Archive for the ‘Drama’ Category

The Rover

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

tn_roverYou know what I realized? I don’t love minimalism. I don’t hate it either, and I think it’s funny to watch normal people get upset and confused by one of these slow, quiet, ambiguous takes on what usually would be genre material. It’s not for everybody. But some of these things are real artful, and when they’re really rolling the relative lack of movie artifice helps get a potent atmosphere and tone and feel going like nothing else. But to be honest at the end when they wrap up they don’t usually feel like a full experience to me. They’re not usually my favorites, or things I’d want to watch again. But as far as they go, THE ROVER is a real good one.

I don’t mean to diminish it. I liked it and I’m pretty sure some of you will love it. I just thought it would be better to start on that thought than to end on it. And also I want to warn you not to watch this late at night after work like I did. It is fair for filmatists to expect full day time awakeness levels from their viewers, and writer/director David Michod here has earned it ’cause he’s the guy that did ANIMAL KINGDOM. (A co-story credit goes to Joel Edgerton, although he’s not in the movie as an actor.)

(read the rest of this shit…)

Boyhood

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

tn_boyhoodNote: I sincerely considered whether or not it was feasible to write this review one paragraph per year for 12 years. I decided maybe somebody else should do it.

When we first met Richard Linklater in the ’90s, his specialty was the one-day movie. SLACKER and DAZED AND CONFUSED captured a moment in time by following a group of characters (or a random selection of Austin weirdos) at a particular time. But all these years later he’s fascinated with the opposite: showing the same actors over a long period of time, seeing how things change. He started by following up the characters from the one-day BEFORE SUNRISE seven years later, and then fourteen years later. And with BOYHOOD, as you’ve probly heard, he somehow managed to make a movie with a star who is 7 years old at the beginning and he filmed a little bit each year until the year he starts college. About the only thing that would be more ambitious would be if he made a movie about trying to get me to sit through WAKING LIFE again.

The result is a movie as impressive as it sounds and much more involving. It still has that day-in-the-life feel, it’s just that it’s a whole bunch of days spread out across years. You know what, maybe alot of you other directors are just rushing things. Where’s the fire, man? Take the time to let your actors grow up on camera. Don’t be lazy. (read the rest of this shit…)

Step Up All In

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

tn_stepupallinIt may be shameful but it’s no secret that I’m a fan of the STEP UP series. It’s like the DEATH WISH series in many ways. Okay, in only one way: I like all of them. The first one is enjoyable dumb melodrama, then the second is a surprisingly good and clever sequel, and the third is even better. Part 4, REVOLUTION, was not quite as good but I liked it, it had people dancing on bouncing cars and a ridiculous plot about using flash mob dancing as a tool of political protest and at the end Peter Gallagher thanked the guy for practically humping his daughter on stage in front of him. Because the transcendence of dance or whatever.

I’m happy to report that I liked part 5, STEP UP ALL IN, a little better than the last one, although admittedly they sorta cheat and do it by rehashing parts 2 and 3 and bringing back favorite characters for more than just cameos this time.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Do the Right Thing

Monday, June 30th, 2014

tn_dotherightthingThoughts on DO THE RIGHT THING, 25 years later.

This is still my favorite Spike Lee movie. And I’m a big Spike Lee fan. I mean, I can’t say as big as they get, ’cause I still haven’t seen SHE HATE ME and a couple of the documentaries. I’ve seen everything else though, and I like most of them. I mean – MALCOLM X, CROOKLYN, CLOCKERS, GET ON THE BUS… so many good ones. I know some of you guys are gonna say 25TH HOUR. White people like that one. Including me. I even kinda like GIRL 6. BAMBOOZLED is too much for me though. Or at least at the time it was. Haven’t revisited it. Maybe some day.

I say this because I feel that Spike Lee doesn’t get enough credit as a pioneering and original voice in American cinema. You only see him in the news when he says something stupid, getting mad at Clint for not having enough brothers in his WWII movie or something. I think The Ain’t It Cool News has a social responsibility to mention his name every once in a while just to create the talkback that can remind us how many mush brained racist idiots still exist in the modern world. But there’s not enough discussion of his body of work, his unique style, his influence, his ahead-of-his-timeness. So what if he has a big mouth, if he has a vision to match? (read the rest of this shit…)

SIFF review: Unforgiven (2013 Japanese remake)

Friday, May 30th, 2014

tn_unforgiven13There has long been a beautiful cultural exchange between America and Japan. They captivated us with their ninjas and their karate, we let them use our rockabilly. We loaned them Steven Seagal, they sent him back polished into an aikido master. A few samurai movies have been famously remade as westerns, but it’s about time it went in the other direction. Director Sang-il Lee (HULA GIRLS, VILLAIN) has taken a little 1992 movie by the name of Clint Motherfuckin Eastwood’s Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Best Film Editing Oscar winner UNFORGIVEN and faithfully remade it as a samurai picture.

