I don’t know if I believe anything that I’m saying.
There are people out there, you know them, who hate things that are popular. Like there’s literally nothing on KISS FM that doesn’t make them think that society is slowly consuming its own feces like it’s a circular, social human caterpillar. I’m one of those people. Perfect example: I went and saw Frances Ha (2013) today and had various opinions about it with a generally positive view and as I did a little poking around via IMDb, I had this immediate feeling in my metaphorical stomach of the revolted kind. I was hit by this giant pair of flying horned rim glasses without lenses in them, slapped by a pair of skinny jeans, and a vinyl album from Fleet Foxes broken over my head literally like a million times. But I recover, look at the single note I made during the movie, and breathe. It’s okay. It’s not available on vinyl.
Frances (Greta Gerwig) lives with her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner) in Brooklyn. They are super close. They’re about as close as you can get without being like total lesbos. Frances is a dancer of the modern kind and is an apprentice at a studio. Sophie works for Random House. When Sophie moves out and leaves Frances to her own devices, it becomes blazingly clear how not together she has her life. She moves from place to place, keeps her head firmly buried in the sand as all trajectories in her life are pointing down. She’s 27, unmarried, no regular job, and is trying to be a modern dancer. I guess it’s not like she’s trying to be a ballerina. She’s also friends with Lev (Adam Driver), a rich man’s son working as a sculptor, and Benji (Michael Zegen) a writer/comedian of dubioius ambition who clearly likes Frances a lot while playing as if he doesn’t.
Posted in Film
Tagged Adam Driver, Canon 5D, comedy, film, Frances Ha, greta gerwig, IFC Center, Michael Zegen, Mickey Sumner, movie review, movies, Noah Baumbach, reviews, Sam Levy
I have to ask your advice, Gideon.
There is a phenomenon that perhaps everyone feels when they attempt to become literate in theatrical affairs of missing something. There are many writers, directors, and actors that are spoken of in hushed tones and labelled as “a genius”. Often this is done by actors who should be ignored as habitual exaggerators, but when you see on a DVD cover “XXX’s…”–as you can see is the case for Stephen Poliakoff‘s Gideon’s Daughter (2005)–this individual is more widely appreciated and if I find it to be weak in some way that this is a reflection upon my tastes and skills of observation. Poliakoff comes from a theatrical background and produces television of a theatrical nature. That is, it lies somewhere between low-budget film and literature in its scope and style. After seeing Gideon’s Daughter and thinking that it was basically fine, I then watched interviews that spoke of Poliakoff like he was a visionary and thought, “Gosh, did I miss something?”
Gideon Warner (Bill Nighy) is a PR man of considerable renown among those in the media and politics. He is sought after for advice or representation as a sort of guru. A writer of some description, William Sneath (Robert Lindsay), is in his pajamas dictating Warner’s story to a young typist (Samantha Whittaker). It is 1997 and Labour has just won an election and the PR man has become an institutional necessity. Warner’s young daughter, Natasha (Emily Blunt) is finishing school and is quite distant from him. When Warner is approached by a government minister (Tom Goodman-Hill), he comes into contact with Stella (Miranda Richardson), a woman who hounds this minister (with her husband (David Westhead)) after losing her son in a car accident. Warner and Stella strike up a relationship either causing or correlated with his disillusionment with his profession and PR partner Andrew (Tom Hardy). And as he becomes more disillusioned and aloof with his job, to the point of self-destructive, the greater grows his power and prestige.
Posted in Television
Tagged Adrian Johnston, Barry Ackroyd, BBC, bill nighy, David Westhead, emily blunt, film, Friends & Crocodiles, Gideon's Daughter, Miranda Richardson, Robert Lindsay, Samantha Whittaker, Stephen Poliakoff, television, Tom Goodman-Hill, tom hardy, TV Movie
Writer/director Billy Wilder is known for his ability to bring the best to every genre he takes on, but most of all, he is known for his comedies. The secret to his other successes may be that he brings his razor-sharp wit along with him. That and frequent co-writer, I.A.L. Diamond. The two put together strings of jokes that would go on forever. One such plotted vaudeville act is One, Two, Three (1961). Not the best or the best known–those must be the Jack Lemmon films Some Like It Hot (1959) and The Apartment (1960)–One, Two, Three is sharp, quick, and with a point. But after 1961, Wilder never quite regained the lofty heights he frequented since the mid-forties with Double Indemnity (1944). That is to say, I’ve never heard anyone speak kindly of anything after The Apartment. Consider this an experiment in authorship.
