Friday, September 30, 2016

Great movies with "rotten" Rotten Tomatoes scores

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For a film to be "rotten" it has to have a score of under 60%. Even films that were at first critically reviled, but aged like fine wine, have - for the most part- had their scores boosted above 60% by present-day reviews and sreconsiderations. Because of that, it was actually tough to find 10 films that are "great," again not just good, but great. These are all still below 60%, but as time passes they will more than likely hit that coveted 60 percent and end up fresh. For now, they belong on this list.

Happy Gilmore (59%)
Oh, come on. As far as Adam Sandler movies go this is the holy grail.

Taken (58%)
One of the best pure action movies the past decade and the start of the "Badass Liam Neeson" phase Hollywood would try to bank on for the next 8 years.

The Life Aquatic (56%)
This was essentially the beginning of Wes Anderson's mature phase as a filmmaker. He would go on to make "The Darjeeling Limited," "The Fantastic Mr. Fox," "Moonrise Kingdom" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel."

Home Alone (54%)
A modern-day Christmas classic if there ever was one. The film that made Macaulay Culkin a Hollywood icon. Suffice to say the critics got it wrong, very wrong. Sole exception is Gene Siskel, who ended up putting this one on his Best of 1990 list!

Basic Instinct (54%)
Sleazy, eroitc, myserious, fascinating. Verhoeven. Maybe his best movie made within the Hollywood studio system. Taught in film classes and feminist classes. Sharon Stone's acting peak, alongside her turn in Scorsese's "Casino."

Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas (51%)

The last truly great Terry Gilliam movie. A rambling, audacious masterpiece that might only be fully appreciated under the influence of narcotics. Maybe that's why the critics got it wrong. Always go to the job sober they say ...

Summer of Sam (51%)
A misunderstood Spike Lee joint. Never again would he go back to that kind of movie. Akin to the same world he created in "Do The Right Thing," "Jungle Fever," "Crooklyn," He Got Game."

Antichrist (49%)
I must admit the first time I saw this chaotic Lars Von Trier film I didn't get it. A second viewing solved it for me. Then again, I can't really see anyone wanting to go back for seconds with this film. It's the kind of cinematic experience you'd should experience just once.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (45%)
Slapstick heaven. Jim Carrey's loony detecive is an Inspector Clouseau for the Millennial generation. 1994 was such a nutso year for the actor: "Dumb & Dumber," "The Mask" and "Ace Ventura" all released that year. The latter being the only "rotten" film.

Kingdom of Heaven (39%)
I'm cheating here a bit, because the director's cut is the much better version, but the original theatrical version was still unfairly maligned by film critics. In fact, now that I think about it, most of Ridley Scott's  best movies were, at first, poorly received.

Daniel Radcliffe on Swiss Army Man: 'People fixate on the farting'

From a recent The Guardian interview"

"You can’t give an accurate impression of Swiss Army Man in three minutes. And people fixate on the farting, which makes you want to go: “Yeah, but it’s also really beautiful and weird, and there’s nothing else like it.”

To tell you the truth, I completely forgot about the film since I first saw it back in Park City. It did end up getting a release date this summer and was met with lukewarm reviews. Take away and you still have a somewhat original concept, a talking corpse movie - but with not enough substance to truly warrant a directing award at Sundance. I met the directing team behind it, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinbert, quirky, cool guys that supposedly want to remake "White Chicks." By the way, I'm all for that idea.

Christopher Nolan is said to be getting $20 million upfront and 20% of the gross for World War II epic "Dunkirk"

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According to the Hollywood Reporter, Christopher Nolan's earnings for "Dunkirk": $20 million upfront and 20% of the gross. The most lucrative deal since Peter Jackson's equal earnings for "King Kong." Nolan has a very large and loyal fanbase, the biggest of any mainstream director I can think of. He also enormous power in terms of creative freedom, which could be a blessing and a curse at times, especially if you've seen his flawed, but fascinating 2014 Science Fiction opera "Interstellar."

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Martin Scorsese's 39 essential foreign films

"This list is an absolute good. The list is life. All around its margins lies the gulf."

