Sunday, February 16, 2020

At the Mountains of Madness

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There's nothing like standing on the top of a mountain. The air is thin and crystallized, you can see your breath and you can see for miles -- to me it's always felt like a venture towards clarity, a stomach deep inhale of self. I look down at the world below and I can see me, so tiny below -- it's perspective, is what it is. Or maybe just light-headedness. Either way it rules, I recommend it. Ruben Östlund's 2014 film Force Majeure satirized that sensation with Swedish precision, peeling back the faces of a dysfunctioned family unit on vacation to reveal the shattered bones underneath, and here comes the American film-makers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (The Way Way Back) with Downhill six years later to try and do the same for the red white and blue set.

Billie (Julia Louis Dreyfus, genius) and Pete (Will Ferrell) are the parents to two boys, and the foursome's just arrived at their exquisite Alpine chateau-hotel weighted down with too many boots, too many screens, too many side-eyes. Everything seems wrong from the start -- Pete can't stop sneaking glances at his phone for one, and for another the place they've come to stay at doesn't seem kid-friendly in the slightest. Sultry snow-bunnies of both sexes abound, tickling the slopes like foreplay. The family can't even make it through the lobby without their over-friendly concierge (a hysterically funny Miranda Otto, bringing some much needed broad as a barn antics to bear) getting real over excited over the clothing-optional jacuzzis.

And that's before the avalanche comes. The peace they've come here for is already rattled, a vibe that's aurally punctuated by the sounds of explosions above -- the forced release of tensions on the mountain tops, all the better to control the snow's pressure. You can't let things build up too much -- that's just science. And so when Billie and Pete and the kids find themselves on an outdoor patio for lunch and a sudden wall of snow comes tumbling down toward them, slow then not slow then freaking everybody out everywhere, Pete's scramble to save himself a la George Costanza, leaving his family behind to fend for their selves, well, it releases its own wet wall of horror for all in his cowardly wake.

The detached precision of Östlund's film, which built the blackest sort of nervous comedy out of extraordinarily weighted pauses -- we often found ourselves sitting excruciatingly long inside the moments after somebody rushed to say something real stupid -- isn't as sharp or mean-spirited here; Rash and Faxon have more empathy as film-makers for their characters, sometimes to a fault. Nothing much substantial comes out of Pete being on the tail-end of mourning his own father who's died eight months before except exactly what you expect to come from that; there's a generic message-seeking about man-children finding their footsteps that's there in the material without having to get double underlined; moments like that feel like we're tearing up the original film's small path through the snow, we blundering Americans taking too big of steps. Caution, tininess, is sometimes the key.

That said Downhill's fore-fronting of technology as a destabilizing factor in 2020 familial relations is a welcome wash over the proceedings, the laughter off an iPad weaponized into something like a cold brute slap across the face. And the film really rather soars like an eagle whenever it trains its focus down on Billie's building despair, with Julia Louis-Dreyfus proving herself more than a match for the serious drama of those moments, the ground giving way beneath her as her life and what it's come to comes entirely undone. So much of it lives in us watching her watch what's happening in front of her with a dazed dawning what-the-fuck comprehension, as she wipes the avalanche off her face and the cold, the stun, turns to fire under her comically oversized gloves. She charts a way through this marital wipe-out well worth our attention and she sees and helps us see the tiny sparkling possible self clear as a crystal below.


Friday, February 14, 2020

Wildlife Comes To Criterion!

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This news is exciting enough that I'm breaking into my "Self Care Day" to share it -- Paul Dano's emotional powerhouse of a directorial debut Wildlife, starring Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal and which I called my 9th favorite movie of 2018 (and honestly I've been feeling the need to shift my 2018 list around lately, and Wildlife would definitely move up some), is getting Criterion's deluxe treatment on May 19th. This is like fireworks and champagne sort of news. Outrageously the movie (here is my original review) hasn't been released on home video at all before now -- it's only been on streaming, which I didn't even realize (as I have had a screener of it all this time). So this is WAY overdue, and I hope this solidifies this great film's place in the right great place, and people will appreciate it more than they had in 2018 when blasphemy of blasphemies Mulligan, who gave the actual second best performance of the year, didn't even get an Oscar nomination. Hit the jump and I'll share the Special Features which all look great with you...

