Saturday, July 9, 2016

2015 starting to look like a pretty good movie year compared to this year's crop

1) Mad Max: Fury Road 2) Son of Saul 3) Carol 4) Ex Machina 5) It Follows 6) Tangerine 7) Inside Out 8) Victoria 9) The Hateful Eight 9) The Revenant 10) Amy 12) Star Wars: The Force Awakens 13) Steve Jobs 14) Heart of A Dog 15) The Tribe 16) Straight Outta Compton 17) Room 18) Mustang

Thoughts on Inarritu's cinema, more specifcally his visual style

In the last decade he's directed two Oscar-heralded movies ("Birdman" and "The Revenant"), but Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has been making movies for almost two decades now. 

His unique visual style and grim subject matters have made an impact on cinema ever since his astonishing 2000 debut "Amores Perros" (translated to "Love is a Bitch.") He doesn't shy away from making you feel the suffering and emotional 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-riden Barcelona, that finds out he has terminal cancer. In "21 Grams" Paul (Sean Penn) is a terminally ill mathematician that strikes a friendship with the grieving Cristina (Naomi Watts) who has just lost a child. "Babel" had a Japanese girl dealing with rejection, the death of her mother, and a disability and, of course, last year's "The Revenant" had an Oscar-winning Leonardo Dicaprio getting torturted, mauled, shot, frozen and stabbed. Welcome to Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's world where almost no one can escape the wrath of every day life. 

His focus on stark, honest, and frequently brutal side of humanity could be seen as ponderous or even pretentious by some, but Inarritu 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 "Bitutiful") conjured up images that were as ugly as they were beautiful. There was a titilating sense of out of controlness 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 a red-soaked imagery influenced by the magical realism of Latin American literature.  

Then came along "Birdman" and "The Revenant", but more importantly, his newly-formed partnership with cinematographer extraordinaire Emmanuel Lubezki. To say this enhanced the visual imagery that Inarritu could convey through his camera would be an understatement. Lubezki brought a whole new level of artistry to Inarritu's art with rhythmic long takes and surrealist imagery.  Their use of visual elements mixed with special FX 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.

A well-crafted video edit of the work Inarritu has done these past 16 years was created by Vulgar 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 boundaries with his craft and produce one artistic statement after another. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Thoughts on Malick and how the "Voyage of Time" trailer landed with a bang!

I did suffer through Terrence Malick's "Knight of Cups", after one hour I really wanted mercy, and my final statement on that film is that it is an utter failure on all fronts except the cinematography by Lubeszki. It's a trifle that goes nowhere and yet panders to its audience in such unexpected ways. The self-congratulatory nature of Malick's hand here is disturbingly bad and after "To The Wonder", which was another unwatchable blunder, I think most of us are starting to get worried about Malick. Has he lost his touch? Well considering "Voyage of Time" has been pretty much in the books since 2011, or so, then there's a good chance it could still be very good. He only lost his way starting in 2012 + this looks more like a doc than a fiction film. 

Two versions will be released, one a 40 minute IMAX extravaganza narrated by Cate Blanchett, the other a feature length film shot on 35mm an narrated by Brad Pitt. 

He also has "Weightless" possibly coming out this fall, Wikipedia describes: Weightless is an upcoming American drama film written and directed by Terrence Malick, starring an ensemble cast including Ryan Gosling,Christian BaleNatalie PortmanRooney MaraCate BlanchettVal KilmerClifton Collins Jr.Benicio del Toro, and Michael Fassbender. The film will be released on October 21, 2016 by Broad Green Pictures. Two intersecting love triangles. Obsession and betrayal set against the music scene in Austin, Texas.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Judgement Day for 'Ghostbusters' remake might gave to wait until opening day

Are 'Ghostbusters' Reviews Embargoed Until Opening Day?

7 July 2016, 1:37 pm EDT By Robin Burks Tech Times

The above headline does not help the case for Paul Feig and his much negatively received, just based on trailers, Ghostbusters remake. If you have confidence in your film you will let critics publish their reviews. I missed the press screening that was happening tonight since I am nowhere near NY or L.A, but I do plan on checking it out next Monday. Ive never really been part of the haters that are trashing the film just based on the trailer alone. Thats just not fair. Give it a chance, Paul Feig has a good track record, especially with Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy). I just hope this opening day embargo does not last and there is enough fate in the film to have the critics give their two cents about it come early next week. 

Sundance and Cannes gem `Captain Fantastic` is Wes Anderson-inspired fun

I`m surprised that I hadn`t written about this film after having caught it at Sundance and then at Cannes. It`s an entertaining film, nothing more nothing less and I`m perfectly fine with that. Matthew Ross, Gavin Belson in HBO`s Silicon Valley, won Un Certain Regard`s directing award at Cannes. That came as a real shocker to most people, including myself, who attended the ceremony.

Set against a Pacific Northwest backdrop, Captain Fantastic has a father -indelibly played by Viggo Mortensen- devoted to raising his six kids in nature, away from normal society, with his own brand of teachings which include a fervent physical and intellectual education.

