Friday, November 16, 2018

Let the Great Movie Flood Come

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When last Friday rolled around I didn't have anything to say about the weekend's new movies, as I hadn't seen any of them - this weekend on the other hand is a whole different bag of beans. There are by my count six movies out today that I've already offered up my thoughts on  (two of them just this afternoon), and in case you care what I have to say - and I hope you do, otherwise WTF you doing here? - here are links to what I went and said...

Here are my thoughts on Steve McQueen's Widows.

Here are my thoughts on Green Book, in limited release.

Here are my thoughts on Van Gogh biopic At Eternity's Gate.

Here are my thoughts on the horror flick Cam, out on Netflix.

Here are my thoughts on the fine horror flick
The Clovehitch Killer, which is in limited release.

And here are my thoughts on the Coens' The Ballad of Buster 
Scruggs, which is also on Netflix right this very minute.

I'm seeing the new Fantastic Beasts tonight, which... looks terrible.
But if you wanna share your thoughts on any of these movies
feel free to do so in the comments! Have a nice weekend, y'all.
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Charlie Cox Three Times

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I Took My Baby on a Saturday, Bang

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In theory I love it when critics say they go into every movie wanting it to be good - who wants to waste their time? I sat through an excruciating movie a couple of days ago that I hated practically every single moment of and let me tell you what - it weren't fun. I wasn't even looking forward to writing a blistering take-down of it by the end - I just wanted to run for the exit like the air had filled with bleach fumes. That said the theory doesn't always hold - sometimes you go into a movie with a predisposition. A nattering little critter on your shoulder whispering sweet no-thank-yous. 

Well after I watched the trailer for Green Book one of those little fellas had come strolling out of my shirt collar and set up a folding chair right beside my ear-hole. He'd tap tap tapped on his mobile micro megaphone, did his never-funny Tom Hanks "Sibilance... sibilance..." routine, and got to work. "Oh no," he whispered. "Oh no, that Driving Miss Daisy shit ain't for you, big fella. Look the other way! Run! Avoid!"

Dude was wrong though, and about halfway through the movie he was forced to pack up all of his belongings and hike it to the next theater over (the one showing Instant Family, no doubt). Green Book ain't David Bowie, heck it's not even Jonathan Rhys Meyers' false eyelashes, but it's a milkshake at the sock hop and sometimes that's just what the tummy ordered. I felt stuffed, somewhat weak with sugar fits, but humming a happy enough tune to sleep well after.

It worked better for me than the last Oscar Bait stab at a Middle-America Friendly Racism Romp Hidden Figures did, anyway. They're both broad as barn doors in a tornado breeze, but writer-director Peter Farrelly knows how to manage that register better than Hidden Figures director Theordore Melfi did - anybody who wrangled Jim Carrey on full-blast would have to. And its some big roomy boots that Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali have been entrusted with here, plenty a' wiggle with those accents, those frills - reining in is vital. Farrelly managed the neat trick.

Oh there's not a moment that will really surprise you here, it was all written before you were born and after you died, an eternal tale as old as time of coin sides finding shared ground - a penny's ridged edge of commonality, faces long ago etched in bronze and silver, shining bright. But it feels good under your finger, sturdy and hard, true in that untrue but you know, true enough sense, always worth something despite whatever. It'll sit and hold your hand for awhile.
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Making Hay of The Potato Eaters

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It should come as no surprise that the aspects of the painter Vincent Van Gogh that the painter turned movie director Julian Schnabel nails best in the making of his bio-pic At Eternity's Gate are the ones about the painting. Schnabel explicates the creative process by which a human being looks at a chaotic 360 world and turns it into a two-dimensional presentation with a purpose in ways that only someone who's suffered that same inexplicable impulse could ever suss out. Schnabel's camera rattles around like a maniac so badly it started to make me sick to my stomach, until I got it - the camera is Van Gogh's eye, looking and twisting and turning everything around, upsided, until it finds the right way to look at the thing. 

