383) Abduction (2011) Dir: John Singleton Date Released: September 23, 2011 Date Seen: September 25, 2011 Rating: 1.5/5
Not awful enough to be enjoyable, unfortunately. Though there are a number of scenes that are so tonally out of whack that I wondered if Singleton ever talked to screenwriter Shawn Christensen. Take for instance, that early scene where Taylor Lautner's dad is wrestling with him and teaching him the ancient martial art of "Don't Get Your Ass Kicked:" what the hell am I watching? This is supposed to be funny, I think, but it's not. I mean, it is funny but it's not intentionally funny. Or what about that line Michael Nyqvist has about wanting to murder all of Lautner's Facebook friends? Did Singleton feel this project was beneath him? What was going on here exactly?
377) Dreilieben: Beats Being Dead (2011) Dir: Christian Petzold Not Yet Released Date Seen: September 23, 2011 Rating: 3.75/5
As usual, Petzold's exacting mise en scene and absolute technical control is only hampered by the heavy-osity of his films' capitalist critique. Perfect example: there's a totally alienating shot-reverse shot in the scene where the hotel maid is dropped off at her job. Petzold delineates that there is a boundary between her work and the outside world, one that she can't traverse as well as her upwardly mobile medical student boyfriend can. So once she crosses over the threshold into her workspace, she can't go back to him. But he can visit her if he wants to.
Seeing all of that conveyed in just one shot-reverse shot is pretty damn impressive. It's also fairly distracting. Still, some absolutely stunning sequences, as usual. The wedding reception didn't do much for me but holy shit, how about that night-swimming scene with the motorcycle gang? Beautiful, scary, erotic; it brought De Palma to mind, which probably just shows to go you how my brain is hard-wired to think of De Palma now that I'm a De Palma fan.
376) Squirm (1976) Dir: Jeff Lieberman Date Released: July 30, 1976 Date Seen: September 22, 2011 Rating: 2.25/5
This piece was also killed. This may seem like a trend. But, well, shut up.
Initially, you almost want Squirm to work in spite of itself. The creepy lullaby that the film begins with is surprisingly effective and the location that writer/director Jeff Lieberman’s killer worm flick is set in is equally spooky. The rest of the film—eh, not so much. Squirm has an all right set-up but Lieberman’s got none of the ideas or the skills needed to follow through on them. His film just looks cheap and stupid in the end, particularly when you’re watching a mass of rubber grub worms shrink back whenever fire is around. In other words, Squirm deserves the lambasting that Mike Nelson and his robots gave iton Mystery Science Theater 3000. But I kinda wish it hadn’t.
The set-up’s ridiculous but simple enough: a young Southern belle (Patricia Pearcy) and her non-threatening pen pal (Don Scardino) try to save the buckteeth town of Fly Creek from being overrun by man-eating worms. Yes, worms, the source of the town’s industry (for bait, see) have been electrified by fallen power lines and turned into, uh, evil monsters. Now they’re slowly clogging drains and burrowing under people’s skin and eating the flesh clean off their bones.
Sounds like stupid fun, right? Well, it would have been if Lieberman actually knew what he was doing. Never mind the fact that he’s working on a aglet-less shoestring-budget: Lieberman’s actors, dialogue and directing are for shit. The film takes a fatally stoopid turn when it finally tries to become a full-on southern gothic monster movie. Watching the deranged boy next door (R.A. Dow) get infested with worms and then try to kill the Southern belle’s beau is pure chintz. Oh well, at least the box art looks cool.
