Posts published under “Let’s Talk About”
Django Unchained (2012/In Theaters)
Sarah: Kim! OK so um Django. We saw it. We sure did. I’m not so sure about this one. I am a fan of Tarantino and went in with pretty high expectations. But for me, Tarantino’s usual skillful balance of brutality and levity was off on this one. Too much of both, I think, and not in the right places. Exploitive levels of brutality and then odd outbursts of silliness that pulled me out of the story completely (especially in the third act which I will admit I pretty much hated). And, boy, he doesn’t turn away from that violence at all. Of course, every gunshot creates an outlandish explosion of blood and a loud squish. This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows the director’s work. But scenes of violence not involving gunshots (hammers, for instance, or attack dogs) are much, much more painful to watch. Whereas in Inglourious Basterds, he made sure we understood the horrifying acts that were happening just off-screen (or onscreen to Nazis and therefore not as horrifying), or in Pulp Fiction, he had us look right at a fatal gunshot to the head but then used the tension to make us laugh, the violence against slaves depicted in Django is bloody and cruel, and we have to look at it all. It is difficult and will be way too much for a lot of viewers, as will the ridiculously frequent usage of the N-word (again, no surprise). For me, all of that would have felt justified if the movie hadn’t ended up feeling so uneven. That makes it sound like I hated the whole thing, but I really liked a lot of it. In fact, I was on board until that last half-hour. There is a scene involving KKK hoods that I guarantee is the most you will ever chuckle about KKK hoods, for instance. And Christoph Waltz and Samuel Jackson are both so great. Leo is perfect in his against-type performance, truly. I mostly liked Jamie Foxx, too, until the very end. (Have I mentioned yet how much I hated the very end?). I thought the incongruous score was really fun, too. And how about all the cameos?! Hi for literally 4 seconds, Amber Tamblyn! I enjoyed your 7 minutes of screen time, Jonah Hill! Don Johnson! Walton Goggins! That one guy from “Lost”!
So, yeah. I don’t know. B-, I guess?
THE ARTIST (2011/IN THEATERS)
Sarah! I am so glad we were able to preview The Artist at the St. Louis International Film Festival, well before the unwashed masses. It’s always a pleasure to see the Tivoli packed to the gills with nerdy film buffs like ourselves, even if we suspected that many of them bought tickets in hopes that supporting actor and Hometown Hero John Goodman might make a special guest appearance. He did not! (Though his image from The Big Lebowski adorned the Major Filmmaker Awards.) Lucky for everyone, The Artist was a total delight. That a gleeful homage to the silent era could hold an audience rapt from beginning to end is no small feat in the era of 3D and seizure-inducing vampire baby nightmare birth scenes. But this B&W charmer (which follows the waning career of a silent-era star, played by the alarmingly suave Jean Dujardin, and the rise of talkie ingenue/love interest Berenice Bejo) had a magnetic cast, chipper score, beautiful sets (a staircase scene was pretty amazing in scale and choreography), and an engaging plot that, while maybe directed a little broadly, was no less sweet and compelling for it. And though it costars a very talented dog (who some people are think should be nominated for an Oscar? Whaaat? Let’s get Serkis in there first, then work our way toward actual animals, you goofs) it requires zero warning barks on my patented scale. Win-win!
TABLOID (2010/IN THEATERS)
So Sarah. After this very short, almost slight documentary was over, I turned to you and said, “Um, that was kind of mean.” Upon further reflection, I stand by my one-sentence review. The title is apt–Errol Morris has made a tabloid-style documentary about beauty queen Joyce McKinney who, overcome by an obsession with a devoutly Mormon man who disappeared from her life to go on a mission (the extent of their relationship is unclear, and he refused to be interviewed), gathered a motley crew to find him, whisked him away to a cottage where she shackled and had sex with him, and eventually was arrested for abduction. It’s a fascinating story, and McKinney is such a funny and charismatic storyteller that for a while I found myself believing everything she said and waiting for the other talking heads (reporters from the Daily Mirror and the Express, a young Mormon, and one of McKinney’s friends who initially helped her with the “abduction”) to prove her wrong. As the story moves forward you start to realize that McKinney is probably delusional, definitely troubled, and maybe doesn’t deserve to have this part of her life rehashed for the amusement of reporters who have the gall to laugh when recalling her suicide attempt. Yuck.
