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I love entertainment...

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      • Pacific Rim Movie Review : Pathetically Grim
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        Pacific Rim Movie Review : Pathetically Grim

        Pacific Rim is a Guillermo del Toro film. Let me say that again because it’s little a hard to believe. Pacific Rim is a Guillermo del Toro film. The first time I saw the promo of this film, I said to myself it’s going to be...

      • 5/5 (1 votes)
      • Interstellar
        5/5 (1 votes)

        Nolan’s "Interstellar," about astronauts traveling to the other end of the galaxy to find a new home to
        replace humanity’s despoiled home-world, is frantically busy and earsplittingly
        loud. It uses booming music to jack...

      • San Andreas
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        San Andreas

        In a match between a supremely catastrophic California
        earthquake and the former wrestling star turned movie action hero Dwayne
        Johnson (a.k.a. The Rock, aptly enough here I guess, although he’s not thusly
        credited), who are you going to bet...

      • Thumb bailey

        We're proud to present an excerpt from a new book by Jason Bailey, "It's Okay With Me: Hollywood, The 1970s, and the Return of the Private Eye."

        Synopsis (from One of the cornerstones of the 1970s New Hollywood movement was the reinvention of genres from the studio era, with Westerns, musicals, and gangster movies getting the “revisionist” treatment by the so-called Film Brats who were raised on them. But few genres were revisited with as much vigor as the private eye movie – which found New Hollywood icons like Robert Altman, Roman Polanski, and Arthur Penn putting their distinctive spin on the timeworn conventions of the gumshoe film. So what was it about the private eye movie that was so compelling at that particular juncture, in both film history and American life? In It’s Okay With Me, author Jason Bailey dives deep into the essential detective pictures of the era, breaking down how they bridged past and present, while examining how each film was not only representative of New Hollywood, but of the wider cultural moment.

        “At first I said, I don’t want to do Raymond Chandler,” Robert Altman recalled, of the initial offer to direct the 1973 film version of The Long Goodbye. “If you say ‘Philip Marlowe,’ people just think of Humphrey Bogart.” But when Gould’s name was floated, “then I was interested. So I read Leigh Brackett’s script, and in her version, in the last scene, Marlowe pulled out his gun and killed his best friend, Terry Lennox. It was so out of character for Marlowe, I said, ‘I’ll do the picture, but you cannot change that ending! It must be in the contract.’ They all agreed, which was very surprising. If she hadn’t written that ending, I guarantee I wouldn’t have done it."

        Brackett’s participation was a key link to the character’s past – her second screenwriting credit, shared with William Faulkner and Jules Furthman, was for Hawks’ Big Sleep. “I met Chandler only once,” Brackett said. “I know he wanted Marlowe to be depicted as an honest man, and somebody who was his own man. I wanted to get that into the screenplay. But I also had to show Marlowe the way he looks to us now in the Seventies… Because Marlowe, as Chandler saw him, would be unthinkable in the Seventies.” Altman agreed: “I think it’s a goodbye to that genre - a genre that I don’t think is going to be acceptable anymore.” To convey that displacement, Altman and Brackett hit upon their guiding principle. “I decided we were going to call him Rip Van Marlowe,” Altman said, “as if he’d been asleep for twenty years, had woken up and was wandering through this landscape of the early 1970s but trying to invoke the morals of a previous era.”

        To drive the point home, Altman starts the film with Gould’s Marlowe literally waking up from a deep sleep. These opening shots are the only time he’s not in a full suit, which he even wears to take out his laundry. Throughout the picture, he’s the only one wearing a tie (even the gangsters are in turtlenecks), and he only removes it when he goes into the ocean (though he leaves his coat on). Marlowe’s the only one smoking – and he’s doing it constantly – the “Marlboro Man” sticking out like a sore thumb in the New Age, health-conscious enclave of Malibu. (He doesn’t stop smoking until the very end, when he needs that hand for his gun.)

        The world has changed around him: his neighbors are naked yoga flower children, his cellmate is a chatty revolutionary, and he finds his missing person in a smiley/happy rehab facility. But this Marlowe is a walking anachronism – he just keeps smoking his cigarettes, tying his tie, and doing his job. He is surrounded by his time, yet he is not of it.

        "He is a knight errant, and like Don Quixote imperfectly understands the world he inhabits,” Roger Ebert wrote of Gould’s Marlowe, noting that, in contrast to the sardonic narrators of the earlier Chandler pictures, his is a “meandering dialogue that plays as a bemused commentary to himself.” And perhaps he is, though “to himself” seems too purposeful a description for this Marlowe’s sideways mumble, which is less Bogart than W.C. Fields – and seems to point the way towards another muttering Altman protagonist, Robin Williams’ Popeye. His frustrated asides (“Boy, that cockamamie cat”) and nonplussed reactions (“Why don’tcha go over there and tell the girls they’ll catch a cold”) seem a coping mechanism, a way of at least amusing himself in a world where nothing else makes sense.

        Altman’s refusal to play by the rules is made clear right from the jump, as he spends no less than eleven minutes on an opening sequence in which Marlowe goes on a late-night grocery store run to feed his finicky cat. It could just be one of Altman’s oddball touches, like the unexplained baby shoe in Marlowe’s apartment or the inexplicable carnival photo booth that takes his mug shot; maybe it’s just a character beat, establishing the proper anything-goes mood. But author William Luhr positions it as a miniature version of the complex mystery that follows, in which Marlowe shuttles his pal Terry Lennox off to Mexico, is accused of assisting in Terry’s murder of his wife, is hired to track down drunken, suicidal Hemingway-esque author Roger Wade, and ends up discovering (wouldn’t ya know it) that his two cases are connected. Yet in both the cat food jaunt and the Lennox/Wade mystery, Luhr argues, “empty characters and empty actions begin and end with Marlowe alone, feeling betrayed, and without the resources to understand or to cope with his situation.”

