Before I get to the smarter stuff I just want to share how some of my friends pronounce the title of this movie as ‘VOHLvurr’ when it’s actually ‘vohlVEHR.’ I love North Americans and I especially love any way that I can show that I’m better than I really am.
Volver‘s simplicity probably makes it my favourite out of the measly three Pedro Almodovar movies I’ve seen, the other movies being the morally questionable Hable con Ella and Mala Education, the latter having great performances but being too convoluted for its own good. It has Penelope Cruz in a performance that should have won an Oscar that year, the exported Hollywood star returning to her roots as a believable all around cleaning woman named Raimunda whose chaotic life constantly hangs in the balance. She has to care for a lazy a husband and a blossoming teenage daughter Paula (Yohana Cobo), who doesn’t know that – one of the movie’s three spoilery secrets – the man glued to the couch and Canal Plus soccer isn’t her father. Raimunda also surprisingly becomes a restaurateur, feeding a film crew and singing for them. All of this is happening while Almodovar contributes to my belief that Romance-language cinema’s landscape would never be the same without its fart jokes.
The movie begins with Raimunda and her sister Sole (Lola Duenas) polishing their mother Irene’s (Carmen Maura) burial plot, foreshadowing the family’s return to the past. Or rather, return of the past as Sole discovers that Irene is alive and has hidden herself for years. Sole plays this game with her, hiding Irene in plain sight as a Russian immigrant assisting her hairdressing business.
Thankfully the movie doesn’t end with the next door neighbour, cancer-stricken Agustina (Bianca Portillo), revealing Irene’s scandalous secret. Instead, Irene privately talks to Raimunda and voices out another cyclical, inter-generational family secret, her method of doing so somehow lessening the shock and elevating Pedro’s material from soap to a high drama about reconciliation. In essence, an improvement on a special Roman Polanski plot twist. After this heart to heart talk Irene goes to Agustina. Irene is supposed to be the ghost but it’s Raimunda who slithers away from the door. In a way this is Raimunda passing the torch back, giving her mother a loving goodbye as the older generation must care for each other as an act of contrition. The only way for all women to move on is to do things and pay their dues properly.
I am not submitting a Best Shot entry, I wrote about Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde and I don’t even know if that post makes any sense, especially as a Best Shot post. So instead I’m posting a video that doesn’t have the same sexuality as the sonic experience of Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot’s song about the ill-fated couple.
I imagined two people with the wind blowing on their faces as they traverse the Southern crossroads, not two glamorously dressed people pointing guns and posing away from the camera. Adrien Brody/Vincent Cassel and Lara Stone should do a photo shoot or a full remake of this video. We’ve come a long way from music video artistry/acting. It also delights to me watch Disgusting Racist Bardot’s looks slowly deteriorate. She held on to her looks long enough. Either way, it’s a relief to see that musicians didn’t have to be good looking back then.
I first heard of this song in Laurel Canyon but this song was apparently on Rush Hour 3 and I’m almost willing to forget Brett Ratner’s homophobia for this. Also, I’m drunk now.
The characters’ bodies’ tenacity in Gareth Huw Evans’ The Raid makes me wonder many things, among them, ‘Sure that one guy plays with a punching bag in the morning but does he also eat a healthy breakfast?’ Or maybe what re-energizes the intruding, wounded youngish policemen is the drug room that they eventually reach after elbowing a few gang members and violently losing men of their own. The white sand being kicked up in the air serves as some temporary sustenance. I’m not even sure if their near-invincible physical states can be criticized since the movie just covers an hour and a half of the titular police assignment, although movies apparently are supposed cover a longer time period than the minutes that are used to portray them.
I also found the cinematography to be problematic, reminiscent of wet wood, peeling drywall and spare lighting that, we imagine, are the visual qualities of a run-down urban drug den. There are some digital simulations of bullets coming out of illegal modern rifles. As the cops enter further into the building’s higher floors, they’re depicted through medium shots of their torsos. But I got over that eventually, as the camera gets brighter and moves up and sometimes back to show the combatants’ faces and arms and legs. All that fighting makes the cops lose many men on their team but the thugs make deliberate mistakes that cause the cops to get a Pyrrhic victory but really, would you have it any other way?
Perhaps what’s more irksome to this movie’s detractors is the back story of one of the policemen, Rama (Iko Uwais), the one doing the dawn time boxing preparation. In between sit-ups we also see him kissing his pregnant wife who wakes up to greet him goodbye, optimistic despite risks. Some consider that his wife’s image jolts him as he stumbles through the complex’s hall ways. Eventually I haven’t been as warm towards the film, since it has its detractors and genre films will never be perfect. But here’s how I see it – the other policemen have similar domestic lives, Rama recedes into his police unit and he emerges not because of his pregnant wife but because he’s an excellent martial artist who defeats his hoodlum enemies and happens to have a baby on the way.