I think this is the type of remake that’s a sign of respect, not exploitation of an existing title. It’s saying “we all know this great movie UNFORGIVEN, I mean what kind of assholes do you take us for, but here is another take on it for you to enjoy a bit before returning to the original.” Even in that case the impossible part about remaking a Clint Eastwood movie has got to be finding a guy to replace Clint Eastwood. I gotta say, Ken Watanabe was a brilliant choice. He has a stoicism and masculine presence that’s reminiscent of Clint, he kinda looks like him on the poster, and he even knows the guy well as the lead in Eastwood’s underrecognized-even-while-nominated-for-best-picture directorial work LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA. But his character Jubei is not just an imitation of Clint’s William Munny. He’s a little less gruff, and even more internal. He talks a little less I think, even skipping a perfect spot to fit in the famous line “Deserve’s got nothin to do with it.” I guess he figures it goes without saying. (read the rest of this shit…)

Behind the Candelabra

Monday, April 28th, 2014

tn_candelabraBEHIND THE CANDELABRA is Steve Soderbergh’s one last big score before retirement. In some countries it played in theaters, but here in his home country it went straight to cable. Why? The Man obviously didn’t get how contemporary this story is even though it takes place in the ’70s through early ’80s.

It’s about this young working class guy, animal trainer, orphan (Matt Damon, THE BOURNE IDENTITY), one day he and his buddy (Scott Bakula, COLOR OF NIGHT) hit Vegas together, turns out his buddy knows this super famous musician guy (Michael Douglas, Streets of San Francisco), they get to hang out backstage, next thing you know he gets a job with the guy, gets to be in the crew, his posse, his entourage, like in the show Entourage (I don’t know, I haven’t seen it, but I figure I got a good guess what a show called Entourage would be about). (read the rest of this shit…)

The World, the Flesh and the Devil

Friday, March 21st, 2014

tn_worldthefleshTHE WORLD, THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL, which I never heard of until I picked up the Warner Archive dvd box abandoned sideways on top of the Post-Apocalypse section at Scarecrow Video, is an early take on the LAST MAN ON EARTH type of concept. It’s from 1959, making it the earliest one I know of, and it’s based on a book other than I Am Legend. Actually it’s apparently based on two things, The Purple Cloud, a 1901 novel by M.P. Shiel (H.G. Wells was apparently a fan!) that sounds like it has very little in common with the movie other than a last-man type concept, and a story called “End of the World” by Ferdinand Reyher (which I can’t find much information on).

Harry Belafonte plays Ralph Burton, an inspector who gets trapped alone in a collapsed mine. He’s down there a long time and goes stir crazy talking and singing to a radio that never talks back (he assumes it’s broken). Eventually he gives up on anyone rescuing him but is luckily able to dig his own way out of the rubble. (Shoulda tried that before, I guess.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Out of the Furnace

Monday, March 10th, 2014

tn_outofthefurnaceOne movie that came and went during the “summer is over, time for some actor-y shit” period of 2013 was OUT OF THE FURNACE. This is the second movie directed by Scott Cooper, who also rewrote from a script by Brad Ingelsby (writer of the gratuitous American remake of THE RAID that apparently is still happening). Cooper previously directed CRAZY HEART, which was known as the Jeff Bridges Oscar movie, but it was also a good movie in its own right, so it was intriguing that he was doing one with Christian Bale next.

I feel like after we got used to him being Batman we kind of forgot how great Christian Bale is. It’s a relief to see him being funny again in AMERICAN HUSTLE, but I also still like watching Earnest Christian Bale. And in this case Rugged Christian Bale. (read the rest of this shit…)

Rush

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

tn_rushRUSH is a Ron Howard movie about race car drivers, but it’s better than that sounds. It follows the expected template and visual techniques except that it has two protagonists, two narrators, and really made me bounce back and forth about which one I was rooting for.

The guy most prominently featured on the poster is James Hunt, played by Thor. He’s the long-haired blond rock star of Formula One racing, a charming, dry-witted Brit, a fun guy, great racer and legendary lover of women. If he wasn’t so charismatic he’d be easy to hate because he has it all except the championship, and that he’s confident he’ll get too.

The other guy is Niki Lauda, played by Daniel Brühl, the NATION’S PRIDE Nazi sniper from INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. He’s kind of Hunt’s opposite. He’s terrible at making friends, and doesn’t see that as a bad thing. He’s blunt and insulting, finds a way to push his way onto a team and doesn’t mind that his own teammates will resent him for it. When those teammates go out of their way to be helpful and welcoming he doesn’t reciprocate. Also he agrees with Hunt saying he looks like a rat.

But he’s brilliant. He’s not just a good driver, he tells the team how to reconfigure the car to make it faster. He explains later that he was blessed with an ass that can detect any problems in a car that he sits in. When he gets on the Ferrari test track he tells them their cars are shit. He’s like the P.L. Travers of racing. (read the rest of this shit…)

Kon-Tiki

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

tn_kon-tikiKON-TIKI is light, well-constructed and direct, just like the raft it’s named after. It’s the true story of the Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl embarking on a dangerous raft trip to try to prove that ancient Polynesia could’ve been populated by South Americans. This was before American Idol and stuff so back then you would have to try to prove or discover things to get famous. And then instead of a reality show you would film an actual documentary about your adventures. They just didn’t know any better, you know? I’m sure if Jacques Cousteau had known about sex videos he would’ve just done that instead of winning an Oscar by having an ax fight with a school of sharks while Louis Malle filmed him.

Anyway, Thor here comes up with this theory while living on an island, and he wants to write about it, but all the publishers of scientific books and magazines (I’m calling you out, National Geographic!) laugh him off as an idiot. He comes up with the raft idea but still has trouble getting funding, ’cause this was before Kickstarter. He has to go around talking to people who often think he’s a crazy man. Which he kind of is I guess. (read the rest of this shit…)