Sunday, August 31, 2014

Two Reviews from Double Feature Night

Glib Reviews Of Recent DVDs, Blu Rays.

Double Feature Night

- Directed by Jeff Maloof & Charlie Siskel

Finding Vivian Maier is one of those modern docs that probably would have been impossible to make before the internet, computers being what they are these days. I have followed this story since Maloof first put some of Maier’s photos online, and they went viral. It was extremely interesting to find out actual information and hear from people who knew this often mysterious Nanny with a Rolliflex. She was doing selfies way back in the day, and her street photography is up there with the greats like Fred Herzog, or Walker Frank.

The film makers, I felt did a great job of unravelling Vivian’s secrets, which every single person who knew her confirms, she would have hated. Hated all the attention to her and her story. Which is very interesting: She left a lot of audio tapes, and 8mm/16mm film as well. 

Giving both more oblique, and more obvious insights into who this photographer who should have been famous really was. There is even a debate whether her vaguely French accent is real, with speech pathologists denying it. Interestingly she has basically an Ingrid Bergman accent though, to my ear. Listen to her with your eyes closed, its like hearing Bergman in Casablanca, or her daughter Isabella Rossellini putting on airs in a Guy Maddin film, with her own voice. I think that says a lot about the woman. 

A well done job of getting grown up kids she nannied to talk about both her good and bad qualities. She was a human being, with foibles, and a lot of neuroses, hoarding being the biggest thing that she kept doing her whole life. Thus the thousands of undeveloped pictures, and film we haven’t even seen yet. An entire lifetime’s art all exposed mostly for the first time, after her death.

Something that amazes me is how many great documentaries there are about outsider artists, people who have more rep than show, or no rep as artists, are of course/it turns out, just as interesting as Andy Warhol, or Picasso. People have interesting and varied lives, and like many of us, she probably thought hers was not nearly as interesting or inspiring as it really was. I grok that.  I also grok that the art really does speak for itself, if you get a chance to see, experience the art. 

I’ll be checking this out again along with other recent similar artist docs, like Marwencol, The Woodmans, and Cutie  & the Boxer to name a few. Maybe a little outsider art fest for my blog! Will update.

9.1111 screaming kids being dragged to slaughterhouse to pose with dead sheep outta 10

-Directed By Jim Jarmusch

The second film in my artsy double feature was a swirling droney vampire movie; Only Lovers Left Alive, directed by cult grandpa Jim Jarmusch. This film was heavily hyped to me, but like the majority of Jarmusch’s later output I found it beautiful, but sleepy and kind of lazy. I loved Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston as the titular lovers/vampires. They drop a lot of historical figures as old pals/enemies, so you know they are old. I enjoyed the film visually, but it had very little tension, nothing pulling at the frayed edges of the ‘story.’

The droning soundtrack, aside from a really thoughtful bluesy pop tune selection of Wanda Jackson and such made me kind of nod off, occasionally, so I’m not sure I was able to give my full attention to the mumbly mix of dialogue and drone. 

This all sounds worse maybe than the experience was. I don’t know what would have worked to make it a better picture. Some real conflict, tension. I did like that neither of them, as secluded as they made themselves, had little idea how to handle normal interactions. They seemed alien, and were. 

But despite Jarmusch never really needing much of a plot, I feel this film needed a bit of one. The younger Vamp - Mia Wasikowska, who holds her own with these great character actors, getting to strut their stuff - comes in far too late, and the tension of what predictably happens is all kind of muted for me.

Wonderful performances, all round, Anton Yelchin channels Steve Zahn as Ian, Hiddleston’s Adam’s only human ‘friend.’ John Hurt of course, is John Hurt. Can do no wrong. the appropriate Pirandello to infer here is “Two Vampires not in search of a plot.”  I didn’t hate the film, but I definitely didn’t love it like I thought I might. It’s one that despite the nodding off here and there, I want to give it another shot, maybe with headphones, so I can hear all the mumbled dialogue. Hiddleston is literally is talking to his navel all movie.

