Sept. 2013 Movie Journal - Xanadon't
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At the Movies
Caught 'em on the big screen
Blue Jasmine (2013)
It's serious Woody, but that doesn't mean it skimps on the humor.
The construction of the film is intricate and graceful and Cate Blanchett gives a special performance that should note doubt lend her some much deserved Oscar attention.
Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)
"Chapter 2" is an apt subtitle for the Insidious sequel, as its story picks up a matter of minutes after the events of the first film. It's quite akin to turning the page of a book, or hitting the 'Next Chapter' button on your DVD remote-- and in fact the film integrates and connects itself to the original so cleverly and seamlessly, they almost feel as if their of the same piece. In some ways it feels like the Kill Bill of the supernatural chiller genre.
The ambitions and scope of this movie are a bit grander than that of the first film, and this usually plays to solid effect. In a sense the ambitious reach of the film has to grow as the story grows into something bigger than what we see in the original. So even in the instances where this causes the film to falter a bit, I found it relatively easy to overlook the minor offenses.
I'm not certain that this chapter is as creepy or startling as the first, but in many ways it's more fascinating. The construction of the film has a hand in the matter, but also the movie more deeply explores "The Further" and its relationship with the living/waking world. With the original film in mind, this installment provides a few "Aha!" moments, and it will be interesting to see where director James Wan takes us in the inevitable Chapter 3.
Much like the first film, tributes to horror classics abound (The Shining, Poltergeist, and at one point Carnival of Souls can be seen playing on a television set), and --much like the first film-- this shouldn't be interpreted to mean that Insidious: Chapter 2 is anything less than its own movie.
We get the same strong performances from Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne that we were given the first time around. The young Ty Simpkins reclaims his role from the first nicely. And Lin Shayne (whether alive or dead) is still just plain fucking weird. (But nonetheless compelling.)
It's rare when a sequel to a good horror movie lives up the standards set by the original, but I found this to be more or less one of those special occurrences.
In a World... (2013)
The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
It's fun enough, but nothing special. The two male leads turn in strong performances. The racing scenes are decent, though repetitive, sometimes genuinely exciting, and often feature uninteresting 70's rock songs. There's, unfortunately, very little attention paid to the two love interests in the film, who I guess are only present at all for what somebody must have felt were obligatory reasons. Much of the story and racing action relies heavily upon montage sequences and voice-over audio from sportscasting crews-- a common obstacle suffered by many sport-themed films.
Director Ron Howard seems about as artistically imaginative as my left sock. In other words, don't count Rush out for possible Oscar nominations.
New Release Wall
New(ish) to dvd, blu ray, streaming...
It's pretty awesome. You should probably watch it.
Another fine instance of world filmmakers collectively reclaiming the vampire from the Twilight brigade. Wonderfully shot, nicely performed, and very cool to see the fairer sex front and center of this unique and fully realized Vampire story.
I'm not ready to say it's a "better" movie than Let the Right One In, but I just may have liked it better.
World War Z (2013)
Based on the trailer, I was dead set against seeing this movie in the theaters. It looked at best to be a very average movie, and at worst to be a miscalculated, boring, and generic CGI-fest. Happily, none of these things are the case.
While the film isn't great by any stretch, it certainly didn't bore me. It wasn't necessarily the terrible decision that I thought Brad Pitt was making. And while there's no shortage of CGI, the majority of it is fun and looks sharp. Plus, there's much much more quiet suspense and more effective performance-fueled scenes than I was led to believe.
The movie is far from perfect (for one thing, the ending ruins some of the silly fun and mood that the movie unexpectedly earns) and I have plenty of doubts about how memorable this movie will be in as little as a month's time. The child actors don't have much to do and don't provide much evidence that they'd be up for the task of doing more anyway. And at times the movie can feel a bit cobbled together and episodic. But even after all this, there are genuine moments of excitement, suspense, and plain old movie-awesome. I don't think the majority of this summer's releases can be given the same credit.
From Up on Poppy Hill (2011)
In the House (2012)
It might be the most purely intelligent and thought-provoking movie I've seen all year. Francois Ozon's In the House operates on multiple levels and weaves together a wealth of ideas in this brilliantly crafted movie. I've never seen anything quite like it.
