie is okay, it's just more ordinary than I think people realize. And I think that was ultimately my issue with the original film, that and the way they combine these two time periods and timelines to where they almost seem to be happening at once; I get what they were going for and that might work better in a novel perhaps, but I'm not sure the way they do it here actually helps. It mostly just kinda confused me, it's not always clear whether we're in the present or past, or which is which or is this a memory, an imagination, if it is, from who's point of view is it.... It's all a bit jumbled for me. I didn't like how that worked in the first movie either, so I'm not surprised I didn't care for it here. Still, at it's core, it's a good classic detective story and for that I recommend it. It's well-made and well-acted. Writer/Director Billy Ray has written and made better, for him and others, "Shattered Glass" for instance, as well as the screenplay for "Captain Phillips". He's also done much worst, like the screenplay for "Color of Night", so, he's gotten a lot better at hiding a twist since twenty years ago. That said, this was a good movie to begin with, so he didn't have to do too much. It's a good remake/adaptation, I wish the directing was more adventurous, but for what it is, it works. I think I'm still waiting for the ultimate and best possible telling of this story on film however.


ENTERTAINMENT (2015) Director: Rick Alverson

★1/2



I think, and this is only my guess at the moment, that either the filmmakers don't know about stand-up comedy, or that the main character is attempting to perform some kind of Kaufman-esque performance art piece, but either way, the main character in "Entertainment" just sucks at it.

That what was I originally wrote on my notes as an observation of "Entertainment", but thinking about it a little more, I definitely recalled more of Andy Kaufman than I first realize, particularly, his infamous Tony Clifford character that was also a performer, although he was more of a singer, or billed himself as one, instead of a comedian, although that's being very technical, and besides, the whole Tony Clifton persona was a comedic act, so.... (Shrugs) but anyway, after thinking it through I realize, that, I must be getting played here and yes, after doing a little more research on the actor, Gregg Turkington, I found out that he's actually portraying a character of his that's never named in the movie, Neil Hamburger, a character he's brought out on tour several times, and one that's been portrayed on some of Turkington's television shows, most notably, "Tim and Eric, Awesome Show, Great Job!". He's also a pretty well-known voice over actor on shows like "Gravity Falls". I searched for his stand-up performance, not Neil Hamburger's, but his, and couldn't find any, at least on Youtube, not easily anyway. It's possible now, that I might be just missing out on the joke of "Entertainment", whatever that joke was, but eh, I don't know if that makes up for this movie. You see, the whole joke with Tony Clifton was that, he wasn't a real comic, and it was just Andy Kaufman, or somebody else who everybody thought was Andy Kaufman, usually his friend Bob Zmuda, was portraying this ridiculous over-the-top character. In "Entertainment", we don't get that joke. There's a guy, who is clearly different from The Comedian's onstage persona, but we never are in on the joke that he's, not an asshole,or actually knows what comedy is and is aware that he's playing a bad comic, if that's his intention, which I'm not 100% sure is his intention. The guy, outside of his persona, he's there, but it's not like he's Andy Kaufman or somebody we know, is otherwise entertaining and is performing. Instead, we see him, matriculating through the mediocre life of a bad stand-up comic, as though, he's sorta outside of his own experiences. It's kinda walking through a David Lynch movie with some of these vignettes, but I don't think they actually lead anywhere or help us learn about him. He doesn't even use what could in other hands, even some of the more dire, sad and gruesomes sequences he's walked in on, be funny, on stage. Even the one where he walks into a bathroom and finds a young girl giving birth on the floor, that can be funny in the right context. We see one comic actually do this, he's talking to The Comedian about his life, personally shooting the shit, and then, we see him on stage, almost verbatim, tell the same story as an act, and it's not exactly fine-tuned, but it's funny, it's humorous, it's an anecdote. I mean, this guy, literally telling jokes, like, a joke. Not like an act, a comic performs an act, and you can argue this whole thing is an act, but he's literally just some of the meanest and insensitive jokes I can think of; he sets it up, waits for the silence and gives the punchline, and then angry and pissed off when nobody laughs. (Well, he does get laughs at a prison, for, an okay joke at one point) I don't think I ever even see him write these jokes come to think of it or work on his material. If I were to see this character on stage, understanding that he's performing an act, than maybe I can get in on the joke and be more sympathetic, but we pull the curtain on this guy, and he's still just a dull, uninteresting shitty guy who's not funny either in real life or in his persona. And that's not the end of the world, some of the greatest comedians aren't on, in real life, and I understand his dissatisfaction, for instance when he's hanging out with a cousin he never sees, Cousin John (John C. Reilly) and he tries to get him to tell the joke that he told, and he doesn't want to be funny when he's not performing, but on the same token, I don't get exactly why he's performing either. He doesn't get enjoyment out of it; he doesn't seem to be trying to fool the audience into laughing or in on his own con of the audience and he genuinely seems angry when he's heckled. He's not even that good at heckling, which, if he's this kind of comic, he really should be. I've written stand-up material for some people before, I know a little bit about this world, and I can't really tell what this movie's doing, sending it up, destroying it, attacking the audience of it, attacking audiences in general? It mostly just feels like dishonest rage more than anything. The character is really sadist and frankly, I don't want to sit around watching him embrace in his sadism. Whether or not that's also Turkington's sadism too, and just the character's...-, well, I don't care and don't know the difference, so, bleh.


