Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Well, wasn't that lovely: Damien Chazelle's "La La Land" trailer


It is quite comforting knowing someone out there in the studio system, is actually, in all god's honesty, trying. No really, just attempting something fresh and wild. Risk-taking is at a full-on stop this year and it won't be getting any better in the next few years. Embrace, cherish and soak up this wonderful trailer.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

My first thoughts on Jeff Nichols' "Loving"


"Loving" is a very delicate film about racial injustice in the 1950s. Now, just stop there, ponder how rare that is for a studio film. It's not grandiose nor does shove any melodrama in your face. The camera is still and watches as an interracial couple struggles to maintain composure and show restraint as authorities continuously try to break their union up. Most filmmakers would have shot the whole thing as one show-stopping scene after another with much dramatic fireworks and a hammering of the message. It is not the case here. Jeff Nichols' "Loving" is so subtle and restrained that you do fear many Oscar voters might not appreciate it as they should. We have been force-fed to like flashy, ultimately cinematic ways of telling a true story, but that's never how they always happen in real life. Some of the time history is made in the most mundane and dull of situations. Spielberg's "Lincoln" knew that and Jeff Nichols' "Loving" knows that as well.

A feminist "Ghostbusters" that could have been so much more



No, but really, Paul Feig's new "Ghostbusters" is not as bad as we might have expected from all the backlash, but not as good as it had the right to be.  The cast is mostly good, but I could have done without Melissa McCarthy who's a little too serious here as the leader of the gang. Kate McKinnon is the clear standout as complete weirdo Jillian Holtzmann, Kristen Wiig is her usual awkward self, and Leslie Jones does a great job with what is essentially a thinly written part.

The CGI-overkill in the last 30 or so minutes is unnecessary, when will studios learn their lesson after Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, that you should never overdo the destruction of a major metropolis because it becomes too over-the-top and frustrating to watch.  I think we're all sick and tired and not all that impressed anymore with CGI action, waiting for the next step in technology to knock our socks off, waiting ...

No, this could have been a solid movie, a feminist take on "Ghostbusters"! There are lots of nicely detailed, battle-of-the-sexes treats here, but not enough and not justified for such a silly, nonsensical movie that is a a remake of a 1984 film that wasn't necessarily met with positive approval upon its release, but made such tremendous box-office and benefited from Bill Murray's deadpan sense of humor that over time it became a mainstay for a mix of Bill Murray fans and cult movie fans.

I actually find McKinnon is as delightful to watch here as Murray was back in 1984. The SNL actress, best known for her spot-on Hilary Clinton, delivers her lines with such fresh abandon that I wish there was much more for her to chew on here. The screenplay is sadly not that funny, it's the actresses that try to make the best of their lines with their delivery. This is a 120 minute "Ghostbusters" remake with both spirited and dull moments. It's not the total failure some of the internet geeks might have you thinking it was, but there's not enough here to justify the budget and expectations.

And so summer 2016 continues its disastrous. Only "Captain America: Civil War" has proven to be both a box-office and critical force.

C+

Monday, July 11, 2016

"Other People" or the usual cancer dramedy Sundance seems to be churning out every year


"The fest opened up with Chris Kelly’s "Other People" starring Jesse Plemons, and a never better Molly Shannon as a mother of three diagnosed with stage four terminal cancer. Kelly’s film is a heartfelt, yet uneven look at the ties that bind. Shannon’s performance shined most."

That's what I had to say about the film at Sundance and I don't really have much to add today. It's a measurable, well-done film that just never reaches the necessary heights. It probably stems from the fact that we've seen this kind of film so many times at the fest. What was once fresh and vital has turned into indie cliches and the kind of film Sundance should start programming less of. There were far worse films out there, but this kind of movies is just too "safe".

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Nicolas Winding Refn has turned into a total cinematic enigma



Nicolas Winding Refn has turned into a total cinematic enigma. If his earlier films such as “Drive,” “Pusher,” and “Bronson” had critics on his side, his last two features have split the cinematic world in half and left many audience members in total and utter puzzlement.
Refn followed up “Drive,” his greatest critical and commercial triumph, with “Only God Forgives,” a very black, nearly abstract piece of work that came out as his own bloody, twisted version of Stephen Frears’ 1990 classic “The Grifters.” It was perverse art-action and again starred “Drive” lead Ryan Gosling. The visuals were tremendous, but the story left many cold. Boos were heard at Cannes. It only got worse when he followed up that film just this past year with “The Neon Demon,” a film that angered even more people with its cannibalistic, highly stylistic satirical jab at the fashion industry. Boos were again heard at Cannes, but Refn was unfazed, that it was “a film to penetrate your mind and absorb whatever you think it is, which is the essence of creativity.”
The 46-year-old director is as eccentric as they come. Yet that eccentricity lends itself very well in terms of the visuals Refn is able to create within his films. You can complain all you want about the artistic merits of “Only God Forgives” and “The Neon Demon,” but you can’t deny the visual eye candy and use of colors that infuse his most sumptuous images. When you realize that the man is color-blind, it becomes damn near fascinating.
His inability to see certain colors, more specifically midtones, makes for films with high contrast. If they’re not in high contrast, he can’t even see them! It does explain a lot about why his images are so appealing to the eye. “Drive” takes place at night and yet there is such color to his Los Angeles evening that you feel like you’re visiting an otherworldly place.

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