Monday, May 19, 2014

Big Bad Wolves

Glib Reviews of Vaguely New Release DVDs

This film was heavily hyped to me by  a customer, and others who have seen it. Weirdly, they used Reservoir Dogs as their touchstone. It really has very little in common with Tarantino’s first flick, other than people getting tortured in chairs, not to spoil it too much. 

That said, it is an engaging, suspenseful film, that gives you some empathy with all main characters, even the ones you know you shouldn’t feel any empathy for. It’s far more about how far a person will go to get the truth (or 'a truth') out of another person. Some obvious political overtones, of course simply with this being an Israeli film. 

There is lots of outrage to go around, as a suspended cop, and a dead girl’s father stalk the man they ‘KNOW’ did it. There are lots of creepy torture scenes, none of which show the torture, as much as they make you feel it; as the film makers make the more grown up choice of showing the ‘victim’s’ reaction, or another character’s reaction to the violence, as it happens. Suspense is much tauter when this choice is made; otherwise, in my opinion, there is no suspense, only tension and being grossed out in pictures that go for just the visceral.

The outcome is a bit of a foregone conclusion, but not in a bad way, narrative wise, as the story unfolds in an interesting way, and ends on a very strong note, so there is little confusion in the end as to who did what, that is, if you are paying attention. It ends quickly, at just the right moment.

The acting is better than the script, and the editing is better than the camera, and it’s a solid creepy suspense, but it’s no Reservoir Dogs, which  to my mind is a good thing... I also like Reservoir Dogs, but for very different reasons.

7.25676 Creepy Bible studies teachers watching little girls practice ballet while arguing with his ex, outta 10

Monday, May 12, 2014

I, Frankenstein? No, You Frankenstein!... Review!

Glib reviews of Recent DVD/Blu ray releases.

- Directed By Stuart Beattie

I, Frankenstein is just as ridiculous as you imagine it might be, perhaps even more ridiculous. What works is that the pace is whiz bang. History, of the Monster and his creator Victor, a few minutes of narration and montage, and then, Bam we are into gargoyle half Angels and Demons slicing each other up and either ‘ascending’ (Gargoyles) or ‘Descending” each other to Heaven or Hell. Aaron Eckhardt plays the least physically scarred Frankenstein Monster of them all. He’s also of of your least sympathetic monsters; in fact, he’s mostly a self possessed dick.

Speaking of Possession, the best thing about the movie, other than very decent CGI Demon/Gargoyle fights is Bill Nighy’s furniture chomping Prince/CEO Niberius Demon Lord. Nighy carries Eames Chairs to pick his teeth with, in this rat-a-tat paced movie. There is a nice mad scientist Lady inadvertently working for the Demons, who has a teeny spark of chemistry with the Monster that the “Queen of The Gargoyles” has named Adam.

The only people really worth cheering for are the bad guys, sadly vaguely entertaining, but completely void of character development movie. Stand around in an Alley long enough and someone will leap off a rooftop wielding a really weird blade at you.

The setup at the end is waving maniacally for there to be a sequel. There is some fun material, but no heart (ironic? maybe) in this bazillionth version of Frankenstein’s Monster to appear on screen. Some of the ideas seem like they would be better played out slowly on a Tv show, like that new Penny Dreadful, as opposed to a bunch of clunky Sci-Fi action movies. Everyone in this movie seems to work and or live in a church or a converted cathedral. Atmosphere, occasional funny quip, sure, heart, soul, sure, just like the monster, not so much. Too bad, really, it looked pretty.

5.5687 Super Emo stick fighting Frankenstein Monsters wearing  hoodies, outta 10

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Rave Review of "Her"

Yet Another Rave Review for “Her”

- Written & Directed by Spike Jonze

I include the written & credit in this case because despite all the awesome subtle Directorial touches to this film, what makes it work for me more than anything else, is the beat for (bang fucking on) beat, script. On just one viewing, this is hands down the best scripted film I’ve seen in months. The small weird sci-fi-ish conceits of the picture also lend it an authenticity that it wouldn’t in any other picture where there would be all this exposition about why this manic depressive high waisted pants wearing not nearly the nerd he appears to be Joaquin Phoenix, can afford to live in the Beverley wiltshire by writing (pretty awesome) letters for people. 

