Don't listen to the haters, Kristen Stewart can act



Earlier this month I posted about Personal Shopper and how refreshing it was to see K-Stew finally carrying an entire movie all by herself. In "Cafe Society" she doesn't necessarily carry as much as just splash herself in Vito Storaro's lush, colorful photography, but she nevertheless churns out another beauty of a performance.

Stewart's sad eyes, throaty delivery and slightly heartbreaking aura make her interesting in every frame, ad an easy chemistry between her and her third-time co-star Jesse Eisenberg and he fits perfectly into his role while she simply overflows the screen. It's a real charmer of a flick that I will possibly delve deeper into come its release date a couple of weeks from now.

Stewart's career has been fascinating to watch. She basically started it in a David Fincher film ("Panic Room"), but then had the fortune (or is it misfortune?) of being cast in the "Twilight" films, which I'm not a fan of, but if they hadn't existed we would probably not be talking about Stewart today. But also she could have just coasted along after those films and taken on another franchise film series and made boatloads of money, but no, Stewart wanted to raise her art and I do respect that tremendously. Whatever you think of her as actress she is an exemplary performer that has shown what can come out of a backlash, because there definitely was a backlash towards her acting skills in "Twilight". I even got into an argument over her performing merits with more than a few people. They just don't get it, but I know I'll clearly have the last laugh when she wins that inevitable Oscar.

"Hell or High Water" will stir up a dull, uneventful Summer 2016 with powerful artistry

"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" 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." Cannes Review. 5.18.16

Xavier Dolan and his ego - Trailer for "It's Only the End of the World" hits web




I thought "Mommy" was fantastic despite its overlength. That's the problem with Dolan, he's so into himself that he just doesn't know when to stop. Snip off 30 minutes from that film and it's one of the best of 2014.
"It's Only the End of the World", based on Jean-Luc Lagarce’s play of the same name, 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. 
It's narcissistic filmmaking at its very worse. He doesn't even give his actors the time to act or breath life into their roles because his camera seems to always be constantly moving in every direction. Also, don't get me started on the editing - one of the worst examples of editing I have seen in a movie. The dialogue is also incoherent with a lot of pauses and "umms" thrown in for good measure.
I was born and raised in Montreal before moving to the states and so I have met Dolan quite a few times in my days. I have long advocated the fact that, although many of his films like "Mommy" and "Laurence Anyways" are quite good, he needs a stinker to snap him out of the volatile narcissism and bring him back down to earth a little. He is not god, but he acts like it. It seems that even though this film was completely panned at Cannes and was about to be named by most critics as the worst film in competition, that is until Sean Penn's horrendous "The Last Face" screened, the fact that the jury gave Dolan the Grand Jury Prize will not deter him one bit and he will continue to make high brow, pompous and self-indulgent cinema until he addresses the problems that lay in his filmmaking.

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.

"Swiss Army Man" directors want to remake White Chicks? Game on!

I shared my thoughts on "Swiss Army Man" back in January while at the Sundance Film Festival. By now you've probably seen or, at the very least, heard about this film, which people dubbed "the Harry Potter farting corpse movie", which I firstly walked out of at Sundance and then gave it another shot just a few days later. Second viewing was a little better, I didn't the film as seriously and just went along for the ride. This is not high art, just tell yourself that as you enter the theater, but the last third of the film is really surprising. I won't divulge anything else. Just got along with it, we will likely not remember this film 5,10 years from now, but at least we have an original and daring indie film out there this summer.

"(The Birth of a Nation's Nate) Parker surprisingly didn’t win the directing award that instead went to the directing duo behind the most polarizing film of the fest Swiss Army Man. Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert won the award for a movie that Twitch Film’s Jason Gorber called “The Citizen Kane of fart joke movies.” If that doesn’t interest you at all then steer far away from this movie starring Daniel Radcliffe as a dead, farting corpse and Paul Dano as a distraught man stranded in the middle of a dessert Island. They somehow form a friendship and learn to help each other in the process. Radcliffe’s corpse is used as a jet ski ride whenever he farts, on the other hand Dano tries to teach his compadre about the joy of life by dressing up like a a girl and putting the moves on good ol’ Harry Potter. Not much else can be said, just sit back and let the ridiculousness of this movie drop your jaw down to the floor."

