Friday, January 20, 2017

Sundance 2017

I Don't Feel at Home In This World Anymore 

Macon Blair has been an actor I've been keeping a watchful eye on the past few years, what with him being Jeremy Saulnier's muse in both "Green Room" and "Blue Ruin." Suffice to say that he takes quite a bit from Saulnier's visceral style of filmmaking for his feature directing debut "I Don't Feel at Home In This World Anymore," which loosely lends its name from Woody Guthrie's song of isolation "I Ain't Got No Home." Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood, both of which I will interview tomorrow, make a formidable team in this tale of isolation set in an ever-growing the "me, me, me" society. Lynskey's home has been broken into with some personal stuff stolen, including her grandmother's dining set and a box of personal immensely value. Wood is the weirdo neighbor that she teams up with to find the perpetrator of the robbery and he's the highlight of the film- engrossing, comic, frightening, lonely and armed with nunchucks, you have to check out this performance They make a formidable, comic team, but don't think this is a comedy. Blair has much more up his sleeve here than laughs and he is clearly influenced by David Lynch's "Blue Velvet" which depicted a dark underbelly of Americana that this film seems to wholeheartedly embrace, almost religiously. It ain't a perfect film, pacing issues which include an over-stretched finale could have used a bit of trimming, but there are many surreal and memorable moments in Blair's film.


It's a tough experience directing your first movie. Maggie Betts' feature film debut, for the most part, does not feel like the work of an amateur. The shot selection, framing, tone are all top-notch.Set in the early 1960s and during the era of the reform that would be known as Vatican II,a young lady, perfectly played by Diana Agron, decided to join the nunhood due to her unadorned love for God, her first love iff you will, but things get complicated. Self-questioning faith, a changing, more prrogressive church and sex, yes sex, start to interfere. The film has some truly powerful moments and others that feel more forced and by-the-books. It's a messy, sprawling 123 minute film that still hits your hard to the core and leaves you truly shaken when it hits its targets. A special shout out to Melissa Leo, stunning as the conflicted nun from hell.

The Incredible Jessica James ...

You know, sometimes a performance just elevates a moveie and in Jim Strouse's "The Incredible Jessica James" Jessica Williams lifts a standard romantic comedy into a real winner. Strouse's film is not groundbreaker, but Williams sure is.

Sundance: Al Gore & "An Inconvenient Sequel"

"An Inconvenient Sequel" is Al Gore's state of the union address, an important document of change and time. In fact the notion of time healing everything and making us realize our mistakes is a key theme in this film directed by Bonnie Cohen and Jon Chenk. I would go as far as to say that it is better than the 2006 David Guggenheim film, if, maybe, not as revoltuionary considering that film brought global warming to the forefront of the mainstream and changed the political spectrum when it came to the environment. If that 2006 film felt like a high school lecture/power point, and I'm not stretching it a bit here considering it is one of the most watched films in high schools nationwide, this sequel is more in the style of cinema verite and has Gore in a rather passionate and angry mood. The high point of the film has the former Vice-President manoeuvring chaotically/strategically to get
India onboard the 2016 Paris agreement, a key setting for the film which shows what can happen when world leaders come together to better the planet we live in.

Gore appeared post-screening to talk about the film stating:

“This movie gives me an extra burst of hope because I think …it really effectively tells the story of how much hope is our there for transforming our energy system to become much more efficient,” Gore told the crowd, almost all of who remained in their seats after the screening concluded. Gore added: “We are going to win this.”

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Adam Sandler's latest "opus"

There was a time when I really did try to defend Adam Sandler. I was trying to get people to truly appreciate and understand the sheer Jerry Lewis-like lunacy of the neurotic Jewish schlub in "The Waterboy," "Billy Madison," "Happy Gilmore," "The Wedding Singer," "Punch-Drunk Love" "50 First Dates," and, even, "Big Daddy." Those days seem to be gone. With the exception of "That's My Boy," which seemed to harken back to his comedic glory days of the '90s, yes I will defend it with every inch I could muster ... I mean, please do watch it, it's a hoot, Sandler been stuck in the kind of cinematic hell that makes me almost regret defending him some 20 odd years ago.

His Netflix fare has been unwatchable at best, and he seems to have lost an edge that would almost be instantly recognizable in his more succesful films. Oh well, will I still watch this? Probably. It is, after all, completely sacriligious as a critic to say you like Adam Sandler, but what do I really care. Isn't the whole point of the profession to be honest and truthful? Sandler was good at what he did and he made me chuckle more than a few times. Did I possibly lose a brain cell here and there? I would guess so, but you only live once. Again, please watch "That's My Boy."