Pardon me if I try to find a national metaphor within this movie, a straight up punch-and-kick flick ruined by a ghettoizing lens. It’s in my nature to over-think and be pretentious. But think about it – the cops are indistinguishable from first-world SWAT units except for their faces, also framed by near-bald or crew-cut heads. Their weapons are supposedly state of the art, contained with their deceptively bulky uniforms. Their mission is to civilize a place riddled with drugs and other anti-social behaviour, occasionally impeding on the rights of the decent people who have no other choice.
The gang members on the other hand have longer hair, more colourful and less professional clothes. They brandish mostly homemade swords or large versions of knives reminiscent of traditional weapons. There’s also one henchman who prefers to fight with his bare hands, an excuse to choreograph the greatest martial arts sequences rapidly caught on camera. They protect their fortress not just with this carelessly planned police raid but from rival gangs, like tribal warfare within one side deviating from the law. Both camps aren’t within perfect opposition, though, as the hoodlums’ illegally obtained machine guns, the surveillance technology, the traitor playing both sides, the Traffic-like revelation that the police’s presence is to help another gang’s corruption. What’s also complicating the binary is Rama, a good Muslim and we can interpret his religion as either one that’s victimized or one that conquers.
But that’s all mind fodder for later, what got me while watching the movie are the raiders’ faces. I’m not usually into Asian guys but it’s always good to remember what stimulated me when I was younger. Even now, living in a multicultural country, I still get a glimpse of those kind of faces – a narrow beady eyes giving out a piercing stare that owns the room, that stare of a warrior buried deep inside poverty or civilized repression. Sometimes they have bushy eyebrows like Jaka, a trait from our common ancestors in the mainland before moving further into the islands. At other times, to the audience’s advantage, they have Rama’s near-perfect Roman symmetry, covered in darker than olive skin perceived as perfection in our shared childhood mythologies. It’s probably indulgent of me, and I’ll admit that it’s careless to owe Rama’s survival because he has the looks of the movie star, rising above lesser prototypes. He doesn’t get to make it because of those aspects, it’s also because of his fucking fists. 4/5
Just saying that Lawless reminds me of “Xena the Warrior Princess” and Paul Gross although yes, the new title is tone-setting and concise. The Wettest County, the movie’s previous title sounds like something bucolic.
I first got wind of this new title change from The Playlist, who also posted a photo and general information about the movie’s casting, implying that Jessica Chastain will no longer share the screen with Take Shelter star, Michael Shannon. The movie is set in Franklin County, Virginia during the Great Depression and centres around three moonshining brothers played by Tom Hardy, Shia Labeouf and Jason Clarke, providing great man candy for viewers like us. Also starring in the movie are Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska and Dane DeHaan, the latter of whom you might know from Chronicle (still haven’t seen it, unfortunately) but I know from the period-indie foreign drama Amigo. I’m also hoping that Chastain’s role is enough to get her an Oscar nomination. Lawless’ release date is on August the 31st which means it will definitely not première at the Toronto International Film Festival, but any sign of a decent movie before fall is good enough for me.
I really need to start Entertainment Weekly more.
Via Alt Film Guide are two On The Road character posters, one of which is giving me a few thoughts:
Viggo Mortensen’s casting in this movie almost confused me since he also starred in a movie called The Road three years back. Either way, this chameleon of an actor gives us intriguing masculinity here. He isn’t the only one playing supporting roles to the duo of the convincingly shimmying Kristen Stewart and non-shimmying Sam Riley. There’s also Garrett Hedlund, Elisabeth Moss and Kirsten Dunst and in what world does Dunst play second fiddle to Stewart? Either way I can’t wait for everyone else’s own poster.
With this movie, Cosmopolis, Life of Pi, The Hobbit and Gatsby it’s looking like a decent year for films adapted from real literature.
I also like the sepiatone giving this semblance of fade. Have there been other great posters for 2012? Because this sure is in the running, despite of my worries that the trailer makes the movie itself look like it might not be as good as ‘everyone’ hopes.
Edward Cullen will always haunt Robert Pattinson’s screen persona. For David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis the same vampiric animism showing in his face when his character looks at the women around him. I couldn’t easily recognize Juliette Binoche here scares me that she’s put in a more compromising position compared to their other female co-stars, Samantha Morton and Sarah Gadon. Anyway, back to Pattinson, there’s this seductive naïvety from him, especially when he says the word ‘more.’ He stands out more than the crazy that Cronenberg and Don DeLillo can come up with. I can see this much within thirty-five seconds and that I’m already rooting for him as a Best Actor contender (although no, the Academy’s not that cool) also makes me want more. That I, a life long Team Jacob member, have changed colours. And that if this movie comes out in North America later than the May 15 date promised in this teaser, I will hate francophiles more than I already do.