        The opening sequence is one of three that comes up most often in discussions, both laudatory and critical, of The Long Goodbye, along with gangster Marty Alexander smashing a Coke bottle on his mistress’s face (a brutal echo of James Cagney and his grapefruit) and the surprise ending. All three scenes, significantly, are nowhere to be found in Chandler’s source novel, and anyone approaching the film looking for straight adaptation will find little to hold on to. Even casual viewers will likely find its borderline perverse visual style – with the camera in constant motion via zooms, dolleys, pans, and shifting focal points – disorienting or even off-putting. (Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond also inserts an extra dose of smoggy California haze by “flashing” the negative.) But these flourishes give the picture the wild, improvisational feel of a free-form jazz number – Altman as Mingus. More importantly, it’s of a piece with the storytelling; Marlowe cannot figure out his place in this world, and Altman never lets him (or, consequently, us) settle comfortably into his surroundings.

        And as a result, it’s hard not to notice that Marlowe isn’t much of a detective. The payoff of his unsuccessful 3am cat food run is that he can’t even fool his own pet. When Terry Lennox arrives shortly thereafter, they pay “liar’s poker” – and Marlowe loses, an apt metaphor for the adventure to follow, in which he pledges constant allegiance to his friend, a conniving murderer who has exploited that friendship. The lug who gives Marlowe a lift home from jail puts it bluntly: “Sorry, Marlowe. Sorry you’re so stupid.” Other movies have their detective stumble around a bit, as is necessary to preserve the suspense of their mysteries; this one explicitly calls its hero dumb, and takes its time disproving the thesis.

        Yet even this sap eventually wises up. When a drunken Marlowe presses Wade’s wife for the truth about his suicide, the mumble disappears; when he asks her, “Are you gonna tell me what really happened here,” he speaks plainly and clearly. Most people slur their speech when they’re drunk. Marlowe stops slurring. (Is it an affectation? Something to keep people off-guard?) When he chases her car down a busy street and she strangely ignores him, his sense of self is finally reignited – he plays the fool, but he will not be played for a fool. He finds the supposedly dead Terry luxuriating in Mexico and waiting for his newly single mistress Ellen Wade; Terry grins, “I guess if anybody was gonna track me down, it’d be you,” but he certainly doesn’t seem concerned about betraying his friend, or the consequence of that betrayal. Confronted with his crimes, Terry is unmoved. “What the hell, nobody cares,” he shrugs (a key concluding statement of Hickey & Boggs the previous year).

        “Yeah, nobody cares but me,” Marlowe replies.

        “That’s you, Marlowe,” Terry says. “You’ll never learn. You’re a born loser.”

        “Yeah, I even lost my cat.” And with that, Marlowe shoots the fucker dead.

        It’s a shocking, repugnant, and glorious moment, all at once – a “fuck you” to not only the customary hero code of the private eye movie, but the easy-come-easy-go spirit of the character until that moment. Throughout the film, he is passive in both action and in attitude; Terry’s “What the hell, nobody cares” isn’t that far removed from Marlowe’s own refrain of “It’s okay with me,” except that he’s finally encountered something that’s not okay. It’s the moment at which his anachronistic hero becomes, at long last, the modern man – evening the score for a personal slight, and thus philosophically equipped for the “Me Generation.” The ending doesn’t make him a better man; many would argue (and did, loudly, following the picture’s release) that it makes him a lesser one. But it certainly makes him a man of his time.

        Considering its unconventional approach and unapologetic torching of genre norms, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that critics and audiences greeted The Long Goodbye with such hostility. It premiered at one of critic Judith Crist’s famed Terrytown weekends (fictionalized and immortalized in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories) in perhaps the worst possible circumstances: following screenings of all the previous Marlowe pictures. West Coast critics fumed; Variety dubbed it “an uneven mixture of insider satire on the gumshoe film genre, gratuitous brutality, and sledgehammer whimsy,” while the Los Angeles Times’ Charles Champlin called Gould’s Marlowe “an untidy, unshaven, semi-literate dimwit slob who could not locate a missing skyscraper and would be refused service at a hot dog stand,” and sneered, “He is not Chandler’s Marlowe, or mine, and I can’t find him interesting, sympathetic or amusing, and I can’t be sure who will.” Kenneth Turan (also later of the Times) included it on a late-‘70s list of the worst movies ever made.

        Box office was bad in its initial Los Angeles engagements, and runs in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Miami were likewise disappointing. Its New York premiere was cancelled at the eleventh hour, even though press screenings had already been held, and it was withdrawn from release nationwide. Rumors circulated that it would be re-edited, shortened, or abandoned altogether; it turned out, United Artists had re-jiggered its marketing campaign, torpedoing the initial posters and ads, which framed it as a straight thriller, for new posters by Mad magazine illustrator Jack Davis, which made it look like a madcap comedy. Opening in New York months later, it was a modest hit, championed by the New Yorker’s Pauline Kael (“Altman, who probably works closer to his unconscious than any other American director, tells a detective story, all right, but he does it through a spree—a high-flying rap on Chandler and the movies and that Los Angeles sickness”) and the New York Times’ Vincent Canby, who put it on the paper’s year-end top 10 list and praised its creators for having “the courage to create an original character and almost an original story that, by being original, does more to honor Chandler's skills than would any attempt to make a forties movie today."

        But Farewell, My Lovely, a much more faithful Marlowe picture (with Robert Mitchum taking on the role) released two years later, was a much bigger commercial and critical success. By preferring that traditional appreciation to the tart aftertaste of Long Goodbye, contemporary critics were letting their own notion of nostalgia gloss over the blackness at the heart of true noir. That view, Luhr writes, “belies an understanding of the profoundly anti-nostalgic, anti-sentimental cynicism and despair that pervaded the actual films themselves, as well as The Long Goodbye.”

        Films like Farewell, My Lovely regarded private eyes shallowly, refusing to wrestle with what a character like Marlowe truly meant in this era. It was easier to slap a trenchcoat on him, to put him in a window covered in streaming rain to a saxophone theme, and let us stash him in the past. Farewell was safe, a museum piece, a humorless presentation of fixed images, while the variation Altman presented was unbalancing – in his words, in his actions, even in the way his director framed him – and viewers resisted. "I suspect that people are reluctant to say goodbye to the old sweet bull of the Bogart Marlowe because it satisfies a deep need,” Kael wrote. “They’ve been accepting the I-look-out-for-No. 1 tough guys of recent films, but maybe they’re scared to laugh at Gould’s out-of-it Marlowe because that would lose them their Bogart icon. At the moment, the shared pop culture of the audience may be all that people feel they have left.” And that tension – between who was onscreen and what we needed them to be – would only pull tighter as the decade continued.

