Tuesday, September 29, 2015

my review of Kingsman: the Secret Service

Glib Reviews of Recent DVD Releases

Kingsman: The Secret Service
- Directed By Matthew Vaughn

Loosely based on a comic book that somehow I never read, despite it being up my alley with all the spying and gadgets and gratuitous violence. One of those Mark Millar comics, called “The Secret Service.” I will be searching it out now, as I found the movie reasonably entertaining. It was no From Russia With love or Goldfinger, mind you, or even Layer Cake, Vaughn’s first and for my money, best film, but I have enjoyed all of his five of his Directorial efforts. Kingsman is a lot of fun, with a ludicrous plot line that the characters constantly joke about. Like Millar’s comics there isn’t a ton of depth or story, just clever usage of tropes from the genre.

I like the setting the story with an outside independent Secret Service, as opposed to the done to death MI-6/CIA kind of spy movie. Colin firth is great as classy agent Harry Hart, code named Galahad. It’s nice to see him doing an action piece. The younger lead was serviceable, and had a bit of Chav-ish charm. The choice of Samuel L. Jackson as the billionaire cell phone magnate was a nice departure for him, playing a nerdy bad guy, who though dorky and almost relatable is still a sociopath. It was also nice to see Mark Hamill playing the role that would have went to Eddie Izzard (seriously, I thought he was Izzard for half a minute when you first meet him) if there hadn’t been a Hamill reference from the comics that the film makers were ‘easter egging’ to the comic fans.

I really enjoyed the film, though it really kind of meanders here and there. It has a lot of potential, that somehow never quite has the gravitas, or humour that it wants to have. The actual fight scenes are all pretty awesome though, and that makes up for a lot of my pacing quibbles. The whole ‘butt sex controversy’ near the end is kind of silly.Though, it gives the hero a weird vibe in that, he was sort of into sexing up the Princess, and the deal is sealed with the offer of anal sex. Creepy, at least to me, and given the way people went on about it, I thought it was going to be super graphic, I was kind of relieved it wasn’t quite as juvenile as it could have been. I think I would enjoy this movie more watching it a second time with some friends beer, and all joking about various silly parts of what goes on. Entertaining fluff!

7.11111 Michael Caine references in a film with Michael Caine in it, outta 10

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Inherent Vice is Inherently great!

Glib Reviews of Fairly Recent DVD  Releases

Inherent Vice
- Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

Finally got around to seeing the latest PTA flick, which I had heard a lot of conflicting opinions on. Inherent Vice is also based on a Thomas Pynchon novel, so there are of course some heavy wight ideas going on. Personally the only Pynchon I have ever been able to finish reading is The Crying Of Lot 49.  I had my own sort of mix of skepticism and hope going into this. Tried and tried to get through V. and Gravity’s Rainbow three or four times each, but also, something makes me give up on these books, I usually am so into the books, the first half or so, then something that just happens is that I have put the books down, and moved on to something else. Maybe it’s just timing; and I say this because this is what I see in this film, something that PTA groks about pace and timing, that generally, (with the exception of “The Master, which I can’t seem to stay awake through.) I find Pynchon doesn’t, he always loses the rhythm for me somehow.

This is I think PTA’s best written script, for that reason, he hits all the right noir notes: the bedraggled, PI, the ex who drags said PI into a web of her troubles, plucky sidekicks, iconoclastic bigger than life ‘villains’ and a well developed co-dependant relationship with a cop. Seriously, this movie is like a class in how to create a faithfully 1930’s, 40’s esque noir. The cast is a nice blend of very familiar faces and new or vaguely familiar faces. 

Joaquin Phoenix is a stoner Bogart/Sam Spade, or Phillip Marlowe, whose relationships with women echo those with a hint of maybe Elliot Gould’s laconic LA Marlowe. the ex shows up, spins a web of intrigue and disappears faster than you can say, “Otto Premminger’s Laura.” Josh Brolin’s broken down flat topped cop deserves an ovation. The chemistry between him and Phoenix is a joy to behold. Some great cameos from Martin Short as a drugged out purple velvet suit wearing sex fiend dentist, Maya Rudolph as Phoenix’s witty bob coifed gum snapping receptionist bring a real sense of the usual PTA ensemble. His use of Joanna Newsome’s character Sortilege as a greek chorus style narrator is the final coat of noir sheen. Well done narration is a marvel in this day and age.