My first reaction to Richard Donner’s movie, second to ‘Nat’s Best Shot series is back! Yay!’ is that I have now learned where that hipster singer’s name comes from, assuming of course that all musicians get their names out of thin air unless stated or informed of otherwise. And fortunately, the movie Ladyhawke isn’t as bad as the electro-whaetever musician. Little Boots is better.
An actor’s blocking and personality changes an image in a movie despite of how the camera sticks to the same frame boundaries. This shot of a dirty wall and a hand desperately trying to stick out comes after one that shows three men getting hanged. The first thing that comes to my mind is that this man faced another execution, of getting cemented within a wall or something, suggesting a brutality that the movie might have. It cuts to a scene when knights search for an imprisoned Philippe Gaston to be hanged next and it cuts back to the same muddy surface we see earlier.
And then we realize that it’s just Cooter Burger breaking out of that wall and we realize that he and we are just going to be fine. We see and hear Matthew Broderick’s luminous face and first words – comparing his current state to that of ‘escaping mother’s womb.’ Despite his and everyone else’s wobbly accents, he brings whimsy and youthful physicality to a movie that we’ll discover is anachronistically yet enjoyably cartoony, a Medieval adventure story viewed under a modern lens and a good God soundtrack.
Those are my favourite shots although there were many from which to choose, the movie simultaneously bringing my tendencies to compare the natural compositions with Brueghel, which is coincidental because Philippe’s unlikely road buddy in the cursed Navarre is played by Rutger Hauer, who will eventually play the painter three decades later. Other shots and the colour within them also remind me of Cezanne, Powell, Poussin and Cameron although the silhouettes makes a Western trope into its own thanks to cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. The movie also features Michelle Pfeiffer as the titular love interest Ladyhawke/Isabeau and Alfred Molina as Cesare, a man who works for the three characters’ common and blasphemous enemy.
The aristocratically named Gina Prince-Bythewood directed her well-intentioned magnum opus The Secret Life of Bees, adapting it six years after Sue Monk Kidd released her novel of the same name. After being interested, with apprehensions of course, to seeing it in that interesting movie year of 2008 when it was released, I finally got around to watching it in the same weekend as The Wicker Man. Which got me confused. What was I supposed to think of bees and women and America and men now? This strangest of double bills made me realize that I wish movies work in such an interactive way so that the casts of these two movies could switch around. Both movies have the same character archetypes anyway.
I again understand the sexism attack against The Wicker Man and that the script labels them all as duplicitous but the actors execute their performances in shades as opposed to delineated borders. The class differences between them isn’t as plain because we see them through Edward’s perspective, and that they don’t out-yell Cage because no one should. The characters in Bees, however, don’t exude that same surprise, no matter what kind of dark secrets they have in their histories. We know the purpose they serve in the story and each other when the movie introduces them to us. They are stereotypes and their flaccid character arcs don’t change and deepen our understanding of them.
Basically T. Ray Owens is the entitled, emotionally stunted and volatile white man (Paul Bettany). His sense of entitlement eventually motivates him to chase his daughter, Lily (Dakota Fanning) out and find where she is and ‘rescue’ her for her own good. Lily (Dakota Fanning), instead of T. Ray, is the perspective with whom we see the narrative. She’s between the close-minded world of her dad’s and the matriarchal world that is tolerated and more secretly powerful. She eventually knows how to gain this power over her father. Rosaleen Daise (Jennifer Hudson, this movie shamefully under-utilizing an Oscar winner), the distraught one, is also between two worlds as Lily’s companion. They leave for a Pepto-Bismol coloured house in Tiburon, South Carolina where Lily’s mother once stayed. Her race is one of the factors that make us assume that unlike Lily, her bond with the women in that manor is easier to meet.
These new friends live in one of whom is the mansion’s owner, August Boatwright, (Belated Happy Birthday, Queen Latifah!). Latifah plays the maternal and soft one, only showing her edge and she and Lily talk about the latter’s mother who happens to be one of the children August took care of as a former black maid. August has a sister named June (Alicia Keys). We know she’s the mean one because she’s the mean one because she’s hostile to the newcomers as well as wearing the most make-up and the most tailored clothes in an already sartorially sharp family.
If this is going to fail in aspects of writing and directing, it also doesn’t succeed as an acting exercise with the exception of the third Boatwright sister May, the simple one (Sophie Okonedo). There are things about Okonedo’s performance that elevates it from two-dimensionality, the lower timbre in her voice stopping us from thinking that she’s just an overgrown child. But when something, like a gash on Rosaleen’s forehead or any mention of a sad or traumatic thing, the ticks and the mannerisms come out. There are no transition between these two spheres of her personality but that doesn’t mean that she makes it look jarring – she makes the attacks look seamlessly beautiful. This makes her the MVP in this flawed movie.
