Reviews written by registered user
|16 reviews in total|
Elaine, a young witch, uses love spells on men in this satire/homage of mid-century melodramas and Gothic romance fiction. This film boasts some of the most gorgeous set design, costuming and camera-work I've seen in ages. Biller's wholly unique take on gender politics leaves a lot to unpack, but is entertaining through and through.
Gorman Bechard's has created a unique type of music doc here, telling
the story of cult-favorite Minneapolis-based rock band The Replacements
exclusively via talking heads interviews with the group's fans and
contemporaries. No-one from the group themselves is interviewed, nor
are any clips, songs, or even photos used.
What could have been an experimental-seeming gimmick actually really draws the viewer in as the interview subjects recount the band's rise to prominence, their anarchic live shows, and the musical envelope-pushing of their early records and subsequent "commercial sound" of their later ones.
The roster of talking heads includes a handful of celebrity admirers like "The Kids in the Hall"s Dave Foley, George Wendt and Tom Arnold, contemporaries like Husker Du's Grant Hart, younger musicians who were influenced by the group like members of the Hold Steady, the Gaslight Anthem, and the Goo Goo Dolls, and a multitude of graying record engineers, punk club promoters, record store owners, college station DJs, and others. Collectively, they paint a vivid portrait of the group. Despite being only passingly familiar with the band, I found this approach deeply involving; much more so than the usual "Behind the Music" approach. Well and truly, a unique documentary.
Sandra Bullock - someone that only a Hollywood producer would envision as a lonely spinster who can't get a man - is a Chicago el train ticket booth attendant with a secret crush on commuter Peter Gallagher. When he suffers a coma after falling onto the tracks, she goes to with him to the hospital, and through a wacky misunderstanding, his family believes that she is his fiancé that he never told them about. While he is in the coma, she gets to know them, and eventually falls for his brother, played by Bill Pullman. Like Sleepless in Seattle, this is another romantic comedy where the writers and directors confused plucky and adorable with stalkerish and insane. The plot sounds like a bunny-boiler sex thriller (even the title, While You Were Sleeping, is creepy) and yet, this is a fluffy chick flick. My girlfriend, who likes this movie has admitted that the fundamental wrongness that permeates the picture is the reason for her enjoyment of this mid-90's favorite, but I was less enamored. I would have actually preferred to have seen "While You Were Sleeping With Michael Douglas" (thanks, Kim Morgan) than this movie, which is uncomfortable in a not-fun way.
This political farce, which is the third film that Larry Charles and Sacha Baron Cohen have made together, is also their first which is a straight narrative comedy rather than a prank-laden mockumentary. Although Baron Cohen exhibits the same total commitment to his wacky main character as always, this isn't quite on the same level as Borat, but that's only because you can't write anything as outrageous as tricking a rich Southern family into being okay with bringing a bag of your feces back into the dining room. This film is something of an homage and a reversal of Chaplin's The Great Dictator. Whereas Chaplin's film focused on a poor barber impersonating the Hitler-like ruler, Cohen's Admiral General Aladeen is shaved and abandoned in New York City, where no one recognizes him, while his uncle schemes to present his mentally challenged double to the United Nations. There is even an ironic inspirational speech at the end, which recalls the Chaplin classic. The film is very funny and happy to offend. It's dedicated to the memory of Kim-Jong Il, Aladeen plays a Wii shooter game of the '76 Munich Olympics, and tells feminist, organic co-op owning love interest Anna Faris "There's a woman going to school is like a monkey on rollerskates. It means nothing to them, but it's so adorable to us!" Jason Mantzoukas, Ben Kingsley, John C. Reilly, Fred Armisen, Aasif Mandvi and Chris Parnell all have funny supporting roles, and the soundtrack contains covers of pop songs, like Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg's "The Next Episode" and R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts" sung in Arabic-sounding gibberish.
