The Nice Guys



I remember talking to Shane Black post-Iron Man 3 and, man, the guy was spent. It didn't seem to be a very fun experience for him. Do you blame him? The marvel enterprise can suck the living creative juices in you. The fact that he made a more than watchable Iron Man movie said a lot about the fight he had to endure to squeeze any sort of formula out of his film. By that token I think Marvel learned a lot from that experience as well because their movies, ever since then, have become way more robotic and structured in nearly robotic-ally duplicitous ways.

Black's The Nice Guys plays like a nice double feature to Black's earllier film Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang which was mesh up of all the buddy cop cliches thrown into a self-referential bucket of witty urban hipster wisdom. The Nice Guys stars Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling in a plot that is almost impossible to explain coherently, but here goes: March (Gosling) is hired to investigate the apparent suicide of famous porn star Misty Mountains. The leads bring him to a girl named Amelia, which leads him to private eye Jackson Healey (Russell Crowe) and his brass knuckles, both it seems have been hired by Amelia. Amelia then ends up missing which forces both to team up. That, in essence, is the simplest way to describe the plot. My advice is don't follow it, just go along with the narrative structure Black devises here. It's a lite version of Inherent Vice which is to say that, compared to Vice, it's comprehensible, you will know who is who and what is at stake.

Black seems to relish in the buddy cop genre. He loves the machoism that comes with the genre. So much so that he prefers to concentrate on the budding relationship of the duo than the actual plot. It worked wonders in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and, for the most part, it does as well here. But we are not entering any fresh territory here, this is a redux of the latter. If you're fine with that, as I was, then you'll find some nice textural treats in this film. Gosling and Crowe seem to build chemistry as the story goes along, that's the key really with this and Kiss Kiss - There has to be chemistry, if there isn't then the whole megilah is screwed. You have to be sucked into the likeability of the characters. It's not hard for that to happen when you have Ryan Gosling who is known to be one of the great personality actors of the industry. Crowe just needs to play his serious-dude shtick the right way and what you get is a winning formula [B]

Cannes Review: Raw (Grave) at Critics Week

We’ve all known vegetarians who have decided to change their diet out of concern for animal rights or the environment or based upon religious beliefs. And to those who forgo meat, it’s usually a deeply held conviction. Those same people might not be very kind to 32-year-old writer-directorJulia Ducournau‘s “Raw.” In it, we meet bright-eyed Justine (Garance Marillier), who follows in the footsteps of both her parents (Laurent Lucas and Joana Preiss) and older sister (Ella Rumpf) by attending her first year at veterinary school. In the (pun intended) bitingly comic opening scene, Justine orders plain mashed potatoes, but as she chows the food down she finds a piece of sausage in her mash. Her parents are outraged; they want the shy and wide-eyed Justine to preserve her plant-based heritage. It’s a tongue-in-cheek start to a story that finds the protagonist only at the beginning of her carnivorous ways.
RawTaking place during Justine’s first week at school, the film is placed in a surreal atmosphere, as Ruben Impens’s photography uses the brutalist architecture of the college with eerily spacious wide shots reminiscent of “Suspiria” meshed with the production design of “Carrie” (with”Raw” eerily paying tribute to the pigs’ blood scene from Brian De Palma‘s film).
And indeed, some of the hazing rituals that Justine needs to go through are harrowing enough to evoke the tactics that were used on Sissy Spacek’s high-school senior 40 years ago. At one point, she is disgustingly forced to eat bloody, raw liver. It’s a wincingly preposterous scene that nevertheless has a lasting effect on the viewer and the way he or she might view the eventual victims in the film. At this point, we’re in the same universe as “Carrie,” an obvious point of reference for Ducournau, and just like that movie, we shouldn’t fear too much for our heroine’s safety. In fact, we deeply fear her and what she’s capable of.
grave04To say that Justine’s first taste of blood does something to her psyche would be an understatement. After all the cruel hazing, one would conclude that the only way she can survive the first semester of this vet school would be to indulge in the nastier activities she’s experienced. That is, of course, what happens to Justine, whose newly found love for uncooked meat reaches a pinnacle of delectability too juicy to reveal in this review, but be forewarned that this newfound love of animal meats goes to greater depths of the food chain and eventually mixes in some unwarranted victims. And it’s Marillier’s committed performance as Justine that carries you through every over-the-top, hard-to-believe twist — she makes it seem real.
The film, which premiered as part of Critics’ Week at Cannes, justly won the FIPRESCI prize. Ducourneau, a first-time writer-director, shows surprisingly sharp command and, more importantly, restraint given the subject matter. Although the film is rooted in arthouse film territory, and is particularly inspired by the films of David Cronenberg and David Lynch, “Raw” turns out to be its own wild animal. It has rightly earned the buzz that has surrounded the picture, and Ducourneau’s uncompromising vision is one to watch. [A-]

Thoughts on X-Men: Apocalypse

I saw X-Men: Apocalypse three weeks ago right before I was headed out to Cannes. I didn't really like it at all. In fact, I completely forgot I even saw it. It just follows the same tropes that I've come to despise about superhero movies. The bad guy, played here by the usually reliable Oscar Isaac, is just not that despicable and that to me is usually what I bank on to enjoy a superhero movie. The villain has got to be disliked, if you really are indifferent towards the villain you just won't be as invested in the story because all of them are about good vs. bad, which is why The Nolan Batman movies worked so well. They weren't so cut and dry. Even the superhero was sometimes doing awful things.There's none of that in the X-Men movies. X2 is still king.

