Monday, March 25, 2013

SPRING BREAKERS - this is my sh-t

Holy f--king wow! Finally a movie to rave about. Though not perfect, Spring Breakers is a much needed cinesational gust of fresh air. 

Harmony Korine has taken us on another wild ride through adolescence. Writer of the controversial film, Kids and an active participant in the Dogme 95 movement, Korine never stops innovating. I can't say I much cared for Gummo or Julien Donkey Boy—they are both types of cinema that disgust and revolt your senses but you can't turn away because it's simply fascinating.  

His new film Spring Breakers was, in my opinion, just plain awesome. I loved it from minute one and not just because of its ample tits and ass either. What makes this movie exceptional is the music, the editing and the direction. The actors Korine chose to fill the four girl roles like Disney's Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez could really have been anyone and the film would have been just as powerful. Though I suspect the fact they both were Disney princesses turned into wild, wanton teens was carefully thought through to maximize the loss of innocence effect.

The narrative follows these four bored teens with idle minds around for about a week. First, they wreak havoc on unsuspecting dinner guests for their money to get to Florida for spring break. Then all hell breakers loose. They get arrested for drug possession and guess who bails them out? The superb James Franco. He's a badass drug dealer/rapper—a cross between Lil Wayne and Riff Raff. Then a fever dream of violence and carnal fornication resumes.

This film is about every girls unrealized fantasy. Let my try and explain why I feel this way. I am going to make a rather grandiose conjecture based on a few experiences dating young girls. I believe that many young, contemporary American girls are much like the teens portrayed in this movie. An eclectic mix of backgrounds, no doubt, but fundamentally similar. Perhaps this is what most girls are like before they turn into Lena Dunham's Girls. Always searching, always craving, always wanting something more, something greater. It's no surprise that spring break in a foreign place can possibly provide that. It's a promise of being surrounded by those your age with similar minds and goals like drugs, sex and turbulent abandon. Maybe just the thought of these improprieties is enough to arouse your interest rather or not if you partake. In other words, it's the prospect of the unknown that's so exciting—so intriguing and beguiling, beckoning even. You can't wait to be free of mundane scholastic and familial responsibilities. Spring Break provides this escape. 

Now the interesting thing is that this too gets old—the drugs and sex part. And since you've garnered this inner desire and yearning for more more more you may wake up one morning feeling unsatisfied. This may lead you into trouble—real trouble. What I'm trying to say by every girls fantasy is this—you leave home searching for excitement and adventure—you find it and never want it to end—you continue to seek out crazier and crazier experiences and my find yourself way over your head. I'm not saying you would end up going three way with a gangster and then killing a dozen people but that's where the fantasy begins to become palpable and distinct from reality. The satiety is never realized within. 

This movie is a story about this inner yearning that is never really fulfilled. An intense desire that is nearly overwhelming as a young person. The film continually goes forward in time to give you a glimpse of the future and then immediately explains what's going on. It also repeats the same dialogue to an irritating degree but I believe this technique was used to reveal the way a adolescents life might feel like—repetitive. The music from Skrillex and Cliff Martinez (from the Drive soundtrack) was perfect for the slomo scenes. The Britney Spears song, Everytime, was thrillingly employed for one of the most bizarrely funny montage sequences I have ever had the pleasure of viewing. Franco on keys singing the tune juxtaposed to wild scenes of violence—bloody brilliant!!! 

I fear that I overhype but honestly, the film really touched me. I can't stop thinking about it. It may not be for everyone. It's a movie that affects you in a very deep way, over presenting a realistic portrayal of youth. It should be viewed as an unrealized wish fulfillment teen fantasy. I would take it with last years Chronicle and Project X as a near pristine trilogy of teen films that represent repressed youthful dreams and desires. Go see Spring Breakers—laugh hysterically, relish the tunes and revel in adolescent hysteria. 

PS - Some quickie reviews

STOKER - From the South Korean man that brought us Oldboy and other dark tales comes Stoker, a continuation of the black macabre. The movie really doesn't get very interesting till about the last 30 minutes. It's shot well and intrigues but not enough for me to say it was very good with any real conviction. However, definitely an interesting coming of age story that deals with a young girl's realization that her deterministic beliefs have the unfortunate consequence of sexual arousal with respect to death. Odd and honest but slow and unthrilling.

