Sunday, March 30, 2014

He’s actually become a dear friend.

The Grand Budapest Hotel - 4/5
Of his movies, this one feels the most ‘influenced.’ Tarantino-esque in that way. I mean to say: a collection of ‘things I like’ put into a single pictchah. Sped-up film from silent movies, production design that wouldn’t be foreign to Georges Méliès, certain parts felt a bit Tim Burton in his heyday, and sight-gags straight out of Chuck Jones’ Bugs Bunny. When Wes Anderson leans towards fantasy, I like him best (except for ‘Darjeeling,’ which is also up there while being being the most grounded (haha, play on words)). And this felt like a pretty great cartoon (helped by a cast that played it big, with a special mention for Ralph Fiennes who really was excellent). Its only flaw, as I see it, is that all of this story-telling didn’t amount to a greater emotional moment in the closing. I cared enough about the characters; I’d like to have been walloped over the head with a good goodbye. But, you know, it was a fun chase. I forgive it. A good story, told well. 

Fucked up, poisonous choices.

American Hustle - 3/5
There’s just too much going on that doesn’t have anything to do with what the movie states explicitly at the beginning and the end in regards to what the movie’s about. About about. “Survival.” They weren’t surviving, man, they were just… doing shit. It’s fun. I mean, it’s fun. But it says it’s about shit, and it ain’t. Just a bunch of characters. That’s fine, that’s a fine thing to be, but they end up getting lost in the plot (which the film pretends is still an issue). There are various sections that are interesting in different ways, but not in the way the bookends decides to sum it all up.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

He doesn’t want relationships;

he wants witnesses.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

This secret world that exists right there in public.

Frances Ha - 3/5
It’s pretty much ‘Girls’ with Greta Gerwig, who is infinitely more likeable. But it’s still ‘Girls,’ with people’s shitty problems. I like the part about her being (in essence) married to her friend and that friend having a much easier go of leaving than she herself does, being committed to the marriage and all. I think it came off as more selfish and use-y on the other person’s part (rather than it being a matter of simply growing up and having to move on with your life), so there was, you know, a disconnect a bit. Rather than Frances thinking she went snobby, she just kinda went snobby and Frances gets to call her out on it and we all get to agree with her. Frances the hero! Of course you could argue that this was her perspective but nah, brah. I think the general message of the film was “get over yourself”? Okay! 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

And for that reason, I must quit.

Hot Rod - 2/5
Too often it dips into Napoleon Dynamite, but the shades of Samberg being Samberg are funny in that funny way in which I like him. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Max verticality.

Veronica Mars - 3/5
Veronica Mars isn’t a good person. Nor is this movie for anybody but her number of hardcore fans (of which I am counted). I’m glad to see the blonde bitch alive again (and alive is the word – Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars has chemistry with every-fucking-one. She crackles. Beastmode.) but it would have been nice if she could appeal to everyone. There’s no reason she couldn’t have been our very own Sweet Valley High James Bond. It’s appropriate, of course, this being funded by fans, that it spoke directly to them, but there was a hope there that she could be bigger than this small group. And so it’s unfortunate, really, that the movie’s big ending leaves her there, of her own doing, in that small town. Happily. And it exacerbates the first point: Veronica Mars is not a good person. She really isn’t. She uses people, manipulates them, hides things from those she loves (and who could help her). She’s t-r-o-u-b-l-e. The final voiceover has her realizing it – she’s an addict. Loves the D(rama). But with it comes a total lack of growth. She’s no longer just stuck in a small town; she keeps herself there. She hasn’t outgrown it; she’s grown into it. It’s admitted fan-service, but I think it speaks to the worst parts of fandom – we don’t want to see our heroes grow; we want the illusion of change while they very steadily keep running in place. But bros? A great character running in place? I’ll keep coming back to it every time. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

This is the youngest that we are ever going to be.

The Spectacular Now - 3/5
I really don’t like this Shailene Woodley girl. She boring, yo. Miles Teller is full of life and their love is not real because, again, shall I remind you: she boring, yo. She’s with him because he’s interesting, he’s with her because it passes the time. It’s not like the movie doesn’t realize this – that they are not a good couple – but, at some point, Shailene goes from someone being used to someone he’s in love with and it’s just… not there. It’s fine, this should be a minor point, but she’s just in, like, every scene, dude. Go away, gnat-y girl. She becomes a boring rock interrupting the river’s flooooooooooow. And he needs that, yes, sure, but it doesn’t feel right. Sigh. I like the message of the movie, at least if only because it twists an old refrain – living in the now is great, except when it’s all you can do. Like a slingshot aimed at the ground; moving fast but not far. I like that part of the movie. Also, Brie Larson? I like that lady a lot.

He's so hot right now.

Zoolander - 1/5
Haaaaaaaaated iiiiiiiiiiiiit. When you don’t like the thing that people love in droves, it really does feel like your reality has been upended. What you knew is not known. Two plus two equals bananas. I was raised wrong, in a parallel universe. Shit, motherfucker, I got to sit down, all this real talk making me dizzy. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I better get my pants.