Lucy Walker’s Waste Land, portraying Gramacho, also reminded me of ars povera or ‘poor’ or ‘trash’ art, unconventionally and subversively creating beauty with cheap materials. One of the contemporary movement’s practitioners include Vik Muniz, the documentary’s subject. His social project, which he began in 2007, involves returning to his home city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to create art out of the city’s trash, the latter mostly in a landfill called Jardim Gramacho, the name being ironic because this place is no blossoming garden. Muniz’ entrance to Gramacho, the part of the journey with which he has some reservations, is filmed to remind us of dystopic movies like Franci Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, except that this place is real and a necessary evil to our civilization. Walker uses Muniz both as our narrator and stand-in, explaining the landfill’s organized chaos and just as what he says about the smell, we start to get used to it.
Waste Land is an interesting look within an artist and his collaborators, as Muniz works with unlikely extra pairs of hands. The magic of shaping and the documenting of the product doesn’t happen until the movie’s last thirty-five minutes. So basically the first hour is preparation, talking to the one of the leaders of the worker’s association that represents them, taking pictures of the selected few workers who will end up being his models and apprentices. This is part of Muniz’ goal, to expose the workers into another world instead of he assumes is their sad routines.
The movie shows Muniz and his pieces as both poignant and kitschy, using materials like peanut butter to recreate canonized paintings like da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. He finds this complementary spirit through working with the garbage pickers/recyclists/catadores. For example the union leader Tiao who, with an improvised set consisted of a bathtub, is photographed as Marat. This is telling of his and the workers’ elevated self-image and unorthodox experience with intellectualism, heightened by Muniz’ presence. Tiao, Zumba and the other workers have literally created a library out of discarded books, a comment on the middle class indifference to the experiences for which the workers would strive. This unlikely mixture of mindsets and class evokes ars povera’s manifesto, but the realism within depicting these workers’ lives adds a social and emotional aspects of a creative process.
At first I can’t help but think that the Cageists inflates their idol and the god-awful scenes from terrible movies in which he’s starred. This is especially the case in Neil LaBute’s The Wicker Man. Okay, so the awkward babysitting sessions with a female partner in his character Edward Malus’ police force after a traumatizing case and the beautiful calligraphy within a letter from a former girlfriend are ridiculous. But are they the unintentionally funniest moments ever captured on camera? Not really. It’s not Tommy Wiseau’s The Room.
From Edward’s rural, arid California post to a strange island off the coast of Washington State where his paramour now lives, the letter summons him to rescue her – or their – daughter, who is missing and presumably dead because ofan evil neighbor. This insular place is called Summer’s Isle, which produces organic produce and stuff like that. After a nightmare/flashback-filled ferry trip he gets into the island after a pilot reluctantly smuggles him in. Even from the first time he meets the handful of townspeople in the isle, he senses that they’re xenophobic and ritualistically homicidal and he has inadvertently put himself and the pilot as these people’s targets.
Speaking of The Room, early reviews for this movie – that is, before it got its cultish acceptance – have criticized its sexism. Summer’s Isle happens to be the namesake of a matriarch (Ellen Burstyn, who probably did this and W to fund those annual indie love labours she stars in every year). She’s descended from the Wiccans of Salem and this sanctuary in this opposite coast is where her ancestors and her emasculate their men into breeders and young daughters into sacrificial lambs. This commune is an alternative to Edward’s badge-pushing patriarchy. That could also mean that women are equally capable of the subjugation that men give women but that still puts Edward in the right.
Cage’s signature freakouts come in spurts, like when he calls little girls liars, flings a woman (LeeLee Sobieski) across the room or punches another. Like these little seizures, maybe this is one piece within a larger puzzle, and I’ll take as many laughs as this film deserves. He approaches Edward’s paranoia, as well as the script’s – also written by LaBute – with admirable earnestness but it’s this same quality that hinders me from fully enjoying this.
I love him and all, but it’s strange that out of the main cast of Indecent Proposal, it’s Woody Harrelson who’s more famous. Well, not really, as Demi Moore is making headlines with her nervous breakdown and Robert Redford has Sundance. The proper phrase for Harrelson might be the one getting the most acting work. To whichever number of you who don’t know, Indecent Proposal‘s conceit is that Redford’s character has to pay a million dollars to bed someone, Diana Murphy (Moore) who leaves him for anybody else, that being her husband David (Harrelson). I wonder what younger generations will think of this already dated movie. If they’ll buy the sex symbol status that I’m old enough to have gotten from him unlike say, Warren Beatty who I never got until I saw Splendor in the Grass.
