Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Sheer Khan

326) Life of Pi (2012) Dir: Ang Lee Date Released: November 21, 2012 Date Seen: October 24, 2012 Rating: 4.25/5

348) Thank You (2011) Dir: Anees Bazmee Date Released: April 8, 2011 Date Seen: November 5, 2012 Rating: 2.25/5

349) 7 Khoom Maaf (2011) Dir: Vishal Bhardwaj Date Released: February 18, 2011 Date Seen: November 5, 2012 Rating: 3.25/5

353) Paan Singh Tomar (2010) Dir: Tigmanshu Dhulia Date Released: March 2, 2012 Date Seen: November 8, 2012 Rating: 3/5

354) The Warrior (2001) Dir: Asif Kapadia Date Released: July 15, 2005 Date Seen: November 8, 2012 Rating: 3.25/5

359) Rog (2005) Dir: Himanshu Brahmbatt Date Released: ??!?!? Date Seen: November 10, 2012 Rating: 3.75/5

360) Hisss (2010) Dir: Jennifer Lynch Date Released (DTV): December 28, 2010 Date Seen: November 10, 2012 Rating: 1.75/5

In praise of the mighty Irrfan Khan, I wrote a feature profile of the man for the Village Voice.

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!

325) Chopper (2000) Dir: Andrew Dominik Date Released: April 11, 2001 Date Seen: October 23, 2012 Rating: 3.5/5

My favorite part of stories told from the confused perspective of a sociopath/psychopath/homeopath/ok-maybe-not-that-last-one is the part where the sociopath/psychopath/off-the-beaten-path starts to lose it. Not quite lost it, because filmmaker can usually fake it with sufficient bravado by that point. But almost lost it, the point in the story where the...the guy starts to get confused. In Chopper, Eric Bana almost breaks down repeatedly but he never does, mostly because he can't believe what he's done.

 I don't think Andrew Dominik's debut film is consistently compelling, but the scenes I liked most, like the post-shiv prison scene, are pretty compelling. Still, parts of the film were (understandably) monotonous. I mean, how long can I watch Bana, who gives a great performance here, tell people that they oughta trust him, trust him, why don'tcha trust him, just trust him, trust him, TRUST 'IM! For me, Chopper's just barely the weakest of Dominik's three recent features. But it is pretty compelling, in fits and starts.

I Won't Lie: Charlie Murphy Made Me Do It

322) Vampire in Brooklyn (1995) Dir: Wes Craven Date Released: October 27, 1995 Date Seen: October 20, 2012 Rating: 2/5

Ok, let me explain: I was looking for a comedy,* something to chase Lord of Illusions with. We settled on this one for a couple of lame reasons: it's also from 1995, and it's co-scripted by Charlie Murphy. As in, of Chappelle's Show fame. That Charlie Murphy. Too bad Vampire in Brooklyn doesn't have any discernible personality, apart from a funny scene or two with John Witherspoon. I don't know how, and I don't care to go into much length about this, but Wes Craven somehow found another way to disappoint me. What a guy. Even Eddie Murphy isn't very good here. What an auteurist snafu this turned out to be!

*My roommate Bill is, get this, usually in the mood for comedies. I know, go figure!

Yessir, This is Definitely a Clive Barker Movie

321) Lord of Illusions (1995) Dir: Clive Barker Date Released: August 25, 1995 Date Seen: October 20, 2012 Rating: 2/5

I'm beginning to think Nightbreed was a mirage. It's the rare movie that convinced me I should be reading Clive Barker's novels and short stories. Granted, Barker's not exactly had an easy time making movies. But while I kinda like Midnight Meat Train, Lord of Illusions is everything I've come to expect from Barker--based on his movies.* Lord sounds like tons o'fun on paper. It's got an amiable, Carny Fantastique atmosphere, Vincent Schiavelli vamping it up, Daniel von Bargen as a baddy, and Scott Bakula as a private detective. Sounds fun, yeah? Unfortunately, Barker blusters his way through all of the little climaxes that build toward the film's big finale. He's got some skill when it comes to rising tension, though the film's last thirty minutes sorely lack that, too. But that's the thing: Barker doesn't do overkill very well. Watching a guy get sworded to death in a magic act gone bad (it's, like, the tarot or somethin'?) is only so much fun, guys. And yes, we get it, Mr. Barker, you've seen Black Sunday and you LOVE it, hence the first scene's ludicrous, screw-on Iron Maiden-type mask. I want to be a Barker believer (Barker boy?), but even I have my limits.