This is something that the more I think about it, makes me think that PTA is a good fit to try to realize a Pynchon novel. They both fill their backgrounds as much as they do scene, and plot, and that the characters really are the scene and the plot. His adaptation of the novel captures these aspects that I recognize from the first halves of Pynchon that I have read, that new characters are constant coming at the protagonist(s), and these people are what create the huge web of conspiracy and propel the story far more than the action does. 

The actions the characters take are always in reaction to another character, more than their own ideas, or morality. Everyone is struggling. There is no real denouement, things just sort of settle down, as certain characters are eliminated, or cowed by someone else, and in the end our ‘heroic hippie,’ manages offer one person salvation. It’s a modern noir, you can tell as the femme fatale suffers no real repercussions for the fires she started, and wandered off from. In a 30’s film, she would have been headed for jail or death.

I like this picture even more than I did when I was watching it, now writing and thinking about it, I’d like to watch it again. Outstanding performances, and a titanium strength script propel this PTA up the ladder into my top five PTA films after just one viewing. It makes me want to go back and finish those Pynchon books, and read the one this is based on. I am giving this a higher rating than I set out when I started writing this review. See this film and talk about it. Even if you hate it, I bet it will have you talking about it.

8.8888 times that your ex drops by and casually ensnares into a criminal conspiracy that turns out to be both real and not real outta 10

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Welcome To Me, Reviewed

Glib Reviews Of Recent DVD Releases

Welcome To Me
- Directed by Shira Piven

A very sharp, very much with a feminine gaze satire on how the world deals with mental illness, fame, and wealth. Sounds like reality TV? Bingo. Kristen Wiig brings us Alice Kleig, a women filled with anxiety, rage, love and medication. In a familiar plot this very typical modern Oprah obsessed heavily medicated woman wearing her neuroses on her sleeve, wins the lotto. 

She decides to fund her own infomercial style ‘talk show “Welcome To Me.” I really don’t want to give much away of the story, but I will say that it all unfolds with impeccable timing, and is alternately making you laugh, cringe, and cry, maybe all three at the same time. Alice is one of those very hard to love characters, her social awkwardness both charms and wears thin as she goes from catharsis to catharsis, kind of forgetting/taking for granted the people who helped her before she won the lotto, as she wins over most of the tv production company that she has basically purchased. 

She does things throughout that make you cringe and maybe even dislike her, at times, yet in the end she actually grows and changes, and realizes that her own story is the story of her friends and loved ones, and that perhaps wealth and money are bigger roadblocks to humanity and sanity, than ‘borderline personality disorder, or using masturbation as a sedative. Squicked.

As much as this really is Wiig’s vehicle, her supporting cast does a lot with what they are playing through. Wes Bentley was unrecognizable to me, and wonderful in a very low key, early ‘Gyllenhaalish beardo role.The only character I would have liked a smidge more of was Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Deb who is the one person it seems with much guilt over producing this ‘vanity show’ and the exploitation that is happening not just from the infomercial production company, but Alice’s own self exploitation, and blithe diminishment of folks who have “wronged her.” 

Joan Cusack is her usual tower of strength, as is Linda Cardellini as long suffering best friend, Gina. Their friendship and it’s ups and downs are the scenes that really ground this dark dark satire of modern life in America. The great low budget art direction and pacing brought to a tough, touchy script by director, Shira Piven is self assured and she is a director i am now going to be keeping my eye out for.  

Recommended for folks who like female led films like Blue Jasmine, or the TV show Broad City; where the women are very flawed and very human. So, you know, it's not a film for everybody.

8.5 VHS tapes filled with hours and hours of Oprah outta 10