Interview: Director Paul Schrader & Screenwriter Matthew Wilder Talk ‘Dog Eat Dog

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My Cannes interview with Paul Verhoeven


Interview: Paul Verhoeven Talks ‘Elle,’ Why Well Known Actresses Turned It Down & The Problem With Hollywood

Dolan defends his new film

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Xavier Dolan’s latest Cannes competition entry, “It’s Only the End of the World,” had its premiere last night at the Croisette, and the reaction was far from favorable . Just 27 years old, the Quebecois writer-director has already made as many films as Terrence Malick has over his entire career. 2014’s “Mommy” catapulted the young filmmaker into international acclaim, which resulted in high expectations for his latest film which, given the reaction in the south of France, disappointed many.
At this afternoon’s press conference, Dolan and his cast (which includes Marion Cotillard, Vincent Cassel and Léa Seydoux) seemed unfazed by the film’s negative reviews, and the young director proclaimed it his “most complete film,” going on to say, “Maybe it takes a little while for the film to come to life and for people to not only watch it, but to listen to it. But to me, this is my best film.”
The confidence he displayed to the media this afternoon was Kanye West-esque: a man who believes in his vision not bothered by negative reaction. “That’s something you should always believe,” Dolan said. “How can you move forward and proceed with things you’ve committed so much time to if you don’t think they’re the best?”
“There are also some great reviews that have been published,” he added with a bit of pique.It's-Only-the-End-of-the-World-Marion-Cotillard,-Vincent-Cassel,-Gaspard-Ulliel,-Léa-Seydoux,-Nathalie-Baye-Its-Only-the-End-of-the-World-8
Based on Jean-Luc Lagarce’s play of the same name, the film stars Gaspard Ulliel as a terminally ill writer who decides to return home after a long absence to tell his quirky, dysfunctional family that he is going to die. Dolan’s love for the play is obvious, so much so that he banked on this adaptation amidst skyrocketed post-“Mommy” expectations. “What’s most gripping in Lagarce’s text is how nervous all the characters are and how they express things often that are very superficial or useless,” he explained.
It took a bit of time for Ulliel to get used to the non-stop feedback Dolan is known for giving during a shoot. “At first, it can feel a bit too interventionist, but it becomes very rewarding and passionate,” the actor said. “He’s with us every second, capturing our every move.”
Meanwhile, Seydoux complemented her co-star’s statement by calling Dolan “very precise, and since he’s also an actor himself, the communication between us was very fluid. He makes us want to give everything. We love Xavier and we all want to be loved by him,” she said.
Cassel agreed. “Xavier is extremely precise — a year before the shoot, everything was ready, even the lighting. But then during the shoot itself he gave us some freedom.”
“I loved the film,” Cotillard added.
It's-Only-the-End-of-the-World-Marion-Cotillard,-Vincent-Cassel,-Gaspard-Ulliel,-Léa-Seydoux,-Nathalie-Baye-filmz.ru_f_227307Some critics have complained that the director underused the talented Cotillard by giving her a background role that never fully delivers on her potential. The actress’ rebuttal? “My character Catherine says very little, but when she talks it’s as if a flood of incoherences came out of her mouth: it’s mostly aborted sentences and redundancies. At first I was terrified by my text and then I understood that her monologues were like the sound of silence,” said Cotillard.
Dolan says the movie is more about the “messages that are not in the language, but in the silence and looks in the characters’ faces.” He went on to say that he was drawn to this project because it was about human imperfections. “In real life people cry, people scream. They talk about everything except what they really feel.” Dolan admitted he was nervous during the press conference, but stated, “I come from a popular environment. I don’t have a deep knowledge of auteur cinema. My wish as a director has always been to make films that I would like to see in theaters.”
Dolan is already working on his follow-up to “It’s Only the End of the World,” which will also be his American directorial debut. “The Life of John F. Donovan,” starring Jessica Chastain, Kit Harington, Taylor Kitsch, Kathy BatesSusan Sarandon, Natalie Portman, Nicholas Houltand Thandie Newton is gearing up to shoot this summer.
http://theplaylist.net/xavier-dolan-boasts-end-world-best-film-face-negative-reviews-20160519/