*I started reading The Hellbound Heart, but stopped soon thereafter because I was reading it to my girlfriend, and shut up, stop laughing, I can hear you through the internet.

Emmanuelle Davos, Will You Marry Me?

319) The Other Son (2012) Dir: Lorrain Levy Date Released: October 26, 2012 Date Seen: October 18, 2012 Rating: 2.25/5

She probably won't, so let's just assume you're here for my Village Voice review of The Other Son instead.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

SAIFF 2012: Now With More Realism

317) Akam (2012) Dir: Shalini Usha Nair Not Yet Released Date Seen: October 16, 2012 Rating: 3.5/5

318) Miss Lovely (2012) Dir: Ashim Ahluwalia Not Yet Released Date Seen: October 16, 2012 Rating: 3.75/5

Psychological realism, that is. See my feature for the Village Voice for more infotainment. 

Hipster Noir

316) Sheer (2012) Dir: Ruben Mazzoleni Date Released: October 15, 2012 Date Seen: October 15, 2012 Rating: 3/5

It's good enough for me! See my review for the Village Voice.


        Marty: "I'll be here." 
        Zachariah: "I know."

RV!: Seven Psychopaths (2012) Dir: Martin McDonagh Date Released: October 12, 2012 Date Seen: October 13, 2012 Rating: 4.25/5

I sympathize with Martin McDonagh's hilariously fatalistic perspective, particularly after seeing so many people turn their noses up at Seven Psychopaths. I rewatched it opening weekend and loved it that much more, especially after staying through the end credits. I've read people say that this film's "meta-conceit" is shallow, that the film's all gloss and no substance. But that empty-headed criticism ignores the text of the film. This is a story about an artist that's sick of pigeonholing himself. He doesn't want to be the Tarantino knockoff that many assume he is, but he also can't help himself as that's the story that keeps writing itself. No more conventional gangsters movies, no more being that guy. It's important to note that, as with McDonagh's plays, there are no bosses and no representatives of a higher authority in Seven Psychopaths, just unhappy, amoral people policing themselves. But even that's too abstract a defense: just look at the characters and how they define themselves/are unwittingly defined, ranked from least complex to most complex.

First, there's the women. McDonagh even has his avatar Marty (Colin Farrell) admit his women are accidental to the plot of his story. Which makes it VERY easy to ignore the fact that that's not exactly true. The peripheral nature of the roles that Marty's girlfriend Kaya (Abbie Cornish), Hans's wife Myra (Linda Bright Clay), and Charlie's girlfriend Angela (Olga Kurylenko) respectively play is infrequently undermined throughout. I mean, one of them is the Ace of Spades, one of them is a serial-killing serial killer, and one gets shot up in the rain in a mock-finale. McDonagh knows that these women aren't apparently strong, but I guess admitting that he doesn't know how to intuitively change that block isn't enough for some. Sorry, but the fact that so many people wanted this movie be something that it's not pisses me off. I'm not sure if this is piece is just my way of apologizing, as a McDonagh fan, for loving this film. But the Seven Psychopaths is about a writer that is trying frantically to change his style in spite of his certainty that he can't change. That's what the last scene is: a bleakly funny admission that what we're looking at isn't just a writer dealing with a creative block, but rather a writer that's turned a creative block into a very funny vision of purgatory. Which explains why the cartoonishly airheaded prostitute, the one in the pacifist priest's story, is so funny: she's symptomatic of Marty's greater problems.

Bad Idea Podcast #16: A Very Pagan Halloween

RV!: The Wicker Man (2006) Dir: Neil LaBute Date Released: September 1, 2006 Date Seen: October 13, 2012 Rating: 3.25/5

315) Hercules Against Karate (1973) Dir: Antonio Margheriti Date Released: ???? Date Seen: October 14, 2012 Rating: 3/5

320) Rites of Spring (2011) Dir: Padraig Reynolds Date Released: July 27, 2012 Date Seen: October 20, 2012 Rating: 1.25/5

323) Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) Dir: Tommy Lee Wallace Date Released: October 22, 1982 Date Seen: October 21, 2012 Rating: 3.25/5

324) Evil Breed: The Legend of Samhain (2003) Dir: Christian Viel Date Released (DTV): January 10, 2006 Date Seen: October 21, 2012 Rating: 0.75/5

Uh. Booooo? Or something. See this episode of the Bad Idea Podcast for more drunken fun.

