Dunkirk

July 24, 2017

dunkirk-movie-preview-01_feature.jpgThough an inspirational story of true heroism against almost impossible odds, I can’t say I’ve ever been too keen to see a movie about the famous rescue at Dunkirk.  Though it’s etched in history due to its strategic importance (survival of the army meant survival of Britain and the Allies) as well as the famous Churchill speech it inspired, a film version lends itself too easily to ponderous patriotism and hokey sentimentalism.  It also seems quite boring.  I get the impression, having now seen Christopher Nolan’s depiction, that he probably felt the same way – at least, about the boring bit. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Ghost Story

July 22, 2017

a-ghost-storyGiven the revival of Malick since the late 90’s, it’s no surprise that there is a generation of American independent filmmakers who seek to ape his lyrical, gorgeously shot style to such a degree that it has almost fully supplanted the rough-and-tumble, dialogue-heavy post-Tarantino style of the 90s.  American indies are nothing if not given to trends.  David Gordon Green arguably got the ball rolling with his (still) stunning George Washington, followed by a handful of varyingly successful continuations on theme until he found his current niche in stoner comedy.  Others have come since, and one of the standouts both for good and bad reasons was David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, it’s haughty title belying both its lyrical imagery and ponderous tone.  It wasn’t much more than something to look at – a tale of subdued outlaws in early 20th Century Middle America – and listen to, thanks to Daniel Hart’s memorable score.  I missed Lowery’s well-liked foray into big budget filmmaking, Pete’s Dragon, but here he is with the typically smaller follow-up, A Ghost Story, featuring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck in a white sheet with black eye holes.  A person’s reception that kind of affectation will likely color the viewing experience as a whole – Lowery does little to undercut it, and that would likely be the least of concerns for those who can’t, for lack of a better phrase, get with its vibe. Read the rest of this entry »

Queen of Katwe

October 5, 2016

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Coming into existence under the Disney banner, it’s easy to dismiss Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe at first glance as your typical, live-action inspirational sports film. Easy going, the expected story beats and climax, and the fuzzy feeling at the end with just a bit of guidance and some determination anyone can achieve their dreams. There’s a fair amount of that, though only occasionally does its sentimentality get the better of it, but what’s surprising is just how much it, if not subverts the formula, it takes a sideways glance at it. Indeed, the film’s most significant problem is the way it tends to rush through the expected plot points and scenes just to get them overwith. In a lot of ways, Queen of Katwe is the kind of coming-of-age drama we’ve come to expect from the art house circuit rather than the Disney feel-good production line. Read the rest of this entry »

Everybody Wants Some!!

July 21, 2016

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Lightness is an undervalued quality in the modern film environment.  That shouldn’t be confused with “insubstantial”, because that, as ever, abounds.  But lightness is rare virtue, probably because of long-held beliefs in storytelling and “conflict” being, fairly, more dramatically interesting than not.  A few years ago, Jon Favreau cashed in some Iron Man cache and made Chef, a wispy nothing of a film that, meta-textually, hilariously staked a claim for giving up on the corporate demands and getting back to something “true”.  Not only was that notion ridiculous, but the film itself had no conflict whilst also having no characters worth investing in (despite a solidly charming turn by John Leguizamo).  I thought of Chef a few times during Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!!, a film that tries a little too hard in its early stages to establish it’s quirky bro ball players before hitting a kind of casual stride that, despite having no real conflict and not much of what can be considered a climax, still leaves you wanting more.  

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The Neon Demon

July 15, 2016

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Nicolas Winding Refn begins his latest, The Neon Demon, by stamping his initials on the background of the opening credits.  Not just for a moment, but through virtually the whole thing.  His supreme sense of authorship could evoke a great sense of pride in his work or a high level of pretension to his own abilities.  I’m not against the notion, per se, though it does strike me as a little gauche to do underscore every other credit by making sure nobody forgets this is your baby, but to do so puts the audience in an almost combative sense of expectation.  “This better be some high art, dude, because your lack of humility is jarring.”  There’s no doubt Refn has a sense of style, even if he’s a little reliant on Kubrickian camera moves to evoke his states of dreamlike dread.  His larger problem is his lack of self control, something he wears as proudly as Lars Von Trier (another filmmaker I run very hot and cold on), though lacking the latter’s occasional sense of cutting introspection.  Read the rest of this entry »

Hail, Caesar!

March 15, 2016

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“This is real.”,  the Lockheed representative tells Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), the Capital Pictures studio “fixer” while holding a picture of the detonation of the hydrogen bomb in the Bikini Atholl.  It is part of a somewhat ill-conceived headhunting ploy, where the rep tries to hide his contempt for the pointless frivolity of Hollywood and the job Mannix does.  He wants him to leave the studio and work for them, ironically explaining that it’s actually a much easier job with better benefits and more reasonable hours.  Mannix is up at all hours putting out fires for the contracted studio players so as to protect the studio’s image and assets.  Hail, Caesar! follows roughly 24 hours in Mannix’s life in a job that is, quite frankly, glorified babysitting.  An unmarried pregnant star, the bizarre decision by the owner of the studio to promote a B-list Western singer/stuntman into the leading role of an elegant drama, and most pressing of all, the kidnapping of the studio’s biggest star in the midst of filming the titular epic.  Read the rest of this entry »

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  1. Blackhat

Okay I know, but please, bear with me.  So it’s essentially a globetrotting cyber-thriller about a hacker determined to sabotage water pumps, but the plot (which I do actually find interesting) is incidental to the style, as is Michael Mann’s want these days.  The opening, featuring a CGI run through a computer terminal and down and down and down, sets the predominant theme of where the digital meets the physical.  As convincing as the scenes where various characters go through lines and lines of code to determine authorship, it’s really about someone leaving prison and walking onto a sunny tarmac, or the way a completely expected romance happens unexpectedly quickly, with the emphasis on physical touch while the ‘getting to know each other’ exposition is treated with ellipses.  Read the rest of this entry »