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Archive for the ‘Drama’ Category

Uncut Gems

Monday, January 20th, 2020

UNCUT GEMS is the latest and highest profile movie from writer/director brothers Josh and Benny Safdie. I recently caught up with their previous movie GOOD TIME and I loved it, so I would’ve been excited for this even without the hype.

It’s the story of Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler, CONEHEADS), a New York jeweler who specializes in making ridiculous necklaces for rich musicians and athletes. His claim to fame is a blinged out Furby medallion he once made for some rapper to wear in a video. His shop is a tiny room behind a security door and he depends on people with connections like affiliate Demany (LaKeith Stanfield, THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB) and employee/mistress Julia (Julia Fox) to hook him up with VIP clients. Julia is using her hotness and her side career as a photographer to hook that singer The Weeknd, and Demany brings in Boston Celtics power forward Kevin Garnett. (read the rest of this shit…)

Little Women

Friday, January 17th, 2020

Little women, walking down the street. Little women, bonding with their sisters but also struggling to establish their individual identities in order to find a path in life that brings them happiness

In her joyous new version of LITTLE WOMEN, writer/director Greta Gerwig (LADYBUGS) cleverly acknowledges that the book by Louisa May Alcott may be more appealing to (or more understood by) women than men. When freelance writer Jo (Saoirse Ronan, HANNA) sends stories about her and her sisters to her publisher (Tracy Letts, U.S. MARSHALS) he snidely dismisses them… until his daughters find the manuscript and freak out like it’s a new Twilight. The scene is inspired by reality: Alcott and her publisher didn’t really believe in her work-in-progress until the publisher’s niece read it and loved it.

What I’m saying is not that I, as a male individual, don’t get the appeal of this movie. I loved it. But Little Women is a “girl story” I never knew to open myself up to. I had never read or seen it, not even when it had Winona Ryder in it. I only did it this time because I loved Gerwig’s first film as a director, LADY BIRD (she didn’t direct LADYBUGS, I don’t know why I said that a paragraph ago, but it seemed amusing at the time). (read the rest of this shit…)

White Hunter Black Heart

Wednesday, January 1st, 2020

Clint Eastwood ended the ‘80s fighting neo-nazis in PINK CADILLAC, the action comedy directed by Buddy Van Horn, but he started the ‘90s directing and starring in something more self-reflective. In WHITE HUNTER BLACK HEART, Clint plays eccentric filmmaker John Wilson, who has planned to film a movie in Africa mainly so he can try to hunt an elephant while he’s there. He brings along a young writer friend, Pete Verrill (Jeff Fahey, DARKMAN III: DIE DARKMAN DIE) to polish the script and to pressure into going hunting with him. That character is based on Peter Viertel, who rewrote THE AFRICAN QUEEN for John Huston. The movie is based on a novel he wrote about it when he got back.

So Clint is a little different in this one. He moves and talks a little different, doing a partial imitation of Huston, and is more verbal than usual. Also he’s introduced wearing an ascot and sock-garters.

(read the rest of this shit…)

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Monday, December 9th, 2019

A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD has been promoted as a Fred Rogers biopic, and it it is true that Tom Hanks (THE LADYKILLERS) tackles the challenge of portraying the famously gentle Neighborhood of Make-Believe resident. But it’s not his life story, or even the smarter kind of biopic that focuses on one period as a microcosm of his life. Instead it makes him a supporting character in the story of a journalist coming to terms with his estranged father while working on a magazine profile of Rogers. I guess it’s kind of like SAVING MR. BANKS, where Hanks played Walt Disney as co-lead with a highly fictionalized P.L. Travers, but it’s probly more comparable to if MILES AHEAD was mostly about Ewan McGregor’s character dealing with family issues and Miles Davis occasionally gives him good advice that he rejects until the end of the movie.

