Monday, November 28, 2011

Wet Floor: Considering The Holidays

A Very Harold And Kumar Christmas
It's silly and childish at best... but I always have fun watching a Harold and Kumar flick. It's the only franchise of this kind that still makes me laugh at all. And that earns it a special place in my heart. Sure, American Reunion may actually not suck, but that's a BIG if. In all respects, this new H+R picked up in a very surprising situation and I enjoyed watching everything unfold in its own ridiculous way. And NPH certainly helps keep the movie going in the third act.

Genre: Stoner, Holiday Comedy

Tarsem is a hard man to understand. It seems he will always put artistry before literary content. The Cell is a very questionable movie at best and The Fall is like a labour of love somehow overcoming all cinematic obstacles to make something I've never seen before. And then there comes Immortals. It was entertaining enough and I'm not gonna tell you not to see it, but something is off about the movie. The thing I can most easily pinpoint is the portrayal of the gods. They aren't interesting. They can't make decisions that should be common sense. They peeve me really and I can't say I enjoy the majority of actors playing these roles. Then the titans are a total mess. They all look the same and have no character what-so-ever, really more like the Puddy Patrol

than terrible masters of creation. But you know, the movie is still alright. And surprisingly, I will recommend the 3D iteration of this one. If you see it at all, see it in style.

Genre: Artsy, False, Greek Action

Like Crazy
I hated how this movie made me feel. It dredged up memories I never want to think of again. If you are a masochist I will recommend you see this. Otherwise, you may wanna keep away. Still, fair is fair, and I suppose Like Crazy did what it set out to do. So props to Drake Doremus and Ben York Jones. Still, I don't know why anyone would ever want to make another person feel that way. FYI Felicity Jones is wonderful.

Genre: Masochistic, Near-Chick-Flick Love Story

The Descendants
Alexander is a great filmmaker. It's that simple. In my opinion, The Descendants does not live up to the hype, but that is only because the hype was set too high. In the end it comes down to this, the movie is interesting, the performances are solid, the direction is good... I guess what's questionable is, this doesn't quite feel like an Oscar movie (whatever that means) and I'm pretty sure we will see it at the awards. It just has too much buzz to not come up in a good portion of Academy ballots. But if I compare it to a film like Win Win (which I would place in a similar category of motion picture), it really stands no shot at "Best in show."

Genre: Find-Your-Family, Dry Comedy

A Dangerous Method
David Cronenberg's latest outing is one of intrigue. There are excellent performances here, great direction, interesting script... but something about the flick doesn't quite reach the level of his last few features. I enjoyed A History Of Violence and when Eastern Promises came out I just fell in love with the way Cronenber had grown as a filmmaker (I like his old horror flicks, but he keeps switching it up these days). Well he's still growing. He proved that he can take on a completely different kind of movie. He proved that he could make it something worth talking about, and I would very much like to see it again... but it's not quite finished in my mind. The last line of the film is good, but it just feels like there should be a little bit more there. A small note but it makes a big difference in how an audience leaves the movie.

Genre: Psychological Drama

The Muppets
Now we're talking. The Muppets appeared on my Most Anticipated Films of 2011 List. And it delivers. Jason Segel keeps moving up in the world. After his success with Forgetting Sarah Marshall he has managed to write another great script (there was one small section I did not care for, but lets ignore that for now since the movie as a whole was still quite good). The Muppets turned me into a child leaving me with that giddy feeling of the old movies. The new muppet, Walter, works very well as a driving force of the plot and the songs made me happy on so many levels. Plus, I got to see some of my favorite characters in a very interesting stage of their lives. Knocked it out of the park with this one guys.

Genre: Muppets (duh)

My Week With Marilyn
Here's where I really think we're looking at an Oscar candidate: Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe. She does her job and then some capturing all of the lady's nuances in a believable way while carrying a weak-at-times film on her shoulders. Sure, there was a lot of good, but there was also a great deal of bad. Simply, I cared nothing for the characters or the situation, though on occasion something good would catch my eye. And I'm still not sure how I feel about Kenneth Branagh... surely his career is quite similar to Laurence Olivier's, but did he play the role well? I'm probably being too hard on the production, but I'm still wondering if we're going to get that perfect Oscar flick this year (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy please?).