We see this best in a sequence where Vincent (Willem Dafoe, giving a very Dafoeian performance) stares down a pair of boots on his rented apartment room floor. The camera runs down Dafoe's leg like a piss stream, spreading across the floor - it smashes against the window panes, the chair, his eyeballs, an insect intoxicated. The metaphors are as mixed as the colors dotting Van Gogh's fingertips. It's madness, this making the world pretty.

These shenanigans, visually relentless in a Blair-Witch-ian sort of way, at least get us in the right exhausting headspace, then. And Dafoe is ever watchable, a flickering candle flame of inspiration, gold and green and soot purple black - lighting wildly in his eyes, ever just out of reach, run your knuckle across it. The starry nights globs against his eyelids, gumming shut. Riotous exhales.

The movie though, it wanders a bit too aimlessly; Vincent, ever the odder stranger. You can feel the heat rising off of Van Gogh's palms but they stay swimming in search of something the film can't quite ever grab ahold of. I'd get trapped in a museum gallery staring at patches of this thing, muddy fields of sunflowers stirring alive, batting invisibly at my knees, but you can always sense the frame around everything; it stays an object, foreign on a shelf, pulled and pushed and painted by somebody else. There's no blood pooling in my eardrums, Vinny.


Who Wore It Best?

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Tomorrow marks the 93rd anniversary of Rock Hudson's birth, and since we were just talking about who should play him in the forthcoming bio-pic I figured we'd continue celebrating. That shot of Rock and Rod Taylor is from the 1963 military movie A Gathering of Eagles, which I have never seen; have you? Here's another shot of Rock in the movie though, alongside his co-star Robert Lansing...

5 Off My Head: Rob Me Blind

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Steve McQueen's spectacular new movie Widows is out in theaters today -- read my review right here. As I get into a little in there Widows is totally a Heist Film while also undoing the usual ways of being a Heist Movie -- all the pieces are there but McQueen & Co put them together in unexpected ways. His focus on character and outward political resonances over the typical thriller beats takes the movie into emotionally strange places, I thought. Anyway that got me to thinking about other Heist Films which've used the template to undermine or twist it into weird new forms, and... well the list was long! Lots of filmmakers have done this before, sometimes by focusing on one aspect of the routine, by subverting the tone or by slicing the whole process to ribbons... there are lots of ways. So I made a little list of...

My Five Favorite Atypical Heist Movies

Jackie Brown (1997)
"My ass may be dumb, but I ain't no dumbass."

Drive (2011)
"There's no good sharks?"

Bound (1996)
"We make our own choices,
we pay our own prices."

Run Lola Run (1998)
"The ball is round, a game lasts 90 minutes,
everything else is pure theory. Off we go!"

Quick Change (1990)
"Honey, babe? You've got a gun. Shoot them."

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What are your favorite Heist Movies?
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Everything You Ever Need To Know About Life...

... you can learn from:


Grandson: A book?
Grandpa: In my day, television
was called 'a book.'

RIP to William Goldman, the author of the book The Princess Bride not to mention the screenplays for All The President’s Men and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Stepford Wives and Marathon Man and Misery and the evil ventriloquist dummy movie Magic as well as several unmissable books about screenwriting and the business (the movie business, that is). His book Adventures in the Screen Trade was the first book about movies I ever read! Goldman was 87 - you can read his whole obit over here. Anyway I first heard of him when I read The Princess Bride as a pre-teen, which became my introduction to the concept of movie adaptation - I have spent decades of my life upset about the "Zoo of Death" scene in the book getting left out of Rob Reiner's film version. This might be blasphemous, given what a classic the 1987 film version has become, but I've always wanted a remake because of that.


Five Frames From ?

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What movie is this?
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Yah No Say Daddy Me

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Way to grab my attention right off the bat, movie! The Informer -- and now I'm going to have Snow in my head all day thanks to that title -- stars Joel Kinnaman and judging by that the first image from the film his co-star of his cum-gutters (click them to embiggen a whole bunch) in a tale of a soldier who gets recruited by the FBI to infiltrate yadda yadda oh god I'm bored already by the plot. What is interesting though is its cast - besides said cum-gutters it co-stars Rosamund Pike, Clive Owen, and Common. Also...