SUPER 8 (IN THEATERS/2011)
Warning: The following discussion is spoiler-heavy—although, come on, we all know that a Spielberg homage is going to have an alien in it, right? Whoops.
Brian! Quiz! What is the thing that Steven Spielberg loves the most? A) Characters staring into the night sky with childlike wonder. B) Fat kids. C) One dead parent. D) Aliens finally going home, as string-heavy music swells in the background. E) Hating mean old military stiffs. All of the above! And writer/director J.J. Abrams includes all of these elements in his sweet tribute to Spielberg movies (the ‘80s ones), Super 8. As we know, Steven, who never met a leaden framing device he didn’t like, pushes my buttons. When the Amblin Entertainment logo pops up before a movie, it earns well-deserved boos in every theater I’ve ever been in (that I am doing the booing is beside the point). But put his formula into the hands of Abrams, who seems to respect the intelligence of his audience a little more, and it makes for a nostalgic movie that deserves summer blockbuster status. Enjoying the loaded-with-meaning father/son hugs, occasionally cartoonishly evil henchmen, hero’s zooms-in, and slightly-too-knowing-for-their-age kid dialogue is virtually guilt-free, and I look forward to many years of half-watching this on nonpremium cable. Read more »
SUPER (2010/IN THEATERS)
So, Kimberly: ANOTHER real-life-average-Joes-become-super-heroes movie. After sitting ALL OF THE WAY THROUGH Kick-Ass, and hating myself for it (but mostly hating the makers of Kick-Ass), StL boy-done-good writer/director James Gunn’s new foray into this ever-blossoming genre, Super, wasn’t all that appealing to me. But when word came ’round that Gunn would be attending the opening night screening at St. Louis cinema’s crown-jewel, The Tivoli, and there would be a Q&A to follow, I bit. I like Q&As. They are weird.
As was with Kick-Ass, Super has polarized critics and audiences alike, mostly due to the bait (comedy-romp) and switch (blood-soaked, ultraviolent drama) of its ad campaign. The thing is, it is both a quirky black comedy AND a bloody, ultraviolent indie drama, and it’s very good. YES, the violence is balls-out exploitative, duh. This is the guy that wrote Tromeo & Juliet and wrote/directed the awesomely slimy horror-comedy Slither, not to mention the deadly serious fast-moving-zombies script he wrote for the top notch Zach Snyder Dawn of the Dead remake. (Uhhh, we’ll just forget that he also wrote the nearly unwatchable Scooby Doo movie [herewith referred to as, appropriately enough, Doo], though it did bring him some kind of recognition for being the only screenwriter to open two number #1 movies in two consecutive weeks. I forgot Doo was such a big hit! No matter, for me it will always remain number, um, two, in my book.) But Super‘s ultra-realistic violence is presented in such a weird, often lighthearted way (at least until the last act, which shifts gears from black comedy to just plain deep black. None more black.) that it disturbs and unsettles, which seems to be what the director was shooting for. Is he interested in making a point? That’s open for interpretation, maybe, but I’ll personally take it as an above-average, often darkly funny character study about sad, mentally unbalanced oddballs spiraling into violent, bloody madness. It worked for me in a way that Kick-Ass did not, mostly due to this film’s being grounded so well by Rainn Wilson’s heart-wrenching performance as Frank, a heartbroken and kinda dumb diner cook who, after being dumped callously by his wife (Liv Tyler) for a strip club owning sleazebag played to the nines by Kevin Bacon, is inspired by a whopper of a holy vision to become a red-suited, brutally pipe-wrench wielding, evil-fighting superhero called Crimson Bolt. As violent and weird as Super is, with Wilson’s gonzo performance at its center, it is definitely not without heart. And while the coda might be too uplifting or neatly tidied-up for some, it totally worked for me. So there.
