Thursday, December 12, 2013
The film is what happens when at a dinner party with friends and family, Vincent announces to the assembled group what the name of his soon to be delivered baby boy is going to be. The group is horrified and the resulting arguments lay waste to everyone in the room as good natured banter and kidding turns more serious as the name acts as a trigger for spewing venom..
Very much a kin to Yasmina Reza's funny play God of Carnage which Roman Polanski turned into the weak Carnage with Jody Foster, the film is the peeling back of civility and emotions as a prelude to dinner. While there are similarities in basic story, What's in a Name is infinitely better than the Polanski film.
I really like the film a great deal and laughed all through. It is an absolute delight for anyone who likes well written witty exchanges. However I'm finding I can't really review the film except to say go see it for one simple reason- the dialog comes along so fast and furious. While I know I got everything said, I was too busy reading the subtitles to fully engage with the film- this isn't a problem as such- hell it means I have a great excuse to see the film again (and I will several more times) , it just means that having only had one pass on the film I can't full write up the film because I know I didn't grasp everything- or more importantly laugh near as much as I should have.
My advice is simply go see the film and enjoy yourself.
The film opens tomorrow in select theaters including New York's Cinema Village and it also is available at iTunes and VOD. To get it at iTunes go here.
Well made and well acted little thriller is on okay film to have on in the background. Recently released by Criterion as part of a 4 film set its an okay time killer best watched late at night. To be certain Karloff is wonderful to watch, especially in the scene where he finds the important piece of evidence which proves him right and also slides him into madness. However the mover isn't anything special and can be a bit dull (too much music), however the Criterion commentary is excellent and the real reason to pick this up.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
|Peter Travers interviews David O Russell|
Before the movie Peter Travers of Rolling Stone came out and did a brief intro. We then saw the movie which was followed by a Q&A with the director of American Hustle David O Russell.
The film itself is very good and very funny. Based on the ABSCAM scandal from the late 70's the film tells the story of Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) who along with Amy Adam's Sydney Prosser get caught by FBI man Bradley Cooper running a scam. They cut a deal to help catch some low level crooks but soon it balloons into catching politicians and mobsters.
The film is not the straight truth but based upon what happened since director Russell rejiggered the film to concentrate on the characters and not so much on the events. The events are what put everyone into orbit around each other.
I'm not going to do a full review. Yes it's a good film, yes you should see it. Yes you will like it but the film is going to be in the running for the Oscars and is going to get a huge push and anything I might say isn't going to make a difference.
I do want to say a couple of quick things about the film:
First look for Jennifer Lawrence to be in the running for another Oscar. I didn't recognize her, despite knowing the role she plays. Yea she's that good.
The use of music in the film is incredible. I love that several time Russell uses what seems to be the perfect 70's song as background- only to have things flip the audience as we see the characters singing along.
There are several sequences that are near perfectly realized set pieces- most notably the music ones- however there are several others- just don't ask me what they are I stopped taking notes after a while.
Seriously this is a film you'll want to run out and see.
After the screening we got the Q&A.
I'm going to take a pass on reviewing the event as something needing to be reviewed. There were problems, the lights blew, the Skype connection to Seattle went and at a certain point David O Russell refused to use the microphone despite being told that was working as far as the broadcast was going. While we in New York heard him I have no idea how this played elsewhere. It was a great talk marred by some glitches
As an idea the idea of interactive Q&As with audiences around the country is cool, especially when you can get some like David O Russell to talk (What I could hear was good), however since so much went wrong today it's unfair to say more than I'm hopeful that they'll get the bugs out and make a go of it. In all honesty I'm impressed enough that when the series returns Tuesday January 21st with At Middleton I'm going to go to my local theater to see it when it all works right.
For details on theaters and films go to www.nyfilmcriticsseries.com, follow them on twitter @nyfilmcritics
For more pictures from inside the theater check our Tumblr page
Okay for those who don’t know The Blob is about what happens when a meteor falls to earth. When the meteor is poked with a stick , a jelly like being crawls out of the rock and attaches it to the man poking it. The blob then begins devouring him, and anyone who gets in the way. Almost 30 year old Steve McQueen plays a local “kid” who’s always in trouble with the law, but who is still liked. He keeps running into the mess the blob leaves behind but no one will believe him or his friends. By the time that anyone believes him the blob has grown to monstrous proportions.
It’s a creepy film.
It was Steve McQueen’s second or third credited big screen role. Prior to this film he had small un-credited roles in films and a growing body of TV work but after The Blob McQueen’s career was set and movie history was made. With this small scale little horror film a movie icon was created.
