Disorder (2016)

It would have been a bummer if a woman with a large hat had been seated in front of me at the IFFBoston screening of Disorder. I regrettably do not speak French (working on it!) and so Disorder‘s English subtitles are pretty vital to the enjoyment of the film. If a lady with a large hat, perhaps inspired to wear such a thing by The Great Train Robbery or that episode of Sesame Street, were to get comfy in the seat in front of me, there’s a chance that those subtitles might have been obscured. I’ve yet to develop social courage or an extendable giraffelike neck (working on it!) and so, yeah, that would have been a bummer.

But, actually, no: Disorder would have been every bit as powerful without the words. Plot-wise there’s nothing too out-of-the-ordinary, and in fact the synopsis runs the risk of sounding heavily clichéd when it’s written down on paper. Vincent, a French soldier fresh back from Afghanistan, has taken a job at a private security company and been tasked with protecting the beautiful wife of the shady rich magnate. His PTSD interferes with this, but when the beautiful wife becomes a target it’s up to Vincent to save her. This admittedly sounds uninspired, but thankfully Disorder is crafted with care and creativity such that synopsis takes a backseat to style.

Continue reading Disorder (2016)

My Girl (1991)

I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m a sucker for movies that I watched as a kid. You can tell me as many times as you want that Matilda and Harriet the Spy are half-assed attempts at cinematic okay-ness, and I’ll still argue with you that they’re some of my favorite movies ever. I’ll also be the first to admit to you that, despite knowing that My Girl is one of the movies that fits into this 1990s kids-classic genre, I’ve never actually seen it until this week. Sure, sure, I knew the basics — romance between children, tragedy strikes when child dies, etc. — but I’d never actually watched the film. However, when it popped up on my Netflix queue this week I thought, “You know what? Let’s give it a shot.” Turns out a shot was all the kid would have needed to survive the damn thing.

Before I get into this review, let me preface it by reiterating this: I understand that it’s nostalgic. I understand that people love it because of its emotional resonance, because it brings you back to your youth, to a simpler time when movies didn’t have to be elite, they just had to be entertaining (and hey, what’s wrong with that, really?).

But let’s talk about it.

Continue reading My Girl (1991)

High-Rise (2016)

Having just finished and thoroughly enjoyed The Night Manager, I thought I’d know more or less what to expect from High-Rise. This is due largely in part to the sexy sexualization of Tom “Sexy” Hiddleston, who stars in both and is also sexy. I assumed his character in High-Rise to be the sterling yuppie with the isn’t-it-perfect life structured in service of the concealment of darker, truer impulses. In Night Manager Hiddleston’s attractiveness is essentially made into a plot point; so too, probably, would High-Rise note the perfection of the specimen before delving into a personality far less desirable. A six-pack and a violent extreme, per American Psycho, per marketing stills like this:

High-Rise (2016)
Exhibit A: Sexy

But High-Rise isn’t sexy for very long. The prologue is a glimpse of the messy future, wherein Hiddleston’s Doctor Laing seemingly resorts to making food out of the dog, making paper airplanes out of the electricity bill, and making a ramshackle life in the husklike ruins of the tower block. It is suspiciously unsexy. Then again, though, resorts isn’t the right word: Laing has very definitely chosen this. He’s in a sort of hell and is more or less enjoying it.

Continue reading High-Rise (2016)

Look Who’s Back (2015)

Hitler is back. This is the premise, plot, and entirety of Look Who’s Back. There is essentially nothing else — certainly no explanation of why or how the actual Adolf came to awaken in a playground in modern-day Berlin, certainly no plot wherein he has to find his way back to the ’40s or continues time traveling and attempting to conquer Future Berlin after Future Berlin. He’s just back.

This, of course, is elementally terrifying. The man is known worldwide as the incarnation of Evil, as a man intent on power and privilege, as not a man at all. The Return of Hitler is actually not an uncommon film narrative, admittedly not usually depicting the literal return of the human being but his figurative return in one form or another. American History X and any other neo-Nazi-led drama inexorably deals with the resurgence of Hitler’s ideals; it’s not just drama for the sake of drama, either, as documentaries like Skokie: Invaded But Not Conquered prove. The subject of that film is a guy named Frank Collin, but he’s really a thinly-veiled pipsqueak version of Hitler himself. These unfortunate reincarnations are very real, and they are very dangerous, and they are very scary.

Continue reading Look Who’s Back (2015)

The Phantom (1996)

My favorite movie in the Mummy franchise is The Phantom, but hardly anyone else seems to agree with me. “Nay,” says Naysayer, “you’re mistaken — Phantom is a superhero movie.” Though Naysayer’s rationale is increasingly appropriate such that one can visit a cinema and blindly say that’s a superhero movie and usually be correct, the film adaptation of the long-running Phantom comic strip seems much more at home in a category with The Mummy, Pirates of the Caribbean, Tomb Raider, Romancing the Stone and all of the other Indiana Jonesey flicks that muster at least a small degree of fresh fun. When asked to think of a superhero movie, it’s doubtful The Phantom leaps to mind. Is archaeology adventure an acceptable genre label? We know Naysayer’s answer.

