Friday, April 19, 2013

Cannes 2013 lineup

Opening Film
"The Great Gatsby" (dir. Baz Luhrmann)

Official Selection
"Behind The Candelabra" (dir. Steven Soderbergh)
"Borgman" (dir. Alex Van Warmerdam)
"Un Chateau En Italie" (dir. Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi)
"La Grande Bellezza" (dir. Paolo Sorrentino)
"Grisgris" (dir. Mahamat-Saleh Haroun)
"Heli" (dir. Amat Escalante)
"The Immigrant" (dir. James Gray)
"Inside Llewyn Davis" (dir. Joel & Ethan Coen)
"Jeune Et Jolie" (dir. Francois Ozon)
"Jimmy P" (dir. Arnaud Desplechin)
"Michael Kohlhaas" (dir. Arnaud Despallieres)
"Nebraska" (dir. Alexander Payne)
"Only God Forgives" (dir. Nicolas Winding Refn)
"The Past" (dir. Asghar Farhadi")
"Soshite Chichi Ni Naru" (dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda)
"Tian Zhu Ding" (dir. Zhangke Jia)
"Venus In Fur" (dir. Roman Polanski)
"La Vie D'Adele" (dir. Abdellatif Kechiche)
"Wara No Tate" (dir. Takashi Miike)

Out Of Competition
"All Is Lost" (dir. J.C Chandor)
"Blood Ties" (dir. Guillaume Canet)

Un Certain Regard
"Anonymous" (dir. Mohammad Rasoulof)
"As I Lay Dying" (dir. James Franco)
"Bends" (dir. Flora Lau)
"The Bling Ring" (dir. Sofia Coppola)
"Death March" (dir. Adolfo Alix Jr)
"Fruitvale Station" (dir. Ryan Coogler)
"Grand Central" (dir. Rebecca Zlotowski)
"L'Image Manquante" (Rithy Panh)
"L'Inconnu Du Lac" (dir. Alain Guiraudie)
"La Jaula De Oro" (dir. Diego Quemada)
"Miele" (dir. Valeria Golino)
"Norte, Hangganana Ng Kasaysayan" (dir. Lav Diaz)
"Omar" (dir. Hany Abu-Assad)
"Les Salauds" (dir. Claire Denis)
"Sarah Prefere La Course" (dir. Chloe Robichaud)

"Blind Detective" (dir. Johnnie To)
"Monsoon Shootout" (dir. Amit Kumar)

Special Screening
"Max Rose" (dir. Daniel Noah)
"Weekend Of A Champion" (dir. Roman Polanski)
"Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight" (dir. Stephen Frears)
"Stop The Pounding Heart" (dir. Roberto Minervini)
"Seduced & Abandoned" (dir. James Toback)
"Otdat Konci" (dir. Taisia Igumentseva)
"Bombay Talkies" (dir. Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar, Karan Johar)

Closing Film
"Zulu" (dir. Jérôme Salle)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

42 Barely Crosses Home Plate, but is a Must-see for Kids

There's no mistaking it. "42" is, for sure, a crowdpleaser. It has all the right elements: a sympathetic hero, love interest, forced to do the impossible, and ultimately succeeds. Of course, what separates "42" from other similarly-told stories is that this actually happened. When Jackie Robinson stepped onto Ebbets Field on opening day 1947, it changed America. Integration in baseball was forced upon everyone, it was a hard pill to swallow for some but they had to swallow it nonetheless. Jackie was the catalyst and remains one of the most important figures in sports history. "42" does a good job of telling the basic story and it is a must-see for the young ones who may not know much of the Robinson story. Still, it's tough to see Jackie Robinson be relegated to this archetypal, Disney-esque, extremely sanitized "hero" role here.

I am sure there are plenty people my age and older who know the Jackie Robinson story well, but in case you don't, I'll let you in a little bit on the story. Brooklyn Dodgers team executive Branch Rickey wants wins, he wants that World Series prize. He knows that in order for his team to reach the next level that he'll have to integrate his team. Black people playing in the MLB hasn't happened yet, but some players admit that it's more-or-less an inevitability. Rickey makes the inevitable happen. He signs Robinson to play for his minor league team, the Montreal Royals.  When Robinson breezes through the minor leagues his first year, he's called up to the Dodgers that next year, in 1947. Now Robinson, donning the 42 for the first time, will officially make history.