C.R. MacNamara (James Cagney) is the head of Coca-Cola in West Berlin. He’s climbing the greasy pole and thinks that if he can make a deal with the Russians to bring Coke into the Soviet Union, he’ll be made head of Coca-Cola for all of Europe. He’s got a pretty secretary in Fräulein Ingeborg (Lilo Pulver), an American Helen Mirren for a wife (Arlene Francis), and, in short order, a hell of a problem. MacNamara’s boss, Hazeltine (Howard St. John) is sending his daughter Scarlet (Pamela Tiffin) through Europe to keep her away from some rock musician or something and her next stop is Berlin. She’s “hot blooded” and gets married to a devoted communist, Otto Piffl (Horst Buchholz), who also happens to be handsome. It’s distressing, but MacNamara’s a doer and he does. Like one, two, three.
Posted in Film
Tagged Aram Khachaturian, Arlene Francis, Billy Wilder, comedy, film, Hanns Lothar, Horst Buchholz, Howard St. John, I.A.L. Diamond, James Cagney, Leon Askin, Lilo Pulver, movie review, movies, One Two Three, Pamela Tiffin, reviews, Sabre Dance, Screwball Comedy
A good fight? I think that’s your problem right there.
They’re back! That’s right, the team that most people probably think of as J.J. Abrams (but actually includes writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (plus Damon Lindelof), cinematographer Daniel Mindel, and various producers) has followed up their alternative universe Star Trek (2009) with a parallel universe Star Trek Into Darkness (2013). Having seen the movie, I’m not quite sold on the title being very descriptive, but it’s evocative (of something it evokes but once) and they’ve got revelations to reveal and “Star Trek II” is taken. I also don’t care for the lack of colon (punctuation) as it suggests that this is a trek into darkness via stars, which isn’t the case. Do you want to be entertained in the theater? Is this not why you go? Well, then, go and be entertained.
Capt. James Kirk (Chris Pine) intervenes to save a primative planet, breaking all sorts of regulations to do so. This gets him demoted and sent back to the academy except, in pretty short order, his mentor Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood) puts him under his command on the Enterprise. Then there’s an explosion at Starfleet archives, killing hundreds. So, after something happens, Kirk is given permission to take the Enterprise along with some super powerful torpedos to go in hunt of John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a rogue intelligence operative who had been spying on the Klingons until something happened (we don’t know what). Then things get a little more complicated.
Posted in Film
Tagged Alice Eve, anton yelchin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Bruce Greenwood, chris hemsworth, Chris Pine, Gene Roddenberry, John Cho, Karl Urban, Michael Giacchino, Peter Weller, simon pegg, Star Trek Into Darkness, Zachary Quinto, zoe saldana
It’s amazing what perverts we’ve become in the last nine years.
Adult relationships, about which I know almost nothing, are complicated things. The greatest single complication is that they bear no resemblance to what we see in movies. Movie relationships are in a foreign language that everyone has learned to read and listen to, but never could quite get the accent right. But it isn’t just the dialogue, it’s the plot as well. As someone who watches a lot of movies, I find this infuriating. We just made eye contact, that means you start a conversation, right? Why don’t I start the conversation? Don’t talk nonsense. Some movies, though, try to cut through the generally accepted language of the adult relationship and get to something deeper. Before Sunset (2004) is the follow-up to the enormously romantic Before Sunrise (1995) (review) (and prequel to Before Midnight (2013)) and addresses the after-20’s.