A look at Kristen Stewart in Olivier Assayas' "Personal Shopper"

I was hoping it'd come out this year, but, alas, we will have to wait until next spring it seems if my conversations with its publicist at TIFF are any indication. They have decided to, in his words, "follow the same plan as what what was done with Assayas' "Clouds of Sils Maria," which also starred Stewart.

In the meantime we have this just released trailer to wet our appetites a bit.

EDIT: one look at IMDB says it has an official release date of March 17th, 2017.

Excerpts from my Cannes review:

"Olivier Assayas’ latest, "Personal Shopper" was the infamous film that got booed. Although highly stylized, the film didn’t deserve that reaction. Revolving around a ghost story that, not by accident, happens to take place in a fashion industry filled with artifice, the film is meant to be absorbed for what it is: A taut, terrific venture into the unknown."

"Kristen Stewart stars as Maureen, a top-model’s personal shopper that also, supposedly, happens to be telepathic. When her brother dies she begins to question the many curious events happening around her, which includes a mysterious texter. The texting scene is close to half an hour long and is the make it or break point for many of the film’s champions and detractors. I found it entirely absorbing. Same for the rest of the movie, except for a unfortunate weak coda that ends the movie on an ambiguous note, instead of in a clear and concise manner."

"No matter, this is top-notch filmmaking with an impeccable performance by Stewart, who hasn’t really had to carry a full movie on her own until this one. She is alone in many scenes throughout the picture and does an admirable job leaving you in a state of hypnosis with her mannerisms and quirks. Assayas, a great director, quite clearly wanted to create a supernatural atmosphere, with much influence on the 1960 classic "The Haunting." As far as those kind of movies go, there is nothing wrong in putting "Personal Shopper" next to them" [B+]

Nate Parker to appear on 60 Minutes

Thanks Jefferey Welles over at Hollywood-Elsewhere for the heads-up:

EDIT: It seems like he will not apologize in this interview. From a just released clip we have Parker saying that he got exonerated and found not guilty and doesn't need to apologize ...

So here's my history with Nate Parker's "The Birth of a Nation"
I reviewed it at Sundance this past January with very mixed feelings.

Capsule Reviews: "American Honey," "Deepwater Horizon," "Miss Peregrine's School For Peculiar Children," "Masterminds"

American Honey (R)

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"Andrea Arnold’s American Honey will be a polarizing film. A 160 minute road trip to Americana hell, if you will. An "On the Road" for and about millennials. Cannes is not the last we’ll hear about this movie and I’m perfectly fine with that. No one should dismiss it, for it has so many great moments in its scattered running time that one might have to look through a bit of rambling incoherence to find them."

"Non-professional actress Sasha Lane plays Star, a lost American soul that decides to hop on-board a bus full of Magazine-selling kids that go cross country to make money and sell magazine subscriptions. On the way they listen to pop radio and have sing alongs. Those sing-alongs end up taking up the full-length of a song. Some are quite exceptionally moving and exciting, whereas others meander. It’s just that kind of a movie, either you go with its flow or you just don’t. I did." 

"It’s not just singalongs. There’s an admirable sense of free-wheeling going on here. Arnold is depicting an American society of millennials that are disconnected and disconcerted with the American way. They’d rather sell their bodies than live in a capitalist-run society trying to live the “American dream”. As the film jogs along we get a fuller sense of the dynamics at play here. The structure, which is infuriating at times, runs constant repetitive circles, and yet we are fully engaged with much of what we see. There’s an overall sense of unimaginable freedom in Arnold’s filmmaking. It’s a vital, great movie that could probably use a trim." [B+]

"Dark Night" tackles the Aurora shooting

Dark Night Movie

The 2012 Shooting in Aurora, Colorado - at a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" - was a tragedy that will likely not be forgotten anytime soon. The gunman ended up killing 12 people and injuring 70. The remnants of that horrible act are still being felt to this day, but, just like most of the mass shootings we have witnessed this past decade, filmmakers have refused to tackle the topic. Are we ready to deal with this through art? I can't really tell you, but Paul Greengrass' "United 93" is proof that, when done right, art can truly transcend tragedy and put things into perspective. The best example being Gus Van Sant's prophetic "Elephant" which was released only a few years after its targedy, Columbine, occurred.