And the film tells that story fairly accurately, a big reason why I think the film is a must-see for kids. It could be really inspirational and it, of course, is already getting a big response from audiences garnering an A+ cinemascore this past weekend. But where I find fault with the film is how it manages to structure itself into the most typical of Disney sports movies (and this was made by Fox, mind you). For such a specific story, with such great, real life characters, only Chadwick Boseman manages to make his portrayal of Jackie Robinson more than just a cliche. His teammates are almost uniformly one-dimensional. Harrison Ford's Branch Rickey is an inspired performance, but also incredibly hammed up. I'm glad Ford tried to go all in and really give Rickey some life, but something faltered along the way whether it's the dialogue or just the fact that Ford's mannerisms get too much in the way of this real life portrayal. Ford is mostly fun to watch as Branch Rickey, but there are times when he comes off as a complete caricature.

The film also has some really forced, cringeworthy moments involving people in the stands or any of its attempts to showcase how Jackie Robinson touched the hearts of his fans. Robinson was considered the number two most popular figure in all of America in 1948 and it just seems like we're not being shown enough of the story. The story from both sides of the racial barrier. While it's important to show how Jackie Robinson touched African-American youth, it's just as important to show how he managed to get the majority on his side. Robinson definitely got his share of death threats, countless death threats. Threats to his son, to his wife. That's important to show too. But it would've been more inspiring to get a fuller picture. Because you don't become the most popular sports figure in all of America unless a great number of people are on your side, black or white. The story we ultimately get in "42" is so basic and trite that it takes away from how special Jackie Robinson's barrier-breaking story really is.

Overall "42" still works and is enjoyable on a basic level. I definitely recommend it as a family movie. But if you're a baseball fan, or if you really want to learn about the Jackie Robinson story, you're not going to get a very in depth look here. The story's structure has been way too generalized to make it feel special or separate from other baseball movies. Robinson deserves better than this. But we'll have to take the film for what it is, and it's not a bad film. It's just average. The fact that Jackie Robinson is such an important figure though is why this film should still be seen, especially for the kids.

Grade: C+

Friday, April 12, 2013

Kinda short reviews for Trance and Upstream Color

I enjoyed both Trance and Upstream Color and they certainly deserve a full review, but I saw these films in the midst of my vacation and the longer it's been since I've seen the films, the harder it's gotten for me to write full-length reviews. Instead, and because divulging in the film's plots would be giving them away, I will just let you know of my personal thoughts and feelings regarding the films.


James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, and Rosario Dawson star in this twisty, psychosexual drama "Trance," the latest film from Danny Boyle. Boyle's a filmmaker of whom I admire very much. He's like a chameleon. He likes to jump from genre to genre and he does this quite well. So it was especially gratifying to see him get his hands a little dirty again after a couple of fairly pristine films. "Slumdog Millionaire" and "127 Hours" certainly have their ugly moments, but "Trance" harkens back to the days when he was making "Shallow Grave" and "Trainspotting." Dark, funny, bloody, crime-ridden (that's a word, right?). Danny Boyle returns to these elements with ease, effortlessly integrating his style in a genre that requires a great amount of style to really succeed. And "Trance" does just that. The colors, the camera work, the music, the humor... all makes "Trance" much more entertaining than your standard film in this genre. Plus, it's way sexier than most crime films you'll see these days. Cassel plays a criminal attempting to steal a classic work of art, McAvoy plays the man who gets in his way, and Rosario Dawson plays a hypnotherapist who attempts to help McAvoy's character. But there's way, way more that's going on in this film and I'll just let you enter the film as naked as possible so that you can get mindfucked like I did. And yeah, it's that kind of film. While I started to feel like the film got a little too smart and too twisty for its own good towards the end, overall, "Trance" is incredibly entertaining. There's never a dull moment in this, just like in any Boyle film.

