Sunday, January 17, 2016

Mississippi Grind Review!

Glib Reviews of Recent DVD/Blu Ray releases

Mississippi Grind
Directed by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck

Decent buddy flick/road picture from directorial tandem of Fleck and Boden. Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds have some real bro-chemistry, as an older/younger gambling team. Mendelsohn’s Gerry really personifies someone who rarely knows when to quit while he’s ahead. His desperation and addiction to one more hand, one more dice roll, is palpable in pretty much every decision the character makes. Why Reynolds’ obnoxiously charismatic Curtis gloms onto Gerry as much as Gerry gloms on to him, is a bit more of a mystery, that is perhaps simply, their chemistry. He seems to like hanging out with Gerry, as much as anything, but both characters are self destructive and complete committment-phobes.

There is a dynamite Blues soundtrack, and the montages of neon and nightlife from cities along the road from Iowa to New Orleans are well done, if a bit touristy. I really dug the more complicated than they seem relationships that everyone has with each other in this film, and the pace keeps it from feeling too long or stretched out, though there is some ineffable something missing from this film that constantly seems to be referencing Robert Altman’s ‘California Split’ which follows a similar sleazy card sharp journey with two unlikely buddies in George Segal and Elliott Gould. It doesn’t quite have that patina of New Hollywood of the 70’s, this picture though. Entertaining with some interesting characters, but it lacks the oomph to put it into the top tier of buddy or gambling pictures.

I enjoyed the film and would recommend it, but with the caveat that it’s a good film, not a great film. It has all the elements, but fails to quite capitalize on them at all. The ending, mind you, paid off really nicely, and elevated the film a bit for me, by avoiding several cliches while fulfilling itself. It can be hard to know where to end a picture like this, and here they got it right on the nose.

6.9768 times you went ‘all in’ and lost everything you owned including a tiger outta 10

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Review of Tangerine!

Glib Reviews Of Recent DVD Releases

- Directed By Sean Baker

Tangerine is one of those films that ‘feels like’ it was shot chronologically. The first few scenes are a bit rough, the acting is a bit iffy, but as the characters of Sin-Dee and Alexandra walk endlessly through their drama filled Christmas Eve Day in L.A. The picture gets more gripping, the cinematography, the acting and the script all get better, more polished in a low budget way. The locations give a nice grimy seventies feel to the whole thing. Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) is especially unlikeable at the beginning of the film, her single mindedness in finding her pimp/boyfriend and the girl he ‘cheated on her’ with while she was doing a month in jail, is not terribly nuanced. The buffer of the her best friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor) trying to keep her from all the drama she is creating, while trying to hustle tickets for a show she is doing that night keeps the whole thing from being one note.

The cinematography, aside from the initial few minutes is outstanding, especially when you realize it was shot on an iPhone. It makes you realize that a well composed frame brings more to a shot than an expensive lens.  

As a transgender woman, myself, (as much as I know it is the reality of a lot of trans women, especially Trans women of colour,) I would love to see a film about Trans women who aren’t sex workers, or tragic doomed to die failures. Is there such a film? At least the trope of Trans women being sex workers is muted somewhat in the film by there being very little sex, or sex working depicted, very much by the end, in a lovely shot, the film really is all about two friends and their friendship, that they strain and push at with each other, but in the end, no matter what they are there for each other. The sex work depicted has a grimy and sometimes humorous reality to it, that you won’t find in a Hollywood take on the same topic, despite this film being filmed on location in West Hollywood.

The Trans loving taxi driver Razmik adds a male gaze that should kind of creep you out, and does, yet he is a fairly sympathetic character in many ways. The editing makes the script sing more than the words do. Shots of people walking or driving, riding the bus have a sense of urgency that is easier to miss than to hit. Aside form the performances by actual Trans women, playing Trans women; the best thing about the picture is this sense of movement, urgency that reflects the urgency, the insecurities of these characters, all of whom pretend to be brassier and tougher than they really are. In the end I felt pangs of empathy and sympathy for pretty much everyone, Trans and Cis. A glimpse at people living with who they are, who they want to be, and the drama that that schism creates through their own inability to see who their friends really are, who really loves them, until push literally comes to shove. 

I really hope to see these Trans women playing other roles in the near future, they prove themselves capable of playing women with dreams, goals, and who face the struggles everyone, not just prostitutes, not just Trans women, have to deal with in order to even attempt to get where you want to go. A solid low budget drama, that sometimes evokes John Waters or Alan Rudolph, but without being quite so self consciously outrageous. I think that’s what makes this film relatable, even the characters like Sin-Dee who at first seem kind of ridiculous end up having actual humanity and nuanced friendships and self awareness.

8.5647 times you dragged that blonde woman by the hair who was sleeping with your boyfriend across town to confront him in a donut shoppe outta 10

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Review of The Revenant

Glib Reviews of Recent Movies.

The Revenant 
- Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu

Like Iñárritu’s last film, “Birdman,” I was sucked in early, then spit out just before the ending. I feel like going back and seeing if his early films fail me in the third act as much as his last few. The film as a whole was quite good, cinematically, the actors were amazing if occasionally too mannered. I mean maybe Tom Hardy’s incoherent mumbling was supposed to be incoherent? Even if that is so; it still took away from an interesting character’s arc.  The cinematography, as usual in Iñárritu’s pictures is astounding. Though, I found the Argentinian shot scenes a bit jarring with the much more haunted looking forests than the stuff done in the Rockies, that was supposed to match up. Quibbles though, that. Some stuff was done in a studio in Burnaby also.

For me the simple story gave way to non-story, with the prolonged chase at the end, which was much more paint by numbers than the rest of the true but hardly believable story, as I predicted each moment a few minutes before it happened. Only the final shot of the film, a bold choice that I won’t spoil, kind of makes up for the predictable final battle between people who should be or maybe are already dead. That shot too, is as much an Oscar-bait shot for Leo, as it is a solid Nouvelle Vague-ish choice of ending.

I seem to have a lot of quibbles, but only because otherwise I thought the film which is 2 and a half hours was well paced and conceived. Except for these few areas, the end, and some of the over indulgent acting, purposefully artsy establishing and thematic shots. It could have been a tighter, tauter, more riveting drama than it was. The outstanding cinematography slightly dimmed by self indulgent story telling, and Tom Hardy’s mumblecore performance. Which maybe comes down to the terrible sound mixing that is the norm in Hollywood these days. So many films, you can’t hear the dialogue but are overwhelmed by the rest of the soundtrack. For me this took me out of the film several times, as what the characters were saying seemed to be important, but you couldn’t catch it.

DiCaprio gives a nomination worthy performance, aka he is in an immense amount of pain pretty much throughout the film, and I will be shocked if he doesn’t at least get an odds on nomination for an Academy Award, if not come out with a little golden man statue. If the film were a bit shorter, and a bit less predictable I would be giving it a higher rating even than I do. 

There is a better tenser picture in there wrapped in the Director’s self indulgence, and predictable plotting. Very entertaining, and highbrow for current Hollywood: very much worth seeing on a very big screen with a good sound system, but know that Leo goes through a worse arse kicking than Daredevil or Batman, and survives with an equal kind of vengeful drive as any ‘superhero.’

7.8657 Taun-Taunings of your horse to survive the cold, outta 10