373) Jennifer's Body (2009) Dir: Karyn Kusama Date Released: September 18, 2009 Date Seen: September 19, 2011 Rating: 1.75/5
379) loudQUIETloud: A Film About the Pixies (2006) Dir: Steven Cantor and Matthew Galkin Date Released: September 29, 2006 Date Seen: September 24, 2011 Rating: 4/5
380) A Hole in My Heart (2004) Dir: Lukas Moodysson Date Released: April 8, 2005 Date Seen: September 25, 2011 Rating: 2/5
381) The Devil's Chair (2007) Dir: Adam Mason Date Released: ??? Date Seen: September 25, 2011 Rating: 1.25/5
382) Shadowboxer (2005) Dir: Lee Daniels Date Released: July 21, 2006 Date Seen: September 25, 2011 Rating: 1.25/5
I liked...one of these films, at least. Listen to the seventh episode of the Bad Idea Podcast, dedicated to films that were recently received like the bubonic plague at the Toronto International Film Festival.
365) Anonymous (2011) Dir: Roland Emmerich Date Released: October 28, 2011 Date Seen: September 15, 2011 Rating: 1.5/5
This piece got killed. But that's ok, here it is anyway.
With Anonymous, Roland Emmerich, the director of such titanic blunders as 2012 and 10,000 BC, proves once again that he can make a terrible film regardless of its subject. Emmerich’s latest folly is a brain-dead melodrama about the secret life of the Earl of Oxford, a prominent nobleman who some scholars argue was really responsible for penning William Shakespeare’s plays.
Of the egregiously misleading assumptions that Emmerich and screenwriter John Orloff make, the biggest one is actually a garden-variety tenet of contemporary biopics. Anonymous uses a tacky and sordid doomed romance to get viewers to appreciate the emotional depths from which such archetypal works like Hamlet and Macbethsprang from. Emmerich and Orloff have cast Shakespeare in a new light based on their own dimwitted understanding of his plays so that Shakespeare now behaves as a Shakespearean protagonist, many of which imagine themselves are mere play things for the Gods, might. The problem with that scenario is that, if Anonymous is any indication, these guys don’t have a clue about what a Shakespearian protagonist is like.
Anonymous is a tragedy about writing tragedies as rendered by people who confuse soap opera plotting with tragedy. The Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans) is a Byronic artiste who works on his folios in the privacy of his palatial estate. He fondly recalls the days when he was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I and the bane of her puritanical advisers. After years of keeping his writing to himself, Oxford has an epiphany. He decides to release his plays with the help of Ben Jonson (Sebastian Armesto), a young playwright of moderate renown who some real-life scholars also theorize was “the real Shakespeare.”
According to Emmerich and Orloff, Jonson agreed to help Oxford but never took credit for the work. Instead, a young upstart actor named William Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) haphazardly stumbled into the spotlight of London’s now-famous Globe Theater. After Shakespeare becomes Oxford’s public figurehead, he inevitably turns too cocky and forces Oxford back into conflict with Elizabeth’s arts-hating ecumenical council. Throw in some incest and baby mama drama and bam, you’ve got Anonymous.
The film’s numerous failings as a drama all come back to Emmerich and Orloff’s incompetence as storytellers. They don’t know how to make a drama — Shakespearean or otherwise — compelling instead of just loud. Emmerich and Orloff liberally use broad symbols for anguish, like the sounds of a baby crying somewhere offscreen while the Globe Theater burns down in the midst of torrential rain, and never hone in on a single recognizably sympathetic trait that might make Oxford a sympathetic martyr.
Emmerich even flaunts his misapprehension of what makes a powerful drama whenever he films actors performing Shakespeare’s plays. In these plays within the film’s play, props and costumes take greater precedence than the puissance of the bard’s verse. Over-emphasizing the lavishness of the Globe Theater’s productions does nothing to shed light on what makes Shakespeare’s plays so enduring. But what would you expect from a film that similarly expects you to find a greater appreciation for Shakespeare’s plays through a tacky speculative meta-narrative about Shakespeare’s real identity? Emmerich should stick to blowing up the world and leave Shakespeare in the hands of dramatists who understand the difference between pure bombast and authentic tragedy.
