Tag Archives: Pineapple Express

Face Off: Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Queen of the Desert (2015)

Motion State Face Offs pit two films, franchises, or television series against each another for no reason other than because we can.

We discussed the possibility of defining an “epic” film in our review of Ed Zwick’s Legends of the Fall, concluding that it’s perhaps more of an impossibility due to the wide range of films that fall comfortably under the genre label. Despite this, we at least sought out the notion that the scope of the idea is infinitely more important than the scope of the production budget, and Lawrence of Arabia was one of the more obvious examples of true epic filmmaking in that respect. David Lean’s biographical account of the life of the adventurous T. E. Lawrence stands as one of the greatest films of its kind because the passion of the film lives up to the passion of the man, the scope of the ideas of the film seeming to mirror and amplify the ideas of the British explorer/officer/diplomat.

Lawrence is about to be back on the big screen in a supporting role in Werner Herzog’s Queen of the Desert, a film masquerading as a worthy companion of sorts to Lawrence of Arabia at least as far as the marketing campaign is concerned. As Herzog’s film progresses past the first quarter, though, it becomes painfully obvious that Queen lies on the other end of the epic spectrum in that it fails on almost every level to convey any passion. Nicole Kidman leads the film as Gertrude Bell, British explorer/writer (/archaeologist/political officer/spy/cartographer) who spent her time across Syria, Asia Minor, and Arabia in the decades following the turn of the century. Kidman is fine in the role — but it’s not her passion that Queen of the Desert lacks. It’s Herzog’s.

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Manglehorn (2014)

Discovered an alternate universe the other day. Stumbled upon it by accident, stayed for a while to check it out. Pretty weird. Their eggs and ham are green and Transformers: Age of Extinction won Best Picture. Hoverboards are the primary mode of travel, everyone’s wearing Air McFlys. Don’t know why, but strong suspicion that George Bailey never existed. Can’t tell which universe is good and which is evil. Met their film director David Gordon Green and discovered him to be a talentless hack who sold out after making a few good movies and now just makes big budget stuff. He did the Oscar-winning Transformers. They’ve him to thank for those Batman/Terminator crossover movies and can look forward to his upcoming Star Wars anthology film R2-D2 Rises. In their universe David Gordon Green also directed Pineapple Express and Your Highness and The Sitter…ah, no, wait, that’s ours.

Thankfully, our David Gordon Green turned away from the big budget stuff in order to make movies like Manglehorn. While Bizarro DGG turned to the dark side and never came back, the chunk of studio comedies characterized by Pineapple ExpressYour Highness and The Sitter just seems like a temporary detour in our world. Even if you liked those flicks, the point stands that Green’s career has followed one of the more unpredictable paths you’re likely to find on any Hollywood résumé. His first several features were intimate character dramas, beginning with the phenomenal coming-of-age tale George Washington. Most were well-received and all were small-scale, independent features. Understandable, then, that when three green things converged — money, weed, and David Gordon — and resulted in Pineapple Express, more than a few eyebrows headed north.

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Child of God (2014)

Welcome to Review Basket! Reviewbasket? Different title altogether? Probably. Yes! But for now, let’s start doing what we’re here to do – namely, churning out quick reviews of every movie on the freakin’ planet.

I know you’re thinking A brand spanking new movie review site simply MUST start with James Franco’s latest film Child of God, and so it shall. Anyone familiar with the seemingly frantic shuffling of personalities calling itself “James Franco” will almost immediately recognize Child of God as a work by degree-holding Lit-Crit As I Lay Dying Franco, rather than fuck-the-po-lice Pineapple Express Franco. That much is obvious, but the question is whether or not it makes Child of God any more enticing or worthwhile.

And the answer: sorta. Sorta kinda. CoG is a much more controlled effort than Franco’s As I Lay Dying, partly due to the nature of the books from which these films are adapted and partly, I think, I hope, due to the fact that Franco is learning how to actually direct a movie. It helps that Scott Haze plays Lester Ballard, the heart, soul, and entirety of the movie, and he’s so spot-on creepy that for the majority of the runtime it probably didn’t matter who was behind the camera.

I’ve no doubt that Franco understands the novels of Cormac McCarthy, and yet bringing it to the screen and representing that understanding on film seems to be another matter altogether. The novel retains value today not only because of shock value but because of, among other things, a dichotomous representation of Lester: Lester himself is dregs, despicable, disgusting, cast out, but the writing that he lives in is elevated, beautiful, nearly biblical in the simplicity of it all. Franco’s directing is getting better, I think, but it’s hardly on par with what we’ve just described. One of the opening shots of the film is of Lester painfully going to the bathroom and wiping his ass with a stick, which we’re treated to in great detail from a rearward angle. Shocking, yes, representative of Lester’s condition, yes, but hardly elevated or beautiful or nearly biblical in the simplicity of it all.

Overall, Child of God is worth a watch for Haze’s performance alone. The book is perhaps one of McCarthy’s lesser-known novels, even among his early “Appalachian” set of efforts, and it doesn’t approach the genius of McCarthy’s later efforts in Blood Meridian or The Border Trilogy. Let’s hope Franco doesn’t get ahold of any of those.