“I’m Paul Barlow, and this is my daughter Jo.”

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

Archive for the ‘Drama’ Category

Vice

Tuesday, February 12th, 2019

When I heard writer/director Adam McKay was doing a movie with Christian Bale (TERMINATOR SALVATION) playing Dick Cheney, I couldn’t picture what that would be, but I assumed I would love it. The former Saturday Night Live writer has much more experience in beloved Will Ferrell comedies than in Serious Important Movies, but I enjoyed THE BIG SHORT‘s novel and audacious attempt to make entertainment out of explaining the early 2000s housing bubble. Many worship ANCHORMAN or STEP BROTHERS, but for me it’s TALLADEGA NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY that makes me laugh no matter which part I rewatch for the one-thousandth time on cable. Maybe people don’t think of it this, way, but to me it’s the best pop culture portrait of what was going on in our country during the Bush years. So I figured McKay had good instincts about this stuff. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Favourite

Monday, February 4th, 2019

THE FAVOURITE is the best picture nominated latest from director Yorgos Lanthimos, who I know from THE LOBSTER. I’m behind on this guy because I still haven’t even seen DOGTOOTH, let alone THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER, but I get the feeling this is the least weird of his movies. It’s also the only one he doesn’t have a writing credit on, instead using a script by newcomer Deborah Davis (her first produced screenplay, even though she wrote the first draft 20 years ago!) and Australian TV writer Tony McNamara. It’s a historical costume drama about palace intrigue, nothing conceptually crazy going on here, but it has a distinctive off-kilter feel and biting humor not always beholden to things people would’ve said at the time. (read the rest of this shit…)

Green Book

Monday, January 28th, 2019

I was excited when I first heard of GREEN BOOK – a two-hander teaming two actors I love, Viggo Mortensen (AMERICAN YAKUZA) and Mahershala Ali (PREDATORS). I wanted to see that. And a true story drama but directed by Peter THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY Farrelly? That’s interesting. It wasn’t until I saw the second trailer that I had a sinking feeling of oh shit, is this some kind of respectability-politics-cures-racism bullshit? Oh no Viggo, what did you do? And then I started seeing really harsh reviews supporting those fears.

It was only after I saw the movie and tried to read up on it that I found out some relatives of Dr. Don Shirley, the classical pianist who Ali plays, strongly object to the movie. I’ve been struggling with this review since before the movie won the Best Comedy or Musical Golden Globe, which is when the good pitchforks were taken out of the china cabinet and sharpened. Now it’s also nominated for the best picture Oscar, taking up that bad guy slot as the movie that all cynical people assume will win and show how out of touch Hollywood is about race. (read the rest of this shit…)

If Beale Street Could Talk

Monday, January 14th, 2019

After MOONLIGHT I was gonna see the new Barry Jenkins movie no matter what. Didn’t have to ask what it was about. Probly wouldn’t sound like my thing anyway. If I had asked, the answer might’ve been something like “in early ’70s Harlem, a young woman and her family try to clear her fiance who has been falsely accused of rape.” But that would’ve been misleading because it’s not at all a thriller or a legal drama. There aren’t any plot twists or shocking revelations. We never see a courtroom. The background is the inescapable, self-perpetuating undertow of an unequal justice system, but the foreground is a story about love, not just between this couple but between them and their families.

Like MOONLIGHT it’s gorgeously lit and photographed by James Laxton (YOGA HOSERS), has thick mood and atmosphere, a strong sense of the character of its setting, and a cast full of revelatory performers, people you just want to be around, faces you want to (and get to) stare at in vivid closeup. The two lovers, Tish Rivers (KiKi Lane making a great debut) and Fonny Hunt (Stephan James, who played John Lewis in SELMA and Jesse Owens in RACE), absolutely beam with infatuation. We hear a little bit about them growing up as best friends, but we don’t need it. Their eyes tell us how enamored they are of each other.

But Fonny is, as Tish puts it, “behind glass” when she brings him news that they’re going to have a baby. And not for the last time we will hear firm, assurances that things will be okay, people will stick together, odds will be overcome. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Mule

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019

Well, it’s a new year, and I’m keeping my tradition of kicking things off with a Clint Eastwood review. I think Warner Brothers may know about this practice, because they keep releasing his new movies at the end of December. (It’s not for Oscars – I heard they didn’t even screen this one for critics.)

Clint has been directing for almost 50 years. You don’t think of him as a guy who changes with the times, but he’s doing something to stay relevant at least some of the time. Here’s a guy from a couple eras ago still working while we have a cultural movement toward taking stock of our pop culture heroes, in some cases realizing that they were assholes the whole time, or worse. We find out about some horrible shit they’ve gotten away with or they say some shitty thing that makes us reconsider our respect for them.

This accountability is a good thing. Nobody should get away with abusing others just by being a movie star or rich or whatever. Personally I try not to have an itchy trigger finger on the “cancel” button though because I think there needs to be room for context and growth and making amends, if and when possible. But if you start to think some movie star has been a toxic force on the earth maybe it’s harder to enjoy watching them, say, appear in a weirdly titled Chinese propaganda movie starring Mike Tyson. I understand separating the art from the artist, but I can’t always do it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Roma

Thursday, December 27th, 2018

Usually when I rave about a movie there’s a premise I can explain to give you an idea what it’s about, what’s going on, what they’re trying to do. This one- it’s just about a young housekeeper for a doctor’s family in Mexico City in the early ’70s. She’s just trying to do her job, live her life. Or maybe the other way around, I’m not sure. But this description doesn’t come close to capturing how compelling it is, how much it pulls you into her life, for good and bad and gut punchingly tragic. Not that it’s a bummer. Despite the constant threats of poverty, unrest and general male shittiness, there’s alot of warmth and love in ROMA.

