Film

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Addison's October Film Journal

Posted By on Tue, Oct 7, 2014 at 12:41 PM

[Ed Note: Flyer film writer Addison Engleking's popular Summer Film Journal series will now appear monthly, regardless of season.] 

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Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter (2014, dir. David Zellner)—At first, the Zellner brothers’ third feature plays like a black-comic refurbishing of a J-horror film; it’s thick with urban alienation, mental instability and menacing analog technology. It follows Kumiko, a lonely Japanese office girl (Pacific Rim’s Rinko Kikuchi) who withdraws from society to spend her days re-watching a mysterious VHS tape she discovered in a cave near the sea. Then things get interesting. The tape is a badly worn copy of Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1996 hit film Fargo, and Kumiko’s obsession with it inspires her to visit Minnesota and attempt to recover the briefcase full of money Steve Buscemi’s character buried in the snow near a barbed-wire fence. Kumiko’s grasp of time and weather may be beyond rudimentary, but she’s never painted as a buffoon. And the Zellners’ treatment of the Midwestern do-gooders she meets is far less cartoonish and the Coens; in fact, the befuddled generosity of frontier ladies, county sheriffs and deaf cab drivers enhance the film’s coagulative sense of tragedy. It’s hardly surprising when the line between reality and fantasy starts blurring once Kumiko finds herself in America, but her cry near the end of the film (“It’s…not…fake!”) will ring in the ears of everyone who loves art and make-believe a little too much. How about that—a footnote that supersedes the text it appears to be annotating. Grade: A-



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Friday, October 3, 2014

Indie Memphis Film Festival Announces 2014 Lineup

Posted By on Fri, Oct 3, 2014 at 5:20 PM

At a gala party last night at the High Cotton Brewing Company, Indie Memphis announced the lineup for their 17th annual film festival, which will be held October 30 to November 2. More than 40 feature length narrative and documentary films, as well as dozens of short subjects, will screen over the course of the four-day festival.

John Carpenter's They Live
  • John Carpenter's They Live

Four classic films will receive gala anniversary screenings. Director Michael Lehman and writer Daniel Waters will be on hand when Heathers, the 1989 black comedy starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, will celebrate its 25th anniversary at the festival.


Friday night of the festival is Halloween, so it is appropriate that the work of one of America’s greatest horror directors, John Carpenter, will be honored with two gala screenings, beginning with his 1988 science fiction classic They Live, starring Rowdy Roddy Piper and Keith David.


At midnight, Carpenter’s Halloween will screen. A direct descendant of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Jamie Lee Curtis’ film debut defined the 80’s slasher genre and holds up better than ever today.


The festival will also celebrate the 20th anniversary of one of the best documentaries ever made, director Steve James' Hoop Dreams.


Hometown filmmakers are well represented at the festival with three narrative features: Chad Barton’s comedy of filmmaking errors Lights, Camera Bullshit; Anwar Jamison’s workplace comedy 5 Steps To A Conversation; Marlon Wilson and Mechelle Wilson’s Christian drama Just A Measure Of Faith. The sole local documentary is Pharaohs Of Memphis, director Phoebe Driscoll’s history of jookin’.


Twelve films will compete for Best Narrative Feature, including the Brooklyn heist comedy Wild Canaries, Onur Tukel’s vampire comedy Summer Of Blood, the time travel drama Movement & Location, and the Texas-based crime drama Two Step.


The thirteen films up for Best Documentary Feature include the kenetic sport doc American Cheerleader; The Hip Hop Fellow, tracing producer 9th Wonder’s experience as a teacher at Harvard; Man Shot Dead, an intimate history of a family torn apart by an unsolved murder; and Well Now You’re Here, There’s No Way Back, about Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali’s fight to keep the heavy metal dream alive.


Other notable films include Sundance winner Whiplash, a music drama starring Miles Teller as a young jazz drummer and J.K Simmons as his demanding teacher, and The Imitation Game, an early Oscar contender starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, the eccentric British codebreaker whose work in World War II led directly to the invention of the modern digital computer.