You don’t believe me?
Think about how the film would play if McQueen wasn’t in it. It wouldn’t work, or not work as well. McQueen instantly adds a seriousness to the proceedings that would never have been in the film otherwise. He plays it straight and the film is scary as a result.
Its scared the crap out of many kids I know. Sure the effects aren’t the best, but there is something about the slow moving herky jerky motion that works on the visceral level. It scared one guy I know so bad that he refused to make his first confession because he was told that the blob lived in the confessional. And it’s still scary even now. I dare you not to feel something when the blob first attaches itself to a victim. It’s played straight and it leaves you feeling uneasy.
If you want to know how important playing it seriously is, consider that the sequel Son of the Blob (or Return of the Blob) was written as a serious film and turned into a comedy by director Larry Hagman and the cast. The result is a film that only works and fits and starts. Its most memorable ones are the serious ones, such as Godfrey Cambridge engulfed by the blob while sitting on his recliner.
Actually you should just forget the sequel and see the original, which is out on DVD and Bluray from Criterion with lots of bells and whistles.
See it and never look at your peanut butter and jelly sandwich the same way again.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
The film follows a girl named Gili who uses sex, six acts of it, in order to move "up" the social ladder and fit in at anew school. What starts out willing quickly goes sideways as what was consensual becomes less so and the up becomes a downward spiral.
This is a dark and troubling film that is more than about teens and sex,rather it resonates with the sexual dynamic of men and women in all age groups. The film is an examination of how sex is used as an act of control by both sexes. In the film the first act is by Gili who thought she could turn it into getting a boy she liked and later by the well to do boys she ends up hanging with who end up using and abusing her. Its a pattern that plays out even in adults who should know better (trust me I know a few caught in the web). Ultimately sex and all the baggage it brings with it is just another way of keeping people in line or under control.
Seeing the film again, away from the weight of the films at Tribeca, I was surprised at how much better the film played. Actually it played so much darker and removed from the need to rush off to see another film right after it the darkness hung around me and made me feel like I needed to take a bath. I like it's no nonsense approach to saying this is the way things are... This male/female thing is really messed up.
On the other hand I find the film a tad off. By concentrating on the six acts we don't really get a larger context. The lack of context kind of reduces the men in the film to largely vile asses trying to score a little and dominate the only girl. Additionally without more context Gili can be seen as being much too passive even if her behavior is dead on target. (Gili's passivity wrecked the film for some viewers). Without a larger context the film swerves very close to being a polemic even if it isn't.
Do I like the film? I'm not sure that one can like the film. I don't mean that as a slap, rather as praise since what happens in the film is deeply troubling and the sort of thing that would give any thoughtful person much to consider. I am deeply bothered by the film and its forcing me to think a great deal about male/female relationships.
I don't know what to say beyond that. I don't know how to react. This is a film I need to discuss. This is one of those films that is best seen with other people simply because it provokes dialog. Its a film that will require long discussions- which you don't always get when you watch a film alone. This was one I really wish I could have seen in a room full of other people so we could have discussed it afterward.
If you want to see something that will trouble you and make you think I highly recommend the film.
The film is currently in limited theatrical release and is available on iTunes and on demand.
Filmed in England yet set in White Sands New Mexico this is a slow but decent little scifi thriller about an experiment that goes horribly wrong. Its the sort of thing you put on late at night to fall asleep to or laugh at or drift off in the ways that black and white movies of the period are prone to make you do.
Not one of my favorites I recently picked it up as part of a Criterion box set called Madmen and Monsters of four lesser films from the late 1950's packaged together with a host of typical extras. Why Criterion would choose these films was a bit beyond me until I realized that all of the films were made by the same producers and were the follow ups to Fiend Without a Face (the crawling brain film) which Criterion put out several years ago. The transfer and such is sterling and the commentary is very informative dealing with the film and the producers life as exploitation filmmakers and to be honest listening to it boosted my appreciation of the film.
Its a good way to see the film- though to be honest I'm still not convinced the film needed a Criterion edition-especially since its pricey set (which I got greatly reduced) will limit peoples exposure to the film.
Monday, December 9, 2013
Earlier today I saw American Hustle at the New York Film Critics Series at the AMC 25 in NYC. After the film Peter Travers interviewed the film's director David O Russell. A review is coming of the film but I've posted some pictures of what it was like in the theater, including a couple of Russell carrying on when the lights for the cameras blew out. The pictures can be found here.