The Daniels (that's what they want to be called) are not done with their crazy ideas. I've been touting the Wayans Brothers seriously bad, but highly enjoyable White Chicks for a few years now and it seems like the "Swiss Army Man" duo is looking to remake the film .... as a drama! Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter:

"Oh! One of my dreams is to make White Chicks as a hard-R, Oscar-worthy drama, starring the original cast. It would be about gender and race relations in the 21st century, starring the Wayans Brothers. I don't know if you have seen White Chicks lately, but it has a lot of meat to it and explores everything, like class, gender, race, the handicapped, age, but it explores it in the worst way possible. "

The whole interview can be found HERE

"Star Wars: Rogue One" trailer works despite the advanced toxic buzz


Susan Sarandon deserves an Oscar nod for "The Meddler"

When I saw The Meddler last year I was convinced it would actually nab an Oscar nom for Sarandon, but it never got released! Here`s hoping she has some kind of shot this year. An excerpt I wrote for AwardsDaily about the film:

"The Meddler is Susan Sarandon’s best performance in 20+ years. You heard me right. Sarandon’s performance as a middle aged, eccentric, neurotic, Jersey mom that moves to L.A. is hilariously spot on. The premiere had many industry people eating up every line delivered by Sarandon. When was the last time you can truly say she’s had a role that fit her immeasurable talents? 1995’s Dead Man Walking — in which she was directed by then husband Tim Robbins — comes to mind. That was 20 years ago, but this performance is bound to get some heads turning if handled properly and Sony Pictures Classics knows what kind of brilliant performance they have here. The character study that director Lorne Scafaria deftly handles with comical hand-held shots is an all out showcase for Sarandon. The film has just been screened today for the press and is expected to have a 2016 release, that is unless the studio decides to gives Sarandon the much-needed awards push this year."

The reviews have been fairly solid and the buzz has been cautious, respectful, but amicably acclaimed. Kris Tapley, a well-regarded Oscar Pundit at Variety, just gave Sarandon a boost by saying she was the Best Actress of the first half of 2016. I can agree with that actually.

"Sarandon delivers one of her greatest performances yet as the title character in Lorene Scarfaria’s sweet dramedy about a well-intentioned mother who moves to Los Angeles to be closer to her daughter (Rose Byrne) after the death of her husband. Whether playing the effects of scarfing down a bag of weed or being romanced by the wonderful J.K. Simmons, Sarandon is sublime. But more than that, the performance is one of the most accurate portrayals of grief seen on film in recent years."

Top Critic
Connie Ogle
Miami Herald
May 12, 2016
The beauty of The Meddler is in its insistence that grief passes - even if you can't buy your way to happiness.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4

Top Critic
Ann Hornaday
Washington Post
April 29, 2016
What seems cringe-worthy at first in The Meddler winds up as a warm, forgiving embrace -- of the movie's characters and audience, as well.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4

Top Critic
Richard Roeper
Chicago Sun-Times
April 29, 2016
Taken as a whole, Sarandon's performance is something to behold.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4

Top Critic
Michael Phillips
Chicago Tribune
April 28, 2016
We've seen these types of characters before, but not played by these particular and highly skilled actresses.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4

Top Critic
Rex Reed
New York Observer
April 22, 2016
Charming, insightful and funny.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4


Top Critic
Peter Travers
Rolling Stone
April 22, 2016
Susan Sarandon is a star shining on her highest beams in a movie that the gifted writer-director Lorene Scafaria turns into something far less clichéd and more nuanced than the anatomy of a bossypants. -
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4

Free State of Jones is a Gary Ross strikeout

I will say I was very much looking forward to Gary Ross' Free State of Jones. Ross has always been a filmmaker that delivered what was asked of him in such a professional and gracious manner: Pleasantville, Seabiscuit and The Hunger Games all consummate and entertaining Hollywood vehicles. Judging from these early reviews though Free State of Jones will likely not make it 4 for 4. I skipped this morning's press screening, I had a few things to attend to, but it seems like I didn't miss much as these reviews have been horrendous. I presume that Warner Bros. now has second thoughts about giving this guy the reigns to its all-female Ocean's movie. Again, I haven't seen this new Matthew McConaughey film, but it looks like a complete strike out by the hints of it. I'll be catching a screening on Friday afternoon.

