Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My review of the harrowing and brilliant 'Mommy" directed by Xavier Dolan.

Glib reviews Of recent movies - Theatrical release edition.

- Directed By Xavier Dolan

Holy cow, my second Xavier Dolan directed film in less than a week. This one in a very different way is just as intense as “Tom at the Farm.” Dolan is not acting in Mommy,” but young actor Antoine Olivier Pilon is mesmerizing as a charismatic and good hearted but violent and very troubled modern teenager. 

Anne Dorval, a veteran of all of Dolan’s directorial efforts (and more Quebec TV than Roy Dupuis) except the aforementioned Tom at the Farm deserves recognition beyond Canada and Quebec. This is one of the great performances in recent cinema; her crusty hard bitten single mom (recent widow) trying to keep a sense of self while raising her larger than life son, whose enthusiasm is only slightly more infectious than the violence that follows him around like a smiling but feral puppy.

The odd conceit, given to us at the beginning of the film is that it takes place a few years from now, where a new law allowing parents of such troubled youth can legally give their children to the state to ‘look after.’ This chilling bit of ‘realistic in Canada’ fiction sits in the backseat of the entire ride the film takes you on, and pokes you in the back of the head. How far will ‘Mommy’ (Diane, nicknamed “Die” rather than Di.) let things spiral out her grasping control before she has no choice but to ‘give away’ her parental rights to the government.

The direction and script are self assured and keep you glued to the screen as your eyes leak pretty much of their own accord. A visceral hard to watch kitchen sink drama, easily compared to the work of Ken Loach or Joseph Losey, (or maybe more appropriately, Claude Jutra) but with a very modern French sense of style and pathos. The characters have so much pathos in fact that those moments of beauty that they each manage to have make you cry almost as easily as the inevitable loss upon loss.

Suzanne Clement also shines as the stuttering (and very realistically so) neighbour, a teacher from Quebec City with a dark secret of her own, who becomes the best friend that either Diane, or Steve have ever had. She fights her own battles with each, but doesn’t give up her own darkness as she experiences theirs on top of it. 

We are left wanting more of her story, as if Die, and Steve’s journey isn’t harrowing enough. Bring tissues, and a friend to cry/talk about this film with if you get to see it. 

As I said in my review of ‘Tom at the Farm,’ Dolan is at the top of his game. I cannot recommend this film highly enough, but be warned, it is heavy beyond belief almost.

9.5 French swear words that are both beautiful and horrible to hear 10

Monday, October 20, 2014

My middling review of "Night Moves" by Kelly Reichardt

Glib reviews of recent DVD/Blu Ray releases.

- Directed by Kelly Reichardt

This is not your father’s ‘Night Moves,’ that one is an under appreciated Arthur Penn flick with Gene Hackman. Both do crucially involve boats though.

I wanted to like this film a bit more than I did. As a big fan of Reichardt’s films in general, I was looking forward to this quite a bit. It may be though my least favourite of the bunch, but that by no means says it’s a bad film, just not quite as good as the previous three films. If you like creepy atmospheric slow paced gorgeously shot in Oregon kind of movies, you will dig this.

Jesse Eisenberg is at his broodingest best, here, you barely ever see under his hooded eyes, he only ever really expresses emotions over the things he perceives with horror, like the dead deer he moves from the edge of the highway to save the dead doe the dignity of not getting run over again and again, at least. The basic plot has Jesse (as Josh, commune living organic farmer by day, eco-activist -the rest of the time) meeting up with slightly peppy-ier Dakota Fanning (Dena) but just as angry at the way the planet is being destroyed. They are joined by older beerier activist and former marine demolition guy and all round Bro, Peter Sarsgaard (named Harmon.)

They plan to blow up a dam, (and garner some sympathy for their cause?) and the three of them sip beer, brood and drive the Oregon countryside a lot. Fanning has a nice couple of scenes with fertilizer salesman and cameo maestro James Legros. All the actors do their best with the very minimalist scenario and dialogue. The film is more about how people deal or don’t deal with the repercussions of their actions, and of course blowing up a dam has repercussions.

The whole thing doesn’t quite have the sense of gravitas it might have, as the third act gets more predictable than I was hoping for. That said, what does happen, not to spoil it, is done with  a great creepy dark chase scene in a bath house. It’s a weirdly claustrophobic movie for a picture that mostly takes place outside, or in farmhouses. I am kind of of two minds about rating the film. There was a lot to like, if like me you dig slow moving thoughtful, poetic, literary flicks; but, it just didn’t quite deliver the story beats it needed along with the atmosphere.... Definitely worth a rental for Reichardt fans, but not a good entry point into the canon, I’d go with wendy and Lucy, to introduce folks to Reichardt.

6.8888 great driving scenes at the end, that convey character growth much better than the previous murderous cliche anti-climax in the final act outta 10

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Xavier Dolan's Tom At the Farm - best film I have seen in 2014

Reviews Of Recent DVD/Blu Ray releases

- Directed by Xavier Dolan

I haven’t watched the last couple of Dolan films, but damn this kid knows what he is doing. Tom At The Farm is a director at the top of his game, there is nothing flashy, but so much that is effective. Dolan plays the title character, Tom, whose boyfriend has just died somehow that we are unclear of at the beginning. 