        “It’s Okay With Me: Hollywood, The 1970s, and the Return of the Private Eye” is available now in paperback and Kindle editions. 

        By: The Editors
        Posted: July 17, 2018, 2:26 pm

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        It is the middle of the night. A prisoner tries to escape from a World War 2 camp. He’s caught in barb wire. Sentry dogs bark as spotlights find him. Soldiers shoot him on sight. The drums and trumpets of Bill Conti’s soundtrack introduce the credits. Who could have imagined that the great John Huston would direct Sylvester Stallone in a soccer-war-escape film. I would like to tell you that “Escape to Victory” (aka “Victory”) has the drama of the World Cup tournament with the feel of the Dirty Dozen, but it doesn’t. I’d like to tell you that this 1981 film provides strong social commentary, daring to hold the secrets to world peace, and maybe it does. Or not. Still, it’s a loveable, simple movie chronicling some prisoners of war dueling a Nazi superteam.

        Major Karl Von Steiner (Max Von Sydow) recognizes a former soccer star like himself among the prisoners, British Captain John Colby (Michael Caine). They have an idea to organize a “friendly,” an exhibition soccer match between the Nazis and the incarcerated. Meanwhile, in the same camp, American Captain Robert Hatch (Stallone) monitors the movements of the guards as he plots his escape. Somehow, the greatest soccer player of his era, Pelé, arrives and joins.

        These two threads—one of sports and the other of war—converge in the final act with a climactic match. You can assume that Sylvester Stallone saves the day, but even though I’ve seen this movie dozens of times—as recently as last week—I don’t remember who wins. I do, however, remember the soccer.

        Can a sport ever overtake the global love that soccer has? Michael Jordan and the American marketing machine brought basketball to the world. The dribbling in basketball has a beauty that rivals the dribbling of soccer. Basketball also has the quickness that a modern media-consuming audience, myself included, thirsts for. But, soccer has simplicity. Because the scores are so low, soccer has suspense. Further, soccer has the rivalry of two teams, yet when the scorer approaches the net, it is a one-on-one competition between the shooter and the goalie.


        There are two moments in the film that I replay in my mind, still nearly forty years after the film’s release. In one, as the ball descends toward him, Pelé jumps up and flips over his back for a perfectly executed bicycle kick. In another, Osvaldo “Ossie” Ardiles grabs the ball with his feet, and taps it from behind his back, over his head, in front of him, in a rainbow. Spike Lee’s “He Got Game” has some beautiful basketball moments. Barry Levinson’s “The Natural” has some beautiful baseball moments. Still, the only sport other than soccer that has such grace in slow motion is horse racing, recalling scenes at the end of “The Black Stallion.”

        Today we celebrate our athletes in the way we used to celebrate war heroes, with giant parades. I was by accident caught downtown in the 2016 celebration of the Chicago Cubs world series victory. I was meeting a friend for breakfast, we scheduled the meeting a week or two prior. I get on the train that morning, and everyone was dressed in blue. The last time I saw so many people crowding together, where the crowd was larger than what my eyes could register, I was in Mecca for the pilgrimage, though without all the alcohol. I suppose that is a fitting analogy, because sports can be religion for many, and religion can be sport for many.

        We see contrast in this film, not between sport and religion, but between patriotism and nationalism. In championships, we root for our own team and share in their victory or loss. In war, regimes fill their populaces with nationalist pride (rather, rage), so as to justify the bloodshed of villains.

        We depicted the Nazis and Soviets this way. Now, we depict China and Muslim-majority nations like Saudi Arabia this way. In 2018, something has shifted: Saudi Arabia grants driver's licenses to women and screens American movies in modern cinemas while we are walling ourselves in from the “infestation” of illegal immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.

        I am old enough to remember a time in our American history when politicians and their followers would not equivocate on references to the Nazis. Today, leaders take moments to explain why their policies are not like the Nazis. That was a time when camps of detainees were empty haunted museums preserving an evil past that could never again happen. They were fossils showing us that we had evolved. Most important, despite our own history with the Native Americans, the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and the Interment of the Japanese Americans, the Nazi was a foreign villain. Things are different today: it is as though many in our society have merged patriotism and nationalism, taking such offense at any criticism of our nation—even from veterans—they excommunicate them as disloyal threats.

        There is another discussion in the film, where Michael Caine demands the Nazis give his squad quality uniform, training, and equipment for his players. Such is war: uniform, training, equipment. Both sport and war involve men seeking heroic victory. Perhaps the “victory” in this film, however, is not in the final score. In the climax, all the screaming fans leave their seats and swarm the field, then they break out of the stadium. Perhaps the victory is when the athletes took off their uniforms and, like the others, escaped as mere mortals.  

        By: Omer M. Mozaffar
        Posted: July 17, 2018, 2:27 pm

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        Among its many major discoveries, the Fantasia International Film Festival can lay ownership to what can now be called the “Unfriended” franchise. In 2014, a horror movie called “Cyber National,” which took place all on one computer screen, was soon picked up for distribution, and retitled to “Unfriended.” Four years later, Fantasia had the international premiere of its sequel, “Unfriended: Dark Web.” Curiously, after the showing on Friday night, it was announced that director Stephen Susco’s film will have two endings when it is officially released, a bid to make the movie a tempting type of game. Don't fall for it. 

        Curiosity killed the dumb horror character, as we know from cinematic death-traps structured just like this one, but “Unfriended: Dark Web” stretches this conceit until it snaps, which happens about 15 minutes in. A lost-and-found laptop with a bunch of violent videos, ominous file names on it and even the idea of going deep into the dark web is just not that seductive of a Pandora’s Box. As “Unfriended: Dark Web” then drags viewers through its mechanical course of events, the film works like a slasher movie as presented all on one laptop screen. Nastiness is its main offer, not tension. 