I saw Tim Sutton's "Dark Night" at Sundance this past January. The room was practically empty and that is a good way to explain the way the film was met over there: with calm, polite appreciation, but, truth be told, I know a lot of critics that skipped their screening of the film. I Wasn't one of them. The movie seemed fascinating from the outset. It all takes place in the span of a day and follows the lives of six strangers that will end up at that screening of "The Dark Knight Rises."

Sutton refuses to show the actual act, but instead focuses his lens on the people. Not a bad idea, if Van Sant made us witness the horrid crime that was happening, Sutton cuts that part out. Nevertheless "Elephant's" influence throughout the film is felt. That is the actual only flaw of the film, it really does try too hard to be like "Elephant." Its meditatively simple approach is quite clearly something that has been ripped off from Van Sant's style, but you can also see this stylistic decision as a kind of nod/tribute to Van Sant as well. Whatever the case, "Elephant" and "Dark Night" would make a nightmarish double header [B+]

Courtesy of IndieWire:

"Cinelicious Pics has acquired all North American rights to Tim Sutton’s critically acclaimed “Dark Night.” Billed as “an artfully understated critique of American gun culture,” the film is “loosely based around the 2012 massacre that took place during a multiplex screening of ‘The Dark Knight’ in Aurora, Colorado.” Sutton’s feature uses pseudo-documentary technique and a cast of non-professional actors to chart the course of six strangers — including the eventual shooter — over one fateful day. The film was shot in Sarasota, Florida, and lensed by veteran French DP Helene Louvart and boasts an original score by Montreal-based Maica Armata."

Full article can be found HERE

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Underwhelming Cannes entry "Mean Dreams" gets a trailer

I saw "Mean Dreams" at Cannes as it was part of the Director's Fortnight. I can't really say I very much liked it. Most of it felt cliched and inauthentic. What did stand out was first-time Filmmaker Nathan Morlando's visual style which was very much influenced by, who else, Terrence Malick. Malick is really becoming a go-to name these days for many young filmmakers. I guess him coming back from retirement in 1998 for "The Thin Red Line" was something of a blessing for all of us as it really added his important and integral name back to the forefront of cinema. There have been cheap Malick ripoffs since then and, at times, "Mean Dreams" does feel like that. It's a teenagers on-the-run film that recalls Malick's "Badlands," but has none of the verve or audacity of that 1973 masterpiece. In the film Casey (Sophie Nelisse) and Jonas (Josh Wiggins), both part of separate broken homes, decide to make a run for it. Where are they going? They're not too sure, neither is director Morlando [C]

Has there been a better cinematic year than 1999?

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"Being John Malkovich," "American Beauty," "Magnolia," "Election," "The Sixth Sense," "Boy's Don't Cry," "Eyes Wide Shut," "Fight Club," "The Limey," "Three Kings," "The Iron Giant," "Toy Story 2," "Bringing Out the Dead," "The Talented Mr. Ripley," "The Insider," "The Matrix," "Summer of Sam," "Office Space," "South Park," "The Blair Witch Project," "The Dreamlife of Angels," "American Pie," "Bowfinger," "Payback," "Man on The Moon," "Austin Powers The Spy Who Shagged Me," "All About My Mother," "Go," "Rosetta," "The Straight Story," "The Green Mile," "Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai," "Run Lola Run," "Dick."

EDIT,'s Susan Wloszczynya and's Christopher Bumbray mentioned on Facebook the year 2007, and, I must agree, it gives 1999 a hell of an argument as an equal and, if not, better contender: 

"No Country For Old Men," "There Will Be Blood," "Zodiac," "The Assassination of Jesse James," "4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days," "The Lives of Others," "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," "Ratatouille," "Eastern Promises," "Michael Clayton," "Sweeney Todd," "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," "Superbad," "American Gangster," "The Darjeeling Limited," "Black Book," "Death Proof," "The Mist," "Knocked Up," "Lust Caution," "Rescue Dawn," "Into the Wild," "The Lookout," "Live Free or Die Hard," "The Simpsons Movie," "Breach," "A Mighty Heart," "Rescue Dawn," "Bug."