I saw the ending before watching the movie and as with every movie where I’ve done that, the last scenes are mostly a deal breaker for me. David gives an architecture lecture that reflects his life. Although despite the score and director Adrian Lyne’s many tendencies, it’s sentimental but not as I previously thought. Long process of healing, etc. Supporting cast include Oliver Platt and Billy Connolly, the latter playing himself in a situations when he’s probably been.
Everyone who watches Stephen Colbert knows about “Biophilia” and how “Cosmogony” kind of sucks. At least, that I wasn’t in the mood for it. If anything “Cosmogony” didn’t make me cry as “Unison” did. And I don’t want to make my readers cry so here’s “Earth Intruders” instead, Michel Ocelot’s tribal imagery being kind of literal for Bjork. Writing about music videos are so easy compared to movies. Anyway, two thoughts about Bjork: First, what if she was in the music videos for the dance remixes to her songs like this or “Hyperballad?” The closes we’ll get to that is the dance-y “Violently Happy.” Second: I have a copy of Dancing in the Dark or I had until I lost it. Vanity Fair already ruined the ending for me and I missed my chance to see it at TIFF but one day. It might even be my deathbed movie, replacing The Piano. Third: Bjork’s evolving better than Radiohead, still.
I missed ten to fifteen minutes of Lady Terminator – it probably featured a character named Tania Wilson (Barbara Anne Constable) speaking as her natural self dying in San Diego, but apparently, that isn’t important. So instead, I’ll start when me and this movie crossed paths.
A beautiful woman in her birthday suit with the face and body of Tania Wilson emerges, perfect posture and all, out of the Pacific Ocean into a city that we’ll assume is Jakarta, Indonesia. Her body emasculates men mid-coitus, and I’m being cryptic with those words because I already get enough creepy Google searches. And somewhere along the way, à la Arnold Schwarzenegger from The Terminator, her naked self gets a leather jacket and shoots up people. Whatever she is – it turns out that Tania is possessed by the evil Queen of the South Sea – she needs to die, and that’s the job of some Aryan American man who relocated to Jakarta because his wife died? While he’s recovering from widower issues he finds a love interest, a TV personality/singer named Erica who is descended from the Queen’s 100th husband (how does she find the time?) and thus, the Queen’s target.
This could also be the last – and best – movie to use post-production dubbing, giving among many things, the Queen this alto that couldn’t have been Constable’s real voice and adds to her inhumanly slutty character.
This is a movie about tacky 80’s hair and ill-fitting outfits of the same decade. Who are these white people who found themselves acting in some C- movie in Southeast Asia? Did they piss off the CAA? They look to beautiful to be drifters. Constable is also responsible for the movie’s make-up department which either is good enough for a movie like this or they gave her credit for bringing her own lipstick to work. Either way, most of these people never acted again. And whatever their stories before, during or after Lady Terminator is golden material for some ‘Behind the Movies’ feature, the pieces of which should be scattered on the internets somewhere.
My music taste isn’t just made up of crappy diva pop music, it’s also made up of hip hop. I have no idea what’s going on with music, much less rap. I’ve liked The Cool Kids since I was in college, a hip hop duo who somehow makes sense with the white hipsters who’ve appropriated them as their own. And I really thought that old school was a Toronto thing as opposed to something that the Midwest also did. What is Toronto doing now? How do I verbalize or describe the sound of what Drake is doing? Anyway, I wanted to catch up on what they’re doing recently, which is apparently lending their music to “Entourage.” I actually wanted to post some of their new stuff, but that’s not as good. “Pennies” isn’t their best song neither. I don’t even like the two-note hook in the chorus, I prefer my beats low, which their other, greater sons like “Popcorn,” “Bassment Party,” or “Hammer Bros,” have. But I found myself rapping whatever words I knew from that song. Yes, rapping. Enjoy.
I wanted to start out with how after watching War Horse, I had many choices that night (a good movie or a movie I worked in) but instead I chose to see Gone, because I’m good at decisions for which I don’t have to pay. That I highly disliked Amanda Seyfried because she, sober, can only get roles that Lindsay Lohan would when she’s constantly intoxicated and that I miss Lohan and I’m glad that she’s back. That how Seyfried obtusely chooses movies so terrible that Kristen Stewart selling her soul seems dignified in comparison. Or how she talks, in interviews, the way an intoxicated person would when you’re sober. The movie itself isn’t bad, but it is a hot mess.
