Buster Keaton can’t help but be in the shadow of Charlie Chaplin, the latter’s mustache and cane looking as cute as a kitten while the former’s face looks melancholy yet versatile. But not only is his expressive face one of his assets but his body. What my friend said about him is that he was the Steve-O of his generation although yes, it should be the other way around that Steve-O should be hailed as the Buster Keaton of his generation.
The comparison makes sense, as he would do his own stunts and forsake his physical well-being. I can’t remember the first movie I saw of his, but it involved him running the top of a demolished brick building – that and this movie, Sherlock Jr., makes me wonder if insurance exited back then and if they worried about his safety as I was. Here he would organize cluster fucks of enviable production value and would literally slip on clichéd banana peels and jump into a lake to make his audience laugh.
Slapstick humour is sadistic, even in its more ‘optimistic’ examples. Most of the time we watch Keaton fall and be in a generally disadvantageous situation, but my best shot involve him taking on physical feats and instead of failing, he does something awesome. This is the first of ‘awesome’ stunts and I guess the first one always sticks in my head.
Here he’s the titular Sherlock Jr., a dreamed up, more suave, movie-within-a-movie version of himself perfectly landing on a suspect’s Model T. I know it’s a wide shot and we only see an ant version of himself but he’s humble enough, like most silent comedy actors, to let us see his place in the big picture and how he can move within it. With finesse. And that stunt show the upper body strength we though he didn’t have.
- The Way We Link (thefilmexperience.net)
‘I realize that it dun sound as funny as I described it.’ You bet, star and director Jay Chandhrasekhar.
‘Cocaine?’ And it’s customary with every thing written about Super Troopers ever to say that the ageless Lynda Carter, also known as Wonder Woman, makes a cameo here as Governor Jessman. Another cameo is Geoffrey Arend or Mr. Christina Hendricks, who looks taller here because he’s skinnier a playing a teenage partier back a decade ago.
‘Sorry I don’t talk to highway hog.’ Marisa Coughlan, one of the late 90’s smart blonde ingenues, is less embarrassing here than in her two other movies. She’s playing a ‘female cop facing sexism in the workforce’ kind of role, and she crosses bureaucratic lines, performs banter where no one laughs at each other and takes a liking to a titular state highway patrolman (Paul Soter, specifically) living in a small, fictional border town called Spursbury, Vermont. She helps him solve, in her own special way, the big drug case that will save the troopers from being slashed from the state budget. Part of the plot involves Canadians as drug supply enemies which, you know, it’s usually the other way around but we do have product to sell on our side too, admittedly.
I’m not sure whether this movie is ambitious or not so I can’t compare it in that yardstick. But ‘stoner frat boy comedy,’ in its early stages? Chandhrasekhar, with his comedy troupe called Broken Lizard, makes his movie look professional in the cinematographic sense. But he underplays the comedy, the camera too distant and the surreal sequences, which probably looked fantastic in the script, are not paced well. Not even sleep deprivation, which is a drug in its own classification with which I’m addicted, can make this funny. Too many dick jokes, unnecessary cursing and weird-for-weird-sakes kind of costumes. This is an almost deal breaking movie to those involved in making it even if yes, the mixed critical reception for this isn’t as bad as I thought. Broken Lizard also made Beerfest, a movie of which I have a sliver of interest because “Saturday Night Live” alum Will Forte stars in that one. And they’re making a sequel.
There’s also a subplot involving a trooper named Farva (Kevin Hefferman) who bounces between patrol work, desk and cleaning duty. These switches make him betray his co-troopers and join the real police force. I mention him to warn you guys that there is gross full male nudity here (sorry if the warning is too late). But at least it’s equaled by partial male nudity. Three times. The director takes one for the team.
And this is funny, Brian Cox being the veteran that he is and playing ‘angry drunk’ effortlessly. Although his musical speaking voice is betraying that he has better training than this movie.
Edited from its original form. This was intended to be my observations of the movie’s first few scenes with some criticism here and there.
Reviews of The Cabin in the Woods have been generally positive, although there have been voices of dissent here and there. Whichever side of the fence they’re on, they don’t write about its plot except for a basic premise. There were the few I’ve read and the many that have advertised themselves as spoiler-free. I’ll do my best for this to not be that kind of post even though I’m the last person ever to see it. But nonetheless, let’s get this party started.
It starts with two women in their college dorm, the scene continuing with one character introduction after another. Jules (Anna Hutchison), recently changing her hair and personality, tells Dana (Kristen Connolly) to ditch her Soviet economics books and get into a weekend getaway mode. Jules’ also takes her boyfriend Curt with a C (Chris Hemsworth), a guy who dresses like jock who’s actually a smart sociology major. Out of this triumvirate, only Hemsworth can pull of the dialogue’s wit. Hemsworth is also able to recommend what books Dana should be reading while sounding like he knows what he’s talking about.
Hutchison and Connolly, however, seem to be too deadpan – Drew Goddard‘s blase direction doesn’t always help with this neither. But those two are interestingly cast, Hutchison’s face and demeanour seemingly too mature, her gaze too penetrating to really be the dumb blond persona that Jules has taken on for the weekend. Just as intended. Connolly is more fresh-faced so we’ll know that she’s last girl, whether she lives or not.
Anyway, apparently they’re the only people awake on campus despite it being a sunny spring day, or that they’re the last people to leave on their breaks. Curt offers his cousin’s cabin for the weekend getaway place and Jules asks him to invite his friend Holden (Jesse Williams of Grey’s Anatomy fame) so that Dana doesn’t feel left out. Marty (Fran Kranz), who looks like he’s going to act like a gargoyle for the rest of the movie, usurps into this otherwise picture perfect group and before they venture out into the titular cabin.