Apparently, Kevin Smith self-financed this gritty little horror-thriller and took the exhibited the film in a roadshow fashion like Dwain Esper and Kroger Babb used to do, before selling the rights, auction-style, to Lions Gate Films. It concerns a group of teenagers who are lured by the promise of an internet hookup into a trap set by a fanatical church group hell-bent on punishing sinners, and the badly botched rescue attempt by ATF agents. Frequent Tarantino actor Michael Parks is the Fred Phelps-like preacher villain, and he is incredible. During a 12-minute church sermon sequence, it's impossible to take your eyes off him. Needless to say, Christians are not shown in the most flattering light, but I do not believe Smith, whose earlier Dogma mixed raunchiness and skepticism with heartfelt piety, is suggesting that all Christians, or Middle-Americans, are evil and crazy. Rather, by showing the Cooper family more trigger-happy versions of the Westboro Baptist Church, who take it upon themselves to capture and execute those whose practices they disagree with, Smith shows how little difference there really is between Muslim and Christian extremism. But the film is just as damning of the U.S. government, whose mishandling of the situation results in a Waco-like siege with many casualties. John Goodman is the closest thing the film has to a good guy, and even he begrudgingly accepts an order from his superior to kill everyone in Cooper's church so that "(his) wife won't have to clip coupons until we're old and gray." Cooper and his Jesus-freaks may be homicidal, hateful, bigoted extremists, but they are steadfast in their beliefs, and have a clear objective. On the other hand, supposedly organized, moderate and level-headed government bureaucrats screw up what should be a simple job due through second-guessing, adherence to authority against better judgment, and worrying how the media will make them look. The movie may be called Red State, but it's a sobering microcosm of America as a whole.
Movies that lost enormous amounts of money are often regarded as bad films, when often this is not the case. It's pretty easy to see why audiences who flocked to see 2001 and Rosemary's Baby did not take to Dr. Dolittle, but it is is a delightful film - I actually prefer it to My Fair Lady, and I like the songs better too. Of course my judgment is probably clouded by nostalgia (I watched this many times on video as a kid) but I still feel the film is unfairly maligned. It is a beautiful old-world adventure that hearkens back to a time that does not exist anymore. Rex Harrison is completely charming, the animals are all adorable, and Richard Attenborough's brief appearance is perhaps my favorite cameo of all time.
I saw this mini-masterpiece tonight at New York's Japan Society on the
tail end of their "Comedy and Horror" night in the series "The Dawn of
Japanese Animation." Each selection of weird, Fleischer Bros. and early
Disney-inspired distinctly, yet Japanese cartoons are paired up with a
live action movie in the same spirit.
"The Treasure That Is Children" (or "Kid Commotion" as the title literally translates) is a brilliant comedy that combines the rapid-fire sight gags of Chaplin and Keaton with the biting misanthropy and social satire of Shohei Imamura in full "The Pornographers" mode. Silent comic star Ogura Shigeru wears his Chaplin influence on his sleeve (or rather, his entire wardrobe, including a similar mustache, and a lanky physicality) but he manages to make his bumbling man-child of an expectant father, Mr. Fukuda. Painful slapstick humor abounds at the expense of pregnant women, children, and a poor defenseless piglet. It's really sad that the majority of Torajiro Saito's silent comedies were lost to the ages: we should get what still remains of this great filmmaker's work on DVD, pronto!
I'm happy to report that the Japanese film Linda Linda Linda, which
screened tonight at NYAFF (and was the first film of the festival that
I was able to go see at the ImaginAsian theater) is hands-down the best
movie I've seen at the festival so far. An upbeat and joyous film about
a high school girls' rock and roll band, it's practically guaranteed to
go straight to the heart of anyone who believes in music, and its power
to save one's soul.
The plot is as straightforward as they come. Shiba High School is holding their annual Holly Festival complete with a musical talent show, and three friends - drummer Kyoko (Aki Madea, Battle Royale), keyboardist-turned-guitarist Kei (Yu Kasii, Lorelei) and bassist Nozomi (Shiori Sekine, of the real band Base Ball Bear) are struggling to get a band together. After their previous guitarist injures her finger and has to bow out, they recruit shy Korean exchange student Song (Bae Doo-Na, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance) as their vocalist, and decide to cover three songs by the Clash-esquire 80's J-punk group The Blue Hearts. After weeks of staying up all night practicing, jamming until the wee hours (not to mention the fact that Song has to learn her lyrics phonetically), they are finally ready to play their music before their teachers and friends.
Admittedly, the description above probably makes this movie sound like every other movie about a band, or a sports team, or some kind of sentimental, rah-rah "Eye of the Tiger" pap. Trust me - nothing could be farther from the truth. What this movie is about is the people - the four schoolgirls that are its main characters are as quirky, and as button-cute, but also as three dimensional, as anyone you'd meet in life, and the movie's long, uninterrupted takes and improv-style acting give us a fly-on-the-wall feeling of being there. Opening with a MiniDV shot of one girl giving an on-camera interview about the Holly Festival, the movie starts out depicting its characters with shy restraint, gradually revealing more and more about their personalities, foibles, their joys and sorrows, until eventually, they literally start to feel like our friends. By the end, when the group performs their songs, we've honestly forgotten that they are characters in a film. We want to stand up and applaud.