But this was 1996, long before the homogenization of the superflick under the all-encompassing tyranny of the Shared Universe Model. Maybe in 1996 there was nothing at all to blink at: Phantom, a comic-strip costumed vigilante, is up on the screen saving people and slamming evil. This is a superhero. Maybe today there’s just a more rote formula for such a thing, and maybe calling Phantom otherwise is an act of desperation.

Continue reading The Phantom (1996)

Film & TV News: April 24

News

  • Inhumans has been unceremoniously yanked from the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe slate, which means essentially nothing when all is said and done. Instead of waiting five or six years for the Inhumans movie, we’ll just have to bite the bullet and wait six or seven.
  • The 2016 Independent Film Festival Boston begins this week. Stay tuned for reviews of Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise, the delightfully odd-looking Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and many more.
  • A drove of new trailers premiered this week, which is great news if you’re a lazy Motion Stater who can’t be bothered to assemble an actual News post. Check out our formidable copy-and-pasting below.

Continue reading Film & TV News: April 24

Midnight Special (2016)

At one point Jeff Nichols was slated to direct Aquaman. Let’s let that oddity sink in for a moment, try to picture a big-budget superhero tentpole in the hands of a small-scale operator, compare it to that one time Edgar Wright was going to direct Ant-Man. Oof — too soon. If you don’t know Jeff Nichols (or just confuse him with Mike Nichols) then there are two movies you have to see. The first is Take Shelter, about a family man plagued by apocalyptic visions. The second is Mud, starring Matthew McConaughey in one of his McConaissance roles, about a backwoods constellation of intersecting characters. If you’re sensing that neither of those exactly scream underwater trident-wielding badass, don’t panic! This indicates only that you are still sane.

One commonality between the films is Michael Shannon, a forceful actor who’s risen to prominence with the likes of Boardwalk Empire and Man of Steel, and yet still the kind of guy who seems underrated.  Nichols certainly doesn’t make that mistake, recognizing his talent to such a degree that he can’t seem to make a movie without him. He’s something of a bit player in Mud, but Shannon leads Take Shelter and returns to the fore in Midnight Special, Nichols’ latest film.

Continue reading Midnight Special (2016)

Hateship Loveship (2013)

Generally speaking, when one goes into a movie, they have a certain set of expectations. If it’s a horror movie, they expect to be scared; if it’s a thriller, they expect to be on the edge of their seat; if it’s a love story, they expect to be moved, and so on and so forth. If you see Hateship Loveship, here’s my best piece of advice: don’t have any expectations.

Hateship Loveship is advertised as a rom-com, but it is far from it. In fact, it might as well be genre-less. This doesn’t mean it’s bad – in fact, it’s pretty good once you can accept that it’s not a comedy at all – but it does mean that if you go in to it expecting it to be your traditional quirky, funny love story, you’re going to end up disappointed.

Continue reading Hateship Loveship (2013)

Better Call Saul 2.10 – “Klick”

For a season finale as understated as “Klick”, concluding the second-season run of a show as understated as Better Call Saul, an awful lot happened in one hour. Time and again we find ourselves referring to Saul in terms of a balancing act — between comedy and drama, between moral and immoral, between sympathetic and pathetic, between action and inaction. “Klick” lived in a few of those spaces, none more obvious than the space between subtlety and downright ridiculousness. Saul on the whole thrives in this balancing act, and in part it’s forced to do so by the predecessor Breaking Bad. Saul has to balance restraint with forward progress, treading lightly so as to remain interesting while not intruding on Bad‘s storylines.

Take the first scene of “Klick”, veering toward the latter on the scale spanning subtlety and ridiculousness. Jimmy and Chuck sit by their ailing mother’s hospital bed, Mrs. McGill lying unconscious as she closes in on death. It’s been a while, apparently, and so Jimmy recommends they go get hoagies. Chuck declines — he won’t leave his mother, not now. Jimmy? Yeah: Jimmy wants a hoagie. So Jimmy goes to get a hoagie. When he’s alone with his silent mother Chuck breaks down, perhaps remembering how Jimmy screwed his father over right before his expiration date. Chuck cries because if his mother dies then it will just be him and Jimmy, which in Chuck’s mind is tantamount to it just being him.

Continue reading Better Call Saul 2.10 – “Klick”

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)

“The planet of the imagination is as old as we are.”

A writer may find that having a particular way with words is somewhat valuable to the craft, potentially essential, undeniably rare, exhilaratingly natural. Some may be taken aback by the words of others and seek to do the same with their own, maybe even coming to take it for granted if that way with words becomes a familiar way. Writing is sharpening, and just as a pitcher pitches to improve his pitching so too does a writer write to improve his writing. Some, like Ezra Pound, recognize that words are tools and there is a correct tool for a particular job. There is in fact a correct way to tell a particular story. Some, like Alan Moore, recognize that all of that is a crock of bullshit.

Which is not to insinuate that something like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is not well-written, at least in the comic format of Moore’s original publication. It is. As with the impressive majority of Moore’s works League seems leagues beyond the typical comic, nurtured with a higher degree of care or just drawn from a more inspired place. It operates on a higher plane. This cannot be said truthfully of the film version, though by now that’s sort of a preconditioned assumption.

Continue reading The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)