The Neon Demon, Refn and Lars Von Trier

It was bound to happen. Nicolas Winding Refn’s press conference at Cannes this morning was far and away the most entertaining of the fest, and perhaps not a surprise given that “The Neon Demon” was met at last night’s screening with not only boos, but insults hurled at the screened as credits rolled. And although a big chunk of the crowd did in fact despise the film, they would never want it another way. It’s part of the festival’s DNA, to have at least one film that will leave an audience in a state of disapproving, epic anger. The uber-stylish movie, starring Elle Fanning, centers on an aspiring model in Los Angeles whose beauty and youthfulness starts stealing jobs from some of the best models in town, much to their dismay.
Defending “The Neon Demon,” Refn described it as “a film to penetrate your mind and absorb whatever you think it is, which is the essence of creativity.” He in fact considers the boos a very “punk rock” badge of honor. “Look at the reactions. You can’t deny it, it’s search and destroy…,” he said making a Stooges reference. “Whatever you got, I’ll tear it down and build it again. Don’t compromise on life or anything, that’s where you feel life. That’s what’s important to get across to those teenagers out there.”
The film, just like his previous one, “Only God Forgives,” brings a minimalist and detached approached to its storytelling. The thinly laced narrative structure came up at the press conference with the 45 year-old writer-director proclaiming a new age in cinema. “Art is no longer about good or bad, guys,” he confidently voiced. “Those days are over…This is fuck-the-establishment youth culture.”
**Spoiler** A scene that has already been forever etched in memories of those who have seen the film features Jena Malone having sex with a corpse. “It kind of escalated into this really intense necrophilia scene,” Refn said of the sequence. After Malone’s final kiss on the corpse, the director yelled cut, and declared to the actress, “We found the character. Now go with God.”**End Spoiler**
The film’s depiction of the fashion industry is scathing, with Refn observing that “beauty – it’s an obsession that has only grown. Even though we try to politicize it, the digital revolution has sped up man’s evolution to the extreme. The idea of the movie when I talked to Elle Fanning was ‘Let’s make a movie about the obsession of beauty.’ It’s in our social media, TV, movies — what’s gonna happen when longevity no longer exists? When the definition of beauty shrinks and shrinks, and becomes younger?”
In the film, Fanning’s model is only sixteen, but is told by her agent (Christina Hendricks) to lie that she’s 19 years old because “18 is too on-the-nose.” The depiction of talent agencies wanting fresh, almost baby-looking faces is both troubling and stingingly satirical in the hands of Refn. “I’m not an expert and in no way can I critique that world, but any environment that focuses on how you look is extremely harsh. It comes down to: How were you born? That’s a horrible world to live in because it must be terrifying, living where the reality is so extreme, and at the same time it’s intoxicating. But we didn’t make the movie to comment or politicize.”
The most entertaining portion of the press conference occurred when the topic of fellow Danish filmmaker Lars Von Trier came up. As you might recall, a few years ago, following von Trier’s controversial Cannes press conference for “Melancholia” where he got in hot water and (temporarily) banned from the Croisette for his poor Nazi comment/joke, Refn didn’t have much sympathy.
“…the thing about Lars is that he’s getting old and his comedy routine is a bit tiresome,” he said of the director at the time. And this isn’t just one director digging at another, as the pair share a family connection — Refn’s father has been von Trier’s longtime editor.
As for von Trier, he didn’t take those comments lightly,  and when asked about what Refn said, he stated, “I’ve known him since he was a kid! Fuck him.” Well, it looks like the heat between the pair hasn’t settled one bit.
After a reporter asked why he thinks Danish filmmakers such as himself and von Trier tend to push actors to their breaking point, Refn replied, “Well, Lars is Lars. He’s over the hill,” as the audience nervously chuckled.
“He’s done a lot of drugs,” he said of the recovering alcoholic, adding that the last time he saw von Trier, the director tried to sleep with Refn’s wife, which had the press room going into complete, hysterical laughter. To put the icing on the cake, Refn quipped, “Now he’s found some other slut.” This probably won’t be the last we hear from either Refn or von Trier about each other, but it seems that the provocateurs are just as keen to push each other’s buttons, as they are their audiences.
“The Neon Demon” opens on June 24th. 
http://theplaylist.net/cannes-nicolas-winding-refn-talks-neon-demon-boos-throws-insults-lars-von-trier-20160520/

#Cannes2016 films by letter grade

“Aquarius” (Kleber Mendonca Filho) B+

“American Honey” (Andrea Arnold, U.K.) B+

“Elle” (Paul Verhoeven, Netherlands) B+

“From the Land of the Moon” (Nicole Garcia, France) C

“Graduation,” (Cristian Mungiu, Romania) B/B+

“The Handmaiden” (Park Chan-wook, S. Korea) B-

“I, Daniel Blake” (Ken Loach, U.K.) B/B+

“It’s Only the End of the World” (Xavier Dolan, Canada) D

“Julieta” (Pedro Almodovar, Spain) B

“The Last Face” (Sean Penn, U.S.) F

“Loving” (Jeff Nichols, U.S.) B+

“Ma’ Rosa” (Brillante Mendoza, Philippines) B/B+

“The Neon Demon” (Nicolas Winding Refn, Denmark) B/B+

“Paterson” (Jim Jarmusch, U.S.) A-

“Personal Shopper” (Olivier Assayas, France) B+

"The Salesman" (Asghar Farhadi, Iran) B+

“Sierra-Nevada” (Cristi Puiu, Romania)