Thor 2: The Dark World - 3/5
I left the first movie thinking ‘this has potential to be great.’ I left the second movie thinking ‘this has potential to be great.’ A mixed bag, TO BE SURE. What it fixes, it makes great – sets don’t look cheap, Jane Foster becomes a Viable Love Interest with the introduction of humor, and a final fight is fun fun fun. But the fixings get in the way of things that already worked. They made Jane interesting at the expense of Thor, who has learned way too many lessons on how to be serious since the first movie. It hasn’t yet found a balance between a Dumb-Dumb With A Hammer and Noble Guy Who Will Be King. The villain is boring (and it leads me to believe Marvel has something of a Villain Problem – they can’t all be charming sociopaths who we adore as much as our heroes, sure, but they can still be interesting), and so their final fight doesn’t feel important. And Anthony Hopkins needs to get his fucking head in the game. Let’s see some hustle, Hannibal. Jesus Christ. Anyway. A mixed bag, with different pieces falling out this time. Keep mixing that bag, bros, you’ll get it right.

The wind rises, and then all goodness is in jeopardy.

Fire Walk With Me - 4/5
It’s the much darker portion of Twin Peaks. And sad. I think we’d gotten used to Laura Palmer as lost and broken, but I don’t know if I ever imagined her this lost or broken. Because of the series' tone. A little bit of humor, here and there. But the movie uses it’s R rating to paint a portrait of a girl who has tiptoed over the edge and is unwittingly dragging her friends down with her. Blinking lights and boobie shots. Sheryl Lee’s face can’t help but to beg for sympathy. She can never totally be the bad guy, because we don’t want her to be. A perfect manipulator, should she choose to be (and sometimes she did). If nothing else, David Lynch knows how to capture a mood. In Twin Peaks, the series, he made a show that managed to be every genre all at once. Here, just darkness and sadness. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

All the stories are true.

Mortal Instruments: City of Bones - 1.5/5
I think it showcases the worst lessons from ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ – the idea that momentum, and constantly rushing to the next thing, the next thing, the next thing makes a compelling movie. I mean, it does – but it doesn’t make a good movie. It’s just revelation after revelation, stuff stuff stuff, a constant swelling of music. Everything Is Important. And you don’t need me to tell you that’s not true. It doesn’t feel comfortable taking a moment to breathe – because, well, it’s not very good and it’s best to just sprint to the finish line, maybe. Also, that incest shit? It’s incest-y, dog. Yeah, that very real sexual tension between that brother and sister? That’s weird in a bad way.

Winter in your torso, summer in your arms.

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 - 2.5/5
As you know, from following this blog, I loved the first one (and most everything these guys do). But not as much here. It’s fun, it’s cute, but it’s entirely inconsequential. Everything is essentially perfect at the beginning of the film, but problems are created and then uncreated in the course of the film. If the first one felt like Saturday Morning Cartoons at their best, this feels like it at their most trudging along – just some stuff that happens and everything resets to zero at the end. A mid-season episode that fails to further the plot. I like the characters a lot. I had fun. But nothing important happens here. It’s okay to forget it.

They eat their own God.

Valhalla Rising - 2/5
It’s an attempt at some ‘Aguirre, the Wrath of God’ shit, but it’s not nearly as interesting as that thing was. Mads Mikkelsen, tho. Visually, it’s a far cry from the guy who made ‘Drive,’ and closer to somebody who makes metalcore videos. Emotionally, he’s in the same place, but he overdoes it elsewhere. That dude who made ‘Bronson,’ though? I want like a thousand of those dudes. 

I’m here to see your butt.

Lego movie - 4/5
It’s an amazing piece of advertising. It is entirely admirable how much brand synergy is fucking happening here. I think the guys who created this are very good at being told ‘you have to have six logos and say all of these product points.’ And where most people would say that’s too much for one thing, I give up, they go ‘okay’ – and we’re off and running. It’s something that should probably be offensive for how much advertising it is, if not for how goddamned entertaining it was. And it was, and it was. It’s strange, because it’s not in the writing – read the quotes, and it’s not necessarily funny – but it is when it’s performed. It’s all character-driven, and living in these guys’ heads (and then translated to screen) much moreso than on the page. That’s having a vision, motherfucker. As a movie, it does feel like a hodgepodge of all the great animated features of the past few years – it is Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3, and some other movie, I forget – Iron Giant? Yeah, Iron Giant. And it doesn’t necessarily do it as well as each of those movies, but it does it all. So quantity. It tries to fit in all of the product points and ‘how to play Lego properly’ and thus tells a story of following instructions except when you shouldn’t follow instructions except when you should follow instructions. It’s both subversively and overtly anti-pop and a model for ‘pop’s not such a bad thing, guys.’ Add Batman, and you’ve got a movie that has fucking everything and is for everyone. It's ADMIRABLE.

We wonder,—

and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

If it was never new, and it never gets old, then it’s a folk song.