        The person who finds said laptop, Matias (Colin Woodell), soon understands from a slew of Facebook message notifications that someone who owned this computer was doing some very suspicious transactions, and is in demand from a lot of people. Then, the person who claims (in caps lock, always) that Matias stole the laptop demands it back. Matias shares this with his friends who he is simultaneously Skyping with, some of whom fill the “dumb teenagers in a haunted house” set-up, including a smart, glasses-wearing guy, and a goofy comic relief guy. 

        But good poutine gravy are these characters dumb and the movie even more so, at times shameless for the type of tricks it tries to pull with a straight face. One of the key plot points is that Matias’ girlfriend Amaya (Stephanie Nougeras) is deaf, which makes for moments of cheap tension that are just too mean-spirited, in which she can’t hear someone lurking behind her in what’s meant to be one of the more unsettling “boogeyman” moments. Or, not a spoiler, when Matias desperately tries to convince his friends that all of the stuff was a game; they believe it, and it becomes insulting to us that the movie thinks we would accept that. 

        All of this happens as dully presented on one screen that goes between Facebook chat to a Skype session, with too many creative liberties. However nervous the movie wants to be, it’s far too inert, and can only hand-hold the audience. One nagging idea is how the dark web boogeyman can type in black text within one of Matias’ Facebook chats with another friend, accompanied every time by an overeager boom from the sound design. Of course, said messages then dramatically vanish. For a movie that wants to be scary because of its real-life possibility, it’s a carelessly broad depiction. “Unfriended: Dark Web” may compel you to cover the cameras on your electronic devices, but its filmmaking will be rendered obsolete when the superior screen-based thriller “Searching,” also produced by Timur Bekmambetov, comes out next month, or plays Fantasia next week.


        On the other hand, “Tales from the Hood 2” proves that there should be approximately a hundred more films to that franchise’s name. It’s been 23 years since the film installment of this horror anthology, which like its sequel, was directed by Darin Scott and Rusty Cundieff, and executive produced by Spike Lee. If it even needs to be pointed out, those shorts, which tackled police brutality, violent families, the destruction of black bodies and more, are still as immediate and disturbing in 2018. 

        It feels particularly fitting to talk about them together, so take this as not just a recommendation for “Tales of the Hood 2” but also “Tales from the Hood.” “Tales from the Hood 2” is similar to the first installment in a lot of ways, in particular because it comes with special horror branding: shorts that welcome viewers with campiness and overt horror beats, but achieve their thrills out of Scott and Cundieff's serious messages about history. Here, two young women (one Caucasian, one African American) carelessly wander into a museum filled with racist toys, and antiques from a time not removed from our own. They’re lectured by an owner of the museum about the real horror behind those images, with an emphasis on trying to devalue black lives with such awful depictions. They're explicitly told not to mess with these pieces of history, but it falls on deaf ears. 

        I wouldn’t dare spoil what happens next, but the gory, shocking, funny and unforgettable images that result are the values of “Tales from the Hood” movies at their best: these shorts are not afraid to go beyond what you might expect. They can be bombastic and poignant all the same, with thrills and a message. And in a way that's different from so many horror anthologies, these are parables are primed for discussion as much as entertainment. 

        Made on a smaller scale than its predecessor, “Tales from the Hood 2” is rough around the edges filmmaking-wise, and its writing can be a bit shaky: a slow-burn short about predatory bros feels like a weak corrective to the often male-focused perspectives in their storytelling. And the second short, about a psychic, takes a bit too long to get to its albeit outrageous comedic pay-off. 

        But the last short in this sequel, which mixes real-life history with a nightmare about a black conservative man, is one of the most audacious from both films. It won’t be spoiled here, but it’s a great example of the “Tales from the Hood” movies coming into their own, still thinking of horror way beyond jack-in-the-box thrills. As horror fans chew on the notion of “elevated horror” considering the likes of “Get Out" (referring to movies that use genre thrills to explore political messages), “Tales from the Hood 2” proves Cundieff and Scott have been thinking at that level the whole time. 


        One of the best movies I’ve seen at Fantasia so far is one of its most minimal: the exciting mash-up of a solo survival movie and the threat of a single zombie bite. “The Night Eats the World,” based on the novel by Pit Agarmen, is a terrific showcase in particular for Anders Danielsen Lie, previously of “Oslo, August 31st” and “Reprise.” Like the best movies that isolate us with one actor as they navigate and adapt to their deadly surroundings, it locks us into the psychology of Lie’s character Sam, who is the only living soul, as far as the eye can see, after an overnight zombie apocalypse. 

        With his Paris apartment building functioning as a type of fort, Sam’s exploration of the building for life substances and through other life stories highlights one of the character-driven film’s best aspects: it’s not a movie you can get a step ahead of. We're with him in an open world, and we're more worried about him going crazy than him being bitten. Lie is so charismatic as our surrogate into this experience that the spacious movie feels full enough, even if the plot becomes mostly about his endurance physically and mentally. 

        Sam goes through different feelings about his lucky foe: shock, amusement (he starts to embrace his drum set, even though it stirs up the zombies outside), and extreme loneliness. The movie is filled with extensive passages where there’s no dialogue as he exhibits these different states of mind. It's about a man getting comfortable with being alone, which becomes a quietly powerful message under all of it. And at the same time, director Dominique Rocher doesn’t under-utilize the dread of the zombie component, using classic zed logic like a more existential “Shaun of the Dead” meets “All Is Lost.” 

        By: Nick Allen
        Posted: July 15, 2018, 9:19 pm

      • Thumb buffalo boys

        One small, consistent thrill about being in Montreal during the time of Fantasia is asking the locals what movies they’ll be seeing at the fest. The results often sound like mad-libs plot synopses, and further prove the creative stories that abound during this almost month-long movie bash. A zombie Christmas musical? Check (“Anna and the Apocalypse”). A time-travel comedy from New Zealand? Check, and it’s playing tomorrow (“Mega Time Squad,” recommended). And last night added another exciting combination to the mix: an 1860s Western set in Indonesia, as inspired equally by Westerns across different eras of action movies and the injustice of Dutch colonizing in Indonesia. “Buffalo Boys” is like an Indonesian “Django Unchained,” with a big climax that pairs Sergio Leone machismo with martial arts. 