I would honestly say that Linda Linda Linda is one of the greatest rock and roll films I've ever seen. Being a recent film, it doesn't have the legendary status of This Is Spinal Tap or A Hard Day's Night, but honestly, it's up there. This is rock and roll stripped down to its very core. No pretension, no decadence, no sex, drugs, limos, and all of that bullshit - just the three-chord structure of a song and its power to save lives. It's a truly beautiful thing to see and hear.
The description of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 sounds like a recipe
for an unarguably perfect horror sequel. The cannibalistic family are
still up to their usual hijinks, and Dennis Hopper stars as an
ex-Federal Marshal who has sworn revenge for the deaths of his
brother's kids in the first film. There's a bigger movie budget this
time, allowing for the family to relocate from their farmhouse to an
labyrinthine underground lair beneath a cheesy tourist attraction which
looks like something out of a Mario Bava film. A screenplay by L.M. Kit
Carson (Paris, Texas) and makeup effects by Tom Savini. The first death
in the film is a 90-mile-an-hour car chase/chainsaw-induced head wound
set to Oingo Boingo's song "No One Lives Forever"... now look me in the
eye, and tell me that that doesn't sound better than Citizen Kane? As
fate would have it, though, this film is actually completely terrible.
It's about as far removed from its predecessor as Killer Klowns from
Outer Space is from Psycho. I don't know how, or why, but some idiot
somewhere decided to play this film for yucks. Presumably, their
reasoning was that it would be too hard to try and outdo the original
in terms of grueling ferocity, so they opted instead to mix the gore
with slapstick. It might have looked good on paper, but the filmmakers
amped the goofiness up to eleven and it really all falls to pieces.
Replacing Edwin Neal in the role of The Hitchhiker is Bill Moseley, who is 1,000,000 times more irritating here than he is in the overrated The Devil's Rejects. Prancing about, picking his metal-domed head with a rusty coathanger (don't ask) and giggling manically like an evil Jimmy Fallon, he embodies about everything that is wrong with this movie. Well, just about everything, because then there's also Leatherface. Gone is the unstoppable, ruthless killing machine we all know and love, and in his place, we have a puppy-eyed, Quasimodoesque lunkhead with a strange preference towards dry-humping young women with the aid of his chainsaw instead of chopping them to bits without hesitation. I can only assume Hooper was going for some kind of Blue Velvet parody here... which brings us to Mr. Hopper. Even when he's tearing around the family's lair, slicing everyone and everything up with his chainsaw and shouting "I am the Lord of the Harvest!!!" at the top of his lungs, he still looks bored and confused. "One for them" indeed.
Amazingly, this film actually does have a substantial fanbase. Many of them insist that anyone who doesn't like this film could only be an unpleasable complaint-artist who wouldn't be satisfied with anything that wasn't exactly like the original. And that's just not true. I mean, I wouldn't have minded a funny Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel if it had actually been, well, funny. But...it just wasn't.
POSSIBLE MILD SEMI-SPOILERS
Despite what everyone would have you believe, Hostel is not an exploitive piece of "torture porn" - it's a good little movie with no self-doubt about what it is: a pulpy, unpretentious but scary and effective flick, made for horror fans, by horror fans, with no attempts to try and pander to the general public.
I won't lie to you - the torture scenes are pretty goddamn gnarly, and in a couple of places even downright disgusting, but in truth they only make up a very small portion of the film, and the picture has a lot more going for it than just blood and guts. For starters, characters are all pretty likable; I felt actually concerned for them, which is more than can be said for 99% of horror movies post-1980. The scares don't come as much from single, individual acts of torture and depravity, but from an overall feeling of dread of being a million miles from home, in a European village where everyone is in cahoots and is against you. If anything, it belongs with Deliverence in the subgenre of "Vacation Gone Wrong" movies...the kind of fear that I'm sure everyone has experienced at least a little of when they've taken a trip for some R n' R.
I saw this in a theater full of teenagers, and I for one really like horror movies with an audience because I get a kick out of the shared reaction. The girls screeched and ewwed in all the appropriate places, and when the villains got their blood-soaked comeuppance at the end, there were actually cheers. Of course, my horse!
|Page 1 of 2:|| |