Late to the Party
Catching up with titles that got by me
Lots of fascination with peoples' butts. At various points threats are made to shove somebody's head up the butt of somebody else. And shove that guy's head up the butt of someone else. And so on. Breaking a foot off in someone's ass. Shoving a boot up a butt. Until the movie makes good on its butt stretching promises and finally depicts our social misfit superhero actually shoving a prison inmate's head up into another prison inmate's rectal cavity. I assure you, the scene lived up to everything I expected.
Lots of whiz-bang CGI, breaking glass, crumbling pavement, and flying around through the sky. None of it is terribly impressive, but it provides a nice reprieve from the even lamer script and offensively cheesy soundtrack selections. How anyone allowed this movie to happen without anything that even remotely resembles a workable villain isn't even so much maddening as it is weird. I mean, what the fuck were these guys thinking?
Funny that the marketing for this movie was so oppressively terrible and unimaginative, all while choosing to bank entirely on Will Smith's movie star status. The only pleasure I took from the movie came from intermittent moments of humor delivered by Jason Batemen.
Okay, fine. So Charlize Theron is always nice to look at too. Unfortunate that her role --and her character's involvement in the plot-- amounts to the same mediocrity that afflicts the rest of the film.
This was dumb. It was dumb from the very first scene where Nic Cage is drinking a martini at a breakfast diner that shows absolutely no evidence of stocking and serving alcohol.
Like, you know, with subtitles and stuff
Oslo, August 31st (2011)
I loved every inch of this movie. I must go update my best of 2011 list now.
This is not just a movie about addiction. This is a movie that captures major and existential depression in a way that I've never quite seen done before. The despair felt by the central character is stubborn and acute and likely mystifying to many around him. It's unclear what exactly is the source of his depression, but it's very real nonetheless, very sincerely felt, and very well communicated in the movie. Scene after scene after scene just blew me away.
While it may be on the darker side in overall tone, this is a very human movie and one that can easily be enjoyed, despite its sad nature.
A Serbian Film (2010)
It came to my attention that this notorious title was available to watch on youtube in its entirety -- uncut, and with English subtitles. So I figured I'd finally see this beast for myself, for free, before it got pulled down.
Since I really don't have much desire to mentally revisit this film, I'll simply paste my initial reaction, as it appears on my Feed Your Dark Side list
It reads as follows:
It's got good, cinematic elements. And it's got bad cinematic elements. One moment (particularly early on) it has the production value, acting chops, "feel" of a generic cable television lifetime movie. The next, it comes across as a relatively impressive "film" -- tight editing, interesting camera angles, moody score, nuanced performance, etc. And then also, of course, there's a whole bunch of -- *ahem, spoilers to follow* -- baby-rape, cow-Viagra, fresh-corpse fucking, de-eyeballing by way of hard-on, incestuous total fucking nightmare scenarios, and, you guessed it, political commentary. Amongst a bunch of other fucked up shit.
It's a sneaky, snaky, slippery little bastard of a movie in terms of tone. The tone ranges all over the place, from wicked humor to over-wrought outrageous, to soberly introspective, to intense psychotic maniacal. This sometimes dilutes the disturbing sensation. But at other times it ratchets it up a notch. Or fifty. Thousand.
And then there's a script that has some major problems so that the story comes together in a noticeably lacking manner, and whatever redemptive qualities -- political or otherwise -- ultimately end up suffering. This is no masterpiece, no matter what you've heard. But it's certainly fucked up. Way fucked up.
You could really feel the director reaching to fill even a brief 78 minutes of movie. Lots of slow-mo, and several scenes where very little happens, and what does transpire does so at a glacial pace.
Despite this, some technical and aesthetic know how is evident in the movie. And the performances are strong, though the characters and story don't exactly demand much.
Not actual movies
Easily one of my favorite stand-up routines that I've seen in years. Special thanks to the giraffe for the heads up.
Mike Birbiglia offers up a set that is not only terrifically funny, but also somewhat brilliant in its construction and the way it unfolds.
Put this on one night after it had gotten too late to actually watch a movie. Turned it off half-way through and went to bed. When I awoke, I had zero interest in picking up where I left off. Can't say I'm surprised.
A run down of the movies I watched this month, minus the 10 movies I watched at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.
That gets its own list which can be viewed here:
My 2013 Toronto Film Festival List!
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