Self Care With Johnny Flynn

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I just saw the new Emma last night so you'll excuse me for having the actor Johnny Flynn on my mind -- see more of him here -- anyway, here's the thing! My office building had a fire this morning (everybody's fine) and so, after standing on the curb in the freezing cold for an hour, I have been sent home for the day. This throws a wrench in my blogging plans -- I have a couple of reviews I was hoping to pound out, and miiiight still, but today also might may be a wash? A surprise day off isn't to be taken lightly -- I might take a Self Care Day and entertain myself sans key-pad shackles. Live free or die, y'all. I don't know. If I don't post anything else, you'll know. If I do... you'll also know. Either way... take care of you. Or whatever.
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Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Big Boy of Buffaloed

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Speaking if Jai Courtney -- what, I did throwaway mention that Captain Boomerang should get his own spin-off yesterday in my Birds of Prey review, that totally counts -- I keep forgetting to share a very important bit of information! A comedy called Buffaloed that he's got a small-ish role in is opening up here in New York (at the Quad to be specific) and a few other cities this weekend -- check this link for where and when -- and it's an absolute fucking delight.

Fuckin' delight! If this sounds at all familiar good for you, you pay attention to me, because I reviewed the movie at Tribeca last spring. One thing I said:

"Buffaloed gets its sense of place, and what's so funny about its sense of place, so right that it builds its own little magical world out of it."

That place is Buffalo New York, not far from where I grew up myself, so I know from what I speak. Anyway the movie actually stars comic wunderkind Zoey Deutsch (you know her from Set It Up and The Politician as of late) as a colorful debt collector on little bit of a rampage; Jai plays her boss and rival, while Judy Greer, ever loving Judy Greer, plays her mom. 

And the movie doesn't totally waste Judy Greer! That's reason enough to buy a ticket. Also on board is Schitt's Creek husband-to-be Noah Reid as her brother and Jermaine Fowler as her love interest. The movie's a whole heckuva lotta fun, says me. Here's the trailer:


Oh and Deutsch and director Tanya Wexler (who's working with Jai again on Jolt, which I told you about previously right here) will actually be doing some Q&As at screenings this weekend here in NYC, and you can check the Quad's site for the specifics. (If Jai was actually gonna be there I would be too, but alas.)


Naoki Kobayashi Twenty Times

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Da Man Magazine has just caught up with my new favorite J-Pop choreographer turned movie actor Naoki Kobayashi -- you might recall we got a little obsessed when the Netflix thriller Earthquake Bird with Alicia Vikander and Riley Keough and him came out last November -- and besides gifting us with a little chat with him in which he makes it clear he definitely wants to act more, thank goodness -- put him opposite Michael Fassbender immediately, world!!! -- they also gifted us with a small tonnage of photographs, which I will now re-gift to y'all right on after the jump...


This is Hu Ge

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The Chinese actor Hu Ge (seen above yes but you can see another nice photo from that shoot here) is the star of the film The Wild Goose Lake, which I saw and reviewed at NYFF last fall, and which is about to get a US release in just a couple of weeks. In anticipation of that release they've just dropped a poster and a trailer, and I talk them both up over at The Film Experience, if you care. 

And I think you should care cuz drumroll please I wormed one of my quotes onto the both of them! Both the trailer and the poster! This is my third trailer quote (see here and here for the previous ones) but this is my very first poster, and the nerdy kid who used to steal all of the posters from the video store I worked at and dream about just exactly this happening one day is real ecstatic about this one.


Wolf Boy Becomes Wolf Man

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1917 star George Mackay, aka the cream that rose to the top of this past awards season -- that works in the sense that he's a terrific actor finally getting some attention after several years of great work and in the sense that dude is real pasty -- has just lined up a new gig, and it sounds possibly pretty interesting. He's going to star in Wolf, playing a young man who has "species dysphoria" and actually thinks he's a wolf. (So basically he's playing Sheila the She-Wolf on GLOW.) His family sends him to a clinic for brain treatment, as one does, and there he meets a young lady (to be played by Lily-Rose Depp) who thinks herself a wildcat. One assumes an interspecies romance then ensues.