The journey towards the rural hideout is already filled with dread (why do young people in movies still go out in the woods to party even though we all know that most of them are going to die?). Being unable to find it on a GPS, they make a stop at a gas station and its attendant, Mordecai (Tim de Zarn), appears through a perfunctory shock cut. He calls Jules a whore, and a fight between the group and Mordecai almost break out, but they decide to leave him and have their fun as planned. As they drive their Winnebago through a tunnel a CGI bird flies in the sky, only to be stopped and killed by an invisible electric grid, reminding us that there are another set of characters in this story.
The movie actually begins with a mundane shot of a coffee vending machine that two white coats Sitterson (Oscar nominated Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Studio 60’s Bradley Whitford) use. Joined by the pencil-pushing Lin (Amy Acker), she worries about the day’s operation, although Sitterson smugly reassures her that they haven’t had a glitch since ’98. The two men leave her stranded, driving out with their cart within a large – public or private? – facility whose operation involves the characters who are cabin bound. We don’t know why they’re doing this or why they choose those kids. The same clunkiness permeate here as well, shot too close and lit too dirtily than I would expect in a scene featuring workplace humour. It also seems like the actors on this side work Whedon’s dialogue better throughout the movie…just like Curt does….and it is his cousin’s cabin. Despite of the imperfections here, Whedon and Goddard do start dropping pieces of the puzzle this early on.
It has the usual setup of young people discovering things hidden beyond the borders of civilization or revealing a character’s family secret. But what I like is that these characters challenge each other, the ones in the facility wondering, just like we do, how these kids will slip into which mess. The characters in the cabin, however, test each other on whether they’ll advance on each other sexually or be more modest towards each other like Dana and Holden does.
The movie is enigmatic and works its way into being character based but it didn’t really win me over until two of the characters find their way to fight back. When a certain scene happens the sounds of it make me feel like Whedon and Goddard had smiles on their faces while writing and making it. But that defining moment, coming in so late, and the movie’s hype itself, makes me cautious on whether to embrace it. Either way, the movie’s second hour makes the rest more bonkers and fun. 4/5
- The Cabin in the Woods (Drew Goddard, 2011) (faircomments.wordpress.com)
The House Bunny is the only movie that allows Anna Faris and Emma Stone to share the same screen and since the movie views women to Faris’ standard, Stone will probably never get this naked and Mean Girls-y again. Shelley Darlingson (Faris), being last out in the orphanage (the movie pays lip service to this part of Shelley’s character which, to be honest, is all it needs), always thinks of herself as an outsider even though she has one of the most coveted jobs that conventionally beautiful women have, a job that some of those women use to stab each other with. She’s grateful and has a sunny perception – she says something like “It’s like being naked in the centre of a magazine and people unfold you!” – about her precarious place within the mansion, as a 27-year-old she sees herself as 59 in Bunny years. After being schemed out of the Playboy mansion, Shelley becomes house-mother to Stone’s sorority house – the Zetas – although both mentor each other, the former with knowledge about how to attract men to help them save their sorority house and the latter knowing how to attract a man who isn’t superficial (Colin Hanks, obviously son of Tom). One of the movie’s funniest montages involve her trying to smarten herself by reading many books at once in a library and going to senior level classes in which she’s not enrolled. It reminds me of one of the movie’s earlier scenes where she asks one of the girls from a rival house where all the desks are. Both scenes are, to my limited knowledge of the subgenre of frat/sorority movies, the biggest indictment of college culture in cinema.
Stone, like her other housemates (Kat Dennings, Katherine McPhee Rumer Willis) go through two makeovers. The first, through Shelley’s guiding hand, takes too long to set up. The second is when one of the Zetas tell the other that they’ve become as superficial as their rivals. Stone’s character soberly advertising Zeta’s mission statement as being about acceptance is how we’ll see her onscreen persona in future rules.
Even if Faris and Stone are regarded as underrated comic gems stuck in a cinematic era that treats them like shit, the former, a secret national treasure and a celebrity impression that some cheerleaders have in their comic arsenal – is good but not enough to elevate this movie. There is absolutely no reason for everyone to watch this movie or to call this as a comedy – but then I read a lot of complaints that contemporary mainstream comedy isn’t funny so I guess this movie’s first few scenes might fit in with that description – and I felt the same way until I heard Faris’ voice get deeper and more guttural because that’s the way Shelley remembers names. I’m immature and get amused by stuff like that – it’s actually the first thing I’ll remember with this movie, the ‘erythromycin/meteor’ soliloquy in the end being the second. OHLIVEHR! That voice, simply enough, makes Faris’ Shelley a physically straining, full-bodied performance. You can call it as Faris putting the wool under our eyes but I still like it.
Aside from those two leads the movie also boasts a cast that sounds useless on paper but are awesome together. I tweeted earlier that McPhee acts and sings more here than in all of “Smash” and I stand by that. And who knew that Willis, whose character is stuck in a body brace for most of the movie, ends up having the best body in a cast of many beautiful women? Dennings in her most sarcastic yet most restrained, surprisingly. I love the scene where the sorority girls take out their fake eyelashes and tell each other that despite of Shelley’s inadvertent bad influence the latter still has style. Anyway, back to the cast, Beverly D’Angelo’s villain reminds us that, despite not necessarily deserving a lead role in anything, she’s a competent and more preserved Faye Dunaway. This is an ensemble picture in, as many would see it, its worst and most embarrassing way bot I can’t knock it because of its entertainment value and that I keep rooting for these actresses in their future projects.
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)
Like any sane person who came out of The Muppets, I ended up singing the infectiously unforgettable line ‘I got everything that I nee-eed right in-front o-me’ on the streetcar home. Hats off to Bret McKenzie. But the sugar rush ended because of three grating yet forgivable flaws.
First is vintage store-clad (this is a good thing) Mary (Amy Adams), Gary’s (Jason Segel) girlfriend who si frustrated by her man’s undivided attention towards his Muppets-loving Muppet brother, Walter. Adams sings and dances feverishly, only bringing half of the joy that her scene partners, both human and Muppet, effortlessly produce. She’s more convincing when she’s playing against type than she is as an adorable love interest. It’s not entirely her fault, her face seemingly colourless and lit sloppily. She’s also one of three major female characters who, in a script co-written by Segel, are ‘attention seeking shrews’ ‘distracting men from work.’ An Oscar-nominated actress can’t save badly written characters like hers.
