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The Nice Guys (2016)
Los Nice Guys!
The Nice Guys turns out to a worthy successor to writer-director Shane Black's cult film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
A neo-noir thriller and buddy action comedy set in the gloriously tacky 1970s, The Nice Guys stars Russell Crowe as a badass for hire and Ryan Gosling as a clueless yet capable, effete yet effective private dick on the hunt for a missing big tittied seventies porn star with help from Angourie Rice as Gosling's teenage sleuth daughter.
While not every scene is cinematic gold, the film more than makes up for it with double loaded barrels of action, laughs and a literally glass shattering climactic finale set in a Hollywood high-rise hotel.
Anomalisa: A Mona Lisa
Caught this film at a last minute matinée at ArcLight Hollywood. It's a stop motion animated film about a British author, voiced by David Thewlis, coming to Cincinnati for one night for a conference and his time spent in a first class hotel.
At the beginning I was impatient with it, I thought it might be just a stop motion South Park episode, where all the voices are pretty much the same. Then when the character of Lisa came on the screen, it all changed for me. I got it, it clicked.
The film is so disarmingly simple in its beauty and elegance. The relationship between the two main characters really touches you. Plus I'd never thought I'd be moved by the singing of a particular well known 1980s pop song in the film.
The role of Lisa was a diamond in the rough character, a beautiful, flawed girl whose been wrongly ignored romantically and it just takes the right person to see how fantastic she really is. It made me think of the times I wished I'd had a Lisa in my life and the times I was fortunate enough to have one. Lisa was voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh in a performance that fooled me, I was so drawn into the character I had no idea it was her, I only saw Lisa as Lisa.
While not a perfect film, it won me over and works on many levels, the filmmakers, Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson, leave it largely up for the viewer to decide what the film is about. Is the lead character insane? Is he in Limbo, his own private Hell, is everyone a robot, wearing masks literally? Does he see oil painting beauty in someone one day and the next sees only cracks and flaws? Who can say?
One thing though, voice actor Tom Noonan, albeit talented, should never sing again, ever. Never again, Dollarhyde, never again.
Anomalisa, or as I call it, A Mona Lisa, is the same as the iconic painting that is its namesake, kind of a thing of flawed beauty.
Steve Jobs (2015)
Steve Jobs: A Mad Saint
Saw the Steve Jobs film for the second time. Under Ridley Scott's direction, Aaron Sorkin's screenplay and Michael Fassbender's portrayal as Apple founder Steve Jobs, you really get a feel for the man and his genius, his cruelty and his madness.
The film takes place over the course of three new computer presentations years apart with flashbacks to Jobs career and early life. The final scene is almost painfully beautiful with a perfect song by The Maccabees used on the soundtrack. You get the feeling the world really lost someone special when Jobs died so young. Jobs changed the world. The film leaves you with a sense of wonder, what would it have been like to be someone like Steve Jobs? A self-made billionaire who grew up a loner with few friends.
I read that Jobs repaired old cars as a hobby and worked as a repo man in his youth and that the gig suited his personality. That's one scene missing from this bio pic I'd have love to seen. That and what Jobs thoughts were on the working conditions in Apple factories in foreign countries where they had to install suicide nets to save the workers from jumping to their deaths. Or his friendship and rivalry will Microsoft's Bill Gates.
Good night, dark prince.
Push It To The Floor Till The Engine Screams
Amazing, stylistic, supremely gory, animalistic, blood soaked, violent, with a killer look, score and soundtrack reminiscent of Michael Mann's Thief, only better.
Gosling's brooding loner Driver has nearly no dialogue, a quality I dig in a character, and yet says everything with just his face, his violence and his stone cold cool scorpion jacket, as he gets himself in high stakes trouble with organized crime in neon lit Los Angeles.
A kickass script, master direction by Nicolas Winding Refn, and a fantastic supporting cast with the mega buxom and super sexy Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, Bryan Cranston, Carey Mulligan and comedian Albert Brooks cast against type as a bloodthirsty gangster.
One of the best thrillers of the new millennium bar nada.
Furious Seven (2015)
Fast Furious 7
Sometimes I feel compelled to follow the crowd and see the films everyone else is going to see. Which is how I ended up at a matinée of Furious 7.
Pretty much what I expected, slick, loud and proud filmmaking with by the numbers storytelling, save for a few scenes, my fave being Dwayne Johnson's Luke Hoss' character's insane in the membrane scenes with a minigun trying to takedown a helicopter that's the second coming of Blue Thunder.
The paint-by-numbers plot concerns badass Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw, seeking revenge against badass Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto, for the near death of his brother.
Mostly it was an exercise in how the filmmakers used semi-believable CGI to have the late Paul Walker as Brian O'Conner seem like he was a lead character in the film, with a rather touching tribute to him in the finale.
One change at the end that might have worked better, rather than an on screen "For Paul" title, show a closeup of Brian's or Dominic's cars with a vanity license plate with seven letters that says, FORPAUL, and then have the car(s) cruise off into the sunset, fast and furious.
Thriller - en grym film (1973)
Thriller Or: Revenge Of The Ginger Cyclops!