"Logan" has brand, spanking new trailer

I don't look forward to many superhero movies. I was anticipating the Christopher Nolan "Batman" films, "The Avengers" definitely piqued my interest, but overall they always come armed with a marketing campaign and hype machine that just doesn't suit my tastes. Don't get me wrong, I do end up liking quite a bit of them, this is me giving some much needed love to "Iron Man 3,"but I can't really say a Marvel or DC movie fills me with excitement. "Logan," on the other hand, is a film that has peeked my curiosity ever since its black and white trailer appeared late last year with Johnny Cash's version of "Hurt" playing in the background. That was sheer brilliance, then again, I'm sure you can make a great trailer out of almost any drama by just using Johnny Cash's haunting song. Nevertheless, "Logan" passes the test with this new trailer which is in black and white, and which doesn't use Cash, by how eligiac and tragic the tone feels. This isn't a Marvel movie that will end on a cliffhanger, there's doom looming in every frame and director Jame Mangold (Cop Land, Girl Interrupted, Identity, Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma) that knows what he's doing.

“Logan” premieres at the Berlin Film Festival and opens on March 3rd. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Patrick Stewart will be playing Poop in the Emoji Movie

Finally, he's made it. This might be his big break.

Jack Nicholson is about to retire from acting according to good pal Peter Fonda

It has been rumored for a few years now that Jack Nicholson had retired from acting, but we never really got a confirmation from the man himself. Rumor had it that he couldn't quite remember his lines anymore, whereas others speculated that he was just tired of the industry. Who knows, but I'm still holding out hope that he might come back for one final gig. After all, the guy's last film was 2010's dreadful "How Do You Know." Yikes. Please don't go out on that note Jack.

I'm an unabashed, hardcore Jack Nicholson fan. The man is living legend and he basically owned the 70s and 80s with his charsimatic, loosely stylized acting. In many of his movies he was the sardonic drifter, the eternal outsider, a man that always rebelled against societal structure. 

The New York Post's Page Six has Nicholson's great pal Peter Fonda quoted as saying:

I think he is ­basically retired. I don’t want to speak for him, but he has done a lot of work and he has done very well as a person financially.”

"Sometimes ­people have a reason that you don’t know, and it’s not for me to ask. I don’t call him up and say, ‘Johnny,’ I call him Johnny Hop, ‘What are you doing?’ I would say, ‘How are you, how do you feel?’”

Favorite Nicholson? It's too hard for me to choose one, but I'll give you guys some of his greatest performances: "Easy Rider,"  "Five Easy Pieces," "The Last Detail," "Chinatown," The Passenger," "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," "The Shining," "Terms of Endearment," "Prizzi's Honor," "Batman," "A Few Good Men," "As Good As It Gets," "The Pledge," "About Schmidt" and "The Departed."

Right there folks is one of the greatest actors of all-time.

A Dog’s Purpose accused of animal cruelty after disturbing footage emerges

Wasn't going to see this anyway, but now you can be damn sure I'll be telling everyone I know not to see it either. Let's make this movie flop hard and teach Hollywood a lesson. Consumers won't stand for this sort of thing.

I hope this gets upvoted and spread like wildfire. These stories so often come out long after a film has come out and have little impact. Only way to teach Hollywood is through their pocketbooks. This kind of behavior should be punished.

This is extremely upsetting to watch, particularly the last few moments. Especially when the book is all about how special and loving dogs are. People suck.
The Huffington Post has it this way:
"In a video obtained by TMZ and posted on Wednesday, a crew member or trainer for the film is seen forcing a German Shepherd to perform a “stunt” that seems extremely unsafe ― so much so as to call into question how animals were handled over the entire course of the film’s shooting."
"In the final version of the movie, the police dog appears to bravely rescue a young girl after she falls into a rushing river. But in the behind-the-scenes clip ― which was shot outside of Winnipeg, Canada, in November 2015 ― a trainer is seen pushing the scared German Shepherd into a rough pool of water as he tries to claw his way out. After much resistance, the dog eventually gets into the water, but ends up being submerged for so long that handlers yelled, “Cut it!” 
"At the start of the video, a person also can be heard saying, “Don’t worry, it’s warm water at least.
Amblin Partners and Universal Pictures, the companies behind the movie, shared a statement with TMZ after watching the video.
Fostering a safe environment and ensuring the ethical treatment of our animal actors was of the utmost importance to those involved in making this film and we will look into the circumstances surrounding this video,” the statement read

“A Dog’s Purpose,” which debuts on Jan. 27, stars Britt Robertson, Dennis Quaid and Josh Gad’s voice.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Akira Kuroawa's advice to young filmmakers

"It costs a great deal of money to make films these days, and it's hard to become a director. You must learn and experience various things to become a director, and it's not so easily accomplished. But if you genuinely want to make films then write screenplays. All you need to write a script is pencil and paper. It's only through writing scripts that you learn specifics about the structure of film and what cinema is. That's what I tell them, but they still won't write. They find writing too hard. And it is. Writing scripts is a hard job. Still .. Balzac said that for writers, including novelists, the most essential and important thing is the forbearance to face the dull task of writing one word at a time. That is the first requirement for any writer. When you consider Balzac's body of work with that in mind , it's just staggering because he produced a volume of written work that we couldn't finish reading in our lifetimes."