Chris Cooper rapping made me wince in my seat. And the characters’ self-awareness after singing their songs are a bit distracting.
And can I declare a fatwa against the premise in movies that the world is ‘cynical?’ Sure, as the movie shows, broken relationships and sketchy characters and greedy oilmen like Tex Richman (Cooper) and power-hungry executives like Veronica (Rashida Jones) do exist. But the world has its equal share of revisionist, retro-living, overgrown children. Our decade-long obsession for cute old anthropomorphic things is the reason Pixar gets awards. Cute is definitely why this movie exists.
James Bobin‘s movie epitomizes cute with the other Muppets whom this unconventional family is trying to reunite. The group find themselves on a mission to stop Richman from destroying the Muppet studio to build an oil well. Richman also wants to acquire the Muppets name to skew the well-known brand from its original content and form. Sound familiar?
The joyful aura is good enough to sustain itself for most of the movie. Despite the mushy middle, let’s remind ourselves that the movie begins with the postwar nostalgia of Smalltown, USA and we fell for it. Then we see the physical comedy, signature Muppets flailing, celebrity cameos like Emily Blunt and Leslie Feist and loved it. Then it sets up Gonzo as Chekhov’s gun and we smiled. And Kermit, the movie’s undisputed star, sings the old tunes as well as new songs and we cried and we loved the movie a bit more. 3.5/5
- Amy Adams on filming The Muppets: ‘It took a lot of energy’ (arts.nationalpost.com)
The first half of Henry Koster‘s Harvey questions my personal expectations of the film as a light studio-era comedy. Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart) embarrasses his sister Veta Louise Simmons (Josephine Hull) and her daughter Myrtle Mae (Victoria Horne) in a socialite gathering at their old home. In turn, she wants to get rid of him, placing him into a mental institution, which is admittedly a treacherous thing to do. Then in the twenty-five minute mark, playwright turned screenwriter Mary Chase uses the old switcheroo plot.
The pompous middle management of the institution, led by Dr. Sanderson (Charles Drake) and assisted by the hopelessly devoted Ms. Kelly (Peggy Dow), literally turn their backs on Elwood’s symptoms, interrupting him before the Elwood introduces them to the titular imaginary white rabbit. They make the latter walk off scot-free while Veta cries her heart out to the doctor and gets labeled as hysterical. And only when the hospital staff realizes their mistake is when this movie supposedly oscillates into comedy territory.
A few scenes later, she labours on a detailed description of her treatment at the institution, her soliloquy having no place in a comedy film at all. These scenes feel so uncomfortable that it’s easy to just flick the switch away and tell everyone else that they’re the insane ones for calling this movie a classic. This sounds blasphemous but it’s kind of like Bridesmaids, where depression wedges itself into the comedy.
All I wanted was for the hospital to get the right guy, even though we can argue that both siblings have their traces of insanity. Once Veta is free we have the delight in knowing Elwood. Stewart’s characterization of the man is both mature, as he doesn’t give into stereotypes about people with special conditions, mixed with his eternally child-like voice. There are also the scenes in the bar and afterward, the alleyway, when he tells both Sanderson and Kelly what his drinking buddies think about Harvey, that makes his performance that’s disarming yet more comforting than Mary Chase’s quotable screenplay or words or language in general could be.
Drake and Dow’s matinée idol looks contrast the rest of the actors’ cartoonish appearances. There’s also the specificity within enunciation of certain words, especially Hull and Horne’s affected accents that make them sound either like Americanized Brits or rich middle Americans, speaking just like every upper class character “back then.” Hull’s expressiveness also saves her character from being simply a one-note hysteric, making us sympathetic for those who have to deal with a mentally shook relative. There’s also the cast who – and Stewart inadvertently falls into this as well – never fully reaches naturalism but that makes this movie a time capsule of theatre-based acting.
I also applaud this movie’s brave depiction of homosexuality. Just kidding, but you can argue for it.
This movie is brave because of its collaborative subversion of psychology’s labels, making me think of its limits within certain polarities. We can factor in gender within its ‘insane’ characters. The “white slaver” Wilson could be a “nut” himself, trigger-happy when it comes to wringing Elwood’s neck or shoving Veta around. The male-dominated institution is more lenient towards Elwood’s quiet insanity than Veta’s. In one of her soliloquies she recounts how Wilson strips her and how the other doctors ask her about sexual things, concluding that “they’re not interested in men in places like that.”
The movie makes psychology look like a practice that by nature hunts people down as well as causes for why people are the way they are. Sanderson makes up a story on why Veta wants to confine Elwood. Later, at the alleyway, he asks Elwood where he gets the name Harvey from only to end up dry, simply because he never asks the right questions, just like we shouldn’t. We should just let the eccentric yet pleasant people as they are.
Most critics have acknowledged how 50/50, directed by Jonathan Levine (The Wackness) finds borderline tasteful comedy in any grim situation like young Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) whose jogging back pains is actually a malignant tumor with an unpronounceable scientific name. There’s also my search in something deeper than that, in how this movie shows these characters within boundaries set both by others and themselves and the crossing of boundaries, as in ‘movie world set-ups’ with resolution to conflicts.
The first scenes competently set-up what the characters are like before the diagnosis wedges itself violently into their situations and these characters often fall within some spectrum between being the funny one and the depressing on, as they would in life. There’s Adam’s best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen) who is intentionally funny, his mostly unintentionally funny novice counselor Katherine (Anna Kendrick), his mother Diane (Anjelica Huston) who is only funny from the fourth wall and through an imagined hindsight and his girlfriend Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard) who is pretty dramatic and sees the illness as a negative thing she can’t fully endure that the thought of entering the hospital wing with him is unthinkable.
