Friday, February 27, 2015

Kingsman Rocks!!

While everyone was flocking to theaters to see a movie I hope never to have to sit through on Valentines Day, another film came out to appeal to the more sensible audiences of world.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is the latest by Matthew Vaughn of Kick-Ass (just the first one) and X-Men: First Class fame. It's the classic spy thriller story taken up a notch to fit in with this over-actioned comic book heavy film parade we've grown accustomed to over the last decade and a half. But this time, that old spy thriller takes a few extra (I'm not gonna say unexpected, cause they were still pretty obvious) turns in much the same fashion as that first good Kick-Ass movie.
What Kingsman really has going for it is an excellent cast and a very entertaining style of quirky yet hard-nosed action. Colin Firth finally plays the action hero role he was born for... and does so with the utmost of style. Taron Egerton holds his own against some of my favorite actors and still manages to make an impression, which is a very impressive feat for someone with so few credits to his name. He proved he'll be someone to watch out for in the future. Sophie Cookson was also a welcome new face. She took what little part she had to play with and made a meal of it. But then you add on these names: Mark Strong, Jack Davenport, Mark Hamill, Samuel L. Jackson, and Michael Caine... and no one can deny just how much star power this film carried.
There's not a lot more I can say about this film. It was thoroughly entertaining. It took the villainous plot to a different level and allowed its audience to revel in the insanity of said plot. And it proved to be just the right kind of ride to help take the edge off another otherwise excruciating start to a new film year. But films like this give me hope that studios may still come around about releasing quality products during, what they have deemed "dead seasons."
Kingsman is an excellent action adventure with a nice dose of comedy. I'd definitely recommend it.

Wetlands Is Pretty Gross

I know I'm late to the vomit orgy on this one, but damn... If you're a queasy personality, you should probably stop reading now, and forget this movie even exists.
Wetlands is the story of Helen, an 18-year-old girl who's been suffering from hemorrhoids her entire life... her mother is a piece of work who tortured her as a child with cleanliness accidentally pushing her so far in the other direction that Helen intentionally sits on and rubs up against any toilet she sees... and she intentionally makes messy work of it every time she shaves. This latter item leads her to the hospital as she accidentally knicks her annus just over one of those hemorrhoids. But as she wakes up from surgery, she realizes this just may be the perfect way to get her divorced parents back together. How one can come to such a conclusion, I really couldn't tell you but that's the plot.
But for all of that grossness, it's not a terrible movie. Though it does lose its grip on its characters towards the end and ultimately fails to give a real concise final thought or finale. Helen is just a difficult character to get on board with, and while I appreciate Carla Juri's performance, a solid actress who looks great naked does not prove to be enough to take the ick factor and make it digestible. Still, I suppose this film says a great deal more about life in Germany than it possibly could say about America.
If you've really got a morbid curiosity, Wetlands is the right flick for you. It's interesting enough, but damn is it sick to watch. Just recognize, you may want to keep an empty bag nearby.

So I Watched The Interview...

Man, this was a weird movie.
If you don't know by now (where have you been??), The Interview is the comedy about the attempted assassination of current North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. It embodies a very common American sentiment of late, and one that no one has really been particularly shy about articulating in the media or elsewhere... However, for whatever reason this intentionally stupid comedy of all things managed to gain the attention and ire of the dictator himself.
So a lot of really pointless questions come to mind about whether or not the film was worth it... or whether or not free speech has come into question in our country (SPOILER: IT HASN'T). But then there is a more direct question to be asked. Did this movie even remotely deserve the attention it wound up getting because of this whole "mess?" I gotta say, it didn't. Sure I laughed a little here and there... and the film even managed to make me think it was gonna make a real point about halfway through... before it totally decimated that point and threw all of its cards on the table in an attempt to force its audience to feel like 52 card pickup was actually a fun way to pass the time.
Seth Rogen and James Franco are a couple of fun and funny guys. But the more they do films together, the less the overall content of said film seems to matter. This Is The End was a surprisingly good time... but I don't think I'd call it a good movie... and I definitely did not enjoy it as much as  their first endeavour, Pineapple Express. Well The Interview is an additional step down even from that. It's clumsy and poorly paced. And unfortunately, the relevancy it found in the one scene where Sook (Diana Bang) speaks out against murder in the name of change was almost immediately ruined by the events that followed. But perhaps that's just me. It seems Rogen and Franco really would prefer to just make action movies. They keep claiming these are comedies, but I'm starting to think as time goes by that that just isn't true.
The Interview is an intentionally stupid film. But under the surface of that, it is unintentionally even dumber. And while I admire the filmmakers' attempts at the very end to "tie everything together" this film as a whole just doesn't work. It's a bad idea made worse by poor planning... and it's really not worth your time or money. Oh well.