In Gone Seyfried’s character Jill starts out just on the edge of normalcy, suspicious walks to Portland’s Forest Park and all, until her sister Molly (Emily Wickersham) is nowhere to be found, not leaving a note nor without a change of outside clothes. She reports this incident as a missing persons case to the police like Det. Pete Hood (Wes Bentley) who hears this news while clouded by the knowledge that she’s also an ex-kidnap victim two years ago and believes that her abductor has been taking the other young women who are missing in Portland and is out to kill her because she was the one who got away. She has also been diagnosed and mentally institutionalized for a year before her sister has taken her home.
Her police report is a crucial scene, at first revealing the details of what her memory says what has happened between the last time she has seen Molly – which is before she left for her night shift at the diner (I guess that despite her mental state she has to take what she can get, or that this could have been her job when she was ‘normal’) – and the present. She talks meticulously, like a paranoiac who remembers every detail for when something bad happens to her or to her only family.
One of the movie’s contrivances is that the police is hell-bent on ignoring her at the price of her life and her sister’s. They show their doubts, revealing other cases when ‘responsible’ women become ‘wild,’ and that’s when Seyfried stops sustaining her arc and starts yelling uncontrollably at them. Maybe she needed a better director to guide her to when she’s supposed to be belligerent or calm. But whatever she does for the rest of the movie – lying to her neighbors or ‘interview subjects,’ pretending to a couple of twelve-year olds that she can get them backstage passes to a Justin Bieber concert, toting a gun and finding Molly and the killer herself – will be marred by how she behaves during her worst. It’s too early for her ‘crazy’ scene either way, which is also the fault of the structure of the screenplay.
But the script, between car chases, isn’t that bad, portraying the vernacular of these characters in their private lives. Molly tells Jill that they should get fat together. A police officer tells his female partner that ‘when a man hits a woman a second time, she’s an accomplice.’ A skateboarder tells Jill that his girlfriend thinks that another man – sorry if you had to follow all of that – has ‘rape-y’ eyes. We hear the way women talk to each other, men talk to women about other women and women telling what they really think of men. It’s the whispered prejudices pasted into two hours or less of a movie, along with its leading actress who tries her best and the Craigslist-like meeting she dives into in the end, that are this movie’s saving graces. 2.5/5
Ugh, why do I bother? Neveldine-Taylor’s Ghost Rider 2: The Spirit of Vengeance recounts the back story of the comic book because no one bothered to watch the first Ghost Rider movie. This second installment begins in ‘Eastern Europe’ just in case the powers that be who birthed this movie thought that their audience was stupid enough to use their phones to look up where Romania was in the map. Think about that while they set the ending in a specific place in Turkey, which is apparently the furthest place from heaven. Like what did Turkey ever do to deserve that? It’s a movie of locales, stopping by an American diner in between the kinetic 3D highlighting the majestic rock formations and structures of Europe and ‘Europe.’ If you count Turkey as part of the European continent and union but anyway….
And speaking of 3D, there’s some nice fetishistic shoe and sequins closeups that are nice and all. Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze goes crazy only and disappointingly once as he gets a deal from a French rogue priest (Idris Elba, with a questionable accent) to rescue a boy from being anointed as the Devil’s (Ciaran Hinds) son. Blaze and a younger woman, who is the child’s mother, go from point a to point b to carry out this mission and Blaze doesn’t even hit on her. Neveldine-Taylor combines biker Gothic pathos with infantile subculture humour but we just really want the campy version of the latter and we don’t get enough of that. In essence, we’re talking about the first boring Nicholas Cage movie, which is a shame. Anthony Head of Buffy fame cameos as a monk who dies way too soon. 1/5
A Variety article announces that Dreamworks is remaking Rebecca. There have been many adaptations of the Daphne DuMaurier novel, the most famous of course being Reese Witherspoon’s favourite movie directed by her favourite director Alfred Hitchcock. If you don’t get the Resse reference, it’s because you weren’t stupid enough to have seen This Means War. This re-adaptation also means that this is the girliest thing Steven Spileberg has ever touched second to “Smash.” Anyway, and despite my questions about such a homophobic movie being remade, or how Walter Hollman has had farts better than my casting posts, let’s begin!
MAXIM DE WINTER – Originally played by Sir Laurence Olivier. My Choice: Michael Fassbender. What? I just want the Jane Eyre crew together. I’d even want Judi Dench to play the Florence Bates role. My second choice would be Orlando Bloom who theoretically would bring in the young female fan base. But seriously Bloom has turned down so many roles from the Dominic Cooper Role in An Education to the Aaron Johnston role in Albert Nobbs. And I know this is just a fantasy list but I still want someone who will actually show up.