Set near a military base Fiend follows what happens when a military project rips open a rift between worlds. Through it comes invisible beasties which begin killing people. As events transpire group of people end up hiding out in a house as the invisible beasties lay siege. A timely alteration by one of the scientist turns the invisible visible and it’s revealed that the source of the attacks are evil brains with antenna and tails that they use for leaping and holding on to their pray.
Don’t deny it I can hear you snickering.
I know the idea of killer brains sounds stupid, but there is something about them that makes your skin crawl. The brains are a combination of props and stop motion models and they are creepy as all hell. It’s a combination of the motion and the texture of the monsters coupled with icky sound effects. And speaking of icky, when these guys die, they ooze and bleed in a manner that is stomach turning. Yea this film is from 1958, but the gore effects are 1980’s. I’m kind of shocked that they got away with it.
I love this film.
Well I love the final half hour. I love the siege. It’s during the siege, which kind of pre-dates night of the living dead that the film breaks away from being a typical 1950’s science fiction film into something else. You can tell how good the climax of the film is because you’ll never hear me talk about anything else. Yes the opening is good, but the end is great and it’s the think that will have you asking for more brains when you’re leaving the theater.
A small scale underappreciated gem that is lucky to have Criterion handing it’s release.
A must see for monster lovers.
Sunday, December 8, 2013
|A blurry taped Josh Brolin and paper hammer intro the Oldboy panel at New York Comic Con|
We're all over the board tonight---
I had Jury Duty Monday. When I was done I decided to skip over to the nearby cinema (well not so near by) and see Spike Lee's version of OLDBOY before it sinks totally from view. I say this because it was trending toward oblivion during it's first couple of days of release-and because it had really bad word of mouth.
For those who don't know, the plot has to do with a man who is locked away for 20 years in a "hotel" room who then is released and tries to track down who did it and why. The sting is in the tail and in the Korean film it was a sting in the heart. The new film references the earlier one frequently but never the manga upon which it's based which is bizarre.
The current film runs about 100 minutes, cut down from an original cut of 3 hours. Josh Brolin is unhappy about the cuts which can be seen all over the place in a story line that doesn't flow but lurches from place to place. My feeling is that had the film run 3 hours it would have been a respectable film instead of a mess. I'm told that the studio demanded cuts, which is odd since they knew what they were getting- I mean all they had to do was watch the original- and realize that you can't change things too much and still have Oldboy.
The laundry list of problems with the film begins with anachronisms wrong year cars, of the amount street vendors would be selling stuff for 20 years ago, and other background details. It continues on to the complete lack of characters other than Brolin (who comes off as such a huge dick that he makes it impossible to like him- and sinks the film at the get go) . No one has any sort of personality or character. Worse no one has any chemistry with each other which makes the Josh Brolin/Elizabeth Olsen relationship unbelievable. The violence is scattershot with the hammer attack being too cartoony and had the audience I saw this with laughing (even the old lady who was shrieking at some of the torture of Samuel L Jackson was laughing). Worst of all is the tone of the film which vacillates between black humor and seriousness. Am I suppose to be laughing with the film or not? Mostly I was laughing at it.
I'm not going to say how it stands in Spike Lee's list of films. I want to see his preferred cut before I do that.
I will say that I'm guessing that the longer version would have been acceptable and could have survived on it's own and allowed us to accept the changes from the original.
As it stands now its a mess, not recommended except if you can see it for free.
Hopefully a directors cut will surface.
I recently started reading the Robert Kirkman Walking Dead comic. This prompted another round of discussion with my brother about zombies, mass media and why people love them. I like zombie films but the recent spate of them have left me bewildered.
Much of our discussions of late have to do with the science of zombies and the sociology of the apocalypse which no one seems to get right (its another world's rules not this one.)
For no real reason I'm going to repost part of an email conversation I had with my brother a couple weeks back on Zombies:
Walking Dead was pretty good last night.
I have to try the comic and the TV show (again)- I have the omnibus’s which make up the first 96 issues…
The show is not bad. Could be great. Missing something.
There was a huge article in Rolling Stone on the show. Apparently the comic and hence the show, was designed to be a never ending zombie film because Kirkman never wanted the zombie movies to end.