Genre: Historical Fanfare

Scorsese thinks he's made a masterpiece here. Well it's a love-letter to masterpieces anyway. But I could never put it in that category. The pacing of this film is just off in every way I can imagine. Sacha Baron Cohen is quite good and deserves an Oscar nod though I sort of doubt we'll see that (he is mostly the comic relief of the film and boy did we need comic relief). I love Chloe Grace Moretz. Everything she's done in the last three years has just been excellent... her performances anyway. Now I'm a cinephile and a huge fan of classic cinema. So I totally get where Scorsese's coming from here. And at times I wanted to cheer the film on, but the majority of Hugo was a cookie-cut and spelled out, directionless (or too many directioned), overly sentimental, solitaire pissing contest. Worth a view, but every once and a while Martin Scorsese decides he's a "Genre" filmmaker and sadly he's usually not.

Genre: Mishmash, Adult Fairy Tale for Kids or something... I don't really know.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ralph Fiennes' Coriolanus

It seems a faux pas at times, but I am always interested in new (and interesting) interpretations of Shakespeare's works.
Having been a massive fan of Julie Taymor's Titus, I quickly assumed her own version of The Tempest would be that next great adaptation. But alas, near a year has gone by and the more I think on that film the more I despise every inch of it. True, it costars a number of excellent actors (Alan Cumming, David Straitharn, Chris Cooper), but none of these people had very much to do. And somehow Julie Taymor only managed to focus on the most mundane of things. It's a strange play, no doubt... but somehow I had anticipated a far more interesting film from such a creative piece.

Near a full year later, enter Coriolanus. Not just Coriolanus... but Ralph Fiennes' Coriolanus.
And somehow that makes sense. Fiennes is one of those excellent actors who always seems to get snubbed come around Oscar season. See The Constant Gardener. And I believe it will happen again. However, Ralph has an Ace in the Hole this time. This time he is the director.
Ralph Fiennes surprised me. He made me happy to say I believed in his movie, that I was actively excited to see it going in with the mindset that it would indeed be great. Frequently this makes it harder for a movie to live up to the "hype", but Coriolanus did. It lived up to the hype and made me crave another Ralph Fiennes film. If he could perform the way he performed whilst being in charge of the crew and the cast around him, I have so much more than faith in his future abilities as a film maker.

On another note, Brian Cox blew this thing out of the water.
He had such an excellent role and really made use of the words that Shakespeare gave him. If he does not get any kind of critical acclaim for this performance, then shame on the institution of film criticism.

But what is Coriolanus? I admit, entering the theatre I had only a limited knowledge of this lesser known work by the bard. I'll tell you now, it's not a member of the Apocrypha. This goes so far as to say, it is considered just another example of Shakespeare's masterdom over language and storytelling. I can now say I prefer this work to the likes of Julius Caesar, Macbeth, or Othello (Iago exempt). And that's a pretty buff group of plays right there. But somehow Caius Martius Coriolanus is such an interesting character to me. He seems so real, so steadfast and honorable (in his own way), and so stubborn. He's the kind of character that makes you wonder if good men can be bad and bad men can in fact be good.  To me he is a symbol of man attempting to preside over the faculties of their own will. Trying too hard to be in control can lead to terrible struggle. In this case, Coriolanus' struggles take him to the opposite ends of his being. How does a man become his own enemy? And how do a people watch that man and not call him evil?

Coriolanus. It's worth your time in a darkened theatre.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Wet Floor: Pain Is Motivation

The Skin I Live In
Pedro Almodovar has made something impressive. All at once it seems filthy and distasteful and wonderfully shocking brain candy. I don't really know how to describe it. All I can say is, there's a moment in the third act when me and three of my friends (mind you none of us are squeamish or afraid to stare down a shocking moment) looked at each other with mouths agape. Something had wracked our brains and I'm almost positive we had all been raped. That's the only explanation I can think of. And yet, somehow, I need to see this again a maybe probably even need to own this and it's certainly making a run for my top ten films of 2011.

Genre: Softcore, Sci-Fi, Mindmashing Tragicomedy.

The Three Musketeers (in 3D)
Well goshdarn if I wasn't forced to see this movie for a friends birthday. All I can say about this film? Similar notes as the above... I feel as though Paul W.S. Anderson has raped me. But this time there is no joy in the experience. Just utter pain. Thoughts of suicide. If you go to see this movie, just go in aware that you will lose a full two hours of your life that you can never ever ever get back again.

