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La La Land (2016)
So Much Hype, So Little Satisfaction...
What an over-rated film. The opening sequence on the L.A. freeway was nearly unbearable with its artificial, Politically Correct nonsensical 'this is L.A.' vibe. I'd say the only fun thing to watch in this film was Ryan Gosling. He really does justice to well-fitting clothes, he must have a perfect body. Emma Stone was fish-like to me, her bulbous eyes like a flounder in the beautiful briny deep. The director deserves credit for trying to make romance happen in the digital age, but in general, it's too late: everyone in privileged America is pretty much a soul-less zombie drone driving a Prius and numbly staring into the glow of their iPhone. In a fantasy world where people dance and sing, only Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen and Jacques Demy could do that possibility justice. Don't believe the hype, this movie is flat, dull, wishful thinking for a bygone era. It will sweep awards, no doubt, because, in a soul-less 21st Century, this film is the closest anything released by a mainstream film industry will have resembling 'heart.' A flounder Dead On Arrival, wrapped in pretty yellow paper, in my humble opinion. Two stars for Ryan's well-fitting pants and tight shirts.
Knight of Cups (2015)
This Man Should Desist from Making Films
Hmm, Does anything actually ever happen in a Terrence Malick movie? Let's see, in this one, some people at an expensive estate, including Antonio Banderas, well-dressed in Prada and Miu-Miu, jump into a chlorinated swimming pool and ruin their beautiful clothes. Then there are scenes with Christian Bale looking up woefully at the sky, in Las Vegas, Joshua Tree, at Santa Monica pier, at Will Rogers Beach, and at various homes in Malibu, Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs. I think that's about it. Oh yeah, Cate Blanchett, consummate actress that she is, wearing a nurse uniform, massages and cares for various African American men afflicted with late-stage diabetes. Great Stuff (NOT)...1 Star, Terrence.
River of Fundament (2014)
Avant Garde Scat Porno Opera with an All-Star Cast
This is a pornographic avant-garde scatological Egyptian-lite opera with an all-star cast, so if that is your cup of filth, you might enjoy it. However it runs six hours long, so even people who want to see the 'Woody Allen' sequence with a star-studded Brooklyn Heights literary cameo crew for a Mailer memorial wake will then have to sit through eternal slow moments of slurping genitalia, penetration, rotting pig flesh, flies and maggots, anal penetration with plumbing pipes, and excrement wrapped in gold leaf. The theater I saw this film in was not full -- and that did not bode well since the director would soon be present for a Q&A! Let me say this: It's time for Matthew Barney to focus on Children's Fairy Stories. I think he could remake 'Into The Woods' or 'Hansel & Gretel' properly. This film just looked like...what's that four-letter word that starts with S and ends with T?
Eat the Document (1972)
I'll Trade You My Overcoat For Your Girlfriend
As the saying goes, "If you remember the Sixties, you weren't really there." And that is the thesis, unbeknownst to Dylan, who ostensibly edited, creating a true, inebriated sense of film reality in this gem of a curio. The audience I saw this film with was captivated by the grainy 16mm and British denizens and landscapes, the disjointed editing, Dylan songs cut off. It's a fabulous mess, but so were the 1960s, wouldn't you say? And I think that's the very reason this film deserves credit for breaking new ground with Avant-garde Cinema Verité approach, not giving a damn about 'continuity' or editing cohesion. As the Sixties seem further and further away, it's a good reminder that they can't and won't happen again, not in the same way. The Counter Culture explosion is gone. It has been marketed to H&M, American Apparel and Urban Outfitters. In earnest, a musician offers to trade his coat for a young blonde woman, with swagger and a 16mm crew behind him. All of these Lads look fabulous in their tweeds and legitimate Carnaby Street fashion -- the Hawks AKA the Band no exception -- their churlish boyish love of drugs, cigarettes, joints, and desire for chicks with Sassoon haircuts -- you can imagine all that could not be filmed, and of course, therein is the magic of the Sixties sub-culture explosion. Sing it, Bob.
By the Sea (2015)
A Neo 70s Classic via Brangelina
Kudos to Brad and Angelina for attempting to make a film that is not a typical Hollywood drama. "By The Sea" is more like a French New Wave 1970s experimental narrative than anything either of the two may have appeared in before. I thought it was miles better than "Tree of Life," which in some ways tackles similar themes of romance, love, marriage and existence in a languid pace. This was a film that was beautiful to look at -- the Maltese seaside locations, the 70s fashion, the lighting....the two of them at the peak of their beauty. My only complaint: there should have been more nudity and more sexual encounters. I think the 'watching game' became a bit redundant and there was no clear revelation that came of it (the wife's condition was apparent from the first scene in the café). Hopefully there will be an unrated version which better reveals Melvil Poupaud and Mélanie Laurent and their encounters. It's pretty fabulous that Angelina showed off her new bosom for the world to enjoy. Gaspar Noé should have given Angelina some assistance. The film would have been a perfect collaboration for them.