351) Damsels in Distress (2011) Dir: Whit Stillman Not Yet Released Date Seen: September 11, 2011 Rating: 2.25/5
352) Twixt (2011) Dir: Francis Ford Coppola Not Yet Released Date Seen: September 11, 2011 Rating: 3.25/5
353) Extraterrestrial (2011) Dir: Nacho Vigalondo Not Yet Released Date Seen: September 11, 2011 Rating: 4/5
354) Livid (2011) Dir: Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury Not Yet Released Date Seen: September 11, 2011 Rating: 3.75/5
355) Machine Gun Preacher (2011) Dir: Marc Forster Date Released: September 23, 2011 Date Seen: September 12, 2011 Rating: 2/5
356) Alps (2011) Dir: Yorgos Lanthimos Not Yet Released Date Seen: September 12, 2011 Rating: 4.25/5
357) Love and Bruises (2011) Dir: Lou Ye Not Yet Released Date Seen: September 12, 2011 Rating: 3/5
358) Life Without Principle (2011) Dir: Johnnie To Not Yet Released Date Seen: September 12, 2011 Rating: 4/5
359) Moneyball (2011) Dir: Bennett Miller Date Released: September 22, 2011 Date Seen: September 13, 2011 Rating: 3.75/5
360) Into the Abyss (2011) Dir: Werner Herzog Date Released: November 11, 2011 Date Seen: September 13, 2011 Rating: 3.75/5
361) The Deep Blue Sea (2011) Dir: Terence Davies Not Yet Released Date Seen: September 14, 2011 Rating: 4/5
362) Faust (2011) Dir: Aleksandr Sokurov Not Yet Released Date Seen: September 14, 2011 Rating: 4.25/5
363) Chicken with Plums (2011) Dir: Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi Not Yet Released Date Seen: September 14, 2011 Rating: 3.75/5
364) Dark Horse (2011) Dir: Todd Solondz Not Yet Released Date Seen: September 14, 2011 Rating: 4.5/5
366) Himizu (2011) Dir: Sion Sono Not Yet Released Date Seen: September 15, 2011 Rating: 3.5/5
367) You're Next (2011) Dir: Adam Wingard Not Yet Released Date Seen: September 16, 2011 Rating: 1.75/5
368) God Bless America (2011) Dir: Bobcat Goldthwait Not yet Released Date Seen: September 16, 2011 Rating: 3.25/5
369) Kotoko (2011) Dir: Shinya Tsukamoto Not Yet Released Date Seen: September 17, 2011 Rating: 3.25/5
370) Carre Blanc (2011) Dir: Jean-Baptiste Leonetti Not Yet Released Date Seen: September 17, 2011 Rating: 3.25/5
371) Smuggler (2011) Dir: Katushito Ishii Not Yet Released Date Seen: September 17, 2011 Rating: 2.25/5
Almost all of my coverage from Toronto is linked to below. An interview I did with Willem Dafoe got killed but if you want it, let me know and I'll post it here. My Anonymous review also got killed but I'm definitely posting that here, whether you like it or not.
Nomad Wide Screen: a review of Machine Gun Preacher here and a feature here and here.
349) Tabloid (2010) Dir: Errol Morris Date Released: July 15, 2011 Date Seen: September 9, 2011 Rating: 3.75/5
To say that Morris is a story-teller first and a journalist second is a serious understatement. Though realistically, he's more of a raconteur than anything else. Like, a raconteur by proxy. He doesn't even develop all of the lurid details of the various tangents that make up Joyce McKinney's story (ex: What happened to Joyce's dog, the one that died? Such a shocking detail thrown out there without even a cursory inquiry from nearby neighbors or the police or anything...). I know, I know, the he-said, she-said aspect to Morris's narrative is what makes Tabloid riveting, not the fact that it's so lurid and over-the-top. But hey, the lurid and over-the-top stuff helps a lot, too.