What We Do In The Shadows Works!!

If you haven't had a chance to catch the new mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows, you've been missing out.
The film by Jemaine Clement (of Flight of the Conchords fame) and Taika Waititi recalls memories of old Christopher Guest comedies... the kind you used to stay up with friends till ungodly hours watching and laughing your asses off at. This is not Spinal Tap, but it's humor exists in the same ballpark.
What We Do In The Shadows is shot from the perspective of a camera crew that has been invited (with immunity) into a den of vampires "living" in New Zealand as the vamps prepare for an annual meeting of demons and spirits... a veritable monster mash. But these vampires are much more... shall I say... down to earth than the kind we're used to seeing in films. These guys are just a bunch of dudes. They make mistakes and want to party, though they can't get into the human bars without a direct invitation. And even the oldest and wisest of the bunch still has certain issues using their powers. These guys are not the sexgods that Hollywood has accustomed us to. They are a far cry to be sure.
Jemaine Clement has made a real name for himself outside of his two-piece band. Scoring roles in films like MIB3 and Muppets Most Wanted. And he always brings the whammy. He's funny and his timing is always on point. I'm a bit newer to Taika Waititi, though he is the real lead of this flick. And he impressed me. His awkward but direct approach to vampire living was almost always funny and there was a very compelling element of cleverness to every misstep and quirk he showed us.
Sure the rockumentary fourth wall kind of broke a few time. And while the film could have done with at least one more strong female presence, the lack there of didn't hinder the concept. As I said above, this is a film about dudes... dudes out of place in this modern world. And the circumstances just allow for dude comedy to take a more specific and silly kind of turn. What We Do In The Shadows was a very welcome surprise in this very young 2015 film season. And hopefully it is a sign of other good things to come.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Exploring Gett: The Trial Of Viviane Amsalem

This was one of those Oscar hopefuls that just didn't get enough of a push to make it to the awards. However it was found worthy by other awards shows. And I can understand why.
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem tells the story of one woman in Israel who desperately wants to part with her spouse only to be run through the ringer by the court system and the Jewish laws that essentially give the husband all of the rights in the matter. This is a film of attrition, so beware upon entering... you will get incredibly frustrated and want to shout at the screen. For the sake of all the other moviegoers around you, please don't.
Perhaps this doesn't connect back directly to the current feminist situation in America, but in theme one can easily draw lines from the one issue to the other. Equal wages for equal work and equal power and justice in a courtroom share similar places in my mind. And certainly there is a heavy feminist element to this film. It is just trapped in an even more archaic way of living. There is much that I commend about the Israeli way of life, but in this capacity... any time a religion is allowed to strangle a court, that is a failure on the government's part. Actually, there is an even deeper metaphor there considering the awkward state of our court system in this country.
But enough of metaphors for now. In Gett I found a truly interesting concept for a film. We are never allowed to leave the halls of the court house... as her life constantly forced back by those constraints. We never get a clear view of what their home life may have been like... simply the "he said she said" that the judges would be forced to witness. It's a rather exciting and impressively inexpensive way to make a feature film and I can't commend Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz enough for keeping it interesting almost completely to the end. Still, it is not a perfect film and the retake after retake of the same argument does in many ways get stale by the final scene. But I don't dislike the film for going on too long as I so frequently have argued in other cases. In fact, the nature of Viviane's predicament seems to ask for such an overextension. It feels right even if a little tedious.
If you like courtroom dramas... and you feel up to watching one specific case get argued to death when the correct answer seems obvious... rather if you wanna agree with a film for its entire runtime, give Gett a shot.

Dear White People Is A Worthy Successor...