Nine years ago, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) met on a train and spent the night walking around Vienna. They promised one another that they would return to that Vienna train station six months later and pick up their relationship where they’d left off. Jesse wrote a book about these events and, at a book signing in Paris, he sees Celine again. In some ways, things haven’t changed a bit, but over the course of a few hours—before Jesse needs to catch his flight back to the States—little and large changes come out. They walk around Paris talking about this and that, picking up, if not where they left off, then from a few yards distant.
Posted in Film
Tagged Before Midnight, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Ethan Hawke, film, julie delpy, Kim Krizan, Lee Daniel, movie review, movies, reviews, Richard Linklater
Real tight crew, huh? Yeah, real tight.
Michael Mann made a marvelous movie. Heat (1995) holds up as one of the best, if not the best, action crime films of all time. It is an astounding accomplishment in its blend of exceptional cinematography (Dante Spinotti), twisting but thorough story, understated score (Elliot Goldenthal), the meeting of two giants of cinema, thrilling action, and classic images all while being intelligent and mainstream. Virtually every other crime film shows us that this is not easily done and yet Mann makes it look easy. How simple would it have been to rely on the idea of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro sharing the screen for the first time, cut a two hour movie, and have done? Heat clocks in just ten minutes shy of three hours and is terrifically engaging. There is so much in this movie that stands as the final word, that there isn’t much room for those who want to bridge intelligence and entertainment.
Posted in Film
Tagged al pacino, Amy Brenneman, Ashley Judd, Danny Trejo, Dante Spinotti, Diane Venora, Elliot Goldenthal, film, Heat, Jon Voight, Kevin Gage, movie review, movies, Mykelti Williamson, natalie portman, reviews, Robert De Niro, Ted Levine, Tom Sizemore, Val Kilmer, Wes Studi
I didn’t come here to help him, I came here to bury him.
The runtime says a great deal about a movie. A ninety minute action movie is going to be fun or so stupid you can’t watch it without feeling guilty. If your action movie is over two hours, it’s either a solid plot or too much action to stomach. Jack Reacher (2012), based on the book One Shot by Lee Child, comes in at 2 hours and 10 minutes as written/directed by Christopher McQuarrie. There is less action than you might expect from the trailer. There’s a lot of talking and Tom Cruise intimidating people with his great, imposing form. I’d like Tom Cruise to go up against Liam Neeson one day.
A sniper shoots and kills five random people in Pittsburgh and Ray Barr (Joseph Sikora) is quickly found to be the culprit. But Barr doesn’t look like the guy we saw taking aim (Jai Courtney). Barr asks for Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise). Detective Emerson (David Oyelowo) looks him up and sees that Reacher is a ghost. He was an Army M.P. with many commendations but absolutely off the grid. But when Reacher sees Barr on TV, Reacher comes looking for him. Not much to find, though, since Barr is in a coma and his lawyer, Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike) and daughter to the District Attorney (Richard Jenkins), is there to defend him. Turns out, though, that she needs Reacher to investigate this thing, which brings him across a super creepy Russian fella (Werner Herzog) and a super sweet old sniper fella (Robert Duvall).
Posted in Film
Tagged Caleb Deschanel, Christopher McQuarrie, David Oyelowo, film, Jack Reacher, Jai Courtney, joseph sikora, Lee Childs, movie review, movies, One Shot, reviews, richard jenkins, robert duvall, rosamund pike, Tom Cruise, Wener Herzog
Everybody needs money. That’s why they call it money.
Watching a movie writer and/or directed by David Mamet requires a different state of mind. You have to let go of the idea that you’re going fully understand any moment of the movie whether it be what’s going on, what’s being said, or who is what. Foul is fair and fair is foul except when it’s foul or frail as a chinaman’s faberge egg. I find that Mamet writes and directs, as he did with Heist (2001), I seriously dislike it the first time and then really enjoy it the second time. On the second try, I know I’ve got to let go and it’s just so much fun. He’s like Michael Bay for thinkers. These lines come out as though the actors think they’re saying real things, but they aren’t, they’re deranged. At first, it’s annoyingly stupid but when you see it coming it’s kind of charming. It’s the opposite of popular music.