        Directed and co-written by Mike Wiluan, "Buffalo Boys" is the story of two Indonesian brothers, Suwo (Yoshi Sudarso) and Jamar (Ario Bayu), and their uncle Arana (Tio Pakusadewo), as they venture back from California to Jawa, Indonesia, during the oppressive times of the Dutch colonizers. It’s both a history lesson for these young men who have been removed from their culture for years, an act of vengeance for their father who was killed by the tyrannical Van Trach (Reinout Bussemaker) years ago, and a rescue mission to saved a love one from Van Trach’s ownership, while liberating their people who have had such atrocities done to them. 

        Wiluan has a large vision for the movie, packing it with two or three damsels in distress (and frustratingly underutilizing a lead woman who is established to be an excellent archer), three main heroes, and a vague sense of narrative direction aside from impending vengeance. A more focused narrative seems to be in order, but Wiluan at least makes a case for his bloated story and character roster with with his massive action scenes where all hell breaks loose. 

        The movie is certain to gain comparisons to Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained,” of which it would be as a fascinating double feature. Both of the movies examine historic injustices through genre and answer with all-out violence, with heroes given their own hyper-stylized moments as a type of answer to previous representation in Westerns. And like “Django Unchained” did with the history of American slavery, Wiluan especially doesn’t want his viewers to look away from the atrocities that the East British India Company did to the people Indonesia, and uses it to build up for extra gratification for during Grand Guignol finale. 

        Throughout, "Buffalo Boys" embraces cliches in a way that feels safe, from a generic super villain to an emotionally instructive score, or moments meant to achieve very broad ideas of romance or historical outrage. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have its moments—the fight choreography is great during its extensive action scenes, and there are even some excellent explosions. “Buffalo Boys” would make an overall bigger impact, though, if it seemed like it were contributing more to the genre conversation than just a compelling and different perspective.


        The Unity of Heroes,” which had its North American premiere yesterday at Fantasia, is a straight-up martial arts throwback with a lineage to “Drunken Master II” and the “Once Upon a Time in China” films. It's a return of the heroic Master Wong (Vincent Zhao), who is the martial arts master for the local militia, and is accompanied by a small batch of dopey young apprentices who offer the movie’s slapstick-y moments. But something is rotten in their city, as demonic-looking, violent henchmen with black lines in their faces start terrorizing the town, which is soon revealed to the the result of a nefarious Western medicine that experiments of people with an opioid addiction. 

        At the same time, Master Wong and his crew face some animosity from the competitive Master Wu and his own squad, scuffling in the streets periodically about who is the best. “The Unity of Heroes” also makes time for a romance, which has fun with showing just how much of a wet blanket Master Wong is when it comes to a woman who has returned from the West and looks down on Chinese culture. The script has a whole lot going on, but the busy nature doesn't make it especially quick so much as light. As with "Buffalo Boys," what it lacks in invention it mostly makes up for with crowd-pleasing, especially when it’s so self-amusing, and its action delivers whenever it’s time to battle. 

        This is a genre buffet of cartoonish comedy, monstrous horror, and a whole lot of martial arts, with bite-size moments of delight: the film boasts plenty of stylized fight scenes with whooshing fists and feet, showdowns that defy gravity, and sequences built on silly jokes. "The Unity of Heroes" is as light on its feet as the characters who fly through the air; the only thing that it does take seriously is the existence of morals, the concept that creates said unity in its nothing title. 


        In the case of a movie that just didn't grip me despite its script's desires, there’s “True Fiction,” from writer/director Kim Jin-mook. Like a Coen brothers movie without the momentum, “True Fiction” is the tale of a wild night involving a corrupt Korean mayoral candidate named Kyung-suk (Oh Man-seok), his mistress Ji-young (Lee Eun-woo), and a suspicious young man named Soon-tae (Ji Hyun-woo) whose dog they just ran over and abandoned. It’s initially presented as a dark comedy, in which the composed by clumsy future public figure is being gamed as a well-controlled revenge by Soon-tae, who befriends the couple as they try to save face by lying about who they are, who or Kyung-suk works ofr. All of this happens outside a random cottage that belongs to neither of them, but Kyung-suk needs to get inside. It makes for a dull game, especially with repetitive, peppy bass guitar music cues to fail to layer a coolness to all of the awkward mischief. 

        More characters are brought into the fold, especially as the events become about more than just an adorable dog that was run over. A hidden corruption begins to show itself as "True Fiction" wants to be a political thriller. The best trick that this slow movie has to offer is a complete shift in tone, in which the good and evil within these characters is no longer handled as a joke, but with seriousness. It's just such a slog to get to the movie's idea of justice, which in the most simple sense fails to be rewarding. 

        By: Nick Allen
        Posted: July 15, 2018, 9:21 pm

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        I first saw Carlos López Estrada’s Sundance hit, “Blindspotting,” during the week ABC cancelled its highest-rated show, “Roseanne,” after racist statements were posted on Twitter by its leading lady. Not long before that, the “Yanny or Laurel” controversy had swept the nation, illuminating how sound frequencies could place our comprehension in an alternate reality. That notion of how the blind spots hard-wired into us shape our understanding of the world and oftentimes fuel our prejudices is a major theme of “Blindspotting”’s remarkable script co-authored by its leads, Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal. The duality of Rubin’s Vase (an optical illusion that shows either a vase or faces in silhouette, depending on how you look at it) is mirrored in the opening credits, juxtaposing two very different perspectives of modern-day Oakland via split-screen—one defined by the history of generations, the other by Whole Foods and gentrification. 

        Diggs plays Collin, a young man whose final three days of probation are endangered by the volatility of his best friend, Miles (Casal). Having served a prison term for committing a crime that was triggered by Miles, Collin hopes to begin his life anew, while possibly rekindling his relationship with ex-girlfriend Val (Janina Gavankar, friend of Meghan Markle). Yet when Collin observes a man being fatally shot in the back by a police officer, Collin’s rage at systemic injustice threatens to boil to the surface. In one of the year’s most breathtaking cinematic moments, Diggs delivers a monologue of scathing poetry, encouraging all souls prone to bigotry to “see the faces, leave the vases.”