Genre: Blunt ripoff of an adaptation that hadn't read the source material in the first place.

Martha Marcy May Marlene
Oh man. This movie was something else. As if getting another great performance from John Hawkes wasn't treat enough, I'm all at once introduced to Elizabeth Olsen. And you know what? I want to get to know her better. This girl is the younger sister to the Olsen twins and wow can she act circles around the both of them. Good, crazy movie worthy of at least a single visit.

Genre: Cult Thriller.

The Rum Diary
This prequel to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is not bad. I like Depp as Hunter. I like Richard Jenkins in everything. And Aaron Eckhart is a fine actor. Still, it never really touches on that insanity we see in Fear and Loathing. Perhaps it's the absolute lack of Gilliam, or maybe it's just that the original story is just and earlier work and thus Hunter himself had not been quite so corrupted by sin. Whatever it is, it's alright. We get more plot sans insanity and I honestly like "more plot" (I know I'm one of the few in Hollywood). Not a half bad, no exactly perfection.

Genre: Sin Dramedy worthy of a few shots of Rum beforehand.

If you have any memory of loving the original, this is a very worthy remake. The dancing is far superior and almost everything works. I have only two minor complaints here: Dennis Quaid isn't bad, but he just can't deliver like John Lithgow can. They are just a different caliber of actor. So sadly ( and I like Quaid) this casting becomes a downgrade. The other thing is, the plot of this movie just doesn't work in a modern world. In the 80s it was fine. I could easily believe that a town would be so capable of shutting its self off from the rest of the world. But not today when phones have internet and internet is everywhere. This is something that is completely ignored. And perhaps that's for the best. Though I wish they had just accepted that it HAD to be a period piece like Donnie Darko is a period piece. Still, this is a good movie and worth your time and money.

Genre: Dance Flick with a Heart.

I just got back from this one and am pleasantly surprised. The first act is far more comical than I expected. The actors make good use of interesting dialogue and little quirks I am certain were written into the script from the get go. It's just a well thought out film and that is something I am always happy to see. The ending is pretty solid and worth two plus hours wait it takes to reach it. And the acting, even by Kirsten Dunst, is quite good. Perhaps this is not an Oscar contender, but that would simply be due to politics. Quality entertainment here.

Genre: Epic, Sci-Fi, Tragedy.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Surprising Dead

I've been less and less interested in The Walking Dead since last season's "awkward" finale. It was an interesting choice to go to the CDC... but it would have been a far more interesting one to stay there (at least for a little while). It's odd because this is AMC's highest viewed show and yet it doesn't even remotely compare to Mad Men or Breaking Bad (in my opinion the top two dramas on TV). There's just something missing in these latest episodes. It may be compelling characters. It may be lack of drive (ie. no direction or end game in sight). Sure they want the show to last a while, but why should anybody care if the story's no good? Television has been plagued with this mistake for decades. Just because a show has viewers doesn't mean it should be forced to stretch its story beyond a recognizably proper climax.

This is how I've been feeling since last year. And the first two episodes didn't help. In fact, I was just about to give up on the series all together when something interesting happened. This most recent episode... it wasn't "perfect", I'm not gonna say "perfect". It had almost as many flaws as the last two. But somehow, someway, they saved it. There was a key decision that one character made at the end of this episode that shifted my view of the show just enough to keep me watching (for the next three weeks anyway).

Now I'm not a fan of the missing girl. She should already be dead and they honestly should have given up the search by now. And the little boy, he should be dead as well. The fact that they happened to run into a vet at the perfect moment of need... well I guess I shouldn't be arguing against coincidence, but it feels cheap. And then this magical moment of desperation. An attempt to find drugs that may save someone else's life gone horribly wrong. A new character (that we don't really care about),Otis, proving to be a genuinely nice fellow running with Shane, a character that we're supposed to care about (and for what it's worth I kind of like him more than most of the other leads). They get overrun and somehow, desperation actually takes effect. One character makes a massive and dark decision.

Like I said, the show has flip-flopped around looking for direction and losing it. But there was a small spark of magic that makes me think The Walking Dead could make me feel this way again. We'll see. Only time will tell.
But the loss of Frank Darabont as show runner still leaves me wisely cautious.