Nate Parker's flawed, but sometimes thought-provoking "The Birth of a Nation" gets a trailer


Recounting the story of Nat Turner, an African American Slave that lead a rebellion in 1831 to free African-Americans in Virgina. There’s blood soaked, sweat induced, passion in every frame of Nate Parker’s flawed film. You can never discount this kind of brazingly ferocious filmmaking, even when it’s by a first-time filmmaker still learning his narrative steps. The aptly titled film is bound to cause a stir when it gets released later this year, choosing the title of D.W Griffith’s grand, but very racist, 1915 masterpiece is a sign that the times might be in fact changing. Winning the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award is a sign that this movie is about to take Hollywood by storm. It was made to piss people off and get them out of their seats shouting, what more could you ask for in a movie?

"American Honey" -one of the year's best movies- finally gets a trailer



Andrea Arnold's American Honey finally gets a trailer. I saw it at Cannes and, suffice to say, was quite impressed by its loose, structure-free narrative. It's a pummeling 160 minutes, but has moments of sheer beauty in its inner and outer contours. I don't think there is much awards hope for this one as it is too "out-there" for the academy to consider, but a push by critics for their awards is inevitable. It's a love it/hate it movie, but consider me with the former as I dis find its take on 21st century Americana quite breathtaking. 

"Andrea Arnold’s American Honey  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."

Personal Shopper > The Conjuring 2



Over at Hollywood Elsewhere Jeffrey Wells is pondering how The Conjuring 2 is getting well-reviewed and, yet, Personal Shopper's reviews have been mixed so far. You can read the post HERE.

Yes, I'll agree the latter is an above average chill-inducing stunner that will deserve all the love and support come its release this fall season. The Conjuring 2 seems to be repeating the usual tropes that have made the horror genre go down the drain these last couple of years. Of course James Wan is a talented "horror" filmmaker, but he doesn't even come close to having the artistic chops of an Assayas or even a John Carpenter at his peak. The Malaysian born filmmaker is a competent and well-informed filmmaker that can carry a film to a certain extent, but not further enough to make great art.

This is an excerpt from my Cannes review:
"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. The film is meant to be absorbed for what it is: A taut, terrific venture into the unknown."

"O.J: Made in America" is better than almost any 2016 movie I've seen so far



"O.J: Made in America" is better than almost any 2016 movie. I've been to Sundance and Cannes as well, almost nothing comes close to the gripping, assaultive nature of this 464 minute documentary. I found it was more engrossing than its FX counterpart, which, by the way, was pretty great, because it meticulously fleshes out the larger picture as compared to the aforementioned mini-series which had to balance informative content with dramatic obligations. The fact that this documentary splits the screen time between the racial issues in Los Angeles and O.J. Simpson's story is a decision of sheer genius and, really, the definitive way to tell this story. All this to say that it is a towering achievement for director Ezra Edelman whose only other work as a director came from ESPN sports docs. He does have one hell of a story to tell though, one that is both tragic and hilarious. I'll update this post later on with more thoughts on the film. I'll leave you with a quote from the L.A. Times review of the film "Historically meticulous, thematically compelling and deeply human, O.J.: Made in America is a masterwork of scholarship, journalism and cinematic art."

Michael Haneke's disturbing use of silence


If you ever decide to watch a Michael Haneke film make sure you’re in the right mood for something either punishing or provocative. It’s not to dismiss the Austrian auteur’s singular vision, but embarking into the world of his films is to often have your spirit and soul drained out. His work is rigorous, restrained and controlled cinema with an emphasis on the dehumanization of modern society, all done through the prism of the most potently realistic acts of violence imaginable.
Haneke’s use of violence is one of the more disturbing assets of his style. It usually comes in short bursts and in ways that are both shocking and disturbing. He knocks you down with his absolute and masterful control. The mise en scene is tightly fashioned in a detail-obsessed manner, with every tiny detail needing to count because what he’s trying to do is not only horrify you, but shock your system with memorably precise visual and sound. It is the complete and utter control of the viewer and the response to the act of violence that makes it all the more horrifying.
“Haneke makes us hear and see terrible things. Despite his critical success the backlash has been extreme,” goes the opening of Elsie Walker’s video essay “Taking Time to Hear…” which takes into account Haneke’s use of silence as a way to give shape and form to the content. In other words, the wordless interludes that proceed Haneke’s most torturous sequences are meant to act as a kind of salvation.
The video is meant as a rebuttal to the critics that claim he is a sadistic and cruel filmmaker. Walker seems to be implying that they are missing the point. As the video shows us, Haneke asks the viewer to hear the victims’ pain compassionately through slyly inserted silent interludes. Walker also states that “this quiet is not about the aggressors, but the victims, including the people who make themselves suffer by hurting others.”
Six acts of violence from six different films are given as examples. From a mother tied up and bound, standing next to her dead son’s body right after he’s been shot in “Funny Games,” to the famous suicide in “Cache,” Haneke has always maintained a hyper-tight control of what he wants his audience to see, feel and think. If you’re up for it, it can make for absolutely devastating cinema.
You can check it all out HERE