... Joel Kinnaman. 
Did I mention...

... Joel Kinnaman? I should.
Here's the trailer:
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The Informer is out on March 22nd.
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Good Morning, World

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So who's looking forward to Creed II?
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Thursday, November 15, 2018

I Believe In Franz Biberkopf

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Some spectacular news to brighten a not exactly bright day - Criterion has announced their next round of blu-ray releases, this time for February 2019, and as seen above they've re-done their boxed-set of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's 15 hour mega-masterpiece Berlin Alexanderplatz! They'd released the series on DVD back in the day but it's been due an upgrade, and this set sounds mighty fancy - here's the list of Special Features:

High-definition digital restoration by the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation and Bavaria Media, supervised and approved by director of photography Xaver Schwarzenberger, with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack
Two documentaries by Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation president Juliane Lorenz: one from 2007 featuring interviews with the cast and crew, the other from 2006 on the restoration
Hans-Dieter Hartl's 1980 documentary Notes on the Making of "Berlin Alexanderplatz"
Phil Jutzi's 1931 feature-length film of Alfred Döblin's novel, from a screenplay cowritten by Döblin himself
Interview from 2007 with Peter Jelavich, author of "Berlin Alexanderplatz": Radio, Film, and the Death of Weimar Culture
PLUS: A book featuring an essay by filmmaker Tom Tykwer, reflections on the novel by Fassbinder and author Thomas Steinfeld, and an interview with Schwarzenberger

You can read more about it at their site, and pre-order your copy now before its street-date of February 12th - it's actually going for cheaper than the DVD set does on Amazon, so that's pretty cool! It's been awhile since I watched the series -- seven years actually, since I documented the experience in a big post right here. I laid on the floor of my apartment one weekend and watched the whole fifteen-hour thing in just about one sitting, with some sleep in the middle. I remember being delirious by the end, which is probably exactly how you're supposed to feel. Looking forward to trying that out again next year. PS they're also releasing Visconti's Death in Venice in February too, so February just got real gay all of a sudden...


Oliver Jackson-Cohen Nine Times

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I don't usually like to post posts that're nothing but a photo-shoot more than once a day - the magazines seem to release them all around the middle of every month causing a pile-up, and if I'm patient I can dole them out over the rest of the month which ends up being dry...

... but I think you'll all forgive me for not holding off this OJC shoot for Wonderland, even though I posted the Idris shoot for Esquire earlier, because we all deserve this today, and not tomorrow. Well tomorrow too, and every day after, but mostly now, very much now and no later. (Thx Mac) Hit the jump for the rest...

The Commercials For Glass...

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... are now nothing but shots of James McAvoy
raging out half-naked, and they are working on me.
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Can we hope the movie follows suit? Just one long shirtless action sequence, please. For now (before the film is out on January 18th) let's pretend it is so, and hit the jump for the fifteen or so gifs that will help us pretend it is so...

Last Night I Dreamt...

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My attitude towards remakes has shifted somewhat over the past couple of years - maybe we (unfortunately) can't always expect complete reimaginings like Luca Guadagnino did with his version of Suspiria, but even if the remake just treads the same ground and does so with less impact than the original... the original still exists! A remake doesn't obliterate the existence of the original. I can still see John Carpenter's The Fog and appreciate John Carpenter's The Fog - I can do that now in 4K even - and I don't have to waste a second remembering that time Tom Welling didn't take his shirt off.

Anyway that's all pretext to last night's news that Ben Wheatley, the British director I consider somewhat promising to put it mildly, is set to make a brand new film version of Daphne du Maurier's book Rebecca, which you may recall once won an Oscar for Best Picture when Alfred Hitchcock made a movie out of it in 1940 with Sir Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. Replacing those two in Wheatley's version? Armie Hammer and Lily James.