Adam at first is the Alan Ruck to Kyle’s Matthew Broderick, their opposites mixing because they work together in radio. The silver lining in his situation other than Kyle’s jokey optimism is how Adam can oscillate within the spectrum of emotion and, as circumstances would have it, move up a bit to see Kyle’s coarse yet optimistic side of things.
The only downside with Adam ‘hanging out with his bro’ is that the mother major characters, who are female, become ignored or occasionally turn into insufferable villains. It’s not hard to make that assumption because of the associations I have about Seth Rogen and the word I used earlier on Twitter. It’s hard for me to side with Adam as he’s cursing at Rachael, the latter crying on his porch.
He also walks out from Katherine’s office, a final symptom of his lack of respect for her, a young inexperienced doctor. Yes, I’m thankful that an exchange exists when Katherine calls Adam out. But despite most of these actions being temporary and all the hurt forgiven, there’s something unapologetic and queasy about Adam and Kyle’s mistreatment and suspicion of women. And of course most of the cancer patients are male and most characters taking care of these men are female and the nurses are perfect lest Adam’s voice strikes with damnation and the script allows him meanness because he might die soon.
Before I get carried away with negativity, let me say that Levitt is more wan here than in any other role in his decade-long film career. But that doesn’t mean that it’s the lack of hair and make-up that comes across the screen but his performance proves that he’s one of the most versatile actors in his age. He’s even one guarded step behind in Adam’s scenes above, instead of acting on intention he behaves instinctively, performing in a naturalistic way. There’s also a scene when, As Adam has shunned everyone else, he and Kyle face each other’s issues, leading to Levitt’s haunting primal scream.
Most of the actors are equally toned down except for Rogen, who has the hard job of carrying the funny side, peppering Kyle’s dialogue with vulgarities. Kendrick tones down the watchable histrionics of her early roles to become the movie’s voice of sanity, Huston beings a hard exterior with softer inner qualities. And it kind of pisses me off that Bryce Dallas Howard can actually act.
Surely everyone diagnosed with cancer is new to it, even Adam’s older chemo buddies. But so is Katherine, admitting that Adam is her third patient. She tries a lot of methods like instrumental meditation music and the polite but tough love, making Adam feel out of the loop in his already precarious state. The one that she keeps returning to is the touching, an act of connection that she has probably seen others do that she feels the need to learn it. It might make sense if an expert psychiatrist pats expertly Adam in the arm three or so times and he accepts it during the last time. We’ll never know how the movie’s alchemy might change if his therapist was ‘some grandma.’ But it is more fitting that her patting is more awkward if she does it incorrectly, symbolic of the rough journey where both the sick and his doctor have to talk to each properly other to finally get it right.
- Film Review: 50/50 (3.5 stars) (arts.nationalpost.com)
Every blogger, website and their grandmothers have already written about the trailer for Roman Polanski’s Carnage. Twitch has uploaded it on Vimeo but the few YouTube versions of it only have less than 2000 hits combined, which needs to be corrected. I like the art direction, blocking and of course, the cast. Christoph Waltz’ sincerity while telling Jodie Foster that his character Alan’s son didn’t disfigure the latter’s, or Foster making us laugh with just one line. As a fan of Kate Winslet, I’m a tad worried about her hamming it up although she gets most of the headlines written about the trailer so far. I’m also glad that Yasmin Reza, who wrote the original play in French, adapted the material herself, making it more vernacular. Which means that English interpreter Christopher Hampton has no hand in this at all. Enjoy!
Growing up when I did and now knowing any better I watched a lot of guilty pleasure crap from the 90’s. Sister Act was my introduction to This is also my introduction to Harvey Keitel and Bill Nunn. The latter seems to age between three years, from being Spike Lee’s Radio Raheem, the punk that cops shoot to a Lt. Eddie Souther who saves nightclub singer Dolores (Whoopi Goldberg) from Vincent LaRocca (Keitel) by tucking her into some inevitably awkward sitcom-like placement in a San Francisco convent and turning her into a Sister Mary Clarence.
Goldberg and Maggie Smith leave impressions but I didn’t know that both, who squaring off in the film, are EGOTs, Goldberg having a Grammy and Smith having two Golden Globes. It’s not their best work but let them have their fun. But I couldn’t help but compare both to other movie nuns, Clarence being Sister Ruth. I also see a lot of Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr) in Smith’s take on the Mother Superior, the northern British inflections highlighting their controlled anger against younger, rebellious nuns symbolizing a world against tradition. Sitting on the pews she looks up to Clarence on the stage instead of looking down on her to supervise her, Clarence’s implicit message of change as helpful yet jarring enough for her not to accept at first.
It’s snobbish to not see this film’s few merits like casting the faces playing other nuns. It’s easy for the film to seem to have been, pardon the expression, cut from the same cloth. Instead the movie actually allows most of them to stick out with personalities, and it must be hard for these actresses to express that through a habit and a square hole where their faces go. There are the more fleshed out characters from the sunshine’ like Sister Mary Patrick (Kathy Najimy, also famous for playing Peggy Hill in “King of the Hill”), sister Mary Robert (Wendy Makkena) who fights her own timidity by being the nun choir’s stand out voice and acerbically hilarious Sister Mary Lazarus, who seems to have had an equally and healthy adult life before taking her vows.
I also want to do some armchair assessments about how films like this perpetuate the image of the urban area. There are cringe-inducing scenes like one when Clarence, Patrick and Robert sneak out from the convent across the street into some dingy biker bar (I swear if I see a leather jacket in a 90’s movie again). And this isn’t a Whoopi movie if there isn’t happy synthesized trumpet music during chase scenes. Was the Haight-Ashbury that bad around the late 80’s and early 90’s? I suppose this movie’s fantasy of the Church revitalizing terrible neighborhoods is better than Starbucks doing the same thing in the real world. And at least this is about Clarence instead of her being a supporting character in the neighbourhood.