Barry Lyndon - A masterpiece gets re-released

Barry Lyndon 2

Barry Lyndon. It’s one of Stanley Kubrick’s greatest achievements, and yet it is has rarely been uttered in the same league as A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Dr. Strangelove. However, as the years have gone by they’ve been very kind to Kubrick’s 18th-century tale. It was ranked 59th on Sight & Sound’s prestigious critics poll of the greatest movies ever made and has been hailed by Martin Scorsese, among many others, as his favorite Kubrick film. John Alcott’s cinematography also ranks as one of the landmarks of the field of photography, with its ingenious natural lighting that, in one very famous scene, lit up rooms with dozens of chandeliers. Its impact has been felt all the way to last year’s The Revenant, which also used natural lighting and was clearly inspired by Alcott’s famous lens.
All this to say that Barry Lyndon is set to be re-released in the London on July 29th and will roll out in other U.K. cities in the following weeks. This is the way one must watch Kubrick’s masterpiece, on the big screen, with its bright, intricate colors and impeccable production and costume design shining ever so brightly on epic, accentuated canvas.
London seems to be in the middle of a Kubrick phase. The Brooklyn-born filmmaker will also be honored with a new exhibition at London’s Somerset House this summer. The late filmmaker’s widow, Christiane Kubrick, and Warner Bros. will lead the way with an exhibition that will feature creative art work tributes from the likes of Daft Punk, Jarvis Cocker of Pulp, and actress Samantha MortonConsequence of Sound reports.

Reputation Is Everything In This Examination Of Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Inglourious Basterds’

Reputation Is Everything In This Examination Of Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Inglourious Basterds’
“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” So ends John Ford’s “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” the last masterpiece of Ford’s in a career full of them. Quentin Tarantino, no slouch in his unadorned love for the western genre and Ford, took that saying to heart when he made 2009’s “Inglourious Basterds,” which fitfully ends with a character pronouncing the final line: “This may just be my masterpiece.”
The highly acclaimed Tarantino film uses legend and fact to build up its characters’ traits and reputations. The people that fill up Tarantino’s twisted revisionist WWII film take pride in the mythic reputation that has been built up around their names, as Drew Morton explains in his latest video essay for Fandor Keyframe, “Tarantino: Reputation is Everything.”
We get our first glimpse at mythic name-making when Hans Landa asks at the beginning of the film, “You know what they call me?”, and of course we do because Landa, now an infamous movie character etched in the cinematic time capsule, is known as “The Jew Hunter” and he rides by that reputation for the duration of the film. He’s the Nazi that has a worldwide reputation of capturing Jews in hiding. “I love my unofficial title precisely because I’ve earned it,” he claims mid-way through the film.
The same thing can be said about the heroes of the film, who are in the polar opposite of the spectrum, ambushing Nazi troops and scalping them throughout the land. “The Germans call them the Basterds” says Mike Myers’ General Ed Fenech. Their reputation precedes them and the Basterds wouldn’t have it any other way, as they take pride in the legendary status the Nazis have bestowed upon them. “Through our cruelty they will know who we are” exclaims Basterds leader Lt. Aldo Raine, himself granted the name of “The Apache” by the Germans. The blade-sewn swastika the Basterds place on their victims’ foreheads is their way of telling the Nazis “the Basterds were here.”
Landa and the Basterds constantly tell other characters about their actions. They take pride in their accomplishments and ride with their legend. Just like in ‘Liberty Valance,’ the legend has become fact and it gets printed throughout the film’s deliciously lurid 153 minutes. “Inglourious Basterds” is about characters trying to manage a reputation that far exceeds normal life. Sgt. Donnie Donowitz, as played by Eli Roth, is known as “The Bear Jew” a baseball-bat carrying menace so legendary and feared by the Nazis that just the sheer mention of his name sends chills down a German spine. At one point Hitler tells his commander “the bear Jew is never to be referred to as the bear Jew again” for he knows the name alone instills fear.
“Inglourious Basterds” might be a WWII film, but it is indelibly drenched in the DNA of Westerns that also thematically played with the ideas of legends, myths, and reputations. Check out this video essay and let us know your thoughts in the comments section.
http://theplaylist.net/reputation-everything-examination-quentin-tarantinos-inglourious-basterds-watch-20160617/