Let's Loop Again, Like We Did Last Summer

RV!: Looper (2012) Dir: Rian Johnson Date Released: September 28, 2012 Date Seen: October 11, 2012 Rating: 4.25/5

I knew I wanted to rewatch Looper almost immediately. I was generally impressed with the film when I first saw it at Toronto, but I was a little off-put by something that's bugged me in both of Rian Johnson's last two movies (today's a day for shucking negligible auteurist baggage, I guess). First time I saw Looper, the domestic melodrama stuff didn't stick. The farm stuff with Cid (Pierce Gagnon, an understandably limited child performer) and the flash-forward to the death of Old Joe's wife (Qing Xu) frustrated me. But upon re-view, I was much more taken with Johnson's skill as a director. I had previously admired his knack for parceling out information, even appreciably controlling what we see to at any given moment to startlingly exact degree. But the second time around, the most emotionally bruising revelations in Looper, the scenes that should make Joe's death count, worked for me. 

I think the key to appreciating every scene from when we see Old Joe's wife die to when we see Cid crush a guy with his mind, is a matter of appreciating the subtle consistency with which Johnson disseminates information. Because once Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) stops narrating his story, it often feels weird to realize: these characters have lives and personalities before Old Joe (Bruce Willis) showed up. 

Old Joe's flash-forwards, the scene where Sara (Emily Blunt) hurries into her panic room safe-thing, and the scene where Cid is revealed to be the Rainmaker all have one thing in common: they all feel weightless. In all three scenes, new pieces of information are being forced into the narrative, and it feels like they don't fit. That's a necessary effect. What's simultaneously most threatening and most promising about going back to the past to prevent what could potentially become your future is that information can go missing at any moment. So when new information shows up, especially information that's new to the film's not-so-omniscient narrator, it should feel jarring. Johnson did a great job in that regard, even if Gagnon still gets on my nerves.

Argo, 'Beep Beep!'

314) Argo (2012) Dir: Ben Affleck Date Released: October 12, 2012 Date Seen: October 10, 2012 Rating: 3.25/5

Ben Affleck's third directorial effort is a trifle, but it's immediately pretty engaging. I cared about Argo for the same reason I cared about the guy's last two films: they're propulsive and they're usually only as weak as they are emotionally shallow. Argo is not a thoughtful movie, or an emotionally involving one either. But that's because right now, Affleck's just a capable craftsman. He's got the skill but none of the inspiration that might make his films more than just superficially involving. The operatic violence of Gone Baby Gone and The Town is exciting, so much so that I'd gladly go to bat for the latter film's Michael Mann-inspired action scenes. But both of Affleck's last two films are emotionally flat, though Affleck overcomes some of his narrative's shortcomings and his own weaknesses as a story-teller by having his characters strike bathetic poses. 

Argo is Affleck's most consistent film yet because its narrative doesn't require viewers to understand its characters' motives. What matters most in Argo is the apparent understanding that events need to happen immediately since lives are at stake. It's basic, straight-forward, mostly satisfying, and largely forgettable. Why is anyone surprised it's a hit?

At the same time: the political blinders Affleck had on when he made this film don't bother me. I don't really care if he was unwittingly myopic in his representation of Iranians. Because, yes, this is the story he's chosen to tell, and yes, it's not that big of a stretch to think that in that particular moment, urgency, stealth and the dissembling appearance of conviction was all that mattered. Any threat to those goals is an obstacle, political or otherwise. I tend to think the film is more apolitical than some of its critics do. But I also don't really care to think too much about a movie I only kind of liked.

No, I Don't Think I Will Excuse You, So There

313) Excuse Me for Living (2012) Dir: Ric Klass Date Released: October 12, 2012 Date Seen: October 10, 2012 Rating: 1/5

Frantic psycho-romcom is friggin' exhausting. See my review for the Village Voice.