The festival, which will also include numerous panels, special events, and parties, will take place in venues around Overton Square, including Playhouse On The Square, Circuit Playhouse, the Hattiloo Theater, and Malco’s Studio On The Square. The Memphis Flyer will have an in-depth examination of the festival as the cover story for our October 30th issue. Go to indiememphis.com for details on how to buy passes for Memphis’ greatest film weekend.

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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Film Journal #7

Posted By on Thu, Sep 4, 2014 at 3:47 PM

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
(1974; dir. Tobe Hooper)—I spent last Saturday night in an ill-lit movie theater with a bunch of misfits, longhairs, punks, and a guy in a Leatherface costume. Why? To see the special 40th anniversary restoration of Tobe Hooper’s notorious horror classic, of course. It’s strange to watch a cleaned-up digital print of something that used to look like it had been dredged up from a swamp. But in its shiny new restoration, it’s impossible to miss all the chicken feathers, rotten flesh and furniture made from human bones, and Hooper’s knack for juggling long shots and extreme close-ups benefits from the digital smoothing-out. The film’s many shocks are well and truly sprung, and it’s also I-guess-you-could-call-it-funny in spots; an early scene where a wheelchair-bound weirdo absently chews a sausage is quietly nauseating for anyone who’s seen the movie before. The film’s final 30 minutes, a nightmare of familial derangement and extreme psychic trauma, is overpoweringly loud and uncomfortable, and it’s the key to this absolutely horrifying and sickening experience that, honestly, I never want to see again. Grade: A+




Women Aren’t Funny
(2014; dir. Bonnie McFarlane)—Last week’s episode of IFC’s Garfunkel & Oates was predicated on the idea that women aren’t funny, a pernicious lie that might be laid to rest after it’s been proven false 700 more times. I looked up this movie on iTunes after I saw director/star/comedian Bonnie McFarlane’s stand-up set ignominiously cut short on The Late Show With David Letterman a month ago. What gives, man? I was hoping for a more legitimate inquiry into a complex, messed-up, industry-wide misconception that persists in spite of the work of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer, the Broad City girls, Morgan Murphy, Jen Kirkman, Maria Bamford, Jenny Johnson, Casey Wilson, Mindy Kaling, etc. etc. etc. Unfortunately, McFarlane is too much of a prankster and a serial ironist to truly and fully confront sexism in comedy. (Relying on Artie Lange doesn’t help.) Still, there are some jokes and some revealing observations here, and wisdom and enlightenment come from two unlikely sources: Sarah Silverman, who’s always welcome in anything, and Todd Glass, who I saw open for Louis C.K. twice and who never made me laugh once. It’s inconceivable to me that McFarlane’s husband, comedian Rich Vos, is a bigger name than she is, but that’s just part of the problem. Women can’t get no respect. What do I know, though? I’m just a sex-positive feminist who’s heading to a Garfunkel & Oates show on Friday night. Grade: B




Pharoah
(1965; dir. Jerzy Kawalerowicz)—An ancient Egyptian sword-and-sandal epic with real swords, real sandals, real sand, and crowds of real extras, Kawalerowicz’s long, solemn, deliberate film about the rise to power of Ramses XIII contrasts smug, impassive authority figures with scurrilous hustlers and balances regal scrolling tracking shots in the royal chambers with ragged, jagged handheld vignettes in the streets and the desert. One battle scene is shot entirely from the point of view of a footsoldier who doesn’t make it back; another claustrophobic set piece watches a sweat-grimed man slowly lose his way in a labyrinth. There’s betrayal, mysticism, a solar eclipse, and a foxy grey-skinned temptress who feels like she’s been imported from a Mesopotamian skin flick. In other words, it’s another helpful reminder of the rest of the world’s cinematic riches. In addition to being available on DVD, Pharoah is one of the highlights of Martin Scorsese’s “Masterpieces of Polish Cinema,” series, which has screenings in Kansas City and Atlanta later this fall. Grade: A-