Palme D'or winner "I, Daniel Blake" trailer




Palme D'or winner "I, Daniel Blake" finally has a trailer. Most film critics, I know there a few that did think it deserved the Palme D'or, feel like it didn't deserve the top prize at Cannes. It's a defiantly old-school film that doesn't really break any ground, but there's enough powerful stuff here to be worthy of, at the very least, a deeply incisive watch. 
Writing for The Young Folks:
"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. His latest "I, Daniel Blake" (7/10) is a problematic, but important critique of the British social system.
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."

Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story)

When Larry Clark came into the scene more than twenty years ago now with his ground-breaking and incendiary “Kids,” you could feel the shockwaves going down your system as you saw the most provocative depiction of teenage sexuality imaginable on screen at the time. Clark, not one to be tamed down, continued his onslaught of shockingly graphic content with his ensuing films “Bully” and “Ken Park. All of this to say that the “shock movement” that Clark started with “Kids,” isn’t all that shocking anymore. We’ve learned to accept teenage sexuality as a normal thing; maybe the way Clark depicted it wasn’t and still isn’t the “norm,” but, if anything, we’ve become numb to watching teenagers get down and dirty onscreen and off.
All of this leads me to “Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story),” which, if released say 20 years ago, might have spurned shockwaves throughout the film community, but since it’s 2016, we might just shrug it off as if it were nothing more than another sexually charged teenage drama. This is, of course, a major disservice to French director Eva Husson’s drama, which does try to give a fresh new spin to the genre by not only incorporating new shock tactics, but actually investing real emotional charge into the surroundings.
Based on true events that happened in a Paris suburb, the film tells the tale of 16-year-old high schoolers who, taking advantage of a friend’s parents being out of town, organize orgies in a secret group they dub “the Bang Gang club”. It all starts with an innocent game of spin the bottle which quickly gets out of control, and their raging hormones start acting up. Impromptu orgies occur, but as with all sexual activity, some emotional undercurrents can sometimes sneak in. There’s a Lothario (Finnegan) who uses the orgy to his advantage to play around with the affection of two girls who mostly just want the attention. And then there is the soft-spoken musician who lusts for the girl of his dreams, but wants her for more than just an evening of ménage-a-six.
Although these characters are mere background for the main events, the orgies, Husson refuses to have any real focus on character until the very last third of the story. The film is an indelibly forceful look at teenagers trying to find themselves in an almost numbing world. They don’t seem to care about the consequences of their actions; they just want to feel something physical by going skin to skin with as many “friends” as possible. Yet, as with all stories about sexually explicit content, it all comes down to that one connection you make amidst all the chaos, rather than the actual sex.
There is the inevitable downfall that comes with many of these kinds of tales, but with this being a 2016 film, it refreshingly deals with how social media can be the ultimate affecting depressor for young millennials. Imagine Larry Clark’s teenagers with a Facebook account, Twitter, or a cell phone. Armed and ready to spread the nitty gritty dirt.

There is a great deal of nudity in Husson’s film, but it’s all purposely done to be not very erotic. The editing is akin to a music video, but for a feature film debut, Husson has brought out something interesting and grounded. She’s made a Larry Clark film for the millennial generation without some of the bland tropes that have dodged some of his more recent films. I find it’s better than Clark’s movies, more subtle in fact, and can sometimes encompass a world of emotions in a single frame. It truly is a modern love story showing us how sexually liberated today’s generation is and how misguided their attempts at finding love can be. [B]

"Finding Dory" is modest, minor Pixar, but isn't that better than 99% of summer 2016?