So it doesn’t matter much that this is coming on the heels of a popular documentary (WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?) that it could never equal – it’s not the same thing at all. They do manage to work in a few re-enactments of famous moments (a couple seconds of his congressional testimony) and remixes of scenes from the documentary (a crowded cafe – and therefore the theater you’re sitting in – goes silent when he asks our protagonist to stop and think about “the people who loved you into being”). But if I remember right the documentary had a part where writer Tom Junod said that writing a profile on Rogers for Esquire changed his attitude toward life, and this is mostly extrapolated from that idea, with Rogers as guest star guru to writer Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys, TITUS). (read the rest of this shit…)

Parasite

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

This is a rare one for me: I saw PARASITE having no clue what it was about at all. Completely fresh. I saw the trailer 1 (one) time and didn’t understand what was going on. But I liked the three movies I’ve seen by director Bong Joon-ho (SNOWPIERCER) enough to just take the hype at its word and go see it. And since two of those movies (THE HOST and OKJA) are strange creature movies I honestly didn’t even know if the title was a metaphor or if there was also going to be an actual parasitic monster at some point.

Anyway it’s not a huge surprise twist movie or anything, but I enjoyed the lack of expectations. So I guess only read this if you’ve seen it or don’t care about that. (contains spoilers, mostly vague.)

It’s the story of the Kim family – father Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho, THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD), mother Chung-sook (Jang Hye-jin), son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik, TRAIN TO BUSAN) and daughter Ki-jeong (Park So-dam, THE SILENCED) – who seem to take economic struggle in stride. They live together in a cluttered basement infested by stink bugs, with a window facing an alley where they often see a drunk guy peeing. In the opening scene they discover that their neighbor added a password to her wi-fi, but they can connect to a nearby cafe if they crawl into the top corner of the apartment on the raised platform with the toilet. Which is important because they need WhatsApp to communicate with the young manager of Pizza Generation (Jung Yi-seo) who pays them to fold boxes. (read the rest of this shit…)

Good Time

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

GOOD TIME is a hell of a movie from Josh and Benny Safdie, thirtysomething New York indie directors I never heard of until the flashy A24 trailer acted like they were a household name. Sure enough it’s their fifth feature film (including one documentary) but this one got a little more attention for starring Robert Pattinson, the guy from the Cronenberg movies. He plays Connie Nikas, a New York City dirtbag who storms into a doctor’s office to get his developmentally disabled brother Nick (Benny Safdie) and bring him to help rob a bank. They get away at first but most of the money is ruined by a dye pack and Nick gets arrested. The movie is about Connie running around town all night trying to find $10,000 more dollars to pay Nick’s bail.

It’s a stylish epic of dirt-baggery – Meth Age Michael Mann. An intimate look at a shitty dude doing idiotic things with fevered lighting, gritty real locations, some raw non-professional actors and one of the most legit retro-synth scores I’ve heard, a Tangerine Dream-esque thing by an electronic artist Oneohtrix Point Never, which is a name that I totally understand and can say easily, on account of how young and with it I am. And just so you know I didn’t have to ask anybody what vaporwave was and if I had I totally would’ve understood what Wikipedia meant about it being “built upon the experimental and ironic tendencies of genres such as chillwave and hypnagogic pop.” (read the rest of this shit…)

Dolemite Is My Name

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019

DOLEMITE IS MY NAME is a dream come true – topnotch director, writers and cast making a beautiful, warm, well produced triumph-of-the-underdog epic about Rudy Ray Moore, the small time club singer who reinvented himself by selling dirty comedy records out of the trunk of his car and then strutting his way into independent filmmaking. The script is by kings of the oddball biopic Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski (THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT, MAN ON THE MOON, The People vs. O.J. Simpson) and it’s got a whole lot in common with their best film, ED WOOD. It’s another story about an L.A. misfit perceived as a failure who, through tenacity and lack of self consciousness, puts together a family of people to will their silly, awesome dreams into reality.