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Je t’aime Je t’aime
(1968; dir. Alain Resnais)—Watching an Alain Resnais movie from the 1960s is one of the more exciting and rewarding cinematic challenges you can set for yourself. They resist easy categorization and they demand your full attention; they’re puzzling and provocative and more or less impossible to take the measure of after just one viewing. These movies take time: once you can trace the through-line of the plot, the rhythms of the editing move to the forefront, and new thematic concatenations begin to emerge from the headspace between shots. Avoid these if structural ingenuity isn’t your thing. Anyway, in this film—which anticipates Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by 35 years—a suicidal author is asked to participate in a time-travelling experiment. So some scientists put him in a contraption that suggests a giant head of garlic and set him loose. Things don’t go smoothly. In the best scene, our hero sits in an office and contemplates his place in the universe. I bet if he looked into a coffee cup just then, he’d probably see the Milky Way in the cream. Grade: A- (but likely to improve after multiple viewings)

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He Ran All The Way
(1951; dir. John Berry)—After surfacing briefly on TCM.com for a week, this excellent film noir has disappeared into the digital depths on Monday; if you want to see it, you need a multi-zone DVD player and a decent chunk of change. For the casual moviegoer, it’s probably not worth the trouble; for fans of raw domestic melodrama, the cinematography of James Wong Howe, and Marlon Brando’s performance in A Streetcar Named Desire (which was released the same year), it’s probably a must-see. John Garfield, in his final performance, plays an unlucky hoodlum who botches a robbery and hides out from the law by escaping into a public pool. He seduces Shelley Winters while he waits for the heat to lift, and he eventually cons his way back to Winters’ place, where he winds up holding her, her kid brother, and her mom and dad hostage. Garfield lurches around the family’s apartment like an ape and kills time by mocking and terrorizing middle-class rituals—family meals, day jobs, first loves. His volatile anger and flashes of need are inseparable; it’s no wonder that Winters—who, at this stage in her career, played lots of girls with lousy taste in men—is drawn to him. Terse, tense, terrific, and only 78 minutes long. Grade: A


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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Time Warp Drive-In: Motorcycle Madness

Posted By on Sat, Aug 30, 2014 at 4:19 PM

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Tonight's August edition of the Time Warp Drive In, Summer avenue’s biggest summer event, kicks off with a wedding. Kim Stanford and Coley Smith from Tupelo, Mississippi will say their vows at 7 PM, with Mike McCarthy, the Time Warp Drive-In empresario, presiding.

After the nuptials, the evening of motorcycle movies begins with the genre’s biggest classic, Easy Rider. Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda’s transcontinental epic captured the zeitgeist of its era like few films have before or since. But often lost amidst the Baby Boomer nostalgia is the fact that Easy Rider is a fantastic, and hugely influential, movie. Not only did it make a movie star out of Jack Nicholson, but it also has the first, and still greatest, use of “The Weight” in a film.


The second film of the evening is 1953’s The Wild One starring Marlon Brando. Another hugely influential film, The Wild One was made at a time when Brando was one of the hottest properties in Hollywood. The same year he was playing the sensitive juvenile delinquent Johnny Strabler opposite Lee Marvin, he also played Marc Antony in Julius Caesar opposite James Mason and Sir John Gielgud. The film is the iconic template for the motorcycle movie, and nobody ever wore a Perfecto leather jacket better than Brando.


Made three years before Easy Rider, The Wild Angels was Peter Fonda’s first foray into motorcycle movies. Directed by Roger Corman, the film’s high point is a confrontation between biker gang leader Fonda and a judge, which has become one of the most sampled moments in movie history.