That is good casting, you guys! It took awhile for me to warm up to Lily James but that fully happened last year when she forced Jai Courtney to strip in The Exception, when she ogled Michiel Huisman in that Potato Peel movie whose title I am not writing out again, and, uh, when she larked about with Gary Oldman in a fat-suit. Yes even that last one - I liked The Darkest Hour, even if I do hold a grudge against it in retrospect for stealing Timothee Chalamet's most deserved Oscar statue...

Speaking of (Timmy, not the statue) heyyy Armie. Armie's worked with Wheatley before in the 2016 70s-set shoot-em-up Free Fire (my review here), which Armie was maybe the best part of, although my recollection's a little dim right now and might be colored by how much my appreciation for Armie has, uh, exceeded expectations in the wake of Call Me By Your Name. But you tell me an actor working today who is better suited to play Rebecca's "Maxim De Winter," a callous but profoundly charming rich boy who drags ladies in over their heads. I'll wait. I thought so.

So is a remake of Rebecca a good idea? I'm surprisingly not at all against it. We'll always have Hitch's movie - this won't erase that from existence. And Wheatley's going to make a masterpiece one of these days - he's come close already. And the story could benefit from a modern re-telling - its view on women is awfully of its time, and perhaps they can go full The Handmaiden and give us the full-blown lesbian jazz that Hitch could only wink wink nudge nudge us towards. Which brings me to the most important casting of all...

... who the hell could play Mrs. Danvers???
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Five Frames From ?

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What movie is this?
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Idris Elba Eight Times

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The sexiest man alive is also the cover boy for the new UK issue of Esquire magazine (via) looking per usual like a treat (thx Mac) -- I wasn't sure at first why he was getting all this press right now (besides the usual "Goddamn, that's Idris Elba" of course) since he doesn't have anything out this awards-season, but then I saw the new footage from the next season of Luther and I got it. I suppose I should watch Luther some time, right? Anyway hit the jump for the rest of this shoot... 

Good Morning, World

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Today let us wish our beloved French director François Ozon a happy 51st birthday with this scene of his forever muse Jérémie Renier showering in Double Lover, Ozon's fabulous film that was released here in the US back in February -- here's my review if you missed it. The movie is out on blu-ray and on streaming now so you've no excuse not to watch it - it's sexy and ridiculous, queered up modern day Brian De Palma, and I adore it. Don't be surprised to see it show up on my "Best of 2018" lists.

Anyway Ozon is currently at work on his next inevitable wonderment, called By the Grace of God it's about three adult men deciding whether they will confront the priest who molested them as children, and stars the beautiful Melvil Poupaud, Denis Ménochet (who gave one of my favorite performances this year in Xavier Legrand's film Custody) and Swann Arlaud. Looking forward to that! Now let's hit the jump for more naked Jérémie Renier, in the good right and true spirit of celebrating Ozon and all...

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Lord Giveth, This Time

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Not a week has gone by since it premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival this past spring where I haven't checked to see if the movie called To Dust, starring Matthew Broderick and Géza Röhrig (from Son of Saul), has gotten any release news. It was my favorite thing that I saw at the fest (and Tribeca had a lot of great stuff this year, stuff like Disobedience for one) -- To Dust, which is about a Hasidic man coping with the death of his wife, is a spiritual cinematic anomaly, a religious appreciation of atheism; you can read my full review right here. But here's a choice bit:

"There's a strong absurdist Coen streak to the proceedings sometimes - the sight of a Hasid dragging a pig corpse through the woods has the feel of somebody having gotten stoned and binged Miller's Crossing & A Serious Man back-to-back and then dreamed it up on a belly full of Taco Bell. But [director Shawn] Snyder never tips over into counterfeit, copy for copy's sake - To Dust remains true to its own unique and graceful voice through and through."

Well as you can see up top the movie has a poster and it has a release date, all coming via Entertainment Weekly -- To Dust is dropping on February 8th, and I suggest you clear your calendars. I personally have spent the last several months dying to see it a second time, so I'll clear mine too! We'll make a thing of it! Oh and the movie has a trailer as well...
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