THE SECOND MRS. DE WINTER – I mean we’re never going to find someone as glowingly beautiful as Joan Fontaine. Stars before her looked like Betty Boop and the ones after her, even ones more elegant like Grace Kelly, were sun-kissed girls. She hasn’t come out in public since the 80’s but during Rebecca she was blond and alabaster. Infuriatingly lily white yet incomparable. Without considering tanned beach regulars of contemporary Hollywood, my main choice is either ones who look too mousy or one who might grow up too fast (and yes, I resent this girl for being just six months older than me and I know someone who knows something about her that’s not embarrassing yet I can’t print here). I choose beauty over age. I choose Sarah Gadon.
MRS. DANVERS – Originally played by: Dame Judith Anderson. A picture is worth a thousand words. My ‘research’ has already shown me that more American actresses – of difference races to boot – can do this faster than their British or Australian counterparts do. I can also just put up Helena Bonham Carter or Charlotte Gainsbourg who has proven themselves to be able to play matronly. But of course this exercise is about new perspectives so let’s give Olivia Williams, still beautiful yet still beautifully evil in The Ghost Writer, this chance.
JACK FAVELL – Originally played by: George Sanders. British actors of the late 1930’s had smarmy gravitas in their early thirties while actors of the same age these days still look like they came out of a dorm room’s uterus. I almost put Fassbender to fill Favell’s shoes so that someone like, as I previously said, Bloom or pretty boys like Cillian Murphy to take the de Winter role. But then I remembered a man who has given us four and a half years of creepy hot yet play the most human role Sanders has ever played: Benedict Cumberbatch.
MRS. EDYTHE VAN HOPPER – Originally played by Florence Bates. But can she be funny? It’s really the only requirement, as the role and the actress who plays her are somewhat on lower billing. She’s a memorable Hitchcockian caricature like all Hitch caricatures are. But how about actresses today. How about someone humble enough to play bit parts yet have won an Oscar for playing someone who talks too loud in restaurants and make a really bad first impression as well as receive bad first impressions of others? My Choice: Emma Thompson.
While writing and procrastinating, I decided to have a midnight snack-like Youtube break. Guiding my choices was the overjoyed news that Taylor Swift will no longer play Eponine in Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables and is replaced by stage vet and Nick Jonas’ girlfriend Samantha Barks. She, by the way, joined a elimination-style reality show called “I’d Do Anything” years back, the show’s objective being to find a singer/actress to play Nancy in a West End revival for the musical “Oliver.” She can sing all right, effortlessly making her voice go to eleven without moving a muscle away from her smile. But during results show performances she’s always a kicker or a bridge, letting the other contestants out-act or out-sass her, and the same goes during the sing offs. Had this been a Tyra show, she’d been out during the middle of the show for being ‘boring.’
Then my search veered into the missions the contestants had to do to understand Nancy, some of which involved behaving like Nancy. Now let’s see if the woman can act. Sometimes she just stands there but mostly she has a confident presence, which isn’t the same thing as strong. In some challenge she doesn’t show fear or, on the clip below, weakness, when she’s supposed to. I have faith for her in drama, I just hope shoe doesn’t revert to her early days. But she’s made progress in three years with her voice breaking as the perma-anguished Eponine as part of the 25th anniversary Les Mis concert. Despite her voice, she admits to not being a perfect actress. That’s one out of two, better than Swift’s batting average.
A dirty-mouthed, homophobic high school kid named Costa talks directly to the video cam in front of him about the titular Project X, when he’s throwing what he hopes is ‘the best house party ever’ for his introverted, lanky friend Thomas Kob (Thomas Mann).
The camera, held by a conspicuous goth, follows both kids as well as every character he comes across, like Thomas’ parents who, going out-of-town, are confident that no house party will happen because he’s a ‘loser.’ But the turn of events are going to prove these adults wrong, because as the kids do their alcohol shopping they learn that Miles Teller is going too.
For some reason youths will go to any party before asking who is organizing or who it’s for, which I actually like because these children, celebrating and illegally drinking together, are less clique-y than my generation ever was. There are one or two kids, including the goth and the Thomas and Costa’s overweight and more awkward friend J.B., who are outcasts but they’re still allowed in.
When they actually see the celebrant, they stop the Muzak blaring from state of the art speakers – the great soundtrack includes Animal Collective, which, thank you – sing him the birthday song. It’s that one decrescendo after a series of well choreographed scenes going off in different parts of the block. It’s the right amount of organized chaos.
And when the music goes back on, we see people having a lot of crass fun and even if I watched this during a sober-timed matinée, I couldn’t help but root for the kid and the booze fest around him. It’s nice to see him transform from a ‘nobody’ to someone to cheats on his childhood sweetheart with some new bimbo. But in any circumstances, the movie’s music and the smoke and drug haze makes its audiences join in on the fun. Nobody wants to be a party pooper.