The evening closes out with the psychotronic exploitation drive in classic She Devils On Wheels:


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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Summer Movie Journal #6

Posted By on Thu, Aug 28, 2014 at 12:25 PM

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1941
(1979; dir. Steven Spielberg)—Hollywood will not rest until every inspirational story from World War II becomes a hand-over-heart ode to the Greatest Generation. Brad Pitt plays Sergeant Wardaddy—oh, come on—in Fury, which comes out in October; Angelina Jolie directed Unbroken, an “inspiring true story” about WWII prison camps which opens on Christmas Day. In this context, Steven Spielberg’s self-proclaimed “blast in the face” about the night the Japs tried to invade southern California is, if anything, even more vital and necessary. Spielberg and his co-conspirators (among them Robert Zemeckis, John Milius, and anyone who happened to drop by the set) put everything they had into this hyperactive, all-ages demolition derby, and their work shows: it never settles down and never lets up. Nothing is safe; everything is demolished. Among the casualties are the Hollywoodland sign, the USO, the concept of military intelligence, the concept of female virtue, many huge vats of paint, Christmas cheer, the fantasy of living a quiet life in the suburbs and the sanctity of a morning skinny-dip in the Pacific Ocean. It’s infantile, lewd, sticky, gross, and popping with nasty urges; Nancy Allen’s J.G. Ballard-like airplane fetish is maybe the third-kinkiest thing here. And gol-lee, how about that cast: John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Robert Stack, Toshiro Mifune (who, naturally, speaks only Japanese), Christopher Lee (who, unnaturally, speaks only German), Slim Pickens, and Samuel Fuller, plus a dozen other major and minor cameos. (Three of the four leads in Laverne & Shirley? Mickey Rourke???) I found it an unfunny mess, but I also found it a fascinating free-for-all and a heartwarming piece of civil disobedience that would warm Thomas Jefferson’s heart. Upped a notch for chutzpah. Grade: A-


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Get On Up
(2014; dir. Tate Taylor)— In his magnificent and perceptive 2006 Rolling Stone profile “Being James Brown”, Jonathan Lethem made the following claim: “James Brown is, like Billy Pilgrim in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, a man unstuck in time. He's a time traveler, but unlike the HG Wells-ian variety, he lacks any control over his migrations in time, which also seem to be circumscribed to the period of his own allotted lifespan. Indeed, it may be the case that James Brown is often confused as to what moment in time he occupies at any given moment.” This wildly original sci-fi thesis informs Tate Taylor’s superb new Brown biopic, which conceives of the Godfather of Soul’s life as an endless groove where the needle can be picked up and dropped at random. The jumbled chronology and gallery of James Browns striding through the film only adds to the legend; after seeing Get On Up, I went back to RJ Smith’s biography The One to confirm some details. Did Bobby Byrd really spring Brown from prison and bring him home? (Yes.) Did Little Richard really flirt with Brown at a hamburger stand one night and tell him about the white devils running the music industry? (Probably.) Did a pre-teen Brown win a “battle royale” straight out of Invisible Man? (Yes.) Did he hear the strains of “Cold Sweat” as he did so? (Maybe. Time travel, remember.)As Brown, Chadwick Boseman is sensational—he’s funny without being a parody, and his lip-synching feels like the real thing. His James Brown is electrifying, seductive, materialistic, mythic. And scary, too; watch Boseman look straight into the camera at you after he decks his wife on Christmas Day. Then try to deny Brown’s place at the forefront of pop music today. It can’t be done, because James Brown is history. Let the record show that, to my surprise, I found Get On Up superior to Boyhood in pretty much every way. Grade: A-

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The Trip
(2010; dir. Michael Winterbottom)—In this semi-authentic travel documentary, actor/comedian Steve Coogan and actor/comedian Rob Brydon travel around northern England, eat fine cuisine, and try to make each other laugh. There’s a little more to it, of course, but not much; Coogan cheats on his American girlfriend twice and falls into a stream, while Brydon quotes Wordsworth in a Scottish accent and tries to talk his wife into phone sex. Will you like it? Depends on how intrigued you are by the prospect of dueling Michael Caine impressions. Civilians like me imagine that this is how professional funny people interact, and it’s simultaneously hilarious and exhausting to watch them engage in endless, irritating, look-at-me riffing that doesn’t stop until someone either laughs or leaves the table. But watching Coogan and Brydon critique each other’s attempts to sound like Sean Connery and Roger Moore, or listening to them as they endlessly repeat the Goldfinger line “Come, come, Mr. Bond, you derive just as much pleasure from killing as I do” is something, like the Lake District, that must be experienced first-hand. Mere words fail me. The sequel, The Trip to Italy, arrives in select cities—like mine—this Friday. Grade: A-