“Slack Bay” (Bruno Dumont, France) C

“Staying Vertical” (Alain Guiraudie, France) B

“Toni Erdmann” (Maren Ade, Germany) B+

“The Unknown Girl” (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Belgium) B-


Other Categories:

"Hell or High Water" (David Mackenzie) B+

"The BFG" (Steven Spielberg) B

"Money Monster" (Jodie Foster) C+

“The Transfiguration” (Michael O’Shea, U.S.) B-

“The Red Turtle” (Michael Dudok de Wit, Netherlands) C

“Mean Dreams” (Nathan Morlando, Canada) C

“Dog Eat Dog” (Paul Schrader, U.S.) B/B

Hell or High Water, Personal Shopper and American Honey at #Cannes2016

One thing about the Cannes film festival is that you watch so many noteworthy films that you are bound to lost track of some. Case in point David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water (8/10) which screened as part of the Un Certain Regard program. Mackenzie’s previous film, Starred Up, showed real promise for tightly knit action and suspense. It also featured a stellar performance from then up and coming Jack O’Connel. Hell or High Water stars Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges. It’s a heist movie that can also be interpreted as a meditative western.

Pine plays a divorced dad that, with the participation of his ex-con brother played by Foster, concocts a desperate scheme to save his family farm, which just so it happens has discovered richly abundant petroleum. They both hit Midlands banks across the state, one after another. Meanwhile, Bridges plays Marcus a Deputy Sheriff that is about to retire, but is sucked right back in along with his half-Comanche partner Alberto (Gil Birmingham). On paper it sounds trivial and almost too clichéd to work, yet Marcus is a crowd pleaser, a man with so much wisdom and no-bulls thoughts that Bridges’ performance turns almost transcendentally comic.

The bank-robbing scenes are impressively shot and choreographed and rank among the very best the genre can offer. Mackenzie is about to hit the big time with this one as Hollywood will no doubt be knocking at his door with a lot more opportunities.
The film was written by Taylor Sheridan, who wrote last year’s similarly constructed Sicario. Oddly enough this film gets itself into similar structural issues as the former film. The talky final scene is, although well thought-out, unnecessarily prolonged and by the mid-way point a few oddball narrative choices get made that do the film a disservice. Those are minor complaints for a film that is very much the kind that Andrew Dominik tried to make four years ago with Killing Them Softly. This one works in spades, that one sadly did not.

Olivier Assayas’ latest, Personal Shopper (8/10) was the film that got booed the most. 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
Andrea Arnold’s American Honey (8/10) was an even more 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 onboard 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.

Cannes tweets

is loaded with great female performances, but, so far, none better than Sonia Braga in Aquarius

First legit booing at Cannes goes to Assays' Personal Shopper

Loving is, pardon the pun, lovingly rendered and exceptionally simple

Patterson proves that Jarmusch is on a roll with this and 2014's Only Lovers Left Alive.

Walked out of this morning's Nicole Garcia movie. How the hell did this get into competition?

Boos and cheers for the press screening of Andrea Arnold's "American Honey"

Cannes thoughts

There are still about 7 days left for me here in Cannes and the festival has surprisingly been tame in terms of great movies. I've been somewhat sleeping 5-6 hours (if lucky) a night. If at TIFF and Sundance I can easily catch 4-5 movies a day, here the number is more like 3, 4 on some good days, because, quite frankly, a lot of the euro-centric artsy jerk-off session stuff is just not my cup of tea. The first five days saw the emergence of two bona-fide, hot-diggity competition films: Andrea Arnold's American Honey and Maren Ade's Toni Erdmann. There is still lots of time to go and tonight I'm watching the new Jim Jarmusch, who's a director that can either hit or miss. Oh, come on, you know I know it. The guy can make a flat out great movie and then come out with a complete dud the next year, without sacrificing his style.

Cannes Review: Steven Spielberg's The BFG



It's a moment etched in Cannes history. Steven Spielberg's E.T. premiering in 1982 as the closing night film, the famous bike ride to the moon sequence occurring and the entire audience lighting up their lighters in the dark. Goosebumps. Any Cinephile wishes they could have been there for that goosebumps worthy moment. That was then, this is now.

Spielberg's The BFG  got its world premiere here at Cannes just a couple of hours ago. The lineups outside to get into the 11:45 am screening at the famous Grand Theatre Lumiere were the biggest the fest has seen so far, but not all got in. Those that did got a chance to catch a film that will only come out on July 1st. Adapting Roal Dahl's famous children's book, Spielberg seems to be at home in the first few scenes, presenting us Ruby Barnhill as orphan Sophie, who gets snatched away by a Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance). The set-up is all money encompassing the camera techniques and use of music that the famous director is so well-known for.

Things get a bit rocky once Sophie catches a glimpse of the BFG and, worried she might tattle-tale his existence, forces her to come with him to his homeland. The ensuing scenes are rocky,  as they try to forcefully explain the do's and donts of the BFG's homeland and his passion for dream-making. That part of the film could have easily been trimmed down in half, but Spielberg is just too in love with the visually colorful world he's created and doesn't let go. Things do get a bit better in the mid-way mark as the action picks up with Sophie and the BFG facing mean, hungry giants and then having to go visit -no joke- the Queen of England.