Devil's Due (2014)
Anyone who worked on "Devil's Due" should never work again
This was really deceptive marketing and hype that drew me into this movie. I am very sorry I went. The acting, directing, production design, continuity, editing and of course the story, screen writing and execution were just abysmal. There was nothing of quality in this film. The characters were stupid, the camera work was jarring "handheld reality TV" nonsense and on top of it all, the plot was told in a far superior manner by Roman Polanski in "Rosemary's Baby" forty years ago! It just shows that with some production money, a digital camera and some reality-TV "Blair Witch"/"Paranormal Activity"-type marketing approach, you can sell any kind of garbage to the American public. I urge you not to support this film, or any future endeavours of anyone involved with this project (cast, crew, director or screenwriters)....
Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Evokes an Era most will not care to remember
Much has already been written about Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto's astonishing transformations, and brilliant performances. Solid and true, yes. They both deserve enormous accolades, Golden Globe and AMPAS-worthy, for these transformations and the effort of their craft. But I think the true heroes of this project are the Producers who took a chance on such dicey subject matter. Some reviews hail the project as "A Crowd Pleaser," and yet, you realise, these are TRULY marginal characters, and not entirely likable, as some have already said, in an Era (1970s-1980s early AIDS crisis) that is nearly forgotten in this age of HIV exposure-as-a-managed-care-condition, rather than a death sentence, as it was between 1979-1995. As much as this could be a feel-good film for the discovery and pioneer of protease inhibitor cocktails, it is a compelling character study of a time of crisis that has not been well-captured or documented adequately in quite some time. BRAVO to the Producers of this movie for giving this project the Greenlight, because the sexually-active youth of today would never know the Plague and tragedy that preceded their coming-of-age without a reminder like this.
Jack Reacher (2012)
This was, much to my surprise, a delight to watch, not because of the Action conceit that this movie promises, but mostly, seeing Tom Cruise enjoying himself around such handsome male villains. One of the more exciting discoveries in recent years is the talented young Australian, Jai Courtney. The sexual tension between these two very athletic, very angry men with automatic weapons is palpable. They are each trying to emasculate the other, proving in the end that the Alpha male is, of course, Tom Cruise. The guns are dropped and fisticuffs ensue in Mr. Courtney's final scene -- this is one of the finer moments of male-to-male contact in recent cinema. It's the closest Tom will get to admitting that he enjoys the touch of male skin, and it is exciting to watch. Elsewhere, Ms. Pike needed someone to adjust the length of the belt on her short trench coat as she walked down the corridor, but otherwise, some strong male performances that make this a thoughtful, testosterone thrill ride. Clever casting with Werner Herzog and Robert Duvall as well! I'm sure they both enjoyed their Paramount paychecks, very much.
Eulogy for a Vampire (2009)
I watched 'Eulogy for a Vampire' the other evening with a friend and we both thought that even though it was not our genre really, it was a really interesting film and we both really enjoyed it. I love the way in which it was filmed with the lighting and the lens, especially the way in which it differentiated between the flashbacks and the present, and we felt the acting was pretty good and raw and added to the naturalness of the setting. What an amazing location -- it really added to the creepiness and spookiness of the plot and kept one on the edge of the seat! AND how clever were the special effects?! The music was pretty good and the sound was also pretty good, which cannot have been easy on what must have been a pretty difficult location. The odd (tiny) bit of post-dubbing that was noticeable actually made the piece feel more like a slightly mysterious Eastern European film, like Murnau's 'Nosferatu,' so the viewer was never quite sure if it was a new American film or a classic European gem recently re-discovered. This impression was added by the clever camera work - which also made me think a little of some of those wonderful classics from the 70's like 'Halloween' and 'House,' especially with the music picking up the tempo and lending a degree of anticipation and dread! All in all I thought it was a great film. My main complaint is that the only character I really fancied never got to do anything but whip the others. I think the director needs to use him again and get him to do a little more.