Grade: B

Upstream Color

It took nine years for us to finally see a follow up to Shane Carruth's "Primer" and thankfully, Carruth has made yet another film that we will be analyzing and dissecting for years to come. What makes "Upstream Color" more resonant and, perhaps, more memorable than "Primer" is the romantic element of the film. Color starts off as sort of a mix of body horror/sci-fi and psychological drama, but then turns into a psychological romantic surrealistic sci-fi mystery... or something. Really, it gets to the point where you can't even define the film. It just floats off into this other world where it ceases to be a genre though it resembles many different genres. Again, I'd hate to give much of this film away, but I'll try my best. Early in the film, we start to follow Kris whose life gets derailed when she is drugged by a small-time thief. When she finally comes to, she finds her life, as she knows it, to be pretty much destroyed and is forced to start anew. She eventually meets Jeff, of whom she develops a deep bond with. But they both discover that there's something deeper and bigger going on that has made them become so attached to each other. That's the best way I can describe this without giving too much away. The film, like Terrence Malick's "Tree of Life" is edited in a way that evokes a tone poem of sorts. The editing is more jazz-influenced than anything else, meant to explore these characters from an emotional standpoint as opposed to going from plot point to plot point. Still, there's definitely something disturbing and unsettling going on in the film that will keep you guessing until the very end when it all kinda comes together in a way that's both ingenious and somewhat infuriating. Don't get me wrong, Upstream Color works. But it's hard not to ignore that its approach can be a bit frustrating at times. Obviously, this will be a film that will reveal more of itself to you with repeated viewings, but there are times when its approach feels vague just for the sake of being vague. Still, Color is an incredible achievement in many ways, especially when it dabbles into the more romantic elements of its story. The film has much to say and crams a lot into 96 minutes, so much it can make your head spin. But, when you finally awake from the hypnotic movie, you'll find that there's something truly brilliant about this film.

Grade: B+

A tribute to Roger Ebert

Sadly, while I was gone, we lost a true legend: Roger Ebert. I wrote a tribute to him on ThePlaylist and it does a good job summing up my feelings about the man.

"Watching films would have never been more than a fun little hobby for me if not for Roger Ebert. He was the gateway drug. My gateway to more serious films, my gateway to reading and ingesting film criticism on a regular basis. He lead the way for me as I'm sure he did for many others. He inspired the way I write and debate about movies. For the first forty years of his career, he showed us what a great observer he was when it came to the movies. In the last few years, he showed us all what a great observer he was on life, in general. He simply had a great mind, and thanks to social media, we were all exposed to it. As sad as it is to have to write about Mr. Ebert in the past tense, it's important to remember how he never wasted a single day while he was here, even when he had every right to do so. That's what I find to be most inspirational about the man. May he rest in peace, though I have the sneaking suspicion that wherever he is he'd rather be writing, not resting."

Roger Ebert, you will be missed.

This is the End red band trailer

Also this looks like it can be pretty funny.

Elysium trailer

I'm back from my vacation. While I was gone, a juicy new trailer "Elysium" starring Matt Damon was released online. The new movie from Neill Blomkamp has been highly anticipated on Kenoncinema. Check it out.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Upstream Color - first impression

This can't be a review because I'm still trying to put together what I just saw. I went from utterly confused to intrigued to.... speechless. Basically, that's what I'm trying to convey here. I'm speechless at the moment. Also, I saw the movie at a venue (which will be left unnamed) that was not... what's the word... the best way to see the film. It was a poor excuse for a "theater." So, I will officially review "Upstream Color" when I see the film a second time at a real theater that doesn't have car seats for chairs or a bar next to the fucking screen which is just distracting. What the hell is up with that?

Here's what you should take away from this though... I want to see Upstream Color again. It's definitely a film worth seeing and I think I will like this movie after seeing it a second time. Right now, I'm not even on the fence. I know I liked what I saw, I just can't properly convey at the moment.

This also bad timing because I'm going on vacation and won't be back until April 10th. But when I come back, I will (hopefully) have seen Upstream Color another time and hopefully I'll have seen Trance and To the Wonder as well.