Monday, June 23, 2014

Not quite up to snuff

Glib Reviews of Recently Released DVDs

- Directed By Ben Wheatley

My expectations of this film were way too high.

One of the hottest directors around bites off a bit more than he can chew in “A Field In England.” The film is more like ‘a first film’ than his great first feature, 2009’s “Down Terrace” which is one of my favourites of the last ten years. A field in england tries really hard to capture a Witchfinder General/Cromwell era vibe. Shot in a murky black and white, the film is almost psychedelic. If they had gone a bit more over the top with the trippy stuff, I think the picture would have been more effective. 

Some folks of various stations on the battlefield, are caught up in a big battle in said Cromwell era civil war. One of them is an astrologer, who is cagey about why he is out wandering shell shocked, others are conscripts, one even something of a soldier. Eventually they find someone dressed like a musketeer, and it turns out that he is who the astrologer was sent to capture. Instead the astrologer is captured, violence and vaguely magical hijinks ensue.

There is some mushroom eating, and some trippy adventures, horrors, that are overplayed in the trailer. Interesting script, with language that feels era appropriate, most of the time, and perhaps a bit too open ended and vague. 
Sometimes, the 'what the fuck just happened,' is a rhetorical question. For me anyway; some ineffable quality was missing. The whole time, I was thinking, what more could they have done to make you more engaged, and less put off by the weirdness, that maybe was not weird enough to give the film the spooky heft it was looking for.

Definitely my least favourite Wheatley film, and the one maybe, I had the highest hopes for. Ah well. Worth checking out for fans and those with an interest in flintlock pistols.

5.89954 magic rope games that make everyone scream outta 10 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Enemy, a review

Glib Reviews of Recent DVD Releases

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Cronenberg-tastic ode to creepy as fuck 1970’s movies. Toronto hasn’t looked so terrifying in a long time. (unless maybe you live near Rob Ford, too late, too soon?)  Director Villeneuve makes no mistakes telling the age old tale of “the Evil Twin.” For me personally, these kinds of stories where “the other” turns out to be a doppelganger, or double, these are the stories that get under my skin the most. The idea that there is another exact (or close to) duplicate of me out there, but not me or is me, either way, waaaaughhhh! I used to get mistaken for other people a lot when I was younger, it still freaks me out.

It’s no spoiler to tell you that that’s what this tale is, with many cinematic odes, or nuances borrowed from Hitchcock, Truffaut (the whole first part has a real Bride Wore Black Vibe.) Polanski, and of course there is lots and lots of Uber-Dystopic Toronto Cronenberg atmosphere, so much atmosphere, Villeneuve and his Cinematographer, Nicolas Bolduc paint the screen with frightening architecture. 

Art Film Ho! Fine by me, bring on the open ended but not in the way you thought it was going to be, endings!

There’s no gore, but lots of stuff that will turn your stomach and twist your brain. I had bad dreams, the only Times I have ever had a movie give me bad dreams were Texas Chain Saw Massacre (The new Blu ray with great headphones, try it if you dare, the soundtrack is insane) The Exorcist, and Villeneuve’s early film “Maelstrom.”

The Soundtrack alone will mess you up, like the best creepy movies. Watch it, listen, with a good sound system, it is worth it. Jake Gyllenhaal is in full Captain Beard-o mode in this picture: brooding, being sexy, brooding, pontificating, slouching, brooding, looking nervous, slouching, being sexy.... 

You can’t give much plot without giving much away, The Double story, usually only ends a few ways, none of them happy. In mythology, seeing your double is bad luck. Oh, and your creepy/sexy mom who says a lot of weird uncomfortable stuff to you is Isabella Rossellini? That would drive even the most bearded of hunks to the edge of madness. 

Neither of the ‘twins’ is evil, but nor are they good, they are both fucked up, and freaked out, and then in the end, well it will be for you to decide. The film leaves you with lots of questions, and ideas about what the hell just happened. For me this is a very good thing. 

Highly recommended if you like creepy stuff happening to hot people in a dystopian city of some sort that looks eerily familiar.

9.456 Odes to David Cronenberg, that really are odes to David Cronenberg outta 10

Friday, June 20, 2014

My Review of DGG's "Joe"

Glib Reviews Of recent DVD Releases

- Directed by David Gordon Green

I have been a pretty rabid David Gordon Green fan since seeing his first (and my favourite, still of his films) film, “George Washington” at the Vancouver International Film Festival way back when. His more ‘Hollywood’ pictures starting with “Pineapple Express,” (which- namedrop- in a way long time ago time, and place, I gave notes on a very early draft of that script, given to me by Evan Goldberg) have been funnier, and less small town noir, or indie drama than his first four pictures.

“Joe,” his latest; that I have taken a week to getting around to reviewing, is a real return to that early form, albeit in a slicker style, and tone. Nicholas Cage gets to bring that off kilter intensity that he occasionally brings forth when he actually gets a good script. Cage really wears the character’s weariness at having to be an alpha male all the god damned time on his sleeve. A great deconstruction of male posturing and small town bravado involved in all the performances, from the real up and coming young actor Tye Sheridan, who stole the show in Mud, where he played a similar youngster looking to maybe the wrong father figure, but making the best of it, to all the women who don't quite accept being props for male ego, despite having few other choices made known to them. 