Criterion's April releases will include THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG and Coppola's RUMBLE FISH


I'm glad they're releasing Rumble Fish instead of The Outsiders. The former is the far better and artful S.E. Hinton adaptation. In fact, the difference in tone and style between the two is quite drastic, you would probably think that Coppola learned valuable lessons from filming "The Outsiders" and brought that experience to "Rumble Fish." It really is just night and day in terms of how different they are via tone, tempo, style, shot selection. It's probably the last watch-ably compulsive film of Coppola's career.

"The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" being released, in what will most likely be, a month or so after "La La Land" wins Best Picture is not a coincidence. Damien Chazelle has not been shy in mentioning "Cherbourg" as his biggest influence in making "La La Land." The colors, dancing, singing, surrealist aspect of Jacques Demy's 1960's masterpiece are apparent in every frame of Chazelle's great film.

The "Impossible Mirror Shot" in Robert Zemeckis' Contact

I will say this, technically there are probably not many directors in the same league as Robert Zemeckis. This is coming from someone that doesn't really like anything he's done post- "Contact," but realizes the technical prowess that Zemeckis possesses. The guy is also a solid storyteller. At some point in his career he was on a roll (Romancing the Stone, Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump).

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RAW is the cannibal movie that had people fainting at festivals worldwide, but it's also one of the very best coming of age movies this decade

Image result for raw grave cannes shock blood

I look forward to revisiting Julia Ducournau's "Raw" at this year's Sundance Film Festival. The film was a real sensation at last year's Quinzaine at the Cannes Film Festival. It's a blood delight to see such a mature and unique horror film get its due. It also won the prestigious FIPRESCI prize. All this to say that it truly belongs within the "New Wave" of horror filmmaking that we have been witnessing of late. Some incredibly exciting movies are being made independently with very little in the way of budget (The Witch, The Babadook, It Follows, Green Room, You're Next) . Exciting times ahead for Horror buffs.

Here is my Cannes review dated 5.27.16:

We’ve all known vegetarians who have decided to change their diet out of concern for animal rights or the environment or based upon religious beliefs. And to those who forgo meat, it’s usually a deeply held conviction. Those same people might not be very kind to 32-year-old writer-director Julia Ducournau‘s “Raw.” In it, we meet bright-eyed Justine (Garance Marillier), who follows in the footsteps of both her parents (Laurent Lucas and Joana Preiss) and older sister (Ella Rumpf) by attending her first year at veterinary school. In the (pun intended) bitingly comic opening scene, Justine orders plain mashed potatoes, but as she chows the food down she finds a piece of sausage in her mash. Her parents are outraged; they want the shy and wide-eyed Justine to preserve her plant-based heritage. It’s a tongue-in-cheek start to a story that finds the protagonist only at the beginning of her carnivorous ways.
Taking place during Justine’s first week at school, the film is placed in a surreal atmosphere, as Ruben Impens’s photography uses the brutalist architecture of the college with eerily spacious wide shots reminiscent of “Suspiria” meshed with the production design of “Carrie” (with”Raw” eerily paying tribute to the pigs’ blood scene from Brian De Palma‘s film).
And indeed, some of the hazing rituals that Justine needs to go through are harrowing enough to evoke the tactics that were used on Sissy Spacek’s high-school senior 40 years ago. At one point, she is disgustingly forced to eat bloody, raw liver. It’s a wincingly preposterous scene that nevertheless has a lasting effect on the viewer and the way he or she might view the eventual victims in the film. At this point, we’re in the same universe as “Carrie,” an obvious point of reference for Ducournau, and just like that movie, we shouldn’t fear too much for our heroine’s safety. In fact, we deeply fear her and what she’s capable of.

To say that Justine’s first taste of blood does something to her psyche would be an understatement. After all the cruel hazing, one would conclude that the only way she can survive the first semester of this vet school would be to indulge in the nastier activities she’s experienced. That is, of course, what happens to Justine, whose newly found love for uncooked meat reaches a pinnacle of delectability too juicy to reveal in this review, but be forewarned that this newfound love of animal meats goes to greater depths of the food chain and eventually mixes in some unwarranted victims. And it’s Marillier’s committed performance as Justine that carries you through every over-the-top, hard-to-believe twist — she makes it seem real.