But the Todd Phillips and Joel Silver produced and Nima Nourizadeh directed party comedy begins in crass-ness and ends there with a riot breaking out. There’s just too much misinformation about collective outbursts for me that the movie’s association of the act with the ‘fight for your right to party’ generation seems condescending, vapid and vulgar. It’s ends up saying that kids haven’t evolved or have no thinking, as if all we or the young ones do is riot, destroy and have tantrums when we don’t get what we want. 1.5/5
- Todd Phillips PROJECT X Still Rocking The Joint With Second Full Trailer! (thepeoplesmovies.com)
Despite the title sequence in the beginning of Robert Bresson’s A Man Escaped, he limits the scope of his story, about a German-run French prison during WWII, incarcerating thousands, including our protagonist Fontaine (Francois Letterier). I’m not saying it’s a worse movie for that but it’s unconventional, the form loyal to its cagey content. It’s a pathway connecting different eras of European cinema, the bare walls and close-ups evoking Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc while its narration is a precedent for Truffaut’s episodic storytelling. This undecorated approach however doesn’t stop its audience from finding details, helping us scrutinize the world that the movie presents as well as the characters within it. Assuming that the Germans are using French prisons, why aren’t they improving on the infrastructure to keep the inmates in? Does this mean that French prisons are easily breached at the time? This movie also presents questions on what would happen if this kind of subjugation, God forbid, happens again, and whether and how it would help both the guard and the detained.
That doesn’t mean that the weak security is doing most of the work. Much of the film are close-ups of Letterier and his gaunt yet brilliant face. He’s our voyeur, looking at the objects and people around or outside him to decide which ones will help him escape. And as he forges and bends metal with his own hands this movie also turns into a love letter of proletarian ingenuity and he makes it look both effortless and skilled.
With his actions and bragging to the other prisoners come the expectation for his escape, that pressure escalating when, as more French men get captured, the inmates have to bunk up including Fontaine. His roommate (Charles Le Clainche) is an overgrown urchin. The two are symbolic of the dual reactions occurring within a conquered people. Fontaine sticks to his guns as the elder man attached to his nation’s sovereignty while the younger, more malleable man chooses resignation, that this situation can happen, accepting his inevitable death. His character’s introduction also subverts the Darwinist pecking order worldview that most war/apocalyptic movies have. In any other movie this cellmate would die like any character showing weakness. It instead follows the adage that who people know is as important as what they know. Their unlikely friendship actually helps the cellmate’s education, giving him the instinct to fight that he couldn’t have learned otherwise.
Armando Iannucci‘s In The Loop, a condensed version of his BBC series “The Thick of It,” is very masculine about the events before the War in Iraq. It also begs the question – how did Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi), the Prime Minister’s Director of Communications, get into power? Did he intimidate the PM or ‘demonstrate’ what he could do others? The funny thing is, Tucker’s bravado and invasive methods also calls into attention how we’re only seeing ministers, directors, secretaries and generals. They in turn tell their lowers and the interns that war is good and that’s what the heads of government think is best. There’s skepticism in my part at least, the real powers that be are faceless, and Tucker and crew use that quality to do what they want.
I try to up the voices I hear within the movie. Nationality? It’s funny enough to watch thrice, but maybe it’s because hearing curse words in a Scottish accent or whispered in an English accent than is better than doing so in an American one. Capaldi layers the torture quip, breathing life on Tucker’s un-bottled energy and exasperation. Or maybe gender is the sharp knife to cut the roast? Maybe not, with Judy Molloy (Gina McKee), at one point telling Malcolm ‘Do you like how I’m telling you what’s going on where you are.’ She’s gentle yet strong despite of Malcolm’s bellowing, refusing to play the game unlike US. Assistant Secretary on Diplomacy Karen Clark (Mimi Kennedy) and one of her aides, Liza (Anna Chlumsky). Liza, by the way, uses too many hand gestures and widening her eyes showing how overwhelmed she is with her situation, being the one who has written an unwelcome paper outlining the likely negative outcomes of the war. And the thing is, it’s not Karen or Liza that comes out unscathed, it’s Judy.
The more I watch In The Loop and get to its ending, the more it makes me feel like crap because on the surface level it lets the loudmouthed bad people win. Politicians. Maybe I’m just seeing a disconnect between then and now, the movie not foreshadowing the consequences for the people who pushed the war. But what about Liza, being reluctant about her paper because her career is on the line. Judy’s boss, Minster of International Development Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), is an equally spineless climber, stumbling into an anti-war quotable and becomes ambivalent about it after Malcolm ‘bollocks’ him. The movie intentionally the movie doesn’t have a good guy with any fortitude, neither.
- Peter Capaldi joins BBC drama The Hour for Season Two (telegraph.co.uk)