The film makes honest and straightforward comments on controversial issues in today's society that are often taboo (mental illness, sex, religion) Ross seems to also be tackling parenting and the difficult choices that must be made in regards to raising children in today's society. That he has to reach towards some cliches and over-played cinematic trappings to get his point doesn`t deter from the fact that you are with him and his characters throughout their adventure, and it`s a kooky one, which feels like Little Miss Sunshine directed by Wes Anderson, but with a straining penchant for sentimentality and self-satisfaction.

What I liked most though is the fact that, until the few minutes, Ross doesn`t tell you which side to be on. Viggo`s father is well-meaning and seems to have raised his kids to be genuinely smart and efficient children (an obvious blow to the flawed American educational system).

15 worthy mid-year 2016 movies

10 Cloverfield Lane (Dan Trachtenberg)
A Bigger Splash (Luca Gudagnino)
Captain America: Civil War (Russo Brothers)
Everybody Wants Some!! (Richard Linklater)
Green Room (Jeremy Saulnier)
The Jungle Book (Jon Favreau)
Krisha (Edward Schults)
Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke)
The Nice Guys (Shane Black)
O.J: Made in America (Ezra Edelman)
Right Now, Wrong Then (Sang-soo Hong)
Sing Street (John Carney)
Weiner (Elyse Steinberg/Josh Kriegman)
The Witch (Robert Eggers)
Zootopia (Byron Howard and Rich Moore)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Michael Cimino's Legacy is divisive

It took a little time for me to write something about Cimino's passing mostly because I got married just a couple of days ago, but there was no way I wouldn't comment on it.

Cimino was indeed a polarizing cinematic figure. "The Deer Hunter", 1978's scathing indictment of Vietnam via "Russian Roulette", won Best Picture and is widely regarded as a landmark movie of the 1970s. It also was one of the first films to directly confront the Vietnam war. I always thought the film itself was exceptional not necessarily because of Cimino's direction, but the story itself. A game of "Russian Roulette" is any movie is going to up the tension and grab a person's attention. Then again, there are some stylistic choices in the film that work wonders and are all Cimino's doing.

He followed that up with "Heaven's Gate" which was the infamous movie that forced United Artists – the studio formed as a refuge for artists by Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffiths, and Mary Pickford – to declare bankruptcy. Michael Cimino was the hottest director in Hollywood after "The Deer Hunter" cleaned up the Oscars in 1978. Then "Heaven’s Gate" happened – another epic, romantic western with an original cut that ran several hours – whose backstage stories are legendary and too many to list, though a crew member once joked that half of the film’s enormous $40 million went to cocaine for the cast.

One of the stories goes that Cimino changed the locks of the editing room so that studio execs wouldn’t interfere. His erratically insane behavior concluded with a 325 minute cut of the film (that’s almost five and a half hours) that Cimino said was a 15 minute cut away from the final version. Even though the 219 minute “Director’s Cut” of the film has garnered a cult following in recent years, the 149 minute cut that was finally released in 1981 garnered terrible reviews and destroyed United Artists.

Before "Heaven's Gate" Hollywood was on a roll  in the 1970s with producers granting unlimited artistic immunity to film directors and classic after classic being released from 1970-1979. When "Heaven's Gate" got released, and the horror stories came out, Hollywood would changed forever and refuse to ever trust filmmakers again with the final cut.

Cimino was a capable filmmaker that did what he could to follow his artistic muse, but in most cases it just didn't work. "The Year of the Dragon" is an exception and should definitely be checked out, ditto "The Deer Hunter", but I find Cimino's reputation will likely be that of a filmmaker that ended the maverick 70s. bankrupted an entire studio and could never match the brilliance of "The Deer Hunter" plus he only got weirder by the decade with abysmal plastic surgery procedures and bullying behavior on-set.

Monday, July 4, 2016

The BFG is another Summer 2016 tanker

Are we surprised? The tone of summer 2016 seems to be that everything and anything must fail, with the exception of "Finding Dory" and "Captain America: Civil War", "The BFG" is another casualty. I saw the film in May at Cannes and the reaction was middling enough that you knew something like this was going to happen. I'm not a Spielberg hater, I'm actually quite the opposite. I worship the streak that he was on from 1998- with "Saving Private Ryan", "A.I.", "Minority Report", "Catch Me If You Can", "Munich" and "War of the Worlds" that pretty much sealed it for me that this man was an auteur (notice I didn't put "The Terminal" which is the only misfire of this timespan. Even though each film was different in story and setting he still maintained the themes and styles throughout this run of eclectic cinema.

This is my 3/5 review of "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 firing 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 première here at Cannes just a couple of hours ago. The lineup to get into the 11:45 am screening, at the famous Grand Theatre Lumiere, was the biggest the fest has seen thus far, but not all got in. Those that did get a chance to catch a screening, saw 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, he forces her to come with him to his homeland. The ensuing scenes are rocky, as they try to forcefully explain the do’s and don’ts 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."

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