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Katzelmacher (1969; dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder)—Of the dozens of films Fassbinder cranked out before his untimely death in 1982 at age 37, I’ve only seen a handful. But I’ve never been disappointed by his infectious tawdriness and sadistic stylistic voluptuousness; movies like Martha and The Marriage of Maria Braun are not soon forgotten. Katzelmacher, Fassbinder’s second feature, is about working-class belligerence, fear and boredom in a drab, desolate Munich apartment complex. Apparently, in the days before cell phones, people who couldn’t afford to entertain themselves or smoke cigarettes all day squatted outside their apartment, swapped gossip and lies, and beat up foreigners before returning to their hovels for some brutally clinical sex. The actors look worn down to their gums by whatever it is they do for a living off-camera, and the camera is almost entirely motionless; like the characters, it can’t seem to go anywhere or get out of its narrow rut. Grade: A-

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Summer Movie Journal #5

Posted By on Fri, Aug 15, 2014 at 1:22 PM

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Full Metal Jacket (1987; dir. Stanley Kubrick)—Kubrick is a cable television hypnotist; stop to watch a scene or two, and the next time you check your watch, two hours of your life have vanished. Part of this comes from Kubrick’s distinctive mixture of precision imagery and ambiguous human agents; his shifty films, which often concern the breakdown of orderly systems, always feel like you can eventually figure them out if you could just see them one…more…time. Like The Shining, Full Metal Jacket is a horror film, but it’s more matter-of-fact about the world’s terrible things than its predecessor. Its main subject is the way people like Matthew Modine’s Private Joker and Vincent D’onofrio’s Private Pyle are ground up in the human being lawnmower that is the U.S. military-industrial complex, embodied in the film by R. Lee Ermey’s mad-god drill instructor. Ermey’s florid, obscene litanies of abuse, which he delivers nonstop at maximum volume, coexists uneasily with Kubrick’s tightly composed images of military harmony, including a shot of Marines climbing ropes in the twilight as beautiful as anything in a Miyazaki film. For most viewers, Jacket’s merciless first forty-five minutes overshadow the film’s second half, which takes place in Vietnam and includes a little thing called the Tet Offensive. But it shouldn’t: one look at Animal Mother’s 1000-yard stare ought to keep you locked in. And in the age of CGI, Kubrick’s meticulous craftsmanship stands tall. Just think; they had to set those building on fire during the battle scenes every single day. Grade: A+

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Hot Fuzz (2007: dir. Edgar Wright)— Edgar Wright is another filmmaker who stops me in my tracks whenever I’m idly channel-surfing. Hot Fuzz, about a London supercop (Simon Pegg) who thinks something fishy is going on in the small English village where he’s been reassigned, is the only action-comedy anyone needs to see, a triumph of verbal and visual wit more immediately accessible than anything Wright, Pegg and co-star Nick Frost have done so far. But for genre connoisseurs interested in a bit of fun, this pastiche offers endless treasures. Its network of cross-references and allusions are bewildering, edifying, inspirational: the Lethal Weapon theme music, the Silent Rage lookalike who can only say “Yarp”, the Straw Dogs shotgun violence played off as a joke, the casting of The Wicker Man’s Edward Woodward as the town’s security head, all the songs from The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, the A-Team like way in which the bad guys aren’t killed. To say nothing of Timothy Dalton as the guiltiest-looking, most shamelessly wicked murder suspect in film history. Grade: A+