And it’s beautiful. Writer-director Alfonso Cuaron is known for groundbreaking cinematographical feats with director of photography Emanuel Lubezki, such as those thrilling long takes in CHILDREN OF MEN and GRAVITY. This time Lubezki couldn’t do it so Cuaron decided to be his own d.p., which he turns out to be very good at. Shot in a digital 65mm format, it’s a vivid widescreen black and white. (read the rest of this shit…)

Road to Paloma

Friday, December 21st, 2018

ROAD TO PALOMA is the directational debut of actor/barbarian Jason Momoa, who also co-wrote and stars as Robert Wolf, a rugged but charming motorcycle ridin fugitive. Six months ago he put on face paint and killed the man who raped and killed his mother. Since then he’s been laying low, “up in the Sierras mostly,” doing Jason Momoa things like building a fence, repairing cars and motorcycles, pushing wheelbarrows, drinking out of a tin cup next to a campfire, smoking loosely rolled cigarettes, and riding around desert highways, sometimes with a mask, but never with a helmet.

This is a road movie, and all along the road he has old friends and family who he loves to sneak up behind and growl or grab, and there is always smiling and lifting people and spinning them around. He is loved by the full range of age groups from children to the elderly.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Blindspotting

Monday, December 10th, 2018

BLINDSPOTTING follows BLACK PANTHER and SORRY TO BOTHER YOU to complete 2018’s Oakland cinema trilogy. The home of Too Short, MC Hammer and Digital Underground has been making big moves on screen this year with these three unrelated groups of artists. This is the one written by and starring two life long friends and spoken word/poet/rapper type guys, Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs, who (among other things) were in a group called The Getback together.

Diggs and Casal play Collin and Miles, best friends and life long Oakland residents. Collin has recently been released after an at-first-not-specified felony. The days left on his probation are used as a countdown and we watch in constant dread of some dumb thing putting him back in. The problem is perfectly illustrated in the early scene where he’s in the back seat of a friend’s car and Miles, riding shotgun, finds an actual gun between the seats and thinks it’s funny to start waving it around. Collin wants no part of it and wants out but it’s a two-seater and they ignore his pleas. He should be furious but he has a bleak sense of humor about it because Miles is as funny and charming as he is a total fuckin dumbass. But he’s kind of the Bishop in JUICE of this movie, the ticking time bomb of bad influence. And I’m sure he would take that as a compliment. (read the rest of this shit…)

Creed II

Monday, November 26th, 2018

CREED was a perfect movie, a miracle that unexpectedly resurrected the ROCKY series. CREED II, coming from a different director and writers, cannot match it. But it’s a solid continuation of beloved characters from both the original series and the new one that brings them to new places in life, with some boxing, training montages and dramatic music in between. Kinda like ROCKY II.

And of course there are other parallels. Adonis (Michael B. Jordan, RED TAILS) becoming champ, getting married and becoming a father, and also being embarrassed to be seen by the media while coming out of the hospital all beat up. But he doesn’t get a tiger jacket, so it’s not a remake of ROCKY II. Mostly it’s a direct sequel to CREED and ROCKY IV.

Before they ever even announced a CREED II, you and I and everybody else were dreaming of the same thing: a sequel where Adonis meets the man who killed his father in the ring, Ivan Drago, and has to fight his son. It’s one of those things that’s so obvious that they sort of had to do it. If the sequel was about anything else, no matter how exciting, you’d just think “Yeah, but why not Ivan Drago?” (read the rest of this shit…)

First Man

Monday, November 19th, 2018

I really dug WHIPLASH and LA LA LAND so I was gonna see any new movie from director Damien Chazzelle. When I saw the trailer for FIRST MAN, his new one starring Ryan Gosling (FRANKENSTEIN AND ME) as Neil Armstrong, it looked like it was shot in an unorthodox way, but I still wondered why we would need another astronaut history moon movie. Haven’t we seen every variation of this? Clean cut, crew-cut, cut-from-a-different-cloth heroes like they don’t make anymore. Courage and adventure and boy scouts and all that. Is there anything new to say about it?

Well, it is in fact a totally different take. In fact, I don’t see anyone saying this, but it seems to me like kind of a subversion or at least a deconstruction of that ideal of heroism.

Sure, you also have all the stuff about what a preposterous feat it was to figure out you can shoot some guys on a fuckin rocket, have them get out and walk around on the moon, and then come back and land on earth safely. I mean, how the fuck? The filmatism really concentrates on rockets as rickety, iffy propositions. We’re crammed in there with him in the test flights, or with the crew on the real launches. Always claustrophobic. We hear all the roaring, vibrating, clattering, rattling and mysterious straining metal groans from somewhere in the machine. The dials and buttons click and look so impossibly low-tech today. Even when they were the state of the art they couldn’t have felt all that safe. (read the rest of this shit…)