Well the links lead from me to me. Let me begin with the new character posters for Steven Soderbergh‘s Contagion, which I talked about for Nathaniel R’s The Film Experience. Blythe Danner has seen her daughter’s poster, apparently. The comments went beautifully, as people remembered the Gwyneth and Winona frenemy situation and surprisingly, Matt Damon‘s poster is competing to be the second favourite along with Laurence Fishburne‘s.
Speaking of Kate Winslet movies, she’s playing the role of She-Hulk in Roman Polanski‘s new film Carnage, a movie I won’t shut up about until its release. I didn’t like the poster, but it’s a surprise hit for the commenters at Anomalous Material, where I’ve also been busy writing news and reviews. I think that John C. Reilly has the best colouring here, while I’m not into Jodie Foster and Christoph Waltz‘ orange so much although yes, there are loathsome orange people out there.
I also reviewed Crazy, Stupid Love at YourKloset, a website that I write for when movies and fashion collide, which thankfully happens often enough for me.
I understand the career woman who wants to get married – I’ve actually seen that happen. But Rosalind Russell’s character manipulates a jail-bird into a sound bite that gets him in the chair and that’s supposed to be funny? Or maybe I had misled genre expectations.
Three men look for their mysteriously estranged college mate, Ranchoddas or Rancho (Aamir Khan), and coming along later in the journey is his on-and-off girlfriend Pia (Kareena Kapoor), their ex-headmaster’s daughter. Rancho is so memorable to these characters because of the joy he has brought to their younger selves, since most of these other characters are prone to suicidal thoughts, mental breakdowns and quarter life crises brought on by the general competitiveness of middle class, college life. ‘Life is a race,’ but Rancho thinks that a musical number is decent cardio too. Standing between the binaries that this film and its context present, he’s Western because of his idealistic view on education and love, Eastern because of his altruism and anti-materialism. What’s also admirable about this film is that it lets Rancho be wrong sometimes, its most heartfelt moment is when the headmaster, teary-eyed, tells him that he can’t be right all the time.
There’s also Pia, who, by learning how to stand up against her former fiancée as well as her father, is a woman more feminist than a Deepa Mehta protagonist. And since we’re comparing movies about India, the film also echoes the triumphalism of Slumdog Millionaire, the but the ride is wilder this time, taking characters to opposite emotional cliffs and back.
- Aamir’s tricky marketing strategy (aamirkhanblog.wordpress.com)
Gil Pender (Owen Wilson), visiting Paris for unknown length of time, is so taken by the city that he considers moving in, be a perpetual tourist and write his novel. His fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) thinks that he should go back to Southern California and stay on as the moderately successful screenwriter that he is. His romanticized view of Paris gets intermittently interrupted by his fiancée’s parents, her older friend Paul (Michael Sheen) and the latter’s yes-woman of a fiancée. After a wine tasting party, Gil takes a rain check when Inez and Paul want to go out dancing. He wants to ingest the city and gets lost. While sitting on some steps, the bells ring midnight, a vintage car stops in front of him and inside are people dressed up for a 1920’s themes costume party. They wave him in, he follows, and they take a ride from one charming, drunken party to another in for real 1920’s Paris.
In his review of Woody Allen‘s new film Midnight in Paris for The New York Times, A.O. Scott says ‘critics…complain when he repeats himself and also when he experiments.’ The same can be said in his version of 1920’s France, the historical characters from that bygone era depicted like Coles Notes. Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates, because who else?) saying something quotable and eloquent! Ernest Hemingway saying something equally quotable eloquent on an awesome musky drunken haze! Zelda Fitzgerald (Alison Pill) and Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody) saying something coarse and/or surreal that no one rightfully bothered to write down! It’s a damned if he does or doesn’t scenario. The latter might have made history buffs and literati take their own nails out. But choosing the former makes history seem like pushing a button to reassure Gil, as he tells Inez, that the people in the past are exactly what he thought they would be, and that he might not learn anything new despite going into this different world.
Thankfully, history gets a different narrative through Ariana (Marion Cotilliard), a fashion designer originally from a smaller French city. Conventionally, no one in her time would write about her, the thankless muse and objectified trophy to many artists. She’s smitten by Gil’s writing and befriends him. Instead of the gilded tourist-y, antique shop present day France that Gil experiences in daylight, shot marvellously by Darius Khondji, his midnight strolls in 1920’s Paris with Ariana are gray, mahogany and smoke. She leads him to avenues with a whopping four prostitutes in one block. Four! She tells him about her relatively hard life and her encounters with sleazy people of that time.
Through Cotilliard’s commendable performance, Ariana talks about being these artists’ and writers’ lovers or working under revered couturiers as a measly job or a mere stop to a drifter’s journey instead of an honour that Gil thinks it is. Kindred spirits with differences attract, and it’s very convincing that instead of hanging out and being a sponge to ideas from these great writers, he is more fascinated with ‘some girl.’ Ariana is just one of the film’s female characters who are counter-subversive to Gil’s subversion, being able to see the cracks within his nostalgia. Gertrude Stein criticizes a painting that would end up in a gallery that Gil revisits in the present day. Inez’ mother questions his lack of taste in furniture.
Woody Allen’s previous takes on the past are more magical, an element greatly missed in this film. Sure, there’s that bit of dust touching the vintage car as they’re going to Cole Porter’s party, but instead of fully embracing the world where Gil finds himself, we instead see his eyes get bigger, the characters introducing themselves with names of people who have been dead for years. But at least he replaces magic with self-awareness.
- Movie Review – Midnight in Paris (** out of 5) (chicagonow.com)
Despite protagonist Annie’s (Kristen Wiig) misfortunes, Paul Feig‘s Bridesmaids, however, gets us to crush on Chris O’Dowd, who plays Officer Rhodes, the guy who stops Annie on the highway because she’s talking to herself while driving. Eventually warming up romantically to Annie, he has a few things going against him. First, he’s ‘schlub perfect,’ but we won’t take that against him. Second, he tries to fix her. He wants her to bake again even if she’s not ready to, and it’s totally his fault why she runs away. Lastly, his competition is Jon Hamm, playing Annie’s eff buddy Ted, an irresistible figure despite the funny sex faces and the rich boy narcissism.
