Thursday, March 24, 2016

A fantastic Ethan Hawke, as Chet Baker, infuses Born To Be Blue with some real soul

If there was really any doubting Ethan Hawke`s ability to act it is really gone by the time you watch Born To Be Blue, a bio-pic courtesy of Quebecois director Robert Budreau about Chet Baker`s life and career. Whenever you have the looks or the charisma people tend to take your acting skills for granted, but Hawke really, genuinely is a great actor and I wouldn`t be surprised if he eventually does get an Oscar one day. He did get nominated for his edgy turn in Training Day, obviously overshadowed by his co-star Denzel Washington`s Oscar-winning performance as Alonzo Harris, but guess what? Hawke was just as good as Washington in that movie.

Born To Be Blue has him playing Chet Baker, the famous Jazz trumpeteer who was compared, back in the day, to a James Dean for jazz. A heavy duty comparison, and Baker definitely couldn`t handle it all. The movie showcases the usual tropes that most bio-pics about musical genuises showcase: Alcoholism, drugs, womanzing, a love partner that never gives up on him etc. The difference here is that Budreau really twists the narrative around and has Baker starring in a movie about himself, playing himself and reconstructing the key moments of his life. The film set footage is mixed with Baker off-set struggling with his demons. The lines between reality and fiction do blur up at some point, but it`s all part of the thrill of watching this movie.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice - Snyder's days are being counted

I'm all for a young director making it into the Hollywood system and, hell, even getting to direct a superhero franchise. Look at Christopher Nolan, he built a healthy following from making those Batman movies, but he always had an artful, ambitious flair to follow his own vision and never get suckered by the Hollywood machine. Zack Snyder on the other hand ... everything has gone wrong for the guy, except for the massive paycheck he's getting. Warner Bros. thought they had their "guy" with him, but it turns out that the surprising success of 300 was just that, a surprising success that was mostly a one-time deal.

You don't know how disappointed I am by Batman vs Superman? Well let me first start off by saying that all I read were Superman and Batman comic books as a kid. I adored them. I have a collection of more than 500 comic books, many in mint condition and worth a lot of money, and I'd say 70% of them are either Batman or Superman comic books. That's why I truly believe Snyder just doesn't "get it". He had a vision for this film, and Man Of Steel for that matter, but it was the wrong one. The best way to envision Superman cinematically is the way Richard Donner did in Superman II, where you embrace the cheesiness of it all, but still make it effectively dark and intriguing.

I'm also very familiar with the source material of this new movie. There was actually a great animated feature that went straight to DVD around 4 years ago called The Dark Knight Returns which might just be the greatest animated superhero movie I've ever seen. That was Batman Vs Superman, but done magnificently and on a far more coherent scale. Snyder's vision is all over the place, the pacing is absurd and the direction boring in the most over-the-top kind of way.

The film will make money, it has the words "batman" and "superman" in the title, I presume it's going to pull good numbers the first weekend, but it won't have legs. the fanboys are already revolting against Snyder, the guy might have another big budget job after this one. He's quite possibly the luckiest director in Hollywood, but he, pardon my french, fucked it up immensely this time. His directing is atrocious. I cringed when I saw Man Of Steel, but Batman vs Superman is on a whole other epic level a failure.

Snyder is set to direct two Justic League movies ... A well known film critic that will remain anonymous messaged me a few hours after the press screening of Batman vs Superman saying: 'WB is fucked. They put all their eggs in his basket and this movie is going to kill the series. I wonder if they will pull the plug on Justice League if this one doesn't have legs (it'll open big, for sure, but it needs to hold strong)'

That about says it all.

Monday, March 21, 2016

I Saw The Light: Or How The Hank Williams Bio-Pic Became A Complete Dud

This Friday sees the opening of two bio-pics about two brilliant musicians. The first one is Born To Be Blue, starring Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker, I`ll get a little more into that one soon. The weaker of two films is sadly the one I was looking forward to the most. I Saw The Light stars Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams, a brilliant country singer-songwriter that influenced pop music forever with his intimately drawn lyrics about blue-collar folks. 

The problem with the film isn`t necessarily Hiddleston, or his partner played by the always great Elizabeth Olsen, it`s more the fact that its writer-director Marc Abraham has concocted an old-fashioned story that is, well, very dull and not that new to the whole musical biopic genre, which, by the way. is the reason why I loved the originally-told narrative of Born To Be Blue. There is nothing new to be said here from Abraham, he seems to think the story is interesting enough to let slide the fact that he can`t really raise a below average screenplay. 

Hiddleston was actually what I was concerned about when I first heard about this movie, but I should have know better. He`s actually pretty damn fantastic here. Abraham is the problem, he`s just not good enough to handle such a task. The soundtrack is great though, I mean how could it not, Hank Williams`songs were little short stories that really tore through the American soul. He was a soul man that was actually white.

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