I'm a Pixar nut. I think "WALL-E", "UP!", "Ratatouille", "Toy Story 3" and last year's sublime "Inside Out" are among some of the most creative and brilliant studio films the last two decades, but I do also know that they have a knack to give in to the money muckers and give us a sequel every few years. Lately it's been 1 every 2 years and I HATE it with a passion, but that's the movie business this decade. I had high hopes for "Finding Dory" and, of course, it didn't meet them. I mean, how could it? "Finding Nemo" is a classic and the critical success they've had with the "Toy Story" movies is a rare feat that can't be done for every film.

This is lower-tier Pixar, but not as bad as "Cars 2" or "A Bug's Life" which remain the two worst films they've released, but do take note I haven't seen "The Good Dinosaur" which I completely forgot about and will have to catch soon now, but that one was not well received at all by critics. No, "Finding Dory" is more on the level of "Brave" or, dare I say it, the underappreciated and fun "Monsters University".

It is modest and minor Pixar. It has great moments, but seems to go along on around the same trek that the 2003 film went. There are a few surprises here and there, but this is run-of-the-mill stuff that Pixar can concoct in their sleep. I'll take that over almost anything we've seen this summer, safe "Captain America: Civil War", maybe. My abnormal expectations are now lowered for any other sequel they have up their sleeves, unless it's "The Incredibles 2".

Update: Recent Screenings

The "Recent Screenings" tab on the right of your screen has been updated with summer movies. So far not much has come our way worth recommending in terms of the big summer releases, with the exception of "Captain America: Civil War". I'm still holding out hope that "Finding Dory", "The Free State of Jones", "Pete's Dragon""Jason Bourne" and "The Founder" pan out.

Recent Screenings

The BFG B
Weiner A-
From Afar B
The Lobster B
Holy Hell C+
Maggie's Plan C+
Neighbors 2 C+
Money Monster C+
A Bigger Splash B+
The Nice Guys B
X-Men: Apocalypse C-
Captain America: Civil War B+

The Visual Poetry In The Films Of Alejandro González Iñárritu Is Beautiful & Brutal [Video Essay]

The Visual Poetry In The Films Of Alejandro González Iñárritu Is Beautiful & Brutal [Video Essay]
Alejandro González Iñárritu has been putting forth his vision onscreen now for almost two decades. In the last two years, he’s directed two movies (“Birdman” and “The Revenant“) that have pushed the boundaries of the medium and won him consecutive Directing Oscars, a feat only done twice before in Oscar history.
A well-crafted video essay of the work Iñárritu has done these past 16 years was created by Vugar Efendi Films. It juxtaposes the haunting beauty that comes with the Mexican-born director’s work. It’s a well-done summation and tribute to a filmmaker that continues to try and break new ground with his craft and produce one artistic statement after another.
Iñárritu’s unique visual style and grim subject matter has made an impact on cinema ever since his astonishing 2000 debut “Amores Perros” (translated “Love is a Bitch“), a Mexican mosaic of dread that kick-started his career on an exquisite high. He’s never shied away from making you feel the suffering and emotional state of his characters, and boy do they suffer: in “Biutiful,” Uxbal (Javier Bardem) is a father of two, with a manic depressive wife, living in a crime-ridden Barcelona, when he finds out he has terminal cancer. In “21 Grams,” Paul (Sean Penn) is a terminally ill mathematician who strikes up a friendship with Cristina (Naomi Watts), a grieving mother whose child recently passed away. “Babel” had a Japanese girl dealing with rejection, the death of her mother, a disability, and alienation. Of course, last year’s “The Revenant” had an Oscar-winning Leonardo DiCapriogetting tortured, mauled by a bear, shot, frozen, and stabbed. Welcome to Alejandro González Iñárritu’s world, where almost no one can escapes the wrath of life unharmed.
His focus on the stark, honest, and frequently brutal side of humanity could be seen as ponderous or even pretentious by some, but Iñárritu surrounded it all with an immaculate palette of visual wonder. The gritty, handheld filmmaking that invaded the first half of his career, alongside his four-film partnership with cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (“Amores Perros,” “21 Grams,” “Babel,” and “Biutiful”) conjured up images that were as ugly as they were beautiful. There was a titillating sense of turbulence to his camera that lent itself exceptionally well to the content of the story. His use of color during this time period was very interesting, with the frequent inclusion of red-soaked imagery influenced by the magical realism of Latin American literature.
Then along came “Birdman” and “The Revenant,” but more importantly, his newly-formed partnership with cinematographer extraordinaire, Emmanuel Lubezki. To say this enhanced the visual imagery that Iñárritu could convey through his camera lens would be an understatement. Lubezki brought a whole new level of artistry to Iñárritu’s art, with rhythmic long takes and surrealist imagery. Their use of visual elements mixed with special effects created something horrifying, engaging, and kind of beautiful that also never felt forced. What they created was a new language for cinema, one in which the cinematographer had as much of a role in the creative process as the director.
Vugar Efendi’s video goes on to show how Iñárritu’s style has evolved over time and how much more mature the content has become. Gone is the grim sentimentalism that could burden some of the scenes in his earlier films, replaced by a more detached and forward-looking style that strives for the most grandiose of ambitions. Even when he aims high and sometimes misses, the feeling is nothing less than exhilarating.
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De Palma revisited