Bridesmaids also shows how the longest relationships are the ones that are hardest to keep. Annie has a picture of her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) when they were still younger and more awkward but now they’re older, more beautiful and changing too quickly for the former. It’s always the childhood friend who moves to a different, ‘better’ city – Lillian moves from Milwaukee to Chicago, closer to her fiancée’s work, which means oh my god she’s getting married and Annie’s the de facto maid of honour! Lillian also or gets richer, better friends. And of course, when the screenwriter gods (Wiig and Annie Mumolo) giveth they also taketh away, the fortunate new best friend becoming a target of jealousy by Annie whose relationships etc. start slipping away. Which make it, especially the pacing, feel like the first scenes of Kingpin, one misery dryly piled on top of another, but it’s a bit depressing this time around.
Critics have compared Bridesmaids to producer Judd Apatow‘s work, but there are closer similarities to recent Saturday Night Live sketches, those scenes making Anne question her long friendship with Lillian. Annie and Helen (Rose Byrne), Lillian’s new rich best friend, have a contest on who gets the last, most heartfelt word in Lillian’s engagement party like that sketch that spawned Will Forte’s racist character. Annie and Helen playing tennis together reminds me of the women’s sports events sketch. Their competition and enmity also reminded me of the Wiig-Poehler sketch with the little hats. The girls literally messing up Lillian’s Lady Juju dress? Jamie Lee Curtis. For some reason, Wiig’s changing voice at certain times within the movie is more digestible than when she does in on her show. It made me and everyone else in the theatre laugh. Maybe it’s the costumes, or how she acts human for 51% of the time. And it’s actually a relief to hear her say the f-word or the c-word that really get Annie in trouble, as it would if it came out of anyone.
There’s also a lot of implied money talk in the film. Unless you do it in a courthouse, marriages are never cheap, and the disasters that occur in Lillian’s wedding have some gravity because the things that her dad pays for might get gloriously ruined mostly by Annie. She takes the bridesmaids to a hole in the wall Brazilian joint before the dress fittings. She gets drunk and drugged on the women’s way to a planned bachelorette party in Vegas. Helen’s lavish, Parisian-themed real bachelorette party for Lillian intimidates Annie, in which we all become her, screaming our lungs out especially because everyone else encourages and praises Helen’s excesses. ‘This is the best bridal shower I’ve ever been to.’ Really?
Which is strange because I don’t recall what the main female characters do for a living. Three of the bridesmaids (Byrne, Ellie Kemper and Wendi McLendon-Covey) are housewives suffering under husbands and mostly male children, Lillian on her way to becoming the fourth housewife in that new circle of friends. Annie open a bake shop and goes bankrupt – her shop ‘Cake Baby’ repeatedly vandalised as ‘C-ke Baby’ and ‘C-ck Baby’ as a male rape of female-initiated capitalism, and I’m the douche who though about and wrote that. And for scenes in the movie, she’s stuck behind the jewellery counter, a precarious job for her because her cynicism scares couples and teenagers away. The bridesmaids (Melissa McCarthy) look at this wedding as a way to escape, while Annie disagrees with this viewpoint. It’s one of the latent disconnects that she finds between her and Lillian. As comedies go, she has to patch up things with Helen first before fixing things with Lillian, which includes the latter’s wedding, even if the characters themselves aren’t fully mended.
All in all, a great supporting cast including Matt Lucas as Annie’s one of annoying roommates. 3.5/5
- >Bridesmaids: A Single Girl’s Review (chelseathelastsinglegirl.wordpress.com)
Girl (Jennifer Lopez) meets guy, guy’s mother Viola (Jane Fonda) hates girl, Fonda plays a character less human than the one she played in Barbarella, piece of crap. At least Lopez has enough sense of humour to let the other characters make fun of her figure. And the slapstick wasn’t that bad. I don’t know what I had in me to watch Monster-in-Law, but I blame Fonda, wanting to be a latent best actress completist and all. No, obviously this movie didn’t have awards I’ve heard of, but it’s…fulfilling to see how the mighty have fallen. Although the film has competent cinematography, despite Fonda being mercilessly lit. I do want to pitch a Fonda movie where she, Gloria Steinem and Stephen Colbert cook for feminists. Ninety minutes of it.
Oh hai, Duck Philips, playing the most self-aware asshole in this film. And yes, that title is arbitrary. Also, Will Arnett is in this movie, his character apparently into college age chicks.
My real purpose for writing this post is o upload a picture of Adam Scott wearing women’s clothing. He’s one half of the only family she has in a film full of estranged characters. He doesn’t play his gay character stereotypically, as expected of the versatile character actor. In the first scene, Lopez’ character tells him that he’s allowed to rummage through her drawers while she’s away. If any of my real female friends tells that same joke, I will cut them. The end!
Observe and Report got a lukewarm reception at the box office mostly because of unfortunate timing – Warner Brothers released the movie about a mall cop three months after the Kevin Smith ahem, blockbuster vehicle Paul Blart: Mall Cop and suffered for it. Thankfully, Criticize This writer and Indefensible founder Andrew Parker and Exclaim!’s Will Sloan are ready to make us believe that this movie is a masterpiece. Seth Rogen won’t be at the Toronto Underground Cinema at both this Friday and Sunday screenings, but for us gays and girls who like our guys ‘Rogen size,’ Torontoist‘s John Semley will come to Friday along with CinemaScope’s Adam Nayman – unconfirmed – to trash the movie. I have no idea what size Mr. Sloan comes in. Then this Sunday, NOW Magazine‘s Norman Wilner will introduce, defend Observe and Report and show its similarities to another film showing at the Underground that night – Taxi Driver.