My problem with zombies right now is that the biology of them in films and current popular culture makes no sense. Somewhere the move away from the Romero – we don’t know whats happening or why – to supposed scientific explanations strains credibility. I have yet to see a cause that makes sense. The closest to sense is the 28 Days films since in reality that not zombies but a disease. If you are dead then the cells will decay- no one deals with that logically- except Romero. Probably the two best films from a logic and reasoned sense are the original Night(of the Living Dead) and Dawn (of the Dead) Outside of those the films things don’t make sense. Also the breakdown of society and the levels of infection ect don’t seem right- but too fantastical. The problem is things start in the middle of a plague not at the beginning.
In the Zombie Apocalypse books the closet they could figure was that it was a disease that killed the host and reanimated it because the disease needed protein to survive. It made some kind of sense. But also the books involve Vampires that took advantage of the disease to use the zombies. In Walking Dead everyone has the disease, that's why any one would reanimate when they died. How did everyone get the disease, how is there 100% infection? At least the remake of Dawn of the Dead alludes to disease and only if you are infected do you reanimate. Why does there have to be a reason? At least the Venus Probe radiation would explain why all dead reanimate but I never figured how it would explain the disease they carry. I still like the no reason, it just happened.
It would work in a world with vampires-then I wouldn’t blink, but in a scientific world it makes little sense. I agree with the 100% infection question. The real question is that the dead- as explained have no circulatory system so how does the nutrients- which in theory would keep the body from decaying going? I could accept spasmodic action of a reanimated corpse which would mean the cells are just firing off. And why don’t they decay- think about it- they should decay and putrefy- they should freeze in rigor giving time to kill. But they should eventually just decay away. Now I could accept muscle memory to allow movement- but any sort of rationed or reasoned thought would be out- you would also have a problem with tissue break down since if they are dead cells are not being replaced additionally the various secretions which help the body move are not being produced. I’m not saying zombies don’t work and aren’t scary- but efforts to make them scientific collapse.
(For the record- I'm not a fan of the Walking Dead comic which I find more soap opera than scary. It also has some weird internal twists that don't seem right to me- but that's my own problem.)
This week we'll be continuing with our month of Criterion. I also will have some reviews sprinkled in of a couple of film of new films coming out this week. I'm also seeing AMERICAN HUSTLE tomorrow at a taping of a critics discussion that will be running in some theaters Tuesday as part of a preview screening of the film.
I've started work on my year end lists. As in years past there will be four and they will not be like anyone else's lists. Look for them in the days before New Years with my best of the year list appearing on the 1st
And now some links ala Randi:
The Museum of Art and Design in NYC will be screening the films of Godffrey Reggio in January.
5 Years of GKIDS releases are being Celebrated at the IFC Center in New York with a killer line up including Ernest and Celestine and Nocturna. Tickets here
The original cut of Dark Crystal (thank you Hubert)
Christopher Tucker on creating John Hurt's Elephant Man make-up
I’ve heard that Hard Boiled was to be the farewell for John Woo to big Hong Kong action. Considering some of the similar films he’s turned out in the years since I think the goodbye was premature. Woo’s film wasn’t a final statement, merely amping up of the insanity.
The plot of the film is a typical cops vs robbers story about gun running. The details of it all are largely forgettable, and completely illogical, the film makes almost no sense what so ever. It simply exists in order to set up the action sequences.
And the action is all that matters. The seemingly never ending shoot out in the hospital where the bad guys are keeping the guns is one of the truly great set pieces in film history. And considering it was all done without the aid of computers it’s even more amazing-even by Hong Kong Cinema standards.
Of course the film contains one of the most iconic images in Hong Kong cinema, Chow Yun Fat with a gun in one hand and a baby in the other. The image is not a come on, Chow does spend a chunk of the climax with a baby in his arms. It’s a sequence that would never made it out of any American studio for any number of reasons, but in Hong Kong it’s perfectly acceptable. Actually it might have ended up in a Hollywood film, but the edge would have been off it, odds are there would have been no real danger for the baby, however in Woo’s film anything is possible, I had one friend waiting for the baby to pull a gun and join the fight.
I’m not going to try and sell you on the deeper meaning of the film. I know some people have argued that the film is a reaction to the then impending handover of Hong Kong to China where the baby represents the people, the bad guys are the Communists and the cops are the Hong Kong authorities. Any thought of deeper meaning is hogwash and the work of a person with too much time on their hands. Don’t kid yourself, this is just a balls to the wall action movie. If you love action films you absolutely must see this film.
The film was released as one of the first Criterion titles ever put on DVD (in a scaled down version from the laserdisc release) however edition has since gone out of print. The film is available in a super packed edition DVD from another source and is absolutely worth picking up.