Inside Llewyn Davis - 4.5/5
Soulful. Like those old blues club types who ain’t much for talking, but they says it all when they sing. It all comes roaring out. Maybe not a roar here, but still; the same effect. It’s all in the title – wanting to be seen for what’s inside, but not being able to bring it out anywhere but in his songs. And even then… It’s the plight of the musician, the filmmaker, the writer, the whatever – “Look at what I made and you will know me.” But they never look at it right. They don’t see it, don’t like it for the right reasons – an entire audience looking back at you to say you’re not that good, you’re not that new, you’re not that different. It’s one of two tragedies – the tragedy of being good and unrecognized, or the tragedy of being not that good. Not as good as you want or need to be. Capturing that feeling – that’s what this movie does well.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Drum machines have no soul.

Sign Painters - 1/5
This feels like some shitty kid's Kickstarter doc. An hour and a half discussing and memorializing sign painting! Rewards include punches in the nut instead of sitting through this un-insightful bullshit. It’s a short Vimeo doc, time-lapses and close-ups and focus pulls, spread out over a waste of a good naptime. It’s just a glimpse through a very narrow slit. All keyhole, no key. 

A sad giraffe.

That Awkward Moment - 3/5.
Charming and shallow dudez trying to find a little weight. I really like Movie Star Zac Efron, because he is effortless, and Miles Teller’s got a bit of that Vince Vaughn Before We Got Too Much Of Him. (Michael B. Jordan’s the Boring One!) It’s a movie fit for bros, though I doubt they’d see this on purpose. It’s very much of it’s time (that time being today) – fifty years ago, this movie would have been about getting up the nerve to say ‘I love you.’ Here, these fifty years later, all that emotional turbulence is used up just getting to the point where you’re okay with admitting that you’re dating. Not love, not marriage, not babies; just admitting to dating. In its way – in it’s shallow and charming way – this movie signals a cultural shift. It’s a curiosity in that way. 

This one right here, I don’t know where he came from.

12 O’Clock Boys - 3.5/5
It’s another world inside our own, brothers. I’m not sure we necessarily get any psychology behind the 12 O’Clock Boys as a complete set but man-oh-man, is Pug a hell-of-an-interesting character to follow as he tries to enter that world. Charming, gifted, and OH YOU KNOW HE SO TROUBLED. It seems to be a world where, regardless of what you grasp on to, whatever you lose yourself to, you just need to lose it to something. Be it drugs, guns, sex, money, or riding four-wheelers in the street. Given all the choices, the latter’s not so bad. It’s a different way to die.

He just believes what people tell him.

Nebraska - 2.5/5
Another movie that has fallen victim to my own expectations. It’s black and white without being beautiful. It’s sincere without irony. Outside of the locals (who are mostly great), it doesn’t feel like an Alexander Payne movie. It feels early ‘90s; something you’d catch on Sunday afternoon. Kevin Costner-type shit. It feels mediocre. Entirely middle-American. Somewhere around Omaha, maybe.

Crazy for tryin’ and crazy for cryin’.

C.R.A.Z.Y. - 3.5/5
Like the director’s ‘Dallas Buyer’s Club,’ it occasionally threatens to overdose on sentimentality, but it never ends up crashing down into maudlin. It just rides at the crest. Right at the tip, baby. The movie follows the story of the second-youngest son, who is gay, and afraid, but it very subtly comes to encompass the whole family, with the father as its centerpiece – a man who wants his children to be different; to love music like him, to think like him, to want like him. To not be gay, to not be drug addicts. But they can’t, and that’s disappointing. But he loves them anyway. He has to; he can’t not. Because love is crazy, dog. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

He doesn't invite you

to share his position.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The seduction

of inadequacy.

Cursed dreams.

The Wind Also Rises - 2.5/5
I can make some allowances for this being a true story, as it does that thing that true stories do that I hate WHICH IS TO SAY it goes off for stretches into things that having nothing to do with what the film is about. I will then take back those allowances when TO MY SURPRISE I AM TO DISCOVER that they added some fictional shit in. Then why not just make that shit linear and tighter, Miyazaki-bro? Fuck that love story is what I’m trying to say. Well, too late now! It’s been committed to film! It’s hard to say it’s the central conceit of the film (because it goes elsewhere) but the most interesting question in the film is whether or not the protagonist (and we) want to live in a world without pyramids. WHICH IS TO SAY a world without beauty, but also a world that did not deliver a million-fold the pain that was involved in its creation. A million million. The search for such a beauty is Jiro’s journey, but he knows – he knows, he knows – that what he creates will be used to destroy. He is only so-so ambivalent about that. That is a problem? A storytelling problem, anyway. Jiro loves his craft so much and you want him to succeed, but you also want him to ask some goddamn questions of himself. Is art worth it when that art is dangerous. Can you condone it. Should you have your name attached to it. If someone else will do it, then let them have the credit. Maybe. The race towards the future is also a destruction of the present, because it leaves no place to look back to. It is neither right or wrong. But it’s right to at least ask the question.