        During a press tour last month, Diggs and Casal spoke with about their meticulous approach to sound design, their seamlessly stylized dialogue and why having intelligent characters is a politically charged statement.

        When I interviewed Daveed last fall about his role in “Wonder,” he told me that one of the reasons he was attracted to the project was the director’s insistence on viewing the same events from multiple perspectives, an approach that is also integral to “Blindspotting.”

        Rafael Casal (RC): The idea was to give every character their version of what was right in their mind. Early on, there are moments with Val where the audience is made to be pitted against her, and we make sure to eventually come around to her perspective, as well as the perspective of Miles’s girlfriend, Ashley. Even for Miles and Collin, it was necessary to have those moments. We liked the idea that it was messy and complex, because that is usually how perspective works.

        Daveed Diggs (DD): I am attracted to art that doesn’t present itself as an authority. As an artist presenting a piece of art, you have to be aware of your own blind spots. I think I am attracted to art where woven into the fabric of the thing is this fractured perspective, this idea that there are many ways to look at this thing that you are watching right now.

        Your portrayal of the film’s inciting incident—the brawl outside the bar—is twofold: we first see it from a comedic angle, where the clueless white victim is dubbed “Portlandia,” and then from a tragic angle, as we hear the man echo Eric Garner’s cries of “I can’t breathe.” 

        DD: We do so much work early on to ensure that everyone can feel the world from Collin’s perspective, where we understand a lot of his reasoning for everything and for all of his choices. To present that moment in a way that is comedic allows you to really watch it without judging him initially. Then all of a sudden, you get to see the moment play out from Val’s perspective, in order for the audience to understand much more about her feelings, and also about the nature of this crime. If we’ve done our job right, this shift occurs without the audience realizing it. By the end of the film, you are rooting for a felon convicted of a violent crime, who maybe doesn’t get a lot of second glances in real life. We did a lot of work in the script to try and underscore Collin’s humanity and make sure that his entire self was represented. He is not only the crime that he committed, and even from one perspective, the crime is hilarious if you think about it.

        RC: Our intention was to make the entire theater be on his side for most of that fight. Everyone in the room hates the hipster and thinks that Miles is being funny and the fire is entertaining. That flip on the perspective regarding the violence, depending on how we are encouraged to feel about it, matters. It shows how easily you can get swept up in a point of view if it favors your beliefs or is playing to your intuitive nature. We are giving you comedy, and so you are responding to the comedy, same as when you are watching the news. If the newscasters tell you that a person is a villain, you will treat them like a villain. The same trick that is happening in the film is what’s happening on the news every day.


        A key example of this would be how, during the newscast, the shooting victim is seen only in his mugshot, whereas the cop who shot him is viewed in uniform.

        DD: That’s an example of Rafael and I attempting to be honest about what’s happening in the world. When you are writing a film, it’s so tempting to lean in to one thing or another—to sort of lean away from the honesty of the situation because it might make for a better story. That manipulative approach is different from how we are being manipulative, to an incredible degree, throughout this film. Our particular brand of manipulation was driven by the premise of, “What if we don’t ignore the real world? Can this buddy comedy exist in the actual world, and at what point does it stop being a comedy? At what point does a pretty straightforward buddy comedy fall apart when you don’t ignore the reality of the situation?”

        RC: Most comedies, at some point, get earnest. It’s only a matter of time before a comedy descends into an earnest moment of truth. The hero will chase after somebody in an airport, or there will be a complication during the birth of a baby, and suddenly the funny people are sad. Daveed and I love the juxtaposition of humor and sadness in that context. There is always a super-sad or dark moment. That is the nature of great comedy, and I don’t think we defied convention as much as people have claimed. We just paired the genres in a way that tonally or subject matter-wise hasn’t really been done before. Perhaps it feels different when it involves a political issue that is very polarizing.

        I found the tonal shifts and lyrical dialogue in “Blindspotting” to be so much more seamless and assured than they were in a picture like Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq.” 

        DD: We’re doing different things than Spike. “Chi-Raq” was an adaptation of a Classical Greek comedy, so the way he was attempting to use poetry was already forced. It was a forced situation that was meant to draw attention to the fact that the dialogue was poetry and not prose. We are doing the exact opposite. We’re trying to make you forget that you are listening to verse, but still have it function in the same way where it forces you to hear the important things and as a result, you sit forward a little bit in your chair. The writing is different, yes, but the biggest difference is in terms of performance. Carlos also played a big role in helping it feel natural when people are reciting verse but performing it as text. Rafael and I grew up doing that, so we’ve had a lot of practice. In many ways, the film is a reflection of how we grew up interacting with language. That is a big thing in the Bay Area, so we were really just trying to show off what we can do.

        I particularly loved when Miles tells Val, “I am as moved by your greeting as you are moved by an elliptical.”

        RC: [laughs] I’m always so disappointed that the line doesn’t get a bigger laugh. 

        DD: It gets buried in the mix. I think about that line a lot too. 

        RC: It’s a joke that takes a couple seconds to register, and by the time it does, it’s more of an internal laugh. It’s a headier joke where you are like, “Oh, because an elliptical doesn’t move…” [laughs] But what I love about that line is it gives you a sense of the character’s vocabulary. One thing Daveed and I talked about a lot is how important it was for all of our characters to be really intelligent people. The Bay’s a very well-read place. A lot of the parents are very educated, whether traditionally or nontraditionally, and that savviness, that sophistication also coexists with the norm of city life and street culture. It doesn’t change it, it just gives it this nuance. That is a very heady joke for Miles to make and in any other movie, It would feel so strange for the street dudes to reference an elliptical as a joke in passing.

        DD: It doesn’t feel strange in our experience growing up and I think we set up Miles and everyone else in this movie enough that you buy it.

        RC: Their intelligence has this broad stroke to it that allows you to watch them process things much faster, which also enables the verse. You know that they’re quick, witty and clever, but you don’t have a good sense of what their knowledge base is. You really just know a little bit about their behavioral flaws and not necessarily the limits of their intellect. For all we know, in every moment we don’t see him on camera, Collin sits around reading all day. There were versions of the script where that was the case. Miles and Ashley watch the news every night, and as younger people, that is not as common.