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Paul Schrader's deliciously subversive "Dog Eat Dog"

I saw this one at Cannes and also interviewed its Director Paul Schrader and Writer Matthew Wilder. Interview can be found HERE. Excerpts from my Cannes review:

"The opening scene to "Dog Eat Dog," a little backstory about Willem Dafoe’s wildly erratic Mad Dog, is an open invitation for the audience to accept the nasty gravitas of this wholly terrifying and violent movie.  There were a few walkouts during my screening at Cannes, but director Paul Schrader and screenwriter Matthew Wilder wouldn’t want it any other way."
"Based on the novel by Eddie Bunker, “Dog Eat Dog” is Paul Schrader’s latest movie and it’s a doozy. The three main guys in the story, Troy (Nicolas Cage), Diesel (Christopher Matthew Cook), and Mad Dog (Willem Dafoe), have been released from prison and find themselves trying to adapt to everyday life. The California “three strike law” is very much on their minds, but they are hooked on the visceral aspect of violence. They claim one more hit, one more jackpot, that’s all they want, but we know their high is never-ending. "
"There isn’t an ounce of fat in Wilder’s wildly inventive screenplay. The film is an amalgam of everything that’s come before it in the gangster genre and yet it feels fresh, new and revitalized by stinging exuberance. Schrader’s direction is possessed - he hasn’t been this energized by a film since 2002’s great “Auto Focus.” It's a high-octane comeback for a filmmaking maverick that we badly need today in these dismal cinematic times"

Comparing Terrence Malick’s Two Different Versions Of Epic "Voyage Of Time" Passion Project

More or less a work in progress since years before "The Tree Of Life" was released back in 2011,Terrence Malick's much delayed "Voyage of Time: A Life's Journey" has been a near odyssey to reach the screen. Even years even before ‘Tree of Life’ masterwork, Malick had tried to develop a film about the origins of earth for Paramount in the 1970s entitled "Q." He eventually abandoned the project, but some of the footage, some of it shot nearly 40 years ago from "Q" is employed in "Voyage of Time."  But at least for ten years during the making of “Tree of Life,” Malick and cinematographer Paul Atkins have tried to achieve the impossible with this film: make a movie about the beginning, the middle, and the end of time. With such an ambitious concept, it’s not surprising “Voyage of Time” took forever to make and complete. What is surprising is that Malick finally ended up with a scant 90 minute running time for his movie, narrated by Cate Blanchett, and a 40 minute IMAX version, narrated by  Brad PittBoth versions are very different in terms of goal, scope and ambition and so we attempt to break them down here. Note: you can read our Venice solo review of "Voyage of Time: A Life's Journey" here.

Something feels off with Denzel Washington's "Fences"

Monday, September 26, 2016

Notes on "The Accountant" starring Ben Affleck

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The film is currently under embargo and, like all embargoed films, I can only be vague and abstract about my feelings for the film (which I caught this afternoon). A full review will have to come at a later date, most probably around its October 14th release date, but think of this as Affleck's action star movie, quite similar to Liam Neeson in "Taken" or Keanu Reeves in "John Wick." Affleck's film is really just an old-fashioned action movie with not much on its mind, but to entertain.

Courtesy of IMDB:

"Christian Wolff is a math savante with more affinity for numbers than people. Behind the cover of a small-town CPA office, he works as a freelance accountant for some of the world's most dangerous criminal organizations. With the Treasury Department's Crime Enforcement Division, run by Ray King, starting to close in, Christian takes on a legitimate client: a state-of-the-art robotics company where an accounting clerk has discovered a discrepancy involving millions of dollars. But as Christian uncooks the books and gets closer to the truth, it is the body count that starts to rise."

Scorsese's "Silence" coming out December 23rd

FINALLY. The savior has cometh to save the movie year! I REPORTED last week that the film would indeed be released this year and now we have an official release date: December 23rd, 2016.