I have cheese factory duties on both screening times so I won’t get to see Rogen and his apparently career-best film performance. Neither will I see the great Celia Weston, nor apparently the greatest fight scene in an English language film, nor the longest full frontal scene ever – not a pun. Nor will I be there to snark that ‘I hate malls, I like boutiques better, I hate the suburbs, I live in Toronto.’ I will be there in spirit. Supporting cast includes Anna Faris, Ray Liotta, Patton Oswalt, etc. Both screenings start at 7PM. Proceeds go to the Organization for Bipolar Affective Disorder.
- Picks of the Week, April 9, 2009 (mrmovietimes.com)
…has been in ‘terrible’ movies.
(Sorry for the hiatus, by the way.)
Adam McKay‘s Step Brothers came out in 2008. In the same year Jenkins, not to be mistaken with the guy from Third Eye Blind, had movies out like The Tale of Desperaux and was nominated for an Oscar in The Visitor. Despite the many “Six Feet Under” episodes he’s been in, Adam McKay’s Step Brothers is actually on the upper half of the movies that have better votes on his long CV on iMDb. someone out there who would call Hall Pass his Norbit, but I imagine more people think that his movie choices are getting better because of the Oscar boost.
But you know what, I actually enjoyed this movie that I saw for Easter with my family, flipping between this and the Game 4 between the Lakers and the Hornets. Jenkins plays a step/father to the titular step brothers, played by Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. This movie falls in the same sutured structure as Anchorman – although Anchorman does it better. Ferrell’s character clashes with person who takes things more seriously, a random epic back/side street fight involving Ferrell and secondary/tertiary antagonists, amicable dénouement between Ferrell and his foil. I do enjoy their antics, the two of them wearing Chewbacca masks, crashing their father’s boat, wearing racist costumes to detract a douche of a Realtor (Adam Scott) from making a sale and burying each other alive. Watching a comically rendered sex scene with my younger cousins was awkward.
This is the third movie for the past week that I’ve seen that involved dog poop, and the second involving eating it. I’m not sure if this dog poop marathon is better or worse than the movies I’ve seen earlier this year that had many close-ups of genitalia.
The Vacay Series is intended for AnomalousMaterial.com. I’ll continue the series there for movies with which I can actually say something about, unlike Step Brothers. The first on the series, is here.
[ETA: I’ve lately been obsessed with the Feller-Gasteyer-Gellar dinner sketch on SNL in 1997. Here he reminds me of Steve Martin in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. I wish Ferrell would do a movie where he’s the straight man to someone else’s goof, but that’ll never happen.
- Exit ‘Anchorman 2’, Enter ‘Step Brothers 2’? (latinoreview.com)
MacGruber! It’s screening at the Underground, the critics are defending it, MacGruber! It’s tonight at seven, they are serious film critics, MacGruber! ‘s in this movie, MacGruber!
“Holy smokes, MacGruber! There’s no way out!”
“That’s not our only problem, MacGruber — your movie’s gonna bomb in fifteen seconds!”
“Alright, everyone keep it together! Okay, if we’re gonna get out of here — and we ARE gonna get out of here — we need to focus up!”
“TEN seconds! What do we do, MacGruber!”
“You got it, MacGruber!”
“Paulette! I need exactly FOUR ounces of defender Adam Nayman from Eye Weekly!”
“On the way, MacGruber!”
“Sasha! Hand me that Norman Wilner from Bear magazine.”
“Okay! Has anybody seen any giveaways for free passes for a secret movie?”
“MacGruber, are those critics drunk?”
(Sorry to write this seriouser part, but Criticize this via Andrew Parker tweeted that part of your $10 admission fee for this screening go to the Red Cross. We were able to raise $500ish dollars (Andrew knows the real numbers) from the (In)Defensible screening this month. I can’t come because I have a shift at the cheese factory but I will be there in spirit and please, if you’re in Toronto, watch this movie, help the Red Cross, have some fun.)
- MacGruber Review (screenrant.com)
Ladies and gentlemen, ignore the indie feel of the trailer. Thanks to Juno, high school sports are quirky now. Nonetheless, let me introduce to you the first great movie of 2011.
Win Win has the same bare bones story as director Tom McCarthy’s earlier film The Visitor, when one person finds another on his doorstep. But this film’s more organic. McCarthy shows us the colourful characters within lawyer Mike Flaherty’s (Paul Giamatti) Garden State life. His daughter’s first word to the camera is ‘shit,’ his wife Jackie (Amy Ryan) is an upstanding citizen with surprises. He also coaches an incompetent high school wrestling team with his wacky colleagues (Jeffrey Tambor, Bobby Cannavale). This film’s visitor Kyle Timmons (Alex Shaffer) becomes the star of Mike’s wrestling team. The film can extract humour from banality especially with Kyle’s deadpan delivery. He says ‘Night, Jackie’ bringing laughs, and I wonder why other movies have to try so hard to be funny. The film’s first act is interesting enough on its own. I also feel as if with or without Kyle, this fictional Jersey’s continuum – its characters constantly in a quest for self-improvement, its middle class standing constantly threatened – would feel the same.
Thankfully, this movie also doesn’t have The Visitor‘s self-righteousness. Both Mike and Kyle’s mom Cindy (Melanie Lynskey) are neither portrayed as good nor evil, as both want financial rewards for being the guardian of Mike’s client who is also Cindy’s father. Lynskey is a contender in an insanely strong cast, agonizing about her Cindy’s father disinheriting her while tiptoeing between evil, manipulative daughter and disgruntled child, convincing Kyle of Mike’s deceit, saying the word ‘court’ with a perfect welfare-class inflection. It’s lovely to see someone as consistently good as her.