It's all good-natured fun and if The BFG didn't have Spielberg at the helm it might have garnered far more enthusiastic words from this critic. It is an adamantly well-done action adventure yarn that boasts top-notch special effects and real heart, but it's Spielberg and it's Cannes and expectations are too high. The film is no classic, but it's also no Hook, Spielberg has matured and leaned out his errors since the time of his misbegotten 1991 film.

Cannes Competition (UPDATED DAILY)

Staying Vertical (Alain Guiraudie) B

The follow-up to the French filmmaker's 2013 sleeper Stranger by the Lake might not be as masterfully restrained and mysteriously frightening, but by comparing them you'd be missing the point entirely. Guiraudie seems to be meshing many genres into his new film, at some point even incorporating an element of screwball comedy.

Don't mind the plot, it's just an excuse for Guiraudie to indulge himself in his wildest, most passionate themes. Just like in his previous film, the 51 year-old filmmaker obsesses over the erotic and subconscious unknown. His film is an ambiguous rollercoaster of a dream that contains some of the most well-conceived moments of the film year. Wait until you witness the "assisted suicide" that Leo gets himself into, accompanied by his much-older gay lover, or did I mention the final scene which re-examines everything that came before it. Staying Vertical is an amalgalm of cinematic love, it brims with the notion that anything and everything is possible in cinema. Its plot may be too wayward for some, but those that are just fine with entering a movie that goes by its own wild convictions will be rewarded with a special treat.

I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach) B

Although there might be better, more deserving directors to take the honor, Cannes' love for 79 year-old British writer-director Ken Loach's films is entirely endearing. In a career full of art-house hits and misses, Loach has always remained true to his blue-collar spirit and the fest has loved every minute of it, choosing more than a dozen of his films for their festival. Whereas some of his British contemporaries, such as Mike Leigh, have occasionally decided to tackle new territory in some films, Loach has always remained true to his roots.

The titular character (as played by Dave Johns) hops from one government agent to the next with not many answers to his questions. He's just had a heart attack and his doctors are telling him he can't work due to his delicately, risky health condition. The people over at the benefit office for the unemployed want to hear none of that, in fact they don't want to explain anything to Blake, instead they want him to go online and figure everything out. Problem is our hero is computer illiterate, he's never used one in his life, to make matters worse he's a stubborn, hot-blooded, old-fashioned kind of guy.

A chance encounter at the benefit office introduces him to Katie (Hayley Squires) a single mother of two with her own monetary struggles. They build a friendship that will last until the movie's very final scene. Problem is the story is a little too familiar to be saved by its impeccable direction and harrowingly effective acting. What we get instead is a competent, watchable, but, at times, harrowing take on socialism.

Slack Bay D+

A few notes of French director Bruno Dumont's Slack Bay, a competition title slapstick comedy, murder-mystery that is very much influenced by Laurel and Hardy, but also silent pictures from the 1910's! You can't fault it for being original, but after an hour or so it grows tiresome, its thin story irrelevant and the acting gets on your nerves.

Toni Erdmann  B+

There is only one movie everyone seems to be talking about and it's Maren Ade's Toni Erdmann. If you're not familiar with Ade's work then please do yourself a favor and catch her excellent, but underseen 2009 film Everyone Else. 

Erdmann, which press screened to enthusiastic applause centers on  Winfried (an awards ready Peter Simonischek) who doesn't seem to click like he used to with his now older, career woman daughter Ines (an excellent Sandra Huller). She wants none of dad, especially after his dog dies and he decides to surprise her with a visit.  The problem is Ines is working on an important project in Romania and is so dead-set on completing it that she shuns her dad off. That's when the nasty fun begins and Winfried decides to annoy his daughter with strangest, most surreal prank, but to him it doesn't really count because he goes undercover as "Toni Erdmann": A ridiculously unsmooth-talking, wig wearing, fake-teeth clinging master of mayhem. A self-proclaimed "life coach", with a business card to prove it.

No need to divulge any surprises of this 162 minute German comedy especially in its second half. Yes, 162 minutes, but they fly by, even when Ade purposely changes the tempo of her film every so often to let the scenes linger on instead of cutting it short and on to the next one. That's fine, the flawed, scrambling, ambitious narrative structure of the film does it no disservice. Instead it's a pure delight and the current top contender for the Palme D'or.


The Handmaiden C+

It was in 2013 the sexually explicit, lesbian drama Blue is the Warmest Color justly won the Palme D'or. That same year Park Chan-Wook released Stoker, a gothic murder drama that evoked Hitchcock.  This year at Cannes Park is back with The Handmaiden, a film that seems to be a mix of both films.