I'm hearing it will get screened for press in November. Now, where's the trailer? I mean, this is too good to be true. We want actual footage of the damn thing. Variety has the whole story HERE.

Toughts on SXSW Winner "Tower"

Excerpt taken from my SXSW review:

"What Keith Maitland has created in "Tower" is a singular technical achievement, but also, for its first hour or so, a bracing indictment of quite possibly the very beginning of the mass shooting phenomenon that is still occurring to this very day in the United States. Maitland creatively combines still photos, 8mm footage from the tragedy, and rotoscopic animation, much like Linklater's "Waking Life" to create a fully fleshed-out depiction of that fateful day in 1966 when a lone gunmen rode an elevator to the 22nd floor in the University of Texas tower and started randomly shooting at innocent by-standing students and staff. It feels like the most visceral action movie in quite some time, but also showcases an immaculate example of true heroism. Although its last half hour doesn't come through as expected and the film changes its tune dramatically by looking at the aftermath of the event, the first hour is well worth a watch. "

Ava DuVernay tackles black incarceration in first footage of "The 13th"

Oh Ava, you can do no wrong. Here's a smart, articulate black woman that really cares about her own people.

I sadly won't be making the New York Film Festival this year. I've been to Cannes, Toronto and Sundance  so I have seen about 95% of the NYFF programming already, but there are 4 film premieres there that had me contemplating a trip to the "Big Apple": Ang Lee's "Billy Lynn's Long Half-Time Walk," James Gray's "The Lost City of Z," Mike Mill's "20th Century Women" and DuVernay's "The 13th" an in-depth look aat the country's incarceration system and specifically its target of African-Americans. Fascinating stuff, but also relevant stuff. So much so that I added it to my "What's Left" column for 2017. It's one of only 10 unscreened movies left in the year that I truly believe can leave a notably important artistic mark.

It will premiere on Netflix October 7th and get a limited release that same day. The trailer is now available and it does look like something that could really open up minds and cause change. DuVernay is a very important artist in the black community and outside it as well, so this is an important movie as well.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Terrence Malick will be making a rare public appearance in October

Malick is such a mysterious man, I've heard stories about him showing up at Cannes during the premiere of "Tree of Life" and just sitting in the back incognito. He is supposedly shy, socially awkward, not really a public kind of man. That's fine, I understand that, but what made him decide to finally appear next month, at Jersey's Princeton Garden Theater, to discuss Roberto Rossellini's seminal 1954 classic "Journey to Italy?" I still don't believe it's going to happen. He will cancel or just not show up. The man can't possibly be doing this? or is he really going through with it?

Courtesy of the A.V. Club:

"Tree Of Life" and "Badlands" director Terrence Malick is a notoriously hard man to catch in the wild: he doesn’t appear in making-of features for his own films, grant many interviews, or even allow photographs of himself to surface in the public realm. (To say nothing of his 20-year hiatus from film-making, between 1978’s Days Of Heaven and 1998’s The Thin Red Line.) Fans of the celebrated director (and Italian cinema) might want to make their way to New Jersey next month, though: Malick has apparently been scheduled to speak at the Princteon Garden Theater, as part of a discussion on Roberto Rossellini’s 1954 masterpiece Journey To Italy. According to the theater’s web site, the October 21 showing of the film will be followed by “a live conversation with acclaimed director Terrence Malick.” Tickets don’t appear to be on sale for the event at the moment, although it’s not clear if they’re not available yet, or if fanatical Malick fans—hoping to get a glimpse of their hero beyond the occasional on-set photo—have already scooped them up."

Full article can be found HERE

I know he has a small, almost invisible cameo in "Badlands." I don't think I've ever heard him speak to tell you the truth. His whereabouts unknown in the making of docs of his feature films. There's also this strange moment that happened  when he and Benicio Del Toro were walking out of a restaurant in L.A. - Check out the Malick's reaction when he sees the camera.

I have already written a review of "Voyage of Time" his latest film, this one about the beginning, middle and end of time. I dug it for the most part. Review should get posted in the coming week. I'll be comparing the differences between the 45 minute Brad Pitt narrated IMAX version and the 90 minute Cate Blanchett narrated feature-length version.