Saturday, June 4, 2016

If Bernie can pull off California now THAT'S a statement!

SUICIDE SQUAD test Screenings reactions don't have me excited

It might not be out until August, but people are already banking on Suicide Squad to be the savior of an abysmal 2016 at the summer Box-Office. Safe for Captain America: Civil War this has been an implosive brutal summer filled with underachieving films. Is the bubble finally bursting?

I usually expect glowing writeups on twitter or blogs from fans that go to test screenings. The whole set-up is meant to brainwash people into thinking they've seen the second coming up on the screen. In this day and age of social networking I, I, I, I selfishness the film you're screening, especially an important title such as this, better get glowing tweets.

 Suicide Squad just test screened in California, here are a few reactions that have, uh-oh, some reservations.

 “You will like every single member of the Squad, with Harley (obviously) stealing the show. She’s a star and everyone will love her. This is the type of movie that demands a sequel.  I’m sure critics will find ways to hate it (it’s basically a gritty action movie with comic book characters and a Hot Topic aesthetic, which honestly might turn critics off), but DC fans will like it. The BIG thing is that the movie literally saves DCEU Batman. This Batman is BTAS personified.”

 “This is an unfinished cut. There was lots that I really liked, good action, pacing (for the most part). But as I’ve said there were 2 characters who had a decent sized role in the plot/story that did not connect with me. I could care less about them. They tried for an emotional scene and yea…didn’t work. But yes, walking out, I’ve heard a few people raving about it, and a few just good/pretty good. The person I was sitting next to came with his family and he didn’t even know the movie after they announced it (older guy) and he said it was ok. I didn’t stick around to hear if anyone had anything bad to say.”

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Thoughts - Maggie's Plan

Doing screwball comedy isn't easy. The timing has got to not only be perfect, but the joke itself has got to match the precise moment it is being delivered. Not just that, but the delivery has got to match the tone and precision the joke is being delivered at. Got that? Oh and then there's the plot, which needs to have a real punch to it, because, essentially, the plot itself should not be taken totally seriously. It's an almost explainable phenomenon to make great screwball, an almost non-existent genre ever since the heydeys of such 1930' classics as His Girl Friday and Bringing Up Baby. Recently there's bee a sort of rejuvenation of the genre. Noah Baumbach has tried to take a crack at it with his last few films ditto Whit Stillman.

Rebecca Miller is the latest to attempt a film the screwball manner. Her delectably screwy and messy Maggie's Plan has the familiar elements: a complicated relationship, a strong female role, a man's masculinity being questioned, and a fast-paced repartee. Maggie,as played by Baumbach millennial screwball actress Greta Gerwig,  plans to have a baby on her own, but her plan is soon screwball-ed when she falls in love with the very married John, as played her by Ethan Hawke, which coincides in the destruction of his marriage with Georgette, an incredibly playful and wacky Julianne Moore.

That's the setup, but things get more complicated from there as the film goes forward three years later when Maggie becomes out of love with John and decides to reunite him with his ex-wife. The fact that the ex-wife is Georgette, an odd, quirky, literate and humorously high-brow woman, is the punch line. That's fine with me, especially when she is being played Julianne Moore in a performance filled with perfect timing and comically witty verbiage that she steals the film from her co-stars. Whenever Georgette appears on-screen is when the film hits its high points. Moore is such a presence that, the usually reliable Gerwig seems more wooden in comparison, ditto Hawke. That is a problem, especially since these are supposed to be your two leads. Moore's Georgette is a supporting role, which is a problem when you want more of her on the screen and less of the former.

Miller, a talented filmmaker whose previous films veered more on the dramatic side, tries to juggle so much plot and to make her film as unpredictable as possible that she ends up making a mess out of the whole thing. Her clear inspiration here is Woody Allen and the 1930's screwball comedies that inspired his own films, but she fails to capture the effortlessness of those films. My advice is to wait and catch Allen's much more realized and captivating  Cafe Society when it hits theaters in July. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

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-]

Sunday, May 29, 2016

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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