What this actually most reminds me of is Park Chan-wook's criminally under-rated 2006 romance I'm a Cyborg But That's OK, which had the singer Rain romancing Soo-jung Lim, who believes herself to be half-robot and has elaborate fantasies -- or are they? -- where her mechanics take over at great moments of stress and the like. The tension between one person's belief in another and how that feeds the increasingly dangerous fantasies becomes, in Park's hands, the perfect engine to explore What Love Means. Let's hope it's like that!

On an interesting side-note the original star of this movie was apparently supposed to be our favorite spritely lil' weirdo Barry Keoghan, making this the second project in the past month -- alongside the Y: The Last Man series -- that Barry's either dropped out of or been booted from, not sure which in either case. We're giving him the benefit of the doubt that his big Marvel movie Eternals has swallowed up his time, but if another project drops we might begin to worry. Funnily enough in a weird bit of overlap the director of Wolf is Nathalie Biancheri, whose last movie Nocturnal starred Cosmo Jarvis, aka Barry's co-star (and MNPP crush) in Calm With Horses, which we just posted a trailer for the other day.


Everything You Ever Need To Know About Life...

... you can learn from:

The Devils (1971)
Grandier: Don't look at me! Look at your city! If your city is destroyed, your freedom is destroyed also... If you would remain free men, fight. Fight them or become their slaves.

Every time Criterion hints at their slate of upcoming releases, like especially with their News Years cryptic puzzle drawings, my mind goes straight to Ken Russell's The Devils. Every time. Will this be the year we finally get the full and uncut 117-minute version of The Devils on blu-ray? It seems like buffoonery, chicanery, yes the both, that in the year 2020 the film as originally intended is still practically impossible to see.

There's a 109-minute version on Shudder now, but I think the infamous so-called "Rape of Christ" sequence remains edited out. I've posted this before (I'm the one who uploaded it onto YouTube) but the documentary Hell on Earth, which talks the movie and has some clips from that sequence, is right here if you're curious:
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Anyway I really should do the man a favor and bring up one of his other movies whenever it's Oliver Reed's birthday -- he was born on this day in 1938 and we do love him so, in everything he did...

... but until I get my uncut Criterion blu-ray of The Devils it's just gonna haunt and nag at me every single time Reed or Ken Russell comes up. And this movie feels especially on point in the mad mad mad mad mad world that we live in today. Nobody got where we were headed better than Ken Russell.


Five Frames From ?

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What movie is this?
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No Bounty But Your Blood in My Body

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When it was announced last March that David Lowery, director of Ain't Them Bodies Saints and my beloved A Ghost Story, was going to adapt the classic poem Gawain and the Green Knight for A24, I was immediately thrilled. The terrific Dev Patel was cast in the lead, and then they filled out the supporting cast with a who's who of Great Movie Faces, 2020 Edition -- Barry Keoghan! Sean Harris! Joel Edgerton! Ralph Ineson aka the dad from The Witch! Speaking of...


Kate Dickie, the mother from The Witch! There are actually all sorts of crossovers with these actors, with Prometheus and The King popping up. You can tell when a director is interested in pointing his camera at interesting faces because one or more of these folks inevitably pop up.

Anyway the trailer for The Green Knight, as it's called, has arrived today, and it's got everything I want in a trailer. It's got those faces, it's got Joel Edgerton stabbing things while wearing just a kilt and covered in blood, it's got Dev Patel's abs on fire...

Abs on fire, y'all! Some people might think the selling point of that shot, which I cropped a lot, is Dev Patel's head on fire, but it's really the abs. Dev's looking fine! It's got this pair of shots:


I still haven't seen Lowery's re-do of Pete's Dragon but I heard wonderful things about it and these shots are giving that vibe all the same -- the fox-hound and the quest through foggy wilderness... it's a vibe I very much dig, is my point. Here's the trailer:
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The Green Knight is out on May 29th.
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Good Morning, Gratuitous Giulio Berruti II

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At right about the mid-point in Downhill -- the remake of Force Majeure out in theaters tomorrow starring Julia-Louis Dreyfus and Will Ferrell -- a terrifically gorgeous face shows up. No, not Will Ferrell's. The movie, if you don't know, is about some tension springing up between a married couple -- well at the film's mid-point the tension grows a face, and the terrifically gorgeous face seemed sort of familiar to me. For a happy second I thought that hey maybe I had a flirty ski instructor in the Alps who looked like these pictures...