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A Summer’s Tale (1996; dir. Eric Rohmer)—Although Eric Rohmer’s funny, lovely romance about the romantic adventures of a young man and three women had its long-overdue U.S. theatrical premiere earlier this year, it isn’t coming to Memphis; looks like Kansas City (where it’s currently playing) is as close as it’s going to get. This is a shame, because this is perfect mid-August fare, a chatty couple of hours that records, with grace and equanimity, all the dumb games people play when they’re too young and uncertain to deal with love, sex and commitment. I don’t tend to look to Robert Louis Stevenson for advice about today’s youth, but he’s spot-on about the central dilemma of the clueless dude at the film’s center: “He does not yet know enough of the world and men. His experience is incomplete... He is at the experimental stage; he is not sure how one would feel in certain circumstances; to make sure, he must come as near trying it as his means permit.” Out of such hesitations and feints are authentic feelings and many painful memories born. Grade: A

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Post Tenebras Lux (2012; dir. Carlos Reygadas)—There’s too little to hold onto in Reygadas’ emotional autobiography, for which he won the Best Director award at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. Its internal logic remains opaque, and its few potent-looking individual vignettes fail to compensate for its many dead spots. I liked the two visits by the devil (I think) and the scene where the guy rips his own head off, but the rest of the imagery and emotions were either hidden or buried. I feel sorta dopey disliking this movie, though. It’s easy to tee off on typical Hollywood product because village-idiot brainlessness is often what it’s selling. It’s tougher to take down something “challenging” or difficult or unconventional. Because these works may require more time and effort for viewers to unpack it mysteries and challenges, you feel like a chump and a simpleton when you finally give up and say, “I don’t get it.” But I don’t get it. Grade: B-

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“Friend Like Me,” from Aladdin (1992; dirs. Ron Clements and John Musker)—I didn’t discover Robin Williams’ soul while watching The Fisher King or Good Will Hunting; I discovered it in a Disney cartoon. The connection between creativity and solitude—and the way in which Williams’ manic flights of free-associative fancy frequently exhausted other people whenever he escaped from the prison of his own head—is the subtext of Williams’ Genie’s mantra: “Phenomenal cosmic power, itty-bitty living space.” Nevertheless, Williams’ magical wish-granter is his greatest role, in part because it best embodies the radical notion of the comedian as world-builder. Wonder, joy and generosity in the movies are all too rare, but these things are all present in this gloriously surreal, genially self-indulgent two and a half minute musical number, which still delights me after dozens of viewings. (Favorite moment: the way the Genie leers, “Well, lookie here!” after conjuring up a tiny harem for his new master.) Before bursting into song, the Genie declares “I don’t think you quite realize what you’ve got here”; that purely expository line will assume new shades of meaning and gravity as we continue to grapple with Williams’ huge (and often frustrating) artistic legacy. Grade (musical number only): A+

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Summer Movie Journal #4

Posted By on Thu, Jul 31, 2014 at 10:10 AM

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum
  • Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum
22 Jump Street (2014; dir. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller) — It may not be as awesome as The Lego Movie, but 22 Jump Street proves that Lord/Miller is the best comic filmmaking team since Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Which isn’t to say that it’s a triumphant laugh fest from beginning to end — the winking meta-commentary about 22 Jump’s paint-by-numbers sequel status and the homoerotic subtext of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill’s partnership are two running jokes that needed a time out or two. But there are very few dead spots in this omnivorous parody machine: Lord and Miller have never built a world safe from their nonstop barrage of goofs, gags, and random chuckles. Some of the best bits involve “The University of the Internet,” a bunch of girls trudging home behind Hill whenever he takes the walk of shame back to his dorm, anything involving the Lucas Brothers, the dance routine/fight scene on the beach, and everything Jillian Bell says and does. The greatest joke of all involves Tatum, Hill, Ice Cube, and a mix-up that’s obvious in retrospect but so surprising at first that Tatum’s ebullient reaction to and celebration of it deserves to go on as long as it wants. Grade: B+

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summer Movie Journal #3

Posted By on Sun, Jul 20, 2014 at 10:06 AM

Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz
  • Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz

