Friday, July 1, 2016

Thoughts on "Sully" Dir. by Clint Eastwood and starring Tom Hanks

We'll have to wait until September 9th to watch Clint Eastwood's Sully, I presume it stands a good shot at being chosen for the Telluride film festival. The date is too close to TIFF's opener on the 8th to really get into that fest. Eastwood has been very streaky of late. He had a phenomenal phase between 2003-2008 where he just killed it with classic after classic ("Mystic River", "Million Dollar Baby", "Letters From Iwo Jima", "Changeling", "Gran Torino") then he went on a bit of a rut after that, I mean what else do you call "Invictus", "Hereafter", "J. Edgar" and "Jersey Boys". It sucks, because we all love him, but he lost his touch. His Oscar-nominated "American Sniper" was a good indicator that he still had it in him though. Forget all about the Left vs Right debate that surrounded the movie, that was just a damn fine movie about war and its PTSD effect on the soldiers.

The story of American pilot "Sully" Sullenberger, who landed the troubled US Airways Flight 1549 full of passengers on the Hudson River on January 15, 2009, is well known and was one of those feel-good stories that really just made you happy that something good actually happened in the news. Sully is a hero, he saved many lives on that day, but is it enough to make a feature-length movie out of it? Well, I think, judging by the trailer, that Eastwood's focus will very much be on the aftermath investigation and the backlash that occurred on Sullenberger. Supposedly, and I don't know if the film actually touches on this, Sullenberger's pension benefits were terminated just a month after the event and his salary cut by more than 40 percent. Supposedly airlines were hiring less experienced, but cheaper pilots and were cutting down on the Sully types. Now THAT could definitely make for an interesting movie if Eastwood can delve into this part of the aftermath. 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

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

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

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.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

"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

Sunday, June 26, 2016

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

Blog Archive