RV!: Clerks (1994) Dir: Kevin Smith Date Released: October 19, 1994 Date Seen: September 4, 2011 Rating: 4/5
RV!: Mallrats (1995) Dir: Kevin Smith Date Released: October 20, 1995 Date Seen: September 5, 2011 Rating: 2.5/5
RV!: Dogma (1999) Dir: Kevin Smith Date Released: November 12, 199 Date Seen: September 5, 2011 Rating: 2.75/5
345) Jersey Girl (2004) Dir: Kevin Smith Date Released: March 26, 2004 Date Seen: September 6, 2011 Rating: 2/5
RV!: Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001) Dir: Kevin Smith Date Released: August 24, 2011 Date Seen: September 6, 2011 Rating: 3.5/5
RV!: Chasing Amy (1997) Dir: Kevin Smith Date Released: April 4, 1997 Date Seen: September 7, 2011 Rating: 4.25/5
RV!: Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008) Dir: Kevin Smith Date Released: October 31, 2008 Date Seen: September 8, 2011 Rating: 3.75/5
RV!: Clerks 2 (2006) Dir: Kevin Smith Date Released: July 21, 2006 Date Seen: September 10, 2011 Rating: 3/5
So I rewatched (or in the case of Jersey Girl, watched) all but one of Kevin Smith's films for this Ranked list I did for Nerve. The one I skipped was Cop Out. It was a time issue (I was flying out to Toronto the weekend I filed) plus I also felt I had seen Cop Out recently enough to judge it. Though I did have it on hand and I started to rewatch before I stopped. In any case, check out the list.
343) Metropolitan (1990) Dir: Whit Stillman Date Released: August 3, 1990 Date Seen: September 3, 2011 Rating: 4.25/5
Pretty fascinated by this film's ruminative sense of fatalism, not to mention Stillman's extraordinary knack for comic dialogue. I think I prefer Barcelona but that's mostly because I found the ending of Metropolitan to be...underwhelming? Can't really explain it well but I felt let down by an anticlimactic ending that I should have seen coming...but really didn't. Still, pretty great.
341) Warrior (2011) Dir: Gavin O'Connor Date Released: September 9, 2011 Date Seen: August 31, 2011 Rating: 2.75/5
350) 3 (2010) Dir: Tom Tykwer Date Released: September 16, 2011 Date Seen: September 9, 2011 Rating: 3/5
I thin I felt obliged to like Warrior back then a lot more than I do now. Because while I think it's better than I expected, I just can't bring myself to give much of a crap now. 3 was at least flawed but striking. See my reviews of these films as well as my full-length reviews of Drive and my second review of Puncture for Nomad Wide Screen.
340) Beginners (2010) Dir: Mike Mills Date Released: June 3, 2011 Date Seen: August 31, 2011 Rating: 4/5
I rather like the essayistic qualities of this film, specifically the way that photographs, video footage, books and memories create a history of willfully forgotten events. At present, I still prefer Thumbsucker but I think this is a pretty sharp and warm melodrama, one I'd love to rewatch before End of Year list time. I remember being impressed by it, especially Ewan MacGregor's performance and yeah, Christopher Plummer's, too. Melancholic and sweet and almost never overly sentimental.
337) The Eagle (2011) Dir: Kevin MacDonald Date Released: February 11, 2011 Date Seen: August 27, 2011 Rating: 3.25/5
Starts off rather well but after they escape from the Gauls, it loses a little too much steam. Still, the panoramic landscape shots are pretty enticing. It's a mostly entertaining, if blatantly homo-erotic, buddy film...set in Ancient Rome!? Yeah, um, ok!
336) Ruggles of Red Gap (1935) Dir: Leo McCarey Date Released: March 8, 1935 Date Seen: August 27, 2011 Rating: 3.75/5
Lots of great gags and Charles Laughton does a spit take to die for. That having been said, it's a spit take that he leans on an awful lot throughout the film. Very funny though, especially during the lunch scene with the two cowboys.
335) Burke and Hare (2010) Dir: John Landis Date Released: September 9, 2011 Date Seen: August 25, 2011 Rating: 2.75/5
The pacing of the comedy in this one was much too madcap for the Ealing-style that Landis is shooting for. Great cast though. I just wish the material they were given was better. See my interview with the tight-lipped Landis at Nomad Wide Screen.