THE CROODS - A supreme disappointment. I was looking forward to this but it seems that it continues to propagate the fact that any film about cavemen is bound to be annoying and unwatchable even if they are already speaking English! Puerile and boring with only a few scenes of interest.

OLYPUM HAS FALLEN - It's too bad the audience I watched this with seemed to enjoy it. It's no wonder the rest of the world thinks Americans are dumb as hell. It may satisfy your action urges but the R rating felt misplaced, the swearing felt off, the special effects were poor and the story is as bad as they come. Watch Homeland instead. Forget this drivel and be ashamed to laugh at the death at foreign nationalists. Shame!

Recommended Viewing: Chronicle - Project X - Heathers

              Bob Scale: The Critic: 8.2   -   The Fan: 9.4
             MetaCritic: 61
 Rotten Tomatoes: 70
                    IMDB: 6.6

Monday, March 18, 2013

THE CALL - hoisted and petarded

Who you gonna call? The police? Nope. CTU? Nope. MacGyver? Hmmm. The ghostbusters maybe? No, 911 you fool! Seems the so called buzzing hive, where all the agents for tragedy aversion work, is a high tech operation. Never knew. Incredulity in your face.

Brad Anderson has done thriller horror before with Session 9, which ended up a decent film. He has crafted some indies and hollies as well like The Machinist, Transsiberian, Next Stop Wonderland etc. He certainly has talent and it shows in his new film The Call. The film moves at a riveting pace with some interesting shots which alluded to a possible acceptable premise. That ended rather quickly. The story is just plain dumb, barley worthy of  TV production. I ascertained this from the trailer but thought I would give it a shot anyway.

Halle Berry stars, with her usual timid wit and charisma. And some wild hair to boot. She receives a call at her amazingly big desk and gets a girl killed because of a slight foul up on her part. She gets another call six months later after switching positions due to stress. It's the same guy that killed the first girl striking again. He hangs up eventually and she decides to go find the kidnapee on her own. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. The End. 

Now from a critical standpoint I viewed it from the above angle—as throwback 90's garbage. But as a fan I rather enjoyed it! It was stupid sure, but fun to watch. Crazed killer who likes to scalp young blondes and sniff their hair with jailbait Abigail Breslin in a car trunk half the movie with Sopranos fave Michael Imperioli. What's not to like? It had some cool high octane moments but it might be best to douse yourself with gasoline and light yourself on fire as you watch.      

P.S. - more film hokum

THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE - the only incredible thing about this movie was the fact that I paid for a ticket. It had a few humorous moments but mostly it was a simple sophomoric display of wasted talent. I watched the film with Rosie O'Donnell behind me and had to bear through with her insufferable giggles and the crazy, laughing, monster guy directly behind me as well. This has got to be one of the worst ten week periods of movies I have ever seen.  

Recommended Viewing: The Machinist - Scream - Event Horizon

              Bob Scale: The Critic: 5.5   -   The Fan: 6.7
             MetaCritic: 52
 Rotten Tomatoes: 39
                    IMDB: 6.5

Monday, March 11, 2013

OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL - cup a water please

Abracadabra...Prestidigitation! Illusory it was—magic it was not.

Like the Snow White adaptation, Mirror Mirror last year, this is a movie for children. You must go to this with that in mind—it is silly, playful and juvenile. Yet, I can't say that I hated this movie. I was disappointed that the filmmakers did not attempt to produce a spectacle suitable for all ages but I found myself enjoying the origin story of Oz anyway. 

The choice to start the film in a 4:3 aspect ratio was interesting and actually effective when it opened up to widescreen with a colorful landscape view but the choice to keep it black and white and not sepia made the whole throwback feel lacking. If you think about comparing the characters to the original you will fall way short as well. A super cute porcelain doll, an obsequious winged monkey and conman Oz vs Dorothy, Toto, scarecrow, lion and tin man—sorry, no contest. 