6.66 dorky but clever historical references outta 10

Friday, August 29, 2014

Amazing Spider-man 2 Review

Glib Reviews of Recent Blu Ray/Dvd Releases.

- Directed By Marc Webb

What an odd movie is The Amazing Spider-man 2, for my money, as bleak as Man Of Steel. It has all the elements for the retelling of a seminal Spider-Man story, a superhero trope that in the comics Spider-man pretty much invented, and that Daredevil perfected. That super-dude kryptonite of not ever being able to save your girlfriend from who you are. I’m talking, yes Spoilers, indeed, Gwen Stacy: Spidey’s Karen Page. or vice versa.

This “Death of Gwen stacy Storyline” storyline is one of the very first that I remember being gripped by as a kid reading every comic I could find. It was the most adult thing I had read, and well, I deeply grokked Peter Parker’s sense of responsibility for things that are not his fault, but... One of the biggest character building arcs in Spider-history, Uncle Ben looms large in the comic, but not as much in the film.

But this version of that iconic comic book story mutes Uncle Ben in favour of building up old Dad instead. I don’t mind revisionism to characters it's inevitable. But this relationship  visa vie editing and flashbacks with his dad softens the Parker Pathos too much. It’s too much... He needs to truly be alone, despite Aunt May, who I liked with sally Field in the role more than I thought I would. Some clunky hokum, Field can do that. And make you like it. 

The weird pace and clunky dad sideline really throw a movie that had lots of great if a bit too cgi reliant action and fun characters. Maybe it is supposed to be that Harry is like Evil Peter from the 3rd movie? I laughed every time he was on screen, that hair. I liked Harry’s insanity, and a hint of Felicia Hardy maybe, and the buildup of the Sinister Six stuff, for the next movie. That I think is a good idea, still a Spidey movie, but from the villains POV? it's time for that!

KInd of entertaining, but too slick and mopey for its own good. Like the first ASM, lacking too much for the sake of style, and misguided need to ‘origin story’ constantly. The actors were fine. clunky clunky

6.11111 3 minute chase scenes that are only visually interesting in 3-D outta 10

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Noah & Jodorowsky's dune!

Glib Reviews of Recent DVD/Blu-Ray Releases.

“Aronofsky’s Noah” & “Jodorowsky’s Dune”

The last two films I have watched are Darren Aronofsky’s SCI-FI take on the story of the Ark building, “Noah,” and the documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” which is the story of how a pretty crazy sounding version of that novel I can never finish reading, almost but not quite got made.

Myself, I can’t hear the name “Noah” without thinking of the Bill Cosby sketch of the same name, where God indeed gets Noah to build an ark, and gather up all the animals. The Cosby version is funnier, but just barely.

Aronofsky’s laughs though, I think are not intentional. The whole fallen angels as rock men who help Noah get this completely insane sounding task done are ridiculous, and a clever plot device. If you are looking for “biblical accuracy” (sic) this is not your movie. If you are looking for a grim kind of alternately shouty/mumbly performance from Russell Crowe, then this might be your movie. It is terrible, but also entertaining in a camp kind of way that I was really not ready for, thus, I laughed pretty much throughout, what is supposed to be a sombre piece.

Jodorowsky’s Dune unfolds much more simply, organically, as we hear from the Director himself, and many of the surviving folk who also almost made what would have been a groundbreaking work, had it been able to survive being made. There are hints that even if the studios had given the green light to a Director they knew they would never be able to reign in, it may have failed, anyway. But what these great talents put together in pre production was really awesome.

I would love to read through one of those few remaining storyboard books. Giger, Dali, Foss, all working together with Jodo! Jebus, what could possibly go wrong? This doc is like a master class in letting your subject speak for itself. just by following a chronolgy of the film maker’s life, they give you the whole picture of how much one unfinished project actually changed all these people, and Hollywood, within a few years Dan O’Bannon, Giger would make Alien, and much of fellow edgy director David Lynch copped some of Jodorowsky’s designs. 