Brian! As you well know (you lucky fella), I have a very reasonable fear of many forms of apocalypse(apocalypi). Zombies, terrorist attack, Jesus returns a la Rambo for his final vengeance–I try to be prepared for any scenario. Have I toyed with the notion of converting to Mormonism for access to the emergency food stores? It’s best we don’t discuss it–they may be watching. And so! I have a love-hate relationship with this type of movie–love the adrenaline rush while I’m watching, hate knowing that I will be peeking across the horizon for approaching giant-squid-type aliens for the foreseeable future.
Enough with the talk therapy–time for a plot summary. It’s been six years since a ship returning from one of Jupiter’s moons crashed into Mexico, releasing pesky space dust containing extraterrestrial life forms. They quickly grow up giant and start multiplying, as randy aliens are wont to do, and do not mix well with the residents. The military has started bombing/quarantining sections of the country, and a photographer named Andrew is recruited by his American publisher to escort his tourist daughter Amanda back to the States. Read more »
Kimberly! So our Win Win screening date was canceled by the man (in charge of delivering prints), big whoop. Thanks to your vigilance in DVRing every stupid thing playing on the Showtime Showcase (!) a few weeks back, we had what appeared to be several dozen terrible movies to fall back on. And fall we did. Into Bandslam. The surprising thing was, graded on the For What It Is curve, 2009′s Bandslam is not even half bad! There are more than a few genuinely funny moments in this breezy, well-paced 110 minute story of a new-kid-in-school music nerd (TOTALLY into Velvet Underground = instant indie rock cred) who, after impressing a former prom queen/cheerleader-turned-rocker classmate with his wikked band name dropping abilities, takes on the challenge of “managing” her band with the goal of winning an annual tri-state, high-school affiliated battle of the bands called BANDSLAM. (!) The reward? $10,000 and a record contract. Seems reasonable. Read more »
To: Sarah, Kimberly
Some thoughts on the best and worst last night!
Fashion: I thought there were some fabulous gowns on the Red Carpet. Can’t wait for Joan’s team tonight on Fashion Police!
Opening Inception Montage: Cute in the Billy Crystal tradition. People at my party laughed.
Best Actor/Best Actress Intros: Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock seemed genuine and personal toward the nominees.
Christian Bale: Recognizing and plugging Dickie in the nose bleed seats!
Actual Telecast Length: It helps to have presenters give out two awards each.
British Acceptance Speeches: They do it so well! Witness Colin Firth and Tom Hooper. Read more »
Hello there, Kimberly!
So, now that we’ve seen two episodes of Ebert Presents: At the Movies, I feel like we can talk about our first impressions. My impression of the first episode was pretty negative, to be honest. The hosts, Christy Lemire and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, didn’t do much for me. Their discussions of new movies seemed soooo long and lacking in chemistry. Ebert’s short review was by far the most entertaining part of the show. I like how he chooses different famous voices to read his typed words aloud (SML talking point Werner Herzog for the first episode). This second episode was already more watchable for me, however. I may just be getting used to the hosts, and the absence of SML nemesis Kim Morgan was helpful. I still don’t particularly enjoy Lemire or Vishnevetsky, who seems to be trying particularly hard to be interesting and controversial. And I still miss Scotlips. But I’m trying to be patient. Ebert’s review was again the highlight.
A question for you, Kimberly: Is the sound looping off when you watch this show on your TV? Two weeks in a row, the sound of people talking doesn’t match up with the lips moving and it’s sort of driving me crazy.
Sarah Read more »