Saturday, August 13, 2016

Zemeckis' "Allied" is a question mark

IMDB has this:

"While on a mission to kill a German official in 1942 Africa, two assassins (Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard) fall in love, get married and then discover that one is a double agent that the other must eliminate."

All of which basically doesn't really get explained i this teaser trailer. Zemeckis is a technical wizard, if he can find a sharp screenplay for his visual gifts he could truly make a good movie. The problem is this: "The Polar Express,", "Beowulf," "A Christmas Carol," ""The Walk" and "Flight." Those are his last 5 movies. I'll give you this, "Flight" is not bad, but not that memorable. "The Walk" was technically well made, especially in its second half. But really this is not the Zemeckis we knew back in the 80s and 90s with "Back to the Future," "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," "Forrest Gump" and, yes, even "Cast Away" specifically when Hanks was stranded alone.  Just sheer exuberant storytelling that he concocted so brilliantly in the 80s with Spielberg and on his own in the 90s. 

Steven Knight wrote the screenplay. That's what I'm really excited about. Knight is responsible for some downbeat thrillers such "Eastern Promises," "Dirty Pretty Things," and "Locke." Knight is also responsible for "Peaky Blinders," which definitely has its effervescent following.  Zemeckis having a writer of this caliber will compliment his visual wonder, but will that be enough?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

"Blood Father" and "Gleason"

I finally caught "Gleason" the other day and, boy, was it ever a tough watch. ALS has not really been tackled that much as far as film goes, but if there ever was a film that could define and give cinematic language to the disease it's this documentary about former NFL-er Steve Gleason who was diagnosed with ALS in 2011 and not too long after found out he was going to be a father. It just so happens that he was filming himself the entire time, from the moment he found out about the diagnosis to the way his body disintegrates into nothingness over the next 4 years of his life. The slow and painful way he loses his motor functions is heartbreaking, but so is the way director Jay Tweel manages to edit and make a coherent movie out of Gleason's personal video journals for his newborn son. His wife Michel turns out to be the heart and soul of the picture, battling her way through the demons that haunt her and the life she never expected she'd have to live as caretaker of Steve's This is a movie that is more important and revelatory than any ice-bucket challenge ever could be. [B+]

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Denis Villeneuve's "Arrival" has, err, arrived

I'm from Montreal. An unabashed supporter of Denis Villeneuve's since 2000 and his incredible darkly tragic tale, narrated by a fish no less, "Maelstrom." His talent only got better. "Polytechnique" was about a tragic college shooting in Quebec which had some of the same haunting qualities that definied Gus Van Sant's "Elephant." He followed that up with "Incendies" his best film. His last film in French in fact. That is because Hollywood came knocking and gave him a surprising amount of "creative freedom" or as they call in L.A. "leverage." There was "Prisoners" which had Villeneuve's imprint all over its gloomy exterior, too bad the screenplay wasn't up to his standards, but nevertheless a profoundly interesting depiction of regret and loss. That same year he debut at TIFF "Enemy" which was better than it had any right to be, he turned the screws on its screenplay by, wisely, imitating Cronenberg. Last year was "Sicario" which, in my books, was almost a home run. Now here comes Arrival." It will be at Telluride, it will be at Venice and it will be at TIFF. The three majors have chosen it. A good sign. The trailer barely reveals the details and I like it just like that. Bring it on. Its premiere is supposedly set the first weekend of TIFF, which means between September 11th and 14th. Telluride and Venice will have it screen a week or so before that.

Sundance and Cannes Top 10s

Fall film festivals are about to kickstart another season of frenzy. Chances are if you live in a big city there's a film fest about to happen between September and November. December is Hollywood contenders time. Here are the standouts from both Sundance and Cannes that might/will surely make it to your fest.

54th New York Film Festival lineup revealed

A few points:
Cannes retreads: The Unknown Girl is supposedly a different version than the one shown at Cannes. The Dardennes have edited the film since its May croissette premiere. What I saw back then was a refined, greatest hits type of film from the brothers instead of something fresh and incisive. Same thing goes for Pedro Almosovar's Julieta which which had a lukewarm reception no only at Cannes, but also in his nativ country of Spain where the film was released earlier in the year. As for I,  Daniel Blake, which won the Palme D'or! It has powerful moments infused with mediocre scenes as well. Would I recommend it? You bet I would. Is it Palme worthy? Of course not.
Kent Jones has stated that more surprises would be revealed, which probably means surprise screenings. Scorsese or Ang Lee perhaps.
Notice Barry Jenkins and Moonlight, which is looking more and more like n under-the-radar contender with bows at TIFF and Teluride as well. 
Mean Girls meets disaster flick with comic book writer/artist Dash Shaw’s feature-length animation, My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea, starring the voices of Lena Dunham, Maya Rudolph, Susan Sarandon, Jason Schwartzman and Reggie Watts will also be at TIFF.

Alison Maclean and The Rehearsal. Her first film since Jesus Son back in, wait for it, 1999. Berlin favorities Fire at SeaSon of Joseph and Things to Come have made the cut.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Why is Christopher Nolan's "Dunkirk" so abnormally intriguing?

So this past Friday we finally caught a glimpse of Christopher Nolan's much anticipated next project "Dunkirk". The fact that Nolan has basically been delving into science fiction/fantasy for the better part of, what, 10 years now ("Batman Begins,""The Prestige,""The Dark Knight," "Inception," "The Dark Knight Rises,""Interstellar") makes "Dunkirk" even more intriguing. This is the first time Nolan has dealt with the "war movie" genre and the first movie where he deals with reality since "Insomnia" back in 2002. We all know he's a great technical filmmaker, sometimes his ideas spin out of control, but there always is that fascinating nature with Nolan about how meticulous and precise his craft is. Like Kubrick. Yes, I need to mention Kubrick because, well, I have a theory that Nolan does aspire to be a Kubrickian figure in cinematic history. Right now he has the talent to make something very special. He just needs the right script. Problem is he writes his own. No knock on his writing abilities, but I do find that his directing abilities far exceed his writing.

Interview: Ira Sachs and his "Little Men"

Here's my REVIEW of "Little Men" which is mixed with an interview of its director Ira Sachs HERE

Little Men

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