The film, which premiered as part of Critics’ Week at Cannes, justly won the FIPRESCI prize. Ducourneau, a first-time writer-director, shows surprisingly sharp command and, more importantly, restraint given the subject matter. Although the film is rooted in arthouse film territory, and is particularly inspired by the films of David Cronenberg and David Lynch, “Raw” turns out to be its own wild animal. It has rightly earned the buzz that has surrounded the picture, and Ducourneau’s uncompromising vision is one to watch. [A-]

Sundance 2017

In less than a week the Sundance Film Festival will be under way and I will be there to cover all the mayhem that is bound to happen in Park City this year.

If you remember last year we had one of the very best editions of the fest, a remarkable lineup: "Manchester by the Sea," "OJ: Made in America," "Love & Friendship," "Sing Street," "Certain Women," "Hunt For the Wilderpeople," "The Fits," "Swiss Army Man," "Weiner," "Captain Fantastic," "Little Men," "Indignation" and even Nate Parker's controversial "The Birth of a Nation."

2014 didn't have too shabby a lineup either: "The Witch," "Brooklyn," "Tangerine," "The End of the Tour," "The Diary of a Teenage Girl," "Mississippi Grind," "Mistress America," "Me, Earl and the Dying Girl," "Dope," "Grandma,"

The more Hollywood goes into crass commercialism the more likely a film festival like Sundance will matter. It's as simple as that. This year I have my eyes on many films, especially world premieres, the NEXT section, Documentary and the Official Competition. These look like the films to look out for, on paper, t but usually the major surprise hit of the fest comes out of left field so it might not even be on this list, which makes the feeling of experiencing Sundance all the more exciting:

I chose these mostly due to the director, already established, but I want something MORE than that. The point of Sundance is to discover the future of cinema and to be blown away by a filmmaker that has directed his or her debut feature.

One can't forget the great movies over the years that gave Sundance its incredible reputation: Joel and Ethan Coen's Blood Simple, Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise, Steven Soderbergh's Sex, Lies & Videotape, Charles Burnett’s To Sleep with Anger, Todd Haynes’ Poison, Richard Linklater’s Slacker, Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, Kevin Smith’s Clerks, Bryan Singer’s The Usual Suspects, David O. Russell’s Spanking the Monkey, Todd Solondz’s Welcome to the Dollhouse, Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott’s Big Night, Darren Aronofsky’s Pi, Mary Harron’s American Psycho, Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko, Kenneth Lonergan’s You Can Count on Me, Christopher Nolan’s Memento, Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale, Duncan Jones’ Moon, Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone, Jeff Nichols’ Take Shelter, Lee Daniels’ Precious, Tom McCarthy's The Station Agent, Ben Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild, Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash and Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station,

Sundance still feels vitally important. Having premiered 9 Best Picture nominees in the last 7 years, it's a continuous hotbed for low-budget indie filmmakers who just want a chance and represent American filmmaking that isn't compromised by greed. Godspeed.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Becomes Top Grossing US 2016 Release With Over $500m

Source: Box Office Mojo

$983 Million Worldwide Gross, pretty impressive. This is without a great Chinese box-office. The Chinese seem to be more into "Avatar" than "Star Wars." I will say this though, for all the complaining I've made about the reshoots and the treatment of Gareth Edwards, those last 14 minutes totally make it worth the price of admission.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Whatever happened to Rob Reiner?

Rob Reiner was on a major cinematic roll during the span of 1984-1992. In 8 years he released THIS IS SPINAL TAP (1984), STAND BY ME (1986), THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987), WHEN HARRY MET SALLY (1989), MISERY (1990) and A FEW GOOD MEN (1992). 

Ever since then he's been stuck in a rut that will likely never end: NORTH (1994), GHOSTS OF MISSISSIPPI (1996), THE STORY OF US (1999), ALEX & EMMA (2003), RUMOR HAS IT (2005), THE BUCKET LIST (2007), THE MAGIC OF BELLE ISLE (2012), AND SO IT GOES (2015), BEING CHARLIE (2015) and LBJ (2016) the latter which wasted the opportunity of chronicling one of the most perplexing and fascinating U.S. presidents of our time in favor of a dull, uninspired movie.

What happened? I think this could be a case of Reiner not adapting to the times. Most of his movies since 1995's THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT have had a nostalgic feel to them, by-the-books narratives that belong more in the 80s and 90s than modern-day times. It seems like he hasn't really matured as a filmmaker and instead has relied on safe filmmaking and become more novice as the times changed. 

I do know people in Hollywood that want him to make a comeback and he's been given shot after shot, project after project, but he's been stuck in this rut now for nearly 25 years. You can also blame the fact that he's never really been what you might call an "auteur." There really isn't a personal directorial touch to any of his films.  A lot of his movies are just so different and don't have a specific noticeable style. He does comedies like "A Princess Bride" then dramas like a "A Few Good Men". Was that streak of 6 classics just a stroke of luck? Did he just find the right screenplays coming at him right after the other?

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