The Counselor (2013; dir. Ridley Scott) — For a while, all I knew about this collaboration between the director of Blade Runner and the writer of Blood Meridian was that Salon.com’s Andrew O’Hehir declared it one of the worst movies ever made. Bad press like that curtailed its theatrical run last fall, so I didn’t get to see what all the fuss was about. Now the pendulum is swinging back; in a recent review of the bonus-crazy Counselor Blu-ray, Film Comment’s Amy Taubin called it “the most underrated and indeed ridiculously maligned film of 2013.” If you don’t mind elliptical storytelling or long, slow, deep, soft, wet disquisitions about the evil that men do that last three days, then you’ll probably agree. Michael Fassbender is the luckless, nameless criminal dilettante of the film’s title, and Javier Bardem is the bewildered playboy who helps Fassbender make his one big, bad decision. Cameron Diaz’s all-knowing leopard woman is supposed to be the film’s central metaphor, but for me, Brad Pitt’s smug, paunchy middleman performs that function just as well. He sort of knows what he’s doing is wrong, but even when he has to face facts, he can’t believe it’s really happening to him. The hangman’s delight with which Pitt recognizes the seriousness of his and Fassbender’s predicament is one of the many reasons why this is the most frightening movie I’ve seen in a long time. Grade: A-

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Friday, May 16, 2014

"Nashville" is Returning to Nashville to the tune of $5.5 million

Posted By on Fri, May 16, 2014 at 11:27 AM

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Memphis' frenemies in the state government continue to do right by Middle Tennessee. ABC's drama Nashville is returning to production in the Tennessee capital for its third season despite threats the cast and crew might relocate to Austin or Georgia if they didn't receive enough economic incentives.

The state is ponying up $5.5 million just for the one production. City, CVB, and private incentives fill out the overall package, which hits $8 million.

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Film Review: "Fading Gigolo"

Posted By on Sun, May 11, 2014 at 8:41 AM

Sofia Vergara and John Turturro
  • Sofia Vergara and John Turturro

The Man Who Loved Women

The florist does not believe women will find him attractive. “I am not a beautiful man,” he says, and he’s right. His eyes are a little out of alignment, he has a big schnozz, and his mouth doesn’t quite close all the way. His friend, a former bookstore owner, disagrees. Although the florist may be getting old, he is trim and confident, and there’s a precision and care in his movements that certain women might find irresistible. He works with his hands for a living, and it shows; as the former bookstore owner says, “You’re disgusting in a very positive way.” So why not call up this woman who’s looking for a ménage-a-trois and see what happens? And why not make a little extra money into the bargain?

John Turturro’s Fading Gigolo is the warmest and sexiest of the recent string of romances starring middle-aged actors whose most glamorous days might be behind them. His film takes place at the beginning of autumn in New York, and the city’s golden glow envelops and dignifies everyone wishing to trade Manhattan’s gifts of privacy and solitude for some provisional human contact.

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Time Warp Drive-In and "Purple Rain"

Posted By on Fri, Apr 25, 2014 at 9:17 AM

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Saturday night, the Time Warp Drive-In series, presented by Malco, Black Lodge Video, and Guerrilla Monster Films, kicks off at the Summer Drive-In Theater. Four films will be shown under the banner of Soulful Cinema: Craig Brewer’s now classic 2005 studio debut Hustle & Flow, 1972’s Super Fly, the greatest blacksploitation film ever made, with an immortal soundtrack by Curtis Mayfield; Coffy, starring Jackie Brown herself, Pam Grier, at the 1973 height of her stardom; and Purple Rain, which turns 30 this year.

In 1984, Prince had just come off of a smash hit record two years earlier: the double album 1999, which spawned four top 10 Billboard hits and sold 4 million copies. The success convinced Warner Brothers to produce a film to go with his next release. Director Albert Magnoli, a Prince associate, was tapped to direct the film, which would be a music video-inspired musical to capitalize on the craze that MTV had spawned two years before. The first hint America got of the Prince juggernaut that would dominate the airwaves for the rest of the decade was the revolutionary “When Doves Cry”, released on May 9, 1984, with a video that featured chunks of montage taken straight from the film famously intercut with shots of Prince naked in a bathtub.