It's a DePalma kind of week in New York, with most people giving their two cents on the auteur after having seen the new Jake Paltrow/Noah Baumbach doc "De Palma". I'll join the party by chiming in a bit on Brian DePalma and his endless, messy ambitions. DePalma is one of the more polarizing filmmakers around- one day he makes an incredible piece of filmmaking such as the 3 listed below and then the next he pulls out a "Mission To Mars" or the unwatchable "Femme Fatale".

His best movie- "Blow Out"is a smart, hallucinatory take on voyeurism & is more relevant now than it was 29 years ago. John Travolta with his sound equipment evokes to me an image of what DePalma do truly do with cinema - it's his only perfect movie and succumbs to the Hitchcockian tradition in the best ways imaginab;e. It's also the best John Travolta performance I've ever seen - maybe even better than his "Pulp Fiction" comeback. "Blow Out" is slightly more superior than his other Hitchock rip-off/hommage, "Dressed To Kill", which has the kind of kitsch overcooked superficiality I love in his movies.

"Carrie" does not have that. From the get go you know it's a horror delight, featuring the greatest prom scene carried out on celluloid. Sissy Spacek is the perfect match to DePalma's weird ways - her face is not that of supermodel & very much out of sync from DePalma's usual choice of lustful blondes. DePalma has tendency to overstylize everything & bring a `Hitchcockian queerness` to it all. This is one of the rare times when he takes a back seat and paves the way for a towering, menacing performance. There's an abandon in the filmmaking that I don't think he ever achieved again - a fearless, joyous abandon that makes you realize how talented the man truly is.

It isn`t the towering Pop of "The Untouchables" or the assaultive brilliance of "Scarface", but "Carlito`s Way" is a personal favorite that is everything his "Scarface" could have been. Sean Penn is amazing -tell me when he isn`t- the overall excitement is palpable. It`s pure DePalma with a story that grabs you as if -taking a cue from the honorable Glenn Kenny- you`re being cuckolded. 

Cafe Society is one of the most beautifully shot movies this decade

Vittorio Storaro's photography in The Conformist is known as possibly the greatest ever. For good reason might I add. However, the last 15-20 years haven't been kind to Storaro, he's pretty much decided to stay out of the spotlight or just been forgotten because the films he's been photographing have been mostly foreign and with no cultural impact whatsoever. His last Hollywood film was 1998's Bullworth. That's fine, I don't really agree with promoting your art via mainstream fare when there is so much more freedom on the other side of the spectrum, but Muhammad, Kingdom Come, Dare to Love Me and The Trick in the Sheet? Those are the last few films he's worked on. I've never heard of them and that's saying a lot because I hear about most titles, even foreign.

Well I'm here to say that Storaro's talents have been put to good use by Woody Allen in his latest film Cafe Society. The candy-colored shots that infuse almost every frame of Allen's 1930's Hollywood romance are deliciously rendered by Storaro's Lens'. The film opens in July, but I caught a sneak peek at Cannes and, although very slight, it's a lovely film and I look forward to seeing it again stateside.

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.”

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. 

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