Sheridan doesn’t necessarily steal any scenes in ‘Joe” but he doesn’t need to. The quality of performances all round is stellar. The actor playing Sheridan’s alcoholic, nasty piece of work father was played by a local homeless man named Gary Poulter, and his turn is maybe the best performance in the film. He nails the sadness and desperation of the character. Poulter died living in the streets a few months after filming, making his on screen pathos even more poignant.

Cage himself is perfect as an aging Alpha dog of a man, to see him riffing with the locals that Green always populates his films with is delightful. The locals cast bring the whole movie down to earth, and give the film much of it’s charm. There aren’t many happy endings in DGG films, but despite all the horrors these testosterone driven beasts put themselves through, you get a sense of hope at the end, just a little. I highly recommend this picture to fans of cinema, and great performances.

9.11134 violent foregone conclusions hitting you upside the head outta 10

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Vermeer & Budapest

Glib reviews Of recent DVD releases.

- Directed by Teller (from Penn & Teller)

An interesting documentary that follow’s Tim Jenison, an inventor and pal of magician/professional debunkers, ‘Penn & Teller,’ as Jenison spends years and a lot of money figuring out how Vermeer was able to reproduce the photographic quality his paintings achieved. Jenison is unwavering in his belief that as many modern painters/art historians have imagined, using some sort of camera obscura or similar lensed contraption.

Jenison does a good job of proving his thesis, while including folks who wrote books on the subject, like the excellently snarky David Hockney. I would watch a reality show of Hockney and Jenison speeding through the countryside yakking about art like they do at one point in the film. Maybe they could solve art mysteries together.

Dogged as Vermeer himself must have been; Tim proceeds to figure out how to replicate a Vermeer. The creator of the industry standard 3D program ‘Lightwave’ manages in 6 months or more of painstaking work, actually produce a pretty fair copy of a Vermeer. Obsessed weirdos (and I mean that in the best fellow obsessed nerd kind of way) make for the best documentaries, it seems.

It’s a light engaging documentary, that makes you appreciate that people/artists were just as creative and innovative hundreds of years ago, in creating images as folks are now with all their fancy computers. To my mind, any one who thinks this ‘technique’ diminishes Vermeer’s artwork in any way, if it is really close to the truth or not, is crazy. It’s proof of the genius and dedication of the artist, to understand that there was a way to paint what he wanted to paint, and doing it. It still takes a genius to be a real Vermeer. The copy is just a copy.

I highly recommend this documentary for some light education and a feel good story about learning to do something.

7.5674 million-ty billion hours matching dots of colour into a coherent copy a tiny section of an Old Master

- Directed By Wes Anderson.

For a couple of years now I have been saying how everyone is making their own ‘Wes Anderson’ movies, (Richard Linklater’s Bernie, and David Gordon Green’s Prince Avalanche are the two most obvious homages to Anderson’s Nostalgia driven mise en scene, in my estimation) and I mean that in a good way usually. I mean that other film makers are adding in a bit of his artifice, his sense of the film as an art form unto itself, that perhaps might even eat itself like the fabled Ouroboros with it’s ability for cultural , and self reference. Sometimes, as in the case of many of the indie crime dramas you see, it can be hard to get away from being called Tarantino-esque. Tarantino meanwhile is riffing on all the old masters, himself, sometimes to better affect than others. Anderson, like Tarantino, riffs on old genres, and cinematic storytelling techniques.

Grand Budapest Hotel, like the best of Tarantino, or perhaps more aptly, Canadian (Winnipeg) film maker Guy Maddin. From the very start, this film felt to me like what Guy might create given 60 million dollars. It was also from the very first second, identifiable as a Wes Anderson film. What it shares more with Maddin, say than Tarantino, is the echoes of films past, cliches told so many times before, is evident in that joy of the 'in camera effect,' and the actual technique of visually telling the story; rather than Tarantino’s pastiche of eras gone by via characterization. All the characters in Grand Budapest Hotel are echoes not only of bygone stereotypes, but they have that Anderson quirkiness that is present in all his films.

M. Gustave’s small habit of calling everyone Darling is both innocent, and seductive, as are most of the roguish folks who inhabit the stories being told, within stories told by someone else. Standout performances for me were of course, Ralph Fiennes, who tore it up, every second he was on screen, the new comer, playing a young F. Murray Abraham - Tony Revolori - he holds his own with Fiennes and his all out scenery chewing. 

The usual parade of cameos from Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, and so on, is perfectly timed, and the film left me smiling as it started me smiling with it’s opening frames, and the sense of wonder at cinematic storytelling they portended, and delivered upon.

This review is a bit more slavish than I meant it to be. Loved this picture, more than I realized. My favourite film in 2014 thus far.

9.56337 Evil Willem Dafoe moments on motorcycles outta 10