ED WOOD glorifies people whose work was and continues to be made fun of, arguing that the passion and personality behind these works imbues them with an artistic purity and value that they hadn’t previously been given credit for. Moore and friends work with a similar scrappily amateurish zeal, but they in fact made a hit movie that, at least in some parts, was intended to be laughed at. So the happy ending in this one is real! (read the rest of this shit…)

Bedevilled

Thursday, October 10th, 2019

BEDEVILLED is a powerful South-Korean film from 2010 about a disastrous reunion between childhood friends on the tiny, barely populated island of Mu-do. From the cover I expected something more gothic and intensely gory, and maybe supernatural? But it’s not like that. It’s all leading up to a bloodbath, so I wouldn’t deny its horror credentials. But it mostly plays out as a very involving character drama. So keep that in mind if planning a Halloween celebration.

It’s definitely a morality tale. Hae-won (Ji Sung-won, EMPIRE OF LUST) is a young bank worker in Seoul. At the beginning she coldly refuses to loan to a woman who’s about to lose her home. It reminded me of DRAG ME TO HELL, but she doesn’t get cursed for it, and she’s not doing it under professional pressure. In fact when she steps out her co-worker takes over and does help the woman. So it establishes her lack of compassion. (read the rest of this shit…)

Joker

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

I think my favorite movie by director Todd Phillips (ROAD TRIP, STARSKY & HUTCH) is still his 1993 student film HATED: GG ALLIN & THE MURDER JUNKIES. It’s a documentary about an infamously transgressive punk singer skipping parole to do a tour where he kind of plays music, but the shows usually end soon after he shoves someone’s banana up his ass or smashes a woman’s nose with a beer bottle or shits on stage and throws it in the crowd. Phillips was clearly aware of the absurdity of his subject, but also in awe of someone living their life as a human middle finger. The director’s new film, JOKER, won the Golden Lion at the 76th Venice International Film Festival, and shows an evolution in his film craft, but not necessarily in his world view.

Let’s take a moment to consider that when BATMAN & ROBIN came out there is no way in hell any of us could’ve guessed that in 22 years one of our generation’s most respected actors would star in a super-fucked-up hard-R ‘70s period piece Scorsese knockoff character study vaguely based on (and officially branded as) an iconic Batman villain. Much less that it would be controversial only for reasons other than “it’s too scary for kids.” It’s a crazy world we’re living in. Almost like… the Joker. Oh my god. (read the rest of this shit…)

American Gigolo

Monday, September 30th, 2019

AMERICAN GIGOLO. Paul Schrader’s prequel to AMERICAN PIMP. Older brother of AMERICAN PSYCHO. Cousin to AMERICAN NINJA. Quite a family of movies there.

I really should see more of Paul Schrader’s stuff. Obviously I respect him for writing TAXI DRIVER and revere him for writing ROLLING THUNDER. I remember loving BLUE COLLAR. MISHIMA: A LIFE IN FOUR CHAPTERS was incredible. More recently FIRST REFORMED really impressed me. But there are some very famous ones I haven’t seen. This one, I gotta admit, I ignorantly assumed wasn’t my thing. Some Richard Gere movie. Who cares?

It was getting more into movie soundtracks on vinyl that turned me around. AMERICAN GIGOLO is a pretty common, relatively inexpensive find, so I picked one up, and really liked it. Then I figured okay, I should see where these sounds come from.

Young, slim, squinty-eyed dreamboat Richard Gere (a little after DAYS OF HEAVEN, a little before AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN, way before FIRST KNIGHT) stars as Julian Kaye, L.A. gigolo. In his business there’s alot of ambiguously talking around things on account of the illegality. Lots of not stating what’s going on, or denying it – saying “you’ve heard wrong” or “you’re mistaken” when someone’s too direct or seems like trouble. So it’s interesting that he ends up suspected of a murder he didn’t do. We’re not sure at first if they really did hear wrong, really are mistaken, or if he’s just doing his usual shtick. (read the rest of this shit…)