On to some other qualms... There are three witches in control of Oz which is bitchin fun but also prone to deceit and underhanded trickery. The witches look appropriate to Oz but when Kunis eats the apple and transmogrifies into the wicked witch she still has perfect skin. You will probably notice some peculiar references to other fantasy franchises throughout the story also. The wicked queen has Star Wars emperor like powers, Kunis eats a tainted apple like Snow White and so on. The twister, 74 years later, is still the best transport to this crazy wonderland and somehow feels appropriate—maybe it's the only way into Oz? 

I like Sam Raimi and I found the film to stay consistent throughout but all in all a lackluster prequel, especially for adult audiences. It makes me wonder what makes a classic a classic and why the original is so special and appropriate for all ages and yet this new version clearly isn't. With the passage of time, creativity does not always supersede the past. This is obvious I guess and I am certainly not one to claim or think that nothing amazing gets created anymore—that kind of thinking really only displays ignorance of the art world at large—but I can't help but think that Victor Fleming understood something about artful entertainment in the 1930's that we have subsequently lost. L. Frank Baum, the author of the Oz universe, never wrote this prequel but did pen 16+ other Oz stories from 1900 to 1919. The only other Oz film of note is the great editor Walter Murch adaptation, the bizarre live action Return to Oz.

A quick note about two more films:

EMPEROR - a slow but interesting WWII story about the investigation of the Japanese emperor's involvement in the attack on Pearl Harbor. I cannot judge the veracity of the story and if I had to guess I would say the whole love story side plot was added for narrative engagement but I found myself enjoying the picture and questioning my knowledge of history. I think this one is worth your time. Tommy Lee Jones plays a mean General MacArthur and Lost's Matthew Fox does a fine job. 

DEAD MAN DOWN - I found the Danish trilogy of Dragon Tattoo films to be highly overrated. And although Dead Man Down is the first American film to come from that director, I happened to enjoy it's European sensibilities. It is not receiving much praise in the critiverse but however ridiculous the plot is, we still are privy to a taut thriller. I don't care for Noomi Rapace but this was my favorite performance of hers yet given. Colin Ferrell was solid in the role as well. 

Until next time...

Recommended Viewing: Return To Oz - The Wizard Of Oz (1939) - Snow White (1937)

              Bob Scale: The Critic: 6.0   -   The Fan: 6.6
             MetaCritic: 44
 Rotten Tomatoes: 61
                    IMDB: 7.1

Monday, March 4, 2013

JACK THE GIANT SLAYER - fee fi ho hum

I remember seeing ads for this film over a year ago. I have not really been waiting with eager anticipation. I was right in that sentiment.

Bryan Singer is generally a good director. He brought us The Usual Suspects, X-Men I & II as well as the little seen Ian McKellen nazi film, Apt Pupil. He had a hiccup with Superman Returns but then crafted the rather excellent Hitler drama, Valkyrie. Jack The Giant Slayer, however, has done little to win my approval. It was actually a rather abysmal film. I think the creators should have went the Mirror Mirror route and made an unambiguous G or PG film for kids instead of the teen+ demographic centered travesty. The whole spectacle felt cheap and lame. The sets and costume design were subpar and took me out of the happy illusion of a time long since past. Numerous plot points didn't make sense and further the frustration. All in all its just a lackluster debacle. 

Nicholas Hoult is having a moment. He was just the right fit for Jack. The rest of the cast was chosen rather aptly but succumbed to mediocre direction and a weak script. You can have the video game graphics at the stories start, you can bask in the revolting idiotic giants who obey a silly heart infused crown, you can enjoy a floating island in the sky which can only be reached by a few magic beans, or you can just stay home and read a book instead. I suggest the latter.

Another two films to stay away from—Identity Thief and 21 & Over—no good. Like the oscars this year. Probably the worst winners and presentation in recent memory. Argo? Really? The best film of the whole year. I think not. Good but nothing special. Hollywood always orgasms when films are about filmmaking. Bah humbug, I say.

Recommended Viewing: Apt Pupil - X-Men II - Valkyrie

              Bob Scale: The Critic: 4.5   -   The Fan: 5.8
             MetaCritic: 50
 Rotten Tomatoes: 52
                    IMDB: 6.6