...to Do the Right Thing.
I feel foolish for not having caught this flick in theaters. But when it came out, that was a very busy time in my life. Regardless, I have atoned and managed to watch this quality piece of cinema. Dear White People is a tale of racial (and sexual) ignorance. It is very much a politically motivated comedy of sorts. And it mashes together a series of very necessary thoughts and realizations about the way we as a nation have taken to simply sweeping race issues under the rug... at times even stating the inane idea that racism doesn't exist anymore in America. It's the story of a number of college students vying for political control at their ivy league school, the negative stereotypes being informed at said school upon all of them, and eventually an incredibly ignorant "viral generation" idea for a race themed party...
The saddest thing about Justin Simien's film comes in the end credits when it is made apparent that the concept for this film came from many many actual events that have been quite similar in nature. To say racism doesn't exist in America these days is to have the critical thinking skills of an old broom.
Tessa Thompson gives an exquisite performance bringing harsh reality to an overtly preachy role. And she proves capable of harnessing a soft side amidst all of this. Teyonah Parris surprised me playing a part I would morally be forced to detest if it weren't for the level of humanity she was able to impart... she plays a media-whore reality tv hopeful. In any other situation I would likely be destined to ignore this character, but she brought it to life and Simien's script made the person actually serve a purpose... Bravo! I liked Tyler James Williams a great deal as well, though his role was a lot more showing than telling.
Dear White People is rife with positives. And I really wish I had managed to see it before award season... just so I could complain with everyone else about it not getting nominated. Still it has similar flaws to Do the Right Thing (hence the comparison). The lengths it seems that the leads are forced to go to in order to insight any kind of a reaction from the white members of the student body feel overwhelmingly excessive. The argument stands on radically different legs depending on which film we're referring to however. Do the Right Thing simply targets the wrong people. Dear White People targets the right people, but does not give enough examples of those people actually willingly acting out to deserve our distaste. Perhaps I am being nitpicky on two films that I very much enjoy, and perhaps I can never completely understand every aspect of the moral... though I have been trying and do not intend to quit. But that's my two cents for what it's worth.
If you haven't seen Dear White People yet, I definitely recommend it.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Gold Rush 2015 (Part 2)

This is the second part of an annual Oscar conversation between Walter of The Silver Screening Room and Caleb of Who Is The March King? To find Part 1, VISIT THE SILVER SCREENING ROOM HERE.

Hahaha Darling I'm so much more interesting and charming than everyone else,
I couldn't care less that the Academy constantly leaves me off their ballot...

Silver Screener:  Let's talk about something incredible, like THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, which is sure to win at least four Oscars

March King:  I'm down. I would be totally okay with THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL winning Best Picture.

SS:  Me too.

MK:  For me it's that or BIRDMAN... or WHIPLASH.

SS:  THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, BOYHOOD, and SELMA made it to my Top Ten. But THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, yes, my God! Even though it truly deserves to be in Adapted Screenplay, I think it's going to win for Original; I expect it to score for Costume, Production Design, and Score; and if it won Picture, I would stand, applaud, and squeal!

MK:  That'd be cool, right? Though I have to respectfully disagree about score.

SS:  You don't think so?!?!

MK:  Don't get me wrong, Despalt did an awesome job. But for me that category was a tossup between MR. TURNER and UNDER THE SKIN. And since UNDER THE SKIN didn't even get so much as a sniff from the Academy, MR. TURNER gets my vote.

You hear that?! They think we deserve an Oscar!!

SS:  I agree that MR. TURNER's score is great -- and my personal vote would go for INTERSTELLAR -- but I think the Academy will go with THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL.

MK:  I wonder if it'll be another of those weird situations where the votes get split... after all, Alexandre Desplat is also nominated for THE IMITATION GAME.

SS:  Oh shit that's right!

MK:  But I guess this is one of those, we'll just have to wait and see kind of things.

SS:  Well isn't it always?

MK:  Well, if THE LEGO MOVIE had gotten nominated... I think I've made your point for you.

It's best not to count your Lego chickens before they're mounted on the baseboard.

SS:  Hopefully, this means THE BOXTROLLS, which was always the Best Animated Film of the Year, gets the Oscar.

MK:  Disagree. But I did like it. That's gonna be a tough category without the frontrunner. BIG HERO 6 was pretty cool. And THE TALE OF THE PRINCESS KAGUYA was beautiful if not a little too weird. But HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 (while not as good as the original) was dark and moody and a totally interesting expansion of that world. And who's to say SONG OF THE SEA doesn't deserve to be there? I can't find a single theatre showing it, so how could I know?

SS:  Is it even real? What is it?

MK:  I don’t know! Still THE LEGO MOVIE was so original and fun and interesting. There's nothing else out there quite like it. And it so meticulously captured what it's like to play with your favorite toys. That's my biggest snub.

SS:  True! I did love THE LEGO MOVIE, don't get me wrong.

MK:  That brings up a fun question Walter... What would be your biggest snub of the 2015 Academy Awards?

SS:  PRIDE for Original Screenplay, Picture. THE HOMESMAN for Cinematography, Score.

MK:  THE HOMESMAN deserves some serious credit.

Don't worry about me guys! I've been through far worse than blatant Oscar snubbery, in fact in my day they used to  hang me up by my pajamas and let the entire town walk by and laugh at my absolute humiliation... So you know, no Oscar don't mean much to me.