        DD: I think it’s a politically left statement to not have stupid people in our work. We are existing in a world where there is this normalizing of ignorance, which is dangerous and actually untrue. That’s not how people are. I don’t know very many stupid people in my life, certainly not among disenfranchised people because it is hard to live that way. This normalizing of people being uninformed is dangerous because it presents it as okay, whereas that’s contrary to our survival mechanisms. You have to be smart to survive.


        The line, “F—k Alfred Hitchcock,” which the character of Mama Liz (Tisha Campbell-Martin) exclaims, also stood out to me. 

        RC: Tisha improvised that, that was all her. 

        DD: Following it up with her misnaming of M. Night Shyamalan was so, so funny to us, and it’s so honest. 

        RC: “F—k Alfred Hitchcock” may have actually been in the script, but the Shyamalan line definitely was not. [laughs]

        Hitchcock’s fear of policemen and signature theme of the “man wrongly accused” also reverberate throughout “Blindspotting,” epitomized by the shot of Collin’s face illuminated by the police light, forever under surveillance. 

        DD: I looked at a ton of movies during our last rewrite, and I re-watch Hitchcock films all the time. That stuff is always percolating through my ideas

        RC: I watched a lot of Kubrick as well. Daveed and I were being very intentional about the moments of horror, using some of the familiar tropes of suspense. We talked about how the cop coming around the corner should feel like the shark in “Jaws.” That’s how we described it, and sound design-wise, we were like, “This is how that moment needs to feel.” We need to feel as though the predator is here. That is the lived experience, and that is the point-of-view we want to give the audience.

        DD: And I think it is, in part, about leaning into things that we’re used to in movies because that’s how we know how to react to them. We put so much work into making people empathize with Collin, and a good way to put folks in his shoes is to present them with the kind of scare that they are familiar with as moviegoing people, as people who consume stuff this way. They feel Collin in that moment, and start to think, ‘Oh s—t, something terrible is about to happen…’

        How involved were you both in the film’s extraordinarily visceral sound design?

        RC: We were deeply involved from the beginning. All of those rhythmic musical refrains and elements to design Collin’s PTSD were originally in the script and decided on before we shot the film. 

        DD: We set the tempo months before we started shooting with members of my band Clipping. We did some rough passes on sound design elements, and though very little of that stuff got used, we recorded to them. When we performed the scenes, we had clicks in our ear. For the scene toward the end where Collin is in basement, I had that beeping sound in my ear to keep in line with the rhythm.

        RC: I had a similar click in my ear during the dream sequence set in the courtroom. We knew super-super early on that both the score and the sound design were going to be essential in tracking Collin’s descent. We knew those PTSD moments were going to ramp up and climax in some of our final scenes, and that everything would have to get threaded back throughout the entire film, so we have alternating start points of when we learn about them, such as car horns or other sounds. We also had to make sure that the sounds were accurate in relation to where the characters were in Oakland, because we knew that people from the area would intuitively know if we had gotten something wrong.

        DD: Getting to mix in Dolby Atmos was an extra sort of bonus after we received their grant. We worked with their artists while sitting on Michael Bay’s mixing stage and got to make adjustments like, “Can we throw that train noise back into the right because we know where this house is in relation to the actual train tracks in Oakland?” Coming from music, that was the sort of stuff that we were obsessed with. I am super-proud of the sound design in this film, and next time we do a movie, we’ll do more. We’ll actually start that process way earlier. I think there’s so much more we could’ve done. 

        RC: Even when we were doing our web series [“Hobbes and Me”], sound design was always our favorite part of the process. That is when everything on the screen comes to life, so when we got to sit in that room, that is where we, as filmmakers in post-production, really got to excel.

        DD: That’s the coolest part to me. On my next film, I’m going to have composers onset the whole time. 

        By: Matt Fagerholm
        Posted: July 16, 2018, 2:45 pm

        • Entertainer
          Entertainer uploaded 1 images to an album Selena Gomez [204 images]
          • Entertainer
            Entertainer published a blog post A Midsummer Night's Dream

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            Casey Wilder Mott’s modern take on William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is comprised of roughly a million impure creative choices, but the most telling might be what he does to poor Nick Bottom. In the Bard’s play, the comic relief character is eventually given the head of a donkey. In this modern version, Bottom’s face becomes an actual ass, as in, a bottom. You get the idea. 

            But it’s these inspired, fully-amused choices that give the movie a sensation that’s often missing from Shakespeare movies, whether they’re of modern setting or strictly of the period—a full-out playfulness. If you’re hoping to see a production just like the one that would have been done in 1596, this ain’t it. But Mott’s version is a hell of a good time in its own right. 

            Shakespeare’s story of potions and potent feelings is imagined here as an L.A. story, but the usual cynicism towards the more superficial people there is limited to playful teasing. Worry not: the Shakespearean text is the same, and it’s still set in Athens, with the Hollywood sign replaced to say “Athens,” one of the many details when the movie introduces its players as if it were mini movie trailer. 

            In this world, Hermia (Rachel Leigh Cook, of previous Shakespeare riff “She’s All That”) is a Hollywood star who goes by the name of H-Pup on tabloid covers. Her friend, Helena (Lily Rabe), is a Venice Beach hipster who participates in poetry readings, while pining after financial bro Demetrius (Finn Wittrock), who doesn’t share the same feelings and wants Hermia. At the same time, though Hermia’s father Egeus (Alan Blumenfeld) wants her to wed Demetrius, she’s more fond of Lysander, played by Hamish Linklater as a bit of a space-shot, but lovable all the same. 

            All of this leads tension leads everyone outside of Athens and into the woods, where king fairy Oberon (Saul Williams) helps orchestrate the dispensing of a secret love potion, made by the self-amusing Puck (Avan Jogia). In the process, a film crew, lead by a director named Quince (Charity Wakefield) are frightened when peppy actor named Bottom (Fran Kranz) has his aforementioned transformation. Not long after, the queen of the fairies Titania (Mia Doi Todd) is smitten with Bottom. It all makes for one doozy of a wedding party story, as we see at the end. 