333) Red State (2011) Dir: Kevin Smith Date Released: March 5, 2011 Date Seen: August 21, 2011 Rating: 3/5
It had me going, in spite of some rough patches (Melissa Leo's performance, especially). See the short-short version of my interview with Smith for Vulture. And then read this ranked list I did for Nerve.
327) Green Fish (1997) Dir: Chang-Dong Lee Date Released: No Ideer Date Seen: August 17, 2011 Rating: 3.25/5
328) Secret Sunshine (2007) Dir: Chang-Dong Lee Date Released: December 22, 2011 Date Seen: August 17, 2011 Rating: 4/5
To the person or persons at IFC that decided to release Secret Sunshine three days before Christmas: I salute you and your perverse sense of ironic humor!
I wrote a piece for Fandor about Poetry, one that took a lil time to get just right. As in, I wrote several different pieces: that's how drastically the focus of the original piece changed. Not a bad thing, necessarily, but the piece in question is a very different animal now. So after the jump, I've pasted a piece about Poetry and its place in Chang-Dong Lee's oeuvre. Enjoy?
326) Magnificent Obsession (1935) Dir: John M. Stahl Date Released: December 30, 1935 Date Seen: August 15, 2011 Rating: 3.5/5
A little too histrionic for my taste but as far as histrionic dramas go, this one can be pretty effective at times. The embrace on the bridge--oh! Also: call me crazy, but I wonder if this or Douglas Sirk's remake was a strong influence on the Dr. Strange comic books?
325) 3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy (2011) Dir: Christopher Sun Lap Key Date Released: August 19, 2011 Date Seen: August 15, 2011 Rating: 3.25/5
Between the donkey wang in this and the fact that there's a character named Dr. Donkey Wang in Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame, I must conclude: Hong Kong people are sick! Sick, I tell you! See my review for Press Play. Sick, sick, ptooey!
324) Sanshiro Sugata Part Two (1945) Dir: Akira Kurosawa Date Released: ??? Date Seen: August 14, 2011 Rating: 2.75/5
This one treated me a bit better than the first Sanshiro Sugata but apart from that great confrontation at the beginning, which I can just imagine Johnnie To drooling over, there's not a lot to love here. It's ok but not really memorable.
311) Forbidden Planet (1956) Dir: Fred M. Wilcox Date Released: March 15, 1956 Date Seen: August 6, 2011 Rating: 4/5
Throughout the first half of this film, I thought it was like Planet of the Vampires in the sense that I enjoyed its weird little expressive flourishes but found its characters, its dialogue, its general mood to be pretty uninteresting. Then the Id monster showed up. THEN THE ID MONSTER SHOWED UP.
310) The President's Analyst (1967) Dir: Theodore J. Flicker Date Released: December 21, 1967 Date Seen: August 6, 2011 Rating: 4/5
As much as I love James Coburn's performance in The President's Analyst, I think that the film, generally speaking, is almost entirely carried by its ideas. And the problem with a very funny and wildly imaginative thriller-comedy like this is that its great in theory but often more important for the films it paves the way for. I was especially taken aback at how weirdly disconnected the TPC phone plot from later in the film seems to be from the absurd paranoia of the first half of the film.
Nevertheless, that messy vibe, that mind in the clouds, in the gutter and everywhere but where it should be kind of style--that's deliberate. To a point, at least. Still, that can be pretty frustrating. This film is strange and I'm not sure that I mean that in a positive way just yet. But I think so. Need to rewatch it.
303) Comrade X (1940) Dir: King Vidor Date Released: December 13, 1940 Date Seen: July 31, 2011 Rating: 4/5
I prefer Ninotchka to this but there's a lot of great belly laughs in this, my favorite Clark Gable vehicle. He's so funny as the crusading reporter and the script is so sharp: the zingers that this film have are rarely not effective. And boy, that tank chase at the end. And hubba hubba, Hedy Lamarr! Yeah, I loiked it a bunch.