WE ARE STILL HERE (2015) Director: Ted Geoghagen

★1/2



Looking over some of the reviews of "We Are Still Here", most of which are amazingly positive, I-eh, well, looking at Helen Verongos's review in the New York Times, she ends on a strange note.

"His inspiration is as retro as the antique lenses selected to capture the movie in dusty, faded tones, but his sketchy plot will make you appreciate the newspaper headlines rolling past at the close that fill in enough exposition to make sense of the rickety story line and make clear what’s really haunting the house. Sort of."
       
Okay, since she gave away the ending, I guess I'll comment on it, 'cause it was in fact, the ending of the newspaper rolling headlines from the past, that determined to me, without a doubt that the movie was a piece of crap not worth anybody's time. Okay, that's not true, it was a piece of crap beforehand, but yeah, let me, give some advice to everyone else here, if you need to, end the movie, by filling in the exposition of what we didn't already know, and I don't mean, a twist ending, I mean, fill in the exposition where you suddenly go, "Oh, that's why this happened!", then, yeah, you're generally in trouble, and that goes triple for horror movies. "We Are Still Here", is a good exhibit A for this. Now, to be fair, I kinda get what the other critics are talking about, in terms it being a retro take on the genre, I did think of some other great horror movies. "Don't Look Now", for instance also involves a couple, who leave  their home after their kid's untimely death in order to try to get on with their life elsewhere, sorta like how the couple in this film do, Anne and Paul (Barbara Crampton and Andrew Sensenig), except the only thing is, that the couple in "Don't Look Now" actually takes step to try and get on with their lives, these two just decided to move into a scary house in a scary neighborhood, which when they find out might be haunted, there's a fear that the ghost of their kid has come with them. That's about the only good comparison I can make to that film, 'cause the other movie this film reminded me was "Straw Dogs", both the original version by Sam Peckinpah and the recent remake, from Rod Lurie, both of which are awful! I know, I'm in the minority on this one, especially regarding the original version, but no, a town doesn't just go crazy because, the new guy is weird, or any other non-reason. (Which btw, in the original story, that's not the ending, it's actually the schoolkids that attack [Well, they attack first and they're the ones that trigger the adults to attack the house as well], which is symbolically shown in the first movie, and actually does make a lot more sense than what we actually got, just trust me on that, you can look up why later.) So there's the town that's evil and doesn't like that people are living there, mysterious forces that live there through a history that's glanced over in the beginning, although we do get some clarification of it later, too late, oh and there's some psychic, including their friends Jacob and May (Larry Fessenden and Lisa Marie) who are gypsy hippie psychics, well, Jacob's mostly a happy old pothead but May senses some creepy things, 'cause movies like these, need those things. Actually, come to think of it, the film reminds me of another overrated as hell haunted house horror film, "The Shining". (Come at me, it's overrated!) especially the arbitrary ending. See, my problem with "The Shining" was always that nothing's scary in it. No, seriously, nothing is scary, because everything is scary. When everything is scary, and the kid is psychic and the house is haunted, and the dad is going insane, when everything's so frightening, by the time you get to the ending ,where, oh, "But here's the real scary thing, not all the other scary things," I'm thinking, "Well, why him, what's different?" You can have paranoia, but you can't just have everything actually be scary, 'cause the opposite effect happens, and now is scary, and that's a huge problem with "The Shining" that makes it almost unwatchable and that's a big problem here, except here it's more arbitrary, in that, it barely matters at all that something specific actually is the thing to be afraid of and that's what pissed me off about the headlines at the end. If you're gonna do that, at least keep it a mystery to us, which "The Shining" to some extent actually does, and why it's actually worth the discussion and analysts. This film seems to have seen all these older horror classics ranging from the Grand Guignal to the more high scale psychological thriller classic, hell the movie has a dream cast of classic horror actors and directors when I go back to check their IMDB page, and tries to shove it all together, but understand why these certain ideas and details, work, or work better at least in their particular films then they do here. In those other movies, even if they're just red herrings, at least they serve a purpose at red herrings, but here, they were all pointless, and for that matter, so is this movie.                                                                                                                                                                                       
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