Circle of Fear (1992)
"MacGruber" wanted to be this film
It's obvious where the filmmakers of "MacGruber" got their influences for their film when you view, "Circle of Fear." This late-80's romp through the Manila underworld would certainly give the MacGruber character a run for his money! Plus, in the first 30 minutes of this film, there are more real explosions, car chases, parkour, stray bullets and bystander death and mayhem than in the entire "MacGruber" enterprise. Plus a cock-fight to boot. I laughed at the many stoic characters who really do want their wishes to come true - both good guy and bad guy. Some sullied sleaze sprinkled throughout to entice/horrify (we are dealing with the sex-slave trade, you know). When you are seeking "80's Action" -- look no further. This is the REAL THING! ENJOY!
Incredible Silent Film
A gorgeous mix of distressed super-8mm visuals, and with the supreme live accompaniment, superbly crisp sound effects which evoke everything from summers past to cracking vertebrae...I was fortunate enough to see Mme. Isabelle Rosallini perform her interdiction with gusto, particularly Mum's screams. The score was brilliant, disturbing, sultry and ultimately, perfectly rendered.
Occasionally, it was actually good to enjoy the 'silence' of the film as well, during breaks in the film.
What will Maddin come up with next? If I can make a suggestion, I think Savage Tom deserves a feature-length work of his own: 'Savage Tom's Cabin.'
Each Time I Kill (2007)
Doris Wishman's film-making style was quite unique, and one could say informed by the Ed Wood approach of 'anything goes.' This project continues in that tradition, despite the fact it was completed after her death at age 90, and on video, not her usual format. Part of the charm of a Doris Wishman film is the off-kilter feel of (usually) beautifully photographed celluloid, juxtaposed with either plain or strange-looking actors speaking non-sync sound (dubbed in later, with sometimes a different actor).
It is too bad that this last project could not have been photographed on celluloid, since all the elements are there - a strange-looking cast (with a cameo from John Waters, and a performance by the B-52's Fred Schneider), outlandish acting and post-sync sound. The video image is murky, but knowing that Doris was still behind the camera is reassuring.
The plot is straight from a 1960's drive-in flick, the teens are proper (they still bring flowers to the girl with whom they're going steady because they gave them their class ring), and there is a charming 'out of pace with the times' feel.
The Florida-photographed locales, once sunny and bright in the 1950's nudist films that made Doris famous, now dark and foreboding in the twilight of her career, particularly when a kind soda-jerk who serves Coca-Cola with Cream gets brutally knifed in the woods, will make you yearn for the more colorful days of Chesty Morgan in the discotheque, speaking to a stranger in DOUBLE AGENT 73 about how well those kids can dance as she sips her cocktail.
Even in 2007, no matter how hard they try, they just can't make them like they used to. It's a good try, though. Thank you, and farewell Doris.
Rabbit Pix (2005)
Botticelli nudes in lush landscapes
It is a hypnotic experience watching the handsome Italian men and women in this film as they lounge, discuss simple things, repair their Vespas, or prepare french toast while completely nude. Simple voice over -- as this film appears to have been shot without sync sound -- conveys youthful observations on life, while grainy film stock captures lush landscapes and their natural, toned torsos. You'd think with this kind of high-art mindedness there would be pretentiousness as well, but gracefully, this is not the case. This is a film (or perhaps a sexual-political manifesto?) that captures a dream-like idealism from which the world's civilisations could learn a lesson or two ...bohemia, au naturel, is a peaceful, humane place, unencumbered by the desire for weapons, aggression, or war. Who needs jealousy, rage or hatred when the beauty that surrounds you, a roll in the sheets and a deliciously prepared meal is so infinitely accessible?
SPF 2000 (1998)
If you are wondering what ever happened to plain, wholesome, sardonic and bitchy camp, SPF 2000 is a beacon of hope. This flick could almost be the anthem for the so-called "post-queer" intent on recycling the myths of the Cold War HOMOsexual. When there is not impossible angst, there is always the unbearable lightness of superficial romance to fall back on. But it is difficult not to be seduced by this cross-dressing, homosexual reinvention of early-sixties Italian beach flicks. Let's see, is there enough of a plot to relay? This was the genre where style was everything and content tedious. Drag mama and her boy go to the beach. Or was "he" really a "she"? True love is just down the beach in the persona of a studly young man. Soon the courtship begins and mama is forced to deal with the existential angst of her little one leaving the nest. The rest is history - well sort of. But is this supposed to be the netherworld where romance and soft porn meet? SPF 2000's core statement is how this "location" (to use the cliché) is so flaccid as to verge on exhausting.