SS:  THE HOMESMAN is so fucking good! Or did you mean movies that had a shot going in, where the snubs were shockers? Because in that case, GONE GIRL in Adapted Screenplay.

MK:  No... anything in any category. My second biggest snub is Jake Gyllenhaal for Best Actor.

SS:  Uggggh still stiiiiings.

I would've just pawned that statuette anyway.

MK:  My third... Micachu (Mica Levi) for UNDER THE SKIN.

SS:  Yeah, the score was great for UNDER THE SKIN. Can't deny, even if the rest of the movie fell flat for me. Timothy Spall for Best Actor!

MK:  He was fucking amazing!!!!! MR. TURNER may have lost me towards the end as a film, but his performance never waned.

SS:  I love what Mike Leigh gets out of his actors. You never doubt them.

MK:  They are my favorite ensemble of the season. Everyone in that film knew exactly what world they were in. And they played it to the rafters.

SS:  I heard they spent, like, a year rehearsing the movie before they started filming. Which is typical Leigh. And I think we see the work on-screen, and the fact that none of it is nominated anywhere -- not even the BAFTAs -- is insane!

MK:  Just blatant ignorance from the cinema community. Though, on another note... Dick Pope did get nominated for Cinematography... and he should win.

SS:  Really? Over BIRDMAN?

MK:  Well... then again... any other year... he should've won…

SS:  I mean, I agree, but I figured I was in the minority…

MK:  You’re right. Emmanuel Lubezki probably has that category all kinds of locked up.

SS:  oh yeah

MK:  That's a strong category too. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL and IDA are legitimately beautiful flicks. And even UNBROKEN... which thank god it didn't get nominated for the big stuff... does look pretty good.

SS:  I wouldn't have minded a supporting actor nom for Miyavi...

MK:  Yeah. He was a shining light in an otherwise bland and recycled movie.

SS:  But at the same time, I could have sacrificed UNBROKEN's spot for THE HOMESMAN.

MK:  True. THE HOMESMAN looked better. I guess it just didn't have enough of a push during For Your Consideration season. That's a real shame.

SS:  Siiiigh...but why live in the past? The big Question: who walks away with Picture and Director? BIRDMAN or BOYHOOD?

I got this guys.

MK:  BIRDMAN... but it's close… Or BOYHOOD… I don't know. I honestly… Don't… Know. I thought I knew, but when you put the question so bluntly like that... and when I see how wrong the Academy's gotten it in the past I fear it's gonna go to something weird... like AMERICAN SNIPER... because Eastwood fucking owns the Academy.

SS:  Or THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL!

MK:  That would be great! I would totally love that. But do I trust them to make such a right move? The answer is... probably not.

SS:  Honey, if Eastwood owned the Academy, they would've been a lot kinder to J. EDGAR and HEREAFTER and INVICTUS and GRAN TORINO and... I won't be surprised if it's a BIRDMAN night.

MK:  None of those movies were even remotely good enough...

SS:  Since when has that stopped the Academy?

MK:  Since they realized how much of a public shit storm was raining down on them after CRASH! Somehow it always comes back to fucking CRASH!!! Fuck CRASH!!!! But fortunately it hasn't happened since then... we should never forget our history... lest we repeat it.

It's happening all over again ain't it?

SS:  Yeah. CRASH. Terrible night. But there is no CRASH equivalent this year, thankfully. I think the expanded Best Picture list helps that -- I think the fact that the industry seems to be embracing BIRDMAN helps even more.

MK:  You know, I think you're right. I have high hopes for these Oscars. There's more than enough quality material up for nomination to make this year a respectable one in the history books.

SS:  I always have high hopes for the Oscars!

MK:  I wish I could say the same.

SS:  I honestly find they get it right, or close to right, more often than not.

MK:  Yeah. I suppose. I should try to stop getting so held up on the unwarranted snubs and give them more of a chance. But when you get such a large group of people together with so many differing opinions, you're gonna end up with a few questionable calls in the end... particularly in Best Picture. The Academy uses a totally baffling voting scale for that one category. And the members really have been getting confused. You don't just pick the one film you think was the best... you rank each film that's been nominated... and then the film with the most number one rankings still may not get the ultimate prize... because maybe another film got more second and third rankings... It's totally awkward and already a very antiquated system.

SS:  I love it because it goes to the picture that most people like…
I think.

(Laughs.)


MK:  Alright. Well I guess we'll leave it at that for now. This year's gonna be a good one for the Oscars. And I really am excited to see what happens.


The 87th Annual Academy Awards air tomorrow, February 22nd at 4pm PST.