... but no, I am not living that, my best life. Turns out I've done a great big gratuitous post on the actor before -- his name is Giulio Berruti and he's Italian (as if I needed to tell you that) and he is just... too much. He's done a couple of non-Italian movies here and there -- besides Downhill later this year he'll be opposite Ryan Reynolds in The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard, for example. Oh and one of his very first roles was in Luca Guadagnino's first film Melissa P, which isn't at all surprising. This is him on the left:

Of course Luca hired this man. Luca ain't no dummy. Anyway to celebrate his role in Downhill (which I'll be reviewing soon enough, stay tuned) I figured I should dig up some photos that've presented themselves since our last post, which was way back in 2014, and a new great big gratuitous post was born. This one. The one you're reading right now, here, this very morning. Hit the jump for a few dozen pics...

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Four To Die For

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I can feel myself running dangerously behind on getting my thoughts down on several movies I've watched and liked and want to get my thoughts down on, before all of said thoughts go poof poof boom. And so, in order to battle off that memorial degradation, I'm now going to do one of my quick review run-throughs. Wham bam fast thoughts, go.

Girl on the Third Floor (dir. Travis Stevens) -- This movie is an absolute goopy squicky and dare I say sexy blast, and I feel a little betrayed that none of you told me to see it immediately. I've had the screener for literal months, since it screened at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, but it kept slipping through the (gooey, vaguely anatomical) cracks until this past weekend, and as far as I'm concerned now that I have seen it I have a new classic fave I'm going to be revisiting often. 

WWE star C.M. Punk, a sultry mix of Bruce Campbell & James Ransone rocking the snuggest pair of dad-khakis you ever done seen and who this movie leers at like a prime slab of tattooed beef -- I was entirely unaware of him before this but I am now fairly to wildly besmitten by him -- plays Don, a husband and father-to-be who's moved into a small-town fixer-upper a few weeks early to do the fixer-upping before his wife comes to town. Turns out the house has a bad bad dirty down-low and poisoned history, one that begins manifesting itself in all kind of goopy white sprays of liquid onto Don's face. And yes, it's every bit as disgustingly eroticially charged as that sounds. This movie feels like Clive Barker's Evil Dead, and I loved every slimy perverted and sick minute.

Birds of Prey (dir. Cathy Yan) -- About as much fun as I have had with any superhero movie since the Marvel Age of Ultra Dominance began. I'll probably always prefer the older simpler school a la Richard Donner's Superman or Tim Burton's Batman Returns and up through Sam Raimi's Spider-man oh my, but in our current age of loud comic book theatrics this is about as good as they get. Which is good! Very good! It even somehow makes Suicide Squad look better in retrospect, just for the act joining Margot Robbie up with the character of Harley Quinn, even though I say that without any intention of ever sitting through Suicide Squad again in my entire life sans gun or hammer or hyena held to my head. 

They should take this fun can-do psycho attitude off and make a Captain Boomerang movie too, so I can enjoy and properly appreciate that film's other great casting coup (and I love that Jai is, as far as I noticed, the only SS character to get a nod here by Harley). Anyway I'll let the female critics further underline and accentuate all of the smarts and fun this thing has with taking a baseball bat to boy's club, but the film earns those feminist accolades and then some. And then the gang struts right past didacticism to also be just a riot of good time entertainment, full of pop and fizz and punches to the nuts. This is how you do it.

The Turning (dir. Floria Sigismondi) -- Much to my Mackenzie-loving chagrin Floria Sigismondi's reworking of Henry James' classic story of a nanny's adolescent hauntings doesn't really work. But there's something gorgeous and sad about it all the same that I admire, and the vague ending-less ending, which is what I've seen the most maligned, might actually be my favorite bit? If you want atmosphere, nothing but atmosphere, this isn't a bad way to get it -- Sigismondi has crafted an astonishingly pretty thing. And ghost stories as far as I'm concerned should feel unfinished and underwater, which is what I feel frustrated a lot of people here. I might be talking myself into liking this more than it deserves, but it sure didn't deserve that ridiculous F-grade Cinemascore rating it got. I feel as if people will rediscover this at home where they'll be more patient, more willing to soak in its murky stew.