For my money, this portrayal of a middle age approaching guy who is sometimes suaver than Errol Flynn chatting up a tavern wench or Lady Pirate, and sometimes as effective in communicating as Jerry Lewis being a drooling bellboy is easily the best thing he’s done in a string of out there performances. Scarlett Johanssen’s breathy delivery is also completely on point as the sexy, flirtatious, kind of controlling OS girlfriend. 

Which leads to another of those great things about the film; we realize at the same time as Phoenix’s Theodor Twombly does, that he isn’t the only one with an OS girlfriend or boyfriend. As quickly as these AI Operating Systems grow and learn, they become almost acceptable as friends and partners. People really  have a reason to be staring at their phone while the beautiful world goes on around them. I cried four times, blubbering happy tears at the end of it.

The film has the most grown up ending possible. Also Amy Adams continues to be my favourite actress in everything I see her in. Scarlett gives her a run for it here, but sigh, Amy! I don’t recall how many if any Oscar noms this film got but Joaquin should trade in trading on Johnny Cash, for this performance; for me, it’s his new signature role. I feel like watching the movie again tonight.

I seriously can not recommend this film highly enough.

9.5789 chest pockets that your phone miraculously never falls out of , outta 10

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Reviews of The Great Beauty & American Hustle

Glib Reviews Of Recently Released DVDs

Over the weekend I watched two extremely well done movies, one I liked more than I thought I would, based on the trailer, and another that i was sure I would love that left me a bit cold, despite how well done it was.

Those two films are “American Hustle” Directed by David O. Russell, and "The Great Beauty," Directed by Paolo Sorrentino.

Both films are homages to Italian Directors, well, one Italian American Director, and one Italian Director. The Great Beauty is as close to an actual Fellini film as we have had since the Great Master of Cinema, Federico Fellini died in 1993. American hustle, is an homage to Martin Scorsese and his films like Casino, Goodfellas, and so on. 

Both films lack the actual gravitas of the films they are paying homage to, but are still very good pictures in their own right. A lot of praise has been heaped on Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle, but she’s a wisp of smoke if you compare her to Amy Adams in the same film. Adams role is much meatier in my opinion, and for me she’s the best thing in the movie. Christian Bale’s combed over DeNiro impression is as good a DeNiro impression as has ever existed outside of the odd moment on SNL. It was a bit jarring to see him (Spoiler!) doing a DeNiro stare off with an also follical-ly challenged Bobby D, himself.

Weird Meta Moments from the aforementioned DeNiro lately, in Besson’s lukewarm “The Family,” DeNiro plays a mobster who deconstructs Goodfellas to a bunch of French Film enthusiasts. In this movie, another actor is playing him, playing a con man, to his own gangster. I’m watching for more of these meta moments in future Bobby D films.

The Great Beauty, on the other hand has all the joie de vivre and the usual super charming schmucks at its core, just like a Fellini film, like say Nights of Cabiria or 8 & 1/2. Beauty however sometimes gets overwhelmingly sleepy with its hypnotic club scenes. I could play those scenes over and over again on a loop. The main character ‘Jep,’ (Toni Servillo) is no Marcello, but then no one is, other than Marcello. He does have a great ‘hang dog look’, maybe the best hangdog face in all of cinema these days, as he proved in his stellar performance in Sorrentino’s “Il Divo,” a few years ago. 

Neither film is as great, i think as some folks are saying, nor are they as bad as their detractors might say. Working in a Video store, I find there are a lot of folks who either love or hate “American Hustle,” but more love, than hate, and The Great Beauty, is universally, as far as I can see, lauded as great cinema. i’d say both films are really good, but that Great beauty edges out ‘Hustle’ in terms of do I want to watch it again: sooner or later? Both films seem on one viewing to be pictures that like ‘Wolf Of Wall Street’ will require multiple viewings for my opinion to be settled.  For now though I will not hesitate to recommend either film. 

American Hustle

7.99999 Eeerie and kind of creepy Robert Deniro impressions outta 10

The Great Beauty

8.5 moments of character development told through extended scenes of disco dancing outta 10

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Josie Pages: Everything Old Is New Again

The Josie Pages: Everything Old Is New Again: Field Notes In/On Transition Everything Old Is New Again The classic show tune “Everything Old Is New Again,” written by Peter Al...