The 1973 violent Swedish revenge film Thriller: A Cruel Picture, also known as They Call Her One Eye, greatly influenced Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill and you can see why even with only one eye.
The film has rather racy full-on penetration sex scenes, which were apparently popular at the time, done by body doubles, they actually work and match well intercut with the real actors performing simulated sex in something other than the usual dull missionary position movie sex scenes.
It's a quiet film with little or no score, set in a Swedish small town with perhaps the world's most ineffective police force and most unobservant neighbors ever, pay no attention to that shotgun killing across the road.
Gaps in logic galore in the story of an innocent young ginger girl left mute by a childhood rape who becomes addicted to heroin by a vicious pimp and enslaved into prostitution before honing her skills in hand-to-hand combat, guns and stunt driving before at long last taking her bloody revenge.
Ridiculous yet one of the better cult films I've seen.
Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
O' Fifty Shades!
In the spirit of Saint Valentine's Day, I bought into the hype and went to see the film Fifty Shades of Grey.
As someone once wrote, the ending was less a grand finale than a grand finally. Wooden acting, no full frontal nudity, sex scenes cut short. I can't remember the last time a major studio erotic film was released, and this doesn't bode well for a revival of the genre.
Some scenes worked, including some bondage scenes, yet you never feel fully engaged with the innocent female lead Anastasia or the mysterious young billionaire and S&M enthusiast Christian Grey.
My guess is the book was wall to wall sex, which is what made it readable despite the schlock value and the book's humble origins as Twilight fan fiction, the movie needed more of that, or a better screenplay and director.
The Traveling Executioner (1970)
Fields of Ambrosia
One of the great forgotten cinematic gems of yesteryear! From 1970, a young, whipcord fit, badass Stacy Keach stars as Jonas Candide, a traveling executioner who cruises the American South with his beloved portable electric chair, pulling the switch on murderers and thieves in 1918. Keach is shockingly good as he gets caught up in a scheme to save the life of a beautiful German woman slated for execution.
Keach's trademark facial scar is on full display here, not obscured by a mustache as it would be almost forevermore in later films. It adds something to the role, like a tiny crack in an otherwise perfect human statue. The film also features character actor Bud Cort in an early role.
The opening and finale scenes where Keach delivers Jonas' Fields of Ambrosia monologues are some of the best in 1970s cinema, and Jonas Candide is one of the great characters of Seventies film, he's a drunkard, a womanizer, a liar, a glutton, (the massive meal Candide sits down to eat after an execution has to be seen to be believed, massive plates of biscuits, Canadian bacon and Darwin knows what else) yet beneath it all he has a heart, Jonas, like the film, is darkly funny and darkly lovable.
Fantastically directed by Jack Smight, with a fine score by Jerry Goldsmith, and the seemingly only feature film screenplay credit by forgotten rebel screenwriter Garrie Bateson.
If there ever was a Traveling Time Traveler, a jump back into the wayback machine could correct the travesty of not nominating this film for Oscars for Best Actor, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture in 1970!
V/H/S Viral (2014)
Why Hate On This Film? Bring On Part 4!
Why are people hating on this movie? They're getting basically what they got in the first film! A series of incoherent found footage films strung together with a premise slimmer than an anorexic's g-string!
It really isn't any better or any worse than the other films in the series. It may be the weakest yet it still has something to offer. You've got one great film, Parallel Monsters, very spooky, very trippy. One pretty good film that slowly grows on you, Bonestorm, which is saying something, since I really hate skateboarders. One highly mediocre film, Dante the Great, that's like something out of a lame SyFy Channel movie yet still watchable, and the wrap around film to tie it altogether, (the not so) Vicious Circles, the weakest of the bunch.
Plus there's a short and incoherent section of what looks like a bunch of Latino gangbangers having a party and one vato flips out and slaughters them all for no apparent reason. Weird. Loco.
And there's a gratuitous helping of cringe inducing gore, i.e. a man being dragged to pieces from a moving truck.
You're never getting a masterpiece of horror from the V/H/S movies, you're getting what's expected. One annoyance is the opening segment uses far too much feedback noise, a little of that goes a long way.
Free your mind and watch it for what it is, something to see and enjoy once and forget it! There's no classics to be found here! Adios, pendejos!
The Interview (2014)
Amusing Yet Ultimately Forgettable Or: Haters Are Just Peanut Butter And Jealous!
Rather lazy Christmas this year. Had plenty of drinks on hand so venturing out wasn't a necessity. Ordered in some takeout and watched the über hyped film The Interview on demand. It's pretty much slick, glossy, instantaneously disposable entertainment. Amusing, at times gorily violent, yet ultimately forgettable other than its dangerous premise of Seth Rogen and James Franco's TV talk show characters assassinating North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. The best on screen chemistry is the bromance that develops in an extended sequence between James Franco's naive Dave Skylark talk show host character and Randall Park as Kim Jong-un himself. Seth Rogen, again, simply plays Seth Rogen and gets some laughs doing it save for a painfully unfunny and trite anal sex joke sequence. These guys can do better than this, or can they? Still, worth seeing if you're a fan of Franco and Rogen. Time for another drink. Happy holidaze.