I think The Lynch Dune gets a bad rap, though. Jodorowsky’s Dune had it been made would have had just as much interference eventually, and like Dune would have been a film that the makers are depressed about. The Unfinished Dune will always be great, just like how the book apparently is, though I can never get more than 150 pages in, so  can’t say. I like the pages I have read as much as I imagine I would have liked Jodo’s take on it.

Somehow, I have linked Noah, and this doc in my mind as a double feature. Both films are about ambition, pride and the terrible cost those emotions can have on a person, or group of people. In the end, Noah is living with a lot of death, despite the promise of his family repopulating the world with simple stoics like the sons of Seth, rather than all those biker like sons of Cain, that ruined it for everyone, by wrecking the environment.  Whack a doodle Noah.

Noah - Directed by Darren Aronofsky

5.7687 lizard dogs outta 10

8.1111 insanely detailed art books posing as film treatments outta 10

Monday, August 4, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy review!

Glib Reviews Of Recent Movies

In the Fricking theatre, yet

AKA, How I saw Guardians Of the Galaxy on the Opening weekend, instead of going to Pride.

- Directed by James Gunn

Yeah, so, after not going to see the new X-Men movie earlier this year, or Amazing Spider-Man 2, I waited until GOTG came out this weekend to brave the superhero experience known as going to the movies. So many tent-pole Super movies, so little time.

I am a bigger comic book nerd (though I don’t retain facts and continuity the way I did when I was young) than I am a movie nerd, which is saying something. I read, have read all the comics, well maybe not all, but definitely all of one my favourite 21st century reboots: ‘The Guardians of the Galaxy’. As recreated by Abnett and Lanning, the modern heirs to Jim Starlin, crafted a nice mix of old obscure to all but the biggest Bill Mantlo, Tom Sutton fans, like myself, GOTG became in the 00’s, one of the fan favourite Marvel Properties. Nobody else was really doing much “cosmic” heroics, which frankly they should be. Where is my gritty ROM, Space-Knight reboot, for example!

On to the movie: It’s a wonderful example of the right kind of balance of humour, action, adventure, and special effects that make good summer movies hum. Chris Pratt, makes a "star turn," as the “leader” (self named "Star Lord")of this motley band of smugglers, bounty hunters, who have enough decency to not sell planet killing technology to obviously Evil Space Monologuists, aka ‘Villains’. There is real chemistry between the gang of pretty dorky heroes and you are cheering for them quickly. 

The SFX are stellar, and the action sequences, and reinvention for movie audiences of big concepts like ‘the Nova Corps’, and all the Space Politics between them and the Blue-skinned Kree (whose Space Destroyers are some of the coolest looking ships in Sci-Fi, in a while), especially the nicely juiced up version of Ronan the Accuser, played by Lee Pace. Thanos, of course lurks, in his big chair, which for hardcore fans like me, is so awesome to see, him pulling the strings for future movies, just like in the Comics.

There are of course flaws here and there, like none of the female characters have much in the way of character development. Gamora, being a main team player, gets the Black widow treatment, ala the Avengers. A few cool fight scenes, and some gooey eyes at Star Lord, that the “real Gamora” of the comics, would cringe at. Romance, or at least sexual chemistry, is far more important in a movie than in a comic book, though. Different kind of story telling, and I’m glad there was no full blown sex scenes or anything, just some awkward tension between people with really traumatic upbringings. 

Which is all you get in the comics. Gamora’s best years for me, were when she was teamed up with Adam Warlock (who she was trained/created to kill). But maybe Adam Warlock will slip in later in movie continuity? one can hope. I would have liked a bit more of the interplay between her and her ‘sister’ Nebula, hopefully in the next movie, we will get a bit of that, as Thanos ups his game, and gets off his big Space Throne.

Very entertaining summer movie that hasn’t disappointed the comic book reader in me, just the opposite, in fact. 

9.1112346 Time wasting Evil Monologues outta 10