            It's a massive story, but Mott and his crew are able to coat everything with a special zeal. They embrace the story as an opportunity for composed shots and surprising edits; this is a truly visual comedy, one that I imagine could work just as well if one dared put it on mute. Mott's film truly pops for the most part, and maintains a great energy when not stuck on the dialogue, a tricky place the script can find itself when it’s just characters standing around the woods. But Mott is clearly high on the same supply as Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet,” of which Mott's film is a worthy companion. (Joss Whedon’s own “Much Ado About Nothing,” a small project inspired by his personal Shakespeare book club, further fades from memory.) 

            “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” has the flavor of a movie that was made to be loved by people of a very specific inclination; it’s highly aware of its fellow geeks in the audience. If you don’t know the line “Out, damned spot,” you might wonder why there’s a random brief moment where Theseus is yelling at a dog, named Spot, to get off his chair. But that’s just one of the funny little gems here that make this film delightful. 

            Luckily, those people who would love a movie like this feel to be in the cast, further adding to the infectious nature of this adaptation’s giddiness. Their line-reading is straight, but their hamminess is calibrated; they relish the larger-than-production idea of these characters, born again as lively archetypes. Even Bottom, his ass-face not withstanding, gets a finale-stealing sequence in which the final act production of his dream from the woods is like a hilariously bad internet video, made of bad green screens and even worse editing, like Shakespeare doing Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room.” 

            More than other Shakespeare adaptations from the past couple decades, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” reminded me of that classic Gene Siskel qualifier: “Is this film more interesting than a documentary of the same actors having lunch?” Well, this movie is that gathering; it is that casual, intellectual, mirthful meal. Shakespeare’s prose is just one part of the feast.

            By: Nick Allen
            Posted: July 13, 2018, 2:21 pm

            • Entertainer
              Entertainer published a blog post Shock and Awe

              Thumb shock awe

              “Shock and Awe,” a drama directed by and co-starring Rob Reiner, would have received only two stars from this reviewer but for something that happens in its last couple of minutes. As often occurs in movies based on real events, the filmmakers conclude their drama and then, under the end credits, show us news footage of the events’ actual people. In this case, those include four reporters from Knight-Ridder Newspapers who probed and questioned the lead-up to the Iraq War when outfits like the New York Times, Washington Post and the major TV networks were simply spewing lies fed them by the George W. Bush administration.

              The interviewees also include the infamous Judith Miller, the Times’ fabricator in chief, who blandly allows that the Knight-Ridder guys were “the only ones who got it right.”

              So I added an extra half-star for this coda’s potent reminder that the story that Reiner’s film has to tell is one of incredible importance. If the Iraq War was, in the words of one former general, “the greatest strategic blunder in American history,” it might also be characterized as the most disgraceful episode in the history of American journalism. Acting as if they learned not a single lesson from revealing the lies that led to America into the Vietnam War, or those that accompanied the Nixon administration’s attempts to subvert the Constitution during the Watergate scandal, the Times and the Post—and most similar news outlets—rolled over for malevolent fraudsters like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and helped lead the U.S. into a devastating war based on patently specious evidence of Saddam Hussein’s non-existent weapons of the mass destruction.

              Though the subject is indeed important, the filmmaking here is so pedestrian, flat-footed and overly-obvious as to leave “Shock and Awe” one of those second-rate dramatic movies that make you wish that it had been a top-notch documentary instead.  

              The film opens with a young, wheelchair-bound African-American veteran (Luke Tennie) testifying before a Congressional committee. In the first of many cinematic cliches that dot the film, he starts to read a written speech, then puts it down in order to speak extemporaneously—and launches into an exposition-heavy monologue that sounds even more scripted.

              The story proper begins when we flash back to, you guessed it, the attacks of 9/11. Every major news organization is instantly catapulted into covering the story and trying to understand the catastrophe and the U.S. response to it. In the cases of Knight-Ridder reporters Jonathan Landay (Woody Harrelson) and Warren Strobel (James Marsden) and their feisty editor John Walcott (Reiner), that means noting how the failed attempt to nail Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda henchmen, the crimes’ actual perpetrators, in Afghanistan lead—conveniently?—to an effort to blame and pump up the danger supposedly posed by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

              In piecing together the mounting evidence of the fraudulence of the rush to war with Saddam, Landay and Strobel dash around Washington in typical movie-reporter fashion, comparing notes with each other and with Walcott after talking with various insiders, most of whom are not named but identified only as “U.S. Official” or such. Since the movie is supposedly based on the recollections of the main characters—who also include a caustic veteran reporter, Joe Galloway (Tommy Lee Jones)—it’s curious that such anonymity must be maintained this long after the fact.

              Screenwriter Joey Hartstone, who scripted Reiner’s flawed but altogether more successful “LBJ,” has a knack for writing crisp, flavorful dialogue. But in addition to falling into the common historical-screenwriter’s trap of conveying too much information in big blocks of turgid speechifying, he must also be faulted for some tension-killing digressions such as the coy romance between Strobel and his cute neighbor (Jessica Biel), which might have come out of a 1950s Hollywood movie.

              The film’s script, though, must be credited with some surprising inclusions. For one, a couple of mentions are made of the malign influence of Israel on American foreign policy. For another, when it comes time for Congress to vote on approving Bush’s war plans, we’re given the sad roll call of the Democrats who voted in favor: Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, and so on.

              From a historical perspective, this disgraceful tale climaxed with General Colin Powell testifying in support of the fake intelligence regarding Saddam’s WMD, which echoed Condoleeza Rice’s warnings of mushroom clouds blossoming over America if Saddam wasn’t stopped. “Shock and Awe” reminds us all of this, and of the American media’s shameful complicity in fomenting an unjustified and vastly destructive war. But it also includes such moments as Sen. Robert Byrd’s moving speech drawing parallels between the lies that drew America into its Vietnam debacle and the falsehoods that would destroy many American and Iraqi lives in Iraq. At the current moment, when a president who lies constantly has his finger on the nuclear trigger, such warnings could not be timelier.

              By: Godfrey Cheshire
              Posted: July 13, 2018, 2:21 pm


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