Cannavale, filling in the shoes of a showy, comic relief role, as his character Terry Delfino is the last person to join Mike as a wrestling coach. He transforms from Will’s barky boyfriend in “Will and Grace” and speaks with clarity and great timing, making himself the MVP of this film. From trying to keep Mike warm by climbing on top of him, telling Mike’s daughter not to get married to egging Kyle on as the latter confronts the former. a safer would movie would shut him up even in dramatic moments, but he doesn’t. McCarthy not trying to manipulate the film’s mood and tone, Terry’s presence adding to the film’s glowing naturalism.
Had the film ended one scene earlier, it would have felt too much like a back sell. Thankfully, it shows the Flaherty’s lives back to normal but living with compromises that always come with win-win situations. 4.5/5
I’m writing about these two movies because of Andrew Parker’s Indefensible series, as he presents films that respected Toronto film critics will publicly defend. Among the trailers they showed before showing Alien Resurrection are the worst uses of a recent Oscar winner, a trailer of a vehicle for a guy who’s winning now, and another of the Chad (Tom Green).
Alien Resurrection falls within the wrong hands, with the writer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the director of Amelie. I asked critic John Semley about ‘race,’ which is the wrong word to describe the relationship between Ripley Clone #8 (Sigourney Weaver), the aliens, the crew, the space pirates (including Gary Dourdan and Ron Perlman) and a robot (Winona Ryder). Three of those groups work against the aliens and get out of the mother ship. Every alien or monster movie is practically a metaphor for race. The proper word is the ‘other.’ I didn’t want to be that guy in the theatre bringing up film jargon and taking a genre movie too seriously.
Anyway, Alien is a perfect movie because of its evocation of a style and simplicity, making the aliens mere intruders. The token mad scientist (Brad Dourif) disciplines the bred and captured aliens makes an even relationship between human and alien. Both perform unjustified violence against each other instead of only one side doing it to the other. The first scene of the film shows the scientists perversely fawning at her, calling her perfect. Watching Ripley eventually look at botched clones and imperfect versions of herself, and having to kill those clones out of disgust on what the scientist have done to them, and how perfection is achieved, and how people draw lines against each other.
Old adage says that Weaver hasn’t been good since The Ice Storm (released in the festival circuit earlier that year) an opinion she shuts down by elevating the film through moments within her performance. Half of the movie is ridiculous, culminating in a confrontation inside a smaller spaceship between Ripley and an alien who is also technically her son. John Semley made fun of the alien son being made of oatmeal, and watching the crappy special effects of his innards being splattered throughout outer space, but we go back to Ripley’s face, and Weaver’s sincerity and mourning doesn’t seem laughable nor out-of-place.
So what do the movies have in common? Well, viscera, inter-species relationships, parental relationships and the name Betty. The name of the pirate ship in Alien Resurrection is Betty and Freddy Got Fingered‘s protagonist Gord (Green) has a girlfriend named Betty (Marisa Coughlan). Trailers before Freddy Got Fingered include Arnold making fun of himself and a reason why I respect Chris Evans and Jamie Pressley.
Show two gross things, put one random image or plot point after another and 51% of us will be laughing. Every shock comedian probably knows this. It’s like the animation company’s CEO’s (I still don’t understand when Anthony Michael Hall became sexy) reaction to Gord’s father (Rip Torn), the absurdity of the violence is so physical that it seems measured and entertaining. What does a girl on a wheelchair who likes forced fellatio have to do with the Eiffel Tower? And why does Tom Green play a piano sausage and be called crass and excessive, yet when Dali and Bunuel put dead donkeys on top of a piano they’re called avant-garde? Well, even some critics looking at this film from retrospect have referred to it as a Dadist experiment. Its pacing is different. Neither does it compromise to make Gord cheesy and sympathetic like most gross out comedies end up doing to its protagonists.
I also love how Coughlan is the love interest instead of Green’s ex-wife Drew Barrymore, who instead plays a crazy receptionist. Drew’s sunk to a lot of depths but she wasn’t gonna permanently sabotage herself with this one. Well played. Coughlans’ the MVP of this movie. I’ll always have respect for Tom Green as with any guy who pronounces his T’s (I’m starting to notice that comedians and comic actors today have better enunciation than dramatic ones). Everyone else plays one note that go well together in this skull-beating symphony that is Freddy Got Fingered.
Oh, and after the movie, Mr. Wilner started impersonating Tom Green impersonation as if he’s fighting for the film’s final cut. That was great.
Mixing golden age filmmaking techniques and new Hollywood’s colourful realism, The Sting is more form conscious than director George Roy Hill’s earlier films. Meaning that this film also has enough wipes and page wipes for ten Kurosawa films. Both wipe montage overloads portray Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) getting makeovers and a new apartment. The latter montage also depicts Hooker’s new partner Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) gathering people for a con. Each of these people are like chapters in a book that we skip to see the exciting part of them performing their sleight of hand. Their mark is a gangster named Doyle Lonegan (Robert Shaw). These montages are accompanied by a ragtime score, the conflicts given a lighter mood.
There’s also a lot of running in this movie, mostly from Johnny’s part, having to leave Joliet, Illinois for Chicago to avenge the death of his former partner. He’s being chased by authorities and hitmen who have been on him since he has moved. There are guns involved and the clicking sound of Johnny’s shoes eerily makes the audience a little afraid for him. The camera follows Johnny enough for us to see Redford’s athleticism. There are also quick zoom outs from the gunmen, whether they’re on top of a subway platform or within hallways or back alleys behind a diner. Even if they’re looming they can never catch up to Johnny.
I started to understand why this won over Ingmar Bergman’s Cries and Whispers for Best Picture in 1973. There’s little quips from Johnny’s girlfriend, blaming her wasted training on her orchestra instead of her trip numbers. That could be overread as a satire on class boundaries in Depression-era America, but we can accept it as an incidental humour that’s as real because it’s delivered in little strokes. It’s a very masculine film, honestly portraying man in its different stages, from Lonegan’s bravado at the poker table to Gondorff wasting away before he and Johnny can get their acts together. There are red herrings before the winners bring out their Hollywood smiles, and most of us won’t have it any other way.