Erotically charged and ready to explode at any minute, the film is sure to confuse fans of the director's bloodier works such as the classic Oldboy. Instead of explicit violence, we get explicit lesbian sex. It's a Victorian romance with backstabbing surprises on all fronts. The story of a good-hearted pickpocket artist who is hired to become the maid of a rich heiress is not far off from the mood the 52 year-old director has been in as of late. If you saw his last film Stoker you will know that Park is trying to go in a very different direction as far as his film career goes. He is now more interested in tense, character-driven slowm but building period pieces that contain just an antsy bit of violent bite. No problem there.

Park will push the limits of the American censors board once The Handmaiden gets released. The erotica on display is no doubt very sexy, but, much to the director's credit in the way he shoots these scenes, no full frontal nudity is shown and yet I wouldn't be surprised if the film picks up an NC-17 rating once its released. Suffice to say, that the film is a handsomely opaque, overtly-familiar, sexually evocative romance that never bores you and yet, throughout I felt like something was missing.

Cannes-bound in a few hours

I should be boarding at 9pm Eastern Standard Time tonight ay Montreal's Trudeau airport for London's Heathrow which, following an abysmal 7 hour layover where I will more than likely feast on fish and chips, will land me in Nice where I will take a shuttle to Cannes for the film festival. I will be missing Day one, which kinda irks me considering I'll be missing the newest Woody Allen Cafe Society and the newest Cristi Puiu Sieranevada, but will hopefully be plenty rested to seize day two. Reports, interviews, coverage, the whole megilah to follow ......

X-Men: Apocalypse is a terrible, empty vehicle of a movie

We've gotten the best and worst of superhero movies thus far this year. On one hand you have the primitively thought-out empty tank that was Batman v. Superman, but on the other there is the very watchable Captain America - Civil War. Which way X-Men Apocalypse would go was uncertain, but I am here to report that the movie just plainly disappoints. It is competently made, but if Civil War tried to be a little different in terms of pacing and action then this new X-Men movie resorts to the worst possible same old same old recipe.The set-up was good, but at mid-point it just felt like it was going through the motions and by the end I just didn't care about the outcome

At this point in time the movie is not due for release until three weeks from now. The fact that Fox screened this film means that they really were banking on word of mouth to drive the box office receipts. Not going to happen. In fact as I expected the reviews have so far been scathing. This might be the last summer movie that will likely screen this much time in advance for the critics. Fox was the sacrficial pig, all the other studios have now been warned: Critics are on the hunt for bad movie franchises this summer. Deservedly so.

Captain America - Civil War's Box Office numbers

'Captain America: Civil War' Opens with $181.8 Million; Global Cume Climbs Over $675M

by Brad Brevet
May 8 - Captain America: Civil War scorched the weekend box office, bringing in the fifth largest opening weekend of all-time. The massive debut contributed to Disney bringing in over $200 million this weekend as the studio became the fastest to cross the $1 billion mark. Meanwhile, Open Road'sMother's Day took advantage of its holiday namesake for a stellar second weekend.
WEEKEND ESTIMATES

Solid numbers, but not Avengers solid, more like Iron Man 3 solid. Which is still pretty great. I think word of mouth will probably drive this film to make much more money than the third Iron Man. This is really a good, solid entertainment, but it just bugs me that another superhero movie will likely cross the billion dollar mark because that means that more will come. The bubble can only burst if there is a major flop and then another one. It's somewhat happening with the DC movies, but not with Marvel.

Bruce LaBruce - to love him and hate him

You never get "normal" with Bruce LaBruce, even his name seems tailor made for the out of the ordinary.The 52 year-old Canadian writer-director's films blends explicitly pornographic sexual content with cinematic narratives that tackle taboo topics. Take for example his 2010 film "L.A. Zombie". Clocking in at a mere 63 minutes, LaBruce's film was a strange gay porn gorefest that puzzled many, frustrated others and infuriated the rest. The film cast porn star Francois Sagat as a Zombiethat went around Los Angeles looking for dead male bodies to have sex with and literally bring back to life. Yikes. Talk about infuriating the masses. LaBruce didn't care and still doesn't. His films have been categorized as part of the Queercore movement which started in the 1980s. Cinema Zombie Film, but it's much more than that. In his movies you see parallels and metaphors to AIDS, gender identity, race and politics..

His last film was Pierrot Lunaire in 2014, but LaBruce is back, The controversial filmmaker will be taking his newest project, "The Misandrists", to Kickstarter. A lesbian feminist film, the tagling reads  "support the lesbian intifada" The title refers to a secret cell of feminist terrorists that plan to "liberate women, overthrow the patriarchy, and usher in a new female world order". Things get complicated when a runaway young man enters the house and disrupts order in the house. The cast includes Susanne Sachsse, playing the feminist leader, Til Schindler as the runaway and Caprice Crawford.

In a note left on Kickstarter LaBruce states:  "I’m making The Misandrists with limited resources because I feel it’s important to push my work forward as a filmmaker regardless of budgetary constraints or the prior censorship that certain kinds of more conventional financing may entail. Working with modest budgets has always allowed me the freedom to make challenging and provocative films that would otherwise be very difficult or impossible to finance."