Satanic Panic (dir. Chelsea Stardust) -- Another horror gem of 2019 that heretofore slithered by me unnoticed before now - I did a randomly decided upon double-feature of this with Girl on the Third Floor which led to a whole lotta surprise pulsating vagina things in one sitting. But I'm down with that! More surprise pulsating vaginas, please! They liven things up. This is basically the movie that I had hoped the failed not-a-slasher slasher flick Slice was going to be but wasn't, only instead of having a pizza delivery dude fighting a plain ol' serial murderer we've got a pizza delivery gal named Sam Craft (played by a totally charming Hayley Griffith) facing down a suburb fulla cornball sexy Satanists. Cornball sexy Satanists led by Rebecca Romijn not-Stamos at her cornball Femme-Fatale sexiest! Satanic Panic is a heckuva Haxan hoot.
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Everything You Ever Need To Know About Life...

... you can learn from:

Pumpkin (2002)

Robert Meary: I can't teach people to write poetry. It has to come from your experience... from your insides. Listen babe, I could show you great poems which you will begin by imitating. If you have some talent, you might write a decent poem by the end of the semester.
Cici: What do you do if everything inside you is ugly?
Robert Meary: Your life may be ugly, kid, but a successful poem about it will not be ugly because the poem will illuminate and communicate the horror of your life to other people.
Carolyn: What do you mean, the horror of our lives? Why should anything be horrible or ugly? Why can't everything be beautiful and perfect?

Happy 40 to the beautiful and perfect Christina Ricci!
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Kumail Nanjiani Three Times

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Via Interview Magazine, where they also get him to answer some quick fun questions. They asked him about the shirtless photos he posted to show off his brand new and surprising Marvel Superhero Body recently that blew up the internet and his answer amuses:

“Obviously, I put those pictures out. I wanted to have them out there because I was like, ‘Christmas is coming up. Who knows what I’ll look like in two weeks?’ And then I posted them, checked a bit later and it was fine. There was nothing. But when I checked it the next time, it was trending. I was scrolling through Twitter, and it was just my torso, after my torso, after my torso, over and over and over. And I was just like, ‘Oh my god! What have I done?'”
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Queen Dakota Comes Next

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As recently mentioned as of late I've been listening to a ton of the horror podcast called Gaylords of Darkness, which is run by Final Girl Stacie Ponder and Queer Horror's Anthony Hudson, and so in doing I have had a lot of Luca Guadagnino's Suspiria re-do on my brain. It comes up a lot on there, and as well it should -- it's fucking perfect. The more time passes and the deeper my obsession also grows the more convinced I become that Suspiria is actually the best film of 2018, and not just the second best like I voted it in my year-end awards. I under-valued it, even as I adored on it. 

Anyway my point is that even though it's been a couple of months since I sat down and watched Suspiria all of the way through it's been on my brain a lot and so I'm real excited to read today that the film's star, goddess, and queen, one Dakota Johnson, has lined up a terrific sounding new project. If you click on over to The Film Experience I have shared that news proper-like. Here on MNPP though... I just kinda wanna fanboy out on Suspiria. Suspiria!!! Perfect thing!


Today's Fanboy Delusion

Today I'd rather be...

... demanding it be on my desk by 3pm 
with Luke Evans, no later dammit! I will finish you!

Sorry Luke's very serious business man makeover in a wood-paneled office for the latest issue of GQ Germany (via) has activated my latent 1980s "soap opera set in a workplace environment" genes, I suddenly want to slam a pile of manila envelopes down on a table. "Where's the data report, Luke? Where is the data report!!!"

Clearly I know business. All I learned about business I learned from Men At Play videos, what can I say. I wouldn't be surprised if that was true of Luke as well, to be honest. On that note GQ also posted a video of the shoot -- sadly no, not that sort of shoot -- and if you hit the jump you can see it with a couple more photos...