“Hand of God, that Bible stopped a bullet, would of ruined that f***er’s heart. And had he had another Bible in front of his face, that man would be alive today.”
Posted in Film
Tagged danny devito, David Mamet, Delroy Lindo, film, Gene Hackman, Heist, movie review, movies, Rebecca Pidgeon, reviews, Ricky Jay, Robert Elswit, Sam Rockwell, Theodore Shapiro
You want to sit on the sideline and watch or do you want to play ball?
It’s adaptation time and it’s a classic. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s scholastically obligatory opus, The Great Gatsby (1925), is brought to the initially silver screen by Baz Luhrmann, aptly titled The Great Gatsby (2013). I was not that big on the book. We’d carved it up into eyes, green lights, and historical context leaving the whole a disjointed bloody mess. There was so much, I didn’t even see the code, just blonde, brunette, red-head. A movie can bring out those sorts of symbols more easily because you aren’t able to pause long enough to lose the thread of events. In school, they didn’t let me read the way I watch a movie. I see it all, partially digest it, and move on without subtitles for every profound or profound-sounding moment. Luhrmann is a close reader and wants you to know it. But it doesn’t harp on it like an English teacher. More like a junior English Lit major, so that’s okay.
Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) has had a bit of a breakdown and has sought out professional help. The doctor (Jack Thompson) suggests that Nick write it all out. Flashback to 1922 when the business is booming, the beats are jumpin’ and the ladies get high. Oh, Tom Buchannan’s (Joel Edgerton) rich and Daisy’s (Carey Mulligan) good lookin’. So hush, little Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), don’t you cry. Nick is the watcher of the quotation above and very rarely does he play ball. He’s moved to New York to work in the bond market, of which he knows nothing, to make his way in the world. Next door, Jay Gatsby throws extravagant parties and Nick gets an invitation. Thus begins their close friendship born of Gatsby’s desire to have Nick invite his cousin Daisy over to tea. They have a history, you see. I never really recovered from the Summertime thing. You know the story.
Posted in Film
Tagged Amy Winehouse, Back to Black, Baz Luhrmann, carey mulligan, Craig Pearce, Elizabeth Debicki, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Florence + the Machine, Isla Fisher, Jack Thompson, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, leonardo dicaprio, Rhapsody in Blue, Shawn Carter, Simon Duggan, The Great Gatsby, Tobey maguire, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor
But Jillian, you’re a doctor, you kill people every day.
After six years of directing television, Danny Boyle directed his first feature, Shallow Grave (1994), a thriller of three flatmates who find themselves with a suitcase full of cash and a dead body. I’ve gotten a number of Criterion Collection films on Blu-Ray, but this is the first one that I’ve gotten to. It was a bit of a gamble. It’s Boyle’s first feature and writer John Hodge’s first writing credit and has a quiet critical approval that surfaced when Trance (2013), a very similar movie, was coming out. Then there’s the fact that Criterion sometimes values cult over classic. Well, it turned out to be enjoyable and that’s what I’ll try to convey.
Alex (Ewan McGregor), Juliet (Kerry Fox), and David (Christopher Eccleston) live an enormous, beautiful apartment in Scotland and are looking for a flatmate to take the fourth room. After they interview a few applicants with extreme comic cruelty, Juliet finally finds Hugo (Keith Allen) as a fitting candidate. Oddly, they never see him. Finally, they kick in the door to find Hugo on the bed, stone dead. It’s not clear how he’s died, but they find drugs and that’s a decent guess but it could have been suicide. Just as Juliet calls the police, Alex finds a suitcase filled with money. What to do? That’s a lot of money. So they dig a grave.
Posted in Film
Tagged Brian tufano, christopher eccleston, Danny Boyle, Ewan McGregor, film, John Hodge, Keith Allen, ken stott, Kerry Fox, movie review, movies, reviews, Shallow Grave