LaBruce, currently shooting the film in Berlin, launched the Kickstarter campaign on Wednesday. "The Misandrists" is set to be the director's 10th feature film.


Jacques Audiard's Dheepan finally comes out tomorrow


Deephan finally hits theaters this Friday. A film definitely worth your time, that maybe shouldn't have won the Palme D'or, but that doesn't diminish the fact that it's an extremely watchable immigrant story that takes place in modern day, racially divided France.
My Review from last September at TIFF:
"Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan won the Palme D’Or this year at Cannes and caused a slight backlash because of it. Don’t listen to the critics; this French film is top notch. It features a great performance from lead Jesuthasan Antonythasan, who plays a former Sri Lankan Tamil warrior fleeing his native country along with two Sri Lankan women, seeking refuge in what they think is a peaceful neighborhood in France. Many refugees in the film have lied to get away from the civil war in Sri Lanka. Dheepan and his companions pretend they are a family of three, but in reality they are not father, mother and daughter. Understandably, there’s ample reason for tension between the three of them, which is clearly felt in every scene.
The film tells what transpires when title character, a former Tamil Tiger, takes a job as a caretaker in a crime- and drugs-ridden apartment block in the Paris suburbs. Many immigrants have fled the strife of their own country, only to find themselves embroiled in deadly struggles of a different kind. As a caretaker of a rundown building, Deephan is faced with problems he clearly doesn’t see coming, since the place has been overrun by gangsters who conduct their business with brutality on a nightly basis. This doesn’t sit well with the main character, who’s clearly dealing with a case of PTSD, so he decides to take matters into his own hands. In the end, the peaceful caretaker Dheepan is forced to become a fierce fighter once again.
The film is raw and one of the very best to address the Sri Lankan Tamil conflict. Audiard has sometimes struggled to give his great films a proper climax (A Prophert, Rust and Bone) and Deephan is perhaps another example of that. The last several minutes may be divisive, but the resonance the film leaves for the viewer is rare in cinema these days. It provokes, asks questions, and provides an emotional experience that is hard to shake."

"Money Monster" very welcome this summer movie season



Jodie Foster directs George Clooney and Julia Roberts in this Wall Street kidnapping movie. It will play off-competition at the Cannes Film Festival this May, which could bode well for the film’s overall quality. In it, Clooney plays a Wall Street guru and Roberts a TV producer, both of whom get taken hostage by a frustrated investor played by "Unbroken" star Jack O’Connell. The cast looks superb, but if there is anything to be concerned about it’s Foster, a two-time Oscar winning actress, directing her fourth feature-film, the last three of which ("Little Man Tate," "Home For The Holidays" and "The Beaver") didn’t get noticed much and garnered mostly mixed reviews from critics. 

Given the abnormal amounjt of special effects, CGI-driven, franchise movies coming out this summer it is a breath of fresh air to know that there will be a socially-driven, character based drama to look forward to. No matter Foster's track record, at the end of the day, all that matters is that true artists are at work here and that, no matter the result, we need more socially-driven movies like this at the movie theater. 

In this newly released clip, the NYPD has had enough and decide to take a more aggresive approach to the hostage taking situation by taking a shot at O'Connell.

The film, hitting theaters on May 13th, also stars Dominic West, Giancarlo Espostio, and Caitriona Balfe. 

Fede Alvarez and his follow-up to Evil Dead, "Monsterpocalypse"!

Writer-director Fede Alvarez really turned heads in 2013 with his remake of Sam Raimi's cult classic horror movie, "Evil Dead". It wasn't supposed to work, but it did. He brought a whole new vision to the franchise and definitely set himself up as a director to watch in the near future. The 38-year-old Uruguayan filmmaker actually first became known for a short film he posted on YouTube entitled "Ataque de Pánico!", which featured giant robots attacking the South American city of Montevideo. The film got more than 7 million views and had a strong following. Sam Raimi was a fan, so much so that he actually produced Alvarez's remake of his own "Evil Dead". Raimi is also producing his follow-up, a horror film entitled "Breath In", which ScreenGems has set for release this August. 

In case Alvarez didn't have enough on his plate these days, according to the Hollywood Reporter he is set to co-write, with writing partner Rodo Sayagues, and direct an adaptation of the popular board game "Monsterpocalypse". Warner Bros. won a heated bidding war for the rights to the movie, beating out high interest from DreamWorks and Sony as well. 

"Monsterpocalypse" is a Kaiju-themed board game that is not unlike Guillermo Del Toro's recently successful and visionary "Pacific Rim". The game pits humans in robot suits against monsters. There was a previously stalled attempt at bringing the board game to the big screen back in 2010. At the time, director Tim Burton and screenwriter John August were attached to the project. It stalled because of Del Toro's "Pacific Rim" and the all too familiar resemblances to that film's visual and narrative palette. 