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Film Review: "Under the Skin"

Posted By on Sat, Apr 19, 2014 at 7:13 AM

Scarlett Johansson
  • Scarlett Johansson

The other day, I looked out my window and saw one of Midtown Memphis’ many giant hawks sitting on my fence. When I got up to go to the window for a closer look, I discovered that the hawk was not alone—there was a squirrel on the fence, too. It was staring at the hawk, frozen in abject terror. The hawk, on the other hand, showed no emotion. It was just going about the business of being a predator, calculating how to best to capture and eat the squirrel. It didn’t care how the squirrel felt about it.

In Under the Skin, Scarlett Johansson plays a hawk, and dozens of average men of Glasgow, Scotland play squirrels. Johansson is an unnamed alien going about her job, which is to use her sex appeal to lure men to a secluded place where they are … well, we’re not really sure what happens to them, but it ain’t good. The process that the — not “victims”, “prey” — are subjected to is even more terrifying because of its incomprehensibility.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Oscar Contest

Posted By on Tue, Feb 25, 2014 at 9:57 PM

statue.jpg
Me and my boy Kevin Cerrito are throwing down the gauntlet this Oscars season.

I'm a regular guest on MemphiSport Live on Sports56/87.7 FM, appearing on the last Saturday of the month to discuss movies and TV and whatnot.

Once a year is the best hour of radio in Memphis, if I may be so bold: The MSL Oscar Handicapping Special. This last weekend was that glorious celebration, during which Kevin and I and co-host Marcus Hunter talked movies, Erik Jambor from Indie Memphis talked about the festival and upcoming events, ABC News anchor Joy Lambert talked about Hollywood for the House, and Memphis Oscar-winner, Frayser Boy, gave out some great trivia from the annals of Oscar history.

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Adventure Time: Oxford Film Fest Winners

Posted By on Mon, Feb 10, 2014 at 8:35 AM

Adventure Time fan art with an autograph by animator Kent Osborne
  • "Adventure Time" fan art with an autograph by animator Kent Osborne

The 11th Annual Oxford Film Festival brought large, enthusiastic crowds to its new location at the Malco Oxford Commons theater as well as to its traditional home base at The Lyric. Local and regional films such as Killer Kudzu and Memphis-made Being Awesome and Meanwhile in Memphis were crowd favorites, and a Mississippi shorts screening proving particularly popular. A panel discussion with animator Kent Osborne from the Cartoon Network's hit show Adventure Time packed in fans of all ages.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Oscars 2014: Best Picture Predictions 2.0

Posted By on Wed, Jan 15, 2014 at 3:53 PM

12 Years a Slave: actor Chiwetel Ejiofor and director Steve McQueen
  • 12 Years a Slave: actor Chiwetel Ejiofor and director Steve McQueen

If you don't think "The Oscars nominations will be announced tomorrow morning" is the best English sentence you could possibly read today, then get the hell out of here.

Everybody else: The Oscars nominations will be announced tomorrow morning! (!!!!!)

Rejoice.

Back in August I predicted what the Best Picture category would look like.

2014 Best Picture Oscar Nominee Predictions 2.0 (In order of certainty):
12 Years a Slave
Gravity
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
The Wolf of Wall Street
Saving Mr. Banks
Nebraska
Her
Inside Llewyn Davis
Dallas Buyers Club

Other three I can't pull the trigger on:
Philomena
Blue Jasmine
August: Osage County

Note that the Academy could nominate between 5 and 10 films for Best Picture.

The nominations will be announced Thursday, January 16, at 7:38 a.m. on ABC.

UPDATE: The Academy only went nine deep in the category. (Which is stupid; since the awards are just another marketing tool for movies, maximize the exposure you can provide.)

I missed on Inside Llewyn Davis and Saving Mr. Banks, and Philomena made it in when I thought it wouldn't. I had it ranked 11th.

The Oscars air Sunday, March 2nd, on ABC. (Squee!)

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