He goes to the small Quebec farming community where the BF is from, for the funeral, to grieve with his partner's family. He quickly learns that the family not only didn’t know who he was, but that the mom at least didn’t know he was queer. These are not spoilers, but the description from the box.  The description, though is just that, it does not convey the so perfectly paced small town horrors that await Tom as he gets to know his dead lover’s family. There are so many Hitchcock, Truffaut references and transgressive twists to the story that it has a suspenseful creepiness that never leaves. In quiet scenes it is there, hanging over everyone like the dead son/lover/brother.

The film very much comes not only from a Hitchcockian suspense place, but has a lot in common with recent French, from France, or Belgian pictures, something from Francois Ozon, or Fabrice Du Welz. The latter’s film Calvaire if you have seen it, will be sitting at the edge of your memory throughout. There are a great many masterfully realized sequences, including one in a cornfield that utilize changing the film’s aspect ratio seamlessly and add to the suspense and drama, rather than seem like a gimmick.

Based on a play, the language is robust, and the characters deep. Dolan has translated the staginess of small scenes with few characters, rarely more than two, by maintaining the constant sense of suspense, something bad is going to happen any second, and sometimes does, though it is not ultra violent. Much of the ‘horror’ is off screen, or in the dark, or simply implied.

I can’t recommend this film highly enough. The best film I have seen in 2014, so far.

9.75 creepy farm families welcoming creepy city folk to funerals outta 10

Days of Future Meh

Glib Reviews of Recent DVD/Blu ray releases

-Directed by Bryan Singer

Can it be that a person who reads several X-Men comics a month can be kind of bored by the X-men? Apparently. 

This movie was probably the best looking, best shot movie of all the X-Men movies, and it tries very hard to tie them all together as much as possible. Perhaps a bit to hard, as I felt like there was just too much exposition, too much handwringing, despite some great action set pieces, and some of my favourite X-Men being included, like Kitty Pryde, Blink, Iceman, Storm, and so on. 

You can’t blame a superhero movie for being contrived can you? I think you can. This movie has a better pace, and script than the ‘First Class’ movie, but for some ineffable reason it was not nearly as entertaining, for me at least. This may sound like a negative review, and it’s not really. 

I liked a great deal of the movie, up to the latter part where Magneto goes all arch villain again, kind of out of left field. The whole ending didn’t work for me, the story was too bloated by the whole Xavier/Mystique/Magneto triangle not working at all.  

The bromance chemistry between McAvoy and Fassbender was weirdly absent,as to me they had more of an angry sibling bromance vibe going... meh, and it the whole Wolverine arc really felt like a set-up movie for the next chapter. Which, I guess is what it is. 

Days of Future past, The comic was far less convoluted, and a way better time travel, alt future story. As usual, the book is better than the movie. There just wasn’t anybody to root for in the movie, and no surprises in how the story was bent for movie audiences. Young Hippy like Xavier needs to lose his hair and gain some gravitas. Magnet became a much more interesting character in the comics when he gained nuance and was occasionally empathetic even to humans. Exciting and fun, but kind of a heartless let down in this comic book nerd’s opinion. I bet it is more fun to watch with friends, than alone, though.

6.9 horrible  apocalyptic alternate futures that a bunch of selfish mutants have created for us outta 10

Monday, October 13, 2014

All You Need Is...

Glib Reviews of Recent DVD/Blu Ray releases

- Directed by Doug Liman

Apparently the book is called All You Need Is Kill, The movie in the theatre was called Edge Of Tomorrow, the Disc release is Live Die repeat: Edge Of Tomorrow. I am not sure why there is a lack of confidence in any of the whacky titles, It’s a pretty solid sci-fi action flick, with a good sense of humour as well.

All the Groundhog Day comparisons are pretty spot on, right down to the tacked on cheeseball ending, which works better in Groundhog Day. Cruise is very well cast in these Sci-Fi action flicks, Like in Oblivion, he gets to ride at least one motorcycle, and fly a copter, there are few surprises in the film, except the solid sense of when to cut, when to let the story progress. 

Director Doug Liman, maybe most famous for Swingers, or The Bourne Identity is at the top of his game here. Bam bam bam, the show moves along like an action movie should.

Scenes are not repeated so often as to slog the story down, as the two leads eventually find each other and figure out how to keep eking a few more minutes out of the day, until finally they have the big confrontation with the ‘Boss alien’. having a sort of hive mind, bacterial villain works well in this very much what it would be like to live in a video game where you keep ‘dying’ over and over, til you figure out how to move forward in the story.

A very good ensemble of soldier types, including a great unrecognizable Bill Paxton as the sergeant major who is not American, rather, but from Kentucky, who likes to march up and down the square. And Brendan Gleeson as the general in charge of everyone.

The only real beef I have with this very entertaining, and gorgeously designed film is the Top Gun/Officer & A Gentleman ending that you can see coming, once the film passes the ‘natural ending’ by. Emily Blunt’s freaking Kick Ass character does not need a boyfriend, formerly smarmy or otherwise. Oh Hollywood, Love is not all you need, all you need is Kill.

8.88888 convenient mad scientists and their almost forgotten super weapons outta 10