As Del Toro's film have proven, there is very much an audience for Kaiju films, and Hollywood is listening to the demand. In the next 3 years we will be getting "Godzilla 2""Pacific Rim 2", "Kong: Skull Island", and very likely Alvarez's "Monsterpocalypse"

What to think of Bryan Singer's X-Men path



It's become quite clear that director Bryan Singer is, and has always been, the man to direct X-Men movies. With "X2" and "X-Men: Days of Future Past" he not only made the two best X-Men movies, but he also created two of the very best films of the genre. To say that, safe for his 1995 Oscar-winner "The Usual Suspects", those two movies are the crowning jewels of his, mostly hit and miss career, would be an understatement. When he has not directed an X-Men movie the 50 year-old writer-director has opted to direct more critically reviled fare such as "Valkyrie", "Apt Pupil", "Superman Returns" and, yikes, "Jack the Giant Slayer".

For him to just keep on making more X-Men films would be a no-brainer as far as career decisions go and that's just what he's doing. He also does seem to know the characters like the back of his hand. However, trouble has been brewing recently as fans have been complaining about Singer's upcoming "X-Men: Apocalypse", but more specifically the titular villain. Fans have been questioning the inauthentic look of Apocalypse and the unintended resemblance to Ivan Ooze, the villain of  "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie". If you're making a Marvel franchise film the last thing you want to be connected to is Haim Saban and Shuki Levy's live action animated TV series.

To make matters worse once the "X-Men: Apocalypse" trailer dropped nationwide a backlash occurred concerning Apocalypse's size, but more importantly his voice. Oscar Isaac, a formidable young actor, lent his vocal talents for the sound of Apocalypse, but X-Men purists know that Apocalypse does not sound at all like Isaac. In fact his voice is inhuman, godly, almost monstrous.

Singer has had enough and has come out to clarify his side of the story.“What I'm doing is something very unique. It hasn't been done before. We're rerecording his entire performance because the suit's creaky and makes all kinds of noise, you can't really use any of it anyway. But I want his performance. So he's being recorded in ADR using a standard Sennheiser microphone, but also with a bass mic to his right cheek and a bass drum mic to his left cheek. These two microphones have the ability to pull vocal range out of his voice that the human ear cannot hear. And I can take that vocal range that I've now recorded, and I can pull it and use it to augment his voice -- and that with a little digital magic can create a voice that's both completely governed by his performance but is not natural. “It ebbs and flows and moves through the movie, and changes, so he doesn't just have one single voice. He speaks with different voices depending on different moments in the film. So it's really kind of cool. It's the first time I've ever had the tools to sculpt a performance in post-production, that was already given to me on set and chosen in the cutting room."

Alright, X-Men fans is that good enough for you? Isaac is turning into one of the great actors of his generation so it is hard to really complain about his presence in any film. However, with this and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" it seems like he's decided to take a dip into the mainstream for a change. Unlike "Star Wars", the jury is still out on whether or not the decision to be in Singer's latest X-Men will turn out positively for Isaac,  There are people still complaining about his Apocalypse, even after Singer's recent comments, but the true test will occur when "X-Men: Apocalypse" arrives in theaters on May 27th and we'll be able to see Singer's final cut for ourselves.

Drake Doremus' Equals



Drake Doremus' "Like Crazy"was the toast of Sundance back in 2011, winning the Grand Jury Prize and then being snatched up by Paramount Vintage for an impressive $4 million. It also kicked-started the film careers of stars Felicity Jones and Jennifer Lawrence, Sadly, his follow-up entitled "Breath In" didn't fare as well with the critics and was seen as a step back for the promising writer-director.

His latest film, "Equals", had its north American premiere last September at the Toronto International film festival, and it also competed for the Golden Lion at the 72nd Venice film festival. However, reviews were mixed and, as it stands, it currently has a 44% Rotten Tomatoes score out of 18 reviews.

Hopes are still sky-high that this might become a sleeper hit this summer, with a July 15th release date and an all-star cast that includes Kristen Stewart, Guy Pearce and Nicholas Hoult.

The science fiction film takes place in a futuristic utopian society where human emotions are eradicated so that everyone can live in peace.  However, a new disease surfaces, and an illustrator (as played by Hoult) starts to feel and experience things. He teams up with another infected, a writer played by Stewart, as they both escape their imprisoned surrounding in order to survive.

The plot sounds intriguing and the new stills released hint at an impressively created sci-fi world. Doremus seems to be using a lot of white and blue palettes in the film and, if "Like Crazy" and "Breath In" were any indication, he hasn't lost his knack for beautifully rendered-visuals. Consider us intrigued.

Voyage In Time FINALLY getting released this October

Terrence Malick’s ‘Voyage of Time’ Set For IMAX Release This October


Terrence Malick's anticipated film about the beginning and end of time, much like The Tree of Life, will be coming out this October. There will be a 45 minute version and a 90 minute version, one of them narrated by Cate Blanchett, the other  Brad Pitt. Since the whole project has been wrapped in mystery we don't even know who will narrate which version.  Or at least that's what a recent press release for IMAX slyly says, without even outright mentioning the miraculous inclusion of the Malick film. Whether it stays there we don't know, but if it does we're looking at a possible Venice or TIFF premiere, unless they just scrap film fests all around.

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